Friday, March 22, 2013

Disappearing Money and a Short-cut Through Life


2nd in the series - Stories from Traveling by Public Transport in Bangalore

Day: Tuesday, 19th March 2013
Time: 5:30PM

Avoid short-cuts through life at any cost, some would say. I agree and to reiterate this let me first share with you something that happened before my travel by public transport on this particular day.

I was to leave office a little early, to help the daughter revise for her exams. However, this was not to be and I was running late by a whole hour and a half. At this point, when a friendly junior colleague offered to drop me to the bus stop (a 800m walk) on his thundering bullet, how could I say no?

So, I went along. About 50m into our journey, this friendly colleague decided that he could drop me further ahead (2kms now instead of the 800m). Once again, counting the 1.5 hour delay, I gladly accepted. That's when it began... A short-cut through life!

Instead of the regular main roads that give one a comfortable feeling of traveling on the road often traveled, this polite creature decided to take a deviation off the road, climbing through a steep mound of mud and stones. Without exaggerating (though it is very tempting to exaggerate this part), this was a 45 degree angle slope! In spite of the adventurous blood that runs through my so-called Rajput, Kshatriya veins, I was tempted to tap the gentleman on the shoulder and propose that I walk till the ground is more lateral. I resisted, to avoid making him feel ill-equipped to handle, what but a slope on a thundering bullet!

The steep was cleared, albeit after some "oh!" and "ah!" from the rider himself.

The sight that awaited me on the other side of the steep slope was breath-taking (more like lung choking but we shall continue). On the left of us was a largish water body and a mud path running along the bank of the water body that met a rivulet feeding the water body. The picturesque scene was marred by the fact that the rivulet was the outlet of a sewage drainage and the water body was well what you get when you feed a land dip with sewage water! I held my breathe since there were a couple of people walking along the path and even a couple of bikes ahead of us passing through as though it were a regular scenic route that you can only be stupid not to enjoy.

The bike now had to cross the rivulet (yes, pass through the sewage water) and the couple of bikes ahead of us crossed it without neither incident nor reason to doubt that it just may not be possible. Just when our turn to cross the rivulet got closer, one of the voices in my head tried to sound an alarm. But once again, I resisted saying anything so my very polite and helpful rider would not have to go through the emotions of one whose very ego is hurt by questioning his ability to ride through what two others rode through.

The bike began crossing and the next thing I know, I can hear the rider say "Oh no! Oh no! Oh shit!" and the bike tilted 45 degrees to the left, like the slope that it had just so proudly conquered a few seconds back. My left foot was swimming in dark, sewage water and I think I might have felt some things moving, had my 'Fight or Flight" instincts not kicked in. I jumped off the bike and jumped ashore before any more grime got to me, my clothes et al.

The bike was almost down and the poor boy struggled to get it upright, which was when (in my defence, having realised the scene I left behind) I went back into the little stream and helped him get the bike back on its wheels.

NEXT SCENE

Having been dropped off thereafter (without further incidents), I climbed into the familiar comfort of a 500C Volvo that would take me home safely for sure (Couldn't really say the same about other vehicles on the road that the bus would pass by on its journey).

So here I was, my mind too shaken up to read or write anything and instead just trying to focus on how to set the right question paper for my daughter once I got home. At the next stop, two women boarded the bus - one of whom sat diagonally opposite me while the one slightly older than her sat right next to me.

The younger girl seemed very energetic and was talking incessantly. She addressed the one next to me as Ma'am. To continue the narrative, I shall call the younger woman P and the older woman N (Note: These names are purely fictitious and have no resemblance to real people either living or dead, etc.)

From the first few seconds of the discussion, I quickly pegged them as government employees (or someone who worked in a highly bureaucratic organization). Mind you, I was minding my own business and trying hard to get over my "near complete fall into the great water-like body" and focus on exams instead.

And P went "And ma'am we have to manage 5 ATMs with wonly 2 officers"
"They can post 2 more officers but where is the place for them to sit? Paapa they can't send people without any place wonly"
"We will still need 4 officers at least to maintain 5 ATMs"
"I don't know waat they will do wonly"

My ears perked up, what with my own frustration earlier in the day with a bank I have banked with for over 11 years now! I thought to myself, this conversation may help me understand 'the bank's side" of a story and may be I could be a little more empathetic when I have conversations with the voices on the other side of the bank support phone lines.

P was by now smiling mischievously and my reading into it was that she had done something or had knowledge of someone having done a mistake at work that day. She goes, "I made the entry ma'am. MICR entry correctly I put 50 thousand rupees. Then that M made the ATR entry. Only few minutes she did ma'am work. That time wonly she put 30 thousand rupees for that cheque."
Wow! Now the conversation was definitely worth following through on.

"I don't know how it escaped when I was checking also"
"Paapa ma'am that cheque is going back. Bank charges also 22 rupees 5 paise is there. I tried to reverse charges and delete that entry but it asked password" 
"I asked sir, he you know no ma'am, he said no, let it go"
"We can actually reverse it and make it one more entry but then that email will come and they will ask why you people are doing like this. We can manage that also but he did not do. Paapa he is also being careful now after that RO meeting"

At this point N, sitting beside me asked "what is the customer name?" to which P gave it LOUD and CLEAR for all to hear "B........"
The girl sitting opposite me caught my eye and smiled nodding her head in what clearly meant "No wonder, we have such problems with bank"

And so P continued "Aiyo, his cheque will go now back with the reason also it is given - number and words not matching" "but it is matching ma'am. That M wonly she did it in that few minutes. Paapa that customer, he will have to pay the bank charges also because it is cheque returned to ma'am... what we will do?"

And then she went on to describe in more indepth details on how the bank worked, releasing money (no less than 10L) based simply on a phone call, by her, since an RTGS request hadn't come through.

By now I had forgotten all about the short-cut in life and the exam paper I had to set once I got home. My thoughts were more on the lines that your money is probably safest spent or at home in sacks! 

On that note, I shall end this post and wish all of you, my lovely readers a fabulous weekend...

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Three Course Meal and a Book in Hand


I am calling this series - Stories from Traveling by Public Transport in Bangalore

Day: Thursday, 14th March 2013
Time: 8AM

As I sat in the bus, headed to work, a girl was seated to my left. I was reading “The Pilgrimage” by Coehlo, one of my favourite authors. Something about the girl was distracting me. I re-read a sentence almost thrice and still wasn’t able to move on with my reading. That’s when it happened!

The girl by my side, unzipped her backpack (a tell-tale sign that you are in the IT capital of India is people with laptop bags that contains what seems like everything one would need to stay alive stranded in a desert for an entire month!), she fished out a packet of something. She began opening the packet, the plastic making enough noise to fill the usual silence inside the a/c environs of the Volvo bus. The noise was bad enough as I tried telling myself that I was needlessly irritated because I couldn’t concentrate on my reading, and out came a biscuit, Bourbon cream layered biscuit at that. And I thought to myself “The poor girl has probably not had her breakfast and is just hungry.”

Feeling slightly less irritated, I got back to reading the same sentence for the fourth time. You might thing I’d have moved on with my reading but it was not to be.

As the biscuit was bitten into, what followed was slightly worse than the racket of the plastic packet a few moments earlier. It you have had the good fortune of witnessing someone chewing their food with great abandon; crumbs flying out and much chewing sounds emanating right from the gut upwards to the throat and out through the mouth, I strongly recommend that you stop reading this now. I could try to help you visualize what I was witness to but that would mean taking away your innocence a little bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on, as the biscuit was consumed with great passion and oblivious to the God-Knows-Why discomfort it might have caused any co-passengers aboard, out came the packet once again. Oh yes! The packet was promptly stashed away into the bag after the first biscuit was freed from its shackles. The entire scene repeated.

That’s when my eyes met the eyes of another girl sitting on the other side of the aisle by the window. Very briefly, mind you, a mutual electrifying bond was created between her and I.

I got back to the sentence, now probably my most favoured sentence in the book, for the fifth time. The chewing and devouring had stopped so there was some hope that I might be able to digest the full meaning of this elusive sentence from a book by after all my favourite author.

No such luck, my lovelies. My very considerate and hungrylicious neighbour prepared to unzip the bag once again. This time though, I was mentally prepared for the onslaught of the sounds that would follow as she devoured yet another biscuit, chewing with her mouth so wide open that just maybe, the entire backpack might have fit into it.

However, I was in for a great disappointment because this time around, a noisier yellow and green packet emerged. Lo and behold! It was a packet of potato wafers (also known as chips before wafers became the cooler term to use).

Our eyes met once more, the electrifying bond converted into a shared smile, a nod and then each of us looking out of our respective windows to distract ourselves from the uncontrollable distraction that was my neighbour. After what seemed like an hour of the repeat performance but with crunchier and more crackling sounds added to it, the pack went back into the great abyss of the backpack. To be fair to my co-passenger, I must clarify that this wafery episode lasted about 10 minutes (let it not be said that I exaggerated or stretched the truth, thereby rendering my writing a work of fiction. There, I’ve set the record straight.)

Finally, I re-read that lovely sentence written after great thought (I am sure) by Mr. Coehlo.  I moved on to the next sentence and then the next and so on. There was peace at last and my world was spinning at the right speed yet again. Happy and content, I was now deeply engrossed in my book.

The end? Definitely not… just a small scene left, I promise.

Yes, the bag was unzipped one last time. As I imagined all the crunchy, crispy, crumby and noisy packaged food imaginable in the world being retrieved from the great, big bag, I was let down yet again, as a small box appeared instead. Fortunately, I was disappointed only for just a few seconds. My girl’s hand overturned the box and brought out two small pieces of innocent looking rectangular white tablet-like elements and popped them into her harmless looking mouth. Chewing gum, what luck! And then the chewing began right into my ears, for now she had a great urge to look out the window over my shoulder as well!

One last time, our eyes met and this time the bond that had transformed into a shared smile moved to the next level in our newfound relationship – uncontrollable laughter and yes, we did sense all our co-passengers smiling pityingly at me, while my neighbour was oblivious and continued with the movement of her lower mandible while peering over my shoulder.

And so I had no choice but to shut my book, put it into my very own IT signature-style backpack and sit through the next 20 minutes or so to reach my destination, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature so close to me. I was blessed. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seven Days Too Much!

If all goes well,
It would be just enough!
If you miss a step,
Time would stretch into eternity...
If I walk with you,
Days would pass by too soon.

If life was to be lived again and again,
Seven days are just too much!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Every child should raise itself!

Me: V, your tummy is so yummy... who made your tummy?
V: I don't know. You tell me.
Me: I made your yummy tummy
V: No. Look at your lovely big tummy. I made it so big!

The title of this post is from Anne Frank "The Diary of a Young Girl"
I just finished reading this amazing book and the timing seemed perfect. As a mother of an inquisitive almost 11 year old daughter, it has given me some food for thought and excellent insight into girls of that age. Obviously every child is different et all but some generalizations work and provide a good foundation for parents to do more good than harm in the process of parenting.

I am just glad that my little girl has the habit of both keeping a diary and talking to me. So far, so good. She is a normal and lovely 11 year old and beautiful human being. Hoping that I am able to continue doing justice to her life!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Forever a F(r)iend


(Wrote this back in 2008 . My first attempt at writing a really short story (apparently it's called flash writing).  This one was supposed to be less than 500 words & the theme was 'journal' or 'blog'.)

"I am not sure what to say and how to say it!" she cried.  Bela put her arm around Diya, "Oh you poor baby. Honestly, I'd have just killed myself if I were you.  But you… you're a lot stronger than that."

"Listen," Bela tried her most optimistic voice, "I have an idea!  You could write a letter.  Confess to everything." Diya's sobs grew uncontrollable.  Her eyes all puffed up, she moved to the bean-bag and leaned back, "no… Bela, you don't understand… confessing… won't solve anything.  The deed is done… and now, I am not even sure… what words to use to describe it!"

They sat in silence in the sunny room; Diya on the bean-bag, and Bela on the Diwan. On any other Sunday, they would have sat around with chilled beer and watched one of the many movies from their collection.

But today was different… Bela took out her laptop and began to type aimlessly; anything to keep her from saying something wrong to Diya. Minutes turned into hours.  Diya continued to stare at the ceiling, not seeing the abstract patterns left by the sun's rays. Bela went tap-tap-tap-TAP… tap-tap-TAP... for a long time.  Rubbing her eyes she went across the room; switched on the light.  It was late evening already and she had difficulty focusing, having stared at the monitor for hours.

Diya sat in the same position but her sobs had stopped.  Bela whispered, "chai?" Diya mumbled a yes.

On her way to the kitchen, Bela peeped over at her screen… frowned, moved closer… the silence continued, the stillness in the air was palpable.  "Wow!" Bela's scream jolted Diya from her reverie.  "What the...??" Diya yelled.

"Oh baby, I have an answer to all your troubles!" she smiled. "Duh! Why didn't I think of it earlier?"
"Will you tell me what the hell's on your mind?"
"Diya, all you need to do is blog this whole incident down, and give it a fictional twist. Ask everyone to comment on it, their reactions if they were in this situation."
"Get people to write different endings to your story… let them get into your shoes. They won't know it's yours!"
"I don't understand how that can help???" Diya shrugged.
"Oh my God, Diya, snap out of it and think girl!"

Silence.

Slowly, very slowly, Diya's face broke out - the inner struggle at one point making her look like a weatherworn monster – and she smiled...
"I think I'll have that chai after all."

She rushed to Bela's laptop and typed out furiously, a surreal glow forming around her face, highlighting a sinister smile. Something was wrong and something was just right.  The noises in the kitchen died out as Diya finished "…is my story and I am truly sorry for everything I have done. Logging out for the last time – Bela Zimmerman"
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