Friday, July 30, 2010

The wheels go round and round

I started riding 2-wheelers when I was in Class 6. The first motorcycle/moped I owned was a second hand Kinetic Luna which I shared with my sister and then graduated to a brand new Hero Puch (geared motor cycle) a few years later.

It was against the rules, coz I was driving without a license. We’ve gone triples too, me and my other tom-boyish friends. The traffic cops have seen us riding in school uniforms and we managed to give them the slip with our innocent smiles and flickering eyes (with head tilted to a side) pleading with him to let us go; as we catch the cop's reflection in our side-view mirror, giggling, watching him helplessly wag his finger at us, as if to warn us that he’s letting us go because we’re kids but he will not be this kind the next time he sees us - school kids, without license, triples – that’s triple offence isn’t it?!

My usual mode of commute to and fro school was on the school bus. But when I had basketball practice, special classes or tuitions, I would take my Hero Puch. My pillion rider would either be my sister or one of my friends.

Once we rode on my friend A’s Kinetic Honda (scooter) in our school uniform, to school. A was tall and hefty with short hair, in the front seat. R, that’s me, tall and thin, with short hair, in the back seat. And 2 other friends ‘D’ and ‘V’, one short with short hair and the other short with long hair and glasses, wedged between us. All 4 of us, happily singing, whistling, riding…on 1 scooter. The traffic cop wasn’t there, thank heavens. Maybe the Lord heard us and He wouldn’t have wanted to play the spoilsport anyway!

My dad had a Yezdi, which I used to ride occasionally. And M’das Sir who used take Physics and Chemistry tuitions when I was in Class 12 used to own a Bullet, which he allowed me to ride once a while. Felt like I was king (no dainty princess this) of the road!

I used to dread the public mode of transport – Buses and autos. I remember, once when my Hero Puch had a flat tyre, I thought I’ll take the bus to my tuition class. I waited 5 minutes at the bus stop, no bus in sight, I walked to the next bus stop, no bus and kept walking… actually walked about 5 kilometers or more, all the way to my tuition centre. Now you know what I mean when I say ‘dread’!

From Hero Puch I graduated to a Suzuki motorbike. This time I was old enough to get a license. Man, I felt powerful. Could race with the meanest of machines. No Harley Davidson, but will make do. That was a time and place where there were very few girls riding (geared) bikes. From what I heard, there was just one other girl in the city who used to ride a motorbike. Hadn’t met her though.

And me with my tall frame, short hair, Levis jeans , casual tees, Nike shoes, no fashion accessories and helmet on, could pass off for a guy. When the guys realized I was a girl, I would get a second and third look and then they would want to race with me. Like I cared! My friend who would pillion ride with me would wrap a scarf around her head and face (to keep the heat and dust away), she could pass off as Phulan Devi . Perhaps why, the co-riders on the road kept a safe distance and were afraid to challenge us to a race. Enjoyed the ride, through the dust, the heat, the rains and of course, some minor bruises!

What I hated though was when my friends’ friends, sister’s friends, mom’s friends and dad’s friends reported to my folks that I ride too fast and that I would be sorry if I didn’t heed to their advice and slow down. Aarrgghh! And I also didn’t like having to clean my bike every other day, take it for servicing once every while and when my dad warns me about not running on reserve fuel for too long (and actually running out of fuel, with the nearest petrol bunk not within a mile)…. Aaarrrggghhh! And when my pillion rider holds me around my waist, sits on one side, gives me instructions to ride (pillion riding or back seat driving!)…Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

I learnt to drive a car when I was in Class 8 (dad taught me). From Class 10, my dad used to let me drive when we went out as a family. I was appointed the unofficial driver (didn’t have a license remember!). When I got license, I was ready for the kill. Didn’t mow anybody down. I am quite a cautious driver, actually . Just 2 or 3 small dents / scratches in my many years of driving experience (which wasn’t even my fault, really!).

On my graduation day, my dad (no he didn’t gift me a car!) let me take the car (He’s someone who used to take such good care of the car that mom, sis and I almost believed that he loved the car more than us!). When I was pursuing my post-graduation, however, my dad let me take the car out more frequently. And I was always the chauffeur when we went on family outings and trips.

Love to be in the driver's seat, in control of things. Hate the "go slow, slam the brakes, left-no-right, you're going too fast..." instructions that come from the backseat driver, who thinks he/she is a co-driver or navigator. When I'm on the hot seat, it's like I wear a pair of horse blinds, complete focus on the road and where I'm headed. I've had my share of accidents, but none too serious. I steer my way ahead.

When I went to Chennai on my first job, I borrowed my cousin's Kinetic Honda and figured my way around the snarling traffic. The scorching sun was no deterrent. When I got to Coimbatore, where my dad was posted then, I got back to riding my Suzuki. I got married, landed in Mumbai. Then it was - Train for daily commute to work (as a passenger only), Car for weekends, family outings or shopping, Pick-up Truck to ferry items to the Godown when the drivers were unavailable (as a volunteer - Hubby's uncle was a tea-taster and had a tea business). I was again the unofficial driver. (If ever I ran out of a job, I knew I could land a job as a driver, given my experience!). Cochin, I ventured about in Suzuki (my bike) and Yamaha (my hubby's bike) initially and then the 4-wheels through narrow roads that looked more like lanes, alleys, blind curves and dead-ends.

Now, I'm done with bikes. I'm no longer fascinated by it. The cars too, I would be happy to let someone else drive. Hate the traffic - more than half the commuters don't seem to know how to ride/drive, some dreaming while driving, some others drunk and driving, some talking on the mobile or smoking while driving...add to it the growing number of vehicles on the road, potholed roads...and what have you!

But looks like I will have to drive, at least for now, perhaps until the time I have the luxury of having a chauffeur drive me around town. Then I will gladly relinquish the post of unofficial driver!


* All images on this post (included to make this rather long story on wheels a bit racy) are courtesy Google Search and belong to the owners of the respective sites.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My 12th Storey

My 7 year old daughter asked me the day before if I knew the meaning of Storey that is spelt s-t-o-r-e-y, I said yes. She was visibly excited (half hoping I would tell her a story) and asked me “then tell” and I said “floor of a building” and she asked “how did you know” and I said “I learnt, when I was little” and she seemed to be happy. For she had learnt it too. Now she knows that storey (also spelt 'story') is not the misspelled version of story (fable or tale), but a word that had a meaning of its own.
Now, she finds the view from up the 12th Storey of the 22-Storey Apartment much more beautiful than before. I think about it, makes me feel happy too. Reality is (and realty isn’t misspelled either!), it does look good from up there. The beautiful city of Cochin – unlike the concrete jungle typical of a city, has greenery all around, with villas, high-rise apartments, shopping malls, corporate buildings and other such concrete buildings harmoniously co-existing with nature.

The 12th Storey is actually our second home. We live in a 3-storey Apartment on the 2nd Storey and my folks stay in the 12th Storey of this 22 storey building, just a kilometer from our place. My daughter goes to the 12th Storey when she’s back from school. I’ve got a timetable ready for her, which needs a new look every other week (to keep her excited and inspire her to stick to the timetable at least until the newness lasts), or else it would turn into crushed paper finding its way into the bin.

Timetable goes something like this… (anticipated response in brackets)

  • Take a shower, change clothes (ok, ok…)
  • Drink milk, have a quick evening meal - my mom being a good cook, it is this time of the day my 7 year old girl relishes and eats the most (yum-scrum!)
  • Study / do homework for 1 hour (grrrr….)
  • Play with other children from the apartment – 1 hour (yipee!)
  • Break – 15 min (hmmmm…)
  • Study for 1 hour (oh no, not again!)
  • TV for 30 min (only half hour? Not fair!)
  • Keyboard Practice for 30 min (la, la, la….)
  • Play at home or simply while away time till mommy arrives (yoo-hoo!)
Then mommy (that’s me) arrives to pick her up. My usual routine, I search the dabbas (containers) on the table, and gobble up the remains of mom’s special item for the day (cakes, bhajji, vada, cookies, pudding, kozhukatta, pazham-pori and her various other specialities & experiments!). I check the time. It’s late, got to go. The just 2-months-away-from-2-year old baby will be waiting in our 3-storeyed apartment.

We say bye-bye to the 12th Storey and jump into the elevator. Meet some acquaintances on the way, say hi, bye and the courtesies or small talk in between. Jump into the car and drive away.

I catch-up with my daughter on the way. She tells me the new things she has learnt. She is preparing for the elocution contest “Keep Kochi clean” which is the day after and she rehearses the speech with all the frills. I pat her on her back and we arrive at a 3-storey building.

We take the stairs up and ting-tong, the door opens to Baby (Becky) - all smiles with my t-shirt wrapped around her neck. She skips about in excitement and shows all her antics at one go, to show us what we’d missed. Transition from 12th Storey to 2nd Storey is complete.

And so goes my story…

Friday, July 16, 2010


She loves to strut around in an over-sized shoe
Walk high on heels with her tiny feet, but she’s all of two

She is bright and happy, naughty and yeah, accident-prone
From day to dusk, she keeps me on her toes, I thus bemoan

When she wakes up she wants the TV music turned on
And until the time she sleeps, it goes on and on and on

She hugs his t-shirt when he’s not around, feeling his warmth perhaps
And wraps my t around her neck to feel my embrace during her naps

She flashes the sweetest smile ever when up to a trick
And the heart, even if made of stone, will melt just as quick

She wants everything her bigger sister takes to study or play
She’s stubborn, nothing more - nothing less is just her way

She claps, she dances, she mimics, her actions speak a million words
And if you’re not looking, she’s on the table, licking up curds

Ne-po is the new word in her vocabulary, which she uses at will
She gets things done her way; you just can’t hold her still

She’s a little devil, at the same time, sweet as an angel
Fiddles with everything, but you can’t pull out the cudgel

She’ll jump off the ledge if you tell her “go”
She knows she’ll land safe, coz she trusts you so

All this and more, she is Becky, my darling baby
And I am discovering myself through her, maybe.

* Ne-po means go-away in the Gibberish Language Dictionary. She uses it - when she wants something (especially if it's something she shouldn't be wanting in the first place), when she wants things done her way, when she doesn't want somebody around her (after using up their service!), when she is fighting, etc. Wonder if we have a word like that in the Oxford English Dictionary that could mean all of this!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

BP levels rising!

The controversy over Deepwater Horizon oil spill / Gulf of Mexico oil spill (also called BP oil spill) is raging. This massive ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is considered to be one of the largest offshore spills with about hundreds of millions of gallons spilling from a sea floor oil gusher, resulting in an oil slick spread over 2500 square miles.

An environment disaster undoubtedly, with a detrimental impact on marine and wildlife habitats, also affecting the fishing & tourism industries in the Gulf of Mexico. Miles of beaches, wetlands and estuaries are under threat. The BP engineers are working overtime to fix the spill or at least contain the damage.

The oil is spilling, the oil slick is spreading, the stocks are plunging, and…BP (read “Blood Pressure” from here on) is rising.

Well, this post is not really about the oil spill, why it happened or what are going to be the repercussions, nor is it about taking stock or pointing fingers. It is about my BP which has of late been on the rise…

Some crude reasons for rising levels of BP include:

  1. Global, National, Government, Political, General:
    • The BP oil spill (since we’re already on the topic), for whatever damage it is doing to life underneath and around.
    • The fact that it took 26 long years to pass the judgment on Bhopal Gas Tragedy and nothing much was done in the meantime to clean up the toxic waste (media frenzy and people fury only on current affairs, huh?).
    • The level of Corruption for moving every file under every desk in Government Offices. And to top it all, their lackadaisical approach (it’s the taxpayers money you’re sitting on, damn it!).
    • The highhandedness of Cops who seem to be out there only to make your life worse (busy meeting their targets must be – no. of cases booked, fines collected etc).
    • Bribe – givers & takers.
    • Dowry – givers & takers.
    • The extremists / rebels who do anything in the name of fighting for justice (religious fanatics, jihadists, terrorists…list is endless).
  2. Neighbourhood, People, Kids, family:
    • Gossip Mongers – especially those who seem to hang around-with and talk-behind-back of the same person.
    • Nosy parkers and peeping toms in the neighbourhood.
    • People passing lewd comments / uncalled-for judgments.
    • Kids acting like grown-ups, watching serials, telling lies or making lame excuses, being bullies (smartasses!), doing anything-but- behaving like kids.
    • Hubby asking you to fetch “this” or “that” when it’s actually closer to him and you’ve just sat down to put your feet up!
  3. Business, Workplace, Job:
    • Loyalty at workplace is hardly rewarded – Hee-Haw! (The jumping jacks make more money a month than what you make a year!).
    • The politics & double games you are expected to play to succeed in your business.
    • Boss who says “yesterday” for deadlines, “today” for meetings, and “tomorrow” for pay hike (but tomorrow never comes!).
    • Colleagues who try to dump the job & client on you, trying to keep their hands clean; Colleagues who send half-baked brief for full-baked ideas; Colleagues who pretend to be morons when they actually are jug heads…(list is endless).
    • Clients who want the best-in-class @ rock-bottom-prices! (And when the agency closes down because they almost did charity business with the same clients for dog-years, end up paying 10 times more hiring 10 such agencies!)
  4. Telephone, Emails, Internet, Computer:
    • Call centre executives (CCEs) who ask for Mr. XYZ, when their records clearly state the customer is female; CCEs who make it sound like the next half hour of product selling actually comes free, just that Rs.123 followed by a few 0’s will show up in the next month’s statement; CCEs (sitting in some Godforsaken place in Chennai) who ask “Why saar…you are the privilege customer, that is why we are giving you these special offer saar!” and can’t take “not interested” for an answer…(the list is again endless, nevertheless annoying!)
    • Phones through which you can’t hear a thing, and must repeatedly say “sorry?, excuse me?, could you please speak up a bit?...” and the person on the other hand thinks you are either deaf or dumb.
    • Computers that don’t work as fast as you do and “hang” just when the work is almost done but you haven’t saved the file yet.
    • Internet connection that’s slow as a snail.
    • Emails that don’t make sense even if you read, re-read, a million times over… and it still sounds like Greek & Latin!
  5. Traffic, Vehicles:
    • Motorists forming 6 lanes, when there’s space only for 2 lanes, and creating a traffic jam (The person in the extreme right lane is hollering & honking the most, because if he doesn’t, he’ll be at the receiving end!)
    • Buses halting in the middle of the road even when there are bus bays / bus stops, sticking their big red butts not letting anyone overtake, on the left or right!
    • Auto rickshaws overtaking on the left and denting the car or ripping the side-view mirror casing off (haven’t replaced it yet…too expensive!) and then having the gall to stop and pick up a fight (starts with wordy duel and almost ends in fist fights!).
    • The old fart engine packed in a box running on wheels, which leaves a trail of smoke & hoot, blackening your windshield and blinding & deafening other motorists within a mile.
    • Roads that are more like gaping holes (not just potholes) with ‘tar’ being a mere filler, in between.
    • No flyovers, pedestrian walkways / crossings, just roads that seem to be getting narrower by the day.
These are just few of the many things that can tick me off. My face flushes red and I think it’s high time I check my BP….Meanwhile send in your chants and sweet mantras that can help me keep my cool :)