How to get the best out of a budget holiday

Most of us believe that the best way to spend a vacation is to spend more. We want stay at that beach resort with a private pool or beach or even better, at that water bungalow. We wish to experience those heavenly sounding services at the spas. We just want to make the holiday perfect. It is true and fair. But most of us have financial limitations.  And the guilt of having spent up most of the savings does not leave us for a long time. In the pursuit of that ideal holiday, we miss to enjoy the little joys of holidaying with loved ones.  But it need not necessarily be so. Here are a few tips to remember for an exciting and guilt free holiday.

  • Plan In Advance: Be it the accommodation, food or activities, there are always many choices available. And you will almost certainly find that exciting yet economic option that fits you. But only if you search enough. Once decided on the destination, look out for the best way to spend your budget. A search on the internet will give you many ideas. Or you can ask the folks online for suggestions. If you have friends who have traveled to the place before, they can be of help.

Also read all aspects of the place you are traveling to. This will help build extra excitement.

  • Be open to Experiment: Nothing will build more memories than a new experience. Have you always looked for comfort. For a change try the inexpensive guest houses.  Or that small inn that is  far from the main tourist attractions. It may be away from conveniences but it will have a more local touch to it. By inexpensive, I am not talking low on quality. If one looks for enough, one can always find that underrated gem of a place or food.
  • Explore: Don’t follow the trodden path. Take a diversion. You might just make a new discovery.  Take an early morning walk and you will see beautiful sights that nobody told you, existed.  And it does not cost a dime. But wherever you go, do keep safety in mind at all times. Always have a companion while venturing isolated places.
  • Live the Local Flavors: Remember this is your chance to understand another world. Take interest in the lifestyle and culture of the place. Not only will this make your holiday exciting, you might help spread awareness about the local community by talking about it to friends. Try the local food. No restaurant will probably make that food in a more authentic way than its made there and you can get it cheap too.
  • Adventure: Dont miss on adventure that you can have. It is imporatnt to do some physical activities as doing that will awaken your senses more than any spa treatment can.  You can swim in a pond if your hotel does not have a pool. You can take an early morning bicycle ride or climb a hill andyou will have ample things to talk about when you return.

So the next time you make an escape, be the real traveler, the explorer. Great holidays are all about making beautiful memories.  So go ahead and have a thriller of  a holiday and that too without feeling guilty of having spent too much.

What Caused Global Economic Recession

Every body who reads this will definitely wish to turn back the time to last year when economy was flourishing all over the world with ever growing industries like IT, Automobile, BPO, KPO, Manufacturing, Telecom, FMCG, and industries based on several other products and services. This was the time when people across the world were getting sky rocketing salaries, promotions and they were spending like there is no tomorrow. In other words, we had a feel good factor world wide.

Economic RecessionThen suddenly few things happened and all happiness and prosperity went into deep hole; people started loosing jobs, salaries started dropping with even more intense rate, industries got closed and stock markets crashed which even left behind the horrible experience of many black days in stock market history.

We called it Global Economic Recession, which trapped almost all countries of the world; even the biggest economic powers i.e. United States, UK, Germany, France, Japan and several strong economic nations of Europe. Many countries officially declared the recession seeing the inflation going towards the lowest ever figure.

So, what happened suddenly with the entire world which pushed us in such a harsh condition? There is no mystery or any magic stick that created this; it’s a normal part of economic cycle and we should have a look at it.

Steps in economic cycle and economic recession:

First Step: First step in economic cycle is recognized by rising levels across the industries, when credit is abundantly available and people are pumping money to new business. It leads to rising income levels, purchasing power, increasing demand due to increased spending power, which we call economic development.

Second Step: Demand becomes even higher and production gets on the top most level with resources getting exhaust day by day. Due to liberalized norms of credit, people go on for increased debts. Debt recovery becomes a tough task during this step and soon, we see a lot of fixes coming on to lending parameters.

Economic Recession Step

Third Step: Third step is the beginning of the economic downturn; credit facilities get limited to few hands, non performing assets becomes a higher proportion of their asset business and several financial services houses shut down their shop for asset business. Lesser money flowing into the system leads to lesser industry and infrastructure development; it leads to lesser employment and poor spending power. As a result, demand gets squeezed and so is the production.

Fourth Step: This is the actual scenario of economic recession what we have been going through for last 8 to 10 months.

Will economy bounce back thereafter, will we able to see every thing back on the same pace; of course yes. We have already seen governments pumping money into the system as bail out packages (Example: Troubled Asset Relief Program in US). The economic parody will again start from the very First Step; it should take another two to three financial quarters before the things will be resumed.

So, don’t loose hope if you are facing really tough time.

India in terms of “acceptance of different culture”

IndiaIndia is a country with different religions, languages and culture. We often talk about acceptance of every Indian as Indian beyond his or her caste, creed or culture. While we put our thinking caps on to bring up the GDP or perhaps manufacturing sector, let’s see where we stand on acceptance of different culture.

There was the typical Kanchipuram Saree, jasmine “gajra” and sparkling gold jewelry. Yes, I was in a typical Tamil wedding as one of the important family member. And I was too in a Saree and jewelry, but the difference was, it was of north Indian style. Was it a crime? Oh yes, the Indian woman has to seek permission from her husband and her in laws in terms of what to wear, not only during occasions, but also during personal hours of relaxation.

Originally I am from the same community as they are. Although I hate talking about caste and community I had to bring it up now to throw light on certain issues. The typical arranged marriage goes something like this: Groom and his family searches for a bride that is of their community and caste. My bio data too was short listed on basis of that, but since I was brought up in a different city, although I speak the same language, I was almost rejected on the basis of being different in culture. Anyways, things turned the other way later on. So where is India heading to? If one cannot accept the little culture adaptation of their so called caste or community how are they going to accept the different religion, language or culture all together?

The Murder

GunWoman450pxlorez Rosemarie got up slowly. She was sure she’d heard a sound. She had been on the floor. Sleeping. She had been so tired she remembered. She tried to peep through the heavy drapes. It was midnight and late by village standards. Not a leaf stirred outside. It was a warm and balmy night and the moon beamed down in a steady stream .She could see no one. Yet she’d heard a soft thud. Who could be about at this hour? There had been no one when she let herself in. She was sure. She knew no one in the village and no one knew her. Why, she didn’t even know where the village was, or if there was one at all.

She had come into the cottage through the back .Through the kitchen. There was no one in it. She knew. She had checked. The cottage had stood in silver splendor lonely and forlorn. Isolated and unlived, in the middle of nowhere. Inviting.

 No one had seen her either. She was certain.

She heard it again .She could swear it was the distinct squeak of the gate. She quickly looked towards it. The glimmering shadows had lengthened. But the gate stood unmovingly closed. It was bolted .Hadn’t she seen off that irritating dog and bolted it herself when she had come in? But that was a few hours ago. Could the dog have come back? Could some one have jumped over? Could they have followed her?

 No. How could they? Nobody knew she was there. No one knew who she was. Did anybody? She didn’t. They told her at the hospital she’d get her memory back. Soon. It was just a matter of time. A temporary loss. It was the shock, the trauma. Of having killed somebody. But she couldn’t have. Could she ? Why would she? They couldn’t tell her. They didn’t know.

It must have been in self defense. She was no killer. Some elusive feeling told her so. They could be wrong. They had to be wrong .Oh! Why was it that she couldn’t remember? She didn’t know.

She was going to be taken away, the nurses told her. In a few minutes. They were just looking for the cuffs. Cuffs?

 She knew then that she needed to get away. Go somewhere safe. Till she was able to remember. She had escaped while their attention had been diverted and had run, walked, stumbled and found her way to this secluded cottage. Miles away. She hoped. The darkness had been a good friend. And the moon an able navigator. She had picked open the simple lock,  shooed the sniveling dog away and had collapsed on the musty carpet.

 There it was again. That shuffling sound. Now was that a shadow? Why was her head hurting so? Fear, her now nagging companion engulfed her completely. When would it ever leave her? She was no killer. She couldn’t be. The soft thud was no longer a soft thud. It was a definite sound. Almost a muffled bang.

 She groped for …wait a minute- was that a gun in her hand? Was she a murderess after all? Her blood ran cold. Maybe, but she wasn’t going to be captured without a fight. She got to her feet hitting out wildly. And then the world erupted.

 The gun hit the door. Strangely it looked like a golf club. Dorothy Myer’s “Escape from Murder’ fell to the floor with a big thud. And she found herself all tangled up on the carpet wrestling with the door knob.

Memory returned. Ah! She had been reading it before dropping off last night. She had fallen off the sofa and cracked her head too.

And there was her husband’s pained look of shocked surprise while fending off his prized club.

 It would appear she had cracked his head too.

He had been quietly negotiating the door so as not to wake her. Trying to get in after a late night shift at the hospital.

The relief was enormous. Her intuition had been right .She wasn’t a murderess after all. Or was she? For her husband was now lying prone on the ground. To all intents and purposes dead to the world!

An Hour in Heaven

This is a piece I wrote when I was about 15 years old, and it’s a piece I’m quite fond of. It conveys my feelings about food in general, and sweet food in specific, very well. And every time I read this, I feel very glad that I haven’t started caring about my weight enough to count calories, and so, I can still stuff myself with chocolates and ice cream and cakes and all the other delicious desserts with nearly no compunction.

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An Hour in Heaven

StairwayToHeaven-D-4dEveryone has different ideas of what their perfect Heaven would be. My Heaven would basically comprise of thousands and thousands of books, my favourite music playing lightly in the background, and every sweet dish ever created available for me to eat. And though I still haven’t had the chance to experience full Heaven, I have spent an hour in what I can call “one-third of Heaven.”

I was spending a couple of weeks of July in Bangalore with my family. We were going shopping everyday, I had bought enough clothes to (hopefully) last me for the rest of the year, and the weather was perfect. And to top it off, Papa had just announced that we would be going to the Leela Palace, the best hotel in Bangalore, for lunch. What more could one want??

We were driven to the Leela in a Lancer (not a limousine, but nearly good enough) provided by Papa’s company. All dressed in the best clothes we could find, we entered the truly royal looking doors of the Leela Palace. The corridors were lit dimly by chandeliers, the huge French windows were hung with crimson satin, and the sweeping staircases reminded me of the castle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The passage had several doors leading into various restaurants, one Indian, one Chinese, one Italian, and a coffee house. None of us were in the mood for a quiet, dignified Indian lunch, or for Chinese, and my proposition of eating Italian was outvoted, so we chose to go to Citrus, the coffee house, for our lunch.

We were seated out in the sun by black clad waiters and duly given the menus. After carefully scrutinizing the menu, I decided to go for the lunch buffet. The rest of my family followed suit. I went inside to inspect the rows of dishes for the buffet which were laid out on several tables. There were curries, and pies, and some kind of Thai soup, and a lot of bread and salad. But what I was interested in were the desserts. Sugar and sweets have always attracted me, and needless to say, the sight of the mouth-watering, delicious-looking, chocolatey desserts set out on a counter, all ready for me to eat made me completely about the rest of the lunch. I picked up a plate, and began helping myself to a piece of everything that I could fit.

A piece of the most delectable chocolate cake, which looked as if it would simply melt in my mouth, was the first on the plate. A large helping of chocolate pudding, all soft and gooey, and a big, fat chocolate-and-sugar coated doughnut went after the cake, followed by a piece of cheesecake smothered in sauce. A collection of small wine glasses containing chocolate mousse and what looked like jelly were standing beside the cheesecake, and one was cruelly separated from its companions, its contents soon to enter my stomach.

My mother appeared on the scene just as I was trying to decide whether or not to heap a piece of chocolate and banana pie onto the tiny white space I could still see on my plate, and looking scandalized, sent me to our table to “kill myself eating all that chocolate”. Looking around, I realised that there were several waiters observing my actions with austere, disapproving expressions frozen on their faces. Blushing, I fled from the scene, carrying my plate, to eat my way through heaven in peace.

My parents adamantly refused to believe that I could finish that huge helping by myself, but believe me, not only did I finish it, I went for more. By the time the bill was presented to us (by one of those judgmental waiters), my mother was crimson with embarrassment, my father amused with the proceedings, my sister regarding me with some awe, and I had successfully managed to drown myself in chocolate for the first, and probably the last time, of my life.

I checked my weight when we finally returned to Kanpur three days later. It had increased by two kilos, and even my friends were insisting that I had gained weight. It was not exactly a perfect ending for my Day in Heaven, but that experience was definitely worth every gram of those two kgs, and every word of teasing that I had to endure from my friends for the next two weeks.

odd man in

education“I don’t like to do the odd man out” said my nephew trying to convey something. On probing further he explained “odd people are great people; didn’t you see ‘Taare Zamin par’?, he questioned putting me on a track that derailed the teaching machine in me. On second thought I agreed with him. In this world of competition when few people appreciate what is good and appreciable in others we all endeavor to fit into that frame which is generally appreciated or liked. Parents force children to score high marks so that the admission to the professional course becomes easy. But by aping we forget the fact that originality is the easiest way to success.

But to think differently is something that is difficult. It is difficult not because we as individual are not capable of innovation, but our case is more like an earthen pot that is cast in a particular way and then toughened to remain in that shape. With our schooling we learn to read write and think in a particular way. The capacity of a particular profession to earn fast buck makes us think that this is the best thing to learn. We all fall in line and behave like robots with our single aim in life, the capacity to make money. A person is said to be successful if he has the ability to earn money in way that involves less time, less work and above all, is approved by the society. If we look back at the history most of the successful people were the ones who thought differently. In the annals of history the person who thought differently always had to bear the brunt of public ridicule, apathy and the setting was always not at all favorable to the new idea. Take any new idea you will find that it is always opposed and many a times ridiculed. We are expected to enact certain script, it may be written by family, society or even self.

We always hear people saying “this is not the way we Indians behave” or “this has never happened in our family” and also “I don’t do it like this”. So the barriers in the path innovations are huge and complex. The success of a new idea depends on the originator of the idea. He should protect it from being booed out as weird or impossible even before he tries it out. The conviction in the idea should be absolute. The fun is if you conduct a survey, a majority votes in favor of innovation but when it comes to accepting the new ideas it is the majority that opposes it. This is so because individuality is a harmless trait possessed by one’s self. The same trait in others is downright absurdity. Edison, Galileo, Newton, and almost all the great people thought differently. Their behavior was considered abnormal in their respective times but today the progeny is grateful to them that they thought differently. When the entire world was fighting the world war two Gandhiji thought differently and won freedom for India without any war. Now is the need for the world to think differently. So next time you tell your child “that is not the way they do it” remember you have killed some original idea.

The Diary of a Social Butterfly- A Book review

Diary-of-a-Social-Butterfly_smPakistani writing is the toast of the season and names from Daniyal Moinudeen to Moni Mohsin to Sethi are making waves in the literary world. The recent international book fairs held in various corners of the globe have felicitated writings from the sub-continent, especially Pakistan. Pak writers have interested us even before this current wave, Mohsin Hamid, and Bapsi Sidhwa are household names to the voracious Indian reader, who looks to literature to know more about this neighbour which is so near yet so far. But when I read about the theme of Moni Mohsin’s novel, I was apt to think, is this a typical debut novel with just peripheral depth, even chick-lit and riding on the fame of the journalist in the author?

My reading the book cleared my apprehensions and gave me a new vocation for the current season. I am now as crazy about Pakistan Writing in English as any of them out there and have got copies of almost all the books making it to the shelves in my favourite book shop, including the very latest one by Sethi. But this review is of Mohsin’s ‘The Diary of a Social Butterfly’.

Moni Mohsin’s first novel was a coming of age story, ‘The End of Innocence’, in the backdrop of West Punjab, in 1971, which was a decisive year for Pakistan. Moni took up her columns written during another crucial period in Pak history, 2001-2008, in the voice of an empty-headed society lady to formulate her second novel.

As some one has said, columns fall flat when they come out as books. But not so with Moni Mohsin. Moni’s very perceptive and hilarious accounts of Pakistani high society in her avatar as the best ‘eve dropper’ in town are extremely entertaining as a book as it was as a column. No, I didn’t leave out the ‘s’ at the end of ‘eve’; the spelling is Mohsin’s and this is a sample of the hilarious language which will keep you LOL all the time.

As the title indicates, this is Butterfly’s diary, and Butterfly is someone ‘everyone knows’ and she lives in a big fat kothi with a big fat garden in Gulberg and is all ‘sophisty’. Her whole existence is a hectic social life filled with parties, good food, dressing up and gossip, and her banes are her in-laws, the Old Bag and the Gruesome Twosome.

Her acronyms and misspellings make you howl with laughter, right from vagina (that’s angina) to brain haemorrhoids to buttocks (that’s Botox) to Bangcock (yeah Bangkok). Each of her diary entries begins with two important headings, one, a political one that affects Janoo, her term for her husband and the other one that is important to her own self. She elaborates on both on parallel lines and the picture is crystal clear; of what Butterfly does and the hidden layer of politics, complete with a journalist’s perspective of the situation. Check out this extract of a day’s titles.

Mullah Omar flees Kabul

Why, asks Butterfly, did he not go to the mountains and become a ‘gorilla’

Yes, this is no chick lit or light comedy as it appears on the surface; but look beyond the laughter lines, and you will see the layers, a society of educated people worrying if the country is going to ruin, just like you and me do in India over our morning news paper. The major events that shake the world and Pakistan have no effect on Butterfly’s mind, except as a diary entry. So the bombings, the assassinations, the upheavals and the tsunamis are minor irritations that disturb her schedule.

Her wisecracks are side-splitting and Mohsin has a real ear for the hilarious cadence. There are real jewels of the chutney language like ‘what cheeks’, ‘proper-gainda’, ‘spoil spots’. In fact every sentence in the book is studded with such epithets. Irony and satire screams out of every line.

The book ends with Benazir’s assassination, the one point on which Janoo and Butterfly have a shared feeling of melancholy. The Bridget Jones of Pakistan signs off in low key but the political depths don’t miss you at all.

Read it for its entertainment as well as hidden depths. The book brought out by Random House is a great buy at Rs.195/-

At New Delhi railway station platform number 15

new delhiNew Delhi railway station platform number 15, 12 noon, the peak of summer, and a pal and I were on our way to Kanpur IIT. The pal was recently down from the U.K. and was totally put out by the dirt, noise and crowds, no small wonder considering we were precariously perched on one portion of our posteriors on a bench, and considered lucky. The rest of the humanity were either on the floor or standing with eagle eyes fixed on any place that might possibly fall vacant when someone decides to take a leak or a drink.

At our foot was a family of obvious rustic origins. The grandpa was clad in dusty white complete with a turban and a royal, quivering, white moustache. The son, a daughter-in-law and 4 granddaughters were with him. The DIL was the typical face-covered, eyes-on-the-ground type in a bright red sari and one of the girls was obviously on the way to joining the demure-gal gang. The rest of them squat on the platform with grand dad, talking nineteen to dozen. The other man of the family disappeared.

Trains came and went and all of them were filled to the rim, and each time a train puffed its way out, people ran after it or hung on to windows for dear life; travel was a tough option on that day.

The Rewa express had now been standing on the platform for several minutes and we watched whole groups of human arms and legs sticking out of windows and doors when the whistle sounded. The train spit smoke, and as it slowly dragged itself out we watched the old grand dad running after the train, clutching two of his grand daughters and dragging them by hand. The people on the train were aghast, so were we and when someone dragged him and the kids in, we sighed with relief. But as soon as we opened our mouths to comment on the last minute train-ascend of a man of obvious age that too with two young children, we saw the other man of their family running after the train, shouting something we couldn’t catch. Several people took up his words and in another second we saw the grand dad and the two kids being pushed out of the moving train on to the platform again.

It was then that we realized what had happened; the old boy had climbed into the wrong train, and had taken two of his family members with him. He came straight back to where his family was huddled and leased a torrent of words in total anger at the third grand daughter who had not bothered to accompany him. As we gaped at the family drama, we realized something extremely amusing; the daughter-in-law and the demure grand daughter had not budged from their position on the platform, nor did they appear bothered about the grand dad’s adventure; they still sat with proper decorum, eyes-on-the ground and the veil on the face, and not venturing a word to the men. I have not laughed so hard in years.

18 till I die!!!

“I  went to play a cricket match, there i got a catch.

The catch was easy, but I was lazy. I dropped the catch and we lost the match.”

i1_hem_cyclist_05

These lines were very popular with  my friends and me way back during our school days. Now after almost twenty years these lines still bring a smile on my face and rekindles all those fond memories of those wonderful years.We were a group of 4 guys ( we studied in a only boys school). All of us were of modest backgrounds but with a zest for life and everything it has to offer.Life was easy then,things weren’t that expensive and all of us had our own two wheelers(cycles to be precise). I still remember , we used to wear our best outfits on weekends and cycle around 10km to reach the upmarket areas of our city,park our cycles in the alleys and walk around as if we have come in the best wheels in town.Bird watching (not the feathered type)was a favourite past time and the upmarket areas of our city have an abundance of them.

Now as I reflect upon life and how it is different from those joyous years, I realize how I am missing out on those small things which meant so much to us. Of course, I am not the same fifteen year old now,age and status has caught up but still I think just once in a while I should let go and do all these silly things I have done as a fifteen year old.

As the joke goes “Being on a  diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the Menu card”. I guess being a husband and father shouldn’t stop me from letting the boy in me out once in a while. For starters, I got myself a BMX cycle(the salesman at the shop couldn’t believe that I had bought it for myself). Once or twice a week I go cycling for an hour or so,I do get a lot of stares from people but I enjoy it all the same. I now realize that each one of us should indulge in some activity or other which would keep the child in us alive. That could be anything like playing games with  the children in your society, playing doll games with your daughter or a  game of football with your son.Doing any of these activities would definitely lighten up your mood and the added benefit is you will also burn up a few calories.

As Bryan Adams say in his song”Eighteen till I die”–someday I’ll be eighteen going on sixty five.Let us live young till our last day. Afterall age is a state of mind.You are as old as you think you are!!!

Continue reading “18 till I die!!!”

vice called free advice

free-1If somebody is to point the vice or the unwanted things in society we generally talk about smoking, drinking and other such things as bad habits and  something that is not good for the well being of our own self and others. But recently I have come across a new vice that is ruining the society and troubling thousands for no reason. My friend’s daughter who was preparing for her board exam was fed up with the advice that people kept on hurling at her without her asking for it. This unwanted advice she complained wasted her time and confused her very much. At last she evened the score by asking them why they did not apply their wisdom to their own advantage. My friend got taunts that her daughter was the most ill behaved child and got some advice on the proper upbringing of children. In earlier days advice was sought because it was given carefully and after considering all the pros and cons of the issue now the word advice has become so hazardous that some wise chap has named it as gyan bidi. I need not highlight the hazards of a bidi or the hand rolled cigarette. People who are caught unaware by these advisers are the worst sufferers. A  friend of mine had a pet dog that got scabies, some one directed him to purchase the medicine directly from the chemist as his dog too had scabies and got cured in single dose. The chemist handed out the bolus and my friend fed it to his dog. Next day it was gone, not the scabies but the dog. It died of drug overdose. My friend cursed the advisor and himself. He later said I was almost hypnotized by that confident advice, later the chemist told me that the dose was meant for big animals like cows and buffaloes. The fine line that distinguishes a suggestion from an advice is often crossed and the result is hazardous if the matter related is serious. These advices are not only unnecessary many a times they are hurting and sometimes funny. Obese people often get advice from all and sundry on how to reduce weight and the most hurting ones come when that person is eating. Eat less you fatso or something like that is impolite and hurting but yet  many people do it. A plump friend has devised a way to tackle such advisers . He retaliates with something like why don’t you eat properly you look sick and colourless whenever he sense some advice on  obesity coming his way. These however are extreme ways of tackling the problem, the solution to the problem remains elusive till there are unwanted ad visors in the society. In our country where every Tom and Dick advices Sachin on how to bat, tells Lata how to sing, Amitabh gets some lessons on how to act, no one can escape this trap of unwanted and misplaced advice. All we can do is duck them like an expert batman ducks a bouncer and be prepared to hit the next advice for a six. The best way to deal with advice is by putting Newton third law in practice. To every advice give back an equal and opposite advice. Till we learn the art of tackling advice it will always remain an ad(ded) vice in our life.

The right way

800px-beggin

Sheela stood perplexed. It was as if someone had slapped her…

Sheela was a software professional working in Pune, India. She was a God fearing person who truly believed that she was lucky to have everything in the world – a loving family, good career and a high paying job. She was thankful for this fortune and always looked out for an opportunity to help the underprivileged, especially children.

She always had some ready change for kids at the signals. She used to keep biscuit packets in the car and give it away to any child she found begging. She chose to celebrate her birthdays by cooking a small meal and making numerous food packets. She would then distribute the food packets to the people sitting outside the temple when she went to pay homage to God.

But this article in “India Today” totally left her dazed. The article talked at length about how gangs of people exploit street children and force them to beg at the signals. Most of the proceeds collected by these children are seized and they are given a piddly amount for themselves. At times, children as young as 15 days old are “rented” out as “softer targets” to accompany a woman to beg; this ensured that onlookers shell out money more easily out of pity. Sometimes, children were stolen from well to do families and made a victim to this trade.

It was as if someone had slapped Sheela. All this while Sheela used to derive utter satisfaction and peace when she was helping the children. She vowed that she would no longer abet begging. She stopped giving away food. Her heart would ache seeing the children beg and she not even doing a small bit from her end.

One day, she was on her way home after work. Her mom had asked her to pick up lemons for the “pav bhaji” tonight. She stopped right outside her building on spotting a pull up cart full of lemons and sweet corn. The cart owner was a small boy around 9 years of age. There was a spark in his eye and a smile on his face. After paying for the lemons, she got on to a conversation with him. She found out that the boy was not really the cart owner but he ran the stall on behalf of his neighbour who paid him 300 rupees a month for the errand. The boy ran the cart from 5:30 pm in the evening till 9:30 pm in the night. During the day he attended school. Sheela’s heart melted away. Here was a boy who at such a juvenile age understood some of the hard facts of life – studies will take him a long way and hard work pays! She wanted to encourage the boy and give him accolades for his work. She was not sure how. Over- paying for the lemons would be like giving away alms. She thought of something!

From that day onwards, Sheela was seen at the cart every evening on her way home. Either she was buying lemons or eating sweet-corn. Sometimes, she would drag a colleague to the cart for a corn. The huge stock of lemons that she used to collect, were distributed to the neighbours. At times she used to make lemon juice and take it to work and give it to her colleagues.

She was soon known as the Lady with the “lemon” to her neighbours and colleagues.

A Better India

eunuch

“Zoo, Zoo, Zoo… we are off to the zoo”. My older one went ranting around the house from the wee hours of the morning. He was excited to the core since the time he caught me telling my husband that “Let’s take the children out to the zoo.” His little sister who is nine months old and is still alien to the concept of zoo’s and movies and all that, could feel her brother’s excitement and jumped around with him.

So we were finally packed with water bottles and biscuits and sandwiches and loaded ourselves in the car. My older one grabbed the window seat and pulled the pane down. We were barely out of our building gates when we were stopped by the pandemonium caused by the arrival of three eunuchs. As soon as we drove by, they cowered around our car and one was quick to stand next to the window where my son was sitting. The other two crowded around my husband’s window asking for money. My older one started telling me “Aunty is calling you, Mama”. I tried my best to feign ignorance and shield my younger one from the eunuch. My husband taken by surprise was fiddling with his wallet to give out some money. He gave a tenner to each of them and we moved on.

My son was asking me “Mummy, why was Aunty asking us for money”. I managed to give some vague answer. Honestly speaking, I didn’t have an answer for him. Neither did my husband. Normally, the logic that is used by the society when someone begs is that the person does not want to work hard and get a dignified living. Hence he/she resorts to easier ways like asking alms, thievery, etc.

In this case, they resort to begging because the society makes them beg. We do not recognize them as equal and respectable members of our society. No one is ready to employ them or take the efforts to change the mindset that thrives in this land of “Akbar, the great, Rani LakshmiBai and Gandhiji”

I recollect a news clipping which talked about a couple who gave birth to a baby eunuch. The husband and in-laws spurned the baby and wanted to give it up. The mother fought back and decided to keep the baby, only to invite a divorce sheet from her husband.

India might be fast moving from a developing nation to a developed nation. We would have succeeded in sending people to the moon, and launching our own personal satellite system. But it will be truly developed when there is respect for humanity here. I am not sure how the society will reform to accept the eunuchs as an integral part of our culture. I am not sure whether I will take the step towards this reformation? Will you?