Story of a lost journalist

January 21, 2017

What a wonderful world

Filed under: life,People — Cris @ 20:12

All the badness in the world has done this – it lets you appreciate the rare bits of niceness. I saw it in plenty last two days. My two-wheeler had a puncture yesterday and I had to leave it in the road. A mobile puncture man came and tried to help twice. But after everything he said nothing works, I should try someone else. He wouldn’t let me pay him. I had to push 50 bucks into his pocket.

Today I think of somehow getting it fixed, after other mobile puncture men couldn’t help. A rickshaw man nearby told me about the nearest workshop. So I got in and asked him to take me there. We tried three places before one fellow agreed to even look at the puncture. The rick man waited everywhere patiently, explaining to all of them with me, and giving me tips on how to present my case. “Don’t tell them the other guys said no, then he won’t come either. Hush!”

Then there’s the final guy who did agree. He came, realised this is not the regular tyre and then began rolling my two-wheeler to the workshop. He sat on it for an hour, trying everything he could before finally giving up. “The tyre’s gone. And I don’t know any shop that could replace such a tyre. You will have to call the company,” he said regretfully. For all that work he would take only 100 bucks. When I took his number, he joked: “Don’t ever bring this bike here.” While there I also saw the simple friendships of the shops next door, everyone trying their own bits to help this man.

When everyone does everything for money and even a few seconds of one kind of work could cost you thousands, I am amazed there is this other side in the world, where service comes first and money second, where concern for a total stranger comes easily. I am sad for my bike, but I am glad it brought me in touch with so many kind people that I could start assuming again that everyone I see is nice until proven otherwise. And if someone seems otherwise, you got to give them a chance, maybe they just had a bad day, or many bad days in a row.

March 25, 2016

My Train People

Filed under: People — Cris @ 03:12

Train travelling almost always leaves you with a story to write about. I have been missing these because I take the Jan Shatabdi every week and this sort of corners you into your seat especially if it is a window one, what with the one-way seats and the partitions in between, which actually makes it a comfy ride. But you miss the people stories. You don’t have to be the social kind, or the small talk kind. You just have to be the curious or the observant, the one that enjoys it all.

I had taken the Ernad Express grumpily, because the Shatabdi was already full and Ernad took two hours more than Shatabadi, and was more crowded. I felt guilty about claiming my seat which was taken by someone else and guiltier later for not sharing half of my seat as so many were standing. But then no one seemed to be complaining, the standers or the sitters. There was a certain happiness in here, in this really crowded coach that I took, that was somehow catching. And within an hour or so, you sort of establish a connection with your neighbours, without actually exchanging a word with them. It’s suddenly people you know, people with you.

On my right was a teenage couple, speaking what I suppose was Hindi, I have no idea of what. Opposite me, it’s a married couple with their toddler son, and one chubby fellow with a beard and a gigantic set of earphones. Standing to my left was a girl, who had to lose her seat to another claimer like me (the bad us), and uncomplainingly moved hither and thither with her earphones, one tenth the size of what Chubby had. There are more, the green shirt who took her seat, another green shirt who read a Sidney Sheldon and whom I might have had a crush on two years ago, an older woman who woke me up to ask about my seat and the hundreds (no exaggeration) of sellers who’d pass by.

But my forte had been established. It was the young couple, the married couple and kid, Chubby and Standing Girl. The family opposite me was like the happy families you watch in movies – laughing, loving, eating. This I believe was genuine, because if it weren’t, they couldn’t have made it last all five hours in the train. But there was not one annoyed gesture as the patient parents took turns to look after the little one, who hasn’t been still for one second, and kept insisting to eat the biscuits that fell on the floor, throwing an empty bottle at the opposite seat (which meant my feet and my hands and luckily not my face), and jumping up on their laps. The dad had been the bigger surprise, I never see fathers so patient, not only sharing the chores but doing it so happily. And unlike the typical Kerala families, this one was expressive. They look the typical Malayali trio but they don’t behave so. It was actually a happy sight to watch the mom put her hands affectionately on the dad every time she laughed or rested. I am not being a voyeur, this is hard to miss when you are seated in a crowded train and not sleeping.

I suppose the teen couple next to me was expressive too but they are on the same line as me so I couldn’t see and their language was alien. But what touched me was when the girl stopped her chatter and offered a candy bar to our Restless Kiddo who took it happily and gave her a baby-teeth smile. Later the young man would keep petting the child. He was irresistible that way, the kid, for all his restlessness, you could easily make a pet out of him. Love needed no language really. So good to be a kid, I thought, anyone could love you and also express it freely, no moral policing there. Yet.

Chubby in the meanwhile had brought out his gigantic earphones and plugged it to his mobile phone. He had not stopped laughing since. I imagined he is watching a Jagathy movie. But I also imagined, meanly, that there was nothing funny at all, he was just pretending to laugh to show he wasn’t lonely and bored. Poor Chubs. And then there was Standing Girl. I kept looking at her wondering if I should offer half my seat. I don’t know why I didn’t proceed. It’s simply one of those things you think and do nothing about. It’s when she stepped down at Haripad and walked away I felt so absolutely guilty. Why don’t we do the things we know we should – if it is for some temporary comfort, trust me it is no good at all compared to the later guilt you will feel. Quite for selfish reasons, I have decided to act as soon as I have such thoughts again, if only to save me from the torturous guilt.

So there, those were my people for the journey. I realized this when at some stop, the teens had stepped out and a suitcase man who boarded the train came to sit in their place. I said protectively, that seat’s taken.

November 9, 2014

A smile for a smile, well, now

Filed under: People — Cris @ 18:46

Did my own bit of social experimenting today. Was not actually a planned one. After an assignment I decided to walk to office, a good 45-minute walk. I came across many lone walkers, men and women, evening walkers or casual walkers of the street. When you look at a face for quite a bit, which you have to if both of you are walking towards each other and from a distance, you tend to smile. Well, i tend to smile. At random strangers. And the responses I got –

Two women hesitated for a second before smiling in return, one young, one middle-aged. A third slightly older woman stared at me, and kept staring, perhaps to make shure it is a smile she saw. Looked to me like she took offence. A foreigner kept looking at me but refused to smile – she has adapted well. Now comes the interesting part. How the men react. Old and young all react the same. They accidentally look at you once and then they look away. Smile or no smile, that’s what they do. They turn to the birds on the trees, to the traffic in the road, to the fences of wayside houses, to the air in front of them and the ground below. There are the few who begin with loud snide comments but they too turn away the minute you look at them. To the trees and traffic and air. The bro code, i gather.

An eye for an eye, perhaps yea, but a smile, well now…

October 29, 2013

Good people

Filed under: People — Cris @ 02:49

Like all my trips, this too is planned a day in advance. I hear about a music fest – Go Mad Ooty – for the first time. And decide this is what I always wanted to see. And what’s more, they give tents to sleep in. Camping in the night outdoors, my dream comes true. Plus out of nowhere I get a cheaper ticket, cause a fellow couldn’t make it and he offers it to me. Since it is last minutish I don’t get anyone else to go with me. So have the extra trouble of convincing home all is ok, but at the cost of having to do all my travelling in the day. Which means out of the three days of the fest, two would go for travelling. And there goes the leave I took. But that’s not the story I wish to write of. Not of the music I enjoyed, not of the lovely Ooty views or the brr-brry climate, neither of my great philosophical musings. I wish to write about the people I met.

I love observing people in trains, that is, when I remember to. Most of the time I am lost in my music or the world outside or simply asleep. This time, in the to-Ooty journey, I watch a Tamil family first, with a kutty girl, who I kept playing the winking game with. She winks and looks away, then I wink and look away. Pretty complicated game. She wins in the end. Then come a mother and three kids. I like how the elder sis takes care of the younger one and how the younger one, like I used to do once (and still do), blurts out all the dumb questions she had. And then there’s a fellow with a book who tries to talk to me but I pretend to be busy with my music.

The next group now, those are my first friends in the trip. Three guys – all military students at a school in Secunderabad. They do what many young men do in trains when they want to get attention. They come and talk aloud and pretend to not know that the person next to them is also a Malayali. They say things in Malayalam, particularly pointed at you. You play along, and not pay attention. Later they ask a direct question. “Chechi, are you a Malayali?” To which I say yes and they act embarrassed. We talk then. Of my job and their student life. One of them tells me of his love life. And in two minutes they ask my facebook id. In the old days it took weeks before a guy asked a girl her phone number. Now in the facebook age, it seems a pretty natural question to ask, more like ‘what’s your name’. I refuse, they take it well, we talk more. Alby and friends, I note down mentally, maybe to write here.

The auto I jump into next, has been friendly in giving me directions. But like many people I met in the trip, he wants to know why I was travelling alone and without luggage but just a bag. I tell him it is a two day trip to see a fest and luckily, he hears it as “test” and leaves me alone. Next comes the bus journey where I meet Girija. She looks a lot like a former boss of mine who was not so friendly with me. But she is one sweet woman. Turns out she is from Kannur and got married to a man in Ooty. I freak out every ten mins saying it is getting late, and she tells me it is ok. She tells me where to get down, how to go and everything I need to know, before telling goodbye to me. I feel so safe with her next to me. How we depend on a human companion for everything, even a stranger you met five mins ago suddenly becomes your most trusted friend on earth.

Once I reach the fest venue, I meet friends of the guy who gave me the ticket (whom I have never met but only interviewed on phone!) – Ala and the gang. They are ever so friendly and would take me with them everywhere. How disturbing could it be for them, when a stranger suddenly tags along with your gang of friends. But I also meet other people – friends of another friend. Freddy and Nick. I get so comfortable. Freddy was raised in Canada and speaks like Robin of How I met your mother. I insist on holding his hand every time we pass a slippery area, twisting his arm in the process. He thanks me profusely and wishes I would not try help him anymore. Nick, whose real name is Pradeep, has to run away from a guy who tries to get him married. In between I go to Ala and the gang. They are musicians too. Ala sings, Sneha plays the guitar. Anki sings and Vinu programs. Strangers are no longer strangers in a gap of 24 hours.

Return trip has been the most disastrous one. My train from Coimbatore is 10 hours late. I learn two things here – one, the inefficiency of the railways and two, my personal weakness the moment something goes wrong. To elaborate a bit on the first, wasn’t it their responsibility to make sure the passenger was put onto some other train when there is such a huge delay. My whole point was to travel “safe in the day” and they tell me wait till midnight, we will give you the train. The station manager has a tone that suggests e-ticket booking can be troublesome.

Anyway, I will go to my other point. As soon as I hear about the train delay, I suddenly get all upset and teary eyed. Like it is the end of the world. Next minute however, I get that brainwave which comes to people left without an option but to act on their own. Viz., I could get into another train :D.  While I wait, I watch Hussain (guessed name) who runs a shop at the station. Everyone comes and asks him about the trains, and where to stand. Such a relief that man is. He tells me too the best options. So I take the Intercity to Kochi and this time watch two old Tamil accented Malayali men question everyone in the compartment of what they do and where they are headed. I pretend to be busy with the music again. I have a rule – only I get to be nosy around here.

The Coimbatore tragedy repeats at Ernakulam where I miss the last train to Trivandrum by a minute. Next one is again at midnight. (This should be the third in my series of me and trains, we just dont get along!). I again go upset forgetting my new philosophy in life. But I wake up soon and remember seeing a late train at Coimbatore. The railway information desk man too thinks of it when I tell him. And suddenly goes to announce in the mike for all Trivandrum-goers. It stops only at “Ernakulam north” he thinks of telling me only at the end of all this and adds “you got to reach in 20 mins”. I rush and make it. It is the worst possible train ever. So darn slow, stopping every 10 mins for no reason. Ok maybe there was some crossing.

I get depressed again. And hungry, I have eaten only a couple of Hussain’s biscuits all day. And then a man selling vada passes. I order three. An old Tamilian (I will call him Mariappa) next to me says something and I think he wants vada and has no money. I offer him mine. He suddenly smiles and says no ma, that’s ok, it was great of you to offer. Then he buys coffee for him and friends and tells the coffee man “give one to that amma”. I try to refuse but couldn’t. I am touched. Here was an old man, not rich by any terms, buying a tired girl coffee out of pure kindness or care or whatever you call it. A thought that do not come to a lot of the rich n educated that I know of. I drink it gratefully and get all the vigor that I had lost. I feel happy again, look out of the window into the now-dark world. I get a message from another friend Venu I have never met but interviewed. “Make sure you eat dear girl. Pls.”

What a good world this is, I feel. No train delays or inefficiencies or hunger seem bad when there is a Girija who tells you it is ok, a Hussain to guide you, a Mariappan who gives you his coffee and a Venu who tells you to eat, dear girl. You can laugh at it all when you think of an Alby who asks Chechi are you a Malayali and a Freddy who says Sweetie you just twisted my arm.

November 20, 2012

Hooter Scatter

Filed under: People — Cris @ 17:38

I did not enjoy watching Skyfall. Not cause the movie was any bad, it was lovely. And for an uninitiated Bond person like me it was all too good. But the boy-gang that sat next to us was unbearable. The sound system was already bad, and I was straining to follow what was said. Then there goes Mr. Hooter whistling and hooting for no apparent reason. He also took it upon himself to pass a running commentary in Malayalam, loud and clear for the whole hall to hear. He then started making farting sounds! My friend tried to talk to him but I insisted on changing seats. I know it is not what you should do, kicking yourself out instead of the trouble. But I didn’t want to talk, have more revengeful hoots and ruin the rest of what I heard was one lovely movie. After the change of seats forgot all about them. They were too far away. But why, why, why do these people come to the cinema? What earthly pleasure do they get out of spoiling a good film experience for a whole bunch of people? I have decided to invent a hooter-checker, that would scan a person before issuing ticket, and if found guilty of menacing hooting history, deny entry.

November 1, 2012

Happy Helpers

Filed under: People — Cris @ 13:40

I have been thinking about writing this for a while now, about two women I met. Selfishness is such a common trait that we sort of take it for granted, we don’t expect anything good from anyone – at least not when we first meet them. So I was so happily surprised when these two women I barely knew went out of their way to help me. It is not from huge disasters, but everyday situations – where help is neither expected nor appreciated.

The first instance was when I went to Padmanabhapuram Palace for a story. There I met Rajashree, my guide for the day. From the moment I was introduced to her till two hours later – way past her lunch time, she’s been nothing but a cheerful happy helper. Explaining everything, twice when I ask, not an inch of the everyday impatience you are used to, on her face. It was in fact I who ended our palace tour when she was keen to show more. She wouldn’t take any ‘tokens of thanks’ from me. I am just doing my job she said and bade me farewell.

Another instance is again work related. There is an architect – Trupthi – I call every time I need help filling our ‘house’ page in the paper. I once called her as usual somewhere around 3:30pm. She answered the call sleepily, and asked me if I could call after 7pm. She called me after 7 and gave me the contacts I needed and told me again that I could call her either early morning or in the evening in future. I was a little confused by this when she said she is in the US now. So I must have called her at 3am in the middle of her sleep. This did not annoy her, and she was only happy to call me first thing in the morning with help. Am not a friend, just a pest of a reporter she has not even met! In her place, I would have not only not answered the phone but lavished curses on any midnight caller who woke me up. I was amazed.

Whoever feels goodness is disappearing fast in the world should encounter people like Trupthi and Rajashree. It is just that theirs may not be life saving missions but simple everyday gestures that are taken for granted.

August 30, 2012

Men

Filed under: My Musing Moments,People — Cris @ 12:09

There are all sorts of men.

Sensitive men… They feel for everything too soon. For good and bad. Like a button the things around them can turn them on happy and sad in a second.

Insensitive men… nothing means anything for them. I am never sure if part of the don’t-carishness is fake. If it is, they carry it well.

Inquisitive men… a new type I have seen. They need a why for everything. I sit, why? I stand, why? I look, why?

Prying men… not the same as above. These wanna know everything that’s happening in your life. Good thing about them is they are not secretive about it.

Spying men – these are the secretive versions of prying men. They secretly investigate your life and your life doings.

Contradictory men – one minute they seem like something, the next minute they are something else altogether. Don’t think it is hypocrisy.

Extra expressive men – yea I didn’t write about expressive, cause I haven’t seen one. It’s either no expressions or too many. And I don’t trust the extra ppl. They are usually the biggest cheaters.

Principle men – emotions never rule them. They don’t have any ‘moments of weaknesses’. They have decided what their life is going to be, and they will stick to it no matter what.

Momentary men – they seem most caring the moments you spend with them, then they forget all about you. Maybe this is what you call flings?

Comfortable/easy men – this is my favorite kind, where you can be totally comfortable, and be least conscious of what you say or do or act. Prolly I am defining a friend.

Funny men… another favorite when funny is just funny and don’t go overboard to be annoying.

There are lots many more, the commitment-phobic (that’s like inbuilt in all men I suppose), the dreamy, the ambitious, the preoccupied, the absentminded, the affectionate, girly men(!), the rarely-sincere and on and on. I will need volumes to finish them all. There are all sorts of men, but then again, maybe there is just one sort.

November 11, 2010

‘But I am a girl’

Filed under: My Musing Moments,People — Cris @ 02:28

The other day, I was telling my friends about moving to another city. Somewhere in the conversation, we mentioned about another friend of ours in Bombay who went there recently. And at one point I said: “But I am not like him.”
“Why” they asked.
I said: “Cause he can stay anywhere.”
“Why cant you do that?” they asked again.
“I am a girl. I could be kidnapped!”
And one of my friends said: “Ahhh finally. I am so happy and relieved to hear you say that (nee ithu paranju ketathil enikku santhoshavum samadanavum thonnunnu).”
I retorted: “But you should be sad.”

Shouldn’t they be? What is the good thing about a girl not being able to enjoy the same peace of mind as a boy? (or about a girl letting herself think so?)

My friend said this because he, like many others, considers me an utter core feminist, who wouldn’t say one word that might make a girl sound helpless. And I immediately hated myself for saying the ultimate line “but I am a girl”.

I realize it is not about what you say, but do. And I never never have to prove to anyone “how mighty and self-dependant a girl is”. No.

But somewhere along the line, it becomes a matter of conviction. Again, not words, but action could do it. Because, belief does not come without conviction, neither does acceptance.

So who needs belief, who needs acceptance? “You be your own self, and let the rest of the world go to hell”

If you think one way, what is wrong in voicing it aloud? Why do you have to speak carefully so you fit the image you want to project? As much as I’d like to say otherwise, I cant help saying this – yes you have to be careful. Not to fit an image. But there is something about conviction I place importance on. You cant convince everyone, agreed. But when or if at least one person hopes for a difference, because they look up to someone, because they see someone doing what they wish to see, you cant let them down.

It is not about being the brave one who suppresses. No. It is about the need to be all that you believe in, happen through you. And you become the smallest little negligible speck of light that finally fell upon the world. It is big, in a small way.

The lines are meaningless I know. Isn’t it funny that you find it most difficult to express what you feel most strongly about? No wonder all proposals end up messed-up tongue-tied affairs!

PS: I used the g-word (girl). But I am no young thing :-). It just seemed the right word, and the one used at the time. Us oldies have a habit of still sticking to the g-word. Cheers.

November 2, 2010

Jeans and T-Shirt – what’s the big deal?

Filed under: My Musing Moments,People,Personal,Problems — Cris @ 12:19

There is a 2-minute walk from my house to the nearest auto rickshaw stand. Couple of days ago, I was on my way to catch an auto. There is an empty hall-cum-library on the way and men sometimes gather around on the ground outside. On this occasion there were around four or five young men talking aloud. I was wearing jeans and t-shirt and my trademark hat.

As I passed them, the men started hooting and shouting. One of them said: “Dei ninakonnum ammem penganmaarum ille?” (Don’t you have a mother and sisters?)
I’m sure this was not from any concern. Only to start a dialogue of some sort. Another replied: “Athinu ithu pennano? Ithu charakkalle?” (Is this a girl? Isn’t she a commodity?)
Lots of laughter.

My usual response to “commentadi” is pretending not to have heard anything. Ignore it completely. Am afraid, accustomed to my usual ways, I did the same here. Just walked past them, didn’t glance, didn’t stop, acted like I didn’t even know they existed. This was not a planned reaction. Just the usual.

Now I regret. I don’t mind subtle “commentadi”. It is natural that men and women may appraise each other on the streets, on the roads, etc. but when it comes out as an insulting comment, deliberately made to hurt the subject, or provoke her, things change.

From experience and from guy friends I have understood that the only way to stop such behaviour is by reacting to it. If you just ignore it, they may believe that you don’t mind, or even that you enjoy it. Be it a turn of your head or a stare or words, you need to react. It is only after taking my auto that I realized how offensive the comments were. And they were standing at a distance from me, so had to say it really aloud for it to reach me.

What would be the intention behind such comments? What pleasure do they get out of it? I don’t understand.

Few days ago, there was a discussion on a google group I am a member of – about a news article on a Malayalam daily. It was about a girl getting into a tussle with an older man who it seems criticized her for her choice of clothes (jeans and tshirt again). During a bus trip the man sat near the girl, who was in her early twenties, and told her he disapproved of what she wore, and to dress properly. She said something back. The article says that this man touched her after she told him not to and she slapped him. She beat him more after he got down from the bus. Half the people in the bus were with the girl, and the other with the man. The girl was arrested for assaulting the man.

In the course of the discussion, several viewpoints came out – one being the all-too-familiar ‘fault of the girl in choosing to wear a provocative dress’. I find this reaction too lowly to even respond to it. It just isn’t worth it. And there is absolutely no use trying to talk sense into such people. They will not change their mind no matter what, unless probably something of this sort happens to their own kith and kin.

I thought Trivandrum was mature enough to confront a pair of jeans and a t-shirt! But looks like we are a long way away. And I might add here, all the guys near my house were in some sort of jeans-t-shirt wear. Maybe they drool over their own ‘commodity selves’ every morning in front of the mirror.

March 12, 2010

On the move

Filed under: life,My Musing Moments,People — Cris @ 12:29

Moving is a funny thing. You think there is nothing more dull and mechanical than packing and moving a pile of your stuff. But if you do the packing yourself, and you are one of those sentimental types who keeps memories from yesteryears locked in shelves, then you are in for it – one of those really long memory rides that each letter or memoir or photo brings… who says there is no time machine. Your mind is the best time machine ever. It takes you to places, faces and times you completely forgot about. “Wow did I really do that… oh yes it was on that day…”

You literally relive those moments and you experience the emotion you did all those years ago. Whether it be happiness or gloom or hurt or excitement – you feel it like it just happened. And then you are left feeling really miserable. That’s when your time machine brings you back. You are sad the moment is long gone by. You are sad you are not that age anymore. You are not in that place and not with those people and not doing or feeling what you used to. You miss it. Funny thing is you had not thought about it all this while. And that’s when you realize with a pang – you grew up.

I have always thought that I was more or less the same for at least 10 years. But now I know I have changed – can’t say if it’s for the better or for the worse. When I see the letters I wrote, the diaries I penned, the way I thought… oh boy whatever happened to me in all these years. Even my handwriting was so different back in school. Sheesh what a horrible handwriting – my poor teachers. Now I write like a KG student in big round letters. Maturity shows in strange ways sometimes.

I somehow felt a yearning to go back to being the old me. But I want to keep some part of what I am now. Well the easier practical way would be to change now. And that’s where the problem is. I can’t.

Do people keep changing all their life? Or is there some saturation point? I have a feeling I have reached my SP. I mean what more can change? Looks of course will. I am expecting a good number of gray hairs by age 30 and a few wrinkles by 40. Hope to remain more or less slim throughout. But looks apart, can the character graph deviate any further? Can attitude? Can opinions? One hears of old people not ready to put away their prejudices cause their thoughts and faiths go too deep. Your thoughts grow deeper with you. When you are young, you keep taking it up and polishing it. But later you just let it rust or fix it so tight that you cant as much as touch it.

People are not what they used to be to you. You are not what you used to be to them…

And the thought processes. The most number of advices I have given is to my friend Gov. He knows them all so well he would finish my lines. “I tell you Gov, when a girl is 18….,” I say and he interrupts – “I know, she is mature and knows everything but a guy takes longer.”

Another favorite dialogue was on love. “Ah what boys feel at this age is nothing but infatuation. When you grow older you feel different. You won’t understand that now.”
I honestly believed that. Most of the thoughts I used to preach were more or less the same I do now. But back then I used logic after hearing stories. Now I use experience.

I still can’t decide when a person actually becomes the person he/she is for the major part of life. I mean when does a person become complete? I don’t mean elements like job, and marriage. I just mean literally – when?

Whoever said dwelling too much in your past is a bad thing? It makes you think, it makes you smile, it makes you emotional, it makes you wonder, it makes you philosophical and more than anything else, it makes you a human.

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