Friday, 23 June 2017

Uber tales Part II - The Fraudster

In a little while, the cab driver volunteered information about his personal life. He belonged to a staunch Brahmin family in UP and his father worked with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and how his family was well-known in their village. As the only son and no other sibling, they had many expectations from him. They were even looking for a suitable girl in the village.

Thinking his life was sorted, I congratulated him. But here is where the problem lay – he had a girlfriend in Mumbai. He began by saying that even though he is a Hindu, he never felt attracted to Hindu girls. His girlfriend was a Muslim. She lived in a far-off suburb of Mumbai and was a school teacher.

Now, to me, this seemed okay. Boy meets girl in the city and falls in love. Religion plays obstacle. He further added that he had met her sister and that things had progressed between them. However, if his parents found out, he would be an outcast and it would kill his parents. So I asked him what he planned to do. Apparently, his Muslim girlfriend knew him to be a fellow Muslim only. Everything about their relationship was a lie.

This bit of information was really odd. He had lied to her and apparently lived-in on and off with her for the last 7 years. She wanted to marry him. Her family was okay with him too as they thought he belonged to the same religion. But they were now asking him for his Aadhar card.

“Agar Aadhar de doonga toh sab pe paani phir jayega…”

“But Bhaiya aapko Aadhar do dena hee hoga na… agar nahi banwaya  toh banwana padega”

“Madam, Aadhar hai magar mere sache naam se. Jaise hee number doonga aadhar ka ya biometric karwaonga, sab pol khul jayegee!”

“Aise kaise bhaiya? Shaadi toh karni hogi na? Ya phir, break up kar lo. Sab sukhi. Yeh toh Dhoka hai.”

“Arre nahi kar sakta break up. Baat bahut aage badh gayi hai. Hospital jana pada tha. Waha pe bhi Aadhar manga. Kisi tarah bhaag gaya main. Jab uske maa-baap se mila, unko bola ki mere maa baap gaon mein hai. Nahi aayenge. Unhone kaha ki court marriage kar lo. Maine bola haan magar aadhar nahi hai. Uske baap ne kaha ki kaam kaise mila phir? Maine koi bahana bana diya.”
I was freaking out by now. I was curious to know more. This man was a fraud. Was he sharing his tale to seek validation? He wasn’t going to get it from me!

“Maine usko kayi baar kaha ki breakup kar lo. Main taxi chalata hoon. Ghar bhi nahi hai. Who nahi maanti. Kehti hai mera ghar tumhara hai. Main bhi kamati hoon. Koi chinta nahi hai. Lekin agar isse shaadi kiya toh pata chal jayega ki main Hindu hoon. Kisi namaaz padhne ko keh diya toh kalyaan ho jayega!”

By now my face was blank but I was disgusted.

“Break up kar lo ya phir isko sab sach bata do bhaiya. If she loves you, who aapse shaadi kar legi. Sab solve ho jayega.”

“Madam, iske ghar wale kaat denge agar pata chala ki Hindu hoon aur dhokha de raha tha. Agar isse shaadi kit oh maa-baap mar jayenge. Woh mere liye Hindu ladki pasand kiye hai.”

“Magar bhaiya, aisa nahi chalega! Jhoot pe Jhoot banta jaa raha hai?”

“Sochta hoon ki maa baap toh kabhi Mumbai nahi aayenge. Gaon jaake shaadi kar lo Hindu ladki se. Yahan Mumbai mein isse shaadi kar loo. Kisi ko pata nahi chalega… Kya kehti hai app?”

I simply never replied to this man. I was almost home. He knew where I worked and now would know where I lived. I got off 500 meters before my house in panic. As I was getting off, he said, 
“Kisi ko mat batana madam, phas jaunga!”

I simply crossed the street and entered the local store to wait until he left. As I got home, I narrated this incident to my mom who yelled at me saying I should have gotten off sooner before this conversation ever happened. Husband yelled too. I was asked never to speak again in cabs. No conversation had to be initiated or participated in.

On a serious note though, maybe I should have reported him to Uber and then to the police. He is a fraud, a liar and someone who was going to dupe two women and their families. But my tale had frightened my family and so I quit this thought.

I still feel pathetic about it. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Uber tales Part I - The Maniacal Laughter

I love to talk, so much so that people have interrupted me and asked if my tongue pains because I talk so much. No, it doesn’t. In my defense, I’d like to say that I always have a story to tell. Typical Bengali trait, I am not denying that. I think this is a good to have ability that I can strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone. In fact, the husband claims that its that ‘look’ on my face – talk to me.

All jokes apart, I have had some interesting conversation with cabbies, i.e. cab drivers driving the iconic Kaali-peeli taxi, Uber and Ola. But why do we talk? Well, why not… You are travelling together for a considerable amount of time (even 5 minutes’ count) so why not talk to kill time? Also, I find it easier to talk to strangers. If they judge me, it won’t matter. We might never cross paths again. But at times, conversations can get freaky!

This happened with a Uber driver. No, he did not cause me any harm. It was what he shared. In fact, things got so weird that I actually got off a block before my drop off point just to ensure the driver did not know where I lived. Here is what happened:

On a crazy work day, my Uber app crashed. I could not book myself a ride to get home. So I called the husband to rescue me. He booked the cab for me. The driver had some confusion regarding the entry gate but it was sorted quickly. I got into the cab and we took off. However, getting out of my office complex itself was a confusing maze what with construction going on left-right-center. After 10 minutes of zigzag navigation, we finally hit the main road (just got out of the complex that is) and the driver quipped, “Maidum, yeh log kaam jaldi kyu nahi khatam karte…” and to this I replied: “Kya kare bhaiya… inko thode-he takleef ho rahi hai…”

For the next 10 minutes, no one spoke. We were stuck in traffic and then this cheesy Hindi songs is played on the radio whose lyrics clearly state that the heroine will absorb all the poison coming the hero’s way and only he is the reason for her survival. Very blah but of no consequence until the cabbie burst out in a maniacal laughter. I was looking out but his weird, half-horse like ‘khee-khee’ disturbed me. That should have been my cue but no…

Suddenly looking into the rear-view mirror, he asks me whether I am married. I replied in an affirmative and he just kept quiet. Once we hit the highway he started talking about his life in Lucknow and how the jungle raaj was ruining his beloved city. Mumbai was now home to him. He loved the support and solidarity he received. I nodded at times and pitched in, agreeing to the bits about Mumbai. The real story was yet to begin...

To be continued.

Friday, 16 June 2017

What if we humans left the Earth?

I love science-fiction films, books, and my obsession began with Tom Cruise’s Minority Report. I enjoy watching all post-apocalypse films too. In recent times, Interstellar and Oblivion are films I have watched over and over again.

That said, I love nature. I am aware of the many ghastly possibilities we face as we continue to erode and defile nature on a daily basis. This very thought got me intrigued – I know that colonies on Mars are still far-fetched. No, we have not discovered any wormhole (not to my knowledge) nor any habitable planet yet. But what I do know is that we are soon not going to have a home to live in!
So what if humans left the earth like in Wall-E? What would happen?

I came across this video on YouTube and must say, I was hooked. Do watch what would happen when humans left the Earth! 

Another theory is that Humans are the so-called aliens, that we don't belong! More on this later...

Also, I wrote more on this here: What would happen if human beings left the earth!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

A look by chance

A single look mattered. 
A glance, a gaze, a glimpse, not gaping.
I would if I could, gawk, but you never stood there long enough. 

Looking straight at me, you walked by. 
Never smiling yet your eyes smiled. 
A second here or a half a minute there. Never more. 

The summer sun kissed your skin, 
You glided by, embracing the warmth on your bare arms. Tanned, they spoke volumes about your day. 

We never missed each other. I, always standing where I did and you, always walking by when you did. 

Then the heavens above now bored by our routine, poured down, slowing the day. A rumble of thunder, followed by a bolt of lightning but not you. 

The crowded street was a blur. Sounds of water splashing, cars rushing and raindrops pelting drowned my longing for you. 

Then fate had a change of heart and the sun made an appearance as did you at the window. 

Today the smiling eyes were joined by your smile. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Here’s why working mothers don’t fit into social stereotypes…

Every time a woman is successful, the society cannot bear it. Maybe she is not involved enough with her kids? She must do more to prove herself a good mother. She is shamed by other women, even men. She is gossip fodder for neighborhood aunties and the chachis, mammies etc.

If her child has a meltdown, falls ill often, wears wrong shoes or has disheveled hair, the working mother is to blame! She is clearly not doing enough. She is heartless, has no compassion as she dresses up each day to go to work while her children are holed up in school. The poor things….

Heard these often? Well, I have and I am dead tired of them. Rather, I am disgusted. I am a result of a working mother. No, let me rephrase that – my mother is a workaholic. Come rain, come shine, she went to work in her 4-inch sandals and crisp cotton sarees. Did I turn out to be a ragamuffin? Was I lost, not cared for enough? No, nothing of that sort! My mother is and was someone who loved her work, excelled at it, won awards and runs her own business today.

So how does a working woman not make a good mother? I’d say she makes a super-mom! Juggling home, kids, husband and a career is no cake walk. There are no holidays no matter what your perks or position at work. Mothers are always working. They actually have more than one job – one that starts in the morning and one that starts when she gets back from work.

My mom attended my school meetings, attended my performances between work hours, helped me with homework and is my best friend today as I am sure is every mom out there to their daughters. 

Despite everything she means to me I was once told that it is because my mother did not give me enough attention, I am not an early riser nor can I cook well! According to this person, I did not turn out well. I will also (deviously) add here that the person who told me this is a working mother herself, an extremely judgmental being, who devoted her life to her kids so that they could be indebted to her for life!

How come we judge them so many levels? What gives us the right to dissect their lives and find faults in it? Why aren’t we questioning the men - the fathers? Just because a man buys vegetables and fruits, the woman is lucky. If he helps with a school project or attends the open house, the wife is lucky. If he looks after the child, he is a god sent miracle!

Why are we forgetting that it took a father’s sperm and mother’s egg to create a baby? Gross, but true. Hence, the father is equally responsible and is no miracle worker when he manages to do any of this just as we think it is a woman’s sole duty to suffer drudgery.

Additional to this, there is mother’s guilt. My mom constantly thought she wasn’t doing enough for us… Being burdened with this unnecessary emotion is often justified when they are blamed. In fact, working moms and stay at home moms often accept this guilt as a permanent part of their lives because they are constantly made to feel responsible for all things wrong. Further to justify this burden on mothers, the society terms them as radical feminists. What about father’s guilt? Nope, it just never comes up.

Long ago I had asked my dad why mom needs to keep working and why he can’t he solely manage the expenses. To this, he said he could but all the added perks, toys and vacations were funded by mom while he managed the monthly expenses.

Today I cannot imagine not working and not being financially independent.

Don’t you ever wonder that all good things happen to us because we have mothers who equally contributed to running the house to afford the best for us? That because they wanted to carve a niche for themselves (read they are FEMINISTs), they imbibed in us a thirst for innovation, creativity, and ambition?

Sadly, such thoughts don’t cross our minds and we have the society to help us cement the stereotypes further. And women make up a large part of this society and continue to oppress, harass and shame working mothers. Our society needs every woman to fit into a certain role. God forbid if she can manage multiple hats if she overcomes the challenges… she is surely a feminist who is not doing something right!

Luckily for us, women have continued to believe in themselves, balance their home life and careers, successfully carried the tag of feminism and succeeded with rainbow colors. Here is a beautiful post shared by Humans of Bombay - the story of a mother whose journey along the way is meant for the books. Read the full post here.

“I was raised in a middle-class family that placed the most importance on education and being financially independent. I was one of the 50 students hired by Grindlays Bank right after graduating from DSE and I started at the bottom. My first few stints included delivering pizza to my bosses, labeling 15,000 chairs and keeping stock of stationery, but I loved it! It was a male-dominated work environment, and most people thought I would get married and quit…no one really took me seriously. But I did everything to excel — I would study long hours after work, I would be the first one to enter and last one to leave. In fact, I met my husband at this company and even though I was married at the age of 24 — my passion, to make it never died.

Even when I was pregnant, believe it or not, I was working right ‘till the day of my delivery — I was in a meeting when my water broke and that’s when I left for the hospital! Back then, the maternity leave was just 3 short months and there were no creches at work — so I would bundle my daughter up with the nanny, keep her in a hotel nearby and rush to her in between work to feed her. While my daughter was growing up, I realized that the stereotypes are created by society and on so many occasions by women. I remember, I was traveling for work once and couldn’t attend her parent-teacher meet, so my husband took her and all the mother’s there applauded him for being so ‘involved’— he came back feeling on top of the world but for mothers it’s considered a part of their duty and that’s where the problem lies. I was termed, a ‘bad mother’ because I couldn’t make it and this is 1 of 100 incidents. Once when he took her to a birthday party, everyone there praised him and said, ‘your wife is so lucky — you’re a great husband’. He is the best man I could have ever asked for, but why does society place men on a higher pedestal? Isn’t he as responsible for her school and extra-curricular activities as I am? Aren’t we equals?

When she was 2 years old and had 104 fever, I had a road show the next day — so my husband stayed at home and asked me not to worry. Leaving my daughter behind when she was ill doesn’t mean I don’t love her– on any other day, I would have taken that day off…but my husband did it instead…so does that make me a bad mother?

My fight is not about my work, it’s about not having gender equality. As a working woman, I’ve been so disciplined and made my way to being the CEO of UBS, I’ve cracked billion dollar deals and gone home after to help my daughter with my science project. I’m on the World’s top 50 women on the business list and I still have 20 hour days but that doesn’t make me any less of a homemaker. If we really want to progress, gender equality should be on top of the list — where men and women are equals, where a woman’s career is deemed as important as a man’s and where a man isn’t treated like God for being involved at school or in the house. Just basic equality.”

Please take note: The very last words she said - Just basic equality. Yes, she is a feminist role model and she is asking for basic equality. Feminism isn't about male bashing or hating men but in a world where women have to constantly fight for equal opportunities, equal pay, fight to be taken seriously and not always be sexy or beautiful, or dress in a way to catch attention, men do get bashed. Stand up for your right. Stand up for your wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends. Believe in them and support them.

Originally published on SpeakingTree 


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