Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chennai to Manipal via Mangalore !!!!

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A lonely street and we two, like lost souls, were walking along. She like always was talking eternally where as I was lost in my new found skeptical reverie. Suddenly, out of no where I had subconsciously forgotten my only ATM card pin code. My memory plays these hide and seek games with me often. My memory power about incidents is something to boast upon but names and numbers were never my cup of tea. And that evening it was proved once again. I wanted to bang my head to rouse those numbers; all attempts in vain. Sandy, being absolutely clueless, was singing a Kishore da song in the most out of tune way possible. I told her that I had forgotten my ATM pin code and she was genuinely worried considering three important facts:

1. We were far away from home in Chennai - a land where people hardly speak English

2. We had a train to catch the next day so we couldn't even borrow money 
3. As per our plan we had emptied her account, leaving mine as the saviour, having only 500 rupees in cash

When all my permutations and combinations failed, bank had blocked my card and left us to survive on 500 rupees for our entire journey, from Chennai to Manipal via Mangalore!!!!

We stayed quite far from Chennai railway station and hence, hiring an auto costed us 250 rupees straight away. So the budget was cut to half and those coolies were asking for 250 rupees to carry our baggage in to the platform. Had they known how much money we had in our pockets, they wouldn't even have smelled us closely. I wasn't going to give up either. The endless half English half Tamil bargain saved us 200 rupees and the coolie left our luggage in front of the train for 50 bucks. We even drank cola spending 30 more bucks and that's what I call as Royal living when you are penny-less. Our tickets were not confirmed and as per the instruction of coolie we stood near S 1 coach waiting for TT. It wasn't time for train's departure but as we stood there train started moving right in front of us and vanished in seconds. We were so much in shock that we didn't even run to catch the train. Not that we could have, anyways. Simply put, we were standing like two dumbstruck idiots with two trolleys and four heavily packed duffel bags. 

After five minutes we saw our train once again enter the station on a different platform!!! The situation got worse with it. Now we had to shift our luggage along with us to a different platform in ten minutes. All the coolies having witnessed our situation were not ready to budge in for less money.  I carried all four duffels (two on my shoulders and two in hands and trust me, it was hefty. I had bruises all over my shoulders the next day). Ponderously I reached the S 1 coach somehow, pushing away the crowd only to realize my bestie was no where to be seen. Sandy, compared to me, is petite. Hence I asked her to drag the two trolleys but now I was in a dilemma. I couldn't go back or forward. I left all the duffels near a police constable (thank god he didn't run away with our bags, not that we were carrying anything precious) and ran towards Sandy. Yeah, she was there dragging these trolleys at her comfortable speed while my trolley was dancing along with her tottering steps. Somehow when we reached near S 1 coach, it was time for train's departure and hence, we boarded with all our luggage in S 1 where as we were allocated S 7 under RAC. Once inside, I made Sandy wait with our luggage in S 1 while I kept shuttling between 1 and 7 along with luggage. It was too crowded from inside, people were just settling in. To prevent myself from this hassle, I started shifting from outside and when I had reached S 4 train began to move and people (god knows from where) mounted on the door leaving me no space to climb. After a long fight and juggling, I climbed in with a broken sandal. Great!!! That is exactly what I needed then. With a broken sandal, huge crowd and heavy bags somehow I reached S 7. Looking at Sandy's tiny figure a man helped her in bringing those bags to S 7 and she walked happily by his side. I was running here and there like a mad dog with a limp but nobody offered to help me!!!  When all the bags were shifted we had another fortune cookie waiting for us. As it was RAC we got only one seat to share and had to continue the night journey by sitting. After about two hours of journey a lady helped by giving her berth to us. So, finally we got a place to sleep.

I have thanked that lady zillion times in my head till date!!!

When we reached Mangalore in the evening, we had 100 rupees in hand having spent some money on food. We definitely couldn't afford a coolie hence I carried all the duffels and Sandy began dancing with the trolleys. We reached bus stand after paying 15 bucks for auto. Looking at our luggage, no bus conductor was ready to take us in. After few minutes of tension and arguments, we finally boarded a bus to Manipal with a condition of sitting in the seat perpendicular to the driver exactly next to the windshield. We had just reached the outskirts of Mangalore, when I saw a lorry being horizontal on the road covering the entire width. Obviously even our driver noticed it but chucked the idea of applying brake considering the lorry would move soon but when that didn't happen, I witnessed our bus zooming in full speed towards the lorry.Within seconds our bus hit the lorry and within minutes both drivers were in to a brawl. The rod near the windshield had hit my stomach badly and pain was just taking time to engulf me. Another boy, who was standing next to us had fallen down and his head was slightly bleeding. Rest of the passengers were safe and sound. When the fight continued between drivers, conductor gave us our money back (70 bucks) and asked us to get in to another bus. Adding on to the trouble, it started raining outside. All the passengers got down giving an authoritative look but nobody even came closer to helping us. We had so much luggage and were helpless. The head bleeding guy, was the only man who came forward to help us. He shifted our luggage to a near by shop one by one and even got us an auto (after searching for almost fifteen minutes) to go back to the bus stand. We normally rage over caste, religion so much but that day among all the Hindus present, an injured Muslim guy helped us. I think of him even today. If not for him, we would have been stuck inside the bus as our luggage was compactly packed near the driver seat . Auto costed us 15 bucks and bus to Manipal costed us another 70 bucks. So, after all the pain when we reached Manipal my dad was waiting near the bus stand with a smile on his face. We just wanted the day to end. It was too much for us to seep in. When we finally checked our wallet, we had no money left apart from some coins. Oops!!! forgot to tell you. The moment I had reached Chennai railway station I recalled my ATM pin code. But sadly, my account was blocked and god pushed us in to all these circumstances to make us realize the real value of 500 rupees, I guess !!!

Well this is one journey I can never forget in my life. After which me and Sandy have laughed over it many times but when we were actually living it I just wanted it to end. I was all in tears, broken and scarred. Till then, I never saw a train leave, I never caught a running train, I never traveled with so less money, I never witnessed an accident so closely. But like they say "goodness prevails no matter how evil the world is" and I will always be grateful to the goodness of that lady and injured man and will remember them till the end.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


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When I first heard the knock on my door, I ignored as nobody ever knocks apart from my husband. But when the knocks got louder I ran to the door and peeped through the eye hole. I saw a young girl and boy standing with a tray in hand which was filled with bowls covered in silver foils.  I hurriedly opened the door with a welcoming smile on my face. Young girl told me her mother had sent us some home cooked food. Yes, they are my new neighbors who live just across my house in Jeddah. Being a vegetarian, I wanted to be sure about the food being offered. So once again, I knocked their door only to find a beautiful fair and lean woman standing with an even broader smile. Well, when the offered chicken samosas were taken back from the tray it consisted of some sweets, dahi wada and yummy chole. It smelled heavenly. Having extreme love towards my husband and he having extreme love towards food I decided to keep the food till my husband’s arrival. Later that evening when I told my mother over a call about this incident, she warned me not to eat the food. Because they are not only Muslims but also, wait for it, Pakistanis.

Since our childhood, we have learnt and loved to hate Pakistan and Pakistanis.  India Pakistan cricket match has always been bigger than a war by itself. We burnt crackers when India won and burnt dummy cricketers when India lost. So much rage has been flowing in our blood since ages. If England plays against Pakistan, we support England, the country which had ruled and humiliated us for centuries. But no matter what we won’t lift our hands to support Pakistan. So here comes the golden question, why? Why there is no brotherly feeling towards our own neighboring country? Why is this hatred, anger and detest? Is it because most of the terrorists are from Pakistan? Or do we believe every Pakistani is a terrorist or a traitor? Is it because we believe every Pakistani hates us? Or is it because an unavoidable and insatiable anger has passed on to us from our elders who saw a different India during partition? Is it because people were killed during partition or because Hindus were forced to convert or leave the country? I do agree hate all the past events and the present terrorist activities. But that doesn't mean every Pakistani is a terrorist or everyone hates us. Why do we presume certain things and create a hard shell around us to eventually suffocate? If we hoist Pakistan’s flag in India it leads to bloodshed and we start hunching our moral values killing hundreds and thousands of innocent people. I agree it is not wise to hoist another nation’s flag in India. But tell me, would the bloodshed still see so many carcasses if we hoist the flag of Germany or the United States of America? No. I am sure it won’t.

In the recent movie “Total Siyappa” the entire plot revolves around Indian-Pakistani relationship. How they loathe Pakistanis and how frequently fight with their Pakistani neighbors. But at the end of the movie, they realize that after all we all inhale the same air and we all are just humans. Since our initial days, we start preaching children about healthy relationships, good friendships, and good manners. But we forget them the moment they want to get in to an inter caste marriage or have a friend who belongs to lower caste or eat food in Muslim’s house or support a Pakistan team during a cricket match. The funny part is the deadly Ebola also sees no difference. It doesn't spare you because you are a Brahmin or Indian or white or Christian or Hindu or Muslim. Being an invisible microorganism when it doesn't differentiate why should we differentiate and kill people? Can’t you see viruses are doing their job promptly that we don’t need to take care of their job anymore? Can’t we seriously shake hands and forget all the enmity? I know the final answer, “we are ready but do you think these Pakistanis will ever be ready. Their PM might visit India and talk sweetly but I know they are plotting behind us since very long.” Yeah, we are all ISI agents and we normally know everything!!!! I am not saying we should support every wrong activity such as war, terrorism by Pakistan. I am only saying we should not hate people because they are from Pakistan.

My new neighbor is a sweet, dignified, gentle and a very good person at heart. Can I ignore all this good positive points and hate her because she is from Pakistan? Can I not eat those deliciously cooked food because she is a Muslim? Can I not visit their house because they pray to a different god? We see no difference. Birth to a new friendship has already been given. And it is growing fast without any worries of war or hatred or terrorism. Friendship between a Hindu and a Muslim!!! Friendship between an Indian and Pakistani!!! In fact she advises me to take cabs belonging to Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis as they are much safer. Imagine I hire a cab driven by a Pakistani because I believe he will cause me no harm and protect me, irrespective of all odds.

Let people fight how much they want over caste, religion, borders but I am leading a happy life by getting in to an inter caste marriage living in a country filled with orthodox Muslims having a Pakistani friend. A friend who first lent her hand for friendship. If she had not sent food the first time, I would hardly have spoken to her and would have lost the chance of meeting such a lovely lady. 
But the best part is I am still a vegetarian, I am very proud of being an Indian and read a lot about Hindu religion appreciating every bit of it. To accept people how they are, it is not necessary for us to change or after we accept them it is not they influence us to change. All are myths created to keep people away from their own kind!!!

To conclude, I say wash your hands and let them mingle with anybody they want!!!