Saturday, June 26, 2010


I used to love rain. It transformed the world into green, wet wonderfulness and got me a couple of days off school. It made all kinds of crazy games possible by flooding the garden. It allowed me the great joys of jumping hard into puddles, making awesome splashes and swooshing sounds with my bicycle, and following earthworms as they wriggled around the driveway.

Then I came to Bombay, started this internship, and started using public transport. Which requires walking. And then the rains started. And suddenly, I'm not so fond of the rain anymore! From being the amazing phenomena that meant green leaves and awesome rain-smells, now it means perennially wet feet and wet clothes. Umbrellas do not manage to keep me (or my bag) fully dry, so I'm always stuck with damp clothes, hoping that my bag is waterproof enough to keep my laptop safe. And with wet feet.

Then there are the umbrellas themselves. Practical, helpful inventions, I know, but so messy. There's always the problem of where to keep a wet umbrella after walking in the rain. There's the problem of actually holding the umbrella while walking in the rain and simultaneously trying to cling on to two bags and a cell phone (I realised later than texting is really not meant to be done in the rain, so the cell phone went into the bag: one less thing to hold). And then there's the fact that people on the road can't seem to comprehend the obvious reality that holding an umbrella will require more space than not holding one. So that 2-inch space between me and the wall that you're trying to squeeze through? The only result is going to be the pointy ends of your umbrella stuck in my hair, water from your wet umbrella dripping onto my already damp clothes, and you right where you started.

And then there are the wet feet.

There are still some cool things about monsoons. Primarily the awesome swishing noise that my umbrella makes when I press a button and it zooms open. And the feeling of efficiency I get by opening and shutting my umbrella in 2 seconds flat, as I go from covered space to non-covered space while walking. But writing this sitting in a crowded train, watching the rain outside, and knowing that I’m going to be out in that rain again in 10 minutes, I'm having a hard time thinking of more things I like about the rain.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seen on the Train

I saw four of these posters in the ladies' compartment in a local train in Mumbai four days ago. For those befuddled by my photography skills (combined with an average-at-best cell phone camera), the poster says:

"Never forget 25th June 1975. The day the Emergency was declared. Scrap all repressive laws. Defend the right to dissent."

I don't really know what to think about the poster. It's interesting, definitely, also because there was no mention of the name of the organisation (or person) who put the posters up. I was concious of a feeling of surprise though: the only politically inclined posters I've seen before have been advertisements of some election candidate or political party. I've never seen posters with a message beyond "Vote for me".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Opinions of Strangers

People have been proffering their unasked-for opinions and advice a lot lately. I’ve started noticing this recently: complete strangers are very willing to tell me their opinion on something, or to give me to advice on matters that have nothing to do with them, without the least amount of encouragement from me.

A woman trying on a kurta at the trial room next to mine in Westside asked me how I think she looks, gave me a minute to give the polite answer, and then immediately told me that the kurta I was trying on made me look “a bit pale”. The security woman at the entrance of my workplace started her morning by telling me that I’m very tall and also fat. Clearly, I enjoy food more than I should. A tailor taking my friend’s measurements for a dress told her that her breasts were too small, and gave her “tips” on how to make them appear larger. Two taxi drivers were more than merely expansive on their respective opinions about women working (more on that later), and the importance of God in a young woman’s life.

People assume that random strangers are interested in their opinions and are open to their advice. But we’re usually not. I am not interested in the security guard’s opinion on my weight. I am not interested in knowing what the woman standing next to me in the queue for the bathroom at Pizza Hut thinks about the abominable state of bathrooms in Jaipur. And I definitely do not want to be told by a man that the fact that I work is against Indian culture, against the will of God, and probably against the wishes of my parents too.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yeh Hai India, Meri Jaan

A friend asked me recently whether I want to live in India again, after studying and living abroad for a while. She’s lived in India only for a couple of years two years ago. She said that she’d believed that she could do it, that she wanted to do it, but when she came to India after two years this year, she realised that she really can’t. She said she just can’t deal with the chaos, the lack of respect for personal space, the problems you can face in just accomplishing a simple task such as getting a new phone number, the disregard for simple common sense or manners while driving, etc.

But for me, the shininess of Singapore gets old fast. Yes, there are tall buildings, and smooth roads, and air conditioning in every single building, and shiny new malls on every corner. There are rules that are followed; there is order in everything that’s done. There’s no need to think twice about being out any hour at night; there’s amazingly fun nightlife. I like the city, I enjoy studying there. But I can’t imagine living there permanently. And it’s not just because the entire country is just one city, or because I’d have to get a permit to protest against anything, or because the rules (even the silly ones) are followed because of the scarily excessive consequences.

I miss India when I’m in Singapore. Not just my friends and family, but the place. I miss the loud, muddled, dusty markets; the familiar looking people on the roads; the insane honking and driving; the casual chatting with shopkeepers; the delicious food. I miss my Rs. 10 golgappe, and paying Rs. 30 for an entire meal. I miss the way people manage to create order in complete chaos, and how sometimes chaos is just chaos.
Of course, the honking and the traffic fascination lasts for a week, then it becomes a constant cause for complaint. The loud, muddled, dusty markets don’t remain so lovable when I have to go out there in the Delhi heat. But somehow, there’s always more to like than to dislike. And I can’t imagine not living in India, and not calling it home.

What do you think?