The Sound of the City
Deafening Silence. Swaying of the trees. The roaring wind. Chirping of the birds. Sounds unheard in Mumbai. All these beautiful sounds of nature gets drowned in the cacophony that is Mumbai.
In most cases, a Mumbaikar lives in a small, poorly maintained building surrounded by sounds of incessant honking, railway trains, the prayer calling of the Muslims, the tolling bells in Hindu temples and the incessant vehicles on the highway. Even the best of the roads have potholes, the gardens and landscapes are decorated with dirt and garbage and you learn to walk carefully even on the sidewalk thanks to the bikes and cyclists speedily buzzing from there.
Yes, this is all a part of Mumbai. I have heard people say it time and again, Mumbai wasn’t like this before. It was a beautiful city. It was a clean city. And my retort to that? Yes, it wasn’t like this before because it wasn’t Mumbai. It was a time when the city was younger, lesser populated, with lesser cars on the street and when bad politics wasn’t so rampant. Sadly, my friends, I accept it. It was a better time, a better city but it was Bombay and not Mumbai.
It is believed that it is this name change that has worked against the city. I disagree. It is not the name that has worked against the city; it is the people who have. What has changed in Bombay/Mumbai in the past few decades? People. The generations of people. The lifestyle which our parents and grandparents grew up in is not one which we follow. Sports cars and bikes have replaced walks. Malls and skyscrapers have replaced open parks and gardens. Mumbai has remained loyal to its people; the same cannot be said about the people though.
Why is that people now do not have any conscience or morality when it comes to throwing trash from their expensive cars? Or that people are not at all ashamed to spit on the road or worse, shit on the road for the passing world to see. Even the heritage places like The Gateway of India or Juhu Beach or Chowpatty are perennially dirty and stinking. I agree, most of these things are a case with every city, not just Mumbai but as a Mumbaikar, it pains me to see this filth everyday and well, accept it and live with it.
It is easy to say, hey, why don’t you begin the change? Seriously, but what can one person do? He or she cannot clean the spit, throw the stinking garbage into the garbage cans, fill the potholes on the roads, and remove the ugly, illegal hoardings of nameless ‘so called’ politicians destroying the charm of your city. This is the work of the Government, the BMC, the politicians but sadly, today Mumbai is a shining example of what a splendid city can turn into with proper mismanagement.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a hate article about Mumbai. I love this city. This is my birthplace and I would be proud to call it my death place, as well. Despite these obvious, highly visible faults; Mumbai attracts lakhs of immigrants and foreign tourists. Yes, sadly, the highlight for most of these tourists is to see the poor India, the biggest slums of our country, Dharavi. But walk further from there and you would see the glorious Sea Link shining in the sun, the charming Bandra ahead from there. The other side of Dharavi takes you to the common man area, Sion, Matunga and likes – areas usually unseen by tourists.
It bugs me when I hear foreigners criticize Mumbai after only seeing a part of it. There is more to Mumbai than Bandra, the Gateway of India and Juhu Beach. See the real people, the helpful ones who guide you when you lose directions, the autowallahs who help you reach home via a shortcut you didn’t even know existed, the strangers on the bus who would haggle with a man for you simply because he was sitting in the ladies seat and you have to stand because of that. The native fishermen. The strangers who smile at you. The helpful taxi guys and bus conductors. Those creepy but usually friendly hotel waiters. The amazing roadside cutting tea for Rs.5 which is no match for the Rs.50 tea which you have at a restaurant. The friendly haggling and bargaining at Linking Road and Causeway. The breathtaking sunset at Carter Road, Worli Seaface, Marine Lines or in simple terms, anywhere with sea. The dozens of people standing outside SRK’s Mannat, Salman’s Galaxy and Big B’s Jalsa. Now, that is the Mumbai which people see in movies, the city for which kids run away from their small towns. This is the city I am proud of. The city I am also proud to be associated with. The reason I still proudly wear my ‘I Love Mumbai’ t-shirt every other week.
If you still think your city is better, it must be. For you. For me and lakhs of other Mumbaikars, this will forever remain the city of our dreams, the beautiful kid the mother always sees, the sanctum and luxury which no other place in the world can compare to. Yes, Mumbai is no longer the same as it was twenty years ago and yes, it will still no longer be the same twenty years later. It could get better. It could get worse. But whatever it is, this vibrant, casual, colorfully chaotic city is what I call home.
Somebody once said, I have visited the world, stayed at the costliest, most luxurious hotels, in the softest of beds but I slept the best in my bedroom, in my home, in my city with the sound of subway and traffic singing me an everlasting lullaby. And, I second that!
Pic credit: Danishkhan.com
From the time I stepped into Junior college, I was eager to graduate and start working. My life goals were set, planned and ready to be executed. But when I finally graduated in the recession year, I realized that the world was nothing as it seemed. The corporate mayhem, confusion, pressure to catch the 9’o clock train every morning became a part of my life but I still remained unhappy, dissatisfied.
I am a Media graduate and unlike most of my classmates and friends Media had been my first choice. I dreamt of graduating, joining a reputed ad agency as a copywriter and live my dream! And I did, but it was nothing like I dreamt of. A few weeks into it and I realized copy writing at an ad agency was not about writing, it was about surviving in the competitive corporate world. My writing skills didn’t matter, my social skills did. Every party offer or after work drinks I rejected, became a motive to judge my work. I was ridiculed, teased, termed a loner, a loser and a bore. I frankly didn’t care but what I did care about was the odd working hours. Trust me, ad agencies are not for ordinary, middle class girls like me who want to return back home at a reasonable hour of the evening!
I continued to work here but I had made up my mind on hunting for a better job. It was in one of these presumed job interviews that I had a life altering experience. The interview turned sour, the interviewer a leech and you can guess the next- I slapped the guy hard and ran for my life. Till then, I had always been one of those girls who assumed media exaggerates and hypes the problems faced by women – about eve teasing and harassment. I was sure it would never happen to me but it did and it altered my thinking forever.
It shook my faith in people and you can say I lost my naivety with this experience. I stopped going out, stopped going for interviews and locked myself in the room for hours and days together. It is here that I must thank my upbringing and my family who didn’t push me, who let me be and let me heal my wounds on my own. I, however, have battled depression before and I know I just cannot stay unhappy for too long. I sat online for hours and hours, scribbled and wrote endlessly. A blog was just not for me and I decided to write a book. This novel or rather, novella has not been published yet. In India, finding a publisher to back your writing when you don’t have a major surname or loads of money to spare for self publishing is difficult. I haven’t published this book, but I know I will soon- I believe in myself, my work and I know one day those words would come to life.
It was in those times, when I was busy freelancing and writing, that I got a call which changed my life. My former editor had referred my writing to a friend of a friend whose son wanted to go to USA for his Master’s and he wanted my help in writing essays and SOP’s. Always the one to help, I grabbed this offer and along with my former editor (who is now my Partner) penned essays and statement of purposes for nearly ten universities.
I realized I enjoyed this entire process of getting to know another person and then writing for him. I knew, in hearts of hearts, this was the calling I was waiting for. This decision was seconded, when that boy got accepted in one of USA’s Ivy League colleges. The timing was perfect- the boy was accepted in a college of his dreams and I could finally realize my dreams by opening a specialized writing agency ‘Soulpen’ in Mumbai.
Despite having the passion and talent (hopefully!) for writing, I knew I couldn’t do this on my own. My former editor cum friend cum colleague left her precious job and joined Soulpen as a partner. Our aim was simple, to help those who cannot write.
I proudly say, Soulpen, is India’s premier writing agency specializing in providing SOP, Essay writing and editing services for students. As we didn’t have much investment in hand, we put in our personal finances and launched a website (www.soulpen.in). I would be lying if I said that we were a hit instantly. I remember the first few frustrating months when we were literally jobless, waiting for the phone to ring. Then we got an order, and then some.
A writer’s credibility cannot be proven through a print ad or banner. The work speaks for itself and fortunately, ours did. We receive recommendations and referrals from our past clients and that is how till date our ball is rolling! It is been two years since we began Soulpen, and today I think it speaks for itself.
Soulpen has offices in Mumbai from where I operate, from Dubai from where my partner, Ruma Dubey operates and a branch in USA managed by a common writer friend of ours. Soulpen has expanded its reach- writing not just essays and sop’s but also management articles, dissertations and thesis.
Soulpen which was founded to help a friend of a friend has today become my sole aim, my career and my baby! With each essay, each work, each project, I show to those gossiping relatives, discouraging friends and even sometimes to my family that I am not a loser; definitely not a quitter and nothing can back me down.
I have always dreamt of being a writer, writing from an early age and today it is writing that has healed me and helped me find my hidden soul.
Like me, every person has a soul, a passion that is not hidden but still needs to be discovered. I am grateful, I found mine and I hope every person- rich, poor, black , white and even yellow (!) realizes his calling, what he is truly meant to do in this world, in this life! And always remember, Life doesn’t suck, its people do and it is on you to overcome this battle of ‘Man v/s society!’
The Lost Fragrance
I met her today. She was an ordinary woman, not a celebrity not some politician or some fighter, she was just like you and me. Rather, I would say she looked like you and me, but she is not.
No, no, this is no sci-fi, action thriller novel preview. This story is true and maybe more scarier than any other horror movie you and I might have ever seen. My mother always used to say: Truth hurts and sometimes unbelievable. What you’re about to read now is somewhat like that.
Before I tell you anything more, let me tell you who this story is about. She is Mehak, Mehak Bharma (name changed to hide the real identity) . She is 23 years of age and is an event manager. She is not just a case study here to help you understand the seriousness of what I am about to write, but also a dear and close friend of mine.
Without any further delay, I will give you excerpts from the conversations I have had with her lately.
Vinita: Hi Mehak, How are you? How is your job on?
Mehak: I am fine yaar, job is a little stressful right now.
Vinita: Yup, I know. I am a writer and there is never an easy time for us. For us, our career is a long path of struggle until, of course, we publish our books and become something big!
Mehak: What is your weight, vini?
Vinita: ummm…. It’s around 50-53 kgs, why are you asking?
Mehak: Wow! You are so lucky; I am unable to lose weight yaar.
Vinita: But you are looking wonderful, I was just about to tell you to gain some weight, you have become quite pale and thin.
Mehak: No way, are you crazy or what? You must be blind! Thin and me, I wish!
I didn’t think much of it that day but I noticed some changes in Mehak’s overall behavior, I chose to talk about this to my family doctor. I shared my concerns about how Mehak, a dear friend of mine had become obsessive about her weight. I told him about how when we were at a local coffee shop, she drank her coffee without sugar and milk, and balked at the thought of consuming anything solid!
The doctor advised me to keep a close eye on her, to look for signs like frequent visits to the restroom, increasing dark circles, ill-fitting clothes and so on… (Please do not judge me on being nosy and discussing such private matters with a doctor, I did it for her and would do so for anyone I consider my friend!)
Mehak: (coughing terribly) Excuse me yaar, vini, I will use the restroom and come.
Vinita: I will also come with you, need to wash my face.
(Behind closed doors- I could hear puking noises)
Vinita: What’s wrong? Are you okay?
Mehak: Ya, I am okay. There is something stuck in my throat. Stop being my mom!
I could hear the accusation and irritation in her voice. I knew she was lying, knew what she was doing and waited outside the restroom to confront her.
Vinita: Mehak, I know you from 8 years. You are lying but I just don’t understand the reason why. What’s wrong with you? Are you sick? Why don’t you drink or eat anything? Why do you look so pale and ghastly skinny? Just take a look at yourself; your clothes are hanging on you. Please tell me, Mehak, I can help you, I won’t tell a soul.
Mehak: Are you crazy? I am okay. And my clothes are not loose, they are fine, you have gone insane, I want to go home.
She stormed out of our regular hangout and I let her go. The situation was serious and it was time to discuss it with the elders. I immediately called up Mehak’s residence, her mother answered the phone and I decided to tell her everything. Her mother admitted to have noticed the same changes that I had and despite constant arguments, Mehak never admitted to any problem. She was always behind closed doors and rarely ate more than a morsel or two.
I told her Mother about my discussion with the family doctor and we decided it was time to take Mehak to a doctor. I took an appointment for the next day and literally ‘kidnapped’ Mehak in order to keep the appointment. The doctor did a full body scan, check up and countless tests. The gist of which is as follows:
- The white blood cells were more than the red blood cells. The red blood cells which protect our body from diseases were almost next to nothing!
- She had a stomach infection, the reason why she was coughing always and was having a constant stomach ache for nearly a fortnight.
- Mehak stands 5.4’ and she was almost twelve kilos underweight!
- The Gynecologist reports showed that because of her poor eating habits, she had uneven periods, a probable reason for the stomach ache.
We had a long talk that day- me, Mehak and her parents. The doctor had a name for what she was going through- ANOREXIA.
Truthfully, while reading it in school textbooks, a disease does not intimidate you. The stark truth hits you only when you see someone dear to you suffering what you till today had only read about.
My next conversation with Mehak was the most difficult one I have had with anyone till date:
Mehak: I don’t have Anorexia. So what if I eat a little less or I puke because my stomach’s aching. I am not eating because of a stomach infection, nothing else.
Me and Mehak’s parents: Then why didn’t you ever tell this to us before? You skipped your periods for nearly three months and you didn’t even discuss with your Mother!
Mehak: I know I did nothing wrong. I had nothing to worry about and did not want to worry any of you, either.
************** Mehak started crying*******************
Between unstoppable sobs:
Mehak: Fine, I was not eating. In my office, everybody is so skinny, I feel so fat and unhealthy. (Telling her parents) You don’t allow me to diet. I don’t have time to go to the gym. So what do I do? I wanted to lose weight, this was the best way.
Vinita: What was the best way?
Mehak: This! Eating to keep you happy and puking out whatever I ate. Caffeine has calories; I researched online, so I didn’t drink caffeine. When I drink something, even water, I feel fat so I decided to stop consuming tea and coffee. In the beginning, it was tough, my stomach growled constantly, I had a numbing headache but slowly I got used to it. I felt good, I looked good. My jeans is looser, my stomach is flatter, it motivates me to continue what I am doing.
US: Sweetheart, this is not right. This is abnormal. You are an educated woman and you know what you are doing is wrong. You have anorexia, you look anorexic and you must be feeling that too. This is not healthy, you might lose weight now, but pretty soon you will become terminally ill and we will have to admit you in the hospital. The weight you’ve lost in these months would be fed to you intravenously- through glucose, soups and salads. You will put on more weight than what you lost. What would you do then, Mehak?
Mehak: (crying and angry) Shut up! I will never become fat. No way, will I ever become the old fatso again. I am happy with the way I look now, why can’t you let me be happy?
One Month Later:
Mehak was admitted to the hospital. Slowly, but steadily she was recuperating. She hadn’t gained any weight but she didn’t lose more either. The Hospital ensured she was never left alone, never a chance to puke or throw anything that she was fed.
She continues to find nothing wrong with what she had done. Anorexia has affected her physically and mentally. Psychological treatments are on.
Luckily, for her, her strong willed parents didn’t break down and motivate her constantly to overcome this battle with her weight, with her self-image, with herself!
What I Feel:
What happened with Mehak really shook me to my very core. Despite knowing her for 10 years, I never saw it coming. I never noticed her transformation from a tom-boy to a weight obsessed woman. These thoughts keep me awake at nights.
I know it is not my fault. I am not the one to blame. After all, when a person is eating and drinking with you, you don’t assume that she would later puke it all out. That thought, unfortunately, never occurred to us.
For now, I pray for her recovery and to give her strength to overcome this phase. Anorexia is not a disease, a disorder but a phase which every woman goes through. It’s how we overcome it which matters, that makes all the difference.
Mehak has lost her fragrance but I am sure with love and support, she would find her lost fragrance, her lost identity soon…
Strangers in Life
There comes a time in a person’s life when you meet a complete stranger despite not feeling like they are. I go for walks regularly to FG’s and over the years I have met all kinds of people- the weirdos who keep following you, the smiley who smile at you for no reason (trust me, its creepy and not friendly), the motivators who truly motivate you to push yourself, the once in a while acquaintances and last but certainly not the least, them- the old, grandfather figure-kind strangers.
As you might have guessed by now, I have no grandparent which is probably the reason for having a soft corner for senior citizens. Yes, in today’s day and age there is probably no man or woman one should trust- sad but definitely true, but these ‘strangers’ are different.
One, a ‘Military Uncle’ as I fondly call him is as you guessed it, an ex-military person. He is old, has white hair, a big Amrish Puri type moustache and funnily reminds me of a leaner Santa Claus! It started with a formal smile, then proceeded to the daily wave and smile and then one day he spoke to me. It was not for asking my name or any personal detail, it was to teach me to walk properly! Yes, he is the person who taught me to walk properly- moving both the hands while brisk walking. I do not know what it was but when he gave this advice to a stranger like me, I took it. After all, there can be no harm from this, apart from the pain in the arm, literally! But I Googled and this is indeed the right way to walk.
Over the months, our interactions have not increased. I still do not know his name, he does not know mine. Nevertheless, I am sure he probably sees me too as a grand-daughter and gives me occasional advice on random things. They are old worldly, traditional as hell and make me smile- if my grandfather was alive, he would have been the exact same way.
There is another person, another complete stranger who over the years has made me smile and feel fortunate. This started weirdly, where this old man would everyday come up to me, hold my hand and bless me. At first, I thought he was just another creep who wanted an excuse to hold a young, charming girl’s (ahem! ME!!) hand. One day, I met him as he was walking with his wife. I smiled, the wife came forward, shook my hands and whispered ‘Beta, hope he does not trouble you too much. He is a little mentally unwell, so please do not mind.’
Now this is one twist which I had never expected. After all, isn’t it always assumed that mentally challenged individuals look, well, mental? In this case, he was such an ordinary, regular looking old man; I would never have believed it if not for his wife. From that day, I believe my attitude towards life changed.
You never know when you go out to what level can a stranger make an impact on you and vice versa. Call me an emotional fool or whatever, every time I meet him I see my grandfather in him. It’s been two years since I know this ‘Old Uncle’ as I think of him and till date when he sees me, he walks towards me with a stick in his hand, smiles at me, holds my hand and blesses me. The gesture seems so pure, so natural- I have never felt anything but grateful to receive a blessing from this old man.
Okay, so why did I waste 500 words in penning this down and then posting it as a story? It’s simple, in life we met all kinds of people, some good, some bad, some remarkable, some forgettable and some like ‘these people’ who in their own way change your outlook towards life. These strangers, apart from my dear and near ones (of course!) enrich my life.
What do I do? I do what I know best- smile and say Thank you!
The Big Interview
Yesterday was the big interview. This was not a job interview or college interview, this as some would say was bigger than that, and this was the US Visa Interview. For some years now, there has been so much said about this and I felt as nervous as I would feel if I am going to write a 100 mark paper in Latin or some other language I did not know!
The interview time given to us was 11.30 am and well, I and my family reached an hour earlier. If you knew my dad, you would not be surprised even if we had reached at 8 am! The queue to the entrance was unbelievable and after all, when a fixed time is mentioned, it is expected that you would not be made to wait like beggars for free food in this sweltering Mumbai sun.
There were youngsters and kids and even senior citizens waiting in the same line. The ones standing ahead of us in queue had come for their 10.30 am interview and those behind us were called at 12. We all were in the same queue! I was beginning to feel, that writing a paper or giving HSC would have been much easier than this senseless wait.
I would say that as an Indian, I have been completely offended by this behavior. After all, would they every make any other people in any other country wait like this? In our city, in our own country, we were made to wait by whites! Mind you, I am not a racist but if this is not the irony, I don’t know what is.
When finally we were allowed pas the elaborate security gate, one would feel he or she is a big criminal. Security is one thing but strip searching each and everyone, is insane. We were actually made to raise our hands and walk through the electronic metal detector, as if we have not come for an interview but are intending terrorists and criminals.
After so much hype about the US visa, I did not know what to expect. But I know one thing, I had not expected this. It was completely chaotic with no sense of discipline. After the security, they took our fingerprint imprints and then there was a long wait for the interview. There were several magazines on the rack but nearly 70% of them were Islamic and I did not understand why. After all, we are in India and in the US embassy office. Why did this suddenly feel like Pakistan? I was appalled.
The US embassy office does not cater to local Mumbai languages of Hindi and Marathi, but has Gujarati and Islamic magazines! I really did not know what more to expect from here.
Since we had applied as a family, the entire family was called together. This was a good thing or so was I thought. Foolish me! Well, a slow 45 minutes later, our token numbers were called in one of the ten counters.
There were three other families waiting in the same counter before us. Yes, even there after having the token number called out. There was a queue. When finally we went inside the miniscule cabin, there was barely any space to stand. We were greeted by a Hispanic lady with a soft, feeble voice. There was a glass door and metal bars separating us. This was really déjà vu.
I mean, I have never actually been to a prison but the US visa interview cabin for which we paid no less than Rs.10k was exactly the same. It took us weeks to reach to this cabin- we prepared separate files displaying assets, financial and educational records. But the Interview lasted lesser than ten minutes, asking us less than ten questions.
To Dad: Why do you want to go to US?
Answer: My son is working and living there. I want to see him and spend time with him.
To Mom: How many children do you have?
Answer: Three children.
To Dad: What is your third child doing?
Answer: She is married and is settled in UAE. She (referring to me) is the youngest.
To Dad: Why do you want to go to US now?
Answer: He has been calling us from years but it is just now we could go, as she (me again) just completed her studies.
Two minutes of furious typing on the computer letter, she returns our original passports taken earlier during security check and hands out a letter. The letter states the reason behind the rejection. It says that since we are possibly intending to be immigrants and have not shown any reason why we are not, we are not given a visa.
Where we disappointed? Yes. Where we angry? Yes. But more than anything, it is this assumption that every Indian who goes to USA never wants to come back that bugged us. After all, the Interviewer had not even checked our documents which show that we are ably settled in Mumbai and have no reason to settle down in the States.
There must be probably 1% of the population who apply for a visa intending to be immigrants. But because of those few, there are honest people like us who are always looked down upon in doubt. Nobody really knows what goes in the minds of the Interviewers. But it is wrong that while we welcome them in our country with open arms, they still look at Indians as wannabe-Americans.
Yes, there are people in India who dream of settling in the United States of America. USA might be beautiful but India is no less a charmer. Please Mr. Obama, make note that, Indians are not leeches and we like your country but we love ours. We want to see it not stay in it.
India is a home to thousands of Americans too but we treat each one of them with respect. Not because we love our 1.2 billion teeming population, but because of our culture which teaches us- Attithi devo bhavo (Each guest in our land is no less than a god).
Editor’s note: At GingerChai we believe in dialogues and conversations to enrich our mind. We received a long reply for Vinita’s “The Big Interview” experience from Gyanban, who blogs at Gyanban and Ja-Saala Times. We have updated the article with his reply below, so that readers get both the perspective.
I find it incredibly ironcal and funny – that some people still think of going to America is a big deal – canot understand why is there (or is there?) a hype about it? H1 visas no longer fill up as fast – neither are L1 management transfers overflowing.
Having said that – there is nothing wrong in wanting to work or live in a different region or country – what I find unnecessary is the craving for it.If it works out good for you – if it didnt no worries.There are lots of opportunities here as well.
Security protocols are standard across the world (well mostly) and is quite well known to people who are well travelled.Besides it is for our own good – the more secure we are the better it is for all of us.Why leave anything to chance? Terror attacks dont come with an invitation or a trailer like in pre-release movies,neither do the people who carry out these attacks.The stereotypical picture of a terrorist,as potrayed in the movies, could be quite different from reality. The biggest strategy that some terrorists use is “commonality” they look,behave and act like perfectly normal everyday/regular people. Hence the need for stringent and stricter security norms.
All consulates and embassies across the world have articles and magazines on different countries – to sensitise people or aprise people of different cultures, ethenicities or political scenarios.Chances are some people pick some of these magazines and keep it back in the chair and not in the shelves where they belong.So it is not the case of one consulate only talking about one country or ethnicity.
On a separate note, let us not criticize about any country be it Pakistan,US or even our own – unless we are prepared to do something about it to fix the problem.We should learn a lesson from our past generations who have just generated more and more worng percpetions with half baked knowledge or information or even personal bias.
Many companies issue a travel advisory to their executive who need to travel to multiple locations. These advisories give a detailed view on the cultural norms,climate, crime,and tourist attractions among other details.When I got one while traveling to India from another location, I was shocked and outraged.
It gave such a wrong impression of my country – but as the adrenalin died down – I began viewing it objectively and from a third person point of view – from a point of view of a person who has no clue about the land or is visiting for the first time – it made sense – because the data was factually correct and not someone’s figment of imagination.
The questions that are asked by the visa officer ae perfectly normal.They have been dealing with people intensively and can make out whose interview to lengthen and who’s to shorten. A classic example will be of job interviews.Though opposite in nature the similarity lies in the thought process. When a hiring manager does not see a fit for a candidate in the job, he is in someways switched off and goes through the motions to ask the basic questions and end the interview as quickly as possible.
Alternatively, if he finds the candidate suitable he engages in more questions to make his assessment clear.This is also true for candidates with fudged documents or fake experience certificates.If there is a suspicion, more questions follow to uncover the truth.Dealing with scores of interview candidates over the years gives you an instinctual understanding of a character and his or her vocabulary while answering a question.
Each country has to maintain a specific number of people entering and exiting the country.It is dependent on the respective country to ascertain that number.Sometimes it might come across as being unfair to some people,but in reality nothing is done on the whims and fancies of one individual while accepting or rejecting a visa.
One has a right to feel disapointed,but if you are determined,you can reapply and it will be addressed accordingly.There are many cases where the second or the third attempt was a succesful one.
Lastly, try talking to a foreginer,and they will tell you horror stories of how difficult it was to deal with the Indian immigration system – though for entirely different reasons.Talk to people who deal with customs and they will tell you what they go through.
This however does not mean that the entire Indian immigration system is difficult or the entire customs check is a bad experience. Just like in the US- there are some good people and some bad people, some people uderstand, some dont.Somethings work out in your favor and some dont.
We need to stay objective, and neutral and resist from forming a biased opinion for all and sundry.
Like they say – sometimes in life you got to be pigeon, and sometimes the statue.
Romeo and Juliet
He was her Romeo. He was everything she had been waiting for. He was not too tall, around her height. He was not too fair, he was dusky. He had long, shoulder length hair which usually was a big turn off but on him, it looked perfect. He had a manly voice, a deep one which made her heart beat faster every time he spoke to her and he had a crooked smile which brought out the twinkle in his chocolate brown eyes. She didn’t know that he loved her. She knew that she was in love with him and this was not a good thing.
She was sitting in her office cabin when the desk phone rang. She picked up within two rings and said,
‘Hello, Inspector Neha here.’
The voice on the other end scared her; it was the same rough voice that made her heart beat faster.
‘Hello, my lovely Neha. How are you, Inspector?’
She could hear his full throat laugh after he said that. She was an Inspector but she was no less a criminal. Like always, hearing his voice made her forget everything. She started laughing with him. It was only when she looked around that she realized that nothing was all right. He wasn’t the one on the call. She hung up.
Neha had been working with the police force of the city from the past four years. It was a short span of time indeed but her hard work and determination had not only won hearts of her male companions but also of the seniors working with her and above her. Even when she was promoted as an Inspector last year, Neha was sure, all the wishes and congratulations were from the heart.
She loved her job. She loved that she didn’t have to sit in the office the whole day and get buried in files. She loved the thrill of helping people and saving them. It made her feel like a messenger of God, in a way, she was. Everything was all right till that day when he walked into the police station. He wasn’t alone. He had been cuffed by her assistant whom she had sent out to arrest a known criminal, who stole from jewelry stores once in three months and then went underground. He had never been seen or spotted before but two weeks she had got an anonymous tip, giving her the time and place of the next crime.
They made a full proof plan and caught him, after the act. Usually Neha wouldn’t miss a chance to catch a criminal red handed but the files on her desk had been lying since six months and she had to write them and submit them in a week’s time. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t been to the crime scene. They had caught him and when Neha saw him, she knew nothing would be the same again.
They put him in a cell which looked exactly as they did in movies, the difference being they had no windows. Her cabin was right in front of the cells and every time she looked at them, she could see him looking at her. He had not spoken a word but he had a smile on his face, that smile which had been there even when he entered the police station. It seemed he had been waiting to be caught.
They already had proof on him enough that once the case went to court, he would serve a minimum of five years in prison. The court cases, however, weren’t instantaneous as they showed in movies. His hearing was scheduled for the coming fortnight.
When Neha went to talk to him, she was nervous. Inspector Neha had never been nervous in her entire life. He seemed to be waiting for her. That was the day it started. She heard his voice for the first time.
‘Hello Neha, sorry, Inspector Neha. I have been waiting for you.’
The other policemen had gone out on duty or dinner and Neha was alone in the station with him. He was behind bars but he still scared her.
‘Who are you? How do you know me?’
Even as she said it, Neha knew how stupid she sounded. She couldn’t take it back now. She waited for him to respond. He came closer, his face pressing against the cell, Neha wanted to take a step behind but she couldn’t. He smiled at her; he had a beautiful smile which lit up his eyes even when he was in prison and then told her, ‘I am your Romeo and you’re my Juliet.’
Neha didn’t know what would have happened if they had not been interrupted by another night duty Inspector. She quickly came out of her trance and walked to her cabin. It was only when she sat down on the desk and closed her eyes did she realize, he was indeed his Romeo.
As a young girl, Neha loved to narrate stories and enact them. For one of her school plays, Neha was chosen as Juliet. She had been so excited that she wanted to enact the part perfectly. She wanted to excel in it. She practiced her lines regularly and one day, while she was sitting in the swings telling the lines aloud to herself, he spoke.
‘O, I’m a fortunate’s fool.’
Neha was startled. She had not seen him coming. He was younger then, older then her by some years but still relatively young. From that day, they got along well. Neha practiced her lines with him. He lived in the neighborhood although she had never seen him before and her parents had always been too busy to notice whom she interacted with. She was a rich businessman’s only daughter and though she had all the luxuries and toys, she never had time with her family.
He came to the garden every evening and they practiced every day till the sunset. They had been so involved with the play and themselves, they hadn’t even asked each other’s names. He was her Romeo and she was his Juliet.
The evening before the play when they were still enacting parts of her play. He said, ‘O my Juliet, I shall not seek you till later. Thou don’t forget, I shall forget you never.’
Neha hadn’t seen him after that evening. Even after the play got over and Neha got busy with life, she kept a look out for him all the time and she had never been successful. Eventually she had pushed thoughts of her Romeo deep in her mind and continued with life.
Now sitting in her cabin, Neha could remember each day of that one month vividly. He had been a total stranger but she had adored him and deep down, even in that adolescence age, fallen in love with him. Till date, Neha knew now, she had been in love and seeing him today just brought that rush back, she didn’t even know his name. He knew who she was, maybe he always had known who she was, he was playing with her, then and now but she couldn’t believe it.
She knew now why he had been smiling. He had been seeking his Juliet and had finally found her. Committing those thefts and getting caught had been his way of coming back into her life. That anonymous call which she had been unable to trace had been him. That didn’t make him any less a criminal, he was still guilty, he would still be imprisoned but things would never be the same, he was the love of her life and he was a criminal.
Neha spent more and more time at the police station everyday and every time, the station was empty. She would stand outside his cell. She never said a word to him, he didn’t either. They stood there looking at each other. This continued for months even after the court cases started. Neha was the main Inspector who had to file his report. She did her work diligently.
The proof against him was clear. He had been a petty thief throughout his life and then two years back; he tried his hand by stealing at a jewelry store and that success, made him continue with it. He had a partner who was shot down by the police in an open gun fire some months back and since then, he had been in hiding.
Now that he was caught, the phone at the police station refused to stop ringing. Witnesses called and admitted to have seen him a day or two before the crime took place. He would observe his next crime spot from a distance for hours. The callers identified him due to his pictures in the news and papers and were ready to repeat this in court. One caller had even taken a low quality image from his cell phone where he was seen walking around the crime scene the evening before the theft.
Neha would continue with her reports and work, he was being safely shuffled to and fro from the court to the station. He had never caused any trouble. He would walk to the jeep, go to the court, stand in the box and then come back. He never spoke a word. His smile never left his face.
On the evening before the court’s verdict was to be out, he spoke to Neha. He quoted a line out of the play,
‘Romeo loved Juliet,
Juliet felt the same,
When he put his arms around her,
Juliet thou art my flame,
Thou give fever…’
Neha knew what those lines meant. She felt tears fall from her eyes but she didn’t wipe them. She didn’t want to take eyes of him for even a second. They both knew what the verdict was going to be. He would be put away in a high security prison for the next several years.
‘My only love, sprung from my only hate,
Too early seen unknown, and known too late.’
It was the first time she didn’t see him smile. There were tears in his eyes, there were tears in hers. They looked at each other for several minutes before Neha turned back and went to her cabin. She didn’t see him after that evening.
The next day when Neha was back at the station, his cell was empty. He had been taken away. Some days later, she got the news, that he killed himself. His heart had been punctured.
Back in the present, Inspector Neha was sitting in her cabin. It had been more than six months since he was dead but the phone call she had just received was him. She knew it. He could reach her from beyond the world. He was asking her to join him there.
She sat in her cabin that whole night. Next day, early morning, they had a gunshot coming from her cabin. She had shot herself with her gun. The report on him was open on the desk.
‘We two parted in silence and tears.
Half broken hearted
To sever for years.’
The Big Loser
There was one thing everyone noticed about her- it was not her deep black eyes or black hair or her creativity or even her dimpled smile, it was her weight. She stood 120 kgs tall and that was the only criteria by how she was always measured. She was not ugly, she was quite charming, shy and intelligent despite the way she looked. For as long as she remembered, her weight however was the only thing that mattered to the world.
She worked as a secretary in a financial organization and loved her job. She had many friends with whom she spent time, in and out the job, but surprisingly it was only Guys. Girls had always been mean to her, always a bitch. Guys, on the other hand, looked past the way she looked and admired her ability to carry herself well.
But they were just friends. She did not remember the last time she went out on a date, had been in a relationship, had felt Love.
She wanted to lose weight, lose it badly. The doctors, dieticians, trainers all told her the same thing, ‘You are young! You can lose weight easily.’ It was not easy. It was a daily struggle which only she knew of. She just could not stop eating junk food- burgers, fries, coke, chips- her weakness. And she was a constant matter of ridicule, her diet always under scrutiny, always mocked and tested.
Her last birthday, she was not even allowed to cut a cake. She had to be satisfied eating a salad and dry pasta, with a diet coke as her b’day dinner. She had hated them all so much that day. It did not matter that they complimented her carefully selected navy dress or her straightened hair. She had, had it with the weight. She was determined to lose the extra kilos- she knew she was not going to be the next Miss World or a hot model, but she wanted to be looked at- in a normal way, without focus shifting to her bulging stomach and hips.
She Googled for a diet program suitable to her needs. She found one in no time. A diet comprising of whole wheat bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a weekly intake of any sweets/chocolates she liked. She was a late sleeper but woke up at 6 am every day, rain or shine, and went fo a walk. The walk slowly went on to become a jog and eight months later, she was a regular at her colony’s jogging park, brisk walking and running with her terrain Fluffy and an i-pod to give her company.
Everybody started noticing her now, who wouldn’t- she became from a huge 120 kgs to a lanky 70 kgs. She stood 5.10” and for once in life she looked sexy with her curves and height and not intimidating.
She was still the same person- she still had the same friends, she still remained intelligent and witty; but the ones around her had changed. She saw her guy friends look at her differently; look at her like they looked at other girls. The girls in her office actually started talking to her, and inviting her to hang out with them.
One of her friends and colleagues, a good looking guy, actually asked her out on a date. A date- something which she hadn’t been in over three years! The kids in her colony, who would stare and mock at her, now looked at her with ogling eyes. Even her parents, who loved her, of course, took more pride in her now. Yes, her life had changed, she hadn’t- but the world around her certainly had.
A year later, she no longer worked at the financial institution. She had become a model, not the thin Carol Gracias type one, but a model who embraced her full body. She was married to her colleague, the good looking guy who had asked her out. She now had a lot of friends, both guys and girls. She had become the person she had always wanted to be- popular, beautiful, curvy and rich!
But she still was not happy- her husband, her former best friend hated the person he had married. He said, ‘You no longer have the beauty which you had when you were overweight.’ Maybe he was just jealous of the attention she recieved, of the fame and money she had, of the guys who hit on her every day. She, however, knew what it was- she was a ‘Big loser.’
She had lost a lot of weight. And, she had also lost a lot of herself.