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Life before & after toilet paper

I am thinking dirty. Don’t get me otherwise. It’s just one of those memories you can’t help erasing. And it stems from a conversation my husband and I shared a few days ago. Well, inane conversations that often crop up in between long serious talks about life, career and finance. I’d threatened to blog about it and here I am reliving it again! But we all need that comic relief once in a while.
Years ago, when I was living in Delhi I always, invariably, had one reflex action – that of bowing my head in front of temples, churches or any places of worship. I am not religious but it’s perhaps a gesture of respect for the places that are deemed sacred by others. Respect is a great virtue to inculcate. Anyway, Delhi’s architecture is funny, you have dilapidated temples (some under reconstruction) and you have state-of-the-art toilets which are thankfully cropping up everywhere, you know the paid toilets where you can always do the needful, if you can’t help it.
I was once passing by a Sul…
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2020 International Women’s Day

I just finished watching Devi, a 13-minute film on the plight of women in India. Have to admit it was Kajol, my favourite from Kuch Kuch Hota days, that was the lure to it. But it left me deeply saddened by the stark reality of the country I left behind thrown right before my eyes. The film ended with a few pointers, one of which is the fact that Indian courts have a backlog of more than 100,000 pending rape cases.
I am fortunate to live in Australia but part of my background and who I am is undeniably Indian. And this is not to say that I live in a violence-free world where incidences of rapes and assault against women is unheard of. However, the enormity of the situation in India even in 2020 is incomparable.

The consensus among activists and women is that the problem is getting worse and the culture of impunity for sexual crimes remains firmly embedded.

I lived in Delhi for 17 years and my emotion towards the city is still the paradox of love and hate  - love for the beautiful rel…

Aussie tabla man

Sam Evans’ love for the tabla is one that grew out of exploration. He began playing the drum kit as a six-year old and by the time he finished school was playing it professionally.  But he was nagged by an urge to discover a musical instrument that had a bit more history, complexity, and a bit more emotional depth. So he went travelling. It was the late 1990s. Evans left rural New South Wales where he grew up. He sold everything he owned and rode a bicycle all the way up the east coast of Australia first and then spent years travelling in Asia, Africa and Europe studying different drumming traditions. The breakthrough came when he found the tabla in India. “There was an amazing complexity to the instrument, incredible virtuosity, and a really beautiful sound,” he says. Evans was just 18 at that time but had already been to different parts of the world and found nothing else like the tabla anywhere. He would end up spending 10 of the next 15 years living in India, most of the time in the…

Of loss and love

The other day, we drove some 50 km (in Melbourne this is not far, given that we drive 100 kmph) to meet a remarkable lady. Melton, the suburb she lives in, is not very exciting and the typical gloomy winter day did not help either. But when we arrived at the door, we were greeted by this very affable soul. Her home was lit up with warm yellow lights, the soft sound of bhajans (devotional music) playing in the background and a tray of snacks I could not resist from.
At a glance, Ravinder Kaur’s life resonates with loss. You even wonder how she is able to put up a smile given that life has not been easy at all right from the start. She grew up in Jalandhar and like every other woman got married on time - there is so much emphasis on getting married young in India. But when she was pregnant, her husband left her without any notice. He went off to Dubai and sent a divorce notice to her. Unable to take in the shock, she chose to stay married till he appeared before her in person and clari…

Smart solution

There is a very bubbly side to Deepti Aggarwal, Melbourne’s now popular research scientist who made news recently for her invention of the ‘smart socks’. Aggarwal brushes off the fact that she is popular but says the publicity has at least given her the possibilities of, say, getting some funding and extending her project. As part of her PhD (which she has just completed) at the University of Melbourne, Aggarwal was studying the current practices of video consultations and the challenges that physiotherapists face. “From that study it occurred that lower body movements are more difficult to understand over video and hence we need a technology that can help physiotherapists to understand patients better, that’s how I came up with this idea of socks,” she says. After working with a team of engineers, Aggarwal developed the smart socks in about six months’ time making sure that the design was comfortable for patients and the interface provided sufficient data to help both physiotherapist…

Raw devotion

Not everyone can boast of such a sweet memory from childhood. Parvyn Kaur Singh was ten-years old when Michael Jackson, the deceased King of Pop, came to perform at the Adelaide Oval as part of the HIStory World Tour in 1996. Parvyn and her two sisters were among the lucky children selected to welcome Jackson at the red carpet. Dressed in traditional Punjabi suits, the sisters, on an impulse, started to chant the Mool Mantra (first hymn in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs) as soon as Jackson showed up. He stopped, listened, and walked on. But for Parvyn and her sisters, the surreal moment did not end there. Suddenly, one of Jackson’s assistants walked up to them and said ‘Michael wants to meet you properly’. She took them through security to Jackson’s presidential suite where they came face to face with the man the world was crazy about. “He asked who we were and what we were singing,” recalls Parvyn, adding, “He also wanted to take photos with us, something he …

Be more informed, Priyanka Chopra

It is our first meeting and my Indian compatriot tells me, “You speak good Hindi, I was wondering how a Chinese can speak Hindi so well.” Now I don’t think I look anywhere close to a Chinese but I understand that for her, it’s an easier synonym for all Asian look-alikes. I get that all the time here in Melbourne.
You are from India? Yes, from the northeast.
Nepal?
Conversation over.
If I am lucky, I do get an occasional: “Nagaland?” or “Manipur?” 
Once it was “Thailand?” The person was from Delhi and she thought Thailand was in the northeast of India. I wish.
This is a tiredly, familiar opening conversation I endure whenever I meet Indians who, while warming up to the fact that I can speak Hindi and enjoy Bollywood movies as much as they do, have zero knowledge about their own country. I can understand if the ignorance comes from Indians born here but no, these are supposedly educated Indians who have migrated here (and yes, for better life of their children).