Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Do the Diu !!!

After many months of planning and postponing and replanning, we finally decided to 'Do the Diu'. So on Friday night, there we were - a group of 8 people on the bus to Diu, all set for the overnight journey with packets of chips and peanuts. I was overly excited about the trip for two reasons...well actually three reasons.

a) Goa Daman and Diu was one Union territory before they decided to make Goa a state ( a landmark day for all the MLAs who till this day are 'party-hopping' and making the best use of this decision). So I was curious to know what Diu is like.
b) Having stayed close to the sea most of my life, I feel a special bonding with the sea. Surprisingly the more I stay away from the sea (Pilani,Bangalore,Ahmedabad), the more I feel attached to the sea.
c) Fish Fish n more fish :D

So once we reached Diu and dumped our luggage in our rooms (the very "creative rooms" made out of cargo containers) at Sea Village, we hit the sea. Then we had breakfast and hit the sea again. Then we had a quick spin of Diu, had lunch and hit the sea again. I learnt to float. It is an amazing feeling to just surrender to the water and lie on your back staring into the clear blue sky above. I rediscovered swimming. :)) I realized that playing frisbee in water is twice as much fun as playing it on land. Post-dinner my chicken and fish-chilly laden belly did not quite agree with my heart's decision to hit the sea. So I sat overlooking the waves (or rather just the white foam on the waves visible in the inky darkness) and had silent conversations with them. Come next morning, and we hit the sea again. And then we did the quintessential 'Diu Darshan' on bikes. Fort->Diu Church->Gomatimata beach->Nagoa beach->Naida Caves(spoooookkyyyy.Do not even attempt to go there in the night). And took the night bus back to aapnu amdavad.

Some learning from my Diu trip:
a) Whoever coined the term 'sun-kissed' was definately sitting in the shade. (This sentence was written with one hand while with the other I was applying Lacto-Calamine on my terribly sun-burnt face :( )
b) Never ever go to Diu on a secret trip. Your tan will say it all when you get back. (thank heavens our trip was a well-publicised trip on the weekend and no classes were bunked for it :D)
c) Imagine this. You are all bathed and clean, wearing the last pair of dry clothes that you have. You have sworn a lil' while ago that you are DONE with the sea and salt-water. But now you stand on this cliff, just three metres away from the spot where a thousand white droplets of water from the waves crashing below rise up in a frothy mist and engulf you. WHAT DO YOU DO???
Just walk those three metres and get soaked to the skin in the frothy misty shower. Never know when you will get such a moment again :)
[Note: spending a day and night in sea-water covered clothes causes a mild to severe itching and rash on the skin :( ]
d) Diu is not very similar to Goa in terms of the people and culture. But you find a very strong Portuguese influence out there -just like you do in Goa. But what the heck....its a grreaat place for a quiet and peaceful vacation.
e) Fish is yummy whether you have in Goa, Diu or Timbuktu...... :)))))))))))) [burp!!]
For all those who have been inspired to do the diu after reading this - try the fish at the 'laaris'. You get to choose between a 40 Rs. pomfret, a 50 Rs. pomfret and so....and its aaaweeessoommmee.

Note: (for mum n dad): all the floating and swimming was done in very shallow water, within a distance of 5 meters from the shore, in the presence of people who are good swimmers with prior experience of saving people from drowning. The sea at Diu is very placid and "user-friendly" :)) :p

To end the post....a link to the lyrics of one of my favourite songs...which seems much more relevant to me at this moment.
The Sunscreen song :D

Monday, August 13, 2007

Caveman instincts....

We all rushed towards the mess with posters. The rival camp was already there with their posters and had cordoned off the area closest to the door. The door was closed and would open only an hour later. And there we stood - a grimy mass of paint-covered limbs and sloganeering faces filling every inch of the staircase. All for occupying as much of space on the mess walls as we can with our posters. Fun and games. And yet I have seen best friends in opposite camps screaming into each others faces with a language that would make their parents think about their bad karma in all their past lives. Even a budding romance is put on hold during the 'Poster War' week and the girlfriend is all too glad to give the silent treatment to the dude. All for just one objective - possession. Possession of space. Possession of the cobweb-covered mess walls which reek of stale dal and rice and don't even elicit a second look (or whiff :) on usual days

And this got me thinking (which given the commotion and the push-pull that went on in that one hour is indeed an achievement) that 'what if humans were devoid of this urge to possess? What if the caveman had never used clubs to possess any and every woman that caught his fancy?' It would save me all those hours of going early to the popular classes to possess a seating place on the bench, floor or the windowsill. I thought of all the fights that I have had with my sister just because she wore my T-shirt or used my mug to drink her daily Horlicks dose. Images of my favourite shoes, book and perfume were flashing in my mind. I had a vague recollection of a protest march that my sister and me had staged (complete with slogans and posters) to coerce my parents into buying yet another Barbie for us. I got thinking about how the entire family had stood at the door as we sold off our ten-year old vehicle and kept waving till the number-plate disappeared around the road-bend. And then there was this time when my friend and I had a crush on the same guy and fought for hours over him (despite the fact that he didn't even know that we exist).

On a lighter note, I thought the filthy rich would probably throw away their money without the urge to possess it and I would get a part of the booty. But would I even want it ? Or would the filthy rich be filthy rich without the urge to possess? And then I had this scary apparition of a woman handing over her child to vagabond-like character who is standing at her doorstep and asking for her child. And that jostled me back into reality. Back into the pushing and sweat-dripping blob of bodies waiting to clamber over tables and beams - all for that last inch on the grimy mess wall. And I was thankful to the fighting. Thankful to the urge to possess. Thankful to the caveman who plastered another caveman's brain to the ground to possess the hairy cavewoman with the cute dimples. :))amen

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A visit to change it all....

I hate going to somebody's house when i don't really know them. When they open the door half-expecting you to be a door-to-door salesperson (i guess its the kurta jhola look that makes them think I have some homemade pickles stowed away in my jhola), my mouth runs dry before i break into my toothiest grin and introduce myself. And the greatest fear that grips my throat and makes me nauseated at the very thought of visiting people i don't know is WHAT DO I SAY? I mean I love to talk and all that. But after I know their entire family tree, the name of the dog they owned in 1978, the entire school curriculum of their third child and the 'inside story' about all their neighbours, WHAT NEXT??? I hate gaps in conversation when you just lie back on the couch and grin like an idiot or dust imaginary crumbs from your shirt, while your mind is desparately trying to grab onto another thread of talk with a longer runtime potential.

And thats exactly what went through my mind when they told us that we have to do a field study for our project. I am working with children and my field study involved spending time in the school with the Senior KG Class. (which was a really nice experience....the bunch of kids were well-behaved and my bag didnt get plundered. Neither did they make fun of my red chappals with big black knobs between the first two toes - which I have realised over some time are objects of derision among the very old and very young and everyone in between :(( ) I also had to go to their homes and interact with their parents and siblings which was what bothered me in the first place.

Anyways...there I was in the auto fighting an urge to stop the auto and go back the campus. Finally after 15 minutes of road-rage and gujju galis by irate drivers, the autowallah deposited me in front of a huge pharmacy. Another 10 minutes of asking around and walking finally got me to the society where the child stayed. I took a deep breath and walked up to his house. Thankfully, I had met his mother and sister earlier. That would spare me the 'oh-are-u-another-salesgirl?' look.

The door was open. And through the door I could see atleast ten people bustling inside - eating, cooking, hurrying about. I had called earlier, so they would be expecting me. But maybe they had had some unexpected guests. What should I do? I stood at the door and didn't really have to wait much, for I got dragged in with a nice boisterous welcome. They were all unknown faces and yet seemed so familiar when they gave me that understanding smile. I made a feeble explanation about how I was late cos I had a little trouble in locating the house. But it was lost in the hoopla of making way between all the people and escorting me to the first floor. A glass of very cold water put me at ease. Who I had mistaken for 'unexpected guests' were actually family members who now surrounded me as I sat on the bed and pulled out my guideline questionnaire and book and pen. Two little girls with big round eyes which followed every movement of my hands. An elderly woman who sat on the floor with the mother and gaped at me with faint curiosity (thank god I left my chappals outside the house). A bhaiyya and bhabi duo who sat next to me and nodded vehemently when I told them about my project. And of course, the child under study, still in his school uniform scrawling away to glory on his slate oblivious to the fact that he is a guinea pig (albeit in a social setting :)

I started with the usual questions about age and family details and stuff. They are 6 siblings the eldest one being 23 years old (married with a 2 year old child) and the youngest one being 6 years old. The mother proudly said 'India is such a huge country thanks to women like me. What is this 1 or 2 children thing? See...I bore 6 children. If we have to play cricket , we dont even have to look for outside help. We will make a great team." She laughed as she talked and playfully hit me on my arm while making a point. She then went on to explain how people from her community have many children in the quest to have a son. She is a very spirited woman, considering the fact that two of her children are deaf since birth. But never once did she speak of the problems and difficulties.

Somewhere in between the conversation, a cup of tea surfaced from the ground floor. I was thankful for it . But the mother held it in her hand and would not give it to me. I guessed that she may not want to interrupt my questioning process. So I kept quiet for a while. But still she wouldn't. Finally I gave up and resumed my questions while watching the tea getting cold in her hand. Her reluctance I later realised was because she had asked for biscuits to go with the tea and didn't want me to finish the tea before the biscuits arrived. Later I had the reheated tea with half a dozen biscuits. :)))

For a novice surveyor, I do a decent job. But this cheerful lady almost had me. When I asked her husband's occupation, she said 'majdoori' which is what day laborers do at construction sites. The family looked quite affluent. I never knew majdoori could be so profitable. I was thoroughly confused. I changed the tack of questioning. But it still rankled me. So I hazarded another question 'does his father work quite far away?' and the bhaiyya-bhabhi duo nodded and informed me that he owns a jewellery shop nearby. And the entire lot of them laughed politely at the ignorant visitor (yours truly) who had in her academic zeal and confusion missed the giggles from the little girls and the gleam in the mother's eye as she said 'majdoori' with a poker face.

The more I spoke to them, somehow I felt drawn into the family and so much a part of them. I understood their subtle jokes. I could grasp the mechanics of the mother daughter relationship when the daughter jovially called her mother as 'uneducated' and 'angootha chaap' and she retaliated with how she managed the family jewellery business so well. They invited me to stay over for dinner with promises of yummy Rajasthani food and offered to drop me back to my hostel. I so wanted to stay. Or rather my stomach wanted me to stay and the rest of me agreed. But then thinking about my earlier feelings and reluctance made me feel guilty and I didnt want to impose my 'hale-n-healthy' appetite on them. So I refused.

After having taken some photos (more because I felt like it than for academic record), I said my goodbyes. They all stood at the door, waving me goodbyes as the mother accompanied me till the road. The small walk was seized as the perfect opportunity to advise me, a young girl unknown to the ways of the world, about how it is unsafe to travel alone and that I should not do it again, especially so late into the evening. (I considered telling her about how I once travelled from the airport to the campus at 1 am all alone....but spared the the good lady a cardiac arrest by keeping mum)
And then she made sure I got safely into the auto (which was driven by a sweet-looking old uncle and not some young driver with shifty eyes) and haggled with the driver to reduce the fare from the usual 40 rupees to a special just-for-this-good-little-young-lady 30 Rs. She asked me to visit again and held on to my hand till we drove on.

I still feel paranoid about visiting people I dont know. I still have the dry-mouth syndrome when I stand on their doorsteps. But after that day's visit, I have this faint hope in me that the next family I encounter might be like them. And that is what makes me go on. :)