Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sweet and sour!!!

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 41; the forty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "SWEET AND SOUR"
“All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances,And one man in his time plays many parts...”
William Shakespeare

Suhana got off the Rithala – Dilshad Garden metro line at the Kashmiri gate metro station. Yesterday had been a tiring day for her with late night meeting and a late night visit from distant relatives. Absorbed in her thoughts, as she proceeded towards escalator she noticed an old woman standing by; yet undecided between waiting for an overcrowded lift, long staircase or trying to go through the escalator. She went to the lady, held her hand and supported her in getting on and off the escalator. As the lady got off, she said “Thanks for the help! You are such a sweet dearie.”

As she boarded the Gurgaon line for office, she knew she wasn’t going to get any seat. As she navigated through the wave of sea that the Delhi metro had become off late; she noticed a women reserved seat with no women nearby to occupy it. But as she reached it, two young guys hurriedly sat on it. Tired as she was, she told them to read the sign above and vacate the seat. As they reluctantly got off, she heard them say “What has gotten into her? Must have sucked a lemon to be in such a sour mood!”
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: XX

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Second chance

Mark’s sleep was broken by a sudden sound of a truck back firing. Looking at his alarm clock, he saw that it was 4’O clock. Finally the day was here. Today was the day, 23rd Aug, that his review committee was scheduled to meet. And then his eye fell on the papers that he was supposed to have graded two days ago. He grumbled about the time, or rather lack of it, and went back to sleep.

As he slept off, he began to have an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach about the day ahead. His first taste of the day began when his alarm clock did not ring off and led him to oversleep till 7 AM. With the result that he was now running late by an hour compared to his original schedule. And that too on the day that his review committee was set to meet at 10 in the morning, in the campus and he was to finally get his long awaited chance of explaining to the committee why he should get a grant to conduct research on the “Economic Opportunity and Losses of the Global Warming”. He did not need this to happen. Not today, he didn’t. Not to forget the evening dinner that he had been planning with Sarah for so long. After a ton of procrastination, today was the day when they were finally going to get together for a lovely evening and it would not go well with Sarah if he did anything to jeopardize that.

He quickly washed himself and shaved. He took a quick look at his appearance and dashed off to the campus lest he should miss his 8’O clock bus from the pickup point two blocks away; reminding himself to take his blood pressure medicine with a quick bite in the institute cafeteria.

As luck would have it, he reached the pickup point at fifteen minutes past and missed the bus. Now he would have to board a taxi from the other end of the block and that would mean a delay of another half an hour. “Bother!” exclaimed Mark.

Not left with any other option, he walked to the other end of the block and hailed a passing cab. Sitting in the cab, he started to feel the beginnings of a headache. “I will have the medicine first thing I reach campus” resolved Mark.

By the time he reached the campus, it was already 9:30. Still left with around thirty minutes before his encounter with the committee, he went to the cafeteria to order his favorite ham on rye and a cappuccino. He was just about to dig in when a he heard someone calling his name from the hallway. Michael, his friend came frantically running to him. “What the bollocks are you doing here? And why is your phone switched off? The committee decided to meet at 9 and I was desperately trying to call you but to no avail”. Post-poning any further questions, Mark abandoned the thought of the sandwich and ran to the committee room to meet the ‘vultures’ as the committee was popularly known as.

As he entered the committee room at 9:50; he noticed two things: First, if the expressions of the members were anything to go by, his grant appeal was as good as turned down; and Second, he had left his preparatory material in the cafeteria itself. Deciding to brave the five member committee as it is, as going back for the material would have been a certain suicide; Mark walked to the center stage. “I apologize to keep you all waiting but due to an unfortunate combination of a faulty alarm clock, unpaid mobile bills and not being aware of the change in timings has led to such unfortunate delay. I fully…” Mark was stopped in the mid sentence on the vulture on the extreme left. “Where is you preparatory material and where are our copies? How are we supposed to follow what you are saying?” asked she; and the meeting progressively worsened with each passing minute.

When Mark came out of the room after the torture of full sixty minutes, he felt as if the day could not get any worse. He came out only to find a clerk waiting with a note from the Dean to meet him immediately. Rubbings his temples to relieve what was now turning out to be a full blown headache; he trudged towards the Dean’s office, still having his ham on rye sandwich in mind.
Dean: “You missed yet another class today!” started the dean without any obligatory niceties.
Mark: “I am sorry sir that this happened today but it was not a fault of mine. First my alarm clock didn’t work and then the missed bus and irate vultures… I mean the committee. I do sincerely apologize and promise that this wouldn’t happen in future.”
D: “Have you graded the papers that I gave you?”
M: “Umm… no sir but I was planning to do them today after going back.”
D: “So let me promise that there would not be a next time as from today, for the next six months, I am putting you on probation. If your performance does not improve in the next six months, we have to let you go. Please hand me the graded papers before the end of day today”
 The rest of the day passed in a flurry of activities. In the evening, Mark began to evaluate the papers to be handed over to the Dean. At six, Mark was just finishing up grading the papers and planning to get busy in preparing a session plan for the next day and did not realize the time when he was jolted by incoming call from his girlfriend Sarah. This reminded him that at that time they were supposed to be at the 6’O clock show at the mall.
Sarah: “Where are you?” said an icy cold voice from the other end.
Mark: “Got a bit occupied in course planning. You wouldn’t believe the day I had, if I tell you.”
S: “Worse than standing in a queue outside a theater, dressed in white dress and waiting for someone who had been promising to watch the movie for over a month now?”
M: “Umm… different worse?” ventured Mark.
S: “Hmm… We need to talk about us and what you need to do if you want ‘US’ to work out!” And she cut off the phone.
 The throbbing headache, lack of medicine combined with the exhaustion and stress of the day began to take a toll on Mark and he fell asleep on the table itself.

BAM! The noise of a truck back firing woke Mark. It was a moment before he realized that he was in his bed and not in his classroom. The dial on alarm clock declared 4 AM on 23rd Aug.

Wondering if it all was a dream because if it was a dream, it felt very real; his eyes fell on the papers he was supposed to have graded two days ago. He decided to let go of the sleep and began evaluating the papers!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Zambia travelogues

Getting the Zambia diaries out has taken longer than I expected, thanks to the continuous barrage of work that I was submerged in. During the closing phase of my project in Zambia, we were under so much work that I had actually begun to wonder if there would be anything at all to write in them. Fortunately, we got a breather in early march to go to the couple of relatively famous places in Zambia and an opportunity for me to flaunt them here. I will also try to highlight key points of a trip that we took to Lusaka, capital city of Zambia, in December. I will highlight the top places that we went, some of the activities that I will recommend and other such general stuff.

So without further ado, here we go…

Victoria Falls: The biggest attraction of Zambia; 1.7 km long falls at the peak season are a sight second to none. It was an exhilarating feeling to be so close to a thunderous waterfall, so loud that you can’t hear yourself even think. We were so excited to be at the site that we actually went again the next day so that we could enjoy it once more. We almost walked with the flowing water till the point it became the fall. Then there is a point called “Knife Bridge” where the falling water just flows underneath the bridge with the water droplets from this falling water getting caught in an upward draft and then falling like a rain. So, it would seem that the point was in a state of perpetual rainfall. So much so that despite wearing a raincoat, we were soaked to the inners. But the joy of standing defiant at that point is indescribable. In fact, after so many words, I still feel that I haven’t been able to do a justice to the wondrous nature of the falls.

Lion walk: By and far the biggest attraction to me. I love interacting with animals in a way most people would consider maniacal. While in the farm, we got a chance to hold, pat and otherwise interact with three leopards, two lionesses and one lion. And trust me! I milked the most out of it. And the thrill!!! Absolutely incomparable.

Elephant ride: We actually began our day with this ride. An hour long ride on an elephant across wild forest was a great experience. But an even better feeling was feeding them at the end of the trip and getting them to salute you. :)

Microlight: 15 minutes of open single seater plane, flying over the Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe with nothing to secure you to your seat than a flimsy seat belt. It couldn’t get any better than that. Actually there was another option to fly – through a helicopter but our group unanimously decided to go for the former option and have loads more fun. Like everything, a bit steep on price at around 9000 rs. (150 USD) but worth every cent of it!

Kalimba Reptile Park: On of my desire for a long time had been to hold a snake in my hands. Once, some 4 years back when I was in Orissa/India, I got a chance to almost hold a snake in my hands. So when I got a chance to hold a python in Kalimba Reptile Park, my joy knew no bounds. The park had a ton of crocodiles (largest of which they claimed was around 5 meters), several pythons and many other species of snakes.
I had a wondrous opportunity to hold a python the way you only see in movies but never get to do in reality and a smaller domestic brown snake. The smaller snake was so cute and pliable that I almost bought one for home. ALMOST because then I remembered that I will be disowned by my folks if they even realized that I was thinking about such a thing.

Chaminuka Game Reserve, Protea Safari lodge: If you go to Zambia and have a couple of days of spare time, I would strongly suggest that instead of staying in a hotel and then going for a safari ride; you book yourself into one of these two places. These are safari lodges which are situated in the middle of a safari range. This way, you get to have a night time experience of staying in the safari as well several side trips reserved for booked guests such as cheese tasting etc. Not to mention the surreal night time feel of the jungle, while you sip tea in a wooden terrace overlooking a lake where the animals are drinking water. I hope you get the idea!!!

Bungee jumping combo: This particular bungee jumping had 3 options – ‘Famous 111m Bungee Jump’, Bridge Swing & Bridge Slide. With a perpetual fear of dying in a high speed crash with something, I did not participate in this activity. My 3 friends, however, did and I could see how much they enjoyed it. At around 12k rs (USD 200), it was a bit steep but worth every rupee in the adrenaline and excitement it helps generate. And even better part of this was that this was done on a bridge after the falls. Hence there were sufficient water vapors in the air to cause beautiful rainbows with the right amount of sun. And I made my best effort to capture some of that.

Artifact shopping: Zambia has a lot of copper mines. So, one of the artifacts that you can look for are paintings etched, carved on copper plates and sheets. Like all the African nations, there are a lot of neat handicraft items which can be picked from the flea markets such as Wooden figurines, Carved chess sets, Cloth and Papyrus paintings, Tribal masks, Seed paintings etc. 
Being a numismatic, I always cherish a chance to collect coins of the country. With the coins being reintroduced in circulation after couple of years, the older coinage was hard to find. But fortunately, I was able to amass a complete set of Zambia coins. Not only that, I was able to assemble a complete set of Zimbabwe coins as well. And that was a difficult treat as the coins have not been in circulation there for some with current currency reaching up to the denomination of 5 trillion Zimbabwe. In fact, I saw 1 trillion and 5 trillion Zimbabwe notes.

Sunset cruise: To be very honest, this is one thing which I would suggest you skip. But that’s my view. I feel like spending half a day just to watch a sunset is a sheer waste of time; and time which could be wonderfully utilized elsewhere such as going to the falls once more or even one more trip to the safari lodges.

Several adjoining African countries: Zambia shares its border with several other countries like Zimbabwe, Congo etc. It is often a tourist thing to do to take a short trip to the border and crossover a 2-3 hr jaunt across the border. And in the process, if you get couple of good deals on the way; who is complaining, right?

Hope that the descriptions and the sights might have convinced some of you to take the trip at the next possible opportunity. And trust me; you would not end up regretting it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rape - Defense with everyday items

I know that with the recent increase in rape cases in Delhi, there has been a lot of mails circulating around on what to do and what not to do when you are fearing that you might get raped. Towards the end of this post, I will add a link to some of these compilations.

So I thought let me put my 2 cents also out there as I am a believer of 'You play with the hand you are dealt with'. But then again, who said you shouldn’t play with a little preparation. Hence, some quick tips on what might help you in those crucial moments.

Kick them hard – Though it physically pains me to even write this imagining the pain it might inflict on the man, it needs to be said. Any man has two sensitive areas – One of course is the groin area and the other is the exposed throat. At the moment that any person decides to do such a thing, he stops becoming a person but turns into a monster. And you shouldn’t feel anything in kicking a monster. So... when a guy approaches you with that intention; don’t hesitate to kick / punch him in his sensitive areas as that would give you ample time to run away. Kick that ^%*&^*(& so hard that he can’t get it up ever again. Remember "SING" – Solar Plexus-Instep-Nose-Groin. Elbow in solar plexus; stomp on foot as hard as you can; jam the palm of your hand into their nose in an upward motion; and then finish with a knee to the groin. Follow the picture.

Use thy keys to lock the hell – Every one of us has one another set of keys on us when we go out. Those keys could be your offense weapon. Hold the key ring in such a way that the shaft of keys protrude from between your fingers and hold them tight. This gives you a powerful offensive weapon with which you can draw blood from the enemy.

Pain killer or pain inflicter – I know that in places like US etc., you have things like pepper spray and stun gun. But they are not available (or readily available for pepper spray) in India yet. And the US vendors are not willing to ship to India because the policy is a little bit ambiguous. Trust me! I have tried. So you do the next best thing. Use something which causes unbelievable amount of pain and is easily available in the market. My money is on something like relispray or Volini etc. Keep a can unwrapped and ready to be used in your handbag. That fluid can give you excruciating pain when it gets in your eyes. I have felt it. Not that anyone sprayed me… It’s just that I poked my finger in my eye after spraying my back. And god awful it was!!!

Be smart – Nowadays, most of us have smartphones. Use the smartphone to download apps which make loud noises. Even if you don’t own one such phone, there are several gadgets available in market which look like a pair of magnets but create such a loud ruckus when they are separated. So all you have got to do is to separate them at the time when you need. True that their original purpose was to inform when a window is being opened to prevent burglary, they would serve our purpose rather well… won’t they?

Please fasten your belt – With the modern day outfit, comes a unique accessory called the belt. In dire situations, remove your belt and hold it with the buckle side away from you. You use this belt as a whip to hit anybody who comes near you. The steel buckle, and the power of centripetal force, will provide it with enough hit power to seriously injure someone. For traditional clothes wearing women, you can use you dupatta / stole for the same purpose. Use some heavy object like a sandal or that glass perfume bottle that you are carrying in our handbag or the handbag itself. Double over your dupatta and tie / place it in the middle and you can use it to the same effect as the belt.

Even more important than these things is your psychological defense. Just because you are in that situation doesn’t mean that you have to break down and start crying. It is not a Shakti Kapoor movie. Be mentally alert for everything. Be aggressive. Be loud. And don’t give up. Never give up. They are more likely to feel confident if you are meek, mute and submissive. Fight, fight dirty, kick (repeatedly), bite, and scratch. Do anything and everything which comes to your mind but DO NOT GIVE UP. Give it everything you have. Cry hoarse with your voice. Scream, yell and draw attention to yourself; BUT DO NOT GIVE UP.

But most of all, hope that this post was written in vain and I pray and nobody ever gets to use any of this in real life.

Some other links:

Image Courtesy: Google Images

PS: I know I have not been regular here but life has been very much hectic off late. Will do better from now on.