Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Mata' and music

North Indians, especially Punjabis; have experienced the phenomenon called ‘Mata ki chowki’. A ‘Mata ki chowki’ is held to sing praises of Goddess Durga. Nevertheless it is more of a social gathering than a religious one.

Let me describe it to you, starting from the setting. Imagine a huge hall. Then fill up the floors with mattresses covered by white bedsheets. Three walls should be lined with chairs. Add four amplifiers at all the corners. Now concentrate on the empty wall. The ‘shrine’ or the focal point will be set up here. A small table covered by a red or equally bright cloth will be set up. On this table an idol or framed picture of the ‘maa’ will be placed. There will be a plate; otherwise known as the ‘aarti’. On that plate you may see a ‘diya’, a few ‘agarbattis’ and other stuff most Hindus use in their rituals. Around the shrine a few people acting as musicians will be sitting with a 'dholak' and maybe, a harmonium along with a couple of microphones. Do imagine all this, but with the mute button switched on.

Now, imagine the people- men woman, oldies and children. It’s frenzy. Remember the chairs? Those are for people who simply can’t sit on the floor because of various ailments. Others will be sitting cross legged on the mattresses.

Let me also tell you how to find the location of a ‘Mata ki chowki’ you would be invited to. When you reach the area and are unsure of the address just enter the building emitting a lot of noise. Once inside let your ears guide you.

You’ll know you’ve reached the right destination if you cannot hear what the person next to you is trying to tell you. For the next two hours or so, the only noise, err sound you will hear will be loud chants of ‘Jai Mata di’. The songs are sung to the tunes of Hindi movie tracks-easy to pick up. The lyrics are few and simple-easy to remember. Comparing the sound levels to a rock concert may not be appropriate, but it is accurate.

The intention of the ‘Mata ki chowki’ may be to please the goddess. I wonder if people assume that the Goddess has a hearing problem and the praises need to be shouted to be heard and acknowledged. I guess praising the goddess wouldn’t be fun unless accompanied by loud chants and louder pseudo-music.

Friday, July 23, 2010

And I missed it

Sunderbans-serenity defined
Around May this year, ‘we’ (parents, sister and me) experienced the serenity of a place called Sunderbans. It’s a Delta on River Ganga and is shared by West Bengal and Bangladesh. A combination of water and mangroves: nature at one of its bests. A trip I thoroughly enjoyed for two reasons- the green-blue water and trees and the one memory which was formed.

The chief attraction of the trip was “spotting the Tiger” It became a kind of a game. Since all travelling was done on the launch we came on and the hours spent on the oversized boat were many; most of that time was spent in craning our necks in trying to get glimpses of tigers roaming around in the jungle surrounding us. We also sang Hindi movie songs which we felt appropriate to lure the tigers. Songs like “Jhalak dikhlaja...ek bar aaja aaja….” And “aaja aaja, mein hoon pyar tera…”
 Our constant companion in all the travelling we did

The time we spent off the launch, on the tiger reserves were spent similarly; albeit less noisily. The rest of the time was spent in the guest house, discussing the reserves where we were most likely to come face to face with the favourite feline of the moment.

On the third and last day of the trip, everyone got up early in the morning with new hopes. We all went to a reserve, the name of which I typically didn’t notice. The oh-so- enthusiastic aunties of the group lead the uncles and me to the watch tower. And before anyone could attempt to climb up the stairs, it happened. That, was the moment of triumph. Everyone saw it. It was majestic for sure. I cannot describe its beauty because I missed it. By the time I reached the spot; trailing behind lazily; the tiger was gone. A chance to view on of the 1411 tigers left in India. And I missed it.

The sky on our way back
The whole disappointment of missing the tiger lasted for about 10 minutes. But the unintentional “sprinkling of salt on my wound” done by the ladies of the group lasted for the rest of the trip. This made me wonder. Was seeing a tiger that great a deal? Would it enhance my experience of life? Yes, it would have made a great travel story and a great memory. But missing the whole event has also made a great travel story and a great memory. I will certainly not forget not seeing a tiger on my first trip to Sunderbans.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Strands lost

I was aghast a few days back when I pulled out my rubber-band to free my ponytail. At least 8 strands of hair had come off with it. 8 strands! I had just lost so much hair the day before when I shampooed. I sat up from the bed and saw some more strands on the pillow! No, I am not going for chemotherapy. This sudden loss of hair is suffered by one and all during monsoon. But it gets scary sometimes. Especially if you find hair here, there, everywhere. So I got a little agitated and started my own survey. I got up from the bed and located my mom’s hairbrush and saw a whole layer of hair. (Almost a layer) Then I went and interviewed the maids and they too described their horror stories of tremendous hair loss. I recalled my friend’s comments about losing more hair than she could handle.

Hair loss is more normal than the shampoo brands make it out to be. Switch on the TV, every brand claims that if you lose more than one strand of hair you are permanently doomed to be bald very, very soon. That’s why most of us are constantly jumping from one shampoo to another in the hope s of losing less hair.

Basically after 15 minutes of researching this problem I got bored and thought- “what the heck; hair today, certainly not gone tomorrow. Actually I also realized that few of the strands I saw on the pillow were smaller than mine, they were my mother’s. I admit I was relieved to know that I am losing a few strands less

Thursday, July 1, 2010


No, I am not talking about anything Twitter related. Nor am I going to elaborate on leadership. I am referring to the random men who decide to follow woman walking on the road. These brand of men can also be categorized as eve teasers, (they can also be called unemployed. Perverts, pathetic, sick and other colourful adjectives.) But I am not here to analyse the different adjectives that can be used for these men. I want to discuss ways of evading these people.

The first thing on needs to do is be alert. That is the basic thing one needs to learn. Not just to evade followers but also avoid being pick pocketed or road accidents. But as woman we cannot let go of our gourd. If you notice someone following you, do not panic. Stay calm. Stay confident. Even if you don’t feel confident look it. The only way one can be confident is by being aware of the world around you. Yes girls do get followed. This isn’t just a matter of movies and television. In real life heroes aren’t available to save us. The first time I was followed I didn’t panic because I knew what to do. Yes, I was scared but I remembered that I had to look confident. Just don’t show that you are scared. You can develop a not scared –mean/ aggressive look to be used when you are on the road. Be the no-nonsense kind of woman on the road.

Don’t turn around to look at your follower, initially. Don’t let them know that you know that they are following you (unless it gets really bad) don’t increase your pace suddenly. If you want to speed up, do it gradually.

Walk in a zigzag manner. Avoid walking straight. Change footpaths often and cross as many roads as possible. Also try to go to the main road where loads of cars and people will be there to shield you. Join a crowd. Most probably your follower will lose you.

Get inside a shop. Buy something and stall your exit for as long as possible. Tell the shopkeeper about the situation. Chances are he/she will help you out.

Call up your speed dial numbers. Warn your friend of family about what’s happening. Tell them to call you frequently. This will give you a moral boost and is also a precaution in case something happens. It may also scare the follower off. Most followers are just random people who follow for the thrills. They certainly don t want to get into trouble with the police.

These tips apply to random followers only. When such people turn into stalkers you need legal action. Tell your family. Go to the police. Take action.