Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Indian-ness?

Source: www.wn.com

“Rajdeep Sardesai heckled and manhandled at Madison Square Garden” screamed most headlines across the country over the last two days. A video that claimed to be the other side of the story went viral on social media making more than one pair of eyes roll at how hypocritical the famed journalist could be. Then rose the eye witnesses from the media world who shed light on the real story about how Rajdeep was manhandled by fanatic supporters over what had begun as a simple tweet.

Was Rajdeep in the wrong or was he victimized? Were the Indian ‘brain drain’ just venting the frustrations of the fanatical supporter or did they blindly cross the line? While these are questions being thrashed over social media and argued over single malt, none of them even make it to my bemused Indian mind.

What does creep in is a feeling of shame; because we Indians have done ourselves proud; once again.
Be it the ‘Aam Aadmi’ who leads a frustrated life bogged down by the shadows of corruption and crime that are perennially cast in the motherland he lives in or the suave NRI with the ‘firang’ accent, sitting in a remote corner of the world vocally devout in his aspirations for the development of Bharat Mata or the bandwagon of senior media persons who have dropped everything to follow NaMo halfway across the world- all have proven time and again how consistent we are in displaying what I am now inclined to call the Indian-ness in our behaviour.

Be it in India or out, having a low tolerance for a different view and displaying support fanaticism through violence and abuse seems to be something we Indians excel at. Wherever we go, we don’t seem to change; possessively we cling on to this aggression and impatience and make a proud display of it at every chance we get.

As India goes gaga over its Prime Minister and his exemplary speeches; I wonder if we take a pause to give our own behaviour a thought. While we applaud NaMo for his tough response to Pakistan at UNGA and his perspective on development; don’t we feel even a speck of embarrassment at the lack of basic courtesy we display especially in public?

Why does who actually won the race to initiate the assault first at Madison Square Garden matter so much that it hogs the limelight for days together? Our behaviour shows no sign of questioning the occurrence of such an incident in public in a foreign country; instead all we care about is who did what. Why?

Or is it all but a hype created by Media? The infamous Indian Media who time and again has proved its loyalties to popularity and ratings? – News is after all whatever that sells like a hot cake. An assault on a veteran journalist definitely makes the cut. No?

And while the media and people stay busy with their applause and their insults, I watch the John Oliver show snippet about Modi’s visit and cringe wondering if a day will ever rise when we will realize what a true show of mockery we sometimes end up making of ourselves.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A Morning To Forget

Source: www.businessinsider.com

Richard hurried down the sidewalk almost tripping over when his right foot got caught in a crack in one of the numerous grey flagstones that stood stiffly in line all across. Catching himself in time, he glanced at his watch, he was running ten minutes late for the most important meeting of his life. He kicked himself, silently cursing under the breath when he realized that he had already wasted enough time to make it to the Tribune Tower, the workplace of his dreams.

If he had to make it to the city, he usually used the CTA bus or train service but today that would mean an additional twenty minutes from Terry’s condo on 53rd Street. In case of a delay Terry had suggested he use the bike center service that stood two minutes away from her apartment. He had taken the Red Eye from LAX Airport but had landed an hour late at O’Hare and missed seeing Terry before she left for work. She had left him a tiny note on the table with a Lucky Bamboo plant sitting pretty next to it. It was her way of wishing him luck for his interview, the one that he had waited for ever since both of them had graduated in Journalism from UCLA.

He smiled thinking of the bamboo and the freshly brewed coffee that he had found waiting for him. It was just like Terry to do something like that, he thought. It was one of the many reasons he admired and appreciated her so much ever since the day he had fallen in love with her, the day he had first laid his eyes on her.

“I wish I could have seen her before she left” he murmured as he covered the last few steps to the center, making an old lady sitting on the bench near the door sit up in alarm and look around wondering who had spoken.

It had been six months since they had last met. Terry had come down to celebrate Christmas with her family and him. He had been in a dark mood all through her two day stay; his job hunt had left him feeling insecure and unwanted. That she had landed the job of her their dreams had made him behave cold with her, something he had never done through their yearlong relationship. She had taken it without uttering a word, making him feel all the more bitter. Two days had flown by and they had hardly spoken. He had dropped her off at the airport in cold silence and had regretted it the moment he had seen her disappear into the departure terminal of United Airlines.

Oh how he had kicked himself and waited for the day when he could meet her and make amends. That day had come today, after a six month long wait. He felt the tiny box in his pocket as he rummaged in it for the two twenty dollar notes he knew he had stashed there. It made him smile; he had wanted to go on one knee with the box open when he had landed but the delay had thrown water over his plans. Once again he glanced at the watch, the tiny hands ticking dangerously towards the disaster that awaited if he spent an extra second in the company of his thoughts.

Quickly he pulled out the wrinkled notes and handed it to the burly guy behind the counter, grabbing the helmet and walking over to the comfort bike that he pointed at.

“How long will it take me to get to 435N, Michigan Avenue?” he called out as he adjusted himself on the bike.
“It should not take you more than fifteen minutes if you take the Lakeshore drive route. Park at the Wabash Avenue Bike Center, from there it is a six minute walk to the Tribune Tower. The map is tucked under the seat” yelled the man.

“Bless Terry for suggesting a bike” he thought pedaling out of the bike center and marveling at how easily the man was about to identify that the address he had asked for was of the Tribune Tower. It made him resolve all the more to make it to his interview on time.

Heading onto Cornell Dr, Richard increased the speed and adjusted the breaks as he neared the exit, he knew he had to ride faster if he wanted to get to the office on time. Just as he sped around the turn onto Lake Shore Dr, he saw a familiar looking old woman nervously step onto the road to cross. Quickly he swerved to the left to avoid hitting her.

A deafening crash followed by sirens was the last thing he heard before losing his consciousness. The blue velvet box slipped out of his pocket and rolled a few meters away before it clicked open.


Heather let out a bloodcurdling scream, screeching her bike to a halt behind the bus that had abruptly stopped in front of her. It had been just a few minutes since she had picked up her rented bike like she did every day from the Bike Center on 53rd Street.

She saw people rushing past her and moving towards the front of the bus. It made her forget her scare and wonder what had happened. Quickly she pedaled her bike alongside the bus, her heart skipping a beat when she saw the sight that lay in front. The entire facade of the bus was dented and what looked like the seat of a bike lay dangling from the broken headlight.

“That seat is just like mine” she thought in horror, forcing herself to look to her right where what was left of the bike lay in a crumple. The tires had bent into two and the handle had been mangled. She did not want to know what had happened to the biker but she could not stop herself from looking a few steps away from the bike where a crowd seemed to have gathered. She saw an ambulance come to a halt just next to the mob.

Gingerly she walked the ten steps that took her to become another scared face in the crowd, looking down at the unfortunate biker who lay in the center, his face covered with cuts, one of the eyes smashed out of its socket and one knee folder under his back. She winced as she took her eyes off the biker not waiting for the paramedics to confirm what she already knew.

“Poor guy, he must have been on his way to work” she thought; noticing the now brown blazer, white long sleeve shirt that was splashed in red, the black trousers and the dust coated shoes which revealed a tiny shiny spot that had escaped the onslaught of the collision.

“What a way to start the day” she thought, thinking of the candidate who was probably waiting nervously for her to arrive and conduct the interview. She glanced at her watch and realized she was running late. She enjoyed biking to work, it was the only form of exercise she could boast of in her otherwise busy schedule. But today had been different, not in her wildest dreams had she imagined witnessing an accident on the exit to Lakeshore Dr. It was not an accident prone zone. “The biker must have been rash” she thought, noticing an old lady sitting at the bus stop on the turn, shivering in shock.

For a brief moment, Heather wondered if she should check on her but the thought of the candidate waiting made her drop the idea. Just as she mounted her bike, she noticed something gleam from the corner of her eye. Getting off, she walked to the edge of the road, spotting an open blue velvet box lying covered in gravel. She saw its contents resting next to it and realized what had caught her eye.

“Did it belong to him?” the thought fleeted across her mind as she mounted her bike a second time. Something made her hesitate and look back. “Maybe I could place an ad in Lost and Found” she thought picking up the box with the contents and tucking it into her bag pack.

With one last glance at the Ambulance that was now speeding away, she resumed the rest of her journey towards 435N Michigan Avenue.


Terry was excited. She had really wanted to meet Richard when he had arrived in Chicago but it had not been possible for her to stay back. She had a deadline to meet that day and cover for another section, the in-charge of which was out sick. But that had  not dampened her excitement one bit. She knew he would love the Lucky Bamboo she had kept on the table waiting for him, with the steaming hot coffee just the way he enjoyed drinking it. Letting out a sigh, she looked out of her window which overlooked the Chicago River.

It had been a dream come true for her, to work for the Chicago Tribune. It had been their dream and not a day had passed when the guilt of it had not weighed over her. No more she thought with a smile, in a few hours that remorse would be wiped away forever.  

Feeling happy she wondered if Richard had made it to the interview on time. He had texted her when he had arrived that morning; the hint that he had weaved in not escaping her notice.

“Is he planning something?” she wondered, a different kind of happiness surging through her. She had known the day they had met that he was the one she would want to marry but his behaviour when she had last visited home had made her doubt her own feelings. Momentarily. Things had gone back to normal once again and she knew Richard had regretted his cold attitude towards her. They had put it all behind and now he had hinted at something big; the something that she had always wanted from him.

She could hear an Ambulance wail in the background. “Must be an accident somewhere”, she thought.
A sharp knock on the door made her turn behind.

“You are managing Connie’s section today right?” asked the head that popped in through the door. It was David, the intern from the Arts section. She nodded, taking the packet he handed over to her.

“Heather is running late for an interview, she asked me to hand this over to you for putting up” he said, disappearing as quickly as he had appeared.

“She must be talking to Richard right now” she thought nervously reading her boss’s scrawny handwriting on the envelope.

“Run this in today’s Lost and Found”

Curious, Terry carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a dusty velvet box. Clicking it open, she gasped as a beautiful engagement ring stared back at her. It was a sparkling diamond, encrusted on a bed of tiny peals and set onto a platinum ring. Just like the one she had shown Richard on the window display on their first anniversary hoping that he would get the hint.

This was a sign, she thought happily just as her phone began to ring.

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