Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Wake Up Call

Given my complete dislike of Wednesdays *, I make very exotic excuses about catching five minutes of extra sleep. The best part is I never remember these amazing things I make up in my half conscious state. My poor husband bears the brunt of hearing these blatantly nonsensical statements early in the morning.
But today morning I woke up with a bad case of migraine. I felt someone had opened my skull, removed my brain, filled it with pebbles and was using a ladle to stir the pebbles in the cavity. I had a tap dancer on my eyebrows as well. On the whole a very unpleasant experience, I should say.
After loads of Vicks, warm water and tea, I managed to drag myself out of the bed. Migraine and Wednesday is an amazing combination for me. (I turn sulky and move around like a disgruntled polar bear.) Anyways I hail a cab, after complaining to my mom that I’m sick and the whole world seems to be unperturbed about it. Thank fully she was accommodating and did not point out that “Kazhuthe(donkey),You are not the epicenter of the world.And rest of the world has better stuff to do in the mornings than worry about a whining you.”
          The cab driver was a very friendly man. He told me that Indian women are very beautiful and that they look like princesses when they smile. Needless to say I was flattered and told him,” Today is not a good day. Loads of work to do and I have a migraine”
He said,” Even my daughter has it. Poor thing.” And as an afterthought he asked me,” How old are you?” I told him my age.(Aiyya,you thought I’ll tell you my age just like that? :P)

“Oh, my daughter is 30.You are younger than her.” He said smiling.
I’m bowled, the man driving the car doesn’t look a day older than 40 and he is telling me he has a 30 year old daughter.

“But you look very young” I blurted.

He laughed,” My daughter is doing her final year Bachelors of Music. She is blind by birth. She doesn’t know how I or her mother looks like.” I am shocked for the second time. He passed me a magazine with an article about his daughter.

Rebecca Koh, 30 years of age, is blind from birth. When she was about six her father (my cab uncle) finds out that his daughter is exceptionally talented in music. He sold his musical organ to fund her music studies. She has never seen our world and cannot comprehend the concept of colors. But she has a brilliant memory and can play piano and guitar. When nature took away her vision, it opened another door. It opened the door to a gift which is God given and can never ever be acquired or taught .Music. I can teach you a song; I cannot teach you how to sing.
The cab driver told me his wife is suffering from depression and he has a full time maid to look after his wife and daughter when he is working. To fund her studies and other expenses, he drives for 16 hours a day.

He told me,” We cannot have everything in the world. It is foolish to want that. God never intended us to have everything anyways. So let’s live with whatever we have and not worry and fret about what we don’t have.”

I was in awe. I really respect him for the serenity with which he accepted his life. His complete dedication to his family and his belief in the existence of a supreme being in spite of the hardships he has to face every day.

It was a wake up call for me. I was whining over my work load, insensitive organization and Wednesdays. It was as if God wanted to tell me,” Lady, you better wake up and start counting your blessings. Stop whining and fucking get back to the wonderful life I have given you.”

So today is a different Wednesday. I smiled at people through my migraine waves. And this “smile” is for you.

* Wednesdays are the longest days of a working week.It takes away the memories of the weekend past and is far far from the weekend future.It is a "stuck-in-the-middle" day.
Trivia: I was born on a Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Hate Love

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life. You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”

It's a Neil Gaiman quote. And I feel he is perfectly correct to the last dot. A small dumb act and your life ain’t yours anymore. You know it is slipping out of your hand. Slowly, steadily; like sand tricking down an hourglass. You watch the reins you were so sure of; lying limply on the floor. The acts of stupidity do not end there. You keep waiting; remorselessly. So that the dumb person can come back and repeat the dumb act just once again. No he won’t. You probably know that more than anyone else. But you still wait. Patiently; hope flared by each ring of your phone, each new mail tag of your inbox.

Life changes, places, friends, offices. The yearning remains the same. You pine for the familiarity of your past. The warmth of the arms that once closed you off from the entire world. The soul and the body which cocooned you promising to be there forever. You close your eyes some nights and you can smell the faint cologne. You can feel the warm breath on your neck. Hear the voice which never professed love. But then both of you had heard the unsaid. It drives you insane; when you open your eyes and don't see the person whom you want the most in your life. And you shrug and carry on as if nothing has ever happened. Secretly you hope for a day when he would comeback. Hold you like before and tell you that he has come back never to go away.
Insane and cruel, that was what love was all about. And I hate it for breaking my heart and tearing it into pieces. ". .  I hate love.”

P.S: I had written this about a year ago when my heart was broken. Written when there were holes as big as the craters in moon. I do not claim that my heart right now is a cardiologist’s dream but I have managed to paste and staple it back into place. Fingers crossed. Now I don’t hate love, just a big wary as to where I put my heart these days.
I say a lot of nasty stuff but my poor heart cannot hate anybody. Even if that “anybody” has roasted my heart in stale cooking oil, my heart forgives. I kind of hate my heart for it. How ironic!

P.P.S: Purba, you told me I’ll make it, I made it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cambodia - An Incredible Journey

I’ve lead a very sheltered life. My dad believes that I am one senseless pot who shouldn’t be left alone anywhere. Hence till I got married I was chaperoned almost everywhere.
He was paranoid that I would actually end up in trouble, if left alone, a fact he didn’t know was that his daughter can run like “P.T. Usha” if she smells trouble. Honestly I’m not someone who can invite trouble. I like the words feminism, rebel, brave etc and world for women concept, but if you ask me, it’s more prudent to avoid lunatic lechers if you can. If you come across one that cannot be avoided you might as well try to teach him some manners, else why bother?
So in short I was closely tracked using a mobile phone at every place I went. Here in Singapore the have RFID trackers for pets, thank god in India we don’t have one. My dad would’ve thought of inserting a chip into me. Dad and I have had countless argument on “letting-me-be” and I’ve lost all arguments inadvertently.  I appreciate his efforts in trying to shield my from all the evil and protecting me from getting hurt, but I missed being independent. So I nurtured a dream, a dream to go on a trip by myself. I will be responsible for me. Not my mom or dad or cousin or husband. It’s just going to be I who will run the show.

Friends, comrades, compadres; last month, I lived my dream. I had gone on a girl’s only trip to Cambodia. It was the most unplanned yet the most amazing trip I have ever made. Now if you have noticed the more spontaneous your trip the more fun it is.

Now how did all this happen?
When a friend in Vietnam invited the husbands for a boys-only trip to Vietnam, we the wives (not wanting to be Kalki Koechlin of ZNMD and wanting to get them off our lives for a while) happily agreed. So the big question as to what we will do arised.Having seen enough movies and done enough shopping, we decided to get the hell out of Singapore. And one magical land appeared,”Siem Reap”. So then we decided Siem Reap it is.

How did we plan?
We applied for visas online and got approval the next day. Booked flights and got reference of an Inn from a dear friend. The place we stayed was “Mandalay Inn”; very neat very clean at about 30USD per night. So we had tickets and a place to stay.
Yours truly delved her nose deep into Google and collected material and painstakingly compiled the places of interest into a word document. As if that was not enough I scourged National Library for books on Cambodia. All the data was converted into a word file and printed in to a booklet.(Anyone needs to it please let me know. It’s quite comprehensive which makes me proud of my collating capabilities)

What did we see?

I would need a lot more posts to let you know what we saw in two and a half days. I’ll try to make it short, if you get bored please promptly move to the summary section.
          There is a lot of Hindu and Buddhist influence in the bas reliefs. Some depict stories from Ramayana, Vedas or Mahabharata. You can clearly see the Jataka tales in some and in others Buddha and his teachings. They have also beautifully portrayed the daily life of Cambodians. The scriptures are in Sanskrit in most of the places.

Ta-Phrom,the jungle temple
Of all other temples we visited, one remains endearing, Ta-Phrom, the jungle temple. Though it is not much of a jungle now, it’ has trees and vegetation growing all over it. The restoration of this temple is being done with collaboration with the Archaeology Department of India. It made me proud, just to see the Indian National Symbol display there. It also happens to be one of the locations of Tomb Raider movie.

Beng Mealea- A temple in Ruins
A temple that will haunt me is Beng Mealea.It is in utter ruins and major part of the temple is dilapidated. Unlike the other temples where the restoration works have brought out tangible results, this one is beyond any restorations. Roofs of most structures have caved in. There are large blocks of sandstone lying around like a kid’s Lego pieces that fell out the box. It felt sad to see such a huge structure, which was possibly created with much love, in complete shambles.This temple is about 60 km from the Siem Reap,hence becomes a neglected spot by tourists as well.

There is no doubt which temple gets the price for taking your breathe away. Angkor Wat. The first time I saw the temple, it felt like a dream. Every time I read books with Angkor Wat as a backdrop, I had yearned to go there. But then Cambodia was so far, beyond my reach (Come on, my dad wouldn’t let me go to Convent Junction alone. Let alone another country). But there I was, riding in a tuk-tuk (A cross between moped and cycle rickshaw if you can imagine that) by the lake surrounding it. It took me some time to let the fact to sink in, I was indeed living my dream. We went there for both sunrise and sunset; it remains one the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of my life.Considering the fact that I'm not much of a morning person it was a huge effort on my part to wake each day by five am.But for once I didn't regret losing some sleep in the morning.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
The people of Cambodia are very friendly and not irritating as in some tourist locations. There is no explicit begging or troubling of tourists. Make sure you get back to city area before it gets too dark and you should be fine. Very basic common sense is enough to make a safe trip to Siem Reap. If you insist on staying back at the temples away from city late into the night, there is no guarantee of not being mugged.

What we ate and shopped:

We had awesome Mexican and Continental food. There was no issue explaining vegetarianism to them, they totally understood. There did serve vegetables other than tomato, onion, potato and capsicum. Coming to the drinking part, the drinks were cheap and really good. They had something called bucket of margarita for 5 USD (A bucket comes to around 5 drinks). Any cheaper you would have to make at home. Their happy hours are from 11 AM to 11 PM.

We picked some nicknacks, Tee shirts and coffee. Their coffee has a chocolate flavor and is quite strong. If you are a coffee lover, you will be swept off your feet by the taste.

P:S: We did see some Indian Restaurants too.But did not have time for eating from there as well.Two days is very short to see Siem Reap and try all kinds of food.If you plan,plan for three or four days.

In short:

We saw the magical “Angkor Wat” and the pantheon of temples surrounding it, gawked unabashedly at the huge temple complexes and came back infinitely humbled. I found what I was looking for. Peace and the happiness of having lived a long cherished dream.