Saturday, December 17, 2016

My drive with a Pakistani... around Kashmir

Would you hold a potato to an adult and ask if it's a potato, without risking your sanity? Well, today a cabbie asked me, "Are you Indian?" Even a blind can figure the Indian in me...

I hailed this cab and the grumpy-looking driver's first question was my destination. The second, which followed no sooner than I answered the first, was confirming my nationality. He turned back and threw a more scorn-filled look in acknowledgment. The young chap was silent for about 2 minutes, studying me through his rear-view mirror.

He turned and announced without ado, "I am from Pakistani Kashmir."


He continued looking at me through the mirror. His eyes bitter, yelling a hundred withheld emotions. Whoever said eyes speak, is so right!

"It's a beautiful place." I said.

He turned and queried with visible hatred, "Which place?"

"Kashmir," I said.

"Your government doesn't let us live in peace. Everyday killing. Only my mother and sister live there. So I moved them to another place, 21kms inside."

I smiled in reply. And received more scorn.

"You are a responsible son." I tried.

He didn't thaw. Instead, crinkled his brows in contempt.

I remained quiet for a few minutes and then tried again, "I have many Pakistani friends."

Now he turned back, possibly to take a new look at me, when I said, "They are all so nice people."

He nodded. "People are nice, madam. Politicians are causing problems."

I smiled. And lo!, the cabbie smiled too.

Then, there was no stopping him. He took a u-turn, changed the route to bypass traffic, shared with me his sister's experience at taking a driving licence, how he completed his graduation, how he loves Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, how crazy his dad was about Amitabh Bachchan...up until how he's now waiting for an interview call from Dnata as he is tired of driving.

At the end of the 40-minute drive, the handsome chap [yep, once he shed his grumpiness, he was a cute fellow] refused to take the full fare.

"Not all customers speak, madam. You are educated that's why you speak differently..." He gave me his reasons.

I gave him mine. How his company demands he fulfill his target and how every fil matters at the month-end.

At last, he let me get-off only after I promised that I will ride with him again.

"On full discount, madam."
"Full discount! what's that? In all these years, I've not heard of discounts on taxi rides!"

"I will not switch on the meter madam," he explained and shared his mobile number.

God Bless him!

PS: A few words spoken with the right intention will work wonders!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stupid adults...get some life people!

Column in Hitavada on Dec. 1

I never wanted to write this. But the stupidity in people - those who pride themselves to be educated and well-positioned - has gotten me here. Am helpless like them, but am ashamed unlike them.

I am not an expert or a scholar nor am I interested in dissecting the government's demonetisation policy [I stand corrected. It's Modi's demonetisation. It's not the  government's nor the nation's. It's the Prime Minister's I'm given to understand]

Demonetization is like a massive tornado ripping apart everything along its way - families and friends

I am appalled by the impact the new policy has unleashed - it's like a massive tornado ripping apart everything along its way - families and friends are torn apart because they fail to anchor themselves.

And, yes, I'm not interested in talking of corruption either - apparently, the root cause for the current scenario in India.

My only concern is the divide the new policy has exposed. The great divide in the hearts and minds of the adults - the stupid, immature adults. And to imagine majority of adults are divided is shameful.

Modi-ism is the new scale of patriotism his supporters use to silence non-conformists

I've seen WhatsApp group arguments turn into ugly fights and buddies spewing venom on each other and calling off their friendship of decades because they do not endorse each other's opinion.

Modi-ism is the new scale of patriotism his supporters use to silence non-conformists. Modi-ism has also become the new licence for non-supporters to blame every vice around in the country on the government. The chasm is so deep that there is no middle path. While, the supporters are intolerant of those who attempt to reason or question, the non-supporters are intolerant of those who try to explain.

Modi-ism has also become the new licence for non-supporters to blame every vice around in the country on the government

One cannot merely state facts or empathize casually any more. You need to check in which august company you are in - else you'll be left in the cold to prove your identity to begin with.

Simple jokes aren't tolerated. Previously those who laughed together at husband-wife, Alia and Rahul jokes, now reach for the others' throats. At an event when an innocuous joke was made about Trump and Modi, a woman booed the person aloud and announced "I will not tolerate anything about our Prime Minister and his demonetisation policy." In yet another group a demonetisation supporter complained that she cannot tolerate some communities speaking non-sense.

Religious and community divide has always existed in our country, but we'd always remained buoyant

This is dangerous. This is pathetic. This is sad. The undercurrent has always been there. Religious and community divide has always existed in our country, but we'd always remained bouyant. However, the current intolerance is unprecedented.

On the one level, if experts and scholars debate on demonetisation vis-a-vis its economic, national and future impact, then on the mundane level common man debate the policy  vis-a-vis religion, faith and political allegiance.

What's the use of having a booming economy and a corruption-free system, if common man cannot tolerate each other, if they cannot accept one another? If political allegiance dictates friendship and religious allegiance dictates patriotism, then we should be ashamed to call ourselves humans.

Politicians - those in power and those powerless - will never acknowledge this divide, for they feast on it. And with the by-elections on and the major one fast-nearing, they will only stoke it, with social media adding fuel to the blaze.

If political allegiance dictates friendship and religious allegiance dictates patriotism, then we should be ashamed to call ourselves humans

It's up to us common man to break ourselves free. To begin with at least acknowledging the fact that irrespective of whether we endorse the new policy or not we are all equally helpless. Either group knows just as much. Both supporters and non-supporters of the demonetisation policy are fed by the same news channels and social media. The only difference is in what they choose to see and promote.

Policies and laws do not make life. They only aide in living. It's people who make life worth living

And given the fact, that social media and news channels need to be taken with a sack full of salt, isn't it wise to use our own grey cells and be inclusive in our approach towards our fellow human beings. When you are gone, if you dream of leaving a thriving land for your kids, then it has got to do with a change in mindset now. Simply because, policies and laws do not make life. They only aide in living. It's people who make life worth living.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Woman of Substance

How do I introduce her to my readers? I thought long and hard. No one word, no one adjective befits her. She is vibrant, energetic, cheerful, stylish, ambitious, professional, emotional, grounded, religious, loving, responsible, accountable... she simply flows.

Preethi D'Souza - the lady with a beatific smile and beautiful eyes! Yep, that's what strikes one at first glance. No sooner than we settle down than she zooms off. No barrels held.
The sacrificial lamb she was
And you soon wonder, is she speaking of herself or someone else? Married at a tender age of 19 into a business family in Mumbai, India, Preethi, then a fresh graduate, looked forward to marital bliss. By 25, with three kids in her arms, she realised she was stuck in a 'loveless' marriage.


Doting mom... The three loves of Preethi's life

Preethi attempted her best to become the woman of her husband's liking. Whenshe failed, she turned to her mom, who advised her to stay put, as "it would bring bad reputation to her two younger sisters".
Proud mom... her best friends

The beautician is born
So what did Preethi do? The determined woman that she has been, she returned to Dubai and continued to play the wife and mother and, yes, decided to spruce herself up. She successfully earned an international degree in cosmetology - 'CIDESCO' - from Zurich.
A moment to cherish... one for the album

Later, she requested her husband to help her setup a salon. When he dillydallied on his promise, she did the best she could. Preethi distributed brochures detailing the services she could offer among residents in the community. Soon, she found herself being a 'mobile beautician' - she carried her kit and visited clients at their homes. The bubbly person that she is, it wasn't long before she became the talk of the town. So, she turned the maid's room of her villa into her salon. But as business boomed, some jealous eyes threatened her of legalities. So she quickly wound that up and applied for a professional licence and set up her first salon in Dubai in 2010.
A mentor and guide she turns
Her professionalism combined with her warmth drew women in hordes towards her. They came not only for beauty treatments but also to share their woes. Preethi would give them all a patient ear and advice the best she could enabling them to stand on their feet and become financially independent.

Taking a break...way to chill!

As her counselling sessions increased, she was advised by her women clients to start a Facebook page in order to reach out to more women. And thus was born 'Moms World'. With 4,000+ members, Preethi had her hands and days full. She even organised an exhibition in Dubai - free of charge - where her mentees exhibited their handcrafts.
Lessons from naivety she learns
So was everything honky-dory? Well, Preethi being a Giver, people did take her for rides, utilising her for their own selfish ends and turning her down when she sought help. But the lovely lady does not pause to delve into details. "I bless them. Let them go." Large-hearted, indeed!
Meanwhile, she opened a branch of her salon 'Mothers World' in the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah. Unfortunately, she had to close it down a year later only because she does not believe in taking loans. A prudent businesswoman!
A new career beckons her
Does that dishearten her? Well, no way. She's one woman who leads a passionate life. She's  a sought-after Emcee, being a regular at community and church events, apart from hosting regular shows. This drive in her to connect with the larger world has led to her latest venture - Preethi is soon going to have a own show titled 'Lifestyle With Preethi', on one of the prestigious TV Channels of Dubai, where she will talk about relationships, movie reviews, beauty, health as well as introduce entrepreuners and share their success stories.
A charming host...leading with grace

Currently, she is looking for sponsors for the show who would join her in her endevour to inspire common man.
Heartbroken but spirits high
For she indeed, has come a long way, in her 39 years. The only time her hazel-eyes cloud is when she recollects how her husband moved back to India taking along with him all her three kids and she did not have a clue even. However, she soon collects herself, and shares with me how proud she is of her teenagers - two girls and a boy - who are independent and raring to take on life just as she is. It was her daughters who gave her the strength to call off the marriage. A fresh divorcee, Preethi says, "I pray for my husband every day."
She's moved on and there's no stopping her. Preethi is in talks with investors to launch franchises of her salon in Indian and other UAE cities. "I hate woman who crib, who cannot take care of themselves and find excuses to live their lives," she spats.
A role model, indeed
"I was body-shamed once for being too skinny, without a figure. I was too naive, I took it to heart then. Later, I stopped self-pitying. Today, I workout every day. There was a time, when I used to hit the gym at 5am in the morning, when my kids were with me. So I don't take excuses when women say they have family and responsibilities. Only you can take care of yourself," she explains. Tall and well-built, Preethi can give any model a run for their money.
A role 'model'...

Preethi's recently auditioned for the latest Bollywood Theme Park in Dubai, taking her dream to act in Bollywood movies a step closer. "Not only Bollywood, I'm ready for Hollywood, too," she says.
In fact, her penchant for jewellery and modelling is such that she questions retailers obsession with celebrities. "Local retailers must hire common women," she believes.
So how do I introduce Preethi to you? A woman of substance!!
Oh! Yes, all this what you read is just an introduction. Preethi's zeal to live life  to the fullest, every second of it in the best possible manner, cannot be captured in this blog space.
Suffice to say, her passion and energy are infectious and her warmth is contagious!
Here's wishing her the best always!
Continue inspiring as you conquer all your dreams, Preethi!
God Bless!