Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Money for nothing

- By Swetha Amit
He screeched his brakes to a final halt and jingled his keys as he got out. Entering his lavish residence, he was greeted by his housekeeper who had laid his tea. Munching on the gooey macaroon, he was soon lost in deep thought over the day’s events which had consisted of continuous teasing by his gang in college. The same old label of a ‘spoilt rich kid’ was tagged repeatedly accompanied by remarks of not knowing the real world/ having it too easy in life.

Driving his car had been the last straw. Such remarks seemed to be the latest fad that was doing its rounds. It was similar to that of the torn jeans that were once a rage and which nobody wanted to tame. It was a pity he realized that he of all people proved to be a guinea pig for tickling others’ funny bone. True that he possessed unlimited resources, latest gadgets, exotic vacations including his cool demeanour; things that made his friends go green with envy. What they didn’t realize was the concept of the grass appearing greener on the other side when it really wasn’t.

His buddies were nowhere close to being underprivileged yet chose to act as though they were. Numerous conversations about saving for a rainy day which apparently dominated in their households ended in a “Dan, you won’t understand as you are filthy rich.” Darn that statement. At least they had families under one roof even if they weren’t exactly downed in wealth. Parents who would attend days of significance expressing their solidarity. What his friends didn’t know was his dark secret of a broken home which if revealed would only result in bearing a brunt of further scorn or teasing.

All they knew about his father was one suave businessman whose work took him to the shores abroad, not realizing that this had become his permanent residence with a new family. How he missed those horses riding and golf sessions with his dad he ruminated ruefully. What had gone wrong? To worsen things, his interior designer mom seemed to flutter away in the glitz of the elite like a true social butterfly.

Dan had found his only solace in his martial arts master whom he looked up to as a father figure in his life. The adrenalin rush he encountered while mastering a move enhanced his concentration and proved to be a temporary getaway from his woes. Only he was aware of Dan’s sorrowful life of solitude and the unfair treatment meted out to him. “One day it’ll all turn out alright.” And Dan would just sigh impatiently wondering if that day would ever arrive.
An unexpected jolt of events one day in class, resulted in him hurting his head for which he was rushed to the emergency ward. His gang were waiting for him outside while he was being operated. Chatting in hushed tones, they couldn’t contain their curiosity levels about Dan’s father speculating if he would arrive in person or just sent an attendant with the desired amount. They were interrupted by a quiet voice in the lounge. “Dan’s parents are divorced and his father resides with his new family abroad. And his mother’s profession takes her out of the city mostly. He is mostly left with his housekeeper. Didn’t any of you know that?”

Silence and shock followed simultaneously. Divorced? Lonely? Housekeeper? Why hadn’t Dan mentioned a word? Guilt began to surmount furiously as they looked at one another in immense shame. How insensitive they must have seemed with their merciless ragging.

Adding fuel to the fire, the quiet voice continued to ramble on...”Dan had mentioned about his unlucky stance several times when the world had thought otherwise. Possession of wealth may certainly eradicate material discomforts in turn instigating envy amidst others. Yet it doesn’t guarantee a picture perfect life that others deprived of money seem to perceive. Often we envy others for something we lack in abundance which results in tormenting them in an unforgiving manner. Often we fail to realize that such ‘privileged’ souls may also lack something that is gifted to us. The grass appears greener on the other side, until we take the effort to explore the same only to find our patch far better in comparison. Dan’s life had lacked the real wealth of family bonding which most people are blessed with. Instead of your scorn, love, support and understanding is what he would require.

Consciences pricked and prolonged as minutes ticked away with bated breaths. They rushed towards the door in elation on seeing the surgeon step out with a radiant smile stating “He is fine”. An unspoken pact occurred as tearful words of sentiment filled the room much to the mystification of Dan. He looked at his teacher who gave a knowing smile and he turned to glance at his friends. His reassuring expression spelt forgiveness as he prepared for a new beginning altogether. Finally that day had come resting his impatient sighs as he recalled those words of wisdom.

He was glad to realize that his life wasn’t a case of money for nothing anymore. Especially not while basking in the affection of his ‘real friends’ at last along with his ‘father figure’ in the background.

Written for www.msn.co.in

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Honored at the Oscars

-By Swetha Amit
http://content.msn.co.in/MSNContribute/Story.aspx?PageID=54b4ad81-5404-479b-9610-a3f08e05187d
There has been many a heart stopping moment. Bated breaths with pounding hearts and fervent prayers to the almighty hoping for a remarkable victory rarely have fallen on deaf ears. And this time it was no exception only difference being that it was a change from the fields of a perspiring sport to that of a glamorous red carpet scenario here.

Yes it is truly a ‘moment’ many wouldn’t like to let it slip out of their hands. It was a joyous one for the subcontinent when the most expectant name ‘A.R.Rahman’ was read out forgiving the mispronunciation in the state of euphoria. It doubled up the elation literally at the twin Oscar win, this time being shared with none other than ‘Gulzar’. Not to forget the sound mixing award won by Rasul Pookutty. Having won the most prestigious award, it is indeed celebration time for the country and its ecstatic folks. Especially since the words spoken on stage were touching words in the mother tongue.

Slumdog millionaire certainly did get mixed reviews in India. While there were some who couldn’t stop raving about it, others were not exactly impressed by its apathetic portrayal of the sub continent. It made many including me, indignant about how only a film based on poverty and slums were chosen to represent us in the academy awards. Yet the thrilling feeling of Indians winning evaporated such bitter feelings in the air of jubilation.

While the movie may not have worked for some, one can gauge the opposite reaction by looking at it from the western perspective. Life in the slums has always been a fascinating topic for them. The rarity of such in their own worlds can be cited as one such reason. Similarly anything unusual depicted in an interesting manner can intrigue many of us resulting in appreciative applauses.

It isn’t the best film made. It certainly might not exhibit an ‘out of the world’ score at least for us Indians who have had way better musical trips by the genius. It probably has astonished many at the hype the movie has created, but nevertheless happy at the appreciation and recognition by the west. Today ironically being ‘Mahashivrathri’, it has led to more than one celebration in India. It seems to a double treat starting from the awards and relishing those precious moments of being honored at the Oscars. Not surprising, if we hear numerous chants of ‘Jai Ho’ all over.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home Sweet Home

-By Swetha Amit
Often I found myself wondering what a real home would feel like. I often encountered fatigue as I roamed about aimlessly on the crowded streets of the busy city. My mother’s face felt like a distant image making me ruminate whether it had all existed in reality. I was mercilessly estranged from her for no fault of mine and immersed in solitude.

Homeless, helpless and hungry I prayed earnestly hoping that my begging eyes would touch a kind soul to spare me a few crumbs. However all I encountered were a few grumpy shopkeepers who found me to be nothing but a nuisance. It was those big bins; I recall which provided a scarce meal of remains thrown in by the neighborhood folks. Nights were spent in lonely barns, with the hoot of a hunting owl startling me out of my wits. I missed the cozy warmth especially when the fleeting winds pounded furiously in an eerie manner.

I strolled on the pavements where many a time I would be attacked by ruthless hounds. It was a narrow escape that followed many a time as I quickly climbed trees to save my skin. I used to look down fearfully at those ferocious blood shot eyes which were rearing to get their teeth into my flesh and bones. Sobbing profusely and loudly I would tend to puzzle the birds and squirrels looking at this ‘strange’ little thing perched up in terror. Every step spelt uncertainty and fear as a question haunted me throughout” Why did my mother leave me?” “Was she alive or no more?” Evenings were spent in looking at those well lit houses where the aroma of delicious supper reached my nostrils yearning for a good meal. Sadly I would walk away with nothing in return to my usual haunt of the garbage remains.

It was one fine day when my prayers appeared to have been answered. Yet not without a grueling start almost making me lose my life. I suddenly found myself chased by a mongrel which attacked me furiously. With continuous bleeding caused by the canine teeth, my eyes dimmed gradually making me feel faint and the last thing I heard was a lady hollering. As I opened my eyes I found myself in a plush marble floor mansion with a primly dressed maid walking about in a hurry. “Oh you are alright. What a relief”. I turned to see a tall stern faced lady walk in gracefully perching herself on the rocking chair. “I must apologize for Roger’s behaviour today. You appear lost and hungry. Why don’t I ask Martha to serve you some supper? You can stay with us of course and probably give a chance to get on with Roger.”

I looked at her gratefully out of my green eyes as I lapped up the bread and milk hungrily. Finally I sighed happily on finding a home. Days flew by. It was true that I couldn’t have asked for more of comforts and meals served on time. Yet the missing ingredient was often felt making me feel like I was feasting on an apple pie without the flavor of apple in it. The mistress would often disappear on her social endeavors with Roger being her loyal accomplice. I would always be left staring at cold walls and designer furniture with Martha on her house keeping rounds. I longed for an affectionate hug or a word neither of which I received. Warmth was restricted to the food alone as the lack of it otherwise sunk me into a pool of misery again. Things worsened one day as I proved to be a victim of Rogers’s incorrigible behaviour and was dismayed on seeing it justified by the mistress. Unable to bear it any longer, I escaped into the cold night yet again finding myself in an even more apathetic situation.

It was back to those repulsive dust bags after being used to luxurious canned food. The heat of the summer drained me as the rays pierced in a sadistic manner on my weary physique. I seated myself under a shade in a park watching a few boys play with marbles. All on a sudden I was spotted by a few rogues and pelting stones began to come my way. I yelped in horror trying to dodge the hard pebbles that were furiously raining on me along with squeals of laughter.

“Stop it right now else you go to prison. Don’t you realize that this is an offense?” boomed a voice of a tall man clad in a uniform. The miscreants scuttled away like frightened mice as he came towards me with a kind smile. “Oh you poor thing, I hope they didn’t hurt you too much. Come here Janet. This might be what you were looking for.”

I turned to see a young girl screaming in delight as she saw me. “Let’s take him home father” she said as the man heartily agreed. I entered my new home which was a compact residence with friendlier faces. The family of four patted me and stroked me with affection that I had missed all these months. Exhausted with my numerous escapades, I fell into a deep slumber with dreams of being chased furiously. I woke up with a start to find myself on the warm couch with a bowl of milk waiting. I lapped it up in elation realizing that I had finally reached home sweet home.

It was a stark difference from the term ‘house’ which consisted nothing but furnishing and expensive laid stones. It was time to bid goodbye to nightmares and pray with gratitude to the almighty for a wonderful family. One who would shower all their love on this poor golden brown cat with soulful eyes-me.

Written for http://www.msn.co.in/

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where do I belong?

-By Swetha Amit
http://content.msn.co.in/MSNContribute/Story.aspx?PageID=f9f9c01a-89ac-4753-8c09-49ece0a850d0


“So where are you from?” Payal looked up startled from her contemplation mode which she usually indulged in while watching waves crash ashore. It was her friendly new neighbor out on her evening walk who paused on seeing her. It was a question she had been asked several times. Where did she actually belong?

It had been three years in this city and yet she felt she had lived all her life here. She had learnt the street smart ways of getting her way around, well settled in her career with a decent social life. Never once did she feel the pangs of the infamous ‘homesickness’ that she had seen innumerable times amidst her fellow migrants from various parts. There was more than one reason for this. She cringed as she often did on thinking back to her past experiences which often stifled her like a plant trapped in a box room.

All through her life mountains seemed to have been created out of molehills. Even a slight shake of head to the smallest thing would lead to a disapproved arch of the brows in a quizzical manner. Shocks would follow with enforcing statements that would often make her want to flee a mile. Right from her eating habits to her dressing and unconventional thinking, she was forced to always comply with tradition even when she viewed its impracticalities many a time. Millions of those jasmine flower studded, garish studded sari clad women, some of whom were relatives, scoffed at her ‘wayward’ ways and stressed on the point of individuality and personality were determined by ones culture and tradition. Any other factor seemed devoid of existence. For instance a superficial thing of developing a liking towards other cuisine was met with derogatory remarks of ‘not being brought up properly’.

Experimenting in varied ways was always looked upon with a condescending eye. Strangely the same folk were enamored by scientists who usually did nothing but that. Growing up with moderate parents hadn’t been easy as they were often torn between the devil and the deep blue sea. Infested with sharks of all kinds, she always found herself to be the victim of retorts. Her vocational stream, her ideas about marriage, and attitude towards life were scorned upon. Many took it upon their right to advice her on the pretext of turning her into a ‘good girl’. Some of her peers as well scoffed at her ‘strange’ tastes in books, movies and music. It appeared that she was treated as an outcaste if her tastes did not meet the popular norms. Was it a crime to be ‘different’ from the rest of the clichéd?

It was just a matter of time; she shut herself to the outside world like a bird which had been caged with a streak of hope that some kind soul would let her free to soar high. The ray of hope arrived in the form of her appointment letter. She was to be under probation in a different city altogether which she only heard about in positive notes yet had never been there. Quickly she packed her bags strangely in a jubilant mood while the ‘rest’ looked on with tearful expressions, some of which she knew were false.

It was the pathway to freedom she realized as she happily landed in the city where dreams were realized in a realistic manner. While the first few months were a struggle inevitable to any newcomer, she couldn’t help but feel the sudden gush of air which gently picked her strands of hair. Novel experiences proved to be a contrast as those ‘judgment days’ were only a thing of the past. Coercive methods were alien as many were given their space. Each individual portrayed a certain uniqueness about them which made the city dwell in diversion and attain its cosmopolitan stance. Even the temple priests welcomed those wearing non traditional attire looking beyond the superficial factor and realizing the depth in devotion behind ones visit. There was none of those ‘reform’ school individuals to preach on following only certain practices to be defined as a ‘proper’ person.

It was on an occasional basis when a distant relative who would pay a visit state “oh being from that place, you would be accustomed to wearing only conservative attire or eating only a particular kind of food”.

Turning a deaf ear, the art which she soon mastered made her ponder about the aspect of individuality. Was it just culture, food, religion and caste that determined ones persona? What about education, ones values, ideas and their deeper meaning to life in general? True that upbringing plays a role in shaping up a person in the right way. She learnt that kids without a secure household often fell prey to substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. Considering such serious aspects to growing up, it was a shame when she was criticized for having an ‘open’ outlook.

Sense of belonging didn’t necessarily mean adopting popular tastes or being from a particular place. Sticking by ones conscience, original ideologies, being proud of who you are summed up a sense of belonging. How many have thought about deeper meanings of existence? They seem content just fishing about in shallow waters constantly. She suddenly found this ‘insightful’ realization dawn strangely after a casual question by her neighbor. Rejoicing at this ‘discovery’ she smiled in elation much to the amusement of the latter.

“You have been lost in thought. I am still waiting”. Payal looked up apologetically at the amused lady as she gathered up her feet in haste. “Where am I from?” she said. Well it requires one to answer a million dollar question. Ever thought about fitting in with your soul?” That’s actually where one belongs”.

Leaving behind a mystified woman, Payal trotted along the shores where the tide seemed high as her spirits. The sun was gradually setting and behind she could hear the impatient honking of the commuters. “This is where I belong” she said ecstatically.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Gold's own country

I received this via email. It stated that 'The financial crisis has not affected in Kerala yet!!!'

What a contrast. On one hand the world is bearing the brunt of economic meltdown with retrenchment in furious numbers. Millions are thrown out of their jobs. Pinch in the pockets are getting severe leaving many depressed and desperate. Consulting a shrink has become inevitable to overcome their loss in more than one way.

While the other side has ecstatic faces adorned and drenched with gold such that it makes one wonder about the almighty playing favoritism. One isn’t sure whether to feel happy on seeing such glitter while the other half portrays nothing less than jitters. Or to feel indignant about the unfair means life tends to offer many a time. Is it a cynical view or a realistic one?? Makes me ponder and wonder.

Meanwhile all this emphasizes the fact even more that it’s truly 'God's own country' or should it be rechristened as 'Gold's own country?'

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