Contest-a-thon

Let's go Positano

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“Sid, I am fed up with your procrastination! You keep putting things off and look at what's finally happened? I am going to cancel those days off that I had booked!”. With this, my wife stormed off, slamming the door shut behind her. I wanted to get up and yell at her. Tell her that I had been busy. Tell her that I always did the planning. Tell her that it was only human to forget. But I did nothing, except silently watch her storm out through the door. Deep down, I knew I was at fault, and that it was time to make amends. We had planned to take a special trip for our special 10th “relation-versary”. Though we’d only been married for five years, we’d been dating for five years prior to that, and the “relation-versary” was a special term that I’d coined to celebrate the day when she had finally said yes. Everything had gone smoothly up until this point. Even though April was a very busy month for her, my wife had managed to get a few days off. We’d budgeted for the trip and saved up for this occasion. Even my parents offered to look after our son, whilst we took some time off, to re-live our coupledom again. All I had to do was pick a destination, and plan the holiday. 

Image from Rentvillas.com

Italy had always been one of our dream destinations. Despite having spent almost seven years in London, we never had an opportunity to visit Italy. So I’d decided that Italy would be our destination. Of course with no access to unlimited funds, traversing all over Italy was not going to be an option. So after lots of online search (using Google of course; I’m a smart traveller after all), I had narrowed it down to a quaint coastal village in Italy, called Positano. There was another reason for this selection of mine. For those of you who read my posts, you might be familiar that Positano featured quite heavily in one of my novellas, and subconsciously I had fallen in love with the place. So you might even say that some part of the research was already done. And since my wife had loved the description of the place, I was sure the place would be a sure shot winner with her too. But here was the problem - caught in between a number of deadlines, I'd completely forgotten to book the holiday. It was only this morning, when she'd asked me about the plan, that I’d remembered that I hadn’t booked anything at all. I’d immediately set about looking for affordable air tickets and hotel bookings, neither of which I was able to find, since there was less than 3 weeks for  the outward travel dates that we were looking at.

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I was devastated. (Sounds shocking right? Especially since it was my fault that there were no tickets available ) But trust me, I was!

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I knew she’d been looking forward to this romantic getaway, especially since she’d been having a really tough time at work. As I desperately flicked through different tabs on the browser looking for a miracle, I noticed a video that had popped up via an advertisement. The snapshot of the video had a hand drawn airplane with a few passengers, an island, a ship, a camel and some other interesting objects . Though I had initially wanted to dismiss it as an advert for children,  something in the drawing caught my attention. And on closer observation, I discovered that the title of the video read Skyscanner - Born Honest- TV advert. Curious to know more, I clicked on the advert which had a voiceover by Ex-Doctor Who star Matt smith. Towards the end of the short, snappy advertisement,  a hand drawn button appeared and almost yelled out to me : "Lets go!”. (Check out the skyscanner TV advert on YouTube below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lio0r5zDDFI

Having travelled quite a bit, I was surprised that I hadn't come across Skyscanner previously.  A quick but detailed search revealed that though a relatively young organisation, they had over 25 million monthly visitors. And not only did they partner with some of the top companies in the business to provide the best list of affordable flights, they also claimed to help get great hotel and car hire deals. "This must be a sign !" I thought as I entered the search details into their easy-to-navigate website. Within seconds I had hit the jackpot. So much so that I wanted to yell out “Eureka". Somehow Skyscanner had found not one, but multiple combinations of affordable tickets to Naples, which was the nearest airport to Positano. I made a note of the details and the cost and moved on to the next step, which transferred me to the website of the partner, that let me confirm the booking at the very same price that Skyscanner had shown me.

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Content that the flights were sorted, I moved on to the next thing on my list - accommodation.

Screen grab from skyscanner.co.in

Since Positano is a small town, I was conscious that the number of hotels and rooms could potentially be lower in number.  After all, I hadn’t had much luck with some of the other more prominent websites. "Why should skyscanner succeed where others had failed?" I thought.  Once again, as soon as I had hit the enter button, my screen was populated with an amazing list of  hotels all fitting my search criteria. I had the options to sort them by price, distance, rating, popularity and many others factors. In a matter of minutes, I had secured a room in a 4-star hotel, with a beautiful view of the Amalfi coast. I breathed a sigh of relief. I finally had a good shot at redeeming myself.

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But my planning wasn’t over yet. One of the reasons I'd picked Postiano was for the drive along the “Strada Statale 163”, also known as the Amalfi Drive, one of the world’s most scenic routes. It was a driver's paradise and I completely intended to make full use of it. Of course, that meant we would need a car. Having been abroad for a while, I had bad experiences of missing crucial hidden clauses whilst hiring cars. But once again, Skyscanner came to the rescue. A quick search gave me a choice of amazing cars to choose from. I made a selection, entered a few details, and within minutes, I was the proud rental owner of a Skoda Fabia. Well,  at least for 5 days.

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Once all the three were confirmed, I decided to do the next set of planning. I collated all the  confirmation emails, created a spreadsheet with a quick list of items that we needed to pack and uploaded all of these online. Once these were sorted, I carefully unpacked the gift that I had intended to originally give her - an iPad mini. After setting it up, I quickly searched the App Store and downloaded a comprehensive Italy Travel guide app by Triposo Inc. After my “smart booking” miracle with Skyscanner, this app was all that I needed to complete my “smart travel” experience. The app provided, not just information about sightseeing, major attractions, weather and restaurants, but also contained a quick guide to what needed to be packed, a phrase book of useful Italian phrases and best of all, an offline map of Italy. All absolutely free. Using the app, I marked out a tentative itinerary and saved it on the iPad mini itself.

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I impatiently tap my fingers on the table looking at the clock. It’s nearing lunch time, and my wife should be home soon. As soon as I hear the door bell buzz, I rush to open it with a smile on my face. My wife greets me with a cold, stern look, one that slightly makes my insides tremble a little bit. She walks past me and puts her handbag down on the table. I continue to smile at her, which I secretly think, starts to anger her further. I look at her and say, “Guess what?” She glares at me again, and asks “What? Did you forget something else ? Maybe our anniversary date?” Though I’m slightly taken aback, I regain my cool demeanour and thrust a package into her hand. Surprised, she opens it up to reveal the new iPad mini that I got her. Quickly, she puts the “serious” mask back on, and asks “….and this is supposed to be in place of the holiday that I was counting on? Which by the way, you managed to screw up !” . “No!” I answer with a smile still plastered on my face. I power up the iPad, point to the wallpaper of Positano that adorns the lock screen and say, THIS is your real gift!” . As her face erupts into a beautiful smile, I silently thank SkyScanner for saving my skin.

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This post was written for the “Travel Smart with Skyscanner” contest in association with IndiBlogger.

To me, smart travel means being able to find good deals, even if it is at the last minute. Something that I successfully managed to do this time around, through www.skyscanner.co.in; And it wasn’t just for travel, but for accommodation and local transport too. Additionally, I also believe in harnessing the power of technology to travel smart. So having all the confirmation saved as a document that can be retrieved from anywhere in the world, and an app that can help plan my itinerary is a must.

As for Skyscanner, there are a couple of things that make it probably one of the best online travel comparison sites I’ve used. And trust me, I’ve used plenty.

a. The app uses the widest range of airlines and online travel agents that I've ever seen. No wonder, they get the best deals. b. It is extremely user friendly and very transparent. No hidden charges and absolutely free to use c. Seamless transfer to the partner’s site and the cost is exactly as shown with no surprises jumping out at you  d. Sky Scanner's best time to book tool : A very useful tool which shows you when you need to book to get the best deals. Quite handy for the smart traveller who is also an advance planner. Check out this cool tool here or download the brochure here e. The Price alert tool : You can subscribe to their pretty amazing price alert tool  which lets you know via email, every time the price of the flight you track, changes. Completely free and if you decide that it’s not for you, you can unsubscribe at any time. No questions asked. Check it out here f: The Skyscanner Airmail - This is their weekly email newsletter which brings you the best of everything in travel - deals, tips, inspiration, advice, quite literally, everything. And it's in an amazing format too. Click here to check it out

So what are you waiting for? Check out skyscanner now, and get the best deal for your next dream holiday. Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.59.28 am

The curious case of the "serious" aunt

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I love to travel. Train, bus, ship, air - all kinds of travel gives me a thrill like no other. And as much as I love to travel with my better half, there are times when I prefer to travel alone too. Mainly because it gives me enough time to think and also lets me observe people. I’m also the sort of person who prefers (and secretly hopes) that the seat next to him remains empty. Except when travelling with my wife that is. Or when it is occupied by a really charming woman. The problem is that though I am not a great conversationalist, I am a pretty good listener. And I acknowledge. Which means, I am frequently hounded by  talkative people who are happy to have got someone to listen to their rather “serious conditions”. And I’m just too nice to ask them to shut up. Over the years, I’ve had the unfortunate “pleasure” of travelling with a number of rather unique co-travellers. But nothing spoils your travelling experience like having a fellow-traveller who takes everything seriously, quite literally (Also now popularly known as people "jinki #ConditionSeriousHai") My chance encounter with this rather “serious aunt” happened two weeks ago, during one of my solo-trips from Bangalore to Chennai. I had just plugged in my headphones and was scrolling through my iPad looking for something to watch, when I noticed a rather large shadow loom over me. I glanced up and saw slightly elder lady glaring at me. Confused, I threw a questioning look, to which she responded with a pointed finger. I followed her finger and found that she was gesturing at one of the straps of my laptop bag, a tiny part of which, was lying on the seat next to me. Nodding my head in acknowledgement, I tugged at the strap firmly, so that no part of my bag (or me) was touching the adjacent seat. Apparently satisfied with this, the lady opened up her large handbag and procured a pack of facial tissues. And as I watched, she dusted the seat and the arm rest with a couple of these tissues and eventually sat down next to me. Ignoring her, I started to put my headphones back on, when I heard the gentle squeeze of a bottle next to me. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed that she was using one of those hand sanitisers to “cleanse” her hands. She then took out a small cannister and sprayed it a few times all around her. And then she covered her face completely with a cloth face-mask (yes, the kind that became popular when Swine Flu was doing its rounds). I grinned, as I went back to fiddling with my iPad trying to locate something to help me pass the time. But little did I then know, that all the "entertainment" that I would require for the six hours of travel, was sitting right next to me.

After about thirty minutes of flipping through the iPad, having been unable to find anything interesting,  I glanced at the lady on my left once again. She had her tray table out and had laid out an A4 sized sheet of paper (which I assumed was her ticket printout) along with a laminated ID card. “Man, she’s so organised!” I thought, as I patted my shirt pocket to make sure I had a copy of my ticket. As the Ticket Inspector approached, she slowly put her hands into the depths of her handbag and dug out something that was neatly wrapped up in plastic. On closer inspection, I noticed that it was a pair of disposable sandwich gloves. She put them on and impatiently started tapping her fingers on tray table. When the inspector asked her for the ticket, she handed over the A4 sheet and quickly flashed her ID at the inspector. When he returned the ticket, she carefully wrapped up the ticket in the one of the gloves, put them together into another plastic bag and put this package into her handbag. She then pulled out her santiser spray again and gently cleaned the laminated ID card with a piece of tissue. Satisfied with her endeavour, she put the card back into her wallet and leaned back against her seat. Amused by the entire episode, I let out a slight snigger. She quickly looked at me and asked “So, you think this is funny? Do you know how many germs get passed merely through touching another person’s hand?” Too stunned to reply, I whispered a meek “Sorry” and quickly diverted my attention back to the iPad. As I scrolled through the iPad, I could sense that the lady was observing my actions. Not wanting to be at the receiving end of another outburst, I pretended not to notice her. After a little while, she said “Excuse me. It might not be my business, but I’ve been noticing that you have been scrolling through that machine for a while now. Do you want a tissue? I can see smudge marks all over the screen, even from here.” As much as I wanted to say “It’s none of your business!”, I quietly nodded, which prompted her to pass me a piece of tissue, using something that resembled a pair of tweezers. I mouthed a “Thank you” and in a bid to get her to look away, I slowly started vigorously rubbing my iPad screen in a circular motion, hoping that she wouldn’t construe my acceptance of her tissue as an invitation to chit-chat.

Unfortunately she did, and before long, she was going on about how her son had told her about an invention, a pair of gloves to be more specific, that would let everyone use touch-screens without the fear of “getting any germs transmitted”. Being an engineer and a techie, I really wanted to stop her at that point and tell her that the pair of gloves was meant to be an invention that would let you use your touchscreen without any problem even during really cold weather, and not meant to prevent the transfer of "hand-spread bacteria". But something told me that it wouldn’t be a good idea to start a technical conversation with her, and I remained silent, occasionally nodding my head. As the journey progressed, she continued to ramble on about seemingly trivial little topics that according to her, were “quite serious” in nature. These included but were not limited to how it was important to keep everything neat, the importance of being organised when travelling, how she was always concerned about health and getting infections from people, how she hated it if things were out of place and without any sense of order, be it a carpet that was slightly out of alignment with the floor tiles or a bookshelf that did not have the books arranged in the order of their height. She also added how it really drove her mad when “kids these days” (I’m quite sure she meant me) were always so engrossed in their little gadgets and not serious enough about their health, career and settling down in life.

“Oh dear lord!” I thought, as I absent-mindedly scratched the remnants of an old, un-healed wound on one of my arms. After a few seconds, I realised that she had stopped talking. I looked at her and realised that she too was scratching one of her arms. Unsure how to react, I slowly stopped scratching and looked at her. She continued scratching, all the whilst recoiling at the scar on my hand which had turned slightly pinkish, due my scratching. “Have you gotten that checked? Do you have a dog? Maybe it’s an allergy. Do you know if it’s contagious?” she asked with a distressed look on her face. For a moment, I almost felt that she was going to whip out her sanitiser canister and spray it all over me. I smiled at her and said, “That’s just an old wound. It’s taking its own time to heal.” “Oh no!” she exclaimed loudly. "How long has it been? If it’s been more than a month and it hasn’t healed, it might be infected. When did you last see the doctor? Has it been more than a few months? Then you might be diabetic! How old are you? When did you last check your blood sugar?” I stared at the woman, surprised at her panic attack. “Ma’am” I said, unsure how else I could address her, “Please calm down. This is a wound from when I fell down a few weeks ago. Each time it almost heals, I inadvertently scratch and it opens up again. That’s the reason. It’s not because I’m diabetic or have an infection.” 

That answer seemed to have satisfied her and she both stopped scratching as well as talking to me. Though a few minutes later, I did notice that she had pulled out a full-sleeved sweater from her bag and put it on, taking special care to ensure that no part of her hand ever touched mine. “What a nut-job!” I thought to myself as I looked at my watch. We would be pulling into Chennai in under an hour, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the train, away from this strange woman with her “serious obsession” with trivial things. As I sat there tapping my feet, I couldn’t help but notice a rustling sound beside me. Once again, curiosity got the better of me and I peeked out of the corner of my eye. The lady had taken out another one of her disposable sandwich gloves and was busy trying to fit her hands into these. From within the abyss of her large handbag, she brought out a rectangular bar which was enclosed in a shiny red wrapper with bits of white writing on it. A closer look  revealed that it was the “four-fingered” version of a popular chocolate brand. As I watched, she patiently opened the red wrapper making sure that she had cut along the designated dotted line with a pair of small scissors. Once this was done, she carefully folded the wrapper up in precise, neat folds and put it into a tiny plastic bag she had. She carefully took the chocolate, which was still wrapped in a shiny aluminium foil and made three tiny cuts on the foil. At this point, I stopped peering out of the corner of my eyes and was quite literally staring at her, wondering what she was going to do. And then, as I watched, she pulled out a ruler and carefully marked three vertical lines on the aluminium foil with an architect’s precision. Satisfied with her work, she carefully “snapped” off one of these “fingers”, all the while making sure that it had broken off in a straight line. I continued to stare at her, in the hope that she would realise that she was taking this "obsessiveness for order" to a whole new level. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice and continued to carefully peel off the wrapper of this lone chocolate finger.

As the train pulled into the platform at Chennai Central railway station, I slowly got off my seat and moved into the aisle to pick up my back pack from the top shelf. As I swung my backpack around my shoulder, I was struck with a rather cheeky idea. Now, I’m not usually one to respond to people who irritate me, but over the course of the six hour journey, I had borne the brunt of the lady and "serious condition" and I wanted to desperately give her a piece of my mind. I fumbled through my back pack till I found what I was looking for. As the train came to slow halt, I looked at the lady and showed her what I had in my hand. And as she watched, I haphazardly stripped the golden yellow wrapper off (on purpose of course), and took a large, un-symmetrical bite of the chocolate. Wiping the oozing caramel away from my lips, I smiled and said “Take a chill pill, ma’am. Seriousness is a very serious disease!”. As I turned to walk away, I felt my backpack connect with her arm. I glanced over at her and said “I’m sorry about that ma’am. If I were you, I’d wash your hands right away. You’ve no idea where all my bag has been.”

As I walked away with a million dollar smile on my face, I could hear the now-familiar squeeze of the sanitiser bottle echo from a few yards behind me.

This post is written for the #ConditionSeriousHai contest, organised by the site IndiBlogger in association with Cadbury 5 Star. Check out the Cadbury 5 star Facebook page here, and live a little less seriously.

 

Disclaimer: Though the lady in this encounter was probably a really "rare and unique" example, and in all likelihood, be hell bent on hunting me down after this post gets published, I do acknowledge that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious concern. Why, somewhere deep down, I strongly believe that I too have OCD. Why else does a tangled wire drive me up the wall? Or constantly check under the seat when I go to a movie theatre? We all have traces of it. But the lighter we can make of a situation, the more we enjoy life. For now, have Cadbury 5 Star and enjoy yourself.

Image courtesy Cadbury 5 Star Facebook page

 

The Dare

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This was originally one of my late entries into the Notion Press Social Short story contest that concluded recently. Click here to view it on the Notion Press site. Whilst I didn't win, it did help me come up a few ideas for my next novella. I'd also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who took the time to read and vote for this story. I'm putting it up on my blog just in case you missed it.
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As he sipped on his coffee, Amit threw a glance at the table that was the source of all the raucous laughter. He smiled as he took in the scene. A group of youngsters, probably in their late teens, were huddled around one of the tables by the corner. Amit observed that, like him, they too had become frequent morning patrons of the cafe. From having observed them for a few weeks now, he knew that they were students at the nearby Rana Pratap Institute of Management. Though they were not dissimilar to other almost twenty-somethings, there was something about them as a group that had attracted him to them.

His pre-office ritual had not changed for almost three years now, ever since he’d discovered this quaint little corner cafe amongst the leafy suburbs of the town. He would promptly arrive at the cafe at 7am and order one of their classic breakfasts - soft boiled egg, a double egg-white omelette and wheat bread toast, accompanied by a frothy yet strong coffee served in an over-sized mug. And then he’d start to read the daily newspaper.

He had noticed this quintet gang, as he’d named them, a few weeks ago, when they’d first walked into the cafe. Though they’d initially seemed a bit lost, a few days later, they’d settled right in. They were a relatively happy and care-free bunch, with not too many concerns about the world and seemed only bothered about the present and having fun. Their easy-going nature soon gained them popularity with both the cafe owner as well as the staff. But Amit was yet to befriend them. After all, he was senior to them both in age and worldly experience.

As he took a bite of his omelette, he noticed that one of the girls in the group had untied her hair and the breeze from the open grilled windows was ruffling the curls lightly. One of the guys in the group leaned back on the chair and put his hands around the girl’s waist pulling her closer to him. Amit smiled as he thought, “Ah, the feeling of being young and in love.” Inadvertently he found his thoughts starting to wander back to his college days and Richa.

Imran, Lucky, Zoya, Richa and he were the five pillars who formed their notorious gang back in college. Hailing from middle-class families and with somewhat decent academic grades, they were really thick friends. Bound by a common love for movies, music and a fondness for getting into trouble, they were almost inseparable. And they were undeniably the most popular gang of students in college. Though they were all pretty close, Imran and himself had always had a special bond. Both of them were compulsive thrill-seekers, extremely competitive and always accepted a dare without even thinking of the consequences. They were automobile aficionados and formed the drummer-tabla couplet for the college band. Then there was Lucky, the geek of the group. A person of few words, he was often the mediator within the group and their official spokesperson. First cousins Zoya and Richa were both the brains and beauty of the gang and were often responsible for the dares that Imran and Amit blindly took on. Of course it had a bit to do with Amit and Richa's on - off relationship too.

Amit fell head over heels in love with Richa the moment he had laid his eyes on her. After a rather whirlwind dating period, the romance had literally fallen on its face when Richa requested that they move things a bit slowly and take a break. But as history (and the movies) have often proved, a guy and girl can only remain best friends for so long before they either break it off completely or find themselves back together. With Amit and Richa, fortunately it was the latter.

As he put away his cutlery, he was snapped out of his pleasant thread of memories by a squeal from one of the girls at the quintet table. “You should definitely do it! It sounds awesome. What’s life without a little thrill?” she asked. It was the girl with the wavy hair who’d spoken. “Be a man. Go for it. I’ll join in as well” said one of the scrawny looking guys addressing a rather well-built attractive young man. For a while, the young man seemed to contemplate what his friends had said. And then he spoke. “If you all say so, I’ll give it a shot!” he said with a beaming grin.

Amit smiled wryly. Sounded like the guy’s friends were setting him up with a dare. “For his sake, I hope it goes well!” mused Amit as he went back to his paper. Hard as he tried, Amit was unable to concentrate on his favourite Sudoku column. His thoughts kept going back to the dialogue that he had just overheard. Hearing those words again after so many years, brought back the memories. He still remembered the day vividly as if it had just happened yesterday.

They’d first heard of the secretive midnight motorcycle clash, when Ankur, one of their obnoxiously wealthy seniors had mentioned it to them. He had just bought one of the state of the art BMW super bikes imported all the way from the US and was bragging about its performance to anyone who’d listen. Being the bike-crazed young men that they were, Imran and Amit were both intrigued by the two wheeled beast. Further more, Ankur had even dared them to try and race him at the event. Though the details were sketchy, they both knew it was illegal, dangerous and influenced by the "Fast & the Furious” franchise which meant that they had more than enough reasons to take on the dare. After all, they lived for the thrill and the adrenaline kick that accompanied it.

The night of the dare had arrived quicker than they’d anticipated. The plan was for Amit to drive the first leg and Imran, the final one. They had zoomed through the first leg, taking third place, behind two other brilliant riders. Ankur and his friend had crashed out within a few minutes into the first leg. “…and that’s why you never ask an ape to operate heavy machinery!” they had mused. As Imran switched on the bike's ignition for the final round, he’d turned back and looked at Amit, who was riding pillion with him. “Hold on tight man. It’s going to be awesome!” he said as he throttled the powerful engine and took off in style.

As the strong wind tousled their hair, Amit held on tight to the back of the bike. Sitting on a slightly more elevated platform than Imran, he could see a bit further ahead and was Imran’s eyes for this leg of the race. As they zigzagged through the still heavy traffic on the highway at breakneck speed, Amit noticed that they had left their competitors far behind. The constant stream of tears running down his eyes from the breeze made it difficult to focus on what lay ahead. Eveything was turning into a blur of multi-coloured circles and light trails. But Amit knew he had to focus in order to ensure that they did not run into anything or over anyone. As he leaned forward to tell Imran that they were in the lead, he felt a strong force pushing himself to the right. "Imran must have taken a sharp left turn” he thought as he rubbed both his eyes on the sleeves of the cold leather jacket he was wearing. His eyes were struggling to cope up with the velocity of the air brushing against his face and he put his hand over them as if to shield his eyes from the wind. A loud air horn made Amit look up ahead again. An extremely bright and powerful light was careening towards them at rapid speed. As he leaned forward to warn Imran about the oncoming vehicle, he felt an abrupt lurch. All of a sudden, he was flying through the air and onto the path of the oncoming vehicle whose dazzling headlight completely blinded him. And then everything went dark.

“Dreaming, are we?” A husky feminine voice interrupted his thoughts bringing him back to the present. Shaking off the trancelike state he was in, he looked up at the lady and smiled.“Sorry, I was just thinking about something” he said. “So, are you ready to leave for work?” she asked, whilst tying up her brown coloured shoulder-length hair. “Sure. Let me just finish this” Amit said, as he drained the last bit of coffee from the mug. “Ok, let’s go”he continued as he shuffled about in his seat.

Having noticed that he was staring at the bunch of college kids on the adjacent table, she slowly walked around the table, stood behind him, leaned over and gave him a tight hug. “I know what you were thinking about. Let it go. You’re fine now” she said as she helped him put on his jacket. “I try..but sometimes it just keeps coming back” he replied as he pulled his gloves tightly over his hands. Amit knew that her words echoed the truth and it was time he’d made peace with what had transpired that fatal night.

As he slowly wheeled himself out of the cafe, following her to the car, Amit couldn’t help but smile. He was lucky to be alive and have Richa in his life.

 

The Transformation

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Jessica hated the London Tube during peak hours. She could think of many things she'd rather do than be pressed against smelly armpits or the top her head being scratched by the scruffiness of unshaved men. As the new showbiz editor for the prestigious Vogue magazine, Jessica was settled career-wise. Her impeccable and elegant dressing sense made her one of the go-to fashionistas in London. As she re-read her questions for her interview of the new Hollywood heart-throb, James Griffin, she briefly glanced at the profile photo of the man who had successfully dethroned the big hitters. Unlike the six-pack sporting, clean-shaven blokes that she fancied, James had long dishevelled hair and always sported a week-old stubble.  “I hate that smelly stubble in men” thought Jessica as she got off. As she sat down at the coffee shop of The Savoy, she thought “He’s late. I hate that in men too”.

Suddenly a dapper looking man slid into the seat opposite her. “Jessica, is it? I’m James Griffin” he said extending a hand-shake. As Jessica extended her hand outward, she couldn’t help but notice his neatly trimmed hair and clean-shaven face.”Wow”she thought ”He looks amazing!”


This post is a part of the Protest Against Smelly Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda.


Oh, in case you are still wondering about how much of a difference a shave can make, just take a look at the two photos below of Henry Cavill - yes, the new Superman dude, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Oh, yes, I think a day or two old stubble can look smart, if trimmed to perfection.

Image Courtesy geektyrant.com

Image courtesy ryokoragiel.deviantart.com

The Race

Image Prompt from Project100x2
Image Prompt from Project100x2 courtesy of 1 Hundred Works
This post is part of the (now discontinued) Project100X2

We were given an image prompt this time around. So what did I write? You can read it here:

THE RACE

The link should open in a new page, so feel free to come back and leave a comment or a brick-bat as you please. Either way, I'll accept it.

While you are at it, take a look at some other awesome takes on the picture prompt too :

Freedom by Jairam Moham aka mahabore (trust me - he is anything but)

The Free Bird by Vaisakh Venugopal who writes at : The Museum Piece

The colorful fishes By Arka Datta who writes at : Hotathkore

A Marathon of Approval By Yamini Vijendran who writes at Straight from the Heart

 

Over and out...for now!

A time-honoured secret

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The last person you’d expect voluntarily walking the aisles of the supermarket looking for baby massage oils, is a dad. I’m not being a chauvinist here, I’m merely reasoning out how modern society perceives it. Anyway moving on, I was checking the aisles, when I stumbled across a section of baby products of every imaginable kind. There they were, stacked neatly row upon row, column by column - and by the looks of the amount of mothers present, the most popular aisle there. I stood there, kind of lost in the moment and frozen to the ground. I had no idea what I had to look at or for, for that matter. As I went through some of the more commercially known choices, I noticed that most of them had two main ingredients  - mineral oils and added fragrance. Though not a scientist by any proportions, I knew enough to know that, both mineral oils and fragrance were definitely questionable contents in baby products. This predicament made me re-think my decision, and I was convinced that I had to do some more research. After all, it was my son, and I needed to make sure we were using only the right product.

Based on talking to other parents, and some online research, I discovered alarming facts regarding some of these so-called “pure” baby oils.

Most commercially sold, beautifully packaged baby oils are actually mineral oils with some synthetic fragrance mixed with it. This oil is a byproduct of petroleum refinement and is quite cheap to obtain. The biggest concern with mineral oil is that it has a tendency to clog the pores, thereby “suffocating the skin”. And since it is absorbed into the body, through the skin, which is our largest organ, there is a danger that the oil could potentially choke the nutrients, which hence would not reach the vital parts of the body. And of course, we all know how babies love to suck on their fingers or thumbs. Now imagine them sucking a “mineral oil coated” thumb or finger. Since it can cause a layer to be formed in the digestive tract, the outcome surely can’t be good.

One of the other key components of these commercial baby oils is “fragrance”, which is a synthetic component, i.e. not natural. Its presence helps the oils derive an aroma of choice; say lavender, rose, etc. Research has shown that synthetic fragrances have been shown to disrupt certain normal hormonal functions in adults. With regards to babies, these scents can also interfere with your process of bonding with your baby, and he/she can get potentially over stimulated.

But there is always an alternative, as I discovered - Ayurveda and its natural products.

Ayurveda is a time honoured medical solution | Image courtesy Google Search

Ayurveda is one of the earliest practiced sciences and system of medicine. Often known as alternative medicine, it dates back to almost 1500 BC and originated in our very own India. While Allopathy helps us focus on the management of diseases, Ayurveda gives us the knowledge of how to prevent illness and eliminate the cause at the very source or root of it. Ayurveda is often known as the science of life and longevity and is credited to be the oldest healthcare system in world. It instigates a wholesome and complete growth of humanity and aims to maintain health by keeping our body, mind and spirit in perfect balance with Mother Nature. Today, this age old knowledge and practice of Ayurveda, has evolved into a unique, popular and indispensable branch of medicine, with almost no side effects.

It was during my research into these, that I came across one such ayurvedic baby massage oil - Dabur Lal Tail. Before we go into more detail about this, let us take a look at why massage is important for your little one.

Baby massage is an important tool to improve  parent-child bonding | Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net/praisaeng

Any parent/doctor will often vouch for one thing - the first three to five years of a baby’s life are the most important stages, when it comes to growth and development. Proper, healthy nutrition and care is of utmost concern during these formative and developmental years, as it forms the basis for their future health, academic success, social and emotional well-being. Another important activity during the newborn period is the “bonding” between the parents and their child. Babies often interact with the world through their senses of touch and smell. And hence why baby massage is an important aspect of this bonding.

Traditionally in India, babies are massaged before their bath. Though not in its entirety, I still have vague memories of my mother and grandmother giving my little arms, legs and body a good and thorough massage with warm ayurvedic oils before my daily bath. In spite of being too young to understand all of it, I have heard that I used to smile a lot during the massage, and sleep for hours uninterrupted after, as an effect of this massage.  As parents, both my wife and I wanted to ensure our little boy’s proper growth and development, and hence why you found me wandering down the supermarket aisles looking for good baby massage oil.

Dabur Lal Tail is a unique blend of natural ingredients | Image courtesy Google Search

Which brings me back to hero of my little story here - Dabur Lal Tail. I’d read about this particular brand of ayurvedic baby massage oil in many places. Every parent that I spoke to and from the online research that I did, stated, claimed and indeed proved that Dabur Lal Tail was an ayurvedic baby massage oil, which was made from 100% natural key ayurvedic ingredients and combination of special herbs (as below), each with their own unique properties.

  • Shankhpushpi - Often considered a gift of nature, this beautiful wonder is known to protect against skin infection and general weakness
  • Camphor  - Any Indian worth his salt will know about camphor (also known as karpoor). It has been proven to be an antimicrobial substance and as something which stimulates blood circulation
  • Urad  - Though traditionally associated as a protein, urad is something that helps refresh and nourish muscles and bones. It has also been shown to have an effect in preventing rickets.
  • Sesame Oil - Also know as Till Tail, it has been shown to have positive effects on the growth of a child. Additionally it soothes and aids in post-massage sleep, as it is absorbed quickly by the skin
  • Ratanjyot - Essentially a herb used as a natural food coloring agent, it also helps in protecting the baby’s skin

Though we only relocated to India very recently, Dabur has always been a popular choice in our household, mainly for the natural ingredients that goes into making all its products. Ayurvedic products in general, are made from a combination of plants and natural herbs. However the right ratio and blend of these herbs is of utmost importance and needs to be very precise. Even the slightest changes in combination or proportion can change the benefits it provides. Hence why the Government has Good manufacturing practices (GMP) in place to ensure the quality of the product. I was extremely happy to note that Dabur Lal Tail was manufactured in strict adherence to all the traditional guidelines on manufacturing of formulations; additionally it follows the Government’s GMP procedures to the letter, thereby ensuring that each bottle of oil is the perfect mix of all the herbs and of pristine quality.

Everyone who has used this miraculous product on their babies stressed on how their little ones were growing up quickly and were much more content in general than some of their counterparts. As a parent, your baby’s weight and height charts dictate your lives to a certain extend - since they are accurate measurements of your child physical developments and growth. I was also pleasantly surprised to notice the claim that kids massaged with Dabur Lal Tail experienced 'TWICE faster Physical Growth’ than kids without massage or massaged with other mineral oils/talcum powder, being backed by clinical evidence from the Paediatric department of Jawaharlal Nehru College. You can read more about the research here.

All of these were enough reasons and proof for me to go purchase our first bottle of Dabur Lal Tail for our son. He was a few months from his first birthday when we first used the product on him. Before we go on, I must confess something. Since he was born in London, and he was there during the initial six to seven months of his life, we did succumb to the marketing and commercial hype and try a few “pure mineral oils” to massage him before his bath. Needless to say, it did not go down well, and his skin reacted quite adversely to these oils. Hence why we were doubly cautious to try new oil.

My family has always been a strong believer in Ayurveda and ayurvedic products (- and not just because we hailed from Kerala:)). What always strengthened our belief in Ayurveda was the fact that we knew exactly all the key ingredients that went into every product. It was comforting to know the unique benefits of simple daily products such as tulsi leaves in improving immunity, or having honey, lemon and warm water as a solution to cough and cold. During the cooler winter months, when all of us fell victims to the cold and cough, I remember how my grandmother would get me to drink boiled water with a strange concoction of leaves and herbs. Though it was beyond me at the time, I remember how I used to feel much better the next day and then go back to playing in the rain, in the belief that my granny could make her magical medicine again, if need be.

Since my wife was also brought up in such a traditional set up, we were sure that we wanted to pass on all of these to our future generations too. After all, it is absolutely normal for all of us to want our kids and future generations to remain close to nature, their roots and be healthy from day 1 of their lives, isn’t it?

We’ve now been using Dabur Lal Tail for a while now and the results were amazing. Our little boy has grown remarkably and is now taller and healthier than most other toddlers in his play group. Here was someone who previously often had a small or very little appetite. He used to sleep for very short stretches and they were often disturbed naps due to his blocked nose. But soon after we incorporated Dabur Lal Tail into his pre-bath massage, he has started having a much more healthier appetite. Furthermore, he is now able to sleep for a few hours without any disturbances and it is a joy to see him breathe clearly and freely without needing any of those nasal inhalers or sprays. And the joy that it gives him when we massage him with the oil - that smile is surely priceless, for us anyway.

So to sum up, to put it a commercially approved format, Dabur Lal Tail can make remarkable a difference in your baby’s growth. How, you still ask?

Clinica research has proved the benefits of Dabur Lal Tail | Image courtesy Dabur website

 Babies who have been massaged with Dabur Lal Tail have: 

  • Better appetite
  • Much better sleeping patterns
  • 2 x faster increase in weight
  • 2 x faster increase in height
  • and are overall a lot more active than their counter parts

And as for Dabur, with over 125 years of experience being the “trusted provider for ayurvedic and nature-based solutions and products”, you really have nothing to worry about. Your baby is in safe hands :)


This informative blog post has been written for the "Traditional Knowledge, Natural Growth" contest, organised by the site IndiBlogger in association with Dabur Lal Tail.

The topic was :  The right product makes a world of difference when it comes to the development of your child. Write a blog post on your understanding of ayurvedic and chemically processed/synthetic products, and its role in a baby’s early growth & development. You can also recount your own experiences.

The Full Circle - Our Platinum Day of Love

"Image courtesy of Boykung / FreeDigitalPhotos.net". As they wheeled her away into the room, I stopped at the entrance. Though my thoughts were starting to wander, and my legs were refusing to move, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mid-wife help transfer my wife onto the bed, and prop her up with pillows. “This is it!” I thought as I willed my feet to respond, and take that fifteen- step walk towards my wife. I slowly walked up to her bed, and sank into the single cushioned chair beside it.

Heavily exhausted from lack of sleep the previous night, and loaded on epidural shots, my wife kept drifting in and out of consciousness. The doctor had mentioned that they would try to “push” in a couple of hours and it might be best if she rested until then. "Labour was going to be hard as it is, without the added fatigue from no rest” she’d added. I sat wondering what I had gotten myself into. I kept asking myself if I really wanted to go through with this. As I watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest, I found myself thinking about us and what we’d been thorough in the years gone by.

Neither of us were believers in love at first sight. I mean, to see someone and know that they’re right for you. Surely things like that don’t happen in real life. Well maybe for a handful of people, but definitely not for most of us. And ours was far from even “like" at first sight. I first met my then “would-be-life-partner” while pursuing my engineering degree. If my memory still functions well, the year was 2001. She was the stereo-typical studious first-bencher, whose talents ranged from academia and sports to music and quizzes. Me - I was the cornball back-bencher, who wasn’t necessarily a bad student, but whose talents were more suited for extra-curricular activities like music, some amount of sports and general slouching. We couldn’t be more poles apart, if we tried.

Though we studied in the same college and even the same class, it wasn’t until a college trip in 2003 that we started talking. At the beginning, our chats were usually about trivial things and college gossips, as you’d expect. At some point though, we both felt that we were “inversely right" for each other. She was organised, practical, meticulous and focussed. And that hasn’t changed to date. I was (and am still) easy-going, sloppy, unplanned and definitely carefree. As it normally happens with premature relationships, I, as the guy, was really vocal about taking the next steps, while she remained in the quiet whenever this topic was broached upon. However her smile and twinkling eyes left me in no doubt that we both wanted the same thing.

Most of 2003 passed by in a haze, with me trying to convince her that we should go around (note : It wasn’t a proposal as such), and she singing the “let’s just remain friends” tune. As the next year unfolded, I decided to do the honourable thing and give her some breathing space. After all, it had to be a mutual decision, if we were to go ahead with this for life. The year 2004 was an eye-opener for us. It was the penultimate year of our engineering degree and we both knew that the end was near. She had a lot of high expectations riding on her - to graduate top of the class, gain placement with a good company and choose a path which would hopefully propel her into a successful career. Me - I had two objectives; complete my engineering degree with decent grades and elicit a favourable answer from her. After all, time was running out.

April 7th 2004: 

Weather wise, it was probably one of the least romantic days. The Indian summer was already underway, and the unrelenting 46 degree Chennai sun beat down on the barren land of our college grounds. Fortunately for us, we were sat in the cooler surroundings of our college library. As an avid reader (and not to mention one of the few air-conditioned rooms in our college), the library was my favourite haunt. As I sat immersed in a novel wrapped within a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) text book (hey, don’t judge me!), I felt something flutter onto my desk. I looked up from novel/DSP text, to see her flowing dupatta trail her graceful walk. I glanced down onto the desk, and saw a note, which was folded with absolute precision. Holding my breath, I carefully opened the note. Inside was a single word. THE single world which was capable of making me jump up on the desk and sing one of those cliched Bollywood numbers. Resisting the urge to do anything cheesy (as if !!), I smiled and watched her walk out of the library.

Now if this was Bollywood movie, I would probably end it here saying that “that was and is our Platinum day of love”. But for those of us living in the real world, whilst this was a close contender, I’m going to chug along to the remaining part of the story. There’s a simple reason for it. Though that was the day my “future wife” agreed to make our relationship official, we were both still very young at heart, young in love and to an extend I might even say immature. I’m not downplaying the importance of this momentous occasion in our lives, but hopefully when you finish reading you’ll understand why I did, what I did.

In the interest of saving you some time and escapism from the cheesiness, let’s fast forward a few years to the time of my present writing, circa 2012.

Happily married with the occasional tiffs and expecting our first child, the year began as a hope-laden one. We’d been together for almost eight years, and were ready to start a family. As with any couple in love, we’d had our share of disagreements, arguments and “Talk-to-the-hand” moments. But deep down in our hearts, we both knew that we’d be there for each other. She’d already proved that to me more than once - be it leaving everyone she knew behind and moving to the UK with me (even prior to marriage) or leaving her dream job in Pune to be closer to me in Bangalore. As for me, I was yet to deliver on my promise. Of course I took care of her needs and was there for her as any normal husband/partner should. But I was yet to show a selfless act of support. As I’ve once posted before, I am not the bravest of souls. And so when my wife asked me to be with her during the labour and subsequently the birth of our first born, I was surprised when I agreed. Probably on a sub-conscious level, I knew this was my chance to make good on my promises to her. Which brings me to the present.

“Excuse me, sir?” The mid-wife’s calm yet shrill voice snapped me out of my day dream. “Are you alright? You were mumbling something incoherently and smiling.” she goes on. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just …well…dozed off” I say and snap myself back into reality. “Yes, you’re actually here” my inner voice tells me. “You’ve got to  go through with it. You can’t chicken out now!”. Great, I’ve now got an inner voice admonishing me.

“We’re about to start the process. Kindly bear in mind that it will be physically stressful for your wife, and you will have to support her as we go along” continues the mid-wife, complete unaware of my inner turmoil. “Oh, and before I forget, if you want to leave the room, you have to do it now. Once the process starts, you cannot exit till we get the baby out or unless we have to take your wife to the operating theatre for anything that may go wrong” she continues. My heart starts to beat wildly. “Are you for real?” I want to ask her. “Who says “something going wrong” and “operation theatre” in the same breath?”. As she thrusts a form into my hand, asking me to sign my acknowledgement, I realised that it was crunch time. All the “sweet-nothings of following her to the end of the world no matter what” that I had whispered to my wife over the past years, had come back to haunt me. Unable to make a decision, I look at the mid-wife and say “ Can you give me a couple of minutes please?”. She shrugs her shoulders, as if to say “whatever you crazy man”, and walks out of the door, closing it behind her.

As I watched the love of my life slowly stir in her drug-induced sleep, I suddenly feel nauseating waves of embarrassment and love wash over me. Embarrassment for having second-thoughts about being by her side for what was probably going to be the most physically and emotionally stressful day of her adult life. Love for her commitment of going through with this. Here was a person, who at the pinnacle of her career, took the conscious decision to give up all her potential promotions and social engagements that she loved, to fulfil our “collective” dream of starting a family. Here was someone, ready to tackle the intense physical and emotional trauma associated with giving birth, all out of her love for me.  And just like that, in the blink of an eye, I grew up.

I wiped away a tear from my eye, and signed the acknowledgement/acceptance form. I loved her and I was going to be there for her. The mid-wife came in, glanced at my hastily scrawled signature on the form, and went over to my wife. She slowly woke her up and commenced the preparation for the delivery. I looked at my wife. Now fully awake, it looked like her epidural drugs were starting to wear off. To me, she looked to be in a world of spasm-ic pain. As I walked over to the bed, she glanced up and gave me a half-hearted teary-eyed smile. I gently squeezed her hand to reassure that I would be there with her, and that she was not alone. Once the final preparations were done, the doctor arrived. She smiled and said “Let’s do this!” 

Through eerie chants of “Deep breaths…and…push”, I focus attention on my wife. She is in excruciating pain and looks like she could possibly explode any moment. Digging her nails deep into my flesh with every contraction, she cries out loud. As we briefly make eye contact, her glassy eyes silently plead to me to get her out of her misery. I fight back my tears of helplessness, and whisper to her “We can do this….together…you and me!” She smiles weakly and releases her hold on my arm ever so slightly. Three long hours and a gallon of bodily fluids later, I hold up our pale, pink bundle of joy up to her and whisper “We did it!”. As our little one cuddles against my wife, I put my arm around her and look at my watch. The date read 7th April 2012.

Eight long, sometimes amazing, sometimes crazy years, since she had dropped that little folded note, changing my life for ever.

As we cradled the little one in our hands, a realisation dawned on me. We had made the right decision all those years ago. We were perfect for each other. And eight years on, we still loved each other more and more with every passing day. What we’d been through together a few hours ago, had brought us closer than ever before. And for me, I looked at her with new-found affection. That was our Platinum day of Love.

Just like Platinum, our love had stood the test of time, and would continue forever, indestructible and always pure and true to its form. Next year, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our togetherness, our life will have come the full circle, and nothing but the best would do to celebrate this momentous and precious occasion of the realization of our unfading and untarnished love.

Of course, your blessings are invaluable gifts too :) 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  ― Lao Tzu

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This post was written for the "Platinum Day of Love" contest, which is brought by Preciousplatinum.in in association with IndiBlogger.in 

Also a bit of a disclaimer: I know my handful of regular readers probably did not expect such a "cheesy, at times romedy-ish" post from yours truly. But thank you, for taking the time and effort (yes, I know how long it is!) to read a "true story" with some "literary freedom" thrown in for good measure.

Stay Safe - Ten tips for travelling safely

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Image Courtesy of freerangestock.com

Safety in India, particularly for women, has always been a concern. That’s not to say that India is completely unsafe for women. However giving due respect to recent “unforgivable” crimes against women and girls, it is imperative that all of us share tips that’ll help every woman, girl and young child walk freely with their head held high in every city and town, of the world, not just India. This is my contribution to the same. Since I’m based out of Bangalore, I’ve written with respect to this beautiful city. However they’re applicable everywhere.

1. Transportation and commute:

A general rule of thumb here is to pick your mode of transport wisely. Whilst public transport such as buses and autos can be often safe, the time of day should play a pivotal role in picking the mode of transport. For example, during peak hours, avoid public buses since it is quite likely that you’d find yourself right in the middle of a packed crowd, constituted mostly of unknown men. Definitely a situation that you’d not want to be in. Similarly at late nights, if alone, try and avoid taking autos and flagged down cabs. Always try and use a registered radio cab service, which is often recommended to be safer. Yes, it might be a tad more expensive; but safety is of paramount importance, isn’t it?

2. Be connected:

If travelling alone at night (or sometimes even in daylight) or through less crowded/populated areas, always remain connected. Great tips are to text your cab number/driver name/ vehicle colour etc to someone, or better yet, get on the phone and convey these loudly to your confidant on the other end of the line. This should deter the driver (or his partner(s)) from attempting to do anything immoral to you. This might also be a great opportunity to call up a friend or relative that you may have not been in touch for a while. It doesn’t matter who you call - it’s about remaining connected. Alternatively some of the popular radio cab services in most metros, also provide an option of SMS tracking when you book the cab. So your alternate registered contact will continue receiving SMS’s every time your location changes and until you reach your destination. I recently signed up for this option when my wife had to travel to the airport alone. We’d booked Meru cabs in Bangalore.

3. Use Social Media effectively:

Like most of us, I’m also guilty of having used Twitter and Facebook, to “virtually” check-in. Usually it is for unimportant things like hotels, restaurants, movies and the likes. However using a social media check-in when starting a journey, can actually help people locate your whereabouts. Yes, it doesn’t deter the driver from trying any hanky-panky business, but at least people are aware of your surroundings

4. Speed-dial it:

It is one of the functions that is present on even the most basic phones, yet not many of us choose to use it. Save the contact numbers of your local police stations as well as your emergency contacts on your speed dial. Most phones even let you dial out your emergency contacts even if the screens are password protected. So if anything goes wrong, all you need to do is hold down on the relevant speed dial number and it dials your emergency contact.

5. Travelling companionship:

Appreciate that this is not always possible, but when you can, always travel in groups, or at least with another companion, preferably male. Yes, I know, it makes me sound sexist and someone against women’s right to freedom. Trust me, it is a safety precaution that can work, especially in India. But do make sure you are travelling with someone you know well, such as an office colleague or a friend. If taking a cab or an auto, even if it increases your travelling companion’s journey time, try and get dropped off first.

6. Travelling to a new city for work:

If travelling to a new city for work, or even relocating, ensure you ask your company to organise the move as well as make arrangements for your stay. Also ask them for their relevant local contacts that you can use once you move. And then ensure you do some research about where you are going to be put up.  Always ensure that you completely lock the doors and windows if you’re put up in a hotel. I know it goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people I’ve spoken to, who do not lock the windows or doors in the hotel, simply because they assume that it’s already locked.

7. Crowds and festivities:

In most places across India, festivals are celebrated with great pomp and splendour. People swarm out onto the street like an army of ants. Understandably most of us tend to let go of our inhibitions and join the fun at times. However do pay extra attention to street celebrations in India. Try and avoid mixing with strangers during these celebrations, especially during times of Holi and Diwali. Additionally do not, and I stress DO NOT, accept any sweets, food or drink form people you do not know. It might appear a bit rude, but your safety always comes first.

8. Use “Smart Safety” apps:

With most of us having embraced smartphones, this should be an easy precaution to take. There are many reputed safety apps available, irrespective of the platform or type of smartphone you use. These apps such as Smart Suraksha, enable you to pre-program emergency numbers and send urgent SMS’s to both your contacts as well the local police stations with your location. We have the technology, so it’s time to use it effectively for our safety.

9. Arm yourselves:

No, I do not mean you become a gun-toting maniac. However you can have a number of small items in your handbag which can serve you well to help defend from these lunatic men. Great examples of such inconspicuous “tools” are Pepper Spray cans, Maglite® torches (trust me, they are worth every paisa as a weapon too), a strong umbrella which can also be used to beat the crap out of your assailants.

 

10. Be firm with your body language, vocal and learn some form of self-defence

If anyone makes you uncomfortable either through teasing, being too close or even staring at you, you have all the right to draw everyone’s attention. Such men, almost always, test the boundaries through an accidental brushing of your arms or other places. Use a firm push of the hand and aggressively set your boundaries. Be vocal and just walk away. They are unlikely to follow you further, if in a public place. Additionally it always helps if you take a few self-defence classes. There is absolutely no substitute for an aggressive kick to the groin to some of these shameful excuses for men-kind.

It should come as no surprise that most of these tips are applicable in every city, and not just for women in/visiting Bangalore.

In today’s world, where some of these men are capable of making you feel gross and dirty without even touching you, it is essential that every woman and girl is armed with the knowledge of how to get out of a sticky situations, should you find yourself in one.

I am sharing my Smart Suraksha Tips at BlogAdda.com in association with Smart Suraksha App.

Stay Safe all!

 

Smart Suraksha can help save you

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As she panted up the stairs of the partly constructed building, Ramya wondered if she’d made a mistake. The rapidly catching up foot steps  from the floors below did not give her the liberty of time required for straight thinking, and she continued climbing, taking 2 steps at once, in order to leave some gap between her pursuers and herself. Image courtesy www.freerangestock.com

As she skipped up the 11th floor, she saw a rather large block of wood cordoning off the entrance into that section. All she could see was pitch dark blackness. There were no lights or lamps from this floor onwards, and she had to make a decision quickly. She strained her  eyes to try and identify a suitable hiding place amongst all the construction rubble. All she could see was an infinite expanse of blackness. She strained her ears to try and locate the loud sounds that her pursuers' boots were making against the cement stairs. They still seemed to be a few floors below her. "Probably the 6th floor”, she thought.

“Maybe I should hide here” she thought “If I can’t see anything, probably they can’t either”. As she stood there contemplating her way out, as if by magic, the clouds suddenly parted to reveal a glowing full moon, which quickly bathed the entire building in light. She panicked. Hiding here was no longer an option. But I can try and throw them off track to buy some time” she mused. As she looked back beyond the cordoned area, she noticed a number of huge metal drums. Slowly an idea formed in her mind.

She quickly picked up the wooden block and threw it with all the force she could muster, into the rows of metal drums. As the wood collided with the metal drums, loud clangs reverbertaed around the building. She was sure they’d heard them too. She heard them stop, now just a couple of floors below her, and exchange a few confused questions, trying to ascertain her position. She took off her heeled footwear, and quickly climbed up to the next floor. The moon had gone back into hiding again, and she could only hope that there were more metal drums on this floor as well. She listened out for footsteps. All she could hear were the two men whispering something. She could also see the odd flashes of light from their torches a few floors below. Looked like they hadn’t moved from the 9th floor yet.

She took one of her precious heeled shoes, and threw it into the black abyss of the 12th floor. It too made a loud clang as it crashed into a metal drum. She skipped up to the next floor, and repeated the same with her other shoe. That should confuse them for a bit, especially when they see my shoes” she thought as she bounded up the remaining stairs to the 14th and final floor. The 14th floor was an open area with absolutely nothing in it. Just meters and feet of an open expanse of space. As she stood there wondering what to do next, she could hear footsteps rushing up the stairs below her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they caught up with her. "And then….." Ramya shuddered to even think about what could happen next. She took out her phone and looked at the screen. There was a single bar showing minimum range. She knew from experience that it wasn’t enough to make a phone call. She knew it was enough to send an sms. But she did not have the time to type out a message.

Fighting back tears, she ran quickly to the farthest corner of the floor. She suddenly wished she had listened to Arjun, her fiancé. She suddenly wished she had listened to all her colleagues. She suddenly wished she had listened to all her friends. All of them had repeatedly told her about a new app “Smart Suraksha" which could have potentially saved her from the two rogues who were now menacingly walking towards her from the other corner of the floor.

The app could have alerted five of her pre-listed contacts and the police via a single touch which would trigger an sms, with her location and whereabouts. And even one bar of signal would have been sufficient for that. Suddenly "she wished she had Smart Suraksha with her", to get her out of her predicament.

She peered over the wall of the building and noticed a large pile of hay on the ground along with the some other construction materials. She glanced at the two behemoths, making lewd gestures and grinning as they inched closer to her by the second. Seeing no other option, she quickly climbed atop the short wall, and faced her tormentors for what she hoped would be the last time. Mouthing an obscenity at them, she took a giant leap of faith. If she landed on the hay as she’d hoped, she could still escape with minor bruises. If she missed, she’d be reduced to pulp. "Better that than be stripped off all my dignity" she thought. As gravity accelerated her free fall, she closed her eyes and could almost hear Arjun say “I wish she had Smart Suraksha with her”. "Yes", she thought, “ I wish I had Smart Suraksha with me!”

Disclaimer: This is a work of realistic fiction - i.e. I’ve used real life scenarios to develop this piece. For the record, if ever in trouble, my dear ladies, please use the Smart Suraksha app; If all fails, and you’re been attacked by a man, remember that a knee to the above-mentioned man’s groin will buy you a lot of valuable minutes. Under no circumstances, do I advocate jumping off the building. And for the record, Ramya did manage to fall into the stack of hay and escaped with minor bruises. And yes, she downloaded the "Smart Suraksha" app!

The app can be downloaded for Android phones via : Google Play here unnamed

I am participating in the Seeking Smart Suraksha contest at BlogAdda.com in association with Smart Suraksha App.

Stay Safe everyone !