I don't care what she says, I really wanted my wife, Janaki to write this post. And it took a lot of convincing to get her to write out her "rants and thoughts" as she calls them. But I finally managed to get her to grace my blog. If I did take part in the #100 days of happiness thing, this would undoubtedly be up there on the top. So, without further ado, here goes - Ladies and Gentlemen, my wife Janaki, with her first ever guest post. Do give her a round of applause and leave your comments in the box below. Wish, hope , believe - To me, these three words are independent, yet interlinked. To me, they signify the triumph of the human spirit and of a never-say-anything-is-impossible attitude. For if you don’t wish, you can’t hope. And if can’t hope, then you sure as heck, aren’t going to believe that it can be done.
So when Sid asked me if I wanted to do a guest post on the prompt "What are the six impossible things you believe in?”, I was a bit stumped. Whilst I know for a fact that he asked me to write a post, because he was busy working on a “finale” to his short story, I did find the topic quite intriguing. But I didn’t want to write about Fairies and Santa Claus and Unicorn and Magic and the rest. (For the record, I do believe in them ) I decided that I was going to “twist” (Sid’s own words here) the prompt around and write about two things that I wished for, two things that I hoped for and two things that I believed in. And well, this is it.
….that somewhere in an alternate universe, I could be a career oriented woman, a home maker and a mom, whilst being able to give my 100% to each of my different persona
Before I go ahead, I’m going to take a minute to thank Sid. Yes, you heard right. I’m thanking him for all the compliments about me (and every other mother) being a “Superwoman” in one of his recent posts. Yes, I manage being a working woman as well as a mother to rather naughty toddler. Yes, it’s also true that I probably have it a little bit easier because Sid helps me out too, in whatever way he can (though there are days when I wonder if I have two kids). The truth is I manage somehow. But there have been days, where I’ve had to leave an unwell Rishi at home, because I couldn’t afford to miss an important client meeting. There have also been days, when after putting him to sleep, I’ve worked away through the whole night to meet a deadline. Yes, I manage. But I want to do so much more. I want to be able to be there for my son, whilst not compromising on my work either. If only I could come home from work with 100% charge, like a smartphone taken off charge, and pay my undivided attention to my little son. But then again, there is dinner to think about. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for one of those “Time-Turners” that Hermoine had, in the Prisoner of Azkaban. Things would be so much simpler for a working mother.
….that the people in our society would actually be sincere in their thoughts and actions
It could very well be, that I’m the only pupil from this school of thought, but I’ve always wondered why we need to do things, just to make people happy. No, I’m not talking about phoning an aunt that you haven’t spoken to in ages to wish her for her birthday, just because your mom played one of the many “you-owe-me” cards. Or being a nice to others and generally polite. I’m talking about words like “love”, “thank you”, “sorry”, "please" and plenty more adjectives being thrown around without people actually meaning it sincerely. I mean, if you do care, then make an effort to say so. People who know me well, will tell you that I don’t do that. I do things only when I strongly believe in them. For eg. I believe in apologising when I'm in the wrong. But I'm not the kind who keeps saying "sorry" over and over again, without actually meaning it. For if I was truly sorry, I wouldn't repeat it. But these days, people think they can get away with everything if they say a "sorry" or "just kidding".The problem with that is that it often makes me come across as a snob. But then again, do I actually care about what others think of me? I’m sure you know the answer to that one by now.
………...that it will be possible, once again, for a woman/girl to travel alone at night without being reduced to a nervous wreck
I hope, because I know it is possible. When I was in London, I’ve travelled alone a number of times. And sometimes during rather un-earthly hours, say post 1am. The transport network operates perfectly and you can go where you want, when you want. Why, I’ve even taken a cab flagged off the main road, without wondering if I was going to be safe. But now that I’m back in India, I don’t even try doing anything like that. I’ve been reduced to having to take my trusty little can of pepper spray. And I hate that. As much as Sid tries to make sure I have my space, I hate that I’m not able to step outside a 5 km radius, without being inundated with calls from family concerned about my safety. Which eventually makes me treat every man, woman and sometimes a child, with suspicion. While the media, the NGO’s and the politicians have all been playing the blame game, no one has actually benefitted. Yes, I’m an “Aaj Ki Naari” (Modern-day woman) so to speak, but I’ve been reduced to a situation where I have to think twice before I venture out alone at night (or even during daylight sometimes) without a male companion. And I hate it.
……. that old age homes don't become the norm of the society
Having had the chance to stay abroad for a number of years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of people. Especially a lot of familial relationships. Both the parents and the kids are relatively independent. The kids are often biding their time, till they can “move out” of home. And the reality is that in a lot of families, as soon as kids hit their teens, they do just that. Yes, they probably return for their Christmas or Easter breaks, but apart from that, they are busy for the parents. Yes, I understand the need to be an independent person. I'm one too. But I can’t even start to imagine leaving my parents in an old age home, not just abroad, but even in India too. Of course, I am not painting every one with the same brush. But the amount of “retirement homes” popping up (which by the way, is just a fancy term for an old-age home) frankly scares me. Yes, it took me time to understand what my parents have sacrificed to take care of the three of us. Often, I hear my parents and in-laws talk about arrangements that they would like to make, if the inevitable happens to one of them. And, I end up getting offended. Because the mere thought that someone could be reluctant to take care of their own parents is, well, let’s say almost blasphemy. But then again, I guess when their “friends” are being offered similar solutions by their off-springs, they can’t help but think that we may behave the same way too.
And finally, I believe:
….. that it is possible to share joyous moments socially without it being promoted via social media
Even though I’m an engineer, I have my share of issues with technology. The more Sid and I discuss this topic, the more we agree to disagree. Of course he’s a social media addict. And frankly, I’ll be surprised if he even decides to publish this point. Here’s the thing. According to me, technology is something that is supposed to aid communication, and not become a substitute to communication. There is a very thin line between the two. I sincerely can’t remember the last time someone said, “I’ve got some happy news that I need to share. Let me call them!”. Now, we just tweet about it, or Facebook it. Recently I received a marriage invitation from a close friend. It wasn’t a phone call as I would have expected. It wasn’t even a personal email. And this is someone I’ve known for over a quarter of a century. Someone who even calls my mother, Amma. I got a rather impersonal Facebook group invite. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to react. Of course I complained. And in turn, I was told “Oh, you’re too old fashioned”. Today you receive most information such as child birth, marriage, promotion, and sometimes even death, through social media. But then honestly, hasn’t it been a while since technology started replacing communication. Forget communication, think about this. How many times have you stopped in between having a really good time with a friend, or your family and said “Here, let’s take a picture. I need to put it on Facebook.” I do my bit of sharing on Facebook too. After all, it is probably one of the best ways to share. But the lack of "social etiquette" and "opening out your entire world, from what you had for breakfast to what you're going to do next?", sometimes is a bit too much. Just my opinion. This also goes for all the people who keep at their keypads (oh sorry, touch screens) whilst at social gatherings, birthdays or dinners. Sadly, my husband is one of them too.
…. that at some point in my life, I will go travelling the world.
Risk - now, that’s a term that I'm not too familiar with. I am planner, a pretty meticulous one at that. I carefully plan and have always taken well informed decisions. I’ve often been told that I tackle most of my situations like the character of Ross, in FRIENDS - with a pros and cons list. The fact that Sid is the one deciding to explore his career options at this stage, is a testament to that. I don’t think I’d have ever done that. I’d still be making a list :) But the other thing is that I love my job and sincerely cannot see myself doing anything else, at least not for a while. So, as a planner, I’m not the kind to drop everything in one go and take the next flight out to a destination that I don’t know. I really wish I could. Why, I might even get till the airport. But before I hand over that card (or cash) at the counter, I will stop re-think. But I live in the belief that at some point in my life, I will be able to do that. Last weekend, I happened to watch the movie “Queen”. The protagonist and I couldn’t have been more apart in some of our thoughts. But the one thing, I did say to Sid after watching the movie was “Someday, I want to travel the world. And I definitely don’t want to be sitting with one leg into the grave, when I do that ! I want to live life on my own terms, some day.”
I guess Sid’s “writing” has influenced me a bit more than I gave him credit for. I have no other explanation as to how I weaved my way through completely random topics from “Time-turners” to “retirement home” to “social media”. And with that, I shall take your leave. Thank you for taking the time to read some of my thoughts (and rants) on some really random topics, which remain close to my heart.
Oh, and if you do spot some typos or grammatical inconsistencies, blame Sid. He was in charge of editing :P
[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – the White Queen, Alice in Wonderland. What are the six impossible things you believe in? (If you can only manage one or two, that’s also okay.)”]
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.
Stay Safe all!
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.
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
Stay Safe everyone !