Monthly Archives: September 2005

Twilight in Sunset and Moonrise 6

Please read the previous post first.
After some time, since the panorama passing by consisted of nothing but water everywhere, we got back inside the ship to explore more of it. None of us had plans to sleep that night. As is obvious, the first thing that strikes us Indians is food. We went around to all restaurants trying to see what they had for our taste. ‘Pizza slice’ was the only thing that came close. After gulping some grubThe flaming horizon, we went around to the tax free shops to check out what all was cheaper than the mainland. Most things are, including liquor, chocolates etc. After just making a note, we postponed this activity to the return trip, because the sun was about to set anytime soon. Off to the deck we all rushed again. It was quite windy by now since the ship was at high speed. In fact it was so windy that we could barely manage to walk. Even breathing was difficult in that draught. Most people were on the deck, trying to click pictures while balancing themselves against the wind. The sunset was very beautiful to start with but got covered with clouds towards the end.

The moment the sun set down and twilight came, it got even colder. A couple of rather bright stars could be spotted in the evening sky. We all went back inside because on the agenda was a performance in the night club. There was some dance performance going on. At the same time, there was a bar, which had live music with an artist playing the guitar and singing some great rock songs. He was amazing! I could not budge from that place for a very long time, such was the way he strummed and sang. Eventually I realised that I had only as many hours in which I could see everything else. So off I went to the pub, saw the live band there singing some oldies and people trying their luck on ‘black jack’ and roulette. Next to it was another pub which had a karaoke bar. I have always had a wish to go to a karaoke bar and try something there. Though I wasn’t sure whether I would actually graduate from a bathroom singer to a public performer, I checked out the list of English songs. There was another colleague who was quite enthusiastic about the same. We both kept bucking each other up to go and perform. In the end, as expected, the karaoke bar closed down and we both lost our chance. But we were still hopeful of another chance while coming back on the same ship.

Some time later I had a ‘Wet Dream’. A disco drink with blinking iceI must mention that it was an Irish cream and vodka cocktail, before you all start getting notions, not fit to be put down here. It tasted great! For the first time I saw some ‘disco drinks’ which had ‘glow stirrers’ which emitted flourescent light and ice cubes which glowed and blinked! It was I who stopped blinking for sometime. After cocktails, everyone was charged enough to go and shake a leg on the dance floor. The night club was placed in a location on the ship which allowed an open view on 3 sides. It was a pleasure to be able to look outside and see the picturesque view float by in the daytime or the glowing lights of another ship in the night. It was during one such moment that we all realised that the orange blob outside the window was actually the rising moon. Again, a rush for the moon took us to the ‘sun deck’. The moon rise from the Baltic sea

Armed with cameras, a lot of people including us, tried to capture the beauty of the big orange moon, just rising above the ocean. I am afraid, all of us failed, not only because a camera can just not produce the real thing but also because the ship was jerking way too much for anyone to be steady enough to click something. The high velocity wind added to the obstacles. It goes without saying that the long wait for seeing the moon was worth it. It looked like quite the celestial body that it is. The face of the ‘man on the moon’ was also visible quite clearly. The man on the moonWe decided to wait for it to rise further and grabbed some grub in the meantime. Revisiting the deck and braving the freezing wind was again worth it. This time the moon was a little higher up in the sky and was beaming down on water. The orange glow had gone and so had the ‘man on the moon’. The ambience, consisting of the peaceful moon, shining down on a turbulent mass of water, no other sound except the swishing underneath, and no other light except from the moon, was a perfect thing to be experienced. It can give a very lonely feeling and also a very peaceful feeling at the same time.

It was time to go back again since we didn’t want to turn into icicles. To the bar, again it was. Some more music, some more dance and some more guitar. Eventually we decided to call it a day. After all, the cabins we paid for were also meant to be utilised. As I got down to bed, I realised that through the cabin window I could see the full moon again. It reminded me of my flight to Tokyo when I had slept off using 3 empty seats as a couch. In the interim, I had suddenly woken up, looked outside and found the big white moon right next to my window. It felt really close. Of course it was closer by several miles. This view from the ship’s cabin gave me a similar feeling to an extent, of the moon beaming down at me through a porthole, while I slept. I described the same to a colleague of mine on the opposite berth and we both concluded that such nights wouldn’t come again. We could sleep later. For now we wanted more of the moon. Out of bed in an instant, we again went to the sun deck. It looked really eerie now. It was absolutely dark and deserted. There were no lights anywhere at all except for the light of the moon. Everything looked black with just a little bit of white ghoulish glow to it. And of course it was windy as hell. As we took a 360 degree view of the spooky blackness amidst which we were, we suddenly realised we were not alone in that section of the Baltic sea. It took us quite by surprise. There were other ships as well at some distance and not one but many. They looked like pretty little lanterns from that distance. Some were going in the opposite direction and some in ours. It gave us a lot of comfort to realise that there *were* some other vessels at a short distance.

Our attention again went to the mesmerising moon. Eerie and peaceful at the same time.As we revisited the bow of the ship and tried to click some more snaps, we realised we were not alone on the deck anymore. Some other people had joined us and it was none other than the rest of my colleagues. It was again quite difficult to take pictures and was freezing cold as well. All of a sudden, there was a dragging sound and a huge mass eerily skidded towards us. It caught my breath. It took some time to realise that it was so windy that a bunch of plastic chairs piled on top of each other had skidded speedily towards us. With enough of midnight adventures behind us, we finally decided to call it a ‘night’. It wasn’t long before Stockholm beckoned us.

Continued: A day in Gamla Stan (old town)

Colours of the wind

The colors are achanging
the earth is aglow,

Everything was a luscious green,
not such a long time ago.

Now it’s yellow, scarlet, burgundy, ochre,
We aren’t very far from the white of snow.

The surface air has cooled off,
The heat of the earth seems to blow,

Through the tree trunks and into the leaves,
I can almost see it flow.

No more walking bare foot on grass
and no more skin show,

It’s time to cuddle up in blankets,
The winter is here saying hello.

Cruise to Stockholm 13

On 20th of August, M/s Mariella from the Viking Line sailed for Stockholm, Sweden at 5:30pm from Katajanokka terminal, Helsinki. Aboard were 8 desis excited about going to the land of Into the sunsetthe ABBA, and on a cruise at that. One of them was yours truly. Though an indescribable experience, I shall try to put it in words here.

Someone said, ‘Mostly, the quickest and often the best way to do it is yourself’. I sure believe it. Inevitably, it was I who made the bookings for all the ppl. I got two class A cabins booked. This link, though from another ship, shows exactly the same 360 degree views of not only the cabins but also the whole ship. The ship’s departure was at 5:30pm from the Katajanokka terminal (See this google map*).
I had a whole lot of tasks lined up before that. One of them being purchasing a music system which was on sale only till that particular day. After finishing off everything on Stockholm cruisemy to-do list, in record time, I reached the terminal at 5pm.
We all boarded the ship and as we got in, I suddenly felt as excited as a little girl, looking forward to one of life’s experiences, never experienced before. At the same time I also saw myself detachedly as if from above, (blame it on visuals from the Titanic), entering the ship, realising with awe that it was a whole new world inside – an entire multistoried building complete with restaurants, pubs and discos, casinos and shops, floating on water. The sight of uniformed seamen, gleaming interiors, buzz of activity everywhere, made me truly feel as if I was part of a movie! I only hoped that it wouldn’t have an ending like the movie.
Our cabins were on the 5th deck. After quickly dumping our bags in the cabin using the smartcards which were our tickets as well as our cabin keys, we all rushed to the ‘sun’ deck, where everyone was, to see the sight of the land moving past, our ship heading towards nothingness. On my visit to Soumenlinna island at the beginning of Folks at the Soumenlinna island waving at the shipmy sojourn in Finland, we had waved to the passengers going in such cruises. This time it was our turn to be waved at, as we sailed past that island. It gave us a very “sailor” feeling. After having seen the huge full moon during the fireworks display, I was eagerly awaiting nightfall so that I could see the moon again, from the middle of a water body, sans all artificial lights, with the moon beaming down in full glory over the water. Of course, there was a spectacular sunset over the horizon looked forward to, too. I had already checked the weather forecasts, which showed clear skies. We went all around the deck, trying to explore every corner of it. Unfortunately the bow of the ship was forbidden to passengers. But that wasn’t the end of our desire to experience it the way “Rose” experienced it. The sun beaming down as the ship surges forwardEventually we found one corner which was considerably in the front of the ship, though not exactly in the centre and not really on the top deck, but one deck lower. It was almost impossible to stand there since the wind was so strong. The sight of a vast sea, your vessel surging forward, with you at the very front is a very different and exhilerating feeling. For miles and miles around there was nothing but water and the sun gleaming on it. I felt very much close to nature.
Continued: Twilight in sunset and moonrise

* – the google map has my apartment (which doesnt exist in the maps) location, the Viking line terminals at Helsinki and Stockholm, marked.

Zabaan sambhal ke

I have a very young-at-heart uncle who has recently shifted out of India, along with my aunt. Since I am also out for some time, I have been mailing him regularly, now that it’s the more convenient option of communicating. (Before this, we would meet regularly at family get togethers etc.) But I have realised, that everytime I write to him, it’s as if I am writing to my peer, a friend and not an elderly person whom I call uncle in real life. Many a times I have edited my mail to make it more respectful because he’s after all more than double my age. At times I have replaced slang with proper words and deleted sentences which sound too friendly or crazy (which would be natural when writing to a friend). Initially I thought it could be because he was young at heart or it’s because I am used to interacting only with ‘my generation’ over the net and not another one, that my words come pouring out as if meant for my friends. But the more I thought of it, the more I realised that it could be something else.

It reminded me of a faux pas I committed a year or so back. One of my aunt’s friends came to visit us. She had seen us as kids and asked us to guess who she was. I instantly blurted her name and forgot to append a respectful ‘aunty’ to it. It happened very naturally. The moment I realised what I had done, I stuttered an explanation that I was so damn used to the MNC culture of calling everyone by their first name, that I had actually followed the same in my own house! It was honest and true, but I didn’t think anyone would bite it. As I expected, I got a good lecture from my mom about it. This ‘first name’ tendency obviously leaves out those who were already labeled much before I started working.

Apart from this, where initially I used to feel rather odd calling my colleagues of my dad’s/mom’s age by their first names, now sometimes, I feel odd appending sir, aunty, uncle or anything to anyone senior, especially if I meet them in context of office. I also happen to have a family friend (parent’s generation) working in the same company as I work in. Everytime I meet him, I get tongue-tied, not knowing what way to address him. Using his first name sounds too rude, calling him ‘uncle’ sounds equally insulting and appending ‘sir’ sounds really formal, which I can not be with him. This is irrespective of whether I meet him at office or whether we call upon them at their place. I carefully try not to say either and sound respectful at the same time. It keeps me on tenterhooks all the time.

That brings me to my question – Am I quickly losing touch with the ‘Indian tradition’ of being respectful, as we call it? Or am I just bridging the gap between generations by being more ‘friendly’ to them? What’s your take dear reader? What would you do in a mix of the east and the west sensibilities?

Experience teacheth

‘Experience is the best teacher but its fees is very high’. This happens to be one of the favourite quotes of my mom. Teacher’s day has more importance in our house than Mother’s day, since my mom’s a teacher and in my schooldays there were never so many this-days and that-days but only a few countable ones like Independence day, Teacher’s day and Children’s day. Of course now we wish her on all the this-days/that-days too. For us, Independence day meant the national anthem and ladoos, Children’s day meant Chacha Nehru and Teacher’s day meant that my mom had a special function to attend at school and that she would come back with bouquets, cards etc which my sis and I would go through, at times finding it odd and at times finding it sad that we had to share our mom with so many!

With time, Teacher’s day started meaning something else altogether. I realised early enough, that in class XIIth, one gets to wear one’s own clothes and not the school uniform on teacher’s day. As if that wasn’t exciting (read embarassingly) enough, females needed to wear a saree and some (un)lucky students even got “teacher’s duty” to get a taste of the other side by supervising a junior class in that fancy dress! (That reminds me of the time everyone got titles from the junior class during farewell, but that makes another post). Years passed by when I would stare at giggly and unelegant girls metamorphosing into ‘women’ suddenly. Stupid grins got replaced by lipstick, school ribbons and hair bands gave way to open wavy hair, or maybe a mature looking hair bun – stylised to suit the occasion, the school shoes (with the horrible buckles) gave way to high heels and of course the uniform’s existence was forgotten as if the day marked freedom from well-ingrained ‘conformity’ of 12 years. That was the day most girls went all out. Of course they had another chance in the form of ‘farewell’ when they could air the backless cholis and halter neck blouses meant to expose a back or a cleavage in a ‘popping the cherry’ sense. But then the farewell also meant boards and pre-boards round the corner, leaving lesser scope of getting noticed by the ‘dashing’ guys or leaving an everlasting impression on a crowd which had other issues like exam fever or the turmoil of finally bidding goodbye, on their minds.

I was never the butterfly and was quite scared at the prospect of showing the world what my tucked-under-a-school-shirt,-skirt-and-belt tummy looked like. I had never worn (like many others) a saree in my life nor had I any experience in brandishing my palloo as if a saree was the thing I came to school in. Matters needing attention, like how to keep ones hairstyle in place, ones lipstick in check and heels from getting stuck in the saree were the ones I considered would be topmost on my mind, when my turn came. God forbid if I got a teacher’s duty (of which there was a high chance, being the man-eater..err monitor), I would have died of fright at the thought of being mercilessly torn to pieces by the boys just one year junior, who considered it their duty to take advantage of the fact that a damsel in fancy dress couldn’t even deduct their marks, if the need arose.

So it was with butterflies in my stomach, rather than being one on the outside, that I approached the teacher’s day when I was in class XIIth. ‘Silk is the easiest to handle’, was what I was told by my mom and my aunts. Several times. But then past experiences with silk had taught me that it also cluttered around in a very unbecoming fashion and one needed to be mannequin thin to look elegant in it. I chose to take a risk this one time and chose a blood red chiffon saree of my mom, knowing very well that it was a self inflicted nightmare, for not only did I not know the s-a-r-e-e of a saree, I didnt even know the spelling of chiffon, leave alone managing it with the above mentioned attention seeking things niggling at my mind. But then one gotta do, what one gotta do, when it’s just once in your life.

This teacher’s day saw me getting up rather early, to wash my hair, iron the saree, get ready with the help of my mom, who being a teacher herself had other things to attend to, than my own saree. Unfortunately this time she wasnt even in the same school as I, which would have given me some solace in case my saree failed to comply and landed me in Draupadi like trouble. Armed with only the courage that a FAT safetypin, a reliable saree pin and a long, stomach-and-back-covering blouse lent, I set out with my lipstick in place, heels carefully kicking out the saree (as I had been advised) and a fancy strappy purse on my shoulder just for the effect.

The first hurdle came soon enough even before I reached the bus stop. My neighbour’s pesky kid instantly remarked ‘Oh you look like Juhi Chawla’. My already flustered mind got even more flustered when it couldnt make out whether this cheek of a girl was paying me a compliment for a change or taunting as usual. I had other important issues to concentrate on. Oh! the woes of an inexperienced sarree-wearer! Next I had to get into a modified army threeton. Can one imagine the plight of a rather flustered girl, trying to balance a precarious saree, being stared at in the face, with not only the mammoth task of now accomplishing the feat of getting into a truck with all this finery, but also the amused looks given by the rest of the school kids who wonder if that’s a new teacher or just twilight fairy out on the path of self destruction. I understand, I really do, what an Indian bridegroom goes through when he gets onto the mare. Well, an army officer’s daughter is taught to plunge head on, and that’s what I did. I leapt onto the modified truck’s steps, throwing caution and my saree to the September wind and thinking that I would carry out the damage control, when I got to school, for there would definitely be more of it. At least my hair was a manageable length and I had carefully ensconced it into a bun, replete with a whole packet of invisible and fancy joodaa pins, which posed a problem for later but would help me hold my head high just this while.

Thankfully I had no classes to ‘take’. But this fact did little to make me less jittery. The truck soon reached the school and now I had another hurdle – getting down from the truck without the saree giving the vehicle a much needed sweep or all other kids stepping on my saree from behind. It was my mom’s precious possession after all. Not only was I responsible for myself, but also for the saree, the heavy earrings and the ’tilladi’ (a sikkimese pendant) I had borrowed from my mom. Somehow, aided with the weight of the joodaa pins, my head held high, I made it through the gates with panache – into the school. Colorful butterflies gave me some comfort. Seeing others whom I had seen in uniform all along, distracted my mind somewhat. The comparisons would come later, for now I just wanted to reach my classroom. Never had I realised that reaching my class, something I did everyday, would be so difficult just this one time. No amount of kicking the saree out, helped, I was more scared it would eventually just kick off and if that happened I would just kick the bucket. Amidst the exchange of compliments, I finally reached my classroom and under the protective cover of the two other girls in my class out of a class of 60 students. The excitement in the air, the “oh you look so different”s, the combination of various heady perfumes, made me forget soon enough that I *was* wearing a saree. Relieved just a little, I began to enjoy the attention, rather than getting embarrassed. At the end of a day well spent, I understood, just how magical it can be, wearing a saree and just how a ‘woman’ is born.

After this school function, I went and watched my first movie ever in a cinema hall (Yes, at that age in life), sans the saree and in the comfort of a long skirt and frilly top. It happened to be a Chirpy Chawla movie. But that makes for another post altogether.