Making India Clean

Making India Clean

Well, I don’t have a “Before” and “After” pic to validate my claims, but this is a true story.

I was part of a workshop this weekend at Manpho Convention Center, next to Manyata Tech Park. There were plenty of educated, rich businessmen who had come, dressed up in a prim and proper suit. Just outside this center, is a tea stall. During the morning break, hoards of *educated* people flocked the tea-stall, drank tea and smoked cigarettes…Now, just next to the tea-stall is a dustbin…which ideally is where the used paper tea cups should have been found. Alas, this is *India* (so, they say) and hence, most of them just threw their cups down on the roadside, mimicking what every other person was doing. At one point when I reached that tea-stall, there were hundreds of tea cups on the roadside, making it seem like a sea of white on the jet black road. Well, typically, I would have gone “Look at those foolish people, can’t they throw it in the bin, can’t they take care of India…blah blah blah”. But, for the first time in my life…I felt intense sadness, and not hatred for the people who littered the place. It was then that I began to truly change.

I went up to the tea-stall, picked up the dustbin, placed it right in the middle, and start picking up each and every tea cup from the road. One by one, people started turning and looking at what I was doing…I went on picking the cups…one after another…and throwing it in the bin. Nobody helped me out….but, most importantly….nobody stopped me. I finished putting all the tea cups into the bin…and just walked away…not speaking a single word. In the evening, when I went back to the same tea-stall, I kid you not…not even one used tea cup was on the roadside, everything was inside the bin. This is true, and I’m not mincing words here.

From this, I understood three major things in life:

1. If you find a place filthy, PLEASE clean it, instead of waiting for someone else to do it or cribbing about how filthy India is. Chances are, you might have been the cause for filth somewhere in India.

2. If you are doing something good, people might not necessarily help you out, but…surely…they will NOT stop you from doing it.

3. If a person finds a place clean, they will NOT make it filthy. It is only if someone finds the place already filthy…that they will litter it more. Next time you go to United States or Netherlands or UK and come back boasting and cribbing about how clean those countries are and how filthy India is…Stop. We know it. You don’t need to tell us what we already know. But, you can tell us one thing. What can YOU do about it?

Running away from home . . .

Running away from HomeI ran away from home. Sounds dramatic doesn’t it? Ok, here’s the truth…I hated being an engineer or a doctor. When I was born in an upscale maternity clinic in Chennai, legend has it that I was immediately anointed to be the next big engineer in my family before they even decided a name for me. So, in the end, I ended up being called Krishna Kumar BTech, right from my childhood days. I proudly went around shouting my name hoarse during kindergarten and primary school, drawing sniggers and cheers. I felt proud. When I grew up and finally realised that BTech wasn’t really a family name, but a degree, I hid under my bed for a day refusing to come out even when my friends called me out to play cricket and eat pani puri.

The day I passed my 12th with flying colors, my parents embraced me in a group hug, gave me a few kisses on my cheek, stared me in the face and asked me for my choice between four options: (a) engineering (b) see my parents hang their head in shame (c) herd cows in the field (d) lick Rahul’s (Superstar engineering cousin of my family, duh!) ass.

So, in the end, I scraped through the four years of college life (read: torture) with repeated attempts before I could finally get an A4 sheet of paper that proudly announced to the world that I was an engineering graduate, and also that I was unemployed even though major IT companies like TCS, CTS, BTC, BMTC, and ABCD hired people like herds of cattle. So, when the questions from my aunts and uncles grew shriller, my parents decided to get me a job (using ‘influence’) in an unknown IT firm, that looked more like a spare-parts shop. That was the final straw.

So, yesterday night after a storm hit my house, utensils and slippers were hurled around with equal fervour, I packed my bags, took my beloved Nikon D3100, grabbed all my pocket money and climbed onto a late night bus to Bangalore.  So, officially, I ran away from home. Or, more precisely, bused away from home.

Early morning 5.30am

I was sleeping peacefully on the upper berth of SRM travels, when suddenly, I heard all sorts of words being thrown around and people screaming their heads off. I woke up with a start, rubbed my eyes and opened them to realise that people were conversing in a greek and latin tongue. The cleaner in the bus smiled at me and said “Nīvu alli hōguva?”, to which I just gaped in silence. “Aap kaha jayenge?” he asked, which met with another bout of rigourous head-shaking from my end. “Oh, tamil ah…enga poganum?” he asked. Ah, it was like taking a breath of fresh air after years of being held captive. “Therila anna. . . next stop.” I said.

It was then that I landed in the place of my dreams…Koramangala.

When I got down from the bus, I was shivering from head to toe. The cold bit into my bones and I wasn’t prepared for such a changeover. There I was, dressed in a trouser and sleeveless tops, in a place that felt like the Antartic. I looked around to see jumbled torn-up jelebi words and affirmed to myself that I was still in some part of India, the country at the center of the equator, just 2 kms from the sun.

I found a small hotel nearby and booked a room for a day. Thousand five-hundred rupees! Daylight robbery. The pocket money that I had preserved all through these years did not seem to be enough anymore. I threw my bag aside on the bed in my cramped room, took my mobile phone out and called home.

“Hello…” my mom spoke into the receiver agitatedly. She had picked up the landline at the first ring.

“Its me…” I said, the words choking in my throat.

“Kk…”, she said, “Where are you chellam?”

“Amma, I’m in bangalore.”

“Oh, kutty, why did you go so far away? You come back now please.”

An Indian mother’s customary rule book states that once a kutty, always a kutty. Even though I’m 21 years old.

“No ma…I want to be here. I want to earn a living for myself, doing something that I love…”

“Do it here kuttyma, come back to Chennai. Don’t take all the fights to heart Krishna, I miss you.”

A tiny tear trickled down my face. I swiftly fingered it away.

“I miss you too ma. I miss appa too. But, let this be a new start to my life. One day, I will make you proud. Till then, goodbye ma.”

“Atleast answer my calls kk, you will not know what a mother’s heart is going through right now.”

“Sure ma…”, the emotional blackmail again. Sheesh.

“Saptiya da?”

No matter what the situation is, a mother’s standard question. Did you eat?

“Ya ma, I ate.” I lied.

“What are you going to do there Krishna?” she enquired.

I looked around my room, I found my bags on my bed, my slippers under my bed, and my camera beside my bed. My camera.

“I’m going to be a photographer ma. A wedding photographer.”

(Excerpt from a story I have been writing for quite a while…)

My Struggles as a Non-Vegetarian

Protect all Animals!

Isn’t this chick cute? How can you eat it?

I was born into a proud vegetarian family, who have been veggies for generations. I loved eating various delicacies, amazing cuisines from different parts of the world, sumptuous meals cooked by two of the most beautiful women in the world: my mom and my grandma.

So, imagine my family’s surprise and my own, when I was introduced to non-vegetarian food when I turned 19. Things started taking a vicious turn after that, nothing remarkably bad…but, what started as a fad, slowly turned into a more poisonous addiction. I knew I was slowly losing myself to the allures of non-vegetarian food, and suddenly before I could even imagine, there used to be complete weeks when I would eat chicken, lunch and dinner. KFC became my second home, and my struggles to beat the meat and the fat (I had gained over 10kgs) sank without a trace.

I’ve become more controlled now, I can manage by eating chicken once or twice a week, not a great addiction, but an addiction nevertheless. I never believed in the cliched talks offered by vegetarians..”How can you kill animals for food?”, since the non-veggies immediately argue that all vegetarians are eating plants (which itself is a living being) that was primarily meant for animals.

I couldn’t even find the answers in religious texts, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam do not condemn killing animals if it is not for pleasure but for survival. Buddhism did offer me a different view, killing of any living being was forbidden, even the accidental killing of millions of bacteria around us. That I found to be another extreme.

It was at this confusing juncture that I came across 3 incidents that have truly changed my way of thinking.

(Graphic content. User discretion advised)

1. Bite of the Mango (Mariatu Kamara)

Reading the Bite of the Mango first set me thinking about the concepts of killing and death. Mariatu Kamara was twelve years old when she was caught up in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Most of her village was killed in a raid. Heavily armed soldiers, some no older than 12-year-old Mariatu herself, attacked her village, torturing her brutally and killing many of the people she loved. During this senseless violence, they cut off both her hands. She runs away and reaches a village, famished and fatigued. When they offer her a mango to eat, she realizes that she cannot even hold the mango in her hands. She cannot drink water from a stream nor wash her face since she no longer has hands.

Can you imagine someone cutting your own hands off? Can you even begin to visualize the pain that you will go through when your veins are spliced and blood gushes out? We scream in pain if a thorn pricks us. Imagine this pain. Imagine.

2. A dead dog on the highway to Pondicherry

I was travelling on a bike from Bangalore to Pondicherry when I noticed a horrendous sight. Yes, I have heard stories of accidents on roads and all of that, but, this scene made me cringe. A long, winding road was painted with blood and in the distance, I could make out the body of a dog. As we drove the bike closer and closer, we saw something much more horrific. The dog’s head had been completely quashed. Completely quashed. So completely quashed that it was stuck to the road. Imagine that one moment…when the dog faces impending death…imagine…how you would feel if you are facing death…how would you feel if you see someone you love…face quashed beyond measure? Imagine the pain.

3. Beheading of James Foley and Nick Berg

This was the major turning point. Early one morning, I logged in to FB to find the beheading of James Foley video going viral. I knew that it would be an unpleasant experience watching the video, but, I still gathered courage to watch it. I almost puked after watching the horrible incident. Other videos led me to the most horrific beheading ever on camera, that of Nick Berg, and I have a link to the video here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=2f30af0d52. Watch it only if you dare. But, I urge you…take a look. You will know how much of suffering there is.

Imagine, how it would be, to be beheaded? Imagine.

These three incidents changed my life. You might argue that you cannot find the connections between beheading of humans versus eating animals, but, all of you know how a chicken is killed. All of us know what happens to a fish, or a cow, or a goat…at the time of slaughter. Now, my question is….why show empathy to human beings and not animals? The pain is the same for a chicken or for a human being.

The world is an universal energy field. We are all from the same source, God. This world needs to be made better, and we can start by loving all living beings around us, humans, plants, animals…everything. One day, when I become a vegetarian completely, that day I will be the happiest…since the world will be a better place to live in. Let us all strive for harmony and love and peace in the world. God bless us all. :)

Transgenders – Their World and Beyond

Transgenders

Transgenders – Their World and Beyond

Introduction

There has been plenty said about transgenders…many of them are absurd and baseless. Things are looking up for them, we say, and we pride ourselves in being noble enough to accept a malaise into our society by providing them some housing complexes in remote parts of the city, far away from normal social life. All said and done, we still cringe when we look at a transgender walking down the road, eating at a local dingy restaurant, or at traffic signals. It’s something that is just beyond the disgust that is evident as we look at an alternate third gender (yes, beyond the orthodox binary gender discrimination that society has etched so firmly into our minds), at a mental level, we cannot still come to terms with people who look like an ‘absurd cross’ between a male and a female.

Our hatred for them is ingrained into our minds right from childhood. We are told stories of asuras, devils and transgenders. As all stories begin, we recount multiple instances of transgenders haggling us to give them money at the traffic signals, approaching us with a clap of hands and an eccentric flaunting of their womanhood. As we roll up the windows of our air conditioned car at the sight of them, or whistle and catcall when they walk down the road, or molest them when they are in secluded streets, we really do not understand how much of ridicule they actually endure day in and day out.

The Reasons

The people who speak against such transgenders cannot even comprehend how ‘such creatures’ can be born this way. Well, first things first, no transgender is born that way. They take a choice to be a woman. They are born as normally as you or me, the so-called male dominion. The identity crisis begins to set in around the time of puberty, when they are revolting within, as a man, they wish and feel womanly sensations and they start developing womanly attributes, and start falling in love with the concept of being a woman, decked up with jewels, hair braided with jasmine, the gaiety walk, and the pleasures derived out of being a woman through and through. They face ridicule right from childhood, when they are mocked by people for “the girly walk”, “the girly laugh” and everything that are associated with a girl. So, they brand the poor kid to be a “that boy who is a girl” and start calling them names.

It is at that instant, when the womanly tendencies take over a ‘man’ completely, that they choose to embrace their feminine side and turn into women by operating upon themselves. While they know that this would the start of a life of pain, they are ready…as they want to be a woman, mentally, emotionally and physically…and get rid of the ‘man’ virus within their bodies once and for all. And yet, we have women today who say…’I wish I was born a man, I hate being a woman’…well, take a look at these transgenders and be proud of your gender…of who you are…of how pure you all are…that men are embracing womanhood more freely than ever.

The Solution

The government recently announced that the third gender should be included in gender categorization, but, it still is not the long term solution. Companies, private and public, should be able to provide a minimal quota for transgenders. There are plenty of transgenders who are well-read and highly qualified, but without a job just for the fact that they are what they are. The concept of embracing transgenders into our daily life should begin at schools and colleges. Therefore, every school or college must have atleast one transgender in their staff roll. Transgenders always have self-respect and pride at their forefront, so, they pledge to never be corrupt.

The government provides them accommodation in a remote corner of a city, to live as a colony. Well, that only defeats the purpose. They are left to fend for themselves, banished from normal life. All the more reason for people to avoid them. They must be provided with housing facilities amidst everyone else, and treated just like everyone else.

This is a long drawn-out battle for the third gender, and my only hope is that the world will change to accept transgenders into our society better, not just as beggars or sex-workers, but, just like a normal working class of people like you and me.

Let us spread love, joy and peace to the world. All glory to God.  

Book Review: How I braved Anu aunty and co-founded a million dollar company!

How I braved Anu aunty and co-founded a million dollar company

How I braved Anu aunty and co-founded a million dollar company…Awesome book!

I have been reading a spate of books this past week, but, none as interesting and inspiring as Varun Agarwal’s semi-autobiographical book “How I braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company”.

Now, the first thing that attracted me to the book was ofcourse, the title and its impressive (yet imposing) cover picture of Anu aunty with her huge red bindi. It helped even more that I knew of Varun Agarwal before I bought the book, as his Youtube video has more than a million views.

Varun warns us at the outset, that he isn’t a writer, but, he writes better than a lot of so-called authors out there. I believe that he defies categorization. Maybe because he was speaking from his heart, about things that happened in his life, about dreams that he is truly passionate about.

If you are a person who is merely taking life as it comes, unsure of whether to follow dreams or just earning a few thousand rupees to keep the society happy..this book is for you. This book is all about believing in your dreams, just doing the things that you love to do, and the courage to believe and follow your dreams till the very last ounce of faith.

This book will make you laugh for the tortures that he undergoes at the hands of Anu aunty, that is so believable, it makes an instant connect. You will be floored by the author’s passion to follow his dream (starting an e-commerce company, Alma Mater) born in a pub, in an inebriated state (“All great business ideas are born when you are drunk”).

A note of caution: Read this book cautiously as it will surely make you think twice about the monotonous 9 to 5 job that you pursue…who knows you might end up quitting your job, and living your legend.

This book defies ratings, as it is a must-read, for anyone who wants to follow their dreams and for others who wish for a breezy read with a hot cup of coffee on a lazy sunday afternoon.

Varun Agarwal, thank you…for making me believe. In myself.

(Originally published on goodreads.com)

My little fort . . .

The moment I was born,

He caressed me in his arms,

Crying, kissing my tiny forehead,

Proclaiming to the world –

“Oh, my beautiful angel!”

He was my hero – and I didn’t look beyond.

My life was him, and his life was me.

 

He held my tiny fingers and led me to kindergarten,

He brushed my hair and sang me lullabies,

He made me toast and gave me baths,

He took me to church and brought me whatever I asked.

He was my hero – and I didn’t look beyond.

My life was him, and his life was me.

 

As the years fell away like the late winter dawn,

His caresses grew more loving, more caring.

It wasn’t kisses to my forehead anymore, but kisses to the cheek.

His embrace longer, like two bodies destined to meet.

The pinches to my hips, the cupping of my lips,

He still loved dressing me up,

But more so – he loved dressing me down.

He was my hero – and I didn’t look beyond.

My life was him, and his life was me.

 

His kisses to the cheeks spilt over to the lips now,

His caresses almost entirely to my bosom and nowhere beyond,

He hugged me from behind, and bit my neck, in jest, he said,

He made his fingers into little soldiers, and ran it through my thighs,

The fort is being attacked, take cover, he cries.

He tears the veils and pledges his soldiers to battle,

Take cover in that tiny hole, hide like a herd of cattle.

And, so the little soldiers took cover in the fort,

In my fort.

“You have the most beautiful fort in the world” he said.

That made me giggle.

He was my hero – and I didn’t look beyond.

My life was him, and his life was me.

 

He died when I was 10,

I was unconsolable;

I went for nights crying my heart to cinder,

I tried joining him – but, never to flames could I surrender.

So, I lived on – for him.

Twenty now, and I know just how,

My little fort wasn’t breached anymore,

In my voiceless silence, I cried,

My soul torn to shreds, my body left in tatters,

By the man I loved the most.

Once upon a time.

You don’t need to try . . . too hard.

You don't have to try . . . too hard

You don’t have to try . . . too hard

I’ve been a firm non-believer of make-up. Well, girls might be of the opinion that it tends to make you look good, if that’s the case . . . well, great! But, there’s another section (of men and women) who put on makeup only so that the society accepts them. So, here’s my question . . . why should we try too hard to look good…for others? Is all the makeup that you put on, the lipgloss, the rouge, the kajal, the mascara, the eyeliner, the fake eyelashes…for the society? To all the women who wear makeup, try too hard to impress and fall in line with the “standards” of the society, just know that . . . you are gorgeous even without it.

Women of today are amazingly beautiful as they are. Financially stable, articulate, well-read, passionate, intense and fantastic. Gone are the days of trying to make ends meet, gone are the days when you had to look after the kitchen at home and nothing else, gone are the days that you need to accept the bullshit that your boyfriend/husband gives you because its the social protocol. Today, women are achievers, astronauts, nobel prize winners, pulitzer awardees, CEOs and what not!

And, so there’s no need for you to dress up, doll up, and turn on your “sexy” because people can look at you, boys can cast glances at you and drool over your mini-skirt or your clear, acne-hidden skin. Beyond the artificial enhancements, the pain you go through to match every shoe to your dress, match every accessory to your shoes, match every lipstick to your accessory, be presentable. Just don’t try too hard. The society is just plain stupid. It will never stop criticizing.

I firmly believe, as do so many men and mothers out there. Girls are beautiful, just out of bed, no makeup, their hair crazily strewn, skin wrinkled, acnes, and rashes included.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear makeup. Simply be you. If you do wear make-up, wear it because you want to not because you feel like you have to.

You are beautiful as you are. Period.

Love me forever . . .

Grief

 

I saw her first in the holy month of Ramadan,

Veils covered her in whole;

But, I fell for her eyes – the twinkle, the innocence

Left me in a trance – I lost myself;

With every twirl of her eyebrows,

My heart skipped a beat – I was in love.

“Excuse me” she said,

A magical, silken voice . . . I gaped back at her;

I knew then…she was my future.

I wanted no one else.

And as the temple bell chimed, and the azaan read out,

I joined my palms, and she spread them apart – in prayer to the Gods.

She was the one. The only one.

We meandered  through life together,

Holding hands and whispering promises

In each other’s ears – we will stay forever together.

Main tumse pyaar karti hun – she said,

Ana he bik – I said,

Languages weren’t a barrier;

Religions weren’t a barrier;

We were in love. And nothing else mattered.

 

 

Beyond our interwined souls, trouble brewed,

But we knew nothing of it –

We made love to each other;

Our souls, our bodies – lost within one other.

Outrage reared its ugly head a while later,

The religious fanatics, weilded swords and sickles

And threatened us with death;

A hindu and a muslim together?

Yaaa Allah, hey bhagwan, never ever.

But, we knew – we were either both or nobody;

So, we ran, we ran and we ran.

We took shelter in dilapidated huts; we crossed states –

Everyday was a nightmare – everyday left like our last;

She conceived on the run – And, that kept us together;

Laughter and smiles forgotten – fears and dread and tears;

We wilted, we cracked, we shattered, but –

It was not two now – It was to be three;

And so we prayed our prayers to Allah and Shiva

And they heard our cry –

The fanatics caught up with us.

They were merciless.

They laughed…mirthless – They stared down upon us – remorseless

I cry and I plead and I beg,

Mrtyuh Muksee yam amritaah –

Save me from death, O Shiva!

Allah humma ha tad’arnee –

Save my child, O Allah.

I shielded her from them;

But, they struck me down – They kicked my balls and broke my nose;

and with one lightning moment – they sliced the sickle through her neck;

Allahu Akbar . . . they screamed

Om nama shivaya . . . they screamed

And then they left – sickle-less – The mirthless laughter still hanging in the air

Like the smell of dead souls;

“Behead us all” I screamed after them;

“Behead your gods too”.

There she lies – beheaded; like a goat after slaughter.

Her veins spliced – Blood smeared across the abode of the Gods;

Bismillah hir Rahman nir rahim

I cried, my tears split across the barren stretch of soul;

My heart withered – as I held her head in my hands,

Just her head – beautiful as ever.

Her body was lying inches away -

Gargling blood and intestines.

I held her beheaded body in my hands

And I cried and I cried and I cried;

I ran my fingers through her stomach;

The wails of my unborn baby can never be heard;

I felt a touch on my fingers – I made to move my hand away

And there – on her stomach – the imprint of a baby’s hand;

My baby’s hands.

Let you not be born into this world of demons, my little one;

One day, the world will be a better place for you;

And I promise – I will have you then. With her again.

And as a hindu or a muslim but never both;

I brandished the sickle they left behind –

And I cut my throat apart –

I’m coming to you my beloved;

Fill this void that tears my heart apart –

Tere Bin Khaali Aaja, Khali Pan Mein

Tere Bin Khaali Aaja, Khali Pan Mein

Blood Stains

Blood Stains

How will you hold your wife’s arms,

Wipe sweat from your face after a hard day’s work,

Cajol your infant to a dreamless sleep,

Or, hug your friend after years of untogetherness,

How will you eat your food in peace -

Aren’t your hands stained with blood?

 

How will you feed your five-year old –

Place flowers on your wife’s hair?

How will you embrace your father with love,

Or, touch the feet of your mother,

How will you raise your arms in prayer to the Lord –

Aren’t your hands stained with blood?