Categories
People

Love in the time of cholera….

So, one of my very good friends for a long time announced that he got married to his girlfriend of a year today morning. I was not ready for this, to be honest. What was otherwise meant to be a normal, fine day despite the hang over of last night, turned on its head in a matter of minutes. Yes they have been going out and everything for a year, but to be out of Facebook, friends for almost 6 months and come back on, announcing to the whole world of his wedding was indeed Jab We Met level dramatic.
I am not heartless enough, not to feel happy for the guy. I am happy for him ofcourse despite the fact that he hurried off to get it legal at 24, instead of living life a few more years and getting it done a bit later. This indeed portrayed the naivety with which people decide to get married out of the blue. Not all of these work, if you ask me. And then, in no time, you are trying to “make it work“. Well, I hope he doesn’t have to go through this now.
But it was not the whole marriage bit which had shook me. It was something else. I am not quite sure they had invited family over for the occasion. Maybe he had his own reasons not to be having them – I have no clue. But then, I was imagining the predicament of the parents who are not invited for the special occasion. They bring you up, buy you all the good things in life, set your life up in more ways than one and they are returned the favour of not being invited for their kids wedding. How befitting. They will indeed forgive him, if need be because that’s how nice people they are. My thoughts are with them, today.
Categories
India Politics

On reinstating faith in democracy…

Going by the title, reflecting on the need to reinstate faith in the minds of people regarding democratic governance policies and institutions might be a bit too far fetched considering we haven’t been doomed as yet, some would say. But then, we are very much on that motion, winding down the lanes into believing that the democratic setup that we have been witness to, over the last 60 odd years has started showing signs of rupture and tear.
As I write this piece, riots have broken out in Ara, Bihar over the untimely killing of the Ranvir Sena chief. The MLA from Najafgarh has just been shot by unidentified gunmen in broad daylight. The government has simply failed to curb inflation, that which was INR 63 against a Euro is now standing at 73 in the space of 8 months. Fuel prices have shot up. The man accused in the biggest corruption scandal is out on bail and attends the upper house of Parliament, the next day. The national carrier which was once among the top 5 airlines in the world is sinking and nobody cares about it. Acute power shortages – while we complain of 2-hour outages in Chennai, some areas of New Delhi have had close to 8 hours and worse, some areas of Jammu and Kashmir have 18-hour power cuts. Mamata Banerjee’s paribortan drive took a turn for its worse and ended up splurging INR 9 crore on a private club team which won a private league (the debt of West Bengal exceeds INR 190,000 crore as of today). And if all this was not enough, the government tried to curb social media independence by attempting to filter online content which you and I release onto Google and Facebook, even taking them to court over-exercising this issue. 
 
And I for one, have always have had my reservations over the need to exercise my franchise over such a setup existing in the country, sometimes even going to the extent of saying that the British Raj was much apter than what is currently on display today – drawing a lot of flak expectantly from all quarters. All the above-given instances are just a minuscule into the conundrum that people are getting to be increasingly aware of and start inquiring on. Well, if you were indeed to ask me if after all this whether India was really shining as is being perceived by the west, I wouldn’t agree so. At least not right now. People need to be reinstated with renewed faith in the system prevailing. I don’t know how this will come about and I am no economist or a financial school cat to put in those hard terms on the forefront, simply for the lack of knowledge on them than anything else. 

Impatience and frustration are engulfing the masses and they won’t keep quiet for longer periods from now. And thus the need for reinstating faith – soft measures to stem the aftershocks of inflation and price rise, fast-tracking of the judicial exercises on the 26/11 attacks, stemming corruption (with or without Jan Lokpal), delineating dangerous coalitions like the Trinamool and the DMK to name a few could all be some positives that the babus of New Delhi could try to achieve. 
Although, having said that, there is one person who is “fairly positive” when it comes to the growth story of India right now – Bill Gates, who reiterates some faith on the situation in his recent interview to NDTV. Although I fail to understand how its always good to know. Excerpts from the interview are attached along with this post:
   

By the way, Travel Trails have been updated with new photographs just to remind everyone.

Categories
Europe Opinion People WTF!

Inducing Happiness: The European Way

It is the process by which people tend to “induce” happiness into their lives at the cost of their fellow beings and then feel good about it rather than deriving happiness by “making” it happen by means of your sincere deeds – quite the European way as I have been observing since September.
Thing is simple. A few weeks ago, I received this mail from a friend based out of Lisbon which read like this:

Hello guys.. As you know I am leaving for the States next week. You guys have been really awesome and I have no words to express my gratitude for all the support and love. I sure am gonna miss you all when I am in Boston. I was thinking that it would be good if we can all meet up one last time for a dinner. I will be very happy and fortunate to have you amidst the company of me and my friends, during the last moments of my stay in Portugal.

I propose that we meet on Saturday at around 2000 at <Restaurant Name> <Address>. The choice of the cuisine is meditteranean as most of you would prefer, includes <general menu>. And the cost per person would be around 20 euros, not more than that inclusive of drinks. 

This man in the letter included  the “You guys have been awesome….my gratitude..support and love“, ” I would be very happy and fortunate….” and then delivered the sucker punch by announcing the “cost per person….” sentence – all in the span of 5-6 lines of the same letter. And letters/mails like these come, every other week.
Well if he was so happy and fortunate and sad that he would miss all of us, he should have hosted a dinner and paid up the expenses by himself. Atleast that is what is done if you are genuinely happy back where I hail from. You invite your friends and spend a wonderful evening with them, spreading laughter and cheer and then you make it even more wonderful by being the perfect host and appreciating their decision to spend quality time with you. I would pay to do this, but then my idea of not believing in celebrations makes life a lot more easier. Why do it when you want to “induce” rather than make it happen by itself?
So to sum up, I ended up going for the dinner because he has been a wonderful man and for the sake of his happiness, I ended up spending 20 euros (1350 INR). That is the price that I burn to see a smile on his face and make sure everything is right between us. Am I happy doing this? Well, you know by now….
Categories
Europe Life Travel

Demystifying Porto

Porto (Oporto in Portuguese) is the second largest city of Portugal. Highly recommended by the Portuguese to pay a visit, I finally had the opportunity to explore the town. Quite a stark contrast from the capital city Lisbon, which is more of an international city , Porto is home to the old school Portuguese heritage. On a first glance, it gave me an impression of an abandoned city with old buildings, mostly damaged and uninhabited. And that was a very disturbing fact to digest. It seemed like people had deserted the city and gone towards Lisbon or other areas of the Iberian Peninsula or Continental Europe.
Old fashioned in all respects, Porto gives the impression of a city which simply refuses to bow down to change. And the same is evident even on the people of Oporto, who are proud of what their forefathers have achieved. They thrive on the Portuguese legacy, its wineries, the heritage buildings and the related aspects, thus not bowing down to the change of the outside world. This aspect would certainly be of interest to an art history graduate, but not for someone like me. Nevertheless a mysterious old school beauty which had turned into a ghost town for reasons quite obvious to us. I was disappointed, so to say. Here are a few snaps taken:
The tram – only three lines are functioning right now
Rua Alvares Cabral – we stayed here, amongst the abandoned buildings
An abandoned church building right in the heart of the town
Ponta Luiz – the bridge, on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Oporto
Rio Duoro , the river and the city of Porto on the background.

I will be adding the whole list of photographs periodically onto the “Photography” section of this blog.

Categories
Europe Life

First Thoughts – 2012

Ola people! Hope everyone had a fantastic new years eve and a grand welcome into 2012. Happy New Year from the bottom of my heart, wish it turns out to be as special as it possibly could be. And I hope a few have already started ruing over their new year resolutions, if not broken them once or twice already. Just a real quick update on life and an extremely interesting incident which has been occupying a good enough space inside my head. Life is quite dull again since work has already kicked off. Exams on the 9th and 13th with a possible resource exam to be taken for Transport Economics and a project due on the 18th, which is evidence enough for the word “dull ” being tagged along with life. It isn’t really that I hate doing this, but there is really nothing else and thus life is quite predictable until the 19th. A bit of travel is also on the plans after the 19th since I have like 4 days before the next semester begins, though not sure how much of that is going to materialize. Now to the incident.
So I had a visitor on New Years eve. Nobody else was in the apartment and I opened the door when the bell rang. A Portuguese lady was standing outside – neatly dressed, posh, in her 40’s if not older. The conversation started in Portuguese, but soon turned to English when she figured out that her English was way better than my Portuguese. And she told me that she was the daughter-in-law of my neighbour, a lady in her 70’s. To talk more about my neighbour, she is Ana Maria, 75+ , rich with two houses in Lisbon alone, knows 6 languages including English (which is way too impressive for a European), quite a rare visitor to our place, largely peaceful and nice. She was working in the Portuguese department of transportation during her hay days, so we found a lot of things in common for a conversation to sprout up. Besides her career, she is vastly read, knows a lot about world culture and history and is very interesting to talk to, something which is very rare nowadays as far as I am concerned.
So yeah, the daughter-in-law. She is  accompanied by another lady who is Ana Maria’s sister, asks for Ana Maria who hasn’t been in touch with them for almost 3 weeks now and they are worried. So they came by to check on her. Soon we realize she is not present at home as nobody answers the door. Realizing that she has a key to this apartment, she opens the apartment to check for her. Its all very dark inside, so she asks me if I can come in too. I say yes and we go in. This apartment is a 6 room, old school place, large with a long alley and rooms on either side. Surprisingly, there is no power inside the apartment. We try the different switches and realize the power supply has been disconnected. And that’s when things start getting weird. I get a torchlight from my apartment and we go in. Its pitch dark and as soon as we reach the living room, its a scene of distress. Papers, books, flyers, clothes, unwashed plates, cutlery are all strewn around. I nearly pierce a fork onto my leg since it was lying on the ground in the dark, largely unnoticeable. And it was hard to imagine that someone lived here, amidst all the confusion that was called this apartment. The six other rooms resembled a similar picture and after seeing all this, I didn’t really have the courage to check the kitchen or the rest rooms. The daughter-in-law was being way too normal throughout this time and I was inching to ask her about her reaction.
So when we came out of the ghost house, I invited them to my apartment and asked her about her reaction on seeing the apartment all messy and weird. To which she replied, “Maria used to be such a task master lady until her 60’s until Miguel (her husband ) was around. After his demise, she lost all interest in life. She did not understand why she had to tidy up the place, and for whom, since no one ever visited her anymore. More so, since she didn’t want them to.” To see the condition of such a well learned lady, in her 70’s reaching a stage where she didn’t appreciate living life anymore was a hard thing to digest. She was very wealthy, but still lived the life of a gypsy. Why did she have to live life anymore if this was so meaningless for her? And that was the hard reality of life, that even a lot of money could not bring any happiness into her life. That’s because the essence of life is not entirely dependent on material things, though it does play only a small role in making it better. People run so much behind material comfort that they forget to live life in between. I have a professor at Tecnico whose story is equally interesting, though that is a story for another day. Though for the sake of debate, if I ever had to encounter that stage in life that Ana Maria was going through, I would just renounce myself from this world and move away. I am sure we all have different takes on it though.
Nevertheless a strange new year realization indeed.