Radhika's Diaries

I see humor in the mundane.

I knew I would be a writer right from when I was a wee li’l girl.  A writer’s thrill swept through me when I held my 1st pencil in my chubby li’l fingers.

My family and the rest of the world knew I would be a writer at about the same time, I imagine. Something (definitely not a thrill) must have swept through them when they saw the writing on the wall – to be precise, when they saw me writing on the walls of the living cum dining room of our apartment in Goa. With my 1st pencil.  I don’t precisely remember if their expression was awe, admiration, adulation – or all of the above. 🙂

I can imagine my literary works, all bound up in glossy gilt jackets, topping the New York Best-selling List, the rave reviews in all leading newspapers and an adoring public buying up my books like there’s no tomorrow!

However, before that, there’s a little matter that needs to be sorted out and that is – what should I write? I mean what should be my genre, my bracket, my forte?

Should I be an all-rounder?  You know, churn out a few novels here, a couple of verses there, a skit or two….. have a finger in several pies, so to say?
On second thoughts, I think not. Too many pies could get messy.

So should I then focus all my talent and energy into writing novels? I could start off with The Great Indian Novel. It would have an epic plot with multiple characters mouthing bombastic words which would get people rushing to their dictionaries. Imagine that!
But then again – does the world need another Shashi Tharoor? Something tells me No, it does not. So that’s out then!

Maybe I could try my hand at some poetry. Yes! Poetry is charming, graceful and pleasant to read – just the qualities I would use to describe myself. 😉 So why not give it a try!! My 1st poetic line would go something like this – “My life is like an orange” Then all I have to do is sit back and throw in words to rhyme with that.
But wait …… didn’t I read somewhere that there’s no word which rhymes with ‘orange’ in the English language? Except maybe derange – which is where my mind is headed if I go along with this. Better not then! :/

So how about a crime thriller?? A racy Who-Dun-It!! I could have a suave Private Eye, sinister gangsters, lots of blood, hot highway chases and of course the gangster’s moll!! OOOOOH this is getting thrilling!! Just imagine – it could even be adapted into a Bollywood Blockbuster!!! A Film Award or two. Fame. Fortune…… !
Hey but, just a second – with the B gang’s poor record for not giving credit and payment where it’s due, do you think I should get into this one?? Too much hassle right?

So then…. what’ll it be?? A gentle romance maybe? You know – Chapter 1 could open with a pale blue sky, a couple of moons, and butterflies and balloons flitting around. The hero would be broad-shouldered and devastatingly handsome. The heroine would have a heart-shaped face with big black eyes fringed with eyelashes as long as broomsticks and cheeks as red as over-ripe tomatoes. Awww!! 🙂 And the hip-wiggling scantily-clad ‘other woman’  would……….. Oh dear! This is getting terribly embarrassing. I mean – Imagine my family reading that!  I can already see my two sons rolling off their chair hooting with laughter…!!

Well then. I think I’ll try my hand at writing a play. I might just have a flair for it, me thinks. Why it might even be staged on Broadway! It could break the record for the longest running play ever! I can just imagine…..!

🙂

*This piece was originally written for and published in the Navhind Times, Goa; many years back. Re-posted it here with a few tweaks. 

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What’s the connection between these three?

Simmba – Rohit Shetty’s lively and fast-paced new Bollywood release. Set in Goa. A special place for me. A place where I grew up and lived in, for 23 best years of my life.

That’s the connection!

It’s really strange how a little event, incident or story can trigger off memories of long back. This movie did just that.

It may be 25 years since my dad Dr N G K Sharma moved back to his home town in Udupi, with baggage, bucket and brat (that’s me), after serving for 23 years as a Senior Doctor at Goa Medical Hospital and College, but for me it feels like just yesterday!

Initially unaware that the movie was set in Goa, the fact flowed over me as a warm and pleasant surprise as I sat in the theater to watch it. A few reels into the movie when the story shifts to Goa and the screen fills up with the magnificent image of the Church of Immaculate Conception, a strong wave of nostalgia hits me and I am transported back to my school days.

our_lady_of_the_immaculate_conception_church,_goa

The 477 year old Church, sits atop a wee little hillock in the heart of the Capital city and I would walk by it every day on my way to school and back. As I trudged along from my home in Junta House on 18th June Road and turned a bend in the road, that pristine white structure would loom up ahead indicating that we had reached the half-way mark to school.

junta house

Junta House – the tallest building in Goa back then!!! 🙂

When the name Miramar  flashes on the screen, I am transported back to my College days. The College is bang opposite the Miramar beach, believe it or not! From our classroom windows we could see the sandy shores, hear the sound of waves and smell the salty sea air. I am reminded of the many occasions when we bunked lectures – to  walk along the sea shore on our bare feet or to simply eat Bhel on the beach square; or the few occasions when an enterprising teacher like our beloved English Professor Ms Isabel Vaz would herd the class out onto the beach for an outdoor class session. We would discuss Shakespeare and Wordsworth under the shade of the trees with the gentle sea breeze fanning our cheeks and ruffling our hair.

 

miramar

We would have our class right below those trees.

When the camera rolls over quaint Goan villages – roof topped houses with latticed windows and potted plants all around the verandah, I am transported back to those days in calm, safe, peace-loving Goa, where we had (and still have) warm relations with friends among the Catholics and the Hindus. All year round it would be Easter and Christmas with the former and Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi with the latter.

 

Since we left the place, I’ve gone back only a few times on very short visits and I notice the obvious changes, which happen with every growing city. In the wild race to put its name on the World tourist map, old-world values and charm have been compromised and I am sad when the State makes headlines for the wrong reasons.

Goa, however, is not all what is portrayed in sleazy tourist brochures. There’s more to this tiny state than just “Sun, Sand and Siesta!”

Which brings me back to Simmba (where it all started anyway!) But what really started it off?? I don’t really know. There were several other movies also set in Goa. Then why did this one affect me so? Could it be because the usual stereotypes are absent – the loud female characters with short skirts and a wierd accent; and the male characters tottering around with a pot belly and a Feni bottle in hand – all of which make me cringe?? Could it be because Goa has not been presented in the usual unimaginative Beach, Booze and Babes style?? 

Certainly the State and its people have been handled with more delicacy and respect than in most of the other films and I am pleased about it because – you see, even 25 years after leaving that place, it still lives on in a large part of my heart! 🙂 

Cheers! Minus the Feni 😉 

NOTE – This is not in any way a review of the film !! 🙂

 

 

 

“In a decade you’ll be able to learn French by taking a pill”  claimed Dr. Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman and Co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, thus opening up a Pandora’s Box for thousands of High School students of the Indian School Curriculum.

And what has that got to do with Indian Schools and their students? Plenty! Follow this post to the end and you’ll know why!

You see, our long-suffering students, when they reach the High School level, not only have to make crucial decisions about their career choices; but along with that they need to take an even more crucial decision about which 3rd language to opt for. And French happens to be one of the options in several Indian schools. So there you are!

The French language is said to be one of the most beautiful languages in the world and I totally agree. Romantic, passionate, expressive and exotic. That’s French!

And, it also happens to be a highly scoring subject as a 3rd language, thus making it an attractive option for Indian parents who want their offspring to be ahead in the rat-race of percentages and grades.

However, along with the above mentioned assets, French is also a tricky language to master (as any foreign language is bound to be of course). The hapless children have to work their way through Grammar rules, pronunciation nuances, Genders (everything is either masculine or feminine!) And the most important of all : the Apostrophe – the punctuation mark  – ‘  used to replace a vowel in case of a vowel clash between two words. Failure to use this little bugger when you should is a crime which will cost you precious marks! :/

How do I know all this! Because I had opted for French myself in my High School days!

In the 8th Grade we had Fr Martin, our gentle and kindly French teacher who would tap us lightly with a scale every time we missed out the Apostrophe. Then we had Madam Myrtle in the 9th Grade who helped make me an outstanding student of French – she made me stand outside the class for half a day for not learning the irregular verbs and their conjugations! Then there was the dashing Instructor at the Alliance Française (French Language Centre) who threw his arms around so much while talking (in French of course) that he brought the writing-board crashing down on himself!

All in all, quite a happening experience for all students – past and present – learning French as a Foreign language! But not for the future students I think, when in 10 years the pill will be in the market. Ahem, I meant the ‘French learning pill’ which Dr Negroponte was talking about. 😉

It could have been brought out when I was in school but never mind. Better late than never! I wonder now!!! Where do we go to get one? The neighborhood Grocery? The Pharmacy? The language section in a Library? Is it to be taken before or after meals? Or at night just before going to  bed? You pop a pill, cuddle up in bed and wake up the next morning spouting French.

Somewhat like the woman from Croatia who woke up from a 24-hr coma after an accident, speaking fluent German. However she needed a translator to talk to her parents in her native Croatian because she had completely forgotton that! Oh La La!! Accidents can do that obviously. But not a pill. It’s definitely safe. No side effects. Unless you take two by mistake and wake up sprouting a French beard! That would be a fringe benefit! 🙂

I don’t know about other folks but future Indian students wishing to learn French as a 3rd language will surely be waiting eagerly for the Good Doctor and his  French Learning Pill. Good luck to him!!

A gentle reminder to High School children presently studying the language : there’s still time for the pill dearies – a decade at least! So as of now better get back to your conjugations and The Apostrophe!!

Note : I’ve always loved French right from my school days and I still do and I think it’s a très très belle langue. Voila!! 

🙂

Ibn Battuta, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo – to name a few – all brave, adventurous men who not only explored the world but also chronicled their travels. One cannot but admire the spirit of such people who set out all those years ago when travelling was not easy. And that is an understatement!! They ventured out from the comforts of the familiar into strange far-off unknown lands in search of mystery, adventure, romance, excitement and the experience of charting new paths and discovering new places. All without GPS mind you!! 🙂

Quite unlike my style of travelling I must say. I like my trip to be a carefully planned one. When on a trip, more than anything, I need to know where and what my next meal will be!! Being a vegetarian that is quite the challenge in strange places believe me! And one cannot really enjoy an adventure on an empty rumbling stomach, me thinks!! 🙂

Sharing this sentiment with me is our small group of like-minded friends with whom I’ve gone on many a trip through the years. Our very first trip together as a group will remain the most unforgettable the most adventurous and by far the best trip.

Just like Christopher Columbus set out to discover a direct water route from Europe to Asia but he never did – instead he stumbled upon the Americas! 

Quite like him, we set out to explore  Jaipur the enthralling historical city in India’s most flamboyant State of Rajasthan, but we never did – instead we landed up in new places which we hitherto had never even thought about visiting.

It was a very carefully planned and well organised trip from Udupi in Karnataka to Jaipur in Rajasthan. Train bookings, hotel bookings, sightseeing bookings all neatly arranged almost a month before the trip. We could hardly wait to check out the hugely popular Pink City and all it promised to offer us – Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jantar Mantar and the famous shopping streets of Bapu Bazar.

However fate had other ideas for us. Our well thought-out and well-planned trip turned overnight into a BlindDate!!

We were to leave by the Udupi-Delhi Shatabdhi departing at night from Udupi Station. Four days before our travel date, it began to rain and how!!  Heavy, incessant and unrelentless, the rains caused landslides which in turn led to delayed or cancelled train services on the Konkan railway line. We were not sure what we ought to do. With small children with us, we didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. But we had so looked forward to this trip – our very first one together as a group! The news that our train would be running as scheduled helped us decide at the last minute and we set off with advices and injunctions from relatives and friends ringing in our ears.

All was well for the 1st two hours of the journey. Then the train started halting after every half-hour or so. We chugged along in sporadic fits and bursts. Early the next morning news filtered down through the coaches that more landslides had occurred on the route further and things looked pretty doubtful. So the men in our group went into a huddle and came up with the decision to alight at the next big station the train would halt at.

Turned out to be GOA!!! Unscheduled, unexpected and unplanned. The beaches, the natural greenery, the quaint villages and the people enthralled us and we had 3 fun-filled days taking in the sun, sand and the sights of Goa.

Once we’d been there and done that, next what? None of us was wanted to return home. We were in the mood for more. So the men put their heads together once more and we found ourselves on a night bus trundling towards places we had never even dreamed of visiting. Bagalkot and Bijapur in the north of Karnataka. 

Once again unexpected, unplanned and unscheduled! The 2 days we spent there visiting the Badami caves, the Jain Temples,the Gol Gumbaz were an eye-opener for us. It was an excellent opportunity to discover the striking differences in food, language and way of living from North Karnataka to South  Karnataka. The spirit of the place got to us so much that on the last night of our stay there we dropped in at a rustic kitchen serving up authentic fresh-from-the-tava jowar rotis with the typical brinjal curry and garlic chutney. I’m glad we did that. The smell of butter melting on hot rotis and the taste of those feathery-soft rotis still lingers!

The same night saw us inside a bus back to Udupi, back to our homes. Half-an-hour into the journey, we made yet another not-so-surprising  discovery – it appeared that none of us were too keen on getting back just then. So once again the men got together – a few maps were consulted, a few phone calls made. The result – a request was sent up-front to the driver to put us down at Murudeshwar near the town of Bhatkal, about 100 kms from Udupi. Our mood must have been infectious because the driver very obligingly made an unscheduled stop right in front of a decent hotel just for us, at precisely 2.00 in the morning! And the conductor and co-passengers helped to pass on the luggage and our sleeping children down too!!  🙂

And once again there we were – unexpected and unplanned – at a place we least thought we would be! After a day of taking in the huge statue of Siva and the beach at Murudeshwar, we hopped into a mini van and made a day-trip to the impressive Jog Falls in Simoga; or as it is called locally – The Gerusoppe falls, the 2nd highest plunge waterfall in India. The Falls, playing hide-and-seek with the clouds, the froth and the foam, gave us a feel of Heaven on earth! Enchanting, hypnotic, mesmerising we couldn’t take our eyes off them. We left that place with happy hearts, relaxed minds and a feeling that ‘All’s right with the world!!’

Finally urged on by our respective families back home, we packed our stuff one last time and headed back to Udupi – the place from were it all started!!!

Since then, we’ve been on many other trips to places around the world, but needless to say, this trip of ours is the most unforgettable and enriching. We were destined to explore and discover new sights, smells and tastes right in our backyard so to say!!

We are still thankful that we had the courage that rainy night years ago to say yes to the unknown and to set off on our Blind Date with the World!!

Thank you Lufthansa for this opportunity to pen down the wonderful memories of the thrill of an unplanned trip and of discovering amazing new experiences at every turn.

#TheBlindList

#SayYesToTheWorld Lufthansa’s exciting new campaign

 

I remembered Julius Caesar when I opened our Gulf newspaper recently, and read a report about how scores  of people were duped by a time-sharing company, into parting with several thousands of their hard-earned dirhams.

How did Caesar come into the picture? Well he didn’t (bless his soul), his words did. “Et tu Brute?” I thought to myself as I read about those hapless people. Why?

Because we (the husband and I, i.e. ) had been in a similar situation with the same company some months ago!! So, while wholeheartedly sympathizing with those people it’s nice to know there are others like us!

It all started when the husband got a congratulatory phone call one fine morning. We  had apparently won a prize – a holiday package and a free dinner voucher!

Tracing it back still further, we can pinpoint the beginning of this saga to when we filled up a couple of forms at a concert we attended. The chap outside the entrance of the auditorium was pretty persistent as he shoved paper and pen beneath our nose and assured us it was for some survey. Just to get rid of him we duly filled in our name, Tel no. and mail id.

Many Full moons later (when we’d forgotten all about it) came the above mentioned phone call. And the guy followed that up with 3 more calls through the day, to remind us to claim our prize that evening!

So we went in our Sunday best. For the prize and for a free dinner!

At the venue it was the Meet & Greet session first where a guy at the counter took down our details – just to confirm, he said, murmuring darkly about imposters and false claimants and all.

We were then escorted to a small Hall for the Presentation Ceremony. But first there would be a brief Counselling session they said. Just a formality they assured us and we followed meekly, innocently, like sheep to a slaughter-house.

Once we entered, as our eyes got adjusted to the scene inside, we noticed there were several other couples seated at small round tables with staff members scouting around like sentinels.

I muttered to the husband that I didn’t have a good feel about the whole thing but the well trained sentinels had already shepherded us to a table and put us in the care of a Deputy Manager and his stooge.

The scheme it turned out was to get people to sign up for time-share contracts which would then award members access to selected hotels worldwide, besides a plethora of other benefits including health insurance, discount vouchers, Gym membership…. for a fee. A hefty one. Of course!

The duo at our table began proceedings with a question/answer session, ostensibly aimed at putting us at our ease and catching us off guard, to sign on the dotted line. The session lasted good and long, in the course of which, the chap shared a lot of his personal stories and asked us a lot of ours; admonished us twice for turning and looking around and once (believe it or not) for not sitting properly with our legs tucked beneath the table! It seemed like it would go on and on! I finally took it upon myself to end it when the conversation moved in this direction…..

He – “So what does Uncle do?”
Uncle (I mean the husband) – “I work in a bank.”
He (turning to me) – “And what about ma’am…. What do you do?”
At this juncture, I could have very well told him the truth like –
“I cook 3 wholesome meals a day – sometimes 4. I wash and clean and keep the house spick and span. Without a maid. I raised a pair of boisterous twin sons. Singlehandedly.”
And more ……..
But instead I said “I’m a house wife.”
And you know what that nincompoop tells me, “Oh I see. Uncle works hard the whole day while you relax at home!”

Well really!!! Grrr…..

If you’ve never seen a dragon before, then that moment you would have right there! I was breathing fire and there was smoke coming out of my ears but …..all of it was wasted on that utter idiot!

To cut a long story short, the more we tried to get up and leave the more they tried to sell us their schemes, none of which convinced nor impressed us.

Finally I got out of the room citing a desperate need to visit the wash room and then flatly refused to get back in again.

And that was how we came out of the whole thing, thanking God that we’d lost nothing more than our time that day and resolving not to be tempted by such offers next time.

And the dinner voucher? Apparently we misunderstood.

So we returned home and we ate dinner – cooked by the house wife. The one who relaxes at home remember!!

:/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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