Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Time to CongArrest our nation

We the people of India are strange. We have planted the thorn on our seats, sit on it and complain that our rear is bleeding. The Congress or the Indian National Congress is one of the oldest parties in India and was formed in 1885. Right from 1947 to 1977, for 30 undisputed years, Congress had ruled featuring Nehru, Shasthri and Indira and yet again after a failed attempt by the Janata Party, Congress was back in power for yet another 10 years! By the way, why was the Congress ousted after 30 rocking years?! You know the answer, serious corruption allegations against it. The Janata assumed power of an economically eroded and weak India and people could not wait to have Congress back. We all know how the next 10 years ended after the operation blue star and assassination of Rajiv (also include the Bofors) and immediately after that we elected a new government, a side dish called the Janata Dal which was nothing but a part of the National Front (the Dal Makhini!). But we were too impatient to have the Congress back. So, the VHP started to dig up near the Babri Masjid in order to construct a Ram temple. The Dal platter goes empty in just a year and some one know as Chandra Sekhar Singh becomes PM for yet another year only to welcome beloved P.V. Narashima Rao for yet another glorious term which was marked by evergreen events Babri Masjid demolition and the Dawood Bombay fry. I am not telling that Congress has been responsible for these, just what did it do?! Oh, but we did something. We spend a royal amount from our tax money and voted just to make Vajpayee get a flavour of the PM’s seat for 13 days. And then people tasted the Dal for 2 more years and Vajpayee (he seriously looks like my grandmother!) for few more years. This was the longest gap when Congress was not in power. No, not good at all! We the people of India love the Congress, in spite of their corruption and in spite of their incapableness. We brought them back to power in 2004 and right from day one after this Manmohan Singh assumed power, we called him a puppet. We are good, we know everything but still we don’t want anyone to rule us other than the Congress. Seriously, what is wrong with us? 65 years after Independence and for 52 years Congress has been eating away. This time the portions became bigger with the 2G and CWG and suddenly everyone is awake.

What is happening now is good. Don’t change the government, but change the law. Pass the Jan Lokpal which gives us a chance to oversee the government’s corrupt officials. All though the years, corruption has been the key issue. Not that one government is going to be better than the other. India is a free buffet. You don’t need to pay to eat, but with the Jan Lokpal at least we hope people eat only half the stomach or may be in time less than half! (Here eat = eat peoples money! I don’t want the government screaming that I am trying to make them forgo food!!) But I doubt after what they have done to Anna Hazare, the government can stay for long.

This is one opportunity that has dawned upon the youth of India to make things happen their way. For long we have been ruled by old farts whose ideologies and mentalities are old and not worth preserving and now when the fuel is full, we need the right spark for ignition. I am feeling helpless sitting here in Germany now and the least I can do is vent out through this blog. Please, make us Indians who are living outside India now feel that we have lost the opportunity to participate in a revolution. Please don’t give us the feeling that we were clever to avoid rushing back home just to take part in nothing. Vande Mataram.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Polish Wedding !

Weddings are always exciting. It is a place where you meet new people, make new friends and reconnect with old friends/relatives. But this wedding I attended for me was an entire new world! I am just back from attending my first European wedding and it was a Polish wedding, right out of the traditional book. There was no dragging, no bored moments, no unpleasantaries and no panic. It was smooth, like cutting the perfectly baked cake with the right knife! The wedding took place in Damesławek, a small village in the Paluki region of Poland, 20 Km from Żnin. The bride was Marianna Adamska and groom, Krzysiek Hoffmann.

Agnieszka invited me for this wedding and I was excited about this even 6 months before the wedding date! Probably as excited as the couple when they decided on their wedding date! And even from months before, Agnieszka began her coaching for European dancing, for my legs yield only to Yuvan, Rahman, Harris and Deva! Ok, enough of prelude. Here starts my experience journal…

The flight was from Dortmund. The nearest airport is Bydgoszcz, but there were no flights available for our travel itenary. So we flew to Poznań with an airtime of just 60 minutes. Agnieszka’s father and brother came for us at the airport and we drove to Żnin, 95 Km from Poznań. On the way we stopped at a highway restaurant for “Pierogi” and ice cream and finally reached Żnin at 10:30 PM. It was already dark and I could not already have a glimpse of the city where I would stay. In the house were Agnieszka’s mother, grandmother, uncle and aunt. They welcomed warmly with “Dzień dobry” and showed me to the room where I would be sleeping. After slipping into comfortable shoes, I went upstairs to the living room where the table was set with finger food. Tido also welcomed me by smelling me around and trying to climb on.  He was always licking my fingers, guess the Indian spices were still on! After exchanging pleasantries, I was taken on a tour of the house by Agnieszka. Then back to the living room and this time I was greeted by a large bottle of Polish vodka and Agnieszka’s father and uncle were smiling at me and said, “son, we need to train you for tomorrow! Are you up for the challenge?!” It felt a little strange to be invited by a family for alcohol, but when in Rome, there is no shame in being a Roman. Else you are just an observer, not a player! And for them, alcohol is not offensive; it is how you are judged as responsible. So, I was up for it! Discussions, juice and 8 shots of pure vodka was what followed. In between Agnieszka’s cousin joined us after his long drive from Warszawa. He is a vegetarian by choice and it felt nice to have a fellow herbivore nearby! After sometime, Piotr (Agnieszka’s brother) introduced me to his fabulous hobby of reconstructing 14-15th century battles and showed me his collection of armour, weapons and materials. It was really fascinating and I salute the effort. Then Agnieszka’s parents gave me memorabilia from Żnin (set of old pictures, playing cards and maps) and it was the most thoughtful gift! I gave them a collection of 8 Indian recipes, Cooking Indian with easy ingredients. I had written them in English and Agnieszka translated them in Polish. I referred to it as gift for the mother, punishment for the father and brother! At 2.30am, we decided to call it a day.

I was woken up by excitement and the sunlight piercing through the curtains. I opened them to discover that my room was overlooking the lovely garden! Apples, pears, cherries and walnuts all stood tall and colourful. Eventually the house woke up too and preparations for breakfast started. I and Agnieszka went into the garden to harvest fresh cucumber and onions. There was also cabbage, kohlrabi, beans, peas, carrots, marjoram, some spices and tomatoes. And in one part stood many rose shrubs with wondrous blossoms. The breakfast spread consisted of home made bread, variety of cheese, sausages, scrambled eggs, fresh tomatoes, cucumber with yogurt, tea and coffee. Immediately after breakfast Agnieszka took me outside to the city. We ran into her best friend from childhood and spent some time over cake and coffee. Then began my city tour. It is a very well planned city centre. The houses are with gardens and some with farms, 3-4 Km from the city centre. The centre has all the essentials with a little dash of modernity. There is no hurry and people know each other. I could see people giving me second looks and probably I am the first Indian to have set foot on Żnin! We visited the city museum and saw collections of traditional dresses, paintings and printing machinery. The first magazine for women was started in Żnin in the early 1800’s. There were also collections from local artists in painting and wood work.
We reached the church at 15:50. The bride and groom stood in the entrance and welcomed the guests. The bride was dressed in white and the groom in a suit with a black bow. Exactly at 16:00, the bride and groom walked in to melodious live organ music. The priest blessed the couple, announced the gathering, read some psalms, the couple exchanged the rings, the priest blessed the couple again, gave communion to the couple and the gathering and the couple walked out married at 17:00! Once they walked out of the church, people threw rice and coins on them and the couple had to pick up the coins. Then we started out in our cars to the reception hall which is a few kilometres away from the church. The children from the church’s vicinity blocked the roads with ropes and let each car only after we gave them some coins and or chocolates!

The couple entered the reception hall and the live band began to play. The guests followed in pairs, gave their gifts and wished the couple and took their places at the table. After everybody assembled, they sung the traditional “sto lat”, which means 100 years together and the couple kissed to a joyful cheer. Everyone toasted with Champaign and the couple tossed their glasses behind them and broke it. After this they cleaned it together symbolising the hard work that needs to be done after marriage!  The couple took their seats along with the guests. Traditional chicken soup was served first. The table already contained salads and fruits. The salad was traditional polish, consisting of boiled vegetables cubed into small pieces, with pickled cucumber and mixed with little mayonnaise. The main course was an assortment of dished cooked with pork and for me, there was special vegetarian mini pierogies garnished with garlic-butter sauce. There was then coffee and cakes for dessert. Most important of all, there was incessant supply of vodka and the crowd raised a toast every few minutes! The toast was always followed by a chant of Gorzko! Gorzko! (bitter bitter) and the couple have to kiss. The entire song translates as “The vodka is bitter, bitter, bitter, and you need to make it sweet.” Hence the couple kiss to make the vodka sweet! After food, the couple came up to the stage for their first dance. The bride looked very cheerful and happy and I could sense the tension in the groom. Guess it’s the same everywhere, the men are always tensed!

I finished applauding their dance only to find the bride run up to me ask me to dance with her. This was not what I was expecting; nevertheless, I like the centre stage. So I stumbled across and danced what would have been the best entertainment for the guests. But I had a nice interaction with the bride and thanked her for inviting me and told her how much of a learning experience it has been. She was really nice and spoke good English to respond to me. The rest of the night I spent talking with Agnieszka’s cousin, some curious relatives and toasting with vodka to cheers of Gorzko! Gorzko! Exactly at midnight, the couple took centre stage again and sat on a chair. The young unmarried girls walked around them and when the music stopped, the bride tossed behind her veil and the girl who caught it took centre stage. The guy now did the same and tossed his bow behind and fortunately I was not the person who caught it. The guy who caught it took centre stage and the new couple opened the dance again. Now everyone started to dance together and go around in circles around the bride. After half an hour of intensive dancing there was slow music again and out came the wedding cake with fireworks! The couple cut the cake together and all the guests received a portion from it. I already began to feel sleepy and retired to an adjoining room where two little children started to teach me polish! We started back at 2:30 and reached home at 3:00 am in the morning. The longest party I ever attended.

There was absolutely no hangover the next morning and after yet another tasty breakfast spread (this time with krokiety), Agnieszka took me around the region. First was to her grandmother’s house which has a huge garden and a small chicken farm. We strolled around the garden eating cherries and smelling the roses and let the 10 chicken and one rooster out from their pen. People always speak about contentment but seldom realize it. But looking at their houses and life style and their city, I guess this is where it lies. Żnin is sandwiched between two beautiful lakes and every year in summer, boat racing championships take place here. Żnin is the capital of the region called Pałuki and there are totally 130 lakes. Poland owes its origin to this region and the first church in Poland was built in Poznań. The first place we visited was a narrow gauge locomotive museum and the ruins of a castle in Wenecja. There is a legend that the cruel count of Wenecja who terrorized nearby villages during the medieval times can still be seen sometimes in the night! Then we went to Biskupin which is an archaeological excavation site. The civilization existed 5000 years back and the site has preserved an entire part of their community with original excavations and some reconstructions.  

We came back home at 16:00 and got ready to attend the “after party”. This was a get together only for close relatives and friends. Before we started out, Agnieszka’s grandmother (who took a special liking to me), asked us to return home by 21:00 and help her put the poultry back and that she would show me her house. It was a very sweet invitation and so we returned home at 21:00. The party was a smooth get together and the couple spent a lot of time with me discussing different things about India. When we went back, grandmother was already ready. She showed me her garden and her roses and figured out that one chicken had strayed into the neighbour’s garden. 75 years old and she still chased down the chicken and caught it! Then she took us inside her house and showed me her favourite room with heavy furniture, piano and books from 1875! All conversations were translated to and fro by Agnieszka and I was amazed by her grandmother’s energy!

After coming back home, we spent the evening looking at childhood pictures and discussions about marriage traditions. The final day, we woke up early and after a quick breakfast, went to Lubiestroń. It is a small palace which now hosts concerts. Unfortunately it was closed but we walked around in the gardens identifying some plants and trees. Agnieszka’s parents drove us to the airport and we encountered a fine ice cream break and a tense traffic jam before we reached just 2 minutes before the gate could close!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bleed blue, I and Cricket.

To write something about this World cup victory at the winning moment would just be an expression of draught quench, 28 years for India and 21 years for me! I remember the first time I was introduced to Cricket matches on the television. Way back in 1991 and Sachin was already playing for India. I had a plaster of paris bat, more locally known as the mavu bat. It was gifted to me by preriamma during my various visits to Trichy and I used to beat the ball around, more like playing hockey!  Our black and white Solidare telivision used to be the big screen, turning our living room into the pavilion and Dad and Mom would eagerly wait for Krish Srikanth to play, since back then, he was India´s Shewag. Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev used to be most referred names. And for me, as a young kid, Sachin and Vinod Kambli used to be heroes, since they too were very young looking in the team. Wearing the most comfortable dress for the Indian summer (just the underwear!), I used to stand in front of the television with my bat and copy the strokes that the batsmen used to play.

And like every kid's dream, I wanted to play cricket all the time. In school, in the streets, in the terrace and even in the corridors. Countless days and nights have been spent in the pure joy of playing this game. The underarm Cricket, Cricket at school with balls made of paper and cycle tube wound around it and text books with hard bound used to be the bat. I remember that during this time, my Science text book used to be my favorite for this purpose and perhaps this is why I am now a scientist!! Sports time (P.T) during school never allowed us to play Cricket and every time we had to request and cajole our physical trainer to allow us to play cricket! Well, the school had their own reasons, like to promote interest in other sports and to minimize damage done to the school property! Nevertheless, we used to play our own version of the book cricket during recess and sometimes even when the lectures were going on. Even book cricket would bring so much of satisfaction to us.

The moment I was back from school, in spite of the scorching sun, I would meet up with friends in the apartment and we used to play cricket in the terrace until the ball was lost or until it was bad light or until all our mothers used to drag us home by the ears to do home work. And on really hot weekends, cricket used to be played with a plastic ball in the corridor! After tired game, rest for us meant to play with cricket trump cards or sit down and discuss about the recent matches. 

Then came college and cricket was now even more and a serious part of life. By now we had matured more in following the game. I was not too good in playing cricket, but it seldom mattered. After all passion has many forms! It included bunking boring lectures at college and play cricket near the hostel! 

Indian cricket has gone through various transformations and yesterday's victory voices hard work, discipline and determination. There were times when when Sachin would be out, the Indian batting order would collapse like dominoes. The master has stood alone on so many victorious occasion and has been the lone fighter in desperate situations. Then came the match fixing controversy that wiped clean, players like Azhar, Mongia and Jadega. For long, Javagal Srinath stood as the lone epitome of bowling discipline and then was a time when Indian team was at its aggressive best, Saurav Ganguly. And there was a time when the Indian team lacked the young propellers to move forward and when the journalists were screaming for Sachin to retire and give place for youngsters. From all these controversies and misdirected anger, rose this team. First the team which won the T20 World cup and the team which won yesterday. A team balanced between the adrenaline and serotonin, to provide the thrust and to provide the calm and the point of balance still originating from the master himself.

The sail to lifting this cup has not been smooth either. A hyper energetic start and yet not a convincing victory against Bangladesh, a fantastic performance against England but an immediate lack of attitude during the chase, wrong decisions against SA, bounce back of bowling against WI, the real test of character against Aussies, exhibition of ultimate control under pressure against Paki and then, finally, the calm, composed and asserting victory to lift the World cup. 

I feel proud to have lived when the legends lived/live. M.S.Subbulakshmi, Rajnikanth and Sachin Tendulkar!
Go Hindustan!