Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The truth about fiction

When novels become more than mere sheets of paper

By Aswathy Kumar

For a very long time I was never into books. Though I did read all the latest novels, I never understood what it was about a book that particularly appealed to a reader. For me they were mere pages with a few flowery words imprinted in them.
I tried my best to like books and made it a point to buy all the best sellers. Be it The Da Vinci Code, Paul Cohelo’s Alchemist or The Lord of the Rings series. But for some reason, I just couldn’t set my heart into any of it. I felt desperate! Was there something wrong with me? Was I stupid?  I knew I had to find what the problem was.
It was only much later that I realized that it was time I stopped listening to others and found out what it was that truly appealed to me. It was time to stop listening to my dad, my friends and my teachers and find out what it was, I really wanted.
I moved to Nairobi and received an opportunity to meet many interesting women from very different backgrounds and social upbringings. From Muslim women in Hijabs to struggling single working mothers, I interacted with the exploited labour class women in Nairobi and Somalian women who were victims of female circumcision. I met mothers fighting court cases for child support against abandoned fathers and women married to abusive husbands.
After listening to their hard hitting stories, I realized that it was time I came out from the fantasy world of super cops, goblins and make believe characters and delved into reality. I realized it was time I knew more about women and what they went through across the globe.
On one of my visits to the book shop, I picked out the book The Thousand Splendid Suns. It was about the lives of two Muslim women and I felt it was exactly what I was looking for. It will help me relive their suffering and help me understand their lives better. I couldn’t put it down, quite a refreshing change for someone who took months to finish a book.
In just a matter of few pages, the two main characters Mariam and Laila became a part of me. I felt for them, cried for them, prayed for them and felt the need to protect them. Every time Mariam experienced a blow from her husband, I felt it too, deep within my skin.  Every time Laila saw a hope to freedom, I hoped with her.
It’s after reading The Thousand Splendid Suns and other women interest’s fiction like Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood Of Flowers, Malika Oufkir’s La Prissonniere, Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us and many others that I realized that as a reader I wanted to read about the lives of other women in different parts of the world.
I wanted to read about characters that I could empathize with, about women I could laugh with, cry with; about women I could admire and feel for. I wanted to read not only about women I could identify with like the rebellious Saira in The Writing On My Forehead by Nafisa Haji but I also wanted to read about women who could inspire me like the courageous Malika Oufkir.
What was amazing was that most of these books were not autobiographies (except for La Prisonnere) and were mostly fiction. But even then the characters felt as real to me as anybody I met on a daily basis. The servant girl Bhima reminded me of the old maid who worked for my family in Delhi, the notorious Zeliha of The Bastard of Istanbul was almost exactly like a close friend of mine back in Kerala. Their stories were as real to me as any biography or any story that appeared on the morning newspaper. And I knew I had found what I was looking for. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In a child's world!

By Aswathy Kumar

I still remember what my professor once said. I was amongst the thirty students to have been selected for the Journalism course at a leading institute in the city. That day, I was attending one of my first sessions on ‘ Writing for print’. After an hour of lecture on ‘adopting the pyramid style in writing’ and the ‘ simple is beautiful’ concept, my professor said, “If your story is able to capture a child’s interest, then it’s a success and your work is done”.

The lecture got over and months later I was placed in one of the top media houses. However unlike my peers who took up hardcore reporting, covering issues related to crime, civic sense and health, I was placed under a special section that dealt with schools and education. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed as I too like my friends was looking forward to getting into the kurta- jhola attire and take up the ‘living on the edge’ way of life. That did not happen. My clientele were students from the age of seven to seventeen. My job was to talk to them, find out what they wanted and write stories they wished to read. The pay was good and the brand name was great. Yet I was disappointed. I felt that my job was a bit too easy and lacked the challenge that I was all this while waiting for. Little did I know then that in a couple of days, I was going to be proved completely wrong and realise that my so-called easy job for children was after all no child’s-play.

A mega inter- school quiz competition was held in the city that happened to be my first major reporting assignment. Over five thousand students from class III to XII had gathered to witness the mega show. Flying pom-poms high up in the air and yelling out slogans, “we’ll rock you” and “we are the best”, the students stormed the once-peaceful auditorium.

I felt great flaunting my press pass and being escorted to the seats reserved for the press invites. I felt at the top of the world as though I had just received my first few minutes of fame. The show began as I scribbled the course of events in my note pad. I told the organisers that I wished to speak to the winners and in just a couple of minutes they were brought in front of me. Like a parrot that had just learnt to say her first word; they shared their experience. (Probably told to them by their teacher or parents). ‘Oh it was a great opportunity to develop my inner skills’, ‘This success wouldn’t have been possible without my parents and teachers’, ‘ I can never forget this moment”, were amongst a few obvious reactions. The funny thing was that all the five winners seemed to have similar things to say. I came back to office and keyed in my story… that obviously turned out to be quite a disaster.

What went wrong I wondered? Were my questions not right? Were the students too tensed? Did my presence scare them? Or was I scared of it all ? A thousand doubts lingered in my mind. The story was rejected and I was asked to cover the finals to be held the following week. “This time don’t go there as a reporter, go there as a child”, my editor yelled out from her cabin.

What did she mean? I pondered. The following week I geared up to undertake the challenge once again. This time I knew I had to get it right. Flaunting my press card and occupying the seat for the press invites were no longer my concern. I decided to stand in line with the students as they were entering the auditorium.

“I can’t wait to see my school win, we have sent the best this time”, commented one of the kids. “ Hey we worked day and night to get our banner ready and we even practiced our cheerings and slogans”, said another. They were gripped by the excitement and didn’t seem to notice the stranger (that’s me) standing beside them making notes of what they were saying. The excitement grew on me too as I started asking them more about the preparations that went in making the evening, a memorable one. I learnt that, from practicing a victory dance to preparing their own cheering slogans, they were all set for the event. I captured their excitement, anxiety, fear, nervousness and restlessness. After a while even taking down points wasn’t necessary. I laughed with them, cheered with them and got tensed with them as the results were being announced. I had forgotton that I was working for one of the leading national dailies in the country. I forgot that I was a reporter. I was one among them.

As I went backstage to congratulate the winners, I felt their joy as they showed off their trophies. “Aditi is going to be so proud of me”, said one of the winners, referring to the cute girl in his class. “I guess this would change her mind”, he smiled sheepishly. “ I bet she would”, I said, giving him the thumps-up sign.

I went back to my office to do my story one more time, recalling each incident that happened and each moment I had captured. The story was great and went straight on page 6 (quite an achievement for a first timer). But my biggest achievement however came when a student called up to say that the article was great. Even the boy who had a crush on the cute-girl in the class rang up to say that she finally accepted his proposal and thanked me for making things easy for him.

As I sat back in my chair, basking in the joy of my big achievement, I remembered what my professor had once said, “If your story is able to capture a child’s interest, then it’s a success and your work is done”. I knew I had tasted my first dollop of success.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Agar yeh Dilli hota….

By Aswathy Kumar

When people ask me which part of the country I belong to, the first city that comes to my mind is Dilli. Okay I am a pure-bred hard core Malayali…no doubt about that. But I have always felt a strange connection to Delhi. I have lived there only seven years as compared to 18 years that I spent in my home town of Thiruvanathapuram, but still when I exit the Indira Gandhi International Airport and into the sea of aggressive taxi walas and honking cars I experience a strange feeling of welcome…that I am finally home.
A little bit of Delhi aggression is what the city of Nairobi need
Agreed… It’s not easy to love Delhi. I myself  was never a big fan of the scorching heat that always give you the feeling that you are down with a viral or the peak winters that pinch at your skin every time you step out of the house. The over-crowded DTC buses that with a vengeance refuse to stop at the swanky glittery bus-stops, the auto-rickshaws that never care two hoots about traffic rules, the street hawkers that swarm your car every time you halt at the red light and the similar looking houses that practically stick to each other are all things that you love to hate about Delhi. And working for a department where your main job is to report a stooping electricity pole, a potholed road, illegal parking and encroachments…loving Delhi was even more difficult for someone like me.
So you can imagine my excitement when my husband told me that we were moving to Nairobi. I was more than happy to bid adieu to our water-less house in Shivalik, the dingy kitchen that overlooked the wall of the next house and our sardar neighbor who happily parked one his five cars outside our gate every single day.
Life was going to be great…away from the madness, the pollution and the ever-so impatient Delhiites. Or so I thought?
Now what do I say about Nairobi? It’s picturesque, serene, great weather…a perfect blend of a quaint hill station and a metropolitan…a cosmo city surrounded by the rawness of the savannah. More than for its sheer beauty I was glad that I no longer had to run to the the Kooda wala every morning with the garbage bag or lie flat on the ground to see if water was filling up in my bore well (Yup! my landlord forgot to instill a direct-line tap and this was the only way to know when we got our share of municipal water).
In Nairobi I have a beautiful house, some good neighbors who never fail to show up at my doorstep with a plate of cupcakes or other mouth-watering African delicacies and most importantly some peace and quiet after a very long time.
But just a few days in this calm city and I realized that maybe it was not what I wanted after all. I missed Delhi, the arrogant rickshaw drivers outside Malviya Nagar, the ever-so annoying noise made by the subzi walas and mostly the streets of Delhi where everybody considered themselves to be somebody important. I missed the chaos, the noise and the madness.
Nairobi is great…The problem however for a crazy Delhiite like me starts when you leave the four walls of my apartments and into the city roads….These main roads of Nairobi, measuring just about 6mts in width are mostly single lane… Agar yeh Dilli hota (If this was Delhi), these so-called roads might have been rightly referred to as galis aka alleyways. But here…they are the main roads, the only ones leading you to you required destination.
Another striking feature of this city which is almost undigestible for a Delhiite like me is how the cars here can stand in a line for hours and hours, patiently waiting for every single person in front to find an apt parking space or finish a call on his mobile or even chat with a fellow driver passing by.
Believe me here in Nairobi you might be rushing to a hospital emergency or a job interview that might determine what your future holds for you. But if the person in front of you decides to go at 20kmh…then all you do is simply follow. You don’t honk, show no sign of aggression but simply tag along. It’s these times when I get stuck behind some laid back driver moving at snail pace on a practically empty road that I wish that I was back in Delhi.
Kyun ki Agar yeh Dilli hota…firstly there wouldn’t have been the question of waiting…coz if this was Delhi, a flyover would have sprung up at every corner…so that you don’t get stuck behind morons who don’t even know the basics of driving…or secondly…if this was Delhi and you were driving like you have all the time in this world, the person behind you would have zoomed ahead and gotten down to teach you a few essentials of driving in his unique Dilli Ishtyle,…lessons you wouldn’t even dare forget.
I recently read somewhere that the best way to solve the traffic problem in Nairobi is to legalize road rage and I couldn’t agree more…A little bit of Dilli-agresssion is exactly what this city needs to help wake up from its slumber…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Litter-ally Speaking!

By Aswathy Kumar

I recently developed this new and rather sinful habit of munching every two hours…I would start snacking on a pack of crisps exactly two hours after my breakfast, a packet of chocolate cookies post lunch or a sandwich a few hrs after tea time and so on. A heavy meal, an uninteresting snack or the fear of bloating up just couldn't dissuade me from pursuing my new-found hobby.
The extent of munching would however aggravate post-work, when I would get into my car to head back home after a long hectic day. I stay in Malviya Nagar by the way and my daily route stretches from my office in ITO through India Gate, Shahjahan Road, Khan Market, Lodi Road, Def Col, South Extn, Hauz Khas and finally to my home sweet home in Shivalik, Malviya Nagar.
Coming back to my problem, the minute I touch the ITO red light I would tear upon a packet of crisps, biscuits or bite into an apple depending on what I had chosen to pack in my bag early morning…and start the munching act. Being a fast eater, the session usually comes to an end by the time I reach India Gate. And that's when the mind boggling question arises…Where to dump the litter? The most obvious choice would have been to fling it out on the road…
Now trust me when I tell you this…I am not the kind of person you will see dumping piles and piles of garbage inside my bag as I am so anti-littering on the roads. I am a good citizen. There is no doubt about that. But I am also a Delhiite and dumping garbage on the road is my birth right.
But however in this case I was pretty badly stuck. I just could not get myself to dirtying the posh and elite roads outside India Gate, Shahjahan Road or for that matter Lodi Road. It was as though a strange power had take over me, stopping me from doing what had almost become a habit for us Delhiites. But I just couldn't. I felt guilty and ashamed for even thinking that I could mess up the pristine surroundings of this beautiful part of our city.
What was even more strange was how this habit returned the minute I reached the crowded streets of Def Colony or South Exe. Believe it or not but I did not even feel a pang of guilt for throwing the wrapper right outside my colony gates in Malviya Nagar. In fact I was more than happy to have gotten rid of the garbage that I have holding onto since the time I reached the India Gate red light.
That's what got me thinking? What was the reason behind my strange behavior? What was that power that had stopped me from littering at the picturesque surroundings at India Gate? Was I scared that somebody must be watching or that I will be fined or something? Or was it that the little voice in my head made me realize that what I was doing was wrong? I understood that it was indeed my conscience that had prevented me from doing the shameful act. Nobody else had dumped garbage on the road, then why should I?
Oh my god, did I just find the solution to the major litter problem in our city?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In the grasslands of Masai Mara

By Aswathy Kumar

Mara is famous for its majestic Lions
The time is 7.00 p.m. We had just got back to our rooms. I had put on my little black dress and was all set for a quiet romantic dinner with my husband. I was about to grab my jacket when I heard a knock on the door. It was a bit unusual because it was a bit too late for housekeeping and we definitely hadn’t ordered any room service. “Maybe we are getting a complimentary bottle of wine,” I joked to Vikram.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a lean old Masai standing outside. He held a spear in one hand and with the other he supported the red-checked shuka (the Masai blanket) covering him. His skin was wrinkled with a huge scar that went from his lips all the way up to his cheekbones. He was unlike the Masai who had greeted us at the hotel lobby or unlike the pleasant English-speaking Masai who acted as our guide. He didn’t even look like any of the Masais who had eagerly waved at us as we passed by them, signaling us to stop and take a picture with them.  This man at my door…was probably the oldest I had seen. With blood shot eyes, there was something ominous the way he stood by my doorstep gesturing us to hurry.
With a Masai at the Mara Game Reserve
He told us in his broken English that he was there to escort us to the restaurant which was just a few minutes’ walk from our cottage room that was cut off from the rest of the hotel. (We had paid extra and specially opted for this particular room as it was right on the Savannah and had no boundary walls surrounding it. You stand out in the balcony and you can see the grasslands of Mara stretch in front of you. )
We were a bit surprised and a bit annoyed too as we definitely didn’t want any company at the time and we definitely didn’t want anyone telling us what time to exit the room for dinner on our holiday. As we stood there staring at him, not budging a bit without having given an explanation for his strange appearance, he simply smiled at us and pointed his spear at something moving in  the grass outside.
Lioness,” he said… “Three of them…there are on their hunt.”
I peeped outside to see what this strange old man was talking about.
Zebras migrate from Serengiti for the sweet grass
And right before my eyes, on the grass, at the point where the artificially laid lawn met the tall golden grass of the Mara lay three lionesses…majestic, peaceful and extremely beautiful…her golden skin almost shining in the moonlit night.
That’s Masai Mara for you…raw and wild in every sense of the word! Known for being one of the finest and the most popular game reserves in Kenya, in the grasslands of Mara spotting a lioness relishing a wildebeest or hyenas dragging a kill to its den is nothing out of the ordinary. Vultures preying on a left-over gazelle or a pride of even 15 lions consisting of cubs and lionesses lounging around are a common sighting at the Masai Mara.
Posing with the tuskers
If you are staying in one of the luxury tents or camps situated near a water hole and not protected by any boundary walls you are sure to see a hippopotamus grazing in the night, a family of baboons or even a herd of tuskers by simply standing outside in your balcony. Apart from the lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and other predators, Mara is home to plenty of other animals like hippos, gazelles, topi, eland, giraffes and zebras amongst many others.
 Situated at a mere 140kms from the capital city of Nairobi, the best time to visit the magnificent Mara is during migration. By the end of June every year a large number of wildebeests and zebras cross over to the Mara from the Serengeti. Thousands of wildebeests and zebras grazing on the grasslands of Mara make for a breathtaking view if you travel to the grasslands during this time. And if you are lucky and you make it at the time when the wildebeests cross the Mara river you may even see them fall prey to the large number of crocodiles that anxiously await their arrival this time of the year.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


By Aswathy Kumar
Tired of the mad rat race? Take a break and head out to the streets of Nairobi where people seem to have all the time they want
Each one of us is living in a mad mad world. We have no time to think, breathe…leave alone take a few minutes off our hectic schedules to just plain relax…Life for most of us have become nothing but a mere rat race with each one of us trying our best to handle our 24x7 careers, meet deadlines, please our bosses, be the perfect parent and the ideal spouse…all at the same time. We have no time to sit back and chill especially not in the mornings, the craziest of all hours, when we have to make sure we look our best, make sure our kids reach school and be on time for the morning meeting. Mornings have become so maddening that many of us don’t even have time to sit down and finish a bowl of cereal in peace.
Now that’s what you thought life was in general in most parts of the world. You must have been almost hundred percent sure that at least in most of the metropolitan cities, people like you and me were living the insane rollercoaster life. But come to Nairobi and Voila! Your perception on life is sure to change in a snap.
Believe it or not…but here people actually seem to be in no hurry…be it morning, day or night!  Now is this not a metro city like any other? Of course it is! It has the best of glittery malls, state of the art multiplexes, hi-rise buildings and what not? Then don’t they have nagging bosses, children they need to drop to school and deadlines to meet? I bet they do. But surprisingly here people seem to have all the time in the world.
Don’t believe me? Head out to any of the so-called busy roads say for example Ngong Road, Karen Road or Langata Road during the peak hours. And you are sure to come across a straight line of cars waiting patiently for their turn before they can zoom ahead to reach their respective destinations. Now I can understand that it is peak hours and traffic jams are a common feature in any part of the world. But in Nairobi, jams are not usually caused by the sheer volume of cars on the road. For all you know the kilometer long jam must have been the work of a driver who chose to drive at 20kmh on an empty road.
What amazes me is how these guys can stand at the same spot for hours and hours without honking even once or raising a fist at the guy who was driving so slow that even a cyclist could have overtaken him in no time.  
Peek inside any of these cars and you are sure to see the driver, probably some big shot at a multinational or an investment banker, scanning the morning paper or relishing a tuna sub. Now he could have read the whole morning paper back to back and finished the monstrous sub and find that his car has not even budged a little. Now if this was any other part of the world, not only would he have hooted like a maniac but would have stepped out of his car went all the way up to the chap causing the jam and reminded him of who he is and thrown some daunting threats at him making sure he never went below 100 in his entire life. 
But here in Nairobi it’s a whole different story. Here Mr. Driver is in no hurry. Here he will patiently wait till the chap in front has finished blowing a thousand kisses to his wife on the other end of the phone and spoken to each of his five kids. Forget hooting or cursing, he will not even frown to show his frustration. He will simply put down his paper, finish his sandwich and go onto the next task to keep him occupied.  Forget peak hours…even if it’s on a Sunday afternoon where the entire main road is practically empty you are sure to get stuck behind a Prado or a Pajero driving slower than an Asian tuk tuk. 


By Aswathy Kumar

From the muddy roads of Munirka to the posh colonies of GK. From Sarojini Nagar on one side to the glittery markets of South Extn. People traveling in Mercs and BMW’s to those waiting for hours to catch a 511 or a 750 that will take them back home. People getting ready for their yoga and meditation classes to those getting set to rock the night at their favourite discotheques. That’s South Delhi for you, diverse in all sense of the word. From the way they dress, the way they talk, the kind of places they hang out to even the kind of music they listen to. Let’s find out what sets each South Delhiite apart for the other.

The kitty-party aunty:
Often while strolling down the streets of South Extn or the Gk-1 market you come across women clad in the pink chiffon sari with their face and lips painted pink carrying the trendiest of pink clutch-bag and togged up in pink flip-flops. Forget shopping, she may be just paying a visit to her next-door neighbor, yet she never forgets her pink goggles and the pink blush-on. She has to look her best. “Arey bhai after all izzat ka sawal hain… The Kashmir problem pales in comparison with the kitty party aunty’s grievances. Ranging from getting jewelry set far more expensive than the neighbors’ and ensuring that all the latest gossips of the next-door’s bahu returning home late everyday, aunty’s problems and responsibilities are pretty much endless.
Another feature that shouldn’t be missed about these aunty’s is their much-talked about weekly get-togethers, which is nothing but just an excuse to share all the juicy gossips and play a game of tambola and Flash. But for the aunty its not just a social gathering and the preparations that go into it are much more scrupulous than the party itself. Hours at the salon and stopping at every shop in the market to find the right sari to wear can quite be a tedious task and is definitely no Childs-play.
The intellectuals:
This is the jooti, kurta and jhola group of South Delhiites, the intellectual lot. For them shopping, partying or even visiting a restaurant is nothing but a complete waste of time. Their life revolves around their one adda, often a library and sometimes under a tree where they can be in close proximity with nature. They are seen in groups of three-four and are also seen all by themselves with just a book or the morning’s paper as their sole-companion. The state of our Indian politics and the unhealthy conditions in the slums near by are their favourite topics of discussion. Ask them to come for a party and they would never forget their jola, their note-pad and their kurta… and when offered a drink they would never think beyond ‘chai’, that’s their style. Its not that they don’t do anything different, they do make frequent trips to the museum, plays or art exhibitions!!
The night crawlers:

South Delhi is the perfect den for the night crawlers, the party freaks. As the sunsets and as the whole world goes to sleep, there is a group of people who get set to groove all night to live life; the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll style. Girls in their black halters and shimmery skirt, wearing stilettos that block the daylights out of them and men in the latest Gio Vani collection, get ready to hit their favourite haunts. Partying till 5 in the morning, lost in the rhythm of the full-blast music playing in the background is their ultimate idea of fun. Nightclubs and discotheques have often been associated with drinks and dancing. But for the regulars it’s much beyond that. What may appear to some as noisy and claustrophobic, are for these party animals the perfect way to rejuvenate themselves and get some peace of mind. For many it’s the only time they can be themselves. You may just have gotten fired or your girl may have just ditched you for your best friend. But the crowd, the music and the ambience makes them forget it all and makes it the perfect way to chill-out. Though there night just doesn’t end with hitting a night club. These night crawlers either stay till the last person has left the place or do a little bit of disc-hopping to find the right place that suits them and their mood. When the sunrises and the world wakes up from their sleep, its time for bed for these nocturnal animals.
Happy in the cocoon:
They are the group of South Delhiites who are a little too happy with the way they are. They are too happy in their own cocoons and just don’t believe in trying something new. Ask them what their hobby is and all you get would be a frown or a raised eyebrow. Getting dressed and going out is too much of a drag for these South Delhiites. They have a routine which they don’t believe in changing. They are the kinds who would have one restaurant they frequent every Sunday and one cinema hall they would go to once a month and would have one specific day to pay visits or entertain guests. Going against this fixed time table is a big No! No! (According to them the regular traffic snarls, fast life and high pollution levels are reason enough to convince them to stay home).
The Velas:
Not to be mistaken with the outgoing kinds or the extroverts, the Velas are an entirely different lot. What the world looks like in the morning, they wouldn’t know and Kamanna?... Uske liye papa hain na! Waking up at 12 in the noon, getting dressed in the trendiest of shirts, wearing the most expensive perfume with gelled hair to complete the look, they get into the latest models of car to go where? They themselves wouldn’t know. Probably to a friends place for brunch or to drive around while talking to a buddy on the cell-phone. After almost two hours of aimlessly roaming around, its time for a short nap that often lasts till 6 in the evening. Then its time to meet the gang at the regular coffee shop, from where they seldom order coffee. Their day concludes with dinner, drinks and a movie at another friends place.
The Shopaholics: 
One of the most common group of South Delhiites are the Shopaholics. Shopaholics are those who follow the shop till you drop mantra. Shopping for this category of South Delhiites doesn’t necessarily mean buying what is required. For them it’s more of a passion and an addiction. You may have nothing to buy and would have just spend a fortune shopping a week before but still visiting your favorite market becomes a necessity, be it even loafing around just to window shop, it has become something these South Delhiites just cant do without. These compulsive buyers don’t believe in buying one at a time. If they have an intention to buy one pair of sandals they end up buying four. Although they may come back home and forget all about the new pair of sandals and it may lie abandoned in the cupboards for ages, these Shopaholics if they see something they have to have it.
Thought shopping was synonymous with women. Not any more! Men too are following the same trend. On one hand when women hoard the markets to buy jewelry and cosmetics, men are busy buying the latest of Gadgets and accessories.
There is a group of South Delhiites love to flaunting and when it comes to spending a fortune for frequent visits to the parlor to get a new look, updating their wardrobe with the latest designs or buying tickets for holidaying abroad, there is absolutely no stopping. This category believes in living life to the fullest. They would sign up for all kinds of classes, like yoga, salsa, aerobics, maybe not coz that’s what they need but that’s the in-thing these days. They would sign up with leading dietician of the country would hire a gym instructor to help them with their daily work-outs and would have a leading interior decorator do their homes every season. These are the lot of South Delhiites who never hesitate to flaunt or show-off. After-all money comes and goes but if it can make a few heads turn then what’s the harm.
-          Published in South Delhi Plus, The Times of India on December 11, 2004

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Where else in the whole world can you do things you are not supposed to do and still get away with it

By Aswathy Kumar
There is a strange pleasure we derive when we do things we are not supposed to do. A feeling of joy, achievement, a feeling we wouldn’t have had a chance to experience, hadn’t we broken some rules and regulations. A strange happiness you experience because you know it is something you are just not allowed to do.
One of the best places to see classic examples of ‘doing things you are not supposed to do’ is our Delhi roads. Take for example ‘littering.’ Each one of us knows that littering is a dirty habit, something we shouldn’t do. And how many of us do it anyway? Almost all of us. We will have the clean and green Delhi boards staring right in our face while driving through the snazzy roads of Delhi, yet we wouldn’t think twice before dumping a wrapper or our parking ticket out of our car window. We wouldn’t think once about the unlucky scooter-wala right behind us and what if the wrapper we threw out stuck to his face.
And what about talking on our mobile phones while driving! Each one of us would have at least yelled at the car that almost bumped into us because the driver was too busy yapping away on his phone. And most of us would have instantly without a thought called up a friend to crib about the person who almost scratched our car.     
“My husband once yelled at a woman for scratching his car. She hadn’t seen us because she was too busy on her phone. ‘This is why women should not drive as they don’t even know the basics that you should not talk on the phone while driving,” he had remarked. But the very next minute he got a call from work and was on the phone for almost half an hour,” says Ruchi.
“I was on my way to work and as usual stuck in a huge traffic jam. Though this was more like a routine it was slightly different because even after an hour the jam was not clearing up,” says Rohit. Irritated and angry on having missed his morning meeting, Rohit got out to see what was holding up the ars. “I saw that two cars had bumped against each other and both the drivers were busy reasoning out and trying to find out whose fault it was. Not once did they realize that they were holding up over hundreds of cars behind them and did they care? I don’t think so.” Another classic example.
Maybe that is the best part about living in Delhi, a city where you not only get to break some rules but get away without a scratch. Salaam Delhi!
-          Published in North Delhi Plus, The Times of India, October 28, 2006 


No water, no power, no space for parking and a whopping rent for Rs 30,000…but who cares…It’s after all South Delhi yaar…

By Aswathy Kumar

I have always wanted to live in South Delhi. Often during social get-togethers I had heard an ear-full about how great South Delhi is and how posh it is and how it has the best crowd, the best of cinema halls, the best of glitzy markets and the best of hangouts.
This is one of the reasons why my husband and I finally decided to move out of our present home abd move into the posh South Delhi. Safdarjung, Greater Kailash, Green Park, Hauz Khas were a few of our obvious choices. Our first stop was at a two bedroom apartment in Hauz Khas Enclave. The colony was situated adjacent to the congested main road opposite AIIMS which meant every morning we will be woken up by the sound of honking cars, traffic snarls and speeding DTC buses…a small price to pay for a prime location like this one.
The house was small (almost half the size of the one where we are staying now) with the master bedroom in one corner, the bathroom in the other corner and the kitchen right in the middle. The so called palatial house (as it was mentioned in the ad) had just one wash room. It is important to mention here that we have a large family with my folks settled in kerala, my husband’s in Hyderabad, my brother working in Chennai and his sister settled in Mumbai who visit us during the holiday season. Just think of how our mornings would be…waking upto a large queue of family members outside the loo waiting for their turn to come. Adding to the charm of the house in the posh colony was the fact that it received water just for two hours, had frequent power cuts and the rent was a whopping Rs 30,000.
When I raised my doubts about the acute water shortage, the broker sneered at me saying, “Arrey prime location hain na aap ko aur kya chahiye?” (The house is in a prime location what more do you want?”) We wanted more…of problems I mean, Because the next house we  saw was the one in Green Park., situated right in the middle of the Green Park market. This house had no regular water supply, no electricity, entrance was through a filthy street behind the market, had no parking space and the rent worth Rs 20,000 per mo nth. To the parking problem, our broker had the perfect solution. “Park wherever you want.” And even if it means parking your car a kilometer away from your house and having stolen by some thugs…how does it matter…after all you are in South Delhi. Right?
-          Published in The South Central Plus, The Times of India, December 16, 2006