Sunday, March 27, 2011

Confessions of a Mills and Boon fan

Buy, borrow or beg. But read the books.

I read this couplet years ago. Perhaps in some school library. And the thought just got embedded in my mind. What could be a better starter than an MB (Mills & Boon)?

I remember laying my hands on an MB whilst studying in class ninth in 1996. Considering the ‘backward’ rather retiring city I come from, being spotted with an MB was a big taboo (and sadly enough it still remains).

I still possess the copy of my first MB, borrowed from a school friend. Having read once, I came across the fact that MB was a chain of books carrying romantic stuff. In a way, it gave women liberty to perceive things that are beyond imagination in an Indian society.

And then started the hunt to read more MBs. With no pocket money, buying one was definitely not an option. So I asked some friends. Hunted for some in public library Bathinda. But got none. Four years passed and I entered college.

Here I came across a friend – daughter of an army officer – who was as big an MB fan as any other girl from a metro city. I borrowed some of MBs from her and we embarked upon a journey of beauty of words. Sometimes we read an MB sitting in the Chemistry class and others time in the green lawns of Government Rajindra College, Bathinda.

The sleek and small MB lay nestled in the quirky chemical equations and potions of the Chemistry books, while we giggle sitting on the last benches. It was more of bonding, than reading a book. MBs gave me an unforgettable friend.

And MB taught me….

For all the three years of my degree, I read MBs, Sideny Sheldon, Robin Cook and some Hindi works like Anandmath, Munshi Prem Chand’s Godan and Gurdial Singh’s creations. Most of them were read either right before exams or during boring Chemistry lectures.

During all these three years. MBs told me about deserts of Egypt, the beauty of Alaska, exotic sounding dishes, beaches of Hawaii and Miami, added words like genuflect to my vocabulary, I went scuba diving, I went rafting, sometimes African jungles and at times Florida delighted me. At other times, these bailed me out of struggle of life (for a few hours). And then there were the days when I competed with myself i.e. reading an MB over night.

The books again took back seat for a year, when I went to Ludhiana. Lost in the milling crowd of industrial city, I met a dear friend. She invited me for tea and on the shelves of her bedroom lo!… were stacked the tempting MBs. Again the borrow circle of MBs got underway. Within few months, I have read almost all the MBs she had and hunt for more started.

Temptation comes knocking

As if my prayers were heard. I met a friend from public relations, who had plenty of MBs filled in bags. So one day, while driving back home, I took the bags and enjoyed reading for another couple of months. Needless to say, the entire supply was circulated throughout the hostel I lived in. But as is said, happy times are short lived. The supply exhausted and MB era came to a small end.

Few years later, while sifting through websites on literature, I stumbled upon MB website. The publication was gearing up to launch its India edition and had put up a set of questionnaires gathering taste of Indian readers. I took the survey and so did a friend sitting somewhere in Delhi.

Last portion of survey demanded that addresses be mentioned so that a surprise pack be delivered at home. Afraid of my mother, I gave address of my friend, while she typed my address for the same column. Result: Both of us got a set of two MBs each at respective addresses along with loads of reprimand from mothers. We swore not to even look at MBs again. But, promises are meant to be broken.

Technology comes to rescue:

Till date, I have never bought an MB. Either I’ve borrowed, begged or (quiet ashamedly I admit) that I never returned borrowed ones. With advent of technology, my favorite MBs have gone online and the publication has been generous enough to start a free online reading slot.

Amidst the chaos of family and work, I do manage to steal a look at the website and read its online stories - albeit when I am free - and that is when all have dozed off. But I miss reading an MB balled up in a quilt, stealing glances from mother and pretending to study my lessons hard.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our English teacher – Mrs Bakshi

Jan 1, 2011

I met her today. My Guru. My teacher. A rock that I have clung to in most difficult times and the person who infused love whenever I lost hope.

My English at St Xavier’s High School Bathinda, Bakshi Ma`am (Poonam Bakshi) is a picture of grit determination and hard work. Those were the years when she gave me extra lessons without any fees. Those were the times when I turned to her for every small problem – be it personal or professional.

Like a lighthouse she guided me and perhaps many other students since 1997. Today she stands on the cross road of life where I cant do anything for her. Her husband, Mr Bakshi, is fighting against all odd ends. With severe kidney failure, Mr Bakshi, undergoes dialysis. Almost twice a week.

The six-feet tall and cheerful man lay hidden under quilts at his home. My always-smiling and joyful teacher tried a lot to hide her tears, but she could not. Every time I saw her struggle to keep that tear away from coming out, my heart wrenched to see such a pain.

But after every few sentences she said, “I have learnt not to loose hope and not to cry in front of anyone. It’s a battle that my husband, my son and I are fighting all alone. And we have learnt not to give up.”

What she does not mention is that at times she feels so lonely. She does not tell that sitting on the cold desk at hospital, waiting for the five hours long painful dialysis to get over, she reminisces the old days. Thinking of the happiness she shared with her spouse.

At times she feels too helpless to even think of something good happening. She did not tell me how scarce the resources are and how difficult it is to bear expensive treatment. Yet I could make out how much she needs a support, which sadly enough, I cant be. And she is too proud to ask for a help.

Hats off to the lady, who taught so many children, changed so many lives and touched so many people. Now none of us is able to help her and she is too

All I can do is just pray.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tiger and Dragon share a bond

Tiger and Dragon share a bond

Love knows no barriers. No matter which part of world one hails from, the language of love and friendship is understood everywhere alike. There is a bond, which ties people together from diverse cultures.

Recent visit of Indian youth delegation to China, under youth cultural exchange programme of Government of India and Government of China, just fortified this feeling.

An initiative under understanding reached between the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao, this may be the last Indian delegation to China under the programme. Meant at studying the culture of great Dragon’s country, the visit ended forging many ties and proved to be a learning experience.

The huge delegation of 88 youngsters from India, handpicked from Jammu-Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to West Bengal presented striking picture of vast diversity India has. Inclusion from youth even from island states of Andaman and Nicobar and Daman and Diu added to the colorful bouquet of diversity.

It was an awesome experience to be amidst skyscrapers and oversized flyovers of Shanghai, world acclaimed Chinese technology at Hefei and to talk with clouds and have peek into ancient China at Chongqing.

Perhaps we can take a leaf out of China’s urban planning and development arena and provide home to our slums and ensure an equivalent urban skyline. The other side of this progressive story, however, largely remained unseen.

The country with largest population on globe teemed with people and vehicles, but had no traffic chaos. Its disciplined people and equally discipline traffic did not give away truth of it being most populated country.

People here extensively used plastics, especially in the form of packaged drinking water, but the place did not choke with it. Answer to this lay in Chinese’s penchant to recycle everything possible and assign a different class of industry for the same. As per the municipal officials of Chongqing, Government of China offers special subsidy and taxation benefits to the recycling industry.

Chinese care for their environment, and that too an innovative manner. Besides recycling plastic and other garbage, Chinese promote green cover at every possible place.

The cemented city of Shanghai, where one can hardly spot even a small bird, is an example. While countryside is lush green, in city every small space has been converted into green strip. At public places, like Shanghai Expo, huge potted plants try to impart greenery to an otherwise wide expanse of concrete. Some of the pavilions, like Indian pavilion, were designed in a way to be oasis in the desert of huge structures again made of environmental friendly material.

The country also has large buses and public transport systems running on batteries to lessen environmental pollution. Such battery-operated vehicles are frequently found in famous Shanghai’s Nanjing road.

Like India, China too considers its manpower a great asset and efforts are being made to improve the standards of living, especially in the countryside.

Women here share equal dais with men. Cities of Shanghai, Hefei and Chonging buzzed with women all around. It was a place where women drove taxis, buses and other public transports, ran most successful business ventures in market, handled shops, malls and outlets – to cut a long story short – women outnumbered men even as skilled labor in factories.

Lovers of tobacco, Chinese men and women are fond of smoking and have specially designated outlets for sale of finest of tobacco products in cities. For the rural population, small time cigarette shops fulfill these needs. Most of the public places in cities including hotels, restaurants, markets and even public toilets, have tobacco smell wafting in air.

Despite such large consumption of tobacco and its products, one can hardly find a cigarette butt lying on roads. Particular about sanitation, there are round the clock sweepers, deployed to work after night hours also – especially in tourist zones.