Sunday, November 30, 2008

*update - deletion of some points which were sensitive.

Im battling so many emotions right now. Im not sure how to vent my anger, frustration and im not even sure what im feelin right now.

I went for the candle light vigil at Marine Drive a while back, lit a candle, said the National Anthem.... the experience was overwhelming, the turnout tremendous. I couldnt hold back tears as we sang the National Anthem as images of Hemant Uncle, Akash doing the final rites came into my eyes. The mood of everyone was clear - angry, frustrated and fed up. People help up placcards saying 'We dont care who resigns, we dont care whose there, we want safety', others saying ' Can you hear us Mr. C.M. (who by the way went on a tour of both hotels with Ram Gopal Verma and his son Riteish Deshmukh as part of his offical entourage.) This is our leader, the chief minister of our state abusing his power. He ought to do us a favour and kill himself.

I come home to my dad whom Ive seem for brief moments since friday...
Im angry, and upset. I want to go to bed knowing hes done his duty and that now he deserves more than 2 hours of sleep a night, and spend some time with his family. Selfsh that sounds, but i dont care. He hasnt had time to deal with the trauma hes been through too.

One more thing thats really pissed me off. The image of Akash in todays paper doing the last rites of Hemant Uncle shows him standing next to some random girl who theyve labelled as 'Karkares son and Daughter mourning'. Cant they get their facts right? I mean, how irresponsibel can you be? If i were to labe a client brand wrong in a presentation, Id be sacked. and this was on the front page of the paper!

When i went to drop my dad off, I saw the whole inside, which has been boarded off so no photographers/media can peek inside like the Taj. What i saw was eerie slience, in a hustling bustling place Ive been so many times before, with bullet holes near the lift, glass of the entire lobby, of both the oberoi and the trident shattered... the blood and bodies have been cleared completely. I walked into the charred remains of Kandahar, the indian restaurant which was almost my favoritre (second to Frangipani). It was heart breaking..I didnt take any pictures out f respect for my dad who doesnt want any ghaslty images leaked to the press, and also since we are all tryign to get the past few days out of the forefront of our memories, let alone takign snaos that will put them right back. My mom and I stared speechless at a coat slung over a chair casually, half burned, presumably that of a guest dining there. All hostages were taken from Kandahar, so im guessing he would be one of them. If not, i hope hes one of the (few survivors), since 2 grenades burst in this hotel too.

It was an eerie experice, I couldnt hold back as i stepped into Tiffin for a minute.. the restaurant which suffered the most casualties. Knowing each person seated in tat restaurant is now dead was unnerving, I pray for the souls of everyone who was there...

Im angry, upset, frustrated (ive said this before havent i?) and hurt. Just running out of ways to deal with it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This is my story..

It was a long excruciating wait. For my dad to walk in home. One I wasn't even sure would end well.But it did, and as we deal with the trauma of the past few days, I just wanted to offer my condolences and prayers to everyone whose lost someone... It is indeed a tragedy, and one that will take a LONG time to heal.

My dad got called into work on Wednesday, 26th at 9.30 just as the first grenade burst and the first few rounds were fired in the Oberoi. I was out with a friend in a taxi at Colaba, just minutes away from Leopold, wondering why there was so much traffic when I got a call from a much distressed mom informing me that Daddy got called in to work since there was a Bomb blast at Oberoi '(Which is what he was told at the time). She was afraid he wouldn't even make the car ride to the hotel, given the complete panic and utter shock he left. My friend and I took a right from the Regal circle, towards my house... a coupla mins late and we would've been in the thick of things at Colaba Causeway.

My first reaction when I turned on the news was 'Mom, its not a bomb blast, it was firing OUTSIDE the Oberoi'. Short lived relief turned into quickening heartbeats and utter dismay when I heard an explosion and rushed to my window, which has a clear view of the Oberoi. As I saw smoke billowing out of the hotel, I knew something major had happened. Course, this took abut 20 mins to appear on tv, since deferred live and all that. Until then, I was speechless, numb and at a loss for words, when the phone calls started pouring in. First my cellphone from friends who know i live this side of town, then relatives on the landline and my moms cellphone...suddenly it was as though all hell broke loose. I was answering each call with templated responses... 'Ya, im fine. Moms home too. No, Dads inside the hotel. Yes, Inside. No i dont know. Yes it is bad. can we speak later? bye.'

As we watched the news turn from random firing outside the Oberoi, to terrorists actually INSIDE,with a hostage situation, I slowly died, went to hell and stayed there for 3 days. My mom and I sat before the television holding hands, as each passing moment got worse. My heart stopped beating fast, and instead slowed to an unnerving pace as the magnitude of everything happening sunk in. Knowing my dad and knowing his military background, i knew he wouldn't be sitting in the background of things. I was fearing for the worst. Thoughts like him throwing himself into the fray (which he did) were flashing before me every few seconds and false reassurances from family and friends that everything will be ok fell on deaf ears. Everything was already not ok. People were already dead, The Taj was burning and My dad was still in there.

From the time he left at 9.30 at night till the next day at noon, we had no news from him. Needless to say we were glued to the tv, watching nervously through the night for this operation to end. People called and msgd me as people were being evacuated asking me if my dad was one of them... to whom i said the same thing - that he will be the last to leave. if at all. Those who know him, didnt ask, cos they knew this about him. They knew he would prefer dying in the line of duty, putting himself in harms way, than coming out and watching as his men and his hotel burned.

Midway through the night, I saw a few visuals of a very close family friend - Hemant Uncle,.. u would know him as Hemant Karkare the ATS chief donning a (so called) bulletproof jacket and helmet and entering the scene. This is when I couldn't take it anymore, I left my moms room and walked into my own, saying prayers at the window and refused to leave. A Friend who stayed over since he was stranded this side of town came into my room about a half hr later and told me he is no more. Neither is Ashok Uncle. At this point, I started wheezing, and all the being strong theory jumped out the window. The next one hour was just a whirlwind of trying to get my breath back, and thinking of Jui, who I spoke with last week, who got married last year...Akash, Sayli and Kavita Aunty. This was a great great setback, and a tragedy that happened to our family even if my dad walked in home safe.

From 5.30 in the morning that day, sms's started pouring in asking if we had any news from dad. Considering we had none, it was a tremendous task speaking to concerned relatives and friends and saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. 'We have no news'. As more reports of sporadic fire, explosions kept streaming in through the hours, my confidence was wearing thin. When, one of my phones which is a direct line from the Oberoi rang in the Intercom fashion.. which meant either my dad was calling or there was bad news... Those few seconds till my mom said 'are u ok?' which indicated it was my dad were indeed the longest few of my life.

That phone call lasted 10 seconds and this was it 'im ok, they have a lot of ammunition, is really bad, they've killed 4 of my men, 3 employees and 5 guests. They're heavily armed.' and the line was cut. He was whispering, so we didn't even know where he was.

That phone call didnt bring much relief... as we didn't know much, and whatever he did tell us was bad news.

The next phone call happened an agonizing 5 hours later, and was on the same lines. Still whispering - 'Im ok, situation bad, they're heavily armed, they both are holed up in a room and throwing hand grenades intermittently' . We were confused. 2 terrosists? Holed up in the room? Where were the hostages? Since the news was reporting 6-10 terrorists, and a hostage situation.
Its when he got back yest for a few hrs that we realized there were only 2, and that they killed their hostages on the first day itself.

He got back for a few hours on friday night around midnight, more than 60 hours since the last time he slept, and 48 hours since he was at Oberoi. He got to know of his friends death only a day later, from an army official who entered the second day. Didnt have time to deal with it then, as there were dead bodies strewn about his own hotel, and terrorists who still needed to be flushed out.

My little brother is at Military school at Nashik and got to know a few hours after this happened, on wednesday and called us in great Panic. 'Daddy is obviously inside', said he, 'but is he ok?' to which we naturally lied and said we had spoken with him and he's completely fine, in fcat hes not even inside the hotel. Think he knows his dad and knew he wouldnt be outside, judging by the 2 hourly phone calls he made to us, asking if we've heard from him.

It was the phone call on friday, 28th at 7 in the morning that first brought us some relief. Daddy said one terrorist was gunned down, he saw the body and they were verifying if the other was dead too. They just needed to verify it. Dont mention it to anyone just yet, he warned us.

it broke on the news 4 hours later, that both were dead, and they began evacuating guests when we knew, that it HAD in fact ended at the Oberoi. My greatest secret fear in the past two days was the thought that they could be plotting to blow up the place and the buildings would crumble before my eyes, and no one would get out alive.

I have so much to say, this was just my story. I heard my dads and thats another post.

My boss at work out of complete good intention mentioned to me tht people were being evacuated, so why doesn't he come out. Family does come first sometimes u know, maybe hell come he said. I smiled and simply told him, I know my dad. He isnt choosing his job over his family, this is who he is, It is an intrinsic quality, devotion to duty and dedication to the lives of others, something you wont understand. If i were to ever send my dad a cowardly sms like that, rest assured he would never have spoken to me for a long long time.

God willing, this has ended, though in some ways it has just begun.

I just wanted to thank my friends and family, people who lived through it with me. Prach - I love you so much, Vin and Sam who breathed easy only when i sms'd them saying he was home, Aj for being my telephone operator and handling calls from everyone at work and kept quiet when i cried and didnt ask me to be strong, Kos who appeared out of nowhere and stood by me, Niki who msgd me everytime a frnd of hers inside Oberoi so much as saw my dad, Ash who was worried as helll too, Nisarg, Shilpa who lost her cousin and his wife but kept calling me anyway, Sita who prayed non stop and now wants to go to Siddhivinayak with me, Nu and Riz who said 'Inshaallah everything will be ok', Kamal who put things behind her and called and smsd me, Andy Uncle who kept trying to use contacts to find out if hes ok, Devang and Pavi who kept checking up on me, Devang (the other one) who got stranded at my house and held my hand for hours as i squeezed the air out of it....I think I can go on.And I will. I promise to put up the names of each and every person who has touched me in such an unforgettable way, since there are so many. I am overwhelmed by the love and prayers we received, and I dont think Ill ever have the words to thank you all..

I dont know how, but i forgot to Mention B aunty, who came over in the evening, despite our vehement pleas not to leave her house, armed with macaroni and cheese, made us eat dinner, switch of the tv for a while, watch an hour of 'The holiday' and stayed with us till we heard form him the next day. I dont know what we wouldve done without you, your our angel.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To thine own self be true....Shakespeare

Pretenses. Thats what Ive been thinking about for a while now... Its one of those *verbs* thats almost an integral part of our lives. I Hate the word, the action, the whole feeling altogether. Its like being someone else isnt it? Pretending.
We spend so much time behind our walls, our self defence mechanisms that the last thing we need is something else to hide our true self behind.So why do we do it in the first place? To be accepted? To be liked? To be Popular? To hide our own true feelings? Sometimes its a combination of all of the above. For reasons best known to the person himself/herself.

Its interesting to observe in people though... Ive seen the most confident of people be someone they're actually not. Hide behind feelings, emotions and actions which are 'socially acceptable' or 'admirable'. Dust away insecurities (which might be very much present) and shrug away introspection. Say only attacking statements which leave no opening for judging the person himself/herself.

I'm a fan of maintaining dignity by polite silences, gracefully withdrawing from a heated situation or not being in places which you feel uneasy in. Having said that, I will never be in a place where Im not myself. I am comfortable in the skin Im in, and wont feel the need to undervalue what im feeling or being someone Im not. If i dont like you, i dont like you. Im not going two ways about it. If I dont like hanging out with you, I wont do it. I wont NOT like you, BUT hang out with you, AND then bitch behind your back. Thats just not me.

I dont 'get' such people either. How can you NOT have a mind of your own? Or be a hypocrite? Doesnt a voice inside revolt against you? Doesnt your conscience say 'How can you do such a thing?'.

Theres a difference in protecting yourself and being someone else altogether. I once knew a friend, many years ago who was extremely helpful, extremely sweet, extremely caring and all that. To the point of being a doormat. If she was a friend, you could treat her anyway you wnated to , but she'd be there. I think being there no matter what and all is all good, but she went to ridiculous extremes. It was only a few years later that i figured that she was afraid that if she wasnt that nice to us, we wouldnt like her, Which was absolutely untrue. She was a perfectly smart, fun, and caring person to start off with, and she need'nt have been that way with us to be liked anyway.

Its about believing in yourself. Knowing your worth it. And having friends who will stick by you even when you make some bad choices, or wake up in a nasty mood, and start over millions of times. I know i certainly do. Ive been lucky to have a few people who have had steadfast belief in me, and loved me, through my decisions and phases (and Ive had many). Cause in the end, thats what counts.
Being able to pick up the phone and saying 'hey' and getting one back.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Recession hits home. After a few months of reading about half the companies across the world downsizing and giving a staggering percent of its workforce the pink slip, I can feel the effects of the slowdown. i.e I have NO work.

Which is a refreshing break from having a LOT of it. Which had been the case until very recently. Weekends, late evenings early mornings, all were devoted to my (not so) beloved desk @ work.

That said, I need 2-3 hours of work AT LEAST! 8 hours of surfing the Internet a day and fixated to one chair in one very cosy corner can pose several predicaments i.e. feeling uncontrollably sleepy, infinitely bored (how many blogs can u read), although this website proved to be good fun and sufficed for a while.

Most others are oscillating between the score (shhhhh they don't know it works) and discussing impending weekend plans. My own plans today have undergone a change. I was to attend a bollywood dance class today, (a free trial version) as I am (rightfully so) wary of my dance skills. Did i say skills? I guess it must be a typo. It is a well established fact among my inner circle (argh who'm i kidding) everyone around me that apart from talking a lot (and well :)) I have no talents. The write-in-resume type talents. Singing is something I indulge in only when no one is around, or in LOUD noisy night clubs when my voice will be drowned out anyway, since I wouldn't want to afflict someone near and dear with nightmares.

Painting of course was ruled out in school with me getting 18/50 (passing marks) for 3 years consecutively with my art teacher confessing to me that she passes me only since I was a good student otherwise. I nearly failed this once when the topic was 'A visit to the zoo'. Now for a person whose people at best look like reflections in trick figures and grotesquely disfigured, imagine what my animals would have resembled. To save face, I chose easy animals - which resulted in snakes placed next to birds. Which were the only two animals i drew. The rest of the space was occupied by a back profile of balloon seller and a tree that hid the section labelled 'Tigers' from view. Luckily since I had a way with words, I managed to convince the teacher that I meant no mockery of :"Art" when I drew that and it was simply the consequence of a person who reallyyy cant draw, attempting to do so.

This adequately covers the non singing non drawing non painting genre of talents. Which leaves me with the only stuff i EVER put on my resume - elocution, debates, extempore and the likes. Damn, still in the talking domain. *sigh* oh well, Ill live.

Err, I was about to explain change in plans when I digressed and HOW. So here's what happened. Complete boredom leads to sluggishness and bad tracking of dates et all. So Woman (i.e. me) nicely set up dance date while one close friend from America is about to step foot on home ground after an absence of nearly 2 years. Whats more, so convinced was I that she was landing tomorrow and not today, and I told everyone who was planning to go to the airport that we need to go on friday and not today. Equals, NO ONE WENT TO THE AIRPORT. I naturally need to apologise profusely and take all blame and come out looking like the bigger person. But still, I hate ditching one friend for another. Which im doing in this case. Dance class mate will have to wate. err wait. (so complete boredom also leads to deteriorating quality of jokes it seems).

Currently Reading - Love in a torn Land and Shogun. Just done with 1984. And I must say this - Those of you who haven't read it, MUST. I haven't been so deeply engrossed in a book this way in a very long time. Needless to say it was a delicious experience. Every time I put the book down, it would take me a minute or two to acclimatize to where i was and what i was originally doing. You know that very satisfied, refreshed feeling you get once you read a REALLY good book? I do. :)

Sidenote - Recession seems to have hit blogggerland too. So Many blogs I would occasionally read have been shut down. Even the others have been blogging at alarming slow frequencies

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Click on the picture if the font's too small.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It is as it is...
Rebuild. Renew.Refresh.
Reinforce. Repeat. Relove. Regive. Resurrender.
Defend. Protect. Give in. Let go. Fall. Rejoice. Redeem. Resurface...
Realign. Rethink. Replan. Reacclimatize. Re-unplan. Reminisce. Remember. Rewant.
Retry. Refresh.
Re-energise. Resolve. Renew. Resurrect. Readjust. Reaffirm. Regive. Retake.Resurrender. Rekeep. Re-happy.
Really Really Live.
*disclaimer - liberties taken with certain words.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

As I grumbled my way through having come to office on a holiday yesterday, and sitting idle waiting for someone else to finish what they were doing, so that I can begin, my thoughts naturally began to drift elsewhere.

I was thinking on the same lines, and had a half finished post about it, when I read this And it hit home, what I was thinking - melancholy thoughts in the cab on the way back from my younger brothers birthday Party, One in which I somewhat assumed the role of a Chaperone. This guy, who I took downstairs for a walk in my arms when he was a baby, and to Birthday parties after much convincing(of mom - ' i can take care of him, promise i wont drop him' and all that), feeding him mashed cake cos he didnt have teeth is ....all grown up. And so am I. So am I...

I nearly GAGGED when I said 'How old are u turning 14?' to which he very indignantly replied ' Hello! Im turning 16, Im Mature now'. He's now a pimply faced adorable young guy in his teens who pooh's at the names of girls in the building when he's teased with them (Wait another 6 months eh?)

I remember him being 4 years old and climbing on top of me, biting my nose, licking my face, messing up my book shelf. It was no surprise when one day, someone asked me Why i dont have a pet - to which I saucily replied 'Course I do - My brother'. He partook of all duties of little pets - dirtying my room, peeing on my bed, waiting ardently for me to come home, waving goodbye from the little window which overlooked my bus stop. Course he was cuter. Nothing is sweeter than hearing a tiny tot calling you 'Tai'.

Sometimes Im thankful for having such a vivid memory -- there are images which are so precious to me, which are frozen and filed in my head which send a delicious shiver down my spine when i re-think them. The image of him waving to me frm the 7th floor window for instance. He was all of 3-4 yrs old, supported at the grilled window by my mother. From where I stood, his face looked all of 12 cms in diameter with two little black buttons for eyes and a dot for a nose, and a pink jam blot for lips. I remember wanting to run back home and not going to school at all! The definition of adorable was that for me...

Course, I also enjoyed other perks such as all the older boys in the building who never took notice of me, and played basketball with me only cause they couldnt deny I was pretty decent at it, were suddenly all 'Hey wheres your brother, bring him na' and I enjoyed a momentary surge in popularity. Also, there were a few 'Bhaiyyas' i was taught to call anyone upwards of 2 yrs older than I, whom i took the liberty of calling by first name then, since I was the 'Older sister' and all that.

Cut to now, he's 16, (Mature apparently :( ) and making demands for cell phones and the likes. And suddenly my maternal glands have begun secreting extra hormones it seems cos Ive begun being extra protective, extra careful to not give in to each demands. The age gap between us (9 yrs) puts me in a quandary -- Im young enough to be a 'cool' sister, but old enough to want to tell him whats right and wrong, and be protective.

Isnt there any way I can get time to stand still? or rewind a little?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bagging for more!

The Louis Vuitton Mahina XXL 4,210.$
Louis Vuitton Mahina XL 3,360$
*shudders at the thought of converting the costs above into Indian Rupees*
Me : Mr Banker Man, I need a loan.
Banker Man : Sure Ma'am, let me take a look at your financial assets.
(After a few hmm's and critical glances)
Banker Man : This looks all right, Now what kind of loan do you need? Home, Car?
Me : (sheepishly) err, I need to buy a bag.
Banker Man: (sound of pistol going off)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Unusually reminiscent of my childhood I am. A few conversations with an Uncle (Dads course mate - Batch of 1978) from the Navy and his wife have sent me down memory lane. And what wonderful memories to be reminded of!

I had the bestest upbringing. The Navy way. Of saying 'Good Morning and Good Evening' instead of 'Hi Uncle', of waiting for the Kraft cheese and Sausage tins from the monthly ration, of cycling down to IMSC (Integrated mess and sports complex) each morning at 6, only to be back home at noon after a morning of Badminton and swimming and piano lessons!

Of using short forms like NOFRA (Naval Officers Flats and Residential Area) to USC (United services club) and SNOFS (Senior Naval Officers flats) and attending functions like Beating the Retreat at Gateway where the country's best Band plays (The Naval Band), and Navy Ball where the sweaty stinky boys you usually play b'ball and badminton look like handsome young men in tuxedos and blazers and ties and girls are as pretty as can be. It was also when i was asked by a 'boy' for my first dance. Albeit in front of my folks and flustered as i was, i managed a meek 'but I'm leaving with my parents'. Never mind that I had played out a scene of a handsome young man asking me for a dance and Suave sophisticated lil me will gracefully offer him my hand with a flirty swish of my hair, and the delicate whiff of my perfume will just graze his But still given a 15 year old girl i did pretty well with the 'err i gotta go thanks for asking'

Its of Navy buses and Route no 5 which was mine, where the driver knew my dad and the liftmen knew my dad and the watchmen and the sailors and everyone knew my dad. Everyone respected my dad. In the Navy, every ones known for his work and his designation--- and he earns it in respect. That's a big difference in that life and this. In this life, you are what you are by where you buy a flat and which car you drive. In that life, you are what you are by what you do and how you command respect. Till date we have sailors and juniors and seniors who still respect him the same way. Its that lifetime of honour and awe and dedication that others displayed then, and display now that my dad will keep harvesting. . Its like Pension, with no money... but so much more.

Its of living in the best part of Mumbai, where each tree is painted red and white near the roots and has a count, where each building would get painted nearly each year right before Navy Week. Its about celebrating Navy day with your birthday, and feeling like all the ships are celebrating too. Its about first being Commander so and so's daughter and then being yourself, which I love.
Its just percolating some of that awe down to yourself.

Some people refer to me as 'Commander' jokingly, little knowing that to append that title to a persons name he spends close to 20 years of his life dedicated to the line of duty, with family and self coming second to loyalty to his job and integrity to the country. I would tell them I don't like it one bit, that they have no right to call me that simply because I don't deserve it, and neither does the title to be used in that light, but they wont understand... You need to feel it, or you wont get it.

Its in the uniforms, from the white sparkling shoes to the cap and the brass baton which was a weekly chore assigned to me. To be polished to a mirror shine with brass-o and a rag each Sunday morning. After which I must proceed with bucket of water and another rag to Maruti 800 (1988 model) and Bajaj scooter and my very own bicycle for their weekly wash. The best part of this was being seen walking to the garage and uncles and aunty's looking at me in admiration and passing on praise to my folks. Of course I rubbed it in and scrubbed extra hard when the car was parked outside the garage when people could actually see. and extra extra hard when a certain crush would be standing at his window looking out. (Darn the standard checked shorts teamed with a white t shirt. if i had my way, i would've had on my nice new wrap around skirt =) )

Its in the simplicity, and deep rooted integrity, firm handshake, punctuality, respect for others and family, in the doing things yourself and taking pride in it, small rewards, in knowing you have to move every 3 years and still loving it, fierce loyalty and steadfast dedication to duty. Its in all these wonderful things that today's generations live their lives without...

My uncle was (rightly) of the view that today's generation is a spoilt lot. This is of course generally speaking and there are a lot of exceptions to the rule. Today's generation is brought up in a world of cut throat competition, survival of the fittest and an intrinsic hunger to grow more and more successful i.e. earn more money. This of course could branch out into another topic altogether.

My brother, 9 years my junior is currently spending his formative years in a So-Bo neighbourhood where kids as old as 7 bring their own i-pods down to play. Never mind value for money. I regret him not having the life i did. The opportunities I enjoyed, the sports i played and the view I had from my balcony. the saving grace is he wants to join the armed forces.
Fingers crossed.