Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Living On A High

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We shifted to Gurgaon from Delhi seven years back into a high rise apartment. When you are staying in the capital, the 4th floor is the highest you go. The city doesn’t boast of too many apartment complexes besides the ones built by DDA (Delhi Development Authority). DDA since its inception in 1957 has been ceaselessly building unimaginative flats in tiresome yellows or pinks. Unfortunately the escalating real estate price makes this one of the few viable options for many a Delhite.

The husband even in his penniless stage was very sure that he will never buy one of those staid flats. Gurgaon with its promise of high end living and picturesque complexes beckoned to us. So when it was finally time to buy our own nest we happily settled for the Millennium city. The artistic impressions of our complex circulated by our builder had me excited and I couldn’t stop gushing about it to my friends. We had booked a condo on the 7th floor. I got a lot of positive feedback on the pleasures of staying up north; a mosquito free, dust free existence, cool breezy evenings and amazing 360 degree views. I was in “seventh heaven”. Only one of my friends expressed a grave concern, what happens if there’s an earthquake? We may die a crushing death, but at least we’ll have fewer floors on our head, the husband had retorted.

We finally shifted to our own pad. The views were stunning, the rain never looked better. Having a cup of tea in our balcony to the sounds of birds with the soft breeze caressing our face was sheer bliss.

I was sporting a new look, the windswept look. Our complex for some mysterious reason is extremely windy. Initially it was charming; the constant tinkling of wind chimes, having to hold on to your dress for your dear life. But imagine hot, sultry, 42 degree Celsius afternoons to the sounds of whoo whoo and constant rattling of windows! It was eerie and depressing. And when it’s summers can ACs be far behind? 16 ACs (one for each floor) dripping water on top of each other in unison is definitely not music for the ears especially when you are trying to sleep after a hard day’s work. Two years back we installed split ACs and finally put an end to our agony. The installation process on the other hand was one horrific story, fodder for another post perhaps?

I had also acquired a new hobby, bird watching (the winged variety). Gurgaon is wonderfully green with lots of open spaces making it a haunt for exotic birds. When you are a city-bred brat you grow up seeing mostly crows and pigeons and every other bird seems exotic. So understandably I was maha excited each time I spotted birds in stunning colours, shapes and sizes. Even the stray peacock strutting its stuff had me behaving like an over excited kid.

The bird community must have sensed the warm, welcoming vibes emanating from the Ray household. Our AC compressors soon became the favoured hangout zone for pigeons. And where there are pigeons there is pigeon shit, loads and loads of it - on the compressors, balcony railings, wash stands, even my hapless plants were not spared.

We saw quite a few love stories unfold in our balcony, singles ready to mingle meet, settle, furious coupling ensues and baby pigeons make an appearance. My daughter even played Mother Teresa to an injured baby pigeon. She named it Peech (from the baby sounds it made) nursed it for days and grew hopelessly attached to it. When it died she was inconsolable.

Our reputation had now grown in leaps and bounds. The news of our compassion soon spread like wild fire. We now have pigeons flocking in all our balconies, on the floor, on the wash stand, even on the bathroom ledge. Dumb, desperate creatures that they are, they even try nesting on our kitchen balcony floor laying down a bed of borrowed broomsticks. The husband in an attempt to scare them off often splashes huge quantities of water at them, inadvertently giving them a much needed bath. In fact the other day he just said f%*&@ off and they actually made a hasty retreat. Wow! We have managed an incredible feat; our pigeons can now actually comprehend English! Unfortunately they keep coming back for more lessons.

The other day I was reading somewhere that the pigeon population is increasing alarmingly because the kites which prey upon them are becoming extinct. No wonder they spend many happy hours on the Ray balcony. They take care of my cardio though. I often have to run to the balcony menacingly to shoo them off. I am seriously considering training a bunch of them to deliver notes to my loved ones. The courier guys anyway do a lousy job. I could also export pigeon poop. I have heard that in Morocco, they use it to soften leather before dyeing it.

Last summer we had a termite scare and recently a few monkeys have been spotted in the vicinity. My mind is going into an overdrive thinking of possibilities. We also had an earthquake scare, swinging chandeliers, swaying fans and all that. But we managed to race to the ground floor in record-shattering time.

But these are minor glitches. I still feel elated seeing the various flowers in bloom in our complex. Walking down the shaded pathways, I feel rejuvenated at the sound of excited chatter of children playing in the park.

I’d still like to think that I am living on a high in a high rise.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Guest Post | Photographs by Aman Deshmukh.

Hello dear friends! :)
A short introduction for those who do not know me - I'm Aman Deshmukh, a sixteen (almost seventeen) year old boy who loves photography. I stay in Mumbai.

Here's a selection of some of my photographs that I'd like to showcase.

From "10 Awesome Things" | 6/10 : Mirrors.
This photograph of a glass bowl on a reflective glass bowl was a part of two projects - Project 365, and 10 Awesome Things. I particularly like this shot because of the symmetry, sharpness in lines, and distinctness in shape due to strong black and white shades.

And the World became Smaller.
This is a tilt-shift photograph, and it involves making real life objects look smaller. Its also called miniature faking. This was taken at Allahabad from the 6th floor of a building.

The Darkest Lunar Eclipse.
This is a collage of the multiple photographs I shot from 11 am in the night to 1 am in the morning, to capture the central lunar eclipse on June 15, 2011. It would rain every ten minutes, and I had to stand there in the middle of the night, with the umbrella in one hand, and the camera in another. Here's a full size shot. This photograph was also featured in Saadar India.

[All photographs carry a Creative Commons Attribution, No Derivs, Non Commercial License. Click here for more information.]

You can also find / contact me via :  
My Website : Aman Deshmukh Photography.
Ask Box.
My Personal Blog.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bizarre Hazare

Gone are the days when you typed ‘anna’ and google welcomed you with a sexy picture of an aging tennis star. Instead you now find a smiling old man in his white attire. Call him Gandhi or his Frankenstein, love him or hate him, but Anna fever has struck the subcontinent. It’s been long since the world has seen a mass agitation without a drop of blood spilled, without a single stone thrown. Gandhigiri is still alive.

First time in my life I was welcomed in the metro with the slogan ‘Vande Mataram’. A group of around ten villagers from Gurgaon, all above 50yrs, were chanting the slogan and there was no doubt that they were going to the Ramleela Ground. There was a policeman standing beside me, he looked at them and slowly uttered, “Jao jao, desh ki bhala karo”. A protest that was once confined to the urban middle class youth, has gained ground.

Don’t be amazed by people around you claiming that he (and even she) is Anna. Anna has cloned majority of Indians like Smith of Matrix. Anna now comes in all shapes and sizes. You might ask at this point if I am cloned as well, well no I am lucky to be still SUB. But I do support India against corruption, whose poster child is the innocent face of Anna. I have been in Jantar Mantar last time (click here for my experience), and I have been to Ram Leela this time. That does not mean that I am in favor of the Jan Lokpal Bill as it is now. I don’t want a selected institution that is stronger than the elected government. But Team Anna is not telling the government to pass the bill as it is. Remember, during negotiation you never put your best bet forward; you have to add that extra space for negotiations. Moreover, for the first time the public can directly participate in making a law. If you think the present Jan Lokpal is flawed why don’t you give your suggestion here?

Some people might argue that the way of the protest, rather blackmailing the government, isn’t democratic. Non-violence isn’t blackmailing and other methods have been tried and failed. The Lokpal bill was first introduced by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969. But it did not get through in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India. Subsequent versions were re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, but none of them passed (source: wiki). Something had to be done. This time the method of protest stroke cord with the frustrated mass, the internet and media acted as a catalyst.

If I am not Anna, if I am not for the present Lokpal, then why am I supporting the movement? The answer is that I am against the government’s version of the bill. Following is the reason (ref) why I don’t like the government’s version.

1] As per government’s version of Lokpal, if a citizen complaints against a govt officer’s corruption to Lokpal…
·        Govt officer can file a Cross Complaint directly to the Special Court without Preliminary Enquiry that whether complain was frivolous
·        Govt officer given free advocate while the Citizen has to defend himself
·        If complain proved frivolous citizen gets minimum 2 years jail
·        If corruption of Govt officer proved –gets minimum 6 months jail
Do you think any ordinary citizen will raise his/her voice against corruption with this bill?

2] CORRUPTION by PM can be investigated, under Prevention of Corruption Act. Govt wants investigations to be done by CBI which comes directly under him, rather than independent Lokpal. Who is going to fire their boss? I will love to, but will I?

3] Government wants it to be included in Judicial Accountability Bill (JAB). In JAB permission to enquire against a judge will be given by a Three member committee, Two judges & a retd. Chief justice of the SAME court). History has shown that judges always favor their own clan. Are you in favor of such a bill?

Yes, we should fight corruption at individual level as well, but no one is a born corrupt. The system forces a person to become corrupt. The same person, when (s)he goes abroad where there is a better system, follows the rules. People followed traffic rule during CWG when there was a strict system in place. Individual change won’t come overnight. We need a better system that will slowly change the society for a better future. Corruption cannot be totally erased as long as inequality exists. But it can be reduced, and with the present condition of our country, we can reduce it drastically. Anna or not, let’s do our bit as well. 

Guest Post by SUB of KHOJ