Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Umbrella Couple

Sometimes life unfolds such experiences that fill our hearts with gratitude and warmth and leave an indelible mark on our memory. No matter how old we get or how long it has been, we can still recall it as it happened and go down the memory lane only to get drenched in the warmth of those feelings all over again. We all have such experiences and so do I. There is such an incident from one of my travels that I found worth sharing. These days when we feel that the world is a scary place, where it is hard to trust the people we know, that incident made me believe in strangers. It reaffirmed my belief that there is still lot of goodness left in people all around the world. 

I have given this experience a name - ‘The umbrella couple’. Sounds strange? Actually, I stole this name from a story that I read in 8th standard in my English literature class and I still remember it – The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl. Apart from the ‘umbrella’, the similarity that I could draw is like I did not forget that story I read in 8th standard, I will never forget the meeting with the umbrella couple. However, the difference is that the umbrella man in that story was a negative character who used to steal an umbrella only to offer it to the people in exchange of some money and with that he would buy himself a drink at a pub. But here, the umbrella couple – The guy and the girl are the real life heroes. So, let me begin.

In June this year, me and my husband Vivek, traveled to Hong Kong. When we travel abroad, I never got the reason why Vivek always gets a local number without a data pack. So whenever we get lost on our way, I never miss any chance to blame him or fight with him as we cannot call upon our friend – ‘Google maps’ for help. Though, secretly I have always admired it because in the absence of the internet pack in our smart phones we are left with no choice but to talk to the strangers and ask them for help. Moreover, I believe people are the face of any region and what is the fun in traveling to some distant place if you would not talk to the people who live there. You never know when you make a friend for a lifetime. However, I must admit that in Hong Kong this did not turn out to be a good idea as most people do not speak English and hence language created a challenge to communicate.

It was the third day of our stay in Hong Kong and we were trying to get back to the hotel after exploring the city for the whole day. We were traveling back by MTR (the metro trains) and like always we were using a map to find out which station would be the nearest to our hotel. So, we scrutinized the map and decided on a station to get down that seemed closer to our hotel (closer at least on the map :D ). We got down at the station and then we did not know through which gate we should exit as there were a number of exits in different directions. We did the ping pong and chose an exit gate to try our luck. Just kidding! We tried to use our logical minds and got out from one of the exits and guess what? We did not know where we were and how we could reach our hotel. And then left with no other choice, Vivek and I tried asking people in our own ways. 

There was a small market as we came out of the station. Vivek started asking the shop keepers and the people standing outside the shops. I took the other way and instead of getting inside the market area I started walking outside on the pedestrian. The moment I looked around I saw a young couple crossing the road and coming towards me. I asked them if they could tell me the way to reach my hotel. To my luck, they knew English and understood what I was asking. They smiled at me and that made me feel a bit relaxed. The guy took out his phone to locate our hotel on the Google maps and then to check for the red bus which would go to that area. By the time Vivek also joined us. We discussed and tried to figure out but somehow even they could not find out which bus would take us to the hotel. Still they did not let it go and to help us, they pointed us to the bus stop and told us to ask the bus drivers there. To solve the communication problem with the bus drivers, we took a picture of their phone screen (google maps showing where we want to go) to show it to the drivers and ask which bus will go to the area. 

This lovely couple was congenial and that was a surprise to me as most of the people I have tried talking to, in Macau and Hong Kong, either shooed me or gave me a close ended answer. Initially I found it rude but then I understood that they were not being rude. Either they did not know English or it was like the way they talk. This couple was all smiling and chatting. They asked us from where we are and the reason of our travel to Hong Kong.

And then as getting lost on our way was not enough, it started pouring like anything. This is how Hong Kong weather is. One moment it is hot and sunny and the next moment it starts pouring. We all ran to the market area to get a shelter. Hong Kong people always keep an umbrella with them as they are aware of the tricks played by the weather. The girl asked me if we had an umbrella to which I said no. I assured her that it is not a problem as the rain will stop in sometime and then we will leave. The couple bid us a goodbye and then Vivek and I kept standing in the shelter. To protect us from getting drenched we stood in a way that we were facing the direction opposite to which the couple was headed. Few minutes later, we heard a voice behind us – Excuse me! It was the couple again. The girl was holding a new umbrella in her hand which they bought for us from a store down the lane. They offered it to us saying – This is for you. Vivek and I looked at each other not sure what to say. Humbled by their gesture, we thanked them and requested them to tell us the cost of the umbrella to which they refused. We requested them again and again to which they kept smiling and refusing. And finally the guy said - It is a gift for you. Enjoy your vacation! Welcome to Hong Kong! And then they left.

We were so aww stuck by the kindness of the couple that we did not even ask their names or we could have asked for their picture. We felt as if we did not thank them enough. Their idea of asking the bus driver really helped and we got the bus. However, we were so overwhelmed that Vivek and I did not speak a word on the way back to the hotel. 

The moment has gone but it has left a strong imprint on our minds. Vivek has carefully kept that umbrella as a souvenir from Hong Kong people. And this incident made us believe that we find all sorts of people around the world, some good and some bad. But the goodhearted people still outnumber the bad ones. People still help strangers even when they have nothing to get in return. As I said, people are the face of any region, the umbrella couple kept the pride of their country and left a mark of Hong Kong on our hearts forever.

We will never forget them – The umbrella couple. We felt that we did not thank them enough for their kindness. We don’t know their names and there is no way to get in touch with them again. So, through this post I, together with Vivek, want to thank them from the depth of our hearts, for reassuring our trust in humanity and for giving us a memory that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Here is a picture of me and Vivek where he is holding the umbrella.

Me and Vivek in HongKong with the umbrella
The Umbrella Couple

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


An Overrated Institution or A Sacred Bond

Disclaimer: Marriage is the most talked about and complicated relationship. I wanted to write about it since so long; however, writing about such topics had never been easy. I know that writing about marriage would surely trigger questions about my age, my marital status, if I am married then on which side my marriage is going – an overrated institution or a sacred bond. Depending upon my answers to these questions I will be judged and readers will make their opinion about this write up. But let me say it before I start. It is solely my opinion that I am sharing here with you. Every individual is free to express his/her views and it is not necessary that everyone else has to agree with it. However, the readers’ comments are always important to me and are most welcome.

People tend to be on one side - either marriage is an overrated institution or it is a sacred bond. But I believe that it can be on any side. It is an overrated institution when two people marry for all the wrong reasons and it is a sacred bond if you find that one person who gives you all the right reasons to spend your life with (I know the count is low :P). 

So let’s start with what I meant when I said – ‘all the wrong reasons’. Many of our actions are derived by the reactions of the society we live in. What will the society say if I will do this or if I will not do this? Marriage is one of those actions where society plays a crucial role. As soon as you reach a certain age in your life, suddenly everyone you know gets interested in your plan of getting married. People, relatives or family n friends, will not lose a chance to ask you or your parents about when the marriage is on charts. Not only questions, people do come with all sort of suggestions as their only aim in life is to get you married. They will suggest – ‘This is the right age, you should get married’. They will try to scare you to death by saying – ‘You will lose all the great prospects if you cross certain age and what more, your biological clock is ticking and there will be complications later’.  Do these people imply that marriage is nothing but a license to have sex and to start making babies? If you did not listen to their warnings and have crossed the age that they have declared legitimate for getting married then it will be a matter of time when you will be drowned in the torrent of mindless anticipations about you. They will start gossiping and speculating all sorts of problems, physical or psychological, that are reasons (of which you yourself are not aware) for why you are not getting married. Such people must be roused from their slumber - “Come on man! Get something important in your life to focus on. ”

And finally parents succumb to this societal pressure and start the process of emotional blackmail to make your life miserable as if it is already any less of it. They will give all sort of reasons to convince you that how marriage is the most viable thing to do in your life. They will say – “You can spend your young age alone but everyone needs a companion in old age. What will you do then?” or “All your friends are getting married because this is the right age.” or “Your cousin who is younger than you have decided to marry.” If you have younger siblings then you will be held responsible for spoiling their future as it is inherent in our society that elder should marry before the younger among siblings. And if you did not get tricked by any of these reasons then the last one that is infallible and works in most cases – “How long are we going to live? We will not be with you forever. We want to see you settled and happy.

A girl’s parents will spend every minute worrying that how their daughter will survive alone in this cruel world. She can live alone, can earn well, can compete in the corporate world, can travel alone, can manage everything in her life but she still is not capable of surviving alone and needs someone to protect her. I mean, really? A boy’s parent will make the guy guilty of not carrying forward their family name as if progeny is the only thing marriages are meant for. They will suggest – “You need someone who will take care of you and manage your home.” Oh puh-leez! If a guy is not capable of taking care of himself then he should not marry as he is a kid and only grownups are allowed to marry. If he can’t take care of himself, how will he be able to take care of his wife? And yes, let me make some sense here, if he needs someone to manage his home then he actually needs a house help not a wife. There exists such parents who think that if their child is not acting responsible in his/her life then he/she will become responsible after marriage. ARGH! From where do people find all these mind boggling highly illogical ideas?

Now as society and parents are playing their parts perfectly to set the stage, it depends on individuals in question as how they will act in their roles. There are cases, not much though, when the individuals are more eager to board the flight of marriage. Don’t take me otherwise as there is nothing wrong in it unless you are well prepared to take off. The reasons can vary with individuals. Some find themselves left alone as most of their friends have either tied the knot or are soon going to do the same and hence they have no one left to call or spend time with especially on weekends. Girls (ok, I agree, not all of them) usually fantasise their wedding for years before the actual time comes as an extravagant affair shown in our happy ever after Bollywood romantic movies (Have you not seen any Karan Johar’s movie?). And guys who usually have a run-away-from-commitment attitude as it is the biggest threat to their so called freedom, get ready to marry only because of their parents and most of the above mentioned reasons. For guys, if they are already seeing a girl and are serious about her then there can be a case when they want to settle down or if there is a pressure from the girl’s side. (Here I must share that I asked a number of guys as to why a guy want to marry other than any of the reasons I have mentioned and I did not find any. So, if you have one, please do share.)

Do not marry for society, parents, financial security, for free and regular sex, progeny or just for the sake of it as everyone else is doing it. With all these wrong reasons do you think a marriage will last forever? Did I hear you saying yes? Then I must say you are more or less right. Why? Because this is how our society is. Couples spend their lives together not out of love but out of helplessness. They will live in regret but still will not step out of marriage because of their families involved or if they have kids and not to forget – ‘What will the society say?’. Also dissolving the marriage makes life even more complicated especially for women because of the embedded prejudices (there are still so many) in our social system. Even if you are not much effected as you are surrounded by people of your age who understand your situation but your parents (living with or away from you) will not be able to escape from the societal harassment.

Nobody wants to make life a living hell. Nobody wants to bear the burden of a relationship where you are not happy or are bound to stay together without respect for each other. Then why to enter this overrated institution called marriage. Is marriage really required? The answer is NO. There should be no compulsion of getting married as it is your life and you have all the right to decide if you are happy being single or want to share it with someone. There is nothing in life that a guy or a girl cannot achieve being single. Does it mean I am anti-marriage? The answer is again NO. Confused? Let me explain. Recently I read these lines and it is something I strongly believe in:

“There should be no compulsion to get married. There’s nothing worse than being married to the wrong person. You should only get married if you find someone you admire, who will help you understand and fulfil your life’s purpose. And you, in turn, can help her fulfil her life’s purpose. If you are able to find that one person, then marry her.”
-Amish Tripathi, Scion of Ikshvaku

So true. Isn’t it? Marry when you find someone you actually admire. Marry when you find someone whom you respect which is even more important than love. Marry when you understand it is about equality and not authority. Marry when you are strong enough to support not when you are alone and are in need of support. Believe me, to be alone is much better than to be with someone who make you feel lonely. Marry when you are mature enough for emotional attachment and not afraid of commitment. Marry when you find a companion for the rest of your life not just for old age. Marry when you find the right person (no matter when) and not because the clock is ticking. Marriage is between two individuals to complement each other and not to complete each other (as no one is incomplete).

I know it is not easy to find the right person but if you find the one then never let him/her go. And if in case you do not find such person then my friend there is nothing more awesome than being single. The sole purpose of life is to live happily and enjoy every moment, be it alone or be it with someone special. Choice should be and is always yours. 

P.S: Here I have talked about the picture before marriage. I have not touched the part of what happens after marriage that makes it an overrated institution or otherwise as there is so much to talk about. How about a part-2? Stay tuned…

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

To My Sweetly Annoying One!

Okay, so it is time to give my not-so-different “Thank You” speech, something like which you must have heard many times on television in various award shows. Winners usually have a huge list of people to acknowledge for their success but don’t worry, my list is too short with only one name on it.

Let me first clear the whispers inside your head that are curious to know what award have I won? Sorry to disappoint, it is not an award that I have won. It is a PMI certification exam that I cleared (of course with all the flying colors) two days ago. I know, it is not something big to brag about but remember I said it is a ‘thank you’ speech. :)

So, I would like to thank Mr. Vivek Tyagi for the support and trust he had shown in me, without whom this would not have been possible. OMG! See, am I not truly inspired by what I have been hearing since my childhood? All right, just one more try. Please.

I want to share the credit with only one person, who is the most sweetly annoying to me, my husband. Yes! He is sweetly annoying and the line – “I hate you like I love you” gives the right words to what I feel about him at times. I think most of coupled people can relate to what I mean but if you did not get it yet then hear the song ‘True love’ by Pink.

Coming back to the point, taking a PMI exam was not the challenge. The actual challenge was the preparation. I wasn’t really sure about the determination and dedication that I could put into study. It has been years since I had taken any exam that required some discipline and regular effort. Moreover, my office hours and the traveling do not leave me with much of spare time to study. And it is here, when he did his part and that really made a difference.

As soon as I would reach home and that is mostly after 9 p.m. he would help me with the dinner and then say – “Geevika, I think you should go and study now”. He would not come into the room till 12 as not to disturb me because he knows we just can’t stop chit chatting when sitting together even if it is the silliest thing we are talking about. And even when he would come into the room, he would be wide awake, doing nothing. Doing Nothing! Okay, so actually most of the times he was playing on his mobile, even at those late hours at night and then he would say – “Don’t worry, I will not sleep else you will feel sleepy.” This is what he did for so many days. I discussed all the stuff I was studying and he suggested many things that could possibly work for me. He would suggest – “I think you must study that topic too. You should not leave any stone unturned.” At any time, I would talk to him about all the crap that was going in my head related to the exam, the moments when I was panicked and he needed to calm me down and to get me back to the pace.

Many times, I found him annoying too. Sometimes when I felt tired and wanted to sleep, he would be after me to study for half an hour more. He would not let me sleep and would say things like – “this is not the way people prepare for an exam when they want to succeed” and to which I would say, “Why are you behaving like Dad (My father, who played the same role during my education)?” I would say all the wrong things – “you are torturing me” or “I know better how much I have to study”. I fought with him and yelled at him, to which he mostly went quiet or did not say much in response. 

A day before my exam he had to go to Bangalore for a few days for some official work. The evening when he had to leave, I was helping him in packing and doing the usual stuff when suddenly he caught me and said, “Why are you so quiet? Is there any tension or problem?” I actually did not expect him to catch what was going inside me. I was going through studied-all-still-not-sure syndrome that usually happens a day before exam. He laughed and said, “You know what Giku (a nick name he has given me. Yeah yeah, I know it does not make sense but when did nick names ever make sense.)? I know I will not be here with you on your exam day. So if you feel low at any moment just think about me and I am sure it will bring a smile on your face and you will forget about everything that might be bothering you.” And we both laughed at it. He then said, “Jokes apart, just don’t think that you are taking an exam. Don’t worry about what will be the result or don’t worry about the money you have spent, if in case you are thinking about it. Just think that you have studied well about something and now it is time to test your skills. Believe in yourself, take it easy and I am sure you will do it.”

Next day when I was about to start with the exam suddenly his face flashed in front of my eyes, and he was smiling naughtily like he usually does and I remembered what he had said last evening. His thought actually brought an ear to ear smile on my face. Believe me, I had never been so sure about any exam that I had taken in my life. I was confident that I would clear it in one go. And yes I did it!

It will really demean the depth of our bond if I will thank you Vivek for being there with me, believing in me when I was in doubt and for being my strength when needed. But I should tell you that I am so blessed to have found my only sweetly annoying one in you. :)

P.S: In our lives, at every step, our loved ones always support us and believe in us. But we take their love and support for granted. Everyone needs acknowledgement or appreciation when they are doing something especially for you. I need it, don’t you? So don’t forget to appreciate your loved ones for their efforts that they are making to keep you happy and motivated. Today is the time, now is the moment. Express what you feel. Appreciate and acknowledge their love.