Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Simple Life

Have been sitting and wishing life was simple. That my list of to-do's, should-do's, must-do's and this-should-have-been-done-yesterday did not exist.

Memories of sitting in the shade, near the wire mesh windows, hearing the buzzing of insects of all sorts outside the window near the Leechee tree, eating mangoes come to mind. I used to sit staring out into the sun, watching the small shifting shadows created by the breeze. Living in a never ending summer vacation where cold coffee mornings were followed by endless play through self entertaining mind games. I could read my Enid Blytons (and not worry about political correctness), read Indrajaal and Chacha Chaudhary and a whole long list of Amar Chitra Kathas. I could sit and chat with the grandfather who would tell me long stories about his life from 1910 onwards..

I could sleep when I wanted and not worry about anything, nothing. School was a distant memory. I did not know of plans for visiting or traveling, just went where I was taken. I would ride my bicycle aimlessly, feeling the breeze on my face. The brother and I would line up his dinky cars in a long queue across the room. We would take buckets of water and play in the kitchen garden, making ladoos out of mud, checking the carrot leaves to guess it was ready to the pulled. Summer afternoons of hazy lazing, with the sound of the ceiling fan whirring away. The occasional sound of the kabadi waala's call, the koyal and the mynah birds.
There were few things that I wanted..and those were also temporary thoughts, that would slide in and out of my mind. My mind was not empty..just not worried about anything. It was a random quiet space, which brought contentment and smiles..

No worries..nothing.

No thinking about..
~ books to read, buy, catch up on
~ work pressure
~ income, budgets and planning
~ tickets for travel
~ weight loss
~ bank statements and incoming post that needs filing
~ membership renewals and tax payments
~ visitors and their dates and times
~ doctors appointments
~ clothes and shoe buying
~ car and house buying
~ grouting issues in the bathroom
~ bills for various services
~ cooking or shopping for food etc IS an endless list..but stop I dont wish to complain. My mind is full of reminiscences of simplicity of the past.

Of mangoes to be eaten, insects to seen, leaves and flowers to be looked at, birds to be observed, hours of sleep to be slept and pleasant nothingness..which left me smiling constantly. It was the simple life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Explaining being Kashmiri

Hmm..its a hard one this.
Once I have got over the you must be from the 'North' and therefore a Punjabi discussion.

No I am not, indeed I am Kashmiri - the northern most of Northern states.
Conversation moves swiftly on to - Hindu or Muslim?
I do sometimes wonder if I responded by saying BOTH, where the flowchart of questions would go.

Hindu - Go to Q 4 - do your parents still live there?
Tempting answer - do you not read the newspapers?

This moves to Q 6 - How come your roots lie in Lahore? Well..a lot many Indians moved from there in grandparents were one of those many. (Tempting question do you not read?Newspapers perhaps?)

Do you speak Kashmiri? No, but I can say things you would not want to hear. And yes I shall get what you say in Kashmiri next!

Do you have family in Kashmir? The answer being no, but yes I have friends over there.

So do you want to go back? Bearing in mind I did not live there going back is a strange question, right?

Yes I am Kashmiri by birth..but the roots to the place have been lost, replaced, revisited and they seem to be fading.

However what worries me is the fact that few of us, want to go back or even want to think about it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

We did this.

We humans have drawn lines which divide us as people, as races, as religions, as castes and as nations. We draw the lines, we respect our own and debate others.
We question the need for lines when we want to cross them.
We insist upon the need for lines when we want to stay safe and insular.
We have a huge planet and yet we divide it amongst ourselves. And then we draw lines and specify crossing it. We limit who we want in and dictate pages of rules to keep others out.

Yes indeed I am talking about borders, immigration, visas, travel cards, ID cards, work permits, H-1s, B-1s and the many thousands of varieties available. To travel we face forms, money, photographs, bank accounts, security, police clearances and whole host of other essentials we believe shall help regulate populations and help promote security. We create new jobs for immigration lawyers, travel agents, VFS agents and HR.
We create volumes of paper which never gets thrown, we create the need for new softwares and technologies to reduce human identity and individuality to a bunch of genes evidenced in a biometric scan. We issue limits on others and make a business out of doing so.

For anyone who has traveled out of their home country, this process of making applications, attending interviews, presenting documents, crossing fingers and waiting, getting visas, traveling and standing in long queues with often impolite people on the other end asking you personal questions - is all known and experienced.

I would be stupidly Lenon-ish in wishing for a world without borders. It would silly to assume that this would one day end and family and friends wishing to see each other would not need to go through an elaborate process to be able to sit in an aircraft.

I am silly but I know a person with 2 little children in school, a house, a car and a good job should not be asked to leave a country overnight due to a visa expiring.

I am silly but I know friends and family who acquired visas and bought tickets to board a flight were declined the right to travel because they could not transit for 45 mins through another country's airport.

I am silly but I am the one who has for the past few months been pushed around by this insanely bureaucratic system. A system which questions basic ethos of life, marriage, work, education.

Am I right in being slightly upset and more than slightly annoyed?

I wish we had not built these boundaries to remain safe. It does not work.
I wish we had respect for others boundaries. We go to war - it does not work.
I wish I could point and say the few nations who do this. They dont, we all do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fine Print

You know how well most lawyers are paid.
Well I now know why...
..they spend all their time being pedantic and thinking up fine print for documents that need your signature. I experienced the immense frustration of it, again, after a long long time.

Yup, it is always to do with money and what you can get refunded, or paid for, or compensated. Negative perspective - it is always to do with your money, fools and parting with it...

Recent raised eyebrows at my expanding girth have been depressing me. So off to the gym I went to get membership. Our man, the young swashbucking sales guy/ CSE was sweetness, sunshine and honey! (think shiny black shoes, pin stripe black/grey trouser/ slick hair and oodles of charm and truckloads of perfume).
He got me a drink, asked me how my day was, what my goals were (read in KILOGRAMS) etc etc. And then zipped through the costs of joining, which came with long links to minimum contract period, cooling off time, one off payments, admin fee, pro rata joining fee, termination of contracts, membership renewal, injury and sickness cover, redundancy cover, BUPA discounts, freezing memberships when on vacation etc etc...

It was a bloody long list! and I read it all. AND...I still got taken for a walk. Was told about cost of a 3 month contract...and was made to sign a 12 month one..:( so within 2 hours of reading what I had signed..i went back to the swashbuckling sales man.

The man had possibly got a 666 tatooed on his ass in the meantime, for all the attitude and grief he gave me. He indicated the fine print that was and shook his head slowly and played with the golf ball in his hand. Sorry, he said..cant help you, you signed it...Yessss.... I know..I WAS thinking of hurting him...but..I did not..well behaved girl from good family and all that.
However I managed to throw a tantrum, saw the manager and tried to get it sorted.
They shall let me know by post what happens and are sorry for my experience at the club.

I also got to see the fine print for health insurance...the list of pre conditions they do not cover made my eyes water and would make Michael Moore reach for his camera and dictaphone! The fine print prevents me from using this health cover unless something ridiculously strange happens to me between now and Aug..and if it does..I still have a £100 excess to pay. It said so in the 56 pages (front and back) of fine print called the 'Membership Guide'! Alternatively if I do make the mistake and go see a doctor...I could land up paying something like 350£ for 20 mins of pre-consultation, and promise to see the man 3 times in order to complete treatment to the doctors satisfaction.....NICE!(I suddenly love the NHS more)

Is there no such thing as straight forwardness left in this world which is not written in font size 4 by over paid legal eagles?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The boy who knew too much

On my way back from work.
Boy - aged 5 or less, mother and older woman (suspect it to be granny)

Boy opened a large bag which contained a shoe box, he opened the shoes, shiny new black lace ones. Gave each shoe a beaming smile and put them back in.

As the train came to a stop, people got up as did this trio. And then he said something which is still making me smile. Says boy to his mother...

'Now dont you go forgetting those shoes on the seat my dear' (Said in a posh British accent)

A few people smiled and some (read me) burst out laughing.
The mother shook her head and rolled her eyes at the grandma!