Thursday, July 3, 2014

PSA: Demystifying Punjab

Some random facts about Punjab and Sikhism, just in case there's anyone left on the face of the planet who's yet to receive this gyaan from me in person. Let me know in case I got something wrong. :)* 

- My favourite one: Why do I have a boy's name? 
If only I had a penny for every time I was asked this...
Quick answer: I don't. Sikhs don't distinguish between first names for men and women. Lately, parents have begun to use more modern names, which are clearly feminine or masculine, but technically the difference is supposed to be only in the middle name. Singh = male; Kaur = female.

- Punjabi and Sikh are two different things.
Sikhism is a religion that originated in Punjab, and somehow we've managed to spread our wings and reach everywhere. Literally, everywhere. Anyway, the point is that a Sikh isn't the same thing as a Punjabi. I, for instance, am both.
There are Punjabi Hindus though, and Sikhs who've never lived in Punjab, so "Punjabi" is barely an apt tag for them. 

- Yes, some of us come from Pakistan.
West Punjab is much larger than East Punjab, and because of the Partition, huge numbers of Sikhs and Hindus came from there to India. Some of them settled in Punjab; a lot of them made other states their home. In fact, Delhi has some areas where the majority of the population is erstwhile refugees.

- We're not all chicken-tikka-and-Patiala-peg-loving foodies!
A lot of Punjabis tend to be, but not all. Sikhism does forbid meat and alcohol actually.

- You're right in being surprised to see our hair trimmed. 
Sikhs are supposed to have uncut hair, "kesh" being one of the five K's we're supposed to maintain. The modern times, however, have changed things. "Cut surds" (Sikh males who trim their hair/beard and may/may not wear a turban) are at least as common as baptized Sikhs, who maintain all the five K's (and stay away from meat, alcohol, narcotics, etc.). I do have an opinion on this, but that's for another post.

- Most importantly, Punjabi music isn't Honey Singh!
Honey Singh is Punjabi, and he's rapped a lot in Punjabi (in the good old days when I liked him), but the point is that Punjabi music is rich and varied; more often than not, when someone uses the phrase, they're thinking of the likes of Gurdas Mann (or maybe Sharry Mann) if not Lalchand Yamla Jatt or Chamkila.

*This post is written in a casual vein. Any part found offensive by anyone is deeply regretted.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Back to Civilization

I'd been working in Konark for over a month, and still enjoying the near-absence of traffic and pollution, when it was time to work out of the Kolkata office for a week. I had looked forward to the trip for days--was definitely missing the craziness of living in a metro by now.

I landed at Kolkata, unable to contain my wonderment at seeing skyscrapers, frantic yellow cabs and American restaurants (aka McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, aka neighbours during student life). The little joys of life.

The best part, however, was the true little joys of life--not having to eat alone, making pathetic FMCG/sales jokes, cribbing about, well... a coworker's 4-year-old chatterbox who turned a few hours of waiting into a laugh riot.

Off-topic thought: These bedsheets in the train are so milky white! I bet they use Surf Excel. ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Go Watch Vice!

I've wanted to write a review for a long time. A book, movie, restaurant, place... But I'm just not the type. 

I've also wanted to watch every HBO show ever made for a long time. They're all so good! SATC included--girl friends are the best. :)

Anyway, Vice... Another one of those HBO greats. My brother-in-law told me about it a couple of months ago. It used to be a magazine, which is now (also?) a TV show. One season in, I'm compelled to write about it.

The show is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction things. Throughout the 20 or so minutes of S01E01, I was frozen in place.

Anyway, a little bit about the show, since this a lame excuse for a review. It's true journalism. Fearless. The stories are told without any ado, without any drama. And they're appalling. Kids-becoming-suicide-bombers-for-the-Taliban appalling. Real sh*t. And yet, it's not one of those boring documentary types. Vice is about the "modern condition" we at least need to be cognizant of.

Watch it. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No More Haggling!

So far in life, I've totally fit into the stereotype of Indian women who spend five grand at a mall, yet haggle with the auto driver for five bucks on the way back*. Having lived away from my parents' house for six years now (without a car), I've been there and done that over and over again. 

That said, I have tipped street vendors and rickshaw drivers sometimes if they're nice or interesting. But not enough to escape said stereotype.

Today, however, that changes. I've been a working woman (!) for exactly a month today and have decided to never haggle with a poor person. The thought came to me as I bought some fruit on an evening walk. Maybe it was the language barrier** that made me want to limit the conversation to the bare minimum. Who knows. But after asking the street vendor what he'll take for a kilogram of apples, I didn't protest at all.

Saving a few hours of salary over a whole lifetime just doesn't compare to giving a moment's happiness to someone who works way harder than I. Better still if they gloat over my stupidity and lack of street smarts. :)

*As Rani Mukerji's character, Rhea, said in Hum Tum, it's not a matter of one potato or one chilli, it's a matter of principles. Yeah, that's how we justify it. :D

**I'm in Konark at the moment. Most people understand Hindi, but the accent is very different. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

National Integration on Wheels

Years ago my geography teacher in school, a very humorous gentleman called "Sukhpal sir", said that travelling coach in an Indian train is how national integration happens. 

Today I experienced it for real for perhaps the first time. A Bengali (?) gentleman who runs a restaurant in Hyderabad, and had come to drop his son at Kolkata for summer vacation, helped me get my baggage on to the train after some minutes of small talk at the platform. The cynic in me of course tried to escape, but I was going to ask for help from the train staff anyway, and there was nowhere in the train he could disappear with my lead suitcase. I took the chance and ended up thanking him profusely.

Next to my seat sat a lady from Kolkata married to a guy in Hyderabad. She probably was from a government officer's family, because her six pieces of baggage and her refreshments were taken care of by two gentlemen whom she humbly ordered about. (Oxymoron not intended.) We cribbed about the air conditioning not working and then exchanged tired smiles after it finally blew cool air right into our sweaty faces.

A family from Bihar (I guess) were taking an elderly gentleman to Hyderabad for medical treatment. By the time they boarded the train I was pretty tired, but I managed to eavesdrop on their predictions of the impending election results.

For a long time a gentleman, also travelling from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar and a young guy headed to Cuttack discussed jobs and the steel sector and what not. I was half sleeping during it, but whatever I overhear sounded like very intelligent, informed conversation.

A while back when I texted my friends that I'm off to Bhubaneswar, Karan suggested a travel blog for the year. Obviously the next post would've been inspired by my latest journey or location, but ensuring I write a travelog sounds like a good idea, especially as the pressure of work kills whatever is left of the writer in me.

I never thought I'm the type to make best friends with a stranger after a bus ride together, but I think something in that direction might just happen. I already have a bunch of new work friends, and in Konark, where I'll be working over the next few months, I'm bound to bump into a few interesting tourists, if not locals.

The big change in life has already begun. It's only going to get better. (For those looking for context, I've finally bid goodbye to student life and begun working at Hindustan Unilever Limited as a marketing manager. Currently I'm on a sales stint in coastal Orissa.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

People Who Laugh Fully

...are people I like. :)

It's clear enough that happy and positive people tend to be more likable; for me a quick way to see that is how fully/openly/khul ke somebody laughs.

Someone who shies away from showing how happy they are... Um, no.

P.S. Two favourite celebrities in this regard: Sushmita Sen and Sonakshi Sinha.