Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ladakh: The Land of High Passes

There is a saying in Ladakhi that roughly translates as ‘The land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us’.

It’s only after you actually visit the land, do you fully realize it’s meaning truly. Ladakh is a cold dessert at an impossibly high altitude.

But if you look closer, you notice something more. You realize that Ladakh has really the soul of a chameleon. If you have an unbelievably high pass like the Khardong-la, you also get to soak in the beauty of quaint villages, laden with apricots and apples.  

You see a vast expanse of sand dunes at one end and yet, there are green pastures where sheep, horses, and yaks graze beside streams of fresh water.

You have to brave the cold of Chag-la pass to enjoy the serenity of  Pangong Lake. You have the strangeness of a moon like terrain (aptly called moonland), but also have gardens with vegetable patches and beautiful flowers. 

And then, you experience the warmth of Ladakh, when a bunch of giggling women dress you in Ladakhi attire and teach you their traditional dance. Or when a group of women monks invite you to sit with them for a quick chat. Or when ruddy cheeked kids wave at you as you pass by them. Or when the local people smile at you and say ‘ Julley’ ( that’s ‘hello’ in Ladakhi ).

You swell with pride when you see the awe inspiring Indian Army and even stop briefly to watch a volleyball match between 2 regiments. You chuckle as you read the witty safety slogans on milestones installed by the BRO. (e.g.: A little sip, a little slip, a hospital trip).

As you eat hot Maggie and sip aromatic Kawah in small dhabas, you wonder about the life of a Ladakhi, who must work all summer to prepare for the harsh winter when the land is covered in snow for months.

You climb the steps of many monasteries, gaze at the gazillion prayer flags and cross the numerous cairns alongside roads.

You hear the furious beating of the wind on the side of your tent when you go camping at Pangong, you feel the soft snowflakes of an unexpected snowfall at Chang-la, you bathe in the warm sunlight at Leh, you stargaze on a clear night at Hunder, you dip your feet in a refreshing stream at Sumur and you breath in the fresh air everywhere.

As you do all that, you realize Ladakh shared a piece of it’s beautiful soul with you. And for that, you are filled with gratitude.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Accent : Fake and otherwise !

I have heard so much about accents and (fake accents at that) in the past few days that I feel, I must add my two cents to this discussion!

I believe, an accent like a dressing sense is personal.

It can be flashy, fake or funny. Or annoying!!! One can put an accent to impress, to feel good, to fit in or simply because one can't really help it.  But all things said, it is a personal thing.  I’d rather focus on the words and thoughts behind those words rather than the accent.

And yes, playing the devil’s advocate – putting on a fake accent must be quite a Herculean task.

I would love to try the drawl of the Americans or the crispness of the British or the nasal vowel of the French or the sing-song way of the Chinese. I have tried a couple of combinations at appropriate and inappropriate occasions with desirable and disastrous results!

But truth be told, I am quite happy with the amalgamation of the Marathi-Punjabi-Kannada accents, I have acquired over the years. Combine that with the Indian nod and voila! You have a winner!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Project 3 : Toastmasters : Happy Birthday

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children,
Good morning to all
Does not sound quite right... Let me try this …
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday to you !

No , I haven’t gone insane, not yet and for most of you here  who are looking at me with a half amused and half ‘ she’s gone bonkers look, here’s a question –How many of you have heard the song ‘ Happy Birthday to You ‘for the first time ? Can I see a show of hands ? None. Just as I thought.  Not surprising for according to the Guinness Book of World Records, "Happy Birthday to You" is the most recognized song in the English language.

So fellow Toastmasters and dear guests, for my project 3, I will like to throw some light this delightful little song that had for generations been a part of our culture and my project is suitably titled - Happy Birthday'

I believe Happy Birthday is a universal song it is indeed - It’s probably the only song common between an American toddler in New York , an African child in Nairobi , a Japanese teenager in Tokyo , a young adult in Dubai and an working professional in Bangalore ! There is no other song that binds us better than a Happy Birthday to You.  Like I mentioned earlier "Happy Birthday to You" is the most recognized song in the English language and the song’s base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages.

But did you ever wonder how did this song come into being? Let me share with you some history - remember the ‘Good Morning’ song I sang earlier ? Well, that my friends is forerunner to the Happy Birthday Song . The ‘Good Morning’ song was written and composed by 2 American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill in 1893. Patty was a kindergarten teacher in Kentucky and Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters created "Good Morning to All" as a song that would be easy to be sung by young children. The Hill Sisters' students enjoyed their teachers' version of "Good Morning to All" so much that they began spontaneously singing it at birthday parties, changing the lyrics to "Happy Birthday and that is how ‘Happy Birthday to You’ came into being.

Like all good songs,’ Happy Birthday to You' was copyrighted in 1935 by Summy Company, the publisher of ‘Good Morning to All’. A new company, Birch Tree Group Limited, was formed to protect and enforce the song's copyright. In 1998, the rights to Happy Birthday to You’ and its assets were sold to Time Warner - a great deal for Time Warner because  ‘Happy Birthday to You’ brings in approximately 2 million dollars in licensing revenue each year. Imagine that !

One of the most famous performances of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ was by Marilyn Monroe who sang it for who else - U.S. President John F. Kennedy in May 1962.
But my interest in the song is more sentimental than monetary or otherwise .For me it will always be the song that brings back the fun times I had with my friends, family, and colleagues!

A song that brings flashes of images of a scrawny kid in her mother’s arm drooling over a cake with pink and chocolate icing, while the rest of the children also drooling religiously sang this birthday anthem. Strangely the tune of the song lingered longer than the taste of the cake.

That fellow toastmasters and guests is my earliest memory associated with Happy Birthday, what’s yours? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reading a mockingbird

Presented this for my Project 2 at KTM

My speech today is something to do with Books and indeed 3 of my greatest passions after shopping are Reading, Travelling and Choreography. For my project 2, I will make a humble attempt to take you through one on my favorite books called ‘To kill a mocking bird’ by American author Harper Lee.

Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee published in 1960 which is considered a classic modern American literature. The primary theme of Mockingbird is innocence or rather the loss of it and Harper uses a common American bird to symbolize innocence. The premise of the book is a black man’s struggle for justice and the society as seen through the eyes of an eight year old white girl called Scout.

The story takes place during the great depression in a small town called Maycomb in Alabama and is recalled by Scout who lives with her older brother Jem and widowed lawyer father Atticus. Life for them is a series of everyday childish adventure including shooting birds with air guns, a sport they enjoy but Atticus tells them to never shoot a mocking bird as it is does no harm but helps the farmers by eating insects on the crop. The kids are also fascinated and terrified of their reclusive neighbor called Radley whom no-one has ever seen for many years. Rumors of Radley being a mad man floats in the town , but Scout’s 2 elderly neighbors rubbish it saying he is an extremely shy and timid person who is scared of meeting people. Scout and Jem make schemes to get Radely or Boo as they call him to get out of the house but fail; however they do find little presents kept for them in the hollow of a tree, making them realize that Boo has noticed them..

In the meanwhile Atticus is appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson, a 24 year old married black man accused of molesting a 19 year old white girl called Mayella Ewell, who is the daughter of the town drunkard Bob Ewell. This is at a time when racism was at its peak and the whole town is against Tom because he is black. However, Atticus, a principled man takes up the case and Scout and Jem face a lot of disapproval and taunts at school. During the trial as the story unfolds , Atticus establishes beyond doubt that Tom is innocent and that it was in fact Mayella a lonely and friendless young girl who tried to seduce Tom who in turn ran away , but was seen by her father who after beating her up accused Tom of the heinous crime to save face. But Justice is dethroned, when in spite of the evidence, the jury rules in favor of a drunk lying white man instead of an honest black man. Tom looses faith in the law and tries to escape from prison ad gets shot and killed in the process.
Interestingly, though the jury favored Bob the town knows that he is guilty and feeling humiliated Bob, vows revenge and attacks Scout and Jem with a kitchen knife as they return home from a Halloween play at school on a dark night. Jem’s arm is broken, but someone comes to their rescue and in the struggle Bob is stabbed. Their rescuer carries the unconscious Jem home and Scout realizes that their rescuer is in fact Boo Radely – their extremely shy neighbor. The sheriff is called in and even though he knows Boo stabbed Bob, he claims that Bob fell on his own knife to protect Boo. The novel ends with Scout sitting on her father’s lap as he reads to her in Jem’s room as she dozes off to sleep.
Fellow toastmasters - This is the story of how a mocking bird in the form of a black man was killed at one time and allowed to live at another time though the evidence of a sheriff.
As I conclude I’ll like to leave you with thought- Racism is not as obvious as it was in the Scout’s time and the law is unbiased today, but human nature is still the same. We still have mocking birds that live among us, birds that do not conform to the established norm, think differently and live differently - but birds that do no harm and the question you need to ask yourself at the end of the book is - Did I ever kill a Mockingbird?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Booking a cab in the silicon city , ain't no easy !

3 stupid things to do before breakfast on a Sunday morning? Well , while 2 of them are for private consumption , the 3rd  one is a best practice - Do not make the mistake of using an unknown taxi service as opposed to an established one especially while booking it for others. I , for whatever oxymoronic reason decided to go with some greenhorn  firm called ‘Siliconcabs taxi service’ in the interest of helping the lesser known ones grow and well , the rest is an interesting blog post.

My saga began when I called ‘Siliconcabs taxi service ‘ fellas and booked an airport taxi for a couple of friends at 1.30 pm on a Sunday  and told the office to ask the driver to report at Koramangala Bus Depot at sharp 1.30 pm  . That done, I assumed things would fall in place as they are well supposed to in the transport and travel industry. But some things are not to be ! At 1.30 pm, I get a very confused call from a cabbie who asked me if he was needed at all and did I want him to come to Koramangala Bus Depot ? Our cabbie was apparently at Banneghetta road at the glorious hour of 1.30 pm when he ought to be in the by lanes of Koramangala and was very concerned if his services wAere required at all ! I am sure Banneghetta Road is a lovely place on a Sunday afternoon and hence our man’s reluctance to leave its majestic beauty for the humble Koramangala . Of course , with all my marketing spirit I told him that indeed his presence and his wonder cab was very much required and that was the basic premise of booking his cab after all, wasn’t it  ? Once clarity streamed in his mind , he promptly decided to tell me that while it was all good that I needed his cab at 1.30 , but there was no way he could come before 1.50 pm ( nothing like reminding a customer  who’s cab is it anyways !) .  Now a little desperate, I told him to come as soon as he could and could finally got the honor to behold his glorious countenance  at the blessed hour of 2.00 pm . He looked at me disdainfully and actually said this line that Kotler would have killed the agency for ‘It’s not my problem that I am late, it’s the traffic ‘ !

*Sigh *customer delight anyone! ? Moral of the story -  Call 080-6999-9998 and book Siliconcabs taxi services only if you want to spend Sunday afternoon writing a very frustrated blogpost . 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Colors of My Life

Wrote this for my icebreaker speech ( project 1) as a part of the Koramangala Toasmaster's Club . The objective of an icebreaker speech is to introduce yourself to the audience.

Many moon nights ago in a small town in Maharashtra called Solapur , a set of anxious parents nervously awaited the birth of their second child. Their first child was a healthy and happy boy and they obviously wanted the second one to be a girl. With a final painful cry, the mother pushed the baby into the world and the midwife and nurses eagerly crowded to see the child. The midwife suddenly drew back and exclaimed “Oh my God, it’s a monkey?' Figuratively of course, you see it was an underweight baby with bulging eyes, thin arms and legs and an inflated tummy that looked like a puffed up pulkha.

That monkey, my friends was me, Neha Shinde- a marketing professional , a voracious reader , a budding guitarist with no musical sense and a self proclaimed drama queen !

Though born in Sholapur, My father Dr. Shinde, a professor by profession, migrated to the sunny state of Punjab when I was in Kindergarten and it’s no surprise that everything bright and yellow reminds me of Ludhiana ad Punjab. Every year during our summer vacations my family, comprising of parents and brother and sister would journey to the western part of the country to meet our relatives and cousins. After a month of tremendous fun, I would eagerly look forward to return back to share my holiday experiences with my friends. After a train journey of a day and a night, the next morning would bring us closer to Punjab and I would realize, we were getting closer by the numerous bright yellow mustard and sunflower fields our train whizzed past. As yellow as well yellow can be, I watched these fields with childish joy that I realized home was near. And it was a happy thought.

When I was about thirteen, my father decided to go back to Maharashtra and we moved to a quaint little town called Miraj famous as they say for doctors and donkeys, sometimes referred to in the same vein. I lived there for about 2 years and lived in a beautiful missionary campus, which was as green and lush as the Garden of Eden. I remember the campus scattered with trees of Mango, Guava, Custard apple, Tamarind, Bamboo, and even sandal wood - and where there is sandalwood there are snakes, and it was in Miraj that I experienced two of my firsts in life- the first one was the sighting of a huge shiny black snake just 2 feet away from me on a narrow pathway and the other was realizing how trembling knees actually felt. But that naga naga did not dampen my enthusiasm of exploring the campus and whenever I think of Green, memories of Miraj come back to me.

As soon I started getting cozy in Miraj, we moved again to a town called Belgaum on the border of Karnataka & Maharashtra. Dad worked for JNMC and we lived in the staff quarters. So, whenever I think of white, I see flashes of white coats of the medical and dental students on campus. Even after my father thanks to his travelling itch, moved abroad when I was in my first year of BBA and I moved in to the college hostel, white always reminds me of the JNMC and its students.

Till the time I moved to Pune do my MBA and then to Bangalore for my job in Satyam, my favorite color was black. It still is, but it now shares the honor with Red. As a result I have more than half dozen black shirts and kurtas in my wardrobe that I don’t know what to do about.
But the color or colors that represents me most is not a black or a red, but the combination of 3 colors of saffron, white and green. You see, for many years because of my constant moving places, I had an identity crisis and wondered if I was a North Indian or a South Indian? Did I belong to the west or east? A few years ago I got my answer; I am a Marathi by birth, a Punjabi by nature, a Kannadiga by lifestyle and an Indian at heart!

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Neha Shinde- a marketing professional, a voracious reader, a budding guitarist with no musical sense, a self proclaimed drama queen and a proud Indian!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My airport story ..

So, I have a long history of almost meeting celebrities, those who have read my earlier posts will know what I mean. And so, as it is bound to happen, history repeated itself a couple of weeks ago at the Mumbai Domestic Airport.

I was returning back to Bangalore after a 3-day IT Expo and conference, tired and with a bit of a sore throat (it’s uncanny but every time I visit the city, I get this ailment). Anyways, I was dutifully like a good citizen standing in the security check line, when suddenly I spied a pretty lady in a simple black salwar kameez picking up a tiny pink suitcase and standing on the other side of the security check. She looked very familiar, but for the life of me I could not remember where I had seen her before. Was she a business associate I met at the conference, was she someone from Bangalore, was she from my organization? My brain was working furiously but I simply could not place her. I must have made her conscious with my snake-like staring, but she was pretty composed and was chatting amiable with the Jet Airways staff helping her with her luggage, while at the same time looking at me as if she was expecting me to come up to her and say hello, which I would have if only I could place her!

After our ‘staring competition’, I got my security check done and left the place without greeting the lady in black, who soon let the place with her male assistant wheeling her tiny pink suitcase.

It was only after entered a bookstore while waiting to board and picked up a magazine and saw a doe-eyed pretty face staring at me, did it finally dawn on me that I just missed saying hello to the very talented actress of Parineeta & Dirty Picture - Vidya Balan!