Hyderabad Days

Loved the sunrise in the distant horizon

Three years ago, almost to the date, we had taken the call to relocate to Hyderabad after living in Delhi since our birth and through the ups and down of life. The reason we could take such a drastic call was because we no longer had any strings attached with the city, both our parents had crossed over the rainbow bridge, the only child is grown to be a fine person and living independent life in another southern city. We were looking forward to a great second innings of our life…

Well, it wasn’t such a great knock as far I am concerned but Deepika did love the city. Frankly, if asked, I can’t really find any fault with Hyderabad. The weather is generally good with only about 3 months of acute summer as against 6 months in Delhi, there’s practically no winter making it a place with even temperature all through the year. It’s a growing city with infra development all over the place and still having huge tracts of land for further growth. The govt of the day is thinking progressively and have some of the biggies in IT/ITES organizations to invest in the city generating employment. Then, what???

As I look back to this second innings, I realize we had missed few hard realities when we took the call…

We came to Hyderabad, a new city for us after crossing the half century mark of life. We didn’t have any friends except office colleagues for Deepika and a distant acquaintance from my Dabur days. We called both sets over dinner and lunch to bond and have bonhomie but it was not to be… colleagues, especially the ones reporting to you can’t become friends till you are their boss. With the other couple, I really don’t know their psych because they never called back or made any attempt to nurture the relationship. Once I met the lady while driving back home and had a forced conversation at the roadside for 5 minutes. There was no follow-up even though I was assured of a call back. I am a self confessed snob and egotist; I carry my ego at the tip of my nose… I am not going to call, ever again!!!

Despite such unwelcomeness, we managed to live in the city for almost 3 years now. We also met few guys who are like us ‘outsiders’ but have made Hyderabad their home now. These gentle souls are amiable and friendly; we perhaps would have bonded more but then covid jumped in the frame of things and all physical socialization became a taboo.

Coming from the city of forts and monuments, the famed Charminar and the Golconda Fort did not charm me but I was visibly impressed with the Salarjung Museum even though there’s a serious lack of maintenance and upkeep if you compare it with the European museums. I am also impressed with the Falaknuma Palace, the Taj Group that manages the hospitality section has kept it nicely and entertains the guests with lots of insight with a guided tour of the palace. Though the visit to Falaknuma Palace will make you poorer by few grand, it’s still a worthwhile visit, at least once in a lifetime for many of us.

One aspect of Hyderabad that amazed me and frankly I liked it a lot, is the size of the stand-alone shops, especially at the newer expanded part of the city viz. Gachibowli, Madhapur, Hitec, Jubilee Hills etc. I remember the Hypermart (now closed) inside the Inorbit Mall was my first experience of the hugeness of the supermarket both in terms of size as well as items. It was quite like Walmart stores in US. Talking about supermarkets, there’s a overload of them in the area where we live…with Spars, Vijetha, Big Bazaar, Reliance Fresh, Spencer, More and Ratnadeep having multiple outlets. There’s even one Tata-Tesco outlet too though I haven’t been there so far. These large outlets do elevate one’s shopping experience to another level and we found our solace visiting such outlets for our weekly rations every weekend. One could pick-up the dry grocery, vegetables, meat/fish/egg, and household cleaning items and even crockery-cutlery, kitchen utensils and even small electrical appliances too. So, even if you don’t intend to purchase anything beyond the veggies, it is a great place for hours of window-shopping!!!

The ONE thing that helped in favor of living in Hyderabad is choosing the right residential society. When we had decided to move here, many people suggested that we take up independent house preferably with lawns for Rolf to roam freely. We did our searches and realized that such houses don’t come cheap or even affordable besides having its own discomforts and disadvantages. Even Mr. Agarwal, the property consultant who was helping us to find a suitable accommodation advised against such places. The biggest disadvantage is the security besides the little errand jobs that would keep surfacing like plumbing and electrical repairs… honestly, though Hyderabad is much less polarized on language front compared to the other southern cities, it is still a difficult task explaining your problem to that class of people who mostly are proficient in their native tongue and has an understanding of English. So, living inside a relatively large residential complex takes care of these issues as they provide such concierge services. We were extremely lucky to chance upon the NCC Urban Residency and a fully furnished apartment where we just moved in with our clothes and few other items. Most of the apartments here have open spaces greeting them (no face-to-face flats) resulting in airy, naturally lighted rooms. Another advantage here is that there’s no surface traffic of vehicles, the parking is below ground giving much needed respite to the vehicles from natural wear-n-tear like blazing sun and incessant rain. There’s also a convenience store within the complex which was a great help during the lockdown period.

I must mention here that Hyderabad is much more pet friendly than Delhi, especially the kids are generally more dog loving and fearless. In our everyday walk, many of the kids would stop Rolf and cuddle him. There have been people in high-end luxury cars stopping and requesting a photo shoot with him!!! Also, there are dedicated individuals in the complex who regularly feed the street mongrels’ morning and evening. I found the Streetys’ of Hyderabad much docile compared to some of the resident devils that we have in my New Delhi residential colony. Every day, two of such streetys’ accompany us in our walk since the lockdown began in March and they are kind of bodyguards to Rolf!!!

I have mentioned earlier too but it needs to be reiterated again…the daring devils in 2-wheelers, both male and female. It seems that the covid hasn’t been able dampen their spirits; on the contrary, the near empty streets have made them even more brazen in their misadventures on the road. Earlier, the excuse for rash driving was to reach the work place on time (which is a misnomer in Hyderabad – no one takes the appointment time seriously; reaching in 10 minutes may mean “reaching in 2 hour” and without apology), but now why are they putting theirs as well as other’s life on the edge, is unfathomable. The closing of the offices had taken out the Mahindra Xylos and all such call centre vehicles from the equation giving much relief to the normal humans behind the wheels.

As I was writing this, Hyderabad faced unprecedented rain for over 3 days due to depression in the Bay of Bengal. Normally such depression and subsequent landfalls doesn’t have much impact on the city as it is at least 500 km inland from the shores. But this time, the rains created havoc, especially in old city and other low lying areas as almost all the lakes and water bodies became full to the brim. The floodgates of Himayatsagar Reservoir were opened up after 8+ years and river Musi flowed with full glory of the past. We were spared the agony as the area where we live is on higher grounds and relatively better planned than the old city. The only damage our residential complex witnessed was few uprooted trees including one that we had planted and grown to about 10 feet height. And as per the IMD, there’s no respite for at least another 7-10 days with sporadic rain across the region. Most of the times, in Hyderabad, the rains start in the evening hours and then continue till about midnight or sometimes carry over to the morning as well.

The overflowing Musi River

One disturbing trend that I have noticed not only in Hyderabad but in Bengaluru and Chennai as well is the lack of civic sense; barring the main roads of the city, the sidewalks of the colony roads are used as dump yards. And most of the cases it is the well to do households that dumps their daily garbage and other disposable/ discards on the roadside. The municipal corporation is either ill equipped and/or least interested in clearing and cleaning of the muck. In Bengaluru, they simply burn the stuff at site once the dump becomes eyesore for the bosses.

Our residential complex Nagarjuna Residency is situated on a connecting road between Old Mumbai Highway and Mindspace Road which also boasts of two of the most popular schools viz. Prerana Waldorf School and NASR School for Boys. It is the latter that is the cause of concern. It has a sprawling campus with separate grounds for football and hockey and also houses the bunglow for the Principal or the Head of the Institution and is well landscaped with water bodies for the ducks to swim. Since about a month back the housekeeping workers from the school started dumping first the pruned tree leaves and other remnants and then even the household garbage including food waste on the sidewalks just opposite the school. The situation has gone from bad to worst with the garbage now overflowing onto the road as well. I understand that the workers were told not to dump but they haven’t heeded, in fact they openly flaunt a devil may care attitude, obviously assured of support from their politically well connected boss’s. I am told that numerous complaints/ requests have been lodged with GHMC but so far no action has been initiated to clear up the mess. Don’t know what values are they imbibing in their students!!!

First time in the last three years, we will be spending the Durga Puja in Hyderabad but alas the covid has ensured that we don’t get to see the Durgotsav of Hyderabad as most of them are either doing a symbolic puja or have restricted the entry to the members only. The Durga Puja, as I have seen growing up is “Sarbojonin” meaning it is open to public from all walks of life without restriction and without bias of race, religion, color and caste…but the Covid19 has taken out the “Sarbojonin” out of it making it a private affair of the few. I understand it would be difficult for the organizers to control the devotees if it is kept open to all but then why have it in first place? This year, so many other religious and cultural celebrations were cancelled or curtailed across the country, so why not cancel the Durgotsav as well. I can smell politics… WB will be going to polls next year, so they have to please the citizens who have been waiting for the biggest cultural festival of the land. There’s commercial angle to it as well, the Durga Puja coincides with Navratras culminating in Dusshera and ushers in the festive season of Diwali which also witnesses a frenzied buying season. The argument in favour is that the “economy needs the boost” and I agree on that point but can it be at the cost of the health of people? I don’t want to be the judge, let people decide what’s best for them. On my part, with great reluctance and at continuous pestering of Deepika have agreed let a Purohit come and do the annual Kojagori Laxmi Puja in a much smaller scale…

Contrary to the popular belief, the Goddess neither arrives nor leaves. She is the omnipresent, she has existed before time and will continue to stay beyond eternity… She is always around you and also within you, She lives in your conscience and in your breath, often guiding your soul when you invoke her, showing you the path whenever you deviate. Durga Puja and the nine nights of Autumn are therefore symbolic of our life. We arrive, we live through our blessings, we celebrate our existence, and we merge back into our elements.

For me Maa Durga manifests in two primary forms…

(1) AS MOTHER: Ya Devi Sarbobhutesu Matrirupenam Sangsthita, Namasteswai Namasteswai Namah Nama…

and

(2) AS SHAKTI: Ya Devi Sarbobhutesu Shaktirupenam Sangsthita, Namasteswai Namasteswai Namah Nama…

This year, I would like her Shakti Roop to unleash her fury on Coronasur and vanquish the demon of Covid19 from the face of the Mother Earth!!!

My Circa 2020

In the closing days of 2019, the popular joke was “How different will be the new year 2020?” and the cryptic answer in Hindi used be, “Zyada nahi, Unnis-Bees ka hi farak padhega.”

Well, I guess the Kaal Chakra probably was having a hearty laugh… the 2020 has turned world upside down, we are past the 9th month and is on the verge of forgetting what’s it like being normal. The term “New Normal” has been coined to calm the nerve of the human race but how long can this new normal be sustainable? In the process of keeping physical distance, we are getting socially distant, the grandchild is not allowed to hug the grandparents, the best buddies can’t even shake hands, there’s always a fear, “Will I get infected doing that or that?”

So, how’s my 2020?

Well, the year started off promisingly… in the first week of January we were in Delhi enjoying a particularly good chilly winter which we have been missing for three years having relocated to the southern cities. Then in February, we went to Goa to celebrate my son, Ayush’s 25th birthday. Though it was a short stay of 2N3D, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We used the opportunity to take possession of the One Bedroom pad that we had taken up jointly with our long time friend Robin. Looking back it was a wise decision to complete the govt formalities using the short sojourn.

We were in the middle of discussion about our June (anniversary) vacation that we usually undertake with Basu family when the lockdown happened. At first it was fun getting locked up with all offices and school/ college closed, shopping malls, multiplexes and restaurants closed… nowhere to go, no one to visit you. The lockdown happened from 23rd March and because of our Goa trip the previous month, the buying cycle of our monthly groceries had somehow moved to the middle of March, so we were well stocked up for a month and more. As far as vegetables and fruits and dairies were concerned, the convenience store within the housing complex geared up to cater to 350+ families. The NCC Urban Residency did an excellent job by arranging fruit, vegetable and meat vendors to come to the complex and set weekly shop and/or deliver the online orders. In fact, we were never out of any stuff during the complete lockdown of the phase I.

However, our son who lives in Bengaluru wasn’t so lucky… he had gone to Goa again in March 2nd week with his school/college friends and as a conscious citizen went ahead with one week self isolation upon his return on 16th March. Ironically, the day he could go out was the day nationwide complete lockdown happened. To make matter even grimmer, his flat-mate decided to move with his girlfriend in the same city, thereby leaving him alone in the apartment. It had a positive side as well… he no longer had to share the limited grocery and other food stock and could extend till the relaxation happened. Deepika used her connections in Bengaluru to arrange for some medicine that he had run out but beyond that we could not help much. It was agreed that at the first opportunity he will come over to Hyderabad as his company like many others had announced WFH till end of the year, so location did not matter…

One item that reached critically low (quantity) was the Dentastix of Rolf and surprisingly, the Pet Food was not considered “Essential” by the govt, therefore no e-commerce sites were delivering any pet food. I had to cut them in half to extend the inevitable end and every day would remind Rolf that soon it will be over…

Then one evening during our daily call, Ayush suggested that I try the Swiggy app which had started delivering grocery and other stuff. It was such a relief when the following day I could locate one shop having stock of Pedigree Dentastix, I ordered for 8 packets good for 8 weeks hoping that life would step back to normalcy by then.

One gets used to certain luxuries of life, mine being my morning cup of Lipton Darjeeling Tea which I have been having since the time I started drinking tea!! Unfortunately, my stock got over by April end and it was not to be found in our convenience store (though it was an extension of a large departmental store) and I had to look at outside avenues. The famed BIG BASKET failed miserably in our expectations, though they had the tea but for continuously 15 days, their delivery slots were always blocked and all this while I could see their delivery executives visiting our complex not once but twice a day to deliver to different apartments. I had to adjust with whatever was available for about a week before I could get it from Amazon pantry.

I was addicted to gutkha (mixture of betel nut & chewable tobacco) for over two decades… my stock got over in the second week of lockdown and since the pan shops were shut, there was no way to replenish; the first week I did show some withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability but I suppressed the urge knowing that this was one opportunity to chuck the addiction. Once the shops opened up I crossed my regular shop while driving back home but there was no urge to have it…     

NRFOWA, the RWA of our residential complex proactively stopped the services of the maid, drivers and other helps to all apartments except to few senior citizens living alone in the beginning of March. They also put an embargo on visitors to the complex much before it was official, thereby reducing the chance of infection. We have had sporadic cases since the lockdown relaxation and the figure approx. 10-12 out of over 1000 residents.

I must mention here the need for clear communication to the last man at the front… recently I read a story of a Delhi based advocate winning a case against Delhi Police. The person was fined INR500 for not wearing a mask while driving alone in his car. Apparently the policeman who challaned him was not briefed properly as to what constitute as public space and what’s a private domain. Similarly, when the lockdown happened on 23rd March, the RWA had issued advisory that morning walk/ jogging etc along with sports arena are being closed to residents. There were exceptions mentioned like pet walking and visiting the convenience store for essential items… So, as soon as I had had stepped out with Rolf for the morning walk, a young guard came rushing towards us and said we must not walk and should go back immediately. Since I had read the advisory earlier, told him politely that pet walking is allowed under exceptions, but he was adamant that there’s no exception and we must turn back. It was irritating so I told him to convince Rolf otherwise we are going ahead, he can take a chill pill. As expected, he rushed to his Supervisor at the main gate and complained. As we approached the gate (about 200 meters from our apartment), the Supervisor came up with the same narrative; I showed him the entire communication of the RWA to which he said that he wasn’t aware of the same and can’t allow me to go out of the complex. Needless to say, I was furious and told him that I am going out definitely and he can complain about me to anyone he deems fit. I think I had raised my voice a bit high and also used some choice words which made him realize to back off… 

In April, Rolf became 11 (hooman) years young… the celebrations were low key due to complete lockdown but he got extra portion of “Chimken” and 2 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream…

In Hyderabad, the worst months in terms of weather are April to June when the dry heat of April-May becomes humid and sultry by the beginning of June, you simply pray for the rain god to come soon!! This year, because of the lockdown, staying indoors, the severity of the weather was not felt, especially for people like us who are living on the ground floors of multi-storied complexes. We also avoided the severity of the monsoon which this year had been above average resulting in many water logging in the city. So, to that extent the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise.

After two cancellation of flight, Ayush finally managed to reach Hyderabad on 7th June morning and immediately quarantined himself for the next 7 days. The 3 months of no-gym had a toll on his body both physically and mentally. For a young man, being locked up at home without any social contact is really frustrating. Even under normal circumstances, I rarely moved out but when you are forced stay indoors because of external factor, there’s kind of rebellion enters the mindset. I could sense that in Ayush with his constant irritable stance and practically non-communication. His mother and my wife Deepika was concerned and upset at the situation but I knew that over time, he will be fine. Since 2013, he has been staying away from home, first in college hostel and then with flat mates when he started corporate life…he had tasted the gay abandon of living separately from the parents… what he needed was an assurance of having a private space while living with us which I ensured through minimal interference in his life. His presence also provided me with an opportunity to explore my culinary skills. I have never cooked as much as I did in the last 3-4 months. He has settled down now and is enjoying his stay at home, although he refuses to acknowledge Hyderabad as home and calls it a camp and frankly I agree with him on this count.

Actually, the private space factor is very important in all relationships… it affected me too in some ways… Since the time we moved to Hyderabad in the beginning of 2018, my life had seen a kind of solitude 5 days a week… from Monday to Friday I used to be on my own once Deepika left for office or I dropped her to office. However, with Deepika working from home, I first had to give up my desk and the cozy corner office that I created for myself, then my OCD came to the fore and we would often get into arguments over trivial issues. The presence of Ayush helped in minimizing the domestic skirmishes as well, although my OCD is still quite strong but I am now simply going about it quietly.

In June, we celebrated our 29th anniversary quietly with Ayush in attendance taking pictures for memory sake. Normally, every year barring a few emergency situations, we have gone for “destination celebrations” with our dear friend the Basu Family (and sometimes the Dutts as well), but this was exceptionally different.

Now, most of the lockdown restrictions are gone, not because the epidemic is over but people are impatient to get back to pre-covid freedom but there lies the real threat of another wave of the pandemic in the near future. The least one could do is to maintain physical distance, wear a mask and keep oneself sanitized while in the public places. It is really surprising to see the educated people not wearing the mask properly covering the mouth & nose or even not wearing at all. I am told by my friends in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata that this is an issue even there too; in fact a friend who drove down from Siliguri to Kolkata said that about 60% people are covering their faces in some form in Kolkata but in the hinterland it is business as usual…no mask, no physical distancing.

As I was concluding this piece, the news came in that C-19 has entangled my in-laws family in Delhi. My prayers are with them for a speedy recovery.

The Unnees-Bees joke has given way to “I am not adding 2020 because I didn’t use it” statements from all netizens. Frankly, I don’t care if it gets added or subtracted, I want the last quarter to sprint to the checkered flag… and I would surely like to welcome the circa 2021 with all my friends around in a grand celebration.

We have lived through the 9 months unscathed and sincerely hope to scrape past the balance 3 months as well in good health and high spirit.

Hyderabad Days

Three years ago, almost to the date, we had taken the call to relocate to Hyderabad after living in Delhi since our birth and through the ups and down of life. The reason we could take such a drastic call was because we no longer had any strings attached with the city, both our parents…

My Circa 2020

In the closing days of 2019, the popular joke was “How different will be the new year 2020?” and the cryptic answer in Hindi used be, “Zyada nahi, Unnis-Bees ka hi farak padhega.” Well, I guess the Kaal Chakra probably was having a hearty laugh… the 2020 has turned world upside down, we are past…

MIRACLE WITNESSED

This interesting scene was in Supreme Court of India where the Bench was hearing the issue of Ram Janma Bhoomi. There were counsels representing both the sides and each side had their own witnesses to provide evidences. While Sri. Parasaran was putting forth the justifications for Ayodhya As Rama Janma Bhoomi, the Honourable Judge intervened.…

Suicidal

Tie-a-Noose-Step-10-Version-4

Sushant Singh Rajput took his life… committed suicide at the young age of just 34 years!!

Somehow, this news has rattled not just me but a whole lot of people. Why? I did not know him personally nor did I follow his film career as a fan. He did some remarkable cinemas like Kai Po Che, MSD, Kedarnath, Chhichhore etc which shall remained etched in ones memory for years… but the question remains why did he take the extreme step?

As my son pointed out, the “suicidal thought” is something that’s embedded in the persons mind for a long time but is subdued by the happenings in one’s life. I agree with him, in fact I would like to point out that a large section of the society around us have a dormant suicidal thought deeply embedded in their subconscious and in most of them it remains dormant all through their life.

I remember of a death by suicide in my distant family… the person was highly educated (Gold Medalist), well established in profession (professor at a renowned university) and had a beautiful family. I have met him once or twice as a child and my memory is that of a benevolent uncle who would give me a Cadbury Chocolate bar every time we met. However, my mother and elder siblings believed otherwise; according to them he was self-centered, selfish person who ill treated his wife and child and made her leave home with their child never to return again.

Why I brought it up? Well, I wanted to bring about a different dimension to the narrative of suicide.

Many years later, that child and I became very good friend, we used to communicate every week through snail mail (the only option in those days) and would meet once or twice a year. In one such communique, she informed me of her father’s demise by an act of suicide. She wrote and I am quoting from memory, “I don’t know whether I should grieve on his death or feel freedom from a suffocating relationship. Frankly, I do not know him much or rather he did not let me know him all these years. All I know is that he loved oneself immensely which to the outside world seemed self-centered, selfish and therefore, his taking this extreme step reveals that he was in some kind of deep pain which he could not withstand anymore.”

I think I wrote back some consoling thoughts which I did not believe myself. But her words that “how could a person who loved himself so much take his own life”, remained etched in my subconscious and surfaced now when I read the news of SSR.

Most people consider suicide to be act cowardice, I don’t. It takes guts to jump off the 20th floor, put the noose around one’s own neck and then kick the chair, gulp down a bottle of high-dose sedative or slash the vein of your wrist. Yes, it takes lot of unbearable pain, both mental and physical that induces the person to take the final step. Why guts? Because, the person is fully aware that there will be no turning back once the clock is set in motion.  The desire to live for something… to love someone gets erased momentarily but completely… it is like one has entered a tunnel where it is only way forward to an endless abyss. So what triggers this? Many things actually in succession or simultaneously… be it a financial or emotional loss… it could be certain physical ailment that has reached incurable stage.

The counter argument often is that one should talk to family, friends or doctor to get out of the misery. But what to do when one has lost all the zest for life? Think of the terminally ill patient counting days while experiencing excruciating pain every moment that refuses to subside even with the strongest medication. Think about the person in vegetative state where the mind is alert but rest of the body including the tongue is inert or the comatose patient occupying the (hospital) bed for years together. There is no coming out these miseries even if you have tons of wealth to garner the best medical team. Will it not be logical or rational to let the person go with honor? It does sound politically correct to say that the family will take care… arrange for best medical facilities… and hope the person gets well, when it is evident that it is not going to happen, the vegetative figure will never get up and stand on its feet.

The mental illness or the depression is something that doesn’t happen overnight but seeps into the brain cavities over a period of time. What triggers it is a point of debate…

Let’s take a hypothetical case of a person who had been in a administrative job all his/her life…the person having worked in middle management level was never a decision maker but a good follower and implementer of the instructions… suddenly with the lockdown across the country forcing the employees to work out of home, makes his/her job redundant… with still few years before retirement… with no other skill set to explore newer alternatives… becomes kind of unrelevant to his/ her own universe. The person is physically there amongst people but has nothing to contribute productively. His/her existence is taken for granted and doesn’t have any impact on the people around except probably as an irritant. He/she quietly waits in silence to become completely irrelevant from this stage of unrelevant before fading away completely.

There’s a section of such people who disappear in milling crowd in anonymity, some take the spiritual route to find relevance of their existence. Though the thought of going to Dikshunnopur is highly romantic as has been painted by the Bengali author late Shri Sunil Gangopadhyay or Neel-Lohit (pseudonym) but I find it to be uncourageous because one remains as useless as before… still unproductive, a parasite living off the society… only the environment changes.

I strongly feel that if such a situation arise in one’s life, it is better to go with your dignity intact. There is no shame in accepting the final defeat and cross over the rainbow bridge to a world of classless society… (I am guessing!!)

NB: Won’t be apologetic to those who may find this “defeatist and/or morbid”… I have the freedom of thoughts…