The Travail of Travel in Chennai

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This has been my schedule for the past six years in Chennai. Being an immigrant to the Southern Metro of Chennai, I was intimidated at first. Intimidated by the speed and the size of everything around me.  Rampant pollution, noise, a casual indifference among the people rushing to get to their workplaces and homes, various modes of transport – all of these scared the shit out of me. Of course, this was almost seven years back. I dug in, quite well, to be honest. Since then, Chennai has been my home. My very own Madras.

And then came the time, when I had to get to classes as early as six in the morning after which I had office and then again some classes. I used to reach my room, my humble abode, which I shared with three other people, at nine thirty at night. I depended solely on MTC buses and Share Autos.

Apart from being subject to pick-pocketing once and groping once, I should add that my commutes by these buses have been uneventful. I considered myself lucky if I got a seat, luckier when I am not at the receiving end of the conductor’s jibes and the luckiest when the bus actually stops at my bus stop. Gradually I started becoming tired after a whole day’s work and classes that the bus travel was killing me. Combine this pain with the changes in the client location and menstruation once a month, I was living the life of a nomad.

That was when my parents got the lovely idea of gifting me with a two wheeler, a TVS Scooty Pep+. My life became easier. I thought I was safe and that my spirit was sane. I took my scooty everywhere. The shop nearby, the classes, the client location, you name it and I would be there with my reliable companion. It gave my wings back to me with the assurance that only motherly hugs could give.

Peak hours are a curse. This is not confined to just Bangalore or Mumbai. Chennai choked during peak hours. No amount of strategic planning could actually save me from those peak hour signals and the crazy driving that comes along with it. I was pushed to negotiate the roads alongside the experts like the MTC buses and trucks. What chance would a minuscule scooty stand against such behemoths??

The first enemy for anybody riding a scooter, is the window of the bus. You never know who would end up choosing the exact same time to spit out the window, as you bask in the glory of overtaking the bus. What are the odds, you ask? Oh! Trust me when I say “too many”. People seem to be happily oblivious to the fact that the bus is not the only vehicle cruising on the roads and there are others, who are lesser fortunate, who drive alongside and would really not favor being spat on.

The second enemy is obviously the door of the bus. Chennai buses are crowded. We have a pathetically small fleet when compared to the size of the population that uses these buses. Invariably, all the buses that I am pushed to share the space with, at the signals, would be overflowing with people. With guys hanging on the foot-board (Don’t get me started on the dangers of foot-board travel), the opportunities to get cat-called and leered at, is high.

Today was one such day. It was no different from other days, but still let me give you a description of how it was. As I started from my work, my first stop was the Gemini signal, which is notorious for its traffic. Beside me was a bus, which held people, at a number more than its designated capacity. The signal lasts typically for about a minute and one has to wait, no matter what. I felt numerous pairs of eyes on me, violating me all through the 60 seconds. It was gross to such an extent that I had to cover myself up with my dupatta. And no! My attire was not asking for this to happen. I felt bad. I felt disgusted.

Trust me when I say this is a very normal thing to happen to women who opt to ride a scooter. They are being violated with eyes.

Personally I hold very less tolerance towards such transgressions. Creating a ruckus in a long distance SETC bus to Madurai during Pongal season years back due to molestation and pricking a guy who groped me in a 17M bus, with a safety pin in Chennai on a fine morning stands to my credit. I am thankful that my parents gave me the balls to shout and make a mayhem when someone exploits my private space. I consider myself fortunate. But it shudders me to think of hundreds of other women, who are not as fortunate as I am. What about them?

I have no qualms with the cops of Chennai, for I have always found them to be courteous and helpful. One just needs to approach them in a kind and respectful manner and trust me they will help for sure. I have experienced this at Mylapore Police station post 8.30 PM, when I had gone to lodge a complain about my missing wallet.

I would say that the general mentality must change. Bus drivers and conductors need to be educated to take complaints seriously and not dust it off by saying, “It is peak hours and we cannot help it”. No. If you can’t who else will??

People, at large, must be given awareness. Safety is not about one man or one woman. It is about the community as a whole. One should feel safe to venture out. One should feel safe that even if something unfavorable happens, there are people to help out. That is where actual success lies.

Let us spread awareness about this to each and everyone, personally. Forget about what the society can do and focus on what one can do. Each of us doing our part, would help the society achieve something substantial.

Let us make Chennai safe!

AWARE is an Non Profit Organisation working to make Chennai city safer and sustainable. If you can spare a few minutes off your precious time, please participate in this survey, the results of which would be shared with the concerned authorities to make transport safe in Chennai. *

Image credits- Google

 

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Growing up

A Facebook post made me think. One of my Facebook friends had updated about how she had attended a conference about mental wellness of teenagers and how we end up scaring them and in fact, scarring them about the future.

To be honest, not all of us think about that. All we do is crib. Crib about misfortunes of growing up and complain about how life is not treating us well. Suddenly all that we want to do is to go back to childhood. Pages and pages will be written about nostalgia and what it was, to be a 90’s kid.

She had written that the words that we speak to our juniors and younger siblings, about life, love and career have a serious effect on them. This was not something that was new to me. Having a younger sibling, has its own pluses. I grew up in a household, where each word of mine, which I spoke in front of my baby sibling was watched with microscopic eyes (or ears, should I say?) . My parents always told me that the child’s mind is a tape recorder. It will record each and every little thing it can and would take those to be the governing laws of human relationships and life. Consequentially, old habits would die hard and then things would be too late to recover from.

So when I read this post of my friend, my 24 years of existence fleeted past as a hazy memory. I am afraid, I have been guilty of doing the exact same thing to my juniors. We would say that growing up is such a pain in the neck and that life was better when we were at school or college etc. I swear I never thought of the repercussions of my words at that moment.

We all would be familiar with this scenario, growing up,”Finish your school, life would get better”, “Finish college and get a job, life would be set” from our parents. These were not empty words, now coming to think of it. They were, in fact, preparing us for life. They were kindling our curiosity about life and about growing up. And what are we doing? We are propagating negativities, in the garb of being brutally honest. We are scaring people, by being blunt about the ground realities.

I do agree, a hundred percent, about the ground reality bit, but what is the cost of being a little mellow? What is the problem in being diplomatic? Why can’t we be mysterious about the future to our younger generation, in such a way that they are eager to get there? What are we doing to them, by scaring them?

We are actually sowing seeds of fear and cowardliness in them. We are weakening them by disarming them. Is it worth it? Definitely not.

This is something to think about, or should I say it made me think about my actions and may be resolve to get better?? Time will only tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koko- A Pantomime

I was very eager to watch this pantomime, because the previous one I had attended was brilliant. I love satire and humour. I always give first preference to comedy than any other genre. So with this expectation, I stepped into Narada Gana Sabha on a Sunday evening.

koko

Koko was a pantomime that had the story of the friendship between a hen and human beings.

Chikki, the hen was a tired mother, who had lost many eggs to various factors. Finally she lays an egg and was hell bent on protecting it from anything that may happen to it. Her efforts bear fruits and she gets a cute chick, Koko, out of it. Like any doting mother, Chikki is smitten by her child and wants the child to excel in whatever forms of arts that were there. Martial arts, School, Running and tutorial classes came to the rescue of Chikki’s wish and she enrolls Koko in all of them.

From one class to another, Koko finds her day fully occupied and starts wilting under pressure. A pressure that every child faces today. Frustrated that she is not able to fulfill her mothers expectations and sad that she does not find time to play with her friends, Koko breaks down.

Timely interference of the three guys, who had once saved Chikki and helped her in protecting her egg, clears the situation between the hen and the chick. Finally all is well that ends well.

The play was amazingly crafted and each element was executed with finesse. The music, the set, the conceptualisation of the birth of the chick, the calendar etc were bang on and added value to the story.

I would love to place on record, a teeny tiny detail that I noticed in the play. I shall explain the “human” version of what was shown on the stage.

While the child is frustrated by the neck-tight schedule on one side and of not being able to meet the expectations of her parents on the other side, she yearns for someone to talk to, to understand her and to lend a shoulder for her to cry on. This is the time, for which many anti-social elements are waiting. They would try to swoop in and take advantage of the child’s helplessness and lure them into unspeakable things. A child will not know what is right and what is not. All that she would care about is that she has someone who is patient enough to listen to her wishes and cries. This was a brilliant effort by the team, to portray what the society is,to the audience. If anything, this minute detail must serve as an eye-opener for the parents to take care of their kids. 

All actors did an excellent job in playing their part. A huge applause for each and everyone involved behind the screens. It is definitely not an easy task to do this without as much a breathing time in between the scenes.

Koko, is a must watch for every parent with their children. This is not just a pantomime. It is something beyond the art and comes with a message that is very essential for the society. 

Women in the Harry Potter Universe

I was fortunate enough to share my childhood with Harry and his friends. I was crazy to an extent that my dreams had me walking in the alleys of Hogwarts and my ultimate ambition in life was to own the robes and the wand. I was a proud Potterhead. Spells, subjects, characters, fan fiction, you name it and I might have known about it already.

Then came my tryst with Pottermore. I eagerly browsed through the page, knowing my house ( Ravenclaw) , my wand core ( Dragon heart-string and beach wood 13″ bendy and flexible), my Patronus (Fox) and my Ilvermony House ( Horned Serpent) and then things ran out. I was out of the phase of reading and re-reading HP books, not that I complain about re-reading, but I felt i was past that stage to binge read the books. I love to skim through them, but I guess I am done with intense reading.

Then came the movies. I love them. To condense something as long as 600 pages into a movie of 200 minutes is a feat by itself. I do have some serious problems with the casting and the choice of parts that they had to cut out of the movies, but I shall let it go, for now.

Be it the books or the movies, there were a few characters, all women, who won me over. Each of them had a uniqueness in them and came across to me to be impressive and adorable. This post is dedicated to those six women in the HP universe who win me over, every single time.

Hermione Granger

Being an “insufferable know-it-all” is basically who she is and she carries that tag with such pride. Closer to the “ugly” end of the beauty scale, she taught me how awesome it is to be intelligent and clever. It feels great to stick by rule books and to boss people around. It is amazing to have people depend on you for solutions and well,if things don’t work out, to say, “I told you so”. I know I am cheeky,but that’s what Hermione was too. A true Gryffindor who faced her worst fears, Hermione always chose friendship over love.

She helped me get over my complex of being a ‘know it all’. 

Ginny Weasley

Grossly misrepresented in the movies as being timid and soft, this firecracker has nerves at all the right places. A skilled caster of the Bat Bogey hex and an excellent Quidditch player, she ended up working for her dream job. She is tough inside out and adds life wherever she goes. She lived her life to the fullest and did not bow down to the pressures of age or gender. Such a lovely, lovely character to read about.

She taught me to be unabashed and fearless.

Molly Weasley

Ha!Another Weasley! 😉

A supermom whose skills have been grossly understated in the series until the last part. An exceptional witch in terms of household charms and spells, she is an embodiment of love and care. She is fierce in protecting her children and bossy with her husband. Probably the user of the only “muggle”swear word in the entire series, Molly Weasley is a personification of motherly love.

Molly Weasley taught me to be loving and fierce at the same time. I shalt not let others rip my own people apart, I shalt do that on my own 😛

Narcissa Malfoy

A dubious character, who battles with a lot of demons, Narcissa grew on me towards the end of the series. If it was not for her, I doubt if Harry would have been alive for the famous “Great Hall confrontation” which, by the way, was ruthlessly cut out in the movies, replacing it with the lamest possible encounter between the Most Feared Dark Wizard and The Chosen One ( This betrayal shall never be forgotten or forgiven).

I loved it when she walk out at a crucial juncture of the Final war, prioritising what she wanted for her family and herself. Another exhibition of the motherly instinct, I would opine.

She probably taught me that it is never too late to do the right thing.

Bellatrix Lestrange

Ah! My taboo-crush in the series, this lady has it all. The wily evil smile, the reckless nature, the prowess, the power – everything that any witch/wizard would die for. Her style speaks for itself and frankly this is one of those rare places where the movie scored over the books. Her unapologetic arrogance and a taste for torture makes her scary. I bet nobody would have messed with her in her heydays at Hogwarts. Her liking towards inflicting pain and her glee when she does that makes her one of the most formidable villains ever.

She taught me to take pride in whatever I do and also to do it  in style.

Luna Lovegood

Where do I even start? If not for this lovely lady, I would have wallowed in self-pity and sympathy. Luna is one of a kind-Strong, kind, talented, composed, which is a rare find. She is not scared to be herself and she isn’t bothered about how others choose to see her. The necklace of corks, the over-sized spectrespecs, nargles, lost shoes, thestrals you name it (or not, actually) she would know about it 😀 A true Ravenclaw who doesn’t judge others, she has more worldly knowledge than the trio put together and is sure that intelligence is just one tiny part of life. She stood for her friends till the end and was one of the bravehearts who survived the worst. She was one such woman, who would stare at death and give it a wink. My true hero ❤

She taught me to live life as it comes and to be proud to be who I am. 

Harry Potter is a boon if read early on, because the presence of strong women will not surprise a person later on. It will just be a way of life and well, we always have an alternate universe to escape into,in case the real world gets boring.

 

 

Healthcare at Apollo

Quality health care is one of the biggest concerns that is plaguing India right now. For the level of population our country is at right now, the number of hospitals and doctors is dangerously low. Chennai, a city known for its medical tourism and organ transplants, has a lot of hospitals that provide quality healthcare to people in need of it.

Apollo Hospitals is one such chain of hospitals , which assures quality health care in the city. The winner of the best hospital (in the country) award  for about 14 years continuously, Apollo boasts of world class facilities for the patients who come to them for treatment.

apollo

Speaking to us about the objective of the organisation, Mr.Subbiah, the COO of Apollo Hospitals group, says, “Health care inclusion is one of the major objectives that we, as the best healthcare provider of the country, have. We have a programme called “Priceless Lives Expedition” where we have set out to enroll the people in and around our hospital into our healthcare program, so that they could approach us in case of any and every health emergency they fall into.”

Apollo Hospitals specialises in Tertiary care which, in laymans language, means treating diseases that have reached an extreme point of severity.

As a visitor,I was offered to be shown around the hospital and honestly I was amazed at the facilities that they had with them. The Emergency Room, The MRI centre, The blood bank, The physiotherapy centre and the ambulance were all well equipped and had systematic procedures in place to ensure quality in treatment.  Their ambulances always come with an in-house trained paramedic who is qualified to provide life-support at times of grave danger.

The Physiotherapy lab impressed me the most. They had the most sophisticated instruments and a well equipped rehab centre to bring back the patients to normalcy. “Getting cured from an infection is one thing, but restoring the patients in a position to resume their normal lives is totally another thing, which is what we aim to achieve”, says the Head of the Physiotherapy Department.

On a face to face with the COO, again, after the tour, I had an opportunity to ask him about the affordability of the services that they provided. He responded by saying they have competitive charges which assure the quality and the wellness that the patients require. He also stressed on two things- The importance of getting a second opinion on the probable cure method and the importance of getting a health insurance.

“When a treatment is being recommended to a patient, we would welcome suggestions from the patient on alternative procedures and if possible a second opinion on the diagnosis. We want the patient to talk to us and be open to us about multiple possibilities in the field, which we would consider, if it was not known to us before that”

The COO also added that having a medical insurance has its own benefits and it is always advisable to enroll oneself and ones family with an Insurance service provider from early on, so that the premium will be less and the out of pocket expenses would not end up in giving a shock to the patient.

“Apollo is one place that leverages technology to the maximum extent. We have provided expert guidance to patients in places as far as Himachal Pradesh, in times of emergency with the help of telecommunication and have achieved success in such operations”, prides the COO.

Apollo also has pharmacies spread across the country to cater to the growing need of medicines.With tie-ups with the best in the fields across the world and the best of doctors to complement the facilities, Apollo has come a long way since the day it was founded. It also has a very long way to go.

Let us hope that hospitals of such repute do more for the betterment of the country by promoting affordable and assured healthcare across all the sections of the society.