Zebra Crossing : Culture shock in India

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Growing up in India, I never had a problem crossing roads. You know, you learn. You adapt. Before I left home for an experience of life in Europe, I never thought about these things – which were a part of my daily life in India. Greetings for example, about which I wrote in my previous post. And now, what comes to my mind is : Zebra crossings.

I had learnt about the concept of zebra crossings quite early in my school textbooks, but never saw anyone using it the city where I lived. I learnt how to cross roads, just like everyone else. It was never a problem – I could say so, because I’m still alive. Looking both ways on a one way road, turning your head left-right, left-right, and hoping to ace the timings once again. Smooooth! No dikkat at all! I was a pro, just like everyone else.

But when I first went abroad, I was alone, and too excited about everything. It was my first ever experience of living alone in a new country, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for the culture shocks! So I’m in France – during the first few days – and I’m crossing the road, as if I own it. A car comes speeding and the driver gives me a stare which clearly means “Are you stupid?” – And thats when I realize, they do have this zebra crossing thing going here in Europe, and quite seriously at that! So they weren’t talking about some fictional land in the school textbooks!

Three years in Europe, I’m pretty used to crossing at Zebra crossings. At the signals, waiting for the red light to turn green for the pedestrians. And where there were no pedestrian signals, I would uselessly wait, not knowing that the cars would stop themselves if I’m walking on it. So well in time, I learnt the ways of this blessing that is the zebra crossing!

But every time I came home to Delhi for the holidays, I experienced a reverse culture shock. The first time I came back during the summer, I actually started looking for zebra crossings. Something I had never bothered to observe before. To my surprise, we never notice the zebra crossings, because helloooo!!! The vehicles are ON the zebra crossing when the signal is red! And poor pedestrians are zig-zagging to cross the road. In some other places, the white lines are sooooo light that they are almost invisible. But who cares? Because we are experts in crossing roads – because we are, what they call, Khatro ke khiladi!

I noticed that near the Connaught Place area, they do have these pedestrian signals, which were quite a relief, but even in that case, the vehicles are still ON the zebra crossing. And then, this incident that happened just a few days ago : I was in CP, and had to go from one block to the other. There was no signal there for the cars to stop, but I saw a zebra crossing. A couple walking in front of me jumped right onto the zebra crossing, while the cars and autos were speeding towards them. For a second I thought maybe the vehicles would stop because pedestrians crossing on a zebra crossing where there’s no traffic signal. But no, they didn’t. Khatro ke khiladi managed to cross the road alive, zig-zagging and stopping at the right time, hoping another vehicle doesn’t crash into them!

On a very serious note, this is an issue of concern. Growing up in the capital of the country, I only learnt about road ethics and safety in theory, and never practically because nobody follows them! Since the last three years, everytime I’ve come home after an year abroad, I don’t venture out of the house alone at least for week, because I’m scared! And I’m not even exaggerating. I’m scared to cross the road. Scared because I might have forgotten the skills to watch both sides of a one way road, hoping not to die. Scared because I’m out of practice!

It is my request to every one who drives, to be more careful, and follow rules for the combined safety of everyone around! If today I managed to cross the road safely, there must be someone out there who didn’t, and a life was lost!

As a side note, I would like to add that we must also not be scared to speak up about these things. Personally, I too think twice before saying it now, because everytime I compare life in India with my experience abroad, they say “Haan zyada angrez ban gai hai tu. Bhool mat yahi se gai hai!”. Lol, I know that, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t like being in India anymore. In fact I am so happy to come back! But certain things make you think, and react! And that is why, I chose to write about it. Doing things because that’s the way its done, will not help us create a better space to live in. Together we can make a difference!

Be safe!

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सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे तो…

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सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे
तो सब कुछ बदल जाएगा.
मगर ये सूरज,
ये तो ना उगने से थकता है
ना ढलने से डरता है.

सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे
तो ये भी मेरी तरह
बादलों की चादर में गुम,
उठने से इनकार करेगा.
मगर देखो ना,
कैसी चमकती धूप खिली है आँगन में!

सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे,
तो ये चिड़ियाँ मायूस सी,
मेरी तरह चहकना भूल जाएँगी.
शायद पेड़ो की डालियों में कही च्चिप जाएँगी.
मगर देखो ना,
ये तो नया ही कोई राग गाने लगी हैं.

सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे
तो तुम्हारे बाग़ीचे के फूल
मेरी ही तरह, तुम्हारी याद में मुरझा जाएँगे..
मगर देखो ना,
ये तो बरसात आने पर फिर खिल गये.

सोचा था तुम चले जाओगे,
तो सब कुछ बदल जाएगा..
मगर देखो ना,
सब कुछ तो दुनिया में वही है..
बस हम बदल गये.

दो पल .

दो पल की ज़िंदगी के
दो पल हमें देदो.
ना ज़्यादा ना कम,
जो है वो हमें देदो.

यूँ तो हज़ारों साल जी लें तुम्हारे बिना,
मगर बिच्छाड़ने का अगर इरादा है,
तो ये जान अभी लेलो.

How Bollywood movies ruined my life .

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First things first – I love Bollywood. But I also hate the fact that I love it. If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood movie, you’d know what I’m talking about. My question to the filmmakers though, is – WHY? WHY WOULD YOU TELL US LIES?

As I was growing up, Bollywood was a major, major part of my life. No, my parents weren’t taking me to the cinema all the time, but yes, I grew up with that idiot box I don’t even care about anymore. So well, as I was growing up, during the late 90s and early 21st century, we had movies on the television all the time. They still do, but I was kinda jobless back then, and I loved watching whatever was available on TV. Ofcourse we didn’t have an internet connection at home back then, so there was no possibility of getting in the touch with the rest of the world and watch what they had to offer. You lucky kids these days can watch everything from Game of Thrones to Californication. But me, I watched DDLJ, Mohabbatein, Jab we met, Kuch kuch hota hai, Dil toh pagal hai et crap. And that too, over and over and over again. So much so that I know all the dialogues by heart. And as ashamed I am to say this, I STILL love watching these movies.

It was a trap. I was all a trap. These Bollywood movies turned me into a filmy character, one crazy bubbly girl right from cheeziest Bollywood film. Everytime I’d watch a new Bollywood movie, I’d want to be like the female lead in my real life. And that’s how I turned from an introvert to a loud Punjabi kudi in 2010, after watching Jab We Met. Yes, that’s the secret. But, bleh. Also, my parents HAD to name me Simran. Even though I was named before DDLJ was released, people think it was the other way round. And it hurts. Its hurts (LOL). My whole identity is based on a stupid Bollywood movie. People have to mention Raj everytime they talk about my love life, and guys named Raj think they can flirt with me because, duh, Simran and Raj forever and ever? And not to miss, every time I’m doing something exciting or going away from home – I think people’s hands itch or they can’t breathe if they don’t say – Jaa Simran jaa jeele apni zindagi!

Let me tell you about Bollywood movies. You’re so lucky if you don’t know about them though. So Bollywood movies have the tendency to take you far, far away from reality and the fact that there is in fact no real life prince charming riding on a white horse. When I realized how the world actually works, I was shocked and heartbroken. All my fantasies turned to nothingness and I wondered why why why why why why why did my parents ever let me watch all this crap! Honestly, I would never let my children or anybody else’s children grow up with this nonsense. LIKE SERIOUSLY. These 90s Bollywood movies turned me into a hardcore romantic, always dreaming about love, and emotions and separation et crap. And I genuinely wonder if I would have been different if I hadn’t grown up with this. I am pretty sure my whole personality would have been something different. I wouldn’t have constantly been juggling between characters and doing all the drama. I would have been more serious and enlightened about my life. And I might have understood earlier that people don’t prioritize love. Love isn’t everything that they think about, all day, 24×7 like in those movies. Guys don’t fall in love at first sight with a girl wearing a pretty suit and bangles, and violins don’t start playing in the background, and the wind doesn’t blow and the heart doesn’t beat faster. I’m sure people do fall in love, but I should have been told when I was a teenager that they don’t fall in love like in the Bollywood movies.

69th Indian Independence Day .

Image Source : Google

Image Source : Google

”At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.’’
– Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of Independent India.

It was on this fateful night of 15th August 1947, that our motherland gained freedom. After a long period of struggle and sacrifices, both silent and violent. Many have suffered endlessly, killed brutally, been exploited and tortured for reasons as simple as turning against the forced government.
It has been almost seven decades. 69 years of Independence . We Indians who were born much later, might never realize what this fateful night back then would have meant for a people. We might never know what it feels like to die for the motherland , to kill for the motherland, and to fight for the motherland.

We, the modern and westernized Indians, might never ‘feel’ the passionate struggle for freedom. We might read about it, hear about it, and watch movies about it, but we might never ‘feel’ it that way. We’ve come too far away from that life, and those times. The world has changed and so has the spirit of our nation.
This nation of ours which is SO special. But let me tell you that India isn’t just another developing democratic country. Our people aren’t just poor and corrupt. That is just one aspect and challenge for a developing country.
India is a huge nation . The fact that it still stands strong, is proof enough of its greatness.

A country with such epic diversity. Where the language, customs, dress up, cuisine, and religion changes every few miles. Each state is like a whole new country, with so much to learn and explore, even for an Indian. And yet, there is unity . We might be Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Rajasthani etc, but at the end of the day, we are Indians.

Our history is unique, our culture is unique . We are an ancient nation, which has contributed so much to the world. There is so much that even we Indians don’t know about our country. Specially the younger generations. And I’m afraid that with increasing globalization, the spirit of our nation would die, sooner or later.
What have our ancestors fought for then? What did they die for?
No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take part in the global culture. We must contribute and grow as a nation. But not at the cost of our own motherland.
India has been going through changes for long now .

People are questioning the system, moving away, ignoring the better side, and turning away from what must be seen. And that is – the potential and hope that our country has.

To inspire ourselves to do something for our nation, we must see WHY. If we do not take pride in what India is, we might never be able to overcome the challenges we are facing today. Running away and adapting new cultures is very easy. But to live with what we have and make an effort to change what needs to be changed, is the biggest challenge. We can’t turn away because we face problems today. What we must see is that we need to protect and care for our motherland, which is in more need of care now, than it ever was.

To gain independence from domination is difficult. But to handle that gift of freedom is even more difficult. The gift that our ancestors have given to us, must be utilized wisely. And it is we, the children of modern India, who can pledge to grow with the changing world, and yet protect the spirit of our motherland. Without which, the world wouldn’t be complete in itself.

India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother history, he grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only. – Mark Twain

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made. – Albert Einstein
Vande Mataram!
Happy 69th Independence Day!

हिन्दुस्तान-पाकिस्तान

Indian Flag.

एक वक़्त था जब सोने की चिड़िया कहते थे इस देश को.
वो आए तो थे करने व्यापार,
मगर लेकर चले गये हमारा सब कुछ.
कहते थे हमने दिया है बदले में बोहोत कुछ.

कभी एक वक़्त था जब ज़रूरत नही थी अँग्रेज़ी के काएदे की.
सब अपनी ही भाषा में करते थे इज़हार.
मगर अब तो अगर अँग्रेज़ी ना बोलें, तो कहते हैं आप हो अनपढ़ गवार!

वो आए तो थे सदियो पहले,
मगर छोड़ गये हैं अपनी छाप.
कुछ 1947 की कड़वी यादें,
और हिन्दू मुसलमान का बढ़ता तकरार.

वो कहते तो थे हमने हिन्दुस्तान पर किया है एहसान,
मगर बँटवारा करवाके छोड़ गए एक पाकिस्तान.
दो देश हैं ये, मगर एक जान.
वही दोनो का इतिहास है,
और वही दोनो की शान.
क्या होता अगर आज एक ही होता हिन्दुस्तान?

वो हमारे ही तोह लोग हैं सरहद पार.
जैसे एक घर के दो बेटों में हुई हो तकरार.
एक दिन की दूरी पर मनाते हैं ये आज़ादी का त्योहार!

ज़िंदगी .

ज़िंदगी की एक शाम ढलती है
तो एक दूसरी आ गुज़रती है.
दिन, महीने साल, यूँही गुज़रते हैं.
यूही एक उन्मीद लेकर चलते है.
और ये मुझसे पूछती है ,

”क्या बदलेगा कल, जो आज नही बदला?
तुम क्यूँ इस तरह उन्मीदो से बँधे हो?
यहा तो वही मौसम हैं, और वही आसमान.
वही दिलो को टूटना और रूह का रोना.
वही दिन और वही रातें.
यहा तो सूरज भी अपनी मर्ज़ी का मेहमान है,
और चाँद भी उन बादलों का मोहताज है.
तो क्या बदलेगा कल जो आज नही बदला?
तुम क्यू इस तरह उन्मीदो से बँधे हो?

अब हम क्या समझायें इसे,
कि हमें तोह इश्क़ है
इसके इसी अंदाज़ से.
हमें गम नही है अपने आँसू का,
क्यूकी वो तो इसने सभी को दिए हैं.
मगर खुशी इस बात की है,
कि यहा कोई कितना भी खफा हो,
फिर भी वक़्त उसे पिघलाता ज़रूर है.
चाँद छुपकर  निकलता ज़रूर है.
और सूरज ढालकर चढ़ता ज़रूर है.