Friday, December 29, 2006

It is that time of the year...

When all around you, you see:

  • Happy faces. Smiles all over.

  • Greeting everybody you come across with "Happy New Year".
  • Making New Year celebration plans including the "eve".

  • All the hotels are booked in the city and you are struggling hard to accomudate guests.

  • Every other person you see is planning for something or the other.. outing with family, chilling out with friends, booze parties at home... you name it.

  • Decorations everywhere. Home, Office, Shopping complexes, even streets.

  • Endless discounts and new-year-offers.

  • New Year resolutions made one after the other. How many are kept is another story altogether.

All in all, it's party time folks! Celebrate!

May this year make all your dreams come true. Here's wishing you all a Wonderful, Happy and Prosperous New Year 2007!.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

They are Highly Insensitive Vermins - But... Am I Denounced Sinful?

I am a young boy studying in school. I am 4 years old. Everyday when I go to school, I get weird stares from everybody. Nobody sits with me. Not even Ramu, who is the best boy in school and is friends with even the watchman. He is always smiling and talking in class, but he is upset with me. I don’t know why. He does not talk to me anymore.
Everything was nice and beautiful when I joined school, I had friends. I played with them all the time. We drew pictures together. We had lunch together. But something changed when my teacher got to know about my mom, dad and me. We are a nice family like any other. My mom and dad are nice, they buy me whatever I ask for. But strangely they can’t buy me friends. Neither do they have friends. We never visit anyone, nor does anybody visit us. Not that we are bored with ourselves, we have the TV and video games, but we sure could use some company from time to time.
My mom says I have to get used to living alone. She says we have been cursed with something. I ask God everyday if I have done something wrong, but I don’t get any answer.
My mom silently cries sometime in the Pooja room or in the bed room. My dad is sometimes engrossed in deep thought. I don’t know what they are so sad about, but I think they also miss friends like me.
Now my mom says I can’t go to school any more. I like going to school, it is so much fun. I cried, and she cried with me, but insists I can’t go there anymore.
WHY? Why me?
I am sure these were the thoughts in the young boy’s mind when he was sent home from school. After all he was HIV infected. The dreaded infection!
This infection incidentally is more dreaded because of its “cause” rather than it’s “effect”.
I had a friend, who was doing her masters in social work, and she happened to do some research on AIDS patients and yes, it is traumatic. Especially when the patient is in the last stages, it is impossible to even look at them. They will have acute infections in their private parts and a simple thing as going to the loo is a traumatic exercise.
But then, isn’t any disease traumatic? What about Cancer? What about TB? In all these cases the patients die a slow and painful death. But why this terrible discrimination only against AIDS? Is it only because it is transmitted sexually? The answer is YES.
First and foremost, let us clear some myths about this disease:
  1. HIV infection does not necessarily mean AIDS. HIV +ve simply mean you have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Just like any other infection, if this is also treated in the very initial stages of infection, chances of NOT getting AIDS are high. But then we must also note here that most of the patients who are HIV +ve contact AIDS at some point or the other simply because the initial infection went un-noticed.
  2. HIV infection (or even for that matter AIDS) is NOT transmitted just like that thru air. It does not affect if you sit in the same class and study together. (Only lice and common cold get transmitted that way!)
  3. It’s NOT a person’s fault if he is infected. People catch so many infections and he/she has caught this one. It is as simple as that. And for heaven’s sake it is definitely not the fault of a 4 year old kid!!

What can we do to stop this discrimination?

  1. EDUCATE: Start from schools. Educate the children as well as the parents about the infection. Its causes, its effects and the myths/stigma surrounding it.
  2. Promote usage of condoms. Make it available in colleges and universities and educate people about it.
  3. Advertise. With the power the media has today, it can do wonders. Tell more and more people about it. Knowledge is virtue. But half knowledge is dangerous. People now think of only the sexual part of AIDS. Hence the treatment is also the same. It's time to remove that mental block.

Incidentally, a little away from the topic, I feel us Indians are major hypocrites. When it comes to population we are the second largest in the world. When it comes to AIDS, we are the epicenter of the epidemic. We gave the world Kamasutra. I think we are the only culture who glorifies sex (what with the “first night” preparations and all). BUT when it comes to talking about sex… SHHHHhhhhhhhh. That is something which is not to be talked about!!! Why this treatment? By not talking about it and making it a stigma we are indirectly giving more importance to it. But at the same time, since the education level is so low and the awareness about safe sex practices is almost nil … it is not a surprise that we are in such a situation today.

Having said all this, I don’t think even education will solve everything. I don’t know how my parents would react if they came to know that I was close friends with a girl who is HIV infected. Though at present I am not sure how they would react, but I can tell for sure that they will definitely not be very happy about it.

So what is the solution? Let us, from our generation at least make an effort to accept these people as a part of our society. It would be too idealistic to say we will eradicate AIDS. This is kind of too far fetched, as there is no cure/vaccine for it as yet!Till some brilliant people find something about it, let us join hands together and educate our fellow country men and women about the disease and let us make this world a better place to live for the already suffering.

P.S: Reasons for this post:

1. This Link


2. Pavan's request.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I am back... yahoooo!!!!

I am back in India. My home.

I had realised this before also.. when I lived in Germany for sometime, that no matter what all problems we have, no matter how dirty our country looks as compared to the developed countries, no matter all you get as "welcome" at the airport are dirty stares from men around, no matter the first thing you do after getting out of the airport is fight with the auto/taxi guy for the fare, this is MY country. All said and done, I belong here. I feel more at home.

However advanced the other countries maybe, however comfortable your life maybe there, you are always an outsider, a potential immigrant, you are always a foreigner.

Yes. I am extremely delighted about coming back home, but at the same time I was extremely dissapointed at the Delhi airport. If that is the welcome our country's capital gives to the visitors then God help us! It was far from being even "satisfactory"! Atleast I expected much more from our capital's international airport! The loo was in a bad state! with toilet paper all around.. with water running from the taps.. with a strong smell! Yukkkk! All this is when the cleaning lady is just sitting there looking at each coming passenger and expecting them to give her some money.. for what? I didn't understand though! She gives a sheepish smile when you are coming out.. and acts as though she is helping you with the luggage.. the help which I don't need because I have a trolley with me.. just so that I will give her some money! If she had atleast kept the loo spic and span I would have whole heartedly given some money!

The customs officials... shabby clothes, wrinkled and dirty, undone hair ... I know that 2 in the morning is not a good time, but come on! they are at work and they are supposed to be presentable. And what will somebody loose if they smile at each person they are checking?

I think we as Indians lack some basic courtesies! A smile at a passerby, a response when asked for, a thank you once in a while...
Interestingly we are the best hosts when somebody visits our home.. we take care of them so well.. we go out of our way to accomudate them and show them around.

I think, it's time to realise that India as a country is our home too.. an extended home!

Bangalore gave me a much better welcome! The loo was cleaner and the airport also has a kind of sophisticated look. Thank god for that! I also noticed that the situation in Hosur road has imporved drastically! With that useless drainage cannals closed, and the road widenened.. the commute is not as dreadful as I imagined it to be!

Even with all this "yet-to-be-done".. I loved

1. The aroma of bakery (this I surely missed in USA)
2. The sound of suprabhatham early in the morning from a near by temple.
3. The shoutings of the vegetable vendor on the road
4. The early morning coffee aroma... ahhhh bliss.
5. and most of all it's so cheap to have a cellphone here! I don't have to wait till 9 in the night to call people ;-)

P.S: It looks like nobody missed me while I was away.. no messsages asking where I was and all that... If you guys hadn't noticed I was away for almost 15 days :(
I think you can atleast send some nice and warm welcome messages!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Crocodile Crocodile.. which color do you want?

Do we remember this game which we used to play when we were kids? If I was in Arkansas at that time, I would have never lost to the crocodile!
Yes, it is still not CA-trip story telling time. I just have one more story to tell. After that CA news is all yours :)
2 weeks back we drove to Arkansas to see the fall colors. You name the color it was there!
Day 1: Started early in the morning. Had rented a mini-van, 7 seater. Drove it in full josh :)Texas, where I live is a very dry state. There is not much vegetation. But as we were nearing the end of Texas we could see a lot of vegetation and some fall colors here and there too.
I will not go into each and every detail, it's going to get too boring to read. Some interesting points

  • One of my friend had got his parents also on the trip. Travelling/staying with them for 2 days made me realise it's not easy to travel with our parents.

  • When I was in Germany, I knew for sure that my parents wouldn't be comfortable there. But I had thought that in USA they will be comfortable. I can make them come here sometime... But this trip made me realise a LOT of things.

  • Food will be a major problem. My parents being extremely orthodox, I am sure they won't eat even in the Indian restaurants here as they serve non-veg too.

  • They will not eat bread and stuff, so places like subway is also ruled out. So where do I take them to eat? I will have to make 100s of chapathi's from home and take it. That's all.

  • Restrooms will be another problem, them being not used to the western toilet.

  • So, though it was a bitter realisation. My parents won't enjoy if they come here :(

That is me feeling sorry for my parents. I don't know how my parents would react after coming to a foreign country. I am sure my father will take it well as he has been to Russia and parts of Europe before. My mom is very sporty so she will also take it well.. at least that's what I hope so.

But my friend (lets call him Dh) Dh's parents are a little too much in awe of America. Sometimes it would becoming embarrassing even for Dh, when they would "touch" a cute kid. Or times when they would openly bad-mouth India... :(.

Anyway all that aside, here are some snaps.. they will tell you much more than my long paragraphs..;-)

Roll over the cursor on the photos and you can see my labels for them.