New things everyday…

Over the weekend I read an article that talked about not being a hamster and not falling in routines changing small things in your life and doing some new things everyday, simple things like sleeping on other side of the bed or reading a different genre or wearing different type of clothes, basically doing something different every once in a while that would break the monotony of life and will make things more interesting. I wondered if this would be true then I said ‘what the heck! Let’s try’. I decided, from Monday I would do one new thing everyday. A great thought but it was lost when I got up a bit late just like I usually do on a Monday morning and had to rush things up, get ready and run to office – just as usual!

I started from home at my usual time 8:40am and took my usual 8:44am bus towards office just as usual I found a window seat on the left side of the bus to avoid the morning sun. I have been doing this routine for the past 14months and now I am so comfortable with it that sometimes I am not even aware I am doing this and I do it – hamster??? I was thinking what was it that I could do new today? Then I thought right now I’m in the bus what new can I do here anyway let’s get to office and time will tell then I’ll do something new, while I thought all this almost naturally I was also taking out my phone de-tangling my headphones and attaching them to the phone and wearing them, I started my Sony W960i Walkman, I always took pride in telling, whoever would listen, about the sound quality of this phone. Unlike most phones when on max volume on loudspeaker you could actually dance like Hritik did in the Ad. I love the headphones specially because go inside the ear and no noise from outside can enter them and you float on music – pure bliss…

When I played the song today I couldn’t hear anything, I increased the volume to the max but could only very faintly hear something that I could not even identify as a song, suddenly I felt like someone was looking at me when I turned I saw quite a crowd giving me a weird look I ignored them, detached and re-attached my headphones to the phone still I could hear the sound only very faintly. When you know people are looking, and you are ignoring them, from time to time there this compulsive need to check if they are still looking so I looked around and saw an even bigger group staring back, with a miffed expression on their faces. I wondered what was wrong with this day I started off normally and now my phone is behaving weird and people around are behaving weird – wait a tick, I knew what was wrong! My phone was running the walkman on loudspeaker mode!

I quickly switched it back to headset and heard “Koi yahaan ahaa nache nache! Aoowwaa!! Aoowwaa!!” so loud I pulled the plugs out of my ears. I felt deaf, embarrassed, bugged, funny and angry all at the same time. Please don’t ask me why I had that song in my phone… I am quite embarrassed orreddy! When I told my Thai colleague, she wanted to know the song, I said it was Hindi she asked me to sing it when I did she cracked up I was suddenly doubting if she knew Hindi… After a while she said “Aoowwaa” in Thai means “let’s do it!” My only solace that being in Singapore no one understood the song was also lost – some of them understood worse that it reality!

I thought to myself ‘from tomorrow I’ll think of the things I want to do differently, leaving it on time didn’t seem to be the best strategy’. However strangely I enjoyed this incident! Maybe doing things differently will work well with me after all.

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Now I know what you mean to me!

There is no word in Hindi that describes “cousin” there is only brother/sister, the families are so well-knit that babies are given similar names. Two such names that were often taken in conjunction with my name were ‘Richa’ (elder cousin) and ‘Shachi’ (younger cousin), reason being the small age-gap and our general togetherness in family gatherings… Though Richa Didi and I were bum-buddies, in spite of all the togetherness Shachi and I were never best friends, we rarely had soul to soul talks and we had a lot of sibling rivalry. Our lives however ran parallel be it education, wedding or location. Recently both of us have been living in Singapore, we did not meet very often, I was busy with my job and she with Aarav (her 19month old son). We called each other only once in a while, it didn’t mean lack of love or affection it was more a general laziness & procrastination.

On Jul 23rd Thursday, around 3:30pm I got a call from chachiji from India, she said Shachi was very ill, I called her, all she said was “Ruchi didi, I’m very ill, I think I’m going” I got the details from Deepanshu “she has high fever and low blood pressure since Saturday, she has breathing trouble” I felt anger towards them if she’s been so ill since Saturday what have they been doing till now! By the time Ashu & I reached she was admitted into the Emergency Ward of Changi General Hospital. Deepanshu said “She is being admitted to the ICU but she is OK”.

In the middle of the night I was woken by a call from my dad, my heart sank, he said “Deepanshu says she won’t survive” I got details from the hospital “she is on ventilator, very high fever, 85% lungs congestion, very low oxygen, suspect H1N1” these were just words for me, I had lost my sense of emotion, I had to be strong. Next day she was confirmed to have H1N1. Then chachiji came to Singapore. Everyday I used to take details and convey to my dad, the fact was she was deteriorating every single day. From Aug 1st, I started getting tiny pieces of good news as she started getting better. By Aug 4th she had tremendous improvements I had hopes to see her again to tell her I love her to be in touch more often.

On 6th Aug Thursday again, precisely at 3:30pm I got a call from chachjii “Ruchi come here ASAP, there is definitely something wrong, nobody is telling me anything, I’m really scared!” I left as soon as I could, once there Deepanshu said “Shachi was back to square one”. We sat together prayed, talked, wept…  On Friday she was still the same but by Saturday she started getting better again. It looked like the virus was finally gone, we were euphoric, she would come back. That night I went to Mustafa and I saw ethnic Indian wear there – I wondered who needs them here in Singapore!

Early Sunday morning, Aug 9th Deepanshu called me “Shachi got a heart attack last night at 12:00am and she got another one now” I was blank and said exactly those words to Ashu we started off, I was so anxious I started feeling sick, while in the cab I got another message “she expired at 6:35” all my anxiety was over! Everything was over!

When we reached the hospital, I was determined to be strong, we were taken to a room she lay there packed in a white plastic bag covered by a sheet. Deepanshu unchained the bag and I saw her face, she looked like she was sleeping I lost all control and started shouting “Shachi get up, Shachi get up” She did not get up!

When I gained control we were already talking about the funeral, the pundit said dress her like a bride. I went to Mustafa again that morning to the same Indian ethnic clothes section, I bought her a red sari with golden print, with embroidered blouse, I got her matching bangles and hair band, bindi, lipstick, makeup and all the accessories I could think of. Like a bride she looked when she went in a carriage of glass and gold.

I was in office yesterday and I read it online “9th H1N1 related death in Singapore” then I realised how till the 8th it was statistic and how now it ceased to be so… then it hit me – she was no more! I would never see her again! Just like everything else  she did this quickly too – she was only 27! I felt a vacuum in my life, I never realized I was so close to her, I never thought she was such a big part of my life. I left office in the evening, went to riverside and wept my heart out as loud as I could, I hoped she could hear me, I wanted to say – “now I know what you mean to me”. I never imagined before I would miss her so much when she would be gone, I never imagined she would be gone one day!

I jumped in the middle of the sea!

Though I was never a horrible student my folks often thought that I was not sincere enough… and  even after 5 long years I still remember that 2 months before my 3rd Semester MBA exams they forced me into studying while they took Manu (my kid sis) to Andaman for a holiday… Among the other fun things that she did there she also snorkeled in Andaman Sea, she loved it and often told me that it was one of the most wonderful experiences one could ever have, she is much braver than me, but the fact that she proved it, used to prick my conscience! On various occasions I got chances to have that ‘wonderful experience’ but I never even showed an inclination simply because I never thought I could handle it. I am scared of practically everything involved – water, depth, fish, water current, the motion of the boat…I knew I would never snorkel and this was a done deal!

A couple of weeks ago we decided to do something fun and exciting to break the routine of our mundane life of paid slavery and hence sprang the idea of snorkeling – of proving my mettle! Now when you watch people snorkeling it looks easy you just float and see the beautiful life in the ocean but for a fattu like me its nothing short of a BIG adventure… after a lot of contemplation we signed up for a ‘snorkeling tour’ in which the hotel guy would take us in a boat to some place and we would snorkel there for an hour and would get back – sounded quite simple.

We reached the pick-up point (i.e. the point from where you board the ferry, you perv!) A lad took us to a dark and dingy room and asked to pick and check our equipments – both Ashu and I had no clue what to pick and definitely no idea what to check, we looked at others and picked up a pair of fins, a snorkel with mask attached and a life jacket each. Once we took these we were in the boat and now I saw the mix of our team except us there were two ladies and two guys – the ladies were from Ireland and the two guys were desis. The guide howled “How many beginners?” male ego jumped in and none of the guys raised their hand, Ashu had to when I gave him a “look”. Then I asked the other guys “Oh so you’ve done it before?” reply “Nah all of us are beginners actually” one of the chicks said “We aren’t, we’re experts” For me the fun had begun!

We started on the boat and reached a spot where I could see some heads with colorful pipes floating in the sea. Then there was a briefing – put the snorkel in your mouth; don’t breathe with nose breathe with mouth; if the mask gets dirty just dip it in water and clean it; that’s it! One of the chicks (in a bored and frustrated voice) screamed “hey can we jump now” and before the reply off they went! Now the desi dudes geared up and jumped… Ashu and I were still tying our jackets and adjusting the equipment then finally Ashu jumped… I however sat at the rim & looked around, the land was far far away, suddenly the guide held my jacket and said “you jump on 5, I count now 1, 2…..” in those couple of seconds my whole life flashed in front of me, weird thoughts came to my mind – is this the last thing I am ever going to do? I did not even call my parents before coming here! Will I ever see them again?… “5” and off I went into the water, in panic I forgot everything and gasped for breath and in the process gulped some sea water then I held the boat as tightly as I could took a few deep breaths but I did not give up, once my breathing restored the guide held my hand and just asked me to float and keep breathing through the snorkel.

What I saw after that can not be described it was a whole new world of colors and life – hundreds of colorful fish swimming by me; beautiful and colorful corals, no aquariums can bring out the beauty of the ocean as I saw there, nothing that man makes can capture the beauty of this world. I counted at-least 12 different types of fish. After a while I was comfortable and the guide left me to wander around myself. It was bliss! Then I held Ashu’s hand and we were floating effortlessly looking at the wonderful ocean while we swam back to the boat… Ashu went down and picked something he handed it to me, it was a crab shell… trust me it was more romantic than the most beautiful flowers he has ever given me… Then he pointed at something and I found Nemo!

The 60mins which initially looked like eternity to me passed in a jiffy and we were signaled to come back. Without a doubt snorkeling is the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had – it’s as close to nature as you can get – its nature itself! I do not swim and I feel very uncomfortable in water I do not go beyond 1.2m in the pool yet I jumped in the middle of the sea and enjoyed it!