Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Navigating through the Delhi roads!

An old post dug out from the drafts!

People who have interacted me on a somewhat deeper level than "hey whats up?" would know that if there was such a term as "geographically challenged", i would be the human representation of it. Its something which I openly admit to, and am not in the least apologetic about- I am horrible with directions...and while my other sense are pretty intact (yes common sense included!), my road sense has been deep in slumber since birth.

So its really no wonder that I wasn't exactly most enthusiastic about learning how to drive and getting a license. Most of my friends/acquaintances celebrated their 18th birthdays by getting a permanent driver's license. On my 18th, i had just started to figure my way around Delhi. Since then, a small group of people had been pestering me to learn this so-called art of driving, and get my license. I had a million excuses ready- "I don't have a car, so its not like the license will be of much use" "I stay in a hostel, i don't need a license" "i LOVE delhi's public transport!" (i do really!) and of course, the trump card "Do you NOT know how horrible I am with directions? I mean i get lost inside my own colony!" Funnily, the majority of the people in my life never pestered me too much about this whole thing- i guess people know me too well :)

However, things changed. One summer evening in July, I decided that i had to know how to drive. Kids younger than me, wayyyy younger than me, were navigating through delhi roads...i mean its insulting right? Thus began the driving classes- official and un-official. The official ones, with the driving school were a bit of a joke. It was during the unofficial ones, with the father, that (to use a phrase which has to be in hindi!) aate daal ka bhaav pata chala! The first day of driving, I promptly announced to one and all that I would much rather do a million dissertations than drive- yes i am melodramatic like that!

Yesterday was my maiden drive on the scary roads of Delhi allbymyself. Yes- There was no father, no brother, no one who would tell me to slow down, give the indicator, lower my speed, go right/left/wherever. I was on my own. I was the driver and the navigator
It was the scariest experience of my life. I wasnt this scared when i drove for the very first time. Or when the father took us on the ring road when we hadnt even got our learner's license. Or when he asked me to drive through naraina during peak hour and the mother was mortified, and prayed to all the gods known to mankind till we made it back home. I don't think i have ever experienced true fear like I did yesterday. For a second, I considered taking the metro instead- i mean who am i kidding? I was definitely NOT born to drive...why do i even try? Thank god I don't take myself seriously most of the time ;)
My maiden drive was horrible. I mean i drove my worst. Not unsafe driving, but just sheer horrible driving. But it was extremely rite-of-passagey, and i felt very very proud of myself; i urge all of you to be proud of me as well ;)

No i haven't changed drastically. I am still geographically challenged- it is no co-incidence that i only drive to places the directions to which have been permanently ingrained in my brain. I would still be a thousand times more comfortable at the idea of taking an auto or the metro. But I can drive! And it has given me a completely new perspective to Delhi roads- the world is a very different place behind that steering wheel. I hate pedestrians when I am driving (i think driver-me would have long killed pedestrian-me had they shared a road). I hate those auto-type/van type/three-wheeler things (i had never really noticed them before). I hate DTC buses and cycle rickshaws (such conflict inside my head!). I hate trucks (ya those I always wasnt too fond of). I swear a LOT inside my head (!) I hate people staring at me when I am driving- yes i am a girl. yes i drive horrible. yes the engine goes off. yes i have a problem parking, and taking the car out of the parking. what is YOUR problem? overtake my car, and GO.

I don't know how comfortable i will be with this whole driving thing in the future. There's a high possibility that I might give it up, just like that. But for now, let me bask in this glory :)
And thus endeth the saga of my journey from geographically challenged public transport loving girl, to geographically challenged public transport loving girl who learnt how to drive and navigate!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

A book with a lasting impact

A teacher recommends three books in her class. The students take turns borrowing the books and share notes.

“So how was bitter chocolate?”

“Umm, depressing yet amazing…very well written…you should definitely read it.”

So I get the book and start reading it. The book begins with an author’s note which churns my stomach. Ok, its ok, just a book, I tell myself. Except that no one told me that it’s not JUST a book. Bitter chocolate is an experience, albeit a traumatic one at that, which makes your mind go totally haywire, and has a lasting impact on the reader. But first, let me tell you about the book in much the same fashion as Pinki Virani, the author, writes it: dripping with facts.

Bitter chocolate is a book about child sexual abuse in India. It is divided into three notebooks. The first deals with what CSA is, the statistics and the effects of it. The second notebook gives two detailed case histories. Finally, the third notebook talks about the healing process, recovery of CSA victims and their families. The book is interspersed with several real life case histories.
The book ends with a list of books recommended by the author on CSA and related subjects, such as marital abuse. It also contains a small compilation of contact details of NGO’s working in the area of CSA, in the major Indian cities.

Now that the facts are over, let me come to the real thing- Bitter Chocolate was a harrowing experience for me, which shook my very soul. I was never ignorant to CSA/sexual abuse before reading the book: the countless OPRAH shows which I have watched on the subject will vouch for that. 

But this was different. Very different. Perhaps it was the Indian context, perhaps the cold bloodedness of the hard facts or perhaps it was the sarcasm underlying every word in every page of the book; I don’t know. 

But I know that I will never be the same again. I am seeing every human being in a new light, in a new perspective. Every male seems like a potential perpetrator of CSA. Looking at every woman and child makes me question: have they been sexually abused today? Or yesterday? Will they ever be sexually abused at any point in their lives? Oh leave aside strangers. I have started to doubt my family members, my friends, their families, neighbours and about countless people who I have ever known in my life: all of them seem like they hold some secret related to CSA….do they?
None of these emotions are in any way exaggerated or written for effect. Not even the fact that after I finished the first notebook, I stayed up all night crying inconsolably, questioning just about everything in this universe. 

Would I recommend this book to anyone? OF COURSE and not just to anyone, but to everyone who cares to listen. To everyone who has ever loved and trusted. Essentially to everyone who knows how to read. It would be to create awareness, to make CSA a dining table conversation. But more than that, perhaps I would recommend it to people in hope, that someday, someone, somewhere would read it and find peace, even for a few minutes. Or better yet, prevent CSA from taking place.
Would I read it again? Or rather, do I have it in me to go through the whole ordeal again? Honestly, I don’t know and I can’t say. 

So coming back to the question: how IS Bitter Chocolate? Simply put, an experience, one which leaves a lasting impact.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.