Real Life Heroes and their #WillOfSteel !

#WillOfSteel is an endeavour by JSW to honour the unsung heroes of India, people who have truly proven their mettle and have unbreakable determination. Be it in sports, health care, social service or even saving the environment. These are individuals whose willpower has changed the world.

 

We all, and myself included, go ga-ga over movie stars and praise them to the moon. We spend a lot of time reading about them, watching their videos, and spending our money on their films. But are they real “heroes”?
We come across so many real life heroes in our life, and yet we hardly ever mention them on social media or in our daily interaction. So when JSW came up with this idea to honor some of our real life heroes, I just knew I had to do this. These people are so inspiring that I just knew I had to write about them. If we want people in our society to lead by example, who else could be a better example?
You can find all the nominations by JSW

here

. You can also vote for them at the same link. For a change, this would be an award ceremony where everybody would already be a winner, right?

As far as I am concerned, I discovered my inspiration in the following people and voted for them.
1) Satender Sharma : Children are always closest to my heart. So when I read the story of this

young boy

, who had to deal with atrocities like sex trafficking, drug abuse and child labour, at the tender age of 13, I just felt helpless. I know scores of children go through this, and yet we do nothing. The network is so large, we don’t know where to start. And look at this young boy! After being rescued by Salaam Baalak Trust, he is now a grown up man who instead of chasing success, has again gone back to the streets where he once lived. But this time, to make sure that no other kid goes through what he had to. I salute you Satender. This issue is closest to my heart. I wish I can work like you one day!

2) Vijayan : Travel is something that a lot of us are besotted with. As much as might we call ourselves travellers, in our heart, we really are tourists, aren’t we? We try and book the best hotels with the best view. We visit all the famous monuments a place has to offer and then head back home satiated of having visited the said place. But this

man

is what classifies as a “traveller”. He is a simple tea vendor. You can well imagine the kind of salary he would be earning. And yet, he has visited more number of countries than you and I have. He takes loans from the bank and then works doubly hard to repay it. Once he also sold tea in Zurich to be able to scour a return ticket home. Impressive, right? 

3) Pamela and Anil Malhotra : In this age of globalization, everyone of has a ton of views on why Global warming is happening. But almost none of us have any solution or the will to do anything about it. But Pamela and Anil went ahead and did what one couldn’t even imagine. They transformed 55 Acres Of Barren Land Into A 300 Acre Wildlife Sanctuary. Thanks to them the ecological condition of the area and rapidly improved over the last decade. For sure, “where there is a will, there is a way”!

4) Laxman Rao : Almost all the bloggers I have known till date nurture a dream of being a published author one day. But only a handful of them are. Some have written entire books, while a few have been published in Anthologies. But who would think a roadside tea seller in Delhi has over 20 books published in his name? I am, for one, bowled over by this information. This man has really inspired me to leave my procrastination behind and get writing with the pen. NOW!

5) Karibeeran Parameswaran & P Choodamani: For me, being a humanitarian always comes first. And this couple will always be at the top of my list. The 2004 tsunami literally washed their life away as they lost their 3 children in it. But not ones to lose hope, they rescued and sheltered many orphaned children. Today they are parents to 26 such children, making sure their future life will be brighter and better. I salute thee Karibeeran and Choodamani !

6) Tauseef Siddiqui : Dharavi, the largest slums in Mumbai, is also one of the largest in the world. Until now, it has most often been in the news for its poverty and squalor. But Tauseef along with his friend Fahim started Be the Local Tours to promote a never before explored section of Mumbai, Dharavi. A section of Mumbai that is written off as the underbelly, Tauseef shed light on the fascinating Eco system hidden within this slum and turned the image around into an international tourist attraction. Today because of his relentless efforts, Dharavi is looked at in a whole new light. Hats off to this young boy for his revolutionary idea and showing the world that India is not only a land of the poor and snake charmers. We also have the most hard working and intelligent people who are working hard to make it big in an emerging economy.

I’m voting for Satender Sharma’s, Vijayan’s, Pamela and Anil Malhotra’s, Laxman Rao’s, Karibeeran Parameswaran & P Choodamani’s, and Tauseef Siddiqui ‘s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help him/her get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

I am! We are!

I know I have written a lot about how motherhood has been the best thing to have happened to my life. And how my little one is the storehouse of a million sunshines that light life everyday. However, like good things, this one has a flip side too. And that is, the time H and I get to spend together. After she was born, we have hardly had any time to spend with each other. The days and nights melted into each other, blurry with a flurry of activities. And then, when she was only 4 months old, H had to travel to Germany for work. It took me a long time and a lot of effort to get both of ours’ passport and visas done to be able to join him there. But I didn’t have too many expectations of a different life there, as I was travelling with all-day-work i.e. my almost-9 month old hyperactive princess.

H and I are travel enthusiasts. But, of course, we hadn’t traveled much after we came to know of the pregnancy. But to my delight, as soon as our travel dates got confirmed, H booked our flight tickets and made hotel reservations for our Euro trip. Something we had been planning for a long time. And so, even as I had not come over the initial euphoria of seeing him after so many months, he surprised me with the travel plan. I had never imagined our Euro trip would happen with our 9 month old. I was as happy as anxious It was going to be our first travel with the little one. How would we manage? We were first time parents, after all. And this was a new country. We had one week to settle in the new place before the vacation started. We settled in, all too soon. For nothing do they say “Home is where the heart is” I didn’t feel like I was in a new place at all. And that first week was the best ever. I would spend the day, cooking and cleaning and playing, and in the evenings, went out to explore the city we lived in. It was pure bliss.

And then the trip happened. We had quite an eventful trip. I loved the croissants in Paris, and the hot-chocolate in Zurich. Berlin took us back in time to the First and the Second world wars. But I had the most amazing time in Amsterdam, Venice of the north. I think I found Amsterdam to be the coolest European city. Or maybe because it was summer when we visited. The hustle bustle at the central square was so inviting. We saw the most number of freak-worthy stuff there. No points for guessing it though 😉 The way the city transforms itself in the night is just mind blowing. If you are a directionally challenged like moi, you are most likely to find yourself at the exact spot you visited in the day, and not know it! But the best part about Amsterdam was being able to visit the Anne Frank house. I was finally able to see in person all that I had read in the book. The Secret annexe, Anne’s room, her pictures and all the other small things that she had described in her little diary. I had read the book while I was still in school, and now visiting the house while holding my 9 month old was quite an experience. When I had read the book, I was scared if I had to face a situation like that someday too. But while in the house, I think my heart just broke into a million pieces. I am so glad Anne’s mother died before her. I cannot imagine what a mother would have gone through to see her child suffer like that.

 

Our Amsterdam postcard

When we walked out of the house, the little one was peacefully asleep in the husband’s arms. We sat around one of the numerous river side cafes to grab a bite. I think I must have sent a thousand prayers for the happiness God has bestowed us with. I worried about not being able to spend time with the hubby and that he had to travel away from us. In hindsight, God was just setting a stage for our Euro trip. So we could make up for all the lost time in the best way possible. To be able to relive our past. And to be able to make some brand new memories. We were #together through it all, and that’s what matters the most, right?

The Comedy of Errors!

I have never been one to make New Year resolutions. Oh may be I have, in the past. But I think I have realized I am only so good at keeping them. So now I don’t even think abut setting one or more. What’s the point, really? And so, today, I wanted to do this post that I had promised to write last year. So let’s get the pending thing out of the way and then move on to the new year 🙂

This post is about all the (mis)adventures that happened with me when I was trying to plan my travel to Germany. And would you believe it, this post got delayed so much because when I wrote it the first time around, it accidentally got deleted without a backup! Talk about the (mis)adventure continuing!

When the husband was in Germany last year, the responsibility of getting the little one’s passport made fall on me. Till this point, H and I, the so-responsible people that we were, hadn’t registered out marriage yet. Neither had we got the spouse name added in either of our passports. To get a minor’s passport done, one of the parents must have the spouse name included. So this meant, I had to get my passport reissued first with the husband’s name and only then could I apply for little S’s passport. So I applied for passport re-issue under Tatkal scheme to get it done fast.Only to be sent away from the Passport Seva Kendra. Not once, but twice over. Since my passport was made when I was unmarried, it had my parents’ house address. They wanted me to update the address to the address my husband’s passport had. Which again was his parents’, and not of the actual place where we live. Since he was not even in India, he couldn’t do anything about it. And so I went to the bank and got a joint bank account (without him being in India, all thanks to jugaad) and that served as an address proof for my new passport. Phew! Also, when he was in India for a short while between trips, we decided to get our Marriage Certificate made. The agent got wind of the urgency under which this was being done. Husband travelling, wife alone with infant. He charged an exorbitant 11K for the damn paper!

Anyway, so on my third trip to the Passport Seva Kendra, they finally accepted my papers. It took exactly 3 days for my passport to arrive. Now I had to apply for little S’s passport. The passport website said that for a minor’s passport, they needed the minor’s birth certificate. Unlike our Marriage certificate, we had made S’s birth certificate earlier. But due to some discrepancy, H got his full name written on her birth certificate while his passport had only his first and middle name. Again, the passport guys wouldn’t take that as a proof. I went to the MCD office to get it corrected. As is the case with Indian government offices, they asked me to leave my application and certificate and come back after 15 days. No amount of pleading (tatkal passport booking, husband not in India blah blah) worked. Finally, one of the guys came forward to help. He said the guy needed bribe. Of course you can judge me because pay the bribe I did. I did not have 15 days for a minor name change even as I had all the documents. I paid a 1000 Rs. and within the next half an hour, I got 6 brand new original birth certificates of S 🙂 Proudly I went home thinking our troubles were over.

The Passport website said they also needed both the parents’ original passports. Since H was not in India, he needed to send an NOC from the Indian Embassy in Germany duly signed by him and stamped by the embassy. For this, he traveled from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt, got the NOC signed and stamped and sent it to me by normal mail. The form was 25 euros and the post stamp another 8. I received the form in almost 15 days. And can you believe what went wrong here? H, in his excitement of getting things done fast, had filled his dear daughter’s birth date wrong. The horror of horrors. Of course you can imagine the blame game that would have followed. Of course, we could not submit an NOC form and a birth certificate which had different birth dates. So this process had to be done again.

Again, the travel to Frankfurt was made. A new form and sent again. We had already lost so much time due to paper work. We couldn’t wait another 15 days for the form to arrive. This time he sent it by courier. Form – 25 euros, Courier – 70 euros. You do the math. We spent nearly 11K again, for a damn piece of paper 🙂

The little one’s passport was applied for, under Tatkal scheme. The passport reached us within 3 days. Phew! Half a battle won.

Next I had to apply for a tourist visa, for both of us. Now when the husband had left, his visa was valid for 3 months. By the time we got our passports, 2.5 months had already passed. At this point, he got to know that he needed to stay for another 3 months. So this was good news for us. But. For us to apply a tourist visa, I had to show my husband’s visa, which at that point was only applicable for another 15 days. Again, a lot of drama followed. The visa guy suggested that if the company could give it in written that he needed to stay for another 3 months and that his visa interview would be scheduled soon, in that case our visa would be considered too. After much cajoling, his company agreed to issue the letter. Again, the letter needed to be sent to India. The fight was 15 days vs 70 euros. Thankfully, one of his colleagues was travelling to Bangalore at that time. So the letter came from Dusseldorf to Bangalore in a day. And then via courier from Bangalore in another 2 days. In the meantime, I completed the rest of the paper work and as soon as I received this letter, I submitted them with the visa office.

Finally almost after 3 months, I sat  back relaxed thinking nothing could go wrong now, except the fact that the visa officers wouldn’t grant us visa for 3 months. Remember that our passports now had address of my in-laws? And so, the visa office sent our stamped visas to their address. As the bad luck be, only the husband’s grandmother was home that day and the courier guy refused to handover our stamped passports to her. I got a call in the evening saying the passports and visa had come and taken back. You can well imagine my state. All this for nothing?

We had no information of who the courier company was. The courier guy didn’t leave any number. We were in a fix. It was already past 6 on a Friday evening. The Visa helpline number said they would be in office on Monday morning. We decided to check for any details on the consulate website. The latest update said “Your passport(s) have been dispatched” with no tracking number. Great!

That weekend was the longest I have ever spent. Monday morning I immediately called up the consulate to inquire about my passport. The lady at the other end checked passport number and said “Ma’m, your passport has already been delivered”. I almost fainted at this point. I was like, who did you deliver my passport to? But just in time, I got a call from the in-laws that the courier guy had turned up on Monday morning to deliver the Passport.

Finally that evening I reached home to collect my stamped visa. And would you believe it?? Based on the company’s letter, the consulate had actually granted us a 3 months visa.

Fianlly. Finally.
No, the adventure wasn’t over at this point. The Husband asked his office agent to book our tickets to avoid any more adventure. So he sent him a detailed email with our travel dates and the flight schedule and our passport copies to make the booking. Imagine the horror when I received the final e-ticket after booking only to see that the agent had spelled my daughter’s name wrong. That is, after having sent him the scanned passport copy with the correct name. A lot of frantic calls were made to the airline, only to be told that
a) this could not be corrected
b) this was not a major issue. But I was too skeptical by now to take any chances.
c) to cancel this ticket and book another ticket (which meant another 10K loss)

Finally, a truce was reached. I was able to convince the airline customer care guy to put in a comment on the ticket that the correct name as per the passport was so and so…and not the one mentioned on the ticket. Just to be sure that I would not be sent away from the airport this time.

You can well imagine my euphoria when I finally reached Dusseldorf after a pretty non adventurous flight. And thank God for that! This whole sequence of events seems so unbelievable to me at times. Even when it was happening, it made me wonder how could such mistakes happen, one after the other. It was like a Domino effect. One tick and the whole thing comes crumbling down. But now that this ordeal is over, it makes for very interesting memories. Isn’t it?

 

Guest post : Fellowship of travelling!

I have missing in action for almost a month now. And I am not liking it AT ALL! There have been so many things to tell, half of my Euro tales still untold, and the exciting travel back home. But the office has been super hectic post vacation and combined with the festivals, it has left with no time to write.

 

So, the other day, I jokingly told the husband to ghost write my blog for me since I don’t have the time to do it these days. Also, considering that he, being the travel junkie that he is, has been on a Euro trip for almost 7 months now, he has SO much to tell. And so he agreed to do a guest post for my blog. This is the first post of a three part series of the husband’s Europe travel experience. He is as excited about seeing this in words as much as he’s been on the trips 🙂
————————————————————————————————————

I love the Quote from the movie “ UP(2009) ” which goes #Let the wilderness be explored , and I got a fair chance to apply this quote on my first onsite assignment . Modesty be damned,  I made sure no weekends got wasted in the comfy service apartment.

We all know how onsite assignments come our way. It is combination of being at right place at the right time and most importantly saying the right thing ! And voila, my company decided to send me to Germany , Dusseldorf in the month of April for strictly 30 days.

I landed in Dusseldorf on Saturday and so obviously, Sunday was wisely used 😉 The nearest happening city is Koln(Cologne)- city from where EAU DE COLOGNE originated. I can go writing about my crazy experiences but I will keep it short to 1 special thing I liked about each of the destinations and may be about their food and beer.

Koln is all about Churches – they are magnificent and I have a lasting impression of all the churches I visited.It is also famous for Kolsch beer. I could tell it was different from the ones I had before . It had to be good. After all its coming from Germany, the land of beer! 😛

 

Koln’s oldest church….still under construction. Irony?

Amsterdam <Holland>– Heineken brewery experience – Being a beer fan I could relate to Darwin’s theory of origin. Food is about big French fries called Pommes Frites . In the chilly summer it was a perfect snack. I’d prefer to write about the (in)famous Amsterdam nightlife in an anonymous blog 😀

The Heinken brewery in Amsterdam!
Brussels <Belgium> Autoworld – Most comprehensive and live models of cars from 1800 . I could relate to most of models as I have played them in NFS and midtown madness video games. “When in Belgium, do the chocolate”, and so that’s the first thing I had when I landed there – Chocolate waffle beside Mannekan Piss. That boy was pissing and I was gorging hot Belgium chocolate 😉
With THE cars!
 
Hamburg<Germany> – 1 hour ferry ride by Hamburg docking station. Amazing view of gigantic ships,city and sunset on far side of the river. 
 
 
Dusseldorf <Germany>– Visiting the Alstadt old town and Uerige brewery which over 150 years old .And ordering food by the Rhine river marks the day complete. Been staying in this city for 6 months now, and there is nothing much to do except have beer with locals and admire Germany’s weather and their perfection of trains, metro and clean roads. 
 
Snack served with the local beer- a piece of meat, loaf of bread, onion rings and spicy mustard sauce!
And that’s how a month got over – sweating it out in office 5 days and wandering endlessly on weekends. I returned to India with chocolates for colleagues and stories for family. My assignment got extended for next 3 months and I flew back to Germany again in May .This time determined to explore more than the natives have done. 

To be continued …..

The Swiss bliss – Part 1!

The Swiss is a dream destination for travelers. Especially Indians. Blame it on our movies showing the beautiful Swiss Alps in the background with the hero romancing a chiffon clad heroine in the front. Which one of us hasn’t imagined ourselves in their shoes?

Our Swiss trip started soon after coming back from Paris. We were quite skeptical of traveling again, because of how the little one had completely refused to sit in her pram. We had been so tired of carrying her and her pram up and down the stairs all the time in Paris. Thankfully Swiss was way better in that regard. Only.

We had an early morning flight so that we could utilize a half day for sight seeing. So we boarded with the little one just having woken up. She decided to poop as soon as we had the seat belts on for the take off. And you would know that the use of lavatories is not allowed until the plane is safely in the air. So there. H and I sat with our noses crinkled up and just waiting for the damn plane to get in the air. Fast. But the runway was not clear. We waited a full 15 minutes before I ran with the little one for a diaper change. And no, the adventure didn’t end there. While I laid her on the table, removed the soiled diaper and was beginning to take out a tissue to wipe her bottom, she decided it was completely OK to get her hands on the soiled diaper and fling it around. Don’t ask me what happened next.

After reaching the hotel, we immediately set off for a city tour. On foot. We took a map which had the city metro and tram stations’ directions with the must visit places marked out. Zurich is beautiful. There were beautiful old churches with clock towers and domes that touched the sky. The roads meandered into narrower by lanes and suddenly opened up into a vast road with the river flowing on two sides. The weather was just perfect. The little one still didn’t cooperate with the pram, but we didn’t mind. I think we had developed enough muscles in Paris 😛

 

The next day we decided to cover Mt. Titlis. We booked a guided tour since it involved traveling to Lucerne which is a good 1.5 hours away from Zurich and then the hike from the foot of the mountain to the top (10,000 ft)  is another journey altogether. The journey from Zürich to Lucerne via the city outskirts has breathtaking views. You can literally see the mountains up so close. And you are already at high sea level, so the clouds are all over the mountain peaks. The sky is so clear and blue, covered with pristine white clouds, it is like a scenery out of a painting.

To be continued…