Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Sarkari Damad!

You can always find him in the labyrinths of gloomy Sarkari offices. His demeanor is demure, yet he radiates arrogance and indifference. He is always buried nose deep in files that are dustier than the surface of Mars. His brooding face and sulking jawline speak volumes of the sarees and petticoats belonging to the Missus he had to scrub and twist in the morning. His languorous fingers tap the table as he carefully assesses every passing homo sapien. Welcome to the world of Sarkari Damad!

Life of a Sarkari damad is not that easy! His mornings start with incessant rambling and screeching of his walking alarm clock, that is his wife of twenty years.The lady had bought him from the flea market of his city once upon a time, when she was slim and well-shaped. Her sole aim in life from day one has been to make the life of our damad miserable with her demands, that tower higher than the Eiffel. She laughs her head off as our Government Mapillai toils in his own house sweeping, mopping and slogging it out. He sweats and scrapes, as she fans her non existent hair, swinging in the jhula.

The morning's free milk supply comes from the dhoodhwallah who got his two bigha land registered bribing our damad. As he milks the cow, dhoodhwallah is lost in his past, reminiscing the day he was doomed- the day damad pushed him into a tight corner, flashing his awful pan-painted teeth. A file pushed out of damad's table can cost anything, from free milk to free newspaper, free wall paper to free toilet paper. As he poops in his freebie closet, imagination running around his steno whom he ogles at every other day, the free tissue paper roll withers at the rot he exudes of. He stinks of 'free' 'something' as he lathers his soap- a 'gift' from the neighborhood supermarket chain. One floor of building permit skirted around gives a lifetime of free soap and cosmetics to our damad. And mind you, it is just not any soap- only Dove that has moisturizer, damad has to keep his palms greased all the time, you see...

The free 'brut' perfume ensnares the brute to no end. NRI 'customers' of the damad see to it that our damad fogs his butt with brut force! The Missus doesn't lag behind the damad. Her groceries are always free from the neighborhood shop. Her vegetables are free. Her haircut is free. Her pet dog is free. Her manicure and pedicure too are courtesy of our damad's clients. The higher the rank of the damad, the larger the size of the missus. The damad being an officer is a privilege to the missus. Mrs.Officer shops till she drops at any random saree shop and coolly walks off without an inkling of that ugly word called the "BILL". 

Talking of damads and who would forget gold? Damads are always gold crazy. Do you look for gold in his neck and fingers? No no no...don't ever risk looking there. All the gold is stashed in his molars. You have to pry open the lion's mouth for a peek at the gold capped molars, as our damad never dares to smile. Damad's breakfast and lunch are 'sponsored' by some poor caterer who is in dire need of catering contracts. Damad conducts 'surprise quality checks' to fish out dishes that he salivates by merely looking at. The Missus loves jewelry shopping, blabbing her way through necklaces, of how her husband is so condescending with his EQ allotment for premier trains! Making charges and wastage go down the drain, traded in for a few AC berths on Sunday nights:)

Damad's shirts come with multiple hidden pockets that he dutifully remembers. Separate folders for different accounts. He regards his prey with cool precision, hunts him down and latches on to his wallet like a leech. The mantra here is 'stay cool and stay focused'. No amount of threatening, pen cameras or cajoling work with the damad. He reserves his 'million dollar' smile only for one man- Gandhi. The larger the Gandhi, the broader the smile, the faster your job gets done with the damad. 

As his head hits the pillow every night, yes, you heard that right- pillow, not the double-bed sized missus, he reminisces the day's collection. The free chaais, free vadas, free masala dosas, free magazines, free perfumes, complimentary sweets, free air tickets, fully paid family holidays abroad and the free soaps dance in his eyes. As he snores away peacefully, the Man Above chuckles and says- " Sarkari damad hai! Chalo...chalta hai!"

p.s.: Please translate "sarkari damad" as "Government Mapillai";) Keeps the fun quotient few notches higher!
p.p.s.: Sorry about the shockingly truthful post, Mr. Damad. This post is aimed directly at your non-existent heart.
p.p.p.s.: Happy Independence Day to everyone. Let us fight corruption with all our might this year too, like all them earlier years...2G...kya G? :P

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Guns and cherries- Kashmir-2

Pari the name suggests, is truly the abode of fairies. A drive on the winding road to the hill top where it is located at the outskirts of Srinagar overlooking the Dal is mystical. The climate cools instantly and our eyes feast on the green curtains of trees and shrubs. Perched atop the hill is the Mahal gardens that were established 400 years ago by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Emperor Jehangir who was murdered later by the notorious power crazy Aurangazeb. The Mahal is said to be the remains of a Buddhist Monastery plundered by the Mughals. The upper most terrace still holds two jails, in addition to a lovely garden. What makes this spot a huge hit are the unparalleled, spectacular views of the Dal and Srinagar city that one can see from this protected monument.
Pigeon holes of Pari Mahal
Elaborate arches in one of the terraces
A note of melancholy strikes us looking at the terraced structure, the ghosts of Dara who was beheaded by his own brother, the Buddhist monks who perished with the onslaught of Mughals and the eerie chillness of the air. The pigeon holes of stone, numerous channels of water for the fountains in each terrace, earthen pipes that carry water and tanks built by Mughals in every terrace tell us of the passion of Dara for the gardens and his last few moments as his own brother Aurangazeb beheaded him at this very spot. It is said these gardens were used as an observatory for studying astrology and astronomy during Mughal period.

As we reach the foot hills, a spectacular terraced garden comes into view. This is the Chashm-e-Shahi garden.This garden has a spring that emerges from an aqueduct and flows down through terraced garden. Another remarkable architectural marvel that is small, yet picturesque. Flowers grace the manicured lawns and again conifers tower over us. It is said the water from the spring is holy for the Kashmiri Pandits, who worship it.

Water flowing through aqueduct, Chashmeshahi
The next stop is at Shalimar gardens. What is a trip to Kashmir without a trip to the famed Mughal gardens? Huge chinar (maple) trees line up the garden, some few centuries old. The chinar is treated a sacred tree in Kashmir. Even roads dare not touch the trees, they go slithering around the chinars standing proud in the middle of the road.These chinars were brought to Kashmir by Persians and stand a silent testimony to the rich cultural roots. No Mughal garden in Kashmir is complete without chinars. Called 'booni', the chinar is sacred to the Kashmiris. The Royal Shalimar Bagh built by Emperor Jehangir for his beautiful wife Nur Jahan boasts of numerous chinars, aspen trees, array of fountains, bouquet of flowers and the central Diwan-I-Khas.
Children at Shalimar Bagh

The famed chinar and its unique leaves

Crystal clear water and chinar leaves floating by
One is reminded of a bygone era watching the brass fountains, the perfectly manicured lawns, geometrically patterned tanks and chinar leaves floating by the water. As we sit lazing by the fountains admiring the flower beds and canopy of trees, flashy colors catch our attention. There are hawkers who rent out Kashmiri costumes with jewelry for photo shoots or just for the fun of it. Though I would look like an over-sized clown in a fancy dress competition, desire got the better of common sense and I gleefully donned the costume. See the result for yourselves-
Don't panic ;)
 A drive along the shores of Dal with the setting sun painting its waters myriad hues of yellow and gold is a sight one might never forget. A few view points along the ghats of Dal and a peaceful visit to Hazratbal Shrine, basking in the early evening orange glory makes one wish Kashmir could remain in peace. The military uniforms and guns peering at us in every alley and street makes tourists jumpy, yet feel secure. The people of the valley might have grown used to staring at these guns every living second.
Basking in the evening light by Dal
The next day we were moving to Gulmarg. The reality loomed so close and with a contented sigh I closed my eyes the moment my head hit the pillows. Little did I know of the nasty tourism 'rules' of  Gulmarg, its ponywallahs and sledgewallahs!

To be continued...