…12 weeks later…

It’s a strange feeling when you make your hobby a habit and it gets to your nerves after a while. I guess that’s what I did when I decided to take on the 100DaysofBollywood challenge for myself – I turned my Bollywood trivia love overtake my common sense. After years of being brainwashed on why you should keep work and hobbies different, I made the same mistake!

Never mind, this is just an update: I am done with my Bollywood challenge, there are 44 posts in my drafts folder that I had very meticulously planned and written throughout the time I was supposed to do the challenge, now, I will simply post one song a day from my drafts folder. Maybe later next month I might even find the energy to update on the past two months.

The book challenge? I am pleased to inform you that it is still working on schedule. 🙂 I have been reading a book a week, the only thing I haven’t done -posting about the books! Before this challenge ends (at the end of this year), I am pretty sure I’d catch up. Or this is just me being too optimistic as usual.

My blog now feels like my own again. After a while, my Bollywood posts took off in a way I never anticipated them to. It made me want to play to the gallery – bring in more nostalgia – more obscure facts and scrounge more. What started as a daily exercise to wind off soon turned into a test of will and patience.

The views graph has almost flat-lined with a few v-tachs here and there – yup, we almost lost the blog! But here I am again, hopefully, with a better grip on where we are going.

So if you’re still reading me, still hoping you might show find a gem or two here – I will try and not disappoint you! Here’s me, after 12 weeks of solid rejuvenation! 😀

Troubling Twenties

Something we’ve all been through and still are. Follow the girl, she makes a lot of sense.

Troubling Twenties.

A Month in Montreal

This post is in two parts, me being homeless (my drama) and the homeless in Montreal (not my drama).

Homeless in Montreal

Perhaps the most common question asked to me by all and sundry after “Montreal mein kaisa lag raha hain?” is “Are you missing India?” No matter what my answer, the response is “Awwww.”

This is my first time away from home for any period of time, both alone and on a trip that doesn’t include visiting relatives. So obviously, apart from the worries that people had (food, cold, new people etc.), I had my own. The first and the foremost included living in a student’s dorm that was very different from “home”.

I have had a really nice life as a student where albeit travelling for hours, I have always had the option of coming home and staying with family, eating meals at home and curling off to sleep in that cozy corner of my bed. Not being a fan of loud music/people and having never worked and cooked for myself, my biggest doubts were if I could cook, clean and work at the same time. The answer is a loud and resounding NO. I can do two of those three options on any given day, and yes I have systematically skipped one of those.

My stay in Montreal is divided in three: a week spent with my mentor’s Francophone family, a month at the UQAM Residences (dorm/hostel), and three weeks with an Indian family. I have now been to two countryside places for short trips and later this week will be spending a night each at Toronto and one at Niagara. This just fell into place so, but in hindsight, I think it is a perfect blend of experiencing a little of everything.

I write this from Sutton, a small countryside town outside of Montreal, that is so idyllic that I cannot even describe this. I am here on an invitation from a professor from UQAM who owns a cabin in the woods, literally. The cabin is straight out of a storybook and it does remind me of the very forgettable series of books that is the Inkheart trilogy. And I digress.

The point of this part of the post is simple, I am homeless here. Relying on the charity of the very nice people I have met and trust that it will be great no matter where I am. The people of Montreal deserve a post of their own in the stories of my trip, but it feels really home-like when my roommates on a trip to another city message to check in on me when unwell, while another girl who didn’t know me a month back, drops in with chocolate brownies after a long day at work because she knows I will appreciate it.

Contrary to my fears of not being able to adjust, I have managed to find a nice corner, so much so that I might just cry when I move out of the Residences early next week. Montreal and its people have been exceptionally kind to me; it feels like being at home.

Montreal mein kaisa lag raha hain? Montreal acha lag raha hain. Do I miss India? I miss Indians.  🙂

The Homeless in Montreal

Have you ever noticed how every person who visits India talks about the poverty and the beggars in India? Of course you have! Which planet do you reside in?!

One of the things I have had to face practically wherever I am in Montreal is the number of homeless men. I consciously say men because of the twenty odd men I have seen there has been only one homeless woman. According to a professor I met here, the women enter prostitution and related fields but few do stay at the shelters for the homeless.

The homeless here in Montreal are an eclectic bunch. While there are a lot who simply stand outside Dollarama (Dollar stores) to open doors and expect a coin or two, there are others who’re accompanied by huge dogs that earns the sympathy of passersby. There are others that genuinely help, like this one time someone was looking at a map, clearly lost, but was helped by the friendly man of the streets.

Between Two Worlds.

Between Two Worlds.

Then there is the tale of the man whom everyone on the block knows because he greeted all and had a family that would visit but he chose to be on the streets with his “pigeons and cats”. Finally those who have nowhere to go in the freezing winters of Montreal and sleep in the small area between doors of commercial buildings so as to not freeze or bother the people inside the buildings.

These are not the kinds that I am talking of. I am talking of the kind that spins a yarn for a living. Nope, not authors or professors.

One would expect, and a lot of Montréalais (that hopefully is the correct spelling) think that I would know how to deal with the situation when a homeless man comes up to me on the roads. Sadly I don’t. Back home it is drilled into your head, “ignore and walk”- that applies to beggars, eunuchs, crying kids on the streets and practically everyone that would demand money from you for doing nothing in exchange.

That is a little difficult here.

Case One: My first week here. Friend showing me neighbourhood of the University when a man walks to us;

Man:    Excuse me Madam.
Me:      Umm… ya?
Man:    Thank you for responding. 90% of people do not even even bother to look at me.
Me:      Okay.
Man:    Would you have some change to spare for me because..
Friend: Keep walking. Don’t talk. Don’t talk.
And we walked off…

Case Two: Waiting for someone next to an old lady at a Metro station when a man walks up to me; (interestingly a lot of people have met this man.)

Man:    Madam, I need money.
Me:      Umm…
Man:    I need a surgery (points to stomach that is abnormally swollen), and have no money. I have no body to go to and I need food. Please, I need money.
Me:      (Not sure what to do and continue to look at him).
Man:    Please. It hurts. (Goes on about a story I didn’t half understand)
Lady:   Girl, keep walking. He’s here since years. (Throws a knowing-dirty look at him).
Man:    (Walks off muttering) Can’t a man have a beer!

Case Three:Walking back after making weekly grocery purchases;

Lady:   I need 50 cents. I really need to speak to my dad.
Me:      (Raised eyebrows)
Lady:   I have to get home. I need to speak to him.
Me:      Well…
Lady:   Never mind. (Walks off)

The most interesting tale that I have heard in India is of a man with a bag with him who says that he arrived in Mumbai, was robbed on arrival and wants to go home. The stories in Montreal are better, but always leave me with a ‘what if’ on my mind. What if that woman really needed to get home and I did not give her money? What if there were actually a man who needed surgery and people didn’t believe him?

Friend promptly juts in into this chain of thoughts: This is Canada. We have a comprehensive health cover and shelters. Nothing can be so as drastic as the stories you hear. This isn’t an Indian movie, you know?

Turns out this part was my drama too. -_-

P.S. What stumps me is all of these people whom I encounter know that I speak English and no French! How? Is it stamped on my head? And if it is stamped, then why don’t the bus drivers and people who ask me for directions on the street, read it.

The Official First Montreal Not-A-Travelogue Post

I am literally at a loss on what to talk about and what to omit about Montreal and the two weeks I have now successfully spent here! So to make it easier on the eyes, I’ve sorted everything into categories. More organised than my head can ever be.

If this post feels disconnected, it’s because my memories are! These posts are for keep-sake anyway…

Pre-Montreal:

I’ll begin with the day I left Mumbai (don’t groan now!), I had 10 people come to the airport to drop me off. 10. Waterworks were on open display as well. But the interesting part began much later. It had started- my first international trip, alone. I had two seats to myself, so I spent the better part of my 9 hour journey sleeping. And then watching movies. I saw Planes, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (again), an Oscar winning documentary about back-up singers. And then slept again.

Cut to landing at Schiphol- the Amsterdam Airport. I had 8 hours to spend there, with no visa, a card that wasn’t activated and a heavy bag to drag around that majorly consisted of my (very fat) dictionary and other books that just kept going out of control! There are two things worth talking about at Schiphol:

  1.       It’s sheer size. It’s huge. HUGE is an understatement.
  2.       How comfortable everything is.

There’s a museum, a library, two hotels to stay at, a casino, a kids area, numerous restaurants in addition to the spas, bars, internet centers, waiting areas and a huge viewing area to see flights come in and take off from. After an hour of aimless drifting, I simply did what I do best. I slept. Schiphol has these huge chairs, sofas and comfy lounge type couches where you can simply lie down. Like a very experienced traveler of the Indian railways, I held onto my bags on a trolley with my foot on it and slept for a good 2 hours.

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“Bed” and Bags

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of vegetarian places at Schiphol. Fortunately, I research the life out of everything before stepping out of my house. If you’ve heard that Amsterdam is famous for cheese and that it is out of this world, I think I can correct you on it. The four cheese pizza I had at Pizza Pasta Panini was probably made by aliens. Didn’t get it? “Jaadoo” type aliens? Still no? It was like magic? Note to self: Stop cracking that one, no one gets it.

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Wait for foooooooooooooood!

Since my first flight was sooo brilliantly comfortable, the second had to be absolutely horrid. I was between a 68 year old lady and a 15 year old boy. In the middle seats. I was practically in the center of the flight, away from the loos and the exits and from the nearest window too. *cue tragic music*

After 30 minutes of fiddling with the seat to make it comfortable enough, I dozed off only to be woken up because my lunch had arrived. Flight food. Hmpf. When the flight landed at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau I had slept for a total of about 23 hours in the 26 since Mumbai. All hail me!

At Montreal:

It was exactly 0 degrees when I landed at Montreal and waited for the person with whose family I was to stay the week. in that 20-minute period, I saw family reunions, dog reunions, hamster reunions (I am not kidding) and one person being dragged off in handcuffs. It was literally like I had landed in the middle of an ongoing play or a Bollywood movie (because everything, no matter how weird, has a predecessor on the B-Town reel). When I finally walked out of the airport, there was snow on the streets, a slight rainfall in the skies and breath so fresh and opaque that I could literally see it disseminate inches away from my mouth.

More to follow… Because I am sleepy.

P.S. This did turn out to be a travelogue-type post. Huh.

Fire and Snow.

This was not supposed to be my first post about Montreal. And certainly not what I planned! But this is too good to resist and I’m waayyyyy to excited to not blog about it!

I had my first fire drill today.

Read further only if you’re interested because there’s nothing interesting about a fire drill!

I started my internship officially today and then went and bought groceries, met a happy Bangladeshi man who gave me free samosas (story for another post) and then settled with a mug of hot soup. Then, suddenly, it all went whaaaaaaaaaaam! The sirens rang continously and I just looked at my roommates -Fariza and Jennifer- shrugged, and grabbed stuff and left the room.

Here’s a interesting bit of trivia about me: I’m scared of fire accidents. Terribly horrified of people burning alive. It tops my list of ways-in-which-I-don’t-want-to-die. Right on the top with violent attack by predatory birds. Obviously, I always have a mental map of things I need to grab when I leave the house frantically in case of fire (I’ve made sure my family knows the procedure too). So there we were, in a corridor  of people in various stages of undress looking dazed and yelling in French. I was so proud of myself having grabbed my mobile phone, coat, scarf and a wallet with my money, card and passport, consciously left the bag and laptop which I could’ve stuffed and taken, but didn’t. Go figure.

The pride lasted till I reached the snow outside the building and realised I wasn’t wearing socks, and people were actually walking out with three bags. REALLY? THREE? What do you do? Wait for a fire alarm to just get out with all the bags? -_- We were moved to the opposite building, that is UQAM, and just waited. It wasn’t assuring that no one had a clue whether it was a fire or a drill but really nice that it wasn’t at 1am (as was the last time that Fariza remembers). image

In ten minutes, we marched up the stairs to our fifth floor rooms and concurred that it might have been someone stupid who left the stove on after cooking, because the fire trucks showed up in two minutes. Sheesh. My hot soup is now as good as the snow outside.

PS. I’m still trying to figure how to pack and leave with three bags in a minute.

PPS. Is it weird I wasn’t worried about the over 100 pages of work I’ve painstakingly done over the last two months?! Hmpf.

The Chinese Dentist

When you learn to read, you start reading everything!
 
When in primary school, I would read pamphlets, bill boards, hoardings, ingredients off the back of some random bottle in the store etc. And that’s how my language developed! Ditto when I learnt the Devnagiri script! On the way back from school, I’d go “Yethe matching blouse milel”, “Sakhar 10 rupaiye, Halad 5 rupaiye,” etc.
 
When it turned into a compulsive habit, I really don’t know! Before I knew it, on every route I had a fixed set of boards that I would read when in the bus, as though assuring myself that I was in a familiar place.

One of those boards was “Chinese Dentist: Tseyun Li”. It’s in K Villa, just a further ahead after Holy Cross School.
 
You’ve seen whom the Indians claim to be Chinese, are usually North East Indians or Nepalese. So, since an early age I thought it to be a sham, just like the Chinese fast food stall guy round the corner or the Chinese looking kids on signals!
 
Out of curiosity I once asked my dad, what was so special about a Chinese dentist? And I think he said they don’t use anaesthesia, their treatment is fast, it doesn’t pain, it isn’t very hygienic for the dentist since he uses bare hand and last, it’s expensive.
 
But frankly, never did I see that dentist. The door to his clinic was always shut. When I passed by school bus, by car, by autos and now by TMT, there would be nothing there. Just the small clinic by the corner of a small lane which leads to the main road. It was those small shops that remain somewhere at the back of your mind!
 
This morning, it changed. I was in the bus, passing by. And then, there was an old shrivelled Aunty or Uncle sitting there.
 
First thing I noticed, the person was sitting on a plastic chair with outstretched hands towards the rain. Then, the room was sparsely furnished, just a normal long seat for the patients. And then, as the bus paused for a moment, I saw the eyes. Mongolian eyes. The ones like the Chinese have. And, they looked sad (or was that me looking at them sad).
 
Big surprise you might say, Chinese doctor in a Chinese dentist’s clinic. But frankly, for almost 13 years now, I never believed there would be a REAL Chinese family in my neighbourhood! And there it was.
 
All day, I wondered about him (in retrospect it might have been a man Ok?) Did he have enough patients? Was he happy in India? Did he have a family here? If yes, then which school did the kids go to, since Chinese children in a school would be a topic of conversation! Were those eyes really sad like I thought? Or was he just sleepy?  Would I ever see him again? It took me a decade to know he existed. Was he an Indian citizen after all, migrated generations back? Do the Chinese come to India a lot? Do Indians go to China? Will I be friends with them? Ever? 
 
In short, I thought a lot! Silly me, probably. But it gave me this sense of being a novice, however old or well versed with the area I might be, I would never know all of it! Never know what surprises are lurking just around the corner, for me to discover in the unlikeliest of times.
 
That Chinese dentist bought me back to my senses. I am tiny, and I don’t know everything. One of these days I hope to pluck the courage to walk up to his clinic and speak to him and know him more. One of these days maybe…
 
Silhouettes of the things unknown…just were waiting to be discovered, in the form of a Chinese dentist!
Update 07/01/2014: I met the dentist and his family! At a poetry meet! And he’s so cool! Though I’m not sure it was him I saw. I was a little awkward, but hey! What are the chances?!