Category: Bizarre

Day 6: Welcome to the Future

My day started with the beginning of Tsuyu, the rainy season of Japan. Unlike Singapore or Delhi rains which come and go at random, the rains in Tokyo are continuous and not too harsh. Its been raining all day today but the intensity of rain isn’t enough to keep people from going about doing their usual things. Of course the large number of umbrellas in the street slow people down, but the Japanese have learnt the most effective ways and means to avoid crashing into the other umbrellas. From lifting their umbrellas up to inclining in to the side, it comes naturally to them and they do it as they walk around on the wet streets.

After a class about Western influence on Japanese architecture, I wandered around the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Shinjuku is one of the many “centers” of Tokyo. The Shinjuku train station is the busiest train station in the world with over 3.5 million daily commuters. Remembering my recent visit to Shibuya and its similarity to Times Square, I didn’t expect to see anything radically different. I was so wrong. First of all, it took me 20 minutes to find my way out of the Shinjuku station. I had expected it to be crowded, but not so big. There were different train lines converging at Shijuku, and restaurants and stores clustered near the platforms and ticketing stations. Once I was out of the train platforms, English signs nearly disappeared and I was left to depend on my intuition. When I finally walked out of the train station I found myself among a number of high rises, all of different shapes, sizes and colors. The roads were narrow as they are everywhere in Japan, but somehow space didn’t seem to be such a huge problem given the large entrance courtyards of skyscrapers. Pavements changed color frequently and with every turn I took, I felt like I was stepping into a different area altogether. As I walked around, I tried to look up to see how tall the skyscrapers were, but my umbrella would interrupt my view, and I could barely see the roofs without getting rainwater in my eyes. When I reached the area of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, I just didn’t know how to feel. I had never seen any area as upscale or developed as this one. Not only were they buildings tall, but they were of the most unique shapes and were made of varying materials. At one point, I crossed a circular courtyard with a line of statues bordering it. I felt like I was in the future. The ginormous buildings and exceptional architecture felt like something the world I knew isn’t quite ready for. I later found out that the annual budget of the Tokyo Metropolitan government is more than the national budget of India, which is sad for India, but explains so much about Shinjuku. After walking a little further, I hit the entertainment area of Shunjuku, which included shops, restaurants, etc. But even this wasn’t comparable to anything I had seen before. It was unbelievably lively for a weekday evening. It went beyond just lanes and alleys into the main streets.

At around 6 p.m. I went back to the Shinjuku station, hoping to experience some of the rush hour crowd at the busiest train station in the world. Near the ticket counters, there were people walking in all four directions and somehow managing not to crash into each. Occasionally, people in a hurry would run across the platform. I dared not stop to take a picture, because if I did, someone from behind would crash into me. The platform, where people were waiting for the train to arrive was so packed that not everyone was able to fit into the first train that arrived. Many people had to wait for the next one. The number of people who came out of the train at Shinjuku station in order to transfer to one of its many lines was also so huge, that the train would nearly be empty in the few moments before commuters leaving from Shinjuku entered the train. When the doors shut, a girl’s backpack got partially stuck in the door due to lack of space inside the train. It was not so bad once I was inside the train, but I think I got lucky, considering that 6 pm is just the beginning of Tokyo’s rush hour.

This is the first time I’m seeing the better parts of a city after seeing the more depressed parts. After seeing the tightly fitted houses and stressed lifestyle of Tokyo, I hadn’t expected to see such a contrasting better half. I plan to go back again to take another look. I haven’t quite digested Shinjuku yet. I also intend to re-visit Shibuya. I may have been wrong about it.

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TV time

When my brother and I were little, our parents had set a “TV time” for us. We could only watch TV for one hour every day. My brother and I would usually divide it into two halves. We used to watch half an hour of TV in the afternoon and half an hour before sleeping.

The love of our life- the television!

But those were the times when the advertisements weren’t longer than the show itself. When the two of us finally realized that the lengthy advertisements were costing us a lot of TV time, we came up with a strategy. We used to sit in front of the TV with a stopwatch. When the ads would come, we would stop the time running on the stopwatch, and turn our heads away from the TV, claiming that since we weren’t actually looking at the TV, this shouldn’t count as TV time. It worked very well for a few days. Then our parents realized our tactic and that was the end of our astute (but very effective) scheme.

Although our clever trick didn’t last very long, our efforts to prolong TV time never failed. I no longer have a TV time, but my younger brother does. And he still finds ways and means to violate it.

Some things never change! Be it people, their strange or wonderful habits, or our desperate attempts to trespass our TV time.

Reasons to find a best friend who is just like you!

My best friend turns 18 today! I was thinking of the crazy things we have done in the past 2 years, and I realize, that there is nothing better than having a best friend who is similar to you in more ways you can imagine any other person to be. This post is dedicated to her, hoping she will decide to remain as crazy as she is now, just so that there is someone in the world to give me company. Happy Birthday Zivani!! (I did not spell her name wrong. that is just what i call her). I love you, you lunatic!

Here is why you need to go hunt for YOUR carbon copy:

1. You will both arrive late to class and therefore will end up sitting on the very first bench

2. A 5 line conversation will take days to conclude just because both of you are too lazy to reply right away

3. The entire day at school will be spent decorating the desk, just because the teacher won’t let you talk in class and neither of you want to ruin the last page of our notebooks.

You don’t have to LOOK similar too,
 in case you’re thinking that.

4. Your study sleepovers in effect, will be about 1 hour of studying and 10 odd hours of taking breaks.

5. You will spend the eve of an exam talking on the phone, discussing ways to get a job when you are eventually kicked out of school.

6. You will also come up with millions of (practically impossible) plans to become a billionaire (for example, selling your appendix)

7. You will put no less than 6 alarms before going to sleep (on a sleepover) so that you can get up early and go out the next day. Despite that, neither of you will wake up or respond to the alarms.

8. You will attempt to cross a road which has traffic zooming at such a high speed that it can very easily be the end of you, so that you can get an auto home, only to discover that your home is in the other direction and you need to cross the street again and catch an auto from the other side.

9. Your pathetic sense of direction will not allow you to reach anywhere without getting lost several times. One of you will have to activate the internet on your phone so that google maps can be of some help. You will still get lost all the time.

I realize that I may just have given you reasons NOT to find your carbon copy. But believe me, it’s worth it!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZIVANI!

Roadside Sleepers

Today, just as I was walking home, I saw by the road, something that I am so very afraid to do myself.
I saw a man sleeping. No I am not afraid of sleeping, but the idea of sleeping in public horrifies me. What if someone mugs you or steals your money?
I looked at that man, dozing off comfortably in his plastic chair.

If you live in India, you would also be familiar with the sight of drivers sleeping in parked cars while the owners are away shopping or eating or doing whatsoever. If you aren’t, just walk through a parking lot of a local market and you’ll see what I mean.

Now even though I have never been on a public bus, I see them everyday. I see the crowding, and the shoving and also, the dozing off. Sleeping on DTC buses seems like a nightmare. First of all, how can one fall asleep in a place which is so stuffed, that it is possible for people to fall out of the windows!
Secondly, how do you know that the man sitting next to you will not pull out your wallet while you are happily dreaming?

Taking advantage of the situation

And thirdly, how does one wake up when their stop arrives? Is it an instinctual thing to just wake up when you get home or is the driver kind enough to wake you up and drive you back home when he notices that you are the only one who did not get off at the last stop?

All through my 14 years at school, I have never been able to fall asleep in class! Not that I used to be extremely interested in what the teachers were saying, but simply because I was afraid of what hell i would have to go through if I were caught. (And partly because I knew that my friends weren’t kind enough to not take advantage of the situation.)

To all those who feel the same way, welcome to the club! And to all those who are trying to figure out why I’m fretting about sleeping in public, please tell me how you do it. 

GYMonomics

With my class 12 exams over, I decided to join the gym in the month of April. Class 12 makes you gain a lot of   extra weight, but that’s okay with me. I consider it a good sign. It means you’ve been studying.
Although this wasn’t my first time at the gym, I noticed a lot of things about the place that I had not noticed before. It seems to have it’s own certain ways.

To start with, being a newbie (or a person who out of laziness hasn’t been to the gym for the past 18 months)  is like being the amateur of the place. You’re the only person who is seen panting and sweating on the treadmill while walking at a speed of 4 km/hr and you’re definitely the person who comes in the last and leaves the soonest.
But as you become a little more regular and start blending in, certain patterns emerge.

There’s always this one egoistic trainer, who will walk around the place doing absolutely nothing productive. He’s like a parole officer.  He will have this proud and dignified look on his face, which by the way means nothing to any of the people there. The other trainers do all the work. One would think he’s coordinating,  but there’s nothing much to coordinate in a gym.

There’s the popular girl, who has been coming to the gym for as long as anyone remembers. She’s the one who knows all the trainers, and all the people. She is also the one who can run on the treadmill at 9 km/hr for 20 minutes.

There are also those people who I like to call the kings and queens. These are the people who do not need to lose weight from any angle. They either come to the gym to build their muscles or tone their body or mantain their already perfect weight. These are the ones who are the royalty of the gym. Not that they are treated any differently, but for them, being at the gym is more of a choice than a compulsion.

If any of you have ever been to a gym, you might have come across the inferiority complex. Whenever you’re on a treadmill, walking at your own sweet pace, you tend to compare yourself to the person next to you. If the person is walking at double the speed (running occasionally) you tend to have an inferiority complex. But if it’s you whose faster you tend to think “HAHA. What a loser”

And how could I forget, there are those amazing, gifted and idolized people who carry their own i pod to the gym. That’s a big thing. Believe me. First of all, it is impossible to even hear yourself think with all the loud music in the gym. It’s hard to even respond to a phone call. To be able to hear the music from your i pod is nothing short of a freakin miracle.
Second of all, I have never been able to keep those damned earphones inside my ears. They keep falling off. After some time, that’s all you’re doing. I have often found myself taking it easy while exercising just so that i can listen to my music.

But the best part is that there is a mutual understanding in the gym. Everyone is trying to lose weight or tone their body. So no matter how messed up you look, the gym is one place you can go to and not worry about your appearance. It is one place where your public image does not count. For all you know you could go in wearing the worst clothes out of your closet and no one would give a damn.

The Indian Christmas


The Indian Christmas

Indians don’t like being left out of festivities.  And with so many different religions and cultures in our country, there are an indefinite number of festivals to celebrate. We manage to find stuff to do on the Indian festivals. On bigger festivals like Holi and Diwali, we freak out with sweets and parties and crackers and colours. But then come the festivals which one would call miscellaneous or etc, etc (in other words most of us have no clue what their relevance is, but are more than happy about their existence because of the random 1 day holidays that come our way due to them.) 

You may think that a day off wouldn’t be much to cherish, but you’d be surprised at how quickly these add up and take away days from our summer break and paid vacation. Normally, on those days, you’ll find people in the malls or at PVR.

But then comes Christmas. And it fits into neither category.  And that confuses us Indians. 
To the non christian Indians, it has no practical relevance whatsoever. 

But still, we don’t want to be left out. So how do we celebrate? We can’t decorate a Christmas tree. Our houses aren’t big enough to fit 2 feet tall plants inside them. We can’t go around giving presents, because we spent all our money on Diwali gifts, and we definitely can’t hang stockings in our living room, mainly because we’d find them empty the next morning baffled by the fact that Santa didn’t turn up.

So here’s what happens. Everyone ends up in the malls. Now the malls know what is going to happen. So they start commercializing, They put up huge Christmas trees, find a santa, decorate the entire area, etc. Last year one of the malls put up a castle right out out of a fairytale in their park.

I happen to live a km away from one of the big malls of New Delhi. And the 5 days preceding Christmas  saw the roads leading to the mall so jammed, that everytime I look outside I felt like I’m having a déjà vu, seeing the same set of cars outside my window, until I realized that I am looking at the same thing I saw 20 minutes ago.

So basically everyone is in the malls. It’s too cold to do anything outdoors, so there are anyways few other options. Now the malls are pretty big, but not big enough to accommodate the entire city. So as a result, there is pushing and shoving and no space to walk (or air to breathe) and suddenly, it is so hot, that you feel it isn’t winter anymore! The eating joints are in full fledged business with long waiting lines.

You would think that we’d eventually learn not to end up in the malls like we did last year, but we just CANNOT bear to be left out. We will be shoved and pushed and stuck in a traffic jam for hours at a go. 
But there is no way in hell we’ll be excluded from any sort of festivity! 

Because if the whole world celebrates, so shall we!