Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Malacca

Malacca, or Melaka in Malay, is called The Historical State by many and I wouldn’t disagree. It was a sudden plan made by my parents, my sister and me to visit Malacca while we were in Kuala Lumpur for a vacation. It’s a usual thing for travellers going to Malaysia to visit Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands, but not Penang, Langkawi and Malacca that often. I am not sure about the rest of the world, but in India my sentence holds good. This is primarily because of the tour packages that are available in India. However, these days I hear many people talking about Langkawi to be a part of their itinerary; unfortunately, Malacca is still skipped.

The day we reached Kuala Lumpur we heard from some people who were gathered at the lobby of our hotel discussing their trip to Malacca the next morning. The four of us were so intrigued with the descriptions we heard about Malacca, that we instantly called the manager to check if he could help us get there. Fortunately, the hotel had a tie-up with a city tour company and we were booked for our trip to Malacca the day after.

We travelled on a luxury bus and we were about 20 to 25 people from different parts of the world travelling together. Of all the people I met, I particularly remember a Japanese lady. She became pals with my parents and clicked many photographs with us. Since she was travelling alone I guess she felt at ease with fellow Asians.

Malacca is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula. It took us about two hours to get there. We had an English speaking guide who was giving us important information as we drove along. Malacca is known for its diverse cultural heritage, and has a population comprising of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kristang, people with partial Portuguese ancestry, and Dutch Eurasians. Quite a diverse mix to say the least!

We stopped at the Dutch Square in the heart of the City, and walked around The Stadthuys, Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower, Queen Victoria Fountain and the famous Christ Church. We clicked many photographs as we had two cameras with us, and picked up some souvenirs as well. Across the Malacca River from the Dutch Square, are the long houses of Heeren Street and the antique shops at Jonker Street. We heard of the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum but we couldn’t make it there.






After walking to the end of Heeren/Jonker Streets, we reached Harmony Street of Malacca to visit the oldest Chinese Temple in Malacca called Cheng Hoon Teng or Green Clouds Temple. This is Malaysia’s oldest traditional Chinese temple and is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. A unique and visually attractive sight is the manner in which the incense sticks are ‘waved’ during traditional Chinese rites. I guess a better word for describing the movement of the incense sticks would be ‘shaken’; quick and abrupt spurts of hand movement rather than the slow and circular movement that we Indians do.



Further down were the Kampong Kling Mosque and the Sri Vinayagar Temple all along the same street, but we were too tired to visit them. We then went to the St. Paul’s Hill Complex to view the Independence Memorial, Porta de Santiago commonly called A Famosa, the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, where Malacca's Saint Francis Xavier was once buried. The guide told us that Saint Francis Xavier’s body is presently placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.

Later we visited the Portuguese settlement where the descendents of the Portuguese still live. My folks bought souvenirs from there too. It was late afternoon and time to have lunch. We had an option to try the spicy hot Devil’s Curry and other famous Portuguese cuisine at the Portuguese Square but we didn’t opt for it as we normally choose not to experiment with food. Instead we had the lunch that the tour operator organised for us; chicken fried rice, chilly pork, stir fried chicken with roasted cashews, all in a very Malay style! In fact, I found most of our co-passengers opted for this food. We were seated in a big round table and were served food by local Malay girls. The surprise element was that we were served chilled beer… complimentary and unlimited!

We spent the whole day in Malacca and visited as many places as we could. It was as if we were in a different world altogether and we didn’t feel like coming back. But we had to move on and we returned to Kuala Lumpur with a lot of memories. We left Malaysia after two days and came back to Mumbai.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Teach India Part 3

I received an email from Ms. Anjali Hari from Katalyst to send her my profile so that she could get started working with me, and I could become a mentor. We exchanged a few emails and spoke a few times after which she sent me a profile.The profile looked interesting. It was of a 19 year old girl, who faced many challenges along with her family in the struggle of life, and yet did not give up. She is a student of Engineering in a college in Malad.

I had heard of people finding a way to face the world and achieve things in life, but she was the first person I met, who so gracefully accepted the challenges, and is working towards making a difference in life.

I am happy to be associated with Katalyst in my little way. I hope I will be able to do more in the future, and help some more youngsters shape a life for themselves.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Teach India Part 2

I went to a school at Veera Desai Road for the orientation program of Teach India. When I reached the classroom where the volunteers were sitting I was shocked. I had no idea that so many people would actually come. It was overwhelming to see people from different age groups and background all gathered together to make this world a better place. My interest to be a part of this movement got strenghthened.

We waited for a little while before the representatives from the different NGOs started making presentations about their organisation. In fact, there were 3. After the presentations were made I chose to meet Ms. Anjali Hari from Katalyst as I found their requirement for volunteers was matching with my skill set.

There was a huge queue of excited youngsters to be part of her NGO, therefore, I had to wait for more than half an hour to have a word with her. People pushed me from one side to another, just to have a word with her, and I was testing my own patience while waiting to talk to her. I did manage to speak with her and briefly mentioned to her about the kind of training I do. She made a note of my contact details and said that she would get back to me.

That's how the day ended. On my way back, I thought that there should be more and more initiatives like this to spread education and reiterate the importance of teachers in our lives. Though I am a corporate trainer by profession, which is my source of livelihood, the pleasure and satisfaction that I will gain from being associated with Teach India will be immeasurable.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Teach India Part 1

I have always believed in doing a little extra to help people in need. I also firmly believe that it is very important to give back to life a little in return to all that it has given me. From my childhood I loved the idea of being a teacher. And I ended up being one as I grew up, though today, I am a trainer working in the corporate world. The good thing is that I still teach!

For the past 3 to 4 years I have had a strong desire to reach out to the underprivileged strata of the society and teach. I identified an opportunity to make my contribution when last year I saw the Times of India Teach India hoarding while driving. At that moment I couldn’t really figure what it was. After a couple of days I watched the television commercial which featured Bollywood star Aamir Khan. The commercial went like this, some kids came to him to learn something and he was in a dilemma whether he was capable of teaching. While he was thinking, one of the kids pronounced a word incorrectly and he immediately corrected the kid. While doing so he said to himself that even he, as a kid, used to make the same mistake, and how his teacher corrected him every time he went wrong. This commercial further strengthened my conviction about remaining a teacher at heart.

I realised that I could be a part of the Teach India initiative. Teach India is a social initiative from the Times of India that brings together children in need of education and people who can contribute a little time towards teaching them. I felt it was a movement to bring about a change in the way India lives. However, my excitement about joining this mission got completely shattered because I was told that by my Manager that I had to go to another city on a deputation and my working hours would be a little erratic. I was very upset but couldn’t do much as the job was also very important.

At that time I just hoped that this initiative continues and I could be a part of the same the following year. And yes, it did continue! Just a week and a half ago I was chatting with one of my colleagues when she mentioned that she enrolled to teach in the Teach India initiative and asked me if I would be interested. I immediately went through the site and registered, and this Saturday I am going for the induction. At the induction I would meet the volunteers from different NGOs who will assign me to a particular location and get details about the students and the subjects that I would be teaching. I am very excited and anxious to get started.

Friday, 10 July 2009

To Life!

It's been 2 months since I joined this new company. In this period, besides attending five days of training and two days of induction, I have done nothing. When I say nothing I mean that I did do not do anything to add to the company's productivity. In other words, I am benched. Feels great, as being benched is no more about techies only; communication trainers like me are also benched!

I ask for work but there is no work. I see my colleagues (only women) spending all their time chatting on facebook, calling up their boyfriends and discussing facebook, what life! I am an Orkut loyalist, so I check my scrapbook a couple of times in the day and wonder what else can I do on a social networking site! I may have more things to do if I were on facebook, but no, I cannot indulge so much into such a mindless activity.

So what do I do the whole day sitting in office? Well, besides spending about five minutes on Orkut I read books that I download from the internet. I don't particularly like to read books on the computer, but I do not have too many options otherwise. I am still very old fashioned and I will remain this way forever I guess. I solve online crossword puzzles, read news hightlights, play online word games, and sometimes write on my blogs. That's exactly what I am doing right now!

Should I be happy or should I be sad? I don't have any work to do, yet I am getting paid. Guess I should not crib too much as it's said that by cribbing, the luck may run out soon!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The noble profession is not so noble!

It’s sad to know there aren’t too many competent and dedicated doctors in India anymore. I am not sure how many were actually there earlier but I know for a fact that I don’t have much faith in the Indian doctors for innumerable reasons. I have seen my grandmother suffering till her death because of many doctors’ callousness and over confidence. I suffer from acute body pain from the age of 19. In spite of visiting a dozen doctors in Kolkata and Hyderabad my pain hasn’t reduced in 15 years!

My father-in-law went to a Diabetologist recently as he is diabetic and is suffering from a kind of nervous disorder. The moment he walked to the doctor’s cabin the first thing she told my father-in-law that the small lump on his nose can be dangerous and cancerous. Now, how the hell did she know what the lump was all about, without even conducting any test! That was not all. She reassured my father-in-law that cancer can be treated if detected at the early stage, and she went on to getting him an appointment with one of her colleagues who specialized in such type of cancer… what type??? This Diabetologist works in a renowned hospital in Kolkata.

Now coming to my terrible experience, a family friend who is a doctor (read quack) saw thick hair on my chin. I didn’t get time to go to a parlour for threading. He said that I probably had Polycystic Ovary (PCO). He immediately got the blood tests done, and according to him I did have PCO.

He prescribed me to take Glyciphage and Crimson 35 everyday for four months. Glyciphage is a tablet used to treat diabetes, and Crimson 35 is used as a birth control pill. These two tablets are also used for women suffering from PCO.

Those four months were nothing but the most horrific time of my life. Within a month I broke into rashes on my arms. I went to a couple of skin specialists, they gave me some anti fungal cream; they were no good. One day I just decided to stop taking Crimson 35 as I wasn’t sure whether I should take birth control pills, and the rashes disappeared!

That’s not all. During this period I also suffered from acute stomach disorder. Now that was embarrassing! I would have to run to the toilet at any odd moment, and that was so difficult, especially while I was training. I kept on thinking whether it was because of my bad food habit or something else that I was suffering. When the problem continued for four months I decided to consult a doctor. I spoke to our family doctor about this but he could not figure out anything.


The other doctor I went to suggested a few tests and a few medicines for a week. After a week he couldn't figure out what was wrong and suggested that I go to a specialist. The specialist also suggested a few more tests and a tablet called Metrogyl, thrice a day, for twenty days. At the end of the twenty days I was left with a metallic tongue, lost my sense of taste, the doctor said that nothing was wrong with me, and the problem persisted. I can’t express how frustrating it was to be in situation like that!

It was on one of the days during a very hectic work schedule that I realized that I had exhausted the Glyciphage tablets. I thought of taking a break from the tablet for a couple of days, out of sheer laziness. After two days I suddenly realised that in the past two days I did not feel any discomfort and did not have to rush to the toilet while at work. I stopped taking the tablet and realized I was fine, the four months of suffering was all gone!

I called the family doctor to tell him what happened, but he did not take any responsibility for his ignorance. I later visited a few sites on Google and found that there are women who suffer for taking Glyciphage.

What I have been talking about till now are all common things that happen in our day to day lives, and no one talks about them. Life is bad enough already and enough number of bad things will anyway happen along the way. I don’t know whether there is a way to handle these situations. The least we can do is talk to people and spread the word around, rather than hiding things because of silly shyness; we Indians are great at that! At least by this way many people can be saved from unnecessary suffering. I am doing my little bit by posting my experiences through this channel.