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The Regressive Hindi Soap Operas!

The Regressive Hindi Soap Operas!

Having nothing to do on a lazy Friday evening, I scanned through the proliferation of channels on television that have come our way in modern times. My remote failed to rest on anything interesting, until I stumbled upon the baap of all shows- a mega 1000 episode Hindi soap on prime time television. The show made me sit up and notice- the sanskari bahu with the pallu neatly pinned, the sasuma with streaks of white hair, the vamp with her gaudy fashion sense, lavish sets, close ups of the cast, well way too close, and of course an overdose of melodrama. The absurdity that unfurled in front of me that evening, seemed good enough entertainment!!

My earliest association…

…with anything on television began with India’s first soap Hum Log. I was a young girl then, way back in 1984, but I distinctly remember how the entire family would huddle around the TV, right till the end of the episode when veteran film actor Ashok Kumar would bring in snippets of the episode that was telecast. The soap ended with 154 episodes, becoming the longest running serial in the history of Indian television at that time. Things have changed since then, and soaps now have an altogether new avatar, with glossy packaging and most touching the 1000 episode mark.

But look underneath the glossy package…

…and you find nothing but a poorly scripted saga. After watching a few of the soaps for a fortnight, I realized that almost all of them are strikingly similar and predominantly clichéd. Each episode begins with a five minute introductory recap, followed by ten minutes of commercial break and around ten minutes of the actual serial. And as though this wasn’t enough, these ten minutes actually lack any progress in story.

There aren’t any shades of grey in the characters. The adarsh bahu wins over everyone’s heart. She is the epitome of piousness and is totally devoted to her in laws. And the vamp? Well, the lesser said the better. Does she really have to wear the darkest shade of lipstick to be portrayed as the bad? Not to forget the stream of dadis, nanis, buas, maasis and the endless supply of relatives who are ready to celebrate, dance, rejoice and cause enough problems to the demure bahu. Throw in the designer saris, the trademark mangalsutra and the glob of sindur and you have the recipe for a mega serial indeed. The latest entrant is the naagins and tantrics who are capable of casting a venomous magic spell!!!

And that makes me wonder…Why do people watch these mega soaps?

As I began asking people I knew, who watched these soaps almost on a daily basis, I realized that despite the content being absurd, these soaps did manage to strike a chord with them. For an octogenarian like my grandmother, these soaps were the best way to be occupied. They seemed to speak out to her, things the younger generation seldom had time to convey to her. The soaps were something to look forward to in her monotonous life.

We still predominantly are a patriarchal society and family norms often confine women to the kitchen. For a friend of mine, who is a part of a joint family, these soaps are an avenue to be part of another world. Caught in the duties of a home maker, wife and mother, she isn’t employed and has limited interaction with the broader society. These soaps not only entertain her, but have also become an integral part of her life.

My domestic help, who watches close to five of these soaps, loves the clothes worn. It is her connect with the upper class society. She aspires that someday her daughter would be educated and married off into one such household where she could live lavishly and wear those lovely clothes.

Move over regressive soaps

The larger than life image portrayed in serials is going down with the masses, and television channels are surely capitalizing on it. It sure is interesting to throw in emotion and drama to keep viewers hooked, but considering the influence of television on people and families, isn’t it time, soaps become more progressive in nature? Isn’t it time the regressive nonsense metamorphosis into something more meaningful and realistic?

I wonder who would be able initiate the change- the demanding audience or the channels supplying it!!!!!!

*Featured Image Source: Youth Connect.in
Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

My  post featured on Womens Web.

Trials of a male contraceptive were recently abandoned when a handful of men experienced side effects deemed ‘minor’ in women on contraceptives. Is this fair any more?

“Phir se?” I gasped as my domestic help announced the news of her pregnancy. She did look weak and tired. Three pregnancies and two abortions had practically reduced her to a mere frame. Savitha has been a part of my household for over five years now and over these years, from being the typical memsaab; I had become an elder sister of sorts to her, and she would often seek guidance.

“Savitha, Your body is too weak; you may not be able to sustain the pregnancy or an abortion. It’s a big risk.” She lowered her eyes, as I said this. They spoke volumes…..

Read the rest of the post here : Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

She bears the brunt of infertility……almost always! A test in every way!

It was a hot afternoon in the month of April when I reached Poonam’s house in Raja Ka Tal- a small farming village in district Firozabad. The warm breeze gently swayed the trees, as their yellow leaves collected by her feet. Her body lay on the ground, a thin sheet covering from head to toe. It had thinned down considerably since I had first met her. Her husband Rajbir sat a distance away, quiet and somber.

A year back, I was part of a Rotary Club health camp that travelled across the state of Uttar Pradesh, to spread awareness about health and hygiene. It was here that I first met Poonam. “Bibiji, bachcha nahi ho raha he. Dawayee dijiye” (I am not conceiving. Give me some medicine). The treatment of Poonam’s primary infertility was beyond the scope of the mobile camp and also the tiny village Raja ka Tal. She was handed over a referral slip for a check-up at Firozabad’s Government Hospital. She faintly nodded when I communicated this to her. I saw a tear drop down her eye when she left the camp. But something in her moved me that day and I decided to follow up on her case with the village and district hospital. However, once I got back to Delhi, so caught up was I with my schedules that I just let it be, hoping that eventually things would fall in place for Poonam. A year later, I got to know about her death.

“Bimar pad gayee, khana hajam nahi ho raha tha, mar gayee”, said her mother. (She fell ill, couldn’t take food anymore and passed away). I couldn’t hold back anymore and had to get the entire story. I chatted up with Poonam’s childhood friend that afternoon, who tumbled it all out.

Poonam was married three years after puberty. A year into matrimony, and she still had not shown any signs of pregnancy. The taunts started, and soon her in-laws and Rajbir took matters into their own hands. He decided to marry again. It was for the want of a baby. The bride was none other than Poonam’s younger sister. For Poonam’s parents it was a win-win situation. Both daughters married at the cost of just one. Within a few months of this marriage, the news of her sisters impending pregnancy reached Poonam.

That was when the first signs of depression were noticeable. She would cry often, have temper tantrums, and develop low degree fever. For those around her, it meant, she had gone mad. No efforts were made to treat her. It wasn’t really a priority. She after all could not produce a baby. Within a span of four months, Poonam lay dead.

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Cut to Bangalore
I was meeting my school friend Anusha in a plush coffee shop after five long years. The first thing that I noticed was the disheveled hair and sullen eyes. “I have started my IVF and it’s taking a toll, physically and mentally”, she said.

A long silence followed. This wasn’t the same energetic woman I had known five years back.

“Ashok works late and travels often. But he still manages to be around for the IVF schedule. His presence is required, medically. Otherwise, life seems to be just going on, where we both lead our own separate lives.”

“Why don’t you adopt?” I asked. She glared back at me.

“My in-laws had been against our love marriage and, Ashok would not go against them a second time. They wouldn’t accept a baby that is not their blood. I hope God blesses me with a baby soon. I feel void and empty. It is killing me”.

Signs of depression yet again?

Whether it is Raja ka Tal or Bangalore, the brunt of infertility is often faced by women. There exists in society, a certain element of stigma when a woman is unable to conceive. At a time when she needs mental support, she gets the taunts and bears the blame.

Much as it is important biologically, for a woman to conceive, not being able to should not be the end of the road. Adoption regulations in India are getting easy, with even single women going in for one. A baby is all that matters for a childless couple. And adoption may well be the answer. It would reduce the mental trauma on the woman and provide a home to a child. It would bring about happiness in more than one life.

*This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links on Write Tribe.

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

Let me begin by telling you a story- the story of Baby Manji. She was born in the summer of 2008, to a surrogate mother- using the sperm of a Japanese man and an egg from an unknown source (reportedly a Nepali/Indian). But even before she was born, her parents had decided to part ways. The wife who wasn’t genetically linked to the baby didn’t want her, and the husband whose sperm was used to create the embryo, wanted the baby. The actual twist, however, came after her birth.

It was a catch 22 situation where Indian rules required the child to be legally adopted before leaving the country, but barred single men from adopting. And Japanese law didn’t recognize surrogacy. Hence Manji’s Japanese father was denied travel documents for the baby. In the months to follow, Baby Manji kicked up a storm and after a prolonged legal battle, the story ended well. Manji got her Japanese visa to leave India.

surrogacy-difficult-to-implement

Surrogacy isn’t really a new practice in the country. Don’t we have mythological references where Yashoda played mother to Krishna, though, Devki and Vasudev were the biological parents? In the last decade, India has been a leader and a sought after destination in surrogacy-related fertility tourism, due to the relatively low cost, with costs being roughly a third of the price compared to a procedure in the UK. We have here altruistic surrogacy, in which no charges or monetary incentive of any kind is involved. We also have commercial surrogacy which has been legally permitted since 2002, by way of giving monetary incentive in cash or kind, to the surrogate mother or her dependents or representative.

Years after Baby Manji was born, a new surrogacy regulation bill has been passed in India. But does it really answer all our questions?

The new bill would now not support commercial surrogacy, and a proposed new law would allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners. It also bars single parents, homosexuals, live-in couples and, married woman who has at least one child of her own. Henceforth, only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years can seek a surrogate and, the surrogate must be a close relative. This bill has yet again brought the whole issue of surrogacy into limelight, with many being critical of it. Infertility specialists are of the opinion that such a law could lead to an illegal surrogacy industry. And things could just get more difficult for infertile couples for whom assisted reproductive technology provides hope. What if both the partners are single child? Whom would they turn to for a surrogate?

As a general practice and this is across the globe, we consider the woman giving birth to a child as the legal mother. But in surrogacy, the intended parents are to be recognized as the legal parents from birth, by virtue of the fact that the surrogate has signed a contract to hand over the child on birth to the commissioned parents. Not many countries in the world consider/recognize surrogacy. Luckily India is one of those few countries which recognizes surrogacy and considers the Intended/ Commissioning Parent/s as the legal parents.

I have often found the social aspects surrounding surrogacy to be complex. Well, mostly unsettled too. Various questions crop up in my mind- Who is a mother? Who is a father? Are there changes to the core definition of family? If so, is this progress?

If we do consider ourselves progressive, I wonder why many in our society aren’t in favour of adoption over surrogacy. Why is it still important to have some sort of genetic link to the child they are bringing into their lives?

I wonder why!!

*Featured Image Source: www.newsx.com

It Doesn’t Matter if Those Tiny Shoes Are Blue or Pink!

It Doesn’t Matter if Those Tiny Shoes Are Blue or Pink!

“Phir se ladki hui he!”(You have given birth to a girl again). This was the first thing I heard, when my second child was born. The duty nurse walked in and placed her by my side. I was exhausted after the long labor and was bleeding excessively. I glanced at her, all pink and tiny, when a single tear drop slipped down my eye. I was happy. My baby was just fine.

Hubby and I were elated when we realized that our second bundle of joy was on its way. The nine months seemed too long for us three- and my first born just couldn’t wait to include her yet-to-arrive sibling, in her game of Barbie dolls. However, the elders in the family seemed a wee bit stressed. It began with subtle hints and soon moved to more direct ones that this time around, the baby better be a boy!

Hubby and I seldom paid any heed to these words, as the reasons seemed absolutely absurd to us. “You already have a girl,” they would say, “and another one would simply be an additional responsibility.”

Their want of a boy stemmed from the following thoughts.

  • With the number of rape and eve teasing around, there is an additional responsibility of protection of the girl. One always has to be on tenterhooks when they go out.
  • Continuing the family name and the task of doing karma is on the shoulders of the son.

Brushing away this absurdity, in our own privacy, hubby and I would draw up a list of names- both for boys and girls. It didn’t matter to us- whether those tiny shoes were blue or pink!

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On a cold winter night in Delhi, my second one was born in the Base hospital in Delhi Cantt.., when the duty nurse loudly made the announcement that it was a girl again. I gave her a meek grin at that moment, out of exhaustion. The elders in the family hardly had anything to say. The celebration was kept minimal and the air of disappointment was evident.

Back in the gyneac ward, as hubby and I sat admiring the new one, the duty nurse walked in and asked me if I was happy. Of course I was! What more could I ask for. My family, all of four, was complete now. She chuckled as she said,” You would be coming back a third time!! I have seen the world.” We both sat gazing at the door, when the intensity of her statement actually hit us.

This is probably the story in many households in our country, where a boy is preferred over a girl child, more so when it is the second time around. And this thought process is prevalent in every strata of society- doesn’t matter whether they are educated or not, doesn’t matter if they are in their 30s or in their 60s.

I probably consider myself lucky that my husband belongs to a generation where the gender of the child absolutely did not matter. I also consider myself lucky that despite the disappointment; the elders in the family came in terms with it and today are absolutely adorable grandparents to both my girls.

Yet, things are not the same for many other women in our country.  A girl child could actually spell doom for them, especially if the first born is already one.

Social campaigns have played a major role in changing mindsets and reduced the stigma attached to giving birth to a girl. Still the birth of a baby boy is accompanied by celebrations and the arrival of a baby girl elicits mixed reactions. What really needs to happen is a change at the grass root level, where we need to evolve new thought processes and advocate these to our next generation. It is only then, would we actually stop bothering, about those tiny shoes being pink or blue!

I shall leave you with a video that speaks volumes about the existing thought process. Brilliantly made by “Grey India”.

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The Great Indian IIT Dream

The Great Indian IIT Dream

“The mind of a child is fragile. Their emotions touch their future. Your words shape their destiny.”-Anonymous

As I picked up my morning newspaper, a bunch of leaflets slipped out of its pages. Oh boy! The newspaper as it is bombards me with advertisements, and the leaflets just seem to add to the agony. As I got picking the leaflets that were strewn across the room, a little pink one caught my eye. It was an advertisement placed by a coaching institute located in a thriving medieval era colony- Kālu Sarai, in Delhi.

“A Guaranteed Programme”, it said. “Give me a student of class VIII or IX and take back an IIT engineer after 5 years.”

The great Indian IIT dream it was, and institutes, such as this, sell that hope!

Every year over 12 lakh students appear for the IIT-JEE for admission into the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. With a 3% selection rate, the exam is considered to be one of the toughest competitive exams in the world. A brain child of the first Prime Minister of India Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the IITs were seen as a nation building project. However, over the years, the institutes developed a brand identity of sorts- with its alumni making it big in the corporate world. The Indian-origin CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, is an IITian, so is billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. For middle class India, the IITs promised a secure and bright future. It was a sort of assured career insurance for one’s child. The harder it became to secure an admission, the shinier the alumni’s future.

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Image for Representation Purpose only. Source: The Hindustan Times

 

And feeding fodder to this dream of Indian parents are coaching institutes across the nation. The notorious of it all are the ones in Kota, Rajasthan. In fact, this small barren town in Rajasthan has now become synonymous with IIT coaching institutes. Many parents are of the opinion that a coaching institute in Kota would give their child a sure shot victory at the IIT-JEE.

But the streets of Kota speak another story too-of children succumbing to the pressure and ending their lives. The undue expectations from parents, often leads to lack of motivation, low self-confidence and morale. A point comes when children are unable to cope up and are left traumatized. For these children death seems to be more peaceful, than going through the daily rigmaroles of coaching institutes and parental pressure. Fragile lives snuffed out way too early!

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I casually asked her high school son if he had some idea on what he would like to pursue post class twelve. The young boy all of 16, replied that he was preparing for the IIT-JEE. “Ah!” I said, “An engineer in the making”. His mother was quick to retort back. “Well not any engineer, but an IITian. My husband is one and my son will follow the family tradition.”

I was aghast!!!

Don’t we all as parents dream of seeing our children do well in life? Well, there is surely nothing wrong in that. But things aren’t really all right, when we begin to force “our” dream on them. If giving them the right education and setting values straight is a necessity, it is equally important to allow your child to dream on his own- to build his aspirations.

And that’s what as parents we need to be doing. Encourage and nourish! Sow the seeds tenderly and watch the tree of life bear fruits accordingly,’ cause children are fragile lives.

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India’s Third Gender

India’s Third Gender

saw her walk across the road swaying her hips. She was dressed in a black sari that seemed to shimmer in the morning sun. As she approached my car, I pulled down my window and for a brief moment, my eyes met hers. And at that very moment, amidst the constant honking on the roads, her eyes spoke volumes…

On a busy working day, I sat in my vehicle waiting for the signal to turn green. It would be a long wait- the timing system at the signal indicated 90 seconds. I was on one of Delhi’s busiest roads near Tihar Jail, a mere 12 kilometers away from the seat of power-the Indian Parliament house, when I spotted her across the road. There were a group of them in fact. As the traffic came to a halt at the signal, they swarmed around vehicles, tapping on windows, clapping their hands to be heard.

A generous couple in a swanky car pushed a ten Rupee note out of the window and quickly rolled it up, ‘lest they make any contact with their kind. A few others, whose windows were rolled down, pulled it up all too soon, and turned their faces away as though they were lost in deeper thoughts. The ones who seemed to be the most harassed were those on two wheelers and auto rickshaws. It was difficult to brush them away, until you had parted with a currency note or two.

She tapped at my window, and I rolled it down when our eyes met. I found her pleasant to look at, despite the thick coating of face powder and the extra dark red lipstick she had on. A strong whiff of perfume caught my nose, and I briefly felt dizzy. I dug into my bag to pull out a Rupee ten note. As I handed it over to her, she placed her hands on my head, blessing me with happiness in abundance. It was a brief moment of joy- for me as well as for her.

“Why don’t you find yourself a job?” I asked her. “You are young and seem capable”.

Instantly she shot back, “Would you employ me? No one wants to give our kind a job”.

74244954_182985650Image for Representation Purpose Only. Source: BBC.com

I stared at her stunned. I had no answer. The signal turned to green and as I drove away, I saw her walk to the other side of the road to those of “her kind”.

The word “Transgender” is a sort of an umbrella term that encompasses anyone whose gender identity does not fully match their assigned birth sex. This broad category includes transsexuals and cross -dressers too. But for centuries in India, all these terms with its subtle distinctions, have been brought under one broad category- called “Hijra”. The community is often treated as criminals, subject to discrimination and sexual abuse. You would often find them in poverty- well, not often do people want to see them or have anything to do with them. This is what we all know of them, right?

But, what you don’t know is that historically the community has had a fairly decent dignity in mainstream society. If you look at the medieval ages, you have references where transgender have been queens. Go back a thousand odd years, and the great epics such as the Mahabharata have references to the community. There are mythological tales of how Gods would change their gender. The Vedas and Puraanas too speak of the third gender characters. They were considered to be a good luck charm. However, things slowly changed and, took its present day distorted form, during the British colonial period.

And almost a hundred years later, on April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India handed down a landmark ruling, recognizing them as the third gender of the country. This decision granted India’s transgender the right to self-identity.

Though a big step, there is still a long way to go in restoring the dignity of the “Third Gender”. They are still stigmatized by mainstream society and are often denied the basic fundamental rights- of education and employment. There is even a certain element of hesitance to rent a home out to the Third Gender as the tenant.

Until we begin to accept them as part of us, no law would give them the dignity they need the most. Till then, you would just spot them at your car window, as they clap their hands, demanding your attention. 

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She Was Born For The Blue Skies

She Was Born For The Blue Skies

They say- “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Our life can be amazing, and difficult to believe sometimes. A lot of things happen with or without any meaning, and like the butterfly effect- a chain of events happen!

Take the life of Shital Mahajan.

A chance meeting with her friend’s brother- an Air Force Officer, in the year 2002, led Shital to be introduced to skydiving. She decided to learn the basics from him then. So intrigued was she by the adventure in the sport, that she decided to go in for further training. However, at that time, a civilian could not be trained within the country and had to go abroad, if he desired to pursue his passion of skydiving.

In a society, where the percentage of girls into adventure sports is almost negligible, the biggest challenge Shital had to face was to remove the stereotypical thought about women from people’s minds. Her parents weren’t convinced. In a family where no one had travelled in an aircraft, you surely don’t jump off it! And beside girls can’t do such dares. This is what her family had to say.

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But with a strong determination, she convinced them, that her passion lay in sky diving and if she were to die it would solely be her responsibility. It did take her a considerably long time to get her parents to be on the same bandwagon as her, but eventually she did manage to convince them through.

There was no looking back after that. On 18th April 2004, she became the first woman in the world to execute a sky-dive from the North Pole from a height of 2400 feet, and that too without any prior training. Without any land to set her feet on, she landed on an ice slope in sub- zero temperature of minus 37 degrees. In 2006, Shital performed the sky fall from both South Pole and North Pole, yet again the first woman in the world to do so.

Today, Shital has many feathers on her cap. Five world records, fourteen National records and a Padmshri Award, at the age of 34, she has achieved great accolades.  Shital has to her credit over 650 jumps.

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And here’s something that’s far more interesting. In April 2008, Shital married software engineer Vaibhav Rane in a unique wedding that was conducted in a hot-air balloon near Pune, 600-feet above the ground.

Shital Mahajan is truly born for the blue skies. She has come a long way- from her intial days to being a world record holder now.

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*Featured image: Mid-day.com

 

Received a Lewd Message? Speak up & Report the Matter

Received a Lewd Message? Speak up & Report the Matter

The Delhi police arrested a young man, for tormenting around 1500 women with obscene calls and lewd messages. It was a sadistic pleasure that had apparently stemmed out of his frustration of being rejected by women in the past. He would dial random numbers and if the call was answered by a woman, the number would be saved to view their profile pictures on WhatsApp. What would then begin is a barrage of obscene messages and videos to their mobiles.

Some years back, when mobile phones had just become a part and parcel of our lives, I was a similar victim. There would be lewd messages that would pop on my Nokia 3310 mobile at odd hours. Numerous creepy messages in a single day sent from multiple mobile numbers, made it difficult for me to track the person. The harassment lasted for over a month, when I finally decided to not only change my mobile number, but also my handset. I am not sure why I decided to do this. Probably because I feared that he would get at me some way or the other.

Individuals with such sadistic pleasures seldom stop at a single message.

 

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Luckily, the ordeal ended there. But how I wish I had reported the matter at the first instance itself. To this date, I have no clue about who he was. I let him get away, despite the mental agony he had given me. When this happened to me in 2004, cyber laws weren’t in the form they are today. Besides, I not only lacked the awareness on how to report the matter, but was also of the opinion that getting at him legally would come with numerous hassles. How wrong I was!!

If I only I had reported, he would have been punished by a court of law for the mental agony I was subject to.

If only I had reported, he would not have had a chance to torment another person in a similar way.

If only I had reported…

Today there is a far more stringent Information Technology Act, under which it is a punishable offence to publish or transmit obscene material in any form. A person convicted of charges under this Act, could face up to five years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. If the same person is caught a second time, he faces 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2 lakh. The offences are categorized as cognizable crimes.

It is important for women to speak up whenever an offensive content is received. Lewd messages received through any means should not be ignored and must be brought to notice of the cyber-crime cell at the earliest. Individuals with such sadistic pleasures seldom stop at a single message. They are bound to harass you, until you take matters into your hands. Most women are hesitant to talk about it and prefer to suffer in silence, for fear of any sort of social stigma or the hassles of doing the rounds of the police station. Today, there are dedicated helplines in every city for addressing such issues and the victim’s identity is held intact. The legal procedures are not as complex as one thinks it to be.

Electronic means of communication has definitely been a boon in many a ways. Along with its comfort, also comes a great deal of caution that one must exercise. Remember to:

  • Maintain active privacy settings of your profile in the virtual world.
  • Give limited accesses to your personal data to people you don’t know.
  • Avoid giving your device to others.
  • And keep your devices locked when not in use.

 

*Featured Image Source: New India Express

Stumble It!

Yippee for the Yatra!! #AtoZChallenge

Yippee for the Yatra!! #AtoZChallenge

yYippee!! I just won a “ticket”- not a lottery or a lucky dip, but a rail ticket!

The best way to get to places in India is through our very own Indian Railways. Train journeys well become the reason to travel many a times, especially when you have small children, who enjoy climbing up and down the narrow blue berth. The Indian railways is the third largest passenger rail network in the world, comprising 115,000 km of track over a route of 65,808 km  and a whopping 7,112 stations.  

YET, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT TO GET A RESERVED TICKET ON ANY TRAIN IN THE COUNTRY?

..Unless you plan your journey four months in advance.

indian-trains

With an approaching long weekend, I decided to travel to Amritsar with family and friends.  Amritsar located around 450 odd kilometers from Delhi is a perfect weekend getaway with the Golden Temple and the close by Wagah Border being the main attractions. And the quickest and most comfortable way is to take the overnight train that would cover the distance in 6 odd hours.

There are around 10 trains from Delhi to Amritsar, yet on none of the trains I could get a confirmed ticket. Booking of railway tickets open 120 days before the departure date. Seats fill up pretty quickly, leaving last minute journey planners, such as me, with waitlisted tickets.

Sometimes these waitlist numbers could well run into hundreds. Which means the chances of getting a confirmed ticket is possible only if all hundred people before you cancel their tickets!!The frustration is real and your whole journey depends on these waitlisted numbers.

And then comes the savior, the knight in shining armor – Tatkal reservation. If you thought this was an easier option to get a ticket, you sure are making a mistake. Tatkal (or instant reservation) opens 24 hours before the day the train leaves its origin destination. The bookings for these tickets open at 10.00 AM on the previous day. You would need a fast internet connection and enter the entire set of passenger details to get a confirmed ticket. Hold on… all to be done in less than 5 minutes!

The situation at railway counters is far worse. Commuters are forced to sleep at railway stations overnight to have a chance to buy a ticket. There are frequent altercations between commuters and touts and a lot of pushing and shoving in the queues.
It’s like a lottery. Tickets are sold out in minutes.

Travelling by train always holds this element of uncertainty- of whether one is going to travel or not. And if you do have a confirmed ticket in hand, u better undertake your journey, because you never know when you would get your next confirmed ticket!

And yes I did manage to get a confirmed ticket to Amritsar. After nail biting seconds in front of my laptop, I successfully booked my tickets through the Tatkal reservation.