Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Yeh Dosti...

Hargobind and I have a very special relationship with our cousins – they are not only our family (where we have no choice), but our friends (where we do). When we were younger our circles were different – during our school holidays we would all head to our grandparents home in Ulu Yam, where the boys rolled about in the mud and severed the heads of their action figures, while the girls sat beautifully in their dresses and held intelligent conversation (oh alright, that’s a mild exaggeration :p). However as the years are going by the boundaries are crumbling and our two sides have pretty much merged :).
all of us in the cable car
back L-R: Manmeet, Tarsem, Hargobind and Manpreet
front L-R: Sharan and me


The last few years have been hectic with all of us finishing school and pursuing higher education all over the place… so we treasure our moments together all the more. Usually we end up bumming either in Ulu Yam or in one of our homes, but his time we decided to give our poor parents and grandparents a break and head elsewhere. We finally settled on Langkawi – it’s a beautiful island off the northwest coast of Malaysia and Hargobind is in flying school there so he knows his way around.

We timed it for when our 2 Penangite cousins would be in town: there is the soon-to-be-dentist Manmeet (Manipal), and the following-the-family-steps accounting student Trishvin (Auckland). Trishvin ditched Langkawi for a road trip around South Island (to be honest any of us would have done the same!) and so we missed her this time round – but there was still more than enough noise with the rest of the crew.

The theme song of our trip was Yeh Dosti (from the movie Sholay – it is a cute and cheesy song about everlasting friendship and never breaking apart), which we randomly started singing in the car one day and then couldn’t stop. It just seemed appropriate somehow :)

Here are some pictures from that weekend.

randomness by the beach

our car was too small for us so we had a strict, fixed seating plan without which the doors wouldn't shut! Manmeet calls it the BPS: Bum Positioning System :p

an unexpected bout of twee-ness: with my brother Hargobind

Manmeet and Manpreet terrorising the hermit crabs

Tarsem and Hargobind on the top of the world :)

pretty pretty, eh?

a sisterly moment with Sharan and Manmeet on the hammock-that-hit-the-ground

lounging in our gorgeous bungalow by the beach

at the cable car viewing platform, filming the sequel to Don

Shah Rukh Khan: Manpreet Kaur, badmash: Tarsem Singh, bimbo girlfriend: Manmeet Kaur, oblivious indian bystander: Hargobind Singh

we had gone up just before sunset, it had been a rainy evening and the sun was slowly breaking through the clouds as we were about to leave

the girls on the wave-breaker

As it turned out, the weekend that we chose happened to be the one just before my birthday, and the cheeky lot planned a little surprise dinner and cake to celebrate. What they did not plan, however, was being serenaded by the owner (Dasch) with a guitar until the wee hours of the morning while singing along to Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, old Hindi sings, random hotchpotch, and of course, many repeats of ‘Yeh Dosti’!

Thanks guys, it was a great way to celebrate my birthday and I really had a fantabulous evening :)

On the wall of our Ulu Yam house hangs an old pictureframe with a faded saying: The family that prays together, stays together. In Ulu Yam, it is practically a law for us to do our Japji first thing in the morning, and in the evening the entire family sits in a circle for Rehraas. Thats the way we've all been brought up by our Nanaji, and whenever we are together (even if its not at Ulu Yam), the training is so ingrained in us that we keep to that tradition.

And so here we are, doing our Nitnem by the beach. (Manpreet has her arm around 'Manmeet' while I'm holding up the letter 'M' to show that she was there :)

It is my theory that the force that keeps us together is all that fresh milk Naniji forces down our throats in Ulu Yam :)

The one picture I wish I had is of our last few moments in Langkawi, where we were all standing on the jetty, panting for breath, waiting for the ferry to turn back because we were late and it had left without us! We had a sound telling-off from the lady on duty, which we endured with sheepish looks and many 'sorrys' :)

Sharan, Manmeet, Tarsem, Hargobind, Manpreet: I had a great time, here's to all that Ulu Yam Da Duddh and the family that stays together :)

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The End of Harry Potter? I think not.

Warning: If you are an ardent Harry Potter fan and have not yet finished Deathly Hallows (although any fan worth his/her salt should have by now!), I advice you to stop reading, for I shall not bear responsibility in the event that you prematurely discover how it all ends and feel like strangling me for leaking it to you.

Now that we have that out of the way… :)
Anyone who calls them kiddie books will abruptly find themselves facing a force to be reckoned with – I take Hogwarts very seriously and spent many a day hoping that I too would receive an owl with a letter welcoming me to the world of witches and wizards, goblins and house-elves, hippogriffs and thestrals, pensieves and snitches, gillyweed and blast-ended skrewts, Veela and Dementors, horcruxes and hallows (yes I know what you are all thinking: this time she has definitely gone mental! :p).
I first met Harry when I was 16, in our Physics lab at school, where Surabhi introduced us. At that time Harry was still a nobody; it was just The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, but I fell in love with the books instantly. Before long my beloved Prisoner of Azkaban came along and by then we became inseparable – I read and reread them, waiting exasperatedly for The Goblet of Fire, from where began the touches of dark magic, and then the shadow of evil cast over Harry’s world.
And then she made us wait for while, that J.K. Rowling did. When The Order of the Phoenix was finally released, Hargobind and I were amongst the other crazy loons standing outside Suria KLCC at 4 in the morning, waiting for the doors to open at 6 and then run up the stairs to the 5th floor and wait for Kinokuniya to let us in at 8. I have not had the courage to read that whole book more than once – I’ve made it almost to the end countless times and then I have to stop – I can only watch Sirius die once and even that was one time too many.
For The Half Blood Prince I spent the eve of my beautiful breezy summer birthday standing outside a bookstore in London with Surabhi, waiting for the store to open at midnight. I didn’t sleep that night as I had to finish it, and when it ended I was in shock. Dumbledore was no more, but Sirius’s death had crushed me so hard that this felt like a shielded blow. It also gave me another reason to hate Snape – he was vile, vile and I loathed reading his name. And so I spent my 22rd birthday only ¾ awake and in a sad mixture of joy and pain (yet I would not want it to be any different).
And now the last one, Deathly Hallows. I was so excited that my arm was trembling as I reached out to pick it up at the bookstore, and I ran pretty much all the way home (except for the time I was in the LRT :p) to start reading it.
And I loved it. A little slow to pick up, but I thought the plot was clever and I loved the way it unraveled very slowly. Rowling answered all the questions I’ve had on my list since I read the first book, and I am content.
I was devastated when Dobby died – he was too pure for this world. But the hardest truth to swallow was the Story of Severus Snape; I feel so much remorse – I had always thought the worst of him and he turned out to be the one that probably had the greatest capacity to love. I don’t think I can ever forgive him for driving Sirius to his death, but now I will think of him in better light - to me he is the real hero.
To some, the last book may mark the end of the world of Harry Potter, but to me (and undoubtedly to countless others), the child in me will still sit by my windowsill, looking out into the darkness of the night for a half-giant on a flying motorbike, waiting for him to whisk me away to a world filled with wonder.
Harry Potter truly is, The Boy Who Lived.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Rock on, Tony!

I know I should be an ardent supporter of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) since Pitaji works for them, Hargobind will soon follow suit, and I must grudgingly admit that the airline did dutifully carry me back and forth while I was studying; but for the moment, I’m switching sides to Air Asia (our low cost carrier).
The reason for this sudden change of affection? I read in the news yesterday that Air Asia will start flying to Amritsar starting early next year!
Darbar Sahib on Divali
Last year MAS abandoned me (no more family benefits) when apparently I turned too old (how insulting - age is but a number I’m told :p) so I can’t milk them for any more cheap flights now.
I was thrilled to find that Tony’s timing was just right – after my life-changing experience there last year, I had worried that the City of Nectar and I would have to separate for a while until I could go there again. But since ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’, I think I won’t have to wait that long before I touch that blessed marble yet again :)

My telebubbly Gurudarshan and me just before marble seva

So there MAS. I scoff at your flat beds and cosy blankets. I renounce your movie collection and jukebox selection. I relinquish the elegant green kebayas and bowls of luxurious chocolate.
I will still be going places. And I will be going there cheap!
(But I won’t say no if MAS does offer me a chance to absolve. My will is not strong enough to resist that divine chocolate! :p)

Monday, 16 July 2007

Kampung Pandan Mini Samelan

Over the last weekend of June, Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) organised a mini samelan in Kampung Pandan. Some friends are I were recruited to get our hands dirty and run the samelan - and we had an awesome time! Most of my friends have been busy in other samelans over the year, however for me this was the first time I was approaching a samelan from an organiser's point. My life-long experience at samelans as a participant was good training for what to expect, therefore it was mostly fun and very little work :)
Here are some pictures from our weekend...

Uncle Malkith, our Jathedar, overseeing registration


The first IPS by Gurmukh Veerji. I missed the first half of the session as we were at a meeting; when we rejoined the sangat they were singing Raam Japo Ji and Veerji told them the story of Prahlaad.

Team briefing (clockwise): Manpreet, Gurreet, Tarsem, Salprith, Sukhsharan, me, Sukhvin, Saranjit, Sukhvin, Rashvinder, Gelinder

One of the activities we organised was the Banaa Runway competition - we provided newspapers, bits of coloured paper, ribbons and some other itsy bitsies for the teams to design their own Banaas and parade them.

Some of our younger participants being possesive over their name tags :)

Hard at work Jeshvind was one of the most adorable kids there - he stole all our hearts and all the girls still go 'awwwwwwwwww' whenever we think of him!

The four contestants

I love you Guru Nanak, I love you so truly

I love you Guru Nanak, you're magical to me...

A shot at langgar seva

We ran out of langgar the first night, so while we were with the kids, Gurleen taught Sukhjit how to make rotis - we gave him a lot of hell but they turned out pretty well!

At Nishaan Sahib Selami in the morning

My first IPS - we were assigned to carry out one darbar session with the kids. I was pretty nervous - how on earth do people keep children's attention in the darbar? But I need not have worried - Manpreet is good with kids and has done this before, Sukhjit is spot on with the tabla, our back up was strong and the kids were angels. I think we all enjoyed ourselves!

Bani Puzzle - the kids rearranged various lines from Gurbani (we chose verses they would be familiar with from their nitnem) and discussed their meaning.

Saranjit created a following - don't go Veerji, don't go!

The kids were well worth it :)

Thank you to the sangat of Kampung Pandan for giving us the chance to do this... and to Gurreet, Gurleen, Rupinder and your family - thank god you were there to coordinate everything - we couldn't have done it without you.

Bring on the next samelan - We're ready!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

07.07.05 – The Day I Walked With London

This 7th of July was the second anniversary of the London Bombings.
(photo from www.bbc.co.uk)
I leafed through our newspaper in search of some article, some little picture of someone laying a wreath in memory of those who died, and I found nothing. The world (to be fair, the world as reported in the Malaysian news) was too busy with Live Earth and the Seven Wonders of the World to recall the 52 lost lives of 7 July 2005.
I am usually quire realistic about news coverage – the media has a short-term memory where events fade into the distance and people forget all too quickly. The world has become such a place that there never is a lack of terrorist acts, calamities, and catastrophes to report on. After all the London Bombings are not new news, and I’ve painfully heard many people say that the death toll was hardly anything major.
But since I was there when all of it happened, my relationship with that day is a little different.
I have my own little ritual for remembering that day: I prepared a simple altar with pictures, candles, an aroma jar and a repeating Jaap track playing in the background. I meditated on the day, two years ago, when together with the 7 million or so Londoners, the event had unfolded before me.
I had left home looking forward to the day; it was my first day on my summer internship, Surabhi was coming back into London with her mum, Laavanya and I were hoping to catch some Shakespeare in the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park that evening. It was summertime and London was infected with the sun and picnics and boat rides and sales and tourists and everyone smiled.
All that changed in the space of a few hours; suddenly I was a part of all the confusion and uncertainty and frantic calls to people I knew. News came in fragments, first it was a tube bomb and then a bus or was it both and then there were three no four bombs and the death count kept changing 35 no 42 no 60 wait 52 depending on who you asked. Russell Square was close to uni, Edgware Road close to home, I knew these places inside out and now there were bodies. My home was under attack and I felt angry, confused, doubtful, insecure, afraid and helpless.
The one memory that will be forever carved in my mind is of The Journey Home, in the evening, when people left the workplace for their homes. The tubes were out, busses were being checked thoroughly so only some ran on a restricted service, cabs were scarce and not many people drive in Central London.

(photo from www.bbc.co.uk)

And so London walked. There were hundreds of people on the streets, heading one way or the other. I knew it would take me a while to get home, and so I chose the scenic route. You may think it inappropriate considering the events of the day, but that was precisely why I was reaching out to every bit of beauty I could so as to not lose faith that people are good, this world is good.

(photo from www.royalparks.gov.uk)

I walked along the Thames where birds flew above and there was an endless queue of people waiting for the ferry, up to Trafalgar Square where laughing children took pictures with the fountains, through St James’ Park where old women fed squirrels and tourists pressed their faces to the bars to get a better look at Buckingham Palace, in Green Park where the canopy of trees shaded little boys in games of catch and people lazing in picnic chairs, across Hyde Park where teenagers rollerbladed and dogs ran free, down Queensway where the wind blew and people piled into restaurants, and finally reached home where everyone was huddled in the living room, hoping for BBC news to tell us what was happening and what to do. And later, in the silence of our rooms, we cried.

That walk home was momentous – I fell in love with London again that day. I became protective and defensive for it, I kept thinking how dare they, how dare they do this to my beautiful and happy London.

The harsh truth is that I don’t think the bombings came as that much of a surprise. After 9/11, at some level I believe most Londoners knew that it was only a matter of time before the disease would spread here.

What I will always cherish is London’s response. In the days and weeks that followed, London just moved on. It seemed to me that people were eager to get on with things. Don’t misunderstand me; we were not forgetting, oh no. London did not want to forget, and it was impossible to forget with the daily reminders in the form of pictures of victims and their families, the tubes being paralysed for some time, frequent checks on busses by the Metropolitan Police (more to reassure than anything else, I think). London will not forget the terrible four and how they shook our corner of the earth with those bombs.

No, London was not trying to forget. Rather it was standing up, saying watch. Watch us move on. We will not wallow here in loss and despair and let our world crumble around us, because that will be your victory. Do your worst, but no matter what you try, we will rise. Our response to you is our strength to remember and to keep on walking.
That day I walked (both physically and figuratively) with London, that day we stood together and wept for the lost lives. That is what the 7th of July means to me – and I will never forget.