Monday, 20 March 2017

Indian Passport Saga

In September 2017 my passport dies.And the rule is 6 months prior to death of one's passport, one cannot travel abroad. So in the beginning of March, I decided to dive in head long into this renewal process.I was prepared to run around from one govt desk to another, answer a million unnecessary questions, crib about India's red tape, be next in line before lunchtime and blame everything on the process. Nothing happened!

I applied and 5 days later I got my passport. I would never have thought to write about this,but while I was researching what documents I would need, I found some answers on blogs that people like me (victorious Indians who came out sane) that really helped. So heres what I learnt from my experience.

Do's and Donts

  1. Take a good week to sort out all your documents. Its better to carry more documents. In my case, I had the same address as my last passport but I wanted to add my spouse name. When i checked on 'Document Advisor ' on the website it asked me to address proof,old passport and aadhar card. I carried that and marriage certificate, my degree certificate, pancard, bank passbook, birth certificate and utilities bill. In my application a lot of these extra documents I carried were taken. 
  2. Be patient while filling the online form. If the document hangs then try again using another internet browser. I had to fill the form thrice on google chrome it always had some snag. Firefox worked in one shot.
  3. On your appointment date at PSK, carry a few blank paper sheets just in case they could ask you to write a declaration form/letter.
  4. You do not need to carry photographs for PSK appointment. Infants/minors need passport photos. (up until march 17)
  5. Avoid carrying your documents in files. Carrying them in folders worked best for me. Its easy to produce when asked for.
  6. Given a choice, go for morning appointments.
  7. Signing up for sms updates makes the whole process stress free. I'd definitely recommend it.
  8. On PSK day, carry signed photocopies of all your documents as well as all the originals.
  9. Atleast until march 2017, uploading supporting documents on the psk website was a futile exercise. All of your original documents are scanned by them.
  10. The process is divide in 3 parts. A is where officer will scan documents, take your photo, biometrics. Then you will be called to B section, where you have a passport officer verify your documents, and thereafter at counter C is where they will accept of your application. 
  11. All questions / queries about your documents will be raised in B counter.So this could take a while. 
  12. After finishing A,B,C, you got to collect your application receipt from the exit counter.
  13. This process could take 2-3 hours. 
  14. You do not need an agent. The website explains the procedure.
  15. In my case, I wanted to add my spouse name at the same time retain my Maiden name. At counter C, I was told that there will be police verification. The next day, an officer visited my home, the day after that i went to the police station to sign and got my passport via speed post the in the following two days. 
  16. I applied for Normal passport renewal. I received my passport in 5 days.
Passport renewal process has become simple, its straight forward and quick. I am impressed. What used to take months, now is done within a week. 

Goodluck!


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Give em a box of tissues

When you see a man crying, more often than not it is considered weakness. Women comfortably shed tears at anyplace anytime. Men, however , have difficulty in opening their tear ducts. Researchers say that its because of the society regarding emotional stoicism and physical toughness as stereotypically male qualities. Parents often view their sons' and daughters' emotions differently. The fear of creating a 'mama's boy' is one that is deeply engrained in our culture. We hardly saw our grandfathers, father shed tears. Men suffer in silence because they are told 'men dont cry'. Recently , a hotel in Tokyo introduced special 'crying rooms' with tissues, eye - masks and tear jerking films for guests who want to cry heartily in the comfort of a private room. The good part of this news, which may seem bizarre to most of us, is that finally a traditional culture like Japan has accepted that men need to cry. The sad part of this news is that they still consider it to be done in private. 

The motto for the longest time has been 'boys dont cry', but that needs to change. Crying helps rebalance the body's chemistry - a way of helping mind and body return to equanimity after any sort of stress. Men need to cry.

Here's a video that speaks volumes.




Monday, 22 June 2015

The irony


I find it odd that some non-vegetarians are opposing Yulin dog meat eating fest. Think about it, for animals that are your pets , you feel their pain. Somehow while gorging on a plate of tandoori chicken one doesn't think of that pain and suffering. 
Research says that plant based diet is a way to avoid /prevent a lot of diseases. But keeping the health reasons for vegetarianism aside and thinking purely on moral terms this doesn't make sense. For centuries now Muslims have been conducting animal sacrifice on Eid day. Americans celebrate thanks-giving with stuffing a large bird. And many many animals get sacrificed to celebrate festivities across the globe.  A friend thinks that i have been brainwashed after watching some PETA videos. A mention of these videos often make meat lovers cringe, they even resort to saying, thats extremism. I disagree. Its being in denial. Animals that grown, bred solely for human consumption in inhumane conditions to become a plate juicy fillet mignon, honey glazed duck, fois gras, chicken curry etc is acceptable. Is it just because you dont have them at your homes as pets that one doesnt feel its unfair ? Some accuse PETA for not being right. I honestly dont care. Animals regardless die. They are grown like inanimate objects, injected with god knows what chemicals to become fat and juicy.  The irony of an animal lover being a proud meat eater.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Bow down


Its the Holy month of Ramadan coming up soon. Its time when Muslims all around the world fast for over 12 hours for their God. It is a time for devotion towards the supreme reality, Allah, and unconditional surrender of our ego and attachments including attachment with food & water through our prayers. Fasting seems to have been reinvented as the ancients saw it – a way of giving the body a rest, cleansing both physically and spiritually, and a way of sharpening our collective sense of self-restraint.

Roza is not limited to fasting , its about overcoming temptation, I think its extremely important to remember that during iftaar. I have seen people going berserk with food in the evening, this in my opinion is against the very grain of the practice.  Since food is the most crucial and intimate part of our being, the way we consume food reflects our relationship with our innermost being. Iftaar is not some wild party where you eat dates, fruits, chicken, mutton, pherni, kheer, bhajiya  and god knows what to numb your hunger. It’s a time to nurture your appetite with devotion and sharing and so the common plate and prayers around it.

Ramzan Mubarak !

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Escape to the Ganges



Aap toh bahut alag tourist hain !" I was told when i asked to meet the Aghoris,  translates to "you are not the average tourist i meet every day ." Sounds like a compliment but it wasnt.  It was more of  stop being a pain in the ass ,tourist kinda response. "woh kahan dikhenge ? " [where can i see them ?] He looked at me as though i asked him to donate his kidney.  He asked me for reassurance . "kaun  ? Aghorri ? " Our conversation ended there , when two ladies of the group wanted help looking for a loo.


Yes, I was travelling in a group of 28, more like a tour leader. I usually dont travel with our travel groups but this one was special. All these people were a part of Travel Program in Turkey. So we were filming all across north India. Our last stop was Varanasi also known Benaras. It was my first visit to this vibrant city and I was very excited about it.  This was the only place i could see an aghori.


The word aghori in Sanskrit means non terrifying, ‘a’-‘ghori’ most of the Hindi speaking people would have heard the phrase ghor kaliyug, ghor paap, etc.. it is the same ghor, theoretically these people don’t attach themselves to anything mortal. They do things which a common man finds to be terrifying, so they overcome this terror by going through it, since they do it regularly it is a common thing for them. The Aghori are known to engage in post-mortem rituals. They often dwell in charnel grounds, have been witnessed smearing cremation ashes on their bodies, and have been known to use bones from human corpses for crafting skull bowls (which Shiva and other Hindu deities are often iconically depicted holding or using) and jewelry. Due to their practices that are contradictory to orthodox Hinduism, they are generally opposed. It is also said that many Aghori gurus command great reverence from rural populations as they are supposed to possess healing powers gained through their intensely eremitic rites and practices of renunciation and tápasya. They are also known to meditate and perform worship in haunted houses.  I first learnt about them when a friend mentioned about a national award winning movie and ever since have been fascinated by them.

Mahavir , our local guide told me that they come out of their " dens" post midnight. When my eyes sparkled to that information , my guide looked at me with concern. I knew Mahavir wasnt going to help.  So i asked him, "Chalo theek hai, old salvation house toh dikha do".  


The hostel, a short walk from the Ganges, is a final stop over for elderly Hindus hoping they will shortly end up on one of the hundreds of funeral pyres lit on the riverbank each day.  I see 12 bare, tatty rooms arranged around a courtyard in a 100-year-old red-brick building with green shutters. The atmosphere is far from sombre. While the rest of the world celebrates a new life when a child is born, similarly these guys celebrate death. Its like being on the waiting list to die. Believe it or not, the one stays alive for long is asked to vacate to make space for other ailing ones. This waiting list (to die) has a waiting list.
Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi and having their remains scattered in the Ganges allows their soul to escape a cycle of death and rebirth, attaining "moksha" or salvation.


Soul searching
For me Benaras is all about the faith , the sadhus, the smiles on peoples, the tear that rolls down while praying, the conviction of God which are exclusive to the city. It is weird , intriguing , fascinating and all at the same time. Its a place where Brahmins and Aghoris live in harmony. There is no rule book.
I enjoyed watching the sunrise while on a boat , the ganga aarti , and all the temple visits a lil less than searching for sadhus and old homes. I enjoyed walking through narrow gullys , drinking tea in clay pots , feeding cows on the way, the flower man weaving garlands, chatting with the cycle rickshaw guy, I can go on and on.  Every nook and corner by the river banks has a story. The vivid smell of jalebis , havans, puri bhaji, brewing masala chai, paan masala, weed ,  incense sticks , jasmine flower garlands, ash, sandalwood and even cowdung is all part of the character of this city.


Make a wish
Millions of people come to this city for worship. They are of different caste, creed  and regions. What I saw in peoples eyes is faith. Everything they do is for God Almighty. Some praying for success in business, some for a good spouse  some for an offspring and some for death. 
Its a city of wishes everyone must experience. 

P.S: On the last evening of my trip, as i was walking back to the river bank from a boat ride i spotted 4 aghori sadhus, sitting under a bridge in a dingy corner. I asked a teenage boy , woh aghori hai ? The horror on his face made me break into a smile..  

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Made in China

Theres one too many lessons that life teaches us. In the past 6 months , a lot has changed. I have changed and circumstances have changed. I have at-least 20 unfinished blog entries rotting in my drafts. Have I been so busy not to accomplish my entries ? The answer is NO. Have i been lazy ? thats a No too. I lost the motivation to round off a thought. I have experienced far more life's lessons in these 6 months than ever before and most of which are here to stay. Its only stupid not to jot them down and become a puppet of time. Instead make time your puppet and lead. 

The Chinese have given not just the gift of dumplings and mouth watering dimsums, but also a great concept of mindset that is known as mu- shin. Its a paradox that means as simple as "Look at everything, see nothing".  Or to put it another way, absorb the world in all its messy details, but keep your mind free, uncluttered.  This acute mental clarity created by mu-shin is a pre requisite for flawless execution in short - victory. Masters of Karate spend decades achieving this mind set. But even with years of practice, mu-shin is unspeakably heard to achieve. Look at everything , see nothing ? Just try it.

In our everyday life  we do have to take in a lot of shit. If you are an executive, you do this everyday. You look at everything , you have to : the little hurdles of your employes, change in trend, erratic movement of the stock market ,the unexpected changes in key peoples behavior, the aggressive gambit of your competitors.  To be blind as it were to the distractions of hundreds of little questions so that one or two big answers become blindingly clear. In that moment of simultaneous dark and light , competitive victories are indeed won.