Islamophobia

Islamophobia: a term liberals like myself grew up tip-toeing around, carefully choosing our words while talking about Islam lest we slip into the territory of ‘Islamophobia’. So what is Islamophobia? Wikipedia describes it as ‘fear of, hatred of or prejudice against the religion of Islam or muslims in general…’ Does this mean that nobody can ever, criticize Islam? Does not agreeing with the idea that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ amount to Islamophobia?

One of the downsides of free speech is that you might have to hear things that you don’t agree with, or even things that offend you. You have the right to put forth your own point of view, but you can’t demand that the other person shut up. As long as someone is not promoting hate speech (All muslims are terrorists and deserve to be thrown out!) and promoting violence (We need to unite against outsiders and erase them from the map of this country!) – you really cannot do much. If someone goes on a platform and talks about how Harry Potter is their god and they would like a day to celebrate the death of Voldermort, no matter how outlandish it may sound to you, you can’t do anything about it. Similarly, if someone goes on a platform and says that they don’t agree with Islam and think it promotes bad ideas, you cannot go on a rampage, call for this person’s arrest and term it ‘Islamophobia’. If, in the eyes of Islam, free speech is allowed to the extent of praising the doctrine and singing praises about it’s teachings, then perhaps its best not to call it free speech in the first place.

In October 2020, a teacher was beheaded by a radical muslim for showing cartoons (published by Charlie Hebdo) of Prophet Muhammad in class, talking about freedom of speech. Thousands of muslims across the world joined protests against French President Macron’s decision to protect the rights of a magazine to publish these cartoons. Note that it was not the beheading of a teacher that they found blasphemous, but the cartoons of an alleged Prophet. France is known for it’s secular fabric and discouragement of any religious expression in public. Freedom of speech is considered sacrosanct and nothing is above it. So the question is – why should islam get a special right to be excluded from this fabric? Why should, as Christopher Hitchens put it, muslims be allowed a divine right to bigotry? Why shouldn’t Islam be criticized, questioned and even mocked like anything else? What makes it ‘special’? The cartoons offended you. Well, too bad. Deal with it.

It’s ironic that muslims in democratic countries rally behind the idea of expression of religion, when their own doctrine does not permit leaving and/or adoption of another religion, or dropping of religion entirely. When questioned about laws regarding apostasy, they’re quick to claim – ‘it’s not the faith, it’s the culture!’. Well, no. It IS the faith as the quran explicitly talks of killing people who leave islam. 12 countries have death penalty for apostasy by law. Others, including Pakistan, have the death penalty for blasphemy. Ex-muslims across the world (even in western countries) fear for their lives when they leave their faith. Some are even killed brutally by their own families. Some go into hiding. Richard Dawkins very famously asked ‘What is the punishment for apostasy?’ to a Islamic representative during a debate, which he tried to dodge and avoid for a very long time before admitting that it is the death penalty. The fact that some muslims are able to talk about ideas like ‘expression of religious freedom’, ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘freedom of clothing’ is precisely because they live in democratic countries where the state is separate from religion. In most islamic countries, ‘choice’ is an alien concept that is often termed as ‘western immorality’. I can go on about the various other barbaric and regressive ideas promoted both in the Quran and the Hadith but I just might have to write a book for it.

On January 7, 2015, two french muslim brothers killed 12 members of staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine for publishing cartoons on Prophet Muhammad. The magazine had been threatened before for it’s satirical portrayals of Islam, but it refused to back down. On January 11, 2015, Journalist Rana Ayyub published an opinion that said ‘French have my condolences, not my apology’, where not once did she mention the importance of upholding ideals of free speech and the right to dissent, something she so truly believes in herself. All she talked about was her frustration at being asked to apologize on behalf of the terrorists who did this, along with the famous ‘they’re not true muslims’ argument. First of all, it’s not necessary for you to apologize on behalf of anyone. What IS necessary, however, is that you (and others like you) stop dissociating extremist elements from Islam entirely, thereby halting any possibility of any discussion about the teachings of the faith completely. It’s quite easy (and rather cowardly) to run away from facing any criticism of the faith by claiming – ‘that’s not islam!’ – well, then WHAT is islam? An overwhelming majority of muslims across the world want sharia as the official law of the land (pew research center) – are they true muslims? Majority of the muslims believe that apostasy is wrong (to say the least) – are they true muslims? Muslim countries (and even non-muslim countries) saw riots against Charlie Hebdo – are they true muslims? Or are you the only ‘true’ muslim who understands the teachings of the faith? Read: No true scotsman fallacy.

For any other religion, or even atheism, an article such as this one would be considered abhorrent. For it to surface days after this ghastly attack and the author to take a defensive stance is downright inhumane. But, as we have established earlier, Islam has procured for itself a special right to be immune from any form of criticism or questioning. If it gets too much, people end an argument with ‘My faith is private and I do not need to explain to anybody’. In that case, perhaps it would be a better idea to not reveal your religious identity in the public domain at all. You cannot claim to be a ‘proud muslim’ and then shut yourself off of any questions. If I publish an article saying ‘I’m a proud Harry Potter fan, but it’s personal so please don’t talk to me about it’ is ridiculous to say the least. What is truly private remains private. End of story.

Ultimately, this systematic propaganda to whitewash islam is damaging sections of society such as women and LGBTQ massively in Islamic countries. They have no avenues or platforms from where they can seek help. Very few of them manage to escape and seek refuge in other countries. Their voices are lost amidst the ‘proud muslims’ debating their right to ‘wear a burqa’ when most of the women and girls in islamic countries don’t even get a say in it. What we should be focusing on is the human rights abuse that happens in the name of Islam, rather than slapping it’s critics with ‘Islamophobia’.

Hair tie

CHAPTER 1

She was walking down the hallway, lost in her own thoughts, when she bumped into someone and staggered backwards. Slightly annoyed, she looked up to see the guy smiling at her mesmerizingly. He had unkempt, longish hair and a stubble. He was wearing jeans and a short kurta. He was charming without making any effort. In about 5 seconds, she knew he was the guy she wanted to daydream about, he was the guy that would eventually fall for her. 

“Sorry..”, he muttered in his deep voice before walking away. She kept looking at him. A soft breeze started blowing and strands of her hair fell on her face. She blushed as she swept them away gingerly. At that moment, she felt beautiful. At that moment, all eyes were on her as though they had never seen such a sight before. She smiled and started to walk, unsure of where her footsteps would take her. What had just happened? Was she in love, or was she just enjoying the feeling of being noticed?

She was sure it was love. Even though she didn’t know what it was. It could be a thousand different things. Was it a feeling? Was it a physical sensation? Was it a decision? Was it an accident? Was it an attraction? Was it sex? Or was it a film plot that is designed to have a happily ever after? She didn’t have answers. She didn’t even have a reference point. Maybe her parents had loved each other at some point, but their love never looked like love. It looked like an appliance that did it’s job. Maybe her peers who were in relationships felt love. But their love didn’t look like love either. It looked like an entertainment subscription that helped them kill their boredom. Despite her confusion, she knew one thing – her love would be different. It would be real, strong and eternal.

“How many times have I told you to roll out the paratha from both sides, or else it doesn’t inflate?!”, a strong voice cut through the thick fear and anxiety in the house. It rang through everyone’s ears before making the atmosphere even thicker. “God knows how you people end up getting jobs in cities like Delhi. You all are good for nothing! I can’t even expect a good breakfast after waking up!”

Sanchi heard her mother screaming at the househelp in her room. She lay under the blanket at 11am in the morning, feeling angry and helpless at the same time. She slid under her blanket even more and tried to drift back into her slumber, where she could dream about the charming guy falling in love with her. That was the reality she wanted, but this was the reality she had to live. Something never felt right in this house. That something constantly poked at her, prodding her to accept something she didn’t want to. Sleep wasn’t her best friend, but it offered an easy escape. 

“This tea is cold and you have put too much ginger in it. I cannot drink this. Throw this away and bring me a fresh cup of tea!”, her mother continued to yell. Realizing that she couldn’t push it away any more, Sanchi slowly got up and slid her legs down her bed. She felt a strong urge to go and comfort her mother; she was clearly distressed and upset. Her hands were cold and her heartbeat was fast, but she had mastered this routine and knew how to power through it. With a deep breath, she tied her hair and walked out of the room. As she walked towards her mother, who was sitting down on a rug with her books and tea tray in front of her, she fake rubbed her eyes and pretended to have just got up from a lovely shut-eye. 

“Hi mumma, what happened? Why are you so upset?”, said Sanchi as she hugged her mother, Aarti.

“Hi beta…nothing, the usual. These people just don’t want to work. They want easy money. They’re all losers. Now tell me, how can we live among losers? How can winners thrive amidst losers?”, grumbled Aarti.

Sanchi looked down and nodded, “Hmm…when did you wake up?”

“Just an hour ago. I couldn’t sleep properly. The phone kept ringing and these guys kept bothering me each time there was someone at the door”, Aarti paused as she took a sip of her tea, “Arey Seema! Make another paratha, Sanchi is up! And make her tea too!” and then immediately turned towards Sanchi, “Did you sleep well beta?”

“Yes, I slept like a baby. What’s your plan for today?”

“I’ll hopefully get to go for a walk and do some yoga in the park if I get free from the house soon”, replied Aarti with a sneer, “What about you?”

“I have my theater practice at 6pm today. So I’ll leave around 5:30pm. We are working on that show I told you about…”. As she said that, Nirmala, the cook, walked out of the kitchen with a plate in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Aarti looked at Nirmala and said, “Did you roll it out the way I told you to before?”

Nirmala nodded, “Yes, I did. It inflated completely”

Aarti smiled and said, “Chalo good. Sanchi, eat up. There are more parathas coming”

As Nirmala kept the plate in front of Sanchi, Aarti noticed the excess ghee on the tissue paper beneath the paratha and yelled, “What is this? There is so much ghee in this! How will she eat this? Nirmala can you do anything right? Take this away and bring another one!”

“It’s okay mumma, I’ll eat it. Leave it”, interjected Sanchi hesitantly. 

“No, why will you eat this? It’s her job to do her job well”, asserted Aarti, “drink your tea, she will get you another paratha

Sanchi tucked her hair behind her ears and began to stretch her fingers. Her chest felt heavy – as though there was a massive blob of clay sitting there. She felt like something had rendered her voiceless and immobile. She couldn’t do anything but sit and observe the events. She wanted to scream, she wanted to tell her mother to shut up, she wanted to get up and go back to her room, where she felt safe. But she couldn’t. She sat in her place and took a sip of her tea. Her mother’s attention wasn’t directed at her, but Sanchi’s entire attention was on Aarti. It was almost as though she demanded Sanchi’s attention. Sanchi feared that if she didn’t focus entirely on Aarti even for a moment, she would be harshly reprimanded for it, not to mention guilt-tripped. She noticed everything – the way her mother drank her tea, the way she looked outside at the trees, the way she shifted her weight to find a comfortable sitting position, the way she checked her phone, the tone of her voice, her words. She evaluated that the situation was fragile, and any trigger could lead to an explosion. Her words and mannerisms had to be carefully chosen. 

Nirmala walked in again, with another plate in her hands. She placed the plate in front of Sanchi, who was desperately hoping that this time the paratha was perfect. Aarti looked at it and said, “Yes, this time it looks good. See, this is how you should do it. You’re just lazy”

Nirmala smiled and said, “I’ll make more”

Sanchi had no appetite. But she smiled and started to eat, hoping the next one would be just as perfect. She desperately wanted to have a good relationship with her mother, but maybe her efforts weren’t good enough, because Aarti never seemed happy. Every morning was the same – Sanchi would be woken up by Aarti’s shouting, followed by a stretched out and slow episode of anxiety and stress, which seemed so normal to her that she didn’t spare a moment’s thought to it. Aarti would spend the rest of the day being upset at something or the other, and then hopefully leave for work without creating any drama. Sanchi hoped for a smooth evening all day, so that she could leave for her theater practice peacefully too. If things went south, she knew she wouldn’t be able to go either.

After finishing her breakfast, Sanchi observed her mother to see if she could safely excuse herself from this space. With her heart beating fast, she said, “I have to go to the washroom now”

“Yes beta, I’ll also start to get ready now”

With a sigh of relief, Sanchi got up and walked to her room. She closed the door half-way through, quickly picked up her phone and walked into the washroom. For some reason, being locked inside her washroom always made her feel safe. She couldn’t be harmed there. As her body recuperated from it’s anxious state, she looked at herself in the mirror. I seemed to have gained weight, she thought to herself. The version of me in my dreams is so much prettier. I need to be better. 

Sanchi Agarwal was a 17 year old girl, who wasn’t very fond of herself but dreamed of true love. She was in class 12th, hated school and only wanted to spend her time at theater practice, but felt disappointed each time she didn’t score well in exams. She constantly sought validation from people for every little thing, especially her mother – but hated being the center of attention at the same time. 

Sanchi was, in a nutshell, a conflicted girl who wanted to go far, but was still stuck at sipping tea in front of her mother.

Love vs Career

I feel a little small writing this at a time like this, when our country is slowly being set on fire by fascist forces. But nothing I write will ever do justice to the suffering and pain being inflicted upon scores of people in Delhi. Honestly speaking, this was a volcano waiting to erupt the moment BJP came into power. This is what they wanted. This is what their entire machinery was gearing towards..

Coming to the topic at hand – Love vs Career; it seems to have become the most important and relevant question for our generation. What do you choose, when you are a crossroads such as this? What matters more?

But my question this – why should one have to choose only one? The truth is, neither of these choices alone can bring you complete fulfillment and happiness for a lifetime. If you choose love, and completely sideline your career, it will haunt you forever in the form of resentment. You may also feel like you didn’t achieve your highest potential and let go of the chance to do something great. Nobody wants to feel like that, especially if you derive a great part of your self-esteem from your career or ambition. Eventually a relationship in which one sacrificed his or her career completely, is going to tank. On the flip side, if you choose career over love, it will all feel pointless and hollow after a point, when you will have nobody to share your success with. Happiness is best experienced when you have someone who feels it with you, someone who understands you completely.

A lot of times, couples find themselves in situations where they find it impossible to balance the two. One may have gotten an opportunity to go abroad (or a different city) while the other may want to stay back or one may want to settle down while the other may still want time to build their career. There can be many examples. So what should one do? After years of torturing myself over this question, I came across the answer one fine day in my therapy session. It’s called finding ‘common ground’. Let me explain. The idea that all we go according to our plan in life is the biggest farce. The truth is, there are a lot of factors in life that are completely outside your control. I have learnt that the only two things you can truly control in life are your actions and your reactions. You can’t control the outcome.

My point is, the only time people think they have to make a hard choice between love and career, is when they want to stick to the plan they have made for themselves. No, I don’t say that having goals is pointless, all your goals are achievable. But, the journey may not be as you mapped it out to be. It can meander, change, take U-turns and even offer massive roadblocks. Which doesn’t mean you won’t get to your goal, it simply means you’ll find a different way. I am a massive control freak and like to plan everything in advance, so accepting this concept was like climbing Everest for me. A lot of this acceptance comes with letting go of the imaginary control we think we have over the outcomes of our decisions.

Coming back to the term ‘common ground’. Now I think a lot of us live our lives with the either-or theory. I surely did for the longest time. The thing is, no matter where you are in life, certain adjustments are inevitable. Happiness isn’t a magical island where you’ll arrive one fine day after all your hard work. It’s a choice that needs to be made every single day. To make that choice, you may need to sometimes put others’ needs above your own, sometimes your own. For example, it’s your loved one’s birthday, but it’s also an important day at work. So what do you do? Instead of sacrificing one for the other, you find an alternate solution – you call your loved one to your workplace so that you can be with each other while you work and then go out and celebrate his or her birthday.

In another situation, you may have got an opportunity to go abroad to study or work, but your partner either 1) wants to stay back or 2) still needs time to figure out an opportunity for themselves abroad. In the first situation, you can either figure out an equally lucrative opportunity in your homeland or discuss the feasibility of a long distance relationship. But while discussing that option, you must also know the end goal. A long distance relationship succeeds only when there is a plan to get back to each other in the end. If both agree to work towards that end, then it can work. (I, personally, do not subscribe to the idea of long distance relationships. But that’s just me) In the second situation, you can surely put your partner’s needs above your own and defer your admission or joining date until your partner, too, figures out an option. This way, you don’t sacrifice anything.

I firmly believe that relationships sustain only when you put in hard work. The moment we start taking relationships for granted, they slip away. If you think your relationship will work out on it’s own or your love will survive the distance no matter what, then you’re wrong. We need to prioritize work and relationships differently in different situations. You cannot put your career on the #1 spot for your entire life and expect your relationship to flourish, and vice versa. And quite honestly, there is no support system in life like a strong relationship. If you have a steady, honest and real relationship in your life, it will help you scale heights that you couldn’t have done alone. Your partner will become both your anchor and your wings.

Let’s not forget, it’s only when we’re happy and content in our personal lives, that we can find happiness and meaning in our professional lives.

Landlords ki dadagiri

Most of us have had a relationship with a landlord (or landlady. Here I use the term ‘landlord’ for both) at some point in our lives (unless you’re super privileged and have lived in your own house forever) – and I am yet to meet a person who did not have a single issue with his/her lanlord. Renting a house in India isn’t easy, not to say that it’s easy in other countries, but here it’s not just the legal paperwork that’s exhausting, it’s the tyrannical and dictatorial attitude of landlords towards their tenants that’s even more exhausting. As a tenant, your life doesn’t become easy the moment you sign that lease; the misery continues for as long as you live in someone else’s house.

Although I have had and heard many horrible experiences, I’m only going to focus on the ones that enraged me the most. Technically, once the lease is signed, the house belongs to the tenant for the time period mentioned. The landlord cannot enjoy the freedoms that he/she used to in regard to the house, i.e, cannot dictate the tenant’s schedule, who they meet, what they eat, who comes to the house or ask to keep a spare key to the house. Let me reiterate – this is illegal. Infact, even to visit the premises the landlord needs to give a 24-hour notice to the tenant, and make a visit only if it is convenient for both. However, in reality, this does not happen. Recently, a close relative of mine shared her horrific experience with her ex-landlord with me. Initially when they (she and her friends) rented the apartment, the landlord and his family seemed nice, but life became hell for them when they started living there. They kept an eye on everything they did, and poked their noses whenever they could. “Too many friends are visiting”, “Too many get-togethers”, “Too many boys”, “Too many beer bottles” etc. This bickering and interference became a daily routine. Note that a landlord cannot impose social or moral restrictions on the tenant. They can only raise concerns if permissible noise levels are being crossed, or if severe damage is being done to the property. That too, has to be communicated in a respectful manner. Trying to moral police a tenant simply because he/she has rented out one’s premises is not just illegal, it’s plain wrong.

The landlord also charged them more on the electricity bill than he should have. If the government electricity bill states Rs. x/unit of electricity, he charged them Rs. x+3/unit of electricity. Which, once again, is illegal and also a form of bullying. The point that is being made here is – ‘it’s my house, so I will do what I want, when I want and how I want’. Eventually, they decided to vacate the house, but on the day they were supposed to vacate, he locked them inside the house until they cleared all the dues. All this amounts to harassment, and ideally they should have filed a police complaint against him. But due to our conditioning and social pressures, we generally avoid getting involved with the police.

In another instance, a girl was refused to be given a house on rent simply because she is muslim. Rejecting someone on the basis of their religion sounds unfair, disrespectful and shameful, but then there are also people who reject prospective tenants on the basis of the food they eat. Some landlords don’t want tenants who eat non-vegetarian food. Some don’t want single men/women. Some have a problem with drinking and smoking. Some have a problem with the company people work at. Some have a problem with caste. Some don’t want friends of the opposite sex to visit. Some don’t want pets. Some have a problem with skin color. Some have a problem with living.

What irks me the most is the amount of entitlement that exists within every landlord. Most of this behavior is illegal, and if not illegal then just plain wrong and disrespectful. But unfortunately we live in a country where owning a property makes you a king (or a queen) and automatically grants you powers you ought not to have. If laws were implemented properly, and tenant rights were taken seriously, then a lot of us wouldn’t have to compromise on a daily basis with our self-respect and way of life. Unfortunately, even the cops side with the landlords in most cases. It is always the tenant who is harassed and bullied.

I am not trying to dismiss the fact that even tenants misbehave and sometimes cause destruction, but the problems I listed above are not a result of bad experiences, they’re a product of a shitty mindset propagated through generations. Patriarchy, misogyny, racism, classism, casteism, ageism, colorism – they all exist in our society and are deeply rooted. So naturally, these social evils come out even in transactional relationships like the ones between a landlord and tenant.

You would think that it’s 2020 and we might have made some progress. But in reality, we’re decaying as a society everyday.

Skeletons in the closet

We all have our demons that we battle with, every single day. This battle takes away a fair share of energy and mental peace. We live in times where it seems everyone is at unrest. Everyone is struggling with too many things humanely possible to handle. But somehow we do. Every single day.

I have been dealing with anxiety since I was a kid, been taking medication for almost 8 years now. I was also recently diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder – an illness that is debilitating and draining at the same time. Needless to say, I live with a lot of weight on my chest every single day. This weight doesn’t just come from my illness and anxiety though – it comes from certain bad decisions that have stayed with me like ghosts under my pillow. Their shadow follows me around everywhere, never letting me forget the error of my ways.

Certain situations become so messy and complicated that they render your ability to differentiate between right and wrong completely useless. You feel numb, almost like an inanimate item being flung around without truly understanding what’s happening. It’s only once the dust settles that you realize what the storm destroyed in it’s wake. What can you do then? Besides looking around and lamenting at the fact that things went wrong? How do you undo a bad decision?

This is very hard to write about, but I need to start acknowledging what has happened so that I can find ways to overcome it. Also because – hiding and living under a rock does no good when you’re trying to deal with the ramifications of something. It’s best to face your fears, actions (good or bad), feelings and thoughts head on. Fearing them will only make the burden worse.

It’s hard living with this burden. After years of mulling over it and thinking about what to do, I finally decided to do something to undo that bad decision. Will it work? I don’t know. I am not sure. But I will go to bed every night knowing that I tried to retrace my steps and fix it. If there is a silver lining, it it this – I don’t stop fighting for the right thing until the right thing is done. It has been long overdue. If I want to shed some of the weight off my chest, I will have to make sure the right thing is done.

I will keep trying.

Doggo Love

As far back as I can remember, I have loved dogs. I had a friend as a kid who introduced me to their loving world and I have been in love ever since. We used to sit together and dream about becoming veterinary doctors when we grew up, so that we could be surrounded by dogs all day long. On my 12th birthday, she gifted me the most adorable labrador puppy. We named her liza. She became everyone’s favorite from the moment she stepped foot in the house. I was happy beyond measure.

However as a kid I hardly knew anything about pet care, and unfortunately neither did my family. She was kept chained more than she should have, was not given the kind of food that she needed and didn’t get the attention and love she deserved. I moved away and went to a boarding school soon after we got her, so I could never completely be there with her. When she died, she was in severe depression. Nobody knew what exactly was wrong with her. I really, truly wish I could have done something. It will be one of my life’s regrets. She deserved so much more.

Fortunately, I am now grown and much more aware. I have 3 indie dogs that my DH (dear husband) and I adopted in 2017. They’re the life and soul of our house. When we adopted Brownie, we didn’t know how to go about taking care of her. Luckily for us we live in an era where we have a vastly resourceful tool at our disposal – internet. We read up endlessly and watched a million videos on canine behavior, well-being, health, training, diet etc. We were quite spooked initially because brownie didn’t seem to be settling in and kept wanting to go out. We considered letting her go back to the streets many times, simply because we couldn’t see her in agony. But we got a lot of support from online communities, where everyone advised us to give her more time.

 

Slowly, after a few hits-and-misses, she started recognizing our home as her home. She started to enjoy being in our presence (especially since it was laden with a lot of cuddling) and not to mention – our extremely comfy bed which she now fully occupies without any shame.

Once we got the hang of it and started to understand finer details of canine behavior, we felt confident enough to bring in more furry friends for our family. Over a period of 2 months, we got 2 more indie pups home! (I know, it can seem like a bit of an obsession, but its not. Really.) They’re name lizzie and bubbles. The most fascinating thing is that all three of them have different temperaments. Brownie is extremely territorial, alert and vigilant. She lived on the streets for almost 2.5 years and needless to say it made her extremely tough. She doesn’t trust easily but is fiercely loyal once she does. Lizzie is cautious and easily spooked. She had an abusive childhood, remnants of which are visible through her behavior. Despite that, she loves cuddling and especially tummy rubs. Bubbles on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She is not wary of anything and will swallow a wasp if it interests her enough. She runs after anything and everything and is curious all the time. Her energy never seems to run out, and that makes sure we get our fair share of exercise too.

 

It angers and frustrates me to no end when I read about abuse and neglect towards indie dogs on a daily basis. People are obsessed with breed because its a status symbol; they want only pedigree dogs like german shepherds, labradors, beagles, golden retrievers, pugs etc. For some twisted reason, they think that their dog’s breed validates their social status. What about dogs that belong to the country you were born and bred in? Why so much love for foreign breeds and so much neglect towards Indian breeds? Because they occupy the streets? Because they’re the ones you shoo away or throw stones at when they run after you?

Indie dogs can be just as well trained, handsome and attractive if they’re taken care of properly. They’re fiercely loyal and won’t ever let you feel like you’re alone. Our breed-obsession is taken full advantage of by breeders who buy pedigree dogs only to breed more dogs that are then sold at a very high price. These breeders keep their dogs in horrible conditions and raise them only for one purpose. I personally know people who have gone to great lengths to purchase a pure breed puppy. Think of what you’re enabling next time you dream about getting a pure breed.

These dogs have filled our lives with love, joy and warmth. We now look forward to coming back home so much more, because we know that the moment we enter the house, we will be greeted with jumps, licks and wagging tails. If you’re someone who loves and wants dogs as much as us, please – adopt don’t shop. Your furry friend will thankyou forever for it.

Nestaway – Stay Away

I had rented an apartment with Nestaway back in February this year, only because of their tall promises about helping bachelors find homes easily. At first, it all seemed perfect because of their swift response and action time. I found a place and was told it would be “fully furnished”, that I would be provided with facilities such as gas cylinder, washing machine etc and that they would get it cleaned up and everything would be bright & shiny before my move-in.

Seemed quite the offer. Reality, however, was quite different.

First of all, the so-called ‘clean up’ included a one time lousy attempt at dusting the place in broad strokes. Even after they had supposedly ‘cleaned-up’, it was horribly dirty. I had to run an extensive cleaning operation of my own to make the place look remotely livable. Despite my efforts, the rotting sofa set, dining table, switchboards, TV table, coffee table, kitchen walls, balconies, kitchen drawers, stove, chimney (literally broken) – all remained the same. Dirty, dusty and not important enough to be given a fuck about by Nestaway. I was promised that there would be a gas cylinder and a washing machine before I moved in, but neither of them was there. I had to order food (including tea and coffee) from outside for days before I went ahead and simply arranged a cylinder myself. I also had to pay the maid extra to wash clothes by hand.

Added to that, was the drain blockage in the kitchen sink, broken toilet seat and a huge bee hive in my room. Suffice to say, I was very comfortable (/not).

I raised lots of service requests from my dashboard. But now it seems they get loads of those from tenants every single day, so they probably make jokes about them over their morning cup of coffee. I followed up as much as I could, and the only thing they really fixed was the toilet seat. Everything else, I had to get done myself and not to mention, pay myself too. And here I thought I wouldn’t have to pay for service requests raised within 7 days of my move in (one of their bogus policies).

After I got everything fixed and functional myself (including the DTH and wifi), fast forward to when other flatmates moved in. Nestaway executives told them that they didn’t have to share the installation fee for DTH and wifi because both these services were provided by them and were included in the rent. Talk about lying through your teeth. Speaking of executives, this company has the most useless, uneducated and uncooperative executives ever. They only respond swiftly until you pay your security amount in full. Post that, all you get to see is a massive middle finger.

When I was discussing the security amount, I asked the executive if it was okay to pay it in two installments over two months, he assured me that it was perfectly fine and it wouldn’t be a problem. So I paid one month’s security and one month’s rent and thought I was good to go (I moved in 5 days before month end). Clearly not.

On 1st of the next month, I got an email from Nestaway saying I needed to pay the rent. I was taken aback and tried to get in touch with their customer support time and again. True to their reputation, they were assholes and didn’t give two farts about my concern. I tried to get in touch with that executive, who told me and I quote – “Pay the rent including the late fee. I will come and return the late fee amount to you in cash because of the inconvenience this confusion has caused”

It would come as no surprise that that cash never came.

Fast forward again to July, when I got an email around the 18th saying that the property was going to be off-boarded so I had to move out. It also said that since it was being off-boarded by Nestaway, the move out charges would be waived off and I would get my security deposit refund within 7 working days. The property was off-boarded on 2nd of August. It has now been one month and 8 days and there is no sign of that refund. I have been diligently following up but their customer support executives always have one thing to say in their robotic voice, “Your refund is with our finance department. You should get it soon”

Now, according to their policy, if you don’t pay rent on time (on or before 5th of every month), a late fee of Rs. 500 will be charged. Post 10th, a late fee of Rs. 200/day will be charged (added to the Rs. 500) until 15th. Post 15th, your booking will be cancelled. So now that you haven’t given me my refund within 7 working days, how much interest will you pay me, Nestaway?

Apparently, they have another bogus program called the ‘3 Days Trial’ program under which, you can decide to cancel your booking within 3 days of your move-in without having to pay the lock-in breach charges, notice period shortfall charges, renovation charges (insert LOL emoji) etc. The ONLY money that you will have to pay is the rent for the number of days since the start of the license date, calculated on a pro-rata basis, move out charges (999 bucks) and cancellation charges (=token amount, which is 25% of the month’s rent. So if your rent is 20k, 25% of that is 5k, which would be your cancellation amount)

Quite an expensive ‘trial’, I must say.

They will deduct this amount from your security deposit and ‘process’ the refund. Rest assured you will never see the face of that money ever again. Ever. It’s gone. Into the chamber of secrets of Nestaway.

If you choose to go ahead with this fraudulent company, you will burn a hole in your pocket paying for things and services they promised to provide. To add to the injury, you will not get your security deposit refund on time, if you get it at all. The only thing you will end up doing is raising endless service tickets, which to all intents and purposes are useless.

I have been reading up on their social media accounts ever since I moved out and all their accounts are full of nothing but complaints and abuses. They have cheated countless people, who are now left with no option but to hound their social media with complaints. But to no avail, obviously.  If there was ever an epitome of not giving a duck – Nestaway would be it. It’s really inspiring how consistent they are in copy/pasting the same response to every person – “Hi [Insert name], we apologize for the inconveniences caused. Please inbox us your registered contact details. We’ll help you”.

They literally say this to every single person who posts a complaint. And then nothing happens. I find it hard to believe that this company is not just still afloat, but is managing to get funding round after round after round. They’re raking in money left right and center and leaving a trail of angry customers behind.

If you’re considering renting a place with Nestaway, DON’T. Kindly read their FAQ before taking any step: https://faq.nestaway.com/docs/faq-center.

If you’re currently a tenant in one of the Nestaway homes, well, good luck.

For people who have moved out – can we plan a class action suit?

 

Chapter: New

Adjusting in Singapore hasn’t been as much of a hassle as adjusting in Europe was. Indians do occupy 9.2% of the population after all.  We have an entire community called “Little India” dedicated to us. If being in a foreign land ever bugged us we could just catch a bus and go there to be […]

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.