Not all friendships startup sweet

Do you remember how you met all your friends? I believe the answer is a NO for most of us except those who have just a handful of them. Not easy to forget is the memory of friends we met following some dirty squabble. I bumped into Abishek in a similar way, and he is today one of my close buddies.

During my stay in Shimla, I usually stop by a shop at Khalini to buy momos (local dumplings) upon returning from the gym. I eventually became acquainted with the shop owner, Chandra, who has a greater sense of humor than myself. I would spend most part of the evening at his place together with his friends whenever I don’t have office work to complete. This gives me the opportunity to practice my Hindi language – adding to my umpteen Hindi teachers.

Long into our casual conversation on one eventful day, Chandra’s friend decided to make what would later turn out to be an expensive joke. “Chandra is a nice guy and you can see he is loved by everyone. You know what we call such people in Hindi?” He asked me.

I shook my head but immediately thought he may misinterpret it as an Indian head bobble which signals the affirmative. So, I responded back, “nahi.”

I wanted to say accha-adami which translates to a “good man,” but I knew he was looking for a single word. Perhaps I sensed he was on a mission, so I would never have guessed what he had in mind. He then told me the term for a nice person is gandu, and I can start calling Chandra as such. The way he chuckled after uttering the word and how everyone around laughed as well, warned me there is more to the word than I was being told. Regardless, I began addressing Chandra ji with his new title.

They continue to laugh every time I called him gandu and this more than arouse my suspicion about its meaning. In fact, he doesn’t seem to enjoy the banter as much as them. Nonetheless, they all refused to tell me the true meaning of the word despite my insistence.

This continues until the arrival of Abishak who believes life has to be too serious all day all time. I later learned he is Chandra’s younger brother and a community leader in the locality, hence he stays away from small talks. From the few wrinkles on his face and his conspicuous baldness, I suspected he would be in his late forties. He interjected as soon as he heard me called his brother gandu. “What did you just call my brother?” He asked, with a stern face that says he is up to no jokes.

Ignoring his sullenness, I jestingly responded in my amateurish Hindi, “aapkabhaiganduhai.” No sooner had I completed the statement than his hand landed on my cheek. It took me about 15 seconds to understand that I have just received the slap of my life. “That hurts,” I managed to utter.

Chandra and his friends couldn’t believe what just happened, they stood there speechless. They turned to Abishak explaining to him that it had just been a banter talk all along and no one meant any harm or insult. In fact, the fardesi (I – the foreigner) didn’t know what the word meant. He didn’t buy that, so he went berserk. “I don’t care who he is, it is not acceptable to use such repugnantly abusive language here. I see he speaks Hindi very well, so he undoubtedly knows what he is saying. I know he teaches at the Shimla university, I know the vice chancellor and I am going to report this to the management. He will explain to the police if he is the one who sleeps with my brother. Let them keep their nasty behavior to themselves, we don’t want any of it here.” He said furiously.

I was smiling in bewilderment. At this point, I figured out the word has to do with homosexual act which is still a taboo there, but couldn’t grasp why he has to stand for his quinquagenarian elder brother. Perhaps something new to learn about the Indian tradition (or rather Himachal’s).

In my mind, I was thinking, how on earth would I be the one to explain to the police instead of him for slapping me because I said something he doesn’t like? Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to fight or argue with someone old enough to be my father. I waited until he calmed down before I courteously apologized and explained to him that it is not my character to slander anyone. My Hindi vocabulary isn’t more than 50 words, so he should not expect me to know such a rare word.

Unexpectedly, Abishak realized he had reacted harshly and regretted his hasty and poor judgment. He apologized to me and urged that I forget all that had happened.

“I am still feeling the pain from the slap, so I would forget if you let me slap you back,” I joked, laughing and putting my hand on the receiving cheek.

“Go ahead my friend, you can slap both my cheeks if that is what it takes.” He said, moving a step closer to me and sticking his head out.

I laughed and gave him a friendly hug. Everyone, there was smiling, amused by the sudden turnaround. From that day, Abishak became a good friend of mine, even more than his brother. If he doesn’t see me for a few days, he would call and ask how I am doing. Shortly before I left Shimla, there was an event held in the community for which he was the chair, and he invited me as a guest of honor.

Whenever I want to make fun of him, I would ask if the offer to slap both cheeks is still on the table. However, since the incident, I learned to be careful with words and tread carefully on sensitive cultural lines.



Hard to be Forgotten

I remember when I was bidding you guys farewell, you were all astonished when I said I will forget each one of you in a matter of weeks. I remember Annanya saying, “you would be the meanest if you will ever forget us sir”. I didn’t know how dear you are to me until I left. When I get stressed out by studies, I find solace by going over the few moments I had with you in my album. Sometimes I just remember some of the jokes or  emotional conversations we had together and smile alone. AP Goyal Shimla University may not be the best college in Himachal, but it introduced into my life some amazing people I will never forget. Especially the staff and students of Architecture department. I wonder if any of you can remember some of the episodes listed below.

  • Singing “Koi mil gaya” with Vimal being recorded by Sparya. Disclaimer – Vimal is Jogesh’s wife so no flirting involved during the recording 🙂

  • Decided to have coffee at the cafeteria but Ankoor, Ilona and I were all busy on our phones while Sparya was busy clicking photos.


  • Ilona, Sparya and all other Indians were busy celebrating India’s independence day, my first and second year students decided to give me the best birthday party ever. I still can’t figure out what they meant by “the king of the sky, Sadda Cheetah.” Amisha Karanwal thought she can be my favorite student without attending my birthday party.
  • When Sugandha ma’am refused to provide cups for tea and there was an engineer among the faculties in the Architecture department.


  • While Ilona and her Haja (Sparya) were celebrating the departure of my bestie – Sudanshu Rastogi, behold, my Haj (Prem Ankoor) showed up. How else could I had been able to convince Ilona ma’am that Celine Dion was right when she said “God knows that I’m alive”. She thought I was crazy for believing one God exists unbeknown to her that Ankoor believes in many Gods.
  • And that farewell meeting in the department when some of the students couldn’t control their tears. If I didn’t have a stone heart I would have cried too. Not the kind of unnecessary tears of Amisha when I criticized her design, but the remorseful ones of Bhawana.   Right then  I knew that I can never forget forget you guys.

Those moments can’t be forgotten. I hope to see you again soon.

Why you should join an engineering association


“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers

The best way to know everyone in the game is to attend a party of the players. The best way to acquaint yourself with fellow engineers is to attend their activities. There are numerous engineering associations and societies you can engage with; either as a student or an engineer (graduate, licensed or unlicensed).

Merits for students

Participating in such professional associations will give you an opportunity to interact with certified engineers practicing the profession. They get to answer all your curiosity about the career you want to pursue, and if you have none, they can give you a heads up of what’s going on.

By the time you graduate school or sometime close to it, and you begin searching for jobs and places you want to intern at, the members…

View original post 786 more words

What is Cheap might End up Costing More than Expected

Rango has never understood the meaning of the saying “what is cheap might end up costing much more than you expect” until last weekend after his encounter with a Nairobi goon.

He was walking along Moi Avenue towards Hilton tower when a young man approached him with a smart phone for sale.

“Hello gentleman. Would you buy this phone? It is Samsung S 3 and it is in good condition. I will sell it to you at a good price.” The man advertized.

Rango has for a quite some time been without a smart phone and has the intention of buying one recently. Although he hates buying stuff on the street which he believes could easily have fallen off the back of a truck, he decided to ask for the price. The guy told him it will go for 15,000 Kenyan Shillings (that is about 180 USD).

The price sounded too good to be true. Perhaps it may be a Chinese phone. He collected the phone to examine. He dialed some code to verify if it is genuinely Samsung brand and it indeed was. As he was observing other features, the man, probably thinking that Rango did not want to buy, said, “15,000 is not the final price though. There is room for bargain.”

Rango was further thrilled. At this point, he was certain the phone was not clean. The price was too cheap for a Samsung Galaxy S 3. But then, the avaricious part of him wants him to buy. “If it is stolen, then the damage has already been done. The guy will sell it anyway.” And then there is a room for bargain.

“I will give you 9,000 Shillings. That is the only money I have.” Rango pleaded.

“That will be difficult for me. Because I need the money, I will give it to you at 10,000 Shillings.” The man responded.

“9,000 is what I can afford. If you don’t agree, then here I go.” Rango said, attempting to move.

“It is a deal then. 9,000”

Wow! Rango is soon going to own an S 3 with his 9,000 Kenyan Shillings. He told the guy that he needs to insert his SIM card so that he can make call to confirm everything is working fine. The guy did not hesitate. They found a phone shop close by where they cut Rango’s SIM card to micro SIM size and put in the phone. He made call to two of his friends and it was fine at both ends. Now it is time to pay out.

The guy collected the phone as Rango was trying to take out the money. He counted 9,000 Kenyan Shillings and handed over to the man. The man gave him back the phone which he threw into his pocket and hurried away happy with his luckiest bargain ever.

Lucky bargain or worst experience with Nairobi boys, he had to decide few minutes later when he met his friends at KFC. He brought out his new phone to show them, only to find out there was no display. He thought the battery had run down but he remembered seeing the battery meter full. He tried to open the cover of the phone but it was so hard. He knew right away that he has been duped.

He was sold a dummy phone.

Rango's phone

The inside of Rango’s phone after we opened it

“My SIM card together with my contacts are now gone.” Rango lamented finally.

WED2014: Raising awareness on campuses

Part of what my friend, Sadiq Gulma, and I did today in raising our voices towards a better environment was distributing flyers at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta University to create awareness on food waste and energy conservation. Copy of the leaflet is attached below. Join the cause by getting in touch with us for more information.



“When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money.” – John May

Raise Your Voice against Plastic Waste

Tomorrow is the world environment day (WED) dedicated to creating awareness on issues affecting us and the fellows with whom we share the world together. The theme of this year’s WED is “Raise your voice, not the sea level.” The worrying events we are witnessing day in, day out are enough to compel us into changing our life style to more sustainable one. I hope you will all join the campaign by raising your voice towards that goal. One big issue of concern is plastic waste which many people don’t know about. We shall continue to raise our voices until everyone become aware.

Plastics, which we use indiscriminately, are observed to affect hundreds of species in the sea and on the land. They are neither degradable in the soil like common organic materials we know, nor digestible by animals when swallowed. Birds, fishes, turtles, and many other poor creatures mistake plastic for food which end up being their death pill. Next time you are buying stuff at the grocery store, think twice before taking that plastic bag whose only use is from the store to your car or home.

Plastic Trash

 Tons of plastics end up as debris in the oceans

You can make your contribution towards reducing plastic waste by changing the way you relate with plastics. We can help a great deal in saving lives by adopting some simple measures while dealing with plastics.

  • Take reusable bags whenever you are going to the store. Combine similar items in a single bag without wrapping each item separately.

Reusable bag 3L – A simple reusable bag. R – Me holding my reusable bag

  • Buy items with less packaging and in large quantity if it is something you use very often. Do you know what I realized? The more packaging, the more expensive are the items. After all, you are only going to use the product inside. Do you also know that people using dispensers save a lot of money compared to those buying bottled water (the small ones)?
  • In many areas, waste collectors are required to separate plastics from other waste, which they end up not doing if the wastes are mixed up. Help them by separating the wastes at your home.
  • Are you still of the habit of throwing away litters on the street? A single bottle cap or a plastic straw can be the killer of a beautiful bird out there. Hold the litter until you find the nearest waste bin.
  • Raise your voice. Become an environment ambassador by creating awareness among your friends, family and co-workers.

Listen to Yaya Toure, a UNEP goodwill ambasaddor, on purging plastics

“It takes one minute to throw out a plastic bag you’ve used once. It takes less than that to down a bottle of water. They then end up in the garbage or the ocean where they live FOREVER — adding to landfills and killing marine life. If you have to use plastic, make sure you reuse or recycle!”

What I like most with living an environmental friendly life is that it makes life simpler. You save money and live healthier.

To learn more read

Yes All Women in My Community

If I have the power to change Hausa community, the first thing I will command is for all women to break the stereotypical limitations on their path and be themselves. Yes, majority of girls in my community, at least from the ones I know, have the common problem of dancing to the tune of the society which is usually in conflict with what they actually deserve. It is nevertheless the same case with boys, but the stereotypes, being patriarchal, hardly affect boys in a negative way. To highlight just one of the issues, let me explain what I observed about the behavior of our girls in colleges and universities.

Our girls grow up with the belief that going to the university is some kind of retention before getting married so they spend more of their time there on courtship than on academics. An average Hausa girl would have more than two male friends (who are somewhere in between boyfriends and normal friends) while in her teens. In fact they compete in having the highest number of male friends. A girl is considered unattractive and of lower class among her peers when she has none. That in itself is a big challenge to her academic performance. The setting is like this: our girls compete among themselves on possessing ostentatious items such as clothes, electronic gadgets and cosmetics which are hardly attainable with the money from their parents alone. They therefore depend on such friends to buy these things for them. Fortunately for the girls, the society also raised boys with the idea that they are in charge of taking care of ladies they are in a relationship with. It doesn’t matter if the boys are being supported by their parents themselves (which is often the case) or not. They get a monthly grant from their parents, rest assured that boys in relationship (s) will spend at least one third of it on their female friends.

As one would expect, the boys who spend on ladies would expect something in return. The least and the most detrimental is keeping the boys company or speaking to them on phone whenever they so wish. Some of my friends think I am missing the point when I argue that speaking with a girl on phone for the whole night or some part of the night while in school is irrational and purposeless. As we are in school, I would rather spend the time with her studying than denying myself sleep only to speak on mundane things.

Now where am I heading to? Remember majority of the girls (the campus hot chicks) have multiple male friends, which means allotting time for every guy who in most cases is from different faculties, meaning the meeting is never for studies. If male friend X calls asking for a date, she has to remember to give him time she hasn’t given friends W, Y and Z. That happens all the time, all the week, all semesters. I forgot to mention that there are usually outside boyfriends or suitors (the sugar daddies) with whom she must also deal with. She ended up with little or no time for studies.

When you try to advise a girl to loosen up on friendships and concentrate more on academics, she tells you that she has to do it in order to find someone to marry after graduation (or even before, who cares?).  To her, marriage courtship is like contract bidding: you consider multiple tenders and then choose the best one at the end. It would have been better if the bidding system in this case is chosen to be a closed one so that the bidding time is kept to minimum. That is regrettably not the case. It is public tendering: all parties are invited and the almighty client has time to screen them all. After all, girls’ parents have counseled them that it is not good to reject any person who declares his love to you.

What their parents failed to tell them is that being financially dependent on someone opens the road to exploitation. It is human nature to feel indebted to people we receive from sometimes without even being conscious about it. A friend of mine, Rango, narrated to me a drama he witnessed when he accompanied his friend to see a lady at their school dormitory. The friend wanted to take the girl out but she happened to have a test the following morning. She was begging him to allow her attend tutorial class that night because she hadn’t prepared sufficiently for the test but he didn’t want to listen. Rango had to intervene before the girl was allowed to attend the class. She thanked him for the intervention as she wouldn’t have had any choice but to go out with the guy.

Stories of that nature are very common in our community. Worst that could happen, which does happen, is for the girl in such relationship to be lured into sex against her will or even be raped. These are kind of rape cases which are rarely reported. Although there are many other factors that contribute to raped women’s silence, I believe being less dependent would reduce the rapist’s chances and give the raped more courage to take necessary action.

Most men don’t want to marry self-reliant women because they are a threat to their patriarchal dominance. The best way to deal with such men is for all women to be educated and be self-reliant so that they can also exercise their full right on choosing partners and how to live with them. Forget about men’s ego, just build your self-esteem and let them know that you can do it on your own.

If male students in school can do part time jobs or take loans to support themselves, then why not you? Trust me you have all it takes so don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You just need to break the stereotypical chain around your ankles and wrists and be yourself. If anyone should take credit for your progress apart from yourself, let it be your parents. In that way, men would have no choice but to allow you be the person you want to be.

Written by Sadah