Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two Gaffes and an Improbability

I am dying, choking, sputtering as I write this. I must get this out. So here goes, wheee!

Two most ridiculous things that happened in the rarified echelons of power recently. Well, people in rarified atmospheres do commit gaffes because they are there, and we are here. Sounds to me like Bush's gaffes which you can read here.

Gaffe number one: Ram Jethmalani claiming another man killed Jessica Lall, a mysterious, probably dark-hood-wearing, Mr. X. I am choking and sputtering as I write this and don't know how to get this out of my way. Hm, uh, mysterious Mr. X may have killed Jessica Lall, but as a lawyer did you hijack the investigation from the police, or, are you only defending your client? Goodness gracious!

Gaffe number two: After the Sharad Pawar episode, this one is a a gaffe of gargantuan, godzilla-sized proportions. The honorable members of the parliament wants Chappel out because, he... he..., ha... ha..., haw... haw..., he apparently batted probably as the thirteenth man and scored a duck and, he... he..., dropped many catches, and gave away many runs, ha... ha.... Poor chap(pel), he is only a coach for providence sake.

Imagine our lawmakers taking cricket so seriously. Don't they have better things to attend to? Like for example the frightening state of electric power in most states of the country, the skewed sex ratios in most states in North India, the water problem, the flooding problem, etc.

Why do we take cricket so seriously? I was lunching out with a group of Malayalis on Sunday and the game was playing on television. Now, these fellow Malayalis have never held a bat or a ball, or, even been within touching distance of it in their lives and they were discussing the batting order as if they were Mister Chappel himself.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TechGoss.com

Here's a site (Link to TechGoss.com ) for BPO/KPO/ITES worms such as yours truly. The articles seem prosaic. But this article on bloggers making $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 from Google adsense had me sitting up and taking note. I am still salivating, Pavlov salivating dog fashion, no jokes.

If I could earn that kind of money from this blog, or, this site I guess I could retire here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

We're all Indians now | Magazine | The Observer

Read this, um, perceptive article (Link to We're all Indians now | Magazine | The Observer) in the Guardian by Sidhartha Deb, full of delightful statistics comparing  India to China. Siddhartha Deb, born in 1970 in northeastern India, has worked as a journalist in Kolkata and Delhi, has an MPhil in comparative literature from Columbia University, and is currently writer-in-residence at the New School for Social Research in New York. His novels include The Point of Return and Surface. Courtesy: Guardian.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mundu-wearers in the Capital

Now that AK Antony is defense minister of India, it reminds me of the time another mundu-wearer was the defense minister - VK Krishna Menon. I am a ardent fan of VKKM and had during my college days participated in many essay competitions in which I wrote glowingly about this son of Kerala. A ruggedly handsome and hardworking man he holds the record for the longest speech delivered in the United Nations, lasting about eight hours.

Though born into a rich family Menon led a frugal life; he is believed to have survived on coffee and biscuits on busy workdays. AK Antony is also a frugal, soft-spoken and honest man. So a lot is expected of him, as defense minister. Antony has powerful friends in Delhi and hope this will help him survive the shifty-as-sand political climate there.

Hm, be it VK or AK, Kerala politicians are yet to make a mark on the capital. But it is foreign services where Malayalis have traditionally shone. Now that Shiv Shankar Menon - no mundu wearer this - is foreign secretary, Malayalis are the envy of the Delhi political circuit. Shiv Shankar Menon is the grandson of KPS Menon, also foreign secretary, whose memoirs is eminently readable and the work of a talented writer. Hope Shiv Shankar Menon also writes his memoirs, just as his dignified and talented grandfather did.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mack English

My post on Mack English is drawing rave comments on Caferati. Do take a look and comment, if it inspires you. No offense to any one, or any community, as I am a humble Mack English speaker myself, men.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Commuting Blues, and Reds, and Greens...

Today was bad. I mean the commuting. To begin with the basics. I was commuting by train only three years back to Victoria Terminus and to my office in Colaba. Those days the first class compartment used to be a comfortable way of travel, I had a group of friends - Shukla, Iyer, Murali, Shashi, Damodaran, and occasionally Henry - and travel would be a lazy, light-hearted bantering experience. We had enough space to sit comfortably and travel.

But they all have gone their separate ways. I meet Shashi, Murali these days but they have changed, no longer talk, only smile at me from between all those strange hulking bodies. The compartment is so thickly populated that I can't hold a book in front of me. I am reading friend CP Surendran's An Iron Havest and I couldn't see the page in front of me. There were two hulking bodies in front pinning me to a wire partition, not letting me move to turn a page over.

Where did these people come from? Where are they going? All of them have big bulging bags that now fill the rack above. And all of them look unfriendly, staring ahead of them as if they were in a race to finish with me. I know new technologies have opened up a lot of jobs of the outsourced variety around Andheri, Bandra-Kurla, and Lower Parel, which were, at one time, down market and grimy places compared to the tony Colaba and Nariman Point.

The progress of business from South Bombay to Central Bombay was insidious and today I work in Andheri, a place I would never have imagined working (snoberry, I guess, having worked in Colaba and South Bombay all my life). How one eats humble pie.

Oh, one more thing, my co-commuters all are very engrossed: be it  abook, a mobile phone, newspaper, thick computer manual, and, wait a minute, novels, yes, novels. I guess these are the guys who read novels, and post those nasty but learned comments on literary forums like Caferati and Shakespeare and Company. Yes, I know where the suppressed and subdued angst in their prose comes from: from right here in this churning of flesh. Oh!, if only I could get published and see my novel in one of those hands!

It's a miracle I got down at Kurla station. Then the bridge to the west of the station is so crowded that I can only see a series of heads progressing like a wave towards the top.

Silver Lining: Yesterday I had 70 hits on this blog and that is some good news, would keep me blogging I guess. Thank you visitors, do keep coming for more. I love you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

iPod nano

Always been a great sucker for gadgets, so, hm, here's a quick review of the iPod nano. The iPod nano has replaced the iPod shuffle for audio listening, it's tiny, the screen is great, it has all the things one would like about the iPod photo, but in an impossibly compact size and shape.

Source: MAKE: Blog: iPod nano

The Ziegarnik Effect

The soap opera is playing on television, the tension mounts, grips you, you are on the edge of the seat, or, couch, hanging on to each word spoken by the characters... what is going to happen? what? and then the soap ends. Familiar? Yes, this is a most usual scenario we face every evening on the idiot box, that every ardent follower of saas-bahu (mother-in-law-daughter-in-law episodes) are familiar with. But what is this called, this sudden building up of tension, this sudden withdrawal, this teasing of the senses?

In advertising there are teaser campaigns. Day after day an advert appears on a scheduled page with some sort of teasing line, which doesn't disclose what the product is, or, who is advertising. The tension builds, you are in the nail-biting stage of curiosity, progressing inexorably towards incurable dementia, when the final advert appears. Aaaah! Seems like it is a condom/restaurant/newspaper launch advert. Also, seemingly, it is a game, which it is.

The game, or rather the effect is called the Ziegarnik effect and is the bread-butter-and ghee of those sultans of the soap box. It was first invented, or, formulated, or, whatever you may call it, by a Russian by the name of Bluma Ziegarnik while she was sitting in a Viennese cafe in the nineteen twenties. While waiting for her order to be fulfilled, she did a bit of scouting around and found that the waiters remembered the unfulfilled orders well, while they completely forgot the orders they had served.

Come to think of it, we all do that, don't we? I mean, give only teasers and then wait for the tension, the finale to build up? We see the cute newscaster on television saying prissily, "When we are back we will show you how a five-year-old boy survived in a pit of vipers with only his wits around him." And then comes all the boring adverts and you are waiting, waiting to see how the boy survived. And after that you wonder, "Damn, what was all the fuss about?"

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri - A Review

I have just finished wading through “The Namesake” written by Jhumpa Lahiri. “Wading” is the word I use because, though Lahiri is an engaging writer, she fills her novel with too many details, over which I stumble, ponder, wonder (hmm, now why would she have had to say that?), genuflect, and then straighten myself. Her paragraphs are uniformly half a page and in that, too, these inconsequential details of everyday life, some cultural vestiges lie around like stumbling blocks.

I am constrained to mention this here because the flow is hampered, I lose track, and finishing the book was a great effort. I don’t like to be exhausted reading a book; I like to be entertained. I guess this applies to most writers of the Diaspora and, our own homegrown variety. We are so much anxious to impress with our knowledge and our articulation that we overdo it, consistently, constantly.

Now, I may be veering into the rant mode but this is something Lahiri does through this excellent novel. If you are through the first hundred pages, it becomes a little better. You can safely ignore the details and go ahead, come what may. But getting over the first hundred pages is the toughest part. When Lahiri describes each item in a house, or, a rented hotel room, you have no alternative but to sit up and cry, “Whoa! She is so perceptive, she gives me a complex.” Yes, she does, to all pretenders, such as I, who think they can write. But one also thinks, “There she goes, why would she include all that? Is it significant, a leit motif, for the rest of the story?” But disappointingly it isn’t.

It’s the story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli. Ashoke is told to leave the country by a man he meets during a train journey. The train in which he is traveling is derailed in the night and the compartments are smashed and thrown off the rails. Ashoke is injured in the accident but has a providential escape because he happens to be clutching a novel written by Nikolai Gogol which he was reading at the time of the mishap. So, obviously, Nikolai Gogol has a prominent part to play in Ashoke’s survival and he names his first-born Gogol, probably to record his thanks to the Russian story teller.

He immigrates to the United States with Ashima, gets a job raises a family of two. Gogol and Sonia are the two children he raises the Indian, sorry, Bengali way, protectively, always apprehensive, always paranoid about security. The children are happy-go-lucky American kids and they do not know from where their parents’ fear comes from. (They do not know that the fear originates from India where anything left untended is summarily snatched away, or vandalized.)

But Gogol resents being named thus, and is not flattered by his Russian name, that too of a writer thought to be a maniacal genius. He militates against his father’s choice of nomenclature. He has his name changed to Nikhil but the original name sticks to him like a ghost from the past, and haunts him. The teaching of Gogol’s writings in school is a big embarrassment to him, and he cowers from any association with Gogol, the writer.

Ashoke and Ashima does a heroic job of raising a family, protecting a culture in an alien land, in which they are recently emigrated strangers. They have a very close-knit community of Bengali friends in the US and their interaction is restricted to this group who meet for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other social dos. The urge is very strong among migrants to maintain their cultural identity when they are in an alien land, and Ashoke and Ashima would like to pass on their Indian-ness to their children.

But the children are drawn towards the mainstream White culture. Gogol has affairs with white girls/women and nearly marries one much against the wishes of his parents. The Indian girl he marries eventually, through the persuasion of his mother Ashima jilts him for a Russian. Sonia marries a white man, and therefore Ashoke’s and Ashima’s dream of propagating the culture they have so assiduously cultivated in an alien land collapses. So, in that sense, the emigrant’s strict phobias seems trivial and unfounded.

The most poignant part of the novel is the sudden and unannounced death of Ashoke. Now, this is the best part of the novel. It is narrated in such deadpan prose that it rings so true, so authentic and life-like. Death is the most unexpected of visitors. The reader is shocked beyond disbelief, and can understand the emotional turmoil that Ashima, and her children Gogol and Sonia go through at this juncture. It is to Lahiri’s credit that she has handled this evolving drama pretty well.

Gogol falls in love with Moushumi, the girl his mother has picked for him, and who is trying to get over a broken engagement with her White boyfriend. They marry, and for sometime all is hunky dory. This section of the novel is well handled and the reader is shocked that Moushumi would go off with another man, a Russian professor, leaving poor Gogol. But that is life, and that is literature, so authentic as to be stupefying. Lahiri handles these passages really well, one is awed how naturally it happens, and how her story lends the incident so much life-like uncertainty. This is Lahiri at her best, delivering a deadly punch in the narrative when the reader least expects it. This is as shocking, or, was as shocking to me, as was Ashoke’s death.

The novel is a chiaroscuro of images, experiences, some sad, some elevating, all written in the author’s perspicacious style, with much detailing. Much as I had enjoyed “The Interpreter of Maladies” I relished this one that promises to be a watermark in the annals of literature produced by the Diaspora.

Heard on a bus to Kurla

This is what I heard while travelling to Kurla from Andheri on bus. A perfect example of Bombay's Mack English (Mack English is the one spoken by Goans, East Indians and Anglo Indians in Bombay. Parsis speak a variation of Mack English which should probably, hm, be called Pack English).

"Then whaddappen, no?, I told him not to do this that, and he says, it's all urgent, no?, like that, like that."

"Yeah, I told him only, don't do it, but he wont' listen only, no?"

When I am with Macks I do talk their English, I do confess. Now, some people mistake Mack English for the real English English and sometimes go to ridiculous extents to copy the style and intonation.

"What men [don't say man, it's always "men"], not to be seen only these days, no?"

"What men, you are the big man, carrying big bag, executive-bixicutive, forgetting poor, khadka, single phasli, like myself, no?"

"Hey what men, khali fokat, don't take panga with me, eh?"

"What you will do? This your dada's property, or what? Big man, coming, coming."

"Hey men, joking only, men."

"I know men."

Both laugh.

"I know your are good at making fun of myself, no?, too bad men."

"Whaaat men? simply teasing, teasing."

"Arre, I went to ask that bar fellow no? that baldy, he won't give me quarter only, men. He *$#@ said he wants fifty rupees, no? I say mother****ing devil, I will **** your arse."

"Then what he did?"

"Silent, men. Like that only. Shut him up only."

So went the conversation. Most of the above is my own invention, but serves to illustrate the way Mack English is spoken.  Here's a song I have written to Mack English:

Mack English

Mack English is spoken,
Though it is at times broken,
In Bombay and in Girgaon,
In Goa and in Konkan.

Grammar we know none,
Speaking Mack is fun,
We talk like this only,
For we are like this only.

Father forgive don't hate,
Mass and confession can wait,
It's feni and fish we crave,
Before the call of the grave.

Johnny play the bongo,
Michael sing the Fado,
Together we will dance,
And Rosy we will romance.

Fado is a Portuguese song.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why I Don't Like Hritik So Much

I am sitting here and wondering why I don't like Hritik Roshan so much as Sharukh Khan. Hritik tries to much, just too much for my liking. He is a nice looking bloke, muscular and all that, but sometimes when I look at him on screen, I have this feeling he should go a bit slow, no linger a bit over his lines, may be, pace his delivery.

But Sharukh Khan can pace himself, make all those endearing dimples dance, seem a bit self-deprecatory, laugh at himself for a fleeting nano second, and he the quintessential Hindi film hero. That's why he is the best we have around.

Another actor I fancy is Saif Ali Khan, no, not just because I met him. Yes, I met him once at Jehangir Art Gallery and he was polite enough to give me an authograph which I still treasure. He has the best, and most natural acting style we have in Bollywood, but his voice modulation needs working on. His voice is a good bass one but needs to explore a bit of tenor and alto too, which are the singing voices in a chorus.

Speaking of singing voices the church choir - of which I am a member - found that I am neither soprano, nor alto, nor tenor, nor bass and banished me from their carol chorus singing group. Well, zilch to them. I am sure they will end up a sorry mess, and miss my strong tenor, sorry, bass, sorry alto. Soprano, I can't, and never will be. Sigh!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Notes of a Nag and a Roisterer

Came across this NY Times article about Germaine Greer's The Madwoman's Underclothes from Annie's blog

Quote

Germaine Greer has never truly been a writer. Her spirit has illuminated her written word as if the very act of expressing herself were but a brief, rushed gathering-up of her living. She is, perhaps, one of the marvelous letter writers of an age that no longer trifles with them much. Her essays, columns and books - transcripts as they are of a heroic heart and intellect - seem to have been dashed off in the fire and dispatched to her many sisters. Feminism as a literary family.

Unquote

"Dashed off in the fire and dispatched to her many sisters" and "Feminism as a literary family," I like that.

To read more click here: Notes of a Nag and a Roisterer (NY Times needs registration)

Heard on a bus to Kurla

This is what I heard while travelling from Kurla from Andheri from work. A perfect example of Bombay's Mack English (Mack English is the English spoken by Goans, East Indians and Anglo Indians in Bombay).

"Then whaddappen, no?, I told him not to do this that, and he says, it's all urgent, no?, like that, like that."

"Yeah, I told him only, don't do it, but he wont' listen only, no?"

When I am with Macks I do talk their English, I do confess.

"What men [don't say man, it's always "men"], not to be seen only these days, no?"

"What men, you are the big man, carrying big bag, executive-bixicutive, forgetting poor, khadka, single phasli, like myself, no?"

"Hey what men, khali fokat, don't take panga with me, eh?"

"What you will do? This your dada's property, or what? Big man, coming, coming."

"Hey men, joking only, men."

"I know men."

Both of them laugh.

Road Rage Bombay and Dilli Ishtyle

Here's the difference between driving in Bombay and Dilli. In both cities road rage prevails. Both cities believe in aggressive driving, the kind of aggression that scares me, makes me cower in my seat.

On a recent trip to Delhi I was being drropped from my hotel to the airport and on the way another driver yelled at my driver in Punjabi and my driver yelled back. I didn't understand, so I asked him what he had said.

He said, "He was asking where I have learnt driving."

"And what did you reply?"

"Stop, I will show you where I learnt driving."

On the same trip, I was being dropped from the airport to my place in CBD Belapur and a motor cyclist overtook us and threatened thusly:

"Mother******, Sister******, Pimp, who taught you driving?"

My driver, may be in his early twenties, didn't respond, preferring to ignore the threats. The threats were the same, the same youngsters, the same rage.

Hmmm, some random thoughts after I read this article about how rash teenage drivers killed seven laborers who were sleeping on the road side in Bandra.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dom Moraes' "Sailing to England"

Friend Max Babi reproduced a poem "Sailing to England" written by Dom Moraes on Caferati. Reminded me that I have written a short biographical sketch of the famous poet in this blogpost on this blog.

Dom Moraes' biographical sketch is here if you are interested.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The First Day of Winter

Today I felt the first chill of winter. Am trying to write a poem about it. The hills of Artist Village (where I live) are blue, the hazy blue that makes me want to go somewhere where it is very cold. Didn't go to work today, as I got up groggy from a stomach ailment that made me wish for the comfort of my bed all the way from office.

Afternoon was so pleasant, neither hot nor cold, the sun on my eyes so mild that I could look at the hills without shielding my eyes. I noticed several thing. One that the gulmohurs that fringe Artist Village (they were planted after I came to live here) have grown so high that it forms a canopy around the entrance to the village and the dappled sun falls on the road, making little patches of sun.

Two, the sights that I miss when I am away working, there are children waiting to go to school, and I remember when Ronnie was that age and was taken to school by an autorickshaw. He is in engineering college now.

Three, that the cobbler is taking a long time stitching a rent in my leather bag, and that I can't blame him, he sits here on this crossroad all day. But, then I am enjoying the view, the promise of blissfulness.

I guess that's all for today!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Sigh of Relief for Battered Women

At last battered women can breathe a sigh of relief. The government's rules for "Protection of Women from Domestic Violence" has been enacted and gives powers to women who are in exploitative relationships.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has put up this .pdf document of the gazette notification detailing the rules, a bit shabby, but what else do you expect from the "Gorment?" The English section appears after the Hindi section.

Hope domestic bliss prevails!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Apathy or indifference? Why are we like this only?

I don't know if its apathy, carelessness, or a "what do I care attitude." High technology companies do not bother a bit about how the roads are laid out outside their compounds. I work in a high-tech business area in Andheri East. I go for a walk outside my office  complex every afternoon and what do I find? Rubble, debris, aggregate, dust, huge exposed plastic pipes through which the modern technology's fibre optic cables pass, couple of stones, no, boulders, a trench that hasn't been filled for the past one month, a broken, foul-smelling septic tank, dogs, turds and more turds.And I step ginerly over them every day! Can you imagine?


The companies that skirt these oddities all have well paved compounds, glistening sun-screened glass, chrome, expensive tiles, order and efficiency. Is it apathy or whatchamacallit indifference? Or is the "Gorment" to blame for creating these bubbles that shine and the surroundings that stink? Sorry, even my mind goes blank on a Monday morning. Guess, I will rant about it some other time.


Meanwhile read this poem written by David Israel in reply to my poem for my stolen mobile phone.


For all ye cricket lovers, the Sharad Pawar episode!

I don't know what the big fuss is about Sharad Pawar being asked to step aside for the Australian team's Champions Trophy victory photograph. See for yourself on this video. Ricky Pointing didn't shove him (as was reported). And if you see the shoves we get in the 8.28 local from CBD Belapur, then you would probably cry murder. Much ado about a little push?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sridala's Refutation of My Following Post "The 'Gora' Mughal"

Sridala, (my reply appears within double asterisks)

**Sridala, Let me begin by saying I hold no brief for anyone, no, not even missionaries (when my dad took me for an admission in the venerable OLPS in Chembur, Bombay, I was rejected by the fathers there.) If this reads like a bitter tirade because of that fact, then it is a bitter tirade.**

I find it astonishing that you have so much to say about two books you haven't even read.

**Sridala, I was basing my observation on the articles written by William Dalrymple and not his books. And I mentioned this clearly at the beginning of the article. **
I'd like to take you up on a few things you've mentioned in your post; perhaps you could clarify.

You say, "I confess I haven't read any of them, but what caught my attention was several articles in today's newspapers (November 5, 2006) about his second book."

First of all, *The Last Mughal* is not his second book. He wrote *In Xanadu* when he was 18; among his several travel books are, *City Of Djinns*, also about Delhi; *From The Holy Mountain*; *At The Court Of The Fish-Eyed Goddess*; *The Age OF Kali*, in no particlular order. Of his 'popular history' books, *The White Mughals* is certainly the first. If this is what you meant, it is not clear from the sentence I've quoted above.

**Sridala, Yeah I was referring to the two books in the Mughal series that why I wrote “gora” Mughals in the title of my post. **

Next, you say, "Now Dalrymple bases these premises on a few freakish personalities of history".

May I ask how you would know, not having read either of the two books in question, who else he may have cited as examples of integration? Just because the interviewers of newspapers and magazines pick up a few names, it does not mean that Dalrymple himself confines himself to, to quote you, 'a few freakish personalities'.

**Sridala, this is not an interview I am referring to, but an article written by Dalrymple himself. And Sir Ochterlony has been portrayed as a freakish personality by Dalrymple himself. You who have read the book should know. **
Finally, you seem to have understood that Dalrymple's sole premise is that these early Company people turned up with the sole intention of making full use of, again to quote you, 'a sexual cornucopia of a lifetime'. I'm not very clear exactly what this phrase means; perhaps you will explain.

**Sridala, I will refer to my experience in the Persian Gulf, working for a British multinational. Trust me I have worked with them and have intimate knowledge, and I am not basing this on just guess work. The British managers and supervisors were mercenaries when it came to making money in the Persian Gulf projects and even their lifestyles (a close resemblance of theirs in colonial India) was decadent.

When I say this I have seen it with my own eyes and this is not just verbal flaff. They underpaid the Indian laborers and consigned them to labor camps where life was horrid, while they lived in huge bungalows. And they were arrogant towards Indians in general, even their staff and managers. And as I mentioned they needed Indian and Philippino women to keep houses for them while they had left their own women in England. And to their lavish parties they would invite Indian/Philippino/Srilankan nurses but not their senior managers. So where’s the integration that you are talking about? Is an eye witness’ account less true than the research of an historian who can only theorize in his mind?**

But I should mention, having read *White Mughals* and having started *The LAst Mughal*, (and having read his wonderful Introduction to *The Journal Of Fanny Parkes* which is entirely in the words of a travelling 18th century woman -- a useful departure from the standard notion that the history of the Raj is the history of its men) I can assure you that his contention is a lot more than that people came here and became white mughals because it supported a lifestyle they could not afford 'back home'.

**Could they afford the harem that Dalrymple talks about at home? Hardly. So they enjoyed (both money and sex) when they were in India (they still do enjoy [money and sex] in the Persian Gulf) as mentioned above. And believe me, the writer of this, I have been there, and seen it. If you wish to read more on these read a writer named Russel Baker who has written such books as "Monginis" and "Ice Factory"**
Integration -- a more pleasant word, isn't it? -- happened not only in the home, it also happened with translations, writing, and in the arts. It is this broader willingness to understand another culture that Dalrymple was hoping to emphasise. If there is a better climate where examples of tolerance over rabid imperialism needs to be highlighted, I'd like to know of it.

**Yes, integration is a pleasant word if there is integration. If there isn’t and a people aren’t willing to integrate then why clutch at straws? You write “Dalrymple was hoping to emphasize,” so, well, has the hope of an Englishman turned into manna for gullible Indians to make him the toast of Indian social circuit? Is that what you want to emphasize? So can a hypothesis of convenience be relied on more than historical facts and eye witnessed accounts? Is that right? If you are looking for examples of tolerance over rabid imperialism it can be found in the most unimaginable quarters, the works of missionaries, whom Dalrymple criticizes so much.**
You have cited a British missionary, William Carey, in your post. If you've linked it, the link hasn't appeared. Perhaps you could make a more complete citation? When did he say this? Where does this appear?

**Please read my blogpost at: http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com**

In the same paragraph, you mention that you've read books where you say the British dissuaded the missionaries from practising in India. This is completely true. But a mass petition in Parliament apparently lobbied for the missionaries to operate, and after 1830, they were allowed to do so. This is why dates are important. Things did not proceed in the same uniform way throughout the EIC's time in India. I'd suggest that this is a part of what Dalrymple tries to bring to the foreground.

**As I said earlier, I hold no brief for missionaries, mission schools or hospitals, but it seems missionaries are like dogs that can be kicked around these days. As the saying goes “Call a dog names and hang him.” Dalrymple does that and we go, “Oh, he is so right.” Which is really very unfair. Education, hospitals, healthcare, nursing have been taught and given to India by missionaries. As also printing, grammar, dictionaries, books, translations, etc. And if they had the rider that one should be Christians or converts to benefit from their generosity, then I should surely have been admitted into OLPS school, Chembur. I wasn’t.

Moreover, if the missionaries were so mercenary as everyone claims these days why is it that only two per cent of the Indian population is Christian? Of this one per cent were already Christians even before the British missionaries’ ancestors knew about Christianity (Syrian Christians, of which I am one, were Christians from the first century while the British adopted Christianity much, much later). Certainly there should have been more Christians if the missionaries were such ruthless proselytizers. **

I'd also urge you to read the books. Perhaps you might change your mind.

**Now that we have this interesting dialog going, I will, perhaps, read the books, vastly unread as I am. May be I can pick a few more flaws in the books under discussion.**

Monday, November 06, 2006

The "Gora" Mughal

Suddenly William Dalrymple author of "The White Mughals" and now, "The Last Mughal" is everywhere. I confess I haven't read any of them, but what caught my attention was several articles in today's newspapers (November 5, 2006) about his second book. He seems to be the flavor of the season, and for a talk he gave in Bombay even celebrities turned up to listen. ("Oh, here at last is the Englishman (or, Scotsman) who thinks like us and whom we always wanted to befriend, besides our own Mark Tully.") He himself is being treated as a White Mughal, which he has denied in an interview with DNA Sunday in which he was asked, "Are you in a sense a White Mughal writing about the natives?"


Dalrymple, a historian contends that the first wave of British colonizers came to India with honest intent and even lived like Indian Mughal rulers taking on Indian harems and assuming Indian ways and dresses. He avers that this would have continued hadn't the Neo-conservatives and the missionaries intervened. And that India would have been a country of White (British) Mughal harem-keepers. Oh, how inconsiderate of those missionaries!

Now Dalrymple bases these premises on a few freakish personalities of history. One is Sir David Ochterlony who is believed to have donned Indian clothes and travelled around Delhi with his thirteen wives in tow, all on elephant backs. What Dalrymple forgets is that the British colonizers who came to India had no other intention than to plunder the country and the Indian women they took as wives was because they had such a sexual cornucopia of a lifetime available, oh, so easily as rulers. Who wouldn't, given a chance, in an exotic country, have a harem of willing oriental women? Certainly not the British with their famous sexual appetites.




How do I know? I have worked in the Persian Gulf for a British multinational and know this from experience. Most of the British managers of the company had married Asian women and given half a chance they would have had harems too. And they weren't friends of the "Natives" (poor, us!) who toiled for them at less than standard wages. In fact, plunder was their main objective, and if an Asian woman was willing then, why not? These women were Indian and Asian nurses who were invited to their parties where they formed their liasons. We poor sods, even our senior managers weren't invited. (I have devoted a book in my novel "The Love Song of Luke Varkey," to the vulgar corporate greed of the British managers, a chapter of the novel can be read here).




Sir Ochterlony was a creature of circumstance, probably with a big sexual appetite and took advantage of the situation of sexual plenty in an impoverished land of which he was a Mughal master. So were his compatriots who too went completely native with harems and palaces they could ill-afford back in England. There wasn't any holistic intent here, neither had our British managers in the British multinational for which I worked. They were after money and the fulfilment of their carnal desires for which Dalrymple is raising them on a new and exalted pedestal. May be, the Indian intelligentsia lapped it all up and put up Dalrymple's mugs in the press before considering these aspects.




Now another specious argument from his book "The White Mughal" is that the missionaries with their evangelical fervor dissuaded the Englishmen from going native. I have read books that speak of how the British ruling class were dismissive of the missionaries and their attempts to educate the heathen. William Carey the British missionary who set up the first Indian printing press in Serampore and established the first college for training priests was actually dissuaded from travelling to India as an excerpt from this article would show:



"En route they were delayed at the Isle of Wight, at which time the captain of the ship received word that he endangered his command if he conveyed the missionaries to Calcutta, as their unauthorized journey violated the trade monopoly of the British East India Company."



Obviously since an educated Indian would be a threat to their "White Mughal-hood." Then they would have competition from educated Indian men who would want to court their harem members. Not only that, a Christian India would have been an embarassment for the British colonists as they would have to share a church and a religion with the native Christians. So then how would missionaries, zealous as they are known to be, dissuade Englishmen from going native and owning harems? Many accounts I have read have given the distinct impression that missionaries - with their belief in Christian charity - were at cross purposes with their administering countrymen.

Dalrymple's theory, even if it has substance portrays a somehow dystopic scenario of what India would have been if the White Mughals had persisted in their ways and the missionaries hadn't come. We would have had a legion of "White Mughal" sahibs, and their brown offsprings inhabiting and ruling over an India that would have been still entrenched in the supersitions of those times. And Indian men would have had a slim chance with their women, pitted as they were against the "gora" sahib's alluring offer of a comfortable life for their women, not to mention elephant-back rides through Connaught Place.


Thank god for missionaries, in that case!



Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cold Shouldered by Technology

The following is just by way of what could go wrong in the connected world. We are so over-dependent on electricity that any gadget we own has to be plugged, switched on, and recharged.  And, we are so dependent on them to be connected to our work, our communities, and our projects. The electricity company on which we depend so dearly increases rates, and sometimes even sends us fancy bills beyond our meager monthly earnings.


I recently lost my cell phone, and with it vamoosed all my telephone numbers. I wanted to make an urgent call. My new cell phone was down, meaning dumb me hadn’t recharged it. The home phone was dead as there was a power cut. I asked my son to lend me his phone. “But, papa, I haven’t yet refilled my cell phone,” he says. I was virtually shaking with indignation.  Of all the nine billion people in the world (okay, one billion Indians) why did it have to happen to me?


May be I can send an email. I open my laptop. I have the latest web access, a V Card installed, so that I can be online anywhere, anytime. What can beat a laptop toting guy who goes straight to his email box? Makes email-browsing Blackberrys a joke. But, no, even my laptop is on a blink. I had forgotten to recharge it after the last time I used it.


Oh, dumb, dumb, dumb. Or, should I say as Jim Carey say, “Dumb, Dumber?” That made me trudge to the nearest shopping complex, nearly ten minutes away to make a call. Once again, technology had failed me, badly, at that.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Lost, My Wallet!

Today I lost my wallet. I paid the rickshaw, carelessly placed the wallet beside me, and stashed the change in my shirt pocket. A woman wearing a large bindi on her forehead was asking the rickshaw driver even as I was getting down if he would take her to Saki Naka. I didn't want to delay them and got down in a hurry and forgot all about the wallet.

 
 

I met my colleague Rahul on the way up, and in the lift, for a moment I felt inside my pocket and the usual lump (yes, my wallet is quite lumpy with the desiderata of modern life like credit/debit cards, visiting cards, receipts, driving license, and some lucky charms) was missing. I felt as if I had dived into a pool with no water in it. Foolish!

 
 

Rahul suggested blocking all cards. But I had another idea. What if they hadn't gone far, I could board another rickshaw and follow them. I ran down six floors. Alas, the rickshaw wasn't there and I stood foolishly gaping at the spot I had got down. No, nothing there. Then I asked the security guard one Dilip Kumar if he had seen a woman with a large red bindi going out. He said, yes, she works in a clinic on the second floor of our building.

 
 

I ran to the second floor and was informed by Masooma, a nurse, that Kaushalya the woman I described worked there and she would be back by afternoon. I gave her my number and asked her to contact me as soon as she came. Meanwhile, I went to my office and cancelled all my credit and debit cards, and kept blaming myself for keeping the wallet aside while I always returned the wallet to my pocket. This once I had deviated from my habit and I had lost a lot of things that had become an integral part of me. The lucky charm in my wallet had me believe that I am sort of invincible and nobody, nobody could do me no harm. I prayed fervently that it should come back to me.

 
 

12.30 p.m. I received a call when I was in a meeting with my boss. A man named Ranjan said an employee had given a wallet to him and could I please come down. My wallet! It had come back to me! My prayers were answered! I ran down to the second floor office and there it was my lost wallet with all the cards and money intact. I wanted to reward Kaushalya but Ranjan said no need. I can only admire the honesty of this lady by the name of Kaushalya.

 
 

The wallet with the lucky charm is inside my pocket now, safely ensconced in its rightful place, and I believe I will never lose it again. As for the credit and debit cards, I called up my bank to be told that they cannot reactivate the cards and that I will have to wait for them to issue new cards. Well, I can afford to wait. At least, my lucky charm is with me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

To a Hesitant Writer

To a Hesitant Writer

You can pick meaning off words,

You can paint pictures;

You can laugh at them,

Who laugh at you;

You can mourn,

The follies of the unwise.


 

To write is power,

Of words, thoughts,

Limitless, boundless,

As the sky above and earth below;

You will never be alone,

When words churn in your mind.


 

You can be heartbroken,

And cry and cry;

But a poem would wipe tears,

Puts a smile on your face,

Erase the pain,

Of loneliness and love.


 

So won’t you write?

A letter, a poem, an essay;

We would wallow in its depths,

Smile at its humor,

Relish what pains it took you,

And forgive friendly trespasses.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Please do not cross rails. It could cost your life!

Posted it below but didn't know how to post it in this format. Well it is an amazing video, reproduced here as "fair use" as it has a social message.
Shinkansen - Bullet Trains - Japan

While on the subject of Trains see the Shinkansen Bullet Trains of Japan. See how the cup stays steady at that amazing speed.

Did You See Many Pudava Sets Today?

Through a speeding rickshaw, a Kerala Pudava set – the gold filigreed cream colored sari worn by Kerala women on festivals – peeped out. What? Was it some Kerala festival, Onam, Vishu, Christumas, that I had missed in my dazed-as-a-dodo-nearing-extinction life? I leaned over to catch a peek at the South Indian beauty – but of course, all Mallu girls in Pudava sets are beautiful. Sorry to say I didn’t succeed. She vanished in a haze of blue rickshaw emission.

Then again, another woman, wearing the same attire. Whoa! This time I got a full frontal view, what lush hair, and what enchanting grace, reminds me of tall coconut palms waving gently in the wind. But what is today? Then as I progressed towards office, more such beautiful sights unraveled to make my heart skip many, many beats. Oh! My poor, poor heart!

Once in the office I did a Google search. And this is what I got. Duh, today is the Fiftieth Anniversary of the formation of Kerala, my beloved native state. Shubhashamsakal, all my Mallu friends, and well wishers. Happy Fiftieth Anniversary!