Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Afternoon with American Poet David Raphael Israel

On Saturday met with David Raphael Israel in the company of three Shakespeareans and three Shakespearean lurkers. It happened thusly of a pleasant winter afternoon, when the city is shrouded in a grey mist and the area around Cuffe Parade, the abode of mighty industrial dynasties and the glam, set dons a grey mist that one of the Shakespearean lurkers Anil Siqueira claims is only seen in winter. “In Japan we have long winters, so we come India for some sunshine and sambhar,” said the unassuming Akira Yamashita. But the place David is staying is called “Basant” meaning spring, which is also the tastefully-furnished abode of the late Janet Fine, a fine writer, who passed away recently. Appropriately, Jane Bhandari exclaims that in summer, which pretty well runs through the entire year, the grey mist last for approximately five seconds and they it’s “boom, red hot blinding sun, and humidity.”

Anyway I like Jane’s description of red-hot Indian summer, she should know, being an Englishwoman transplanted from West of England into the hurly burly of a Punjabi household, and more Indian than me in some ways. Fittingly enough David gives me a bit more of a complex about my Indian-ness, it being Republic Day, too. He is wearing a kurta, a matching Nehru jacket, Kolhapuri chappals and smokes, you won’t believe this, beedis. Beside him I was dressed like a brown sahib, to my great shame, in trousers, a formal shirt, casual Woodlands shoes, fake Diesel bag, and Police sunglasses. Oh, misery, misery!

Akira wanted to know what it is that the white David-san was smoking. So I sang him the refrain of a raunchy number from the recent hit “Omkara”:

“Beedi jalaile, jigar se piyaaaaaa,
Jigar ma badi aag hai,”

“Light your beedi with my heart, my love,
Can’t you see there’s a fire already blazing in it?”

It goes on to even raunchier lyrics which I won’t reproduce here, or I would have difficulty in explaining the finer nuances of this folk-Bollywood song to Akira.

Then David produces some poems from his very Indian cloth bag. It is a gazal he has written on the way from Kandivli in the western suburb back to Cuffe Parade. The gazals have a raw appeal, which needs polishing. Akira wants to know what a gazal is and Ravi tells him, “It’s a poetic form consisting of romantic couplets that Arab women would sing when they wait for their men to come back from the desert.”

Priyanka, who knows more about Indian popular music than anyone else in the room volunteers to educate Akira about the latest in Hindi music, is a music producer for a popular music channel.
David is a committed American (sounds oxymoron-ish?) who has taken upon himself to revive the Gazal art form, as also the musical instrument, the sarangi. This Indianised American poet-artist-musician is so persistent in his quest for the perfect Gazal that he even dreams Gazals.
And they have the guts to allege that Americans aren’t interested in India! Next time they do that I am going to produce before them the kurta-clad, chappal-wearing, sarangi-playing, beedi-smoking David, a fine example of American laissez-faire capitalism. David, a friend of another committed Indophile Janet, then led us into her bedroom from where the view was glorious and breathtaking. Twelve stories below us was the inlet where the Arabian Sea curled in between Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade, dotted with colourful boats, gaily flying flags of every colour. We had to tear ourselves away from the scenery for lunch.

David invited us to the lunch table on which were the finest fish curry I ate in a long time, except that cooked by my wife, of course. “Ah, fish, we have sushi in Japan, which is velly, velly, nice,” said the irrepressible Akira. Shoma, Janet’s housekeeper had rice, brinjals, a mish-mash of vegetables, and prawns ready for us.

The kurta-wearing poet, prodded by Priyanka went on to play raag Bhairavi on the sarangi, and even sang an English song he had composed in that raag. “I play the Koto and sing Japanese songs, but not stupid ones about lighting beedis with the heart,” said Akira.

“It was pleasure meeting you, David-san. When you come Japan I give you Koto to play, and fine sushi dishes. However, I can’t figure why Shoma can’t make sambhar for Akira-san, who loves sambhar so much.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Indian Male Sexual Position Explained

What can I write when a stereo on a floor above goes thump, thump with lyrics such as:

"Yeh dooriyan, yeh fasle, yeh darmiyan, yeh xxxxxx,
Shakria mein, Shakira mein, Shakira mein, essen naruwe,”

(I am not good at Hindi lyrics so please fill me in.)

Some such nonsense goes on over, and over, and over…. Obviously, a young man is trying to catch sleep before he takes the vehicle to his call centre job. And he is testosterone-charging himself with Shakira’s naked body’s convolutions as shown in her latest music video.

It resonates in the mind and believe me it isn’t pleasant at all. It leaves a real bad taste in the mind, and populates the imagination with weird emotions; I need not go into here. Shakira is the latest sex symbol, the latest commodity of the “sex-is-what-sells-albums” brigade. And the youth above fully subscribes to that and so does our Bollywood film industry.

How does male and female sexuality differ? Alankrita made a point about my this post.

she wants to know why I have double standards when I can be sympathetic to Annie Zaidi's post on Number Plates.

I confess here that I am an average Indian male who ogles at women and like other members of my tribe am turned on when I see an exposed midriff or a sexy ass or boob. Believe me man is known from centuries to be easily sexually awakened, which fact women do not know. In the office women come and stand very close to a man without knowing that she is sending his pulse and heart rate racing.

Ergo, a man only needs revealing clothes, proximity, or, whiff of a perfume to be totally sexually awakened. Therefore if you dress in the latest low-waist jeans, mini-skirt or whatever, he suddenly jumps to conclusion that you are doing so because you are also in the awakened mood, and are therefore available.

Secondly women use their sexuality these days for a variety of reason. After having broken the shackles of housework, they are now venturing into the wide world and they have been told to be bold and blithe in whatever they do. In fact they have been told to be the “New Woman.” I appreciate this coming of age of the "New Woman" and full subscribe to the ideology. But do not take totally confrontational attitude towards men, which could give them a complex, if they already don't have one.

The entire advertising, marketing fraternity has taken this “New Woman” concept to heart and have “used” women to sell their products. (Now, what do feminists have to say to that?) They have used it shamelessly to sell “fairness creams (promising fairness in a week)”, “skin conditioners”, “exfoliators”, “shampoos”, “nail polishes”, “skimpy designer dresses”, “jewellery”, etc. Just look at their ads where models or the “New Woman” has been shown in the most revealing of clothes.

Now this whole revolutionary concept of the “New Woman” has got transferred to the skimpily clad models who have been “exploited” to sell all kinds of misleading beauty products. It is this transference that is the cause of a lot many “New Women” dressing boldly just to make the point that they are the “New Women.” How can the “New Woman” tolerate the exploitation of the female body (For proof ask anybody who has worked in an ad agency about what goes on inside their hallowed portals.) to sell products to them? How can a vanity beauty industry buttressed by falsehoods survive except with the assistance of the "New Woman" who also wants to see herself as the "perfect woman."

I for one believe that women do not need skimpy dresses, make-up, creams to enhance their beauty. A woman is beautiful just as she is. But, of course, if she wishes to enhance her looks let her use a minimum of beauty products. But please do not dress in outrageously revealing clothes touted by the fashionistas because as I said a man needs only a glimpse, a form, a whiff to set his heart racing. If desire builds up in him and he can't get what he sees around him, he becomes an animal, a predator.

SADLY, THE ABOVE FACT OF MALE SEXUALITY IS NOT AT ALL UNDERSTOOD BY MOST WOMEN.

Men follow a code of dressing that would immediately invite censure if they transgress the fine line. Why, I wore a sleeveless sweater to office on a cold winter morning and drew disapproving stares. “Kya, style marta hai kya?” they seemed to ask. However, when a woman dresses unconventionally, other women seem to encourage her, and praise her. But if she wears a low-waist jeans that stop a millimetre short of her pubic hair (yes I saw it recently), she is sure to have driven thousands of living-away-from-their-wives, sexually-hungry, sexually-deprived, easily-excitable men into sexual fantasies which find outlets as atrocities against women.

A good friend once wrote, “Portrayal of women in media (I include advertisements also in this category) is directly responsible for atrocities against women.” Therefore I think women need to fight against the portrayal of women as objects of desire in the media rather than toe the line of “This is the new woman in me and I will wear what I like, and reveal what I like because it is my body.”

I am a none too macho average Indian male and this is my position. Hope I haven’t lost my very few female friends because of this post.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

तारे ज़मीं पर - सिनेमा कि एक नयी पहचान

I say this, and I say this with confidence: “Tare Zamin Par” marks a watermark in the annals of Indian movie making. Amir Khan, though I had many reservations about his talents, understands the cinematic medium, and is a consummate actor and director. If only the likes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali could imitate his cinematic realism and not go for showy extravaganza.

Well, look at the way he has lent some credibility to an ordinary story, one that has already been given shoddy treatment by directors of lesser talent. The beauty of the film lies in the fact that there is no overstatement, exaggerated, loud acting (Black), and is consistent and lucid in a very touching manner.

All through the film I felt my throat tighten and tears welling in my eyes. Perhaps, similarity with some childhood experience might have been responsible for this sentimentality, but it did give a “twang” to the heartstrings, and heated the cockles. Hmmm.

What else? I only wish the character of the father was watered down to something more understanding. This character was shown as merciless and ruthless with his own son. A bit of compassion would have been in order.

Darsheel Safary has an expressive face and carries the film through with his intense face and expressions. He is one kid worth watching out for. All other actors are competent and believable – unlike those children in advertisements who are tutored to be extra cute by their directors (see the AIG ad), making us want to smirk rather than be touched.

Look forward to more, Amir Khan. You have won a new fan in yours truly.

About Indian Bloggers and Blogging in General...

Well, have nothing to blog about, nothing to fulminate about. So, well, hm, this is about bloggers I like and read. Seems J Alfred Prufrock lost his laptop, but he is still full of verbal verve and inventive vigour and his writing shines. Wish I could write like him. His latest one about PYTs and TLDs (For the uninitiated, pretty young things in tiny little dresses) had me rocking with laughter of a manic kind. Trust him to come up with the best words, the most unexpected twist in the phrase. I am a great fan of his writing. Well Z also writes well but is so full of ego and sneering condescension, um, and he is hardly blogging these days. These two are two of the best bloggers there are. And there is Amit Verma’s India Uncut (undoubtedly India’s best individual blog) and Jai Arjun Singh’s Jabberwock which are also quite high in my reading list. But how can I forget Annie Zaidi’s Know Turf? I like her style and the range and spread of her subjects are immense. It's as if you are taking a peek into one our best writing minds.

To the right of this post you can see “John’s Shared Items” which contains gleanings from the blog posts of the bloggers mentioned above, the very best writing in the blogging world. Do click on them to read. Another blog I enjoy very much is Encyclopaedia Britannica's Britannica Blog.

The medical procedure I mentioned somewhere in this blog is tomorrow and naturally I am a bit apprehensive. But it is better to be done with it, as I have the ability to submit to medical procedure without complaint. I have also been brought up as a Christian and I think in testing times such as this, ones faith does come to ones rescue, how far one can endure with grace and tranquillity.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Annie's Post "More Number Plates"

Read Annie's post "More Number Plates" appearing in "John's Shared Items" alongside. Imagine a car owner, an affluent type, one of those people who have disposable income, asking a girl in full flow of the country's rush hour to "come", again and again.

Have we (I mean the loutish Indian male) any shame? Arggghhhhhh.

The Saga of Bilkis Bano - One Courageous Women from Gujarat!

News filters in that Bilkis Bano has received justice for her gangrape during the Gujarat holocaust (yes, I call it that). This woman should be admired. Just imagine what she went through. Six members of her family are either dead or missing, she saw her daughter's head being smashed on a stone and killed, and she was gangraped in front of her own children.

Oh God! Is there law and order in the hinterlands of one of India's most industrially advanced state, that Narendra Modi is tom-tom-ing all the time?

The fortitude with which she pursued her case was immense. She went through a gamut of emotions, petitioning the supreme court, spending three months in the witness box, and identifying all the accused. Imagine her courage, staying power, whatever.... If there is, I mean an iota of justice in this ye ol' wide universe, this is it. Kudos girl!

I would recommend that she be given an award for her courage. Anyone? You know Red and White has awards for saving people falling into wells, well, why not this?

Another news items catches the eye. The accused in the Best Bakery case (which is due for hearing in Bombay on Monday) are also running scared after learning about this verdict. Reason: the circumstances are the same - rape, killing before family members, burning, etc.

If the case was heard in Gujarat it would have been "no go" from the start.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What They Won’t Tell You (And You Will Have to Find Out the Hard Way) If You Are Admitted in an Indian Hospital

Following are a compilation of the simple things that could lead to a better stay in a hospital if you or your loved ones have an emergency and are admitted to a hospital. I have compiled it during a recent stay in the hospital.

Disclosure: Indian healthcare isn't picture perfect. Apparently we have approximately ten hospital beds per 10,000 individuals in this country which had promised healthcare for all by 2000, which is still a long way off. And some of the private hospitals are nothing but extortion centres. They put the fear of death into you and then ask you to pay up, remember, bhai ishtyle.

So, um, read the following carefully until your eyes bulge out, because it could save your/your loved ones life at some time:

1. Ask around about the reputation of the hospital and its professionalism. Are the doctors qualified? Are the nurses trained? Are medicines available?

2. They will put you on drips and tubes continuously and restrict movement without telling you that you can interrupt the procedure to go to the bath room. When you are admitted either you are too shy or too overwhelmed by the men and women in white coats to ask to go to the bathroom. Please don't be shy, and even be bold enough to "go" in the bed, because if you don't you will be diagnosed as "uremic" and given treatment which will definitely give you a urinary disease.

3. If you just submit to all their tubes, you will end up being uremic (accumulate urine) and that will lead to using the catheter which is not a very good for your kidneys. They will go to the next step of treating you for uremia without admitting it was their responsibility to inform you of the consequences of putting so many tubes on you.

4. Whatever the medicines, ask what it is for and what it will do. There is something called “informed consent” by which they are bound to inform you

5. Always have someone beside you, if possible. Doctors are notorious for demanding an incredible number of things.

6. Have nurses give you the medicine and the water, instead of telling you just to have the medicine yourself. They are paid to do that.

7. Body movement is most essential for recovery. So don’t lie down all the time, get up and walk around the room at fixed intervals.

8. First thing they do on admission is insert a “canula” into you to transmit all those fluids. Insist that it is done by an experienced nurse. Or you will have swelling at the place where the insertion has been made and even pain.

9. If the canula is inserted then the nurse should use this to inject all sorts of injections and shouldn’t inject in other parts of the body.

10. Insist on a clean sheet everyday and two pillows to prop you up. They should have a supply of these.

11. Ask, ask, ask. Always ask “what is this” and “what is that” and have a positive attitude. Add a few kind words so that you aren’t classified as difficult.

12. Never be afraid to change hospitals if you find the service lacking, or, if qualified doctors aren’t available. After all it’s your life.

13. Ask for the room and toilet to be cleaned everyday.

14. Always have a room with proper ventilation

15. Ask for mosquito coils if there are too many mosquitoes at night

16. Check if the hospital’s food is okay. Otherwise make arrangements yourself. You don’t want to fall even more sick.

17. Check if the hospital’s drinking water supply is okay, if boiled water is being supplied.

18. Check if genuine drugs are being used. There are an incredible number of spurious drugs in the market.

19. Above all, doctors aren’t the “mini-gods” they used to be. So question every treatment and procedure. They are always being induced by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their products.

20. If a medicine prescribed isn’t available, ask if there is an alternative to it.

21. Have plenty of reading material, which will keep you alert and involved. If there is a television, it would be even better.

22. MOST IMPORTANT (How could I forget this? This is a re-post since I am known to make gaffes and then to go back and correct them later): They will never tell you that ambient hospital infections are a big killer. If you don't watch out your back could be a mess of welts and sores which can kill you slowly and painfully. No, they will never say a thing about taking simple precautions, but when the sores appear they will declare with some sadistic delight that you have "bed sores". Believe me, then you feel like strangling them, because it is their easily washable hard rexine-covered matress that caused it in the first place. There is no high-profile medicine for "bed sores" except your facial talcum powder. Smear your back, neck, buttocks with this cheap medicine two times a day to keep your skin smooth and avoid formation of painful bed sores. Good luck!

23. Beware of the know-all, smirking specialist doctor. They will pass judgement even before they have diagnosed your illness, which if at all they do deign to do will be a "jumping to conclusion" sort of diagnosis. Ask him plenty of questions and cut him down to size by asking him if he is qualified to make all those diagnoses "on the fly".

24. Insist on being given a bath or sponged everyday, if you can't do it yourself. Dirt on the body can lead to infection and will slow down recovery.

25. Don't panic, if you do things could get worse. So donnnnnttttt paaaaannnnniiiiiicccccc!

Above all, have a positive attitude whatever happens. Have faith. Remember, they are trained professionals but may be too overworked to give you the proper advice. Only your probing questions can keep them on their toes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Recovering...

On the way to recovery, there’s the aftertaste of medicines in the mouth, the sluggishness, the weakness, all of which will take some time to get out of. Banish it; go away I don’t want to be sick anymore. In the full flow of life I was turned into a vegetable overnight, a man who hikes to the nearby hill everyday found it difficult to go to the bathroom, I was despondent, I was shaky, I read the scriptures that gave me a little respite, my stomach bloated out, and despair took hold.

Mercifully (Mercy is my wife's name) all that is behind me as I go for walks and exercise my body to prevent a repeat of this incident. My family members stood behind me and it was a solace to see their love and affection. It shows how vulnerable we are in the face of sickness and affliction.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Noble Profession, You Say?

This whole hospitalisation-healthcare in India is a scam. Yes, I realized it recently, quite closely and personally. Earlier, during the start of the 2000’s I had lost both my parents and had spent considerable time with them in hospital rooms. And I am sorely disillusioned what practising medicine and the noble profession of saving people’s lives have become.

It’s like this: I had a medical emergency and was admitted to the hospital by a friend. Obviously I am going through trauma, my wife and son are also affected, and I am led into medical procedures without any sensitivity, am insulted rather, by some of the questions. The healthcare givers are in their own worlds, never acknowledging the fact that the patient (me) could be in a very sensitive condition of mind. They don’t give me a word of assurance, or, a word to say I will be okay. How can they when they are in their own world?

I watch as expensive medicines are ordered and my wife and son run about buying them. (I wonder: are they pushing the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies, or what? They seem to be saying, pssssttt, here prescribe these products; the pharma company has promised me a free holiday. Obviously the way they go about it I feel the person, the sensitive individual, whose life this whole drama is all about, is being ignored.)

The doctor is a supercilious individual and is blunt with his words. Never even once does he say a word that I should give my body some movement, and that though sick, I should try and walk about a bit. The result: I get swelling in my feet from lying around for too long with tubes attached to my body, rather painfully by the untrained, novitiate nurses.

I am glad I am medically insured. But in the middle of the night an emergency case comes to the abovementioned hospital and I can clearly hear them fighting. The patient is unconscious and they aren’t willing to admit her. Obviously she neither has money or people to back her.

Sad to say I came out of hospital quite disillusioned. Recovery is in process, and I can say I am making some progress, eating well and exercising a lot. Guess my faith is what saved me and not modern medicine. I am a bit tired, so I ammmm offfffff to some sleep!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Florence Nightingales?

Been really down in the dumps of late. Health was bad, a lot f doubts abut the future – and that is terrible: I mean starting to doubt about yourself and your future. Spent a few days in a hospital, the only decent one available in the locality, and found that they could kill you more than heal you. The nurses are so raw, they can’t insert a canula into the body, and they talk all the while, wear dirty uniforms. It’s like this: you have this medical emergency, you are vomiting and passing stools like water without restraint and these girls keep chattering to themselves while inserting tubes in the body, making comments like, “tch”, “the vein is crooked”, and you wonder if you are so abnormally sick already that you are going to die. Where’s their objectivity? It’s the pits you know, and you feel so uncertain whether you would come out of it alive. And then along comes a senior nurse and inserts the canula in a jiffy and you realise it was the ignorance of the rookie nurses that made them make such inconsiderate comments to a traumatised man. Really they should create some standards about nursing and only register them after testing them properly.

The whole thing is because you assume they are the people who know and when they make such comments you think: they know the whole truth, and the truth is: “this man is going to die, look at him, all his veins are crooked.” Actually it isn’t so, they are showing off their youthful insouciance and good health, and sneering at you for being sick, and suddenly you feel this terrible sense of being on the verge of dying. On looking back, what made them so supercilious about their ignorance and their good health? Weren’t they sick like this in their own lives?

I know, I know, I can’t blame them because they are badly paid, have little education or experience and their bad manners reflect it. But I feel this attitude of looking down upon a sick person is nauseating and lacks human sympathy. Are these the people on whom you are going to trust your life? You get the impression that they are out to kill you rather than heal you. Those girls left me terribly disoriented and sicker than I was, not to talk of raising in me the monsters of doubt.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Great Indian Railway Bazaar; and Sexual Perversion Therein!

My great love and dislike – well some things like that aren’t they? – about the railways is that when it affords me a keyhole peek into the real India, I, sometimes, get disgusted by the people and their lack of manners. You could never put together so much of India in so small a space: UP-wallahs, Punjabis, Madrassis (what to do, we are like that only, no?), Bengalis, Gujaratis, Sindhis, Parsis, Pahadis, Marathis, Andhras (there I go again, Andhras don’t like to be considered Madrassis, de facto), etc. And there are bhajans, Bollywood items numbers, and people are most voluble when they are inside the belly of the monstrous centipede.

Yes, you get all kinds on the railways, it’s a bazaar out there, a festival, a Benaras ghat ka mela, a carnival that happens every morning out there. Have you heard of the partition exodus, it’s the same on the suburban railways of Bombay, if you haven’t been on it some time recently.

When the train arrives there is a lot of screaming, insulting, wolf-whistling, teasing of women (and men, yes, I am coming to it!) going on. Then when the train stops there is a lot of pushing, and if you stand in the middle, you are pushed inside by those behind you. By jove, you are inside, no need to do anything, not even push, you are inside flailing your hands and legs and getting trod on like, um, aaah, grapes in a grape vat (or, so I have seen) in the wine-making district of Burgundy, south of France.

And there is touching! A lot of them of the wrong kind. A woman friend complained of it when she was travelling on trains for the first time in Bombay. Why, Blank Noise Project ran a blogathon on it and I participated in it and got a lot of hits on my blog on account of that. But men get molested too: in trains, in various other crowded places. And you know when the touching is wrong! Yes, you feel humiliated, like bashing up the man, like killing him for deriving guilty pleasure from your body. I can feel my female friend’s humiliation, you feel violated, you feel as if you are reduced to nothing but a piece of flesh. A male friend deals with it by bringing his bag fitted with a lot of buckles near the molester and he goes away.

Women of the world: the truth is men get molested too (Stilll don't believe? Read this article about chikan/chijo in Japan). Yes, more if they are young and vulnerable, but age is not a deterrent for the molester, he/she will go for anything to satisfy his/her carnal desires. Does that shock you? Yes there are women molesters too! More on this as we go along in later posts. Are we a perverted people? Aiee, the Japanese would say, there are perverts among us too.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What to Wear? A Primah, dahlings!

It’s obvious when I say this: the great Indian job market is opening up for women, and they are going all out, nay, fighting it out in the job space. But a bit of advice is needed, women friends, about workplace dressing standards and etiquette. I mean this as gentle advice to my gentle friends. So, please pay heed, if you are in the mood, or else turn up your nose and say, “Kya men, you are like this only, kaiko we listen to you, men?” The following items of dressing please avoid in the office as they aren’t considered formal:

Figure-hugging jeans (especially if you have flesh hanging out of them like jackfruit)
Capris (unless you have sexy calves)
Mini-skirts (comfortable for you but not for us, dahlings)
Micro-minis (a girl wore it to office recently, and men took turns to stare up and down her skirt)
Slit skirts (sexy for a party, but avoid)
Party dress (too shiny, unless you want to, obviously, patao the bossman)
Tank tops (in the still predominantly male bastion of the office men stare, you know, luv)

I may be sexist, but the following proves I am the disadvantaged sex:

Yesterday I was subject to the worst of sexual discrimination. Early morning there aren’t any rickshaws available and this sweet-sixteen-something and I are standing side by side and the rickshawallah purposefully offers her the ride and not me.

Again yesterday, another time another place, stilettos in jeans and I both wave to a rickshaw and the rickshaw decides to swerve in her direction and not mine. I mean, how mean could rickshawallahs be?