Sunday, January 31, 2010

Artist Village: Then and Now!

In this blog article architect Luke (he is one of those guys who don’t say their surnames) mentions of the Artist Village in CBD Belapur, New Bombai, where I live:

“In some regards, this isn’t the fault of the architect, as people have advanced and want that expressed in their built environment. But, at the same time, it has put strain on those at the bottom of the ladder in this particular context. It seems as if gentrification is clearly taking place in this housing scheme, and how exactly is an architect supposed to challenge that. He did propose a plan for the houses to grow and improve, as people garnered more income, while still keeping the language of the community. But, recently, the incremental growth switched to total growth and the new homes challenge the language of the community and further increase the inequity that this proposal was supposed to limit. Should incremental housing and growth incrementally change the people that are living there as well? It is possible that the original language of the housing was too rural to be able to support the changing aspirations and dreams of the modernizing urban Indian citizen?”

Yes. I came to live in Artist Village in 1988 and in those days my house was a mere hut, built around squares imitating the Indian village. Gradually I added to it incrementally, as Charles Correa had originally intended, and after the software/capital market boom (remember, I worked in both these sunrise industries), I got enough money to remodel it to my requirements. Today there are very little traces of the original huts Correa built. It is all RCC construction and flat roofs now. How things change!

Paul Zachariah on Kerala's Sexual Health

Uh oh, I read about writer Paul Zachariah’s lament on sex starvation in Kerala and only after I closed the browser did I think of writing this post. I went back to search. I couldn’t find it. Instead I saw this. The search engines threw up a lot of blog comments instead of the original article in rediff.com. Why don't the news websites like rediff.com ever write search engine friendly copy, I wonder.

Um.

Well, then I go to the friend’s page where I had seen the post, and, lo and behold, there it was, with a picture of him as well. So here it is the writer ranting about the state of sexual prurience in Kerala. I admire him for his forthright views. May be, I don't know, I have lived outside Kerala most of my life, Malayalis need to re-look their sexual taboos. I had met him at the last Kala Ghoda festival in Bombai and hope to meet him again this year. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

J.D.Salinger, He of “Catcher in the Rye” Fame Is No More


Alas, the reclusive cult figure of J.D.Salinger is no more. He died on January 27, 2010. He was 91. His singular and seminal work that impressed me was "Catcher in the Rye" which was lauded as "an unusually brilliant first novel" by the chronicler of good writing, New York Times, and spent thirty weeks in the venerable newspaper's bestseller list. In the 1970s several teachers who assigned the book to students were sacked from their jobs in his country, while on the other end teachers were teaching the book to students in other states. (In the US individual states have the freedom to ban books in their areas.)

Asked to name his craft, he is said to have remarked to the effect, "One should get up and shout the names of authors one likes." If I am asked (if my books get published, a big IF) I would shout "J.D.Salinger" first among others such as: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Barthelme, Tolstoy, Dickens, Turgenev, Kafka, Marquez, and countless others. Name dropping am I? Hm.

But the greatness of Salinger and "Catcher in the Rye" and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" cannot be denied. Rest in peace J.D.Salinger. The Wikipedia article on him is here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

IPad - Paeans and Groans!

No sooner Apple launched the iPad than a howl of protests erupted from the most unlikely quarters. The women took umbrage at a certain association it had with a certain period of their life when they feel bloated and uneasy, Fujitsu said iPad is the apple of their eye, not Apple's, and some are singing paeans saying that its nothing but a giant iphone.

Which brings me to those who are crooning its praises: this one says "iPad could be a powerful tool for corporate workers as well as field repairmen," this one says, "iPads could be valuable for doctors moving around the hospital," and this one says, "iPad-specific apps that might include a digital guitar or harp, or perhaps a DJ app or mixing program."

Cool. I for one will only believe it when I see and experience it. I guess, for a Microsoft junkie like me, an Apple product will be like an orange in the hands of a monkey (Monkeys can handle bananas better, you see.). Okay, wokey, till this monkey can get his greasy hands on an iPad, please hold your nuts and watch this space.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Globalisation vs Corporatisation

Here's Naomi Klein of NO LOGO on the branding of Obama in an article published in the Guardian. I tend to agree with her – having worked in outsourcing many years of my mis-spent adult life – that outsourcing is creating hollow corporations emphasizing on creating of brands (like Microsoft for instance), not products, and that "globalization" which most trenchant left-leaning intellectuals are decrying is actually "corporatization" of the world. Meaning the world is building hollow organization and un-trustworthy brands not solid products and customer loyalty. She point to the creation of the brand Obama (whose Twitter follower I am), who is carrying on with the faux pas created by George Bush in outsourcing most government work to corporations. The supply chain in Iraq for the American army is managed by outsourced corporations. It's a thoughtful article, needs careful reading.

Excerpt: "The nation found that in Obama, a man who clearly has a natural feel for branding and who has surrounded himself with a team of top-flight marketers. His social networking guru, for instance, is Chris Hughes, one of the young founders of Facebook. His social secretary is Desirée Rogers, a glamorous Harvard MBA and former marketing executive. And David Axelrod, Obama's top adviser, was formerly a partner in ASK Public Strategies, a PR firm which, according to Business Week, "has quarterbacked campaigns" for everyone from Cable vision to AT&T. Together, the team has marshalled every tool in the modem marketing arsenal to create and sustain the Obama brand: the perfectly calibrated logo (sunrise over stars and stripes); expert viral marketing (Obama ringtones); product placement (Obama ads in sports video games); a 30-minute infomercial (which could have been cheesy but was universally heralded as "authentic"); and the choice of strategic brand alliances (Oprah for maximum reach, the Kennedy family for gravitas, and no end of hip-hop stars for street cred)."

Hat tips to Albert Barton for the link.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fashions That Pamper the Consumer

You have wondered, of course, what the world would be without fashion. I wondered today (in the loo, I might add, when I was unbuttoning my branded trouser, not that I am less fashion conscious) that today we are seeing a virtual clash of fashions. In my youth, we had the bell bottoms and high-shirt-collar as the style of the times. Today the styles differ according to the whim of its designer. How about a no collar shirt with patterns held together with Chinese buttons. Hm. I saw a guy wearing it – sitting opposite me - in the train today. Then I see a guy wearing a shoe pointed and curved enough to poke the guy or gal in the behind. Then another with a shoe, protruding in a sort of rectangular shape, a good five inches in front of him. I wonder how he climbs stairs with those shoes. Does he do a Chaplinesque amble?

Then there are short shirts, there are long shirts, tee-shirts, patterned shirts, pants with lots of straps hanging from them, jeans that are crushed and crumpled to give that ruffled grungy look, jeans that come in atrocious patterns, odd-shaped pockets that are – you won't believe this – behind the thighs (so that when you sit you are sitting on your wallet or your cell phone), etc. It is amusing to watch all these designer stuff, the manifestations of the need to sell, the maxim that "greed (pampering to the vanity of the consumer) is good."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Waiting at Lisbon Airport, Put on Your Dancing Shoes!

Got this from Harriet Baskas' travel blog, and, oh, hat tips to the always be-hatted Albert Barton:

"Imagine being at the Lisbon Airport during the Christmas rush when a voice on the public address system announces Flight 0000: a special flight on which "No sad children or adults are permitted" and where "Only happiness is allowed on board."

"And then, all of sudden, TAP Air Portugal and Aeroports de Portugal employees rush from their posts to perform a spirited flashmob-style dance routine to a medley of songs ranging from the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive to Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You."

See for yourselves!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Full Stops in Matrimonial Ads in India, Njoi!

Reading the Sunday newspaper is an entertaining experience. Especially when my eyes rove from killing drudgery of international and national shenanigans into the matrimonial section, to read some of the usual howlers, so innocently put there by apparently well educated bachelor engineers and Indian institute graduates so proudly declaring the qualities they need in partners. The one I have reproduced below is not isolated, almost all have howlers, you can laugh the rest of your month of Sundays:

SRI 26/5’5” BE wrkng MNC B’lore father Sr Exec in central PSU settled NOIDA seek white complexioned extremely beautiful well edu family. Phone:

Gasp!

Now I know what Mark Tully means by “No Full Stops in India.”

SRI (this may be the caste, I don’t know, Srinagar or Sriperumbudur or Sriram Colony Brahmin, or something?)

26/5’5” (age and height, very important, but boy or girl we don’t know)

BE (bachelor of engineering. Though how he passed his engineering with such atrocious English, I don’t know. Pleased to be understanding BEs are alwaysu boysu, not girlsu.)

wrkng (working) MNC (multinational corporation) B’lore (It's very important to show that you aren't the desi clerk working in an Indian company, they have no value in the marriage market, you see.)

Father Sr Exec in central PSU settled NOIDA (Very important information about father, also NOIDA is upmarket.)

seek white complexioned extremely beautiful well edu family. (Oh God, why would he [assuming it is a he, being BE and all, but these days girls are also BEs] want to marry an entire “white complexioned extremely beautiful well educated family”? The fathers of brides are dead ugly. See Steve Martin’s “Father of the Bride” for proof. Assuming he would get a family in the world which is both white complexioned and extremely beautiful.

What’s the problem with this man? Ego? Too much libido? Or, is he the kind who ensnares “white complexioned extremely beautiful and well educated families” and marries them en masse with his own family? Reminds me of the railway complaint written by this gentleman.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Sad, Sad Case of Ruchika Girotra

It's a pity. Really is. A pity that it should, or, could, happen in modern India, an independent India whose republicanism we are celebrating only three days from now. A man who is supposed to protect the honour of pubescent, pre-adult children, allegedly molested her and then terrorized her family into submission using his position as a director general of police and forced her, virtually, into committing suicide. Here he is unrepentantly and defiantly, defending his action. The gall of it all. Were it not for the gutsy parents of the girl's friend – who fought the case to it's final resolution recently – the case would never have come to light. May God bless you! This happened in twentieth century India, no, not in the dark ages. Can you believe it? This is only one tiny tip of the iceberg of the crimes that are going on unreported, behind the veils and curtains of modern India.

Sadly, here police consider it no duty of theirs to protect honour, property, or law. They only consider violating it, or submitting themselves to the manipulators of all these vital fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. Our hearts bleed for Ruchika and her family, the torturous ordeal they went through, the persecution they have suffered. (When the oppressor knew he couldn't persecute the girl, he took his perverse revenge on her family members. Her brother was allegedly targeted by the powerful opponent a director-general of those days, stripped naked in his locality, abused in the police custody, all to hide the very-important-policeman's guilt. Read about it here.)

It's common knowledge that policemen rape the ones they are supposed to protect, kill the ones who don't pay them regular protection money, are in league with criminals who run illegal rackets, protect the mighty who run big businesses. Is the home ministry napping? Why don't they act on the accumulated mountain of evidence? Aren't people who are appointed as director-generals of police in this country screened for previous offenses or such tendencies before they are appointed?

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Grandfather Karikkottu Joseph


My grandfather Karikkottu Joseph on my mother's side was a teacher and a diviner. By diviner I mean he could detect ground water anywhere in a plot of land. He was in great demand because in Kerala virtually every family has a well and he used to advise them on where to dig for a well, for free. Once he went around our property in Kidangannoor and pointing to a certain area said that there is a treasure buried underground at the exact spot. Many times I had thought of excavating that area to see if it was true. However, I never had the guts or gumption. Still it remains a mystery to me. Hm.

Unlike me (hehe) he was a tall, fair and handsome man, also rich, I might add, as you can see from the picture (hope the picture gets uploaded okay) and had a large landholding of 100 acres (big by Kerala standards) in those days. He is wearing a shirt common in those days, held with removable buttons and an angavastram, or, a shoulder wrap. Remember that was in circa 1800 or thereabouts. Fashions change, attitudes change, his grandchildren are spread across the world in countries as diverse as: Dubai, Saudi Arabia, U.S., ireland, U.K., etc. Here's a blog I have made for his grandchildren by me. Recently we grandchildren got together to celebrate our kinship in Kerala (I couldn't go as I was tied down with work.). My regret. Today, when I think of him I think of an era that has faded from memory, a time that has been stilled, a voice that is only an echo in the mind. Rest in peace Valiappachen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

“The earth shook.” That’s the message I posted on Facebook when in the midst of a busy day, as I was standing beside a colleague’s desk, I felt a distinct tremor, the earth moving under me. The next day I scanned the papers for news of the tremor, alas, none. Then news filtered in about the catastrophe in Haiti.

I had felt the earth move several times. Once, in my childhood, the earth shook violently when I was living in the Chembur suburb of Bombai. Everyone in the building got up from their sleep, but I slept on, reason being, I am a deep sleeper. The devastation it wrought over Koyna dam was immense, I read. Then in Ahmedabad the earth shook and devastated portions of the city. The pictures show the tremendous devastation nature has wrought in Haiti. My heart goes out to Haitians.

Meanwhile, those who would like to contribute to the relief efforts can contribute to Medicins Sans Frontiere here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kerala – a Mystery, a Contradiction, What?

I had written an insider's view about Kerala here. Now there's a debate going on in South Asian Literary group about the achievements of Kerala in literacy, life expectancy, savings rate, etc.

  • Kerala's birth rate is 14 per 1,000 females
  • Kerala's infant mortality rate is 15.3
  • Kerala's adult literacy rate is 91 per cent
  • Life expectancy at birth in Kerala is 75 years

All very fine. I am not against Kerala. In fact, I love Kerala, its people, its culture, its everything. For me a day spent in Kerala lazing on the roof of my house is something like heaven. Everything seems okay from the surface. There is a good primary healthcare system, there is a good education system (though teachers in government schools have to chase students to come and study in their schools [you ask why? Or they will lose their jobs, stupid]), there are good roads in even the remotest villages. But there is a murky and muddy undercurrent, swift and treacherous. To be realistic let's look at the other side too:

  • Kerala has the highest suicide rate
  • Kerala has the lowest concentration of industries and businesses
  • Kerala's maternal mortality rate is poor: 262 for every one lakh live births
  • Kerala's famed agricultural output is dismal considering it has to import grains and vegetables from Tamil Nadu
  • Kerala has a high unemployment rate

See, every good point has a paradoxical bad side. So what's Kerala? A mystery, a contradiction, an enigmatic land of a very rich language and a very ingenious people? A subject that's the focus of my study "To God's Own Country – A Serendipitous Journey to Kerala." Don't know when I can polish it and offer it for publication. Any takers?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reading Literature and Sanity

"People should read literature to prevent them from losing their sanity." Who said that? I did. I typed it in a crowded train compartment, as I was squeezed between Mankhurd, Chembur and Kurla in what was a milling machine consisting of bones and flesh, so much close that when the man beside me talks on his cell phone my body vibrates, and when he laughs a hoarse laugh, my bodily organs virtually quake, surely 7 on the Richter scale. Hm. I also said in a comment that we are an insane people, we see those earphone-ed dudes and dudettes walking around the city talking to themselves, and wonder about their sanity. I do. Read some literature, dude, at least, you won't go insane by the time you reach adulthood.

I am really, really, sad that the reading habit is dying. It's the most noble of our sensory abilities. Here's what the Wiki has to say:

"Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning. Written information is received by the retina, processed by the primary visual cortex, and interpreted in Wernicke's area."

I love reading. It's more involving, more intellectually elevating, has far more depth than television, which is narrow in scope, cumbersome, and labours vainly to make a point. I will call reading as poetry and television as Bollywood item number crap. Not that I have anything against Bollywood crap. Yesterday I saw Fardeen, or was it Saif standing legs splayed and thrusting to the following lyrics:

Kambaqt isq hai jo, Sara jahan hai woh
Kab aata hai, kab jaata hai, (and the rest is crap)

Meena Alexander’s Website Is Here….

Stumbled across Meena Alexander's website and her oeuvre of works and am amazed to read about her achievements. I am reading her novel Manhattan Music and find most interesting for her description of Thiruvalla and thereabouts, where my own mother hailed from. She has this languid style that follows a thought process and virtually enters the reader's consciousness so engagingly. I met her once in Bombai but don't know if she remembers me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Marxism on Overdrive; Marxism on Hormones in God’s Own Country!

I don't post for a day and my ranking plummets. Guess blogging is fraught with such caprice that one has to always bee on the lookout for subjects. One can't believe the way prices have gone up. A kilo of potato is Rs 50 now, wifey says. How will we manage? People are coping in different ways. I find my fruit vendor, who sits on his haunches peeling papayas outside my office, nearly in tears. The monthly bribe he pays to the law-keepers has been doubled from Rs 50 to Rs 100. Last week I saw those guys in person, collecting the money from him. Today they came and collected a papaya for free. Such is life on the streets of Bombai.

Yesterday a friend dropped in. We were talking about the labour situation in Kerala. Most farmers have stopped tilling and planting their lands because labour is Rs 300 a day. They will come at 10 a.m. leave for lunch at 1 p.m., again come back at 2 p.m. and leave at 4.30 p.m. They work strictly according to the schedule agreed and prepared by the Marxist government. That's dialectic materialism. I think this materialism is grossly unfair to the poor landowners, who are the new poor of the state. On top of this, the farm labourers are given subsidized rice at Rs 2 a kilo and a lot of other free goodies like chicken, goats, cows, etc. etc. I think this is Marxism in overdrive, Marxism on hormones.

Actually all these are aimed to improve their live, lift them up from the nadir of poverty, educate them, make them better citizens. Actually that's not happening, which is my grouse with all types of Marxist ideologists like Kuriachen Kuriakose. Verily, this thing of the state spoon-feeding the poor with quotas and goodies doesn't work because it makes them lazy. If supply is abundant we don't have incentives to produce, do we? If labour is expensive, we don't hire them, do we?

So what do the recipients of the subsidized rice, chicken, goats do? They sell them in the market and drink it up, not start an animal farm. It's like giving sweets to your son and making him promise to study. He will eat the sweets and won't study. So a cousin of the friend (who dropped in) has a solution. He is a building contractor, a shrewd one. After the day's work is done he drops his workers to the "Kallu Shap" meaning "Arrack Shop" in his Jeep with their day's pay. The rationale is that, at least, they will drink like dehydrated fishes, pay the shop-owner and be back for work the next day. If they keep their money they would never report for work. Sure as hell, after a night's binge-ing in the shop, they return to work bleary-eyed and broke the next day.

That's God's country's own Marxism on overdrive. Kuriachen Kuriakose begs to differ. According to him. "An abundance of supply will drive production." That's zilch, I say.

The Power of a Smile, “Positive Thinking,” Anyone?

The man is face-to-face with me. Remember, it is a Monday morning. I am at my worst surly behavior, having woken up late and having missed two trains. I am being pushed by stoutly built men who are seemingly advertising the power of their coconut-oil and fish-curry filled diets on my slender back, the men on the other side are leveraging the pressure from my side by jamming their paratha-and-ghee-filled bodies against me. I have no place to put my left foot, so I stand on the right foot, and this man objects to my elbow touching his head. I had a good mind to shove my elbow in his face. Hold on. A voice talks in my head. I shouldn't do it, instead I smile and say, "It happens, the crowd will ease in Kurla."

Then a conversation starts. His face is inches away, and we are standing, maybe, like lovers would, when they are kissing. I don't know, I am too old for those things. He says, "the traffic planning is all wrong, we need more trains from Panvel to Kurla, seeing as to how Kurla is the focal point of most of the Harbour Line passengers."

"Yeah, it's a pity they are building a metro from Ghatkopar, while it should have begun, or ended, as the case may be, from Kurla," I say.

"Probably when the committee got together to finalise the route, a politician from the area pitched in for his locality, that's how decisions happen, nobody cares for doing a survey or a study," he says. Quite intelligent and humourous is this man.

He introduces himself, he is a qualified chartered accountant, and is also a certified public accountant from the US. We talk shop as we work in the same industry, he in venture capital specializing in realty projects, and I in realty per se. Most terms he refers to are familiar to me, and most of what I say is familiar to him. Two strangers, two disparate people, meeting for the first time, can strike such a chord, is a wonder, a miracle to me. We also discuss a professional collaboration, which if it materializes will be good for both of us. I hope it does.

I must never under-estimate the power of positive thinking. I know, I know, we all think "positive thinking" and all that stuff is for losers who splurge on self-development books and talk bookishly. But this man, this stranger, this man who aggravated me in a vulnerable moment, and the fact that I could change a dire situation around, could strike a chord, bond with him in a crowded, bone-crushing, train compartment is something quite serendipitous. Needless to add, it made my day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Mish-Mash from a Bheja-fried Mind

Another Saturday, another round of observations, another cleansing of the spirit, another washing of linen dirtied by dust and bad odour of a city that hurtles along not knowing where it is headed. My brain is bheja (brain) fried like a sunny-side-up omelet.

I have seen municipal authorities digging up a road at one end that is being repaired at the other end. They will never learn. The very same is happening on Somani Marg.

The Azad Maidan is cordoned off for the Bombai marathon. I don't see the rationale of banning entry into public space thusly. If they want to hold marathons, let it be unhindered by bamboo barricades and tin sheets that lend it a look of a public loo.

Kuriachen Kuriakose thinks this targeting of Shashi Tharoor is a conspiracy hatched by the imperialistic forces and anti-proletariat stooges who don't know the difference between twitter and stutter (EMS Namboodiripad was a stutterer, he was asked by a reporter, "Sir, do you always stutter?". He famously replied, "Not always. Only when I speak."). He thinks twitter and facebook are evil because it spoil and misguides youth, and is the new conspiracy of the CIA and M15 to destabilize the world.

Hm.

Then there is this issue, or, rather non-issue, of should India play cricket considering it lost in the finals to Sri Lanka. We win a lot of matches and then lose so disgracefully to Sri Lanka, ugh, give me a break, I can't believe this. Sri Lanka is the size of Tamil Nadu and Kerala combined and we can't win against them? What are those guys in white hitting the ball with "thwuck, thwuck" sounds at Azad Maidan doing? Really, such a shame and a disgrace. Cricketers hang your permed-haired heads and droop your swaggering shoulders.

The guy you see alongside is Ramu Pandit (name changed). He is in his twenties, works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and lives with 15 other guards like him in a small room. Kuriachen Kuriakose calls this exploitation and wants to know if this is the miracle of the new and emerging economy of India, crazily seeking superpower status.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Like Cycling? Like Chic? Like Copenhagen? This Site Is for You.

Like cycling? I do. But no longer have the time to indulge. Like Copenhagen? Where the environmentalists from the around the world, green warriors, braved the cold winds and sleet, and heckled world leaders like Barack Obama? Like things on the chic side? Like this one ("They didn't even say hello to each other. Not a glance, not a nod, nothing. Shocking.")? Copenhagen cycle chic is the site for you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Opening Things – Part 2

Apropos of the above post on Opening Things Athiran Santhosh Soman has sent me this video by Larry David, though a bit long, promises hilarious viewing. Watch the way he stomps at the package he tries, tries, tries, and is unable to open. Why does the packaging industry go paranoid over their precious products? Nah!

In this context, something I forgot to introduce in the earlier post. You know how difficult it is to open taps? Sometimes it has sensor which detect your hand kept under it and delivers a burning burst of steamy water. There was this tap at the Blue Frog poetry slam Sunday before last, which I supposed was operated thusly. I kept my hand under the narrow spout and waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing happened. Exasperated, I looked around. Nothing. No sign of a tap, contraption, screwy thing anywhere around. By now I am wallowing in self-pity and contrition. Contrition, that I didn't visit night spots like Blue Frog more often. Then this amply endowed poet comes in and coolly flicks a lever placed, you won't believe this for nuts, at the far side of the tap, and the liquid flows.

Ahem!

I have struggled with taps all my life, sometimes it is clock-wise, sometimes anti-clockwise, sometimes it is a lever to be raised up, sometimes to be lowered down, sometimes it has to be pushed, sometimes it has to be pulled. Oh God, why can't they make opening taps and packages simpler?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opening Things

Have you tried it? I am suggesting nothing erotic or exclusive, but the simple act of opening an envelope? It sure is frustrating. Hm, I wonder. Are we an insecure people? I mean, it shows in the way we close envelopes, stapling it over and over again, taping it with cellophane tape, then again putting it in another envelope and sealing it in a similar fashion. When all this is done, we even go to the extent of sealing the gummed portion of the envelope, along the spine, with sturdy brown sealing tape, again wrapping it up several layers so that what we are parceling safely reaches its destination. Too much insecurity has made us mistrustful.

People, have you imagined the girl who receives the letter opening this packet. How she pants for a knife when she, being the home-bread, oily-haired type, doesn’t have one, how she gouges her pretty nails out trying to undo the staples, how she struggles with the layers of tape, trying to ease it without losing her avoirdupois.

Yeah, we are insecure lot, alright. We lock our houses one lock over the other, install thick grills over all the doors and windows and then install padlocks and the best locks. And still feel so insecure. No wonder thieves come with electric cutters and thick crowbars these days that can break through steel in seconds.

The Bible says, “Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”

Therefore unless the postal system/courier service reaches your packet in good condition all your ministrations go in vain. You find plenty of them double locking their houses, suitcases, still their belongings get stolen. No, I am not saying you leave your doors open, or, your gates unlocked. I am asking what happened to good old policing and the right to feel protected. Or, are these outdated concept, in which case, please excuse me. I didn't realise I am growing old. The disillusionment of growing up!

Pass me the knife, I have another packet to open.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pinched Bottom: Hazard of Journalism!

This video of a journalist's ass being pinched as she is reporting on a story appeared in a site specialising in media jobs in an article titled "Journalism Hazards, War Reporting & Pinched Bottoms". An apt warning for those wanting to take up journalism? The article reports that journalists suffer twice as much from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) as policemen. Not to dissuade budding journalists, it's a career that prepares you to be a writer, much more than anything else.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Train Injuries - to All Ye Injured People

Train injuries. Today I have decided to concentrate this post on train injuries while commuting to work. Around five million people commute to work on the Bombay suburban train network, out of a population of 14 million. There aren’t enough trains for so many people, who push, stomp, wriggle, stand in odd positions, and generally endure many indignities on the way to work.

I commute by train. The other day, as I was dozing, a heavy bag fell on my head from the rack above, taking me completely by surprise. The portion of my skull still aches. A colleague twisted her ankle, another almost broke her leg, a woman slipped under the train but was miraculously rescued, a boy was electrocuted while sitting on the roof (fool that he is, he touched the high-tension overhead wire), I hurt my shoulder while entraining (it still pains me), so on. Each day around ten or fifteen fall and kill themselves against the jutting steel stanchions holding the overhead wires, there are accidents and mishaps. It adds up to a lot of misery. Life is so cheap, or, has become so. Why aren't they finding a solution to the commuting problems? Hovercrafts were started, then stopped, bridges are constantly being built, obstructing existing traffic, but still solutions remain elusive.

Around one-and-half hour is the time I take to reach the office. That means I spend around three hours each day commuting, add to that nine hours of work, which means I am out of home for twelve hours a day. Eight hours go in sleeping and all I have is four hours to get ready for work, read the newspapers, watch television, talk to son and wifey, if at all. The last statement, rather ironic since work stretches, sacrifices have to be made and all I have is time to sleep, take a bath and go back to office. No wonder people get injuries on the way to work and burn out so fast. 

Saturday, January 09, 2010

To All Those Who Have Lost Their Mothers and Are Reading This….

For those who have lost their mothers, recently, or in the recent past, this eulogy by Ru Freeman for her own mother, on her website, which would strike a loving chord. I for one didn't realize what a big loss it would be to lose one's mother. More than anyone else in our lives, we take our mothers for granted. My mother was obsessed with death, a real necrophile; she talked to us in glowing and somewhat exaggerated terms of the many deaths she witnessed: the father she had nursed in his last days, her sisters whom she cared for in through her ultimate days, the neighbor whose death she witnessed (she breathed her last with "a big burst of breath, then nothing"), the caring she had done for her father-in-law, my grandfather, the many, many services she had done for the dying. But when it came to her own death, I am sad to say she didn't recognize me, she looked at me with unseeing eyes, didn't speak words of blessings (which she said she had received from the many dying people she served), didn't take the Lords name or sing a hymn and died with a few huge intakes of breath, with me and my sister beside her, nobody else. Immediately thereafter, as if on cue, the ants started attacking her, and I shifted her to a mortuary for her other children and relations to see her remains, her lifeless body.

Clinically, it was the passing of a phase in my life when I felt there was someone, somewhere, who will always be there, a presence which I will miss, an attachment like no other, a feeling of connectedness like no other. My loss. Our loss that is, to all who have lost their mothers and are reading this.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Information Overload in a Schizoid World

What we see today is an information overload. Emails, short messages, phone calls, call centre solicitations, forwarded mail of jokes and anecdotes, what not? Yes, I have checked all these this morning. I checked two email inboxes, removed a lot of spam mails, deleted a lot of redundant facebook notifications, cleaned the computer of forwards, images, replied to mail I thought was important, wrote just "hahahaha" to a friend's joke (so he knows I have seen it), etcetera, etcetera.

But have I sifted the chaff out of this harvest of information? How much of this information do I trust? How much of the information I read is fake and make believe? There used to be a time when I could trust the editorial sanctity of newspapers. Today I can't open a newspaper and believe the sanctity of what I am reading, much more, otherwise, lose my sanity over what I am reading. So, I skim the surface, looking for false notes, searching for standard phrases written by public relations people to plug their product or personality as the case may be. I can't trust the objectivity of even writers anymore. Rogues exists in all professions, I know, I know.

The world we live in is a schizophrenic, there are a lot of harassed and harried people out of make a fool out of you, and we are arrant fools to believe them. Even once. Albeit, we do believe them and buy health policies that are only partially enforceable, products that breakdown after the first month of use, gadgets that sit in a corner rotting away. Says Anthonybhai, "This world's a merry place. So, enjoy!"

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Kiss and Make Up – the 3 Idiots Controversy

Here's more grist for the mill in the 3 idiots controversy. The latest celebrity to join the bandwagon to further fuel the fire is Vir Sanghvi who writes thusly on his blog. Guess everyone had his/her say now, including me. Excerpt:

"What does it cost the makers of 3 Idiots to give Chetan Bhagat his credit in the space where a writer's credit is traditionally placed in the international movie business? It would make no difference to the movie's massive box-office performance. We would not think any less of Rajkumar Hirani, a fine director with a great track record. And Aamir's reputation as the most consistently successful star of our times would remain intact."

But Chetan wants to move on and in this article he says he wants to move on and requests the director and producer of the film also to do likewise.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Slamming Poetry at the Blue Frog

Entered the wonderful world of slam poetry performance, and didn’t proceed beyond the first round. Ugh! I never imagined I would do that. Found out it takes guts though as I stood on the state of Blue Frog’s aesthetically designed performance space, bathed in the sharp circle of laser lights last Sunday to deliver my elegy to my dead friend Manoj Rane before an audience of diners and fellow poets. It was a nice experience.

The mill district where Blue Frog is situated is still run down, still the festering centre of the city, decaying, though the multinationals and media companies had moved in in the last decade or so. Hm. As if I expected something else from an area I kept away from, because of its sheer nightmarish decrepitude and lack of civic infrastructure. The night spots are situated inside dark mill compounds, un-tiled, littered, and every bit like it used to be. They seem not to care, Bacchus is worshipped in the night spots, revelry and drinking go well into the night, but people don’t care about the garbage that lies un-cleared on the streets. Gangs of jobless youths wearing shorts and tee-shirts loll around looking dangerous and unconcerned.

Blue Frog is lit in a soft suffusion of lights, and the effect is one of awe and quiet dignity. Shivani Tibrewala is in charge, adding life to the atmosphere of serenity and the capacity to indulge in whatever is ones intoxication – poetry or spirits. Woody on the flute (both Indian and western) and a percussionist (sorry, I forgot his name) lend the right miasma to submit oneself to something wild, like singing one’s poem, which I did.

I know I sounded flat. I don’t know why. I did. I stood before a mirror and performed the usual rehearsals but sounded flat nevertheless. Next time I am going to learn by heart my verses before I go on stage. Makes a lot of difference to know your poem. If you don’t have your poem on your lips, you tend to appear flat. I guess my rivals did better and deserved to win. As for me, I didn’t get past the first round. Hm. 

Monday, January 04, 2010

Three Idiots – a Contract Only an Idiot Would Sign

Here's the contract between Chetan Bhagat and Raju Hirani for Three Idiots which is at the centre of the controversy over the film which has Chetan claiming that he has been deprived of the proceeds of the success of the film. But reading the contract, one would feel (in fact anyone would feel) that only an idiot (a general observation, no offense, not aimed at anyone) would sign a contract that would handover all rights of his creative work to a production house without reading the fine print, which afterall is what a writer should do before signing any contract. But writers are human, in fact, more human than others, one agrees.

Writers and authors are the sole owners of their work under the Intellectual Property Act. I guess Chetan trusted the other party enough. This is a lesson for all writers to be more careful before signing and giving away their babies to any second or third person.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Malayalee Redfined - According to Vijayaraghavan, M.P.

Yesterday was Kairali’s, Belapur’s malayalee association’s, Christmas party. The entertainment was all rip-offs of Bollywood and western pop. As if being a Christian means following things western. Oh, there was a Bharatnatyam performance too. I was transfixed by the dancer’s movements and the rhythm her feet made on the wooden floor matched so wonderfully, so fluidly, so effortlessly with the rhythm of the drums. Truly a wonderful performance.

The chief guest was Mr. Vijayaraghavan, member of Rajya Sabha, the Indian Senate, who gave a very correct description of a Malayalee (to be taken in the proper Malayalee sense of humour), which goes thusly:

“A Malayali (I am referring to the feminine gender to avoid a lot of “his/her” from cluttering the text) is one who wonders which school her child will go before she is born. A Malayalee is so committed to bringing up her child that she will go to any extent to secure the best for her. She researches all the schools, then carefully prepares the girl for interviews. The school should be good, even if the teachers don’t have any brains. A Malayaee doesn’t mind if the girl brings home a lot of home work, and sits down to do the homework herself. She also sends her to coaching classes which takes three-four hours of the child.

“Then when the child is old enough, she is put through entrance tests for engineering, medical colleges. When she passes, she is married off to someone from the U.S. The best of the best should go to the U.S., so also her darling girl should go to Texas or Chicago. Then comes the call from the U.S., the much anticipated call. She thinks she can visit the Niagra Falls, the Statue of Liberty, the Yellowstone National Park. But, it’s for midwifery and baby-sitting she is needed, as these two duties are very expensive in the U.S.

“കുട്ടിയെ ഇടതും വലതും കൊണ്ട് നടക്കും, കുട്ടി ഉ.സ. ഇല പോയാല്‍ പിന്നേ പട്ടിയെ ഇടതും വലതും കൊണ്ട് നടക്കും.

“Before the girl goes to the U.S. they will escort her on both sides – left and right – and after she goes they will escort the dog – left and right.”

Apropriately, as Mr. Vijayaraghavan correctly surmised, it’s a sad reflection of what a Malayalee’s life has become. The trouble parents undertake to get their children in professional colleges is sometimes pathetic, no, phenomenal. Today a Malayalee parent is considered a failure if one child is not somewhere in the U.S. of A.

What’s needed? A change of attitude perhaps.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Resurgent Religiosity of the Indian

William Dalrymple is good at spotting trends. He writes here that there is a resurgence of religious sentiments in India. I agree. Every morning I see the RSS conduct its drill in the neighbourhood, the Jehovah Witness is becoming more aggressive, the Muslim women all wear burqas, or, hijabs. On new year eve a family in the Belapur had a Pooja which involved sounding the conch shell and beating on utensils for the post part of the day. Afternoon siesta of this blogger was spoilt. A friend went to a temple on new year eve, and new year eve isn't even a Hindu festival. Navratri is more lavish, Diwali even more so, and so is the keeping of fasts during Shravan, Navratri and Margashish. The Hindu calendar is full of such rituals and they are keenly observed. Friends of my childhood have set the Gayatri Mantra as their ring tones, and a committed communist has a Shiva Linga in his bungalow. Says Dalrymple:

"As India is liberalising and globalising its economy, the country is experiencing a rising tide of popular Hinduism which is leaving no social segment and no public institution untouched. There is a surge in popular religiosity among the burgeoning and largely Hindu middle classes, as is evident from a boom in pilgrimage and the invention of new, more ostentatious rituals. This religiosity is being cultivated by the emerging state-temple-corporate complex that is replacing the more secular public institutions of the Nehruvian era . . . a new Hindu religiosity is getting more deeply embedded in everyday life, in both the private and public spheres."

I was just wondering, what if we harness the energies and efforts expended in stereotyping a particular class or religion and channelize it into something creative, or constructive. For example, building really nice smelling toilets so people can crap in peace, or, create a green and peaceful environment? There I go again, into my fantasy world. Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah thinks the resurgence of religiosity is a good thing. At least people won't do harmful things like destabilize the economy and fuel speculation. But he only knows the meaning of what he says.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Meeting at the Mithai Shop; Happiness 2010!

Happy new year, and all that. 2009 - the year that Michael Jackson died, Barack Obama became president, Tiger Woods was disgraced, 86-year-old ND Tiwari was allegedly caught in a sex romp. A lot of expectations for the new year, a lot of expectations of the year that ended. Wanted the year to end on a good note and it did. Wanted to make significant progress on the novel before the year ended, so got up early, worked, worked, worked, had lunch, worked, worked. Then the cupboard that was sitting like a shapeless elephant in the drawing room had to be shifted to the bedroom on the first floor and the sturdy labourers came and put paid to my literary endeavours. But I did make good progress on chapter 11.

Then went to the nearest mithai shop to buy some desserts for dinner, as I was celebrating new year at home, even wanted to go to bed early, as I am working today. Hm. Saw a familiar face in the mithai shop, I won't say names, for I don't have her permission. I wasn't sure. But the hairstyle, glasses, a certain air matched with pictures I had seen on FB. I was sure it was her. We were in online contact close to more than five years and had never met. We are members of an online literary group. Then I hit on an idea. I SMS-ed her. "Are you in Belapur." No reply for almost fifteen minutes. Ergo, damn, wrong surmise, I was glad I didn't barge in and ask her.

Then comes the reply "Yes!" So I go back and meet her, first time after almost five years of online messages. She was on the way to Lonavala for a new year party. Thanks friend! That's how the old year ended. As decided earlier (resolution!) did some more writing and went to bed at 11 p.m. Son, Ronnie, partied the night away at a friend's place in Panvel. The neighbor decided to keep us all awake with a raucous party on their terrace. That's how the old year ended.