Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bangalore – 7 – The End

There's a big delay at the airport, flights are late. The reason, I find later, is that two aircrafts graze each other at the congested Bombay airport. This has never happened before. Guess air traffic has also become like road traffic in Bombay. So I walk around Bangalore airport, watching the scene, taking in the expensive shops, the lookable women, few of whom strut about (like that looker-in-red who get the Kingfisher's red blanket, red all over). Ahem! There's a crowd of Dutch tourists (I guess they are Dutch because they don't talk English) who are talking and laughing loudly. I like their laughter. Earlier, when I checked in, the Kingfisher (yes, the tycoon's airline) ground hostess tells me she will enrol me as a member of Kingclub. I say please do. Yes, I would like to be in the club of kings.

Kingfisher hostesses know how to treat passengers. No wonder they are called models in the air. They have an attitude of helping customers and not the blank look the hostesses in other airlines have. So much the better. This is my first time on Kingfisher and I guess service makes a great difference. They go around helping with luggage, fetching blankets, and see that everyone is well fed, which is not the case with Spicejet on which I travelled to Bangalore. Why don't the other airlines see it? Why don't we in the corporate world see it? I guess we are blind that it's service that keeps a customer coming back. The tycoon realises this. That's why he is a tycoon, really.

Though the flight was late, I feel fresh and cared for. I give a feedback form mentioning good things about the airlines and its staff. I ask the pretty hostess who attended me her name and give her a good recommendation. The looker-in-red is met by her equally good-looking boyfriend who hugs her for probably five minutes, as I watch. Some embrace this! Hm. I believe in the goodness of life, that good is good, and bad is bad, I think as I sit beside the phlegmatic driver who drives me home, his face like a mask of Kathakali. No, Kathakali dancers have better expressions. Sorry, wrong choice of words. He doesn't say a word during the entire trip to New Bombay, except grunt when I give him directions. That's bad service! Raj my driver in Bangalore was much better. I miss Raj.

End of the Bangalore series, covered in 7 posts. Hope you liked it. Do comment, puhhleeezeeee!

I will be on a much needed vacation at my ancestral home in Kerala. This blog may be erratic for a few days. But I will make a point to blog from wherever I am as I am lugging my laptop with me. Got to. Meanwhile my travelogue on Kerala, in a very rough form is here. It is undergoing a lot of nerve wracking editing. Do let me have your views if you read it, that is.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bangalore – 6 – Last Day

Time to summarise and sum up. Time to let go. Another break waits in the form of Kerala to which I am peregrinating the day after. There's a goodness about Bangalore which makes me proud even though I don't live in it. As Rushdie said I identify with the cities I have visited and lived in. These cities include: Bombay, Bangalore, Cochin and Jeddah. My trip comes to an end after two days and what I had come for has been achieved. Another one to my credit. The exhibition went off well. That's my job organising the corporate events of the place I work, a marketing kind of job. Marketing involves making a lot of effort so that that people are aware of our products and sales result. It can get frustrating at times with tight deadlines and lot of last minute preparations. I like it because it feeds me and my family, it's my daily bread. In Indian nobody – that includes writers – can live (Please to be pardoning Freudian slip, I typed love here.) without a day job. Love and Day Job, a great combination.

Time to go back. On the last day I have breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. There's only me in the eatery and the fresh and eager-faced Tamil waiter is very polite and asks a lot about my family and my native state of Kerala. I answer his questions as best as I could. Then a final round of the exhibition and I am off. I meet Vivek and John two people I have befriended over the years. They both are executives in a newspaper in which we advertise quite frequently. I like their guilelessness and sincerity. I was planning to have lunch with Vivek and somehow I was late after being held up in a project of the employer. Vivek assuaged my feelings – not that it was hurt in the first place – with a beautiful Diwali gift. People are nice if you get to know them well.

Then I have lunch with V in a restaurant which has exhausted all its food. It is managed by a kid who is hardly fifteen. He looks at us with eyes filled with hostility as if he has been forced to sit at the counter and look after the business. They are children with a great awareness as if they are on the brink of something great. "Wait people, see when I arrive," is written so clearly on their faces, I think as I am driven to the airport under a cloud-laden sky dark with the prospect of a sudden downpour.

At the airport I thrust a xxx rupee note in Raj's hand. I don't know if he will accept. But he does, that too with tears in his eyes. His fleet business failed and I know how he must feel driving people around. I wave to him and enter the airport to learn that my flight is late.

More anon, watch this space tomorrow when I go anon, and on, and on....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bangalore – 5


The sky: cloudy; the temperature: just right, not prickly hot as in Bombay; I see trendy clothes, even burqa-wearing women who even cover their entire face and wear gloves. What contrasts! That too in the most modern of India’s technology cities. I visit Sarjapura Road, the hub of the IT industry and see that tradition hasn’t entirely capitulated to modernism. Real estate industry is booming. There are projects everywhere. I visit Kanakapura Road, a beautiful place which has the making of a salubrious hill station when the as-of-now jutting steel and scaffolding turn into residential colonies.

There are also many living in the old enclaves who haven’t benefited from the boom. They carry an ominous scowl on their faces as they walk. It’s as if they are deeply unhappy about something. It’s an intellectual crisis they are facing, according to me. The happy hippie generation has passed the baton to the more material generation who listen to pirated music on i-pods and other listening devices. They don’t care to buy tapes, CDs and records. For them everything should be free and they pride themselves by the skills they have to infringe copyright, steal intellectual property, and do all this with a sense of heroism. But the music of the seventies has survived. Rock is still rock and pop is still pop. Only rap is new. I mention this in passing because Bangalore was long known to be the capital of Indian rock, metal and pop and my favourite singer Elton John, he of the soulful melodies, bypassed Bombay for Bangalore.

Guess I like to pontificate. That’s why I take too long to write even a small post. There’s more to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bangalore – 4

Yes, after the button-sewing incident I wonder why hotels are such cathartic spaces for me. It's in a hotel I heard that my mother was dying and is in the last stages; it's in a hotel on a very cold day that I felt the futility of human relationships. This room is luxurious. My favourite hobby in a hotel room is to stand at the window and gaze out at the street. I can't imagine how they can give all these plush things for a mere Rs 2000 a night. They have everything I could need including a refrigerator, a television and a tea and coffee maker. The sheets are clean, the toilet is spotless and I wonder if I can afford the luxury. Moreover, the breakfast is free.

I have scant respect for people who keep their hotel-room doors open and shout into their mobile phones at night. Yes, which what my neighbour did. The tyke. At least he should have had the decency to shout, or rant at his wife, or whoever, in his chuddies with his door closed. At night I couldn't sleep because of the racket which echoed in the narrow corridor of the hotel.

In UB City, which I am told by Raj is owned by the great beer and airline tycoon, a coffee shop advertises itself as, "The single origin coffee in the world" or something suchlike. I would be travelling this tycoon's airline back to Bombay, so, wait, more anon, and read on. I wonder what it means. Guess coffee country is nearby and I would love to visit it. My grandfather P.C.Mathew worked in tea and coffee plantations in the Nilgiris (blue hills) of Karnataka and he was quite a character, lovable, I mean.

I am driven around Jayanagar, Cubbon Park and, and, Lalbagh and everywhere I look there is vast greenery, thick trees giving an impression of more in its deep green shadows. Then I remember the moniker Garden City and assume that a city with a nickname like that couldn't but be full of green-swept gardens. If I were a Bangalorean I would go and laze in them all day. And I have this solution to the city's chronic traffic complaint. Ban all cars, buses, and trucks and allow only pedestrians and bicycles in the centre of the city. That will solve all problems. Let there be thousands of cyclists and no polluting cars.

A half kilometre down Raj says, "Hadge Kodi" and I am nonplussed and ask what it means. Turns out it's the name of the area we are passing. There's a song which is playing on the FM radio which has the word "nodi" repeated many times. I ask him what "nodi" in Kannada means and he says he doesn't know how to explain it to me. I ask him what the English meaning is. He shakes his head. I ask him if he knows the Hindi meaning. He shakes his head. Then he is silent for about half an hour and I forget all about it. Then he says, "It means, Patan, in Hindi." Whoa! The guy has been thinking about the word and "Patan" is not a simple Hindi word. It means "fall" as in "fall from grace." It's word which would be used by a highly literate person. Turns out he is a graduate. Well surprises never cease in Bangalore, at least, for me.

Sleep is coming in waves and I am pushing the rest of my impressions of Bangalore to tomorrow. So, goodbye, goodnight, and if we don't meet tomorrow morning, good morning, good afternoon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bangalore – 3 – a Band Consisting of Local Instruments

I had first visited Bangalore in the eighties. At that time it was like a small town, a slightly larger version of Cochin or Pune, no, not Pune, Calicut, perhaps. There wasn't this mad rush of vehicles about it. The transport was always toad-shaped ambassadors and Italian fiats. There weren't these dazed looking geniuses from north of the country around. At that time Azim Premji only owned the Western India Vegetable Products Company Ltd. (WIVP, hence anagram Wipro) in Bombay and not Wipro as we know now. And Narayana Murthy was perhaps a worker in Patni.

It's interesting the way I communicate with my driver Raj. He doesn't speak Hindi, English, Malayalam or Tamil. He speaks only Kannada but understands Tamil. I speak a bit of Tamil. So I speak to him in Tamil, which he barely understands and replies to me in Kannada. But we understand each other very well. Like the anti-hero of Aravind Adiga's White Tiger he was a fleet owner. He had five cars which he let out to technical companies. He was taken for a ride by the drivers, quite metaphorically. He ended up bankrupt which is why he is a driver now.

While technology has changed lives of young people called the techies, same can't be said of senior citizens and the poor to which category Raj belongs. Even techies don't get a good deal. Greed doesn't allow man to keep still. There are always lots to be done with as little pay as possible. Why can't life be a little hurried. I mean life has become a struggle for existence whether it be Bangalore or Bombay. Everywhere I go I see giant billboards advertising construction projects. Obviously, construction is doing well because practically everyone needs a house to live. I see the widening of the city's limits to more and more agricultural land and the turning of fallow soil into places of residence. Interesting transition here. I live in New Bombay which was similarly a cluster of small villages, thrust into a modern age of computers and telecommunications. Sudden richness has its disadvantages. The children grow up without realising the hard struggle their forefathers had to endure.

So, philosophy aside, I attend an exhibition on real estate. There's colour here; brilliant colours shine in fluorescent light amid the sweeping views of buildings, housing societies, condominiums and bungalows. There are swimming pools and walkaways in freshly printed advertisements on the walls. In fact, one stall features grass on its ground and the executives wear ethnic shalwar-kameez in traditional fashion. An upcoming film star inaugurates it after the usual delay. There's a band consisting of: an earthen pot struck with nimble fingers, a small hand drum, and a whining instrument played with the mouth which provides the music to the setting.

If I don't stop, I will become unconscious. Sorry about bothering you too much about my state. So good night!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bangalore - 3

While I love take offs, I find landings a bit of a put-down-er. I am through the swanky airport terminal before long. My luggage arrives before the others, thank God! My driver Raj meets me at the arrival area holding a card for me. Yeah, being a corporate type has its advantages. And its pains.

I am heralded into an Innova, another perk of being a corporate type. I feel like a chicken led to slaughter – remember the truck I was following on the way to the Bombay airport? From there the hotel is a long drive on a good road which progressively worsens into traffic snarls and honking horns. But the air is pleasantly cool and the vehicle is steady. The anticipation is what kills. What kind of a hotel am I going to live in, what would happen next, will the trip – what I have come to accomplish – be successful? Many questions raise its tiresome head during the trip.

Bangalore appears on first appraisal to be under cloud cover, most of the time. That gives a sense of coolness and lack of radiation heat. It’s a good time to be in Bangalore, my previous visits have been colder or hotter. Today it’s pleasant, neither hot nor cold.

At the hotel, getting ready for a crucial appointment I find that the button of the well-ironed shirt is missing. That too the one on my tummy. I hunt for the sewing kit which I had made a part of my travelling essentials. When I open it, I find that I have been had. The packet that should contain buttons has a few slips of torn paper instead. The needle has rusted. What to do? I have to innovate fast. I have faced such situations before. I search in the inside part of the shirt and find the extra button that is sewn on every shirt. Mercifully it’s still there. I cut it with my moustache trimmer – yeah, I carry all these stuff as part of a kit. I am innovating. Then I painfully sit down to sew the button on my shirt. The rust on the needle wouldn’t let it penetrate the cloth. I have another shirt, but I need that for tomorrow. I press the needle on the corner of a table and stitch laboriously. If I apply too much pressure my finger will be pierced and I don’t like being hurt in a strange location.

That done. I am ready. I go to the office and the day goes all fine. V is my local contact, a Malayali who has made Bangalore his home. He says there’s money in rental income in Bangalore, not buying and selling of flats. His family has four bungalows of which three have been rented out to techies who work in outsourcing units. Everybody is talking about new technology in this technology capital. What else? The scooter-riding individual on the road could be a Master of Computer Application (MCA) who must be coding the customer relationship management system of a U.S. corporation. That geeky fellow could be the team leader (no, not managers anymore but leaders) of a call centre. They look awfully savvy and competent, almost cocky, if I might use the word.

I am sleepy now. So more tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bangalore – 2 – a Sanguine Johnny Bravo and Ethnic Chic by My Side

From the aircraft I gaze into the slowly clearing dawn. There are clouds everywhere when the plane lifts off. But still I can see the rivers and streams snaking down below forming quaint swoops and abrupt almost-circles as if by God's design. There are fields green with paddy or wheat, whatever. There are the settlements of red tiles, the temple, the clump of trees, the still existing trees resplendent in the post-monsoon green. The sky is a brilliant blue as I am flying above the clouds. The far-away horizon is erased by the cloudy haze. I think of the workday commute I would have begun on another day and flinch. There isn't space here but it's peaceful and calm, there there's heat, sweat and impatience. How different it is to be high in the clouds. For the time being I am racing like a "rocket man" in the sky.

The earth is very, very beautiful from above. I have said this before and I am saying it again. It's a beautiful world and do you see how we are destroying it? This year's rains were the worst ever. Most of the country was in floods: Punjab, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. We need to do something, but what? I then think of the slow process in which man evolved from primates into what we are now and how destructiveness and competition is built into us. We don't consider how it would affect the other. No, we just don't. Though we are past that age of being animals we still are. In spite of having very powerful mediums of improvement, we fritter away our time in watching meaningless reality shows, contests and pre-fixed sports on television. We don't read. We think reading is for fools. Our media is corrupt and money minded. Most of our media is owned by politicians who use it as a way of getting back at their enemies, whom they have wittingly or otherwise deceived on their way up. The leaders whom we have trusted and chosen to rule over us are ruled by gangsters and crime lords who are breakers of the law our lawmakers have created. I read somewhere:

"Man will not be better and sympathetic but smarter and just as bigoted."

Well, something to that effect. I don't care to remember the exact words. These are the thoughts going through my mind as I sit beside an elegantly-turned-out woman who is adjusting the many items of traditional dress she is wearing. I wonder if I should make conversation. I do.

"Are you from Bombay?"

"Yes."

"Which part?"

She names one of the posh-est parts of South Bombay. I say I work there. She doesn't respond. End of conversation. Sigh! I can't figure the woman-man equation very well. Really, I don't. I don't know if I come out as bigoted myself. The man on the other seat, wearing a tie just smiles benignly looking into his newspaper, stretching his wide lips above a lantern-shaped jaw. He doesn't make conversation with her or me. He doesn't see the need to. We all sit like zombies in our seats and are fearful of causing a flutter or appearing as crude. Everyone is one their nicest behaviour. About the male co-passenger: he looks like an older version of the cartoon character Johnny Bravo. Gah, almost!

More anon. Have patience.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

William Dalrymple on Western Pride and Arrogance

Here's Dalrymple on Western Pride and Arrogance:

"We have much to be proud of in the West; but it is in the arrogant and forceful assertion of the superiority of western values that we have consistently undermined not only all that is most precious in our civilisation, but also our own foreign policies and standing in the world. Another value, much admired in both East and West, might be a simple solution here: a little old-fashioned humility."

Must admit he makes some sense. Now, westerners, how about giving us credit for teaching you mathematics and giving you tea, spices and coffee?

Bangalore – 1 – High in the Sky Where I Would Have Turned into an Icicle

At Bombay airport I watch from the waiting area as an aircraft just takes off into the thick fog and melts away, deep into the atmosphere, leaving no trace behind. Airtravel has always had a fascination for me. I have been travelling a modest bit, been to five countries (go ahead, laugh) but airtravel always hold a great charm for me. I always sit in the window seat and look at the land below and the passing lights of small towns and villages in the night. Today there's a haze over the airport, indeed the whole city is in a haze. The sun glints on the wings and there's a beautiful rainbow over the thick fluffy clouds to the right of the aircraft where I am seated. Some statistics from the captain:

Speed: 824 kmph
Altitude: 9000 metres above sea level
Temperature: -34 degree.

Can you imagine? While I was being taken to the airport at 4:30 a.m. the taxi fell behind a chicken truck and I can't explain the sadness here of chicken cooped in their coop. But they seemed awake and unconcerned, shifting this way and that for comfort. The driver was cruising at 80 kmph and I felt jittery. I don't know what would happen. I am chicken. Airborne I was travelling at ten time its speed and I felt nothing. Reason: no passing scenery. Had there been some landmarks passing by I would have got the feeling of the speed. 824 would make a huge blur outside my window. And the bigger shocker is that at that temperature and speed I would have become an icicle or an ice gola (round thing) and would have splintered and been dismembered. He...he....

But here I am writing my indefatigable description of cities. I have written one about Delhi here, so here are my impressions of Bangalore right here in many parts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So, Complain I Will

The dilemma I wrote about has been brought to an abrupt end. Well, sort of. I have decided that all right-thinking citizens should speak up when a slum or an unauthorised structure is found in their vicinity. Yes, I will write a complaint letter whether or not it gets due consideration. Pushpa and Tejas wrote to tell me that I should. Thanks friends. However, my friends and neighbours tell me, "they have come to do some temporary laying of pipes, they will go away. Why break your head [think about it, in Bombay patois]?"

I say, "what if they don't." And usually – I know – they don't.

"How do you know they will go away?"

"I have seen so many that haven't gone away."

Good assumptions this. And this is my backyard, where I have to walk everyday, have been proud of breathing the pure air. I know the temptation is to stay and not go away and the authorities will not lift a finger because they can't. They don't. Also because they gradually become a source of votes. Look at any part of Bombay and you would find such structures, ugly, formless, without foundation, plastic-made, held by twigs where people live, defecate, make children, and fight. The time to fight a breach of law is when it is made the first time. No, not later. Go to the bridge leading to Reay Road Station on harbour railway line and it's so full of slums that they have made two- and three-storeys from such ugly dilapidation.

Now, coming to the question of exploited labourers. My walking companion tells me that they have been brought as virtual bonded labourers, given grains and oil and are asked to fend for themselves. They are poor, they are exploited, they are dispossessed. Well, we live in a democracy, there are rules like minimum wages, contracts, worker insurance, medical benefits. Why aren't they aware of all these before they signed to come to Bombay with the contractor? Because they are illiterate. Again, illiteracy because of whose fault. Primary education is free and compulsory.

Anyway why should I encourage the contractor who brought them to do this again with the people he has brought? He should employ good employment practises, not me suffer for his digressions and profit seeking. If I don't stop him, he will never be stopped. He will be more organised. The whole thing has become so politicised and corrupt that people don't speak up and when they do they afraid for their lives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So should I write to complain against this slum?

To complain or not to complain. That's the question. It's this small slum that's taking shape in near my house. It's like a boil, a wart, a carbuncle, whatever. Today I saw water around, a lump of shit too. No, really. Tomorrow I don't know what. Women crowded around wooden fires cooking. Firewood is kept neatly in temporary enclosures of wood driven into the earth. The plastic is wet from the rain and the earth is a dark brown from wet soil. A man sits brushing his teeth with brush and paste. The advertising industry has made toothpaste reach these people. I am glad. A few men are washing the soapy suds standing in the open.

I see all this near my house. I think of their poverty and feel pity. But I can't see a slum just pullulating out of nothing near my house, near the playground where my son plays. I can't see the eyesore on my way to my morning walk. Should I complain? They seem harmless. But every first venture would seem thus – harmless. If Bombay had rooted out slums at the instant they took root, it would have been slumless. What has driven up property prices in Bombay is the redevelopment of slums. Or, that's what I feel. It's Keynesian Law in reverse. Strangely, with supply price increases. With redevelopment came the spectre of more migrant labourers and they again created slums on the empty lands of Dharavi and Mankhurd. See Mankhurd for yourselves. The slums are spreading and encroaching into the marshes and the salt pans.

Should I complain and root out this ugly settlement and put these people out of a home? They are poor and exploited but they don't have a right to make a slum near my house. I am in two minds, in a dilemma. I have done whatever I could for the locality: written letters to the corporation to improve roads, improve lighting, improve water supply, written to the post master to introduce postal delivery, so on and so forth, because that is what I do, i.e., write. I always keep envelopes at home and postage stamps ready in my wallet for the letters I write. Writing a letter doesn't take a long time for me. It's an activity I like. If it brings results, so much the better. I have written to the railways to improve rail services. I write to the minister with copies to their ministries and to the general managers. So, eventually – or, so I think – some action is taken. I think a writer by nature is an activist because he/she can write. This isn't much activism, but some activity of the garden variety, the elementary type.

So should I write to complain against this slum?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Enthiran – Enna Ithu?

Saw Enthiran (it’s Hindi equivalent Robot) yesterday. “Enna ithu”, means “what’s this?” to those who don’t understand Tamil. Ronnie was seeing it, so, I sat with him up to the interval. Must say it’s the mother of all masala movies. But one thing that goes for it is that it involves you in the plot, it surely has a way of grabbing you and making you feel sympathetic to the Dr. Whatever-his-name. Tension is built up in several ways, the boyfriend-girlfriend tussle, the boss-subordinate tussle, the robot-man tussle, the good inventor-bad inventor tussle, all of which contributes to the storyline. It’s a well made film which is so clichéd, it gives a cliché a bad – no, a horrible – name.  
I am not much of a movie critic and not much of a fan of Rajnikant (the Tamil superstar who failed in Hindi films) either, but I can gauge the kind of effect he has on people. He is as white as snow and as virtuous as, well, for want of a better stereotype, how about the other dark-complexioned minister of defence who is known to be honest as honey. (But if honesty was such an issue why did Rajni wear a wig and paint himself so white?) Be that as it may, why this paranoid-al craze to bring laughs. There’s a laugh every minute as there are in Munnabhai. I think we see our arts as just frivolousness, so as not to be serious about it. Are we a bunch of laughing numbskulls?
There’s not a moment of serious contemplation in the film, no, not from the hero, the heroine, or, from the villains. They all strut their charm and their looks as if the story didn’t matter. As also in the Munnabhai films. It’s outright catering to the basic need for laughs. If at all sympathy is to be evoked it evokes it in such convoluted ways that you feel nauseous.
Not to say it’s a bad movie or anything, but I didn’t quite enjoy it. So I voted with my feet and left at the interval. Yeah, sort of staid fare for my rather overtly sensitive tastes. Sorry, I had to say this, Rajni fans.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Sunday and a Slum Near My House, and Unending Carnivals

It’s Sunday. Went for a walk at the dam. It’s kind of gloomy weather. The sun is up, but is not visible. I walked for my usual ten rounds. Then I marvelled at the quietness of the valley. I was amazed by how quickly a slum had come up near the dam. It came up overnight. It’s a small slum, but slum nevertheless. A few men, brought here, as Mohanan informed me, as labourers from Tamil Nadu, were making arches with cane and covering it with plastic. They do a neat job. Mohanan says they will leave after the work is over. I don’t know. They use firewood which is available in plenty in the forest surrounding Artist Village. I saw a woman knitting coconut palm fronds into a neat cover for the door. I have seen this being done in Kerala. It’s a beautiful and very basic art. I had tried my hand at this without success. There they will eat and sleep. They don’t have lights. It’s a primitive life in a city, devoid of the trappings of consumerism. There is a small stream nearby where they will wash and bathe. There are also children. Mohanan says they will go away. I don’t know. I wonder if they will. I don’t like it when a slum comes up near my house. Usually they stay back and it becomes a permanent settlement. What can be done?
It’s Dussehra, the festival of the victory of good over evil. There are drums every where. Snare drums, bass drums, pulsating, building up a crescendo in every street corner, a carnival of sort. There’s a carnival going on every street. Of late, these carnivals are what characterise our society. Every building’s society should have their own Navratri disco dandia, and every street must have their own mandap (no, offense this to the Gods, but only the human tendency to compete). And there are contests and singing and dancing. Do we need so many carnivals, unending? Who are they set to address? The common man, the working man is least interested in spoiling his day with a lot of noise. I guess it comes from ill-gotten money, the filthy lucre, which must be spent on making a lot of noise, bursting crackers. Whatever happened to the more subtle forms of enjoyment, some folk art?  What I hear is rip-offs on Hindi and Marathi music and remixes and rehashes. But then who has artistic tastes in Artist Village?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Withdrawal of "Such a Long Journey"

Short one today. I don’t jump into the controversy over withdrawing of “Such a Long Journey” by Rohington Mistry from the syllabus of the Bombay University’s B.A. curriculum. I think we are becoming too  sensitive to criticism. Whoever asked for the withdrawals should actually read the entire book not the parts that offend, or hear people saying that certain parts offend. I think too much is being dragged into the controversy unnecessarily.  Don’t you think? I would like to hear from you.
But, pray, bear this in mind. A novel is fiction first and then the truth. People consider novels as truth and truth as fiction, as in a novel. There is danger here, in interpretation. Let’s be a tolerant nation able to bear a bit of criticism, not a parochial and jingoistic nation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Talent vs. Attitude, the Eternal Debate

I was listening to Harsha Bogle talk of Sachin Tendulkar's (the cricket player's) talent and his attitude and what he did with his talent. Now, I haven't been clear in my mind about this. He compared Sachin with his friend Kambli, who – though he was as talented (some say more so) – failed. So what is this talent? How can talent fail? I thought talent can never fail, it was that fibre of which genius is made, isn't it so? Talent is a developed brain, talent is eye body co-ordination, talent is quickness of reaction. It's… I could go on. And on.

Guess, application and how one takes failure also counts a lot. A lot of writers fail because they give up. They grow lazy to even write a few words, they lose the fire; they lose their attitude to keep writing. That's my profession, one I am passionate about, which involves a lot of stroking of the keyboard as if it is the curves of a sensuous beauty. For Sachin it was stroking the ball to all parts of the pitch.

Agree talent can't take you to much great heights once it plateaus. Then it could go on a steady decline. Guess the problem is Sisyphean. Talent can get you into the best colleges but it can't make a success of your career. I see a lot of young people being casual about their career. I thought being an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduate was the ultimate thing. A sure way to be a success in life and career. But then I saw Ashish (not his real name), a former colleague, an IIT, but a total failure in life, deserted by wife and family. What went wrong? Do you ignore the few betrayals – they are quite natural – of a near one or do you drown yourself in drinks and stop shaving? Reason says you should go ahead, but some people lose their focus on their lives and genius prevents them from being conscious of their faults. You will find such types everywhere, total failures when it comes to reconciling with their own geniuses.

So where should talent end and attitude begin. Agreed some talent is required to stand out. Let's say 10 per cent. Then attitude, application and hard work takes over. Or, it doesn't and talent is lost to television, viewing soapy serials, reading 10 newspapers, and idle chatter. Or, to eating. Oh, how some people eat. Gluttony and guzzling are the worst for talent because gluttony and guzzling can be devastating. Many are the talents lost to guzzling. Man can't get back after he gets the drinking habit. Can he?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why Do So Many Politicians Own Newspapers?

What's got me so riled today so that I can rant? I don't remember. A disease of a sudden, or, is it congenital? Yeah. Now that I have written the title hope to do some justice to the subject.

Yes, I remember, I do. The media industry, that's it. How can I forget? Why are more and more politicians in India floating newspapers? I have been watching this trend with alarm and a bit of surprise. Virtually every ambitious politician has floated his own newspaper. Which mean – if I am not mistaken – the days of the freedom of the press are over. Isn't it? The suicidal tendency of India's leading newspaper is obvious (what with their decision to sell news) and, now, politicians – with their dailies – are gaining mileage out of that. Why hasn't India – producer of such business icons as Ambanis and Ruias – not seen a single new newspaper magnate over so many years? The western world had several: Maxwell, Murdoch, Katherine Graham, etc. Yes, of course, Goenka was one, but after him who? We had Sadanand who ran Free Press and C.R. Irani who ran Statesman. They are all dead. Now K.M.Mathew, a veteran who ran Malayala Manorama (in which I did a brief stint) is also dead.

With so many pioneers comfortably resting below the soil in their coffins, the country is open season for unscrupulous media barons to jump into the fray and advance their political career, my humble guess. So many Maharashtrian politicians own media houses that it's a rare politician who do not own a news paper. News is being sold and the possibility of truth being distorted and motivated is all the more obvious. Ahem. It's nothing of my concern, I guess. I am tired and I had to write this because I have a promise to keep, i.e., that I will blog every day. So readers, truth is I am very sleepy, so I am off to bed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How the Workplace Has Changed? Ask me.

It's scary how things have changed in the workplace. It's no longer the cosy place where everybody knew everybody and there was some continuity in the work one did. The designations of stenographer, clerk, peon, and cardex operator have been eliminated along with punch operator, photocopy operator, despatch clerk, receptionist, etc. Walk into any office and you will find a uniformed security guard managing the reception. The steno with the dictation notebook and pencil is extinct. There's no time for niceties, here.

Here are a few of my views as a so-called veteran of twenty odd years. It's no longer the way we worked around twenty-five years ago when loyalty to the company was the cardinal rule. Today all those M.B.A.s drawing fancy salaries don't think a shit about the company they work for. They only care about money. No, sorry, I may be using a harsh word here, but this is my view from all the places I have worked that employed the highly paid business executives with masters in management. Ergo, it might seem, management has become a dirty word, worth ridicule. The brightest of minds are soon bored by the routine work they do. They then jump jobs to get more money and find they haven't learnt anything worth the while and end up with empty talks of market share and market capitalisation, thinking up and inventing corrupt ways to pay themselves more money. The collapse of a few years ago was chiefly brought about by such green horns. It will happen again, I am sure.

So here's a lowdown on the cultural changes that have come about. Usually in those godforsaken (actually blessed days for employees) companies had an executive for recruitment. Just one executive, remember. Poor soul he just pushed the bio-datas to the managers of the company who in turn hired through direct interviews with the people who were going to work under him. That way the hierarchy was better maintained. Today, it's the age of human resource. So this bloated department of human resource hires people they think are fit and managers are told to adjust to them instead. Really. Not joking. Yesteryears the managers had their own say over who came and at what time, today computers and advance fingerprinting technology takes care of that function. So what happens? People are less motivated because of the stupid rules that govern in-coming and out-going times, leave, deductions, whatever. Human resource if not managed properly becomes human reprisal, a way of getting back at the employee, the worker who actually does the job.

What's the solution? I wonder why companies don't hire from campuses. My son – who just graduated – says there weren't many people hiring on campus this year. Poor chap he is still unemployed despite having a first class in computer science. That's another bug of the system. They won't hire without experience. So how do you get experience?

Howard Jacobson wins the £-50,000-Man-Booker prize

News is that Howard Jacobson has won the £-50,000-Man-Booker prize
news is also that his tragi-comic novel, "The Finkler Question",
triumphed over favourites Tom McCarthy and Emma Donoghue. It's
Jacobson's 11th novel and comes at the rather optimistic age of 68
(optimistic for me that is), making him the oldest winner since
William Golding in 1980.He published his first book at age 40. This
shows how much a writer has to mature before he can be considered an
author. Writing is tough business, it's even tougher in this
electronic age, even with computers and emails and blogs. Meaning
there is still hope.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life inside a Bombay Train

Inside the train they are silent, compressing their torsos into tight balls, their legs and arms twisted around others, bearing the heat, the sticky sweat of others, wanting to move but not having enough space to even twist themselves into a comfortable position. This is the usual commute for a Bombay commuter. Squeezed, deformed, demoralised, yet surviving by their sheer will power. No matter how much they improve the coaches – make them twelve from mere nine – they still don't have comfort. They are like cockroaches in a fetid and dank place, they are silent and revolting all the time. But they soon learn patience.

I was standing at Vashi watching people alight from train. I had just got down. The heat encircles and dances around one. There are screams and exhortations. It's easy to get in or out when you are bawling your lungs out. It helps you concentrate, makes you come alive. Hair tousled, face shiny with sweat, clothes crumpled, they have a look of suppressed anger and violence. Then a sort of transformation happens. They flex their muscles, put right the nearly-torn ligaments, stretch cramped muscles after the hours of standing holding a dangling iron stirrup-like thing suspended from a steel rod fixed to the roof. Ah, the freedom you feel. The deliverance from this unique system once the destination has come. There's a job to be done and dreams to be nurtured, plans to be made for the future, a life to be lived. There are children to be educated, parents to be looked after, a whole life passes inside a train without one knowing it.

They say five million people travel around Bombay every day. I think the figure is highly under-estimated. Some of them clamber up on the roof to be struck down by the high voltage, some hold on to the bars of the windows, some stand on the narrow ledge in between compartments, some hang on to the rod placed in the centre of every door already full of people hanging on like leeches. Many fall to their deaths. Many get maimed for life.

But life goes on on Bombay trains. We are a hardy lot. We survive.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The New Kaun Banega Crorepati

Well, saw Kaun Bangega Crorepati (KBC), the new season or version, whatever. Bachchan-ji doesn’t seem to age, while I feel so old and decrepit myself. The voice, the charisma, the humour, it’s so easy for him. Yes, he makes it seem easy, which it’s not. Performing before the camera is hard and tough. The charm is still intact, it’s difficult at his age, but he manages it so well.

Last night I dreamed I met Rajesh Khanna in person. I used to be a great Rajesh Khanna fan before he faded from superstar-dom. That was before I became a fan of Amitabh Bachchan. Rajesh Khanna lit up the screen with his looks, his mannerisms, his animal presence; while Amitabh lit up the screen with his voice and his air of cool but slightly offended air of sophistication. His is unique looks, tall gangly and handsome in a dark way. These two stars strode like giants, each one accomplished in their own way, doing movies, advancing their careers, making themselves into legends. They don’t make like them anymore. Compared to them the Khans are muscularity and acrobatics. They aren’t in the same romantic mould as Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh.

The first full-length Hindi feature film I saw in a theatre was Aap Ki Kasam. Indeed it was the remake of a Malayalam movie, but the mood was electric and Rajesh Khanna just sizzled on screen with Mumtaz. I still remember all the songs and the various sequences. The tragic end drove me to tears and utter disbelief. That was the golden age of Hindi films when the Bengali directors infused art through their inspired direction into their hatta-katta Punjabi actors. Where are the Bengali directors? I can’t see even one around. Instead, there are Punjabis, Punjabis and more Punjabis. The Bollywood film industry is crawling with Punjabis. Is it because of the pernicious influence of the underworld, whom only a Punjabi can handle with his guts and bravado.

As usual got carried away from the original subject, which is KBC. Can’t say I like the new format. The questions are all Hindi oriented, not general-knowledge oriented as before. A person from the south would be nonplussed about Hindi sayings and idioms. Anyway, personality will pull the program through. That’s for sure.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My School Friends and Talk of Healthcare Costs

Met yesterday with my school friends of forty-five years ago. We meet once in two months, sometimes three. The mood is electric with a lot of laughs about how gauche we were, how unprepared for the present realities. How naïve. It is nice to meet the bearded, bald, friends with whom I played and shared dreams in those days of innocence and inexperience. Discussed how the medical profession was as corrupt as any other professions in India. Unfortunately, these days you can't trust your life to a doctor. You don't know what's hiding behind the smooth and suave exterior. Such naivete, as we had never experienced before, long ago in our halcyon childhood.

I remember Dr. Rajaram whom I used to visit when I was sick in childhood. His regular prescription was a pink liquid and a few white tablets to be taken morning and night after meals. The pink liquid – I discovered later – was magnesium sulphate (MgSo4) which made motions smooth, and the white pill was salicylic acid, a sort of pain-killer. I used to get well.

Nowadays, if I go to a doctor he would suggest a hundred tests. Have we become more sick or has the medical profession become too complicated? I have a sneaky feeling they are experimenting with us, our lives and asking us to pay for it. I don't know. We end up neural wrecks who become paranoid with what we eat and what we don't. We become obsessed with our weight, we don't believe anymore in the simple life. How have we become so complicated? How have our lives become so intertwined by that of chemicals and pharmaceuticals? If we get a headache we go for an analgesic instead of unwinding a little, or, better still, reading something relaxing. Yes, I found reading relaxing in the middle of a very hectic day.

Gone are the days when doctors themselves recommended Yoga and breathing exercises. Nowadays they would rather have you eating twenty tablets a day rather than take a walk every day. Once you are in their hold, once you become a habitual customer, they bleed you with all sorts of tests and regimens. There are rumours of doctors being given fancy junkets by pharmaceutical multinationals to prescribe medicines.

My walking companion is in hospital for an operation. His is a case of hernia. Though it was supposed to be a cashless hospital, he had to pay sixty thousand rupees. And the hospital? It doesn't at all look and smell like a hospital. I usually associate hospitals with the smell of disinfectants and formaldehyde. No formaldehyde here, instead it smelled like a five-star hotel. Indeed, there were babes around in stilettos (imagine!), straightened hair, and fancy jeans with embroidery. Wow, I thought I wouldn't mind being admitted. Joking!

Well, all that was a big digression. Suffice it to say that we friends from school – based out of the suburb of Chembur – had a lovely time reminiscing about old times.

The Internet: Growing Steadily in India; May Have Third Largest Pool of Users

This is something that's close to my heart, being an internet person, first as a content writer for websites and then as a search engine optimizer. It says here quoting a Forrester report:

"The number of people online will grow more than 45 per cent to 2.2 billion users by 2013 and Asia will continue to be the biggest internet growth engine."

India will have the third largest sub-set of people reachable through the net behind U.S. and China. This is good news, at least to me. Indian net usage is growing from 15 to 20 per cent every year. That means my blog will have more readers, incrementally that is. Also technology, advancing at a fearsome pace, will make everything available on the net.

he only thing to see if you can maintain your net sanity, or, if you will descend into net insanity.

What this portends I don't know. Nor do I care to predict unlike a lot of net-savvy bloggers who like to let off steam, and, well, erm, hot gas.

Except for a few things that have been occupying my mind even otherwise. This brings to the fore concerns about privacy, censorship, porn issues, and minor other issues such sedition and defamation. Right now people see the net as a free for all, a liberal and unregulated medium where Nigerian scams, U.S. pornography, cheap medicines, cheap cigarettes and spam mails abound. What the future holds, well, I am not sure I can comment. I was a victim of a Nigerian scam quite unwittingly. Read about it somewhere in this blog.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

First the Rains, Now the Heat

First it’s the rain and the water that’s unbearable. Now it’s the heat. It’s terrible, this heat. I don’t remember it being this hot, ever. Never. It has a quality its own. It fatigues you even before you can react to it. You reach out as if you are thirsty, but you aren’t. You are left stupefied, numb with the heat. That means fights. Yes, fights erupt so often in the train. When people are cooped in narrow spaces, violating others’ space they fight. I have been in the middle of a few skirmishes. The whole range of colourful Indian insults comes out, shockingly vivid and, well, insulting. My novel is all about such insults. Have a look if you have the time and the inclination.

I look at the dirtied compartment, the people in various stages of fatigue, heads drooping into their electronic devices, newspapers, the fans whirring. Not many people read newspapers these days. I mean as religiously as they used to do thirty years ago when I started my commuting life. Those days weren’t any better, only different. There used to be an 8.30 local from Chembur and I knew most of the people who were in it, or at least knew where they lived.

Now I don’t know the people so well. Well there’s the friend who works in a newspaper, the friend who is a company secretary, the few friends I have made over the years. My friends have made my commute less onerous. I talk to them, joke, laugh, anything to pass the time. Time passes. Ever so slowly, so painfully, until you realise it has passed too soon and left you bereft of your dreams.

So don’t you ever lose your dreams to the heat. Dream on.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Maria Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Prize for Literature: Some Thoughts

"I don't think there is a great fiction that is not an essential contradiction of the world as it is," Maria Vargas Llosa. (He won the Nobel Prize for literature, by the way.) I got this on micro-blogging site, twitter. I haven't read Llosa, I don't think I can read him for a long time seeing the amount of reading I have queuing up. But I know this: people who don't read novels, who don't read short stories, who don't even attempt to understand a poem don't know what they are missing. They are the poorer for what they are.

And they say the novel is dead. They say the novel is now written only by celebrities who are already famous or notorious. That's what happens when literary agents are failed copyright lawyers and editors are failed journalists. The world is vicious, accept it. They look at you judge your presentability and package you like a product on the shop shelf. But the novel isn't dead; no, sir, it can't be, at least not yet. (This blogger speaks as a fond parent who has sired two oeuvres now perishing on the shelves of his desk.) For them literature doesn't mean a thing except that they get their commissions and their share of the filthy lucre. Not for you the writing of novels, poor alienated man sitting in a dark room and fingering away. You will never get published, even if you do people will not buy your book, even if they do, they will not read your books, even if they do, they will never remember your stories, so on and so forth. In fact, the more they said these things the more I wrote. I felt the need to show an alternate life, an alternate society, an alternate entity. It's like saying, "Look, this may be contrary, this may be weird, but you have to read me, hear my voice out." Sorry, couldn't control the ire.

Yes, all great fiction is an essential contradiction of the world. (Remove the two negatives and the fact becomes clearer, isn't it?) We can be naive; we can go through life like a sleepwalker going through the motions of walking when he is really sleeping. Most of us like nothing better than to sit before a television and watch a ball being hit through a hole or on to a stupid stump. Life –for us – is a ball and a goal. We don't think anything contrary because we aren't creative enough. We think like morons because our leaders prefer it that way. We remain poor because we can't think anything contrary to what we have been trained to think by the thought leaders.

Many times I have thought about writing a story about a small slum that has come up in my locality. It has received political patronage from the local corporator, so nobody can touch it. Every morning I see them on my morning walk, going to work with their mobiles blaring songs, happily chattering away. They seem happy. They have water connections and though toilets have been provided they shit in the open. During elections they receive a thousand rupees each to vote for man or woman named by the corporator. Ah, I forgot the drinks. Yes, they get a bottle of Indian liquor. Life looks great from their angle: the protection of a powerful man, free electricity, free water, no taxes to pay, and free booze once in a while. They are free to earn their livelihood and spend it as they want without accumulating it like the middle class gentry does. Life is perfect for them. It couldn't be better. Half my city lives that way. They don't even bother to think.

Like the slobs who plonk in front of television, they can't imagine anything contrary or better. Great literature teases, it provokes, it contradicts. When writers aspire to be novelists they are doing the best they can to be contrarians dreaming of a better social ecology, a better understanding of life.

No, the novel can't be dead. It can't. It will survive and writers like Maria Vargas Llosa will write meaningfully about life and hold a mirror to life.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Thoughts Triggered by the October Heat

Had some work in the bank. So went there early in the morning. We are creatures of habit and once in a while we should wake up at an odd hour and do things differently. Well, the air was fresh, the walk was refreshing, the train was crowded as usual. I then felt the heat closing in on me. The October heat, piercing, sweltering, sweat-inducing, making your brain boil ever so strongly you become mad with the uneasiness. Heat that could disorient and make you dither. I could smell the sweat of the man next to me, a cop from the khaki trouser he was wearing.

I contemplated violence, wanted to push him away. We feel violent when we are uncomfortable. Violence can even be based on a thought, a fleeting impression. People feel violent when their space is violated. I felt violated because my space was violated by this man. There could be violence when your belief and faith is violated. I thought of him as someone inferior. I don't know why. Our country has been a victim of this sort of violence and still is. We think violently about people who are different from us. Later in the day – nothing personal – I realised a suave woman could also be violent with her words. Induced violence. When we are disgusted, our disgust magnifies, we become animals, we become mad. It's the madness that saw killing, burning, stabbing in the genocide-like uprisings that the north of the country has witnessed over the years. Mass hysteria, mass madness, mass paranoia.

Scratch us, our thin veneer and there's an animal hiding beneath the smooth and polished exterior. When threatened we commit violence. When provoked we react without thought. There's no escaping it, no hiding it.

In the train which is so crowded you can only breath if you turn your nose to the ceiling, there's suppressed violence waiting to emit from almost everybody. We give out grunts, looks, glares of displeasure when we feel violent. We make our violence known in non-violent ways. That way Gandhiji's satyagraha also was an act of violence, getting back at his violators. Jesus who taught us to turn the other cheek was also venting his displeasure at the people who oppressed him.

Violence also transmits violence. Like the boss transmits it to his subordinates, the teacher to his students, the dog to the cat and the cat to the mouse and, so on and so forth, without end.

No, today, in the sweltering boiling heat of October I didn't commit violence. That's because I know violence will only harm me.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Social Media and the Publish Yourself Syndrome

Being a media practitioner was a bit awed when I saw this on Brian Solis' blog:

"Suddenly people enjoyed the freedom to publish their thoughts and the capacity to earn prominence in these fledgling social ecosystems [social networking]. No longer was it an era of brands saying what they wished us to think; it was now clear that people were in control of their impressions and more importantly, how, where and when they shared them.

"It's no longer about what we say, it's what they say about us now that counts."

I have known since I worked in e-commerce and outsourcing that social networking and social media is going to be a great leveller making brands out of some and brand paupers out of others. I would very much like to know what others think of me as a writer and blogger. But I would be damned if I let it be known that I am looking for feedback. I am shy, you see.

If publishing thoughts is what social media is all about, then what is the publishing business for? Already people are bringing out small portable data format (pdf) files of their publications and circulating it among friends, publishing their thoughts on twitter and facebook. I guess the days of celebrity authors are over. Welcome to niche segments, targeted marketing.

Does it sound the death knell of big publishing as we know it? Does it portend to a million new creative oeuvres from so far unknown writers. Does it pay to address an audience of one, or, two, or three? It's nice to know that somebody cares to read what you writer, though wider recognition would have been good. Guess the next Shakespeare or Salinger would be a distinct impossibility.

We all live an alienated life. We are surrounded by more technology than we can handle. We wake up to the beep of our mobile phones and the first thing we look after waking up is whether we have any short messages or twitter updates. Then we listen to music on the way to work, get updates on our cell phones, are contacted about work when we are off work. We can't avoid it. Once committed, we are supposed to get things done, bring results.

Competition never dies it keeps us on our toes at all times. We seek time off but we are again not content when we aren't in touch with work. On a visit to Mahabaleshwar I heard a man in a restaurant hollering at a former employee to whom he had sent a lawyer's notice. He didn't seem to mind if others heard him. The man was spoiling the holiday of his wife and child too, but didn't seem to mind.

Well, that's modern life. Get used to it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mahabaleshwar Blues



Astride Aryan in Mahabaleshwar
Ahem. Mahabaleshwar was beautiful. At the echo point I gazed down at a dam – probably the Koyna dam – which lay sprawled below fed by the Koyna river. The view was majestic as the sunlight created light and shades in innumerable shafts that shimmered below in a sweeping long valley that is too awesome to describe. (Sorry, after this pathetic line, I give up.) I like to think not much of it has changed after creation was set in its paces by the almighty hand. Stephen Hawking said God is the personification of the laws of physics and who are we to question those laws?

Rode on the back of Aryan led by one Shahrukh – the irony wasn't lost on me. No, really. Aryan took me to two prominent views of Mahabaleshwar while Shahrukh his master, studying in eighth standard walked beside him. I like to sit astride a horse and watch things from a height, gives one a feeling of freedom. The sturdy Aryan bore my weight easily, though he had to goaded by pokes and beatings with a twig from Shahrukh. Shahrukh tells me that there's no business in the months of June, July, August and September. So I gave him a handsome reward for a one-and-a-half hour ride around the scenic spots and the market in the morning.

Hotel Gautam in Mahabaleshwar is good in an old-world kind of way, structure made of stone, terraced rooms built on a cliff abutting the valley. Only the mobile thingy didn't work. That reminded me how we are dependent on these gadgets and I was planning to lug my laptop along. So no blogging happened for two days. But I am back.

Let me take you down
Cos I am going to
Strawberry fields,
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about.

Yes Mahabaleshwar is famous for strawberry and I saw a strawberry field and visited Mapro where they make strawberry jam, sweets and even chocolates. Wish I had a longer stay so I could relish – yes, literally – the place a bit more. I am going back there, for sure.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

For a Sunday a Few Generalisations and Jaundiced Viewpoints


A Sunset over the Mahabaleshwar Hills. Awesome isn't it?
It may be the coup-d'état of the century this recouping of the Commonwealth Games after the initial shenanigans. Well, nothing in India goes according to plan, ask me. I have seen it all, from rotting grains, slum re-building, tsunami, earthquakes, damming the dams, holding elections, this country is a festival – indeed a Movable Feast – as Hemmingway said it long ago. Yes, Jugad it is. We have it in us but it is hiding somewhere. It's just like the story of my hidden talent. I know I am talented (smirk!) but I don't know why I am not getting published. Sigh! (Draw the sign of the cross to ward of the evil scoffers. )

Just came back from a trip to Mahabaleshwar and am still wondering at the beauty of it. Awesome, it took my breath away and I fell in love with it. If Mahabaleshwar can be free of plastic why can't the rest of India. Tell me. Yes, I didn't see plastic in Mahabaleshwar – probably because it is a tourist town and the municipality there knows they have to keep their town clean. Well, take that as a given. Why can't the rest of the country think their town is a resort town and keep themselves clean? Why?

In the same vein I think we should all move into the country and cash in on our crores. This is just a casual observation I heard from a financial wizard on the bus back from Mahabaleshwar. Our homes are worth nearly a crore and still we go to through the motions of navigating through dirty puddles, stepping over shit, hanging to the straps in bone-crunching train crowds, taking shit from our bosses, eat the dried and contaminated chapattis kept for hours in the tiffin, and then whine, whine, whine, whine, whine, whine... endlessly. Instead how about selling our homes and buying 20 acres in Mahabaleshwar and growing strawberries, keeping bees, making strawberry jam, whatever? The rest of our money we can invest in bonds and mutual funds and that will keep us safely till we die by accident or by design.

Why don't we do it? Because as human being – and Indians, too, a peculiar breed, I might add – we are worried about security, family, children's future, grandchildren's future, opportunities, competition, etc. Where else in the city to pull some filthy money from the already stinking moneyed, to lie, to fabricate, to grovel, to tease, to be teased, to ridicule, to be ridiculed, to spread rumours, to have rumours spread about ourselves, to write blogs that don't get read, to aspire for being writers, the list can go on except that I am dead tired and my fingers are sleepwalking on the keyboard, and need to rest after having boogied the night for two hours, non-stop. Yes, I discovered I can shake a leg with a bunch of much younger guys and gals from the office. We went through the whole pantheon of Hindi and Marathi songs and I – a supposedly writer, poet and songwriter – was humbled. There's a godawful amount of culture and humour out there! Some of the wisecracks were so subtle they were replaced with lightning speed before I could even write them down. Frankly I was stupefied. Honest. There is such talent and variety in us, we can do it, like we did the Commonwealth Games. That's sucking up isn't it? Oh, who bothers, as long as the Indian team wins a lot of medals? Well, I think – snort – the dirt toilets must have been our ploy to throw the competition off guard. He... he....