Saturday, November 29, 2008

Need answers......

The anger grows. I have sat down to put into words what I feel several times,, but the band width of my mind, is totally insufficient to handle the myriad overflowing thoughts and feelings that want to rush out, and I have given up , again and again.

And now its all over. 52 hours of watching a minute to minute war. Anger gives way , first to a massive relief, and then questions clobber the mind...

There have been efforts to divide us. Right from the time, that the British in their opportunistic support ( of the creator of Pakistan), linked Indian Independence to it, to countries (read Bangladesh) that were liberated by India in 1971, turning around and giving in to the religion of hate. Efforts by selfish, shortsighted, corrupt and unscrupulous local politicians to divide a populace on religion,language, and even commerce.

We are a country , who can be held up to the world as the shining example of democracy. I am not mouthing a platitude. It is difficult to be democratic when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. Its difficult to be democratic , when you are in a quandary about whether to obey a national rule or a religious diktat. Its difficult to be democratic where, year after year, you see money power prevailing where good sense should suffice.

And you wonder about the exemplary dedication of the armed forces of such a country, where no one gets drafted into the force akin to what happened in the US during Vietnam. Its a totally voluntary army. Millions across India's villages, become army men because they want to, or because their father was one, and the tradition continues. Police , though growingly criticised, continue to work inhuman hours with totally inadequate protection.

And again and again, election after election , this country and its armed forces, have shown an immense awareness and respect for the will of the people, as opposed to grabbing of power by military force, which is the norm in our neighboring countries, that rule by the rifle butt.

For fifty two hours, we saw an outstanding fight put up by the various sections of the armed forces, as they went about tangling with an enemy, who was remorseless, loaded with resources, technologically super enabled, and totally disrespectful of anything that crossed their path. The Mumbai police, who were led from the front by their chief officers, ( so well attuned to the city population, the logistics, and movements), were hampered by their ineffective hardware, and destructive political interference, yet stood up to the challenge, eventually dying a martyrs death.

At the end of it all, some questions.

1. The Central government says it had passed on the intelligence warning about this to the State government , after the boat left Karachi with the terrorists. While they bicker over generalities and specifics, pray , tell me, if they knew that the enemy had left Karachi by boat, didn't we have a Navy to stop them and bomb them out of the ocean? Or do we just "do" pirated ships off the coast of Africa ? It is clear that every international action requires government sanction. So why was the navy not asked to intercept this boat ?

2. The State Government has its home minister explaining in a redundant press conference, saying "These things happen ". Do you say the same thing to the grieving families of those who slogged out for 60 hours in the smoke and flames and died,, with no personal gain in the whole thing, except a great amount of patriotism and pride in the country?

3. At the height of the whole thing, the central home minister announces a press conference, they cut across from the live coverage of the carnage to show the country's home minister going into a long winded eulogy over an old, ex-PM , with a chronic kidney condition and a bad prognosis passing away. That man was in his eighties. And while I respect the sentiments behind the eulogy, was the entire union cabinet bereft of other speakers? Was this of prime importance to the Home Minsiter ? Was the current PM not available ? And why couldn't this wait till Parliament went into session ?

4. Can we incorporate something in our Constitution (since everyone quotes from it in defence of whatever), that says, that is an event like this, appearances by politicians, or any members of any legislatures, barring only the PM, at the scenes of calamities , be punishable by law ? The Mumbai police are paid a pittance for what they do. They work amazing hours, in the most damaging conditions. Where was the need for politicians of all hues to come with sanctimonious faces ,and spout meaningless drivel, at the sites of the carnage, drawing the police away from where they should have continued to be?

5. Have we had enough of people at the highest level , constitutionally and otherwise, flying down from Delhi, wasting tons of aviation fuel , to visit the injured at the hospitals; all these dignitaries with their various classes of security which have drawn the commandos away from where they should have been deployed in the first place? The injured don't have a magical improvement, the already overworked staff tries its best to cope, and a lot of precious time is wasted. If I was sick and injured and lying in a hospital bed after a traumatic event, I would shut my eyes when these folks appeared and cry out for my mother. Honestly.

6. Our central government has a Pay Commission that meets and upgrades the Govt payscales every 6 years. While wonderful pay scales are announced for civilians, why does it reach a stage where the armed forces publicly protest over the difference in the pay facilities for them , to the extent that a special appeal goes to the PM ? Why must the armed forces have to ask ? Has it not proved itself time and again in man made, terrorist, and natural calamities, besides activities that it was meant for, such as fighting to keep our country free ? Will someone see the light of the day now ?

7. Whoever heard of anyone other than the PM and President having massive security ? If anyone other than these two, is in a position of power where there is a threat perception, he or she should leave/resign that position. You cannot go around making outrageous threatening statements, get threats from some one in return and then demand security. But 35 constables strutting around and several cars accompanying you when you go to have tea with your friends is a bit much. I didn't pay my taxes for this. its amazing to see how many of our esteemed ministers face threats, as perceived by the government. 61 years after independence, they are behaving like royalty , and the Raja culture is threatening to return again.....

There are many questions. And the problems reek of politicians excelling themselves in greed, hoarding of resources , corruption, and incompetency.

This entire calamity has served to unite the citizens of Mumbai in particular and the country in general, despite those who try to use religion,rhetoric, disturbance tactics, and geography to encourage division amongst us, and tainted votes for themselves.

We were divided earlier in 1947. Since then , we've clambered up and cobbled our combined energies together in matters of education, commerce agriculture, the sciences, arts, through years of 3-4 wars, natural calamities, and certain natural allies who were unnaturally blind at times, (misled by power,money,prestige, and plain and simple bad advice).

We wont be divided again. We are not fools.

Time has come to show them in the forthcoming elections, what a dedicated, united , citizenry can do

Monday, November 24, 2008

Driving through life...............एका फिआट गाडीची कथा .....

There is the old middle class world of savings, haggling, bargaining, repairing, searching endlessly for an old 5 Re note that you thought you left under the statue of Krishna, getting restless with anger if your child shoves the vegetables behind the bowl at lunch, scraping the milk vessel after it is emptied post-boiling of the milk, and making a chutney from dudhi(gourd) skins, after the insides are cooked into a daily vegetable......

And then there is another middle class world, where you register for a car by paying Rs 1000, wait for 8 years, and get delirious with excitement when you number comes, as you hunker down trying to come up with the remaining 99% of the car cost.

Time was when the only choice in cars was either Fiat, or an Ambassador. Our Fiat came in the hard way, around 36 years ago. We registered, were called up several years later, and then became the proud owners of a maroon colored Fiat car, which was promptly first driven to the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai, and then driven home, the neighbors in the housing society kind of peering in feigned indifference through their partially curtained windows.

This was the time before bucket seats, automatic transmission, power steering and other dadagiri ( "mafia-style") items. After driving an Ambasaador car for years, as I gracefully struggled from teenage into the early twenties, driving a Fiat, was, like Einstein being asked to do subtraction-with-carry. While the Ambassador-expertise surely qualified me to apply for driving a tank in the armed forces, it was sheer pleasure to be able move the steering wheel without imagining that I was extracting sugarcane juice.

Typically, the car would hold 5 people in what I called " middle class civilized mode." Two people in the front, and 3 at the back. Extremely prosperous types, who took frequent offense at assorted elbows hitting their midriff, avoided asking for rides. Occasionally, in social emergencies, a third person was accommodated in front, and the driver then got a crick in the clavicle, as he tried to change gears without breaking some one's ribs, and causing a Pneumothorax.

In some unusual circumstances requiring immediate transport of some ladies and children somewhere, it was not unknown for 10 people to have travelled, sitting on various laps and stuck in various corners, testing the suspension of the Fiat to the limits.

The late seventies was the teenage of the car.

Its appearance was greatly worried about. A bang here and concussion there, and folks would rush to the auto shop to rectify appearances, and never mind the cost. While other folks in our building had guys with buckets and cloths walking around at dawn to give their cars a daily wash, nothing but family would do for ours.

Besides the daily touch up with soft pieces of retired sarees, every week, the car would be driven near the water connection in the compound, a pipe attached, and a proper, and super clean bath with car soap would be conducted. Polishing with a car wax that seemed to be a family heirloom item, and the windscreen would be carefully cleaned with a soapy sponge on a stick. Our children would often help, and then when it was half-dry, their father and they would kind of drive out in the searing noon day sun, for the final drying , as they ran some last minute errands for the late Sunday lunch.

The Fiat did travel a lot. All the way down the west coast of India from Mumbai, and up the eastern coast from Kanya Kumari at the southern tip of the country. Groaning up in 2nd gear through the hilly teas estates on the way to Ooty , and flying along the flat rock studded roads to the southern tip, the idli-fied French quarter of Pondicherry, the silver beaches of Goa (long before the tourists); in fact , thereby hangs a tale.

Those days there was a checkpost between Goa and the other states. Police at these checkposts would check car trunks, for folks, inebriated with alocoholic freedom, trying to lug back crates of Goan Feni.

We weren't much of alcohol aficionados, but what we loved was the natural Goan red construction stone, which was actually cut from the side of mountains and used in big squares. For a family with hardly any living space, and even lesser furniture, using these for shelves was ideal. We lugged four of these back with us over 500 miles. The weight made the car drive at an angle that reminded certain sophisticated types about airline takeoffs, and security types at the check post , gleefully approached the car, their mustaches twirling in anticipation ...

"What's there ?" Side glance at the trunk. "Any Feni ?"

"Nothing. Just some stones". And I continued to peel an orange, as the guy in uniform looked suspiciously at the husband.

"Stones eh ?. Are you sure? . And he rapped his cane against the bonnet, and asked us to open the trunk.

I have never seen a more disappointed chap. No feni, No bribe, No thrill.

Just two stupid people, lugging four red stones, and driving off to Mumbai with the car, nose up in the air, under the weight ....

The Fiat had its share of middle age trauma.

The damp Mumbai air, started to corrode the metal exterior. We did, what was then called "tin work" on the car when sufficient holes had developed, and on lifting the matting at our feet, we could see the super potholes on the Mumbai roads. This was really brought home to us once, when on a trip to the neighbor state of Gujarat, we got stuck in a traffic jam on a major highway. This was caused by a leaking gas tanker, that spewed forth some dirty smelling gas and reduced visibility to one foot.

We ended up driving through what could be called its epicentre, where the foggy fumes kind of snaked up through the base of the car, and emerged inside , causing us to abandon the car and rush outside , with people looking on wondrously as we emerged coughing and in obvious fear and trauma, in true filmy style , from the white fog of gas.

A car behind , trying to get through, scraped and banged ours.

When we miraculously reached home, in a still working car, in the middle of the night , and the neighbors got up and saw a wreck standing there, a few folks desperately called each other to ascertain our living status, before ringing the door bell, only to find us , having our breakfast.

The Fiat is now a geriatric case.

It needs a lot of, what can only be called "participative" help, at the end of which words like "Bendix wheel", "Delco", "Dynamo brushes' "Oil seal and brake drums", etc have become a frequent part of my vocabulary.

Hamid , from my earlier post , probably remembers, as we drove them back from his engagement, and the entire bride's side was witness, to me , sitting in my best clothes at the steering wheel "in gear", as all the males and children (including Hamid), stood and shook the car back and forth , like you would an errant mischievous child. Something in the Bendix clicked and the ignition switch started functioning again without ending with an ominous click.

Monsoon weddings took on a new meaning, as once, while returning from a family wedding, wearing de rigeur-heavy-silks-and-jewelery, water entered the "Delco" and the car chugged to a stop. Bonnets were opened, matchsticks were used to dry things, and several folks driving on the lakeside road leading to our house, could see folks in wedding finery, pushing cars and traipsing through the slush in torrential rain, helped by young people who were impressed by the ensuing visuals.

Today, we don't trouble the Fiat too much.

We prefer to get wet in the monsoon, rather than have the Fiat subjected to slushy potholes and dripping Delcos. Some of the windows don't open; some of them don't even close. And we need to really bang the doors to make them close well. You can always tell when we drive it , when you hear the very audible change in engine revolutions, as we go from gear to gear.

We still celebrate the Fiat's birthday in August. When my daughter was in primary school , a friend once asked if there was to be a party, in its honor. She said yes, and the two girls ended up being taken for an icecream, after the friend came with a garland of flowers for the car.

Like an old grandparent, we are very careful of the Fiat's health. Occasionally, she is fine, as the time we ended up going to the airport to receive an actual grandparent returning from the US after attending a grandson-graduation.

Ran into some acquaintances, whose rate of advancement in the material world is only matched by the rate of change of their cars.

Chiffons, whiffs of perfumes with pseudo french names, bags showing some logo that challenged my ignorance, and we stood together at the arrivals area. They, acting like this was nothing unusual, and my children jumping up and down out of the sheer excitement of seeing their grandparents return, with a possibility of lots of goodies from their uncles.

A uniformed guy comes over and hands over some keys, telling where the car is parked.

"Hi. How are you ? " A depreciating look at us , after sizing us up. Watching my children figuring out the various arrivals on the screen. As some of their own, played with video games on their own little screens.

"Our daughter is flying in. And we just got a Mercedes. My brother will be coming soon in his BMW, and he asked us to send back the driver, so he came to hand over the keys." Smile. Smirk.

Then inexplicably.

"Do you still have the same car ?"

In the meanwhile, there was a whoop from the children. Grandma was there. There was a tussle to push her luggage cart. Suddenly, I couldn't see my husband. I looked around, saw him disappearing into the parking lot.

Minutes later,he glided to a rattling stop, and amidst a lot of banging of doors, windows, fights for seats next to grandma, and trunks being forced shut, we piled into the old faithful, and waiving to the
clean, spiffy, organized, sophisticated, but BORING Mercedes and BMW clan, took off in very audible but earnest, revolutions of the engine, pistons desperately moving, taking us home, one more time, in one piece.

Trunk full of luggage. Weighted down. Nose up. Full of spirit. Old, but unbowed.

I can still see the potholes. I still bang the doors, and sometimes I hold the doors tight as we take an extreme turn.

An American lady, in her 90's , mother of a family friend, visited us last year. We took her for a drive around our campus to show her around. Apologized for the car. (She probably hadn't driven in so ancient a contraption in the last 35 years).

"Stop apologizing. You know, your car is like me and I'm just perfectly OK." Then she sat back comfortably in the front seat, pushed her silver hair back, elbow resting on the window, in Cadillac style, and smiled at me , in the drivers seat.

This was one experience she probably wouldn't get in America.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good neighbors, better friends.........सखे शेजारिणी.****.(अरुण दात्यांचे गाणे ऐका listen to Arun Date's famous song, scroll to end of post.. )

They would often go around to watch the new building coming up. There was a good chance they would make the list, when flats were allotted. Two of them would soon be three, and any increase in domestic space was more than welcome.

And so it happened that the monsoon of that year saw them move into a flat. Shifting from a furnished dorm to a 5 room flat, with kitchens and bathrooms that were all yours. You could have folks over to stay. No furniture ? Never mind. Throw mattresses on the floor, and chat away the whole night amidst endless cups of coffee, and abnormal hunger pangs at weird times, fanned by a sense of being a pseudo-pioneer, finally moving into a house you could call your own; (but isn't).

For a long time they didn't know who their neighbors would be. People were shifting into flats over a week. Everyone else had so much furniture; they were shifting there from older and/or smaller flats. She would watch the various moving furniture fashions with interest. Old, modern, heirloom, expensive,tacky, sometimes everything together. Every one was much older than them, with college going children. And so there was much coming and going of young folks in all the neighboring flats.

Naseem and her husband were their new neighbors. Much senior to them in age as well as designation, they had one son , who had just started college, and she would see Naseem standing in her balcony , early mornings , as she waved her son goodbye, and watched till he turned the corner outside the gate.
Naseem , of course, didn't work, she was a housewife. In a culture, very typical of Moslems, (which they were), she was the queen of the household, and did not involve herself in stuff outside the house unless it was to accompany her husband somewhere.

Her family hailed from Hyderabad, and one day there was a telegram.

Those days, it was an achievement to have a telephone; you had to wait several years for it. In those email-less days, the Institute operator passed on emergency messages through the neighbor's phone, if it existed. And so it happened that the young couple(who had inherited a phone connection) , rushed over to Naseem's house to call them when the phone call came.

Their grandma was sick, and the adults would have to leave to go see her. Late evening saw them dropping by to the young couple's flat, to say that they would be away, but that their son Hamid, would be staying because of his college stuff. Reassured by the younger couple, they left, for a long overnight train journey, no reservations due to this last minute travel; and all this very worrisome, as Naseem's husband had a heart problem...

And so the young couple called Hamid over for dinner that evening. Naseem had arranged for someone to come and cook for him, but he felt more comfortable with "uncle" types, who were much younger than his parents, and he hankered for someone to talk to, as he worried about a grandma who lay sick, and imagined things. The next day , Hamid left for college, after waving to his young "aunt" neighbor, a bit taken aback, as she packed sandwiches for him. He was a non vegetarian, and they were not, but tomato,cucumber and mango pickle was heaven between two pieces of buttered bread....

No one knows what he told his parents after they returned a week later, but Naseem came over to see her neighbor and just stood there, eyes full, as no words escaped her mouth.

Communication was complete.

They became friends, and it was a new experience for Naseem to have a friend who was not only from another religion (Hindu), but young, expecting, and working.

It was interesting to observe their household. Formal visitors almost never got to see or meet Naseem. Her husband, a devout scholarly Moslem with an Engineering doctorate, handled that. When families visited , the women came into the family area to visit Naseem with their children and the men sat in the study.

Then one day Naseem's husband was in pain. She came running with a phone number of their doctor in a big city hospital, and asked her friend to call. She herself would get tongue tied talking to a doctor, but she trusted her friend. And so there was this three way conversation where her friend translated the neighbor's pain and described it in detailed medical terms, locationwise to the doctor, with gestures that the doctor couldn't really see, but could probably telepathically understand, such was the intensity of the communication. The ambulance came, and Naseem and her husband sped off , knowing that they need not worry about their son . who would check things with the neighbor couple, when he got home.

They returned home that evening, Naseem's face wreathed in smiles, as she recalled her husband's face when the doctor demanded to know who was the young lady who described the symptoms on the phone so well ....

In all these events, what the younger couple considered totally normal and Naseem thought totally amazing , was the communication that developed between the old Professor and the young couple, particularly, the wife, as she was home more than her husband.

Years passed, and there was now a young child in the younger couple's house. Grandparents would visit, worry as grandparents do, and go home, asking the older couple to keep and eye on the young child. Naseem and her husband treated him like a favourite younger son, and all their friends and relatives also did the same.

Hamid had now graduated, and was planning to go to the US for his doctorate. Naseem's relatives started hinting that Hamid should get married and then go. It was easy for a young chap to get attracted to the good life, with some of its dicey aspects. Proposals were pouring in and Hamid settled on a wonderful educated Moslem girl, a doctor , a rarity in those days.

Naseem's husband had just one request. They attached great importance to the "ring ". They attached even greater importance to grandparents blessing the event. Would Naseem's neighbor friend accompany her to purchase the ring ? Of course. So a trip was made to a Mumbai suburb where the younger couple's parents lived, and a wonderful ring was bought at a reliable jeweller's, and followed up with a celebratory visit to the younger couple's in laws, who were only too delighted , to have Naseem come by with such great news..

They got home, and the young girl asked, if Naseem had a little box or something, say, in silver, with some religious Koranic inscriptions on it. Naseem was completely dumbstruck ...

"Why do you ask ? And how did you know, that I had such a little box? " she asked.

"I didn't really know," her friend said . " But in our religion, a special gift gets even more special when enclosed in something which has a blessing on it . So we sometimes enclose little things in boxes with pictures of Ganesha and so on.."

Naseem went in, and came out with a lovely little box with something like blessings from the Koran inscribed in Arabic on it. Her mother had got this for her on her pilgrimage to Mecca several years ago.

The engagement was duly conducted at the girl's parents' place. As the marriage date neared, in typical Indian style (regardless of religion), some relatives of the super conservative type would enjoy commenting , where none was required. Discussions amongst themselves, so designed that they would get back to Naseem and her husband. Her husband was a respected elder in the mosque, and no one dared say anything in his presence.

The marriage happened, the neighbor couple and their 3 year old son, were accorded the honor that is normally reserved for the best-man-and-maid-of-honor type folks.

Then one day after the guests had left, and the Hyderabad grandma was spending a relaxed few days at Naseem's, they were having a cuppa of cardamom-mint tea and the young neighbor and her son were visiting, in a typical rehashing-the-events session.

"You know, I have been wanting to tell you. " Naseem put her cup down, and proceeded to shell some pistachios she would be using that afternoon.

"My husband thinks your behaviour is actually a correct Moslem behaviour !

The younger woman suddenly paid attention . Grandma adjusted her scarf comfortably across her shoulder, chewed on a clove, and smiled an indulgent smile.

"You are educated, you work, but you are very dignified when you communicate with people you don't know, particularly with men. No airs. No coyness. You are so free with me and grandma, and you behave in so naturally helpful and respectful a manner with my husband, yet unafraid to ask questions that would help solve any problem. And at the end of the day, he was really impressed by you thinking about the box for the ring..... not just any box , but one with a Koranic inscription . It didn't strike any of my relatives, you know. ...."

The young girl watched her son playing nearby with Hamid's old toy cars, making revving noises amidst a spray of spit. He hadn't perfected that yet.

She didn't know what correct Moslem behaviour was supposed to be. She grew up with the same opportunities her brothers had, and had to compete for everything. All she knew was that people were people, religion was incidental, but there had to be respect.......

And she thought back to her parents who brought her up with deep respect for all religions, her school where she had best friends who were Jews, Moslems, and Christians, and her in-laws, who by virtue of having lived in another state , were so open to the various customs and rituals of other religions, and learnt to enjoy them with neighbors in those days...

People to people, the problem was so simple. Be a good neighbor. Help as you would, someone in your own family.

If only the countries listened. And followed the same rules.

The world would be such a wonderful place.......

**** Click the play button below to hear the marathi song "Sakhi Shejarini" made famous by Arun Date

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Third class words; First class games.....हेडन साहेबाचे जग अणि वक्तव्य .......

I have been, actually, thinking , about the world. (Despite various people hinting at my inability to do so).

I know.

So have George Bush, Obama, G-8,G-20, and some (un)sporty types in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thanks to a French economist called Alfred Sauvy, who used the words "Tiers Monde" (a third or one third), and NOT "Troisieme Monde" (third in rank), while defining the First, Second and Third worlds, based on his understanding of the French revolution hierarchy of priests, nobles and commoners, we now have a great situation, where George Bush, Michael Hayden, Sarah Palin et al, belong to the First World; I ,
along with the entire Indian Cricket team, belong to the Third World; and Obama stands out as uncategorized because he is a genetically 50% Third world president of a First world nation. And remember, there used to be a Second world, but it collapsed beginning with the Berlin Wall.

Thanks to Obama, and the current economic crisis where First world Types did mistakes of Third world proportions, today, the lines between the worlds , in some situations are getting blurred. Information Technology is one such sector, Novelists writing in English is another, and before we forget, there is Cricket.

Cricket started out , they say, in England somewhere in the 13-15th century, played by children in farmlands across Kent and Essex . That was its purest form. Somewhere around the beginning of the 17th century, adults kind of took over , and it slowly became the game it is today. However, there has been considerable research to show that the game was played in then Punjab region of India as far back as the 7th century , according to a (First World) Researcher, Derek Birley, writing in the Social History of English Cricket. By and by The First world types colonized all over the world, sometimes Third and sometimes First, (world, that is), and the natives of the Third world , one might say, renewed their cricketing proclivities.

What is interesting to note is that the first Australian team to tour England, in 1867, was made up of indigenous Australian players. From then till now, has been a huge leap forward for Cricket, with different types of cricket, the setting up of Cricket Control bodies, and well as the exceptional exposure that cricket got and continues to receive , thanks to the communication wonders like television.

So it is with a sense of despair that i wonder about certain folks like M. Hayden Esq.

Inviting a Third world team for a series, putting English words in their mouth despite knowing that they speak different languages and swear in different languages, orchestrating a crisis at odds with the spirit of the game, and then calling someone from the opposing team an obnoxious weed, and having an evil First World laugh over it during a radio interview , is simply not done. Not in any world; Third, First , or even half.

Then he comes to the same Third World country, to play in something called the Indian Premier league, under an Indian captain, all for a huge payment, huge in First world terms, paid by the Third world types. Its then all about getting to know the (Third World) culture, befriending the "natives", being surprised that they are actually decent blokes, and going back to Australia , pockets jingling.

A year later he is back, the main support of their batting lineup for tests. It so happens, that they do not have their best bowlers who have retired. Happens to all teams. The First world team is beaten 2-0 in the Test series.

Back goes Mr M Hayden Esq. Seething. Blaming animals and weeds doesn't work. So he gives an interview saying they played in Third World conditions. Like what ? Human beings used to move sight screens which were causing problems. Batsmen taking their time to face the ball. And never mind the 5-star accommodations, outstanding hospitality, stupendous local welcomes, good transportation everywhere.

Hello . The game has umpires. Some Australian players even "instruct" umpires about catches as happened in Sydney. Slow over rates are something that the game penalizes, whenever the umpires so indicate. If the batsmen from the Third World were deliberately taking time to face up to the bowling, the umpires besides being from neutral countries (some of them, First World), were certainly not blind.

Purely, as a phenomenon, I wonder why M. Hayden Esq. does this. There were 10 other members in the team. But other than the captain who chewed gum, spat it on to his hand ,then rubbed those hands before flinging the ball to the bowler, and who, in an effort to save his match fee, lost the last game, and said the usual things post-match, no one else had anything to say.

So I did some research.

The Name Hayden has some Welsh Origin, from the Celtic word Aidan, meaning fire. Definitely hot. Temper, I should think. Figures.

An 1880 graph of Haydens in various occupations shows them to be majorly in the land owning farmer variety and not the slogging worker variety. So First-Worldish.

The English origins of the name Hayden, indicate that it has something to do with "hedging-in a valley or being hedged in by a hill.

Its possible that his ancestors could have come from the US after doing the civil war.

Then I found that , in the US,
the name ranked in the Top 1,000 most popular boys' names intermittently through the last two decades of the 19th century, consistently through the first three decades of the 20th century and then intermittently until the mid 1980s. In 1986, the name returned to the Top 1,000 most popular boy's names for good. In the 21st century, the name ranked in the Top 1,000 most popular boys' names every year from 2000 (128th) through 2006 (73rd). (All this isn't important, but just tells you Haydenian statistics)

But surprise surprise.
In 2007, the popularity of the boy’s name Hayden ranked 44th in Australia. The highest rank for Hayden worldwide.

Just goes to show why Hayden plays for Australia, why he instigates so many fighting episodes.

Just think. here was a person, a real First World type, chaps working for him in the fields , he was named after fire, obviously after seeing his temper, and then he feels hedged in .

By a 2-0 loss.?

P. S. On my way to research Gilchrist now.......

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A house remembers.....यमुनाबाईची गोष्ट

A fifty year old house. For a long time there were two people there. Then one, and now , no one.

He was 86, sprightly, and very proud of his health. This was the house , his father built, and now he was alone, in the house that held so many family memories, stories and images. One day he was diagnosed with an aneurysm in the abdomen. They said it was big, beyond what is an acceptable safe size, and told his daughter, that he needed someone constantly around him, as any fall would be, well, fatal. She lived in a different city, and came by often, but now they needed to look for someone on a daily basis.

That's how they got Yamunabai.

Medical insurance , per se, here, is not a mandatory thing, although more and more people are opting for it. In a city, where doctors will not necessarily ask about your insurance before examining you, there are several agencies specializing in providing personnel who will come care for you . These people are not medical folks, but know the rudiments of good care; they are trained to care for a bedridden or non bedridden patient, assist in the physical therapy , help with the taking of medications, maintain the facilities around the patient, cook and feed the patient, clean the patient, can contact the doctor if required etc .

Yamunabai came to them from such an agency. .

She herself , was an ill-treated and then abandoned wife, who lived with her married son. She had lost her father, and she enjoyed caring for this elderly gentleman; his daughter came more and more often on her visits, and whenever her father was resting, Yamunabai would regale her with the happenings in her own house, show her some new photo album with pictures of some celebration , proudly pointing out her son and daughter-in-law. She lived some distance away, changed two bus routes to get here, and had an amazing knack of befriending the bus conductors, vegetable vendors, cobblers, and even bicycle repairers on the roadside, that she encountered on her daily trips.

A short, fair, cheerful lady, she would come every morning and leave every evening after the night shift lady came. The patient was still fairly mobile, defiant of the doctors, and pathologically prone to turning a deaf ear to the doctors. He loved to walk everywhere, totally oblivious to the chaotic Pune traffic. Once a week he went to a religious discourse. She had instructions to accompany him everywhere, and she tagged along with him to the bank, post office, religious discourses, seminars, and assorted places that were part of his routine. They had a continuing argument where she tried to convince him to be careful, and he enjoyed defying her. Everywhere he went, his friends knew that she came to look after him, and accompanied him, often waiting at the house entrance, for him to return. But they humored him, and never mentioned it , and he was happy.

Walking long distances proved some thing to him.. So he walked more and more. She walked along with him; sometimes cajoling him to slow down, sometimes suggesting public transport; she often mediated between rickshaw drivers and him, when he unilaterally decided that he was being charged extra, and simply walked away, leaving the drivers flabbergasted. His hearing was deteriorating, he spoke louder as a result, and the rickshaw drivers were sometimes the recipient of accusing looks as people on the road heard the old man telling them off.

Then , one day, he overdid this walking, got breathless, and almost collapsed. The body complained, but the head was adamant. She somehow managed to drag him to a roadside tea stall where she settled him down on a chair and hailed a three wheeler to take them home. Then she called his daughter , who lived in another city, close by.

By and by, the body capitulated, and his walking almost came to a standstill. It angered him. And tested her patience.His legs gave way. Standing by himself, was history. Baths were a thing of the past, and there would now be daily sponging and cleaning /powdering of the body. Bedsores appeared. His old friend's grandson, a doctor, came every alternate day to check up on him, as well as do some small talk, and taught the ladies how to treat the bedsores. His daughter and she learned to do several dressings on those wounds every day, and she learned the handling of sterilized bandages. The daughter would come and go occasionally, but this lady continued to religiously follow the protocol told to her, and reported to the daughter on the phone almost every day.

The sons lived abroad, and came down on a visit. The daughter was also there to complete the family collection. International flights in India always arrive at odd times like 3 am etc, and it would be around 6 am when the sons were expected. The old man, his circadian rhythms in confusion, often lay awake at dawn. Yamunabai got up especially early that day. She moved the wheelchair close to the bed, and in a great effort , managed to shift him, somehow, on to it.

The commotion brought the daughter there.

"The sons are coming. From America. What will they think ? I thought we had enough of this sponging the body. He needs to have a decent bath....".

The daughter couldn't agree more. Between them both, they pushed his chair to the bath place, and bathed him , like they would a small child, who refuses to stand still, turn etc; except in this case, he couldn't stand, even if he wished. Energized with the steam and warmth, he felt better and smiled as they helped him lie down again on his bed, propped up by a pillow, as he looked forward to a slow breakfast of nutritious porridge, lovingly administered.

The sons came, the family was together again, and for a short time, everyone pretended that all was fine.

The passage of time brought in dementia. He would complain , get angry, say all kinds of things to her and his daughter. He would hit out with his palm, when the antiseptic irritated his bedsores, and she would deal with him as one would with a naughty errant child. She had been around such patients as part of her job, and it did the daughter some good to have her company , as she wondered about a future fatherless life.

Yamunabai occasionally took a day off or went early, ensuring that the daughter was then around, and this was one of those nights. He was complaining about being full, and declining soup; so his daughter waited for a while. Tried to adjust the inclination of the Fowler's bed, but it was no use. So she sat by his side, wondering, reading, looking back , at her life as a child of the house, and his, now facing difficult times.....

But he was already looking ahead. And slowly slipping away.

The end came that night. Stealthily.

The old man's daughter was alone, and , after the doctors visits and family phone calls, she waited till morning to call Yamunabai.

But Yamunabai was already on her way. The bicycle repair person across the road had seen the midnight doctor visit, the lights, and the quiet, and had given her a call.

Yamunabai took it very personally, that she couldn't be there to help in the final hours. Then stoically, she got up to help the daughter. In a society where women do not attend cremations, she accompanied a daughter to her father's cremation.....

Her contracted job was over, but she stayed on for 2-3 days, to help the daughter wind up the house, clean and reorganize the place, and face all the folks who came to condole. Refused compensation for those days when it was offered.

One wonders how she did this kind of a job, year after year, caring for old people, wracked by highs and lows, faced with outstanding and sometimes, not so outstanding family situations; different doctors, new instructions, criticism and comments. All for someone , who is actually no one of hers, but who she considers her own, and cares for accordingly.

There is no one in the house how. The daughter has gone back to her own family responsibilities which had taken a back seat for while.

Yamunabai is probably on a newer assignment, this time, maybe with a grandmother type. A newer life , a different experience.

But if the now empty house, had a face and you saw it, you would probably see an indulgent smile playing on its face, at the mention of Yamunabai. It takes an immense amount of luck to have a Yamunabai in your life, in your last days.
No amount of rules, legislation , degrees and diplomas can make a Yamunabai.

You just have to be blessed. And lucky. The late old man would have completely agreed.......

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dumb Design ,Dumber Folks असे हे कपडे .... अशी ही माणसं

I am just wondering about a nexus. Between government and fashion. And it has me in a complete tizzy to note that , in a country where so much needs to be done regarding many basic things promised in the Constitution , transportation, drinking water, it has seen it fit to set up a thing called Fashion Design Council of India(FDCI), with an bureaucrat(IAS) lady at the head.

Is this or was this a crying need ? Or is this a case of being blind to those who cry, out of a need ?

And what do they do ? Organize, among other things, "fashion weeks" where politics and fights dominate. Along with page 3 folks, who are seen, sitting unnaturally cheek-by-jowl, shoulder-to-bejewelled shoulder, with worried faces, seized with having an adequate supply of champagne that evening, as they welcome Luis Vuitton, who seems to be copying bag stuff from Linking Rd.

And watch designer after designer comes up with stuff even your child wouldn't wear at the school fancy dress competition. Like :

<-Wow. No need to carry bags when you go shopping for vegetables. Its built in , in the skirt. And as you buy more , it flares ....and never mind the bhajiwalas' stares....

<-Now you know what happened to your room carpet. But good riddance to all that dust collection. And may page 3 get the sneezes...

<-Not meant for us simpletons traveling in buses; the eggs might possibly break, despite the beehive protection .But you can see the page 3 types in the audience worried about poultry prices..

<-This is for those who walk the straight and simple path. You turn , and you will either get sued for injury , or pay for some one's eye operation. Also we'd love to see this lady enter a train loo successfully...

<-Can't wear this for a felicitation. The garlands would get stuck in the eyepiece. But optometrists have been vying to provide lenses for this frightening frame. Would have probably been ideal for wearing during a "bandh "....the rioters would be thunderstruck, although i can see my aunt rushing with a shawl to cover the girl...

<-This has to be the biggest insult to the Mumbai monsoon season. Rain Rain, go away, I'll throw this in the trash, if I may..... but totally understandable, as it is designed for the Mercedes types...

<-She is not orthopaedically injured, nor is she graduating, but the whole thing seems to be inspired by some innovative desperate construction worker ladies, who are not given helmets to wear at construction sites , as they slog to build homes , for those who ooh and aah about this and pay in four digits for this monstrosity....

<-Looks daunting but my question is simple. How do you blow your nose as you daintily traipse around in Mumbai's allergic pollution ? And why make the tunic so long if you have to turn it up ? Unless of course, in page 3 style, you turn up the tunic in lieu of your nose , which no one can see anyway ....

<-What can I say ? Though I wish she would turn around and show the backpack she is carrying. Think of all the beeps that would go off in security. Think of all the frustration of those frisking....

<-Can I sell this dress by weight to the raddiwala ? Are these dresses inspired by the cows on our campus, with this great obsession with horn like headgear? Would anyone open their door to someone who comes like this ?

<- For some reason, this brings back memories of crows and pigeons I end up shooing away everyday from the balcony. And we don't look at the headgear. The combination of crows,pigeons and cows would be explosive...

<-Gujarati saree on a tube dress, and a missing sleeve. What happens if you are a lefty ? very uninspiring. Its OK if all you do is stand and smile; or glare; Maybe a head covered by the pallu (saree shoulderpiece) would be interesting ....

<-Just when I was wondering if no one would design anything for the male of the species, here is a thing rejected by all the female models. They even threw water on the guy. For fashion. See the patches.

I give up.

These are all actual photos from the recently(Fall 2008) held fashion week, not withstanding the fact that Mumbai has only a hot, hotter and a torrential monsoon season. Five star venues, corporate patronage, page 3 attendance, huge expenditures on music and decor for every designer's atrocious displays as above, and the FDCI has the temerity to say this on their web page :

Under its aegis, the FDCI will represent the interests of fashion designers. It will nurture the growth of this industry, help develop the needs of the industry, and provide a platform for Indian fashion designers.

The Indian Fashion Industry, in international terms is embryonic. Expansion and awareness of the industry in India has leapt multifold in the last ten or twelve years of its existence. As the opportunities for designers grow and develop so will the need for such a council in India.

Fashion Design Councils or Associations exist in all the primary fashion centers of the world.

So do basic amenities for citizens

In a country where 26 nautical miles from Mumbai, on the tourist island of Elephanta, there is no electricity for children to study, across the country women in rural areas trudge for miles, daily, to collect their drinking water from dubious sources, and scores of rural health centres are unmanned due to insufficient government logistics support, why this sudden interest in fashion? Is there a nexus of some kind ? Who benefits ? Is there a trickling down of benefits ? Many questions and no answers.

We just need to shut our eyes and ears...