Thursday, April 29, 2010

Waiting to inhale

Smells have been around since time immemorial. Ever since those cilia-studded neurons on a patch behind our nose, made it their business to inhale and analyze the various molecules thudding there, humans of different types, have responded to smells of different types, in different ways.

I don't remember seeing varieties of room fresheners in my childhood, say, 50 years ago, at an age where one was learning to turn up one's nose at things. They were not sold in the shops. And even if they would have been, the general attitude was that we didn't need any of such stuff. Our lives were themselves a celebration of olfactory excesses.

Early morning smells of jasmines, roses, camphor, and wicks burning in ghee, as someone did the morning puja, and lit the lamps in front of the gods. Smells of boiling milk in the kitchen, accompanied by a wafting of roasted cumin , as some light mung dal khichdi happened for our breakfast. Bread was frowned upon . Smells of water and copper with an occasional sliver of sandal wood smell as we rushed in to have baths. And sometimes, the inviting, mouthwatering smell as poha papads were roasted and had with the khichdi with a dollop of melting ghee. Smell of an iron heating up as we rushed to iron forgotten elements of the school uniform, and the typical whiff of Cherry Blossom boot polish tins lying open, as we rushed out on our way to school, in those hated black naughty boy shoes.

We never really thought about these smells. On a time frame, the interfaces between these smells enabled seamless mingling, and easy acceptance, with no analysis.

When you came home for lunch or visited someone , you always got a hint of what was cooking on inhaling . Many many years later, one of my neighbors was a Muslim family from Hyderabad. Whenever their grandma visited, we would always slow down as we climbed the stairs to our house, and breathe in a terrific delicate aroma of a Biryani, which was her speciality. It was difficult to turn away and go to our own house, where a working lunch waited. But my son , at 6, never had any such qualms. He would simply follow his nose, straight into their kitchen, where there would be huge pot on a industrial size stove, with grandma on a stool watching and stirring and adding stuff. He would sit on another stool himself, watch the stuff, and lose himself in the flavours, emerging only to share the stuff with them at the meal.

The smell of cream of wheat being roasted in ghee. Cardamom, nutmeg. Maybe a summer squeezing of mangoes, to make aamras (mango pulp) for lunch, and the zingy smell of a raw mango pickle sizzling with crushed fried fenugreek seeds and hing (asafoetida).

All this, was kind of, subject to some transatlantic and transpacific doubts, when I lived at a US University apartment as a graduate student. Unless pizza was on the menu, one never really "smelled" food. People entering your house were not supposed to be enraptured with smells of curry and masalas, sauteing garlic, and burnt onions. You got your cooking done in time, cleaned up the place, and then made the air "fragrant" with something vague like pine scent or lavender. I have never understood why a hot summer evening in Southern California, when you had friends and guests over for a nice Indian dinner, needed to smell of pine forests.

Today, 40 years later, all those sprays with various scents are well entrenched in the Indian market. You even have a choice of perfume in sprays that kill mosquitoes. Killing in the time of Chameli.

Soaps are on the bandwagon as well. A single brand may offer you several perfumes to snare people by. People who shave, use various so called earthy scents to dab on their lightly ploughed faces. The old circular soap thing in which we swished a shaving brush and created foam on the face has now given rise to tubes that spew forth foams of various smells.

India has always been a very hot weather place, but the current generation appears to be more sebaceously enabled. Children leaving for college and work leave behind huge whiffs of deo stuff as they rush to catch the early morning transport in Mumbai. People keep getting identified by the way the smell as they traipse by.

But I wonder how life is for those who do not have these choices in life. Limited clothes means you wear the same the whole year round, and sweat to the heavens, in those synthetic tops and shirts that are so good in the monsoons. Your house probably has no place to dry clothes and so your clothes have a damp aroma. Then you go out to work, and sweat just walking down to the train station. Perfumes , per se, are not valid essential items. You would rather spend that on getting a decent soap for the family. Long time ago, there used to be a Tata's Eau de Cologne, something we called Udiclone. You still get it in a few shops. And is probably the cheapest thing you can dab.

But somehow, those doing an honest day's job, have so much to show the world, that folks sometimes remain blind to the odour aspect. These people always smell of truthfulness, hard work, effort, and denying themselves stuff, to provide for their families. The neurons at the back of your nose delightedly fire when these folks happen around you.

Lately, there has been another smell that seems to pervade. The smell of cheating, cold cash, sweat money, lies, decadent luxury and what can be called, like spoilt milk, a smell of spoilt young ones. An early morning reading of newspapers, besides widening the eyes, and holding agape the mouth, almost always get the nasal neurons saturated with the bad smell.

This is the sort of smell, no amount of living and working in air conditioned places, will remove. There are reports in the papers, of those involved in doubtful IPL money activities going to 5 star spas in an effort to cleanse the body of all those financial swindling smells.

But sometimes, even the nasal neurons are ashamed.

They wish they were else where.

And they wish they were back to the old days, when food smells from the kitchen brought smiles on childrens' faces, the smell of new books encouraged a child, just starting a new year at school, a lingering smell of coconut oil meant a mother had just oiled her daughter's hair, and you came bounding up the stairs, two at a time, breathed in deeply as you entered, and said , "Oh, great ! You making batata vadas today ?....."........

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Prudence and Jurisprudence

She has had the opportunity to face the judiciary of the country, three times in her lifetime. No, she is not an accused, she has probably not committed what could be called a serious crime so far, and as far as she knows , has no enemies. Each time , it has taught her something new. Each time she has had several questions. Which remained basically unasked, most of the time, because, the judge was doing the asking. And you don't chit chat with the judge, as such.

Except once.

The first time, was when she had to apply for a duplicate school leaving certificate from her school, many many years ago. . A gentleman there explained that she would need to submit an affidavit (about having lost the original) in court, after which they would issue a duplicate. At this point it must be clarified that a school leaving certificate that displays a date of birth is greatly valued and is used as proof of age. It goes without saying that it is misused. And so duplicates are given only after an affidavit is submitted to the court.

Turns out that she needed an advocate. To say in terrible ungrammatical English, what she could have told the judge in 2 minutes, or written the affidavit herself. Besides , the judge needed to sign the stuff , and the advocate offered to "expedite " the delivery of the affidavit for a special fee. She was told that a lawyer was a must. So she submitted her details. Her maiden name, her married name, school name, timeline of events etc etc. Surprisingly no one asked for the marriage certificate which she was carrying with attested copies. The change in name needed, amazingly, no proof , and the lawyer gave her a look when she asked. They entered the courtroom in the next session, after passing through dark corridors lined with something that looked like lockups for thieves, and a few constables walking around with folks in manacles. She was told to sit, and go stand up in the dock when her name was called. When the event happened, she rushed up to stand in the dock, the lawyer person kind of stood up respectfully somewhere in an area up front. The judge asked her if she was indeed who it said she was. There were no photos anywhere, but he believed her. Gave her a look, gave the lawyer a look, and then signed something. The bailiff or whoever asked her to step down. End of story. The affidavit was duly collected from the lawyer, who went into "chambers" to get it stamped/signed etc.

Times have changed.

She had occasion to visit the Civil Court in another city for some certification pertaining to her late parents papers. This was within the last couple of years. That day , there was a terror alert in that city, and there were hundreds of cops everywhere , manning the various court gates. Her purse and papers were checked. They found the whistle that she carried to facilitate road crossings in Mumbai . And wondered. So she blew it and showed them how she used it, and they just waved her in. Anyone who made so much noise would be incapable of slinking in.

Here too, they waited to submit originals to the court. Her name was called, and her lawyer bowed, wished the judge and presented her case. All happening in a very quiet soft spoken way. The very considerate judge, noting that she came from another city, agreed to accept court verified copies instead of originals, to save her an extra trip. She stood in the box once again, in a small courtroom, amidst other waiting lawyers and the clerks of the court. But this was vastly different from her earlier experience. The judge almost appeared human.

But the most interesting interaction happened, around 20 yeas ago, outside the chambers of a High Court Judge, in the very impressive Mumbai High Court premises.

About 22 years ago, they adopted a little girl,as second child, a sister to a biological son. It took a year or so to get the various paperwork stuff done, along with the visits of the social welfare folks, etc, and the date for issuing the adoption deed was posted for a weekday in the summer. The little girl had been under their foster care all along, to enable everyone to bond as a family, and settled in wonderfully, and they looked forward to getting done with all the paperwork.

This was not done in a court room , as such, possibly because it did not involve public scrutiny or participation, and was a very personal thing relating to family and children.

Their name was called and they went into the judges august chambers with their advocate. The various home study and other documents were presented. The judge spoke to them very nicely. However, there was a fellow sitting to the side of the judge, who seemed to have something to say.

He represented a government social service council routinely at such events. He didn't seem to be listening to their lawyers comments, and the judges remarks. Then he piped up and expressed a doubt that since a biological child existed, the couples commitment to this new child would be suspect, if, say, the child later on showed physical or mental disability. To her it sounded like a theoretical objection, stated simply to prove that he had read his books . It also indicated to her that he was not paying any attention to the content of the documents presented in the case.

The judge nodded his head, and before they knew what happened, they were outside the chambers, with the lawyer shaking his head. Apparently, theses kind of objections happened routinely in cases emanating from certain orphanages. Some internal politics.

She was hopping mad. Things could not be like this. For heaven's sake, this was about the mind of a child. She was in tears, and sobbing her heart out, as she requested (actually , more like, demanded) the lawyer to get her an audience with the judge . They tried to pacify her, her little daughter wondered what all the excitement was about. But she expressed her total disgust with the Judiciary of India in general and Mumbai in particular, and insisted on an opportunity to see the judge. The lawyer managed to get her a chance to see the judge.

She wiped her eyes, stood up straight and went in respectfully. Asked the judge what the objection to the case was. And when he very kindly explained, that it was about safeguarding the child (vis-a-vis an existing biological child), in case there was a later developmental problem, she told him that she was prepared to sign an affidavit, on whatever value stamp paper they specified (the higher the value, the more serious the stuff), that not only would she and her husband undertake to take life long care of the little girl, irrespective of any known mental or physical disability that may befall her, but also would include any possible new sicknesses yet to be discovered, say for he next 10-15 years, or any period the honorable court specified.

The chambers were very awe inspiring, the judge a very senior person, and she was very respectful with all the "Your Honour" stuff, while she spoke. Quietly. Which was very uncharacteristic of her. She wasn't sure you could talk like this with a judge, offering suggestions and stuff, but the judge was willing to listen, and she had to prove her commitment to the child in a way that the Court understood. Her voice would break often, her eyes would blur with tears, but she quietly managed to tell her stuff and come out , thinking the rest was up to God.

The lawyer was called in. He was told that they needed to have an interview of their biological child with the Director of the social service set up (whose representative had so unimaginatively messed up everything). Once she okayed, the couple did not need to come to the High Court again, and the lawyer could just come and take the judges signature/stamp on the adoption deed. It was really a case of "going through the motions". The lawyer came out, relived and smiling.

It is another story that the said interview with the biological child did take place, during which the little girl, his sister, climbed all over the office, under tables and stuff, and generally had a great time being indulged by her parents and brother. The Director lady remarked that he family bonding was there for everyone to see, she fired her assistant for wasting every one's time, and urged him to pay more attention to people than to rules in archaic English which could be interpreted in many ways. She also expressed her regret to the family , for having to bring a little boy for an interview with her, like this.

The family walked out, having cleared the last hurdle. On a hot searing summer afternoon, they all enjoyed an ice cream together, before taking the crowded train back to the suburbs.

That was 22 years ago.

She doesn't curse the Indian Judiciary system any more. Barring a few instances. She still respectfully remembers the name of the judge. He retired a few years ago.

She often wonders what the judge must have thought , of her suggesting affidavits and stuff; which was actually something the judiciary was supposed to do. She often wonders if people sob outside those august judges' chambers, like she did, and whether, the judge simply took his decision, to avoid seeing her again and making a scene. But her lawyer was overheard telling some folks that "madam decided to take things in hand and requested a meeting, and that's why things happened the way they did.". So she thinks , it is OK.

There is something about being fearless and not fearing authority. But it takes an understanding judge to allow someone like her, inside his chambers to make a representation.

Jurisprudence. There was a lot of ' Juris ' stuff happening. She is not just sure about the "prudent" part. More like Juris-pushy, maybe from her side :-)......

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eyes wide shut - jingling pockets....

Many years ago we had to urgently go to Baroda from Mumbai. Normally one went in a reserved chair car , in an air conditioned Mumbai-New Delhi train, that left in the afternoon, bunked all the minor stations, and simply ground to a halt at Baroda in time for a late dinner, before taking off for the overnight ride to New Delhi. Sometimes, it was an overnight train, where you simply spent the sleeping time in the train, and dawn saw you in Baroda.

But this was a last minute thing and we landed up at the station. Huge queues for the unreserved general compartment tickets. One of us stood by the luggage, while the other decided which window was selling what. Suddenly a guy sidled up. In a very Psst kind of way.

"Ticket ?"

"Yes"; a slightly surprised me.

"10 Rs , over and above each ticket ".

At that time entrusting 10 Rs to someone who might simply vamoose was too much to bear So I asked him, where would he get the ticket from.

"I will show you the window. Here. " He pointed to a window nearby with very few folks in line.

"In that case , I will get the ticket myself", and saying so, and with a firm belief in the inability of the ticket clerk to refuse a lady tickets , I rushed there, leaving behind a seething tout cursing the day he set eyes upon me.

The clerk didn't look up and muttered some negative sounding words. Despite the amazing number of languages in India, you can always tell when someone s saying no. Then I pointed towards the tout person who was now on to someone else trying to offer his services, and explained that he told me that I would get the tickets at this window.

The clerk quietly handed me the tickets with the required change, and we subsequently were able travel severely crushed in the crowd , but made it in time.

That must have been my first brush, with corruption. Of course one had seen touts outside cinema theatres, trying to resell tickets at outrageous prices, speaking like ventriloquists, where you only heard the price, and saw nothing. But I never had occasion to try that.

Subsequently we went through a stage where a job in Telephones and/ or cooking gas was greatly in demand. Corruption was honed to a fine art in every aspect of telephones; applying for one, installing one, activating one, repairing one, and so on. I remember someone's daughter getting a job in Telephones , and how everyone remarked on what a wonderful job that was, although it was simply to do with making lists outside the junior engineers office.

Visits to land records and property registration offices was an eye opener. I only went there once and must have been the only person who walked around speechless, eyes wide, and mouth wide agape, as I was taken to the various offices. People sat around with open drawers, into which "things" fell. Some other person estimated what fell, and the person on the desk did or didn't do the needful, based on that. I was told about this, and had gone because my signature was required somewhere. But the entire thing was like a scene out of a film. Not everyone from these offices looked or performed like a villain or hero. There were some very simple type people also, who came did their work and left. They had entire families to bring up, children to educate, weren't smart enough to be cheats, and kept their mouths shut.

I never thought one would have to pay , even at death.

We have different crematoriums across Mumbai, and I had occasion to visit one such after I lost my mother. One processes the doctors and hospital certificates, fills some forms, and then one may proceed with religious ceremonies, if any, and the final electric cremation.

Ten years ago , women didn't attend these things. I did. I would accompany my mother, regardless of her state, till her last moments as a being on earth.

One has to pay a fee for all the "processing" . Registration, cremation, ashes collection, recording of cremation and forwarding of that to the ward office where my home was registered. The ward office would give us the death certificate.

The fee mentioned on the form was Rs 150/-. The man at the counter looked up as we paid the amount. And continued to look up. As it happens, when someone passes away, many relatives gather, and play and advisory role, in real time. One such person, wise in the ways of the world asked us to pay "3-4 hundred Rs " to get the processing done faster.

"Otherwise this thing will take time", he said.

I refused. I would pay the specified amount for which I was issued a receipt. My mother was a stickler for honesty in monetary things, was known to speak her mind, and sometimes , people who worked with her on honorary committees in the city, didn't like it because she asked inconvenient questions which often had dicey answers. There was no way I was going to pay a bribe at her death.

A month later, and several queries to the ward office, no issue of a death certificate, and there were no satisfactory replies. They couldn't do a thing unless the crematorium forwarded the requisite signed forms. The manager at my mother's bank even expressed surprise at his delay when we went to ask about the various bank procedures to be done post-death.

I decided to go to the crematorium with my copy of the cremation record. If they had no time to send the record sheet, I would demand it, and then I could carry it personally to the ward office. Or, maybe I would sit outside and wouldn't budge from there, till they showed me and sent the necessary paper to the ward office that day. That would create a scene. My family was alarmed. I was known to do such things, and ask inconvenient questions. And it never bothered me as to who was watching, because I thought the cheaters should be bothered, not me. And I was getting angrier and angrier.

An alternate suggestion was put forth. There was a gentleman on campus, a kind of Ombudsman, who helped with such things. He knew the folks at the local ward offices and he would find out. He asked for my papers , and investigated. A call was made by some officer of the ward, to the ward where the crematorium was. The officer there was appraised of the situation. He directed the crematorium types to forward the paper immediately, and explain the delay.

I got the requisite papers within a week. It had taken 6 weeks to process something which should have taken 1-2 days.

Mumbai had become a place where you had to be in real and virtual queues for everything. And pay bribes. For everything. Including dying.

Today things have changed. I hear that no one is interested in such small fry moneymaking. Telephones and Cooking gas stuff is no longer as lucrative as before, although I hear the property registration place continues to mint as before.

People have gone up in the world.

We don't deal in Rupees anymore. One cheats in dollars. Millions of dollars. Like in IPL. Someone offers someone else 50 miliion dollars to pull out of some thing, like I would offer chocolates to someone on completion of some homework or exercise, as a reward.

The sad part is, that today's children see, that all this corruption makes folks succeed in the world. In our childhood, I am sure there was some form of corruption somewhere, but it was never as blatant as today, where being honest is supposed to be the height of stupidity. We grew up and still continue to believe what we believed then: that corruption is bad, such folks may seem momentarily to succeed but they have a bigger fall in life.

In a way it s good that all this IPL stuff is being highlighted everyday, and youth today are seeing the dirt behind the posh and fancy facades. Maybe it will make our children realize that corruption in any sphere, buying lies with money , and disrespect for honest money doesn't make you a good citizen or person.

Like my mother used to say, all money has quantity, but what matters is that which has quality.

One searches, but it is more and more difficult to find......

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brands and Ambassadors

An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.

We learnt this quote in school and would laugh about it. When I was in eighth grade, our school's head girl, was blessed with an uncle in the foreign service, who was appointed as an Ambassador, and as is typical, we would look upon her with respectful eyes and she soon acquired a halo. This gentleman had a distinguished career, retired , and settled down. She subsequently lost her halo, but he didn't, and was greatly admired. That was because he represented Brand India.

Today "ambassadorship" is a commodity to be haggled over, the ambassadors don't wait to go abroad to lie, but start while right in India. Thanks to the Brands.

The use of the word Ambassador is wrong.

Interestingly, we have brand ambassadors for things we don't really desperately need.

Between them, the lead actors of Bollywood have all the cars covered. Toyota has Amir Khan, Santro has SRK, and Hyundai Getz has Sania Mirza. The Bachchans , singly or as a father-son jodi, perform for Maruti Versa, and soon to appear, a Ford.

Amazingly they also have all the laptop brands covered. You'd think Hrthik Roshan(Acer), Saif Ali Khan (Lenovo), Shah Rukh Khan (Compaq Presario), Abhishek Bachchan ( Motorola), John Abraham (Samsung), Mahendra Singh Dhoni ( Reliance Communications) all sit around discussing antivirus softwares, and tweeting and cursing , say, Windows Vista....

Of course , with the water situation getting worrisome , the only way to dream is to watch various brand ambassadresses working to get fairer and brighter by lying around in bathtubs brimming with water, soaping themselves with a multinational soap , possibly in a 5 room, 6 bath house. Once in a while, they even make an actor sit in the bathtub, and have the actresses leaning over showering petals or whatever on him.

I have often wondered, who would be likely candidates if they decided to have brand ambassadors for everyday things.

Like Money. Specifically notes. Who better than Ms Mayawati, as brand ambassador for the India Government Mint, at say, Nasik. She can appear, larger than life, on your screens, looking up , from a currency garland, weighing down her cervical vertebra, and say, "I started another mint in Lucknow . Ideal for garlands. I deal in garlands . Contact me today ." And then they show her riding slowly away on an elephant.

Like the vanishing mangroves in Mumbai. Who better than Mrs Rabri Devi Yadav. Like Ursula Andress in some famous old movie or maybe Dimple Kapadia, in , a later movie, she emerges with her puja paraphernalia, the sun shining on her wet face, from the creek, on land reclaimed and converted into a beach by destroying the mangroves, and says , "Support the new beaches, support Chaath Puja, and may God bless you with a Mumbai home soon !"

Very apt, could be Shashi Tharoor, for Sunanda Fairness Creams. He won't need any special makeup; what's more, he can tweet in the ad and say " Kochi Kochi Koo ! . I only wanted to be fair ! ...."

Shoaib Malik, now that he has been banned for a year, would have ample time to be a brand ambassador for Hyderabad (Deccan, as Pakistanis calls it). He can be shown enjoying a biryani meal, with a rag tag band playing in the background, and can say " Come to Hyderabad. Enjoy a second innings......."

Hospitals could seek brand ambassadors for their ICU's. You could have various shameless politicians, clutching their hearts and breathlessly saying ," Government hospitals are the best ! My ICU, My house. A home away from police. ...."

A friend who was hit by a speeding motorcycle (while crossing the road) , fractured her foot, and struggled up hospital stairs since there was no smooth ramp, wants to know if she can be a brand ambassador for Ambuja Cement. She will pose with her crutches outside every hospital, and the company can construct a ramp there in lieu of paying her.

But the company might simply give the assignment to Sunanda Pushkar, ( and pay her, maybe 70 thousand), who will simply stand, throw back her carefully arranged blond curls, and say , " I Pushed and got things done . Can you ?..."

My household help, S., would be ideal as a brand ambassador for Alphonso Mangoes. She and her family of 8 will pose with a single Alphonso mango in hand, and a plate. With prices hovering at Rs 400 for a dozen, she is willing to be paid anything that will allow her family to enjoy a crate this season, and she is willing to say , " This is my Sweet equity . What's yours ?... Enjoy the Alphonso, this season may be the last ..."

Finally, ever since I fell/slipped into a pothole on the road outside some time ago , and heard about the census 2010 , and the biometric stuff, I have had a secret ambition to be the brand ambassador there. They can film me climbing out from the pothole, smiling, and saying, " Potholes. Mumbai's quick answer to biometric profiling. Fall into a pothole, and create an impression on the special lining inside. Total body biometric profiling in one shot...." .

But , as expected, life isn't easy. They want me to get a makeover, turn blond, and the Dettol soap people want to fill the pothole with water, to simulate a bathtub.


Like who can simultaneously be a brand ambassador for the Census and Dettol in one shot ?

I give up....

Edited to add : I have had to respectfully decline the offer of Brand Ambassador after they offered me a free UID biometrically profiled card as Dirt Equity.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sebaceous matters

Sweat equity is a term used to describe the contribution made to a project by people who contribute their time and effort, for which they are given some kind of monetary benefits in certain forms.

I know lots of folks who should be given sweat equity in Mumbai. And would love to know, how someone who is based in Dubai and enriching commerce there, can get sweat equity here, all of a sudden.

I realize that IPL has brought in a lot of new concepts, like cheerleaders, buying human beings, redefining fours, sixes and wickets, based on who pays how much money to TV people, and a promotion of a certain sense of carelessness that arises from holding matches at a time when children have final exams in school.

When we went to school, most of our sums involved hundreds, and when something was in thousands our jaws literally dropped. Today , if you do not know how many zeroes after 1 make a crore, that's probably me.

Do bus drivers in Mumbai need to get sweat equity ? They offer their time and effort towards the Mumbai transportation system , get paid a pittance, suffer long work hours, stressful working conditions; all this year after year. Part of the pittance goes into compulsory savings, and they retire (if they don't fall sick earlier) on a measly pension. And the sweat equity goes to the municipal bosses, and politicians, who specialize in favours.

What about the police in Mumbai, notwithstanding the immense ridicule they face ? 12 hour workdays, in a 40 degree humid weather, no shade, and wild traffic, with a good chance of collision if they stand in the middle of the road ? Hardly any breaks, no proper meal stops, personnel replacements. And I wont even mention weapons, some of which should actually be in a museum. There is so much sweat, but again the equity deludes them, as it is seen flitting to higher echelons...

As I sit at the window, there is construction happening on a huge building outside. They work from sunrise, well into the night under lights. Sweat is the order of the day, as they climb higher and higher, without safety nets outside the building, some folks without helmets, working at the edge of a slab, 8 floors above the ground, under a searing mid-day sun. They certainly contribute to the success of the project, but no one has seen the equity so far. Maybe it comes in the form of a another job as mason somewhere else, again 15 floors up. An unavoidable slog, while the family stays back, at the native place, worrying about the truant rains.

I work, I pay my taxes ; I rush to meet deadlines; I specialize is standing in queues; in some way, I too offer my sweat, and possibly get my benefits on retirement. I help fund the various projects that my city/state/country initiates through my taxes. Inadvertently I even fund, some totally unjustified expenses of those in power, simply because my taxes are used there.

And between the bus drivers, police, teachers, and ordinary folks, we give our service to the nation for many years, before getting our savings back in pension form.

That's not equity.

As per IPL, the government or employer should have taken one look at me, suddenly gone ballistic about how great an asset I could prove for them, and offered me a huge amount as sweat equity, just to be part of them. Up front, just like that, even before defining my work. And I would get more and more as time elapsed. All based on someone's vision of my work, and not any actual work.

If someone made a noise about it, I would be transferred , my employer would go on leave, my neighbors would look strangely at me, and the bhajiwala would hike up the price of things every time I visited.

In the meanwhile, we have a twittering minister who has given external affairs a new meaning, a crassly commercial , possibly unscrupulous commissioner, who is trying to redefine cricket as a corporate and entertainment activity, a lady who got her nose fixed, getting a sweat equity of 70 crores, even before a single game was played, and visuals of tax people carrying heavy bags to investigate somewhere, as their bosses fly in from somewhere else after practicing a suitably tight lipped look.

Of course there is Pandemonium in Parliament, which is now the norm, regardless of the issue. There will be an investigation by a committee, which is also the norm. They won't discuss the findings in Parliament which is also the norm. Someone will demand a CBI enquiry, which is also a norm.

The Kings (Super and Ordinary), Indians, Challengers, Royals, Daredevils, Chargers, and Knight Riders, will continue to play by day, and attend parties by night.

Maybe you will also have some Pune Peshwas, Apro Amdavadis, Trichi Terminators, Ludhiana Laloos, Baroda Babas, Allahbadi Aams, Shimla Sahebs, Tripura Tigers, and Jammu Jewels joining in the fray.

And the enigmatic lady with the nose job, will go on to newer projects, newer equities.

No sweat.....!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Roar of approval !

(Submitted for the Blogadda-Canvera " Wide Angle" contest)
& won !

That his Bangalore team is called Royal Challengers, has nothing to do with it.

That the owners of the team, live life King Size, is totally incidental, and nothing to do with his stature.

The man has always reminded me of noble Mufasa , the Lion King . Who explained life to his son, Simba, saying, " Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures....we are all connected in the great Circle of Life."

The similarity is uncanny. While in this case the son is still too young, the father lives this philosophy, unaware , that, the world looks up to him. Not just in cricket, but Life....

Anil Kumble, is all about balance.

That he began his Cricket at 13, joining a club called Young Cricketers. That he studied when he had to study, graduated with distinction in Mechanical Engineering. That he made his first class debut in 1989, playing against Hyderabad. That he got selected in the India under 19 team. As a right arm leg spinner, who practiced a flipper, throwing a curved backspin Magnusian ball, at batsmen who simply fatigued from the onslaught of accuracy,intelligent variation and bounce. India colors in 1990, and he went from strength to strength, ODI's, tests, and now, back in the IPL.

The second individual in the world after Jim Laker to take 10 wickets in an innings, (against Paksitan, in New Delhi, 1999), he, along with Muthiah Murlitharan and Shane Warne, holds the record for surpassing 600 wickets in test cricket. The former two, who relied on excess, ferocity, misleading tactics, and , as Peter Roebuck said, "created error by destroying hope" , for the batsmen, while Kumble, simply kept the line , length and precision, dedication writ on his determined visage. Precise results from planned precise assaults. An engineer in action, maybe. Balanced in his attack.

Statistics and records are just one aspect of the man.

There are records and records. Where umpires tired of holding up the finger.

And then there are vignettes. Which we hold up today, to show our young.

Kumble, in Antigua, hurt on the jaw, bleeding, returns bandaged (with pins in his jaw) from the pavillion, and bowls his heart out, 14 overs in pain, and gets the wicket of Brian Lara. A team man, to the core. Hurt, dedicated, brave, but always in balance.

Kumble, appointed captain , with Dhoni interning in the wings. They couldn't have chosen better. It was a difficult time, with a difficult series in a difficult country coming up. His friend and colleague from Bangalore had resigned as captain, there were issues. But he lead the only way he knew. With his head, with sincerity, with discipline and intelligence. Knowing what was important . Always in balance.

Kumble sitting at the press conference in Sydney, Australia after Monkeygate. No snarls, no snide comments, no gestures. Just a tough, no-nonsense ,straight look and a line that summed it all up : "There are two teams out there, and only one of them is playing in the spirit of cricket...". And the whole of Australia listened, agreed, chastised their own, and the game, about to get a bad name, remained, in sporting balance.

Kumble, delighted to bits about his 10 wickets in an innings; someone who inspires selfless unheard of actions in fellow bowlers, like Srinath, who after noticing the record a wicket away, deliberately avoided trying to take a wicket, so that the 10th could be Kumble's. Always aware, grateful, happy, balanced.

Kumble, the family man, flying back in the middle of the Pakistan series,a quick trip, to be by the side of his wife, at the birth of his son. And then flying right back, to bowl his Magnusian deliveries at the opposition. A man in balance.

Kumble, the realist , understanding the limitations of an injured little finger, his difficulty in finding his form due to that, declaring his retirement from first class cricket, on the last day of the Delhi test against Australia in 2008. It takes a great man to realize that flying around and getting surgeries was not a solution. And that there was a time and a place for many things in life. All to be finely balanced...

Kumble, who was often seen, in the pavillion, delight writ large on his face, capturing cricketing moments of the unforgettable type on his camera, as the team stood up to applaud some other cricketing God performing in the field. And he himself, coming off the field in his last Test, chaired by those who he guided and led with exquisite wisdom and balance...

Kumble, who doesnt remove and wave shirts publicly, doesnt wink at scantily dressed girls in ads, doesnt revv up accelerators of cars in glamorous ads, doesnt sip colas and tell lies to sell them, and who doesnt appear mouthing threatening words to batsmen on the pitch with accompanying gestures. Just looks determined, serious, tough, and seemingly in balance...

But a Kumble, who knows how to celebrate an honest effort , be it by himself or someone else on the field, whose feet always remain on the ground, firmly anchored, who endorses wildlife, education, insurance companies, and gets appointed on retirement to the World Anti Doping agency(WADA). He supports the IDF Tuberculosis campaign, and honors the young participating project contributors, saying ,"Lets clean bowl TB !".....

The nation declares an Arjuna Award, and later, a Padma award for him. He honors both, by attending. Wisden honors him, also shortlisting him in a list for Wisden Indian Cricketer of the 20th Century, in 2002.

Anil Radhakrishnan Kumble, as Lion King Mufasa would put it, is well connected in the Circle of Life.

Wonderful cricket, great colleagues, a supportive family, perceptive photography, amazing meetings with legends inside and outside cricket, and an abiding respect for creatures of the green, some in sanctuaries and forests, and some, who have run between 22 yards, with a piece of wood, hitting a Kookuburra , for much of their life.

IPL is a commitment he made before he retired. It is not his life. And like he did for his country, he gives it his best.

He remains, for our children, someone to emulate, understand, and look up to.

He probably has more time now. Maybe he takes his children to school and drives them there. Maybe he thinks of the stacks of photos that he still has, which can make another wonderful book. Maybe he will introduce his children to the wildlife that excites him. The light changes to green and he moves on...

The most wonderful thing for him, is possibly an intersection on the busy and prominent M.G.Rd in Bangalore, that is named after him.

A signal honor from the common man, who, while travelling to work daily, stops by, just for a little while, outside the TV shop on that street, watching the last few minutes of the thrilling match, eyes all alight, hoping that Kumble, spinning that second last ball, can do the needful; Watching it all makes him feel good.....

In balance, for the man on the street, it makes the day go better......

Mufasa, the Lion King, would have roared, and approved .

Wide Angle By Anil Kumble
This entry is posted as a part of the Contest by

Sunday, April 11, 2010


E-people. There is no other name for us.

There are 3 people and 3 cell phones in the house. With varying degrees of sophistication. I mean the cell phones, not the people . Till a few days ago, just one of them (the phones), could upload things nicely on to a PC. And so when those of us with really simple cell phones wanted to upload, my daughter would do something using "bluetooth" , get everything on the fancy phone and upload from there. That also brings me to the completely bizarre naming of things that has happened with the e-fication.

In my lifetime, we have moved from teletypes, to huge mainframes, to table top models, to laptop and palm top models.

My introduction to the IT of the old days, was through coding sheets, on which you laboriously wrote your programs in some third generation language as they called it. The entire stuff was punched into cards using punching machines. Bunches of these punched cards, were held together with rubber bands. Sometimes, the programs and data cards occupied several boxes, which we lugged around everywhere. All the machines were huge, including the card readers and printers, they made a huge noise, and I used to always secretly feel that if the air conditioned premises were devoid of these lumbering magnetic memories and peripherals, the place would be ideal as a marriage hall. :-).

Every Dassehra, there would be a Puja function when all the machines would be cleaned, decorated with kumkum and flowers, and the Gods prayed to. The folks at the top of the echelon would brake a coconut on the floor for prasad(=consecrated food), and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be , if a certain troublesome part of the hardware could be used instead of the floor , for breaking the coconut. Deletion by Divine intervention.

Computerisation, per se, was not widely prevalent, and attitudes of folks to it could be greatly revealing. About 25 years ago, I was once entrusted the job of conducting "computerization familiarization" lectures for the staff in our accounts and administration sections, now that PC's were making appearnces, and various operations were slated to be computerized . These were folks in their 40's and 50's , very comfortable with calculators and stuff, and doing things in triplicates, and xeroxing etc. That someone other than a human could be thought to think, was a mind boggling thing for them and I was asked to do a very basic set of lectures aimed and those who had seen , but were intimidated with the jargon and stuff.

So many times we blindly follow definitions. Because we know that once we get the hang of the running of the thing, these will just be names. But when it comes to explaining (to those who are perfectly happy with what they have), things like 'booting", I realized that the standard explanation of "bootstrapping" (pulling yourself up by your bootstraps) simply did not jell in a system where modes of entering, starting off and retiring were clearly defined and visible.

They finally understood when booting was explaining with an analogy to kick starting a two wheeler to an "idling" state. You put your scooter in neutral, kick start it, and if the fuel mixture and cylinder-piston stuff was exemplary, the machine would idle, allowing you to sit and put it in gear, move on, whatever. (Akin to getting a DOS prompt on screen, allowing you to perform operations). Since many of those in the class had two wheelers, they immediately caught on. Bad sectors and stuff on disks was explained by analogy with how the postman identified our addresses, and what he did when the address was nor readable.

In some practice sessions with interactive programs, fingers would reverentially, yet hesitantly, hover over the "Enter" key, someone would look up , and ask, "Should I press?". We'd advise them to go ahead and see what happens. I think some probably thought the PC would power off in shock, or maybe burn down or whatever, so much for the button/switch anxiety . Instead, the screen would report back with a very human like response, saying things like "wonderful", "thank you", and even "bye-bye". There would be groups laughing at something on the screen, pointing, and it was difficult to tell folks that it was time for them to leave.

Those were the days, when PC-AT's had just come. (Today's students don't know what they missed). Hard disks in your PC were a prestigious thing to have (!). I have used machines with no hard disks. And people, who were taught that booting was similar to kickstarting, often treated hardware like they treated motorcars.

We once had an engineer in to check out a hard disk malfunction, and noticed that he inserted the tip of a knife somewhere and gave a kind of shove to something, whereupon the hard disk suddenly came to life. Turns out that something that would start the disk rotating wasn't strong enough. For many days after that, till the company engineers managed to fit us into their schedule for repair and replacement, a fancy penknife sat on the system unit, and just like old cars were cranked and started by rotating a handle stuck in below the bonnet, one of us would open the knife, and stick it inside, and give a push, to God alone knows what, but the system started. The company engineer rushed after one of our incharge professors saw the knife in action, and became speechless.

Clumsy connections often sprang to life with alacrity when a system unit was given a disciplinary thump, or the monitor was given a punitive shake, and I often look back on those days with a lot of fondness, when the machines were perceived as almost human, and needing an occasional slap as such.

Today, a shop keeper will regretfully shake his head on being asked about graph paper, but will nod with alacrity when you ask for blank cd's, dvd's or pen drives. Phones which simply make calls and receive calls are almost non existent. In addition, they message, sing, take pictures, send pictures, ring alarms, traipse around the web, drunk on their own jargon.

The nice old rotary phone never had a proper name, but today you stick Blackberries and Apples to your ear, which is probably a good thing now, as the variety used, to go to the mouth, is very expensive this year. Good old notebooks are not paper anymore, and some phones even have pencil type things with which you tap out acronyms and short forms, that have today made English age early. Words like Bluetooth, which would have intimated a child and disgusted a dentist earlier are now routinely bandied around, and the younger the children, the more savvy they seem to be.

It's the story of human relationships actually.

Earlier, social systems for meeting were not as prevalent (in India), and if and when you did actually meet someone you liked, you valued that, and everyone worked halfway to meet in a golden middle, tweaking attitudes and thoughts. There was more acceptance of changing standard deviations, a feeling , that if you worked at it, things would be normal and fun once again. Like our PC-AT, which worked, almost at knife point, but got the work done, and probably got used to the pointed touch.

Today, for many , relationships is like a hobby. Like the new phones, you try them for a while, if they don't work, you discard, and get new ones. There are social networking sites, where you take a chance on total outsiders becoming your bosom pals. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But you say you have 456 friends, take a deep breath, and move on. There are articles written and scientific research done in how laptops and download speeds are causing anxiety attacks in people.

The whole idea of an individual sitting in isolation tapping away for hours on a keyboard, and trying to build an e-relationship, is antonymous.

Sometimes I wish, you could close a misbehaving laptop in anger, give it a whack, shake it, and start it up again, and that it would work again. I know some companies show commercials on TV where they drop laptops to the floor and they say they still work.


You know, they may find newer techniques of cardiac bypasses, and cancer treatments, but the solution for curing the common cold still remains to be found. ...

Friday, April 09, 2010

The S. Institute of Common Sense

I've been reading through some mother-in-law/son/husband/daughter-in-law posts in my sidebar. Most pertaining to an anonymous daughter-in-law having problems with a mother-in-law, with the son/husband being the entity, who should actually be making things clear to everybody in the house about every one's status, but isn't doing that. Causing untold trauma to his bride, and torment to his mother, or, vice-versa.

While in several cases it's a case of perceived ownership of assets acquired on the occasion of the wedding and later, sometimes, it could be a case of insensitive planned demeaning comments on both sides; all this greatly messed up if the husband/son happens to be the tolerant but gutless type.

Strange as this sounds, sometimes, you learn more about this issue and its solutions by looking around you. Once again, S., my household help, shows the way !

She lives in a crowded area where houses stand cheek-by-jowl with all kinds and forms of tenements, some permanent, some about to fall. She, her daughter, 3 sons, 2 daughters in law, and two grandchildren, live in a house that consists of a 10' x 10' outer room, a kitchen inside half that size, and a separate outside room, 7' by 9' just behind. The main front room has a kind of loft (more for storage than a interior design element), which serves as an extra sleeping area . Just outside her front door, flows a gutter, and since her house is on a slight slope, she is vary particular about keeping it clean, of all the stuff that might accumulate from places higher, and washes the place clean 2-3 times a day, because her grandchildren play outside.

A couple of weeks ago, during our usual work-completion-tea break, she mentioned to me that her second son, with two children had sat down with her the night before, almost in tears, and mentioned that his wife wished to maintain a separate setup in the room behind. It meant that in that tiny house, there would now be two kitchens, and he felt bad telling his mother this. But he accorded importance to what his wife felt, and so brought it up. The entire house belonged to S., financed long ago from various loans, chit funds, and what have you. There was no clash between any personalities in the house, so she never suspected anything. It certainly hurt her.

" But I trust my son. If he is asking me this, then it means he has thought over it, sees some merit in the arrangement. And yes, the extra room is there . If all we had was a room, things would be different I said, if that's what you want, fine. "

So the son, wife and two children , now have a set up in the back room. They cook their own meals. Sometimes when acquaintances drop over, they receive them there.

But spatial segregation is where it all ends.

The grandchildren are all over the place. Sometimes they eat in both places, though S., always checks with their mother if they have already eaten. Not because of excessive politeness, but out of concern that the child should not eat in an irregular fashion. Whenever S. has to rush out on some family emergency or visit, the separated daughter-in-law, on her own, will come, bring stuff for her brothers -in-law, even cook something extra in her mother-in-laws kitchen for them, and then clean up after every one is done. Filling water is one compulsory chore everyday. The daughter-in-law continues to walk with the rest of the family to the communal tap for filling water, and she fills more than her own share, which goes into her mother-in-laws kitchen. Without a song and a dance about it. Like she did before.

Mind you, S. cannot read or write. This daughter-in-law has completed high school. Done some computer skills course. She wanted to work. The sons asked their mother, S., to stop working houses and stay at home . This way the daughter-in-law would work. But S., suggested that she wait till her children started school, and then take up a job. She herself, wouldn't be giving up her house jobs.

"I'd love the luxury of staying home and enjoying my grandsons. But I would then have to ask my sons for money, as I wouldn't be earning. I don't want to be in that situation. My daughter stays with us (returned from a violent marriage), and so long as I work, and contribute in the house, my word will have value, in a dicey situation regarding her future in the house. I will continue to work houses till my feet give away....."

I admire S.'s way of handling the situation. There are 2 households in that small house.


Mentally, though, she has shown by example , how the crisis needs to be handled. There are no hiccups. The daughter-in-law is happy, the children feel no difference, and S.'s attitude to wards the whole thing is a lesson to the rest of the family, in how to keep the peace, and allocate priorities.

None of these people had grand weddings, gifts galore, settling in foreign lands, fancy jewellery and stuff. They all live in a situation where most of the time you share what you have.

But there is a veritable separation of the physical and emotional.

Keeping the emotional ties intact, and NOT based on the physical situation, has allowed S. to keep the peace . She treats the physical separation aspect as a sign of the times, where girls are now more educated, and their aspirations must be listened to, and whenever possible, accepted. The daughter-in-law appreciates this, and is in and out of her mother-in-laws house , helping out daily whenever required. Basically, no one on a high horse, obsessed with perceived insults and stuff.

There are more constants than variables in these lives. That they all live almost in one house. That they are grateful for whatever privacy they get. That S. may have favourites, but doesn't let on. That S. feels very proud of her educated daughter in law and shows it. That the daughter-in-law realizes that this is a very sensitive and sensible family.

Most of the time, the variables have to do with money and assets. For S., and her family, this is a non issue.

Its really a question of needs and tolerance. Too much of one and too little of the other. That's a potent mixture.

S. has a limited amount of one and a huge stock of the latter.

I don't have any answers to the DIL/MIL problem which I read. Its just that listening to S., often makes you think hard.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rukhwat Memories....

When I was a child, marriage meant, that the girl went and stayed with the boy's family for good. In those days, one never really heard of couples shifting out into apartments and flats of their own, unless of course, the man worked in a different city, or was in the armed forces or civil services, where you kept moving around on transfers and got accommodation.

While the wedding rituals in my community have remained mostly unchanged, over the various decades, some social customs seem to have changed, and some have almost disappeared.

As children , besides staring at the bride, in tears, being escorted by her maternal uncle to the wedding podium, in her final moments as a Miss, enquiring about the dessert for lunch, keeping an eye on bottles of Coca Cola, staying away from some strict in-charge aunt, and laughing at some person who looked funny in the traditional Gandhi cap worn for the rituals, , one of things we liked to go look at, was something called Rukhwat.

This was something similar to what is called a bride's trousseau today. Except nobody registered names anywhere, things were rarely store bought, and assorted folks including the bride often got down to some serious arts and crafts, designed to impress the in laws. All the stuff, made for the bride (and sometimes by the bride) was displayed prominently on a longish table , usually with a nice tablecloth. This was the Rukhwat, and the bride took this with her when she went to her marital home. (Along with many other things not clearly defined, tangible and non tangible).

Once a marriage was fixed, there would be a flurry of arts, crafts, embroidery, paintings, cutwork on textiles, bead work etc. Various aunts and cousins would offer to make some Rukhwat item or items . Sometimes the bride herself would bring out all the tablecloth sets she embroidered, a few years ago, for an eventuality like this. Wool flowers and hanging braided branches , various door decorations to be put over a doorway (toran) in wonderful designs, was a typical item.

Back then in the late 50's , I remember seeing small besan (=garbanzo flour) sofa sets, and trains made of bread. My friends and I, who thought the world of besan laddoos, thought what a colossal waste of besan this was, but it needed a smart person to plan the consistency of the besan , so that the sofas stayed as sofas, and didn't go flat. The train made out of bread was a bit complicated, and while you could eat the sofas later, I don't think the bread was used later in any way.

Then for some inexplicable reason, the next most popular thing was a house made of injection bottles. In an amazing display of recycling sense, doctors would keep these empty injection bottles for such uses, instead of creating mountains of biomedical waste like today . The bottles were organised in layers and rows, and stuck together, and folks made some really complicated structures out of these bottles, which looked like really fancy palaces when placed under lights.

And finally, there would be a great set of homemade jams and relishes in a smart set of bottles, lots of homemade sweets beautifully packaged, and assorted edible goodies on display. Sometimes one would see a set of steel utensils, glasses and bowls, along with complicated embroidered bedsheets and tablecloths. I know of a case where the bride herself was a whiz at embroidering huge scenes from the scriptures and epics and the Rukhwat had a display of these on the wall behind the table. There was a pervading sense of wanting to "show" the "opposition" (boy's side)......:-)

Somewhere in the 80's , girls were getting educated more, working, and so there wasn't time to get so many things organized. Besides, consumerist behaviour was kind of kicking in. Corelle crockery and serving bowls sets were greatly prized, and these were displayed in the Rukhwat. Sometimes even pressure cookers made it there. The emphasis went from making it yourself to buying it.

Some enterprising folks went into business providing things like the 5 different jams, sweets, and even embroidered and framed Ganeshas, and other gods. There appeared to be an increasing emphasis on the outfits of the bride and groom and the jewellery. In some weddings you would get to see an entire range of cooking vessels, lids, tea sets and what have you.

This of course, didn't stop the guests from giftng whatever they wanted to the couple. It was nicely packed, supposed to be a surprise, and if turned out to be your 6th clothes iron, or 5th toaster, it was just too bad.

Today, people are all in a hurry. Even some of the wedding rituals are now done in their version 1.5 or whatever. Abridged. With all the mandatory things intact. All based on very material considerations like the cost of overshooting your time at the marriage hall, by what time most of the guests have to leave (if its a weekday), and if the groom is working abroad, then the most important consideration, is getting all the required certificates for the visa, post marriage. Wedding planning is now a profession.

And so you don't see much Rukhwat these days, unless you are in a smaller city, where the life pace is slower, and more peaceful. Today its all about "wearing" the show. The days when you embroidered stuff late into the night for a Rukhwat, with assorted nieces and nephews helping you do the sequins or whatever, are gone . You dont see aunts , in charge of the Rukhwat , insisting things be just so on the big day, and losing their temper at some mischievous nephew, who is having a great time teasing the younger girls who have made the stuff........

But there is the story of a girl, the daughter of a friend, who had braved some complicated limb surgery in her twenties, and showed immense courage and fortitude learning to walk again. I'd see her mother helping her with her walking exercises , with a walker, as she struggled to walk in our lane, late every evening , after her mother came home from work. She faced more than physical discomfort and pain, as there were looks, and whispers, and people wondering why this surgery was required at this marrigeable age. As is typical in India, people thought nothing of coming and asking you this, and her mother was an example of how you learn to count till ten, and keep your temper. This girl met a wonderful boy , the meeting arranged by a marriage bureau, and they hit off so well, and got engaged.

I called the entire family, and the boy for a kind of marriage shower(celebratory dinner), wrote a poem for the girl and her parents, applauding her spirit and courage, and framed the thing in some kind of wedding type decorative stuff and presented it to her. Her husband was greatly impressed by the story. When I travelled to Pune for the marriage, some 5 aunts and cousins of the girl had slogged over some wonderful arts and crafts in the Rukhwat, and there on the table, along with the finer artistic stuff, was my framed poem ! In her trousseau.....

Traditionally , everyone actually presents the bride with a coconut. It is not unusual to see a heap of coconuts in the room assigned to the bride's side in the marriage hall. Today, along with Rukhwats, embroideries , art work, wall hangings and stuff, even coconuts are not seen much .

But as in everything else in life, its not what you give , but the thought and spirit behind that counts.

In the small garden downstairs in my (late)parents house used to be a coconut tree. It was planted the year I was born. Twenty five years later , a whole coconut (the type you buy from the coconut seller to drink the coconut water and eat the sweet pulp) from that tree , was given to me by my mother, and was one of things I carried with me to my in-laws house . Over the years it dried up. It moved around with me as we shifted houses . I even painted it orange from the outside to match my curtains at one point. Sometime in the early beginnings of this century, it fell down, and cracked, possibly due to age. Inside was a shrivelled dry coconut ball. Around this time I lost one of my parents.

And so there are Rukhwats and Rukhwats. And then there are the Rukhwats of the Mind, your values which your parents give you, which you take with you, which stay with you throughout life. The material ones may change , based on customs, time, value, and attitude.

The mental ones go with you when you go.

Monday, April 05, 2010

In praise of "seeing...."

There is something to be said for "seeing sessions" . As a prerequisite for arranged marriages.

About 30-35 years ago, when families heard about the impending arrival of some one's son from a wonderful job , be it overseas, or even in another Indian city, several wheels within wheels would start moving as far as parents of eligible girls were concerned. Cousins abroad were contacted, old classmates were pressed into service, family connections were explored, and everything possible was done, to find out the antecedents of the boy.

Boys parents would typically receive formal "letters of possible intention of matrimony" with photographs of the girl, highlighting how simply wonderful she was. These letters were perused, analysed, checked for veracity by various means, and the parents of the boy would normally reply.

If the boy was yet to arrive, the thing to do was to ask for the girls horoscope. Some smart parents of girls would also ask for the horoscope of the boy. Which was, interestingly not always given, as a prerogative and proof of the slightly higher societal level attributed to the boys side.

While some communities treat the horoscope, as the final decision maker, particularly in the South, it was actually used in these cases, for avoiding an undesired match.

I have known folks who maintained an actual file of such letters, complete with inward date and number, photograph, sundry details , special notable facts, education, skills, and of course , overall comments from the boy and his family. If the initial reaction was not favourable, the easy way out was to send a very nice letter praising the girl, but regretting greatly, that the horoscopes did not match. This method ensured that the concerned photos and horoscopes went back to the correct party.

Subsequent to the boys arrival, there would be several tea meetings, perhaps a few with the boy and girl getting to spend some time together, often with a little brother, as a bored chaperon.

The reason I mention this is to indicate the various checks and balances that happen in organizing an arranged marriage, where families are checked out, fellows /girls are investigated and so on.

Papers today are full of the Sania Mirza-Shoaib Mallik marriage stories, which get more and more complicated day by day.

The man seems to illogically swing between 2 extremes.

He at first follows a system where he has a relationship from Pakistan to Hyderabad(India) via post and photographs . When he speaks to who he thinks is the girl, it is actually someone else. But he doesn't know that. Neither does he suspect anything when time and again, on his visits to Hyderabad (to meet her), she is away, in hospital, out of the country and so on. When he supposedly goes for his own marriage, the captain of the Pakistan cricket team accompanies him in the car in Hyderabad. Now he says he was tricked, he got married over the telephone, and is being troubled by the girl's family. (The girl's family confirms they were married, and strangely, Shoaib Mallik refuses to continue the marriage because the girl has put on weight, and this embarrasses him!) .

Did he ever hear of video phones, conference calls, video conferencing, webcams and the like ?

Cut to 2009-2010, and he has a modern romance across Australia and Dubai, with Sania Mirza, and announces his impending marriage to her . There is news about apartments in Dubai, expenses in millions, five star receptions, and Page 3 guests.

Inexplicably, Mallik lands up in Hyderabad. And they slap a case on him for cheating. It is terribly unclear as to who is cheating who. He could have stayed in Dubai, and got married there to Sania, since that was to be their home anyway. His religion allows him 4 wives.

So why did Sania Mirza's family not check out his antecedents ? His matrimonial history as such? Something they would have scrupulously observed had this been an arranged match. There are video clips from a few years ago, where he is shown accepting some cricket award after a match saying it was more wonderful as it was his wife's city.

There are questions about telephone marriages, Net marriages. Not valid in Pakistan, but possibly allowed by the Indian Muslim Law Board. How do you decide whose rules apply, when one party is in Pakistan, and the other in India ?

Maybe we will now have Orkut marriages, Facebook marriages, and Twitter marriages. There is also suddenly a question , about why all the fuss, since Mallick's religion allows him 4 wives, simultaneously. If his presumed first wife is asking for a divorce, which is actually 3 words pronounced by him within certain boundary conditions, why doesn't he just give it and become free and unencumbered, as he gets ready to marry Sania ?

All this has the makings of an interesting Hindi movie, maybe even a suspense movie.

Maybe he should have just done it the old way, his parents sending letters to Sania's parents, with a proper proposal. A lot of muck that's being thrown around today would have dissolved under the family scrutiny procedures on both sides.

I suppose they don't have horoscopes. And all those letters from parents and the replies would make for excellent documentation in such a case.

The only thing is, the guy has been banned from cricket for a year. So he has lots of time to sit and sort out this very troublesome issue.

Maybe there was something to the arranged marriages of old, after all......