Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stars, wheels and prestige....

Five stars  *****  and I have a very limited acquaintance.

Then again, there are five star places with different personalities.

Some, like a rich dowager grandmother,  entertaining a wonderstruck grandkid or kid to a lovely meal on a visit, indulgently watching him slurp.

And some,   so obsessed with status and nomenclature, that they actually change the name of their locality, say from Lower Parel to Upper Worli ; because the former shouts out middle class, millworkers, taxes and chawls, and the latter marinates in sea faces, promenades, perks and apartment complexes of posh sports persons, politicians, industrialists , and so on.

One has had occasion to attend weddings, meets and so on at various five star places in the city and suburbs, and has never had a problem with entering the premises.  Regardless of the vehicle that one was travelling in.  Yes, security checks were in full force, regardless of the class of vehicle, obstructive pillars in the ground were raised and lowered to let folks in after checking , in their respective vehicles.

I had occasion yesterday to attend a blogger meet at a five star hotel near the International airport. 7 pm , off the worst traffic bottleneck road leading to the eastern suburbs, and we turned in at the road leading to the hotel.

A closed gate , guarded by folks, who were letting in folks with vehicles which had  4 wheels.  We were travelling in a three wheeler rickshaw, and the rickshaw was stopped . They were not allowed into the driveway leading to the hotel entrance some distance away.   So the unformed man at the entrance said.

Thousands of moons ago, I had been to this hotel (to meet a travelling relative), when it was a collaboration with someone else ages ago, and the only five star set up at the airport then. I remember driving up in a rickshaw then. 

And nobody died of mortification then.

When you have , a day ago slipped in some invisible water on the house floor, and got stuck in a Carl Lewis starting position , trying to balance yourself, you are just about tolerating the onset of muscle/limb/tendon aches in all kinds of movement, and this prompted me to ask the guy  who stopped us, how one was supposed to reach the place in time , if we had to hot foot it down the long driveway. 

He , amazingly simply pointed to a longish , prosperous and stubborn looking car, parked at the entrance parallel to the closed gate, and said, "I will drive you"  and that we should check our names off the bloggers' list maintained by the gatekeeper.

Some blogeshwaries arrived in the meantime, and I informed them about this facility. Mind you, there wasn't a notice anywhere saying folks would be driven etc etc. I asked and I was told.  

We are very down-to-earth types anyway, and the daughter, with her heels, photography paraphernalia, and sense of humour, cracked up so hard at  a joke by one of the blogeshwaries , about a BMW and me, that she  lost her balance (on the aforesaid heels) and fell down.

Faced with a semi limping old lady, and a bunch of us helping the fallen photographer, the driver actually rushed to open doors , we all sank into some fairly deep seats, and were driven in great swishing speed and style to the hotel entrance, making some folks wonder how we landed up so fast.

Around elevenish, on or way back, we were already late, and I asked the darwan if he could call a taxi for us. Then I heard more. Metered taxis were not there.  The minimum charge was Rs 490  for the short distance I needed to go.   I asked how I was supposed to reach the gate where I could gate a decent normal taxi or rickshaw.

And the guy suddenly whistles, and summons the same BMW. The driver speeds up  and passes us. We must look like the rickshaw types. The darwan whistles again, the car reverses.  The driver must have been disappointed . We got in, and he kind of raced us to the gate, where we got off after thanking him.  

A nice rickshawala  on the outside potholed , but honest road, immediately agreed to take us, by meter , where we wished to go, at what turned out to be one fifth the cost.

Naturally, I called my friends who were still inside and informed them about the availability of the car upto the 5 star gates.

I often wonder about this 5 star stuff. Yes, it is a pleasure to be in very aesthetically done up opulent surroundings, where everything smells like you are in a garden, and folks kind of tiptoe and glide around, while some music kind of plays in the background, and folks whisper at the front desk.

But there is a different world outside, and while the hotels are free to price their offerings anyway they wish, they certainly cannot decide how their visitors should travel to the hotel portals.  

It was not a parking problem, as 4 wheelers were allowed inside the gate.  A thoughtful hotel management would have organized minibuses to run at required  intervals between the gate and actual hotel for every one's convenience, and indicated where one should wait for such a bus. 

There was no sign saying that there was a car ready to transport folks to the hotel entrance.

A typical case of "you don't ask and we won't answer"....

But here were hundreds of folks who came for the meet, and had to walk the distance although they came in vehicles.

Actually, I didn't realize it was a BMW,and really couldn't care less.  I wouldn't recognize one if it revved up in front of me in bright daylight for, say even 10 minutes.   I am not unduly impressed by huge fancy cars that guzzle gas, and have a distracting array of stuff on the dashboard. The younger folks with me were excited after the ride, which was understandable. 

But it angers me to know that someone else decides how I should travel. To meet their standards.  And that my mode of travel must match with the guest profile the hotel has decided for itself.

Despite the stuff that appears in the papers, the occasional strikes, the refusals to ply certain areas, rickshaw travel is today  the most affordable , for those who cannot travel by train or bus, for geographical reasons. 

I have had occasion to travel for meets, to many other hotels in this category in Mumbai, and my mode of travel was not an issue with any of them, and their reputation did not suffer because  I had one wheel less.

I must register my protest regarding this hotel.  


Monday, May 27, 2013

Old Ladies in the time of WeChat......

WeChat with Anyone, Anywhere - Winner

Most things in my life have happened late. Except perhaps, my reaching 60 years of age.

One of the last to get a desktop, flat monitor,  laptop, cordless phone, then a very basic cell phone which did not venture into downloading and photographing (with a B and W screen). One of the last to get a new car after a 38 year old one, became irreversibly geriatric.  I still think of the dentist when someone mentions Bluetooth, and have a natural tendency to lick my lips when Ice Cream Sandwich OS is mentioned. I think SMS is a curse on the English language aided and abetted by something called Twitter  which again encourages the same.

Then times changed, I won a smart phone in a contest. I felt very stupid and ancient using it, with all its fancy capabilities.  By then something called Apps arrived. I used to think they had a spelling problem, and actually meant Appa, but no.  As an oldie I was severely  abbreviation-disabled.  The daughter would be constantly answering weird tones with taps, and I slowly learned about Apps and WeChat. Terribly ordinary names if you ask me.  ( I mean why not Bolo-Bolo ? Sounds so Spanish, na ?)

On WeChat, you could do audio and video chats.  I didn't try the video ones; I mean why show people you speak to on WeChat, how you've slathered your face with besan and curd.....  ,  But the audio  was great. When someone invited you for something, you could sense whether they were being formal or really meant it.

I decided to try the group chat , and a feature of WeChat called drift bottle. You throw a bottle into the sea with a message, and someone might pick it up.

And guess what.  Yaalu Drasaad Saadav(YDS), picked up one, in a round red building in the capital, where he was fooling around with his special free smart phone.

Another was picked up Sir Highappan,  erstwhile royal cement prince , somewhere in a dark place in Mumbai.

This Drift bottle feature was fun. One of those almost stopped drifting and became like a statue, till I found the person behind the statue , Ms. Chayawatibehen, in Lucknow.

How can you discount a bottle landing up at the Gateway of India, that too when Khakee Pawant (KP)  was shooting there ; just amazing to see her emerging , à la Ursula Andress, from that oily water,  with the bottle.

And just when I thought i was done , there was a Pandu Hawaldar, who came blowing his whistle , waving his hands, and throwing the bottle down, for checking by the bomb squad.

Me : Hawaldar Saheb(HS), the bottle is legal and real, There is a message  inside , I think. Just check.

HS : Bai, please let us do our job. We are very particular at checking things that come in from the sea.

Khakee Pawant (KP) :  Let me see. Let me see.  There may be a secret message inside. Maybe it is a new movie role for me...!

Yaalu (YDS) : Oye Khakee ben,  you cannot FIX roles like this.  I will demand a BBI investigation into these bottles. Waise I haven't been on too many committees lately. This is a great opportunity .

Me :  Yaaluji,  I can explain. I threw these bottles....

Sir Highappan (SH) : There ! Everyone is accusing me of throwing games. Where is the media when this old lady throws bottles with secret messages ?   I protest ! I protest !

Sudden clearing of a throat. Sir Highappan (SH) thinks it is his father in law, the noisy insect  control king. But its actually Chayawatiben(CB), coming to my aid .

CB :  Please. SH,  have some respect for the old lady. She wrote the same message in all the bottles. It is just like our speeches, same stuff , delivered unchanged, isn't that so Yaalubhai ?

Hawaldar Saheb (HS) :  Please , let me do my work. This Khakee Pawant lady isn't listening. She is posing with it  in front of the Gateway. My seniors will be livid.  So many people touching bottles, and leaving fingerprints, let me call the Grime Branch, before someone wipes them all off.

 Me: Hawaldar saheb, Just open the bottle and see na !

Yaalu Drasaad Saadav(YDS)Chayawatiben, how do you know what message the old lady wrote ?  Did you have prior information ? Is this FIXED ?

Sir Highappan must have smirked, his tonal quality changed.

Sir Highappan (SH) :  Finally. Someone understands. So many fixers . And I go to jail.  Simply because  my cousin's grandpa's brother's step-sister-in-law's grandson  made movies in Chennai and recently withdrew support to the government. Bah !

Suddenly something shakes. No , it isn't Khakee Pawant doing one of her dances. The Hawaldar Saheb has figured out WeChat,  and has pressed the Shake feature.  This finds out folks who are shaking as well, next to you, or across the globe.

Hawaldar Saheb(HS) : Bai, don't worry. I saw how you press this shake button. So tried it myself.  But I am trying to see  who all are shaking across the Globe with Sir Highappan .  You never know. It could be a secret indication of something.

Yaalu Drasaad Saadav(YDS): For a moment, thought it was an earthquake. I am sure, you understand Chayawatiben,  all the relief works, aid from the centre,  ex gratia payments....

Chayawatiben(CB):  Yes, Yaaluji, I was certainly falling short of statues .... once the elections are over, I can complete them with all these funds. Shaking baking will keep happening. I thought you were in the august house in the Capital. Isn't someone listening to you say all these things ?

Khakee Pawant(KP) : Swaying to the song , dances while singing "Jo wada kiya ho, nibhana padega..."

Havaldar Saheb smiles and nods, and beats his lathi to the rhythm of the song.  Sir Highappan  listens to all these conversations .

He isn't surprised.  Yaaluji, decides to throw some bottles of his own.  He is hoping some third front types will find the bottles drifting to wards them.

 Chayawatiben, ignores the old lady and starts discussing  possible participation in "cultural programs"   by Khahki Pawant during campaigning for the forthcoming elections.

Yaalu Drasaad Saadav(YDS) : Thank god my son didn't play the IPL this year . Waise all he did was carry drinks.  But at the end of the day Sewa has its rewards.  I've decided to FIX him in the party instead.

Sir Highappan (SH) : Shhh  Yaaluji .  Be aware,  you are on WEChat live group chat, shaking or nonshaking, with or without drifting bottles.   You simply cannot use some words.

There is a sound of a door closing behind Chayawatiben.  She must be leaving Lucknow to go somewhere.

Chayawatiben(CB) : Bye everyone.  Yaaluji see you in Delhi. I am on that junket of folks going to China to study the use of Hindi in that country.  Khakee Pawant, don't forget my invitation.  I'll take care of all the arrangements.   

Sir Highappan (SH): Gosh. I'd FIXed the use of a cell phone with the guard, and my time is up.  Hope he doesn't report it to the cops . But bye for now. Who knows,  you may see me in Delhi too !

Yaalu Drasaad Saadav(YDS) : Welcome  ji, welcome to Delhi !.   Khakee Pawant,  you do bhojpuri films by any chance ? Yes ?  Waise, I need to stop the chat, the Speaker calls.

The Hawaldar breathes a sigh of relief. Looks up at the old lady with the bottle in one hand, and his phone in the other hand.  Most of the Gateway crowd seems to have collected around Khakee Pawant, who has actually lost her phone in the melee.

"Havaldar Saheb(HS): Bai, tell me , how the phones have become so smart ? How is it that I spoke to so many important people ?  What is there inside my phone ?

Me : Havaldarsaheb(HS),  there is something called WeChat in your phone, which allows you to have all these group conversations. You can also have one-to-one conversations, like telling your wife to make Kande Pohe for breakfast when you return after a nightshift. Nice na !  She can even send you a picture of the Kande Pohe if they are ready .And you can even buy Dhaniya leaves on the way if you feel she hasn't put enough......

Havaldar Saheb(HS): But my friend's phone cannot do all that. How come ?

Me : Your phone is managed by something called Android, and the work is done by something called Icecream Sandwich....    Your friends phone is old .

Havaldar Saheb(HS): Oh ! I must tell my friend about this. With just a slight difference. When he gets a new phone from the office,  maybe he can choose a decent VadaPav instead of Icecream Sandwich . Kasa ?
The chat has been a bit overpowering.  There is something utterly and surprisingly graceful about folks holding phones horizontal in front of their lips, and talking away.

There could be so many applications of this.   There could also be so many misapplications of this.

The conversation has opened my eyes.

And I forgot to mention that my mouth which fell open  seeing all these folks, continues to remain in that position still.

I guess it is time to throw a few more WeChat drifting bottles again....and shake some folks up ....

Check out the WeChat Youtube Channel here.
Submitted as an entry to the Indiblogger-WeChat   "WeChat with Anyone, Anywhere!" contest .


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Drivers in Mumbai simply defy description.

There are those who think nothing of cutting lanes, without signalling, and specialize in missing your car by a centimetre   as  they overtake from the wrong side.  If their vehicle is a 4 wheel drive, they really don't care about what happens to your vehicle.

There are those who emerge suddenly from a gate on the left. It could be a building gate or side road.  They get a sense of power as they swerve onto the road in a wide arc, without looking or stopping, throwing traffic into a snarl. Oblivious to all this, they simply speed up and go.

There are some motorcycle types who cannot ride straight. They go sinusoidal in and out of lanes, tilting at 45 degrees at every lane change, as you fervently hope they don't slip, and  as a reflex action, slow your car down.     

Today, one is afraid to be right while driving. Your reflexes need to be super fast, and you need to be in the habit of expecting the worst. 

One time, we were getting onto the highway from a Western suburb service road ramp like structure.  Indicated our movement through a signal, the main highway traffic speeding on our right.  One guy , impatient at having a car in front of him, simply speeds up on the ramp, , along side us on the right, and scrapes us badly. The car stops.

It is not an owner driven car. The chauffeur steps out. Two portly guys in suits, various prominent gold rings on fingers, sit in air conditioned splendour , unaffected, in the rear seats.  We ask the chauffeur what he thinks he is doing driving like this on a narrow ramp. Tempers flare. We examine the damage to the car. We need to speak to the owners of the car. 

They laboriously  open the window, although the switch is automatic.  

They look up, unmoved at their car being involved, size us up, and say " So, how much money do you want for the repair ?"

A sign of the times. Money buys everything.  Even drivers who have got their licences through vague illegal channels.  The thing is to go from A to B as fast as you can.  A is what you were a few years ago. B is where you plan to reach when your so called assets multiply 500 % in 3 years. All by whatever means. (And you still cannot drive yourself).

The guys in the seats and the driver,  get a piece of some one's mind, in no uncertain terms.  It isn't the money. It's the brazenness with which they drive recklessly and injure. Cars and/or/people.  Their eyes suddenly shift. A cop appears out of nowhere.  Checks what is holding up traffic in the middle of the ramp.  Helps us detangle the car from the speeding one .  All the time listening to us vent our anger. He  has seen this kind of stuff before. Everyday. 

We take off,  into the night, as it is late and we have some way to go.  I don't know and don't wish to know what transpired between the cop and the scraping car.

Friends tell us never to get into arguments with folks on the road . In today's world, you never know what they are  carrying. There is the all pervasive Mumbai road rage.  It doesn't matter who is right or wrong or irresponsible.

Two days ago ,on a Sunday, with considerable less traffic in what can be described as a suburban business district,  we witness a  bike rider, simply stop his bike in the middle of an intersection, next to a ricksha. He pushes his head into the driver's section and proceeds to slap the ricksha driver around. There is a major police station at that intersection.  There has been no accident, injury or loss of life. But the biker continues to hammer the rickshaw driver on his face.  We didn't stop to see what happened later.  One has heard of people simply whipping out knives and guns.

The only time I carried a knife in the car was on a road trip, to cut fruit, specifically guavas, which were in season, and the knife was borrowed by someone who never returned it .

 So  we were very, very surprised at what happened a few weeks ago.

Driving  towards central Mumbai on a Saturday noon,  we were enjoying the relatively decent traffic conditions, and the several new flyovers that allow you to skip pesky intersections and traffic.  The traffic is flowing at a fairly fast constant speed, and we are on one of the flyovers in the fast lane, when the huge fancy car in front of us, suddenly brakes. By the time we brake, our car has touched his rear fender.  We stop. Traffic swirls around us.

A gent exits from the driver's side. Meets us , and we both examine the damage. He has none, but our car has some to the licence plate area, and one side has come off. The gent apologizes, saying, he had to brake suddenly because a smaller vehicle suddenly overtook , changed lanes, and slowed down things . He would have hit that vehicle otherwise. We understand. He informs us of nearby places that will fix the number plate right then for us.  The exchange has been very civilized, very polite, and between two folks who realize what Mumbai roads have become.

 We carry on, with some rattling noise of the licence plate, and stop in a parking spot to see what we can do. It needs work. We remove the licence plate, and bring it inside, and display it on the windscreen from inside.

Closer towards our destination, there is a posse of cops, waving  various vehicles in for random checks. One cop spots the missing number plate from a distance, and waves us in,  almost rubbing his hands in glee.

I kind of mobilize mentally for telling the cops the story and how it wasn't our fault. Most times I have interacted with cops is when I was not at fault, and road signs were either invisible behind hoardings and trees  or  nonoperational. Wrong turns, wrong parking etc. 

( Once they even towed our car away from what they said was a no parking area, and I couldn't see a no-parking sign anywhere, with many other cars nicely parked. I refused to pay the fine, brought the cops back to check out and confirm that there was no sign saying parking was prohibited .  The whole thing took a million arguments and some time, but I wasn't going to pay for a mistake I never made.)  Once they realize I don't have my hands in my pockets , they give up and let me go.

Even before we come to a stop, another fellow cop has seen the licence plate in the windscreen, understood the situation, and waved us on.

Aiiyo. Must have been one of our good days.  

Nevertheless, driving in Mumbai is no longer an enjoyable activity.

It just occurred to me that if the car had a mind, it would feel exactly like the average students in Mumbai feel today. 

A troublesome ride, fraught with bad ill designed paths,  dotted with potholes and loopholes, no maintenance and checking,  huge taxes and fees,  useless assurances,  no results in time, erroneous notifications,  and the glorious uncertainties of what you would be facing next.

Unless of course, you are the type of gets driven to school/college in cool splendour and tinted glasses.   And possibly a red beacon on top.   


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Life in your Years ......

Birthdays have evolved.

At one time, the entire building was invited, parents, aunts , uncles and all. Grandparents landed up a couple of days before. School celebrations were about NOT wearing the uniform on that day, and distributing chocolates in class.

We lived near a lake , on its shores when  the kids were young.  The son was  older , in the throes of losing milk teeth, having stubborn and crooked ones yanked out. He was also of an age when kids discover signatures, and he would practice his, for some unknown reason, just like his obsession with cars made him walk using his hands like moving wipers on a windscreen. In another civilization, these could have been "wipering" dance steps, and could have gone viral on the web. But those were Netless days, full of cricket, tennis, and climbing trees.

He and his dentist were friends, because he asked lots of questions which the dentist seriously answered. And he would actually compliment  him (as if he was grading) ,when a particular thing didn't hurt. :-)

 So a few days before his birthday, when he had an appointment for an extraction, he quietly took his pre printed invitation pad along, and laboriously entered the dentists name,  signed with a flourish, and invited him for his birthday. We naturally urged him to come with family. 

To the grandparents' entire surprise, they arrived in the thick of a treasure hunt where the children ran across several lawns , buildings and took signatures from watchmen etc. Their son joined in.  This was followed by eats , which kept you going till the next day's breakfast. Thanks to two grandmas, and a general abhorrence of wafers/chips et al, there was puranpoli, idli, chutney, homemade iced birthday cake, sprouts misal , etc, with usually some orange squash.  Some of the children performed.  Songs, elocution, dances whatever.  Even a speech by a little girl about Lokmanya Tilak,  much applauded by the grandparents,  while some of the little chaps made a big show of hiding their mirth.

Later birthdays soon evolved into returning with friends from some cricket or tennis camp, dripping with sweat, and devouring all kinds of modaks, sabudhana kichadi, cake, icecream, fruit salad , wadas and the works , trying to act all grown up.

She was younger, and her birthdays were more interactive. She attended a creche, and her friends from there were the most favoured folks.  The creche aunty always came and she loved to be fussed over by her. Much admiring of triple layered frilly frocks, and hair clips, glaring at folks who occupied favoured laps, the food was much simpler. There were lots of games, prizes given by grandparents with announcements et al.

Some of her friends in the creche were two boys, the offspring of folks in fairly high places. In fact , then, in the top most place. Who came to pick up their kids in the late evening.  The father landed up while a balloon blowing competition was on. The boys managed to blow theirs,  and the younger girls were struggling with theirs.   So the daughter , unable to tolerate the boys winning, quietly goes up to the big man, their father, holds out her balloon with a troubled face, and entreatingly tells him to blow it for her.      जरा  फुगा फुगवून दे ना !  ("Blow this balloon for me"  blithely said with a disregard for second person-plural....).   To the man's credit,  he did create the balloon for her, and then the  other little girls landed up. No doubt , an out-of-the-box experience for the man.  The rest of the folks , kind of looking on in misplaced apprehension,  trying to contain their mirth.

Another time she and about 10 of her friends, dashed downstairs to our neighbor, with a piece of birthday cake for their dog (mind you, not for them). The daughter would often accompany the neighbors on their evening walks with their dog, smitten as she was with him.  It isn't easy for elderly folks  to deal with a gaggle of excited 10 kids, trying to feed cake to your dog,  on a sudden unplanned visit. But the neighbors were completely overcome.

There were later on post-swimming-workout pool birthday celebrations, where famished folks kind of dug in into yummy dinners cooked and lugged  along with assorted cutlery, and even light carpets, spread on the pool landing,  to sit on.  

Times have changed. 

Icing is now dynamic. Sometimes it remains on the cake. And sometimes, it is slathered on the birthday person's face and everyone else's hands .  Every bite of the cake is photographed, and documented .         

Parents are persona non grata. Gaggles of kids in expensive ordinary clothes go to malls, see movies, hang around, eat , and enjoy the outing.  This is preceded by days of texting, whatsapp messaging, weird ringtones,  and amazingly no one is worried about time.

Eighty five to hundred folks, some of whom,  you have never met wish you on social media.  You, who often do not hear your folks telling you to close the door when you leave, are very particular about thanking all these unknown folks. 

Way back in the days when there was no FB and no blogs, there used to be a site called songsender.something, where you could give the necessary information, select musical styles, special messages, and the man would telephone the indicated person, and sing a special song for the person, incorporating whatever you mentioned.

I once organized one of these songs (you needed to pay a fee) to be sung for a little niece in the US.  She had some diet issues, and was advised to up her water intake , which she was reluctant to do.    I mentioned this to the guy on email, when I set up this song , and the fellow was a bit flabbergasted to know that here was an aunt from India recommending water drinking  in his songs , for a niece in the US.  But he appreciated the effort.  She was tickled to bits to get a call specially for her, announcements and all, where a fellow sang  a birthday song , complete with background music  et al, specially for her, and mentioned the thing about how drinking lots of water was a smart thing to do.    

These days, everything is automatic. Some e-system reminds you of birthdays. Maybe you can even arrange for automatic wishes to be sent, and specify the level of the wishes, viz formal, funny,  unusual, pictorial and so on. Maybe your thank you's too can be automatically programmed in.

Maybe there will be virtual cakes being cut.  With virtual slathering of icing  on faces and images of folks. Something, I cannot come to terms with (in my old age)  even now, as I think this slathering is a waste of money and food.

I wonder .

Did someone mention any software and mobile application for doing birthday aarti for a kid, and touching feet of elders ? 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Amchi Mumbai, Amche Teeth....

Every time I see the commercial with the girl who bites into a green apple, sees blood , and shows it to her father who happens to be a dentist, I have several questions....

When I was her age, first of all, we cut the apple into pieces and shared it. Of course green apples as in the ad, were never available or even seen, and it was always Simla or Kashmir apples for us. Even then, such sightings of blood were rare.

We all grew up, learning to eat sugarcane by peeling the stems with our teeth, and cracking walnut shells by mouth. (Cheating types cracked the shells in the door hinges). We had honest to goodness home made unrefined stuff, organic veggies, and unadulterated milk from animals that didn't take antibiotics. Teeth were brushed  with a dark colored tooth powder, with a terrible taste, and we even chewed some stems.  We dared not turn up our noses at unpopular subjies,  and food was never classified into fast and slow foods. Food was food, period.

Yes, there were occasions where we bled, such as when we scraped or hurt ourselves, had nosebleeds  and so on. These were immediately handled with a slather of turmeric or a holding of an onion at the nose. Sometimes, mixtures were stirred in cast iron vessels,  and a foul looking poultice was applied, causing much humor at school the next day.  The human body had several orifices, and some were designed to handle frequent bleeding.  For all others, there was something that was not right, when the blood happened.

It is a truth, not yet universally acknowledged, that our anatomies are a reflection of the state of the outside world as it exists. In Mumbai.

Think about it.

Thanks to messed up food choices , easy access to dangerous sugars, spoilt air and food quality, limitless auto exhaust, mindless bad construction, and a tendency to cheat for quick returns, our bodies are a replica of Mumbai's roads and living standards.

Frequent potholes, sudden lumps of concrete,  overflowing manholes, clogged drains, and inadequate cleaning and policing staff. Seapages , leakages, and encroachments, abnormally load up, and  weaken structures.  .

Even in your body.

I mean even dogs know the adage "use it or lose it". And here we are,  cutting the crust off the bread pieces, refusing til ladoos because they are hard; I even know someone , who looks disparagingly at an unpeeled orange, and has someone peel it for her, threads and all. Ditto for apples . Naturally,  milk  is abhorred, sunlight is cursed for tanning you, and litres of fast food and colas make their way down a troubled oesophagus.

The teeth watch , eyes full, through sugary films, , and the rot seeps into the gums.

Like the debris that clogs Mumbai's water canals , the rot in the teeth, endeavors to get into the tooth canal too. Like in Mumbai, marauding builder bacteria construct dwellings at will.   And you have problems. Infections, gum disease, abscesses and bleeding.

You can have bleeding in other places too. When you blow your nose, and see a spot of red on the tissue.  Sometimes you brush, and see blood when you spit.   It is even worse, when you throw up and see blood.  Women who are post menopausal, need to be worried when they see blood  and suddenly remember  their younger days.

It isn't blood per se, that is bad. 

It is so, when it appears in the wrong places.  

And then there are several things one can do to prevent that.  Just like we can follow rules to solve Mumbai's problems.

Remember the rat-a-tat of concrete drills on the roads of Mumbai ?  Remember sudden spurts of drains and the plugging ?  Remember wire frames  and verticals that are slathered with cement to create supports ? Road diversions. Temporary bridges.  

I have seen it all happen . In the mouth . Infectious protrusions, Oozing stuff. Cutting into gum flaps. Cleaning under.  Stitching up . Drilling in other places.  Piercing and fine tuning and twirling, with finest needles to clean the canals.  Sometimes external material is required. Sprays of water and air. Temporary and permanent plugs. Bridges. Crowns.  Sometimes even  yanking of troublesome types.

Some solutions for Mumbai might even work for our bodies.   Like using organic , biodegradable items. Not using materials that stick and clog .  Keeping the various flow areas surrounding our dwellings  clean.  Being aware of  abnormalities.  Ensuring that good materials are used for corrective actions by the officials, and ensuring the quality.

And so we need to understand what we eat and drink. Colas may be a fashion statement with 9.13 teaspoons of sugar in a standard can, but you won't be too fashionable in dentures. Don't get taken in by external properties like flavor, taste, smell etc, but read the ingredients.  Avoid ingredients that pretend to mimic estrogens, and fool your bodies into messing up the hormones.  Regardless of what we eat, ensure that you clean the mouth and teeth. Don't go around poking inside your gum because something is stuck.  Like Mumbai's much criticised paver blocks , a mistaken poke may lead to something oozing out or cracking.

Sometimes you may bleed because your blood is very thin, and doesn't coagulate easily. The reason may have something to do with something other than your teeth. Maybe it is some medication you take.  Like Antihistamines, BP medications,  birth control medications, immunosupressants etc. So it helps to ask questions and visit people who can give you answers.  Be informed.

Like in Mumbai, it isn't enough to look posh and spic and span, if you are hiding something dirty.  The insides and all those associated with it must be clean.

Toothpastes like Colgate that make the blood disappear (like in the ad ) in 4 weeks are fine.  But it all works when supported by good food habits.

Like Mumbai, people are today obsessed with looking good, and they forget the root part. Teeth are supposedly related to a beautiful smile, and people go to great lengths to improve upon the Creator. It isn't enough to have a n-storey designer building, if you do not have the legal requirements and a strong foundation.    

So ask the relevant questions . Learn.  The authorities in Mumbai may not answer.

But you doctor and/or dentist will.

Doctors have been known to curse under their breath when they see me.  Some are amused at the questions of an ignoramus, only to realize that there are more questions. It is easy today to check out procedures, pharmaceuticals, anatomy and so on on the Net.  It certainly doesn't make you and expert , but makes you understand things.  It is your body, and you must ask about everything that  qualifies as intake.     

Sometimes,  people observe and imbibe. Like 20 years ago....

The daughter was 9 when she one day woke up with bad pain in the gums.  We tried applying creams, gargling with salt water, icing and so on.   No change.  We called the dentist, and since she was the best person to describe her pain, he asked to speak to her.   He must have asked her if the pain was throbbing pain.  I don't think she knew what that was.

But she ended up telling him , to his complete amazement and entertainment that she had a "heartbeat in the gums".   

It was an infection, and he thought it was an apt description, as he prescribed some antibiotics before doing the requisite treatment.

The Moral of the story is that

(a) Mumbai( of another time), blood, beauty and brains, all begin with a B, and you must look at things in inverse alphabetical order....

(b)  Be well informed and learn about your body. 

It's the only thing that belongs to you for ever.....        

This post being submitted an an entry for the "The Moral of the Story is ... !" contest  organized by Indiblogger and Colgate Total Pro Gum Health .


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Review of : "Salvation of a Saint" by Keigo Higashino

I received this book, "Salvation of a Saint"  by Keigo Higashino, for review, as part of the Blogadda Book Reviews Program. The book is published in India by Abacus. The original is in Japanese, with this being a translation by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander.

I have never read Higashimo, or Steig Larson to whom he is compared.   And after being fed with thrillers and murder mysteries which deal with  several subsidiary murders in association with the main murder, violent killings, and discovering bodies stuffed under railway bridges, monetary crimes, and white collar cheating, this book was like suddenly feeling a cool ocean breeze at high noon in the most congested part of Mumbai.

This  can almost be classified as a murder mystery/thriller done with a lot of civilized finesse.   

Ayane Mashiba is a lady who teaches how to make quilts, along with an  assistant,  Hiromi Wakayama , and runs classes.  Ayane is married to Yoshitaka Mashiba, who  can be classified as a person with all head and no heart.  Yoshitaka has a single point agenda in his marriage. To have kids. All former girlfriends and his wife Ayane are treated by him like banks treat NPA's (non performing assets).  After a year of marriage, and  no sign of children, he tells his wife that she needs to go.

She does go , for a few days to visit her parents in Hokkaido,  leaving a key with her assistant Hiromi.  Yoshitaka is found dead at some time in her absence.
How the police detectives, handle the investigation,  their various techniques, involving an academic researcher in their efforts,  tracing the past girlfriend history of Yoshitaka , and giving credence to theories suggested by a woman detective based on  her special intuitive smart thinking, is a lesson in how to conduct an investigation without unpleasantness and rancour. 

Interpersonal relationships are discovered amidst the various persons being investigated.  This is also a story where  the human side of a cop peeps in every now and then. One of the detectives , Kusanagi , finds himself developing a soft corner for the main suspect, which is turning about to be Ayane.  

This is almost a perfect crime with the main suspect hundreds of miles away from the victim when he dies.  Of poisoning.  Through coffee.

The characters are very well sketched . The men appear ruthless and ambitious , and the women, actually much smarter.  The writer takes us into the mind of an educated Japanese woman,  and how she thinks,  surrounded as she is, by social pressures,  exposure to overseas education, the need to follow certain customs,  and how she has developed such a strength in her thinking and planning.   

How the police  search for clues in the simplest of actions like watering garden plants,  observations of cupboards and kitchens, requests to Ayane and Hiromi, of all kinds without being overbearing or impolite, all draw a picture of what can be called a very "civilized" investigation,  without any kind of violence and threatening.

The book moves at an excellent speed, keeping you very involved and wondering  what is next.  Bereft of violent killings,  people in handcuffs, four letter swearing,  and folks going around with guns like you and I go around wearing watches, this is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time.

One learns a lot  about the human mind,  Japanese society, the strength of a woman,  and her amazing  ability to work within the constraints imposed on her.

You need to absolutely read the book to find out how the killing was done.  It cannot be revealed here.
I know murder cannot be called civilized.  But this one really describes one, and one has to applaud the finesse .... 

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!