Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rainy thoughts

The night was so hot that I perspired as if my body was doing a reverse osmosis. As if the water in my body was being rejected and told to get out. Maybe that would have made me a specimen for the world of medicine and not to mention make me famous as well. The flash bulbs and camera lights made me uncomfortable. But let’s come back to the perspiration. The reason I was sweating was because it was mighty hot. I was warned. Chennai will be hot, hotter and then hottest. It didn’t matter that it was dark and the sun was playing hide and seek.

When humans come to desperation they congregate like hens and do one thing…pray. With my body covered in sweat I figured that prayer would not only lead to good tidings but maybe relax my body as well. I closed my eyes and imagined what I wanted from God. Rain drops…lots of them…as much as I could get…as much as God could spare. When you lose water, you also lose your mind!

Many sweaty days later, I thought I heard the sound of pellets striking the ground. Was it war? Was it music? I almost tore off the window curtain to investigate. It was…rain…finally. I felt a tickle, a nudge and smelt the dust rising from the ground. My past was switched to the future. The sweat on my body beat a hasty retreat, as the rain drops were too big to mess around with. I felt sane again. I had got what I wanted.

After enjoying the initial rain shower with my coffee cup in hand I could not stop myself from going outside to feel the water that had risen in protest. Equipped with a water resistant sandal I marched out. The cool breeze greeted me. I was in for a treat. I took the water walk ahead, thinking how lucky I was to have rain to rescue me from the heat. The initial stroll was soothing, the cool water kissing my feet.

But as they say, the longer you search, the more you find. I could see a hut in water, the children standing out and staring into the sky as their home was transformed into a river tributary. Another man was squatting in front of a shop roof extension, smoking a beedi and staring at the smoke. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to find work anymore because of the rain. An autorickshaw driver was pushing his auto which got stuck in the fast-mini-flood of water that had accumulated on the road. Wonder whether his day’s savings would have to be spent in an auto workshop? I felt sweaty again……….

Friday, October 24, 2008

The first drops

Drops fell in batches and then all together
As welcome news they broke the unrelenting heat
The dust rose in sacred salute
Filling the air with nostalgic thoughts

I rushed to see the clouds pierced
And the drops settling on the earth
The sound of the pellets on the ground
Took me far to memories stashed away

People were scurrying for cover
Some just enjoyed the cool moment
Children kicked at the small lakes and puddles
Elders let a smile escape from their jaws

The beginnings are always such
They lead us into such ecstasy and joy
It doesn’t matter who we are and what we are doing
The first drops will overwhelm us all

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Role reversal

We all have our roles to play or that is what we believe. How many times have we heard that if we stick to the role we are given, everything will fall into place and there will be harmony and peace? Depending on which role is played by whom, this makes sense to a few but unfortunately not to everyone.

As a child I was clearly told what I was supposed to do, what role I was expected to play and how. I had to take care to study and get a good job with a nice pay packet. I was not supposed to enter the kitchen and cook food, nor was I expected to do anything in the house. The lines were clearly drawn. As a boy and a man my scope of work was outside the house. Who then was to care of the house? The woman of course. The mother, daughter, wife, whoever fell on the other side of the sex genes!

India is trying hard to shed the old image of cows on the road and poverty, and trying to project sky-scrapers and the sophisticated image. But what usually gets conveniently forgotten is the equality of the sexes and how important this is to reflect the progress that a country makes. The parliament is divided over the arithmetic and caste issues of 33% reservation for women in parliament. First pass the bill, implement it and then think of how it could be made all inclusive! (It is a shame that even in the west many men still expect women to be house makers and fulfil certain roles)

What then is the role of women? Is it to be a house maker, a maid, a cook, a piece of the house furniture? To understand this, we have to come to terms with our role in life. Who am I and what is my role? Am I the king, the master, the lord, or God? Can I go beyond this and can I swap my role with a woman- my mother, sister, wife, friend?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Do I (eye) care?

The eyes tell a thousand tales they say
And so I looked and looked again
But no matter how much I looked
I could not gauge the eyes almost bereft of expression

She had run away from her house they said
Far, far away had she run in fear for her life
She hadn’t taken anything coz I saw nothing
Maybe she had nothing to take, no clothes, no happiness

Have you seen anything like it, the eyes which say nothing?
I knew I could not get anything from her eyes
But I kept staring at them hard
Because I could not get them away, from her expressionless way

Just when I thought I could not stare forever
She looked right into me, with those eyes that said nothing
I felt choked and ashamed, that I looked away
Far away from the gaze which had me looking one way

All of a sudden I felt I was the one responsible
For the eyes which said nothing and died away
Coz I hadn’t said anything to the men who acted on their women
And caused their eyes to fade away……far, far, away

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My name is nobody!!!

Those who work in private offices and corporations will be aware of the never ending push to do well and climb the corporate ladder. We as individuals are responsible for our life and future and so we should work hard and do well in life. Even though this is a straight forward statement and gives oodles of encouragement for the weak soul, secrets lie hidden for those who are willing to scratch (not one self but the ground).

Although we are made to believe that success will be ours to toy with as long as we are willing to work, reality is entirely different. Those who are willing to work are not allowed to do so in the field they want to because they are told, “Your father was a scavenger and so will you be!!” How do we see such people? Do we think of their welfare, their income, their work? Or do we think that our work is much more specialized and deserves better salaries than sweepers, scavengers and those who do the most menial of works?

All through history there have been movements to give recognition to ordinary people and communism has also been one such movement. Kerala created history when the first communist government (the first time anywhere) came to power in 1957 through democratic elections, the first after the formation of the state. But the old goosebumps and the excitement which accompanied the movement has died down. Now even the party is after money and the poor are left out in the cold.

The poor are lapped up by parties (especially during election time) based on religion, caste and class only to be dumped once they come to power. They are given names during high profile election campaigns only to be forgotten conveniently afterwards. These then are the people, the faceless and nameless people whom we use and throw. ‘We want them but we can’t marry them!!!’ would be a good way to put it. If we ever come across someone like this and ask them their name, perhaps we will get the answer……My name is nobody!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The goddamn philosophy of life!!!

Why do people go hungry?
Is it because they laze around and do not more?

Why do people live in poverty?
Is it due to their predestination and fate so ill?

Why do people exist on streets and roads?
Is it coz they never inherited property galore?

Why do people eat so much that they can eat no more?
Is it because they have so much to finish and so gorge more?

Why do people live in richness?
Is it due to their good luck and hard work as well?

Why do people have huge mansions and farm houses?
Is it coz they got huge inheritances to support them from door to door?

But what if I told you that it’s not this way
That we have to see it all another way

People go hungry, because we choose to keep them so
People are poor, because we become rich by doing so
People exist on streets and roads, because we snatch every inch that they own

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Food for thought

Every culture has something or the other in common which bring people together, under one roof. We may have our differences but there is this one act which makes people crowd together. Every function in the house-hold is followed by this and without this humans cannot survive. Whenever we go visiting, we have to follow the customary act of drinking and eating what we are offered.

A wedding can be spoiled with bad food, relations can be made or broken with food, a husband can impress his wife and vice-versa with good food. This need for food is ever so strong that we cannot go against it. But do religions attach importance to food? In Christianity for instance the verse ‘Human does not live by bread (food) alone’ is very much a part of the understanding of the essence of life. Yet, on the other hand, food has this great quality of bringing together and bonding people.

Should we then critique food in Matrix-ian terms? In the movie everything that is worldy is an illusion. So, is food also an illusion? Something which is there but not there? The media is also totally into the commerce of food with lifestyle and cooking shows and reality competitions. Is food to be used to engage hunger, is food a statement, or is it part of a status symbol?

The people of Kerala won’t forget Rappai so easily. He is dead but anyone who has seen him devouring 700 idlis or 10 Kg of Halwa (a sweet dish) in a single sitting will never be able to wipe out the image from their minds (http://www.keralageek.com/category/offbeat-news-from-kerala/ & http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5213238.stm).. Rappai loved to eat and he would eat in competitions and in hotels, sometimes egged on by the public. But then he had to control his diet because of diabetis and he died at the age of 63.

So on one side, we have those who love food and a culture that does everything with food. On the other side we have religion's that tell us food is not everything in life. Coming to think of it, we try to build the future with something that goes stale in a few days!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The art of eating

I sat with insatiable interest, straining my tired eyes in one quest
Our eyes met and our thoughts were wet
With imagination and in anticipation of the grind quite yet

The stage was set and I placed myself in quick stead
Before me was placed the green and clean set
To accommodate what I would then upset

Vada, dosa, idli, sambar, chutney said he with no hesitation
All there was to do was to place a designation
For what I wanted to demolish in quick agitation

In no time the steaming idlis were soaked in hot sambar
Only to be squeaked and squashed into resignation
On their way to a bigger dispensation

Sat then I in total realisation, that the idlis were in combustion
Sipping my coffee and gauging my position
Only to prepare myself for further demolitions

Vada is shaped like a small doughnut and made of dal, lentil or potato. It is fried in oil. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vada)

Dosa is a South Indian crepe made of rice and lentils. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosa)

Idli is a small white cake in circular shape made of rice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idli)

Sambar is a vegetable stew made of toovar dal (pigeon pea). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambar_(dish) )

Chutney is a mixture of sweet and spicy condiments. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chutney)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

No-smoking please!!! Banning the practice or doing away with the attitude???

October 2nd is celebrated in India as the birthday of the leader of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known as Mahatma Gandhi. He is credited with gaining India independence from the British without the use of violence.

But trust the babus(sirs) and the netas(leaders) in power to spring a surprise and steal the thunder. October 2nd will thus be known with a new tag, ‘no-smoking in public places.’ Thus from October 2nd onwards a ban on smoking in public places has come into effect in India.

Those of you who watched television in India on Thursday night would have noticed that every channel was trying to analyse whether this was good and whether it would be successful. I could not help but notice something I thought was interesting. The ban does not include parks (as long as no one is standing near us) and more interestingly, public roads.

Does this suggest the mind set of the ‘Indian’ that public roads are not our homes and therefore can be treated according to our whims and fancies? Who will clean up the mess that we create? The poor sweepers of course! As we become more health-conscious, shouldn’t we also make sure that public places remain clean as our houses?

I do not intend to mince words and confuse the reader. The ban is good and the need of the hour. The argument that this ban is an intrusion on our individual freedom does not hold good. But let us simultaneously work on our collective attitude. The health ministry while initiating the ban should also network with other departments so that people understand the need to respect the presence and the space of others.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Liquory dickory dock!!!

“Excusheeeee meeee madam, can you help me pleasshhe?” One need not even look to know where this comes from. But I was curious and also a bit concerned that this was a sound directly in front of my house in Thiruvalla, Kerala. My mother took it upon herself to address the situation at hand but that didn’t mean I was out of the equation. I held my breath and listened to the conversation that ensued.

“What do you want?”, my mother asked to the man who had come to our house. “I am a poor man and I need help to marry off my daughter.” My mother’s detective instincts must have worked over time as she replied, “You are stinking of liquor. How can you lie using your daughter’s name?” After a few attempts at denying the charge the man finally said, “Atleast give some money in the name of the service I am doing for the government.” “And what is that?”, asked mother. “I am drinking and through that making sure that the government is getting excise revenue. So you see, I am helping the government!!” Maybe I should let go of what happened afterwards and get to the issue at hand.

The previous blog was about the famous drunkard of Kerala, who has managed to even become a hit with spectators of cultural programmes and a few movies. This is the person who people like to laugh at. But laughing wont take away the gravity of the situation in Kerala. It is not the fact that Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country but the fact that twelve and thirteen year olds have started drinking and it affects their formation as individuals and even leads them to indifferent acts. Road accident deaths numbered 3,066 and 51,352 people were injured in 41, 306 accidents in 2004. (1)

The church as always has been in the forefront of asking for a total ban on liquor. (2) A.K. Antony, a former chief minister of Kerala even banned the sale of country made liquor (arrack) in 1996. (3) But the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor continues and the natural toddy drink available in Kerala is now adulterated by an illicit liquor lobby. The church has not thought of a different way of looking at the situation yet.

The writing on the wall is very much visible for those who care to read it. 1. Drinking in Kerala has increased over the years and the minimum age of children who start drinking has decreased. 2. Christians also form a good part of this number and schools run by Christians also have students who start drinking early. 3. Is liquor the problem or is it the way we use it, that is the problem? 4. Will the church ever consider preaching ‘responsible drinking’ to it’s members? 5. The people of Kerala (including me) are comfortable to make fun of the poor drunkards while we remain quiet to the excesses of the rich who drink and drive and cause accidents and death. 6. Will having open talks on drinking and driving, responsible drinking and legal age limit for drinking, remain a taboo in Christian schools, similar to sex education?

Maybe it’s time to discuss these things in church? Maybe it’s time we opened our eyes to what is happening in the world around us? Maybe it’s time we accepted where we are today?

(1)http://www.ias.org.uk/resources/publications/theglobe/globe200502/gl200502_p22.html, viewed on 1-10-2008
(2)http://www.hindu.com/2006/03/18/stories/2006031823890300.htm, viewed on 1-10-2008
(3)http://www.yoursmartkerala.com/tracker/Kerala_A-K-Antony_6.aspx, viewed on 1-10-2008