Friday, April 28, 2006

Rich Kid Poor Kid

This incident dates back to my school days, I used to study in a very up market school full of snotty rich kids belonging to the most famous political and industrialist families of India. There were a few kids from middle income groups to stabilize things; otherwise the school would have been rather empty.

Now I come across my school mates smiling out of the page 3 sections in the newspapers or making their mark in politics or media and I wonder that if I were to meet them today, would they recognize or talk to me? Back in school everything was simple; the rich - poor divide was not very evident in the lower grades. A good friend, daughter of one of the most eminent Indian business families often called us over. Being her friends, we were given the royal treatment, the red carpet was rolled out and our every whim was catered to. We demanded a rice dish called 'papad chawal', tri colored puris, hot ginger or cardamom tea every now and then, movies, go swimming courtesy her premium club membership and what not. She and her family happily complied because we were all good friends, our humble origins were inconsequential.

One fine day realization dawned, social and economic differences became important and she became conscious of them. She was getting married and the 'type' of friends who attended her wedding became a matter of concern. Did they have manicured hands and feet, did they have appropriate dresses and jewelry to wear, would they even look 'proper' when introduced to prospective in laws? We may not have had pots of money but we had pride in our hearts and we politely declined the wedding invitation. At 17-18 years, an all expenses paid trip to an exotic location is very tempting but the hurt was far greater than the temptation.

We did meet her a few times later but then she was very much the high society lady who wore a perennial mask, our worlds were completely different and it was impossible to relate, but she will always remain a very essential part of our childhood and happy memories.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A common Thread

Maybe some or all things that happen in our lives are predetermined. There are some incidents in my life which make me believe in it as the days go by.

My Grandmother wanted me to marry into a certain family, perhaps because that was the only family with an eligible Brahmo bachelor! She could not find a suitable Brahmo groom for her daughters (they were married off into Hindu families), so it was her most cherished dream that her grand daughter should marry a Brahmo. Several discreet and not so discreet attempts were made to initiate the alliance, in one such attempt I was pushed in front of my prospective Mother in Law with necessary introductions. She looked vague and I was promptly dismissed. How did I even agree to such a situation I am not sure but when one is young one gets pushed into situations.

My Grandmother passed away after a few months leaving my mother to shoulder the enormous responsibility of marrying me off. I didn't help things by producing a boy friend who wanted to marry me. Responses to matrimonial ads ranged from disappointing to hilarious but not worth taking it ahead.

Six months passed, the atmosphere around me was like as if I had to embrace eternal spinsterhood, marry a tree or join a convent. One fine morning my Mother came across a simple no nonsense matrimonial ad and my profile was sent promptly. The reply came soon enough, the strange part was that it was the same family and man my Grandmother wanted me to marry. Co-incidence? Perhaps the logical mind would explain it that way but I prefer to believe that my Grandmother pulled a few strings up in heaven. I did eventually marry the same person.

A few more co-incidences have happened in my life which make me believe that we are all tied by a common thread, linked to each other in some way or other and some supreme force controls that thread. When a friend calls just when you are thinking of her, when you see a person on a street about whom you were thinking the day before or when some dream replays itself in real life and you get a feeling of déjà vu, it may be that supreme force at work and not just a co-incidence.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Return to Innocence

This is a song by Enigma which looks as good as it sounds as the entire video is a rewind and it has been one of my favorite songs for a very long time. Everytime I come across an article which advises us to eat complex carbohydrates (whole whear bread, brown rice etc), do yoga and meditation and studies about alternate fuel and electricity sources, I am reminded of this song.
The industrial revolution has depleted the Earth of its natural resources and the 'good life' along with the pollution generated by industrialization has depleted our health. The oil they say will last us only for 20 more years, the levels of oceans all around have risen by a few inches in the last 20 years, the ozone layer has depleted considerably, ground water contamination due to toxic land fills and use of fertilizers leads to chemical filled fruits and vegetables and unsafe drinking water. The use and throw culture leads to tonnes of garbase, paper is shredded, torn and wasted without a thought for the trees that were cut down to make them, forests are decreasing, plants and animals are becoming extinct and greenery in urban areas is compromised.
We are a race who are living for the moment without a thought for tomorrow. We have a new gadget for personal use every few months and upgrades to existing ones every few days. With so many brilliant minds around, is it that difficult to make cars run on water and generate sustainable amounts electricity from wind and the Sun or bring nuclear fusion out of the laboratory into day to day needs?
Eventually the dynamics will force us to rewind and relearn a better way of progress, in the meanwhile we can try reuse, recycle and find simpler ways of living which are not environmentally costly.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The School Playground

It resembles a battlefield at times, full of adrenalin charged youngsters running around everywhere trying their best to put the ball in a net or a basket or trying to snatch it away from the person who has it. Aggression reigns supreme, battle cries of 'pass the ball' echo everywhere, deliberate nudges and pushing is the norm and so is the good natured camaderie after the game is over.

This is the usual scene I witness everyday when I drop my son for his basketball lessons, last two days I was feeling lazy and didn't go for my walk / gym, so I just sat and observed the various games in progress, counted the planes that flew over my head, watched the dust rise up and settle down and observed big ants on the ground who very smartly avoided human footfalls and hid in cracks.

During all these aimless observations, a few kids caught my attention. Three girls were playing with a ball, passing it to each other standing quite close to each other. A very simple sort of a game for girls of that age I thought but they played it with a lot of enthusiasm and counted failure points for each dropped ball. After a few minutes of idle watching, I realized that one girl seemed different and all the other girls kept encouraging her. "Throw harder", "Catch it", "Very good", "Well done". On further observation I realized that she was a special child, circumstances or God had deigned her to be different from all other children.

It was heartening to see these girls accepting her 'differentness' and welcoming her into their own world with open arms and having a merry time together. There is hope for the future after all...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Busy With Nothing

I am so busy doing nothing that my mind refuses to think up of something to write. I can hear several idea bees buzzing around my brain, hopefully I will be able to give them some shape very soon. Till then just let me sleep on them!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Loosing and Discovering my Father

My Father passed away when I was eleven years old; I remember foggily that in the morning he complained about chest pain when I was leaving for school. When I came back my mother told me that he was no more, I predictably broke down but at that age the comprehension levels are rather low. I felt that he had just gone away on one of his office tours and would be back after a very long time, perhaps I was more upset about not being able to celebrate my birthday which was just next week because we had made grand plans for it. I feel awful putting this down on paper as I am admitting to being selfish, insensitive and a low life by admitting that it was my lost birthday I was crying over rather than my Father's death.

I was the adored daughter, special and pampered, my every wish was fulfilled and I was given the best of everything by my Father. Before the childish affection could grow into a relationship, my Father passed away so I never really knew him as a person. After his death I never had the opportunity to miss him as life took another course which took a great deal of adjustment and I was busy adjusting and dealing with adolescence.

Much later when I was working, I had to do some project work I met some people who knew my Father and I casually mentioned that I was the daughter of so and so. I did not expect the many good things people said about him, it was a revelation as I never really had a chance to learn about his professional side. During Durga Puja, my friend's father would specially introduce me as so and so's daughter. It was really touching to see the amount of respect people had for him as a person. We are not really a very close knit family but when I meet the extended family once in a while, I discover other bits and pieces, his love for cooking, his knowledge of Urdu, his writings, his paintings and so on.

Maybe had he lived we would have been good friends...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nero Vs Vilasrao

I find a lot of similarities in them, they could be twins if they were not separated by this vast expanse of time.
I am not a political observer, I cannot keep track of politics most times, I have no interest whatsoever in politics. But even a layman can see the impending doom that our local Nero (Vilasrao Deshmukh) is bringing upon this city. My catty side observes that his son, is doing a better job than his Dad, atleast he is trying to act and his performance is tolerable.
Vilasrao, however is a different story altogether. If body language is an indicator then he appears to be lazy, uninterested, loves the perks of the job and has conveniently forgotten the duties that go along with it. On occasions he has appeared to be downright silly when he went with a begging bowl to Delhi but could not state reasons as to why he needed the money.
Forget Shanghai, we are not even close to Bangalore and Chennai. Even the cities like Hyderabad and Kolkatta are better managed now. The stink of garbage has become a way of life, some roads are not swept for weeks on end, potholes reign supreme on highways and street lights do not work on major highways. The builders can bribe anyone to buy a plot of land reserved for a playground or public amenity, the bribes go all the way up to the highest office I am told. The ministers openly make statements about selling off Shivaji Park , racecourse, salt pan land etc to reduce the debt burden in Maharashtra. Recently the papers labelled Maharashtra as a 'Failed State' - indeed a feather in the cap of Mr Deshmukh.
Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned, Vilasrao sits in movie award functions while Mumbai is being steadily destroyed.
Can we even imagine a person in office making statements about selling off India Gate grounds to realtors or the maidan in Kolkatta? It would cause a public outrage - though I am not even sure of that anymore. Is the public really empowered to protest or do we just turn a Nelson's eye to issues like Mithi River?
The financial capital, the motion pictures industry capital, the megacity, home to some of the fortune 500 business houses - thats a lot of power in one place. Why do they put up with this steady decline which accelerates every day?
My driver sums it up aptly, Andher Nagri, Chaupat Raja.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Who Am I?

Recently I helped my son with some project work where my son had to list down 20 adjectives (all good) describing himself. Of course I had to help with the list of those words and after I crossed 12 it was kind of difficult! Now if I were to do the same exercise for myself I would probably take days over it. The words are easy to come up with but are they really about "me"? DO I really know myself well enough to come up with words that describe me?

I learn a little about myself each day and I unlearn a bit about myself too everyday. Perhaps I am like a snake that sheds skin periodically, discarding what I don’t need and cultivating what is required. At times I surprise myself by doing something totally unexpected on an impulse and at times I have gone against some of the core values that I have been brought up with and managed to shock myself (without repentance!).

Why do the negative adjectives pop into my mind ahead of the positive adjectives? Are we as a race programmed to be modest or dismissive towards ourselves? Or is it that I want to focus on eliminating the negative aspects of my persona and accept the positive ones without much thought?

These are just some stray thoughts that crossed my mind while I was hunting for those twenty words. Maybe I will answer these questions sometime soon.

Here is what a name decoder says about me, doesn't look too bad!