Monday, 31 August 2009

Slum dogs millionaire

According to a report released by Praja, a Non-Government Organisation, Mumbai fares the worst among five Asian cities in key human development areas like life expectancy, GDP per capita and literacy.
It's behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and that's no big surprise. The fact that it ranks lower than Colombo, that capital of that tiny island nation of Sri Lanka, must rankle.
Or should it?
More than half the population of India's financial capital lives in slums. Every day, a few thousand get added to that population, not because this is the financial capital, but because showing your arse off while taking the morning dump is preferable to dying hungry back home.
There are at least two Indias, and Mumbai is probably the only city in the country where you can see both by just shifting your gaze.
Elsewhere, Nandan Nilekani, ex-CEO of Infosys, has been hired by the government so that every Indian can have an identity card. According to a wikipedia entry, one estimate to roll out the National ID to all Indians above 18 years of age is Rs. 150,000 crore (US$ 30.9 billion). For the first phase alone Rs. 100 crore (US$ 20.6 million) has been approved.
So now the farmhand in Other India is going to say, "Hey, now I don't have die of hunger. Or, hang myself. Or, go to Mumbai. I have a National Identity Card".
I wonder:
Is hindsight something that arseholes possess?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Smiley's Dilemma :(

The good ol' principle that the best jokes are told with a dead pan expression doesn't seem to hold anymore. Not at least on the internet and cell phones.
So we have smileys. :) :-0 :-O :P to help us understand that what we just read was funny. Of course smileys have travelled since they first appeared with simple brackets and colons (not the body part), turning magically into illustrations that add colour to the (requested for) laughter.
Of course, we do use gestures and facial expressions to add weight and colour to our spoken word and not every net and cell phone user is a professional joker.
But what still beats me is why is :( called a smiley?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

@ facebook

On facebook, that wonderful thing that makes me feel I am not lonely as my Saturday nights would lead me to believe, there's a cool bit of smiley-like jargon happening.
You put up a status update. You are so popular that there's an avalanche of comments, let's say from Tom, Harry and Sally. Then, in one comment, you have to reply to them all. So you go:
@Tom - Thanks!
@ Harry - You just don't get it, do you?
@ Sally - :)
@ Tom & Harry - Where's your friend these days?
If I am writing the names of the people I am replying to, then why the @?
Maybe I am just thick and not 'with it'. Or, Harry-like, I just don't 'get' it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

It's official now. It's a drought year in India.

It rained all night in the city. I wonder what drove the sky to tears in this time of festivity.

It wasn’t as if a dam had burst; it was a steady pouring that deflected off the sidewalk,


and turned into muddy puddles of pedestrian woes.

As the night turned into dawn and then to morning, the downpour was accompanied by distant rumblings of discontent, too weak to deserve even a solitary bolt of lightning. In the murky light of the morning, the rain retreated quietly leaving the sun huddled behind a cotton blanket of unmoving clouds.

Far away from the city, in the village,

dampness hangs in the air, sticking to an unnatural heat, turning men into sponges that are unable to cry.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Smoking. Another unpalatable truth.

A news report in today’s Times of India, Mumbai filed from Washington about a study conducted in Greece says, ‘Smokers have fewer and flatter taste buds’.

“Honey, how has the chicken turned out?”

“Oh, chomp, great! Can I have more chomp, chomp please?”

Now we have a scientific reason for why smokers make better husbands.

The study is based on an analysis of tongues of 62 Greek soldiers.

The army, as we were taught in school, marches on its stomach. The place where the army eats its meals is called a 'Mess'. Now we know why it doesn’t march on its tongue.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

News from the Swine & Cheese Set

Schools re-open tomorrow after a week-long break to celebrate Swine Flu Festival. H1N1, as it is called in learned circles, has monopolised the lead headlines in newspapers since last week, except for last Sunday when the lead story on front page was: Whole nation aghast that Shah Rukh Khan was detained for two hours and his bags checked at Newark Airport, NJ, USA! Oh my God, don't they know who he is? We are so pissed off! Even our government is pissed off. More pissed off than it was when they frisked our ex-president at some airport. Some even went to the extent of suggesting that we should screen all visiting American dignitaries to give them a taste of their own medicine!
But hey, welcome to racial-communal-religious profiling Mr. Superstar. It happens all the time. It happens right here in your country mate. Thousands of guys with Muslim names are targetted for special treatment. (As if a serious terrorist would travel on his real passport and a Muslim name, but.) I don't think anyone in the country you visited has any sympathy for you Mr. Superstar. Because they know that since 9/11, there has been no terrorist attack in the USA. Whereas, back home, where no one screens you, we've had them with sickening regularity...
In the same day's newspaper, buried in the inside pages, was a small news report. Elsewhere in the USA, Bob Dylan, legendary singer, was picked up by the police for moving suspiciously and checking out the houses in a waterfront neighbourhood. The cops, both in their twenties, didn't recognise him even when he told his name. Because he had no identification on him, they refused to believe his story of visiting the town for a concert. They escorted him to his hotel where he was identified by the manager and let him go off after apologising and thanking him for his co-operation.
But I stray from the Swine Flu Fest. Amidst the grim stories of infection spreading, panic spreading faster, death toll mounting, testing facilities falling short and medicines not being available, there was a gem in last week's Bombay Times on the front page:
"Among the first casualties (of H1N1) is the Luxurion World 09..."
"The grim situation in Mumbai has also taken the bounce and stride out of an End-of-batch dance presentation that Shiamak Davar's students were going to hold..."
But the Swine News of the Week Award goes to this one that comes later in the same article:
"Meanwhile the biggest blow to Mumbai would be if the Swine Flu continues to rage rampantly next month, this would necessitate the postponement of the Mumbai Fashion Week"
I am wearing a mask these days. When I read the newspapers.

Ready for God?

Last week the world celebrated Janmashtmi, the birth of Sri Krishna. According to a news report in The Times of India, maternity hospitals in Kolkata overflowed with mothers opting for a C-section because they believed that if their son was born on this holy day, he would be a reincarnation of Krishna himself.

I wonder what would happen if indeed a reincarnation was born to one of these mothers:

Would she be okay with the idea of entrusting her son to a cowherd’s family so that his uncle wouldn’t kill him?

How would the neighbours react if the reincarnated baby crawled into their houses and stole Amul butter packs from their fridges?

Or, if He stole the clothes of teenage girls having a bath in the river?

Or, would the PETA or SPCA hold demonstrations after He killed a particularly dangerous snake residing in the local Hooghly River?

Or, if he spent entire days playing the flute and dancing with the girls in the neighbourhood?

And so on. But that’s not the saddest part of the article. It further reports that the parents who had a daughter after the C-section ‘were very disappointed’.


Friday, 7 August 2009

Absence & Books - 2

Most of the time I go out and seek books, having read a review here, seen an interview there. Then there are some books that seek you out. Sadia Shepard's 'The Girl from Foreign' is one such book. It had been bought by my wife and had been lying at home for god knows how long. I stumbled on it when she lent it to her friend.
'The Girl from Foreign' is a memoir, a travelogue, a love story, an investigation into the history of a people and into the complexities of relationships created by shared cultures and unshared geographies . The prose is beautiful, with unexpected phrases that turn ordinary events into vivid images.
Nana, Sadia Shepard's grandmother was a Bene Israel from Maharashtra's west coast who became the third wife of a muslim businessman, moved to Pakistan after the partition, brought up her children as muslims. Her mother married an American, a christian, and settled in the USA. Widowed and spending her time between her sons and daugther's houses, Nana begins to explore her lost religion. That, and the special bond that Nana and Sadia shared, becomes the driving force behind Sadia's trip to India - to search for Nana's roots and her own as well. Without that, neither Nana's nor Sadia's soul can find peace...
Sadia Shepard has taken some interesting photographs of the Bene Israel community in India. You will find them interspersed in the book. She has also made a documentary on the community; the DVD should be in my hand by next week.
Literary reasons apart, 'The Girl from Foreign' is a moving book. Read it!
Or read more about it on