Friday, August 31, 2007

An old friend and compatriot

One of my fondest memories of Kerala and childhood was the njaar. A sort of a small river or brook or stream which flows independently for some stretch before joining a larger river. The njaar flows half a kilometer away from my Dad's house, but the gurgling of its flowing water can be heard throughout the day, more pronounced during the night. I have slept to its gurgles and chuckles and woke up to its roar.

As soon as we reached "home" we the kids would clamor to be taken to the brook. Ammachi would click her tongue and tell us to get acclimatized to the weather and well water first before plunging into the cold mountain water. She always knew it was a losing battle but she tried anyways. The preparation for bathing in the brook was simple. Copious amounts of fresh coconut oil drizzled on the crown of the head and we were ready to go. Being the youngest I had to hold on to my ammachi's hand as she lived in perpetual fear of me being washed away. She would snort with indignation on the way back when people jocularly exclaimed that they were so relieved to see me alive [:p] Her phobias were well known to all and sundry! :)

The first sight of the brook, glistening in the sun is indescribable! It was like spotting a dear old friend waiting for us to come back to play with him. Getting out of our clothes was a record breaking feat and the first plunge bought shrieks and screams as the cold water touched our warm bodies leaving us gasping at its icy coldness. After that it was nightmare time for my ammachi as she could never get us out of the water. Finally she would have to send word to the house to get my Dad to come down and get us out of the water. My Dad would come down and haul us out or most of the times join us in the water. Ammachi's "yatha raja tatha praja" still rings in my ears :))

Finally when we got out, we compared our shriveled hands and legs. The one who was soaked the most got admiring and envying glances.

The brook brings back a lot of memories. Of freshly pressed coconut oil and ammachi and thorth fishing. Of clinging on to my Dad's slippery back while he swam in the deeper areas, Dad’s *ouch* as I grasped the hair on his back for fear of falling in the river, Pears soap, glass bottles filled with tiny fishes, cold mountain water and shouts of flash floods! Of lying in the water looking at the sky and peeping into the clear bottom of the small river. Jumping off rocks into the small depth pockets and tiny fishes nibbling on our legs. Of coconuts and other flotsam that floated downstream on its way to some land far far away and sulks when we were told to get out and dry ourselves. Of my Dad or Ammachi taking us to see the elephants that worked in the Teak plantations to compensate for pulling us out of water and sheer blissful times of skipping ahead of them through dense paddy fields and rubber tree forests.

The njaar still flows. Instead of rollicking kids you see plastic, old slippers and such effluvia floating in it. The water bodies of Kerala are dead. A culture is dead. Long live the water bodies of Kerala.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beyond the city limits

About four or five years back, four families set off to a picnic spot a little away from Bangalore. This picnic spot is famous for its waterfall and boating facilities. Soon the boys in the family, all four of them and a friend wanted to go swimming. They entered the water and were swept away by a powerful undercurrent, quite common in this place. All five of them drowned.

Seems like a newspaper article. But the story was/is not so simple and straightforward as it seems. While the boys shouted for help, the fisherman cum boat owners watched apathetically. They didn’t raise a finger to help the boys. They said the current was too fast and that it would be risky to enter the water. The actual reason? A rescue mission would get them a reward of maybe 100-200 rupees. But fishing out dead bodies is charged @ Rs10.000/- per body. The fisherman watched the struggling boys being washed downstream ignoring the frantic cries of their parents for help. After they were sure that the boys were dead, they came forward to help the parent’s fish out the bodies.

The news hit the headlines. Bangalore was shocked. People from all walks of life grieved for the family that had lost five strapping teenage sons. There were noises from the government corridors about putting more warning signs or perhaps prohibiting bathing in the place. The noises died down even before the bodies became cold.

The newspapers never reported the apathy of the fishermen or their Vulture like death watch over the boys. People still talk about this tragedy as the news made headlines, especially since another son from the same family had laid his life down for the country at Kargil just a month before.

The fisherman here make a killing (pardon the term) fishing out dead bodies with at least 20 deaths reported every year during my school and college days.

Recently a photographer friend of mine was knocked unconscious on a Whitefield road when his bike hit a stone. When he came to, he realized that his expensive camera was missing. While searching for his camera in the neighborhood, an old and wizened man came up to him and offered to return his camera for Rs 1000/-. My friend gratefully took the offer as his camera cost close to two lakhs rupees!

These are not one off instances. There are many such tales that are never told in the newspapers. The city, to the poor is a land of opportunity not only as a source of jobs but also a source of alternate income in the guise of city dwellers who make good pickings if utilized well in vulnerable situations. And some of the tales you hear of accident victims will leave you shaken. Many are robbed of their belongings. One man even died while frantic villagers twisted and turned his broken body to make sure that they had taken everything they could from his person.

It is not as if the poor/marginalized are evil. But their lot is very bad and like starving people eating rats, they prey on anyone who can get them a square meal or two.

If only the grislier account of an accident is made public, the government would be forced to put in checks and balances or issue advisories and warnings on highways.

p.s wishing all of you a very HAPPY ONAM!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The lone despised voice

A male chauvinist pig was a term used in the 1960s among feminists for men, who believed that men were superior and expressed that opinion freely in word and action.

This was a word we jocularly attested to guy friends and colleagues when they made some typical male remarks about women, more in jest and to provoke us gals than with any typical MCP feelings.

But from the time I have started working, this term has taken on a whole new meaning, a whole new connotation with a certain species of males i.e. the mallu male!

Most IT companies are like extensions of engineering colleges nowadays. The campus atmosphere prevails and I have met hundreds of techies from Kerala. Time and again I heard the term “MCP” being used to describe a guy. I never gave it a thought till I got a mail from an ex colleague informing me that another ex colleague, Jojan was getting married. He remarked “for an MCP, Jojan seems to be in a hurry to get married!” It was then I realized that the label “MCP” has a certain meaning for the mallu male youth.

From my research I have learnt that the term MCP among the young mallu crowd denotes a guy who has become bitter about womenfolk after being jilted by a gal. But the situation is not so simple as I have described here! Scratch beneath the surface and you get a different story, something that is akin to the "instant devdas” description.

Most guys who proudly claim to be MCP's have an unhealthy dislike towards gals who had the gall to change their mind about their boyfriends. These guys consider the move by the girl as being “unfaithful” and “typical impulsive gal behavior” They tend to color every woman thereafter in the same hue.

I have actually sat and talked a self confessed MCP out of his MCP'ishness by pointing out that his ex girl friend had taken a wise decision to end their relationship because they were obviously mismatched. His view was that she had jilted him. He refused to see that she had taken an educated decision and from his description of the story, I empathized with her. He seemed stuck at the fact that she had left him. His ego was bruised. The fact was that he was emotionally not mature enough to evaluate the relation ship as a bond between two people with distinct identities and respect the other party’s point of view. He was still stuck in the time when women “adjusted” to their men and not vice-versa. He did come out of it, only to remark ruefully that he would never get along with such women. He is now a happily arranged married guy :)

What I see in these guys is a little scary. They do not believe in “going steady” and ascertaining if a gal was the right match for them. Love is an easy uncomplicated “affair” for them. 1. They see gal. 2. They like gal. 3. Approach the girl. 4. They start seeing each other. 5. Time to inform parents. 6. Girl accepts the situation meekly. As simple as ABC!!

But the tide has turned. Girls want more than just a guy in their life. They want a compatible partner in their lives. They have begun to evaluate their guy and take the bold decision to end a relationship if they found it incompatible. But the label they earn for such a move is rather harsh and unfair!

I am now beginning to sympathize with the Malayalee female folk who made MCP’s of their guys. All that these girls did was say “no when it mattered most!

I know I will get a lot of flak for this post. But some men just do not wish to upset the applecart because it was tilted in their favor.

p.s the latest word to emerge from this crowd is "I am a cynic!"

p.p.s I am aware of unfaithful women! This post is not about them!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nirvana in the classroom

I am stuck in a really boring training session. As the Instructor drones on and on about Privacy Policies, my drifts away to get away from something that has no weight in my scheme of things.

I notice my colleagues for the first time. They are from different parts of the world. Some are listening attentively; some are trying to fight the look of absolute boredom on their faces. I look around the room and realize that all of us are here because this is necessary to make us more competent communication people who will not make gaffes that will make some lawyers rich. It is an important class but if someone were to appear and say that he has three tickets to eternal freedom from work and a life without worries of money or job security then I think everyone will jump at the chance.

How many of us are working because we like it? Most of us work because we need to work, as it is the way the world is wired. From childhood to adulthood one spends most of his time in a cramped classroom preparing to work in a cramped cubicle. And when one reaches that cramped cubicle, one saves and scrimps for that cramped Apartment a.k.a dream house. Is that what life is all about? Somehow I don’t think so.

I think life happens to a 'few of us'. And this 'few of us' make the living population of this Earth. Somewhere in the cauldron of this galaxy some chemical reaction took place making the Planets and the stars and beings that could move and think. I think each and every one of us here is among the lucky few who were products of that chemical reaction that enabled us come into existence. We are the lucky few who are not floating around the Universe as gas, dust and other particles.

Given a choice between life and nothingness, I guess the obvious choice is “life”. It makes sense now. What thinkers and philosophers were trying to say. That life is a gift. Be happy for being an assembled being of this Galaxy than a disassembled scattered cloud of gas, acid and other matters. And make use of this opportunity to experience the joy of being alive before you die and disassemble to being the dust of this universe.

Among the people who are alive today, how many realize that we have a precious few years of “life”? Not many I guess. Perhaps that is why Buddha left everything to attain eternal peace. He realized that he had only one life to live and hence removed everything that might interfere in his quest for the perfect life, the perfect happiness.

Well I am not saying that all of us should head for the hills. That would not be feasible besides there are too many of us and too few hills. And the environment pollution would be catastrophic!

But since none of us know what is going to happen after death, why not make the most of it? A lot of religious teachings are beginning to make sense now. Now only if those religious teachers were as direct as I am [:p] I think we would have a perfect world. (Please note God, the power of blogs!! :p)

Nirvana in the classroom: Like someone said that darkness is the absence of light moi the great fraud Buddha says that life is a fluke, a stroke of luck. Be happy that you got lucky and enjoy it while it lasts.

Now I wish someone would “educate” my Boss *sigh* He has threatened me with death by stoning if I don’t complete this training. Doesn’t he realize that he is taking away precious minutes of my life on earth? Brrrr To think that I am writing this, my 150th post under the Instructors nose makes me feel so deliciously cheeky :p

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thinking Bloggers

I have been picked by Pradeep Nair as a 'Thinking Blogger'. Pradeep is one of the few journalists I respect. I think his blog is one of the last bastions of the old school of journalism i.e. matter of fact reporting with no biases or personal prejudices coloring the news and his views.

There are three parts to this tag.

First I am supposed to pass this on to five people. I will digress from my usual routine and tag some new people.

1.VMJ: New to the blogging scene but one of the best bloggers I have come across lately. Though he hasn’t written much, there is something readable and thinkable in all his posts. Hope he writes more often.

2. Angel Doc: This lady is the enchantress with words and her posts puts me in deep broody thinking mode. Like I commented in one of her earlier posts, if there was an award for Ms Beautiful Writing, then this lady has my vote all the way.

3. monkinhotwater: A good writer with a sense of humor to match. A thinking blogger for sure as his latest post shows.

4. Safari Al: Very good writer and absolutely not afraid of speaking his mind. He will make you laugh and think with his posts. He blogs here nowadays!

The second part of the tag is about the "Kinds of People I Judge"

This is difficult for me to do as I rarely show interest in people I don’t short list as a friend. But then i do need to judge people to shortlist them so here goes…

1. People who judge others and then categorize them neatly with their prejudiced labels.

2. Men who do not accept the fact that their working wife was “working” in the office and expect her to work at home too.

3. Men who are ashamed of their traditional wives and refuse to bring them to office parties in front of their savvier colleagues and their wives.

4. Unprofessional colleagues who would rather bitch behind your back than sit down and sort differences face to face.

4. People who think that by going to a place of worship they have become holier than everyone even if they are perhaps the worst examples of a human being.

5. Women who cannot accept the success of their female colleagues and attribute it to various reasons other than hard work.

The third part of the tag is about "People and Things I Admire"

1. I admire people who are comfortable with their looks, status and their realities.

2. I admire people who can put aside the bitterness of their past and move on in life.

3. I admire men who are comfortable in the company of women and can treat them as fellow human beings and not as just "women".

4. I quite admire people who can leave their personal side in the home when they leave for office.

5. Women who are house proud.

The five people tagged here can take up this tag if they wish to :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Height of creativity

Just saw an ad on a Malayalam channel. Let me recount it for you. Though I don't remember it very well as it was just a few seconds long, I will try my best to capture this gem of an ad for you.

Mother-in-law to brides parents: We do not want any dowry. Just give us XYZ mattress that would be enough!

Next scene: New bride and bridegroom are sitting on either end of the bed caressing the mattress as though hypnotized by its mesmerizing aura. The expressions on their dumb faces says "Duh!".

A peppy voice in the background urges the audience to buy XYZ mattress for a happy start to their married lives.

I had to run to the loo to throw up my dinner and some innards too due to the violent retching that followed . I CANT believe this ad exists. I think I have died and gone to hell.

( p.s do check out this hilarious matrimonial profile!)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Its a mans world

"Why are women stupid?" Asks Angel Doc in her latest post. She thinks it is because a woman has more emotional needs. And one can play with this need to exploit her without much effort.

I think so too.

A woman is considered stupid if she behaves like a woman. At least at the workplace. The reason, it is not professional to do things like burst into tears. But bursting into tears is a perfectly normal thing to do. The word professional denotes “being like a man.” In fact a woman is considered stupid if she doesn’t realise early enough that it is a man's world out there and feminine emotions have no place here...except perhaps at home.

Compared to man a woman is definitely more emotional. She is wired that way. Nature wired her that way. This was because Nature intended her to be a child bearer and nurturer. I know a lot of people especially women will take affront at this statement. They would say that a woman is more than that….she is a career woman and other things besides being a mother and wife. I agree. A woman can do all the things a man can do. But that is not my point here. What I am trying to say is that why should a woman prove herself capable of men’s jobs to command respect? Why cant she be respected for being a woman and doing a womans job?

From hunter gatherer, man made rapid changes. He evolved into a corporate being. The woman on the other hand still stuck to her role as home maker. She never kept pace with the giant leap that the human male made from a primitive hunter gatherer to corporate honcho leaving the human female very disoriented in an increasingly male oriented world.

This rapid change led to enormous suffering for women till laws were framed to help them cope with the changes in the society and environment by right thinking ‘men’.

Soon women started wising up. They realized that to be successful career women they would have to behave like men and cast aside their feminity when they entered the portals of the workplace. They worked like men, thought like them and fought corporate battles, won hostile takeovers and showed the world that they could do it! But how long will the woman have to conform to a man's world to show they have arrived? When will workplaces get feminine?
We have offices and building that are handicapped accessible. But how many buildings are "women friendly"? Except for the toilets every other space is manly. Nowadays companies like mine place a rose on every desk to add a feminine touch or perhaps it is their way of saying that the visual appeal of the flower should make me more productive!!

I got a forward that showed a world ruled by women in a rather cute way. I am sure guys guffawed at the ppt and the women would have thought it cute. But it got me thinking. Why can’t we have a mouse cum eye make up kit? Toilet roles in different colors and shades? Parking slots painted bright colors and other obvious feminine touches to drab everyday life. These are of course exaggerations but I think the world needs a feminine touch to balance the way our lives are moving.

Equality of sexes is bullshit. A woman can never measure up to a man or vice versa. Equality of sexes can only happen when men and women are treated as different genders and not as a unisex whole.

I know there people who will argue that the male way of working is more productive. But what if female had a say in the scheme of things? I am sure our work life wouldn’t be stressful like it is today and we would be much happier and more humane human beings.

"For all you men out there who marvel at professionally successful women please remember the ones amongst us that best adjusts to the male world are termed successful. The rest are condemned as failures because we couldn’t rise above our feminity"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Modern Devdases

I have known A and B since high school. A fell in love with B sometime in the 11th Standard. B considered A a friend. Despite his best efforts B could not reciprocate his love. Because B always considered A her friend. A was a little sad at the outcome. But he had no one to blame. B had never led him on or given any indication of any romantic interest in him.

A has a blog too. Time and again I have seen posts about a certain "her". He writes about missing her. The way she smiled or frowned. Time and again on Google chat I get "I miss her sooo much" kinda messages.

A is not alone. I have several male friends, colleague and acquaintances like him. People who make a big hue and cry about their lost love, people who seem to love to wallow in self-pity and use even a casual romantic interest to become a modern devdas.

I have never understood this attitude of some guys. They seem to enjoy making a mountain out of a molehill of love. And all these cases, at least the ones I know were not love in the strictest sense. But these guys love to revel in the nostalgia of lovers who were parted a la Hindi movies.

I recently saw a guy friend’s Flickr album. He had been through a brief period of dating this gal. By brief I mean about a couple of dates. They never dated after that. Today I beheld his album in horror and amusement. There were pictures of him in many poses. Under each photo were various captions like "I am an island. An Island cannot be hurt" and "I have hurt enough. No one can hurt me anymore" and "Thinking of her" etc. This was a friendship which happened right in front of my eyes and I know how casual a coffee date that was.

In all the above instances, the guys seem enjoy their Devdas status and nurture it to supreme ecstatic pain. However they seem to miraculously forget their old love the moment another gal showed an interest in them :p

I just cannot understand guys like these. Girls on the other hand will clam up if they were hurt in love or cry. But only if it was a serious relationship.

The above attitude of some guys though amusing can be exasperating for friends like me who invariably have to sit and listen to his sighs and reminiscences. Of course it is no point drilling sense into him. He doesn’t want to "get over her" because then what will he groan and moan about?!

“Unrequited love” seems to be a fashion statement with some guys these days.