Sunday, December 23, 2007

Warm memories

I am home for Christmas. Christmases in Kerala is something else together. It is not the cake and Wine variety, but a warm get together of people close to you and people whom you were looking forward to meeting all year long. Christmas in Kerala is synonymous with my Ammachis. I guess festivals everywhere are synonymous with grandmothers. Mine were no different.

Today I want to write about my Dad’s mom, because not only was she a mom and grand mom in the truest sense of the word, but a really wonderful mom-in-law to her daughter in laws as well. My mom was her first daughter in law.

When my Dad went for his pennu kaanal (or short listing a bride) my mom’s elder sister was one of the first girls in his list. When my Dad went to my moms place to see the prospective bride, my aunt was yet to get ready for the event. My mom came out and decided to chit chat with my Ammachi, Dad and Achchachan so that they do not notice the inordinate delay that the prospective bride was taking in getting ready. Since my Mom wasn’t the prospective bride, she was at ease talking to my Dad and his folks. My Dad did see my aunt, but went back home and sent word that he was more interested in marrying my mom! All hell broke loose in my mom’s family! My mom’s Dad, who subscribes to some of the strangest notions of family honor was incensed! He felt insulted and promptly turned down the proposal. The sisters though, thought that the whole thing was damn funny. A stalemate ensued with my dad being persistent with his decision and my mom’s Dad refusing to have anything to do with my Dad or his family.

It was in such a tense and delicate situation that my Ammachi decided to take matters into her own hands. One fine morning, she put on her best mundu and chatta, said a brief prayer, put a large donation in the church donation box, took blessing from the Parish priest and clutching her umbrella and a rosary, got into the Jeep to go to my mom’s house. She later got down from the Jeep as she didn’t want to give my Mom’s Dad a chance to further strengthen his refusal due to the fact that my Ammachi had come in a Jeep. This could be misconstrued as showing off or high handedness. She finally caught a KSRTC fast passenger to Changanassery.

With careful handling of the situation, without bruising my moms Dad’s ego too much or compromising her family’s pride too, she made my mom’s Dad see reason. Her practical approach to the whole drama, turned my mom’s Dad around (egged on my mom’s mom) and he finally agreed to the proposal. But he had a rider. He wasn’t allowing his younger daughter to marry before her elder sister. My Ammachi agreed. On her way back home, as is the custom she visited all the families who were related to us in Changanassery. The result was that, not only did she come back home that day with a daughter in law but a groom for her daughter in law’s elder sister too. And the best part was that he was her nephew!! I think she must have felt like a top cat then.

Can you believe an Engineer boy’s family in the Kerala of the late 70’s groveling in front of a girl’s family! It is this nature of my Ammachi that her sons also inherited and that explains the family unity and their practical outlook in life. My dad also set a trend by marrying without dowry. And this was due to my Ammachi’s practical take on dowry. She was adamant that no girl’s father would buy any one of her sons. It was a strong message and nipped in the bud, any interference from her daughter in laws families in her family. The lady was a visionary though she had barely passed 8th standard. But I guess education is all about the values you imbibe and not degrees and certificates you amass.

During my parents wedding reception, my Ammachi’s sister asked her why she went out of the way to get that particular girl when she could have easily changed her sons mind. My Ammachi thought for a few minutes, cleared her throat and said “Edi Susanneh! I weighed the pros and cons of the families of all the girls. And I saw that this girl’s family has a healthy population of girls. You know how pathetic we are in this department!”

Susannah could only say “Ende daivamey Eliamme!! Kalakki!!!” or something like that: p

p.s my aunt still takes a long time in getting ready. Thank god for small mercies: p

Thursday, December 20, 2007

With malice towards none except ones own

Read this brilliant piece on Kerala by Vinod today. No, I am not going to expound on Kerala politics....but I am going to write about something else that I wanted to write about long time ago.

When one of my Uncles retired from work in the Middle East, he headed for Kerala to set up a business. When he approached the necessary government offices for permissions, a kindly clerk asked him why he wanted to waste his money and whatever youth he had left by investing in Kerala! My uncle was taken aback. He persisted, but very soon gave up the idea when a bunch of ruling trade unions goons landed up at his house to lay down rules for his new industry. It didn’t take my uncle long to realize what he was up against and he set up his unit in Karnataka, where he got a lot of help and encouragement from the government. Today he employs over 200 people, and is a successful businessman.

This seems to be story with many business men. But the story isn’t so simple as it seems.. There was more to it. My uncle like many people before him set up his unit and employed many people from Kerala. Especially people from his village who came to him asking for employment. Soon these people started an internal rebellion against my Uncle and nearly destroyed his business. Quick sacking of all Malayalees and a policy never to employ a Malayalee, saw an untroubled growth of his business. My Uncle is not the only one. Most Malayalee business people except those in the Gold business; will never hire a Malayalee from Kerala. The reason is simple. The anti mudhalali feeling, so intrinsic to the Malayalee, is very deep rooted and a Malayalee employer is treated like just another Malayalee employer in Kerala. With arm twisting and show of muscle. Sometimes such people can be really dangerous as they gang up with Malayalee workers from other factories. But for the fact that they are still a minority here has thwarted many an attempt by Malayalee workers working for Malayalee businessmen from doing serious damage to the business.

When my Dad set up his unit in Bangalore, he was wise enough to see that there were no Malayalees in his factory. A wise move indeed as two attempts to employ people from his village backfired with serious repercussions like a busted generator and once a setting up of a fire to one of his units. And all because the Malayalee employee was berated by the unit Manager for coming late to work.

Today, no Kerala business man will hire a Malayalee and even if he does, a strict watch is kept over him. The Malayalee, however is a very sincere and hard working worker if he is employed elsewhere and there is a demand for Malayalees due to their dedication to work and their job.

I didn’t want to end the year with a post like this, but another incident of a colleagues husband, SS who took up premature retirement to set up a business, that almost collapsed due to his Malayalee workers ganging up against him, and introducing Viruses in his computers made me write this post. It will take almost a month for this gentleman to clean his systems and restore normalcy to his small printing unit. His fault? He asked two of his computer operators to come on time to work. They in turn incited the rest of the Malayalee workers and the rest is history. SS has learnt his lesson, like countless other people before him. He will never employ a fellow Malayalee again.

I wonder why we resent our own so much.

I am off to Kerala tomorrow and really looking forward to getting away from cold and damp Bangalore. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and the best life has to offer in the New Year 2008. Leaving you with a Christmas anecdote to put a smile on your face :)

Friday, December 07, 2007

The five tag

I was tagged by the “Patron Saint of Commenters” some time ago. And here I am to honor the tag. This is a simple tag and anyone who reads this tag or owns a pen is tagged with this tag. (Gotcha big time all of you :p)

I am changing the tag a bit and making it “5 Unique Things”

5 Unique Things Found in My Room

1. An earthen bowl full of empty Pista shells. They look so cute that I don’t have the heart to throw them away! :)
2. A bean bag: I get hopelessly stuck in this and rarely use it :p
3. Assorted MP 3 players in various shapes, sizes and colors given by visiting aunts and uncles as a “surprise” present. I get surprised alright at the uncanny knack of my relations to pick up the same gift. I have got dozens of MP 3 players in varying prices from cheap to cheapest.
4. Half a dozen Gift Pack of Dry Fruits given by Vendors as Diwali gifts. Of course I assured each and every none of them that ‘their’ gift was the most unique.
5. A photo of me posing topless wearing a large straw hat and frilly panties. I was about 3 years old that time Sigh…I miss those carefree days.

5 Unique Things Found in My Bag (I have a laptop bag cum bag, figure it out)

1. Assorted boxes of mints.
2. Assorted meds like Crocin, Lozenges etc
3. Half a dozen hair clips of different colors.
4. Wet tissues.
5. A rosary.

5 Unique Things Found in My Wallet

1. Visiting cards of umpteen Insurance Agents :p
2. A card with personal details in case of an emergency.
3. Singapore and Balinese Currency ( I am yet to get them changed)
4. Movie ticket stubs
5. Lots of ATM receipts

I know all you lovely ladies out there want the dirt on Mathew, Emmanuel, Alexis and Toothless Wonder. And I am sure, being the gentlemen they are, they will oblige :p

( tsk tsk I am so clever, I should get a Nobel in Deviousness :p)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Random musings

When I checked out of the hotel in Bali, I was asked at the Reception if I had used any of the stuff kept in the refrigerator. I had taken a bottle of water. I was told to pay 18000 Indonesian Rupiah ( Rs 75/-) as the Mineral water bottles kept in the toilet was complementary and not the one in the fridge. There was no checking to see if I was telling the truth or not. They accepted my word without a doubt. I am so used to the Indian hotel system, where someone from housekeeping usually comes to check your room discretely, after you have checked out and reports to the reception.

My Indian co passengers in Singapore Airlines, Garuda and Thai Airways were well behaved and seasoned travellers. A far cry from the people I encountered in flights during my childhood.

What can I say? The Indian traveler has arrived.

The Indian has truly become International. He/She is very street savvy and you see none of the animosity towards Indians that you encountered earlier.

Today I dropped into one of the Malls in Bangalore after a long time. Malls make me breathless with the severe lack of Oxygen due to the crowds. So I quickly finished my shopping and waited for my friend to finish her shopping at leisure. I love watching people. It is an old pastime.

When Mota Royal Arcade, Bangalore’s first Mall opened, there was a huge rush to see the mall. It was considered cool to hang out here and since my school is close by, we spent many hours gazing awestruck at the stores and displays. Those days, Malls had a snoot element. Only the very rich shopped here. The rest, mostly did window shopping and saved their hard earned money for Commercial Street.

Sales girls at these malls, mostly from the lower middle class families, were a vicious lot and acted catty with women buyers. It was a typical reaction of jealousy, to see people spending so much money. I've had many tiffs myself with these girls as they picked on us girls in their irritation. One typical gesture was to show you the most expensive item. And when you asked for a cheaper range, they would look at you like you with disdain and giggle mockingly. It gave them vicarious pleasure to pull you down :p

Today the scene has changed. Everyone has money. Every one shops at Malls and there is no keeping up with the Joneses factor left. Even the sales girls are a polite lot. They earn handsome commissions and do not resent people with money. Money ironically, has become the great leveler.

During my stay at Singapore, Jakarta and Bali, the television was mostly dominated with news of the ecological disaster facing humans. While the very same channels in India, concentrated on stock market prices and promos of consumer goods, their far East sister Channels focused on the Environment.

Watching the news for a week, made me realize that the good times are over. While we scramble to gorge on our new found consumerism, the west has already finished partying and is getting ready for the clean up. We have arrived a trifle too late at the party.

God bless the Bali Climate Conference!