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!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The height of tolerance among other things...

It makes all sorts to make up this world. But some people are a little more extraordinary than the rest... a little more unique than the most unique person, a little more of a sucker than the worst sucker on Earth.

Suckers attract leeches, who feed off the sucker. The sucker of course doesn’t think he/she is being used and even justifies his parasites. I came across one such person sometime back. It took me some time to realize that she was 'the' classic case of a sucker.

DR is an extremely pretty plump girl. She is the only child of her parents and joined our office from our Delhi office recently for a years transfer. DR's parents too moved to Bangalore to be with her after giving their plush apartment in Delhi for rent for a hefty sum.

DR's father is a retired Police Commissioner and mother, a retired government doctor. She retired from the post as a Health Commissioner or an equivalent post. DR spent her entire life from Nursery to Graduation in hostels as both her parents were ‘working and there was no one to take care of her’.

From day one I noticed a routine in DR. She comes to office and immediately calls up home to enquire if her parents (both in their 50's and healthy) have had their breakfast she has cooked and left. She leaves money on the dining table for their daily expenses and grocery expenses. Her lunch is a horrible cucumber sandwich made by her mom. Most of the time she eats at the office cafeteria to escape the horrible home cooked lunch. She justifies gettting up at 4am and cooking and leaving the house because, her she says her parents are old and cannot make an omelet for her. She justifies leaving money for them daily, because they are retired and dont have an income. The parent’s pension plus rent from their apartment and monies from their ancestral property is worth a few lakhs a month.

Recently when DR was in Mumbai, her mom took ill. Her Dad waited for DR to return for two days, so that she could take her mom to the doctor. It turned out to be a food poisoning case. She took loan, among the many other loans to do the expensive tests that the hospital ordered to "rule out" any doubts. She aslo stayed with her mom in the hospital while her Dad sat at home and watched TV. She also bought her mom home in a taxi as in her own words, "my Dad is old and I dont want to strain him". He of course went to Mysore for a trip in their Scorpio after Mom and daughter were home. Did I tell you it was DR who put fuel in the Scorpio so that her “old” and “poor” Dad could take a break from excessive TV watching and socializing?

No amount of advising will convince her that she is being used by her parents. She feels it her duty that she looks after her “old” and “incomeless” parents and will not listen to anyone.

DR has a mallu boyfriend. Her parents are perfectly allright with her marrying her BF, as long as he doesn’t ask for dowry. Besides, they have asked her to take loan for her marriage which she finds “perfectly natural”, as her parents needs “her help” for taking care of wedding expenditure. The BF wants her to leave her job so that she can look after his sick mother. DR of course finds it a “perfectly natural request”, but is extremely worried about not being to help her parents financially if she does so. Recently BF’s mom passed away. Now he is citing reasons of language differences, to break off the engagement. Again DR “perfectly understands” her “poor” BF’s “position” as he is from a high caste and has scores of relations to answer to!

I am actually tired of watching this abuse. I am tired of watching this girls being used like this day in and day out. I am tired of this girls resilience to abuse. No one knows how to drive sense into her. Maybe bankruptcy, which will come soon, may open her eyes. My gut feeling is that it will not. She will have some justification for that too.

Her epitaph might just read “Doing your best means never stop trying.”

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bali musings...

The beach at Kuta

After watching numerous couples here at Bali with their kids, I've just realised the need for couples to have kids. Marriage is just paper work. Kids ink the deal.

I am not saying that couples without kids are unfulfilled. But couples with kids are definitely more complete.

I am aware of the word "divorce". A couple can divorce, but a parent cannot divorce themselves from parenthood.

Some more pictures from Bali:

The kuta beach road

Bali airport

The view from my room

A view from the hotel. The building on the right is the Hard Rock Cafe.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I am in Jakarta now, after spending a day at Singapore on Sunday, well...more like a couple of hours that allowed us to go on a city tour. Amazing city, neat and clean and green and red and yellow etc with the flora and fauna vying with each other to show off their plumes.

Went for a boat ride too at the city centre. Our guide was Michael, all four feet nothing of amiable gentility with an amazing sense of humor. Micheal is the official tour guide of Changi Airport and is a really nice person. Kudos to whoever appointed him as the tour guide, because he is the kind of person who evokes tremendous respect and enormous affection at the same time. At the end of the tour, the entire group comprising of 99% Indians gave him a standing ovation that had even the grim faced Immigration officials at the airport smiling. I am sure millions of tourists must be having warm memories of him.

The city tour is free for all transit passengers whether you have a Singapore Visa or not. Those without Visa had to surrender the same to Michael, go through immigration etc before the tour. But this was taken care of by Micheal and hence one had to just follow him. Since I had a Singapore visa I was able to go out and meet up with a classmate after the city tour, who works here. I have been to this city as a kid, but this trip I noticed the city through a fresh perspective.

I am afraid I didn’t like the people too much. (*Sob* all those Singapore dudes who have linked my blog, I am sorry) They seem to be have been surgically removed of all emotions. You are an object to them, whether you are Indian or White. No chit chat, no smiles or acknowledgement of you as another human. The only time they smile is when they talk to each other.

Tomorrow, I am off to Bali for four days of unwinding. Will reply to comments after that!

Leaving you all with a song I heard when MTV entered India in the late 90's. Those days this music channel showed mostly Asian bands and this particular song from Colin Bass, struck a chord in me. Please ignore the video and listen to the song. Denpasar is the capital of Bali.

Ciao till next week!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Toeing the straight line...

The other day, when we gals were discussing an office weekend outing, one of the timid ones in the group called NB blurted out that she could not possibly sleep alone and if she were to be given a single room, she would shack in with someone to avoid getting terrified at every sound and shadow. Promptly another gal SP, retorted jokingly that she was not gay and hence could not sleep with NB. The joke went over the simple girl NB's head. I didn’t find the joke pleasant at all and snapped at SP that she was acting a little too Americanized. The other gals, who also found the joke unpleasant and totally out of place, immediately supported me.

I remember a mail from a gal, who wrote in saying she liked my posts. She also reassured me that she was very straight and her mail was just a gesture of appreciation :) I can understand and empathize with her need to emphasize the “I am straight” fact, after a few encounters of the above paragraph kind.

I cannot talk about guys, but we gals form deep friendships with other gals, friendships that are closer than the relationship sisters share and these friendships are a support system that we rely on heavily for, from a pep talk when you are demoralized to a shoulder to cry on, to unbiased advice when you need it and a whole host of things that only girls will understand.

Holding hands, exchanging clothes, sleeping in each other houses etc is a very natural thing to do with friends whether they are close friends or not. But today this relationship, perhaps the only relationship apart from that of a family that is not looked at with jaundiced eyes, is under siege.

People hear words like ‘gay’ without understanding its full import and use it sullying friendships. Friends are getting afraid to hold hands, or hang out together too long or have close same sex friends. It is cool to use the word gay, like in, "your clothes are so gay" to "you look so gay in that red shirt". What these people don't realize is that to be really cool, they should be tolerant of minority groups like gays and not poke fun of them!

The reason I snapped at SP was because, I am getting more than a little annoyed at the constant jibe some people take roomies, best friends etc playfully joking about them being gay. Though these are jokes, it does make the 'accused' a little less comfortable with his/her friend and puts a strain on friendships.

I am glad I am from the generation where we had no such pressures on friendships. But the people who subscribe to such views don’t realize the harm they are doing to friendships, with their half-baked prejudiced views colored by watching too many American serials, they don’t really understand.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Close encounters...

4 pm. I have gone through security check and am waiting in the Security Lounge for the boarding call. I am damn sleepy. I have only a small handbag as I am returning by the 9 pm flight. I doze off.

I am awakened by a child crying quite badly. It is a small kid with his mom. Mom looks around and as is the practice at airports, spots me, a safe bet to latch onto for, baby sitting, luggage sitting etc.

I am the usual target.

Maybe I should look a little dangerous so that moms in airport don’t consider me a safe bet.

Mom comes and plonks herself next to me. She smiles at me. I smile back while inwardly I groan.

She asks me if I can look after her baggage while she warms her sons milk bottle.

I agree resignedly.

She has a distinct American accent. My guess is she is second generation American Indian. Her Indian attire, garish, give her away as an ABCD.

She returns with hot milk in a bottle for her two year old son. While he sips the milk from the bottle, she feeds him samosas. He seems bright and intelligent like most kids raised in the US. He speaks fluent Tamil and English.

She offers me a samosa, which I politely decline. My mother has stuffed me with enough lunch to last me a week.

Mom then decides to go to the toilet. She tells her son that the nice girl, (she turns to me and asks my name) Anjali will look after him while mommy goes to the rest room. He seems okay with the deal.

She leaves for the rest room. Sons chatters with me with amazing maturity. He then looks at the Billboard and asks me what the scrolling text says. I look at him. His eyelids are droopy. He is squinting at the Billboard. It is then I realize that he is partially blind.

I am in shock and and have a huge lump in my comes back, thanks me profusely and says goodbye as Jet announces its flight. I was flying Kingfisher. How I wish I had booked Jet. Damn you Mr Vijay Mallya and your good service.

I feel so small.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Out of sight but not out of mind

I came across a copy of a well circulated news magazine the other day. The question answer column pertaining to sexual health was a shocker. Kids as young as 15 years old, mostly guys were asking questions about their intimate problems. It was shocking to see this side of our teenagers and the kind of turmoil they are facing without anyone to answer their questions. There was a guy who was convinced by his peers to be gay, but he plaintively asks the Doctor if there was anything wrong with him as he liked girls!! There was a girl asking if she would get pregnant as she had kissed her boyfriend!! And she was just 14 years old! And more of what I thought was 'ridiculous' questions but was obviously an area of anxiety for these kids.

Several women's magazine also have regular columns like this and reading it will give our 'anti sex educationists' a reality check. But I guess it is better these people don't come across such columns or they would push for its ban because it 'corrupts' our youngsters and is against our 'culture'. What a joke. How do these people think they were born? Through immaculate conception? Why don't they prosecute their own parents for indulging in "immoral activities" that led to their birth?!

What I don't understand is how did the land of the 'Kamasutra' degenerate thus? By degenerate I mean, consider a natural function of the body 'dirty'? A country with an exploding population that considers the act of procreation 'dirty' is a disturbing thought indeed! What are we, a nation of perverts?

I think people who think that the act of procreation is dirty are the real 'perverts' because they deny men and women the natural right to associate with each other without guilt.

Right to sex education should be a given by law especially in a country like ours. Why do we deny this natural function of the body while we acknowledge the rest? We rush around consulting specialists and take advice on healthy eating habits if we have a heart problem and or diabetes etc. Why don't we do allow the same courtesy to sexual health? We allow Dental camps in schools, why don't we allow sex education? I am surprised that the moral brigade allows Sexologists to practise in our country!!!

What is the moral brigade scared of? Do these people think that kids don't know anything about the 'act'? In which case it is high time we burst the myth that our kids are asexual beings. Perhaps we need to educate the people ranting against sex education about the realities of life which might perhaps make them sit up and take note of the looming threat to the very fabric of our society due to ignorance. How do you expect people to exercise self restraint when you don't allow them to know what is right and what is wrong?

The greatest irony of our times is that AIDs has had more effect on our people than the preachings of priests, pundits and mullahs.

Today's newspapers show a group of saffron clad Arya Samaji's protesting against sex education. Last month it was an Imam who threatened the government if they went ahead with sex education classes. Do they know the type of damage they are doing to the youth by denying them the basic right to information that will have far reaching effect on their mental health?

On the flip side I hope places where they allow sex education are equipped with teachers who can give an unbiased reply to kids questions, or else sex education classes will degenerate into ideological or communally colored moralistic preachings and our kids will be back to square one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gone are the good ol days...

So I got promoted to a Manager. Normally I would have felt proud of this achievement. But I felt nothing when I got the mail from Big Boss informing me of my promotion. I managed a smile as he shook hands and offered me his congratulations.

I am now the Manager of the team I led for little under a year now. I was an Assistant Manager then to this team comprising of three girls and a guy, all elder to me by a couple of years. But then, my Boss was the Big Boss of the team. As his Assistant Manager I was informally the Manager of the team.

I grew up with this team. I recruited all of them when I first joined here. They are the best team on earth who have adjusted to my fast pace of working and the whole team sort of gelled into one unit with me being just a subtle leader in the sense of escalations and taking certain decisions.

We had fun. We worked hard, we partied hard, we laughed hard, we bitched about the big bosses hard and cried hard when we had a disaster.

Today all that seems to be gone. The moment I got my promoton letter it was like I had been wrenched away from a circle of friends.

When I see their names under mine on the Intranet, I feel sad. Just a few days ago my name was with theirs under the Big Boss's name.

When I got access to their appraisal page on the Intranet I felt like a back biter. When I got access to their Salary page I feel like an snooper.

I dont want to do this. I want the old carefree days back when Big Boss did the dirty job while I was the good girl, the fun team lead.

I hate the fact that I might now be the butt of "bad manager" jokes that I so specialised in till just a few days ago. I hate the fact that when I walk into a group, there might be an awkward silence as people suddenly stop talking. I hate the fact that I will get the full impact of disappointments when a salary hike in not upto expected standards. I hate the fact that I might be shut out of the world I was part of just a few days ago!

I hate being on the other side!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Conquering the demon within

Teresa is a contract worker with us, who was bought by her employer to do some data entry work in our office. She is been with us for two months now and her work will get over by next month. She is totally intimidated with our office environment, people and practices. She can type good English but cannot converse in the same language.

It took me some time to get friendly with her and persuade her to sit with us for lunch. Last week she was very despondent. I thought she was sick. A little bit of prodding and she revealed that it was her son’s birthday. I was shocked to hear that she had a son. She looked like a baby herself!! Teresa has an 8-year-old son and a husband back in Trivandrum.

Her story told in bits and pieces over the week has left me angry and very very frustrated. Teresa was the only daughter of her folks who worked in the Gulf. She was not very bright in studies, besides she was a simple girl. She managed to do her computers course and a graduation and was married off to a guy working as a contract worker with the Kerala government.

Soon after marriage, Teresa’s husband laid down rules and regulations for her. Breakfast should be at least three courses, lunch at least 5 courses and dinner the same. Anything less and he flew into a rage and threw the food out. Teresa had to come back home by 6 pm or he would make a scene drawing neighbors and sundry passers by with his rants. And this being Kerala, neighbors too would join in chiding her for coming late. Many a day when she worked late she came home, to a door bolted from the inside and had to go to her parents home to sleep. Next day when she returned home, she would get a tongue lashing for her ‘misdemeanors’.

Teresa had to put red coloring in her hair parting so that people knew that she was married and a mangal sutra too. Failing which he flies into a rage accusing her of deliberately hiding her marital status.

Her parent’s advice to stand upto him was of no avail as Teresa was too used to the abuse. Besides she didn’t want to lose her son, whom her husband refused to part with.

Fed up of the constant strife, Teresa applied for a job in Bangalore with a Branch of the Data Entry Agency where she worked and was selected. She told her husband that she was transferred. He had no choice but to let her go as she pays the loan of the house they built. The house is in his name.

Every week Teresa’a husband calls up and inquires if she has put the red kum kum in her hair. Every six month he lands up at her one room home and makes life hell for her by asking neighbors about her timings. This being Bangalore, luckily neighbors do not entertain such requests.

After paying off her housing loan, Teresa has barely any money to buy clothes or food. The free lunch in my office is a boon to her. When I asked her why she took such abuse, she smiled and said that coming away to Bangalore was her small way of raising her voice. She hopes that Bangalore and the distance from her husband will change her.

I felt so proud of her when I heard that! Teresa realizes her shortcomings and is fighting back, in her own way. How many Malayalee women do that?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Whats the good word for this?

What happens when you, a committed person meets another person who is just right for you? A really scary and sad thought if you ask me. An ex colleague and really dear friend of mine was going to get engaged to B next week. B had fallen in love with A at first sight and finally convinced A to accept his proposal for marriage after a year of courtship. A agreed as B was devoted to her.

A few months back A called me and confessed that she had fallen in love with another colleague C. Someone she related with a lot more than B. Some one she could talk to for hours and someone who was like her soul mate. A has known C for a year and this is no puppy love or infatuation. We can see the compatibility in the two.

We advised her to break of the engagement as it was not fair on B to be hitched with a woman who loved another man. A agreed and called off the engagement. We, her friends felt that B deserved better.

Now B is not talking to us . He thinks we are the villains of the piece. The home breakers, the relationship wreckers and other really bad words in the dictionary :( And that feels bad because we were trying to protect him, the ‘underdog’ in this mess. But B feels we should have supported him by advising A to stick to him as he loved her so much.

What does one do in such a situation? I don’t know. But our conscience is clear. We did the right thing or what we thought was the right thing. We took the right decision for both of them. Or so we like to think. ( Damn this is so confusing!!!)

Sometimes I wish I would stop being Samson the fair judge and blindly support my friends and forget all thoughts of fair play.

If there is a God above I pray that I am not faced with the dilemma A faced. I can’t think of anything more tragic!!! On the other hand I think A is really lucky to have met C when she did. Sounds even more confusing I know.

Damn now I am thoroughly confused and feeling quite sorry for myself .

(Presently listening to this melodious song)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The intelligence gap

He: I think you should get to know me better!
She: I don't think so!
He: Why?
She: Because I think I should not get to know you better!
He: Why?! What's wrong with me?
She: *sigh* Never mind!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Moving up in life :)

Today we went to the Empire Hotel on Church Street for lunch. After lunch I found my bike missing! The security guard informed me that someone had pushed my bike to the side so that he could remove his mobike and left it in a no-parking area. The result was that it was towed away.

Finally I located the bike and paid the Rs 300/- fine ( Rs 200/- towing charges and Rs 100/- fine. Ha!! ) The Inspector noted down my DL details and I was booked for "Parking in a No Parking Area!!!

I am now a criminal!!! :)


Sunday, October 07, 2007

White pawns

I got back last Friday after a blissful one week in sandy, green and cloudy Goa. The occasion was a close friends wedding. On getting back I was told that my cousin brother George had got married in the US. George is a Surgeon and is practicing in one of the leading US hospitals.

Today George dropped in with his foreign wife. The look of horror on my parents face would have been side splittingly funny if it had not been the shock I myself experienced when I beheld George's bride. She was close to 300 pounds heavy and one could hardly make out her features beneath the double chin and layers of fat all over.

This post is not about foreign wives but about Indian men and their double standards. George is one such example of Indian men I have seen and met who were so fussy when it came to marrying an Indian woman. They were particular about dowry, color, family status, weight, religious division etc etc etc. Yet when they married a foreign woman, mostly due to Green Card considerations, such specs’ vanished into thin air!!

Now I have nothing against anyone marrying anyone…but when I see these foreign brides I wonder if they know the realities of their Indian hubbies and how these men would have cringed at the thought of marrying an obese Indian woman!! And I feel bad for these girls. I feel bad because they are being used and because they are married to double faced men…men who have a different reality for them and another for the Indian women.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sundays, beer and Malayalam movies

It was a couple of years back that I began watching TV for a decent amount of time. Before that college and projects and Internships did not give much time with the idiot box especially since we had to start holiday Internships from second year of college. When I finally got to watch some TV and surf the Malayalam channels, the movie song sequences shocked me! It was as if I was watching a Hindi or a Telugu song sequence!!

I have been bought up on a staple of good Malayalam movies due to the extensive collection of movies in my Dad’s collection. Growing up on this kind of filtered collection makes you rather spoilt. You end up thinking that all Malayalam movies are good. Unlike Malayalees in Kerala, who have watched both good and bad movies and seen the evolution of Malayalam cinema, we the NRK’s have no such luck. We are still stuck in the Golden Era of Malayalam movies as we get only the good movies in CD parlors. Our first brush with modern Malayalam cinema starts with the Malayalam TV channels that air the songs from the latest movies. And the preview of the new Malayalam cinema is not very appetizing.

For us NRK’s Malayalam movies were the only channel to keep in touch with our roots and culture. Malayalam movies were a part of our daily lives. Sundays in Bangalore would see VCDs selling like hot cakes and people would even bribe the VCD delivery boy to keep their favorite movie for them for the weekend. Malayalam movies were a little piece of Kerala in our homes.

The commercialization of Malayalam movies is big loss to the huge NRK population that lives outside Kerala. Our intention of seeing a Malayalam movie is not just for the purpose of entertainment, but to keep the tenuous bonds with our naadu alive and to escape for a few moments to a place we call home. The Bollywood type of Malayalam cinema has little appeal for us.

I guess our numbers are too small and do not justify movies like the ones they made some time ago. Perhaps there is more demand for Bollywood type masala Malayalam movies in Kerala now.

I watched “Classmates” the other day. A really nice movie very rooted in the Kerala realities, yet entertaining and engrossing. “Classmates” may not be the best in its class, but it does give hope that the dying embers of good Malayalam cinema is still flickering.

Presently listening to this song. Thanks to Emmanuel for the link.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cyber Underdogs

When I was small I learnt an important lesson through sheer accident. And the lesson was that the “underdog” always gets public support. Even if the ‘underdog’ was pretending to be the underdog and was actually the villain of the piece, he/she will always get support because people love to take up for the ‘underdog’.

As a kid I realized that I was no match for my arch rival, my second brother M. Like a true brother, M loved annoying me and making me scream. And when I lashed out at him in anger; he would merely hold my hand and fend me off while I tried to wildly kick him. And while all my effort to kick, scratch and pull his hair went in vain, I had the double ignominy of watching him grin triumphantly. So I did what I had to do. I screamed. Because I realized screaming and sobbing when the elders arrived running from all corners of the house made them annoyed enough to give my brother a ticking off!! :p

It was very satisfying to watch my arch rival get a ticking off for troubling “your poor helpless baby sister” and “bullying a small girl?” etc. ( One of the few advantages of being the youngest in the house is that you remain the ‘baby’ of the house till eternity) It was lack of creativity that drove me to this novel method while I could actually get back at him by merely ignoring him!! But like millions of sisters worldwide I too fell for the bait specifically designed to irritate me :)

Supporting the underdog or the “underdog” syndrome, is so powerful that most of us get swept by it. I broke out of this syndrome when a couple of instances of blind loyalty to my friends made me ignore the “other side of the story” leading to some very red face when I realized that the person I had defended was the actual culprit! Since then I have become the ‘devils advocate’. But then I am not entirely infallible. I do get taken in by sob stories initially till good ‘ol common sense kicks in or gives me a solid kick.

Off late I have come across some people/bloggers who use the “underdog syndrome” to great effect. They craft stories based on their lives in which they are shown as an underdog, while the other characters of the story are strategically characterized so that that readers like hypnotized zombies hate/love/sympathize with these characters according to the writer’s design. Soon the 'underdog' gets sympathy and support and a large number of 'protective' and sympathetic fans. If a stray reader were to raise a question about the ‘sob story’ he/she is immediately looked upon by horror by the others readers like thief found stealing from a frail old lady.

The feeling of protectiveness is so strong, that the readers will not tolerate any voice of dissent against the ‘underdog”, i.e the writer. Many of these readers will go out of their way to help the ‘underdog’. The ‘underdog’ becomes an icon. If someone starts questioning the story of the ‘underdog’… the writer who is a master in this game will play the part of the ‘poor accused’ well by taking the questions/accusation gracefully and thus raking in more supporters.

Politicians and leaders, ordinary people, younger siblings [:p] have all used this ‘trick’ to great effect. It is high time we shed the herd mentality and looked at both sides of the coin whether it is a news item or a Blog. There is always an ‘other’ side of the story.

The World Wide Web is happy hunting ground for such pseudo “underdogs”. All with private agendas of their own. Be careful of people and causes you espouse.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weight loss made easy

Weight loss clinics are mushrooming everywhere in Bengaloooru. Guess the prosperity of the Benaglooru janagalu has gone to their waist, hips, thighs etc. with a vengeance. You get clinics with fancy names like ‘VLCC’ and ‘Inspiration’ and downright sleazy monikers like ‘Ritu’s Massage cum Weight Loss Clinic’ (Not sure if the Pun is intended or not) Whatever be their name or location or Interior Decoration, they all promise to melt down that fat in a jiffy, leaving you with bods that will make a Stick Insect go green with envy.

I was passing by one of these “Weight Loss” clinics the other day. A large banner behind an anorexic mannequin showcased several success stories. The 6 foot mannequin was made of about approximately 500 gms of plastic I think. So you can imagine how anorexic it looked. If Kate Moss were to pass this way, she would probably pass out in sheer jealousy.

The banner showcased several case studies. There was the photo of one Mrs Aggarwal. Fat, jovial and kinda nice and homely looking, sitting and smiling at the camera under the "Before" caption. She looked dignified in the silk saree, mangal sutra and large bindi.

And then there was the same Mrs Aggarwal standing in a very coquettish pose, around 200 pounds less and leaning on a chair showing her cleavage. Her head was thrown back and a leg folded up showing off her 8 inch spiky stilettos. This was under the “After" caption. Her body looked vaguely familiar. Then it struck me that this was body of Kareena Kapoor playing host to the rather comely face of Mrs Aggarwal. Mrs Aggarwals face was neatly grafted onto Kareena's body with the help of Adobe Photoshop!

While the slim body of Mrs Aggarwal seems to cry out "Look at me baby, I am so hot!!" her face seemed to say "Arey munnu ke papa, ration ki dukaan jaana math bhoolna!" Very unnerving I tell you.

Anyways this just goes to show that weight loss clinics are not threat to our culture. Beneath that sexy bod, Mrs Aggarwal is still the same pati vrata nari.

I wonder what they did with Kareena's head. Served it on a platter on Shakeela's torso elsewhere? I shudder to think of the consequences.

And I wonder what Mr Aggarwal said when he saw his brand new wife? I don’t think he said anything. But I am sure Munnu got himself a brand new sibling and Mrs Aggarwal was back to the clinic. What a vicious vicious circle *sigh*

Then there was the photo of a gentleman named Mr Menon. Mr Menon was fat with a huge belly and looked like he was pregnant with several kegs of beer. This photo was under the "before" caption. Under the "After" caption, Mr Menon had shrunk considerably and looked like a desi Brad Pitt. I had that feeling of déjà vu again. I had seen that bod somewhere. Then it struck me that it was John Abraham’s bod!! I can recognize that bod anywhere!!!

I wonder what they did with John’s head. Shift + Delete? *sob*

If the makers of Adobe Photoshop got a penny for every “Before” and “After” advertisement made by these weight loss clinics, they can shut shop and live on the proceeds for the rest of their lives!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Justice only at a price

Sometime back a young girl was raped and murdered…one among the many such incidences that have happened and are happening around the country. We read about it one day and then a new event catches our eye. What happens to the people you read about the other day? What is happening to these cases? Are the guilty being punished or let off due to lack of evidence or do these cases just disappear into thin air? Or does the government machine quietly chug its way and chase the case to its end?

We the public tend to lose interest to such events after the initial reaction to such news. And if I want to know what happened to these cases, the bureaucratic apparatus is so well laid out that it might take me many frustrating forms and babus pockets to fill and long hours in musty government building corridors to get to know what happened. In fact I will be laughed off the government building if I were to inquire what happened to such cases.

Nobody ever knows what happens to these cases. The high profile cases attract some attention, till a newer and more gruesome act is performed by someone else. And the ‘fresher’ news gets our attention.

It is true that we are a populous nation and our Police Stations are understaffed. But what alarms me is the lethargy that one finds in the cops when you go to a station with a complaint.

Recently the Police sold an ‘unclaimed’ body to the St John’s College and Hospital. It was later revealed that the body had 32 stab injuries. The son of the deceased raised a hue and cry and the body was released to him and the cops pulled up. How many such cases are shoved under the carpet? Scores of bodies are found on the railway tracks in Karnataka…the cops merely keep it in the morgue and dispose it off if it is unclaimed to medical colleges for a fee. No attempt is made to find the family or killers.

Today Police Stations have become place where you file an FIR so that you can collect the Insurance, Inheritance etc. The cops have stopped making investigations unless the case is high profile or the victims have ‘connections’. There is a marked lethargy among the Police force. They have become mere paper pushers now.

God help us all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Emotions or hysteria?

The Indian Idol mania seems to have gripped most regional TV channels. I saw another version of the same with Shaan as anchor. This time the participants were kids. Towards the end of the program a kid was eliminated. The kid took the elimination quite gamely. Then to my horror, one of the judges, a female playback singer volunteered to sing a farewell song for the kid who was eliminated. I couldn’t believe that someone would something so foolish!! But it was real and happening! She stared singing a mournful farewell song and the kids face crumpled and she started sobbing.

Shaan looked like he wanted to slap the lady himself, but being the gracious anchor he is consoled the child. Soon other participants were also crying and so were the kids parents. It was mayhem and left me boiling. The playback singer kept singing totally in love with her voice and the show deteriorated to mass hysteria.

If I was the kid’s parent or guardian I would have stepped in and stopped the lady from abusing the kid. Yes, this was abuse…this was emotional abuse of a kid!!! And the lady should be arrested for the same!!! And what was pathetic was that not a mention of this was made in any papers or news channel!

I saw a similar episode on a Malayalam channel with Usha Uthup as one of the judges. Even this lady couldn’t control her emotions when a contestant was eliminated. What are you trying to say? That "I am helpless because the cruel SMS’ing public is so clueless"??? What message does this give out? That life sucks?

It is high time someone puts in checks and balances to reality shows. Emotions are natural but if whipped up can have disastrous consequences. Will it take the suicide of a contestant for people to wake up? And wake up they will and ask for a ban on reality shows!!! After all we cannot expect a public that watches these shows to make rational decisions!

Winning and losing is not the only element of the game. There is something else called “taking defeat gamely” too! And it is this vital element that is missing from most of these shows.

p.s Do check out this post on reality shows in the Philippines.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Like most average girls, I have also grumbled about the restrictions of being a girl. I always thought boys had it easy. They didn't have to worry about bad hair days, broken nails, pimples, blotchy complexion, PMS, mothers etc etc etc. But after reading this post I am totally over the feeling of self pity.

Girls, you don't know how lucky we are!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fostering corruption

The other day when a friend was buying some sweets, a couple of Sales Tax officers in mufti, walked into the shop. They caught the shop owner selling sweets without a bill. The shop owner immediately barked at his assistants to pack the best available sweets and pressed it into the sales tax officer’s hands. He wouldn't take a "no" from them and with great humility insisted that they take the sweet. He was finally let off with a severe warning. The officers were clearly disarmed by the shop owner’s affable and courteous behavior. But they were not too happy to let him off the hook.

I have heard of several such incidents. Officials saying ‘no’ to a bribe but being gently coaxed to take it by people who want to be let off the hook. We are so used to calling government servants corrupt that that we fail to realize that it is we who make them corrupt by paying them to bend laws on our behalf.

How did corruption start? It surely did not start with the government employee getting up one fine day and exclaiming in surprise and delight at his powers and making a resolution to use his gift to the fullest extent!!

Corruption would have begun when people realized the advantages a government servant had and bribed him to avail of those advantages. I am sure people who bribe know the system better than the people who take bribe!

Recently I went with SP to the Indiranagar RTO. This RTO was a hot bed of corruption a few years ago, mostly due to touts and the driving school mafia running a thriving racket here. A Lok Ayukta raid changed all that. This RTO became one of the cleanest and most efficient RTO overnight. I know because I got my bike license from here.

SP was through with the DL in record time without paying anything except the DL fees. On the other hand, there were some people whom we saw bribing a reluctant and clearly apprehensive official to push their papers a little faster.

Do these people realize that they are undoing the work of the Lok Ayukta? The Lok Ayukta raid had made life much easier for thousands of people who make their Licenses here without the hassles that plagued them earlier. Are they aware of the dis service they are doing to the rest of the citizenry because they do not want to stand in the queue?

I think people giving bribes should be more severely prosecuted that people accepting a bribe. A person who bribes is an anti social element. He/She creates corruption. Period.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Close encounters with frustrations

A comment I received at Poomanam

Quote "I dream of the day when I will give my blog URL to the person who says "Tell me something about yourself " Unquote

So that, the person will understand:

1.Your views on life are pretty shallow

2.You are arrogant to the core

3.You are a noisy, messy, talk-more-listen-less person

4.You are a religious fundamentalist, under your 'cool' secularist skin

5.You fall flat for flattery

6.You never can take any kind of criticism

7.You look down on most of the people, especially your bosses

8.You are almost insanely self-centric

9.You never have read/understood/appreciated any half-decent literature

10.You drink and drive

11.You do fool people with sweet talk

12.You make silly grammatical and punctuation mistakes that are intolerable in marketing communication.

13.You like showing off your vocabulary, which, again, is intolerable in marketing communication.

14.You will write high school essays for marketing communication purposes

15.You think that you are Erma Bombeck (Bombeck sucks, by the way)

A half-funny line you managed to write in the last six months is,

Ammachi: *whew* you scared me Annamme!! It just means you are standing on his slippers!!

Keep writing. You are, of course, better than many, though nowhere near good. Get over with your infatuation with mediocrity, if you care. (Ever wondered why the fans of your blog are such pathetic writers themselves?)

This was a comment I received after the "Say it right" post.This is just a sample of the type of frustrations people throw at my blog. Of course I rejected it without a thought. And I also know who wrote it, but that is besides the point. What I have learnt in my two years of blogging is that there are too many people getting into blogging for fame and fortune. And when they don't get it, they take out their frustrations with comments like this. Blogging is the freedom of having your say no matter how crappy your language is or how bad your English is! Thankfully most bloggers I know, enjoy the informal creative outlet of blogs and are the richer from the experience.

Today I found another instance of someone copying my posts. If it wasn't so funny I would have been hopping mad :p

p.s Dont miss this excellent post by Pradeep Nair on Kerala.

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hogi barthene*

Mr and Mrs Rao were my neighbors. They were a happy couple, simple and friendly. They had two sons, both working in India. Soon their eldest son took up a job in the US and left taking his family with him. The second son too followed. Mr and Mrs Rao though alone lived a full life, going to the temple and the various Brahmin prayer meetings, get together etc. Soon age started taking its toll and both of them were hospitalized at various times for various ailments.

Their eldest son came down and took them to live with him. Though the couple was happy, they missed India and the land of their birth, Mysore . Soon Aunty learnt to email and my mom and the other ladies in the neighborhood got regular emails from Mrs Rao, regaling us with tales of two bumbling old Indians and their misadventures in the US. Aunty had an earthy sense of humor and an ever-present smile under her diamond nose studs, while uncle was a kind and humble man. Maybe I am shrouding them with an aura of saintliness, but my memories of them are very warm.

They came down soon after for a wedding and a break from the US winter. The wedding, meeting relations and the spirituality of the place tugged at their heartstrings and they decided not to go back.

But life was a struggle alone, as their siblings were old too and they soon faced the prospect of going back to the US. Their search for an old age home in Bangalore was futile and soon they were winging their way back to the US. Uncle fell sick and died in the US. The family came down to India for the burial. Aunty was inconsolable and died two months after Uncles death. Fortunately for her she met her end in Mysore, her hometown. The town where she as a little girl helped her grandfather with the temple rituals and met and fell in love with Uncle during a Dassara music recital.

Aunty died two months ago. When I look at their now empty house and the tulsi plant in the courtyard I feel an awful emptiness. This place bustled with energy and activity a few years back. I had grown up watching her perform pooja in front of the tulsi plant from my balcony. The waft of the agarbaththi spreading gently in the wind mingling with the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans that she would have ground and put in the percolator before doing the morning pooja. I will give my right arm for another steel tumbler of that heavenly coffee she used to make many years ago. She taught me how to drink without touching the tumbler to my lips, the Brahmin way. I learnt a lot of Brahmin rituals and traditions from her as she loved puttering around the garden with me.

After pooja she would always look up to smile at the little girl on the balcony who watched her intently almost hypnotized by the ritual. She would wave or sometimes cheekily blow a kiss blushing at the act and giggling. I don’t think I ever missed a single pooja except on weekends when I slept late. She looked radiant in her silk saree that seems to be a daily wear for Brahmin ladies in Karnataka. Her hair would be adorned with fresh jasmine and her silver anklets tinkled as she went around the tulsi plant. For a Christian kid like me this was an engrossing sight.

I remember the various Dasara’s we celebrated together and the amazing sweets aunty made. I remember Uncle pleading with us kids to keep quite as their sons were in final year Engineering College and needed some peace and quite to finish their studies. I remember aunty scolding Uncle for telling us to keep quite and then telling us indulgently to make as much noise as we can and uncles mock exasperation at her lenience with us, the noisy neighborhood brats. I remember the hot obattu that would land up at home whenever she prepared some at home. Tea time was synonymous with aunty’s obattu. So many good memories….

I took so much for granted. So many people for granted. But people around me are aging. Soon they will be gone. But Mrs Rao’s death has taught me something. That time is so precious, especially with your loved ones.

Rest in peace Mrs Rao. Dassara and Mysore and the neighborhood will never be the same without you.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hope lies beyond the border...

My mail box is flooded. Seems like it is placement time in Kerala colleges. Words like Tata Motors, Accenture, Infosys, Maruti is floating around my Inbox like happy confetti. These are joyful mails from my cousins announcing their placements.

In this happy cacophony there is one sad note...of a cousin sister who is placed at a leading IT company in Trivandrum Technopark. When my mother called her to congratulate, she burst into tears. She is the only one in my family who has been placed in Kerala. The rest are all leaving to Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Pune etc.

This year itself there are nearly 12 students from my family alone who are leaving Kerala. So you can imagine the volume of freshers leaving Kerala this year. These people have counted the days to finish their college and leave. They love their State, town, language just like you and me. But as educated thinking adults they can sense that the present "political culture" will not change for a long time and they are in no mood to be willing victims of a system when they have a way out. They are fed up of the closed mentality and the humiliations and helplessness of belonging to the silent majority while the powerful minority of goons rules the roost and the throne. Escape is the only way.

Soon they will join the "reminiscence" crowd that misses the carefree days of college, life in Kerala and naadan cuisine from the safety of Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi etc. And the cycle will repeat itself every year.

Best of luck to you all !!! Do well in your professional and personal lives. I hope and I pray that when you guys are ready to hang up the boots, Kerala would have changed and you will be making a beeline to your true home and hearth that God willing would have earned the sobriquet "God's Own Country".