Saturday, March 31, 2007

The new use and throw culture

I have just got back from a three day vacation at a resort near Trivandrum! I didn’t have the time to go into the city but the ride from the airport to Poovar, was an eye opener of sorts! Fields and ponds filled with plastic and refuse. Plastics and garbage was dumped everywhere especially on empty plots of land. Trivandrum airport is perhaps the cleanest AAI airport in India. It just goes to show that our cities and our airports are a reflection of the inhabitants that dwell in that area.

The resort was situated in the backwaters and we had to take a 15 minutes boat ride to the resort. The boat wound its way through coconut plantations cutting through the slimy green waters afloat with garbage. The gently flowing backwaters were bespeckled with hawaii slippers, used clothes, paper cups and plates and general refuse. As the boat chugged its way to the resort we could do nothing but sit in stunned silence at the sight before us.

At the resort jetty we were greeted by girls in traditional Kerala attire who garlanded us amidst the din of the chenda played by two energetic guys in traditional clothes. The beat was too foot tappingly bollywoodesque.

Tourism is here to stay in Kerala and the resort had the mandatory Yoga enclosure, Ayurveda House etc to give the foreigners that authentic Kerala experience. In the evening a barbecue was arranged for the guests and the next day morning I saw the Styrofoam plates afloat in the backwater surrounding the resort. Mineral water bottles, tetra packs and other garbage lined the waters edge. The resort was a clean and green oasis in a desert of refuse. It was a little too much for me. I remembered a Kerala, that not so long ago was hailed for its clean and neat people and civic sense.

What has happened to change this overnight? The thousands of resorts that have mushroomed up in Kerala, generate tons of plastic refuse everyday. Recycling as a culture does not seem to exist. I asked a hotel staff what they did with the mineral water bottles as she said that they are thrown away!!

As countries like the US grapple with the problem of garbage disposal and have ship loads of plastic bottles plying the sea for years looking for a port to dump their load, what is going to happen to India with a larger population and no culture of recycling? How long is the land and the environment going to take the abuse? Unless the government steps in and educates the public about garbage segregation and disposal, the Kerala we once knew is doomed to become a giant garbage dump.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Quantity or quality?

There is this really nice Airtel ad that is playing on radio these days. The ad talks about the life of an average Indian who has to wait in the que for everything, whether it is at the Ration Shop or Bus stop , public water taps etc. The ad ends by declaring that with Airtel you don’t need to wait in a que when dialling KBC!

I haven’t heard a more striking ad than this one, because it made me pause and think about our population like no other ad/campaign has done till now. And if this approach was taken for population control campaigns, I am sure the common man on the road will also pause and think. There is no better way you can drive home the fact that our unchecked population growth is the reason for our miseries than by pointing out the areas of discomfort that unchecked population growth creates. Just by preaching “chota parivaar sukhi parivaar” is not going to help as our people are used to and ignore the numerous, save water, save gas, kind of insipid advertisements that the government rolls out from time to time. If the government is really sincere then it has to hire people to think like the guys who made that Airtel ad. Point out to the common man how unchecked population is affecting him on a personal, more intimate level.

My maid takes a day off when she has to buy ration as the que starts forming by 4 am in the morning in front of the ration shop. She has to get up at 4am everyday to catch water as water comes for just an hour in the slum she is living in. However if you ask her why she has to go struggle for the basics amenities of life she doesn’t have a clue. She thinks that shortage is a fact of life and will not think twice about having another child. She already has four kids.

As more and more working couples are opting for just one kid, the percentage of children who will get good education compared to the number of children who will not, will be abysmally low. In the not so distant future the uneducated and or partially literate will horribly outnumber the literate productive taxpaying population. How will the FM run this nation then? Will we as a country become a cheap manual labor pool vis a vis the technical talent pool we are today?

A scary scenario indeed!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Popping the bubbly!

A superrrr quarter review!
An incredibly successful multicity marketing campaign!!
A commedation mail from the big boss himself!!!
And a shiny new plaque that says
"Outstanding Employee of the Third Quarter"!!!!

Today has been the most satisfying day of my life, professionally! I hot or am I hot!!!


p.s Extremely sorry for being so modest, but if I could, I would hang this post in the sky for the whole world to see!!!


Saturday, March 17, 2007


All pictures courtesy: Corbis

Summer is here...! I have always hated summers but summers as a kid are full of joyful memories...of Final Exams,half day school and coming home early, playing all afternoon and generally enjoying life as another academic year came to a close. Till school closed we stayed in Bangalore and after that it was Kerala till school opened.

The summers I spent in Bangalore remind me of so many things:

Water melons: These would arrive in the Bangalore markets by January. We would buy them only when the weather heated up as eating water melon in the cold is no fun at all. We ate them plain…it was like biting into fragrant snow. My mom made watermelon juice too but nothing like eating watermelon as it is.

Grapes: Summers is the best time to eat grapes! I would keep grapes in the freezer of the fridge and after a time they became sweet cold grape ice!!! Amazingly simple to make fruit ice! I still do that! :)

Lassi: I think I might have broken some kinda record for drinking lassis. Somehow I was never fond of salty lassis. I preferred sweet lassis and I still do. In fact I survived more of liquid diet than solid diet during summer.

Splashing water with the garden hose: A favorite pastime. Most of my friends came home during weekend and holidays, as there is so much place to run around in my house, besides the village and farms close by. After running around and getting heated up, we would take the garden hose or the farm sprinklers and get ourselves thoroughly wet. It was the most fun activity and was usually done without getting caught. And the clothes dried just as easily in the heat.

Lemon Juice: I think my mom must have made gazillion litres of lemon juice during summers. I still love freshly squeezed lime juice and am waiting for the heat to hit us to drink a glass of lemon juice Kerala ishtyle.

Sugar Cane Juice: My mouth is watering already as I write this :p I think I pushed up sales graph of sugarcane juice wallahs a couple of miles higher on the chart. "Typhoid Juice", "Lizard Juice", etc were some terms my Dad used to keep us off sugar cane juice but that was an impossibility as these guys set up stalls every where, making it convenient to lop across the street and have a chilled glass far away from the watchful eyes of our parents. Regular news of kids who were hospitalized due to sugar cane juice and Ice Cream from roadside vendors which were read aloud had absolutely no effect on us.

Cucumber: Summers are synonymous with Cucumbers in Bangalore. And the Cucumber sellers had this wonderful masalas that made this enormously tasty veggie tastier. My favorite was a liquidy coriander chutney that the cart fellow would smear over the cucumber...yummmm.

Swing: Summers remind me of the swing at home. Somehow swinging in the cold Bangalore weather was no fun. But summers time ‘swinging’ was a treat!. As the swing rose higher and higher we felt like we were flying over the flowers and trees. It was an awesome feeling!

Summers and summer holidays were so much fun when we were in school and college. I am making this into a tag as I think we should relive from time to time the fun times we have had.

1. Write 8 things you enjoyed doing during summer/summer holidays.
2. Tag some people with the happy memories! (No need to post pictures!)

So I tag Alexis, Ganja Turtle, Neihal, Jiby, Jeseem, Fleiger, Mathew and Mind Curry to do The Sunshine Tag! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ad-ministering public health

Summer is approaching and the Central Govt. is floating quite few ads on Radio to warn people of the possibility of outbreak of diseases and teach the public the basics of health and hygiene.

Man one: Lala please give me some chole.
Man two: Why lala, salt is less today, didn’t let your sweat drip in the food? (derisive laughter)
Man two: And food is tasteless today, why… did you wash your hands before you cooked today? (derisive laughter)
Man two again: How can this food compare to the good taste of food served in dirty plates? (derisive laughter again)

Till here the ad is scripted very well in Hindi. Then comes this part that drives home the point that our Ministers have their ears to the ground and know what they are talking about.

'Sushma Swarajish' voice: This is no laughing matter. Insist on your food vendor washing his hands thoroughly before cooking, using clean and purified water for cooking and sterilising the plates for your good health.

This is a public service announcement bought to you by the Government of India.

(loud derisive laughter from silverine!!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Red caste system

It was sometime in middle school that I was introduced to Communism via a lesson in Social Studies. As the teacher explained Communism, it’s birth and evolution and then the revolutions, I couldn't help but be impressed with the system. It looked picture prefect and the school text book laid a wonderful picture of Utopian nations like China, Russia and some other communist’s countries. This seemed like such a nice system where everyone had a job and everyone was equal and there was happiness and contentment all around. I could almost feel the contentment oozing out of the text book. So it was with stars in my eyes that I came home that day and as usual regurgitated the whole thing to my Dad. My Dad didn’t say anything as I was too young then to talk of government owning the means of production, principles of supply and demand etc.

Then I heard an observation by my cousin sister who used to fly with ‘Indian Airlines’ in the eighties. This observation opened my eyes in a way no book could. She talked of plane loads of Russians who came in droves to India on holiday in the 80’s. After flying for many years she had by now learnt to classify passengers at first sight. From these commie hordes she clearly discerned three or four types of people, which I later realized was a type of class system followed in communist countries.

The first class, was well educated, spoke good English and would refuse anything served on board. They would insist on French Coffee, Swiss Cheese etc which ‘Indian Airlines’ did not carry. So they preferred to eat nothing on board. They wore the latest fashion from Paris and Milan and they were attired from head to toe in designer clothes. They reeked “wealth”. This type also stayed in 5 star hotels as she would see them checking in when the crew checked into the same hotel.

The second class was the bureaucrats who had uniformed army men escorting them and given preferential treatment etc. They were polite and would take whatever was offered to eat. But the crew was intructed to take care of them as they were ‘Diplomats”. They would be met at the tarmac with cars that would whisk them off.

The third type was a little less high brow. They were polite and spoke a little English and usually checked into two and three star hotels.

The fourth type was a boisterous junglee type. This class formed the largest number among the Russians tourists. They were the laborers of the Communist economy. They were uncouth but friendly and grabbed whatever was on offer for free like sweets, cotton, Saunf etc. They were herded like cattle and stayed in really cheap hotels. They were treated real badly by the accompanying Russian escort and were used to being treated like crap.

From my cousin’s sisters observation I couldn't help but feel that no matter what the system we follow, we cannot escape classification. How much ever we try to create an equal society, we will fail as no man is made equal. There are some of us who are physically fit, while some are mentally superior. Some are good in business while others are good in numbers. When such disparity lies among humans, a system like Communism was bound to fail or flourish only under duress.

In the case presented above it is clearly visible that a sort of caste system is in practise in Communists countries. Besides an unofficial reward system exists to reward the intellect and productivity of outstanding citizens among them. It is a sort of invisible Capitalism. Unbelievable!!

( One of the best posts on this issue is here)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Woe'men's Day!

Happy Women’s Day to all of you gals out there. Today was a day of fun and excitement at the office with flowers for the ladies and a special lunch too. Besides, today was a significant day as most of us remembered to wish each other and sent out mushy ppt's and html mails with roses and pictures of women in various avataars.

After lunch we were as usual on a stroll around the campus when a senior colleague narrated an incident that happened some years ago when she was in college. Her Dad had just retired from a public sector company and the family decided to go back and settle down in their home town, Trivandrum. My colleague enrolled in a college in Trivandrum. One day on the way to college, at a road junction, some guys mouthed some obscenities at her. Enraged, as she had never heard such filth before in Mumbai where she had studied earlier, she confronted the guys and proceeded to give them a ticking off. She was polite in her language. The guys got aggressive when they heard her and demanded and apology for "thinking too much of herself." In their own words, when a girl walks on the road she invites such attention. If she was too particular then she could come to college in a car or sit at home, they said.

Soon the boys gathered a crowd and began heckling her. Someone called the police who came and took and girl and the boys concerned to the station. Soon a whole group of college students from the boy’s college landed up at the station, shouting slogans and asking her to apologize. The Inspector, sensing the situation asked to apologize. He told her that he understood her predicament but this was Kerala and the only way out for her was to apologize. The girl held her ground. Soon her father was called for. The Inspector again pleaded with him to ask his daughter to apologize. Instead of asking his daughter to apologize, the old man walked out of the station and amidst heckling and booing held his hand up in bought them together and apologized for his daughter’s behavior. Emboldened by this move the cops managed to tell the boys to disperse.

A few weeks later the girl and her family moved to Chennai. The public humiliation and the derisive laughter of neighbors was too much. There was much rejoicing in the community for teaching “the mumbai” girl a lesson. Satisfaction all around. They had taught another “westernized girl” to toe the line.

Ironically this happened the day after International Women’s Day. And more ironically this happened in the most literate State in India.

Happy Women's Day to all of you lovely ladies,young and old and not so old. You gals rock!!! :)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The smooth and potholed spiritual road

Warning: Very very long post

Sometime back during a conversation between me and my colleague, it came out that he was a rabid Atheist. And like most Atheists this gentleman too tried to bait me, a believer into an argument about the existence of an entity called, God. This gentleman lets call him SJ, felt that even without following a religion he was a good human being as any other religious person. He really didn’t need to go to Church or bow and scrape his knees on the Church floor to be a good human being. I asked him how he had become in his own words a “reasonably good human” being. He told me that he did what he thought was right, followed his conscience and was reasonably nice to people. I then asked him how he had learnt to judge what was right and wrong. He was a bit taken aback and gave me a reasonably unconvincing answer. I then pointed out to him that it was his God fearing parents who had influenced him the most during his growing up years and it was their beliefs that shaped him to be what he is today. He had imbibed the values of Christianity and after a point like a child who is on walker, discarded the walker and begun to walk alone. I thought he would slap me from the expression on his face.

This post is not about how corrupt religion has become or about the evils perpetrated in the name of religion. This post is about a great way of life called Christianity that now lies in the hands of nincompoops. Today, Christianity is a great learning ground for a child. We grow up learning that God loves the poor and meek. We are told to help the needy and sick and the downtrodden and we learn that it is our duty to help others in distress. Our simple questions are answered eloquently if we are lucky, by people like Sr. Mary.

Then comes adolescence and suddenly there is no one to guide us or answer the complex questions that is aroused in the mind of the young adult by the very teachings of Christianity. The usual clich├ęd answers by incompetent spiritual leaders and teachers lead to disillusionment and finally for some a fall away from the Church. You cannot teach people to think independently and then bullshit them. And herein lies a vacuum that the Church should seriously look into. The challenge lies in addressing this generation that the Church had nurtured at a young age. There is no one to take on the mantle from the primary and secondary Catechism teachers. Kids are left in a limbo.

Another area the Church has to change in is the attitude of Priest that they are owners of the Church. They preach from the pulpit that “you dear people are the Church, not this building” but advise them on matters regarding the Church and they brush you aside. Recently I attended a more than jam packed Sunday Mass at one of the overflowing Churches in Bangalore. After the mass I asked the Parish priest why he wasn’t increasing the frequency of Sunday Masses like other Churches and his flippant answer was that the faithful should not mind the minor discomforts of a crowded Church. I wanted to do some really unchristian things to him right then.

The Church should be made a community property and not a place where you come as a infrequent visitor on Sundays. When you give the onus of the Church in the hands of a few people, then you have to ensure that these people are squeaky clean or else as representatives of the Church a single wrong move by them can jeopardize the Church itself.

A vast majority of people like me still follow the religion ignoring the nincompoops that our religious leaders are, because we realize that we are what we are to a great extent due to our religion and ironically this religion has also enlightened us to recognize the nincompoops and ignore them.

I now practice my religion on my own volition and not because I am born to Christian parents. Which I think what Christianity is all about. It is not about the word ‘Christian’ in the religion column of a Passport form. Of course I will slap you back if you slap me…I won’t turn the other cheek which is why I am still Silverine and not St Silverine. But I also believe that had I been born a non Christian I would have eventually converted to Christianity at some point in my life.

This post is not about the merits of demerits of Christianity or other religions and so comments on the same are not welcome. This is just a dispassionate look at the state of the Church today.

Thank you Mind Curry for finally prodding me to right about something I wanted to write for a long time with your excellent post.

And apologies if I sound preachy, feel free to throw eggs on the monitor and yes, some green chillies too and ...guess you all know the drill by now :p