Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Obama rides Sam-pathy wave July 3, 2008

Filed under: India — gurdas @ :

I took note of the news that US Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama paid tribute to ex Indian army chief, Sam Manekshaw. That when the legendary soldier is mostly unknown in his own country (for 90 out of 100 Indians, the name Sam Manekshaw would not ring a bell).

In Obama’s words: ”I offer my deep condolences to the people of India, on the passing of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was a legendary soldier, a patriot, and an inspiration to his fellow citizens.”

Now, that is an astute politician. Such a difference from the foreign policy dodo that Prez. Bush was when he took office.

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Cows and Humans June 11, 2008

Sayajigunj, Vadodara, India. 2008

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In India, there is peaceful coexistence of domestic animals and humans. It is inevitable given the almost animal like living conditions of so many Indians.

We are poor by choice. Poverty has become a state of mind. The little that the government does is frittered away by its own corrupt officials and bureaucracy.

And in the midst of all this, is the tragic apathy of city dwelling middle class and rich to the plight of the underprivileged who are easily labelled as lazy and thieves. It is almost impossible to think of God on a hungry stomach, how then can we expect the exploited to act responsible?

I urge you to play your role (small or big) in removing poverty and illiteracy from our land. How about shouldering the education of two poor kids?

 

Who owns my car? May 1, 2008

After a long wait, I purchased a car last year. Though unpretentious, I love it for the opportunity it provided to travel new places.

I also drive it to office and park along the kerb. And this is becoming a source of amusement. Like every nook and corner of my country, there are stray dogs in the locality where my office is. The resident stray bitch gave a litter some months ago and the pups are now grown up. They have taken after their mother – shiny smooth brown coat, thin slender body and a laid back attitude towards life. It takes a lot to unruffle them.

Since summer is here, the pack is constantly on the lookout for shade to lie down and take a nap. For some inexplicable reason they have adopted the ground beneath my car as their residence. Initially, they would occupy that space when I am not around and scamper away the moment I reached close to my car. But that is fast changing.

The first change was they stopped scampering away until I started the engine. No sir, the whole act of getting in and closing doors was not enough signal for them to move out. It was MY responsibility to ensure they have enough warning and are not harmed when I start the engine and drive away. On more than one occasion, I had to talk to them and announce my presence. You should have seen the look they give me when I do that. I have to hold on tightly to self-esteem.

However, the saving grace remained that their ‘entry’ showed some respect for me; that is they occupied the space after I have parked and walked a certain distance away from the vehicle.

But that was then. Now, they stand up when they see me approaching the slot where I park. And they are already beneath the car before I have stopped the engine, let alone come out or walked away!! Come on guys, give me some space?

Thank God they cannot drive. Had that been the case, they might have as well kicked me out and taken complete possession of the vehicle. They leave no opportunity go by to give me the message that I am nothing but a caretaker who must keep the vehicle clean and ensure it is parked and ready for them before the sun is overhead.

I wonder what opinion they have of me. I doubt they consider me a threat whatsoever. I do hope that does not mean they do not respect me. And I pray that they love me.

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ps: a few months ago, when the weather was more pleasant and the sun welcome, they had taken a fancy to the roof of my car.

 

India: The Music Edition April 29, 2008

Filed under: Ethics and Values,India,life — gurdas @ :

Have you noticed the vital role music plays in the life of Indians and India? Has this how it has always been, say even in 60s and 70s?

In factories, workshops, autorickshaws, paan shops, beauty parlours, five star hotels, restaurants, bus stands, laundry shops, neighbour’s house and your bedroom, music is what keeps India smiling. The cheaper, filthier and hotter the place, the louder the music. As if the diaphragm is propelled by the cheapness of its audience’s existence.

More as a rule than an exception, I find music being used to keep the workforce engrossed. I see it invariably in small scale factories and I saw it at the plant of India’s largest, correction – the world’s largest two wheeler manufacturer. And I wonder why this obsession with music. Is it to camouflage the fact that working conditions and pay packages are nothing to smile about? Music is free. On the other hand it will cost to keep the work area air conditioned, work hours human and pay consummate with skill.

What about developed countries? Do they play music (over public systems) in their offices and factories?

Indian musicians are doing a great service to the poor – by giving them a reason to smile. They are doing a greater service to the rich – by giving them a reason to smile at the cost of the poor.

 

Dancers & Drummers March 22, 2008

Filed under: India — gurdas @ :
Tags: , , ,

Holi_Dancers

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Holi_Drummers

 

Kick it On! February 29, 2008

The year was 1985 and I was in the middle of my first crush. On a certain Ms. Rashmi, my 3rd grade Science teacher.

Sometime during those wonder years, we got our first television set. The brand, Televista, now dead for more than a decade, was a household name then. With a 20inch screen, Black&White capabilities, a blue tinted add-on screen to give some colour, and only one channel (state run Doordarshan), this marvel of technology made my home the evening watering hole for the neighbourhood.

8pm on Wednesdays were specially packed. That was when the great Indian song show “Chitrahar” was on air. Supriya, Sujata, Bantu, Pupoon, Guddi, Jhumri and just about everyone between 4 and 14 years and within 50meters of my house would assemble into a small 11feet by 11feet room. Limbs got crushed, clothes lost their shape and nobody cared who sat next to them. On days when Mom was feeling particularly happy, she would pass around those crispy crackers that slipped over a finger like a pipe. Each kid got exactly four, so that all fingers on an arm (except the thumb) got dressed in blue, green, yellow and red.

And there was one person in the room whose job was to kick hard. That person was me.

Now this TV of ours, Televista, developed a syndrome of blanking out without warning. Pop!, completely blank it went every once in a while. After it happened a few times, we discovered that kicking the legs of the table (which it sat upon) would invariably bring it back to life. The longer the duration since the last blank, the more kicks it needed. A thumb rule of 1 kick for every 10 minutes. So, if it blanked after 30 minutes of OK performance, all you needed to do was kick it hard 3 times in quick succession.

What a donkey it made of me. Standing there beside it, ready to kick whenever the screen blanked.

But as with all things children, the routine became a game. In the darkness one could hear shouts of “2 kicks!”,  “no only 1”. This put me under tremendous pressure. To salvage my honour I had to ensure I got the TV alive within the guestimated number of kicks. Over the first few weeks, the room developed a palpable tension from waiting for the next blankout. The TV grabbed as much mindspace as the programmes it displayed.

The game grew. Some of my friends started demanding for the “right to kick”. I acquiesced, reluctantly. I am sure that TV of ours gave back more than its value. It provided exercise, healthy competition, better footballers and real fun.

In all the fun, nobody gave a thought to the table. I am informed that the table stood the acid test of being kicked for about 2 years. After which we replaced the Televista.

Where is that table? I must say “thank you” to it.

 

The WC and the guard December 3, 2007

I had purchased an apartment last year and, as the building nears completion, some families have moved in. I decided to move in only when the building is fully done. But I am involved in issues of common maintenance and upkeep.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog: the common water closet (WC), its usage, and maintenance.

The ground floor is dedicated to parking and there is provision for a guard room which has an attached WC. Who would have thought the WC would reveal as much as it did how people think and if I am say so, what ails the Indian’s mindset.

My neighbours in the building (some 5 other families) have a major grudge that people other than the guard use this common WC. I on the other hand thought that was exactly its function – that anyone who attends or visits our building and does not have access to the apartments should gladly use our common WC. And since it is in our building, we should be keeping it as clean as we would the bathrooms inside our apartments.

But was I wrong!

Everyone else was of the view that allowing anyone other than the guard to use the WC was unacceptable. Here’s more or less the conversation that took place yesterday during a flat owners review meeting:

Mr. X: And there is the issue of the common WC

Mr. Y: Yes, yes! We should lay down strict norms and ensure the guard does not allow anyone other than himself to use the WC.

Me: I think we need to use a softer approach and one which is both practical and human. I am uncomfortable that someone visiting our building who has the urge to answer nature’s call be refused to use the WC. It is almost inhuman.

Mr. X: You do not understand. The servants and labourers misuse the WC and dirty it. If we enforce upon the guard what is expected then the WC will remain clean.

Me: The best way to keep the WC spic and span is to lock it and not let anyone use it. Not even the guard. (Continuing) On a more practical note I think we need to accept that the WC will get dirty and will demand frequent cleaning. I suggest we simply do three things (1) Ensure we supply adequate cleaning material for the common WC (2) Tell the cleaning person to give the common WC a little more effort (3) Tell the guard he must make all possible efforts to keep it clean and convey the message to whosoever wishes to use the WC

Mr. X: That way we will soon have people from adjoining buildings also using our WC!

Me (I wanted to say “so what?” but toned down to say): We can ask the guard to not allow that. However, we cannot create a fight over it.

Mr. Y: Why should we be concerned? What were these people doing before our WC?

Me: We must accept that going to the toilet is not an act of fun. One needs to do it when one needs to do it. So, either we make our WC available by choice or someone will use it by ‘stealing’ or worse, not use it and take the call in public view (which is a common sight in India).

Mr. Z: The guard will still allow people because it involves his relationship with some of the people working in our building. However, if he knows we discourage this, he will limit the use to minimum.

Me: I again disagree. What you are saying is we force the guard to cheat. We know he must allow some people and at the same time we are telling him not to allow anyone. So, each time the guard allows someone, he knows he has cheated. Which in turn means he will come to dislike the WC. Which in turn means he will disown it. Which in turn means he will give two hoots whether it is clean or not.

Me: I believe we must give the guard the “ownership” of the WC. He is expected to allow anyone. At the same time, he can take the call of not allowing someone who he knows is not taking due usage care. We make the guard the owner and that automatically makes him responsible for cleanliness. Our job is simply to review and supply cleaning material.

They were staring at me as if I was talking Greek.

The gentle argument continued and I was out voted 4:1. It was decided that the guard will be asked not to allow anyone to use the WC.

I came out amused and saddened by this instance of short-sightedness and policy “made to fail”. We were simply creating a liar out of the guard. For no fault of his. We know what is going to happen – many people other than the guard will use the WC.
And what do we do – we do not provide to counteract the truth, we simply make a policy to circumvent the truth. How I wish we had been proactive. What stops us from going so far as to laying an award for the guard if we find the WC as clean as expected? An award of 450 rupees a month would mean just 50 rupees extra contribution for each apartment owner. The benefits are far outreaching than a clean WC. The guard gets more responsible and it will show in his other duties. But most of all, we create a system which functions on its own force.

To me this episode is a mirror to how India functions. From the Parliament, down to nine apartment buildings like mine.

In India, we want to assert our rights on people less empowered than us. We will not provide for what is bound to happen. We will simply create enough laws so that accountability goes for a toss and everyone wins by lying and cheating.

That’s why the country has gone down the flush pipe of a WC.