Monday, April 20, 2015

Trash Can Philosphy....


I once heard someone call someone a Trash can.  Clearly, not Trash, but Trash Can.

And it really set me thinking.

Contents of a Trash Can, regardless of their origin, history, nature and value, are basically regarded as good-for-nothing or plain junk.

While being called "Trash",  may have something to do with the thrower's concept of dirt clashing with  the  throwee's concept of right, wrong, and debatable, and the thrower's concept of beauty, misguided sense of high standards,  inability to tolerate anything other than one's own opinion, and a very touchy Amygdala,  being called  a Trash Can is something else.

It says that one is then a fitting receptacle for  everything useless and bad.

It describes an ability  to mindlessly accept anything that is thrown at you. And a pathological  inability to refuse. It could be really good useful things.  But thrown at you as trash, they lose value.  A trash can's job is to be available, open, and accepting. Sometimes it overflows, and causes problems, and dogs, scavengers, and others are known sometimes solve this peril of plenty. Cows in particular are excellent trash researchers.

Across the century,  as potential and now confirmed Trash Cans, there has been  so much physical imbibing of trash by us.

Harmful chemicals used in ripening fruits, and making them look so called color perfect.  Which we so admire and eat, every season. Mindless marketing of leafy greens grown  in suspect soils by the railway track, and an avid buying of these by those who think this is cheap.

Cooking substances cleverly adulterated by unscrupulous traders/manufacturers, and blindly used by an entire generation smitten by and taken in by ads, as metanil yellow, iron filings, sawdust , papaya seeds etc get a new life in your trash can anatomy.

Carcinogenic chemicals in shampoos, fragrances, deos and creams,  which hide maliciously behind shining hair, bouncy silky hair, fairness creams , age controlling creams as they lather and dry, leaving all the bad stuff quietly behind.

Careless food labeling, unverified and unchecked , particularly where ready to eat fast food is concerned.  A flood of trans fats, MSG and sodium, that hides behind fancy pictures, misleading advertising.  Unscrupulous  bottling of vague water , fancy labels, and selling to those , away from metros, desperate in thirst.  

There is even more when  someone is labelled a  Trash Can.

Mental imbibing  . Of Trash.

Mostly Pressure Trash .

The ability to accept random nonsense as gospel truth under pressure, mostly family and society related.  A newly developed ability to close eyes and ears and mouth at important times, sometimes defying anatomy in the case of ears.

The ability to lose the use of logic, because you are seen to stand out in defiance.

The ability to accept wide ranging abuse, and and the capacity to hear about it being justified.

The tendency to listen to rumors and accept it as scientific fact.
     
The ability to  stand as an onlooker, under some one's pressured teaching, when something terrible is happening to someone around you.

The ability to be part of a gutless herd , because it is fashionable to make sexist jokes, insult , and use shocking swear words , and to hell with everything and everyone else.

The list of Mental Trash is endless. 

In a world where everyone wants quick results, status, and   an attainment of some kind of dubious standards defined by someone selling something, be it false dreams or something concrete,  it is so easy being a Trash Can.

Sometimes, the Body rebels, and  sometimes the Mind.   Of course this assumes that the Trash Can has a mind.

The body may sometimes be treated by the advances in science, at huge costs.  The mind, already in Trash Can mode, is willing to accept it all.

When it is a question of the mind, the treatment is often very specific, involves many others, support systems, and observers.  Sometimes medicines too.  And it is all about remembering that you are the Trash can and not the voluminous Trash itself. And that, as in a real world, the Trash Can is to be emptied .

This is the age of cell phones and Apps.  There is an App for everything.

I wonder if we as humans could download an App called "UnTrash"  and install it somewhere in our brains.

Any Trash detected approaching you, and the App  would ring alarm bells in your ears, and create an allergy on your skin.    Should be so useful, given that most folks today walk around with earphones in their ears.

However.

Nothing will stop someone from calling someone else a Trash Can.   But then one can always be, an Intelligent Trash Can.

And you don't need to search or this Intelligent App on any Play Stores.

History says that the first Intelligent Trash Can happened way before Intel et al were born.

That was when we started the first compost pit.   







 







   

Friday, April 17, 2015

Memories, Melbourne and other Matters......


My mother grew up at a time, when computers were not only not there, they weren't even on any horizon that she could see.  While life went  on peacefully with traditional hardware making things in life relatively easy,  the software was mostly in the head.


At some point, calculators happened, and the initial reaction was that they threatened the "learn your tables" philosophy.  The progression, if one can call it that was interesting.  My parents and their contemporaries knew tables, of 1/4, 1/2,  3/4 , 3/2 , and one could sense immediate applications of the same when one accompanied folks to the mandai or vegetable market. The vendors probably knew the tables too, and a decent truthful calculation by the vendor often earned respect from the purchasing parent.   As children we learned tables of all integers till 30, and had to recite them daily before dinner.  Somehow, we escaped fractions.

It was not just the mathematics.  There was a method to remembering things.  You associated events with people. You associated, relatives with people. You associated professions with people. And if you discovered any cross linkages, you remembered those too,  creating more and more links and indexes as life went on.  All sitting nicely in your  brain.

As an adult, it was fairly common for me to meet at my home  in Mumbai,  someone from , say Pune,  and sense that maybe I knew them. A quick call to my mother, and a summary later, she would rattle off how the person was linked to some one's someone, who was connected to me in a  roundabout way.   In the Maharashtrian way of defining relatives, aunts/uncles/nephews/nieces  are never defined in general, but have specific names based on how they originated, which side of the family, and how close (once removed, twice removed etc). It was amazing that my mother's generation had this inborn constantly updated mental software, that allowed them to link people, and more important, store and retrieve this information at random and at will.

And so, when my mother identified someone  as someone's brother-in-law's maternal aunt's  cousin's daughter ,  a light was supposed to go off in my head.   And all this time it was totally clear as crystal to my mother, how we knew the person, as I tried to follow half way there, and gave up.  

One of the reasons they were able to do this, is because they continuously used their brains, and kept the algorithm alive.  "Use it or Lose it" was not an old saying, but was really meant for us.

Some of it rubbed off on me . For other times, there is always Facebook.

A few days ago, I got a message from someone in Melbourne. It was someone (SG) who often commented on some food poetry  I wrote on a friend's  recipe posts.  I didn't know the lady, but had, as they say, seen her around on Facebook.

Turns out, that her uncle (twice removed, ie not a direct relation, but through  her mother's aunt) was  on her FB friends list, and she found me on that uncle's friends list. ( It happens that I am related to him by marriage).  She ecstatically messaged me defining the complete people link in detail, and giving some of her own family history, and the place where she spent her childhood years.

Turns out that , my in-laws spent their early married years, with their young children, in the same city , same area, and when I messaged her back with this information, she was probably thrilled to bits.  She told me , that she had actually spent her childhood knowing my in laws, knew the entire family complete with their childhood pet names, and often stayed over at their place as a child.

This lady is older than me, (I am 65), and if you actually analyze all the linkages of the people that link me to her, I end up being an aunt of hers.....

As if this was not enough, the next evening, I got another message from someone else (SC) in Melbourne, mentioning my mother by name , and asking if I was her daughter. Enthused, we spoke on the phone, and it turns out that she knew my mother very well about 35 years ago, and then lost touch after going to Australia.  This lady too , is 71, and says she remembers meeting me at my parents place in Mumbai.

Then again, in a manner which would have had my mother nodding in approval, the talk got around to some relatives on my fathers side that she was connected to by her marriage, . Five minutes later, it turned out that she even knew the person i worked for before I retired, and was his first landlady in his early marriage years.

Just when I was taking a deep breath, she tells me that that she and the previously mentioned SG (also now in Melbourne),  both have great grandmothers who were sisters. And somewhere in between she lets me know that I sound just like my mother when I speak ......

In a way, all this gladdens the heart.  People look out for folks and initiate friendships, value old links, and respect genealogies.  It isn't all about  being on Facebook and "liking".  It isn't  about beeps and notifications reminding you about events like birthdays, family group messages and stuff.  It isn't about operating systems outside your brain reminding you about who is who, and offering you a template about what's a good thing to say to them.

I have nothing against computers, cell phones and their capabilities.  I have everything against lazy brains that leave everything to these contraptions, and blindly ape murdered English language syntax,  and substitute  screen games for human conversation.

Having heard about fancy chess folks  who play against computers, it  boggles the mind to think, that perhaps, my  mother , had she been alive today , could have played a game against a computer, trying to find the connection between me and the above two ladies. 

Possibly , the machine would have gone into an infinite loop trying to figure out who was  who, amidst all the agitated relational databases and indices .

She would have won, hands down.

Mind you, hands down, but not idle hands. She would have been busy making something for her grand kids, while explaining the linkup to me.....

Just  remembering her today.  Her birthday . She would have been 98......

      
 




     

Saturday, April 04, 2015

#Mychoice Festival


Deepika Padukone's  #mychoice  #Empowerment Video, made by Homi Adajania went viral over the Net. Very slickly made, geared to a certain audience, it evoked tons of reactions, and everyone and their uncle are now making videos .

What is not known is that this has inspired so many others , to whom #Empowerment  is something someone spells wrong, instead of saying "I am powered" .

Never mind. What is important is the POWER and the #mychoice video

Balu Rasad Zadav,  well known exponent of the saying "when you empower a politician you empower generations to come", has just made one.  Set in a field, green after unseasonal rains, interspersed with cows from his shed , he sits on a charpoy, bare chested in the sun, chewing away many things. " Its #mychoice, whether I head the state, or a family member does. Its also #mychoice to decide where to apply the word "Communal forces". So what if I cannot spell empowerment.  . (Turns around and spits, as a sidey dives with a spitoon singing Gimme Red ).  "The Railways have never been the same since I left. Harvard students  never came after I left. So finally, i had to send my 40 year old married daughter to a Harvard Conference. You must have seen her photos at a lectern speaking at the Student Conference.  Backdrop Dekho ji.  These Harvardwallahs are so communal, they said they did not invite her. Why ? Because she is 40 ?  (Chews some more, moves it all into the left cheek. Chews some more. Decides to spit, then changes his mind.) .Arre Bhai, in Delhi, 40 and 50 is the new 25. Powerful children of  powerful parents are permanently qualified . Age is just a mind set (Chews angrily, and spits to the right, misses the spittoon.  The flunky standing at second slip, moves into first. That's empowerment...      

Then there is Pinjrada Wall,  who has inadvertently appeared in so many videos, that he decided to finally make an official #mychoice video.  Naturally, set in the capital, amidst Lutyens architecture, he is seen driving up, sorry, being driven up, in a box type car, his face wrapped in a muffler.  "Its #mychoice what headgear to wear,  and yes, the Gandhi topi certainly keeps the muffler in place along with my red tooth contraption" .  He runs up the entrance steps of what could be his office, followed by a bunch of fellows in topis but without mufflers.  They are received with flowers, and once in the office, he beams as he sits on the chief's chair. Removes his topi, places it in front of him, smiles at the others seated opposite him, and starts plotting for a meeting. A knock on the office door, and he says "Kam in e..."  causing whoever was outside to freeze.   It's the cops with a police dog, come to sniff bugs in his office. The dog keeps pulling away from the door, refusing to go in. Pinjrada Wall is heard shouting    "Kam in e..."  louder, and the police dog drags his minder away from it all.  He probably knows, that the next word to be heard from the sanctum in "Kutte" , and he doesn't want to be part of any #mychoice videos.  On his way, the minder respectfully nods at Admiral Lakshman Das, Unshant Vibhushan, and  Yogasan Ladav, all walking away .

And how can you forget Mantri Tu-asa-kar,  minder of that wonderful small place on apna west coast,  who has been so stung, by so many folks in various levels of exposure , lying unchecked on the golden hot sands. He has been left with no alternative to make his own #mychoice  video, exhorting folks via a loudspeaker, as he rides in a jeep on the sand, telling them to cover themselves. " Who will marry you if you turn dark ?  It is a question of your future. Please getup, cover yourself; go have something cool in the cafe ; 20% off  to those who mention my name ".  After several rounds dodging brave ladies in sarees doing parasailing on the beach, and flying above him, he returns back to his office. The film shows him being saluted by his staff and escorted to his office, through a crowd on nurses gathered silently outside.  "Ab kya hua !  Kai zhala! "  he exclaims as he sinks into his deep chair with a towel on the backrest.  He receives a delegation , as his AC is put on its highest setting. Shuts his eyes, leans forward, and  tells them,  "All this sitting in the sun, will make you black, and ruin your marital prospects , so first thing is go home, apply besan haldi, wash your faces and come back again tomorrow ....  My government is committed to being Fair and Lovely ...."  

Hmm.

It really is not possible to review videos made by so many worthies.  Then someone had an idea of a shortcut method, that of editing videos of legislatures where the members tended to have free for all fights , threw hardware around and ran to the well to do a chorus in front of the speaker.

It's OK. Not everyone can be Deepika.

Not everyone can wear fashionable clothes, brilliant smiles,  proudly display artistically  radially flying hair (which actually reminds me of an Amul ad), and display what filmy types describe as a "come hither"  look.

All the better, for it allows the public to tell these guys, to simply "go thither"  and stay there.  


Friday, March 27, 2015

Aga Aga Mhashi....

Forget the World Cup 2015.  Dhoni. Smith. Maxwell. Kohli . New Zealand.  AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn.

Cricket , as we know it, has been through a number of changes.  Test Cricket, stuffily, but unwillingly turning a blind eye to One Day 50 over cricket; which in turn sniffed at, but still allowed the shenanigans of  T-20 Cricket. 

The original red cherry, changed color occasionally, with the advent of games played after the sun had set (some say on the British Empire).   The number of balls you could bowl, to get a team out , changed, depending on whether it was a 50 over One Day game or T20, twenty over game.  While bowlers got desperate and batsmen whipped their bats around , someone decided how many threatening balls you could bowl in an over, and made a rule. 

Cricket test whites, a completely inappropriate color for 5 days of swishing and falling in the outfield , not to mention rubbing balls on trousers  to polish them , have only benefited dhobis and now given way to kindergaarten type matching track pants and tees in horrible colors , thanks to completely irrelevant companies agreeing to sponsor costs. 

They even made rules, for where fixed number of fielders could stand for part of the game, in a circle way inside,  from the boundary. It is however pertinent to note that the Silly nomenclatures  such as ,  silly point, first slip, second slip have been kept unchanged.  Some guys went unnecessarily ballistic putting magic lights on the stumps and bails,after the stump microphone stuff got boring  with the wicketkeeper chitchat.

Which brings us to the point.  (And it is not Silly .)

The innovation in cricket. Moving stumps. Also alternatively called Sustainable Eco friendly Cricket.  

Refer the above graphic. 

Introducing, Dagdu, the first brand ambassador, and Aga Mhashi, the bovine second.

Aga Mhashi , the moving medium, that holds the stumps.  Needs no bails. Uses no wood . No cutting of trees.  Dagdu bats in style within a crease defined by 1.5 tail lengths. The aforesaid tail belonging to Aga Mhashi.

The pitch has copious amounts of straw, to keep the dust in check as well as for Aga Mhashi to imbibe , during the  team Milk Interval happens on and off  the field.

The amazing thing is that about wide balls.  Anything that gets bowled outside the four legs of Aga Mhashi is a wide ball, and the batting team gets 4 runs.

You can do away with the wicket keeper altogether  sometimes. And make him a slip or something. (Which might just be possible given some slippery stuff which could be around unpredictably).

 Anything that hits the batsman's legs, and then Aga Mhashi's legs, and bypasses the new slip (taking his name seriously) ,  gives you Leg byes, as Aga Mhashi turns and glares at Deep Fine Leg.  The no of runs you get depends on how many Aga Mhashi's legs the ball  touched.

You may not even need umpires .  Maybe just one at the bowling end.  The square leg umpire will possibly cease to exist, and so will the third umpire, who had nothing to do than watch TV the whole day. 

A careful perusal  of the game,  the actual play, a chewing of the cud while  coming to a decision, and a solid whack of the tail on the batsman's rear will indicate an "out!", while a sneeze and a snort will give him a "life" .

While the ICC is still coming to terms with this, BCCI has instructed IPL to ban red color uniforms on teams .  A suggestion to ban red outfits on T20 cheerleaders was shot down because of inadequate red yardage. Someone has typically gone to court on this, and the head of BCCI is currently consulting temples and astrologers because of Aga Mhashi's  place in our culture,  and the need to cut down on the  use of wood.

The software companies currently minting a fortune,  designing and coding softwares that show imaginary extrapolated balls flying over the stumps, hitting middle stump, missing leg stump etc, are in the throes of   alternate system design, given that the position of stumps will now be a function of time. At some point Aga Mhashi might sit, and stumps may be at knee level, harking back to the old  cricket days, with wicket keepers mobilizing to pounce.

Lot of theoretical research happening at the world's leading universities in England, using perturbation theory , trying to predict the path of the  natural movement of Aga Mhashi throughout the session, and therefore the stumps.  It has also introduced a new method of bowling where the ball zigzags to the batsman.  

Someone suggested that the symbol for the partial derivative in the differential equations used to predict random stump movement, was similar to Aga Mhashi's tail, and the ICC Committee has referred this to a select committee in Baramati, which has much bovine expertise.  Several Bihar politicians who have life long expertise in Aga Mhashi prototypes, as well as  Power Play, have been co-opted onto this committee.  

In the meanwhile, cricket goes on.  New Zealand and Australia, preparing for the One Day 50 over World Cup 2015 final ,  are thrilled for their respective dairy industries, and plans are afoot to get a prototype of Aga Mhashi as part of the presentation party during the final.

Dagdu, the iconic batsman pictured above, just had a question.  

He wanted to know, rather,  his bowler wanted to know,  if SarpaTee (underarm)  balls would be allowed, now that the stumps were raised and moving.

It appears that one of the Chapell brothers of Australia had something to say on that.     

Details awaited ....           

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Analogue thoughts in a Digital World....


Just came across The Death of Common Sense : When Love and Grief becomes "Disordered"....

We as humans have unique brains that evolve in a very fine way,  using external stimuli, internal memory systems,  reactive systems, information feedback loops and seamless connectivity with biological processes.  Every human being is unique, and knowingly or unknowingly , is great enriched by one's living experiences.  Be they, happy, sad, terrible, shocking, or what have you.

  Life actually flows on, with a large number of mental and physical tributaries joining in and many off-shoot flows departing along the side , all over time. And one often sees solutions to life problems within one's self, while being part of this flow.

  One of the undesired side effects of the digital age we live in, is the tendency to compartmentalize things and give them names. The tendency to sit on the banks of the flow and make smart comments.  Which are then organized, and uploaded somewhere,  celebrating one more label, one more theory, one more fancy phrase, where a hand on the shoulder would have sufficed.

Digital micro memory management and mega speeds have got everyone enamoured of high speed machine thinking, without paying attention to the entities being crunched. Fast publishing . 

And so today we have  the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM)  defining a "prolonged Grief Disorder (?)"  (question mark mine),  described as " "condition is characterized by intense grief that lasts longer than would be expected according to social norms and that causes impairment in daily functioning."   The article also mentions possible treatments with antidepressants/antianxiety drugs.

Hello !   Life, regardless of how standardized it is as in the west, and how varied and non standard it is , as in the east, has one thing in common. 

The subjects are human beings, who are all unique, have unique brains, which have learned and developed abilities, based on the society around them. Something that causes grief in one type of society may never get a second look in another type of society.  Some societies have too much standardization built in.  In western societies, average "bereavement leave " is 3 days.  And pharmacology kicks in when understanding fails.

Grief is NOT a malady.  It is a state of mind, not always a consequence of a physical personal loss; but it is a slow coming to terms with a turn  one's life has taken.  It could be  age related loss of elders, a sudden unexpected loss of someone, or shocking circumstances,  or some event related to a close friend or associate.

It is not something that happens, and then gets cured because some medicines teach your mind to think differently.

Societies have their own systems to alleviate grief of people. It is almost always based on interaction with others, and not on either isolation of self  or organized social interaction "norms"...

Some societies have lots of rituals, where the person is kept busy planning and participating, with the help of family, close and extended, while the grief flows silently in the mind in the background.  These rituals are not always religious, but are sometimes social. There are days specified /suggested  for getting back to your normal life after a loss, but that is about physical life. 

The mind is its own person, and takes its own time. All a function of a specific person who is grieving.  You cannot and should not push it. 

I have known situations where someone lost a child shortly after birth, and the immediate  aftermath, was spent dismantling cradles and things that would affect an aged elder closely related to the child, who was arriving, was physically afflicted with something that would become worse on facing the mental trauma on being subjected to such sights.  Personal grief quietly stepped aside to let something else occupy the visible mind. This, in a society, where elders in the family are valued, and not wished only on specific days etc.  The grief quietly seeped back, and kept simmering as it were, occasionally bowing to external situations, which was like a slow nuanced  effort to come back to normal.

Other situations, where  the answer to "To be or not to be"  was revealed quite suddenly in an earth shattering instant.   A grief , preceded,  sometimes followed by, a sense of huge anger, despite knowing that normal human life has a beginning and end.  A wanting to be alone, but social responsibilities, and memories of how a previous generation handled these things, teaching a thing or to about handling the grief.

Sometimes , losses are anticipated, and predictable. Even so, the feeling of hurt is the same. One often looks inward then, imagining the good times in the past. It is about a mind trying to quietly comfort itself.  The human mind is a very strong entity, and must be given the freedom to come out of it all, in a way it knows best. Forcing neurons and synapses to do things based on medications spoils it all . 

Grief is never about death alone.  It can be over disillusionment,  hurt,  sudden frightening-but-not-yet-life-threatening health issues, and unpleasant surprises .   This kind of grief sometimes explodes irrationally,  but then again, having people around  to vent it on, and talk it over with , often works , to start with.  This is not an organized talking, but a reaching out to those one values.  Sometimes, one quietly writes, perhaps to get it all off, as they say , because the written words can often be later deleted, but a hurtful remark to another person cannot. Such things work in societies where nuclearness is not the norm, and folks hang around the bereaved, trying to fill in the unhappy blanks, as it were , in  someone's troubled life.  While no one thinks they are interfering, these societies also have experienced family folks who can sense if someone is, and such folks are quietly discouraged.

And so Grief is NOT a disorder.  It cannot be quantified, and classified at discrete levels. Simple, Complicated, Post Traumatic Stress based, etc etc.  Barring situations where someone turns violent or goes into a dead faint, pharmacology is clearly not the answer.  A societal understanding  and empathy is.  

You cannot define what is a good period to grieve. You also cannot classify causes of grief.

What causes grief to someone, is a very very personal thing.  A lifetime of training the mind, based on one's bringing up, life experiences, environment, and realizing limitations ,  teaches one to handle it all, and one emerges stronger for it, in one's own time. 

Multitasking is a gift to mankind, and our brains do that in wondrous ways, constantly in learning mode.

We call that Common Sense. 

You cannot medicalize it.  And you cannot let it die. 

Because that grief , will be very very difficult to handle.....    

   

   



    

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cycle memories.....


Vehicles, per se, are entities that enable you to go from point A to point B, faster, than you would, on two God-given legs.

And back then, more than half a century ago, in a city that is often referred to in Marathi as  विद्येचे माहेरघर or the "Maika of Education",  children wold learn cycling as soon as they started primary school.

The one big gents adult size cycle, would be used by folks from small kids to older adults.  Insufficient height never deterred anybody, as kids stuck their legs across through gaps below the horizontal bar near the seat, and pedalled away at an angle, for any amount of distance. Then there were kids who managed to sit on the cycle seat with someone's help, developed a pedalling style where the pedals lost contact with the foot 50% of the time, but you managed to go forward, and stopped only by braking  and having the bike tilt sideways, as you reached a desperate leg to the ground. 

Learning to ride a bike was a family thing with brothers and sisters running alongside, holding your bike from behind, and beseeching you to fast-pedal, as you looked ahead, along the small road in your colony.  The fast pedalling took your mind off the anxiety , triggered by thoughts of someone letting go of their bike support, and by and by you realized that you created balance when you concentrated on the work in hand.  Several bushes were banged into in desperation to make the bike stop, till the existence of front and back (left and right) brakes was noted.  You never ever made a fuss about scraped knees, thorn pricks, bumps on the head etc. 

There would be cycle shops at almost every corner, renting bikes by the hour and day, handling punctures, and pumping air into tyres and tubes.  There were ladies bikes, with the missing central bar, and standard handle bars, in the sense that you did a sedate ride to school/college etc, and never gave the impression that you were racing, even if it was only against time.

Raleigh was a big name and it was a big day when I got my one and only bike.  Unlike today, vehicles then were lifetime purchases. For some reason , we all had to acquire a municipal badge to use a bike on the road, and this was affixed to the bike.  We also had small battery lamps which we would attach to the front of the handlebar when we rode in darkness.  Really posh folks would have something called a "dynamo lamps" which burned brighter the more you pedalled, thanks to some armature stuff attached somewhere near the rear wheel.

Riding miles and miles to school was very common, and one would often come across classmates on the road, and ride alongside discussing homeworks, teachers, rumors about where cops were checking cycle badges, etc.  When you were a bit early, there was an element of "cruising"  in your ride, as you  pedalled at a "comfort" pace. Cycle stands amidst trees in school compounds were very common, thanks to the easy availability of trees and compounds in those days.

There were often cycle trips to places of interest around Pune, carrying tiffin with us. And it was a very common site to see students and young kids, with badminton rackets fixed through the pillion carriers, cycling urgently to practice, early mornings and evenings.

Many of our schoolteachers also rode to school on their bikes, and it was common to see many many women using bicycles , some in uniforms, some in 6 yard sarees, and some , simply more at ease in 9 yard sarees.  No one gave them a second look.

It was , of course, customary for older folks to crib about random unruly cycle traffic around 10 am  in the morning and 5 pm in the evenings on weekdays, more so on the arterial popular roads.  
 
Of course , we had our share of those who did their version of eve teasing by letting off air in the bikes, and passing comments, but things were never as blatant as they are today. The words "cops" and "corruption" were then unrelated (to a young mind), and the most that happened when  they caught you without a municipal badge (then called billaa) on your bike, was they let off air from your bike wheels, and shouted at you, making you late for wherever you were going.

Going "double seat"  carrying friends either on the rod in front, or sitting pillion on the "carrier" was considered an advanced thing.  Small kids sat in an attachment to the handlebars in front, where there legs hung out over the front wheel, as they faced the traffic.

Cut to the time ,  in the last few decades of the last century, when my own kids were small,  and one remembers riding a cycle, doubleseat,  to the kindergaarten, to drop and pick up the child. Living on a wide institutional campus, it was common to see older male adults, giving doubleseat cycle rides to family adult females, proceeding to work/school etc.

 This was not in Pune, but in Mumbai, which, if you exclude our campus,  clearly, did not have the original bike culture described above. 

When the bicycles finally happened in Mumbai, it was with fancy gears, handlebars that made you bend in a permanently racing stance,  wearing some kind of skin tight unbreathable knee pants in wild colors, and  a helmet on the head to top it all. 

There was never a leisure element to these rides, it was almost always a fast dedicated kind of ride.

Today, in Mumbai, and possibly in Pune too,  motorized two wheelers with fancy names and powers have replaced bicycles. When kids get bicycles, they have training wheels, because no one has the time to run behind them , to teach them balance.
There  is a sense of obsolescence built in , given the bike sizes, clearly teaching today's kids, the theory of use and throw.

Buying a bicycle is no longer a big life event.  It is like buying a phone. There are constantly enhanced models.  We copy the west in the paraphernalia, but conveniently  ignore the road discipline, and the need for dedicated  cycle paths , for those , who still wish to commute, without petrol and diesel.   Cycle badges no longer exist, and cycles now cost more than a quarterly suburban first class railway pass.

People now buy stationary bikes, with no balance issues, and pedal away in place, withe the handle bars having laptop/notebook/cellphone attachments.  The only person you interact is with yourself, with your ears covered with some headphones, supposedly making music, while something else  simply records your distance in kilomteres as you pedal away , going nowhere.

And so it is with great delight that I present to you, folks in Mumbai, who are actually going somewhere useful, on their bicycle, possibly with all the gears missing, no fancy outfits, and just an amazing entrepreneurial streak.

Out in residential and shopping areas, there is sometimes a typical cycle bell that tinkles, indicating the arrival of the  Idli Wada bicycle  vendor.  Fresh Idlies offered for amazing prices, along with yummy accompaniments like saambar and chutney.  And yes, I see  dosa gridle too.... 

The bicycle and its attachments are a wonderful study , for , I think, students of management and design. 

The photo is courtesy Pushpa Moorjani , from her blogpost here.

Almost 27 years ago, my mother, then in her early 70's,  was visiting us , and my son, then in primary school, dragged her to see his new bike. It was something with  fancy easy rider handlebars, but was extendable to an adult size. Being on the taller side, he would drive it around confidently.

Grandchildren think grandmothers can do anything. This grandmother could cycle. 

He wanted to show off his bike, and cajoled my mother into riding on my own normal conservative ladies bike, with him on his fancy bike , for a short distance to the Devi Temple on campus.

On the return trip, fortified by prasad, the fellow insisted on exchanging bikes. His grandmother obliged. And folks on the Temple road were treated to a grandma on a easy rider style high handle bar cycle,  pedalling to the best of her ability, much in a Kakubai-meets-Peter-Fonda  style and trying to keep up with an excited grandchild.  

Much applause.

Today, the cycles are no more, the grandma is no more, and the children have grown up and moved on.

But the cycle memories remain......





Thursday, March 05, 2015

Kya Aapke pass ye sab hai ?


My friend Zephyr Nag just posted  Time to Give Beauty A MakeOver .  All about how commercial interests succeed so well today in always keeping young folks insecure where beauty/fashion/etc are concerned.

 5 years ago , I posted  what you see below.  Clearly, nothing as changed.

Now reposting, in solidarity with my friend Zephyr ...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
RICH ME,  POOR ME

A friend posted this on FB.

A site with the amazing name of 99labels.com has compiled a list of must-have fashion items for men and women . And they then ask you to indicate what you have and what you don't have , or are dying to acquire or whatever.....

My already open mouth kept getting bigger and bigger (along with the eyes), while the brain gets into a fast reverse mode. I don't even know some of the things.

Till a few years ago, a single pair of chappals was just fine; sturdy enough for daily skirmishes to get a foothold on the steps of the Mumbai buses, and beautiful enough to wear on "occasions". Fashion magazines were what you saw at an upmarket dentist's before he delved deep into the recesses of your mouth, and you ignored all those women shown wearing sarees the wrong way, mostly in what was considered a shameless manner.

The list kind of puts me in my place, socially.

Here is my take on the stuff.

For Women

1. Little Black Dress : Never had one. Little would be a misnomer.

2. Black Flats : But I've always worn flat black chappals or sandals. No heels, mostly out of consideration for other folks, possibly walking alongside. Teetering on heels is not considered smart.

3. Gold Hoop Earrings : The last time I wore them was in class VI. At that time they were not called hoops, but rings. I lost one that year carelessly, and then the earring variety changed in class VII. I now wear them as bangles.

4. Mac Waterproof Mascara : Not that I swim with full make up, but I wear glasses, which actually have a hidden benefit. People on the other side (in front) see my eyelashes automatically bigger due to the lens curvature.

5. A Black Clutch : I don't understand this fuss. Why a clutch ? Why not a decent shoulder purse? And why make a fuss about "hands-free" phones and stuff, when you ignore "hands-free" shoulder-hanging purses ? We always use a clutch when we go buying vegetables, so that we have one less bag to carry, and its easy to use it frequently at the various fruit and veggie stalls. And you can always stuff it amidst the beans and tomatoes.

6. Sling Bag : This is my eternal fashion statement. I have tons of these, in various sizes, and once even lugged a chutney stone by train , from Pune to Mumbai in one such bag, to the amazement and delight of the ladies in the second class ladies compartment of the Deccan Queen Express....

7. Gucci /Hermes-Berkin/Chanel/Prada Bag : Are these the guys who have been copying Linking Rd stuff and selling it in air conditioned shops, with uniformed security, and heavily accented two dimensional sales women ?

8. Light-Colored Cotton Saree : Is this anything to ask ? This is like asking if I have potatoes in the house. Just for the record, I have several. Sarees as well as potatoes.

9. Summer Scarf : In my childhood, this always meant something tightly wrapped around your hair and ears, when you cycled for early morning 6 am PE classes in college. But mostly in winter. While I can see , why someone tearing through Pune's two wheeler infested polluted traffic on a hot day might need one, I've realized today, that loosely throwing one or tying it fancily around your neck, for no particular reason , probably classifies you as smart.

10. Bright Colored Umbrella : We never match our umbrellas to our clothes. Tough and sturdy black umbrellas that fold once, are the ultimate fashion statement , amenable for use as protection from rain, and occasionally as a weapon, in Mumbai. Colored, beautiful umbrellas are OK, but have been known to be stolen from dripping buckets, kept outside Xerox shops, when you go in to get some important work done.

11. A Red/Purple/Blue Handbag - Why not orange and green ? Be patriotic, folks.

12. Over-Sized T-Shirt : Actually , 40 years ago, we started this fashion, when extremely tight fitting tees were considered hurtful to their eyes, by the elders. And we , naturally obeyed. Today this is being abused by folks wearing undersized tees and showing bare midriffs.

13. Pencil Skirt : What an amazing name for a short saree petticoat !

14. Black Crepe/Georgette Saree : I don't know about the "black", but I have an old one that goes under the name of "Binny's Georgette", which was avidly aspired for 30 years ago, and bought on some special occasion. Currently faced with the danger of being recycled into a kurta.

15. Louboutin Shoes/High Heels : Suffice it to say, I don't move in high circles, Louboutin or otherwise. I am so very down to earth, sometimes I even sink.

16. Le Smoking Jacket/Suit By YSL : Please. I don't smoke. Even if I did, I wouldn't need a jacket for that; shirts on which ashes fall can always be washed in Surf Ultra/Ariel.... And no suits, YSL or Raymonds or whatever, .....

17. Trench-Coat : NO. NO. NO. We have enough trenches dug on the road outside. Wearing a coat to fall inside them is a totally bad idea. Besides sweating buckets in the trench, you wont be able to climb out , using the girders.

18. Crisp White Cotton Button-Down Blouse/Shirt : Contrary to what folks at 99 labels say, my mother and mother-in-law actually had a monopoly on that , and it almost became a fashion statement since you wore it on just about any Kanjevaram silk saree, with a great disdain for "matching" . While shirts are not my kind of style, crisp white cotton kurtas may be seen in my part of the cupboard......

19. Solid Wash Jeans : While I haven't worn some for quite a few years, I must emphasize that they were always solidly washed. It surprises me that people don't wash their jeans, and they finally develop slits and tears, which are then flashed as fashion by shameless girls and aging heroes who should know better.

20. Leather Jacket : Are you mad ? Decent, God-fearing, law abiding ladies driving 38 year old Fiat cars, don't need leather jackets.

21. Pair Of Black Pumps : In my time, these were installed in gardens , and water gushed out of them. Maybe some can wear it in the Mumbai monsoon, and enjoy the water that will gush out as they walk. I have nothing more to say about this totally unnecessary footwear..

22. Knee-Length Boots : I give up. You will never understand the need to scratch the feet, and remove footwear so many times a day, when you visit folks, temples , kitchens etc. If all you do is oscillate in discos, then I can understand the need to have a weighted base.

23. Silver Earrings/Baalis : These are pretty, and always so delicate. I like to see them on younger folks, who carry them so well. But I am from the old-is-gold generation.

24. Leather Gloves : See item no 20. And no, I don't garden. because there isn't one.

25. Sexy Black/Red Stilettos : I always thought stilettos were weapons. Umbrellas are so much better. Besides, I challenge anyone to notice and describe my footwear in a general crowd. My one-of-a-kind chappals stand tall.

26. Turquoise Stone Bangles : I do have an antique one, from my late mother, which also has some other shades.

27. Ipod : Personally , no. Though the children always have one of these stuck in their years, to avoid hearing when I call....:-)

28. Platform Shoes : No. God has given me such a wonderful natural platform, I don't need these shoes. Then there is always the nearest suburban train station, and I am hoping they soon have the new Metro station near us...

29. Sexy Swimsuit : Hanging on to sides of the pool, drinking stuff, making eyes at similarly behaving men, and being photographed at stretching angles necessitates this item. One swims, but in decent Speedos (conservative cut), and once in the water, no one knows what style you wear. And one must have consideration for what other folks see. Cant inflict shocking visuals .

30. Toe Ring : This isn't fashion, it is tradition. Next question.

31. Tattoo : No. My obsessions are in my head.

32. Black Tank-Top : It occurs to me that sometimes a shorter version may pass off as a saree blouse, but haven't tried that as yet.

33. Hot-Pants : Hot or cold, an emphatic NO.

34. Kajal : Of course . Since childhood, Though folks keep saying it doesn't suit light typical Chitpavan hazel eyes.....

35. Banarsee/Kanjivaram Saree : Now you are asking ! Finally , something I love. I have many.

36. Beach Sarong - I think you got my name spelling wrong. And forget the beach.

37. Oversized Sunglasses : No. An oversize person must economize with photo sensitive prescription glasses of normal style.

38. White Salwar Kameez : Again, now you are asking ....yes of course...

39. An Evening Gown : You mean a night one ?

40. Classic Leather Belt : Belts imply waists . I think they are , in my case, also a waste.

41. Lingerie By Victoria'S Secret : You mean so many years after the East India Company, they still haven't figured out her Secret ?

42. Summer-Hat : A few of these. Some saying Indusladies, some saying Cricket India, and one panama style cap. There used to be a wide brim straw hat, but someone stepped on it in the rush once.

43. Chanel/Hugo Boss/Dior/Ysl Perfume : I have some stuff from Bath and Body Works. I don't really go for those mentioned here....

44. Silk Stockings : Pointless.

45. Iphone : All you grammatically challenged folks, it's My Phone. And mine is a basic Nokia. And it is just fine.

46. Kundan Choker - I have an heirloom thing from my late mother. Could be classified as Kundan, I don't know. It doesn't matter, too.

47. Pearl Necklace : Yes of course. In various traditional styles.

48. Faux-Fur Outerwear : Are you serious ?

49. Halterneck Dress/Halter Top : Contrary to what you think, I have sufficient blouse material.

50. Body-Piercing : We stop at ears. Might go as low as nose. No further.

51. Silver /Junk Anklet/Bracelet/Armlet : I don't wear these, but the daughter maintains a collection which I admire from a distance.

52. Clinique Set : Yeh kya hai ? Isn't besan and ambe-haldi the thing ?

53. Churidaar Kameez : the cupboard is full ....

54. Platinum Band/Ring : Like I said, old is gold. Or should I say Gold is old ?

55. Bracelet Watch : I have a wonderful one, belonging to my late mother, which is like 60 years old. and Swiss. I keep it in a box and admire it since it doesn't go around the wrist anymore....:-(

(fatigued from explaining....)

.....I've just realized that I am probably likely to be classified as Poverty Stricken, by these 99label folks.

Its OK.

It is so much more fun being rich in ideas ...:-)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sensi-Style....

This post is my entry for the blogger contest by Women's Web and Trishla eMart to describe a Style of My Own. 

 It's OK.   

The person alongside is not me.  (You must read to the end of this post to learn more ....)

You can laugh.  

And very clearly,  at three score and five,  eyes glazed by what goes in the name of fashion today, and a mouth, permanently agape at some of the visuals that appear in the name of modern dress design,  honestly , I never thought I'd be writing about this.  

A case of someone who started fairly slow in this field, and then, instead of speeding up energised by a wild ready-to-wear  industry,  someone who kind of decelerated , aided by a late physical blooming, if you know what I mean. 

But then what do you think of someone who was always a late starter, fashion wise ?  Someone , who  who wore knee length gathered skirts (with pockets) , with sensible blouses and chappals almost upto college,  when classmates sported what were called "tight skirts " and pointed "rock-and-roll"-shoes , ie when we were not in school uniform ?  A no nonsense encouraging attitude towards sports, had me escape stumbling in sarees at badminton, and buoyant sarees blooming n swimming pools, as the parents insisted that one wear suitable sports clothes, without making a fuss. 

The late sixties introduced salwar kurtas and chudidaars in college, and  a compulsorily saree-clad me , promptly switched over,  after having the saree pleats entangled in my bicycle almost every alternate day, on my way to my sitar classes.   Those were days of conservative extended family types muttering about marriageable-age girls, the tightness of chudidaars, and odhnees worn with wild abandon,  but one managed to hold one's own, getting good training for the future. 

An IT job in the seventies,  and sarees it was.  The choice of sarees was often dictated by your mode of transportation to work.  Crisp cottons were kind of the worst affected when you tangled with 50 ladies with big purses , trying to enter a suburban train compartment in 10 seconds, and one often took to wearing light silks which remembered their original drape after the daily travel skirmish.  A small rebellion happened in the form of sleeveless blouses that one wore,  to the consternation of some folks,  but then,  working gave one some confidence. By then , working on weekends was a given, and sensible me, also took to wearing jeans and kurtas , which were much more convenient and not frowned upon, on those days.   

 The last quarter of the last century, witnessed a great variety of design and outfits for the Indian woman.  Maxi/ankle-length  dresses at one point  were very popular, and were really convenient when one was expecting.  Those were days when you worried about what family elders thought, and the  generation previous to mine, clearly had no objection so long as the length of whatever reached your ankles.  

And so,  the style has always been a mixture of basically sarees, salwar kurtas,  and jeans-kurtas  in my relatively younger days.  A job where I didn't have to commute by a vehicle allowed the indulgence of traditional old style pallu-border sarees at work, with salwar kurtas  the staple during Mumbai's monsoon.   

I still belong to the old school of jewellery, where you routinely wear some standard traditional studs in your ears,  and  some kind of traditional necklace is added on along with the mangalsutra , when you attend a special occasion somewhere.  I love old jewellery , old designs, and at one point had someone publicly comment derisively on my wearing standard old style kakubai studs on jeans.   Sensible old me, just smiled and continued doing more of the same. 

Health issues on the wrong side of  50, and slowly the style has become synonymous with salwar kurtas; nice and loose,  without the high cuts on the side, which seem to be the hallmark of style today.  My tailor, a conservative person, with young daughters, approves.    What he doesn't approve probably, is the cutting up of several old silk sarees to make really nice salwar-kurtas. But he is learning, and I now have a sensible dressy option to wear in place of sarees, whenever required. Some family types kind of recognize older generation worn  sarees  in their new avatar, and keep their opinions to themselves.  Like  said, I love old things, and love to recycle those in case some part makes them unwearable as sarees. 

The word "sensible" often implies the existence of something that is not.  And for an old fuddy duddy like me ,  something that appears  completely insensible, is a deliberate display of inner straps at the neck and shoulder,  sarees worn so low that you wonder why they wear them at all, blouses that look like they have only sleeves and nothing else,  and jeans that are deliberately cut here and there with threads hanging out in the name of "distressed jeans"  and then worn as a new fashion.  The mind boggles at this slavish mentality to  what simply cannot be fashion .

Maybe "sensible"  has something to do with the age in which one has lived.   

Both my late mother and  late mother-in-law never wore anything but sarees. I remember my mother-in-law suffering from a frozen shoulder and unable to do her saree pleats, simply refusing to wear a long housecoat which would ease her work.   

But these folks changed with time as far as others were concerned. 

Picture my mother-in-law, in her seventies, lying in a nursing home , after an old style cataract operation , which , in those days, involved a 10 day stay, stitches, and removal , and so on.  Tons of relatives, some from out of town descending upon us  for the occasion, and me functioning as the official car driver, lugging guests, meals, and messages to and fro, several times a day, from home to railway stations and  to hospital.  My mother came from out-of-town to pay her a visit and  an old  local grandaunt of mine,  insisted on accompanying her to the hospital, since she lived nearby my in laws, and wanted to meet the patient. 

Picture a lady lying ramrod straight on her back, a huge white bandage on one eye,  people flitting in and out of the room, some sitting solicitously by the bed, and me walking in , wearing a jeans and kurta, escorting in,  my mother and grandaunt.   There isn't much conversation encouraged , but the grandaunt, in a nudge-nudge tone typical of a greatly audible whisper meant to be heard by all asks (in marathi), 

" Is all this jeans wearing and all OK with you ?  I see her  wearing this several times....  how do you allow it ..?   "    (all this followed by a sideways glance at me).

My mother-in-law, not allowed to turn on her side for sometime, held out her hand, trying to touch the grandaunt's, and said ,

" You know what, she has been run off her feet, driving folks everywhere, running up and down collecting and delivering dabbas and stuff, not to mention getting medicines as and how requested and prescribed by the doctors.  Her dress is so convenient  for all this activity, and  honestly, I don't see anything objectionable in jeans and a long kurta.  You see, when she accompanies me for invited functions here and there,  she wears nice sarees , sometimes even some of my own.   And so I have no problems with the jeans ....  it is a question of dressing sensibly ..." 

My mother , standing by the bed, simply smiled.  

The grandaunt did not.  ( I had once jokingly threatened to turn up in a paithani pantsuit at her granddaughter's wedding, and clearly , she was not amused.)

So that is the history behind my style.  Sensible.  Through the ages.  

Gosh.  Did you really think I am the type who gets my name woven in vertical lines every few centimetres, on six metres of silk, err...  even cotton, and then wear it for a fancy occasion ?

Nah. Not sensible. Not my style.




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Parade, Vishram !



I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. (And I am delighted to note that not one of them is checking the cell phone..)

And hopefully this is not something done by a die hard Photoshop aficionado.

To see who is who in the richest queue above click here .

Could be the effect of the Republic Day Parade, but this actually  creates an explicable urge to say "Parade, Vishram !"


 I have been a queuer for years.   Standing in a queue ,  is not a natural thing to do  and is always an imposition, for the common folks like you and me , and we unite when faced with those who try to jump the queue based on  "connections",  physical pushing abilities, and their so called public persona.

I've been part of passport office queues that started at dawn and went around huge buildings, for a 10 am opening; complete with torrential rains, umbrellas dripping on neighbors, and cycle based chaiwallahs tinkling bells and making the rounds, bringing much needed succour to those who braved wars in suburban trains to get there instead of enjoying idli and coffee at home.

I've been part of visa queues that extended way down in multiple lines on pothole studded pavements in the poshest part of Mumbai.

I've been part of railway ticket queues prior to approaching summers, when there was almost planned ambiguity in which queue was for what, with some folks suddenly reaching windows in an unconstitutional manner , and some tickets suddenly being unavailable.

And I have been in queues in Ration offices, places where affidavits are done,  the Gas agencies,  not to mention, more recently, for the Aadhar card. I have known folks who employ other folks to stand in a queue on their behalf at unearthly hours, and then themselves land up after a decent sleep and  breakfast, and suddenly replace them, causing much teeth grinding amongst those who did all this , ie standing in lines hours before , themselves.

I have always wondered why one never saw , say,  Hrithik Roshan in a passport queue, or say, Priyanka Chopra shuffling from one foot to another in a Visa queue prior to an overseas trip.   Did  Mukesh Ambani sit with his eye against a big lens for his Aadhar card ?  Did  Sachin Tendulkar stand in line at the Gas Agency to link his several kitchen gas cylinders to his Aadhar card after filling a form ?     

And I have always wondered how the rich and famous do this.  It is all fine to have flunkies who clear the traffic and your immediate surroundings so you can favour the earth with your footfall,  but do they send proxy folks, when they get important things done ? Do the passport , visa and other offices, come home to them ?

And so it was with a sense of wonder that I noticed  the Who's Who of Indian Industry standing in line at what I believe , was Rashtrapati Bhavan. Waiting to get in to meet, presumably,  the most powerful man in the world today. 

Brought to mind images of school lines, where you stood in line and were not allowed to converse with each other.  Brought to mind scenarios from school drills, where you held out at arms length and spaced yourself away from the next person.  No special lines for girls. Some in the photo even looked like they were punished by the teacher. And it looked like a monitor type stood at the head of the line, keeping others in check ?  Perhaps a separate line for those disobeying the rules for uniforms ?

And I wondered how things would be if the next time you travelled by the Mumbai local, you looked up to see , say, Mukesh A. , saying "Zara sarkun ghyaa..."   asking you to shift so he could occupy the undefined fourths seat in a crowded second class compartment,   or Anil A, running blithely, and taking a running jump on to the foot board of a running Titwala local, as assorted guys , leaning out, with lunch tiffins, help him in, making space where none exists.  Or perhaps the queens of industry, as they watch the train entrepreneurs in action, selling everyday life in the ladies second class,  as someone shoves past them,  hair blowing in the wind, saying, "Ghatkopar utarne ka nahi to abhi se kyun yahan khadi hai ?"
 
I wondered what would happen if while trudging up n staircases after an electric outage that stalled elevator service, you ran across the chairman of a big group huffing and puffing alongside you , and what you would say to him,after you got your breath back.   And the next time you rushed into a bus creaking under an overload, would you stand with your mouth agape when you noticed the conductor demand "Chutta dya"  from what can only be the captain of the banking industry ...

Forty years ago, I worked for a company that even today is in the vanguard of the IT industry.  High rises at Nariman Point were just being built and we worked in one of the most prominent ones. With tons of offices, four fancy lifts, and people who actually stood in line to get in, as opposed to rushing in a la Mumbai locals.

Returning from a roadside lunch, the door of the lift was about to close, when an old benevolent looking gentleman , with a prominent nose, a smile on his face and a spring in his step, walked in , without any flunkies and folks hovering solicitously around him. He checked to see if the floor button where he needed to get off was pressed, and simply stood like anyone of us. One of our senior colleagues recognized him and wished him. When we got off at our floor, he peered out and asked , "Is it one of our companies ?"  and smilingly got off with us when all of us excitedly responded in the affirmative. 

He then paid a courtesy call on our head, causing much excitement in the office.

This was JRD Tata, then Chairman of Tata's, on a routine visit to one of his several business and corporate interests.  No hangers on, no uniformed flunkies, just a very dignified personage, asking for no special considerations, and behaving like he was like everyone else.  Right from when he was driven in, in a white ambassador, and he climbed up the steps to the foyer, carrying his own attache case , and into the lift.  The sudden visit to our office over , he got back into the elevator to continue to his destination in the building.  

They don't make them like that anymore.

Perhaps, there are some.

But they keep getting overshadowed by those whose place is defined by an alphabet with a plus sign , where their importance to the nation and security matters .

Just saying......

Monday, January 19, 2015

Face Values....


Long before patents, attorneys, inter country fights about neem  and turmeric, and much before  I  could even spell Ayurveda,  Neem was known to me.

It was about the leaves found in our hot bath water, particularly after an entire set of us cousins in the family house got chickenpox.

It was about  noticing dried leaves in the packets of rice that were packed after paddy was dehusked by hand-pounding in our garage . My folks ate only hand pound (threshed in a set up in the garage ) unpolished rice, untouched by machine,  and dried neem leaves were interspersed into each packet to keep insects at bay. And no one really bothered about a stray leaf that made its way into a cooked rice occasionally.

It was about mornings, teeth brushing, and folks in the family chewing on a twig of the Neem tree,  watching us kids do our sophisticated toothbrush and toothpaste act. I tried it once , didn't like it at all,  but developed great respect for those who did the chewing.

It was also about the Indian New Year, and the traditional eating of fresh neem leaves with jaggery. Jaggery was welcome, and it was not easy to  avoid the leaves under the watchful parental eyes. Today, times have changed, and the watchful eyes belong to me.  

And then there were the typical teenage days . These were before the lotion and moisturizer era, and ambehaldi and besan scrubs at bath times,  were the order of the day, with fresh malai doing the honors in winters.   Folks swearing by the results of applying neem leaves paste on skin eruptions, and using special neem oils. A few folks had what  was termed an Acne problem by older folks, and elicited a "Eww..." from those seeing it at close quarters, and mothers religiously rustled up neem and turmeric pastes and stuff for daily use by these folks.

When I  had my own dwelling, I planted a neem sapling outside my kitchen window, and it grew fast and tall just like a gangly teenager , where nature might schedule lateral expansion to a later date. To my immense regret, someone , convinced that it was blocking their breeze, had it cut down, and the stump treated to die, when i was away for a longish period.  Sign of the times ?

Since then I have often thought about Neem, our society, the eruptions that happen therein, why they happen, and how there need to be Neem-like personages or Neemlike attitudes so that life might improve .  As an anti bacterial, anti fungal, a pesticide, and even a mosquito repellent,  it defines the qualities we look for, to improve those causing violent eruptions in the society in which we live, and the problem today has been that trees themselves, like the one I planted ,  are being killed.  

Earlier societies had a pace that encouraged holistic  living.  Diets in consonance with seasons and soils. Efforts from first principles, as opposed to quick and fast shortcuts. A respect for what useful knowledge came down to us from years of successful application.

What was , in my childhood referred to as  आजिबाईचा  बटवा or Grandmother's Medicinal Pouch,  is being touted as a new thing, What is missing is the native knowledge regarding native plants, and simple methods of combining things that increase the bioavailability  of these things in our bodies.

So we make do with what we have. 

The good thing is that today, Neem products, scientifically prepared, are available in many forms, such as oil, leaf extracts, soaps, scrubs, etc.  Some companies, have woken up  and incorporated these into creams and lotions that one may use on one's skin, in a well defined manner.  Garnier Fructis folks have , in a unique Indo Australian combination, come up with a cream face wash with extracts of Neem and Tea Tree Oil, the last being a native Australian medicine.  It is called Garnier Pure Active Neem.  There are suggested application frequencies,  projected success rates, and hopefully it all works to display some  joy on your face....

A life where a careful crushing and hand grinding of Neem leaves on a clean chutney stone or mortar and pestle, has now regressed into a quick squeeze of something from a tube on to a face. It s a case of having the knowledge and not having the time.

Perhaps we are coming full circle. Perhaps there is something to the type of cures we took for granted.

Like rushing with an onion to stick it under some one's nose, when a nosebleed happened;  or holding a much walked chappal/shoe  under some one's nose to teach the vagus nerve a lesson it never forgets, when someone faints. 

Or wrapping some ajwain seeds tied in a muslin cloth and lightly roasting on a griddle to make someone inhale the fragrance, a great way to clear blocked noses....

And lets simply not mention a terrible looking thing called poultice that was about a bunch of kitchen foods stirred in black cast iron kadhais and applied on injuries which were then wrapped in gauze, which always leaked some of it, causing immense embarrassment in school.

Perhaps, Mr Garnier and Mr Fructis  will come up with Onion Sprays

Perhaps they will come up with nosestrips with Dirty-Chappal fragrance.

Yes. And what about poultice in a tube that hardens on application ? Ykes. 

 Perhaps, the height of it all will be microwaveable pouches with ajwain seeds that you heat and hold to your nose in a fancy pouch.

I am not amused.

But. 

Should this eventually happen, just remember that you first heard about it here....


(Submitted as an entry to the Indiblogger-Garnier Pure Active Neem Contest.)