Monday, August 30, 2010

M(ulti) P(aisa) Games

(From our special correspondent)

Rumor has it that close on the back of the hefty salary rise , our MP's are now clamoring for special MP Games to be held for them, yearly , in the capital. The MP or Multi Paisa Games as they are being referred to, will be restricted for participation, only to Members of Parliament, and will have two levels. The Youth level for MP's below 40 years of age, and the Boss level for those older. Another category called Don level was quickly abolished, as it sounded Italian.

A Group of Ministers (GoM) has been appointed , reporting directly to Kuresh Salmadi, for the purchase of sports kits for the MP's. Due to the wide variety of sizes, and the predominance of extra large sizes, a delegation will shortly take off for Europe and America to study Apparel Choice Techniques in developed countries. Representatives of Reebok and Puma were seen in the corridors of Power, but they returned after learning that they would have to provide several shoes in sizes 4 through 11 to each MP, in addition to a several ladies chappals, gratis.

Special sports events and new disciplines will be introduced at the First 2010 Multi Paisa Games.

B-run, or Briefcase Run. MP's will be carrying briefcases stuffed with paper rectangles of various sizes, as they run. The new feature is that they will not run in a circular stadium course, but on a crooked course, that ends at a 7 star hotel. A proposal to introduce hurdles was being considered with the amendment that MP's would slide under the hurdles instead of leaping over them. This was immediately rejected by voice vote in the House.

Excitement has been mounting ever since the new sport of Fake , as in Throw , has been mooted. The loudest cheers seem to be emanating from UP and Bihar, and the sports ministry has been flooded with entries from practitioners of microphone-fake, kursi-fake, paisa-fake, not to forget promises-fake. Reliable sources inform us that CPI(all varieties) have gone to Supreme Court, to have the last mentioned renamed as Fake Promises.

Inertia concerns have deleted the High Jump, from the list, but a huge number of entries are expected for the Long Jump event, ever since it was decided that the sand pit into which the jumpers ended the jump would actually be papered green, and observed by referees from major opposition parties. While games requiring physical agility , like badminton, tennis, table tennis, and even cricket will not be part of the MP Games, walking as a sport is being touted as a favorite. Since the roads of Delhi have been spoiled by the CWG, not to mention the rains, the MP's are currently practicing walking from their seats in the House to the well of the House (although a few MP's were found cheating and running), as well as walking out of the House.

Boxing, Indian style, is on the cards, ever since marshals had to come in to give some practice to MP's , since abusing the speaker and sleeping in the well of the House became greatly popular.

Weight lifting has been greatly simplified. An earlier plan to have MP's lift Budget papers was abandoned in favour of getting a few key representative MP's to simply stand up, themselves, in a massive defiance of gravity.

Shooting and Archery have been deleted from the list to the great disappointment of some MP's currently facing court cases and/or in jail (yet not convicted), as well as some actors and actresses, with expressive eyebrows, now gracing the august chambers.

Reliable sources indicate that Cow Milking as an event was being considered on the special request of some senior MP's from Bihar. Tenders have been announced for the purchase of fodder. Unnamed sources hinted at connections of this process to a possible support on the Womens Reservation Bill , in the unforeseeable future. The decision of the government is awaited.

A delegation of senior MP's lead by Alu Pershaad, and Ruffhai Singh recently met the Sports Minister, to discuss the creation of a Games Village. They demanded that post the Games, each MP be granted a flat in the Games Village, with a special allowance for furnishing and maintaining it. Any MP completing a full term, would get the flat for life.

Switch to a small town in the interiors of Maharashtra, where the swimming state levels were held last December. The girls team accommodation consisted of a big room, with cold floors, draughty windows, and a small wood fired boiler out in the garden 2 floors down, where you lined up with buckets , at 5 am to get in a queue for baths, so you could make it for your warm ups by 7 am at an ice-cold pool 5 kms away. No beds, No sheets, no blankets, no pillows. (Inconvenience caused was regretted.)

And we don't talk about the food. Judging is immensely hard work, and every few hours the timers and judges grudgingly agreed to imbibe a plateful of delicious snacks, while the competitors awaited the whistle, to climb on to the diving blocks.

Facilities for a refreshment stall for competitors did exist on paper. The paper that will be included in the expenses report.

Stay tuned for further news from the 2010 Multi Paisa Gains, sorry Games .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inflation of thought

There was a time several decades ago, when people treated money , and what you did to earn it, with respect. Things were clearly defined. Good work, was rewarded well. When a farmer faced difficult situations, and the supply situation dwindled, veggies got expensive, but consumers made intelligent choices, had empathy for the grower, and by and by, over a year , things averaged out. Today, some bureaucrat sitting in a red building gets a list of veggie prices from some underling, and comes rushing out with an "index"...

In some circles, "inflation" is a fashionable topic to discuss. They say it means that there is a huge money supply floating around, and there isnt enough supply of stuff that you can buy with it. Most folks who go into raptures over a single decimal place enhancement in growth rate, and despair over the number of digits in the inflation percentages, are not the types who agonize over the price of tomatoes showing a four fold increase in one month. Why ? Because for most folks in that category, life is subsidized. Housing, food, transport, even their job activity.

Sometimes I feel the real inflation has happened in "thought". It means that there is a huge increase in the variety of thoughts an individual or more can think, but most of these go waste because they are useless and /or misdirected.

Think food. Considerations of giving godown and storage contracts for food , result in more attention to who gets the contract, and what is someone's cut, instead of whether the structure satisfies certain basic requirements , regarding protection, leakage, and supervision by humans. Currently, there is more supervision by rodents, and the government is fighting on whether the spoilt food must be distributed free , or for a price. Absolutely NO discussion about moving out all that stuff to a safer enclosure.

Think clothing. In my childhood, when you thought "cheap, durable" you thought cotton. Today cotton is very expensive, and just to rub it in, the government recently withdrew the 20% rebate on Khadi products that used to kick in every year in October for Gandhiji's birthday. Today textiles is all about shutting down textile mills, minting fortunes selling that land , passing import rules favourable to those manufacturing polyester, and amazingly, supporting something called Fashion Design Council of India, which encourages designers to create clothes which no ordinary citizen can wear; clothes which cost the equivalent of a years groceries for most families. Backless-frontless-only-sleeves-blouse and saree outfits modelled by strutting models in 5-star situations beats the hell out of handloom and handicraft artists, trying to sell their goods at discounts in proletarian exhibitions during festivals, when the aam admi decides to buy.

Think shelter. I guess the thought inflation is the biggest here. Your several generations can go into violent debt if you dream of a decently big house in the city for a family of , say 10, that lived in a sprawling set up, back in the village. Then to make ends meet, and pay installments, both parents work. The family balance is disturbed, and many times, children walk the wrong path. The ordinary man in Mumbai can probably afford a single wall. And people with political connections keep getting permission after permission from the authorities, to construct luxurious apartments , 45 stories high, with separate elevators for residents and "staff". All, of course , for a price, which keeps on, what else, inflating.

Think communication . The days of calling out from your balcony to your friends are over. While you "call", you must also be able to take photographs, listen to songs, pass on something someone else is saying in a message in bad english. Communication is now a fashion statement. Its meaning has acquired "width". And all this at a huge cost. You pay , sometimes, more than your monthly house grocery bill, for this contraption. Angry ? Ha! You just need to widen and inflate your thinking.

Think people. People we elect to represent us. In my childhood, these were dedicated people, who lived just like us, but had a knack of putting forth our problems to the government, which, in its earlier avatar, actually did something for us.

Today, the scope of an MP has expanded beyond anything you can think. He earns by simply being who he is; he never works for it; others slog. It doesnt matter that there are schools without bathrooms in his constituency, the public hospitals need new diagnostic machines, or a larger supply of medicines. While he agitates to triple his salary by selling his vote, his gardener is refused a raise, because times are "tough"....

People you elected to the Municipal Corporation, ignored the proper physical conditions necessary for the fogging treatment in mosquito ridden areas, with the result that the mosquitos have won, while the elected chaps were striking construction permissions here, a derservation of a green garden area into a construction zone there, and getting their visages on huge billboards, that block street signals.

This uncontrolled wild "inflation of thought" is what seems to feed the economic inflation.

Somewhere at the top, there is a loss of an ability, to walk the straight road, ensuring shady trees on the side, sources of water to assuage citizen thirst, and something that needs to give confidence to the citizenry , that the road leads somewhere useful, and that the condition of the ordinary Indian will improve when he reaches the end of the road.

Long years ago, they say we made a tryst with destiny. Given how things are today, if I were Lady Destiny, I would have thought twice before agreeing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Agobaya ! Freedom to learn !

This is S., my household help for the last 25 years and counting. Has inspired many blog posts. And this entry on freedom for the Blogadda's Frames of Freedom contest....

Her first taste of freedom was when her aged parents brought her and her 4 children back from an abusive marriage.

Since then she has been helping herself to a special freedom, freedom to learn !

She recently called me one night , to ask me to go "wherever I go on the computer to find out stuff" (read Google) and verify some eclipse info for her; an expecting daughter-in-law made this important. ( I Blogged about it here).

She has seen me search online for medicine information for her.

She has "learned" Google; it doesn't matter who is typing.

Enjoys seeing photos of trips, and covered her head respectfully when I showed her some, of our visit to some famous Ganpati temples in Kokan.

Many photos which had her go ,"Agobaya !"

Illiteracy doesn't stop her from learning.

The keyboard doesn't matter, she can't read it anyway.

She knows how to select photos from the Thumbnails. And marvels at the photos.

The best kind of freedom ; Freedom to learn and enjoy the learning !

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pension Sarees and Security Blankets

                                                           For 2011 : 

V. was my mother's friend.

A thin, frail lady, with a hugely strong mind, she was a teacher in government schools when I was a child, and spent almost all her working life, at postings in far out rural areas in the state. She had lost her husband early on in life, had a daughter, and both of them would set up house wherever she had a posting, and the young girl would attend the local school. Whenever such a school didn't exist, she would stay on with relatives in a place where there was a school, or travel big distances. Back in the 50's and 60's , society did not look upon favourably on 2 women saying alone in way out places, that ran mostly on the say of the local big chap, who invariably went into politics to further his clout. V was invariably transferred frequently, till at the fag end of her career she settled in Pune. Prudent savings and careful investments along with a sparse lifestyle allowed V to get her daughter married , and she too lived in Pune.

We were in school then, and many afternoons and evenings were spent in V's small flat, doing drawings, and learning different techniques, while she made delicious snacks for us to enjoy after the "class"; her daughter would always admire our work (regardless of how ordinary it was) , whenever she happened to drop by. V was always interested in our academic achievements, always had little prizes for us when young, and this attitude continued well into her old age, even after I got married and had children. (After which I was roundly ignored, naturally).

After a lifetime of being a government teacher , predominantly having worked in rural areas, V was given the run around before her pension kicked in. She spent 15 years chasing her pension papers, as various offices would throw up their hands and say the papers were at some other office, for some one's signature. It almost became a project for my mother and V, and there was this multi year effort, when they would go meet some official who looked like he understood the problem, promise to do stuff, and then nothing would happen. We stayed in Mumbai , and since it is the state capital, V came and stayed with us during her various visits, and my mother became an integral part of her Pension campaign.

Many people advised that things would move faster if money exchanged hands, but this angered V and my mother, who continued sending letters , reminders, copies of required certificates and stuff, to no avail. Well into her seventies, I once heard V laughingly tell my mother, that even if she was desperate enough to agree to "paying money" to get things moving, she didn't have a clue how one went about it ; what euphemisms did you use, how did the clerk understand, or did a frail lady in her 70's , developing a cataract, simply land up and the table of some clerk, and ask him out for a tea ?

The pathos was overwhelming. A woman, widowed early on, faithfully teaches entire generations of rural children in school, without complaining of the facilities, often non existent, cajoling parents to send their daughters to school, lives a very sparse and prudent life, and now finds humor in visions of herself trying to ask a clerk out for tea, so her papers will move .

Thanks to a relentless chasing up of papers through offices, her pension was finally operative, with arrears, and she celebrated by going out with my mother, her faithful ally through all this, and buying her a wonderful cotton saree, which was always referred by all of us as the Pension saree, and frequently worn by my mother. There was so much more in it besides cloth.

In the early 90's V passed away. Today both V and my mother are no more, but V's daughter , a mathematics professor, and I are in frequent touch, and spend many enjoyable moments remembering the older ladies and their friendship.

Why am I telling all this ?

Because that was what came to mind when I read the most shameful and preposterous news about the Members of the Indian Parliament voting themselves , a 3 fold raise ( in place of a-wished-for 5 fold raise), the government dilly dallying in view of possible public outrage, in a season when all the news is about corruption, and the entire ruling party and opposition MP's uniting as never before to see this thing through. After an initial hesitation, the High Command of the ruling party has spoken in favour of the raise, and the rest, as they say, will "meekly" fall in line.

The things that angers me the most is that any MP with a single 5 year term and nothing more, is entitled to a lifetime pension, with his spouse getting 50% after his death.

And what has the MP done ?

Being a political goonda(bully) is probably a prerequisite for being elected. The more scruples you lack, the more bright your future is. If you have a wife, son or daughter capable of supporting you in all your questionable endeavors, you are supremely qualified.

Gets elected, by fudging qualifications, cheating on educational qualifications, possibly age, and declaring his assets which seem to all be in his wife's name. Funded by vested interests who cash in their IOU's once this guy is elected.

He then spends time in the Capital, fighting for more and more luxurious accommodation, asking pointed questions in Parliament often for a consideration, participates in junkets to foreign countries basically to learn nothing but enjoying the high life. His time in the august chambers of Parliament is spent nodding and chitchatting on some back bench, that is, when he is not staging a walkout along with his party leaders.

Occasionally, he feels he needs a change from all that sedentary life, and he gets up and runs down to the well of the House to shout slogans at the speaker, along with several of his party colleagues. Some even stage a sleep-in on the floor, and given their considerable weight, need several marshals to carry them out.

The more enterprising folks rip out microphones, and fling them at the opposition, unconcerned about their aim. In life as well as in Parliament.

In the meanwhile, some (read Laloo), are shameless enough to oppose the 33% Womens' Reservation Bill, and use that as an excuse to canvass for enhanced Pension (no doubt a result of enhanced salary and perks) , because now their places will be occupied by women if the Bill is passed. They openly trade their votes for power and money, and no one gets caught, simply because no one is chased.

Five years of doing this, living at subsidized rates, devaluing the country , and the guy is rewarded with a lifetime pension. We wont get into benefits for spouses on the death of the MP. Sometimes there are more than one. I mean spouses, not benefits. Shhhh.

And so I remembered V and my mother, and that fight to get her rightful pension, after a lifetime of educating the nation's children in rural areas.

When my mother passed away, the Pension saree had reached a state of wonderful softness, often seen in greatly loved cotton sarees, which are worn often and bring a great sense of comfort to both the mind and body. On winter visits to Pune, we would often use her old soft cotton sarees to line the winter blankets from inside.

Today, there are not too many winter visits, because there is no one to visit. The Pension saree is one of my prized possessions today, both for the memories it carries, as well as the softness of its protection.

Its not just a piece of cloth.

It gives me a sense of hope, that at some point, things in this country will change. People with some scruples and principles will be respected. There will be the greatest concern for the common man or woman. There will come a time when I will, hopefully look UP in respect, to the people who purport to rule us.

Its almost like my Security Blanket.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Viral attack....

The Lancet has stirred up a hornets nest. The British have now named a bacteria/virus after Delhi, NDM-1 , and the powers that be are up in arms. I mean why not George, or Vladimir, or Sarah, or even Suresh ? New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase doesn't at all sound impressive, and why the "-1" ? Is there a "-2" in the pipeline ?

While folks are upset over pointing fingers, and are showing references to plenty of hospital infections like MRSA (methillin resistant staph aureous) that were and are prominent in the US now and UK 10 years ago, it must be said that we did not rush in and name that infection in honor of New York, Washington D. C. or even Atlanta. Even when AIDS got people into a dither in the US, we were still welcoming folks from the US , UK, and Europe, and we let the scientific name remain.

We , of course will let medicine and science take its course, particularly where Pharma companies are concerned. Some of them funded this aforementioned study (NDM-1) , and it goes without saying that they will soon announce an antibiotic, or vaccine for the problem. There will be a lot of serious research, stuff will be proved and disproved, linkages of prominent folks in the US and UK governments with pharma companies will possibly be revealed, pandemics, and recommendations by WHO and UN will happen....

But why look outside ? Like they say, people in viral houses should not crib about virii. We need to look in our own back yards. Or maybe front yards. But probably, mostly in New Delhi.

NDM-3 : The New Delhi Municipality bacteria-3. This one is bitumen based. It causes, human hands to mix mud and sand in wrong quantities, to dilute mixtures for filling potholes. Reports indicate that one hand does the mixing, while the other goes deep into side pockets of the pants and overalls . Sometimes the hand also extends upwards at folks sitting in AC offices. Lest you think AC stands for "air conditioned", I must hasten to educate everyone : AC = Aur Chahiye (="want more")....

NDM-4 : The New Delhi Municipality bacteria-4. This one bores thousands of holes in the surface of flyovers recently constructed in New Delhi in honor of the Common Wealth Games. Ever since Rs 45 crores worth of pots and Rs 132 crores worth of plants were sourced to decorate the venues without checking with Delhi Police (who declared them a security risk , possibly after a legislator flung them around in a patriotic emotional outburst), the authorities re placing them under flyovers. The NDM-4, will enable drip irrigation of all these plants through the flyovers studded with holes, given that Delhi is getting a lot of extra rain these days.

CWG-1 : The CommonWealth Games virus-1 . There. UK and USA cannot name a virus/bacteria with the suffix " -1" now. ! Maybe they will give me a prize. But I don't know anyone in the organizing committee. I do know a few ex-students from a school named after the Chairman's father in a town thousands of miles away, but possibly it doesn't count, because too many folks will qualify that way. This virus, attacks a part of your brain that deals with numeric ability, and simply keeps adding zeros to the right of any number. Whenever your eyes alight on a "quoted" number the virus simply magnifies things so that what you realize is something else. This virus mutates in amazing ways, and is prominently found in state capitals.

CWG-2 : The CommonWealth Games virus-2. This virus has evolved after the question of bathroom usage came up. In our country, in many places, there are simply no bathrooms, and so naturally, there is no usage. Often called the elitist virus, this virus automatically shuts your eyelids over your eyes during certain visuals, such as women in slums wandering about with a can of water, in the early dawn hours ,seeking a place to relive themselves, before everyone gets up. Yet, given that athletes from several developed countries are likely to come for the CommonWealth Games, and despite the long jumps, high jumps, hurdles and throws, they cannot be expected to wander around with water. and so , it helps that the virus has a great affinity for paper ; both the smooth toilet type, as well as the crisp green type. Certain folks affected by this virus, have been known to have made a killing in the toilet paper field, so to speak.

ME2 : The Me Too virus. This virus actually attacks those who attend legislatures and parliaments. At one time this virus was considered dangerous for children, but concentrated efforts at eradication by the nation's mothers and a few teachers have brought things under control. However, the virus has now mutated into the ME2G virus, standing for (Mee Too Greedy). A perception or even a hint of someone in government benefiting out of a deal in a surreptitious manner, activates this virus, which then results in a series of committees and joint committees being set up to investigate things. The virus also in known to give people a totally false sense of power. Reports indicate, that the only antidote to this, is developing a sense of sharing, as well as a capacity for rejecting reports.

There are several virii and bacteria still in the formation stage. Some viruses have taken on human thought like activities, and cannot make up their mind.

But I am actually worried about the BR-1 virus. The Baton Relay virus.

I mean this virus has international ramifications. High Commissions are involved. The Baton Relay virus is actually resident in the UK. A few slightly virulent strains were noticed in the Games Committee, and they were dispatched to London. Those affected by this virus, sometimes suffer temporary blindness. They sanction bill payments in British pounds, thinking it is in Rupees, and mistake Buckingham Palace for RashtrapatiBhavan.

I mean, I am totally unaware of any possible Macular Degeneration in the British monarch, but one wonders, when one hears of three giant screens put up near the palace, to show on film, someone in shorts, running with a baton, and the fact that these virus affected types, paid for it. (I wonder who the screens are for; unless they cannot see from the palace balcony).

I hear the baton has since travelled through many countries, and is now somewhere in the south of India. I wonder if it is carrying the NDM-1 virus back from the UK, where it has created a sensation .

Maybe that's why, when it reaches Mumbai, no one will run, but it will be transported in a car across the city. The police force which will be completely occupied during the Ganesh festival, something which is attended by a huge amount of local and international tourists, cannot be spared to fuss over a stick arriving at the same time, NDM-1 or no NDM-1.

Maybe its fitting that the fuss over the stick is left to New Delhi. With so many existing and in-the-pipeline virii itching to attack, we will let folks do the running with the Queens baton (maybe with NDM-1) , across the flyovers, roundabouts, and leafy roads of New Delhi, into the stadii, pools and other venues.

With all the NDM-3, NDM-4, CWG-1, CWG-2, ME2 virii in attendance, the NDM-1 should feel right at home.

Now I know why the Queen isn't coming for the Common Wealth Games.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Engines of the Mind

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

Actually, Albert Einstein said that.

But I would have believed it , even if my household help, S., had said that.

S., went to the school of hard knocks. The hardness would have knocked someones teeth out, but she just gritted them together, applied her mind and carried on. I have written about her from time to time (searching this blog site for "household help" will point to the relevant posts), and for those unaware of her, she is a single mother of 4 grown up children, and grandmother of 2. They all live in a one and a half room place in an area you would hesitate to visit. She never went to school, got married off very early to a fellow who was totally useless, and then walked out with the children encouraged by her parents; all this almost 25 years ago.

She educated her sons , some till 12th, some till 1oth, and the daughter studied till 7th grade. The daughter was married, found out she was cheated, and returned home. S. herself has a bank account, which she operates by using her thumb impression, instead of a signature. because she never went to school, and cant read and write......

S. isn't impressed by Utopian scenarios. She knows, that the daughter will mostly have to look out for herself once she is no more. And so one day, she came to ask for my help, in adding the daughter's name as second name on her bank account. She isn't overburdened by the number of zeros after numbers in her account, but now that the sons too contribute into the house kitty, she has savings. And she wishes that they unequivocally go to her daughter, without hassles.

There is a women's group, that meets at the local Buddha Vihar (=community hall) in their locality. They help celebrate events for the local children, organize self-help type talks , sometimes by doctor types and nurses, often organize the catering for the celebrations and festivities that involve their entire locality. The so called illiterate and uneducated S., is the treasurer. And the supposedly numerically disabled S., even gets a group of ladies to go to the whole sale grain market miles away by bus, so they can save on expenses for these functions. She figures out transport and other costs and how left overs can be shared. Need based maths. Learned all by herself.

She cannot tell you the names of the medicines , but she has a gut feeling for when someone is taking her for a ride, medically speaking. She once approached me for help regarding a daughter-in-law who was advised some meds and was having problems conceiving. I am happy to say, that intervention by a gynaecologist friend, and good sensible advice regarding nutrition, has resulted in some great news about an impending arrival in the family.

S has a great sense of observation, and she processes what she observes in a very good way. For someone who never entered the portals of a single school in her entire life, she has an amazing sense of psychology, societal transactions, tradition, improving health scenarios, innovative new contraptions, and a great pride in her children and grandchildren.

A few weeks ago, my cell phone rang at 9 pm. It was her son's number. I wondered what the problem was, as she never called like this. Maybe it was an emergency. Maybe she had to go somewhere. I picked up the call.

"Hallo ! Bai ? ("=Ma'am?"), is your computer on ?" S was on the line.

"Yes. Its working. Why do you ask ?" Me. Flummoxed. This a new field for her.

" Just go wherever you go on the computer, when I ask you about something, and tell me about when the eclipse is ..." (I didn't even know there was an eclipse) . Maybe some neighbor told her. But she wanted scientific information, not hearsay.

Of course I went to Google, checked about the eclipse, and called her back. Expectant women don't go out during an eclipse according to tradition. This particular eclipse was not being seen in India, and was supposed to happen at some unearthly hour at night, over 2 hours. I also told her that the Indian calendar did not list this particular eclipse as significant.

Her mind now satisfied, she discussed and told me about the younger expectant daughter-in-law, and that she would just advise the couple not to go out anywhere that night.

I was totally impressed that someone like her, who cannot read a single alphabet, noticed that whenever someone has a question and wants info, I go to a particular thing on the screen, after which a page comes, and then she gets her answer. More impressed because she simply called to confirm what was till then, hearsay, with all kinds of wrong time estimates.

And then I see women, who live in upmarket abodes, don't lift a finger to do any housework, get their thrills from every additional zero appearing in their monthly expenditure , and proudly claim, that they know nothing about any bank related and financial transactions, because, their husbands take care of it all. They just sign wherever, whenever, and life goes on. Haan ji !

Designer lives, designer houses, designer clothes, designer cars, probably an improbable designer education, with stupendous fees and 3 types of yearly uniforms. Probably designer cell phones, on which they message and tweet typical shortened murdered English stuff .

I somehow doubt if they ask their husbands, daughters and sons to find out information on Google. Or some other search engine.

For that, like S., you have to have a Search Engine in your mind....

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Ruminations of a cracked egg....

Winner of the Blogadda "Friends Forever" contest on Aug 6, 2010

(Submitted for the Blogadda "Friends Forever" contest)

I have always wondered how it would feel to be a millionaire.

And I have even pondered over whether a millionaire would ever want to be me .....

You see, we are both rich. In different ways.

He lives with more zeros than he can count.

I live with more heroes than I can count.

....All my friends, who have been my heroes and heroines, right from the time, I needed to be lifted on to the school bus, till now, when I lift myself into a bus through the front senior citizen entrance....

Like my childhood best friend, daughter of one of Marathi literature's most well known novelists and magazine editor....we would gaze with great longing on the reams of blank A4 size sheets in the storeroom, which were used for the manuscripts , when the great man dictated his novels. One busy week, we created our own magazine, complete with a dicey fashionable cover, serious sounding name, articles, poems, ads, letters to the editor, editorials, warnings and what have you. Stuck it in a big envelope, wrote Book Post on top and mailed it for a review, to Yeshwantrao Chavan, then CM, and a patron of Marathi literature. When the Post Office returned the envelope with a fine required (Book Post was for Printed matter), we faced her angry father who didn't know whether to laugh or get wild, and my brave friend stood in front and took it all.

Like my friend and room mate of 4 years in the college hostel, who seized upon one of my blouses (we wore old style skirts and blouses), wore it for an exam, did well, and then wore the same , unwashed, ink-stained (in an embarrassing spot) blouse, throughout, with different skirts, because she thought it lucky.....

Like my group of friends from college, who suddenly figured they needed me after graduation, and would come visit my folks in Mumbai, even after I went to the US for grad school; ostensibly because you could see a great sunset from the balcony, but actually because they enjoyed the Sabudana Khichadi my mother made....

Like some friends who confided in me about their intentions regarding some other friends in our group, , and bid me keep it a secret.....

Like my first roommate in the University apartments in grad school, whose introduction to me was through a few sudden tadka sneezes, as mustard seeds popped in the kitchen , who took upon herself to educate me in the non scholastic features of American life, whose marriage I attended, with her mother behaving exactly like an Indian mother-of-the-bride would, who has since then had lot of mountains to climb in life, but kept in touch and reached out during some trying times, and very recently drove a round trip of 1000 kms with her sisters to come meet me on my recent US trip....

Like my other roommates, some of who are very famous today, don't really keep contact, but got worried and emailed me when 26/11 happened, knowing I was in Mumbai....

Like some classmates , who'd never had an Indian girl with a red dot on the forehead in their class,, wearing strange clothes , back in the 60's, but took great care of her , even including her in the annual department Christmas Play, and one of them today, is a leading light in his field of optics and motorcycles, and 37 years later, spent an entire day with my family when we visited him....

Like some classmates, who traced my whereabouts, when I relocated after marriage, and everytime we meet or talk on the phone, it is as if we were never away....we still call each other by names given in college, with a healthy disregard for married last-names, to the consternation of chaps with no imagination :-)

Like some of my friends where I worked until a few years ago. The road was different, the terrain was daunting, and some stood, like shady trees you could lean on, maybe sip on a glass of understanding, and carry on again, impervious to the potholes.....

Like an older friend, who, sensing my false sense of bravado during a crisis, wordlessly offered a shoulder and a pallu to wipe the eyes; another, who on her own, checked up on the children, when circumstances decreed that I attend , on an extended basis , to someone under medical care; and also some friends, who realising that a foot was being put wrong somewhere, had the guts to stand up and tell me off, knowing they would be heard and understood.

But some, are golden folks, who don't normally get classified as friends. They are actually more than that. Sometimes they are what you call life colleagues, like my household help of 25 years. When duties called, post a sudden death in my family, and the children were left alone at home, she came and found the food uneaten by two bereft kids; took charge, got them together, prepared a new fresh simple hot meal, and stayed with them, talking , cajoling them to eat, till I got home. Like a best friend would have...

And then there are some relatives, who are actually more wonderful friends. Being the sole caretaker , for years, of an aged and ailing parent in a huge house, a day came when one learnt what being alone was all about. When the flurry of visits , condolences and paperwork subsided, it was time for me to return to my life as it existed before, and I worked at closing up a house I had always called , since childhood, as my own. I packed , and was winding up some matters when there was a bell at the door. It was a favourite sister-in-law, much older to me, but with whom I had never needed words. She had simply come, she said, so my last night in my late parents' house would not be spent alone sunk in my memories, so my departure the next day wouldn't be solitary and traumatic, and there would be someone I could wave goodbye to; someone who would say , "I am here, come back and see us soon.... you are not alone !"... I still need no words with her.

Like I said, I don't wonder about millionaires anymore. Zeros don't count. Particularly next to dicey numbers.

Heroes do.
Real or Virtual.

And they fill all the blanks in my life. Scoring 10/10.

I am rich, totally, obscenely, people-rich.

No amount of money in secret banks, appearances on Forbe's lists, or any other stupid manifestation of wealth, can match the rich feeling of being blessed with wonderful friends throughout life.

Nothing fancy, nothing posh , but just some great old friends, joyfully sharing life with me through all its ups ad downs, with the smooth and the rough , through good times and bad.

They probably laugh at this concept of having and celebrating a Day for us. None of us are perfect, and we rib each other all the time, despite the furrows and wrinkles slowly appearing on the scene.......

Sometimes I think the Master Card fellows stole my idea for their commercial, about calling things Priceless ..

My friends are priceless....

And between you and me, they all probably think I am a good egg, though possibly a bit cracked.