Friday, January 28, 2011

S., Aaik, and Skype

There are some people who have a natural knack for imbibing new technologies. It's not like they are electronically or mathematically superenabled; far from it. They pickup terminologies like cars pick up dust in Mumbai. Just sitting there. But when they press buttons, something useful and predictable happens.

Then there are some people, who seek the latest technology, out of a desperate urge to possess. They throw around words like "bluetooth" , "android", "GPRS" and stuff, but wouldn't know the current price of onions if you asked. They change phones, like you change clothes on a sweaty Mumbai summer day, read books on screens, and their camera talks.

And then there are folks like me, who watch all this with a stupid grin from the sidelines.

We heard songs on cassettes, on our ancient 25 year old 2-in-1 till couple of years ago. The color TV happened in 1996. Although my job was basically with computers, we didn't have a desktop at home till almost 1999-2000. Office was enough. Laptops happened at home n 2007. And the ability to play audio and video cd's on the system meant no one bothered about stand alone audio-video contraptions for DVD's and CD's.

The Internet was however happening and the daughter once entered some quiz competition on the MTV site and ended up winning a Sony DVD player, which appeared without warning one day at noon, in a big box. We saw a few movies there after connecting it to the TV. The daughter simply knew how it all worked. We didn't and still don't have a clue on how to use it.

These days, it seems , the big thing is Home Theatre Systems. I don't understand, why those that avidly buy these, still continue to see movies in multiplexes, eating outrageously priced snacks in non biodegradable containers. Unless , of course, one gets drunk on power, fiddling with a remote, and noise cancelling cordless headphones.

We have all the stuff for free; the home itself is a theatre; with curtains, crises, laughter, tears, food and all, and there is so much noise of the traffic and boys playing downstairs that its not possible to cancel. Anything.

Same goes for the phones. We were among the last to give up our black rotary phone in the late 90's. The daughter was given the first cell phone in 2005 when she started college and had to travel big distances. The parents got cell phones a few years later, and neither of them dare to do any opening and checking of sims, batteries and stuff, while the daughter merrily figures out all kinds of connections,cables,uploads etc etc. and teaches her parents stuff again an again, and then gives up.

The latest excitement is Skype. One had heard about it , but not tried it, because you always had chats and stuff happening anyway. Besides, the Internet access configuration at one point did not allow Skype.

So it came to pass, that this morning, I was on Skype with my son in the US, having a general chat, and my household help S. who has been the subject of several blog posts turns up. Normally she has seen me with a headphone, listening to songs that play on my blog.

This time she saw me talking in Marathi, and she figured out , that it was my son I was talking to.

As per the very wonderful custom we follow, she made some tea for the two of us and came to give me my cup.

Her eyes lit up, and she hung around. She has seen my son as a little boy, and taken great pride in his progress. She doesn't understand what he is studying at what level,but is totally impressed. I called out to her and asked her if she wanted to speak to him.

She nods. I give her the headphone to put on. And she speaks .

"कसा आहेस ?" "(=How are you? )". She smiles , looking at the screen.

"आभ्यास वगैरे ठीक चाललाय न ?" "(Are your studies going OK ?)". Nods.

"सगळी ठीक आहेत. माझ्या मुलाचं लग्न झालं गेल्या महिन्यात ...." "(Everything is fine. My son got married last month....")

"आई साठी चहा आण्त्ये, तुला आणू का ? :-)" "(I am bringing your Mom some tea : want me to bring you some ?"....) .

"बर आता तुझ्या आईशी बोल " "(OK. Now speak to your Mom....)"

She smiled and looked at me. I helped her remove the headphones which she passed over to me. After a while I finished speaking to my son, and she stood there, simply stunned with the stuff.

"अग्गोबया ! अगदी शेजारच्या खोलीत असल्यासारखं ऐकू येत होतं ! किती छान !" "(Oh wow! It sounded as if he was speaking from the next room ! So nice and clear ! )"

She asked me about it . She thought it had to do with cell phones, and I told her it happened through the PC. Told her it was called Skype.

I could see her mind ticking. In her 1.5 room house occupied by 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, 2 grandchildren and herself, one son had kept a PC, on which he did data entry from home to earn a living.

S. has no clue about the Internet. She has seen the PC function as a movie screen, and she has seen me typing; she has also heard me listening to songs as I write. now she thinks the PC is a massive telephone.

I tell her , this telephone thing is free. She is thrilled to bits. God knows who she is going to call. I know she has a married niece in Ohio. And I don't think her son is connected to the Net.

"I must tell my son. What did you say the name was ? Aaik ? "

I thought this name was brilliant.

"Aaik" means "Listen!" in my language !

This was such a great introduction of new technology for S.

I didn't feel like correcting the name she had selected . " Aaik !"

Unlike me, who kept deflecting technology as it kept arriving, here was S, embracing the new stuff.

And I thought it so totally fitting and cool that to her, Skype was "Aaik". "Listen"...

Skype .

Sounds like a compromise between the sky and a pipe.


Maybe the Google types will get some ideas on names now. From S.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The learning Tree

I just read through this post. The sort of remarks people pass about elders who are deemed inconvenient.

And it has got me thinking.

There has to be an optimum speed with which societies evolve. And there isn't anything like sighting a preferred end point and rushing there at the cost of other things. Its like how we grow. Seamlessly from one stage to another. A bashful teenager doesn't turn into a mature lady overnight. Whenever there is an effort to unnaturally accelerate, we pay the price somewhere.

And so it is with societies. And the tendency of some to thoughtlessly rush headlong into something that looks attractive, without proper thought.

My generation was possibly the first generation where women really reaped the benefits of education, and lots of parents sacrificed personal and professional advancements, so that we could get the best. It was not unknown for women to stay put with the children and maintain a running house in a town because the children had the best education there, while the husband moved around on transfers, and enjoyed his family's company only during school vacations.

My parents did that till I went to college. Grandparents, elderly aunts, and such, were always part of our lives, and we observed and watched, as we saw our parents become the main caretakers for the elders. Yes, there were serious elderly illnesses, movement disabilities, and a second childhood for some elders as their seventies were reached. These were lessons to us , on how life is, how our society goes forward, the unwritten rules where elders were concerned, and that basically we were part of a tree.

Sometimes the tree teaches us a lot.

At all its stages of life, the nutrition sap flows , originating with the root. The root part is firmly, soundly entrenched, mobilizing to hold up a trunk. With time, the trunk matures into a tough support, for the various branches that grow off it. Which in turn, enjoy the leaves , blossoms and fruits.

True, the leaves , blossoms and fruits have extra curricular activities like absorbing sunlight, fooling around with caterpillars, moths and butterflies, mobilizing thorns and itchy chemicals to ward off attacks . But they never forget where they came from. Some trees with extra capabilities and wide spreads, even develop extra roots that grow downwards and anchor into the ground again, for the benefit of more branches, leaves, blossoms and fruits.

Those trees that grow in hothouses with special care would possibly be selfish trees, and are a pointer to how societies behave today. The odd rock encountered by a spreading low branch or subterranean root is roundly cursed , without seeing that it has helped keep in the moisture on one side, a boon in difficult days. Flowers are cut in their prime, because flying them somewhere earns you a lot of money, and at the end of the day it is all about looks instead of minds.

And so today, the society that curses its old, thinks of them as obstacles in someone's path towards some kind of ultimate promotion, and ignores their well being willfully, thinks nothing of denuding forests, destroying mangroves, and misrepresenting playgrounds and gardens as developable land, so that more and more concrete structures may be erected , to be bought with the more and more money being earned by dubious means.

The disconnect between where you came from and where you are going is huge, in body and worse so, in mind.

Many many years ago, I lived in a flat surrounded by what you could now call wilderness. Just outside my kitchen window was a Neem tree, and we enjoyed its benefits, including their capacity to improve the quality of air around them, eating the bitter leaves with jaggery at the beginning of the Hindu New Year on Gudi Padwa Day. The children were small and at an age where chicken pox, measles etc was happening. And so it was wonderful to be able to seep these leaves in the bath water, and then give the children a refreshing beneficial bath as was recommended by those who knew.

We had a garden of sorts, nothing landscaped, but something where we delighted in planting stuff like bamboo, kadipatta and tejpatta trees, fragrant flowers, with a wild growth of tulsi plants . I was sure that nothing we did would be held up as an example, or featured somewhere posh , but we enjoyed the hard work, and the children enjoyed the planting of assorted seeds, and watching things grow, looking out for snakes and keeping the marauding cows out.

We left the place for a year on assignment elsewhere, and when we returned , something was missing outside the kitchen window. The Neem tree , which was almost taller than the 2 storey building was no more. In its place , was a blackened wizened stump, bravely facing the world, with what was left of it.

A few discreet enquiries revealed that a fellow resident lady , taking advantage of our absence, had ordered the pruning, trimming, and finally the killing of this tree, because,, believe it or not, it was "blocking the breeze" . (That the breeze in that area would be blocked by concrete first was clear, but it didn't fit in with someone's idea of what a window view should be, and would be, for a respectable, upwardly mobile pillar of the erstwhile society.)

The pruned and trimmed tree, must have continued to flourish, possibly with renewed vigour, and a gardener was finally asked to pour some powder into the root area. That was the final killing blow. I was told this by the gardener himself.

I have always thought of this story as representative of our society today. While education has enlightened some, it has blinded some, to everything, except their own presumed successes in life. Relationships, dependents, are deleted from the environment, so you fit in with the debatable existing norms that define professional success.

And like our altered climate, and uncontrolled unpredictable seasonal weather excesses, that happen due to rampant avaricious destruction of the green , today you see family relationships in shambles, senior citizens being ignored, harsh words exchanged, and unfashionable common sense being ignored, in the big rush to be branded a "success"......

There is so much to learn from trees. We have an evolved cerebral cortex. But sometimes we fail to use it as intelligently as the trees.

George Bernard Shaw who had so many interestuing things to say on a variety of subjects, can be relied upon to say the final word (in Maxims for Revolutionists, 1903) :

"Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does. ..."


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some Adarsh solutions....

Buildings built with the blatant connivance or calculated blindness of , the powers that be, and in complete disregard of the laws of the land, are nothing new in Mumbai. This has been so for several decades. It is also observed, that those officers who are perceived as being obstacles in the development of such buildings and societies, are summarily transferred or removed from the scenario under some pretext.

The very inappropriately named " Adarsh " (= ideal) housing society scam wins the shameless award on all fronts. The land wasn't theirs, they misled authorities in various ways, they built 25 more floors than they were allowed to, registered owners for flats on those floors, and till the RTI activists forced the data out into the open, no one in the government, civilian or military thought of giving the project a second look. What is more, an adjoining piece of land was being eyed by some more unscrupulous government folks for construction of an Adarsh-2.

Consequent to questions in a rarely functioning Parliament, and various so called authorities, who were caught with their hands in the till, big guns like chief ministers were forced to resign, the environment ministry stepped in to check if CRZ coastal regulations were disobeyed and have now recommended that this whole 31 storey building beemolished/destroyed/bulldozed, as an example .

There are many people who purchased flats here at a later stage, putting in their life savings, and were reassured by the fact that it had so many big shots as members, that there would be no problems anywhere in the paperwork. These people are now upset , and wish to know what happens to their money.

(This is a bit like the Mumbai roads, where the Municipal types , hand in glove with the road contractors, deliberately certify substandard work, and get paid again and again, cuts going to facilitators, and nobody gives a damn about subsequent traffic and pedestrian problems, or what is worse, ambulances carrying emergency cases, who get stuck in the mess, sirens blaring desperately. Unlike the fellows above cribbing about life savings, here it is an actual life involved, and these delays often prove fatal. But the big difference is that we are lowly tax paying citizens and these are corrupt leaders, legislators and politicians).

Apart from this blame game, the building scheduled for destruction, has involved millions of man-woman hours of very hard work by some very ordinary rural folk, imported for this work from rural areas, and made to work, possibly by bypassing, and flouting safety norms , all so the contractor can increase his profit. There is a huge amount of material that will go waste in this demolition exercise. There will be immense noise, dust, and possible money pollution associated with this.

And unless, the environment ministry does a survey of all illegal buildings in Mumbai, and takes similar action, this one-off recommended action by the Environment ministry will be seen as a symbolic action, and will go the way of all symbolic actions, like bureaucrats posing with brooms and protective hats on "Keep your city clean " days, while unprotected municipal class IV conservancy staff continue to fall and drown unprotected into drainage manholes, and suffocate in the gases..

The question is what do we do with a 31 storey building.

It is clear that unless they had planned the 31 storeys at the foundation stage (deep enough) itself, somebody didn't suddenly get an evil brainwave at the 6th floor, and suddenly decide to build 25 more. The land, it seems belongs to the Military, but nothing was done about it, and eyes were kept closed, to enable Military types to buy flats there.

It seems like a good idea, to take away all the flats from the people who have registered and bought them there. None will be homeless, as they have other homes, maybe several. Possibly in Mumbai itself.

There are some more ideas.

a). Shift all the ministers out of their sprawling bungalows in Malabar hill, and allot them a flat each in Adarsh. This will sharply cut down house makeover costs, at public expense. I don't pay my taxes so somebody can have silk curtains in a room with 5 AC's, or so that someone can order expensive furniture for a totally unnecessary makeover. Come to think of it the minister needs a makeover, not his house. The possible emptying up of large sprawling tracts of land in that area, would possibly lead to some planned forestation efforts in an area where we now speak of heights of buildings, shamelessness and power, instead of heights of old trees.

b) Convert the building into a subsidized Children's Hospital, where people from all over Maharashtra/India can come and get the best of treatment, with some lower/upper floors reserved for dormitory accommodation for the parents of admitted kids.

c) A Working women's hostel, as well as a place of refuge for the increasingly ill treated senior citizens, with adequate security. This security could be provided by our military because it is supposed to be their land.

d) The solution to revert back to the place as residences for the Kargil War Widows is also possible. However, a house is more than rooms and walls; it is also about extended family, reliable neighbors, social milieu and interactions, and there must be then a way of ensuring that the house remains with whoever it has been granted to. Most times, senior extended male family members rule the roost, take over the benefits accruing to the widow, and she is back where she was. Unless the government can set up a vigilance system for the occupants, this solution will not work.

e) Maharashtra Police at the lower levels have inadequate benefits. They need more recruits, they need to offer more benefits at the basic level, and police housing is something which has been crying for action. Adarsh could be something where they could have police housing for the lower echelons. Officer levels have guaranteed housing with cars and orderlies, and these facilities are often times abused. It is time that we did something for those, who risk life and limb on the roads of Mumbai, regardless of the weather, with inadequate protection (armswise), provide you the one live captured terrorist at the cost of their life, only to have the top echelons, move around in beaconed cars, giving endless statements and excuses about inefficient non-working bullet free jackets and messaging confusion during 26/11.

There could possibly be more innovative solutions I think the first one would be a cost saving one. The Mantralaya offices would be within walking distance. Minister types walking with their alphabetically enabled security detail, would draw admiring glances from the public, avoid traffic jams, improve pedestrian facilities in a city that believes only in 4 wheelers. There would be an immense saving in petrol. The WSJ, Time and Huffington Post post will write about this, and maybe we can arrange for the symbol obsessed types to wear a beacon on their head as they walk to work.

It just occurred to me that when we ordinary people think of investing in a flat, and particpate in getting a loan or membership in a housing society, we are always asked to submit a court affidavit on stamp paper , declaring that we do not own any other property within the city. I wonder what all the cheaters at "Adarsh" did . Or maybe , their affidavits were actually printed on stamp paper which was itself part of the earlier Telgi Stamp Paper Scam . So much for false declarations on false stamppapers, or true declarations of false stamppapers, or false declarations on true stamppapers.....Never mind.

I wonder if you have any other solutions for the usage of this building . ..... suggestions welcome!

Friday, January 14, 2011

In memoriam....

Some people are truly ageless. You feel they are your age when you talk to them. They qualify as a best friend.

And their Life is never about the state of their anatomy.

Other than my parents and family, she is probably someone I knew the longest.

They all called her Dr. Tai. Not her formal name as on her degrees and awards. But more a sign of how she was regarded.

My first acquaintance with her was something I couldn't possibly remember, simply because I must have been a newborn. She was a med student at one of Mumbai's biggest and best public teaching hospitals. She was also my mother's great friend, and contrary to the custom of getting a newborn's ears pierced at a jewellers, mine were surgically pierced by her, would you believe it, for practice. A perfect job.....

That she was the city's leading gynaecologist for many many years, built up her own hospital from scratch, her students swore by her, and had a huge rural clientele because of her complete understanding of rural women's family and sociological problems , was known to all.

That she was called upon for her diagnostic and surgical excellence to attend to cases by many luminaries in the field did not surprise anyone. And her ability to speak her mind, with clarity and without mincing words, for the welfare of her patient, could make several otherwise stuffy family members of the patient , see immediate light. (I have seen her strongly fire a father-in-law, who refused to allow a full term daughter-in-law with a complicated pregnancy, to travel to hospital (despite being warned of a possible early delivery and the indications), citing that the day was not auspicious. They lost the child.)

But few knew how she came to be.

She lost her mother early on in life, and was one of the four children, 3 daughters and a son. Her father, born in the latter part of the 19th century, was a Vedic scholar, who participated in the Freedom movement as a young man. He had a younger sister, and when it looked like his imprisonment by the British, for unknown periods, was imminent, he got his sister married, so that she should not be left alone to face the vagaries of life. By the time he was released, her husband, who was a sick man , had passed away, and he brought his sister home, to give her a dignified life, in her own maternal home.

So Tai grew up with her father, aunt, and 3 siblings. She and one of her sisters never married, and dedicated their lives to their profession of medicine, and looking after their father and aunt. They built up their own hospital, bit by bit, from a small set up in the city , in rented space, to a space adjoining their house.

I have great childhood memories, of dropping by her clinic occasionally with my mother, and the most coveted things was collecting blotting papers from her; pharma companies would give these out to doctors with med samples, as advertisements, with interesting visuals, and these things gave us a great status in class, when fountain pens were compulsory and ball pens hadn't made an appearance. I had a habit of asking a lot of questions about women, babies etc, and she always had answers for me, which even involved showing me a newborn.

She was an amazing combination of the traditional and the knowledge society. She respected those who suggested spiritual /religious worship as a solution for any medical problem, but ensured and insisted that the patient's well being was primary throughout it all. Her father's and aunt's wishes were always respected and their advice asked in non medical situations. Few people know, that for many summers, she would drive 120 miles to a relative's house, to bring their differently abled child to her house, (where , she had a ready care taking set-up since she had a hospital) , so that the parents would get some stress free time of their own. The parents would of course follow later,

She celebrated all the milestones in my life like an aunt would. When I graduated and was leaving for graduate studies in the US , she and her sister suddenly turned up one morning and presented me with a wonderful silk saree. We stayed in Mumbai then, and our trips to Pune were never complete without a trip with her to our college hangout. It was her college as well as mine, decades apart. And Coca Colas , which were greatly frowned upon by parents, were avidly imbibed when with her as a treat, along with wonderful Dosas.

My son was born in her hospital, and her old aunt, would come by and visit me with some delicious traditional, dry amla-ginger pieces and cardamom to nibble on, every day. I had a special Ayurvedic send-off lunch cooked by her and her sister before I went home. They came for his naming ceremony, and I still have the beautiful green and gold stud earrings they gave me. The little boy born there , was on his own, great friends with her and he too went to see her before he left for his graduate studies in the US a few years ago.

Somewhere in her early seventies, she cut down on her surgeries, and slowly started dismantling the hospital setup. Partially because the next generation of nephews was moving in to start their enterprises and offices, and partially because she was being realistic; there was no one to carry on after her. But she would still get called in to attend difficult cases at various hospitals.

So many of her students were now the leading medical practitioners in the city, and they never forgot their teacher. On one of our many trips to our old college hangout place, I was dumbstruck to see a middle aged gent in tennis shorts sighting her, and rushing to see her. The place was frequented by folks who came there to have a great breakfast after a tennis session early in the morning, and he was one of them. He came over, wished her, bent down and touched her feet. I asked her who he was. A leading doctor of Pune today, but her old student, remembered it was Gurupoornima (Full moon day in the Indian Calendar dedicated to gurus/teachers) , and came to pay his respects.

When my mother took ill suddenly one evening in 2000, and had to be rushed into an ICU, she was the firs person I called from Mumbai, while waiting outside the ICU . Technology was there , expertise existed, but I needed to talk to her. She could sense what was happening, knew what was imminent, and but talking to her was like a comforting, reassuring hand on my shoulder. Much later , when my mother was no more, we actually ended up being more friends than aunt-and-niece.

She herself , in her late seventies ended up being the caretaker of her siblings and family members. Her own sister, someone who was like her shadow for more than 60 years, passed away. She lost her brother and his wife around the same time. And finally in the house that her father had built, more than 100 years ago, but which was now renovated to accommodate future generations and larger populations, she became the Honored Grandma of a bunch of grandnieces and a grandnephew .

She never stopped being a student. Although her hospital had been dismantled, as such, her consulting room was maintained as it always was. She would consult for patients so many times a week, and was often found regularly studying the latest journals in her field there.

She was a member of a film appreciation group at the Film and Television Institute of India, where they showed classics from the archives and had seminars. She would attend these with interest...

Around 80 years of age, she decided she needed to brush up on her Sanskrit which she learned from her father as a child and in school, and joined a Sanskrit class, where she was the star pupil. (Another gentleman in his 70's , her classmate, told me that). She loved travelling, was a great reader of classic scriptures and philosophies, and had an amazing ability to make you feel she was your age when you spoke with her.

A year ago, she had a stroke, and collapsed into a coma. I wrote about the experience of seeing her. Those days saw the Whose Who of medicine and surgery dropping in to enquire after her, leaving the ICU staff completely thunderstruck. 4 days later she emerged from it, just like that, all systems normal, except for paralysis of the lower limbs. Her memory was never sharper, her mind more logical than many people half her age, and she put up a great sustained fight for many months.

Her grandnephew was graduating from high school, and she fretted in her state, not about how she couldn't move her limbs, but of whether he would get admission into her old college. She had full confidence in him, and she spoke about that with me on one of my many phone calls to her from Mumbai. She always asked about my children and their progress, rejoiced whenever occasion arose, and was a huge source of advise and inspiration when I looked up to her in times of trouble.

Two days ago, she woke up at 5 am. Her grandnephew, out to attend an early morning class spoke to her about his exam (which would happen later in the day), and they bid goodbye. That was the last she spoke.

Her life had set, quietly, stealthily, by the light of the rising sun .

You always think some people are for ever. I thought so about my parents. And after them, I thought so about Tai.

And one by one, they prove me wrong.

Maybe they prove me right.

They are for ever.

In my mind. In what they taught me. In my memories of them.

They will remain.

Get your story published in The Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – Indian Doctors at BlogAdda

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sign of the times....

These are weird times. Confusing times . And possibly shameless times.

We've just been through a year of scams. Buildings, Milk, Onions, Games, Fodder, Military land, 2G spectrum, minister appointments, disproportionate assets , relatives of judges going haywire consolidating assets, police officers committing crimes......the variety is mind boggling.

And the current minister, in charge of telecommunications, lambasts the Comptroller and Auditor general of India, because he says the 2G scam was 97 lakh crores and not 1,76 lakh crores. ( I may be wrong in numbers, whats a few crores here and there , na ?) someone said on twitter, this is like saying I didn't kill 25 people , but only 14......

The agriculture minister, intriguingly says that the prices will remain elevated for 3 weeks . If he knew all this why wasn't something done ? He also predicts a rise in milk prices. And I also read something about the impending rise in red chilly prices. The petroleum minister feels left out and hikes the gas prices.

And then , this morning, grown men cricketers, are auctioned off and sold like slaves, with moneybags and page 3 types fighting over them, and the way the news is reported, in real time, you can almost imagine someone walking around with a huge basket, with a bunch of faces peering out, and then he says " Come one, come all; today only, Rahul Dravid, for 400, Buy one Rahul, get one Saurav free " , " Make a VVspecial offer on VVS Laxman, and get Brett Lee at 50%"....

All they have to do, is play non-stop cricket for 6 weeks, wear bright uniforms in children's colors, attend vague parties post match regardless of how tired they are, and watch underdressed item number types perform jhatkaas whenever the hit a four or a six, as their jingling owners applaud in the company of Bollywood folks from the special stands.

Like I said , these are weird and shameless times.

And that fact was confirmed when I saw, how, the Fashion Design Council of India, organized "Fashion Weeks" (at 5 star hotels, sponsored by companies who should know better, and avidly watched by fabric disabled folks, sitting cheek by jowl ) to provide "a market place for Indian Designers to showcase their talent".

I don't know who buys these things, and where they wear the stuff. I wouldn't wear a telephone with feathers on my head even if they offered green peas free for a week.

Watch :

I guess you need this when you don't want to see what you are eating.

And I don't really know what the protrusion on the top is, but the cows on our campus might just decide to sue this designer for infringing on their copyright on horns.

This is even worse. See the expression on the face of the man in the audience.

I would look that way too, if I saw a person carrying a lace covered jackfruit on the head, with flowing tatters, and passing that off as "headwear".

Would you pay for this ? I wouldn't wear this if they paid me more than Gautam Gambhir in IPL4.

And with all that cutting and fitting design training, was tetra packs all they could find ? And why not have buttons for the green blouse ? And sticking the top flap of the boxes in your hair is not such a hot idea.

Accessorizing hair with little notes saying "Kitne Aadmi the ? (=How many people were there?)" wont work if this lady tries to enter one of Mumbai's buses at 9:30 am on a weekday, or 7:30 am on a train.

Of course, you are forgiven if you think this was from a fashion show for HRH Prince Charles when he met the Mumbai Dabbawallas.

How the designer forgot to incorporate dangling spoon earrings is beyond me ! It might be a nice way to carry your lunch, but they have clearly forgotten one lid. Something is very empty at the top.

6 Sigma Management types have blasted this saying Dabbawallas are much better as they carry so many more lunches per person, that too with lids.

The designer has defended saying this lady is actually running in the Mumbai Marathon 2011.

No wonder this lady is looking to her right. She wouldn't see a thing on the left, with her mother's ancient dusting brooms attached like this to her crown.

But learning ballet and travelling in trains might be an option. You kind of twirl around in those tiny bathrooms, and walls automatically get clean. You look down, move your get the idea.

Only thing is what happens if she emerges out and then sneezes at someone ? And whose feathers are these ? Can some Minister intervene ?

Great use of the 3000 crates of toilet paper rolls that were imported in the CWG scam.

One has always promoted the more hygienic way of using water instead of paper, as practiced in India.

But I wish someone had consulted a Rajasthan person while planning the head wrap. Although, I suppose this habit of ordering more of everything than what you need , is endemic in the corridors of power, and it is better to donate the toilet paper to fashion than get listed as someone embroiled and accused in a Toilet paper scam. (This certainly looks like one, though)...

I am sure you've been dying to do this : dump all the assorted old electronic stuff from your house somewhere. Not much of designing here, it looks like someone just opened a drawer, picked up the stuff, dashed it on this lady's head, and taped things a bit here and there, so it doesn't fall when she turns her head on the catwalk to smile at a Bollywood hero. Also a good trick to use on a bad hair day.

But I wish they had removed the colorful sales tags. The Minister for Environment, the UN, Barrack Obama, and Sunita Narayan will approve this recycling of e-waste.

Superb, conservative design above the neck. Ideal for getting into crowded buses and trains. Will keep people at a decent distance from you, though the problem will happen only when you want to whisper.

I hear Cadbury's and Hersheys are in competition to provide those protruding things in chocolate. You munch on them and then use new ones everyday. Ideally installed if you have a little one you need to carry, and he gets hungry. Of course this has the danger of unknown folks trying to dash against you in wild abandon, once they know.

Another fine example of what you can do with your old slide projector tray. There are patriotic colors involved, acceptable to all the important political parties, and the wheel contraption on the forehead is actually a pair of attached sunglasses.

Strangely, now that old electronic stuff is the rage amongst fashion designers, hoarding has begun, and there is currently a shortage of old screens, switches, and keyboards. This model actually had QWERT around her neck, but they removed it and hid it.

Wouldn't want to wear it to a party though. Just think of the injuries if 25 people danced in this to Sheela ki Jawani...

This has to be the pick of the lot. In keeping with our latest Scam.

Modelled by one of our best, in the 2G-3G-Haan-Ji Fashion show inaugurated by the previous Telecom Minister, it takes you back to the days, when Spectrums were in Rainbows, and happened free of charge.

Though I certainly think they could have used a better basket to invert over the lady's head. And they need to clarify on the post-it note stuck to the model's forehead. It's probably a new way (going back to basics ?) of taking messages from phonecalls. Though I wish the CBI would find out if Nira Radia, Barkha, and Vir are involved in this design.

And what a wonderful way to advertise Milk !

A page 3 bride, with a gown and umbrella based veil in the color of burnt milk.

At first I thought this was a new stunt by the lady , Liz Hurley, who wore a safety pin dress and got married in Jaipur.

But apparently the Paneer company sponsoring the show insisting on having a bottle of milk at the top.

Scams, rising prices, selling cricketers, lies, politics, and I was wondering if anyone could visualize how the common man/woman on the street felt.

There are actually designers who understand that.

This monstrosity on the left was actually exhibited in a fashion show by the designers whose name figures on the screen behind the model.

Could be electric wires, chindhis from the tailor, or artistically peeled bottle gourd (dudhi) peels.

The person doesn't look like a professional model, and he seems to be running, in sandals. Must be escaping from something before he gets too embroiled .

I wonder who he is.

Enjoy .

Monday, January 03, 2011

Wild and Wonderful

35 years ago, when I first came to stay, in what could possibly be, even today, the most wooded residential area in Mumbai, there weren't too many conveniences and public transport things operating. Within the area , that is.

Returning from the city after work, after being ejected involuntarily from a sneezing overloaded bus, and walking home across the last kilometre , on dark winter evenings, it was not unknown for a person enjoying the wafting cool breeze to suddenly encounter a herd of cattle, sitting smack in the middle of the road, enjoying the same. The road lighting resembled candle light, and you kind of stepped carefully around, making your way, trying to ignore some senior cows chewing away at something. Occasionally, someone in a four wheeler would come by, honk a lot, some of the aforementioned senior cows would lethargically get up, look at the car with heavily lidded eyes, point their horns towards it, shake their head, and allow the car to kind of scrape past.

By and by, things "improved". Roads became wider. Cows and buffaloes became choosy. Some of them enjoyed wandering in the academic area during the day, cat walking through the "infinite corridors", even hanging around in style at department entrances. Two wheelers on campus increased, and the cattle felt threatened....

For some reason, the sound of changing gears threatened the cows. I would take my son by two-wheeler to his primary school, and several times, the sound of a gear, changing from 3rd to second at a crowded turning, would agitate some cows. There would be a sudden gallop, head down, horns pointing ahead, and folks at the school gate would be treated to a thrilling spectacle of a lady speeding on a two wheeler, a child sitting back to back (as was the fashion then) , terrorised and followed by an angry cow or bull. I later on found out, that this kind of thing happened mostly, when there were calves around, and the mother cows felt endangered by the gear change sound and took offensive action. Of course , to a cow that was defensive action.

Crocodiles , then , abounded in the lake on whose banks we lived. On a spring day, when there was still some water in the lake, you could often see a crocodile sunning itself a la South-of-France on a jutting rock in the middle of the lake. It was not unknown , for kindergaarten kids, walking in twos, holding hands, on their first school walking trip to the Devi temple, to dissolve into a chaotic crowd, pointing to the rock, with big eyes, intense talk, a few frightened souls, and many who then went home and described imaginary things with great bravado.

Snakes , of course, were the original inhabitants of the place. Not small ones that sometimes resembled old electric wires, but properly big, striated, and metallic colored ones, kind of undulating across the ground, impervious to the various Bajaj Chetaks, Fiats and Ambassadors around. Anytime you saw a crowd , on its lunch break, congregated at a culvert, you could be sure that there was high drama happening between a snake and a frog, on the banks of a babbling brook below, and some even attempted a running commentary, till the event had a decisive result. So many grounds were full of little mounds with big snake holes. Walking back in the dark, badly lit roads, we got used to banging our foot while walking, which was supposed to drive away snakes. Very often pipes which were meant as an outlet for water in balconies and verandahs were utilised by smart snakes to enter inside, and lie down, sometimes coiled. Smaller snakes often entered through the uneven floor tiles of the older flats, and I remember trying to pick up a dark wire once, and being totally dumbstruck when it wiggled and moved.

Of course, mongooses and rats abounded. The mongoose, the stupider of the two, would make all kinds of screeching noises moving around, where as the rat was literally fast evolving. We employed rat traps, rat pills, and even hounded them out of the house, chasing them with hockey sticks, badminton rackets, handy poles and stuff, but they always remembered the address and returned. Someone, who eventually succeeded admirably in a career inversely proportional to work done, actually advised us to immerse the rattrap with rat in a bucket of water, drowning the rat, but none of us had the heart to do that.

But the experience and expertise helped. Many years later, at work, when rats had a free run of the subterranean pipes through which our lab computer network cables went, we were able to catch culprits overnight by keeping , at key places, rat traps with potato vadas inside; The room smelt of spice and ginger garlic the next morning, but there was a rat inside each trap the next morning......

I guess I have come up in the world. Living on the sixth floor above a canopy of trees that predate this campus, it's more about the birds today.

But we've advanced to monkeys and leopards now. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park borders us. This area was considered the back of the boondocks once. ( Maybe even now .)
Increasing encroachment there, vanishing green cover, and avaricious builders have forced the animals there to move east (to us) in search of water and food.

The leopards probably cover these miles in a few minutes, looking for food and water. Our lake is a big attraction. Sometimes the wild dogs and cattle on campus have shown sign of attacks and struggle. The campus straddles an area between a crowded arterial road and a wooded hilly area, and the leopard mostly appears in the latter. In keeping with the intellectual atmosphere supposed to pervade this place, the rear side of the library is favoured by wandering leopards. Every now and then Security issues notices asking families to ensure safety of small children and pets after sundown, and urges those who sense a leopard in the vicinity to make loud noise and burst fire crackers to keep the animal at a distance.

Students with a disabled sense of time, walking back from departments in the pre dawn darkness, have reported coming within shouting distance of a shining pair of sharp eyes, glowing at them. And at one time, the engineering students constructed a cage type contraption, where the leopard was lured in and it automatically banged shut. This enabled it to remained unmolested, and the residents safe, till it was handed over to the Forest department for taking it back , safely, with best wishes, to its maika, so to speak. Thousands of campus folks, children etc came daily to watch and take photographs.

But the monkeys have had a freer reign. They kind of emigrate to our campus late summers when there's a water shortage at their natural abode. They follow the immortal principle of safety in numbers. Besides having a lake with some water, thousands of trees to eat off and swing from, they have the pick of folks who they can fool and bother.

Ladies lugging back groceries suddenly see the loaf of bread , or juicy mangoes disappearing. The home delivery person coming on a bicycle with a full bag, suddenly starts coming in a three wheeler contraption with closable windows. And a young fellow , dreamily clutching a chikki and walking to his class, kicking a pebble here, splashing a puddle there, suddenly sees something snatch away his goodies.

Leave a window open, regardless of which floor you live on, and they are there, with complete family, sending scrawny baby monkeys in through narrow grills, who then ransack the place , and pass out goodies to those outside. I have even seen a monkey move a curtain aside, and peer out. Thanks to building fixtures that reach inoperative states and obsolescence extremely fast, folks going out of town , leaving a slight gap in a window, have come back to see entire kitchens in shambles, half eaten fruit rotting, and signs of wild living .

We learn . And we now have more innovative grills.

We've learnt to ignore the cow's superior heavy lidded cud chewing brush-off, and contrary to traffic rules outside, we give snakes the right of way.

I no longer have rat problems (touch wood), because unlike the politicians and the builder lobby they don't appear to be obsessed with high-rises.

Folks in an old multistoryed building near the lake, talk about a face to face encounter between a leopard and a watchman next to a lift, and a middle aged security officer has actually fought with an attacking leopard and proudly displays the stitches from the gashes.

Monkeys are a bit innovative, and they often manage to frighten people with a full teethed hissing grin after stealing and messing with food stuff and groceries. They also carry their young ones around, kind of introducing them to "Marauding and Fun for beginners".

But as in politics, the monkeys have powerful brethren. Monkeys that have been enjoying a season of marauding in the New Delhi premises occupied by our esteemed Members of Parliament, are now being subject to deterrence from one of their own tribe. Maybe the monkeys in Delhi are highly political.

MPs who normally glare at each other, and throw things , in Parliament, have come together, and contributed funds (no doubt reimbursable), to hire fellows who walk around with Langurs, who are like a mafia version of monkeys.

One look from a strolling Langur, and the monkeys scurry for cover . The Langurs are picking up Delhi stuff very very fast. So do the monkeys. When the Langur threatens, they retreat towards the Election Commission premises. Intelligent creatures.

The Langurs were even employed in the Common wealth Games. For the safety of the athletes. And they often rode pillion .

Just wondering.

Maybe I missed something, but was there a Langur Scam ?