Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Different Parade

I've known about Award Nights . (I didn't say I have been to one. Just saying....)

And red carpets, and flared gowns, bow ties, and people ties,  swishing cars and banging doors, gliding Mercedes and  flashing diamonds, sachharine comments and sweet truths, and folks literally flying in, harnessed to a massive cage above a stunned audience....

I wonder if anyone has heard about Award Afternoons.  About arriving sputtering in a vehicle, with one less wheel than a Mercedes, open air style, convertible on the sides.  To be greeted by a spiffy shining dark jet black dog, who smells the air around you with deceptive ease, and lets you pass with his boss  saying "Namaste".  Then someone takes everything on your person (except you)  and passes it through an X-Ray machine. I am just glad they don't see my broken rib and fused tailbone.  Your belongings are then returned to you, and you enter the Republic Day Brunch Parade.

This is about the Parade, I did. On Republic Day, January 26. 2014.

At the Courtyard by Marriot Mumbai Airport. Who held a contest to define Republic Day as a dish, and asked us what it should be and why....

Naturally, as befits a 64 year old person, brought up on the celebratory properties on Payasam,  my entry was a poem about the Patriotic Payasam.

I won . :-)   Those Payasamically curious, may read the poem here.

A Brunch for 2, on Republic Day , at their Mo Mo cafe. Naturally,  the family photo expert attended with the camera.

The only thing different here was, that WE were the parade, as we walked amidst the breads and the salads, and chaats, and regular lunch stuff and pastas, regaled by the mocktails.

A bit different from sitting in one place, inside barricades, either  cheek by jowl with muffler wrapped folks, or elegantly wrapped in shawls in special enclosures, applauding , seeing the various   folks go by....

Ours was a perspective of the parading types. who watch the folks in the stands and galleries.

And naturally , this being Election Year, we had something to say about certain folks.

Stiff upright breads, puffed and positioned in important reserved places, hierarchical and hot in power...

 ADC's  standing in formation behind the Breadpati, unaffected by the spicy going ons...

 The ministers,  external affairs, home style, internal matters, agriculture, and milk matters, in place,based on their proximity to the boss, the onion, tomato peons standing by to the side,

 The bureaucratic olives, zuchhini habitat centre chholes, subdued onions, and powerful corns and sprouts, sitting in importance , watched by the lettuce balconies,

 Khatte Meethe security types, waiting to slowly arrive at important places , some tough , some sweet, and some downright sour,

 And to one side,  Delhi chaat types,  wrapped in jeerapani, crackling away in sev puri delight, with showers of tomatoes, sauce , and a glaring chilly look..

 Some clearly, dressed for the occasion, in orange and green chutney style, watched by the churmuri onlookers around,

 And then to one side, the armed forces, with the mocktails, fashionable cool and spiffy, flavored by the tangy orange, mysterious litchi, and in keeping with AAP, the AAM Panna,

 Some special seats across the gap, for hefty Dalwalas, and Paneerbegums and Mutterbens, respectfully sitting around the sophisticated handi rice folks hobnobbing with the newfangled carrot soup visitors....

 Sweet kulhad kids, playing with caramel,  with raspberry tops, and funny upside down pineapple types,  some older spicy cake kids, watching the fruit custards, and guavas , while the doodhihalwa kids whoop it up with the brownie pudding types watched by apple, pineapple and dragon moms, lying in syrup; what to do , kids will be kids......

 The Kiwi heads and Hazelnut tortes, keeping their distance; you see, the parade is nicely visible from a platform, they think.....

 The Tiranga Barfis, swathed in national colors, escorted by the paneeri ladies, respectfully sitting to one side....

 And the general veggie public, surrounded by white barricades, falling over each other, marinated in excitement, waiting since dawn, to watch the Republic Day parade.....

 Sometimes, an occasional bread security chap, standing to the side, one eye on the dahi vadas all immersed in themselves, as the cherries stand up to see better, leaning on the apples....

 A special place of course, for special folks, escorting the dragon fruit, an esteemed visitor to the capital, invited for the parade.....

 The custard fruit, salutes as the parade goes by, as the cake climbs to one side, to see better; perhaps the paneeribegums know what is in the parade, since they rest quietly, stewing in their own sweetness

 In all this celebration of the Republc Day , a lone Curd Rice, sits  amidst the salads and influential dhoklas; much like  a Kejriwal, at the Presidents reception, wondering, whether he is in the wrong place or they are..

 And yes, the AAM Panna,  made a mock-tale of  , possibly to suit the tastes of some, who have forgotten the taste of a winkingly sour raw mango and a summer nagpur orange, while fitting into the corridors of power ....


Psst. If I were a Pulao or Tandoori Roti watching this parade, I wouldn't be too thrilled about having to watch a greying senior citizen in a salwar kurta and a young girl in a more celebratory outfit, lugging cameras and lenses.  I might add though, that there were several interestingly outfitted people one noticed later, in the parade . That would clearly, be fodder for another post ....

Just saying....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wondering Times ....

Sometimes , I wonder.

How someone, with a paneer obsession for almost a quarter of a century, can suddenly now, actually turn her nose up and away, when faced with a paneer choice ?

How someone, who almost always gravitated to the T-shirts and jackets section in shops, suddenly cannot pull herself from the kurtas and salwars section overnight ?

How a bracelet-and-charms aficionado,  seriously looks up and says "You are supposed to wear 12 green glass bangles in one arm, and 13 in the other...." and looks troubled when someone else disagrees ?

How someone who swore by heels and despised flats, suddenly turns away in shoe shops, when confronted when heels guaranteed to topple you as you run for 6:56 am fast suburban train service.... ?

How a confirmed midnight chocolate snacker (with a yet unbroken record of imbibing 1 kilogram of assorted Hershey's chocolates  over a 2 day weekend), seriously looks up and says "you know you are supposed to fast before the pujas and rituals...." and proceeds to berate you for offering something to eat.

Well ?     It happens.

When certain life stage changes are imminent.  

Virtual lenses modify the eyes,  ear drums percuss louder when  inputs are special,  and wings appear in the mind.

One tries to research the origins of customs  that are so convincing to some.  And finds out that the original custom was a brand ambassador of commonsense;  in an effort, over the years, at mindlessly following things, we have managed to mess up the real priorities .

Some one's troubled face when confronted with the absence of a full fledged celebrated "haldi" ceremony in the planning of a wedding, led to a few discussions with someone who is a a scholarly officiating wedding priest  who explained.

Turns out, that in Maharashtra, earlier in the last century, the ideal marriageable age for girls was 8 years. (Never mind the boy's age. You thanked your stars if he was 20, and practiced looking stoic if he was 32. )  This was an age when kids played outdoors in mud, climbed trees, enjoyed swimming in local rivers, since there was no Internet, cell phones, malls with multiplexes, television, movies, and so on. When faced with an imminent marriage,  the religious rules demanded some elements of cleanliness  and purity , and the kids were subjected to a decent scrubbing with haldi and besan before bathing. Haldi (turmeric) was a well know antiseptic (among many other properties) , and it made sense to land up at the wedding rituals as clean and pure as you could be , in the days before L'oreal, Fair and Lovely, and Ponds.   

It was also useful to check out about the fasting.   There is much to be said about not encouraging the currently prevalent system of following strict fasts to be concluded by eating a selection of heavy celebratory rich foods, all in the name of "customs".

Sometimes, those  who cannot bear to be away from food, do so if God is involved. 

And then , there is also the ancient classification of food into Taamsi food and Satwick food.

Folks today, tend to over imbibe taamsi stuff, and look askance at a vegetarian you,  if you object to  them mixing up serving spoons in the vegetarian and non vegetarian stuff.  You are derisively called a  ghass-phoos type if you get your kicks from spinach and cabbage, and many aspire to eating things that have  hearts and eyes , in an effort to keep up with the times and Joneses.  Asking someone to fast before a religious ritual ,  avoids taking sides in the satwick and taamsi debate,  and gives the body a decent break , so it can rest and rejuvenate fresh and clean inside ,  before approaching God.

(The gentleman I spoke to, was all for those with problems like old age, diabetes, acidity and other stuff, partaking a light meal , milk etc before attending and performing a ritual. He also mentioned the need to wear new and or freshly washed clean  comfortable clothes at the ritual , instead of the  specially, touch-me-not silk dhoties often required ...  )   .

While this may perturb those whose idea of honoring the Almighty is to sit at the ritual studded with gold, diamonds and heavily adorned silk,  it is clear, that the various other customs really arose out of the social interaction systems prevalent in the old days.

Mehndi was never about  designs, but about plans.

Young girls , at 8 and 10 ,  apprehensive after a childhood with societal restrictions closing in as you grew up,  were clearly stressed going into their marriage. They probably saw the husband for the first time at the wedding ceremony.  Mehndi applied to the extremities of the limbs, strengthened  and cooled the nerves . The artistry took their mind away from anxieties about an unknown future.  And the girls enjoyed the mehndi fellowship with other girls in a life where there were not too many social occasions for them to enjoy outside the house.  There was also a custom of hiding the husband's name/initials somewhere in the design on the palms, and various theories were propagated about dominance depending on whether the husband was able to find his initials in the design on the wife's palm after a search.

Clearly, this was not about party games.  In an age, devoid of online matrimonial portals, Cafe Coffee Day, Starbucks, cell phones, whatsapp, and discos, this was a kind of game-cum-smart-effort, to get the couple to feel at ease with each other, as the husband held the wife's hand, and searched for his name in the design on the palm.

It boggles the mind to think about how all this degenerated into  the currently fashionable so called "customary"  events where folks in fancy clothes, gyrate to specially choreographed  filmy songs, with suggestive lyrics.

Yes, cultures across the country are different.  There are womens' traditional dances like the garba and certain maharashtrian game-like events, where the girl's friends do traditional graceful dances,  to songs with lyrics that talk about the various   in-laws  in a humorous yet respectful  way. A kind of "Introduction-to-inlaws 101" course.....

Many things, originally of great utilitarian and comfort value, have now been thoughtlessly parodied, and the original meaning has been lost. Vested commercial interests  market occasions in a way that makes folks feel insecure unless they do them .

So the old idea of families travelling by bullock kart and on foot for days together to the bride's place for the wedding  ceremony, leading to the custom of offering warm water to wash feet, has been parodied into a custom where the groom's feet on arrival,  are washed by people double his age, although the groom arrives from somewhere by an air conditioned car, and sometimes the  last few metres on a horse taller than the car. A not so subtle suggestion of some one's deemed high status.

So many , customs and events, earlier existing for reasons of hospitality and convenience have now become situations where importance is given to all the wrong aspects.

We are experts at doing this.  Disobeying the original intention and parodying things.

Long time ago, the registration of a marriage was not compulsory.  If you so wished, you went to  the registrars office, filled up forms, showed proofs, and your marriage was registered after suitable safeguards were in place,  like public announcements and a waiting period.  People in that office looked on with great interest at the couple in question, and even fantasized about whether they had run away to get married, whether there was some interesting opposition or simply just rule obsessed folks with lots of time on their hands.

The minute the government made the registration mandatory, the erstwhile quiet office, is now teeming with all kinds of staff, officers, lawyers, touts, and people out to make a quick buck. There is a price for everything.  A parody of something that was introduced with good intentions.

We so excel at flouting rules, sidestepping things and finding loopholes.   

I often think about how things will be, say twenty  years hence. What will be the customs then . What stuff we will parody .   What stuff we will market as an unavoidable requirement.

And whether someone will actually look back in history, and write a post like this.

And whether I will be around to read it :-)

Like I said, sometimes,  I wonder.  

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Techno Militants

There comes a time in the lives of humans, when  the excessive sparkle of technology,  blinds. Not just the eyes, but more so, the brain.

Early on in our lives, or should I say, my life, the technology I used , was , to say the least , personalised.  Meaning, that the component of technology that  was designed , based on my actual personal preference,  was non trivial.

Electronics was in its nascent days. Elsewhere across the world, it had rushed  around by leaps and bounds, but thanks to our economic and other rules, we were late starters. Electronics afforded you a way to enjoy leisure times.  Sometimes, things like telephones, were , of course, great conveniences, but they were never , personal or even family accessories.  Mixers and blenders were on the horizon, but they were a luxury , and we still swear by the chutney ground on the stone, and the buttermilk churned with a "ravi", all at non life threatening speeds.  There was a sense of values-in-what-we-traditionally-had, combined with a sense of quiet wonder about what was on the horizon. Very slowly, convenience won out. Bicycles became complicated and posh. Cycling to work in fresh air got replaced by stationery bikes pedalled to the tune of some hit songs in a big hall full of sweaty people .

The real problem arose, when technology started entering the personal realm. It was now a question of technology influencing , not just the eyes, but the brain.

Visual technology perfected for television combined with entities employed to fool people , started affecting the way folks thought.  Ethics fell by the wayside,  as  folks agonized over being unable to fit into clothes that were not meant for them anyway. Young girls  lost sleep over the shape of their nose, and their inabilities to match up with vital statistics of people they saw all the time on screen. Medical specialities proliferated and some folks  made , and continue to make a career out of  chopping and changing  the original product, with a nip here and  tuck there,  sometimes big cuts,  giving "sculpture" a new meaning.

 The problem arises today, because technology is now used to fool the mind. Fooled, to believe, that  there are hierarchies, binary standards, and there is a non trivial probability of you falling by the wayside, if you don't fit yourself in.

In an outstanding example of how minds can be weakened,   little girls look on wide eyed, as they are bombarded  with one photographically overexposed face after another on television, ignoring camera tricks, applauding fairness.  In complexion, that is.

Young boys, look on goggle eyed, as a fellow sprays stuff on himself, and  is suddenly overcome with female visitors, whose parents clearly are not aware of their whereabouts and activities. Success, as shown, is almost always attributable to beautiful faces, and never mind things like common sense, intelligence and ability to put in hard work.

And it doesn't help, that  we are a land of people with a diverse mix of religions, colors and physical statures.  We always were, and were actually comfortable in our own skins,  but then technology happened, and we've never been able to reverse the effects of that perturbation.  And it has certainly not helped, that parental attention has simply not been the same, since the economy has forced both parents into the workplace.

It has been an uphill task, to shore up the self esteem of a child , who doesn't fit in, at birth , into the color scheme of things.  Sometimes , excelling at some activity as a youngster , being applauded by ones peers, and being singled out for praise at school etc, helps; but it takes a lot out of parents and extended family (if it is available)  to keep at it for large periods of time and reach such a stage.

This, combined with a wilful shuteye towards the bad side effects of a  technology for so called enhancement,  has only meant more unsolvable worries later on   Watch the beauty pageants. Read about chemicals used to lighten skin.  Read about unchecked advertisements for diet pills, some with known cardiac side effects.  Not just women, but young men and boys, emulating half knowledge elders  taking steroids and stuff in a hurry to get there. Read the skin whitening entry in Wikipedia.   

We are a society that has given in to the technology militants. Technology being used to spread certain ways of thinking, and spreading selective information to mislead us. Science is no longer important. Your ability to fool someone , makes you smart.  And so ,we have a government that allows , completely misleading ads on television, including those hitherto banned liquor ads, where the stuff is called Casettes and CD's or soda, followed by a winking hollywood actor.  The list is endless.

I just read this post.  It brings back to my mind some one's similar hurtful experiences.

I've met the little girl in the above post.  And her joie-de-vivre , sparkle ,  shining  face and innovative logic,  would actually start a new slogan about chocolate , beauty, and  growing up  smart.

I hope she grows up and starts her own set up. And makes sensible ad-films. And gives some wonderful talks and speeches, as well as writes great books. And inspires lots of little girls and their mothers.  And gets applauded, for changing the way people think.

It is easy for me to say . It is difficult, but doable.

Her parents run the marathon every year.

I am sure, she will run hers.  And complete hers too.  Brilliantly......  




Friday, January 03, 2014

Charge of the Bull Brigade

It has been a long time since I have ridden a two wheeler, and very clearly, never a Vespa.

 I have ridden stuff which was like a motorized bicycle with a two  litre petrol tank, and an engine so small, it didn't need a license number plate.

Then there have been a bunch of 100 cc scooters , way back in the days when all scooters looked the same , and didn't give in to the dictates of  fancy designs with sloping seats, high backs, and outlandish colors.

Then it was the evergreen M-80, which was a like a scooter unable to make up its mind, on whether to keep in touch with the aforementioned motorized cycle, or clearly take sides with the fancy new scooter types.

The daughter has done some serious pillion riding in her younger days before it became unfashionable to be seen  here and there with me , as I furiously pedalled down a slope to start the lazy engine.

Why am I suddenly talking about his ? Because I just came across a contest  announcement from Indiblogger  about "recharging" (of all things) , my hair , with a particular shampoo,  and the first prize is a Vespa :-)

Words change. Meanings change. 

 The word "charge" brought two things to mind , in the old days.  One, the electron. And two, the poem "The charge of the light brigade", which we all memorized in school back then. "Recharge" as a word, is a modern invention, ever since rechargeable batteries happened.

And it has been made completely insignificant now with its meaning extended to recharging phones with money.

Hair, of course, often had a charge associated  with it, when you combed it in a certain way, and tried to show off in front of folks who had not learnt yet about static electricity.

It also had a " discharge" associated with it, when you went to someone to have your hair cut, and set, and looked acceptable in the mirror one last time, before breezing back on your two wheeler in the monsoon winds, arriving back, totally discharged in a disarray of hair which had meekly given in and blown haywire.

I guess charging  and recharging your hair using a specific shampoo is for those whose curls have a life of several hours, and whose hair falls just so, as they step out of a fancy car, reflecting and glinting in the sunlight deflected by their sunglasses.  

But "charging" and "scooters"  brings back some different memories.

The daughter trained for years , as a competitive swimmer, and since one lived on a campus with various facilities,  I would take her to the pool every single day for her workouts as a child.   

One evening as we approached the steps leading to the pool, the daughter riding pillion,  I saw a person in front staring at me , open mouthed, with fear on his face. 

I knew this person, and was a bit puzzled, and some good sense made me look behind, as the daughter prepared to disembark.  There was a huge black bull, horns pointed in my direction, galloping towards us.  The guy in front didn't know what to say , but his expression said it all. I urged my daughter to get off and run inside, while I accelerated for dear life, and took off at what were considered amazing speeds around the students' gymkhana , ever done by a lady in her 50's on a two wheeler, the bull hot in pursuit, charging behind me. 

We stay in a wooded campus, which has some cattle as original inhabitants.  Occasionally, they get intimidated by the sound of changing of gears.  Particularly , when a calf is around with them.  I had changed gears when taking a turn on an incline,  and had inadvertently threatened the bull, which was now being greatly aided by the slope of the road..

And so we had this big episode of a race between a frightened desperate old lady on a scooter, and a raging charged black bull  bigger than the lady and scooter together, one accelerating to save her life, and the other , in an enraged attack.

A full circle around the gymkhana, watched by dumbstruck students, and the bull lost momentum, as I coasted back to the pool, parked the vehicle , and ran up the steps to the viewers gallery at the pool, to be applauded by friends who were observing this spectacle. 

Don't know about my hair, but this entire chase had charged me so badly, I sat down with friends in the viewers gallery  with my eyes closed, as my daughter watched while doing backstroke in her assigned lane.

I don't know that I am submitting this for the contest,  since I am saying little about the specific shampoo, Sunsilk, and the hair charging  and recharging.

But given that the Vespas are participating , is there any truth to the rumour that Hindustan Unlever has now Italian partners ?     Just saying ......   :-))