Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Choices of life...

On way back home from work tonight in the local train, I was wondering about the time we all spend commuting, or rather the time we waste commuting to work. Believe it or not -- commuting takes away nearly 4 hours of my day, every day, day after day -- I shudder at the calculation of the number of "years" of my life that I would lose.
I am sure that is what most professionals in metros would feel.
But this is a lifestyle we want, we crave for, we desire?
My work often takes me to small towns all over the country. Earlier this month, I travelled to Jodhpur and Jaipur on work. It was refreshing to see the relaxed pace of life there. A casual conversation with a local person was enlightening -- he told me that he takes 10 minutes to commute to commute -- it would be a maximum of 20 minutes on a bad traffic day!
The social life, he said, begins after work, he continued. After reaching home, he said he found time to help his kids with homework, meet friends over a cup of tea, have a relaxed dinner and go to be bed by 10.30PM.
Boy, what a life!
My next question to him was on his career. Good it is, he replied. But he went on say that he knows that he could earn a lot more if he moved to a metro. Yet he chose to stay here in Jodhpur -- he said he wanted to feel and enjoy seeing his kids grow, he wanted to be with them, teach them the values of life. He further went on say that he made a choice in life and he was quite happy with that choice.
Tough choice I thought.
We know that the lives we lead are unsustainable. Yet we still live this unsustainable lives.
We are like chain-smokers -- we know it is detrimental to us, yet we still do it, just for the thrill, for the kick of it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The World this Week

When I started this blog, I had resolved to be regular -- regular in posting my thoughts online. Despite feeling lazy, I am trying to keep with a promise that I made to myself with my thoughts on the week gone by.
The Indian manufacturing dream is in grave danger -- the Tatas, who had actually conceived the Nano, which has the potential to be the car of the masses the world over faces a grave uncertainty due to "political" unrest camouflaged as a protest by the "100,000 odd" farmers in Singur fomented by the Didi! While the Tatas will pay a heavy price for not paying adequate "tributes" to the right people, I am told Singur never ever had 100,000 "farmers"!!!
The boil in Kashmir goes on -- but should we taxpayers pay dearly for ungrateful people who don't care? I am told Kashmir, which has a dead economy, sustains itself on a per-capita subsidy of an odd-Rs. 9000 as against Rs. 700 in more deserving Bihar. Waving green flags is one thing, but living life is another. It's a challenge -- if those waving green flags were to break away from India, they will barely survive a week on their own, without the Indian taxpayers' money doled out to them.
While Pakistan and stability are two different banks of a river that can never ever meet, I still feel that purely from an Indian perspective, we were better off with Musharraf as the president. At least he did try to think differently to resolve issues with India. "Mr. 10%" as president, would first fill his Swiss bank accounts before thinking of anything else!
The NSG meet for India went on expected lines -- while the New Zealanders, the Swiss and the Irish have voiced their concerns on exceptions being made for India, it is improbable that they would go against their guardian, the US, by blocking the deal. It seems they have adopted a mere face saving mechanism to satisfy their domestic constituencies by voicing their opposition now, only to let the deal through in September. Look at who is opposing the deal -- New Zealand for long enjoyed US protection under the ANZUS nuclear umbrella and Ireland continues to do under the NATO umbrella. How naive they are to put India in the same category as North Korea and Pakistan!!
The Russian revival post-Putin has sent shockwaves through the West. The misadventure and bravado by the Georgian Prseident Mikheil Saakashvili was set right by Russian intervention. Russia today means business and it has proved that it will not tolerate any nonsense in its backyard, especially when it comes to shady energy and arms deals by the Americans. Is India listening? We ought to do something similar in our region -- our regional nuisances -- Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. have taken us lightly for long. We need a Putin to set things right here. A friend whom I would not like to name here for obvious reasons thinks that Narendra Modi could do a Putin here if he becomes the PM.
India has had its best ever run at the Beijing Olympics -- a big haul of 3 medals, one of which is a gold fortunately. While our establishment, corporates and media have started deifying the winners, this inflection point in Indian sports could be used as opportunity to groom young talent for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics -- needless to say corporate support will be required.
Africa, which has been in the news for the last few months for the wrong reasons (Robert Mugabe and suppression of democracy in Zimbabwe, post-election violence in Kenya), lost a democratic leader -- President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia died after suffering a stroke in Paris. Zambia which has been holding on to the beacon of multi-party democracy in Africa after the ouster of Kenneth Kaunda, goes on to show that Africa can make the transition peacefully.
And as another week begins, I do hope I have something more substantial to write on than just do a Prannoy Roy again!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is India truly "Independent"?

This day, the 15th of August, as we celebrate our 62nd Independence Day, I am sitting here in the capital of our country, thinking about what independence means to us individually as citizens and collectively as a nation.
What does independence mean to us as citizens? Was it merely the transition of power that happened in 1947, from British rule to self rule? Is it a mere relic, a casual remembrance of an event that happened 61 years back, or crudely put, a mere public holiday to relax? Or is it freedom of thought and expression and freedom from fear? Does it mean economic empowerment? Or does it mean social development?
As a citizen of this nation, independence for me today means an independence from fear -- are we free from fear? Do I know I will be alive tomorrow? The answer is a big NO. We are not free. We as a nation are being held hostage to fear coming from various ideological movements that threaten the fabric of the very freedom our forefathers fought for. Successive spineless rulers are solely responsible for our "slavery" to fear. They have have made India a "soft state", a place where any Tom, Dick or Harry has been virtually granted a right to violent expression at the expense of an ordinary Indian. The encouragement of religious politics and "minorityism" at the cost of national interest has been the root cause of this. That is why Indian citizens were subjected to the humiliation at Kandahar, of numerous terror attacks, of countless release of militants to free influential hostages and of a systemic failure to curb naxalism.
Gandhi said that we are a peace-loving nation and that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. In today's scenario, we can't just give ourselves away that we lose both our eyes. Wouldn't it be better that if one of our eyes is taken away, we blind the enemy in one eye, so that he doesn't return for our second eye? We have had enough of this idealism for 61 years of our so called freedom. Gandhi was certainly a great man, we all respect him, but I am sorry, we Indians can't give our "eyes" away. So our ruling class better take notice.
Nothing can happen in country where heroes are not respected and honored. We continue to pay homage to sons of dynasties, who did little for the country besides organised extortion. But we forget the real heroes who die guarding our borders in appalling conditions. We forget heroes like Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, who gave India one of its finest victories in military history. Nothing can become of a nation that forgets its heroes.
Nothing can happen in a country where traitors who supported the Chinese aggression against our country today hold positions of power in Parliament, hold the country to ransom and brazenly take positions detrimental to the nation.
Nothing can happen in a country where I cannot travel to certain places, cannot have ownership rights in certain states and where locals are displaced on the basis of religion, with the state being a mute spectator? We had for decades taken a moral high ground on issues like the South African Apartheid in global fora, yet we shamelessly practise a Apartheid against our own people within our own land.
Today we take pride in a booming economy. We take pride in being recognised as an economic might in the world. Indeed, India has changed. India has seen economic freedom in the last two decades. There have been multiplier effects on job creation and opportunities as a result of outsourcing of manufacturing, technology and services as result of which the common citizen does feel economically empowered.
But economic freedom and freedom from fear go hand in hand. One can never be really free without freedom from fear.
So while we "celebrate" the anniversary of an event that happened 61 years ago, we Indians still yearn for our TRUE INDEPENDENCE from fear.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Fury of the Flooded River

The flooded river flows down with all its fury.
No one in its way is spared.
Even the mighty rock is crushed to pebbles and dust.

There I am ......
Trapped in the flooded river.
Desperately trying to keep afloat,
My head above the water.
Battered and bruised I am...
My face cut, my body aches.

Weary I try to find my way to the banks....
I hope the woes would end soon...
"My feet will again kiss the sand on the bank"
I put in an extra effort at this thought...

The mighty river with all its momentum moves on.
It hits me back the harder I try to move to the banks....
I let out a cry of pain....
"God help me - Get me out of here"

I avoid a rock,
Pass by a whirlpool...
I heave a sigh of relief...
"Thank God I wasn't sucked in"

Forget all the pain and weariness for a moment...
I move with the flow....
Gradually, the force reduces, calmness and normality returns....
I begin to see the bright sunshine,
And hear the sweet song of the canary.

I make my way to the banks....
Once again my feet feel the firmness of the bank.
The warmth of the sand energises me.
I take a deep breath and bow my head in a Prayer
"God, Thanks for the strength to survive the ordeal"
I move on.....
For life has dreams....
Dreams to be fulfilled!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

There's no love greater than the love for food....

Lunching away to glory at Cafe Britannia at Bombay's old quarter of Ballard Estate, that day in August 2006 was when I discovered their signature paper napkins had a rooster on it with a quotation saying "There's no love greater than the love for food".

George Bernard Shaw could not have been more correct than this... Is there anything better than great food? I do not think so.

Yet, for every ten people you meet on the street, food is just a normal chore, like having a bath, going to work or answering Nature's call (!!!). These hapless poor souls revel in their mediocrity.

There is nothing more pathetic than the routine of having the same food, day after day, week after week, year after year till the end of one's life. Life is to be enjoyed, food being an important element of it -- do we eat to live or do we live to eat?

I would agree with the latter.

I remember, as a kid, my Mom used to cook chicken and mutton, almost every Sunday. My entry into the kitchen was forbidden as my folks were apprehensive that the sight of blood and gore of uncooked flesh would put me off. However, I used to be fascinated by the smells that used to waft out of the kitchen. And then on the dinner table, I used to be scramble for my best piece, the chicken leg.
But with times, things have taken an exotic turn, much to the "shock" of my parents, sister and now my spouse, Neeti...

As I live to eat, I do tend to veer on the extremes in my quest for epicurean delights that take me into a state of trance ... crocodile fritters, braised rabbit, to name a few. The more sinful the better - could there be anything better than a greasy English breakfast of eggs, fried bacon, sausages, ham, potatoes and baked beans on a lazy Sunday morning? Driven by my excesses, Neeti has now coined an acronym for our weekly grocery list -- HSBC - Ham, Sausages, Bacon and Chicken!!!!!!! (I hope guys from HSBC Bank don't read this and sue us for the copyright!!!)

And who can forget the orgasmic pleasures of creepy crawly creatures -- cracking the crab shells, and struggling to gorge on the sweet white crab meats!!! And squids, octopus, mollusks, the list is endless. And what smells better than freshly caught fish? The very sight of this stuff makes my mouth water...

Despite my conviction that anything that walks, creeps or crawls is edible (except humans of course!!), I revel in equal measure or rather am quite demanding for the vegetarian stuff as well. Imagine how a fiery "tadka" can transform the plain looking daal, or how garlic can sizzle up any meal, or how aroma of simmering "maa ki daal" can cause the salivary glands to burst!!!!!

I have always believed that travel gives one an opportunity to explore the local food. Once I travelled to Kerala for a conference, with my colleagues from a previous organisation in Delhi. All along the journey, I was fantasising about famous stews and appams and other Keralite stuff. I was so pissed off when I discovered that the buffet that was laid out had tandoori chicken, paneer tikka, daal makhani, etc. And closer to Bombay, Gujaratis are no different. McDonalds should think of a new innovation -- McThepla for a global launch, which I am sure will be quite profitable!!!!!!! HA HA HA HA

The ultimate foodie I revere is Anthony Bourdain -- this guy is simply amazing. He has no qualms about trying anything, without battling an eyelid. Anything means "anything" here -- from a live beating cobra heart in Vietnam to seal poop in Alaska.

I can only aspire to be like him!!!

P.S. I can never forget the "Oh no, not again" look on Neeti's face when she saw the Cafe Britannia paper napkin

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


The Sun rises, the Sun sets,
Seasons come, seasons go,
Years come, years go.

The feeling is strong.
The longing is there.

Is it love?
Is it something more?
….. something deep?

I don’t know….
All I know is that….
The footprints are there….

Deep and timeless….
Sure they’ll stay on….
For years to come.

Monday, August 4, 2008

How long can the Moon eclipse the Sun? ---- Random thoughts of a straying mind...

A few days have passed and my mind has been straying from one thought to another, much like a monkey, in a jungle, swinging from one branch of a tree to another.

These reflections have touched on the good times in the past, the golden moments that I would love to relive, to the aspirations for the future and the events of today, which may not seem all that pleasant and those that seem to have a potential to impact (positively or negatively) the achievement of aspirations for the future.

Life can be unfair sometimes, we meet a lot of wrong people, have quite a few unpleasant experiences. And the result is that I (as with most of us) end up feeling down and out.

The biggest irony of life is what I find most surprising -- the good times pass off in a jiffy -- a split second, but the tough times last an eternity. It seems that the night will never end.

And the most surprising fact of all -- these circumstances recur with an amazing frequency.

But then there are hopes for the future. These thoughts are like lifesavers -- the ropes that one holds on to for dear life.

And then these times also teach us about our friends -- those who stand by us and those who pass us by. As we go along, most old friends fall by the wayside, but those who remain are there for good.

And one becomes so vulnerable, so sensitive at times that it becomes so easy to hurt those who love you dearly. It's like what Forrest Gump said "Shit happens".

And one better count one's blessings in tough times -- that I have love and support of family, am physically able to take life head on, have a mind to think, weigh options, etc. etc. If one starts counting one's blessings, the list will be endless.

But then then the Sun does rise and rise it will, rise it must! And it happens so fast that seldom does one realise that it's happening. And that's probably because its darkest before dawn, as one song once said -- which one I forget.

What will see us through - it's all about faith - faith in God Almighty (one can believe in God, irrespective of whether one believes in religion or not), faith in oneself and faith in love.

To sign off for now, I will mention what the dollar bill says -- "In God we Trust"
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