Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rs.25 a day

The Planning Commission has submitted before the supreme court that an individual income of just Rs. 25 a day constitutes adequate “private expenditure on food, education and health.” This amount includes a monthly expenditure of Rs. 31 on rent and conveyance, Rs.18 on education, Rs. 25 on medicines and Rs. 36.50 on vegetables. 

What does this mean ?  That if I earn 25/- a day (assuming 6 days per week for 4 weeks sums to Rs.600) then, I can lead a basic life that will provide me nutritional food, quality education and health.  Who is saying this ?  Have the people who say this tried it out for a day -  a week, forget a month.  Let's assume that basic things like rice, dhal, wheat, sugar... has been procured through the public distribution system.  Even then, if a human being needs to lead a healthy life, he needs to buy vegetables.  Given the cost of vegetables, maybe he will get one piece each - is that enough for a family.  Health - even if I go to a government hospital, I need to travel, but supplements to enable my health.  Education - assume I go to a government school.  So, even considering the above, will it suffice ?  

Looking at it another way, by what is said, a person in that level, can never aspire to something more, because he is not given a chance.  Given the condition of government schools, his/her children cannot aspire to an education that pulls them out of the situation.  The amount and quality of food does not enable a child or an adult to a decent health situation in normal times, forget the times when they are unwell.  

And the worst part is that it comes from the planning commission - which world are these people living in ?  Last week, I was listening to Prof. Kirti Trivedi's comment on MGNREGA.  Many people have the opinion that the NREGA is making people lazy by providing easy access to things.  100 days of work in a year for wages ranging from 100 to 120 a day comes to 10000 - 12000 a year.  All this for only one person in a family.  With this he/she has to provide for a family of 3,4,5,... That is not taken into consideration.  So, 10000 divided by an average of take father, mother, son, daughter-in-law and two children makes it 10000/6 = 1667 per person in a year.  He was right in saying that it is CRUEL to say that MGNREGA is making people lazy and giving them something easily or that it is enough. 

For someone living in poverty or on the fringes of poverty, how much is enough ? Who decides that and how ?

The planning commission today is thinking on the same lines.  Where do we turn to ?  How do they say that a person earning above Rs.25/- a day cannot be categorized under BPL especially given prices of things today.  Then, doesn't a human being need more for just basic existence ?  What about money to pay rent, buy clothes, for entertainment, to eat something different, for travel ?  Or do we think that they do not have the right for that ?

Why don't we have policy makers with a brain and a heart ?  Or is that too much to ask for ?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am not disabled, I am just a double amputee

 "I am not disabled, I am just a double amputee".  This line by New Zealander Mark Inglis,  shows the mettle he is made of.  Another story of beating the odds - of being an inspiration.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Teaching ka Side Effects

For any activity we do, there are side effects.  Some that we like and are happy to have.  Others we are not happy with and wish they don't appear.  Teaching has its side effects too.

One of the bad side effects is that you sometimes expect students to be something.  Something more.  Is that right or wrong ?  Good or bad ?  Every time I walk into a class I go with expectations.  Expectations of meeting a bunch of people who are motivated, who are fun and who show what it is to be 20.  Of course you know that continuous lecture sessions can be monotonous.  Still, at the early side of twenty, one should be trying to learn.  Besides, the energy level is high and the capacity to grasp more than when you are on the other side of the curve.      That is one way of looking at it.  However, another way of looking at the same thing is this:  how can I expect something mediocre of my students.  That would be self defeating in the first place.  For, as a teacher, I believe that my students are capable of more.  So, it is my duty to expect more, get them to push themselves and realize that they can do more than what they imagined however within limits of their capacity. Also, in a way that they enjoy and makes the whole thing fun. So, what do you do to get them moving ?

There is however a good side-effect.  The energy, the enthusiasm that you find in the 18-23 year olds.  I may not be twenty but then it rubs off on any teacher.  So, in the mind, as a teacher, it is easier to remain young.  And that is a good thing, given that you need to do just half the amount of exercises and all the other things that people do to remain young.

So, we as teachers get so much more in the bargain.  That's the perks of the job.

(This post was written the day before 'Remembrance'.  Here, I speak about pushing them to do better - is that good or bad ?)


Day before yesterday, that is Wednesday brought some bad news.  Having been away for four years, I was out of touch totally with my students.  Reason being obvious - all I could think of for the four years was research, finishing it up.  Besides, nothing else interested me except the occasional visits to see some handicrafts exhibitions and eat something outside(to escape the messy mess).  During my second year, I heard about Srikanth passing away -  that bright, enthusiastic, I can do it guy.  Not once in all those years of teaching did I think I would hear, that I would come across that moment where you have to think of a student in the past.

It happened again.  Chatting with a colleague about how stress affects our life(I had a migrane that day), we shifted to how students of today have to face the harsh IT world outside.  The news of Alphonse Manoj's death came as a shock. My colleague asked me if I remembered him. How can I forget him.  He did his MCA here.  A soft spoken, naughty guy(in small ways) with that smile always on his face.  I don't remember seeing him any other way.  He was an above average student with reference to studies and was always willing to go that extra step to do things.  The cause for his death was said to be stress.

What are we teaching our students, I wondered ?  Instead of teaching them technical stuff, which they will learn anyway, we need to teach them life skills.  To prioritize, to understand what is important.  At 1:30 that day, when my class approached me to have an extra half an hour in the lab during lunch hour(I had given them a deadline to submit work the next day), I went very reluctantly.  In the lab, looking at their faces, I wondered if it was worth it.  Was it worth taking away 1/2 hr from their lunch break(they had only an hour's class in the afternoon after which they were free).  Still, was it worth it ?  It made me postpone their submission date.  The same thought carried me to class.  It was the same classroom where I had last taken class for Alphonse last(I left afterwards for my PhD) and I remembered the place where he usually used to sit.

Forget taking class, I couldn't put my thoughts together.  The question that came back again and again is - what am I teaching them ?  Am I a teacher in the real sense of the term - a teacher also has the responsibility to prepare you for the world outside.  Where is the time after all the stuff that is cramped into a day.  The IT world - a world where everyone speaks about the money made but there is no statistic to show the side effects - suicides, broken marriages, stress related issues, loneliness, health problems during and afterwards and the outdated date that comes when you are in your late forties.  It is worse than the film world in some sense.  Do the 20 somethings know it - do they know where to say stop and take a breath.

Lot of questions, very few answers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are we random or connected ?

One question that many of us ask time and again is whether we, human beings are random or connected in some way.  This news got me wondering.


Bizzare, but makes us wonder how one thing leads to another.  One word, one action leads to a reaction that cannot be controlled.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reality strikes

Yesterday, June 15th was the reopening day for all schools in Tamil Nadu.  Coimbatore too was no different. For two months now, the roads especially in the mornings between 8:00 and 9:00 have been traffic free. And then, overnight everything changed. The entire stretch on Avanashi Road starting from near the Anna flyover all the way to the airport was screaming with children and their parents in all forms and shapes of vehicles. It is nice to see kids on the road, cheerful and going to school. Usually, on a normal school day, this road has heavy traffic but nothing like yesterday. So, caught in the jam and knowing that there was no way I was going to reach college on time, I decided to enjoy the jam. I started looking around, analysing how many people were travelling in each vehicle. I was alone in mine(we, my husband and I travelled together till our work places were diagonally opposite). Most cars had a parent and kid, or a driver, parent and kid. And there was tension, on the drivers and parents face. Most of the kids were unfazed by the turmoil around. Kids were dressed all in new - new uniforms, new bags and there was a certain calm in their faces maybe after the long period of vacation.

Back to the point, the whole cause of so much traffic was parents being sentimental and wanting to drop their kids personally on day one. So, instead of going by a school bus, or an autorickshaw, here they were closeted in a car and taken safely to school. In the midst of all this, there were people who were vomitting on the road - no not children, but parents. They are not used to this chaos and I guess it was too much for them.

So reality strikes me then. After two months of luxury on the roads, it is time to get back to normalcy. This is how it is going to be till the next vacation. There's no chance of seeing a vacant stretch on the roads for sometime now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For the people, by the people and of the people

Democracy is something that countries like ours hold sacrosant.  The Congress was once a party that threw the British out through satyagraha.  But the congress of today shuns satyagraha.  No wonder Gandhi asked for the dismantling of the Congress immediately after independence.  Any citizen of this country has the right to hold peaceful demonstrations over matters he thinks is plausible.  Here, the issue was one that has put the country in turmoil.  The amounts quoted as lost in scams(ill-gained by many) are astronomical and have been done with the knowledge of the government of the day. Hence, the support for the cause by the people. 

However, instead of cleaning up, they seem to be doing the opposite.  True, how can they clean up.  Where should they start.  Every person, bottom to top is hand in hand in this fiasco.  I can't for a moment think that other people in the government have not got a percentage.  It can't be just these few people who benefited.  So, the question is how are we going to get to the bottom of this ? 

Instead of giving a political colour and calling each other names, it is time we cleant up our system. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Learn to fight

Every time I write something a little sad, I find one that counters it all.  Gives me answers and shows the bright side.  Here is one:


Monday, May 9, 2011

Women and Equality - a long way to go

The U.S., a country that has been in the forefront of many a revolution, including women's voting and equality rights faces the same issue even today.

Find the difference between the two pictures :

Answer: Both the women in the picture are missing !!!!


Will there even be an equal world for women ?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

No One Teaches You

Parents teach you to dream
Teachers ask you to look up
Aim for the stars they all say
For that is where glory is.

No one teaches you how
To handle a fall
When a dream does not come true
When your neck breaks and you
Are forced to look down
When mud is all you get.

Why is it so
For the former is easier
The latter so difficult
And victory is in rising
From the mud.

The same crowd
That smiled when you were rising
Stares at you after the fall
As though there is no tomorrow
And that was the end of all.

Supporters vanish
Into a shell, looking for ways to hide
Leaving you wondering
Whether the fall was so big afterall.

However, if you find one shoulder
One hand, one ear, one kind word
In all this muddle
Hold on to it dear
Because there lies the truth
And there lies your victory
There lies your all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tasty Pani Puri

Say 'Pani Puri' and there are many people whose mouth will water.

But, after reading this, not many will be able to digest it though.


So much for the people who swear by the taste of the roadside pani puri.  Sorry!

Hyderabad a U.S. visa fraud hub

This news item reminded me of a chat I had with a friend who was going to the U.S.  for higher studies.  He told me about how his father's bank account statement would not suffice to get a visa as his father had an account in a cooperative bank only, according to the agent.  This despite his father being a land lord and having enough money in his account.  Only nationalised bank statements were allowed.

In this regard, I asked him about students whose parents would not have a fat balance.  He told me that the agent would create such accounts and give them the statement.  Land records(not belonging to them) as well to show that their is enough money available at home in case of trouble i.e. funding studies would not be a problem.  However, many of such students would have to earn their living in the U.S. and study as well in reality.

So, this news item that Hyderabad is one of the visa fraud hubs is no new news.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ban freebies

Does a bus/train driver get a one crore house for driving his passengers safely throughout his career, which is a matter of life and death.  Or does a teacher get free railway passes for having guided students in the right path.  Does a pilot get free airline tickets for landing his passengers safely in trouble ?  For that matter, what does our hockey team or the kabbadi team get.  Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi became ATP No.1 two days after India won the cricket world cup.  Still, that news was on the last but one page and that too one small piece.

BMWs, one crore worth houses, free airline and railway tickets for a lifetime not to mention the lakhs that is given away by each government for these cricketers.  Makes one think.  One day, a whole generation will try to play only cricket - then what will happen ?

Oh, for my students and others, I am not a fan of cricket.  For me, especially after the match fixing period, cricket is a staged drama.  Okay, it is a game.  Nothing greater than any other.  Somehow, we as a nation have got hooked on to it like addicts do to drugs.  A word against cricket in class, and there are students who wouldn't utter a word otherwise, stand up and question you.  They get so offended that they tell you it hurts them.  Some turn pink on their cheeks.  So much passion.  Passion I tell them is good.  Actually very good.  Wish they had 1/10th of it for their own lives and their own careers.

This clamour among the ruling class to give freebies to all these people is not understandable to me atleast when other sports, even our national sport, is rotting for want of funds.  Athletes don't have good training facilities, those who were have no funds to take care of them in case of injury that paralysis their life forever.  Cricketers already earn so much.  And then, have more. 

Adding salt to the wound is the call for giving Sachin the Bharat Ratna.  That was offending.  He is a good player no doubt.  He has brought cheer to many of us with his bat and helped the country by being in the team.  However, he is not different.  He asked for customs relaxation for his imported car, and now for extra floor space to build a gym.  He is given more than what a player is given, more than what sports persons winning in other games like tennis and badminton get.  But a Bharat Ratna.

The question is how does the government find the money to do all this, and yet not find enough money for social welfare.  And, what right do they have to use funds in this way ?  Why is it that we as citizens don't question ?  Why is it that many villages don't have means for drinking water and sanitation due to lack of funds - villages in states where governments have announced awards ?  And then the cricketers.  If they said, that what extra they receive will be given away for a cause, I assure you that all these people will stop giving away freebies.  But which cricketer would do that ???  Not one. 

Questions, no answers.  Only one mad thing called cricket.

PAC, JPC, CBI, ....

First it was the PAC.  Then, the CBI.  Then, the JPC.  Too many in a basket and they start fighting.  The boundaries no longer exist.  That the goal is the same does not matter.  It is clamoring for who is bigger, mightier.  For us on this side, the tax paid going waste makes us revolt.  How much of money is being spent on so many commissions - so many people, each in different committees.  And how long are they going to heat their seats..  like any other commission does.

Then, there are the people.  Some from business houses that stood at one time for ethics and social responsibility reduced to nothing overnight.  What champions of that age built over a few generations squandered away on a whim.  What else should I say ?  Then, there are those we know are masters of the game.  Who walk in and out of inquiries as though it were an everyday matter.  So much so that, a visit by the CBI was claimed as a routine matter.  Nothing to bother about.

Above the loss of money on these scams,  some more is thrown away on what I sometimes feel as staged dramas.  If the same was divided and given to some villages, they will have water, solar lights, roads and drains built.

The drama will go on till the public gets satiated or tired of it.  Then, once it passes from public memory, it will be conveniently swept under the carpet.  By that time, the actors in these plays would have grown fat.  And then, the wait for another of these PACs and JPCs.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In support of Anna Hazare

A Gandhian, following the Gandhian way is sitting in protest.  He is on a 'fast unto death' to cleanse our society of something that pervades every aspect of our life.  And the congress government which says it continues the legacy of the independence movement is asking him not to do so(Gandhiji's words of dismantling the congress after independence should have been followed - he knew what was to come).  I remember how Medha Patkar was evicted, for trying to do the same for a social cause.  And the Prime Minister tells he is disappointed with Anna Hazare.  Who should be disappointed with whom ?


Can't be there.  So, is there something on the net related to this we can support and show our solidarity ? 

With you sir.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

There is hope !

The last post was negative.  Whenever there is something negative, I search for something positive.  For negative energy is always bad.  So browsing I came across this. 

Chhavi Rajawat, is the sarpanch of Soda village, 60 kms from Jaipur, Rajasthan.  She left her job and opted to do something different.  Her father was sarpanch of the village before. 


I hope there will be more of Chavvi Rajawat's.  That the India to come will be stronger and more bold, empathizing with the have nots and building a country that is for all. 

An Encounter with a Policeman

Today morning, I was driving down to work.  I stopped at the junction leading towards Brooke Bond road for the policeman's hand signal.  The traffic signal was not on.  There were three two-wheelers in front of me.  Finally, the policeman allowed us to go.  The three two-wheelers went straight while I took the right turn.  Before I could pass, the policeman asked the oncoming traffic to come.  I had to brake as there were two wheelers in front of me before I could go.  I asked the policeman, very politely, 'Enna sir'? (What sir ?).  He started shouting at me.  I put up my hand in utter disgust as a sign of giving up and said, 'Eh ok' and kept coming.  At some other point of time, I would have stopped and questioned his right to shout at me when he had made a mistake and had put the lives of the two-wheelers as well as me in danger by his impatience.  If I had hit the two-wheeler, I am sure he would have charged me for causing hurt to the persons on the two-wheeler.  He might also have written down that I broke the rule in crossing when it was halt, though it is not true.  He will charge me under all possible sections.  Today, I had to be in college on time and so, I continued,  telling myself that talking to him will not help at all. 

Is there no means or place where we can question a policeman's behaviour towards the public, especially when his action will cause danger.  Or does the policeman think that whatever his action, even if it is wrong, it cannot be questioned.  I hope the day will come when policemen are answerable for their actions to the public. 

There was a time when I used to look upto policemen - that was when I was young - Kiran Bedi, Swaran Singh.  But then that image has changed a lot.  Today, good policemen are hard to come by.  Whenever I find one, I always think that he is one of a dying tribe that I used to admire.  You will see policemen asking for money from lorries parked in business areas as well as taking fruits and vegetables for free from the hand carts that line the road, for if the sellers object, they know that he will cause unnecessary trouble.  Then you will find policemen breaking signals so often that you wonder if they are above the law of the land.  Once, at a signal of four roads, I found two policemen on a bike taking a circle in the center area.  God knows what they were thinking of.  So, an encounter with a policeman is something you best avoid.  For in India today, despite the supreme court questioning the actions of bad policemen, it continues to date. 

Ant evolution

Come summer, it is the time when we see an army in pursuit.  Pursuit of food, saving up for the rainy day they know surely is to come.  So, it was.  But there was something different with these red ants.  They weren't interested with the flour left on the table after the rotis were made, not the crumbs of sugar. 
They went after something richer.  The empty vessel that contained cheese spread.  And what an army it was - red in colour(the communists would loose) and hundreds of them.  They refused to go away for three days after that.  No amount of sweeping and mopping the home would stop them.  Finally, I had to use Lakshman Rekha. 

I then wondered what they liked.  So, I tried a lot of things.  Bread crumbs left in the waste bin, little bit of wheat flour, little sugar - yet they wouldn't be tempted.  Finally, I thought that they had decided to change the direction of food gathering and hence I was safe.  So, one morning, packing lunch to go to work, I left the pan in which I had sauted the paneer(cottage cheese) on the cooking slab.  When I got back in the evening, the red army was pack in full vigour and then started the routine of trying to discourage them from coming by the usual methods till I hit again on the Lakshman Rekha. 

So, ant colony studies are used so much in computer science.  They go by the source of food as well as the choice of food available.  Okay, this is known.  But is there something called evolution in taste of the ants, that too collective taste ?  Or was it that they had enough of bread crumbs, sugar and wheat flour at home that they had narrowed down their shopping list.  They have left me wondering.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Pain of Waiting

Wait !  - that is one word that is difficult to follow.  Patience is a virtue - yes.  However, the process of waiting is a tedious one, given that the subject continues to creep, crawl and roll over in your mind.  If only there was a pause button for certain instances in the brain, then things would have been easier.  But, it is not so. 

We all know that it is upto us to control our brain.  But ask someone who has tried it.  For people like me, lesser mortals, it is so difficult.  The waiting.  And more so is the suspense.  Family I speak to tells me that there must be a reason.  That there is a reason for everything in the bigger scheme of things.  Maybe there is, maybe there is not.  Nothing can be definite. 

In Indian mythology, there are so many instances of waiting.  Waiting like Sita did for Rama to come and take her back, not knowing if he would be able to cross the sea and get to Lanka.  Like Radha did for Krishna.

Waiting like Parvathi did for Lord Shiva to come down to earth and take her back.  Bhishma's wait for death.  Waiting like how we are for Mahavishnu to take another avatar.  Then there are instances of how waiting was not possible.  Like how King Dushyanta told Shakuntala that he could not wait to marry her.  Stories of waiting and not waiting.

Everyone waits, at some point of time, for something.  It maybe for examination results, for the school bus to come,  paper review results, results of elections, waiting in the queue, for someone to say yes, for someone to change.....  The results could be good or bad, according to the person.  What is difficult is the intermittent time.  The time of waiting.  The minutes seem like forever as it does now for me.

[Picture : Raja Ravi Varma's painting of Radha waiting for Krishna]

With Appunni in the Naalukettu

This sunday, I picked up 'Naalukettu' for reading.  After buying it a year back when my supervisor spoke about it, I put off reading it till I felt I was ready to spend a day and more with it.  It was worth the wait.

I picked the book after breakfast and didn't have the patience to cook a complete lunch in between.  Appunni pervaded the air around me.  MT takes the reader to Kerala, the time being 50 - 60 years ago when the mindset was different.  He speaks about the society through Appunni.  He speaks as a boy and then as a man.  He makes the reader question and wonder about many things.  Having heard about the customs prevalent among castes in Kerala from my dad, the ritual of 'Pindam vekuka' was not new.  It only reinforced in me the feeling that society was and is to a large extent primarily patriarchal, where the rights of a woman are non-existant, where a woman is forced to accept whatever the 'karanavar' of the family decides.  Here, accepting as husband an old man. 

Set in the period of transition, where new laws were promulgated to free people, the author brings out this aspect subtly through the eyes and ears of Appunni.  He makes us want a better life for Appunni and at the same time, he makes us expect so much more of him.  Appunni behaves in the same way, as is expected of society in general.  It takes him quite sometime to accept his mother's relationship with Shankaran Nair but is ready to make peace with the person who killed his father.  The author through this shows not only Appunni's growing up, but also the maturing of the society around him.   

Being the first novel of the author, I realized that he is god's way of proving his own craftmanship.  He is a masterpiece given that he wrote the novel in three weeks and took a month for editing.  The only sad part is that I am unable to read the novel in malayalam - the pain of a malayalee not well-versed with malayalam.

Small things in life

Driving up to work, I saw a small boy, dressed up in his school uniforms standing on the side of the road.  His checked shirt and red shorts, were ironed stiff.  I wondered about the socks and shoes in this tropical summer.  As I drew close, I found he had his book and lunch bag right next to him, indicating he was waiting for the school bus to pick him up. 

What interested me was him trying to click his fingers.  He was intent on the activity, all concentration.  Guess he couldn't get the sound as he clicked his fingers.  This made me remember two things:  one, the first time I tried it out in school.  It was fun.  A bunch of us from the class started trying and continued for some time competing who could click loudest.  Second memory related to the same was that of my niece, Deeksha.  She had this habit of touch and feeling everything.  I had 'Lee' embroidered on my red T-shirt.  She came up, sat on my lap and then started using he forefinger to feel the embroidery.  It went on till she satisfied herself.  Then, she was off as something else had interested her.  This went on for sometime till she wanted to use her leg to feel things.  That is when things got a little serious as she didn't understand the working of something called 'gravity' and the need to 'maintain balance'.  After a few falls and the attention of a worried mother, she had satisfied herself. 

Nature has its own way of teaching its children things.  Birds learning to fly, a calf running helter skelter the days after she is born, an elephant calf not understanding the trunk she has and wringing it in all directions.  So it is with human beings.  How similar we are in the scheme of things ?  Yet we think we are different, superior.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pandit Jasraj at Velliangiri hills

As part of Yaksha 2011 at Dhyana Linga, Coimbatore, we had the opportunity to listen to Pandit Jasraj.  As he walked in, there was a hush.  We saw an old man, with cotton fluffy hair walking in.  An accompanist tried aiding his ascent onto stage.  He went down again and climbed himself showing his zeal for life. That made me understand that the man I saw may be old, physically, but at heart he was young, younger than many of us.

He raised in hands and started with raag Darbari.  He mesmerized us, took us up and took us down with the ups and downs of the raag.  The Velliangiri hills, a group of seven forming the backdrop reverberated with his voice.  There were connoisseurs and novices alike to listen to him that day.

 Still, he spoke volumes to novices like us through his music.  His students accompanying him were gifted themselves.  Their faces lit when Panditji said 'Shaabash' when they sang a difficult note.  Accompanying him on the tabla was Vijay Ghate whom I had the honour of listening to the second time(the first time with Pandit Chaurasia).

Shivarathri day was a dream come true for us.  We were honoured and blessed to listen to Panditji.  It is true that voices and energy like his are once in a lifetime. 
[Pictures courtesy the Hindu  http://www.hindu.com/mp/2011/03/05/stories/2011030552640300.html ]

Monday, February 28, 2011

A matrimonial requirement

One of my favourite reading items on Sundays is the matrimonial section of 'The Hindu'. We sisters used to go through the malayalam section of the matrimonial especially, having read the whole thing and found that this part is the most amusing.  No, it was not for searching for grooms for ourselves.  It was read for time pass,  to see what people wanted for their children or for themselves and how they put it in the open domain.   I have continued this habit to date.  My husband, every time he sees me opening that section, jokes if I am on the lookout for a new groom for myself.  Then comes the next question, what new am I looking for.

All the time, he knows what exactly I am looking for.  I am looking for those matrimonials that make me laugh, make me pass a remark and make me angry.  It gives me a idea of how men and women give advt either for themselves or for their children.  Some of the most hilarious ones I have come across are as follows:

1.  A prospective groom had given his age, qualifications and that he was living abroad.  Added at the end was HIV -ve.  That was the age when AIDS was in the news and it was talked about as being more among those living in foreign countries.

2.  Nair groom from aristocratic family - this is one that is found very often.  Aristocracy existed in Kerala, yes.  It was abolished long ago.  But there are so many people still living in the past.  Nair families whose ancestors served under kings continue to think they are past of aristocracy.  We have to ask what job these ancestors did ?  But two three weeks ago I found an advt where someone from lower in the caste hierarchy called himself from an aristocratic family.  This when members of this caste should not cover their torsos and their shadows should not fall on a person of the higher caste.  How come he is part of aristocracy ?

3.  A bridegroom, Kama from Hyderabad (I remember the details because he advertised in such big columns repeatedly for two weeks and my friend told me that Kama was a caste in Andhra) needed a wife.  He was 45 and above living in one of the posh areas of Hyderabad.  He was outgoing, broadminded, rich and so on and needed a wife who would look after his child and be someone who would stay at home.

4.  A man above 40 looking for a bride in her late 20s.  What was he thinking ?

The one that got me wondering this sunday was from a prospective bridegroom looking for a girl who was family bonded.  That is a nice quality to expect from a girl.  That she be attached to the family.  But, did he mean she should be bonded to her family, meaning her parents ?  Would he like that in the long run if she loved her family more ?  Or did he expect her to become bonded to his family on marriage.  Bonded - bonded in what sense ?  Bonded out of love ?  Or is it bounded by labour ?  Made me wonder.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Natu Panchayat

The other day, driving down to work, I came across an interesting incident.  There was this father, groggy after being woken up from sleep, still in his night clothes and his two sons on the road, dressed tiptop in their school uniforms, shoes and ties in place.  The threesome were waiting for the school van to pick them up.  In the meanwhile, an issue had arisen, I guess.  There was one child complaining to his father, with all actions and pointing to his brother.  The brother was standing quietly, yet nodding his head from side to side.  A sort of indication that all is not true.  Yet, the brother was pointing a finger at him.  All this time, the father, still half asleep was sitting on his bike and trying to listen to the problem, probably praying inside, hoping that the school van would arrive at the earliest.

This reminded me of the natu panchayat's of yesteryears now being shown in movies mostly.  (On the side, taking a class in management, I mentioned the panchayat system and asked the class if they knew about it.  Immediately, one student says, 'Yes'.  Another says, 'Nattamai'.  The third was the best. 'Sombu'.  Which threw the class into another round of laughter.  So much for movies.) 

Anyway, this poor father, still asleep was trying to show interest in his sons little quarrels but was so sleepy.  I slowed down the car but didn't want to invade into their family time.  Anyway, it felt good to be on the road in the morning and see that life continues the same way.  We grow up, but the same things happen everywhere.  I was reminded then of the many panchayat's my parents had to sit in.  The three of us were a handful and with so many quarrels, sometimes, we used to get a whack or two from our parents.

To parents and natu panchayats. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

This Republic Day

For the first time in life, I have not seen the parade on TV or gone for a flag hoisting - things I have not missed till date.  Every republic day and independence day in the past ten years, I have religiously attended a flag hoisting either in college or the university.  If I have missed any, it would be because I was traveling.

This time around, the feeling was missing.  Not the sense of patriotism, but the sense of pride in my country.  The pride that I had, that I am an Indian.  The scams, the Kashmir problem, the Binayak Sen case, and increasing knowledge of caste and creed prejudices that remain entrenched even in urban centers made me pondering.

When I encountered the same issues personally, I felt disgusted and helpless.  I kept quiet not in acceptance but in the knowledge that the person standing before me professing that the caste I belonged to was somehow lesser,  was a fool and a bigot(forgive me for such strong use).  However, it also told me that education, no matter how high(the people whom I encountered were from very well off families and highly educated) does not necessarily educate.  I have not forgotten the incident - no.  The thing that helped me ward it off was the confidence I had that I am lesser than no one.   For that I have to thank my parents.  However, I have to confess, that it did eat my mind as to how I was lesser being talented and educated.  I continues to-date.

So, every time I read the paper and find a similar incident, I understand how someone from a less economic background, impoverished and insecure would feel.  It also told me that this country is not free.  More than half her people suffer, from discrimination; a feeling of being lesser mortals, a feeling of having been left out, sidelined, neglected.

Then there are the poor.  When people are becoming richer and richer on one side, there is a large population who live day to day.  They suffer, quietly.  The independence and republic day is just another day to them.  A day of work.

Whither independence ?  Of course I am happy that I am not under foreign rule.  No doubts about that and I value what my forefathers have done for me.  But then, what have I done ?  Have I done something ?  Not yet.  So, what should I celebrate ?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Escaping Responsibility

The Sabarimala episode is a tragedy. To rub salt into the wound, the cause of the stampede and the reasons for the same have been sidelined. Instead, what has become the core point of discussion is whether the Makaravilakku is man-made or not.

Of course, knowledge about the practices and doing away with something not according to customs is welcome. However, I think it is common knowledge that the light is man-made though pilgrims believe that seeing that light is divine. There are certain boundaries that are unseen and to be untouched. One is where religion and science touch. This line is questioned so much today, that instead of trying to avert tragedies, the finger is pointed at customs and beliefs of people.

A good disaster management and crowd management plan would have saved lives and much more than that averted this tragedy. No one is ready to answer questions as to why vehicles and people were allowed to congregate on the small hill in such mass numbers. Also is missing the answer to police personnel who should have been there to avert such an incident happening. Instead, the matter being questioned is belief of the people.

If that is the question, then the belief that God exists itself can be questioned - can't we. Man needs a reason, a reason to exist. A reason to understand his place in such a large world. A reason to rationalize his suffering. He needs something to place his trust on and believe that something would change his life for the better. That the power he veneres, will help him through the troubles he is facing. That is why lakhs of pilgrims undertake penance and take the arduous trip to Sabarimala. Instead of questioning beliefs, the government would better do to use the money pilgrims are offering in the temple to better use and provide better amenities. The question to be asked is how much of money offered in the temple is used for amenities and better of the Sabarimala complex ? I am sure that the government is spending the minimum and taking the money for other purposes. It has been preparing plans after plans and spending money on plans rather than coming up with something comprehensive.

So, let people believe what they want to believe. Of course, sensitize them to reality but don't question their beliefs and ridicule them, directly or indirectly. Especially when a tragedy like this which is man made and could have averted happens. Take responsibility and do something which changes things for the better. That is what a responsible government should do - but for that matter, where do we have a responsible government today ?