Swept clean

This one was spotted in Daman. Right inside the fort. At first, it looked like an Extra Terrestrial vehicle, with tentacles and such else. And a red siren on its head, a striking yellow made it look the part completely. Then the eye rested on ISO 9001 certified.

Now, the ETs wouldnt go for something like an ISO certification. Or so i thought. I always thought of them to work out of strange tentacles and purple coloured brains. So.

And then the other sticker : Daman Municipal Corporation. Hmm. A vehicle to sweep the streets free of dust.

A couple of months ago, a similar vehicle in Bangalore. But that was pristine white, with strange pipes and seeming tentacles all over.

Some swank equipment these. They sure must have been tested. And tried. And perhaps used too. And the some municipal corporations budget must have been swept clean !

I wonder to what end. Especially…

When a swank Toyota’s driver lowers the powered window and spits his much chewed gutka, right in the middle of a highway.

When much overseas educated, sophisticated people toss a chocolate wrapper across their window sill, much in the view of their children that are munching on the chocolate.

When the poor man without water or drainage in home, washes his utensils in the middle of the road. And when the drainage pipes of an educated community gets clogged, with sanitary pads, old shoes and diapers.

So, lets buy more such machines. And i can think of these additional uses too to gain additional revenue.

a. Lets parade them on Republic day parades.
b. Show them to visiting dignitaries.
c. Lend to hindi movies ( esp the Sci-Fi ones)
d. let children take joy rides
e. Charge premium at rich weddings and station them as a status symbol

And perhaps out of these options make some money and spread some awareness, on cleanliness. And sensitivity to the other man. Sharing the road. The apartment. The city. And its drainage pipes.

With respect and sensitivity to the other, the world would be a much better place. Now, thats whats called a sweeping statement.

And so you are back.

And so you are back. After many miles of journey. Roads. Hills. Air. Air pockets. Fields. Villages. Malls. And all of that.

You are back to where you live. And you wonder how right they were. When they said ‘time flies’. You feel this time around, time took the expressway !

But then, its still isn’t long off your memory. One look at the 2500 plus snaps clicked over the 15 days, and your mind rejigs and brings to the fore the exact feeling at the moment captured on camera. You realise you itch to tell the world as many stories as there are photographs. And then you choose some in random.

Like this one. When your heart skipped a beat to see a seeming synchronicity in randomly arraigned coconut trees set against a blue backdrop on the banks of a spanking new highway. Made on agricultural land.

Or to see this man pedal his bicycle, with a lady seated behind. And wonder, when last you saw this scene. And then have your taxi driver tell you that these villagers pedal 17 kilometers one way, to reach the nearest hospital. And your eyes auto squint, thinking of life.

Or to see a far away temple set in the middle of banana plantation. And look towards the sky in awe and wonder about this concept of the ‘faith’ ! And think of the tall towers of Meenakshi temple. And then the small precincts of the family temple. And see faith standing on firm foundations.

And then, you saw stern faces stare at you as they traveled in a lorry meant for goods. And think of the stern face & heaps of abuse hurled by the passenger sitting next to you on the flight, because the air hostess didn’t respond ‘in time’

And you think of this boat. By that lake in Berijum. And reaffirm. That nature soothes a lost soul. Like no other.

And as the memory still is fresh and tumble in one after another, you realise. You are back. With new respect. For life. For living. For people. For dreams. For mother Earth. And your own self.

That you saw what others saw. Yet saw what many others didn’t.

And as you type that line, you wonder, if that sounds boastful. And then, you recall conversations with many here. Those stoical faces and ‘ah-there-you-go’ smiles. And you let that line remain.

And you know. You can go on and on. But you realise. You have got to stop somewhere, somehow. You are thankful for many things. And one of them, is for the love of readers of this blog. For that, you realise, you ought to be immensely thankful.

So you quickly end, where it all started. By stating, ‘And so, you are back’.

Barracked in Bangalore !

‘Bangalore is very connected to the US’ said a friend. Over breakfast. And to prove his point, he quoted Barack Obama talking of Buffalo and Bangalore on an even keel.

And the discussion meandered around the floundering economy and how long its going to take for the US to wriggle out of a recession and for Bangalore to get back to the top of its bent again.

Needless to say, the cows came home. Ate. Got hitched. Delivered. Died. Had rebirth. Twice over. And yet, that discussion didn’t get over !

So much for Obama and the Bangalore connection.

But there is yet another Obama connection that towers. Right opposite to the McDonalds store on old Airport Road.

Now hoping Obama will work his ‘magic wand’ to move the economy is worth a prayer. But to use his Cairo speech (& him) as a bridge head to help understand the Quran is a height that had me letting go a chuckled gasp in surprise.

I don’t know what happens when you call these numbers. Perhaps someone should try. But Obama as a bridgehead for the Quran? I wonder why. Is it because Bangalore has a US connection and hence Obama a better presence here ? Is this opportunism ? Is this an example of what a simple speech can achieve : instilling of hope in a divided time ?

I wonder. As people from the McDonalds store dive into their burgers. I wonder what you think ?

North of the Deep South.

A migrant rants.

It has been more than a decade, since i put my home city of Madurai on my rear view mirror. Firm in the belief that my future lay beyond the semi urban hinterland of the deep South. And trudged North of the deep south. Armed with whatever a small town living and a simple middle class upbringing could provide. To the wallet and to the mind !

With wide, dreamy awestruck eyes i stepped foot in Bangalore. Bangalore had already taken off. As a wide eyed young man, it seemed to be a no-brainer that i was beyond the influences of the people and culture of my past ! I thought i had arrived. And my future was in the promise of the new found land ! North of the deep south !

Only to realise, within a very short time, that whatever went into my wonder years : the small town upbringing, steady rhythms of life, an emphasis on simple values and shared love, would never be beyond me. But more importantly, it would be the essence of me, in the hustle and bustle of burgeoning metropolises !

And from then on, I have made it a point to return. Just like i have done now. For renewal. For faith. And just to soak in the air, the love and hoping that the spirit gets auto renewed. Like it always has.

Here. There are houses where there were paddy fields. There are malls where there were houses. There are huge apartments where simple stores once stood. There are new stores with neon signs. The old stores continue becoming new. The temple towers stand. They share the skyline with numerous Telecom towers. There are new names to old streets. There are new street corners. There are new streets.

I stand. Just as another tourist. Camera in hand. In my own land. Clicking pictures of what i think has changed. And of what remains, for i know, what remains will also change.

What goes into the camera goes in. What cant get into the camera’s many GB hard disk goes into my memory. I relive moments from the past. Moments when i smiled. Cringed. Loved. Smiled. Won. Lost. Ran. Walked. Jumped. Fought wars. And made peace. And grew up. Indelible moments.

The settings may have changed. The script is still relevant. It will always be. For it made me.

Tonight we catch Train No : 6731. And head back. North of the deep south ! I will carry with me a million pictures and a zillion stories. And as the deep south recedes in my rear view mirror, i am pretty much sure that a fresh spirit will course my veins.

Sincere wishes for good tidings from the people and land that made you, they say, stays with you. So they say. I have no reason to doubt that. For, my life is blessed. In the north of the deep south.


Brokered Deal

We travel Train No : 6732. A train that we are very used to. Its just been a while.

Today, a ‘middle berth’ will keep me company for the 10 odd hours. And i climb in. The air is chill. And blankets and sheets are crisp. I am tired. All the travel is taking its toll. And soon i am sleeping.

Woken up, in some time, by a distinct rumble in the compartment. The gentleman at the berth right opposite is snoring. High decibel. When problems come, they come in battalions. This is one hell of sound battalion ! I look around for help. Everybody who i can see are are deep inside the blankets and sheets. They too are suffering, i think. And there is some vicarious pleasure.

I try sleeping. Then i realise that there are new snore variants from other passengers. Emboldened perhaps ! Sigh. I twist. And turn. In that middle berth. I call for divine intervention. I fume. If snoring can be a cause for divorce, can it be used to disembark a gent from a train ? I wonder.

In some time. My one and half year old nephew wakes up. I think i know why. Divine intervention, they say, comes in strange ways. I walk the vestibule with him. And this is what i spot.

At 2.30 AM, in the dead of night, with a crying nephew and a high decibel snorer for background score, standing near the litter box of train no : 6732, here i am. A poor tired soul, ready to make a speech on gender equality to the steel pipes metal doors there.

And then, i chance upon this.

These are guidelines in an emergency.
1. “Pull the chain, to stop the train“. That’s fairly simple, i think.
2. “In case of fire, use fire extinguisher available with the attendant” . Ok. So, upon spotting a fire, i have to run around and locate an attendant. And he will have a fire extinguisher. Which he will give me. Which i will know how to use. Which will work and help me extinguish fire. All this before i reach my destination. Seems plausible.
3. “To exit from the emergency window, follow instructions given on the window” . But where ? But where ? Where is the emergency window ? Then i find the answer written bright red, that emergency windows are coloured red. Aha. So, i go around looking for this window marked in red…when the coach is on fire. Aha. And then read the instructions there. Aha. And act. Aha. Neat. I think.
4. ‘If hammer is provided than break glass of hammer box, pick up the hammer and break window glass unit and exit“. If not, i mean…if hammer was not provided, then ? What if the hammer was used on an incredible high decibel snorer ? Then ? I shudder.
Suddenly i want to make peace with all my current troubles. And with that high decibel snorer.

All of our pain is relative. I realise that. Today divine intervention taught me that.

My nephew perhaps senses my quandary. And sleeps. I return. To the middle berth. And the background score. My peace made.

So what, if it was a brokered deal.

Going Home.

The plane taxis off the runway & kisses the clouds. From up above, i see the Mumbai skyline. I am far close to the sea than i can imagine.

The plane continues to climb. The low cost airline has not been low cost exactly. But it did take off on time. And it did soar into the sky. There is a pilot with a distinct kerelite accent, asking announcing that we should be landing on time.

I peer through the window. And see the receding skyline of the city that i call home now. In about a hour and a half i will be touching down in Bangalore. A city that i used to call home until a year and a half back. For ten odd years.

The books that i have picked up at the airport lounge invite some browsing. Some habits stick. Most, like this one, make the missus sick. But she isn’t here today with me. So.

I am lost in my own world. Memories come rushing back. I think of the next few days. And i have so many things to do. Discussions to have. And just be present. The sun beats down the other side of the plane. God is kind. I think.

And look at the big mountains that appear far too small. Far beyond. Far below. There are announcements for refreshments. I can hear only parts of it. The other i leave it to conjecture. The handlers from Pakistan did a better job, i think. Of speaking into the phone, that is.

Refreshments are served. And charged too. This is a low cost airline. The middle class me, loaded with the guilt of having bought books, keeps me restrained. In the row, just ahead, a family sits. They order sandwiches and juice. Sandwiches and juice and hand, the air hostess announces, ‘thats Rs. 510/-, sir !’ The plane shakes a bit.

I look through the window. Into the mountains. Into a dried river in the distance. I think of the next few days. There is happiness. Anxiety. Purposefulness. Hope. And resolve. The pilot is back again. Announcing something. I hear parts of it. And don’t hear most of it. The air hostess is having a word with the passenger in front of me. In a distance, i see greenery.

Frankly. Nothing matters. For i am flying home. From the new home of Mumbai. To the old home of Bangalore. And then, home ! Home to Madurai.

Home. To amma and appa. Today, nothing else seems to matter. The sun continues to beat down. The other side of the plane.

Cutting Chai !

An art installation on Cutting Chai at the Kala Ghoda festival

‘Give me two cutting’ shouted a colleague. That was some months ago after a careless & loud ‘would you care for a tea’?!? I was new to Mumbai, staring wide eyed at every interaction & new culture. And this was my first tryst with a roadside tea shop in Mumbai. There were a group of us. And his sound thundered. ‘Dho cutting chai’ ( RTT: Two cutting tea) ‘Cutting?”

The infamous imagination wandered. “Cutting?” Now what was that !?! Whatever could it be ? I rankled all of my ramshackle brain.

And just as the tea was getting made, i conjured up the following.

Could it be ‘cutting edge’ tea? Like embellished with secret potions of nectar and holy water. Perhaps it had some technology infusion. Perhaps it helped survive the heat and the crowd. And gave a degree of resilience ! All of that could fall under the category of ‘cutting edge’.

Or perhaps it was to do with ‘cut’ as in ‘take a cut’. As in bribes. As in stock market gains. And so on. So, perhaps ‘cutting’ meant the shop keeper would take a sip before serving it to you, perhaps !

Or perhaps it was tea with lesser quantum of sugar, milk, tea powder. You know, tea where some quantity of regular ingredients were cut off !?! Budgetary necessities. Perhaps dietary !

Perhaps it was tea to give you an incisive cut !! Like in Julius Caesar, ‘this was the most unkindest cut of all’ !

Maybe it was to do with multi lane driving, where one driver from another lane ‘cut into your lane’, and the tea kind of cut into your routine.. That sounded far fetched.

The mind wandered and multiple visages of tailors dangling big scissors to accountants with spreadsheets, to doctors on operating tables with a phalanx of anaesthetists came up.

To put a stop all the floating images that were terrifying me further, with a hesitant quiver, i asked ‘err…what is cutting tea’ ?

There was a cumulative commotion of explanations. And the essence was ‘one’ ‘tea’, split in two ( or more) glasses for two (or more) people. And variants there on !

I said, “ah ! Back in Bangalore, its called ‘By – Two’ ” and before i could explain that its origins were in ‘one cup divided by two’, one wisecrack in the group, asked aloud : ‘Bite Who ? That sounds violent !”

I was new here. And i wanted to make friends. And in all seriouslness i said : “Yes. By-two sounds so violent. Cutting is so smooth’. There was a solemness that emerged from nowhere. And i gulped the tea.

I have embraced Mumbai since then, with multiple rounds of cutting tea ! That group member who abhors violence, for some strange reason goes the other way when i walk by.

(This post was inspired by a rekindled memory, thanks to an art installation on ‘Cutting Chai’ at the Kala Ghoda Festival )

Stomach Vision !

Metaphors occupy my thoughts these days. Its almost becoming an obsession. Looking at any object and thinking up a connection is having a soothing impact. (Well, in the silence of my own self, affording a laugh at best and a smirk at worst ! )

Strange things are happening to the world you see and there are first steps to everything. My approaching delirium included. ( Read more about delirium here. Incase any of you wants to check…No. Not a self check. Of course not..! Someone you know…!)

Anyway, in this current state of mind, I looked at this picture and recall a Bangalore evening. And methinks of sharing my thought & checking out my delirium quotient !!

Just outside the Cosmopolitan Mall in Bangalore, they had this giant ‘puppet’ that walked the entrances when we were there, a couple of years back. I am told that they did this to sustain interest from shoppers and increase foot falls !

Entertaining children and therefore relieving parents! The young impressionable minds saw this ‘larger than life’ colorful & powerful object that moved around and resembled a human form, with, to put it mildly, a certain degree of large awe and some joy.

So, they clapped aloud. Smiled. Laughed aloud. And kept standing wide eyed at the sight of this large wooden lady that went from one end to another.

Some children ventured near ‘her’ and ‘she’ would come close or go farther away, and children obviously would go ga-ga, that this huge figure was after all responding to them and their moves !

It was an interesting exchange of sorts! Between children of all hue and the puppet.

Parents stood by the side. Fully aware that the puppet was moved around by a small man with stilt legs standing inside ! Moved around, powered by the eyes in the tummy

Yes..those peep holes in the tummy of the puppet which were the see-holes through which the small man inside was using to move around with.

Seeing the world & those children. Their laughter and their moves et al. And making his moves, while we stood there and let the children have all the fun !!

So there was a

a. Wooden but very colourful structure
b. Seemed larger than life
c. Was actually a small, ordinary person inside
d. Attracted and plays with / to impressionable minds
e. Had stomach vision..( saw all activities through an eye in the stomach…)

Without a tilt of a head or a shake of a finger i shout : politicians of the world !!

But as i said, i concede, mine is a mind that is beginning to indicate onset of progressive delirium. At least that’s what i make of the look people give me these days. So, do let me know, how close or how far away i am.

From delirium that is !

Pray tell me..

Clicked at the Old Airport – Bangalore

It was a early Bangalore morning. We were checking out of the old airport. And then this signboard was there. A gentleman who was alongside me, was clearly puzzled. His discomfiture was obvious. He was from Germany as it turned out. And when he read, auto-assistance, his imagination went to a automatic vending machine type of police force !!

It took me a while to help him understand that the auto in question was not ‘auto-maticIVRS type ‘If you find a thief press 1, if you find a hijacker press 2…’ monotone, but an auto that moves on three wheels !


Clicked at Dindigul

I found this at a railway junction at Dindigul. ‘Non Vegetarian Tea Stall’. Please help me understand better, the finer contours of what a non-vegetarian tea stall could sell. A tea stall being non-vegetarian, and that too at a railway station..well, first time for me !

clicked at Basavanagudi – Bangalore

I am not sure if the monsoon was raining water as much as it seems to be raining men !! Well, too much too soon i guess ! For all those who hopped ‘Mansoon to Mansoon‘ too soon, well they sure thought one did need a recharge with talk time !!

Well, well well..How much more real can it get ?!?


clicked new Cantonment Station – Bangalore

This was the cherry o n the plum. Pray tell me, what is drive in a zigzag manner ! I am willing to bet my index finger, that this is ‘a one and only’ road sign.

What say ?

Fundamentally Speaking !

As the world shakes under the impact of Lehman Brothers & Merril Lynch, i cant but help wonder whats happening. These after all were institutions that were built on layers of credibility over many decades ! To see them sink into a quick sand is not only numbing but also unnerving. Well, this isnt a post about Lehman or Merril ! I am no economist nor am i anyway qualified to write about them !

But this pictue that i clicked sometime back, seems to rest at the forefront of my memory and refuses to go away ! Here i was at a restaurant in Bangalore. Having ordered a take away, I had nothing else to do, but twiddle my thumb and check the cobwebs. Thats when i looked at the main notice board in the restaurant !

The wide array of services befuddle me !

Ranging from giving Punjabi Lassi, to Tandoori Chicken, Aloo Gobi to a real estate business is quite a spectrum.

Add Life Insurance, Medical Insurance, Mutual Funds, Tax Return filing, share brokering, Public Provident Fund through State Bank Of India, ‘all woodwork’ (wardrobe etc)…. under one roof..well, the spectrum becomes SOME spectrum !

Dawning the curiosity coat, i approach the chap manning the counter, and ask him how many people form part of this set up, vaguely pointing to the notice board and the array of services displayed ! He looks up, shouts out ‘two Tandoori’ to his waiters, and says, ‘One’.

And adds with an emphatic ‘ME’ in a ‘dont-you-see-it-dude’ tone !

I look up with a ‘Lassi-to-Unit-Linked-Insurance-Plans-is-a-quite-a- stretch’ look on my face. His eyes look sqaurely into mine, and asks me, what do i want to do : buy shares ? sell shares ? Do you have house to rent out ? Do you need to rent a house ? File tax returns….?

The big burly gent arches his eyebrows, wanting to know what i would prefer ?

An apparition of my commerce professor, with balding head and steady voice appears in front of me ! With no fear of sounding ‘repetitive’, he used to say, ‘stick to fundamentals’ !

‘Err..’ i reply, ‘my rotis and gobi masala’ !