India

Of cows and independence day!

The little miss, as is her wont these days, has been shooting me a heap of questions. There is not a thing that passes the attention of her senses that just passes by without a question popping up. Be it an earthworm, a snail, a ridiculous honk from an autorickshaw, the neighbour’s loud movie screening, the sartorial choices of her mom (& dad ) etc etc. You get the drift right?

Me and the missus have had to work overtime to ensure that we engage with each of her questions and give her answers. Most of the time she ends with a ‘whatever’ look. Especially when I attempt to answer. The missus fares better.

The ‘whatever’ look is what I remember my physics teacher reserving for me, in school.   She would ask a question and her eyes would droop so much that they would be waiting to roll down her cheek if I was late by another moment. Her shoulders would drop and a smug smile would lurk at the corner of her lip. Her whole body language would seem to be so much waiting in expectation of a ridiculously inept answer. I guess I met her expectations every single time. I would dread those classes.

It is kind of dreadful to think that the little miss reminds me of that time. The only difference now is that the little miss forgets the inept answer in a jiffy and moves on to some easier stuff at the wave of a hand. Like, ‘Can I go touch that cat Appa?’ Or even, ‘can we go say hello to the rain drop appa’? Now, these are like lifebuoys to someone in a cesspool. We survive with her kindness and love.

She has been excited about the Independence Day for over a week now.

“Appa, when are you buying me a gift?”

“A gift? But why?”

“It is India’s birthday appa!”

I realised that thats how Independence day has been positioned in her mind.  Gandhi, Nehru and the freedom struggle can come much later.  For now, if there are some festoons, cake, pizzas and a gift to boot, all is well. Fortunately, the gifts that she has demanded haven’t yet gotten to meaningless stuff that pops a hole in the pocket. A national flag was all that was desired this time around and was dutifully bought too.

So today, on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, after the flag hoisting ceremony in the apartment complex where we live in,  came another string of questions.

“If we hoist a flag for India’s birthday, why didn’t you hoist one for my birthday?”

Patient explaining ensued.  Of India having a flag and it being a country and that individuals don’t have a flag etc. Inept answers, I can guess. With drooping shoulders she proclaimed, ‘Appa, once we go home, I am going to draw my flag. You have to hoist it for my birthday”.

I demurred in agreement. “My flag will have a cow and a cat in it Appa”.

“A COW?” I spluttered.   The nation would want to know now.  An involuntary muttering of ‘Holy Cow’ under my breath reached her sharp ear.

“Not holy cow Appa”, she said. “Just one nice cow”.

Silence ensued. And then with a momentary pause she asked, ‘what is a holy cow Appa’? I didn’t know where to start. Or end, for that matter. And then, she threw me a lifeline. Actually two.

“If you don’t like the cow, let’s just have the cat in the flag Appa. It is easy to draw the cat “.  A huge sigh of relief clung to the air as Lata Mangeshkar ruled the Independence Day sound waves of the apartment complex.

And then she said, “Can we go to the play area and slide Appa?”.  She was on her way to the play area and shouted out a changed plan.  “I have been on the slide for sometime Appa. Today can you push me higher on the swing?”

“Of course”, I said. “Of course”

 

The Pongal Magic

 

The birth of the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ occupies a special significance in my heart. For a farmer, ‘Thai’ is the tenth month in the Tamil calendar.  The arrival of ‘Thai’ is celebrated with colour, splendour, nature, gratitude and of course, good food : Pongal, we call it.  For a long while now, Pongal festivities in urban areas have been relegated to a fun bonfire, a fancy ghee dripping Pongal (the dish) and a lazy time in front of the TV.

The festival, though, has a lineage of several thousand years and the least every succeeding generation did was to mark it on the calendar. Which is fantastic. Needless to say, they celebrated in accordance of the times they lived in and added a layer of flavour.

As a kid, I recall running with a carefree energy, in farmlands of a distant dusty village cluster near Madurai in Tamil Nadu on the day of Pongal. Careful not to trample on the colourful ‘Kolams’ that dotted every doorway. Running to see garlanded cows and goats with a fresh coat of paint donning their horns.  Jostling to get a better glimpse of events at the village centre, atop the shoulders of uncles and cousins.  A uniquely rural Indian moment, if you will. Replete with painted horns matched in their colour by glaring ribbons, and blaring megaphones.  Shy women stood at the doorway of quaint houses and watched drunken men, cows, and kids like us traipse by.  The world seemed to have a spring in its step.

That is my memory of Pongal. There was magic in the air. The Pongal magic.

For long, I believed that it was ‘Thai’ that did it. For it heralded new beginnings. It meant that there was a shift in the seasons. The seeds that were sown months ago and nurtured over several months had morphed into something else. Grain. Food. It was time for a harvest. It was time for abundance.

To date, on Pongal day, a traditional Tamil rural household converges outside of their homes under the benign grandeur of the Sun God and cook. Boiling the milk and adding freshly harvested rice, even as it overflows, to signify gratitude and abundance. Or at least, that’s the story I have experienced.

‘Thai Piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum’ they say. ‘When the month of Thai arrives, opportunities arrive’ is a loose translation.

The urbanisation of our lifestyles has drifted away from the rhythms of its rural origins. Retaining the ritual and missing the flavour. Yet, the spirit of the festival permeates the mid-January air.

Sometimes, that’s all that matter.

Here’s to a super Pongal. May there be new vistas for health, happiness and fulfilment in all our lives.  And even as they knock on our doors, may we have the prescience to hear the knock and open the doors of our soul.

May we live!

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20-20

These days I open Facebook with a mild trepidation thinking of all the stuff that show up on my social media timelines. Ranging from the inane to the insane. From the incredulous to the ridiculous. Very rarely is there something that is truly incredible. Stuff that people post that make me go back in there. Like this video below. 

A fascinating piece that the Films Division has released in 1967. A montage of people that were born on 15th Aug 1947. Something like a 20-20. They turned twenty when free India turned twenty. The visual collage weaves their hopes for the future and gives a snapshot of what it was to have lived in 1967! 

I have watched the video a few times over now and hope you would snatch 18 minutes of your time to do so, once!
Lodged firmly in it are the reckless confidence of youth. The seemingly unsurmountable challenges of then and how they continue to haunt us now. And in the twinkle in the eye you can almost see the promise that ‘the tomorrow’ held for them.  In the assertive confidence, pale quiver in the lips or in the obscure dream of making it in the future, I see the present day sitting and smiling too. 

Only now it is all in a HDMI supported colour with more jazz. How much has life changed for the ordinary man on the street? Tom Brokaw, in a commencement speech put it eloquently : “It will do us little good to wire the world if we short circuit our souls”
What will the tomorrow hold? How different will that be?  I wonder if we have let a promise slip by. More importantly I wonder what it will take to keep the promises we made to ourselves when we were younger! What will it take for the twenty somethings of today turnaround and say, we have moved on? 
Do give the video a dekho. The wheel of time spins with remarkable alacrity. As much as things change, the scale of stuff that remains the same is just incredible. A truly remarkable piece, I must say. 

Donkeys!

It was quite a sight. A sight that is not a regular one at that. You can see a parade of cars. A convoy of jeeps. A bevvy of bikes. But then, what do you do when you are walking down a road and you see a set of donkeys walking by. In big city Mumbai!
 
First the eyebrows arch. Then seeing the number, the mouth goes open. But the sight of them all being deployed to carry construction material gets the mouth to stay open. 
As an city dweller who has been part of the technology revolution, the mobile phone is phished out from the pocket and a couple of snaps result. The sight of construction workmen with harnesses, helmets walking in near formation with a set of donkeys was something that the camera could barely manage to capture. 
 
Growing up in a smaller city, the sight of donkeys carrying sack loads of clothes to the laundry was common.  These days the donkeys with four legs are a rarity. 
 
As the donkeys walk by, there are a set of people having the tea break from work. Fashionable. Young. Creative folks, perhaps. At the local tea stall.  They sit and watch the donkeys pass.  They watch the donkeys unmindful of the pair of eyes that are watching them watch the donkeys. Erudite people. One of them asks, with a pronounced drag of a half done cigarette. “What is the collective noun for donkeys”?
 
A discussion ensues. Pride. Convocation. Army. It continues. They laugh. Giggle. One of them offers to look up Google. But then, the cigarette is done. Last  droplets of tea to wash down the conversation flows down their alimentary canals. Dusting their behinds they walk off towards their work places. ‘Forget the donkeys. We have to face the asses now’. They say. Grim faced, they walk away. The world is ruled by sign off lines. 
 
If any of them is reading this post, well, the collective noun for donkeys is : ‘drove’. Or ‘herd’. Or ‘pace’.  
 
Of course, this  piece of information on collective nouns, is useful to all of us in the country at this point in time. There are so many donkeys all braying out aloud, that reminding ourselves of a collective noun will well help us bunch them together, complete sentences properly and get on with life. 
 
No, there isnt anyone particular in the mind. There are hordes. Oh no. There are droves of them.  

The Great Indian Thali !

There are many things unique about India. Amongst the chief elements is the variety of the food palette that can cater to every single pore on your tongue. 

With the coming of the McDonalds, KFCs, Pizza stores and a variety of others the degree of standardization across the country is no joke! The walls are of the same hue. The uniforms are of the same colour. Even how they greet you is scripted. So much so, if you have been regular at a particular fast food chains outlet, you would exactly know what they are going to say next !  So much for ‘standardization of user experience’.

But ofcourse, you go to a junk food joint ( ok, fast food joint ) to fill the stomach. If there is an itch to satiate a travel bug, well, you eat only partly to fill stomach.  The other portion is to soak up a culture and fill the soul.

Take for instance the Thali. The great Indian Thali, is different in different places.  Its called the Thali and is an assortment of permutations and combinations of main courses and side dishes that will kick up an awesome taste that lasts far beyond the big burp at the end of the meal.

For instance, a Gujarati Thali is served in what seems like a necklace of small containers  which sit inside a large plate, with some space for ghee laden rotis and rice are a part of Gujarati Thali.  

Before

During

After 

The refills for every container will keep flowing endlessly.

I swear, I have wiped off every morsel much to the embarrassment of the missus and anyone else that eats alongside.  


A trip down south to Tamil Nadu will get you a very different version of a Thali. On a banana leaf. All partitions need to be created by the one who eats.

‘When good food is gorged down, of what use is a partition’ ! That was a good friends mom, when, I asked her for a bowl to house my payasam !

Such delights!  

The after effects can be good sidestory though. That warrants a separate blogpost.  

The Chinese connection !

The Chinese are coming. I mean, they are already here. Here, there and everywhere else too. They are vending everything from toys to Ganpati statues, to high end Mont Blanc pens. It actually is a mistake to even get into listing stuff they are into, even if its for a sake of citing an example!

For, next to God, the Chinese are everywhere. I have no doubts in my mind, that they have a plan to upstage God too.

Their presence is markedly well known. Any wannabe powers that be, in the media or in the political circle will speak about the ‘China’ factor. The missiles, the economy, the border issue and such else! Which has been around for as long as China and India have been around and is not going to go away anytime soon, at least until some of our newspapers and news anchors are around !

So, lets talk about an even more pervasive Chinese invasion!

There is little space for doubt that the title of ‘national dish of India’ title must go for Gobi Manchurian. Across the country, wherever I have traveled, if there was one sign of national integration, it is Gobi Manchurian !

You could have different clothes, suffer from different politicians, chew and curse on completely different regional media, have customs as different as Orange, Blue and Green ! But ‘Gobi Manchurian’ : is ubiquitously present and unites us all.

To think that a land of a billion people is united by Cauliflower cooked in a Indo-Chinese concoction, taking the name of a geographic region in China can be mind boggling. But thats the truth.

We may fight over North India Vs South India. Or the East Vs West. Outsider Vs Insider! If the dosa scored over the naan. Or for that matter how Makki-di-Roti and Sarosn da Saag score over idly saambar. Those are arguments that never end. (Until the time, ‘Payasam’ comes into the picture. At which point, all discussions cease. At my home, that is).

But, mention ‘Gobi Manchurian’ at any forum! I have only noticed an evolved understanding. A seeming brotherhood of bonding. As people go silent and smack their lips ! Across the country !

It can have its regional variations and can taste completely different in different parts of the country. Ranging from the lovely to the lethal. Yet, the bonhomie it fosters is unfettered !

In one of my travels, I spotted this !


Gobi morphing into Gopi naturally caught my eye! I have a few friends who go by the name ‘Gopi’ and my mind wickedly went to think of sending this picture to them. I was wondering what would an appropriate message be, to accompany this picture ?

‘From Cauliflower to Hot dude – Made in China’. I thought, thinking of item two !

And then, looked at item three on the list. ‘Gopi, the single man jury’, I thought. Then, retracted from sending that SMS. My friend may not be offended. But the Chinese may be and knowing that the Indian governments strict policy is not to offend China, I sent only the picture.

‘Who is this ?’ came the response from two of the three people the message went to. The third friend sent in silence. My friends seemingly had disowned me.

I didnt think much as the Cauliflower settled in my stomach. It was a worthy cause after all. National Integration and all that. With Gobi Manchurian you see !

Zoning in !

“You can never zone out” here, she shrieked.

While in the US, it was a treat to be on the road. Almost everybody observed traffic signals. Their economy may be growing at 2-4% but the traffic signals work. In true American style the minimum gap between vehicles in the USA, would seem like the distance between Sun and Saturn for the average Mumbai motorist.



Although I was there in American soil for only a few weeks, I can hold court like a well entrenched native with impunity, especially if the topic was a comparative narrative on the difference between driving in Mumbai and driving over there.

So, this friend from the USA, sat next to me as I drove, on roads that sported less than normal traffic on that particular day. Within five minutes of her first ride on Indian roads, I saw her hands shiver. In the seventh minute beads of sweat began to appear. In the eight minute, from the corner of my eye, I saw her hold on to the inside of the door handle. In eight and a half, her face was buried in her palms.

It was obvious it was about the road. For my hands were firmly on the wheel and I hadn’t spoken a word, other than professional conversation. My mind was racing at a faster speed than the motorbike that held an aunty, uncle and two kids that hung out of the bike rather precariously, and were looking into the window.

Obviously a ‘phoren’ woman, face buried in her hands with a chap that sported furtive looks can be fertile feeding ground even for the dull variety. All four of them were peering into the car, waiting for action.

In a brief while, it was but obvious, that every eye atop any moving object on Western Express Highway was trained on our car. Not wanting to run the risk of being featured on some news starved news channel with a silly ‘breaking news’, I pulled over. And hesitatingly asked my friend if everything was ok?!?

‘The cars are coming too close here’. She said. In some sense, I was relieved that she didn’t get to see the aunty+Uncle + one kid + another kid precariously hanging, all peering into the car. I was certain she wouldn’t have seen a circus act of that order!

We struck a deal. I would keep the car to the extreme left, that would come close to eliminate the possibility of a Ferrari hopeful overtaking on the left. Where she was sitting. After all of this, she offered “I’ll keep my eyes closed”. An offer, that was readily and graciously accepted.

Peace returned. She turned blind. I steered through what was ‘sub-normal’ traffic. Until we came across, a case of a ‘mild’ traffic jam. She opened her eyes, squirmed in her seat, but was far more comfortable than before.



After some agnonising moments, we discovered the root cause. A broken down truck, laden with steel rods. Sprouting a few twigs amidst all the steel. The twigs, any average Indian motorist would know, is a sign that warns other motorists of a broken down vehicle!

She went from ‘awe’ to ‘open-mouthed awe’ to ‘insanely open mouthed awe’ to ‘shaking heads in disbelief insanely open mouthed awe’.

Where in the world did we think of tying up a twig and a clutch of leaves onto a vehicle that had a breakdown ! Whatever happened to ‘hazard lights’ and the ‘hazard triangle’ to warn other motorist. Questions fired in quick succession.

I replied calmly. It was simple. Common sensical. Isnt it. I wouldn’t expect twigs to sprout from a lorry loaded with steel rods. That is abnormal. An obvious implication that something is amiss here and therefore the vehicle is stationary.

So, the minute your car breaks down, you don’t run you battery down with hazard lights and such else. You just reach for the nearest twig or a clutch of leaves and append it to some part of your car that is visible to others.

Which left her in a state of mild sedation, occasionally mumbling about Indian innovation and such else. I presume its going to take her a while to recover.

Until then, ofcourse, if you are travelling to India, a vehicle sprouting twigs is not a symbolic protest about global warming or something. This is a different kind of a breakdown. Ok ?

A 1000 elder brothers…



“There was a time when I typed Anna, and google threw up Kournikova” says a friend’s status message on Facebook. Anna mania has gripped India, perhaps far better than Kournikova gripped a bored bachelors imagination. Perhaps. That coming from a 70 + year old gent, is no mean achievement in a country with a penchant for ‘moving on’ from one issue to another with adroitness that could teach the most flexible ape, a lesson or two in dexterity !

These are strange times. A time, when speaking anything against Anna Hazare and his supposedly substantially burgeoning bandwagon evokes a George Bush kind of ‘Either you are with us or against us’ response, that eventually leads to being pilloried a traitor with no love for the nation.

Any word that strikes a discordant note against the grain of Anna and his team, invites a flurry of responses that have ranged from the ‘considered’ to the ‘dismissive’ to the downright silly. Unfortunately, with the last two dominating.

Well, this is a free country. On that note, lets face facts and call a spade, a spade. Half a spade, half a spade.

There are three roads that have lead us here.

The first one. It’s a fact that Anna Hazare stands tall. In a time when chaps half his age could have ‘turning the pages of a newspaper’ as their most intense physical activity, his energy and verve has lit up people. He seems to have a steely resolve and a resolute purpose. Fundamentally, his heart seems to be in the right place.

It is a different matter though, that has had generous helpings from extravagantly dimwitted attempts by those in the government to discredit him and a disproportionately loud and insistent singing of paeans by the electronic media. Matters that we shall keep aside for now.

He oozes confidence and a shrewd team with the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, add larger than life dozes of credibility that lend themselves well to a perception that his armoury is chink free. That is such a romantic fit to a population that is starved of a charismatic leader with compelling story to tell.

On the second front, the vexed issue of corruption is something that every Indian has encountered. As a giver. As a taker. Or in an off chance, as a fighter! The last few years’ litany of loot is ridiculously unparalleled. The brazen size of the embezzlements and the shrill cry of a media that seems to be in perpetual hunt for a good story, catalysed by the penetration of the internet with space for the common man and woman to vent, collate and seize up the collective spirit have had a substantial impact on the psyche of the populace.

On the third front, the government seems to have floundered much like a pathetic array of generals who ride on new horses named ‘arrogance’ ‘pelf’, ‘doubt’ and the like, only to completely lose their way and meander aimlessly. Specialising in retreat after retreat, as foray after foray seemed ill-conceived, inconsistent and remarkably insouciant.

So there. Three different fronts. All leading up here. Inflammable material needing just a spark, placed next to each other ! Bingo. So we have an issue at hand. .

An emotionally charged and ‘affected’ population that has for long grown up aiding or staying mute to a culture of ‘giving’ to get by / to get ahead etc etc, suddenly sees a messiah who has brought the manna they were in search of, in a zipped file! Which they can download and install and ‘lived happily ever after’ endings would follow.

Anna Hazare’s charisma, in-your-face 24 hour media coverage and our own impatience to shake off a 40 year lull in four weeks, have had many of us jumping in. Candles. Topis. Flags. Dharnas. Shouting Vande Mataram and such else.

Don’t get me wrong. The intentions are pure to a large extent for most people, that have joined the protest. ( Builders, who ever so often seek black money on the sly, joining the protests presumably because they could pass on huge discounts to consumers that they otherwise would have to pay as bribes are one of the reasons as to why I say ‘most people’). The selfless passion that several other ordinary people have brought to the front through this movement is goose bumps creating stuff and reinstates hope that ‘all is not lost’.

Yet, even as the pitch gets shriller, could we care to read the Jan Lokpal bill in its current form. Examine the practical implications and sustainability please? Just give it a read. Lets understand what we want! The bill and its provisions are a far distance away. Nevertheless, that’s my opinion. Lets give it a read , form an opinion and enter the debate.

On another note has anybody considered the kind of a precedent we are setting in forming laws for the country ? We are not in cowboy backyard. India has a set of rules and governed by a constitution that is supreme. Sure, many of us are supporting the Jan Lokpal bill. But, since when did ‘many’ become ‘all’? Or ‘most’, for that matter ?

Lets face issues : Corruption is no CIA implant or a conspiracy hatched in a Pakistani madrasa. It is perpetuated by ‘us’. So much so, its existence is a ‘way of life’ for us! It is too far well entrenched for one Kryptonian bill to change it, as though it is some rogue software virus that could be removed by hitting the delete button on a keyboard.

Think about this. The political class is not the only one that is corrupt, although it sits at the helm of it all. Offering money to the cop in the corner, after breaking a signal is as much a form of corruption as is not raising a voice when the Reddy brothers offer a diamond studded crown worth 45 crores to Lord Venkateshwara, especially after illegally blasting away the good lords backyard in Bellary!

To many of us, corruption is an issue only when we part with money when everything is hunky dory on our side. Yet, to break the queue, skew the law in our favour, evade taxes, to get ahead, or to get an undue favour ( which, by the way, is quite often, given our laws) we could grudge but willingly pay! Or take a slightly circuitous route of saying ‘I wont pay’, but pay an agent ‘service charges’ to facilitate ‘transactions’.

As a society, our moral compass has shifted. To get it to point in the right direction would require the collective will of everybody. The collective will of ‘We the People’. A will to stand in queue. A will to endure discomfort that is far greater than an empty waving of the flag. Many a time, fighting a lonely battle. To face the heat that is many times more than holding on to a simple candle. That’s what it takes, to stand up to the corrupt.

A simplistic law is far from an effective solution. We cant rid a cancer in the blood with a cleanser for the face.

The fabric of the country is dialogue. An inclusive participative dialogue. A willingness to listen and engage. Not a set of deadlines and a ‘do this or else…’ set of demands. My way or the high way’ may sound good coming from a Bollywood superstar in a scripted movie. Real life is no cine script, where blockbusters are rarer still. Change happens in small doses.

Lets get real. Anna Hazare is no Mahatma Gandhi. 2011 is not 1947. And by the way, we are not fighting a parliament that is in London.

There is now a certain level of focused conversation on corruption across the country, all credit to Anna Hazare and his team. This is a unique moment pregnant with possibilities. Hopefully, pragmatic sense would prevail and this societal momentum will be channelized for greater dialogue with everybody.

Lets consider Inclusive and participative dialogue providing space for words to get spoken and voices to be heard. Hopefully it would also provide the self indulgent indignation of every ‘I am Anna’ topi wearer a chance to pause and ponder on his or her own actions and responsibilities as well.

Lest it whittle away in the excitement of participating in the frenzy of war cries ranging from “2nd freedom movement” and such else. Taking with it whatever hopes that there was for change to emerge and further deep rooting the disease..



Cops !

You cant miss their impressive height nor their majestic gait.

If at all you missed the height or the gait, the impressive turnout will get your attention. With clothes that fit to the T and muscles that show their contours although firmly behind those impressive uniforms

If you miss all of that, you sure must be fully blind to miss the half dozen accompaniments that hang from his sides. I mean, from the big leather belt. A gun, which perhaps could be a taser but could kill by the looks. A baton . Half a dozen pouches, with God knows what in them. A wireless microphone or a walkie talkie. A torch that perhaps can double up as a hammer. On top of all this, sometimes, a tie !

With all that on display, it is but natural that cars slow down, almost as an auto response when a cop car shows up in the rear view mirror. Wouldn’t it be an insult if the slowing down to all the ‘costume’ if the slowing down didn’t happen ?

I spoke to an officer once. No, no. No hanky panky. Just asking for directions. The response was to the point, respectful yet with a firmness that flowed !

You cant help but contrast the policemen that patrol Indian roads. Out of shape and out of favour of public opinion. Definitely not an inspiring presence!

On bikes and cycles. A faded khaki and heavy boots that adorn feet more worn out by providing ‘bandobust’ duty as some sundry cavalcade is supposed to whiz by ! Equipped with the most potent weapon in the world : a lathi !

Sure, the cops in the US were impressive. By how they talked, looked what they travelled in, and what they carried along. Am sure they are brave men, who inspire confidence in a society and are faced with innumerable challenges.

Yet, it is men like Tukaram Omble that stand tall. In the mind, that is. An unmentionable salary, unthinkable equipment, yet blessed with an undeniably indomitable attitude. An attitude that causes holding on to an assault rifle’s barrel that was pointed at him, even as a terrorist was spraying bullets! And just not letting go, thereby giving India the lone captured terrorist in the Mumbai attack of 2008

Such men’s stature has nothing to do with their real height. Making them taller than the tallest of them all. Often forgotten. Many other times, ignored. Yet, rolling up the sleeve and tapping the lathi on the floor to enforce order.

And sometimes, holding on to a barrel of a gun and falling, just so that a country can stand.

Conspicuous Absences

The trip to the US continues. The roads are clean. Traffic is orderly. The level of orderliness merits a separate post ! Every other street corner seems to be replete with an effort to blank out ‘grey’ and possible ambiguity, announcing several aspects, including one that announced ‘uneven surface’.
When your immediate context is Mumbai or Chennai or any other city in India and you are used to entire valleys (if not Marina trenches) coming up , where roads existed till the night before, to see a sign that announces ‘uneven surface’ is a matter of great preponderance.

What strikes you most is the absence of people. Vast empty stretches of land, occasionally signalling to you, the existence of life, by a passing car ! That ‘once in a while’ passing car is an important

event, but for which the entire neighbourhood could pass for still image resident in a tourist’s camera. All of this ofcourse, in California, the most populous state in the US !

India has 1/3rd the size of the US and three times the population !!! That could define ‘double whammy’ perfectly. Every other factual comparison however obvious morhps into a tiny sliver of inconsequential information when viewed through the lens of ‘1/3rd the size X 3 times the population’ !

Ofcourse we have a huge population in India. The entire of population of the state of California is less than the population of just three metros Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata put together. Remember, California is the most populous state !

‘Oh we have far too many people’ is an argument that can pass muster with consummate ease against any other factual comparison that could be made based on whats seen here and whats missing back home. Perhaps not without reason. However, that argument doesn’t fly all the way and gets a rather specious shade when its thrown as a defense for any and every sore pore !

The other obvious absence is ‘litter’ ! Boards which carry a message ‘$ 1000 fine for littering’ anoint every other crossing. That is a lot of a money and is a Mt.Everest of a financial barrier.
On the same keel, the super efficient garbage collection methods with more than adequate opportunities for people to dispose their litter completes the circle !

Every house has three bins for three types of waste. ( Yard, Recyclable and non-recyclable). Trash gets collected over a week. On one pre-scheduled day, trash shows up on the roads. In orderly trash cans like this.

Specifications on how and where to place them, can pop an eyeball. But when a large truck comes along and does some serious robotics ( said to be equipped with cameras et al to scan through the waste ) to pick the cans with precision that’s seen in an automated factory, the necessity of following specifications become obvious.

In a flash the trash is taken. Not a drop spilled. No drips on the road.


Perhaps employing all of three people. Driving three different trucks for three different trash cans. Quite obviously the capital expenditure on such trucks and technology could trump full economies of countries. Obviously this is not recommended in India !


What perhaps is recommended for India is another form of cleansing to begin with, which you, the reader, can arrive at far accurate conclusions than what can ever be articulated on this blog!

On another note, for many ages now this blogger has been given enough of an education by his missus that cleanliness begins at home. Only now, does he have some response. Which could go like….’Sure, cleanliness is next to Godliness. But for ‘Godmanliness‘, there is no answer !’ America gives courage to the married man.

Whatsay !?!

The other post is here