Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Meru (documentary)

Watched yet another fascinating trekking documentary close on heels of 14 peaks: Meru. Meru for a change lies outside the Tibet-Nepal-Pakistan triangle. Meru is the sacred Himalayan peak of India, considered the dwelling abode of our Mother Goddess Parvathi. In fact, the peak is believed to be the very embodiment of Shakthi. Unconquerable over even Mt Everest or K2 given its steep granite wall ascent. Some of us have ‘Meru’ (scale model) in our Puja. Meru with Sri Chakra are two symbols associated with Devi worship. So that must explain what Meru is to Hindus. But the climbing crew from the US seem to have respect for the Hindu sentiments as they revere our holy relics and pay their obeisance prior to the ascent. Not only is the mount Meru impressive; so is also the indomitable spirit of the climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan lead by their mentor Conrad who has been on successful expeditions to Mt Everest. It takes more than a couple of attempts for Conrad for his luck to work out when it comes to Meru. A seasoned climber, he’s climbed with the best crews. Climbing Meru is different because, unlike Nepal India has no Sherpas to act as guides and/or porters, bred into the mountaineering profession by tradition. The climbers needed to carry kilos of their own gear or equipment plus food and oxygen. From observing expeditions to Mt Everest, it is impossible to miss how in every step a mountaineer is aided by the sherpas be it with load carrying or roping tight knots or pitching tents. Easiest ascent routes are picked and the queues could be longest to the summit! Mt Everest is that very crowded! No helping hand out there in Meru. I loved the cool hanging tent pitched midway to ascent, off the sheer granite cliff that offered no foothold for the final 3000 foot. The crew were holed up here hundreds of meters suspended in midair during their first climb for days. After the failed attempt, on return to America, Chin and Renon meet with debilitating skiing accidents. Renan is immobilized and chained to hospital bed for months. He makes a terrific comeback with his recovery and workout even as Chin survives an accident himself! With Chin, Renan goes for the summit yet again and it is admirable that team leader Conrad pins complete faith on their sincere and combined efforts. Charming to see the wandering cows and monkeys in Indian Himalaya alongside rivers (Bhagirathi?) and Chai shops and blaring horns. Its one exhilarating feeling as the trio scale the summit the second time – even for the viewers. They are the first in history to scale Mount Meru. What a treat to watch. It does ache my heart when someone lays a foot on Meru – me being ardent Shakthi worshiper. Who says Gods are all from Middle east. Our Hindu Gods descended down the Himalayas. I am sure Conrad, Jimmy Chin and Renan will agree.

Posted in Political

Love him or hate him, there is none like my prime minister Narendra Modi.

One moment he is in Manipur, one of the seven sister eastern states of India bordering Burma and Bangladesh. Shortly he surfaces in the western state of Punjab where the safety protocol for the nation’s most important man is brazenly breached. He is made a sitting duck with his convoy, jammed from every side in the highway with traffic freezing all around for over crucial and dangerous 30 min. Security lapse of highest order, perhaps pre-planned? The next morning Shri Modi ji is inaugurating almost a dozen medical colleges in the lines of AIIMS in the south virtually, alongside a classical language university. He is opening expressways and tunnels simultaneously in Jammu, the northernmost country and cutting ribbons for industrial complexes in the hinter heartland of India. Takes a break to hit Varanasi for a temple visit and rounds off the day addressing the business community/entrepreneurial sessions online. Diplomatic affairs are handled with equal finesse in the sidelines. Not to forget that the country lost our valuable COAS only very recently, that must be weighing heavily on his mind. A million issues crave for his attention. He is tugged here and there: but he goes with it all giving everyone and everything his hundred percent. That is my prime minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. I have not had a prime minster like him in my memory. My country India is the seventh largest and most diverse nation in the world. We are also the world’s largest democracy with a population of an estimated 1.3 billion. This is our busybee PM Modi ji, at70+, who hardly sleeps for four hours a day even in this pandemic, which is the reason we Indians are going to sleep in sheer bliss: we are in safe hands, that of our prime minister. He will see to that we have our peace and security as he stands guard over our nation even as we the citizens raise such a hue and cry ever since the Covid invaded our spaces in the year 2019. Through the intervening period, the man led the nation on an unparalleled campaign of administering over a billion corona vaccine doses, indigenously produced or made in India, all the same exporting the lifesaving vaccines to dozens of world nations. He just turned the country into missile exporting elite. He wouldn’t miss the awards ceremonies in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan honouring the unsung heroes of Bharat from all walks of life: from the noblest teaching profession in village to the native tree sapling planter. He neither forgets our sportsmen nor our army men, leave alone the artistes and artisans through the length and breadth of the country. From tribals to the enterprising youth and agrarian/pastural rural population, he engages with them all at every stage. Through all his busy schedule, our prime minister still finds time to address the children of the nation with his ‘Man ki bhath.’ He is an avid Yoga practitioner and a vegetarian. He is dynamism and hyperactivity rolled into one for his age! I am yet to come across a single young man as hardworking and driven as my prime minister is in his seventies. Touchwood. He is in my everyday prayer. After all, Shri Modi ji is in his retirement age already. He could have opted for the safer, easier way out. Modi ji is clearly the man on a mission.’ A follow-up of his You tube channel can let you know how this man born and bred for India, leading a frugal life, is easily one of the finest leaders India has ever had. It is easiest to criticize or point fingers. To achieve what he has, one has to have monumental mental strength and grand vision. My country is mammoth and chaotic. In all the chaos and confusion, India still has her character. To head my nation and propel us towards prosperity, encountering adversity at every step is no cakewalk even for elected parliamentarians. We are surrounded by China and Pakistan – our hostile neighbours. Border skirmishes bleeding us day in and day out are our routine. There are betrayers within our boundaries who would like to see us blown to smithereens. The stewardship of my colossal nation is therefore a Himalayan task literally. Anyone who does it bravely and surefooted like my prime minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and that too with his kind of elan, deserves a standing ovation. Clearly he is head and shoulders above most world leaders. It is unfortunate that the corona pandemic has to be dealt with in his golden period. Or perhaps it is a blessing for us Indians that we have dynamic leadership at this point of time. This is also the time for us to let him know how much he means to us Indians. As the delta variant and omicron are raging around us everywhere, let us take a moment to let our prime minister know how dearly he is loved and respected. May you be blessed with a hundred years Shri Narendra Modi ji! Take care, the nation is with you.

Posted in Lateral Thinking

தமிழ் பாடம்

தமிழில் எழுத முடியாததென்பது இல்லை. ஆனால் இன்னொரு ராஜேஷ் குமராக, புஷ்ப தங்கதுரையாக, பட்டுக்கோட்டை பிரபாகராக அவதரிக்க எனக்கு விருப்பம் இல்லை அவ்வளவு தான்! ஆங்கிலத்தில் எவ்வளவோ படிக்கிறோம் பகிர்கிறோம். ஆனால் விரசம் கலந்த தமிழ் பக்கங்களை என்னால் படிக்க இயலுவதில்லை. அது தாய் மொழி மீது நான் வைத்த மரியாதையா என்று எனக்கு தெரியாது. தமிழில் சிறிதளவும் கொச்சையாக பட்டால் என்னால் ஏற்றுக்கொள்ள முடிவதில்லை. ஆங்கிலம் பரவாயில்லை. சங்க நூலகளில் பள்ளி நாட்களில் படித்திருக்கிறோம் ஆனால் அந்த தமிழே வேறு. வெறும் சென்சேஷனலிசத்திற்காகவே தமிழில் சிலர் சில வாறு எழுதிகிறார்களோ என்று இப்போது தோன்றிகிறது. ஆனால் அதை திட்டமாக சொல்ல நானும் தமிழில் அதிகம் படித்ததில்லை. அரைத்த மாவையே எதுக்கு அரைக்க. வித்யாசமான, சமூக சூழ்நிலையை ஆராயும் தமிழ் நூல் பிடிக்கும் இன்னமும். யதார்த்தம் நிறைந்த சுஜாதா மற்றும் பாலகுமாரன் கூட நான் படித்ததில்லை. ஒரே காரணம், பள்ளி வயதிலேயே நினைப்பேன், இது வெளிதாக்கம் என்று. அப்போ நம்ம ஒரிஜினலையே படித்து விடலாமே என்று தான் தோன்றும். தமிழ் மீது பெரிய பற்று என்றுமே கிடையாது. என் வாழ்க்கையை தமிழ்நாட்டுக்கு வெளியே நான் ஐம்பது சதவீதம் வாழ்துள்ளதாலோ என்னவோ, ஒரே குட்டைல ஊறுகிற மட்டையாக விருப்பமில்லை. ஹிந்தியிலும் பெரிய மேதை கிடையாது. ஆனால் சின்ன தோஹே அல்லது சினிமா பாடல் வரியை கேட்டாலும் அந்த மென்மை என்னை வருடும். எந்த பாஷாயுமே உசத்தி இல்லை தாழ்த்தி இல்லை. உருது கலந்த ஹிந்தி வரிகள் மிக்க இஷ்டம். எனக்கு தெரிந்த மட்டில் காதலை அதைவிட அனுபவித்து வார்த்தையில் எழுத வேறு சிறந்த மொழி இல்லை. Spiritually கூட Sufi யை ஆழ்ந்து ரசிப்பேன். தமிழில் கூட கடவுளை அவ்வளவு கண்டதில்லைன்னு சொல்லலாம். நானும் தேவாரம் திருவாசகம் கேட்பவள் தான். மொழியின் உருக்கம் அப்படி. மலையாளம் நாவில் புரள்வது சுலபம், சரளமாக விளையாடும். எனக்கு மிக பிடித்த மொழி. மலாய் மொழி மிக மிருதுவானது. அரபி கூட. எந்த மொழி தான் அழகில்லை. கேட்க கேட்க தான் தெரியும் அந்த உண்மை. தமிழை அதனால் உதறி தள்ள வில்லை. ஆனால் தமிழில் ஏன் consonants and phonetics பல இல்லை. bha, dha, gha இல்லாதது மட்டுமல்ல sha, sa, ha வும் வடக்கில் இருந்து தருவிக்க பட்டதே. 247 எழுத்துக்களை வைத்து எல்லா consonants and phonetics களையும் எப்படி இந்த மொழியால் உருவாக்க முடியாமல் போனது. இருபத்தியாரே எழுத்துக்களில் கிழித்து விட்டானே வெள்ளைக்காரன். சமஸ்க்ரிதமும் ஹிந்தியும் கூட எவ்வளவோ மேல். எல்லாவற்றையும் objective ஆகா பார்க்காமல் subjective ஆகா பார்த்தால் இந்த உண்மை புரியும். ..இந்த மொழியின் பலவீனம் நம் தமிழர் எல்லோரிடமும் உள்ளதே. ஆங்கிலேயரின் மூளையே மூளை. தங்க கம்பி என்று எடுத்து கண்ணில் குத்திக்கொள்ள முடியாது. உண்மை உரைக்க வேண்டும். இருந்தாலும் தமிழ் எனக்கும் உயிர் தான் மறுப்பதற்கில்லை. அதன் குறை நிறையோடு தமிழின் மீது நான் வைத்திருப்பது அன்கண்டிஷனல் லவ். தாய்மொழி அல்லவா. தமிழின் நெளிவு சுளிவுகளை புரிந்தவள் தான். ஆழத்தையும் விரிவையும் தொன்மையையும் அறிந்தவள் தான். By default நான் தமிழச்சி. தமிழ் நாட்டுக்கு வெளியே எப்பொழுதும் நான் அதை மறப்பதற்கில்லை.

Posted in food as therapy...

Biriyani Vs Thayir Saadham

Biriyani is soul food for connoisseurs of food not only in India but throughout the world. Touted the ’emotional food’ of the masses. Purportedly food popularized by the Moguls who invented it accidentally adding Indian spices to Kashmiri Basmati rice cooked with juicy mutton/meat marinated in herbs, Biriyani catered to rich man’s platter for centuries. It is only in last few years that the biriyani reserved normally for feasts, has come within common man’s reach with outlets selling it street to street with all possible variations one can imagine. Finally the dreamfood of meat lovers is affordable with the arrival of the broiler chicken. Loaded with ghee and spices and dripping with greasy oil, heavy meal meant for hard stomachs, biriyani is not exactly your health food on the menu. Overdoing biriyani is harmful to one’s health and there can be no two opinions on the same.

Thayir saadham (curd rice) on the other hand is the polar opposite. Cool on your tummy. Bland. Probiotic that aids in digestion and absorption of minerals and other nutrients, no south Indian meal is complete without thayir saadham. Although a particular community has branded it as theirs, the fact is that there is not a south Indian who does away with thayir saadham when he/she has not consumed meat with the meal. Curd does not sit well with meat, and curd with fish for instance can lead to food poision. This is the reason meat eaters prefer buttermilk to thayir saadham. Supposed to be the super brain food, I cannot though figure out how those who claim exclusive properties to thayir saadham have not still produced the Korean or Japanese or Chinese range of intelligence so far! Apparently the centipede and millipede and snake eaters win hands down when it comes to IQ! Some brainfood here!

So, it is not merely biriyani, even thayir saadham is overrated. If the ‘Rajas guna’ of the biriyani is indeed the reason for physical violence, then the ‘Sattva’ curd rice is only too capable of passive aggression that has been the characteristic trait of some Hindus for centuries. You don’t have to weild the sword like the moghuls and draw blood every time. The very opinionating nature in some is disturbing.

Men who work in tougher conditions involving physical labour need their quota of protein that can come best only from meat. Those who work indoors with not much of physical activity can forego meat for their own sake. Geographic conditions too dictate our food habits. High fat food is a must for those living in cooler climes. Availability of food used to be a primary factor in determining our dietary customs until very recently. Camel meat and milk were staple food for nomadic tribes of Africa and Arabia. Where agriculture flourished, vegetarian food habits developed with the harvest of food grains. Where maize cultivation was suitable like in Africa, corn became staple food. Islands had fish eaters. As we all know, the universally recommended diet is Mediterranean with its rich olive and cheese blocks and a fair share of fruit, nut, fish and meat. The Japanese formula is Sushi and the Mexicans spice it up with their herbs. The Chinese wash down the fat in the food with their herbal teas.

Personally I prefer saatvik food for health reasons. Easy to palate for a homemaker like me. Insufficient for a hardworking man like my spouse. Meat is a must in his daily portions. So that does make a man more aggressive or less intelligent. Each of us is bred with a different metabolism that may determine our energy levels. In my opinion, we must never disturb that equilibrium but must do with what works for us. Moderate meat consumption complemented with fruit bowls and sprouts/cereals may make for ideal balanced diet.

There are gentlest meat eaters I have come across in my life and violent vegetarians. One thing I can observe is that, the meat eaters have undoubtedly better stamina and libido compared to vegetarians. The nonvegetarian platter is more balanced than a vegan’s or a vegetarian’s. The nutrition content in vegetarian menu is skewed and most of us vegetarians including me lose out on essential proteins and omega fatty acids from fish. Plant substitutes hardly prove to be sufficient. Good number of kidney patients and liver cirrhosis and intestinal cancer patients are vegetarians surprisingly and not alcoholics or voracious meat eaters. So that must have a point for us. On the otherhand when we consume light food and our metabolism is evolved differently with less fat in our blood stream, our memory cells could work sharper. This is merely scientific evidence. Excess fat can make one lethargic.

A north based friend would say, biriyani or any meat diet carried the soul of the culled animal with it. So do leather boots and bags and belts. But the irony is that the friend’s family is into money lending business that is ruthless and preys on the poverty and helplessness of the borrowers. So this is what I call passive aggression which is worse than physical violence.

Biriyani today faces the flak because it is now identified with a community that is considered anti-Hindu. I am not biriyani lover either even if I can cook up a sumptuous and droolworthy biriyani adhering to health standards even if I am vegetarian by birth. Biriyani tops as the numero uno favourite food of my family. Whoever is against it has not yet savoured its flavours including me.

Neither am I for mushrooming of the biriyani joints in nook and corner of our country. Biriyani is on its way to become the national food or staple food of India and it is ringing alarm bells naturally. The health of our younger generation is at stake. Frozen meat pumped with chemical preservatives is used in tons to turn out huge mounds of biriyani to cater to the tastebuds of crores of our population. It was never this way until a few years ago when biriyani meant only ‘bhai veetu kalyanam’ or ‘ramzan.’ In those celebrations/festivals, no frozen chicken or mutton was used for biriyani. The meat cut was fresh with mostly animals sacrificed for the occasion. The proliferation of meat habits points to explosive growth of poultry industry, nothing more.

Thayir saadham is gentle on our stomach. For summers, every single day I have only the ‘baghalabath’ with grated cucumber and carrots and coriander in it. It is our family’s favourite too, as much as biriyani is. It is always our family lunch box food.

On meat eating days, my family have plenty of buttermilk to offset the spice consumption. In winters, I forsake curd rice and settle for stews and have buttermilk in the place of curd rice because I do not want to miss out on the spice in the chill weather. If it is not curd, it is always buttermilk for us. To my knowledge, this is how meat eaters consume curd/buttermilk. Who says they do away with curd totally. What is ‘raitha’ then. Having a divided family on many matters helps me in contemplating different perspectives.

Even north Indians round off their roti subzi meal with a little ‘dahi chawal’ after ‘dal chawal.’ The arabs buy curds (labaan) (both thick sour curds and the bottled buttermilk) in buckets literally and consume it alongside meat including that of camel. Compared to arabs, thayir or curd consumption in India especially among south Indian Tamils is dismal actually! So much for thayir saadham! Only difference is, the arabs consume tubs of yoghurt (unsalted/plain) straight away without having it with rice like we Indians do. Yoghurt both plain and fruity are popular throughout the world including in south east Asia and America and Europe. But nobody spun a tale on curd rice the way we south Indians do. Research departments in American universities picked it up because the research students there and the faculty are Indians and more specifically south Indians/Tamils!

Well there is an intermediary food called KAAAAARA KUZHAMBU !! I am slave to that! Call it Vatha kozhambu or Kara kozhambu, my vote is always for that and my signature foods that I am good at include this kara kozhambu made with tamarind extracts and red chili powder. Hot and steaming, nothing like our kaara kozhambu with dollops of gingely oil floating on top! Spicy and alluring! Sambhar too belongs in this middle range along with other vegetarian stews like Koottu. Most underrated are these day-to-day cuisines of ours. Much as my biriyani is popular with family and friends, my bisibela bath and baghala bhath too are equally rated! Not that i am a gourmet chef or foodie. Just a regular housewife who does nothing out of the ordinary.

I can agree with discussions of biriyani so far as it is limited to our health aspects. Once you bring in the religious philosophy alleging characteristics and properties to it, you violate a Dharma in the process. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Whoever said, ‘kondral paavam thinnal pochu’ in Tamil. World operates on this conundrum.

Why do some of us feel the compulsion to judge everything and everyone. Why can’t we let anything be.

I do not know how far it is true that Biriyani existed as Mans-oden in Nala’s cookbook ‘Paka Darpanam’ but we all want to perfect our recipes like ‘Nalabhagam’ don’t we. Fellow hindus are now onto to ‘Jhatka’ in the lines of ‘Halal.’ Some ambition here.

I love my vegetarian Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish, Arab, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Malay food as much as I love my vegetarian Indian platter. I am keeping my options open and I am willing to experiment and grow, not limiting myself to hypocritic notions and boundaries. Pleasantly surprised to discover vegetarian Georgian cuisine in the shadows of the Ural. My meat eating husband loathed the honey and chocolate dipped meat and turned vegetarian during our tours abroad. There can be no single way of defining food or labeling food. Ingredients like spices and meat and vegetables can be treated in entirely different methods of preparation. Even the cooking ways are different from baking and boiling to tandoor/grilling to deepfrying. Variations even by slightest degrees produce entirely different dishes as we know. Food too is innovative in every step. First of all let’s stop sermonizing and learn to imbibe the best from others.

So why is biriyani the emotional experience and thayir saadham, not? Because once you try to attach the puritanical strings to it and try to own it, it loses it lustre. You make it communal. Food is first about sharing and caring. Biriyani excites a man’s all five senses: visual, aural, nasal and spiritual not stopping with tingling one’s taste buds. Friends and family have confessed to mood upliftment with Biryani. If there is not something matching biriyani in desi cuisine, invent it! Because the biriyani addict-crowd swells by the minute! You just can’t be sitting there in the high stool of your kitchen counter judging without sampling.

Posted in Socio-Political

An Appeal to my PM Modi: Extend MNREGA to Marginal Artistes

No, this is not my idea. Happened to read of the suggestion put forth by a social activist vocalist. I second the opinion. If you take even the case of just Tamil Nadu, the state temples that are mid to considerable area size and those ancient and heritage sites, employ nagaswaram and thavil vidwans to play in their precincts. I am not sure whether these artistes count as govt staff in the temples that come under the ambit of Tamil Nadu Religious & Charitable Endowments dept. Generally those serving as office bearers in the temples managing the day-to-day affairs of our holy places are drawing govt salaries running into thousands of rupees every month, surpassing those of the archakas (priests) who may be most instrumental in the running of the temples. It can’t be a problem to bring under staff role the marginal or part time artistes working for the temples under govt admin. After all, our state govt is syphoning off all our temple funds and using our fundings for their own agendas. This is also an issue that the tamil nadu state govt must look into.

I understand that the marginal artistes who play mostly in temples and hindu weddings have been hit hard during the pandemic. With them those who take the beating include the street performers, etc. While the pandemic saw many artistes switch over to online media to continue with their profession, the marginal ones who have no access to information technology and/or those who are not tech savvy have been left behind to fend for themselves. There are NGOs who are pitching in to help their causes but this hardly suffices. Simply there are too many, many of them, and pan India, the figures could be mindboggling. These may include folk musicians and dancers, street performers, tribal artistes, village troupes etc. Without govt support and aid, the arts that these artistes sustain may perish with them. We are at a critical juncture presently. We never expected the pandemic to be running such a vicious course spanning years. This has taken a heavy toll on our economy. The worst hit are from marginal quarters. The marginal artistes have been out of job for months now. I like the suggestion that something similar to MNREGA must be in place to support the marginal performers/artistes. Of course this is not the first time, I am hearing of this idea. I find this cause very merited. I learn from media how Modi govt has been aiding economically in installments eliminating various levels of dispensing, directly reaching out to the marginal farmers. Dear Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi ji, my humble request to you is to look into the case of our marginal artistes similarly. You are doing a lot I am aware, you will be doing yeoman service for the survival of our rural and classical art forms that need to be passed on to the future generations by the struggling artiste communities if you can help them in anyway at this point of time. The state aid could cover marginal artistes such as musicians/stage performers and also visual artistes. A while ago I was watching the folk music of third gender artistes from Karnataka and also those from the Rajastani deserts playing sarod on the sand mounds of the barren landscape. Should their artforms die because of covid.

There is one more group of artistes that comes to my mind. This may include those like the light boys, makeup artistes etc., who could be employed in entertainment industry. There are also many who take up small roles – the small artistes, who have been out of job since covid struck for the first time. This third group is equally devastated by the corona surge.

Should we allow this to happen. A lot of critical issues could be vying for your attention Ji, yet I plead with you to give the dying marginal artistes a mere five minutes of your thinking. The marginal artistes of India deserve your timely aid. I am aware, the concerned states have their share of responsibility in the matter. Still please do something in your capacity for the marginal artistes. Something like MNREGA for marginal performing and visual artistes is not a bad idea. Please rescue from their hopeless situations. Thank you!

I got inspired to write this post from a carnatic vocalist turned social activist. I am listing a couple of art forms/marginal artistes who I came to know of from following him, just to show you how diverse India is and how vibrant our arts are. Dear Prime Minister, are you listening. These marginal artistes need your attention and help by way of financial aid in the lines of MNREGA- the minimal employment guarantee scheme of hundred days.

  • Thoorpu Bhagavatham (Andhra) – this theatre form is about to die completely for lack of patrons and aid support
  • Folk music artistes from Barmer, Rajastan including sarod and dholak players, etc.,
  • Jogappas from Karnataka (transgender folk musicians

And these are just a handful I am talking about who have been deprived of decent living because of the pandemic.

Posted in Books

Review: Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

Finally finished this lengthy book, thank god last 40 pages were glossary! Pretty dry, especially for me the regular fiction reader. However, I picked this book as it is critically acclaimed. The book traces the evolution of Homo Sapiens and the proliferation of the species as dominant living organism on Planet Earth before rounding off with wonderment at what lays ahead for these so-called self-made Gods! Much of the thesis though must be predictable to most of us but we have to credit the author for laying it all down in a way we can identify patterns and come clear on fuzzy issues. Some ideas are though a lot like original – or perhaps sound new to us. For instance, treating Communism like a religion. Creating an order. I have never thought of an arrangement like that all these days. A willful political agreement. The book opens with how it all started, how from Cognitive revolution, human beings or homo sapines in the word of the author, advanced to the agricultural revolution and then galloped to the scientific revolution. So far so good. The rambling sets on after this.

I would like to recollect some gems from the book:

Homosapiens killed most other species without merging with them. (Like how mules are born infertile when horse mates with donkey. The genetic mutation plays a part here). This theory clearly proposes how Neanderthals etc., from the same human family could have gone extinct. In my opinion, this is a very valid point, food for thinking.

I wish I really could get back to the hunter-gatherer carefree days, the way the author sounds buoyant about them! The limitations forced by agricultural revolution on such a nomadic species sound pathetic! I liked this about wheat domesticating us and not the other way around!

Domestication of the bovine, canine and the fowl follows. Of the fowl, i would like to draw a point from the last couple of chapters: of how the chicken or poultry of today with slow demeanour and stocky build was probably genetically engineered by the ancient man (from the days of agricultural revolution)! So it is not that all the harm is caused by the current generation of homosapiens. The destructive streak caused by selective breeding of crops and animals and birds has been a part of human evolution.

One more gem that makes you think loud: how a species that may be going extinct like rhinoceros for instance, is still happy and living a good life in the bush, compared to machine-copied like poultry, bred miserably for slaughter, even if the chicken can go on to survive millennia after millennia long after the last of the rhino is gone off the face of earth.

A lot of discussion (hypothetical) on Babylon, Egypt, China, Mexico etc., but a big hole here missing out ancient India and Hindu race. Hinduism is mentioned for caste system nothing more. India/ Hindu culture and civilization could be the only surviving continuous civilization uninterrupted for over 10000 years. Parallel to the Indus valley was the Thamizh culture down south where we had structured grammar and literature penned before the birth of Christ. Such a language as Tamil has not gone out of usage like Latin or even Sanskrit. Tamil is still a spoken language and is touted the world’s oldest language. A big miss by the author here. Or was it deliberate by overstressing isntead on Buddhism, an offshoot from Hindu Dharma. Hinduism also spread to south east Asia without violence. Pretty interesting to be told that the meditation techniques are Buddhist. Of course they are, but after they were and are first Hindu. The first legal perfecter, owner, practitioner of meditation could be Hindus. Yuval tell me who founded Hinduism. You know who founded Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Communism. You know who founded these when. Where exactly. You have written volumes on Sumeria, Greece. Why have you failed to do justice to Hinduism. Realization of self and mind control without a mention of Hindu Dharma sounds hollow.

To Yuval I would say, if for Jews Auschwitz could be holy pilgrimage site, then Taj Mahal could be the image for representing the majority Hindu India by the same logic.

To Yuval I ask: why should God have to come only from Middle East. For Hindus God comes down from the Himalaya.

Ok I get it. Yuval picks up Buddhism, Islam and Christianity for suppositions nothing more.

Discovery of ignorance: This is too good that prompted the scientific revolution when pushing limits became the order of the day for the Homo sapiens.

Some great information from the founding of Peugeot as limited company in France for the first time to launching life insurance by two Presbyterian clergymen in Scotland, Alexander Webster and Robert Wallace in the year 1744.

Masterstroke by Yuval: in one shot he says why we have the adage in the world that the sun never sets in british empire:

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalised.” (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 314). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

I started laughing at this because, that day finally arrived in the 20th century with the chinese turning tables on the west. Looks like, each one of us has a different timeframe when it comes to evolution of our mental faculties.

The conquest of the Americas and Australia are poignant. In this context I want to refer the quote from the author in the book:

Rudyard Kipling’s words, ‘the White Man’s burden’:

Take up the White Man’s burden – Send forth the best ye breed – Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild – Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 336). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

This is a gentle reminder to all of us colonials of what return gift we received from our occupiers.

The author conveniently washes his hands off slave trade that he terms an economic enterprise that got nothing to do with politics. Sad. Aren’t the invaders given a similar benefit of doubt with Rudyard Kipling.

I loved the part about the standardization of working times, industrial hours, school days etc., in a structured pattern starting with the arrival of the steam engine pulled passenger trains. The gun powder and the energy-force through distance made the difference. This is a big takeaway from the book for me.

I do agree with the author that perhaps we live in the best of earth’s times: we have lasting peace and a kind of universal empire now. More common interests than glaring differences which are a reason for sustaining peace. It is only in this century that we have running water in our kitchen faucet and women need not have to rush to the river to fetch drinking water in a pot over their head day after day (at least in developed countries of the world).

The book closes with the chapter on bionics and cyborgs which held the potential to transform homo sapiens into organically different species and that the future sapiens could find us the last few generations very much the way we found the neanderthals! Will the tinkering with bio-engineering actually pull the Frankenstein out of thin air? Who knows wonders Yuval on the finishing note.

Worth reading. Old wine in new bottle, but this is good brushing up of facts that were right before your eyes but that you missed making connection with.

Posted in Mylapore Musings

மாதங்களில் அவள் மார்கழி

சின்ன வயசுல ஞாபகம். நாலு மணிக்கே எழுந்து சுட சுட பாட்டி போட்ட பில்டர் காபியும் கையுமா மாடிலேந்து மளமளனு படியிறங்கி குதிச்சு ஓடுவேன் மார்கழி மாசத்துல. கீழ என் தோழி எனக்கும் முன்னமே கூட எழுந்து காத்துண்டு இருப்பா. ரெண்டு பெருமா சேர்ந்து தான் படி படியா அளந்து கோல மாவு வாங்குவோம். மப்ளர் கட்டிண்டு போ. பனி ஆகாதுன்னு பாட்டிகள் ரெண்டு பேரும் தொண்டை கிழிய கத்தினாலும் காதுல வாங்கமாட்டோம். அப்படி ஒரு வெறித்தனமான கோலஆர்வம். அந்த வயசுக்கும் காலத்துக்குமே உரியது. நான் வாசல் பெருக்கி தெருவை கூட்டினா அவ தண்ணி தெளிப்பா. மாறி மாறி செஞ்சுப்போம். அறுபத்தெட்டில் ஒரே மாஸம் ஒரே நாள் பொறந்தவங்களாச்சே. எங்க பக்கத்து வீட்டு அக்காக்கள் அவள் ஒரு தொடர்கதை நாயகி போல. ஆனா அந்த சோகத்திலும் ஒரு அக்கா அப்படி ஒரு கோலம் போடுவா. மை போல கருப்பு. கரு கரு பின்னி முடித்த மயிர் முழங்காலை தாண்டி. வளைஞ்சு வளைஞ்சு அவ போடும் கோலத்தை பாக்கவே காலைல அஞ்சு மணிக்கு கூட ஒரு மாமிகள் கூட்டம் வட்டமிடும். தெரு பூராவும் கோலம் போடுவோம். நான்கிலேந்து ஆறு வர லேடீஸ் கிளப் ஆகிவிடும் எங்க வாசல். காபி பரிமாற்றத்துலேந்து சமையல் குறிப்பு வர எல்லாம் பேசுவோம் வயது வரம்பு இல்லாம. ஆறு மணிக்கு மேல தலைக்கு மேல வேல இருக்கும் ஆனா மார்கழி மாசத்துல லேடீஸ் அடிக்கும் கொட்டம் இருக்கும் பாருங்க. அப்டியே தெரு முழுசா அதி கால காலாற நடந்து ஒவ்வொரு வீட்டு முன்னாடியும் நின்னு அந்த வீட்டு கோலம் டிஸ்கசன் வேற! என் கல்யாணம் ஆகும் வரை நான் ரசிச்சுஅனுபவிச்ச ரம்யமான பனி காலை பொழுது அது. கோலம் போடும்போதே மயிலாப்பூர் கபாலி கோவில் மணியோசை கேக்கும். சிவன் கோவில் காலைல தொறந்துடுவான். பெருமாள் கோவிலும் தான். மார்கழி ஸ்பெஷல். எங்க வீடு வர கோவில் மணி சப்தம் வரும். அந்த கால அமைதி. உடனே ஒரு குளியல் போட மனசே இல்லாம வீட்டுக்குள்ள நுழைவோம். தற்காலத்துல நெனச்சு பாக்க முடியாத ஒரு சுவாரஸ்யமான வாழ்நாள் அது .. பணம் காசு பத்தி யோசிச்சோமா. இல்ல ஜாதி தான் வந்ததா குறுக்க. எங்க தெருல எல்லாரும் உண்டு: அய்யர், அய்யங்கார், முதலியார், நாடார், செட்டியார். ஒரு குடும்பமா தான் இருந்தோம். எல்லாரும் அக்கா அண்ணா மாமி மாமா பாட்டி தாத்தா தான். சின்ன விஷயங்கள்ல சந்தோசம் கண்டோம். ஒண்ணா படத்துக்கு போவோம். பீச்சுக்கு போவோம். மார்கழி கோலம் போடுவோம். தீபாவளி பண்டிகை கொண்டாடுவோம். நடுத்தற வர்கத்துக்கான பாச பந்தா பிணைப்பு அப்டி. மறக்க முடியாத நாட்கள். இதுக்கு நடுல மார்கழில ஆருத்திரா வைகுண்ட ஏகாதசி வரும். தாயக்கட்டையும் பரமபதமும் மணிக்கணக்கா நடக்கும். வைகுண்ட ஏகாதசிக்கு ராப்பூரா கண்முழிச்சு அதிகாலை கோலம் போட்டு தூங்குவோம். .அந்த ஒரு நாள் மட்டும் விமலா மாமிக்கு கோலம் போட எங்க வாசலை விட்டு கொடுப்போம் அந்த கற்பனை கோலம் படி கோலம் போட. மாமி அய்யங்கார். நாங்க நாலு குடித்தனம் அந்த ஒரு வீட்ல. இன்னிக்கும் தாயா மகளா தான் பழகறோம். ஆருத்திரா சாந்தும் உண்டு கோவில்ல. பெருமாள் பிரசாதம் உண்டு. திருப்பாவை திருவெம்பாவை பாடாத நாளே கிடையாது. எல்லாமே கூட்டமா கும்பலா தான். அப்போவெல்லாம் தெருல பஜனை கோஷ்டி கூட வரும். ஆழாக்கு அரிசி கொண்டு வந்து கொடுத்து ரோட்லயே அவா கால்ல விழுந்து சுத்தி வருவோம். கோவிந்தா கோவிந்தா கூட உண்டு. எண்பதுகள்ல டீனேஜ் காரங்களா இருந்தவர்களுக்கு புரியும். நெனச்சாலே இப்போ ஏக்கமா இருக்கு.

டிசம்பர் பூ இல்லாத மார்கழியா. எல்லா கலர் செடியும் வெச்சிருந்தோமே மொட்டைமாடில: வெள்ளை,ஊதா, மஞ்சள். டிசம்பர் பூ வெக்காம ஸ்கூல் போயிருக்கோமா மார்கழில. மார்கழி மாசத்துல எங்க வீட்டு தேங்காய் எண்ணெய் கூட உறையும் அந்த காலத்தில. செப்பு பாய்லர்ல வெந்நீர் போட்டு குளிக்கும் சுகம் தனி.

கல்யாணமான உடனே எல்லாம் மாறி போச்சு. அப்போ மார்கழின்னா எனக்கு அதிகாலை முதல் டிகாக்ஷன் எடுத்து கிச்சன் மேடை மேல யாரும் எழுந்துக்காத பொழுது ஏறி ஒக்காந்து டேப்ரெகார்டர்ல எம் எஸ் குரல்ல வெங்கடேச சுப்ரபாதம் கேட்டுண்டே முதல் தடவை காச்சின பால்ல காப்பிபோட்டு தனியா அஞ்சு நிமிஷம் மௌனமா ரசிச்சு குடிக்கறது அலாதி சுகம். கூட்டு குடும்பம் சில நாள். பின்னாடியே கைல குழந்தை. அப்புறமா தனி குடித்தனம். சமையல் முடிச்சு, குழந்தையை ரெடி பண்ணி மாமியார் கைல கொடுத்துட்டு,லஞ்ச் பேக் பண்ணி ஆபீஸ்க்கு ஓடணும் பஸ் பிடிச்சு. மார்கழி கோலம் நெனச்சு பாக்க முடியாதது ஆச்சு. அந்த அதிகாலை அஞ்சு நிமிஷம் தான் அப்போ மெஷின் வாழ்க்கைல அமைதின்னு கூட தோணும். அஞ்சு மணிக்கு இந்த சேத்துப்பட்டு ஷெனாய் நகர்ல டிசம்பர் மாசம் கிறிஸ்துமஸ் கரோல் தான் தினசரி காதுல விழும். திருப்பாவை எங்க. அதிகாலைல என் சமையல் ரூம் வெளிச்சத்தை பாத்து ஒரு கிறிஸ்டியன் குரூப் டெய்லி எனக்கு கரோல்ஸ் பாடிட்டு போவாங்கன்னா பாத்துக்கோங்க! அமிஞ்சிக்கரை மசூதிலேந்து அப்டியே விடிகாலைல ஆசான் ஒதரத்துக்கு கூப்பிடறது லௌட்ஸ்பீக்கர் மூலமா எங்க வீடு வர கேக்கும். கடவுளை எந்த ரூபத்துல பாத்தா என்ன. அப்போ நெனைச்சுப்பேன் என்ன ஒரு மாற்றம்னு வாழ்கைலன்னு. மார்கழி அப்டியே தலை கீழா ஆச்சு! நாளடைவில் அதையே ரசிக்க பழகிக்கிட்டேன்.

மார்கழின்னா இன்னொரு விஷயம். கர்நாடக சங்கீதம் . சொல்லவே வேண்டாம். எனக்கு மயிலாப்பூர்ல கோவில்ல கர்நாடக இசை கேட்டு தான் வழக்கம். பல வருஷம் கெழச்சு பாட்டி ஆனதுக்கு அப்புறமா இப்போ அதுக்கு நேரம் வந்திருக்கு. வயசுல கிடைக்காதது அது. ஸ்கூல் போற பையன், மாமியார், சாயங்காலம் ஆறு மணிக்குள்ள வீட்ல அடைய வேண்டிய நிர்பந்தம். இதெல்லாம் சேர்ந்து இசைய கொஞ்சம் தள்ளியே வெச்சது. மார்கழின்னாலே ஆனா மொதல்ல நினைவுக்கு வர்றதே கர்நாடக இசை தானே. புள்ளி வெச்சு போடும் கோலம் போல. ஆனாலும் ஜெயா டிவி ல வரும் கச்சேரியை கேக்க தான் செஞ்சிருக்கேன். இவ்ளோ நேரம் அதுக்கு ஒதுக்கியது இல்லையே தவிர. சின்ன வயசுல கொஞ்சம் பாட்டு வீணை கத்துண்டதால லைட்டா இன்டெர்ரெஸ்ட் அவ்ளோ தான். மயலப்பூ ஆச்சே இருக்காதா பின்ன. வருஷத்துக்கு ஒரு பரதநாட்டியமோ இல்ல கச்சேரியோ எப்பிடியும் கேட்டுடுவேன் பட் வாத்திய இசையா இருக்கும்… வாய்ப்பாட்டு அபூர்வம் போய் கேக்கறது. ஸ்டில் கர்நாடக மேடை கச்சேரி இல்லாத மார்கழி நெனச்சு பாக்கவே முடியாது.

மார்கழில இன்னொரு விஷயம் அய்யப்ப வழிபாடு கார்த்திகை தொடங்கி. உச்சகட்ட நிலைல இருக்கும் ஐயப்ப பூஜை. மார்கழில முக்கிய பண்டிகைன்னு கெடையாது. திருவாதிரைக்கு களி கூட்டு பண்றது தான் பெரிய வேலையே. வைகுண்ட ஏகடாஷிக்கு க்யூவில் நின்னு சாமி பாத்து அகத்திகீரை வாங்கி பசுக்கு குடுப்பது தவறினது இல்ல. அமிஞ்சிக்கரை பெருமாள் கோவில்லயும் செஞ்சிருக்கேன் முடிஞ்ச வரை. மார்கழி முடியறதும் திருவையாறு கச்சேரியும் மகர விளக்கும் கிட்டத்தட்ட ஒண்ணா இருக்கும்.

போகி பண்டிகைய ரசிச்சதே இல்ல ஏன்னா, என்னோட விருப்பமான மார்கழி முடிவுக்கு வர்றதே எனக்கு உடன்பாடு இல்ல எப்பவுமே! ஏசியை சுவிட்ச் ஆப் பண்ணற ஒரே மாசம் கூட இந்த மார்கழி மாசம் தான். வருஷத்துல ஒரு மாசமாவது இயற்கை காத சுவாசிப்போம். சுக்கு காபியும் இஞ்சி டீயும் வேரா எப்ப குடிக்க முடியும் சொல்லுங்க! குளிர் காலமே இல்லாம இருக்க நம்மூருக்கு கொஞ்சம் வசந்தமா வர்றது மார்கழி தானே. போகி போட்டு எதுக்கு அதா தொரத்தறது. மார்கழி மாசம் செடியை பாத்திருக்கீங்களா. பூல்லாம் எவ்ளோ பிரெஷ். இலைல எல்லாம் பனித்துளி. நான் ஸ்வெட்டெர்றே போட்டதில்ல நம்மூர்ல மார்கழில. மார்கழி பனியை விட அதிகமான குளிர வெளியில உணர ஆரம்பிச்சேன். இப்பவும் எனக்கு மார்கழி தான் புடிச்ச மாசம். அடுத்தது ஆடி மாசம் – அம்பாளுக்காக. இந்த மார்கழி நாள் தான் எவ்ளோ சுகமானது. இப்போ கோலம் போடல. தனிமைல காபி உறிஞ்சு உறிஞ்சு சுலோகம் கேட்டுண்டே குடிக்கல. ஆனாலும் மார்கழி மார்கழி தான். இன்னும் சொல்ல போனா இப்பெல்லாம் இயர் எண்டு சேல் கூட மார்கழில தானாக்கும்! புது வருஷ பொறப்பும் மார்கழில தான். என்ன தான் தமிழ் வருஷ பொறப்பு கொண்டாடினாலும் நம்மளால ஜனவரி ஒன்னு ஆட்டம் பாட்டத்த நிறுத்த முடியுமா. இல்ல கோவிலுக்கு தான் போகாம இருக்க முடியுமா. வருஷாந்தர டூர் போக கூட ஒத்த நேரம் டிசம்பர் கடைசி.

வருஷா வருஷம் நான் காத்துண்டு இருக்கறதே இந்த டிசம்பர் மாசத்துக்காக தான். மார்கழி போல ஒரு மாசம் உண்டா. அரபு நாட்ல அப்டி இருக்கும் இந்த காலம். கோவிட்டாலே எல்லாம் மாறி போச்சு. இல்லைன்னா எல்லாம் ஒரே பிகினிக் தான் பார்க் பர்கா. பேக் வாட்டர்ல போட்டிங் தான். அந்த பனியை அணுபக்கவே ஒரு கூட்டம். ஸுக் பக்கம் போனா அவன் அவன் ஹூகாஹ் பிடிச்சுண்டே சாயங்காலம் தொட்டு ஒக்காந்து இருப்பான். டைனிங் எல்லாம் அவுட்டோர்ல தான். அமெரிக்காவிலும் டிசம்பர் மாசம் முதல் தடவை போனமோது இருந்தேன். பிளோரிடாவிலும் அரிஸோனாவிலும் எங்க தோஹா மாதிரி பனி உறையாத மிதமான குளிர். மலேசியாவிலும் கூட நம்ம தமிழ் நாட்டு மார்கழி குளிர் தான். ரசிக்க முடியற குளிர். அனுபவிக்க தூண்டற குளிர். நம்மள வீட்டுக்குள்ள அடைக்கற ஐஸ் கட்டி குளிர் இல்ல. இப்போவெல்லாம் ஒரு ஸ்வெட்டரோ ஷால்வோ போட்டுண்டு தோஹால வாக்கிங் போறேன். கோவிட்டாலே கச்சேரி கூட ஆன்லைன் தான். இவ்வளவு வருஷம் இந்த பாக்கியம் அமைஞ்சதே இல்லன்னு சொன்னா என்ன கைல கெடச்சது வெச்சுண்டு அடிக்க வர்றாதீங்க! முதல் முறையா ப்ரொவ்சிங் பண்ணி கோலம் போட்டு பேஸ்புக்ல ஷேர் பண்றேன். கோவிலுக்கு போகாமையே கடவுளை வீட்டுக்குள்ள தேட இங்க தான் கத்துக்கிட்டேன். காலத்துக்கு ஏத்த மாதிரி மாறி தானே ஆகணும். ஏன் நம்ம மயிலாப்பூர் மாறிடலையா. நான் வளர்ந்த ஊரே அது இல்ல. காலமும் வேற. அந்த குடும்பம் எல்லாம் இப்போ எங்கயோ எப்டியோ பிரிஞ்சு சிதறி போச்சு. இப்போ அங்க கூட யார் ஒருத்தருக்கொருத்தர் முகம் கொடுத்து பேசறது. ஓட்டு வீடு எல்லாம் போச்சு எங்க தெருல. இது இல்ல எங்க வீடு. அந்த இனிய இளமை காலத்துக்கும் இப்பத்துக்கும் பாலமா இருக்கறது இந்த மார்கழி நினைவுகளே.

எத்தனை சினிமா பாட்டு மார்கழியை வெச்சு. மார்கழி பூவே மார்கழி போவேன்னு ஒன்னு. மார்கழி திங்கள் அல்லாவான்னு ஒன்னு. ஆனா எனக்கு பிடிச்சது எப்பவுமே மாதங்களில் அவள் மார்கழி தான்!

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 2: Food & Restaurant Industry

Every meat eater’s dream food is Shawarma, the smoked meat which is common sight everywhere in Middle east whether it is street food stall or star rated hi-end restaurant or food court in a mall. Even in India these days, after Biriyani, shawarma comes a close second for avid connoisseurs of meat as most favourite food. The meat in question here whether chicken or beef or turkey or whatever keeps rolling over pit fire or open lit oven roasted endlessly to deep brown perfection which means, the meat is just as crisp and juicy as the food lovers would want it to be. I have no idea frankly as a vegetarian from birth, but the men in my family simply loved shawarma (although they have left it now for health reasons) !

These days the grilled sliced meat dripping with greasy oil is kind of conspicuous by its absence! Or may be it is there but it is no more that brownish perhaps… Another change in restaurant food, fellow Indians must have noticed is that, not even our tandoori naans are that crispy or browned in recent times. We aren’t eating out much because of covid, but once a while we do dine out at restaurants that aren’t very crowded. So why are the tandoori rotis a bit soft? Have the chefs lost it? Have the chefs switched jobs? Is that the electric tandoor they are using?! This is what flashed in my mind when I saw that my rotis were no more flaky and looked kind of softish, with no browning in middle east. Normally I love the north Indian food here better compared to what is available in Chennai. The cuisine we have in restaurants are authentic with representations from Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai etc., and a few even used to have live music (!) Yeah my top pick used to be a restaurant that got artistes from India to render ghazals and Bollywood numbers! Fine dining thy other name is north India!

Weekend lunch today was at an Indian restaurant for us where we expected a welcome drink. We were told that the serving of punch was removed from menu after covid struck. I further learnt that, tandoori rotis are no more browned or blackened crisp for health reasons. Health inspectors saw to that this does not happen in restaurants, with due vigilance. Overcooking or roasting to deep brown meant carcinogen in our food that is linked to cancer. So now I understood why the shawarma is no more spinning so fancily to that brownish crispness over coal embers or electric oven! We have a meat eater nation in question; meat loving people who cannot do without it. But how such a basically beef consuming country so willingly adapts health safety protocol really impressed me. The locals have no issues. It means the food in the platter will be a little less tasteful than before, but nobody is complaining.

Smoked food linked to cancer for its presence of carcinogen is no latest news. But who would have given thought to stringent enforcements of health safety standards in food industry or restaurants.

In food industry we have something to learn from gulf countries. The discipline with which the residents accept the latest food reforms (i don’t know if ‘reform’ is the right word here) is impressive. A battalion of officers make sure that the health safety standards are adhered to with their thorough checks on restaurant kitchens. Barbeque eating places are admirably coping well sticking to new prescribed standards. One flouting of rules and regulations, and the business could get sealed for ever. No favouritism whatsoever. How every single small issue is accorded significance in arab countries really moves me. Welfare of the population is the government’s highest priority, the way it must be.

I am not averse to drawing the best from anyone or everyone. I think we all have to grow in whichever way possible and wherever and whenever.

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 1: Economy, Banking & Telecom

When we Indians fueled by our mainstream and social media are gloating over Twitter chief coming from India, among other global CEOs born and schooled in India, it may also be time to point out some brutal facts to which we close our eyes and mind: that these top men are probably picked for the markets they may represent or market share they may help cultivate/retain. This can be simply a matter of management. Clever management. However, our Indian government has a lesson or two to learn from the Arab countries in Middle East who have viable economies outperforming ours. A quick peek here into the Arabian Gulf:

  • Google pay is banned in the richest arab nations. Only proper banking channels can be used for transaction purposes including for funds transfer. The phones assembled in the middle east do not even have access in Google playstore/Apple to download the app. Whereas in poor India, our banks are losing heavily to apps such as Phonepe and Googlepay and now even to Whatsapp pay. There is simply no Wallet concept in middle east. All financial profits belong with the banks that do not share a cent with the Google or any other nonbanking entity. Now you know why Google CEO is Indian.
  • No Whatsapp calls are allowed to go through in the oil rich arab countries. In some gulf countries, whatsapp calls are possible with vpn downloads. But in most arab nations, whatsapp calls don’t work even with vpn. Only whatsapp texting is permitted. Rule applies for Skype/Viber/Google Duo/Facebook Messenger calls or whatever with the telephone departments still staying alive and ploughing back profits. Ban on social media calls also is enforced strictly for security reasons. The encrypted calls are simply a big no-no. Transparency of highest order is followed in telecom sector.
  • No Amazon office is open in Middle east. Only old fashioned courier services like DHL and local ones cater to delivery line. Local businesses flourish not fattening up Jeff Bozos with many more million dollars as India is doing. In case you order something from a Facebook seller, then the delivery happens not via Amazon, that is the point. There is no local Amazon website that I find to be strange, but Amazon India or Amazon US is accessible (although you cannot place order for delivery within middle east).
  • No startup apps in the lines of Dunzo for local delivery or shopping. Orders have to be placed straight in the website addresses or over phone or via whatsapp and the business houses may take to deliver door to door the orders placed/received. Rare exception is the restaurant food delivery app (of Swiggy kind in India) that caters to the tastebuds of the arabs within minutes from multicuisine restaurants!
  • No subsidized broadband connection is possible in middle east. The charges may not be steep but not cheap either as in India. You cannot afford watching pictures in mobile or gamble as big percentage of ignorant Indian population is doing with their smart phones. Quality of internet usage is therefore efficient. Luckily the arab countries do not have an Ambani like from Reliance who their governments have to patrionize.
  • Phone call clarity is too good in middle east. Recently when I flew back to India, I noticed a strange phenomenon. The local calls made from my mobile phone were not clearly audible whereas my whatsapp calls were crystal clear. I inquired on this with my friends who confessed to a similar experience. When the phone calls even from our latest upgraded phones were not as clear as whatsapp calls, we were forced to switch to whatsapp to make our calls. Or was this the idea at all? Our calls are now commercial statistics for businesses. I wonder whether the purpose of muted or inaudible call owing to poor connection is deliberate. Are we Indian citizens discouraged from making regular phone calls from our mobiles? Are we subtly coerced to make whatsapp calls? Are we led to buy data packs from mobile operators? What about our privacy. For a fact I am aware, our local calls are more secure than the calls made through whatsapp.

So in short, all our Modi govt has to do is to boot out Gpay from India alongwith Amazon. Broadband rates need to be revised. Telecom industry is in dire need of a revival for which, the data packs must not be subsidized. Neither should broadband connections through private operators be.

Whether we really do ‘make in India’ or not, we can at least do something not to UNDO India. We can follow the Arab example to protect our local economy and save the domestic business community. Our small and retail traders and cottage industries need our government’s backing. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to multinationals. We cannot sell the interests of our nation for a pittance. China has lived without You Tube and Google for years. Social media and IT companies and multinationals have to work in tandem with out national economy. They must not be allowed to mint money at the cost of our banks profits. They should not be driving out of business our delivery services and small scale industries. Arab leaders are not talking much and giving sermons from the podium like our desi leaders do, but they are doing a wonderful job nevertheless. Here, the multinationals heed to the local laws or get kicked out. Now, that is patriotism to me.

Posted in Women & Family

Miss India Universe 2021

Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned Miss Universe hardly makes me jubilant. India is a big, big, colossal market and they just know what buttons to push to tap into the resources here, to my reckoning. A series of women have won the Miss World and Miss Universe title from India who have all subsequently become Bollywood heroines chugging the beaten track. So that kind of makes me sick that a fellow Indian must win the title now that can later become her passport to stardom. In fact I was told of this news by a pretty filipino girl in a medical clinic last morning. She congratulated me as if it was I who had won the beauty pageant! She said, Indian girls are beautiful. I was kind of embarrassed. I said, Indian women were beautiful and brainy and she smiled nodding her head. She got her third shot and I had to reschedule my appointment.

After Aishwarya Rai and Sushmitha Sen won the Miss world and Miss universe titles the same year in the early ’90s, it became even more easy for the multinationals to gain access into Indian consumer markets. Up until then, we Indian ladies hardly used to groom so readily. Overnight, every little girl seemed to want to become the next Ash which was kind of insane. I was pretty worried like, what was happening to my country.

Girls in my country today are spending too much on chemical skin and hair care and garish make-up that looks cheap and vulgar on them. The painted faces are like a cruel joke. How can we even try to impersonate the models on catwalk or the Hollywood belles. We just cannot and do not become them. We don’t have to. My friend who was visiting the US told me how she spotted the top models in Miami. Nobody gave a damn! It is the young women in India who are shamelessly mimicking the celluloid stars. The Miss India universe crown is only going to precipitate the matter. A good chunk of our women’s earned income these days is spent on personal grooming. Self care is undeniably important, one has to feel good and even best about oneself. Of course we have to live it up, but never like this! But the obsession of our young ladies with the beauty business is going out of hands. It is totally fake.

Indian govt has to keep a vigil over the cosmetics imported into the country. Most beauty salons in India also use products that are prohibited in many foreign countries. For instance, formaldehyde used in hair straightening in India is proved toxic and directly linked to cancer. Beauty products in India also are sold/used in parlours after the expiry date.

In my experience I have seen that the girls who are engrossed with their academic or career accomplishments hardly pay attention to these trivialities. This kind of beauty business is extremely distracting. I was shocked to see a five year old girl don the lipstick recently. She was already choosy about her clothes, colours and boots. I found that to be extremely unhealthy. Boys of the same age play more and hardly give attention to physical grooming. May be the boys may ask for shoes or denim, but more than that, I have not come across Indian boys of similar age express interest in grooming the way our girls do. Where is the flaw? Does it lie in parenting or with the way our society is evolving. Are we promoting wrong values in our children unconsciously. When as women we seek equality in everything, why do we want to raise our daughters preoccupied with grooming?

To me, self confidence stems from self assurance that we are enough. We need not have to rely on a tube of concocted paste and lip filler and bleach to present to the world a version of us that we are not. A decent cleanup or maintenance keeping with times must do. Anything more than that points to a psychological disorder sorry!

Feeling beautiful inside out comes from maturity and life experiences, something that cannot be bought over for a price.

A friend of mine was recently saying that to distract her teen daughter from grooming, she was advising her to take MPC (math physics chemistry) stream in higher secondary school because, art or commerce could leave the girl with a lot of time in her hands that she may use for banal purposes. Someone with a very balanced outlook on life making this observation is like an eyeopener to the scene we have presently in India.

It is nice to wear good clothes, change your hairstyle once a while, overhaul to look different or take care to be presentable, but all this can be done with a little dignity, without us having to look like B or C grade film artiste. Why should we have to draw our strengths from creams and lotions. There has to be an element of reality in whatever we do. We cannot stay in denial forever of who we are originally. It is time to wash and cleanse off our faces to unearth the raw and natural beauty beneath our skin.

Meanwhile I am waiting for the list of multinationals waiting for their chance to enter India anytime now, if they haven’t already. They just needed this stroke to be played out. With our new Femina Miss India Universe, their prospects look brightest.