Posted in Political

Who Defines What.

‘Classical is a hoax’ claimed a Carnatic vocalist/writer.

I have always felt different about things than my friends.

Why are the colours black and white considered inauspicious by Hindus. Black especially bears the brunt but it happens to be my No.1 fave colour followed by dull tones such as grey.

Why and how did the hyena get portrayed villain in the Lion King. Why should always Lion be considered the king of the jungle. If you watch wildlife channels such as Natgeo or Animal Planet or Discovery, it is pretty evident that the male lion is no hero but feeds with the cubs on the hunt brought home by the lioness. Even the lioness waits for the hyena pack to finish the prey first if they can, lingering in the sidelines to pounce on the kill at the right moment. The hard work is done by the hyena and other scavengers and the lions mostly pride on others’ trophy. This lion-hyena angle always used to be explored by my son who’s all the way for social justice. The hierarchy we have defined for in the predatory world out there is justified neither.

Why do scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, lizards and cockroaches make us squirm. Why is it that the butterfly makes our heart flutter, not the earthworm that does the dirty but necessary work. Why do we shy away from the skunk or the porcupine.

How many nations in the world teach/tell their children the painful truth. Will American kids be told outright that they ethnic cleansed mercilessly the native Americans and are merely squatters. Will the British and other European text books explain how many ethnic races were wiped out clean by their forefathers for the spoils they loaded back in their merchant ships to sail back home. Today we talk of immigration as if we parachuted into this 21st century from nowhere.

I wouldn’t want to be drawn into Tamil Nadu politics or PSBB or Siva Shankara Baba issues. I heard a statement by a topnotch woman from the reputed school. I would like to point out that not the finest IITian until today can repeat the immaculate Stapathi engineering work of the Brahadeeshwara temple at Tanjore or for that matter, any engineering feat executed in ancient India. And these stapathis had the calculations in their head. They did not have to attend organized institutions with research labs to derive at their math. Tanjore temple by Raja Raja Chola that is a millennium old is earthquake proof with a circular base that can rock and shift. This is the secret that the Tanjore dolls hold. Which community did the Tanjore stapathis belong to. We had the Grand Anicut dam built by Karikala in the 3rd century CE. Every single ancient Hindu temple to those like heritage houses for instance of Chettinad etc., were erected by whom. India is sprinkled with ancient architectural and engineering marvels every single square kilometer east to west, north to south. May I know who were the brains behind these impossible creations. We had circular stairs in our home before it was demolished. Completely calculated and executed by an illiterate mason of those times. How he arrived at the angular steps and load bearing capacity – who can guess. Madam PSBB, detaching myself totally from political issues, I would like to bring to your attention that, your IITians and IIMs who may be products of your so-called superior and elitist schooling are fit for only one thing: when they have to be on equal footing with everyone else, they are ready to flee the country for a few extra greenbacks. I am talking about the marvelous engineering that belonged to the lowest castes of India all these centuries in which none of the upper castes partook anything. They are the brainchild of none from FCs. The men who built ships, who studied the flow of the water stream and erected wells, the men who raised great cities and townships and the men who designed the finest jewelry of precious gems and metals from the mines they unearthed and worked, the men who ran the economy and founded banking systems, the men who specialized in metallurgy and mixed minerals and practised medicine – I am sure all these did not belong to the forward community at all. Yet we had the state of art, precision technology like the Konark sun markings and the hanging pillar in Andhra. The least celebrated brains of India, today it is a shame that any particular community must try to snatch their victories and claim success for themselves. Whoever it is, I condemn such a thoughtless and horribly prejudiced statement. It shows how ignorant and shallow some minds can stay without evolution or betterment of any kind.

Well any knowledge and/or every knowhow is a treasure accumulated with practice and perfection, be it cattle rearing or costume designing or agriculture. No occupation or art is acquired without training hard. Simply every intelligence counts. When you associate a particular acumen with a overhyped community and claim to be the best among the worst lot, it means your world view is limited or distorted. You don’t take into cognizance the sum total input of the entire community who in every little/single way chip in and help sustain a society. I will have to refer again to ‘the Elephant and the blind men story.’ Staking claims of tallest order is the mindset of a meanest coward in my opinion. You have to be sick. Over politics, it is these reckless statements that hound me because they’re welcome with applause by a convoluted section among us.

What happens when our contorted education breeds this kind of one or two dimensional academics. They are good with their books but India hardly boasts of fresh innovations. Memorizing is what has been the inherent gene in some communities for centuries and that will enable them memorize to the letter t every single word in journals, magazines, textbooks, etc. The real thinking, analyzing, innovating, executing brain is not this. With this limited scope wisdom, you can at best become from the desk clerk to the CEO but not the deviser, discoverer. That’s my take in any case.

I don’t expect the state politicians to talk responsibly or sensibly but I do expect it of an educationist.

We live in a world where credit is quickly and hastily given to the superficial layer without a consideration to the actual workmen. All the science and engineering and mathematics of ancient India have been claimed ownership by one particular community which is sad. Countless nameless science and math achievers have been brushed just like that under the carpet for the reason they did not bother to document their expertise. Take the case of Bharat Natyam. Once the dance form of the Devdasis, it is not anything new. It has been in existence for eons. Only dusted now and adapted to current times.

Bhoodan movement saw landbanks that were donated by wealthiest of this country for equitable distribution to marginal farmers and the landless, to usher in a sense of justice. The banks of the Vaishyas were nationalized overnight. Princely kingdoms were taken over and even their pensions annulled. Nobody fled India because everyone gave up for India out of love for the nation. Only one group wants to leave India if they have to share everything with everyone. I am by no means casteist.

Years back I came across a thesis that, a literate gene travels 14 generations. And imagine the family trees branching thereof from both paternal and maternal sides at each level. It means, once you learn a letter, the mutation can carry your memory gene for as many generations (do the permutations and combinations for 14 generations taking in the branching families either sides). Your genes remember. From far and wide. Imagine the sum total effect on the cumulative benefit derived from two millennia of such an education even if by word of mouth for some forward communities. So that much of fixed deposit some communities are already born with. How can you even pit them against the downtrodden who are taking to books hardly in last 30-40 years. This Hindu hypocrisy is very unsettling. You are discrediting them of everything when you have had a headstart in everything: from being endowed with the best of residency in the heart of a township to education and comforts of life. The banished ones who had to fend for themselves cannot even today claim equality. Your children have to attend the creamiest schools yet you would want reservation at par with the municipal school children. How much more unfair can this world be.

These inequalities disturb me terribly. I hate both casteism and classism. If I raise this topic with friends, I risk losing them. It pains me so much that nobody is even willing to listen. When I hear my thoughts reflected in some one else’s mind and words, it brings a drop of tear to my eyes. I just stand vindicated. I know now I am not a freak for the way I feel at the bottom of my heart. The weakest and the most vulnerable always have my heart.

My maid, my ironwalah, my autowalah, even my future vettian – these are not here by their choice. They are here by BIRTH (that you cannot find in any other place on earth) because I pushed them down to this level so that I can climb up on their hunched backs. By I, I mean my ancestors/forefathers. I had to stamp down on someone and see to that they had to wait for centuries to produce a first graduate with govt quota, is proof enough of how much I have made good living at someone else’s expense all these ages… So is it not time that I feel the remorse and make some amendments long overdue?

I don’t expect anyone to grow up, because they seriously do not have it in them. If I hate India for anything, it is for this reason. I just know, someone gifted with such an empathy is a rare find. It calls for intellectual honesty, something most of us remain in denial of.

Meanwhile the preening peacock dances away as India’s national bird and the common crow stays boo-hooed. A dollop of soul searching will do everyone some good.

Posted in Interests

Informal vs Formal Talks/Speeches

Excited to be back in the informal Tamil forum, one which is not ‘organised.’ For, the handful of us have no elected president or vp or secretary to run the show. A group of us were into such a down-to-earth setting of Tamil speech club if I may call so (for lack of any other term for description) that I left with my departure to India by the end of 2019. Initiative by Sri Lankan Tamils principally, the get-together used to be bi-monthly at a friend’s place who lent his spacious residence for us to enjoy pure literary Tamil company not corrupted by formality of tailormade speeches or awards/prizes/ certifications or even an enrollment/membership fee, or any such paraphernalia that normally went with formal speech fora. Each of us took a turn to treat everyone with a sumptuous typical Tamil breakfast of Idli, Dosa, Pongal, Vada, Sambar, Chutney with Filter coffee that we would order from a franchisee of Saravana Bhavan or Vasantha Bhavan or Aryas here in Middle East. Hearty exchange of ideas, sharing of thoughts, recitation of poems penned, singing our own lyrical compositions, sometimes some interesting games would keep us engaged for almost two hours. No dilution of quality. No laid down rules. No censorship because as adults we thought we were aware of what to talk in a public platform. Attired informal but for festive occasions, we dressed as per the season. The meetings always began with Thamizh Thai Vaazhthu and closed with a Mangalam. We would decide on the course of the meeting unanimously with inputs from everyone. We discussed the next meet’s agenda together. No hard and fast rules. No tab on speeches but we stuck to meticulous timing without a prompt. Every single one of us got to intereact with each and every other member making for truly an inclusive and totally transparent forum with representation from all quarters. Not more than 15-20 of us could make it in any case. We would disperse after a light banter at the end of the session to wait for the next meeting in a fortnight’s time.

After attending formal English speech clubs I am able to appreciate better the informal speech environment of the Tamil Koottam (simple name for the very earnest effort). Credit goes to the Sri Lankans for not allowing an inch of manouvre from the purpose of the meet, keeping the substance mattering all the time, yet managing the affair matter-of-factly without drawing undue attention to themselves or trying to boss over. The gesture needs emulation in every arena. Very mature handling.

I am not denying how much I have benefited from formal speech clubs. Toastmasters, to be more precise. In TM environment, I learned to LISTEN first! Then I noticed others’ mistakes that I thought I must avoid. And finally I grew out of my stagefear. Not that i am now totally not shy of the stage, but to a large extent, I was able to successfully quell it,reaching out to audience with direct eye contact. My takeaway from TM is my new found confidence over anything. I learnt to write briefest speeches, because I am notorious for my longwinding write-ups! I learnt how to wrap up quick, how to give a thunderous intro, build a convincing body and then make an impressive retreat that left the audience thinking. I don’t know how much I achieved really here, but I took my own sweet good time to reach level 10 or the final step to become a competent communicator that normally took others 6 months to one year only! I spaced out my projects because I also shared my time between India and here. With every level, I wanted to match my speech quality equally. Awards and certificates meant nothing to me.

But I am all for the high achievers who make some very good speakers in the TM world. I have listened to some greatest and moving speeches packed with a punch, delivered on the dot. Drawn from life experiences, there have been one or two that even moved me to tears. I think I may be the only housewife in my club hahaha! I wonder at their reaction if I am to tell them I am a granny now hahaha! The mix of the crowd is good in TM whereas in Tamil club, you know what to expect. I like TM for the different kind of experience that I cannot savour elsewhere.

The point is I have no desire to improve myself beyond a point in the formal TM atmosphere. I may continue as a member but I lack the initiative to take it upward from where I am. May be I am too spoilt by the informal Tamil gathering where my heart truly belongs!

We are all not TED material here hahaha! I like to keep things simple and stressfree!

Tried my hand at the Tamil TM as well. Quality of speeches was a sore disappointment there that made me quit half way.

We give our valuable time (!) to these activities because we want something from them, to add value to our lives. This is why we listen to music, we read books, play games etc. Anything that does not serve the purpose is a waste of time and effort. In fact, it is an affront to our learning spirit and pesonality!

My conclusion is that, the informal speech fora are the most democratic, with everyone on equal footing. But to convene such meetings, the members must hold extraordiary discipline and self-control. None is obliged to anyone and no one needs to be bothered with responsibilities. Partially this is true of TM whose office bearers too do a thankless job. TM has no profit motive either. It is self improvement with active enrollment and participation, each one paying for his/her through which is fair. For me personally, an informal gathering still keeps my mind free. We have met in parks as well, in winter times.

I hope to grow with both the speech clubs. Each serves me in a unique manner. From both I derive benefits that cannot be quantified. Not an articulate speaker, I most favour translating my thoughts into words here in my blog 😀

Posted in Political

NRI, the Non-Required Indian!

தங்களது இலவச ஆலோசனை எங்களுக்கு தேவை இல்லை, மன்னிக்கவும்.

Non-Resident Indians, NRIs in Middle East, repatriate their earned incomes in foreign exchange to India. Add value to Indian economy. Middle Eastern nations with whom India hardly shares a similar wavelength in most global poltiical issues, still employ a sizeable chunk of Indian population, blue collar and white collar in equal measure. India is saved a huge bother, otherwise it would be a task for the Indian government to productively engage this mammoth NRI population in Indian industry. It is a blessing that the employment scene in India is not as messy thanks to gulf job scene while at the same time India earns valueable foreign exchange from millions of expat workers gainfully employed in gulf countries. Double bonanza!

Contrast this to the NRIs from the US. Useless lot who talk big and contribute not a single penny to Indian economy. What is Sundar Pitchai doing for India. Isn’t Shiv Nadar of HCL a far better example we must all emulate. What is simply the role of the NRI Indian Americans in Indian scene than foment trouble with their volatile ideas and provocations. Will they ever return to India and try to fit back? Will their children take to living in India. In what way do these guys feel responsible contributing their unwarranted comments to events and happenings in India. Who is asking for their suggestions or remarks. What is their value edition to India sum total. Keep your dollars jingling safe in New York bro, here we in India can take care of ourselves. Don’t poke your lonnnngggggg nose into our Indian affairs. Remember you gave up your Indian passport to embrace Uncle Sam. With that you cut your umbilical cord connection with Bharat. You are welcome on OCI card, you can be our guest, make your home, enjoy our hospitality, but just like you cannot vote in Indian elections, you are not entitled to your political views on India.

Rule applies from Rajiv Malhotra to everyone. Nobody is special. Unless you are willing to live in India six monthsat least every year. Otherwise cut your nonsense and look after your own business.

Posted in Extras

May your rich life spill over into your writing pages…

I do not know about others, but I make sure I don’t read other bloggers so that my ideas stay fresh and original and do not get influenced even inadvertently by their thinking ways. In other words, I do not want to mimic anyone or borrow words.

I started blogging amateurish during my Malaysian days. I didn’t know what it was and I could perhaps be one of India’s earliest bloggers who knows! India Times had a blogging portal in 1999 and it was then that my blogging journey began. My first reader was a young Pakistani. We met in an online chat room and I gave him the link to read me up. For me this was a life changing experience. I was interacting with someone who was from an enemy terrain, who was opposite sex (even if he was younger) and i was letting someone read my thoughts! First it was overwhelming but I trusted my first reader because I found him extremely decent. In fact I adopted him as my younger bro!

I blogged mostly what came to my mind then, consisting a series of new posts and my brief comments on them, nothing more. Blogging space used to limited in those days. Hardly a page was allowed for each post. Plus, my writing was still like a school composition.

Through this Paki friend of mine (with whom I quarreled over Kashmir (!)) I got interest in their media. It is here that I discovered my blogging Guru (!) so to speak of. My interest in blogging grew in leap and bounds because, I found someone writing from his heart. I also found that the blogger who stroked my interest in writing was arrogant to the core, rogue, rascal of first order and rowdy but highly intelligent and versatile. Beneath the veneer, I suspected a kind soul, a big heart. I thought I liked his style. He is the only blogger or columnist I read up regular until today. He has such a profound influence on my thought process. I guess I inherited even my rambling style from him!!! For years I read his blog posts based on his personal experiences and life that gave his words a legitimate touch. A rebel in everyway, first I was intimidated but gradually I came to appreciate his way of life and ideals. Coming from a terrorist country under military command, I was aware, he had to stick to boundaries. Nevertheless, I found his sarcastic and satirical pieces a very intelligent representation of his deepest thoughts and dismays. In last few years, the columnist has evolved into a researcher and author, but if you ask me, I like his past avatar the best over this his present sobered down self. That was what inspired me even if he was a lot repetitive in those days. I picked up my books based on his recommendations. There was a hitch: how do you tell anyone your mind guru was a Pakistani!! My husband noticed me reading him and said, I must log out! I tried telling my friends about him and they said, he must be a spy! Simply nobody liked the fact that I read a Pakistani journalist-author! Most were scared and the rest thought very lowly of the country. This is the first time I am writing about him openly in my blog. What a fine taste in everything, what a sense of humour, what a well camouflaged aching for the way things turned out, that was masked in satire and sarcasm. You can be an author/columnist/blogger, in short a journalist, easily in India. But to be one like him in his country needs utmost courage. I drew my own courage to write on sensitive subjects from my Maanaseega Guru. I have read his first book as well. Rambling as usual nevertheless, I loved it. I am touched by his life experiences that have molded him into the kind of guy he is today. I like his brand of music. Sense of dressing everything. Deepest respects and admiration here for my Guru, from a middle-age housewife from India whose thought process he has influenced. Charming. Of course, now he is watered down version of how he used to be. Currently my guru writes a lot on international media and on international news having well read the foreign publications and journals and research works, but in my memory are his cricket stories, jail protests, college days, campus politics etc. His India stories piqued my interest as well and mostly my comments to him were kind of like, ‘bast**d’ or ‘rascal’!

(My guru may have no idea he is my inspiration. May not even be aware of my existence in the first place).

After dwelling on my ideal blogger/columnist’s pieces for over ten years, I decided that I had to be honest like him in my writing and it is okay to draw from my life experiences. After all I have no secret to hide and I am nobody important. It is fine if I disclose certain personal things because they lend my blog an element of authenticity. Also in very different ways from his, my life is also conditioned by unique experiences. I thought these can be told without harm to a limited audience. I decided that I would never invite audience to my blog. Whoever comes here is an accidental visitor. Most return!

Today I find some of my friends blogging. They are excellent nostalgic bloggers/writers and I hope and wish they drink from the fountain of life too before they set out on their intended course.

Ahead lies this journey, a very interesting one full of vivid scenes and encounters that can be felt only by the mind. I am following such a road and I am enjoying this walk with my co-travelers. My life I feel is rich because of their intelligent and interesting company.

Most of us here are keyboard warriors quite like some armchair intellectuals out there. But the rewards we reap by way of hearty contentment is immense. You feel a sense of purpose. You feel a fulfillment.

At least this is my personal experience. Grateful to all who make this adventure of mine worthwhile.

No, absolutely no idea of going professional or public. Happy as I am. Amateurish. Appreciative of the handful select audience.

Posted in Food For Soul

நான் அறிந்த தெய்வம்

Inspired to write this:

அன்பற்ற ஆசாரம் பழுது

நேயமற்ற நோம்பிலும் நேர்த்தி குன்று

மனிதம் இல்லா மந்திரம் வீண்

வாய்மையில்லா வேதமும் விரயம்

ஆர்வமற்ற கலை அப்பழுக்கு

உயிரற்ற ஓவியம் விலை போகா

இனிமையில் சொல்லும் சுடும்

இசைவில்லா முயர்வு தோல்வியே

நம்பிக்கையற்ற நெறி தவறும்

உருக்கமற்ற கதையும் கவராது

கனவில்லா துயில்வும் சுகமில்லை

ரசனையற்ற மனமும் வெறுமை

பொருளில்லா புத்தகம் பலனில்லை

மணம் இல்லா மலர் சூடுவதற்கில்லை

மக்கள் இல்லா செல்வம் மங்கும்

பேணுதல் இல்லா உறவு கெடும்

ஆக்கமில்லா செயலும் செல்லாக்காசு

 பிடிப்பில்லா வாழ்வு பாழ்

நோக்கமில்லா மார்கம் தடுமாற்றம்

தூய்மையற்ற அகமும் விளங்காது

சமத்துவம் இல்லா சமூகம் அவலமே

சமநீதி இல்லாத சமயம் அயோக்கியம்

மானுடமற்ற மதம் மூர்க்கம்

ஆறறிவு கேட்ட மனிதன் ஜடம்

உன்னதமில்லா எதுவும் உயர்வன்று

ஒளியற்ற ஆலையம் கேடு

சீரற்ற வழி செம்மை இல்லை

பகுத்தறிவற்றாரை கடவும் கடந்து போகும்

Posted in Economic

One Size Fits Not All: Standardization/Regulation Hick-ups In India.

In colourful vibrant India, everything has to shine a different shade. Every kinder garten kid must flutter like a butterfly in a different pinafore than the kid from a second or third neighbourhood school.

The range of secondary school education boards we boast of: Respective State boards, CBSE, ICSE, NIOS… and of course the latest IB (even though if you follow IB syllabus you will have to necessarily go for graduation to a foreign university as Indian universities do not recognize IB school certification). Not to leave out the rural municipal schools/urban corporation schools which may adopt state board stream… Where is a uniform platform to contend.

You would never know whether private buses ferry industrial workers to factories or kids to schools unless you read the nameboard, because school buses ply in all colours from yellow and blue to pink and green.

How are college campuses. How many tiers. For Tier I we have IITs and IIMs and AIIMS etc. Tier II has NIT etc., Tier III comprises other engineering and medical colleges, and so on… Every tier seems to have a qualifying entrance specific to the their layer. No standardized selection/admit procedure or test.

Hail a black tuktuk (auto rickshaw) in Delhi. In Chennai hail the yellow one and in some states of India watch out for the green ones.

How about sizing in India. Are our brands and sizes compatible. Size XL in one brand can be size L in some brands in the country whether it is a t-shirt or trouser or kurta. You can never take the sizes for granted. Shoe sizes? Shoe size 38 in one brand and size 40 in a different brand and size 8 in a third may be the same fit! And here we have the next level of confusion. UK size or US size or Europe size??? Shoe sizes now measure from 6 to 12 (US sizes). But what is really the standard Indian size for garments or footwear.

Aerial views of geographical locations excite us always when we board a plane. The only country where the aerial view is so mixed-up, confused, hazy and clueless is India’s! I have landed in well planned and organized countries in Europe, Asia and America. I can’t help comparing and concluding that the bird’s eye view of my nation is just a sample of things to come once we land. Co-ordinated town planning and organized development missing in us so that, India is an eyesore when you look down from the skies.

Is our water consumption metered? Water is the scarcest natural resource as we know, even if replenishable. The upper middleclass among us have access to abundant piped water supply, footing a bare minimum bill (by way of a flat water tax and minimum fixed water charges), with the regular unmetered municipal/corporation water filling our basement sumps to the brim, while the lower middle/working class have to run after the water tankers. Notable is the absence of a civic water distribution system that must be in place for the poor and the neediest among us. The rural scene is unmentionably pathetic. Who are we shortchanging here. India could be the only third world nation that does not meter water. Go see the European nations and America my dear countrymen and government. Not even a glass of water is free even in restaurants where it is always free in India wherever you go, especially in restaurants.

What about a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all Indian citizens, the most important of all. Why do we have separate laws governing followers of different faiths. High time everyone is brought under the single umbrella of a uniform statute. Are you hearing me pseudo liberals and leftists. Or are you having your moment of selective amnesia. Dear Indian bhais, do you enjoy special religious laws in the US and in European countries. Can you have four wives as per laws in the west. Whereas in India, I recently chanced upon some real life cases. Legally sanctioned. A muslim man who retired as govt servant left behind four wives. After him his pension was drawn by his first wife, then second, then after her the third and then finally the last who was only 20 when she married the old man. The man’s four wives were drawing more pension for longest number of years than the man’s service record, close to over half a century. In which country on earth is this possible including in middle eastern.

Is there anything in India that is properly standardized, regulated. Anything at all streamlined effectively and hassle-free that you can go about your exercise without a bottleneck.

Conforming to uniform national standards across the board will be a national benchmark. It will be a day of reckoning in Indian history.

Until recently before GST was introduced, even the Sales taxes and Excise duties varied from state to state on crossing border. Now with the imposition of a uniform tariff, long queues in checkposts are eliminated. Some attempt at regularization of revenues, a commendable attempt! Seamless pan India trucking for all-India permit holders. The fuel and time and charges and manpower saved!

Aadhar unique ID and PAN (Personal Assessment Number (for Income Tax)) are like baby steps at standardization/regularization and linking of both may not be a hundred percent foolproof method to prevent loopholes but may go a long way in preventing duplication of accounts and hoarding of black money.

Driving licences and Passports were easiest to standardize and centralize.

Voters IDs have some regional input like the PDS Family cards.

Without standardizing education, some learned so-called pundits talk about reservation. Yes, reservation in India is possible when every kid in India either attends the neighbourhood creamy academy or the municipal school uniformly. When the differences start as early as in kinder garten, there is no way we can suspend reservation quotas in India for the moment. Privileged classes have to make amends to accommodate the under-privileged to usher in some sense of social justice in the country. Reservation is merely a compensatory pay-out.

NEET may be a bold step towards regularization of admit of candidates to our medical universities even if it may pit our rural aspirants in a disadvantageous position.

At a very slow pace, India is going for standardization across the board.

Is standardization/regulation not possible at all in a country like India. Remote chances even if a country seven times as large as India, the United States has managed to achieve sort of an equilibrium, so to say. In India, the differences are culturally rooted and have been in place for centuries. We will have to work harder and with sincerity to weed out the discriminating factors dividing the society.

Only a satisfactorily literate society can realize the objective goals of a flourishing economy. In such an event, standardization is the natural outcome. A free and fair economy is possible when we have level playing ground for everyone in our country.

It takes a strong will on the part of administration/government to enforce laws to standardize our economy notwithstanding criticisms.

Inclusive growth is the only way to grow uniformly and evenly. Over next few years, hopefully we can count on more standardization and regulation-regularization enforcements for bringing in equality and social justice across the spectrum.

Posted in Environment

Lounging Space

As we take our daily walk in the parks of Doha, I am sorely reminded of how I am missing even this small privilege in my hometown Chennai.

Even today if we are to scrutinize the old blueprints/location maps of vintage landholdings/real estate properties of our metropolis, we can find that, there were many, many identified lung spaces situated right in the heart of our good old Madras that could have been converted to parks. We could have had these beautiful landscapes and walking and cycling tracks had not the public places earmarked for community utility landed in private hands during successive corrupt Dravidian regimes. Not even the reserve forest areas have been spared, violating laid down norms. Illegal encroachments get legal sanction with periodic regularization: that is Tamil Nadu.

Today if we see the skyrocketing of real estate prices in Chennai, it is not without a reason. Those middle-class families born and brought up in the city for generations cannot afford to live in the heart of the city thanks to our corrupt politicians. A 3 bhk apartment with car park in city limits costs in crores that most of us cannot afford. Only those old families who owned houses prior to the 1970s in Madras are now proud houseowners in the heart of the city. Of course there is the new rich always who have been able to afford expensive homes. A small percentage of the upwardly mobile can realize their dreams. But by and large, the middle class sections of our society have been pushed to the peripheral suburbs, that Chennai has seen multiple revisions of the Outer Ring Road in last 20 years. The next revision may peg the road at Kanchipuram. Not a joke.

City is sprawling in all three directions no doubt but there is also this sense of hopelessness in the old time Madrasis that they may not ever afford a modest home within the city limits. I have known so many many Mylaporeans who had to settle for properties 40 or 60 km afar as the city became unaffordable to them.

Only the IT guys and the NRIs and business community apart from settu (!) and bhai (!) and (both of whom are notorious for unaccountable money, the second especially for hawala) can ever buy homes now in Chennai. Believe me, had those of us few lucky not inherited anything from our parents, we would be holed up against our will somewhere in Perambakkam or Medavakkam today who knows! Seriously!

Agreed the OMR and ECR and the new business districts of the city. City center is shifting and it is no more our Anna Salai. But if you check the working population in the IT industry, you may find that a vast majority of them are floating population who do not know old Madras like you and me.

Violations in ECR and OMR are rampant, with handing down of ‘wet areas’ to IT parks in silver platter.

What about the landed estates doled out to engineering colleges and medical colleges that mushroomed during MGR and KK period.

Parks have been specifically lost to the denizens denying us a breathing space to unwind, except for our crowded beaches. Even the beaches seem to have lost their charm. How beautiful were once the Santhome beach and the Marina (Gandhi) beach. Santhome was our regular.

With very few parks left from the pre-independence era, we have had one or two even from this minimum taken over for development activities. Glaring examples are the Thiru Vi Ka Park of Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park in Egmore that have turned out to be Metro Rail stations. Initially there was a promise of restoration of green cover although it remained a mystery how a underground metro rail station can be fitted out with a park anywhere. Now there is not a single word to this benefit and covid times have made things worse.

Googled on this and was pleasantly surprised to discover hundreds of parks listed in Chennai Metropolitan city limits! Few do survive against all odds. Wouldn’t want to talk here about the optimally utilized Nageshwara Park in Myalpore or the Panagal Park in T. Nagar. Or the Anna Nagar Tower park. These are the much needed respite to the locals. Memories of going to Nageshwara park with my father and feeding the deer and rabbits there still stays fresh in my memory. Adyar with its concentration of parks can be called the garden of Chennai.

There is one small park even in Harrington road. Most of the surviving parks in Chennai are as small as this one. There are quite a few like this even in Anna Nagar every kilometer. These are hardly parks, still even this small space is smartly utilized for walking and other health purposes by our citizens.

Thiru vi ka park and the corporation ground opposite it used to be hotcakes. Next to them is a swimming pool. They are of immense utility for the residents of the area. With the Thiru vi ka park closed, the corporation ground is seeing excess crowds that it is not able to handle.

The Eco Park in Chetpet and the Semmozhi Poonga in Cathedral road are like small solaces compared to what has been stolen from the general public.

Good that our temples have tanks in front of them. Congested Mylapore has some breathable air thanks to the three temple tanks situated in the thickly populated area. For this reason, even our temples have saved some precious space for our public. This is how now I view our temples now. When I see 100 acre temples like Thiruvannamalai, Tanjore etc., my first thought is, ‘Appa, they can’t plot out this area for real estate!’

To what pitiable condition have the Dravidian governments reduced us public.

There is a lean patch called park even in Haddows road. I realize that even a few mercifully saved square meters of public land is now touted as park by our city corporation.

I wish there are more parks opening up.

How about parks on reclaimed land from sea.

Mumbai is mostly on reclaimed land from sea.

Here in Doha, the Museum park where we go for regular walk is on reclaimed land.

But I understand that what we have is a bay here that has backwaters whereas Chennai has roughest seas. We are a port city.

Project technically may not be feasible.

Besides, this may be one very expensive investment that the government may not prioritize.

How about hanging parks with a walk way.

I am aware, the damage done by successive govts with making a piecemeal of our public places and doling them out to corrupt politicians, cannot be reversed now for practical reasons.

But Chennai can still have some breathing space. If we lack it, we can create one why not.

I am for hanging gardens on over-bridges with lookout platforms, and also for parks on reclaimed lands two hundred percent. If land reclamation is not ideal, we can still go for overhead parks. This is truly my dream and vision for Chennai.

There can be a park all the way from Besant Nagar to Chepauk zigzagging our skyline why not.

There can be a park overhead from Mogappair to Thiruvanmiyur.

When we could do elevated and subterranean metro rail sections at the same time, why cannot overhead parks be feasible in five to ten years. Just a thought. What revenue is our metro rail generating presently. How many years to break even. How many years did it take the MRTS to break even if at all it has managed that! So why not an elevated park crisscrossing our city skies?

Ambitious. Expensive. But NOT frivolous! Instead of promise of freebies for elections, how about our political parties promising something like this for the general public.

Chennai badly needs some decent breathing space. Lung space.

When I cross over a red tarmac road in a park here in Doha during my evening walk, on climbing a manmade incline (imagine a greeny green acre plus park with an artificial mound on flat desert surface, now that’s what I would call patriotism and love for nature), to the other side of the road, I station myself at the summit for a while. My heart longs for this kind of scenic view of my hometown Chennai from such an elegant elevated nature park.

Make such a park pay for itself like toll. Charge robustly or introduce membership. This way initially atleast we can keep off miscreants. Gradually the general public can have access to such parks. Vandalism not be tolerated at any cost. Post security and maintain the park shipshape. After all there is no shortage of manpower in India. Disallow most importantly, liquor in the skywalk park which already exists in my dream!

This is truly my dream project for Chennai.

India sadly lacks visionaries who can think ahead by a hundred or two hundred years. Chennai with the Dravidian muck are a hopeless lot. It may be too much on our part to expect them to come up from something grand and utilitarian like this.

An elevated green park can change the way we live in our city. This can change our lifestyle. This can change our thinking process. Chennai will become even more endearing!

And I realize i am daydreaming. Such a beautiful thought would not even cross a dirty stupid Tamil politician’s mind. My heart sinks.

Posted in Environment

the perfect pH balance.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the acid-alkaline or pH balance in the food we eat and water we drink to simply everything we may consume. Ever since installing a water purifier at home some 15 years ago, I became even more acutely aware of the pH factor that can have a potential effect on human metabolism. Should monsoons fail, we are in for trouble. pH in the ground water we are forced to use gets skewed as the borewell depth falls and bottoms out. There is a limit to which even the RO machines can work.

In an effort to maintain a healthy pH balance, i add a slice of lemon to my jug of water to sip through the day. Of course, from long before pH balance started hogging the headlines, we have been taking antacids to counter acidity. Recently I was reading about home cleansing and facials. It’s said that using lemon too much for exfoliation can have a drastic drying effect because of the heavy alkalinity of the lime which has bleaching properties. The first anti-alkaline advice I have ever come across.

Rainwater has a pH balance of 5.5 and normal water 7 which is neutral. With natural water resources and abundant rainfall, India therefore could be an ideal pH balanced country. This can have a cascading effect on our entire environment including mineral resources and soil. India is an extensively agricultural country perhaps for this reason.

Where the pH balance is highly unfavourable, we may find excessive Sulphate and Chloride deposits making the earth unfit for farming. Typically these are arid desert lands we see with sparse vegetation. Oxygen levels in the air may be below normal.

India hardly sports extremes except for in our Thar desert. Our pH balance may be optimal otherwise. This is why such a diverse eco system is sustainable in our country with a stunning range of native phflora and fauna compared to other parts of the world. India’s wildlife thrives thanks to a healthy pH level.

Back home, I hardly feel my skin go dry although we have the longest summers and no winter. I don’t have to keep slathering moisturizers on my skin every single hour! I remain mostly chemical free except for some Ayurvedic external application for toning apart from regular soak in coldpressed coconut oil before shower. Covid has eliminated even the yearly once or twice salon visits for most of us, for even a basic clean-up. Yet by and large we in India can get along with minimal maintenance and almost nil grooming.

We perspire a lot in India and I feel as if our sweat glands are working overtime! Chennai as we know has the worst humidity. Sultriest. . There is no fluid accumulation or bloating as we sweat it out (not necessarily through physical exertion). Whatever the temperature, we are in the natural setting except for peak summer months when we switch on the aircons. I have come to appreciate a lot these small gifts from nature that I took for granted for years.

In Middle east, how many many tubes of moisturizers do I need to have to procure and stock! Summer means 24 hour nonstop air-conditioners and winter means dryness that comes with the chill. Least exposure to natural light and air as we step out into the open rarely. Skin ages fastest which can be slowed down only with the application of effective moisturizers.

Soil in the deserts is limestone (highly alkaline) which cannot absorb surface water. Sometimes when there is that rare rainfall and the water drains off surface without seepage, I really feel sad for these parched lands. How much ever oil there may be in Middle east, and even if India is a third world country, in my view India is still a blessed nation. In India, it takes a month of monsoons just for the earth to retain water on top. The first few spells are well soaked and you have no idea where the initial downpour disappeared. Understanding now the significance of the water absorbing capacity of our fertile soil, my gratitude for nature is even more pronounced these days.

Not a qualified expert to speak on the subject, I stop forthwith. But I do understand also why every shampoo, every conditioner, every moisturizer, every this, every that you may shop for today has this pH balance marked in constituents. Personally I go for the sulphate free shampoos. Our diets have the pH balance score, our veggies have theirs, our meat portions do… so much so that maintaining the perfect pH balance in our system is the rage!

Alkaline foods are preferred for their anti-cancer benefits. Alkaline rich food is also good for the heart (typically the anti-oxidants such as Omega-3 and green leafy vegetables). The recommended acid-alkaline ratio is 20: 80.

Posted in Food For Soul

Attention Seeking: A Serious Character Flaw

In a world where there is so much of talk-down on negativity and gloom, there is one trait in some of us that may go unnoticed. It is ‘attention seeking’ sneaking in as a domineering streak in those closest to us that most of us grin and bear. Others may disregard such a highhandedness as a personality flaw and move on. Wanting to have the last word in everything, the compelling need to remain under the spotlight, hijacking and steering conversations are a few tell-tale signs that can give away that an attention seeker in our midst.

A very fragile ego, unwillingness to sidestep for others and the strange longing to get into everyone’s good books all at the same time could be the reasons behind a dominant character. A pampered and privileged background cannot be ruled out for the nurture of an attention seeking personality. Characteristically, a noticeable absence in attention seekers is the sense of empathy. Passive aggression is seldom considered a threat and most of us quietly put up with it offering no resistance, not realizing that this is nothing short of bullying.

Some of us don’t give two hoots to attention grabbers. Attention seeking can cause damage to best of relationships in the long run. To those who have had lessons from life, letting others have their small successes comes naturally. Yet when boundaries are breached, there may be grounds for discord. Attention seekers can have their way, because of the complacent company (or cronies) they usually surround themselves with. A sense of amusement may also be reason for some of us to tolerate insolent behaviour.

Maturity is the natural output of a satisfied life. Shying away from attention is a mark of such maturity. It is the string pullers who run the show from behind the scenes in most cases. Being one in the crowd, faceless, nameless is a defence like none other. It is not without a reason it is said that there is safety in numbers. To opt to go unnoticed is an understated elegance, class. To underplay one’s self-importance purposefully is an art very few can master. Lack of urge to prove anything to anyone is a virtue. We retain our identity or perhaps our privacy. The sense of peace lies in coming to terms with reality. We are in contest with no one in life and life is not a race to be won where we have to outwit each other and prove to the rest of the world that we are the best among the pack. It is alright even to be a loser. It is embracing your destiny with grace that is the greatest human virtue.

Class is keeping a low profile. Why should we want audience for everything. It is not our business to steal the thunder from others.

Classism comes not from our clothes and shoes and bags and our automobile, but from the elegant standards we maintain in our life, the way we etch our character. Classism is dignity when we do not lower our standards, when we prescribe the standards.

Waves of fellow humans following our footsteps fast outpace us taking our spot every single minute. Before we may bat our eyelid, we may be gone just like that. We are but a miniscule atom in this universe.

The best of ours will stay with us, come what may. The ones who are with us never leave us. The ones who leave us were never ours.

It is a blessing if some of us need not have to work hard at relationships. It is a gift that some of us need not have to go for it, seek or snatch attention. With a shrug we let go off, conceding defeat to attention seekers, otherwise there may be one hell of a price to pay: the relationship. It can be a sore disappointment discovering the personality flaw of attention seeking in our closest circle.

Posted in Food For Soul

The difference between Lakshmi Teacher and Susheela teacher…

I am blogging this after a conversation with a friend. I am afraid at the cost of repeating myself for an umpteenth time, i will have to dig from my mother’s school now.

My grandma told me the reason my mother decided to teach the hearing and speech impaired middle school girls. Like any teachers’ training aspirant, she had enrolled in a staff training college in Santhome. But one day when her classes were on, in walked Mother Superior. Out of the entire class, she picked my mother and told her, ‘child, anyone can teach normal kids. but it takes a special someone to teach special kids. go to the class teaching special skills and start teaching deaf and dumb (as they would be referred then) girls.’ This changed my mother’s life as she thought she had gotten her calling. She became a teacher on course completion and served over 16 years teaching teen girls who could not speak or hear – until the very last day of her life.

I and my sister grew up literally in this school campus. It is in Gemini. For term holidays and for their school days, sports days etc., we would be there with our mother until the day she passed away. This school also contains a section for the blind. I grew up thinking disability was normal. I never viewed the loss of speech or hearing or eye sight as handicap at all for years. Watching the blind children in sports day competing in Lemon and spoon race etc, and playing with deaf and mute girls in my mother’s class as equals, probably had had an effect on me that sustains me until today. Back then I had no idea, these were my learning days.

Pious Hindu, my mother still took us to chapel in their catholic convent. Like typical hindu girls we touched the feet of Mother superior and other sisters in her school every time we went there. We lit candles in the chapel and we also visited the Santhome cathedral and Besant Nagar church a little before Christmas to avoid crowds. But we never got mixed up still. Our Hindu roots stayed unwavering through all this.

My mother also had been the first Hindu teacher among the school staff. Before her, only catholic nuns were teaching in their missionary school. After my mother, a few more Hindu teachers joined the school. The initial influence of the christian fraternity was there in my mother who was refusing marriage to serve the disabled kids, but my grandparents prevailed and had her married. So naturally I became the first staff kid in their entire school history, and i remained the most celebrated one until my mother’s last.

In the years when my mother was around, for every Diwali she would hire cooks to make hundreds of sweets like laddoo, jelebi etc., at home along with tins of murukku to distribute to her entire school as most of their kids were hostel girls from poorest families who had abandoned them. Some kids had parents in foreign countries or other places in India who would never pay a visit. My mother and one more teacher regularly brought home 4 to 5 girls for Diwali to celebrate the festival with us. She would get for these girls bangles from Mylapore Mada veedhi and also new clothes. The highlight was, taking them for shopping along with her. It is only after my mother left I understood her sensitivity in these matters. She could not bear the idea of young girls holed up in hostel during Diwali so she would seek special permission from Mother Superior to get home those stranded in their dorms with nowhere to go.

The devotion of teachers in my mother’s school was such that, in order to explain a crow to a blind student, one of the staff caged cleverly a crow in their terrace and brought it to school with the beak tied! The blind children had a chance to touch and feel the crow to know what a bird it really could be. I still remember to this day how animated my mother was telling us about this real life class story. It is in this section of the school that Kamal Hasan filmed his ‘Raja Paarvai’ and my mother did get to watch a lot of shooting then. Every evening I would wait for my mom to tell me what happened at the film set.

The blind section as well as the deaf and dumb sections of the school enrolled boys upto class 5 in those days. From middle school, only girls were allowed to continue. My mother was in charge of class 6 to 8. It meant she went with the girls upto class 8 from class 6 teaching all subjects. She remained with these girls for a 3 continuous years before returning to take on a fresh batch at standard 6 again. Each class had a maximum of 10 to 12 girls, with every girl fitted with a mike and a hearing aid. My mother spoke the sign language of the deaf and dumb to them and had yearly staff training for improving teaching methods. Because she remained with the girls for 3 years, she shared an intimate familial bond with her class girls always. For the girls, their teacher who was with them 8 to 3 for all week days became an obsession. After her they refused to learn from another teacher for next 6 months, Special kids are known for their adamancy. It took the school more than half an year to coax my mother’s girls to accept an other teacher in her place.

I cannot forget the mass in memory of my mother in their school chapel when there were over a thousand blind, deaf and dumb children crying their heart out. For the first time I cried for my mother in happiness because I saw how much she was loved by her children. Indeed the entire school had turned up for her last journey including the catholic church, filling streets. They took over her final ritual after the Hindu ceremonies and read from Bible etc. My mother was also a daughter of the church at the same time.

This brings to my memory the girl Rosy who was my mother’s pupil who finished her SSLC. She was an orphan who had lived in the hostel lifelong. School rules required that once a candidate finished school, she must not remain a single day extra in the campus. Church found a boy for Rosy to marry. Only, she needed a place to stay on for a month or more until her wedding date. My mother got Rosy home. I and my sister called her ‘Rosy akka.’ She was with us for over a month and one day her groom came to see her. He sounded pompous and my mother put him right in his place. She was assertive that Rosy was not in any way less than him. There was tension in the air. But then he finally came around. They had a happy marriage and after the wedding the couple did visit us once. What stays in my memory is how my mother was protective about Rosy like a mother hen, defending her and indignant that her girl must be thought inferior to anyone because of her handicap.

I have to mention Lakshmi Periyamma here (that is how we called mother’s colleagues. either periyamma or chithi) who also worked in my mother’s school, who had joined long after her. She lived in our street too. She was widowed immediately after her marriage and she came from an Iyer family. Only daughter to her rich parents, her father had retired from govt service drawing handsome pension by those days standards. They were comfortably off even if Lakshmi Periamma cut a sorry figure. My mother had utmost sympathy for her situation. The family lived in a far spacious house than ours. Financially they were equal or probably better off than us. Never did once this periyamma mix with the kids the way my mother did when she was around. Not a single girl came home. Nor were sweets shared with the kids. Rosy akka could have comfortably stayed with their family instead of ours. We were 6 of us sharing our house and with Rosy we became 7. What prevented Lakshmi periamma from taking Rosi to her home. Caste. I don’t have much respect for my own Mudaliar community, but I can say this one thing about my folks. So long as you don’t go after their sons and daughters they are fine. Generally a bit they are inclined towards charity. Many do put humanity first over religion. This is what I told my friend today. What prevented Lakshmi periamma from putting humanity first over religion was the shastra sampradaya. In spite of being a devout Hindu, what my mother refused to come in between her and humanity was the Dharma which she believed in and practised in real life.

Raised by this woman until my 14th year almost, how could I ever think otherwise.

The difference between Lakshmi teacher and Susheela teacher perhaps is the difference between Shankaracharya and EVR Periyar in my opinion. I don’t believe in a faith that relegates humanity to a secondary position over customs and rituals. It so happens that it is those in the service of God who seem to miss the of essence of Dharma sadly. Dharma is unfortunately in the hands of some narrow-minded sections who interpret Dharma totally wrong. மனித நேயம் இல்லாத ஆச்சாரத்தில் எனக்கு உடன்பாடும் கிடையாது மரியாதையும் கிடையாது.This strong conviction of mine will not make me any less Hindu.

Thanks a zillion my dear mom, wherever you are shining from as a bright star in this universe… It will be 39 years this July since you left me, but there is not a day I don’t think of you or weep for you. You just made your daughter cry. Why did not I hug you more when you were there, why did not I talk to you more. What a fine woman you were. Do you know mother, I don’t see many like you even 4 decades after you left. Which is why I remember you more with each passing day. You taught me empathy, you taught me compassion, you taught me that nothing is more important or sacred over humanity. From your staunch independence as a working woman from 1966 when you married, i gained my own bold and independent streak. In your absence you manifested yourself a lot in me that I am becoming more and more like you every day. Only I am living longer than you.

I remember you giving your new favourite sari to our housemaid Kanniamma a teenager who took an instant liking to it. You did not think twice before wrapping the sari around her the very next moment. You got her married with seer senathai as if she was your own daughter that when you passed away 3 months after her marriage, she and her husband gave their first born your name ‘Susheela.’ They even printed your name in their auto, Ma. I am so proud of you, even so long after you have gone…

Thank you so much for making me the way I am. Your grandson is even a step forward. You are the first person I want to embrace when it will be my time. God took you back soon because you were a Goddess too. You are my guiding spirit, guardian angel. With lots of love, your daughter. How I wish I could cook you a meal for you, get you a sari… My mother who refused to wear silk that came from killing thousands of mulberry worms, except for her wedding day and grihaprevesham…

I am a chip of that old block. Don’t expect me to be any different…

**************************

என் தாய் போகாத கோவிலா பண்ணாத பூஜையா. அவளுக்கு தெரியாத தர்மமா கர்மா வினையா.

The Sai Baba shrine in Mylapore… My mother was probably their first devotee. As a little girl she and my aunt used to go there when it was a thatched hut and had no visitor. Literally nothing. The founder sadhu would bless my mother every single day. She had become his favourite child. My grandma used to say, my mother was a very special atma with a lot of blessings. That is why she left early.

Beloved to her alma mater, that’s my school, my HM Ms. Satyabhama sent my class teacher and my sister’s, to lay wreath on my mom on behalf of my school. An honour like none received.

Someone with refined aesthetic senses, my mother sewed rarely and nurtured a beautiful terrace garden that bloomed with myriad flowers all the year around. In my parents house at a different place, my mother planted dozens of trees some of which live until today (while some were felled). Unique were the ceylon red coconut trees that she planted with her own hands. After her time, we gifted her sewing machine to a poor tailor. A voracious reader of Tamil novels, her precious and possessive collection of sepia tinted bound volumes from the torn pages of Kalki., Kumudham, Anandha vikatan were taken away by friends never to be returned. A hindi film buff, her last muse were Nazia Hassan and Zoheb Hassan and Runa Leila of Bollywood music.

Fondly remembered by our former neighbourhood Mamis who recall my mother getting the first mixer grinder and tv in our street. Saturdays were devoted to grinding kitchen powders and chutneys for all mamis of the street.

There was not a life my mother did not touch in the short span she lived. “There will be none like Susheela’ say the Mamis, the Susheela I never got to know wholly.