Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sarv Shiksha??

Sept.1st- historical as Didi retired from her 23 years of teaching music. A trip to the village where she had been transferered a mere 15 days before-- the Govt. / the Edu. Deptt., at least of Rajasthan, functions in mysterious ways! It must have seen some sense in all the unneccessary paper-work and hassle- creation for a person about to retire!
Anyway, the trip was an eye-opener in more ways than one. Villages and villagers are nicer than small-towns, people simple and friendly and of course, no pretences. Plus, unlike Alwar, lovely breeze blows all the time. A 'prohper' send-off was arranged for didi- the 'do- shabd's by some teachers, the gifts of shawl and the customary clock and chai-paani. Sweet.
But then, arose the question why were there so few children when such good infrastructure is there? Why were the teachers so sleepy? Why the black-boards untouched and why the children still unlettered? The bigger pity was that of the 9 students, most looked pretty sharp.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A pipe dream??


It is a piece of thin muslin cloth, an old chunni, past its accessorizing days, being recycled in true blue Indian style to serve as the roti-cloth, curd-hanger, sprout-tier and now as this ingenious instrument which works where many a skilled plumber failed.

The whole story is something like this- a kitchen tap, wrongly installed  off-centre rather than in the center, due to lack of foresight was the bane of my domestic help’s life as it sprayed water unstintingly over her and all over the cooking slab. At intervals, different plumbers came, cursed the previous ‘ completely useless’ ones, had tea, tinkered around, pronounced the tap cured, swore on their dear, departed mothers that it’d stay that way for at least a year and left. For a few days, things would be hunky-dory, the spray would restrain itself to the sink, spare the slab and Krishna Bai’s sari. And then would start the sinister spluttering again and we’d be back to square one.

And then one day, KB’s daughter came, took one look at the offending tap, decided that she certainly didn’t want to be sprayed, took the afore-mentioned piece of cloth, tied it firmly at the tap’s mouth and that was that. The shrew was tamed, the spluttering stopped effectively and everybody was happy.

The simple yet eminently effective method- just a bit of the (un)common-sense and the will to check a problem -  got me thinking. The builder had made a mistake, we had accepted it as our fate mainly because it was not directly troubling us, we hardly ever needed to work at the sink with the faulty faucet as that is K Bai’s territory and things had remained the same for the past few years.

Isn’t that our general attitude in almost every sphere of our lives? Our famous ‘chalta hai na’ attitude at its worst? Be it the clogged drains- we press our perfumed hankies on our noses and move on; our use of polythene bags- everybody does it so we too join in, they are convenient after all and then when we find the outskirts of any town strewn with the colored bits of polythene, we wince and move on; whatever pangs of conscience we may suffer are effectively taken care of by forwarding impassioned SMSs by pressing ‘send all’ in almost the same breath as we forward the latest Santa – Banta jokes or ‘liking’ similar messages on Facebook and then, yes, we consider it a duty done and move on.

So fond of moaning ‘what to do, this is India, after all’ we have learnt too well to take things in our stride, be it ineffectual administration, babudom, more loopholes in every system than its fabric and of course, corruption.
Right, things have been bad, our systems not really the best in the world, we have made incorrect choices but who says things should continue like this?

Some of the ‘plumbers’ we chose could not spot the trouble nor stop the leakage of our resources till we got this ‘Lil’ ol’ man in topi’ , our own piece of cloth, which just might work where the mighty anti-corruption measures failed so spectacularly. He doesn’t know politics or even administration, what he knows is that he is no longer going to be taken for granted.

What prevents us from being little pieces of cloth and stop nonsense when we see it? Is it our ingrained ‘why bother? It isn’t affecting us directly!’ Or is it fear? How many of us, those who are vociferously supporting Anna on FB or cells or by attending candle-light vigils can and will desist passing on that surreptitious green-note to facilitate a pending file? Why must we wait for some BIG miracle to bail us out?  If we can be our own small but worthy miracles, Anna has won.

He can fight the bigger wars, we, the smaller battles….and please don’t tell me it’s a pipe dream.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Counting Blessings- Small town diaries Part II

What is convex and black and small? A beetle? Nah- an aunto-rickshaw's vinyl roof and when you see hundreds of them without an inch of space in between, you're bound to think -it is auto-rick apocalypse. But apparently it isn't. I'm told smilingly that it is the 'normal' evening rush in Mumbai and 'No, I won't take you where you want to go,' the rickwalla's smile is broader. He's sympathetic, it says, but not mad. I've no option left but to walk, more than a mile, in heels, when finally the roads started to open a little.
I'd never have faced this in my beloved small-town. Traffic has increased, it is unruly, encroachment has narrowed the roads and there are strays aplenty but few jams. True you have to avoid a pit here, a puddle there, a dog here, an apprently deaf cyclist there while steering clear of the ox (which is considerably bigger than your car) by the road side, but jams? No sir. This small town may crawl but it doesn't come to a full-stop.
Space- that is also what a small town gives you, physical if not otherwise. You don't need to be a millionaire to afford a 3-4 bhk, and the h can be huge, a garden, roof and spacious verandah thrown in for good measure.
And the biggest blessing is - hold your breath- savings. You can't spend no matter however much you want to so you save per-force. And why can't you spend? Let me count the ways- 1. No unhealthily expensive but inviting eating joints, the ones that are there have made inconsistance their hall-mark so you don't want to challenge your luck too often. 2. No malls (yes, in this day and age) - the one which opened recently has three shops with all the rejects from Delhi or someplace. 3. No movie-theatres (forget multiplex) unless you want to brave rat-infested, gutka smelling and gutka colored walls of the two existing 'picture-halls'- Thank God or whoever for the Dish....
The list continues tomorrow..................


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Stepford / Small town Wives

I was watching 'The Stepford wives' last night. The unbelievably 'Perfect' lives- happily busy, perfectly turned- out wives churning out one perfect dish after another, managing households on well-oiled wheels, satisfied husbands happy in their club ... and I was eerily reminded of the ladies around me, the house-proud ladies who revel in in their kitchens, take pride in doing 'EVERYTHING' themselves (ref. to the first of  'A small voice'). The Stepford ladies were robots, I daren't even think about what kind of brain-washing goes on's scary.
 There too 'the perfect world' was a smart lady's brainchild, here too I see many versions of that lady. The sar-pe-palloo types who look down upon others who don't conform to the '' schedule in which they've lived for ages.
On the other hand, they appear to be more contented with their lives than their so- called emancipated counterparts juggling with careers and homes and kids.....
On yet another hand, is that what a woman's life should all be about?  I'm confused. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


No, that's not a spelling error. This is how it is pronounced here, by quite a few eunthusiasts.
Cricket and Math. are much the same for me- they both deal with obscure (to me) numbers which I just can't understand- hence both are dealt with supreme indifference.  I know I might get lynched for not liking cricket- anti-cricket is almost anti-Christ here- but honestly how can one like something one doesn't understand? What IS the fun staring at folks standing, squinting in the sun, looking at a ball and another guy hitting it..........but like they say, each man to his own.
But I would say one thing for the game, introduced ironically by our oppressors-the Brits - btw, whose worst things we copied quickly but didn't give a second glance to the qualities which we should have, but that is digressing...
About the game, yes, it is almost magical how it brings people together. Last night, we were at this joint- the customers, the waiters, the cooks (that explains my undercooked uttapam) everybody was engrossed, every eye fixed on the TV on the wall, every sigh, every 'Yay! India' synchronized!! And on the way back, people thronged the usually empty paan-shop as he did a brisk business while people absently ordered paans, their attention wholly fixed on the small TV inside the shop.
If we could join hands like this against corruption, ineffeciency, red-tape..................
Too good to be true?
Who knows?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Small town diary- Part I

‘Peaceful’. Period.
“Well…I like small towns like ….., they have so many things which glitzy metros don’t…like, y’know…they’re so peaceful and…and…and….”

Got the gist? Life in a small town has ‘so much’ to offer, we start and after saying ‘peaceful’ , we come to a dead-end.

Like they say, the grass is always greener on the etc. etc. Friends who drop in here for a few days, gush and I mean GUSH…”Wow, you’re so lucky, living here!” Followed invariably by the query, “Could I invest in some property here?”

You could, buddy. If you’re ready to put up with some inconvenient truths.
We are a peaceful place and people and that is the beginning and end of the story. If you’re on the verge of retiring or already retired you’ll like it here. Invest in a chartered helicopter and you’re all set. Why helicopter? How else do you intend to reach New Delhi or Jaipur instantly in case of a medical emergency?  You know anything can happen at that age and a train or taxi or an ambulance will take you 3+ hours. You might as well say goodbye to your folks when you leave, you never know, you know… We have hospitals, of course. What do you take us for? But somehow……….you get it?

You could also come here if you want to study, because we apparently have the maximum numbers of educational institutes here. Schools, colleges, professional, technical institutes…you name it, we have it. You/your kids will have a lovely time here and will be able to compete with the best anywhere in the world, provided they are self-sufficient, y’know, self-motivated, dedicated individuals who find their own way, without expecting any expert help from the hallowed institutions. Or if they are doing the ‘professional’ courses, they have to have Budhdha-like zen, contentment of the highest order, and of course they should know better than to compare (and cringe in horror) with the lakhs they pay for the education to the thousands they’ll earn (if at all) after graduating from here. Of course, we have opportunities for the young, just don’t ask what kind. A small town teaches you contentment like nothing else.

That brings me to another virtue- patience……which we small-towners have in abundance. But we’ll take it up tomorrow, ok? See, your first lesson of patience. J

Why Ekta Kapoor Reigns

"I've never kept any maid, I do EVERYTHING myself" (accompanied with a proud smile)
"I have a washing-machine, but I wash clothes by hand" ( acc. by a virtuous smile)
"The mixy (mixer) is ok but nothing to compare to the masala ground on 'silbatta' " (acc. with a fie-on-you-you mixy-hound look)
"I spend two hours at the temple, writing "Ram' a thousand times everyday" (this one's son is a step short of a juvenile deliquent, but maybe that's why the thousand 'Ram's are required!)
"I make everything at home, nobody at home will even look at store-bought sweets and snacks" ( acc. with a horrified you-inflict-store- bought- samosa- on- your family' look)
"My husband misses me if I go away even for a day" (Implied meaning- yours doesn't because you don't hang out his towel or wash his shaving brush for him)
"Her daughter-in-law talks to everybody, mine doesn't step out of the house without my permission!" ( acc. with, you got it...a PROUD smirk)

Just a few ways  small town ladies keep  so occupied and fit!!! And the one reason why Ekta Kapoor still reigns!