Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Back again!

Oh it feels goooood to be able to connect once again with the world - to be able to say what one wants to, to be able to access one's own and other people's blogs. It's like being able to breathe again. Hallo Hallo Hallo!

I am now set up in the study in my grandmother's flat. Earlier this used to be a bedroom but now it has become the computer and TV room. Parvati and Saru who work here are fascinated by what I do and spend hours standing behind me, watching me key in data or fool around with the mouse. It is really testing my patience but I decided to keep quiet and to be good about it. At some point I presume they will tire of gaping at me open mouthed and retire to their own stuff.

The room overlooks the main road and is raaather noisy. Cars and taxis honking furiously as they speed down the road. I am much more in touch with "the spirit of Mumbai" here than I was back home, where we were sheltered from the outside road, cocooned as we were by the sea.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Weird stuff

The blogs are still down but this morning I read about a site, in the Indian Express, which helps you to access blogs which are blocked. This is

I tried it just now and was able to access the laidbackrebel blog (hosted by blogspot) but not basicindia as yet. I’m still reeling from what the government has done to us. The way it has arbitrarily snatched away the basic right to express oneself. It’s a little bit like making sure that the pen with which you write doesn’t contain any ink or that the paper on which you’re writing fails to show up words. I guess our leaders must feel they are mature enough to decide what is good for us and what should or should not be spoken about, even as they shout each other down, plot each other's downfall, throw chappals, tomatoes and rotten eggs at each other in the assembly.

Such weird things have been happening in the past couple of weeks. First the downpour which paralysed transport in certain parts of the city, then the bomb blasts which paralysed our nerves, now our blog sites being blacked out and made inaccessible. According to Mandira who is staying at the “other apartment” at the moment (my grandmother’s which I am doing up) all this has to do with my placing the beds wrong. I have rearranged the beds in a north south direction which M claims is disastrous in every way – disastrous for my body, for my soul and probably for the country as well.

Actually it is the government that should be calling in the Feng Shui experts to place cupboards and tables and filing cabinets and tea pots in the right place so that the country can get back on track.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Modern madness

Enough has been said about the bomb blasts last Tuesday so I don’t want to add to the platitudes with which we have already been flooded. About the “spirit” of Mumbai and how “we will win the war against terrorism” among other things. What is now apparent at least to me is a sort of delayed reaction to the violence. A spirit of despondence. A pall of gloom along with a desperate attempt not to acknowledge it. A denial of any sense of tragedy. This is what is really behind the so-called spirit of the city, isn’t it? True, in the moment of need hundreds responded with gallantry and genuine kindness as they have so often done in the past. Vendours close to the site of the blasts, handed out free cups of tea to the people who had come to search for missing friends and relatives, chemists doled out medicines free of cost, incurring a loss of thousands of rupees. My friend Suresh who lives in Bhayander together with his friends, redirected passengers looking for a way around the mounds of debris on the platforms.
Crises always summons up a fighting spirit but as soon as the moment of crisis itself has passed, the aggression returns, our lives are once again jammed with frenzied comings and goings behind which you sense a fierce resistance to any sort of looking inward, a search for a new lifestyle. Fear of facing the isolation and sense of alienation of which terror and violence is an outcome.

The city is too full of noise. Our heads are filled with noise. Most people here can’t be still for a single minute. The air is filled with tension, a neurotic effort to evade reality. In view of the situation the theme of our last workshop seems to have been just the right one. Strangely we had fixed it weeks before the blasts occurred. Conflict. For more, go on to the basicindia site:

Sunday, July 09, 2006

India - Global Superpower?

“Unfortunately the harsh reality is that if India succeeds in establishing a just and fair society, it can definitely kiss all its dreams of becoming a global economic superpower goodbye.”

The statement above does not reflect my own thinking. I am not making it up either. I actually read it in the Times a few days ago in the Letters to the Editor section.

This was the response of one Diana Pinto, to an article by Swaminathan Aiyar Anklesaria, a commentator on the economic scene in India. In his article, Swaminathan Aiyar put forward the view that unless India first did something to iron out the economic inequalities and establish a higher standard of living all round, we would not get ahead as a nation.

So as you can see, it is possible to look at the whole business of equality and exploitation from quite another perspective as Ms. Pinto (whoever she is) shows us. If we want to become a global superpower we have to overlook the fact that three quarters of India’s population is still scrabbling for two square meals a day, that millions of people are grossly underfed if not actually starving, that millions more are suffering from diseases caused by malnutrition and so on.

Among the views that this reader puts forward is that all super economies are based on the exploitation of the majority and that suffering is good for the soul and encourages people to strive harder. Hmmm. That’s food for thought, no? If we want to be a superpower – and Ms Pinto seems to be all for it – we will have to just overlook thousands of farmers who have committed suicide on account of their failed crops, overlook the gross injustice we see all round us, forget about fair wages and just about everything else that distinguishes a civilised nation from the barbarians.

Even as I’ve been writing this a super idea has infiltrated my brain. If we are talking of destroying individuals and human values to become a global superpower, which is what many businessmen and politicians apparently want – something that will make them feel PROUD to be Indian - maybe we should get someone to help us with a job which our own politicians have started on and so far carried quite successfully – though what they lack it sometimes appears, is brute strength, stamina and the final bit of stupidity needed for the job. Which is why I am thinking maybe they should call on Dubbya some time at the White House and ask him for a helping hand. Having accomplished so much in the department of destruction and injustice in the attempt to retain America's superpower status, he wont mind sharing some useful tips.

Open Space:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rain Diary - more of the (squelchy) same

Saru in her orange raincoat bringing us our dinner from grandmother's place (where the kitchen continues to function)

July 4th

Today is the third day of the downpour. The sky continues to frown on us and the latest news is that the roads are all clogged and traffic is moving at a pace slower than a snail's. Glad I'm in here, not out there. Poor Tuks has got caught though. Tukaram is our odd job boy - our Man Friday - the most important guy in this family's joint lives. He fixes our electrical problems, our plumbing (when he can), my computer occasionally and today he fixed our DVD player whose connection with the TV seemed to have been screwed up. Then he went off to help someone else with cleaning out the water with which their flat had got flooded and just five minutes back his wife called to ask what time he had left here. Well I didnt like to tell her it was a while back. Hope he doesn't have to wade through mucky water to get home.

The horror stories of last year are still making the rounds - how during the floods last July over a hundred people died, through being trapped in their modern cars or just drowned because the water in many areas was more than neck deep.There is not a soul in the compound at the moment other than Govind the sweeper, togged up in a bright yellow raincoat and rubber slippers, gathering up all the rubbish which people chuck down from their windows and dumping it into the garbage bin. Govind is asthmatic and always looks quite ill - now more so since he has begun to sport a seven day growth. But he gets around,is immensely cheerful and says "Please" and "Thenk Yew" at the drop of a hat. Have to remember to give him money for his months supply of medicines.

Off to have a little post lunch snooze now. and now that the DVD's fixed maybe I'll watch a film later this evening.

5th July

Watched a pretty dumb movie on TV last night: Legally Blond. Just the kind of thing for rainy weather though. In between I kept hopping channels to catch the local news and saw shots of waterlogged areas in Bombay and cars being stuck in several feet of muddy water, urchins screeching and jumping around in the rain, commuters trapped in traffic jams. One of the municipal corporators being interviewed by a belligerent anchorwoman bumbled and fumbled and err-ed and ah-ed through the questions she shot at him about the state of the city's roads and drainage system.

The sky has still not cleared up. Grey clouds continue to obscure the view. The buildings across the bay which normally loom up like Frankenstein’s monsters are invisible today. And when it rains it comes down in sheets. The papers this morning have life size pictures of people wading through streets which have turned into rivers. But .... yes Tuks our Man Friday reached home safe around four o'clock in the afternoon yesterday and not only that, has actually turned up for work again today. I told him to bring a change of clothes and that if the rain continued he should probably stay overnight rather than risk falling down a manhole! Half of Bombay is sick. Either coping with bad stomachs or with the flu. My mother is slowly recovering from a three day bout of cold and fever. Today is the first day I see her up and pottering around again and dispensing advice on various things.

Read about how to create an open space for discussion:

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Indian Monsoon

It is raining. Whenever I decide to get off my ass and do something outdoors it starts to POUR. Sushama says the government should hire me out to drought prone places. All I have to do, is go there, pick on a time to go shopping and voila! Rain clouds appear, lightening streaks across the sky and the gods empty down buckets of water. And going out in the rains here, isn't at all entertaining, because it comes down in sheets, floods the roads and you find yourself picking your way through streams of water whose source is most dubious. Part of it is pure rainwater of course but it is partly also gutter water. The gutters are always overflowing during the rains. And I know of more than one person who fell down an open manhole.

For some reason manhole covers always get displaced regardless of whether it is raining or not. One of the people who fell down such a hole is my uncle B.D. Though we split our sides laughing to hear him relate the episode, some weeks later, I dont think he could have enjoyed it very much. One girl recently fell down a manhole and would have been carried off by the stream of gutter water but she managed to claw her way to the surface and to scramble out, presumably covered with shit from head to toe.Well, that is Bombay. It has stopped drizzling now and I am going to venture out. Will write about what happens in my next blog!

check out basicindia's calender july to december 2006