Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Politics of Eggs

Anything can become a subject of debate in politics. Music, books, clothes, Valentine’s day, even eggs. Especially eggs. Remember Gulliver’s Travels, where old Gulliver lands up in a crazy situation between two nations at war with each other over how to eat an egg? Well, Jonathan Swift seemed to not only know what he was talking about but like Nostradamus he seems to have had the gift of foretelling the future, in a land far from his own.

They’re fighting over eggs in Karnataka. The JD government had the idea of serving eggs to school children as part of a nourishment programme, on two accounts. Because eggs are generally a good source of protein and also because there is a huge surplus of eggs in the state.

The BJP has said that instead of serving eggs to school children, the government ought to include milk or fruit in the supplementary programme because these foods were more nourishing. The JD replied that milk and fruit were too expensive to be distributed free of charge to schools. The outcome? No milk, no fruit and no eggs for the children.

Officials from the Women and Child Department and several prominent figures from Kannada’s literary world suggested that the children be asked what they preferred and a subsequent survey revealed that 97 per cent of the school children voted for eggs. What is the BJP going to say to this? Hmmm. Let me guess. That the kids should want to eat fruit instead of eggs, just as they should want to sing devotional bhajans at four in the morning, and they should want to give up wearing modern clothes and turn the cultural clock back a few hundred years. Afraid I have a hard time following their logic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Gawking Indian

You know you’re back in India when you happen to blow your nose somewhere outdoors and a group of about twelve people gathers around you, open mouthed, to watch exactly how you go about it. You wonder where they find the time and energy to occupy themselves with the mundane details of an individual’s private life but don’t worry, they do, somehow. Unfailingly.

A couple of days back my brother, who is visiting from the U.S. suggested he help me shape up a bit and offered to hold my hand while I practised climbing the stairs again, which I haven’t done in quite a while. My brother is a health freak and becomes a nervous wreck if fewer than four separate dishes containing green leafy vegetables are served for dinner. So of course it’s understandable that he would have his only sister’s (only sibling’s in fact) interests at heart and want to do his best to help her recuperate from a godamn broken ankle.

So we take the elevator down to the ground floor and decide to tackle the stairs from the bottom up. Before I’ve gone up two steps I find I’m paralysed. I just can’t seem to move. The guy who operates the elevator is standing right next to my brother gawking at me, following every move of mine including probably the perspiration that breaks out on my forehead at the sight of him gaping open mouthed at my struggle to climb up.

Well, I managed to do two entire steps about three times before my nerves gave way and I dragged my brother back upstairs, saying I’d had enough. My sister-in-law says that next time I give it a bash she'll help out. She’ll tackle the liftman.

I’ll give her a box of Kleenex so she can stand next to me and pretend to blow her nose and hopefully the guy will take his eyes off me and gawk at her instead.

A closer look at terrorism:
Basicindia Reflections

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What is going on?

There was this weird report in the newspapers a day or two back. The headlines said: "In Mumbai’s backyard, youth tied to pole and beaten to death." This young man was apparently found tied to an electric pole and allegedly beaten to death by residents of New Panvel. There is even a gory photograph of the incident to prove it. But the police have not registered the case as murder, they call it an “accidental death.” Why? Because, they say that the post portem does not clarify the cause of death. The police claim that they do not know why the man was tied to the pole and the best reason for not registering the case as murder is that there were no eye witnesses.

Even this is not true because one of the residents, 17 year old Pramod Patil, said he was woken up that morning by people shouting, and saw fifty to sixty people with sticks, beating up a person tied to an electric pole. Several others apparently also confirmed this version but don’t want to be named.

I don’t think I quite understand what’s going on. Or maybe I do but can hardly believe it! Maybe I'm just naive.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who me? I'm harmless!

Ruth and I are winding down our guitar practice for the evening. It's the night before she's to leave for Goa and she reminisces about the time we first met, about five months ago in Germany, with a nostalgic sigh. It was at Thomas and Ariela's place, in the kitchen in fact, we were all sitting around the dining table, some of us drinking tea and the others downing apple juice mixed with soda. Ruth, along with others had come over for a workshop that weekend which Ariela and I were going to be conducting.

"I thought you were so harmless when I first saw you," she says. Pauses for a moment and then goes off into peals of laughter. I mean peals as in an uncontrollable fit of giggling .

I ask her blandly, "Well? Aren't I harmless?"

Again she has an uncontrollable fit and almost ends up coughing. Till the end I didn't manage to get a coherent reply from her. I have a feeling her reaction is related to my occasional abrupt moves to stop her in her tracks when she starts babbling by telling her I feel tired. Not that I see anything bad in doing that. I consider I'm doing people a favour by telling them that I've ceased to listen to them, I mean why should they unnecessarily waste their energy sharing views and info which the ears have decided to block out? To her credit she didn't let that get in the way of our having a good time together and has been a real brick, helping out with odds and ends and making endless suggestions as to how I can hasten the process of recovery as far as my ankle is concerned.

Anyway, Ruth is in Goa now, I just got about five SMS's from her to say she had reached safely. If you're reading this, Ruth, have a great time and dont forget the guitar strings and capodistra or whatever its called. Meanwhile I'm practising our new version of "Lady in black" and "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho" for when you return and we play for whichever hapless individuals happen to be around us when we decide to hold our concert.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Any tips on a good hair dresser?

Ruth and Asha (our cook, friend, philosopher and everbody's guide)

Since getting back home my hair has been getting a lot of attention. It looks nothing like what it did when I left India six months ago. Charmayne who visited recently, along with "the other Uma" and Suresh, said I didn't look at all like I did in the pics I had been posting. Obviously. Those were taken a while ago when I was still looking relatively sober and my hair stood respectfully around my head.

Since I haven't been able to have a haircut in the last several months and now that I've got back my own stylist says she is too busy to come home and give me a haircut, I will have to put up with this bird's nest for the next two weeks at least, or until I am well and truly back on my feet and able to hobble along to her outfit for my next proper haircut.

Me exercising like mad to keep my weight steady and get my muscles into shape

Until then, feel free to inspect the wild forest around my head. You might even come across a dingo or pygmy deer hiding in it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What the hell is this all about?

The most disconcerting thing about returning to India, has not been the noise, the pollution or the dirt. Those are things I have got used to in the last 50 odd years of my life and although in the months which you've spent in a spanking clean European city you do tend to forget their existence, you also learn to gracefully accept it all when you're back.

No - the thing that fazed me when I returned from Germany a few days back was the newspapers. For four months I had not had much to do with news of any kind, neither on TV nor through newspapers (except for the bit when Sadaam was executed and we spent about three minutes discussing whether he might not become a martyr as mostly happens when eminent individuals are killed) . In all the time I saved on reading about mafia murders or emininent leaders rolling in the dust in protest against something or other, I learned to play the guitar, enaged in household chores and generally got to know myself and people around me better.

The other day, thinking that maybe it was time for me to get back to the "real world" I picked up the Indian Express lying on the dining table next to my coffee mug. The subject that has all of India on fire (or is it only Mumbai - or maybe only certain journalists who write about these things?) is apparently the forthcoming Liz Hurley-Arun Nayar wedding. Apparently everyone is busy trying to fiugre out how many people are invited, what form the event will take, where the guests will stay, what Liz will wear (a 4000 Pound brocade sari or something like that) what Arun will wear (a gold embroidered dhoti maybe with gold dust sprinkled on a moustache which I think he should really grow for the occasion).

Of course I read the report to the boring end so now I feel very much in touch with the world as the newspapers would like me to be. But am not sure if the world the newspapers bring me in touch with is the world I want to be occupied with. So I think I will go back to the just surfing the net and looking at the sea and playing the guitar together with my friend Ruth who flew down with me last week. It should keep me happy for now.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Back home

With so much excitement in the last few months and me being on edge as to when I would travel and with whom, I was sure that till the moment I actually landed in Bombay I would be sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my fingernails. It wasn't quite that bad. The day we left Prien for Munich I got the heebie jeebies because it started to snow furiously and I was terrified we wouldn't reach the airport on time and miss the flight. But we got there early in fact and it all worked out smoothly. Spent the last three days in Germany with Ayse and Suhail with whom I had a marvellous (actually hilarious) time and was dropped off at Frankfurt airport on the 30th morning by Ayse and Bernd who came to Cologne more or less for the evening, the last day that I was there.

There were a whole lot of Indians milling around the airport and when I told Ayse how weird and discomfiting it felt to see so many of my countrymen all at once after having seen none for the last four months, she had a good laugh. Ruth, who had already arrived from Munich, efficiently went about organising a wheelchair for me and when we finally sat in our seats on the plane I was able to heave a sigh of relief.

I wont say that I have actually become a fan of Air India (this was my very first AI flight) but it was not as bad as I had so often been told it would be. The aircraft and the seats generally seemed a bit tacky, but they were generous with the drinks. When I asked for red wine (big surprise aint it!) and the stewardess actually gave me two bottles of Beaujoulais, which kept me 'appy for quite a while.

Am now settling down again in Bombay, and slowly feeling at home again here. More in the next few days.