Saturday, June 30, 2007

Monsoon Day

pic by Suresh Dhaadve

It's been raining heavily since last night and the gray skies and frequent downpours, the flooded roads everywhere in the city bring back memories of school days when heavy rains justified a respite from school. Memories return, of the jubilation with which we would dump our school bags in a corner and settle down to some pure schoolgirl fun. I would run off to my pal Aruna's place. Aruna who was a classmate, happened to live next door and we would while away rainy days sitting companionably together on her bed surrounded by a heap of comics which kept us occupied and eating hot chips, toast or bhajiyas which her mother would produce for us at intervals.

As usual the rail traffic has been disrupted so Sudha and Sharat who were supposed to come over this morning are not able to make it. Parts of the city are very likely under water. I haven't yet watched the news. Our city fathers chant the same old mantra every year about how "this year it will be different and we will be prepared." Like hell. As one irate reader commented in today's newspaper, the government is not and never will be prepared so we ordinary citizens better be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Enter The Monsoon

The monsoon has set in and high time too! We have been at the end of our resources, struggling to keep awake through the heat and humidity. All of a sudden it has cooled down but of course muggy spells in between are still to be expected.

Yesterday there was a bunch of people from the neighbouring slum colony, all of them standing on the rocks just outside their door, gazing raptly at the gigantic monsoon waves rippling through the sea and crashing on the shore, sometimes spilling over the wall around their hutments. In the picture here you see the view from our balcony at high tide - the sea comes in almost to the foot of the garden wall. It's great. The sunsets are a treat - when there are any to speak of! Dark clouds intermingled with startling shades of orange and pink. An artist's paradise.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend Jinks

Once in a while it does good for Aunties like Sudha and me to revive ourselves with what Suhail calls "Eng bled". Su does this hilarious imitation of his south Indian neighbours in Bangalore in the days before they moved to France. Well last weekend Moll (Aparna) and her husband Shivraj came over to cook us a steak dinner which lasted the entire weekend and included two fiercely competitive rounds of UNO (Saturday and Sunday evenings) which lasted till almost two in the morning and was unbelievably noisy. Sudha and I decided to represent the Kannara Saraswat Mahila Mandal and Aparna and Raj played for the Mallu team. After making an initial fuss about never having played the game Sudha and I (actually I) won hands down. Shine on Kannara Saraswat Mahilas! Ha ha ha. (Of course I am not wholly Saraswat, one quarter of me is Tambram).

The steaks were delicious. There were three marinades - a mango pickle marinade, a pad thai marinade and a classic one with olive oil and rosemary. Mmmmm.

Incidentally Shivraj who handles the guitar with almost professional aplomb even serenaded my parents after dinner and before they returned home.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

When A Child Is Abandoned

I read about a four year old boy called Om, in the Bombay papers this morning. He had been found abandoned at a railway station in the city. The report is accompanied by this picture of a really cute kid with big rather sad looking eyes and behind him you see the social worker who found him at the station. He had been sitting next to a suitcase containing his clothes, some toys, a pair of shoes and a watch.

Anu Khan was on her routine visit to the central station where she interacts with juvenile ragpickers and beggars, when she saw Om sitting alone. An hour later when she passed that way again he was still there and talking to him she discovered that his mother had left him there saying she was going to get tea but she never came back.

The kid has apparently been abused because the police who took him in and sent him to an orphanage discovered a burn mark on his arm, left by a hot press. He admitted that his mother was bad tempered and had hit him badly on the train for crying.

It isn't only in India that children are abused or abandoned. I still remember the report I read in Time magazine years ago, about a four year old girl abandoned by her mother and the mother's boy friend on a highway somewhere, who was later spotted by the police. I guess it must be happening all the time, all over the world.

As far as I'm concerned it's the ultimate nightmare and I can't even begin to understand how this can happen - how parents can abandon such small kids without batting an eye. What happens to those kids? Are they ever able to trust any human being again? Why do we let each other down so badly at times?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Open Letter To Richard Gere

All those who have been following the outcome of the "Richard Gere- Shilpa Shetty Kiss" several weeks back will find this perspective interesting and maybe even agree on what the writer, Sudhir M, has to say about it. Incidentally my friend Suman mailed me the letter a few days back. Here is Sudhir:

Dear Mr Gere,

On behalf of the Indian people I regret to inform you that your offer to apologise for violating the modesty of an Indian lady is rejected!

We, the people of India, do not accept such acts of lewdness and open display of affection in public. What you did was morally wrong and socially unacceptable in India and has hurt the feelings of every Indian.

Let me demonstrate to you the enormity of your error. Even Vatsayana, in his epic Kamasutra, has not dared to depict any kissing scenes. He explains and depicts various positions for sexual intercourse but none for kissing. Likewise, our temples all over and Khajuraho in particular depict explicit sexual scenes but none of male and female forms are ever shown kissing each other. This kind of intimacy is simply not acceptable. That is why you will never see men and women kiss each other in India.

We are proud that we do not engage in visible exhibition of our affection. We have other ways of showing our caring love and affection and respect for women. Mostly, we show our respect for women by raping them. At times it is done in groups of several men which is our way of paying tribute to the strength of the female form that it requires enormous effort by men to subdue.

We also love and respect our women enough that we force them to get a handsome dowry from their parents at the time of wedding and then throughout her life. This is done to ensure that she is able to lead a comfortable life. If for whatever reasons, the parents are unable to fund the dowry requirements, we normally tend to kill our brides by burning them or pushing them from the roof a tall building or force them to commit suicide to save them from discomfort and guilt that she was unable to provide a comfortable life to her husband and his parents and his uncles and aunts and his nephews and nieces etc.

Mr Gere, in India, the female form is equated with Devi i.e. Goddess. We very firmly believe in this and that is why we have no hesitation in piling her with all responsibilities, hard work and hardships. In many parts of our country, when a man dies, his wife is expected and made to self immolate only to save her from the guilt of not having been able to protect and save her husband despite of her being a form of goddess.

I hope it has become abundantly clear to you that we care and respect our women enough that we cannot accept your immoral behaviour. Had you proceeded to rape Ms Shetty (with a condom on, of course, in line with your prevention of AIDS advocacy), we would probably not have found the act as offensive. While you would be in trouble with the law, the people of India would have not had any issue with you as this is a common occurrence for them.

I hope you have learnt your lesson and in future rape an Indian woman before engaging in the heinous act of kissing her in public. We could be in trouble with law in both cases but at least if you rape her, people will not say that you are inhuman, insensitive and immoral. Moreover, in case you do commit a rape, the law is likely to take a while to catch up with you because unlike kissing in public there are so many rapes happening everyday. And then you are likely to get off on a technicality.

Sudhir M is a common man from the streets of India and can be reached at