Friday, February 15, 2008

After months or well, almost a year of discussion about Saru, Asha and me going out to lunch (and slowly losing my credibility as the lunch failed to materialize) we finally got our act together and set out for this veggie thali place in town called Panchratna Gaurav. We had been there a couple of times already in the past couple of years and the two ladies simply love it because the thali you get is unlimited and you can stuff yourself with any amount of goodies for a standard price.

So while nibbling at my own food I watched Asha and Saru devour quantities of chapattis and dal and different kinds of vegetables, snacks like samosas, Khandvi (which every good Guju knows how to make) an array of chutneys, and two sweets which happened to be rasmalai and jelabi. I was careful not to eat too much having learned from past experience that an overstuffed stomach generally leaves me writhing with discomfort for hours! But it was great to see Saru and Asha ingest never ending helpings of kadhi, dal, and other stuff.

Shortly after I learnt from Suresh who was to come over that evening, that the institute where he teaches English was shutting shop due to a spate of violence that had started in the city, spurred by the ranting of our local hero Raj Thackeray. We got back home without incident (the violence was sporadic and mostly in and around Dadar and the suburbs) and sat glued to the TV for the next couple of hours.

Later I asked myself whether the recent upsurge had only to do with the strong arm tactics of a short sighted ambitious politician. Somehow there seems to be so much hatred and resentment in people everywhere that it takes the slightest flame to start a raging fire. One can understand these feelings in a country like India and especially in a city like Bombay which experiences such extremes in wealth. At one end you see folk squandering hundreds of thousands of rupees on lavish five star living and at the other end there are people who don’t get two square meals a day.

The crazy thing is, that often the poor and the middle class are not even conscious about the indecency of all the conspicuous consumption but rather, aspire to the same kind of lifestyle themselves. The violence which transpires naturally, comes out of ignorance and a total lack of awareness. Instead of protesting against corrupt politicians and equally corrupt business people who work hand in glove with the politicians the average man is seduced by politicians into channeling their negativity into violence against those they imagine are “intruders”.

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