Friday, September 30, 2005

The Auto Ride

An American once remarked seeing our autorickshaw.

“How do you sit in one of this things? It is so small.”

“Why, we are a small-built people.” I didn’t explain to him how big a convenience it is to driving-challenged, small-built people like me.

“I mean, what if you have an accident, do you bury the person with the rickshaw?”

I got his point.

Today I rode an autorickshaw to work. It was no ordinary ride. I was seething with fear and fidgety all the time.

The driver, a minor, hardly, about 12 years of age, had me, and another man with him on the narrow driver’s seat. I didn’t have a place to hold so I was hanging on to his steering rod with one foot on his brake. The road had disintegrated in the rain and there were huge craters in which an auto could sink without a trace.

Four people were already sitting on the back. So that made us seven people.

“Hey, Chotu,” he called out cheerfully to a friend.

“Hey, Motu,” the friend acknowledged and jumped into the auto beside me.

Now we were eight people in the narrow confines of the auto, which for my American friend was too small to seat one person. I couldn’t squirm; I couldn’t breath. Not that I wanted to, because coming up ahead of me was the open public toilet.

Everyday when I pass this area I hold my breath. When I have passed it I shake my head and say thanks to the Lord. It was that dirty, stinking, and what made it more repulsive was the squatting people. The stench was unbearable.

I held my breath and averted my eyes.

Too late!

The auto’s front wheel sank into a hole big enough to accommodate two such autos and with it I lurched to one side. The man beside me, the “Motu” said something like “@#$%^&*” and jumped out just in time so that the auto didn’t keel over.

The boy-driver hung there working on the accelerator. The man on the other side also jumped out and with some help from the “Motu” pushed the auto to safety.

Catastrophe averted! Talk of Indian ingenuity.

Then there were more such holes ahead of us. I hung on to the steering rod and prayed hard. Lord, reach me safely; what have I done to deserve this?

“Why do you seat so many people? There could be an accident.” I asked out of curiosity.

“Saab, nahi tho kamayi kaise hoga? Aap log panch rupayese jyada deneke liye mana karthe hai, na?”

“How will I earn money otherwise? You refuse to give more than Rupees five.”

This is some curious fundamental of Indian economics that had evaded me earlier. I don’t know the basics of economics, so I wouldn’t dare postulate here. At this point let the economists take over. Or, let me give it a try.

By seating eight people in his auto he earned Rupees forty. That is Rupees twenty-five more than he would earn otherwise. By sitting with eight other people I saved myself Rupees ten. Whoa, anyone see the budding economist in me, or the Chotu, auto-driver?

The auto dropped me right in front of my office. This is where we offer economies of scale to western corporations by taking over their routine customer interaction and marketing functions.

As the auto sped away on the deserted road I saw written on the back of it the usual, “HORN OK PLEASE, TATA.”

Then below it was scrawled something that caught my eye, “Shubh, Labh.” “Auspicious, Profit.”

That sure was an eye-opener.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Hurricane Rita....

Hurricane Katrina, Rita…

Saw some pictures of the devastation in the US after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. God, what devastation! Just imagine the most prosperous country in the world going through such humiliation. They have the best resources, the best government machinery, the best executive and legal system, the best business corporations. But to be humbled by a hurricane? Seems impossible doesn’t it?

But Politicians will never learn. While people throughout the world cluck their tongues in genuine sympathy, Johnwriter — the confirmed rebel that he is — thinks otherwise, as is his wont.

Johnwriter is not tired of saying “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, “Kyoto Protocol”, a hundred times if need be to drill into readers’ minds.

Senator Al Gore had vouched for the Kyoto Protocol and if elected President of the US he would have implemented the terms of the protocol that would have cut the dreadful greenhouse gases emission. The protocol intended to reverse the emission of greenhouse gases, say, by five per cent every year. Senator Gore recently vented his ire after the recent hurricanes, I presume, to no avail. Now American should ask George Bush the same question Al Gore has been asking, “Why didn’t you sign the Kyoto Protocol?”

That way Bush will go down in world history as the president who blew it for Americans as well as the world. Or, Bush didn’t push the Kyoto Protocol. To put it simply, blame Bush for Katrina and Rita and the endless Sophias, Valeries, Janes, and Charlottes to follow.

Imagine what would happen if the world heats up as it has been doing. The icecap in the Arctic and Antartic would melt (it has already melted 20 per cent) and with the climatic changes heralded by them many cities would be submerged. Bombay is just one of them. Johnwriter lives in Bombay and has gone through hell the past few weeks, no, months. The wetness and dampness has got his goat.

The enemy isn’t nature. The enemy is our total insensitivity to nature. We have ignored it in our quest for progress out of “greed” and “laziness.” In the past few years the number of American millionaires have doubled. Now, this is serious matter. The number of American millionaires has doubled because a lot of people living in the margins of poverty have been pushed below the poverty level. It is this same poor people who have been affected most by the hurricanes – Rita, Katrina – that have such alluring feminine names.

Now nature has a way of hitting randomly and the pictures are for all of us to see. That is, torn housetops, flooded streets, people waiting in line for food, sick people being rescued, people paddling a boat, etc.

Johnwriter has been accused by many of meandering. Now let him get to the point after all the meandering and waffling. Write this in your hearts and foreheads, “The world is not going to get any better place to live if we keep throwing tons of carbon dioxide and chlorofluoro carbons into the atmosphere every day. The world is heating up and dying.”

So give up living in air-conditioned splendor and stop emitting a lot of hot air and come out and campaign against greenhouse gas emission. Better still, ask George Bush to push the Kyoto Protocol. If you don’t, there wouldn’t be a world worth living in for you, our children, and me.

Of course, this is a rant, and Johnwriter is not afraid of ranting, notwithstanding the raised eyebrows of his critics! More later….

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Dance Bar Saga...

The Dance Bar Saga Continues…

My Friend CP Surendran on the Maharashtra government’s banning of dance bars. He has a very lucid and effortless way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. Quoted below is what he has to say published in the Times of India.

“Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil clearly believes that India, in general and Maharashtra in particular need to be saved from bar girls. It was Jews in Germany a while ago. In Maharashtra now, it’s neither Jew nor Gentile, but bar girls.”
It seems the Maharashtra state government has more than a simple ban on its mind. It has offered a commission of 20 per cent for those reporting such bar girls who – like Tarannum who has been arrested living a lavish life and betting on cricket matches – live a decadent life.

CP, as johnwriter calls him, argues that if the youth goes to these bars and become corrupt, it’s the youth that needs to be banned from going to the bars not the bar girls from earning a living.

For those curious enough, yes, johnwriter has been to a dance bar, when his former NRI bosses took him and the staff on a night out to a nightspot in Andheri. Pucca Yankees, they were used to the nightlife of Miami, New York, Amsterdam, Bangkok and the like. So for them it was the usual thing – a night out with the boys.

What johnwriter saw there defies the imagination, at least, to him. The music was too loud and the strobe lights, too flashy. The majority present weren’t young people as Patil alleges. The majority were old lechers on the wrong side of fifty. There was this multi-millionaire from Bangla Desh who had stripped to his churidars and vest and was dancing and throwing money in the air. Some of them got stuck on the ceiling and some landed in johnwriter’s lap. He sheepishly gave these products of some poor third-world exploited man’s sweat and blood – I mean, exploited by those millionaires dancing on the floor with the bar girls - back to the deserving dancers, who were, the exploited ones.

First of all, the music was so loud that even the mafia don with his screechy underworld lingo would have great difficulty in being understood. Therefore “bhai usko taapka do,” would sound something like, “Bhai, usko duspethi do,” which would mean the opposite. The first phrase means, “Don, kill him,” and the second phrase means, “Don give him ten lakh rupees.” See the difference?

So RR-ji you are misguided when you say the youth is being spoilt, and you have sacrificed the wrong goat. You have even cut off a revenue generating income from your already deficit budget.

The prevailing mood in the government seems to be, “Call somebody a dog and hang him or her.” So it is the turn of bar girls now. Who next?

For more about me visit    

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cultural dictatorship...

Cultural dictatorship… freedom concert… and other matters!

Pritish Nandy in a recent article blasted the Maharashtra State government for not allowing the conducting of the “Freedom Concert” at the Gateway of India, Bombay, India. This concert is a regular feature held previously at the age-old Rang Bhavan.

Now, a law prohibits the playing of loud speakers near colleges and hospitals, and, Rang Bhavan happens to be close to Xaviers College and some hospitals, I don’t know which. Yes, the Cama Abless Hospital, it is. So the venue had to be changed. The obedient organizers changed the venue like errant schoolboys asked to take their music act elsewhere.

The organizer of the concert got the relevant permissions to hold the concert at the Gateway of India. But not all of it. The license or the right to sell tickets according to press reports is given at the nth moment before the event. This they didn’t get, poor chaps.

Now picture this. They went ahead and sold tickets, invited bands to play and did all the, urm, needful. The bands landed in Bombay with tons of equipment. Thousand of rock fans came from all over the country to find that the police had denied the license to sell tickets.

Can you beat that? The excuse being that the Gateway cannot be used for a commercial purpose i.e., selling of tickets. But didn’t they launch a book there? Was it not a commercial event? Or is it to be condoned because the nephew of the political lord of Bombay was the author of the book? Or was it because the “Freedom Concert” didn’t invite some pot-bellied, pan-chewing politician to grace the dais and say a few thousand words? Johnwriter is sure John Lennon wouldn’t approve.

Nandy rightly alleged that this was moral politicking of an extreme nature. Methinksotoo. Aren’t we a free country to enjoy rock music and prefer the type of entertainment we like? If anything needs to be banned ban 24-hour music channels and 24-hour movie channels. (Johnwriter is a big fan of these but confesses they are a big glutton of his time!)

Oh, the intransigence of those in power!

The Maharashtra government seems to have a penchant banning things. Take the dance bar issue. The dance bar ban affected only ‘dance bars’ and did not touch pubs, discos and performances at star hotels, according R. R. Patil, the puny home minister behind these decisions. “Dens of crime,” he says. Why this discrimination? Can the honorable minister vouch that the things happening in dance bars don’t happen in five star discos and star hotels? Can he?

But Johnwriter can read between the lines. Allegations were made that money was in play and that the politicians were allegedly seeking a big pay-off from the bar owners who were allegedly rolling in the stuff. Something is black in the lentils here, for sure (an old Indian saying!).
Now another pet peeve of Johnwriter, the innocent plastic bags. Johnwriter knows they are a nuisance. It litters every street; renders railway lines unsightly and are an eyesore. Myself is pleased to be knowing, kindly sir. But plastic bags were banned not because of environmental concerns. It was banned because they clogged the drains and caused the recent floods in Bombay! Holy ****! That’s news to me. Then why didn’t the mayor of New Orleans, or the Governor of Louisiana ban plastic bags?

Got to go. More later. Watch this space!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Of plastics bags and dance bars!

They banned plastic bags for causing the floods of July. Imagine. What are a few plastic bags when it comes to global warming and the aftermath? I mean, can’t they see that the harmless plastic bag has nothing to do with the flooding?

But the Maharashtra government in a fit of pique banned plastic bags of all things. Floods? Ban harmless plastic bags. They clog the drains. Tell me, which drain and where. Quick solution, forget about the whole thing. Who the **** offered these dumb solutions, I wonder.

Next time a flood occurs they say, “We banned plastic bags didn’t we?” Some very archaic thinking here. Doesn’t reasoning ever figure in their regressive minds? Some high falutin expert with an axe to grind with the plastic industry said it was the plastic bags and they went ahead and banned plastic bags.

So I went to shop with my own whatever micron plastic bag. I thought it would be safe. The bajiwalla looked at me suspiciously at it and said, “No, these are prohibited. A big fine for you and me.” “What should I do then?” “Use paper bags instead.” “But wouldn’t that lead to cutting down of trees. Aren’t plastic bags cheaper?”

Then there was the banning of dance bars. Some logic of spoiling the youth. Youth is more spoilt by music television and 24-hour movie channels more than dance bars. Here also some very twisted reasoning applies. Some hearsay, ill-informed and village panchayat kind of thinking. Hack out a simple solutions to problems that need to be thrashed about and discussed. But that is not the wont of our khadi-wearing politicians whose intellect is that of small villagers tending to their rice, or, bajri, or, tapioca fields (I know, I can see Kolhapuri chappals flying in my direction for saying this).

Come on. Why ban bars and kill the Bollywood dreams of so many nymphets. They all came here thinking they would be stars. Most of them have dependents that have got used to the idea of a steady income. Why cut it short so abruptly. Give them a life; or, better, get them a life, if you can’t do that.

I am not saying here that all dance bars are good. But to everyone their own. Foreigners used to the nightlife of Bangkok, Amsterdam, New York, etc. go to these dance bars to see some exotica. And those girls wear more than our Bollywood item dancers. So why beat them with these fatwa kind of laws?

Don’t know if the government will learn. Not, at least, Maharashtra’s sons-of-the-soil kind of politicians.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Who is responsible for Bombay and New Orleans?

Now there is damning evidence why hurricanes (New Orleans) and floods (Bombay) happen.

An article states, "Global warming began in the 20th century with the modern industrial age. 21st century continuation of this warming trend will result in melting glaciers and arctic ice sheets, which will cause rising sea-levels to inundate coastal areas. Cities as London, Shanghai, Bombay and New York can expect major flooding. Global warming also changes weather patterns, increased risks of droughts and hurricanes, and many health problems. The arctic ice sheet has shrunk 20% since 1979."

The Kyoto Protocol set binding targets for countries to reduce greenhouse gases emission within seven years to five per cent below 1990 levels. If enacted countries would have had to cut down on emission and used more renewable sources of energy like solar and other forms.

The US which contributes 25 per cent to greenhouse gas emission had initially agreed to sign the Kyoto Protocol. But later George Bush refused to sign it stating that it would cause major unemployment in the US. To quote the above article, "Lately, the White House has even questioned the validity of the science behind global warming, and claims that millions of jobs will be lost if the US joins in this world pact."

Though India has signed the Protocol the power that drives governance in Delhi, "maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time," as reported in Wikipedia. Therefore it is exempt from the framework of the treaty.

So who is responsible for Hurricane Katrina and the Bombay Deluge? Without the support of the US the Kyoto Protocol is as good as dead. And if India continues to play truant expect more deluges like the ones we recently had in Bombay.

Why am I going on and on about the Kyoto Protocol?

This is one chance in a lifetime of humanity to clean up the environment that has fed and nurtured it and its forebearers. If this opportunity is lost then there is no looking back. Make sure you live on a hill (then you aren't protected from landslides), stock your house with provisions for a month (still you don't know when the deluge will end), and buy a boat to get you to safety when the rains don't stop!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Deluge and other things!

I wrote this article a year ago and people sneered, "What is John talking about?"

Read it to understand what the rains have done to Bombay and New Orleans. Unprecedented floods are a result of the heating of the atmosphere and consequently of the ocean and this in turn "alters storm tracks and creates unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world."

Hmmm, more grist for the green brigade!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

This is Artist Village (the place I live) dam's floodgates during the recent deluge.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Lavender Garden

If I had a choice this is where I would like to be... now... right now!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's real name is "Global Warming"

This article argues quite convincingly that Katrina's real name is "Global Warming."

Also scientists feel the cause of the floods on Bombay was global warming. As the atmosphere heats up droughts, rains, and storms will become more intense. Unless, that is, wiser counsel prevails and we cut down on CFC emission, burning of fossil fuels, and automobile emission.

Hurricane Katrina has wreaked havoc in New Orleans. Looters are systematically stripping department stores of computers, televisions, food, jewelry and anything they can lay their hands on.

The police are not intervening. They even joined the looters according to this article.

At least in Bombay during the downpour the citizens and the police didn't resort to looting.

What is this world coming to, eh?