Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fellow Blogger and Writer Shobhaa De is Sixty

The irresistible Shobhaa De is "sath saal ke" meaning "of sixty years." Says who? Says this blog post. Can't believe it though.

This unique irresistible, irrepressible, irreverent writer, model (I remember Shikakai shampoo and soap cover with her face), mother (of beautiful girls), can't believe she is sixty and loving and living it. I grew up on her writing. In my growing years an uncle would bring Stardust – which he got as a complimentary copy – and I would devour every word she wrote. Then I would read Society magazine she launched. The chatty irreverence I liked. She could be bitchy, maudlin, sympathetic, iconoclastic at the same time, catching you quite unawares.

When I met her – no, not at a book signing event – I was blown away by her charm that oozed like sap from a rubber tree, which is to say, so easily. The abovementioned blog post celebrates her sixty years and here's wishing her all the very best for the future.

When I persistently approached her to promote my novels, she wrote back politely admiring my persistence and told me to keep writing. I guess that was the best advice a writer has given me, so far in my bumbling writing life. Oh, never mind. I will keep following her advice though.

Must say, I am sad as the years are passing by, and was wondering if I would still be healthy and active – if not wholly successful – in my later years. The fifties, which I just entered three years ago does that to people, you see. But reading her I believe all the good days are ahead of me. Feisty lady has shown that to me, I promise.

There's so much to do, so much to write, so much to see, I can't wait. So I will stop here forthwith.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

People Who Believe in Tolerance, Peace, Amity and Brotherhood, Speak Up!

It's that fateful day tomorrow when the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad court decides on a crucial verdict on the Babri Masjid. Here's our opportunity to show we are a caring people, a caring nation, a culture of tolerant people. Show the world that what they heard about the graft and unpreparedness of the Commonwealth Games is not true. Make them believe that we have forgiven all our brothers who have erred – whatever be their errant ways and deeds. Let's show them that India is not made of wretchedness and poverty but made of nobility and strength. Show them that we are one in diversity and we are a nation of right thinking people.

I know we are all these people. In the train this morning I saw how – in spite of being cooped up like sardines – a youth offered me a seat. I saw how my co-passengers saw I was uncomfortable holding my bag while standing and offered to place it on the rack for me. I saw how people would help a man board a train when there is a fear of his falling down. I have seen people put a brave face in this great country to reinforce all that is great about our land. They never asked my religion when they helped me.

Will we throw it all away tomorrow? It's time for people who believe in tolerance, peace, amity and brotherhood to speak up. So speak up.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Arundhati Roy on the Rise of Corporatisation and Militarisation

Saw this video of Arundhati Roy speaking in a programme called "Fault Lines" in Mexico. Must say I haven't heard or seen such a concise expression of the situation in India all expressed with openness and fearlessness. Makes me wonder what's wrong with us all as a people. What exactly is wrong? We have all kept quiet through genocides, invasions, colonialism without saying much against the bigger powers who have subjugated us. Nowadays, the big corporations have us under their demand-driven marketing focus. We are being corporatised like never before. The papers are full of it, the television is full of it and the young people are being tutored that "greed for money" is good and one must be wealthy at all costs. We are being bombarded by man's greed for money. Is it any surprise that the activity of sports is being misused for making money as the Cricket and Commonwealth corruption fiascos have shown.

Just as an aside: I remember a time when on my visit to the American Centre library I would see that all the good books were booked by people who actually read them. There were (then) people who read, wrote letters, improved themselves and thought themselves as good human beings. Nowadays I can walk into the American Centre library and walk out with any book I want because there are no readers. Mighty tomes -- which I may call classics -- are sitting there unread. Can you believe it?

We have become narrow-minded and selfish, we have lost our will to make this world a better place. Here's my song on Freedom (if you like song and poetry, that is) which is written for a younger generation who don't realise how free they are and how free we weren't when we were children.

Hm. Enough digression. Dinner awaits.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Slum as a Gift?

Who would give his wife a slum colony as a birthday gift? Well it has been done, by our own inimitable poet and screenplay writer.

While I would defend slum-livers as the people we forgot in our race towards super-power-dom what would make anyone glamorise and thus sensationalise a slum? Kinky as it might sound to me, I think of it as going a bit too far. Not that the pair hasn’t been known to be off the beaten track. Well, sort of.

Slums are the curses of humankind. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. No, not even a visit. I have visited and passed through some of the worst. Many people praise it as a unique eco-system, a novel community, an experiment in urban living and such like. They want to be different, they want to glamorise it. But have they been inside a place which is accessed by a narrow strip through which only one man can pass, that too if he bent his head, where sewage runs in open runnels and into putrid gutters emitting the stench of a thousand bodies? It is also where criminals rule the roost and brazenly intimidate innocent people.

Years ago a peon in the office asked me for leave to go home. I asked what happened. He replied his aunt has been murdered in a quarrel at the water tap. He lived in Dharavi, one of the most fearsome slum in the world. Killings are an everyday affair here. It isn’t funny or glamorous for the people who live there. It’s actually the worst kind of life.

And a rich and successful artiste glamorising a slum by gifting his wife one is somehow lessening its gravity, lessening the very work they are doing to improve the lives of people living in them.

China has the worst slums, I am told. Brazil too has the worst. India has the very worst among them, I have been informed. Yet they call India, China and Brazil as the fastest growing economies in the world. Perhaps they should ask why?

These countries are taking away the wealth of the poor, giving it to the rich and then unceremoniously pushing the wretches into slums. I had blogged about the increasing wealth in the hands of the wealthy in this post. The number of millionaires in the U.S., India, China and Brazil has doubled and as for the poor nobody asks whether the poor are poorer.

Fact is the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. We say they are poor because they didn’t exercise their choices. The problem is they didn’t know the choices that were offered to them and like fools they got carried away by false promises which never materialised. They got carried away by the promise of jobs, food, water, electricity, roads and healthcare. Yet all these sectors are in shambles today.

Success can make people derisive. I have a sneaking suspicion that the gift was a way of disapproving what the wife was doing, not approving it. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On a Sunday a Few Observations and Generalisations

And on a Sunday a few generalisations, observations, likes, dislikes and jaundiced point of views. Ah, sorry, a few Johnisms, too!

Do you know why the army was called to build a bridge for the Commonwealth Games? I don't know either. If the army is called on to do everything the politicians and their cohorts have mucked up then we are in serious trouble: Kashmir, Veerappan (I mean the bandit, not the "oily" politico), Naxals, and now the Commonwealth Games. Just my jaundiced point of view.

A friend talks of Jugad and the Indians' propensity for muddling through. When we add the Jugad (which means in my humble opinion: last minute edge-of-the-cliff remedying of a situation) of Bombay roads, to the Jugad of the financial institutions, to the Jugad of corruption, to the Jugad of education, then this country is a big Jugad. Eat your hearts out.

Heard a minister appointed a man to a public sector and asked him to tighten up the system. The poor man thought he was supposed to bringing honesty and transparency, but was expected to do the opposite. He got sacked.

Why wasn't the so-and-so minister sacked for the Commonwealth fiasco (or, is it scam?)? Guess all ministers would have to be sacked if the systemic corruption they rule over were exposed. Who will rule the country then?

Yesterday when seeing Wall Street II at the Sterling I watched and squirmed as Gordon Gekko – who said "Greed is good" in Wall Street I – revised his words to "Greed is legal," and then to "Unethical isn't illegal." Go ahead try and make sense of these disparate things. I tried. I can't. I guess Gekko knows he went to prison for thinking along these lines.

Speaking of Wall Street II the young hero's (sorry, forget his name) girlfriend (sorry, forgot her name too), who is also Gekko's daughter wants to give to charity but our hero wants her to invest in an alternative energy company. Shows "Greed is good" and it's even perfectly legal.

Guess Bill Gates who became rich by writing an Operating System for IBM's personal computers got so egomaniacal with all the wealth he received that he has outsourced most of the work to Indian companies. The subsequent mess has me all foxed trying to make out each version of Word and Excel they release. (The new Word has no "Help", no "Edit", no "File" how do I make sense of this software?) None of them seem congruent with their earlier versions. Why? Because they are written by different companies and different teams who have no contact with each other. They owe us nothing and we are expected to pay them money. Is this ethical and legal? Is this Moral Hazard? I would like to ask Gekko.

But that may be my jaundiced point of view.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saw Wall Street - The New One

Saw “Wall Street” today, being as I am a big fan of the first movie. Saw it at Sterling on Murzban Road. Sterling is as beautiful as ever. I even remember some of the ushers, still the same faces, though the theatre has been done up to look different with a Subway outlet in the foyer.

Funny scene happens when the character played by Charlie Sheen in the earlier Wall Street meets Gordon Gekko at a party. Sheen – he has made a fortune that cocky guy who punches Gekko – looks all drained out while Michael Douglas looks as handsome as ever, though a bit older and wrinkled. Am a big fan of his since the movie “Coma” which is the first one of his movies I have seen. Gone is the cockiness and the panache, but he is still a competent actor.

WS I was a straight story told in a linear narrative. But this has the plot of a Hindi movie with the pregnant daughter and her wall street broker fiancĂ© and the plot a becoming a little complicated around that bit of complexity. The pace is fast, the acting is slick, the production is full of these “special effect” camera work which leaves one dazed and engrossed.

Gekko is asked “What is moral hazard?” by a woman who wants to buy his book, and he says, “ Moral hazard is when someone takes your money and is not responsible for it.” The earlier post on this blog on the Commonwealth fiasco came to mind suddenly. Are we morally hazardous? Food for thought.

There are several such dialogues that could be a match for our Bollywood fare, see it to relish them. Among them “a fisherman recognises another fisherman," close to my Bollywood heart than ever.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Commonwealth Games. Whose Commonwealth?

I am a bit vexed and chagrined by all the hullabaloo surrounding the Commonwealth Games. So, whose commonwealth is it? God, how insensitive and callous people can be? They have embezzled money and now disown any responsibility. Their silence shows their guilt. Is it commonwealth of the people of India? Certainly not, by the way things are going. The hypocrisy of our political class has come out once again to the fore. It has resulted in our being ridiculed in the foreign media instead of paeans being sung.

When the shit hit the punkah, I felt so relieved that, at least, we have a press that is partially free. (I mean except for the advertorials [advertisements masking as editorials] the press is free and our journalists are professionals with high standards of integrity. A few bad apples don't make cider, you see.

First of all, the powers in Delhi want to make a huge impact on the world by holding the Commonwealth Games. That we are ready for conducting the Olympics and that we are making a lot of progress, we are the back office of the world, we have the largest number of engineers, we are an emerging super power, and our boys can outspell, outcalculate, outmanage anybody. But then shit is a lump of shit, whatever way you try to beautify it. This shit of corruption must go, no doubt about it.

Now, the situation is such that nothing they can do can remedy the situation. Anything they say or declare is ridiculed and exposed by the press. What have we done to deserve such a political class that is rife with corruption?

The following is the biggest gaffe of all, unforgivable by all Indians anywhere because it accuses us of being dirty, of the habit of dirtying toilets, soiling beds and most inexcusable of all using Rs-4000 toilet rolls to clean our behinds. I read today that the workers building the stadiums and the roads aren't earning a month even the cost of one toilet roll these people embezzled. They are paid a measly Rs 80 to Rs 120 a day!

Here's the first in a line of foot in the mouth quotes from the people organizing the Games:

"Everyone has different standards about cleanliness. The Westerners have different standards, we have different standards," said Lalit Bhanot, the Delhi Games' spokesman. People, we must give this man his due. Actually he was saying that Indians have a higher standard of hygiene because we use those lovely, hand-embroidered, gold-coated, Rs-4000 a piece toilet rolls. Really!

Here's the second installment of the foot in the mouth (anything they can be held against them):

When a bridge collapsed a worthy said that the bridge was not meant for competitors in the Games but for the general public. Meaning? Am a bit slow but am not that slow to gauge the meaning here. This again is a big affectation of the foot in the mouth, which besides low hygiene level is turning out to be a standard Indian characteristic.

Poor, poor, IOC, or, whoever planned the grandiose Commonwealth Games. Like friend Anthonybhai is fond of saying, "What-what they planned, men, and what-what it turned out to be."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Silly Accident – an Excoriation

I was careless. I guess it would end years of precarious existence as a sort of acrobat jumping into running trains, descending from locomotives which are still in motion, and so on and so forth. See, I didn't realise trains are metal monsters that don't have much of a soft mushy heart. It does its job without the soft flesh and a billion dreams it carries back and forth. (Six million people travel in Bombay trains and I guess if each has 116 dreams that would be a billion dreams. Remember, Bombay is a city of dreams, sour or not, I don't know.) I guess it had to end someday and I made a firm resolve after the incident a few hours ago. There's no way this could go on forever, seeing that age is also catching up, hm? One of the things about growing old is you keep thinking you are still young until the mirror in the bathroom – while shaving – reminds you that you aren't. That's why I shave every day.

Tired after a day's back-breaking work I badly need my perch inside the train to read a book on the way back home. So usually I jump into the train before it stops to get in before the crowd does. I guess it improves my chances if I do this act, which is of finding a seat in the bone-crunching rush hours, which runs well up to 10 p.m. in Bombay. No way I could wait till that time, this blog waits for its master to be home soon to write.

So, today I jumped, and then there was this hulk of a man with a big bag who dashed against me as I jumped and... I lost my balance. I swivelled on the bar I held on to, almost sliding down to sitting level. My leg grazed against the steel bar and I lost an acre of skin (sorry, exaggerating! But I lost enough of integument to be concerned.). I somehow gathered myself and got a seat, too, to rather sheepishly observe myself being observed by tut-tutting co-passengers who had pushed me in the first place.

So I promise to this blog that I won't be careless henceforth and heretofore. I would rather stand and read that all important novel even if my leg buckles under me. It takes that all important accident to change one, make one better. What if it is drastic and excoriating!?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Ganesha’s Final Day

The colour, the pageantry, the music, the dancing is memorable. Saw the elephant-headed god on its way to immersion, today being the last day of Ganapati's ten day visit to homes. I stood transfixed as people danced on the streets their hair and clothes smeared with coloured powder, uninhibited, totally lost in their devotion. Some had bandanas tied on their heads, some were imitating their favourite star's dance moves, some were just swaying with their hands raised above their heads. All in all, a carnival atmosphere prevailed over the streets.

Hope Ganesha brings lots of blessing to his devotees.

There's something primal and atavistic about religious worship. Man needs to worship with fervour to bring out his feelings of elation and joy, which itself is a primal and primary need. It takes various forms: chanting, singing, dancing, etc.

With this begins India's festival season heralded by a break in the continuous rain we saw in the past few months. The day was brilliantly beautiful today. The clouds have cleared to let the sun in. What better than a sunny day for the God of obstacle removal to be immersed. May he herald a time of peace.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Rant, in the Fitness of Things

It's interesting to note how powerful people use their power for their own personal ends. The politician does it to gather more money, the businessman does it to be a leading figure in the industry and for market share, the film star does it to get more admirers, and the shrew uses it to further its agenda. Yeah. Was victim of such a stick recently and am still smarting, sort of, brain is addled so much I can't think straight, yeah, think straight, I can't. Can't mention specifics but suffice to say that it hurts and hurts real bad. I flew into a rage, then calmed down seeing as I was getting nowhere. Raging doesn't seem to help when grinning and bearing is the better alternative, does it? So grin and bear. But is that decreasing my resolve to be where I want to be? My goals, do they end here. No. I am stronger than ever in mind and in body. Perhaps a little wiser. Wisdom doesn't end with age it goes even further. The more wiser you are you tend to be better than the adversary.

The so a much looked forward to break is not to be. Ah, hm, er, what to say? Eh? If you are wondering what this rant is all about, will disclose it at a later date. It's too premature now. It's stupid. Sort of too personal, so suffer I must the constricting mindscape of tremulous hands and trembling lips and what more? Nothing. It seeps in stealthily, it leaves one in jitters. But there's a way of turning it into something, may be a rage so concentrated and focussed the enemy is rendered speechless and immobile.

Lost my head at something trivial. Saw today on Fox Television how we are f***ing up the earth and contributing to the warming, raining, melting, and ultimate Armageddon. But we don't seem to care. Sigh! Why should I. The world goes on merrily as if winning a drug addict's and wife beater's hand in marriage is the greatest show on television. Also the wedding of one good-for-nothing lass whose rubber mouth one would like to smack with the back of one's hand. Sorry, readers, just blame it on the bad mood. Grumph.

Colleague says George Bush said, "We shouldn't plan for the next quarter, we should plan for the next generation." If he said that he is a very wise man. But I have my doubts. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nothing: Vapidity: Vagabond Wanderings and Wonderings!

What should I write? What should I blog? Nothing comes to mind. The mind goes blank like the grey that the sky appears above hulking buildings in these days of the deluge – continuous, contiguous, unceasing. Somebody tell the rain to stop or it will overstep the limits of my patience. There are tensions that build up at the work place, where simple things snowball into complicated things and simple things not done boomerang on one sometimes. Won’t talk in specific terms but it never used to be like this.

Consider for example when I started working. Consider that ubiquitous instrument: the telephone. The only telephone I had was in the office, therefore I could only call up someone after 10 a.m. It was one with a rotating dial, I don’t know if any of the present generation has seen a telephone with a rotating dial which goes: krrrrrrrtackack, krrrtackack, krrrrtackack, each time you dial a number and when you release your finger after banging it against s metal holder. Then would start an annoying tic, tic, tic, tic, tic at the local exchange till it turned to puck, puck, puck, puck at the other end of the telephone exchange. Then, if you are lucky, after an interminable wait one could hear the shrill ringing sound and a tinny voice at the other end.

These days, well, these days business is done on cell phones. Clients, suppliers, ad agencies, and sundry tuppence media don’t think twice about waking you up from sleep to ask stupid questions. One such agency woke me up one night to ask if it’s okay to change the font size on a certain collateral we were doing, so that the copy would fit. What? That could have been asked in the morning, couldn’t it? I asked bleary eyed and unable to grasp the situation.

“The problem is we are in the office, still figuring out how to do it.”

“God home men. What are you doing so late? I am half asleep here.”

“We are an agency, our customer satisfaction paradigm starts steady appreciation when you people go to bed. So we have no alternative but to wake you up. Get customers all conscious of how hard we work.”

“Oh yeah, is that what we pay you for?”

“Excuse me sir, pardon our impertinence, but do you want the collateral in A4 size of 20 centimetres across and 20 centimetres in height.”

“You take your centimetres and your collateral and shove it, you paedophile half twit with a double chin.”

But I didn’t say as much. Couldn’t insult geniuses who work in the night you know.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Few Views and Generalisations for the Week

Well, another Sunday and some points of views and some generalisations to sum up the week that was. All gyan, which transmogrified into chan when it went to China and zen when it landed on Japanese shores.

Sarah wrote this comment on my post on Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer,"

This was my favorite book when I was 16. I understood that you needed to know all of the best spots to piss in Paris outdoors... even if you were becoming a lady and they were all knocked down and destroyed. The sound! who else would talk about how glorious it could sound to piss on aluminium. Man lived with all senses out, but, ah, sadly cannot read him in the same way any longer.

Thanks Sarah. Yeah, Miller did turn around the way novels were perceived. I am glad he got his due before his death though "Tropic of Cancer" was banned in the U.S. for many years.

I don't understand all this talk about if they want an airport to come up in New Bombay near where I live. Either have it with adequate protection of the environment or don't. Pray, why keep it hanging thus. Irony is there are two airports coming up near the places I have homes in: One is Belapur in New Bombay the other in Kidangannoor in Kerala where they are building an international airport near where I have a home. Double blessing or double trouble, I don't know. Let fate decide. One thing is certain a journey that took three days when I was a boy would take three hours five years down the line.

Call it progress or whatever, the traffic situation in Bombay isn't improving. The authorities took several taxis off the roads because of roadworthiness and mundane stuff like that, but traffic is still choking the hell out of the city. It takes too long to get from point A to point B. Last week when it rained I stood for half-an-hour in the rain for a taxi outside the bustling V.T. station. Imagine me with my Hush Puppy shoes full of water standing under a flimsy umbrella. Get the picture? Oh, forget it.

Ronnie returned from the market without bananas one night last week. He said the luscious fruit isn't anywhere in the market though he searched for it in every subzi-mandi (meaning, market) in Belapur. I hear that fruits and vegetables are rotting in villages in the interiors. What is callous if this isn't? Grain is rotting, fruits and vegetables are rotting and what's the honourable minister for agriculture doing? Playing the violin?

God please give me the serenity to accept this rain though I can't keep it from falling. It's been too hard and fast and furious. Such rain makes me think of apocalypse and I am not yet ready for that.

Rehearsed for the TEDxMEC talk in Cochin. The talk comes to a little more than 18 minutes which is their standard talk time. Will have to prune it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Salesman’s Spiel – Are Writers Salesmen?

This is the age of instant gratification, instant results. A salesman visited me today and gave me his sales spiel in what could only happen in India. He was a pleasant guy but the way he talked set me on the edge, wanting to throw him out of the office before he had done any damage. I guess he is a product of the age. Can’t help himself. These days communication is squeezed out, forced, edgy and battered. You open your mouth and anything that comes out is conversation. That’s it, accept it, reject it, what does it matter? Eh?

He is pushing a cell phone carrier’s special offer to only 200 preferred customers, one of which is I.

“This too good offer sir. Only for 200 customers today like you. You get 300 Rupees free talk time, plus 300 Rupees of free SMS. All for Rs 450 sir.”

But, but, (I use a lot of “buts”) he somehow turned me off. I would have liked to go for it. But (see) somehow his anxiety, the pressure of work, the change in habit, everything worked against him. He was letting me know that he was nervous.

“Besides, sir, we give you a free gift. An MP3 player, an LCD television if you change now. Your scratch a card and you will get a gift, you get a gift anyway. You won’t regret it, sir.”

Without asking me he whipped out his registration form and started filling it up. He must have heard my jaws drop because then he started his harangue again.

“Sir, you will not regret it sir, ever. Please sign up sir.”

How to make him understand? I found it awkward to sit there before him and reject him. But rejection is a part of every salesman’s life, of writer’s life, too, I might add. Writers sell their writing and salesmen their products. What’s the difference? Eh? They have their targets; they have their pressure to handle. But when the pressure spills over, it irritates. We have to handle our pressures internally. That’s what salesmen and writers do. In fact, all creative people do. Do not underestimate it. We live a pressure cooker life. Anything could blow up at any time.

Says my friend Dhansukhbhai Jethalal Shah, a billionaire by his own admission, “the pressure, ne, is so great I can’t sleep. I take big, big, risk, ne, therefore, pressure too much. I find myself dozing on my desk, ne, this pressure, ne, too much!” Before he can pressure me into buying his ghost-written, self-published novel (yes he has ghost-written a novel) I escape.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Finished Reading “Tropic of Cancer”

Finished reading Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," and how I wish I had read it earlier. The good and acclaimed writers should be read preferably in ones youth and I lament the fact that I didn't have access to good books in my rather misspent days of ignorance and innocence. Oh! how I rue the callousness of those days. Coming back to the book, it's such a compelling work that I have started reading it again. Have to. Couldn't avoid it. The way he expresses himself, so controlled and unassuming, exposing the very depth of his thinking, his very thought process, gushing out in a torrent of exquisite prose, inspiring, challenging, daring one to dream, etc. etc. What more can I say? I was taken in by the whooshing play of words, some of which went well above my head, knowing as I do, very little of the Latin and other classic. One bows in awe and respect to a great master.

As Miller says in the preamble, "This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art... I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse...."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Are Our Leaders beyond Reproach?

Heard this on the streets while walking to V.T. on the way back from work. The walk involves crossing two maidans, or grounds, and I like to listen to what people are talking. In the evening the steady stream of people makes one think of a big fair that is going on around the Azad Maidan area. There’s a colourful array of bags, knick-knacks, rings, necklaces, boiled grams, and such like on display.

Anyway, what I heard is this said in Marathi:

“Laaj vatath nahi, ithka mota mansala shivi dyayala.”

“Aren’t you ashamed to curse a big man like that?”

Ho hum! What’s this? Have I heard it right? I would like to think that freedoms exist somewhere in the country, some remote godforsaken corner. But it exists. Freedom of expression, I mean. Or, has the equivalent of the American First Amendment gone out of the constitution of America’s biggest follower – the Sovereign Republic of India?

I have read in some misplaced epoch in my life that big men should not be beyond surveillance and censure when they stray from their duties. But are our representatives blemish-less and pure? Now there hangs a big question mark over this question. A sort of double question mark. 

In India we consider our leaders as beyond reproach, truth be told.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bought Myself a Cute Little Notebook

Bought a cute little looker of a notebook computer today. The old lady (on which I am typing [rather, caressing] this) seemed too trustworthy and faithful to be exchanged or sold. She is too useful. So she stays in addition to the cutesy little charmer who now sits beside old and faithful preening and posturing. They have this conversation going, something as follows:

“Chudail, kameeni, how dare you take my place on my master’s table.”

“You, hag, you have outlived your usefulness. It’s time you retired.”

“No way. You go away. My master knows my every key. He knows them by heart. He can even press my keys in the dark. He is that familiar with me. With you, he will have to learn a lot. He is not a good learner, you will see.”

Mimicking. “Yeah, yeah. I am faster, I am sleeker, I have a camera, a mike, a Wi-Fi (meaning, widely faithless), a blue wisdom tooth. None of which you have. You, old and creaky woman!”

“I have the trust of my master. I have never let him down. Er... except once.”

Yeah, the old lady nearly conked off once. Had to be resuscitated. From then she has been going strong. When I lugged her to Reliance Digital for an “exchange offer” I became all sentimental and mushy. Oh! How could I do this? She seemed cross, too, unwilling. She wouldn’t slide easily into the black bag, she threw me a glance of reproach when I unveiled her to the greedy salesman. There she sat, dusty, wrinkles showing, stained in places, used and resigned to her fate.

“How much will I get for her,” I ask the slavering idiot of a salesman, hunkering over her.

“Rupees two thousand.”

“What?” I then added, “Are you mad?”

“No, sir,” the drooler said, eager to sell his soul and make that important sale.

“You have the guts to offer that price for my beautiful lady? You know what she means to me.”

The twit, the tyke, the twig with a rat-like face, the tweedledum tweedledee said in his best seductive voice, “No sir. Be kind enough to enlighten me.”

I looked at his retarded face, shoved him with all my might, making him lose his balance and heaved my dearest on my shoulders and left.

Now as she looks woebegone at me as I punch her keys, composing this blog post, she says to the young charmer beside her, “See he likes me more than you. Eat your heart and soul out.”

True I love my old laptop computer too much to give her away. How could I even think of doing that? Hm? Let the cute one preen and posture. What do I care.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It’s Raj Kapoor and not Charlie Chaplin, Silly!

The poor sod didn't know Raj Kapoor. Rarely, as I do these days, I watched Channel V where a guy was serenading a girl dressed in the costume made famous by Raj Kapoor on "Awara" (Gals and guys who don't know who Raj Kapoor is and what "Awara" means please to be referring this article on Wikipedia.). The girl was asked to identify the character, meaning the actor and she kept saying "Charlie Chaplin."

Of course Charlie Chaplin also played the tramp. But Raj Kapoor had what is called a "hairline" moustache and Chaplin had what is called a "Toothbrush" moustache. And I don't know if Chaplin folded his trousers at the bottom, but Kapoor did. There were many other differences, but not many come to mind in this mind tired of the toils of daily living. But then who am I to set right cinematic history? Who cares for history in this hip grinding, pelvis thrusting, bone-crushing, movements of the silver screen on which the master showman and thespian once ruled. Who remembers when his own, his very own, have stopped being proud of him.

The generation of today don't know who Raj Kapoor is, but they know who Chaplin is. Gah! Absolute disgrace to an icon of Indian cinema.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Julio Iglesias and Enrique Iglesias - the Contrasts

I was watching a video of Enrique Iglesias with my son and what I saw made a somewhat profound impact on me. Impact meaning one contrast and one of driving home the difference between Enrique and his father Julio of whose music too I am a great fan (remember Guantanamera, Tango, The Little Drummer Boy, etc.). There were many songs, very hummable and melodic, exact wordings of some of which I couldn’t find online. Never mind.

I don’t know if it is a generational thing. There I am sitting with my son, and I am impressed by the showmanship, pyrotechnics, the laser lights, the wild gyrations, the sexy stances, the taking of pictures of his own crotch with a viewer’s camera, etc. But, I couldn’t but help wonder at the difference between father and son – Julio and Enrique (Julio’s son from his first marriage to Filpina Isabel Preysler.). He was like, like, hyper. I mean hyper as in hyper active. Whereas Julio was know for melodious and staid performances in a suit – at times in a bow tie – his son wears jeans and tee-shirt and jumps around the stage unmindful of the way he looks, sweat dripping from his face. The performance is all manufactured with lights, wee lights held in hand to be waved (what do they call them?), such like.

I guess it’s a generational thing. I bridged that generation, as I wear a suit sometimes and a tee-shirt when the occasion demands, but I didn’t quite know how to place that performance. May be the kids these days are wild and uninhibited like Enrique and want to enjoy themselves, whatever be the consequence. Those days we had to buy a cassette to listen to a singer or listen to it on the radio channel (AM not FM). These days music and videos are available on the net, it's all around, people are listening on trains, in cars, and, most disturbingly, while working in offices. Songs aren't bought they are downloaded. Literally anything is available for download on Isn't there somewhere we have to draw a line between legitimacy and piracy? Or, okay, okay, I am growing old. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Horrid Facts of Student Suicides

Just now, this evening when the rain has let up a leeetle bit (isolated splashes of wetness, like a tap running dry and the last drops trickling out), I was researching something for my TEDxMEC, Cochin, talk. I came across the gargantuan fact of student suicides in India which may even put back my concerns of farmer suicides. According to this article:

2006: 6000 (approx.) students committed suicide in India
2007: 7000 (approx.) students committed suicide in India

The data is frightening, if not cause for concern, at least, to me. I don’t have data for other years, nor can I hope to find it. But I am sure it is a growing menace. The amount of pressure we heap on our children is tremendous. I can imagine parents sitting everyday in front of their children with a cane repeating monotonously: “Study, study, study, or you will be a failure.” I know of instances where parents punish children unnecessarily for low grades and even go to the extent of being deliberately cruel.

This is wrong and must stop. Don' t you think?

In passing I must mention that my son Ronnie has just passed his B.E. (computer science) final examination with a first class. I have tried (in my humblest of opinions) to be a model parent at every stage of his education helping whenever I can by providing for extra tuitions when he asked for it (I know education in his college is not up to the mark). Whatever I have promised him, I have done for him. I realised that I shouldn’t spoil his childhood by being harsh like mine has been. (Well, that’s another point to elaborate in my autobiography, if written, if published. Ha!) I never rebuked him for watching television or surfing the net even during his exams. I am proud of this fact. No idle boast. He has had good friends. I guess all children are responsible, even more responsible than we think they are and we must let them be and make them aware of their responsibilities. Then the world would be a good place, really.

So if any parent is reading this please, desist from putting undue pressure on your children. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Postcard of a Hanging

I got this from John Baker's blog under the above title. I was momentarily shocked when I saw the picture (see for yourself), the grim faces, the glazed looks, the bloody vulgarity, the butchery. Shocking! The blogpost goes thus:

"On the 15th June 1920, three black circus workers were attacked and lynched by a mob in Duluth, Minnesota. Rumors that six African Americans had raped a teenage girl gave rise to a mob of five to ten thousand locals.

"The circus workers were snatched from the police station and hung from their necks on a corner of the street. Pictures were taken and a postcard offered for sale."

What's more flabbergasting is that they made a postcard (with picture) of the incident and circulated it. Can anything be more bestial and degrading?

Later Bob Dylan wrote Desolation Row based on the incident which happened in his hometown 20 years before his birth. The song goes thus:

Desolation Row

They're selling postcards of the hanging

They're painting the passports brown

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors

The circus is in town

Here comes the blind commissioner

They've got him in a trance

One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker

The other is in his pants

And the riot squad they're restless

They need somewhere to go

As Lady and I look out tonight

From Desolation Row

It also states that a physical examination of the girl showed that she wasn't raped. A case of mob hysteria based on unconfirmed facts. Something like what happened in Gujarat?

Online Train Ticket Booking Woes – A Rant

Have you tried booking tickets online? I want to book a ticket to Ernakulam for my TED talk and it's excruciating how is denying me the pleasure. I fill in the station names and I get "Station not reachable" though I know the train touches Ernakulam Junction. Then after some time comes the irritating "Web Page Not Available" and after some time "Service Not Available." All these are new ways of saying the website is badly designed and maintained.

I heard they had revamped the website recently. I admire the sheer grit and gumption they have to put it online without testing it first for bugs. The website is full of bugs. I know because I have designed websites.

Hm. I am tearing my hair early in the morning out of frustration.

Okay, okay, I pause, once again refresh the page, hoping against hope the page has changed. Oh, misery, it's again "Station not reachable."

A “We Don’t Care Nation”

Had whatchamacallit, a moment of epiphany, today as I was in a discussion with a friend in train about the days when we enjoyed our commute sitting. I noted how our commute (I am a veteran commuter of 30 years) had become unbearable over the past five years and we have to stand practically for one hour it takes to reach our work place. It struck me that the irony of our nation is that it is what may be called a “We Don’t Care Nation” in more ways than one. Consider the following:

Our infrastructure is the poorest I have seen in the countries I have been to. In villages there isn’t any infrastructure to speak about. I mean, you see mounds of garbage and plastic in every village one passes through and people don’t care to even complaint of this stinking mess.

Consider that everyone knows that the political and bureaucratic hierarchy is corrupt but no one has the guts to do anything. Enquiries and commissions have come and gone but haven’t made a dent on the corruption that is so obvious in Indian public life. Politicians and the business class amass considerable wealth but nobody seems to care. Add to this the financial sector – banks, mutual funds, hedge funds, arbitrages, stock markets – the picture is a bewildering maze of corruption. What seems “is” actually “isn’t.”

Of late, the farmers have been at the receiving end of every injustice that can be heaped on them. Make them victims of the machinations of the seed companies, don’t give them fair prices for their produce, give them micro credit and drive them to suicide by sending collection teams to their homes. Why are vegetable not reaching the markets in cities? They are being cut off at the supply stage by the big retail companies. A kilo of potato costs nearly five times what it used to ten years back. Visit any traditional vegetable market and you will find empty stalls and rotten vegetables. Has anyone checked why? We are a nation of artificial scarcities. Make things scarce and drive up the prices. Hoarding, a harmless word, is the devil here. Shows we don’t care.

Distraught villagers are leaving their rural habitats in droves and settling in cities. The number may be quite shocking. It is estimated that half of India’s population will live in the already overloaded cities breeding sickness, poverty and crime. Does anyone care? According to this article the migration is alarming leading to urban chaos and disenfranchisement. Excerpt:

“The city (Mumbai), a dumbbell-shaped island that juts into the Arabian Sea, is paying a price - every day an estimated 1,500 newcomers move to the 438 square kilometres (169 square miles) of land already packed with more than 17 million people.

“The result: the roads are chaos, the suburban train service carries some six million passengers a day - nearly three times its capacity - there are water riots, and infrastructure projects are stalled because squatters can't be moved.

“With a population density of around 29,000 people per square kilometre, Mumbai is one of the most crowded cities in the world.

“More than half of its residents live in shanty colonies and on pavements.
The situation has become so acute that officials now measure progress not in terms of new housing but to the extent to which slums can be "regularised" - squatters' rights recognised and basic amenities provided, including public water taps, community toilets and paved walkways with open sewers.”

The problem is so acute that most housing societies go without water and the precious liquid has to be bought by the tanker loads. And they are talking of building a 117-storey tower in the midst of all these confusion.

(It’s 12:08 a.m. and I am sleepy. More of this tomorrow.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

At Last, I Am a TED Speaker. And My IndiBlogger Rank is 83/100

Something I wanted for a long time has happened. In fact, two things happened, all at the same time.

I have been approached to speak at a TED conference in Cochin. TED, if you don't already know stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, which is a forum for ideas that lead to change. It bills itself as "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world," and have had presidents and celebrities as speakers. My profile appears on this page.

I will be speaking on "Path Less Trodden," and how to engender change through technology, which, pardon my presumptuousness, I have been trying to do through my blog and my social networking sites. I will be speaking with emphasis on why we need engineers who write well and what opportunities are available for college graduates in journalism, web writing and technical writing.

That be one.

The second good news is that my Indiblogger rating increased from 82/100 to 83/100. I have been working towards this for a long, long time, phew! My technorati rating has been wavering around the 20,000 mark for some time. (Meaning: I am among the top 20,000 bloggers in the world.) There too I intend to catch up soon.

Am too drained and sleepy today. Got home at 10.30 p.m. after an industry function. A girl-woman came in tights and around five guys had their ears pierced, that, too, for an industry affair where they were supposed to be in their formal best. Combine pierced ear with pointed shoes and spiked hair, and you get the picture. Sorry I forgot open buttons. I am sure you do.

I wonder why nobody, I mean, nobody knows the meaning of formal dressing in India. A real pity.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

India – as Measured in Toilet Rolls

This is irreverent. Read it at your own risk. With the Commonwealth Games almost upon us I can’t stop thinking of the expensive toilet rolls they bought at Rs 4000 each. All those toilet rolls make me go numb, crazy and downright hysterical. So much for toilet rolls? Here’s what I have been thinking lately. Must write this down or the spasms of laughter would make me choke and die.

If I was paid in toilet rolls, I would earn 12 toilet rolls for all my ass-kissing pains for a month. And imagine this: of this I would pay three toilet rolls as the EMI on my home loan and half a toilet roll as my electricity and water bill combined.

India’s Gross Domestic Product (total of everything produced) would be 313,500,000 (say, three hundred million) toilet rolls. That’s quite a lot of toilet rolls.

India’s Per Capital Income (what an average Indian makes) would be one-third of a toilet roll. (Poor man, whoever earns this amount would have only enough to wipe one behind.)

A cricketer would make 37 toilet rolls per one day international (assuming he is paid Rs 1.5 lakh for each match).

A reasonably successful film star (say the one-hit, two-flops type) would earn 2500 toilet rolls for a film. Sad. Some of these rolls (say, 1000 rolls) would go to his girl-friend who does item numbers in movies. Imagine all the toilet rolls that would line their bathroom walls.

Our Members of Parliament would draw a royal salary of twelve-and-a-half toilet rolls a month. However, as bribes they would demand nothing less than 2500 toilet rolls to move a file.

There’s more. May be some other time.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A Tribute to All My Teachers

Last Sunday was teachers' day. So it's fitting that I write about it today. Better late, and all that crap, but it's really a little late for me to acknowledge some of the teachers who played a big role in my life. Some have passed into the silver clouds of heaven. I was educated till the age of eight in Kerala, my native state in South India. I cannot forget the teachers we had there. They were kind and real terrors. They are as appears below (in chronological order):

Saar: He was a bald, white-haired man who imparted the letter to me in Malayalam as I sat on a plank of wood on the sand-strewn hut. I always knew him as "Saar". I met him many times afterwards but never asked his name. I will call him "Saar," meaning Sir. I was too much in awe of him as he sat writing my lessons with a sharp Arayam (a sharp metal instrument) on palm leaves. That was my notebook in Kindergarten class in distant Kerala.

Saramma Saar: I was a real bum. I wouldn't go to school. (It's actually a wonder that I have come this far, too far, considering I used to shirk school!) In school my sister's friends used to come and tease me during interval. So, being too shy, I stayed away. I incurred the wrath of my mother who beat me one day all the way to school. Each time she left me, I would walk backwards, and then she would lay the Kattu Vadi (jungle twig) on me. (Guess I have forgiven her, for I hate to think what would have happened had I stayed at home.) Then Saramma Saar who also was going to school scolded my mother, took my arm, talked sweetly to me and took me to my class. I never had any problems with going to school after that.

Rema Teacher: Strict and lenient by turns. She never said "no" to me as I approached her for permission to play when our teachers were absent in Adarsha Vidyalaya. She died at a young age. I don't know if the profession was responsible.

Padmavathy Teacher: Called me a bum before class. But I got back by scoring the highest marks in her subject – General Science – in the Secondary School Examination.

Shankaranarayanan Saar: The man who inculcated in me a love for poetry and literature. Very melodramatic, a playwright, his classes were electric with the silence of poetry recitation, prose reading and play enacting. He and I are in touch even now. He still writes and I look forward to reading some of his books. He was a great influence on me and the love of literature hasn't left me ever since he walked into class with his big bob of curly hair.

Vasanthi Teacher: My school-boy crush. Beautiful as she was, I used to look forward to her classes. But she encouraged me in my studies, patiently explained lessons, while I stood trembling beside her, unable even to make eye contact. I was awed and besotted then. She also died at a young age.

Ganapathy Iyer: The grey-haired principal who laid a stinging palm on my back for some misdemeanour. I still remember him as the man who taught me maths, which I was bad at. He is still alive and in his nineties. I haven't had the time to visit him, though he is said to be living in New Bombay.

Parameshwaran Iyer: Poet, writer, gentle soul, he once said "I thought you were a good boy," and put me firmly on the saddle of goodness and righteousness. He wore only khadi and his English classes were punctuated with anecdotes from his literary days and the times he used to teach in a college in Kerala.

There are many more, whom I have loved, respected and still revere. This is a tribute to them. Teachers you were different from the lot of teachers we have now. You really cared for our future and moulded us. Teachers, you started a fire that will burn for ever.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Thanks Chris Dickerson; and Me as an Old-World Dinosaur of Writing and Journalism

This quote comes from Facebook friend Chris Dickerson, a former-journalist and a fine writer whose works I admire.

"You, my friend, are a fine journalist. I'll be reading ALL your work. Great writes."

Thanks Chris. This is high praise indeed from such a good writer himself. I guess your praise and support is much needed, dithered as I am by doubts whether I am an anachronism of some sort, writing a defunct language and obdurately using the punctuation of an age that has gone by. I still remain wedded to the old-fashioned style of writing and follow its rules on this blog.

I am from the old-school class of journalism and I guess (in my humble opinion, and all that) this is what sets me apart, or, rather makes me appear different from the new crop of journalists and writers:

I still feel that prepositions, conjunctions and articles in titles should not be capitalized. India's top newspapers capitalized all words in caption and there are others who use lower case for all words. Francis J. deSouza, a fine writer and journalist, and from whom I picked up the basics of editing would turn in his grave if he saw such rampant violation of the rules he held dear.

I am of the view that newspaper text should use drop capitals, hanging indent and first line indents (except in the beginning of articles where a few words are capitalized), which no Indian newspaper uses in this day and age, except, perhaps New York Times. These styles impart variety and don't fatigue the eye while reading. These days the graphics have take over from typeface and the intellectual content is missed for the visual eye-candy. Sad.

I believe quotes within double quotes (") should be single quotes (') and not double quotes, a rule that is rampantly violated in India.

So many more which I will re-visit when I have more time. Right now, I have to return to the novel in progress, I am editing a crucial chapter. Adios.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yo, Man! President Aspirant of Haiti!

Ravaged by a devastating earthquake, shriveled by fallen buildings, wracking with fever and infections, its hospitals still filled with the dead, the almost dead and the recovering, Haiti is going to polls to elect its new President. The building that houses the electoral council still has fissures but the mood is upbeat and gung-ho. Among the thirty four people who have registered to run for president is a hip-hop star Wyclef Jean. Yo, man! If only more singers and songwriters were presidents.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Is Pakistan a Commonwealth Country? Then Expect Satta to Be High!

Another Saturday, a few thoughts and a few observations (like Behram Contractor used to say).

I don't understand why Sea Link (the bridge through the sea that connects Bandra with Worli about which I wrote here) was created for Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) when they didn't think about the traffic that would accumulate at the entry and exit points which is draining the patience of motorists. Now it takes longer for a lot of people who don't even go by the link to reach their destinations.

A case of the solutions becoming the problem?

As there are ladies specials we men should have a men's special. Really. The handicapped have their special seats, the hawker has his special "dibba", the senior citizens have their seats, only the men don't have a compartment of their own.

Like I don't know why if India is such a superpower it should charge itself Rs 4000 for toilet paper. Those goddamn toilets must be expensive too, innit? Must be made of gold, na? Like a certain bearded politician must have thought, "If we can't win gold, let's coat our toilets with gold and since people can't squat on gold and all we could become rich by selling toilets to the kabaddiwalas (waste buyers).

Like I don't know if we should at all host any games considering how expensive toilet papers are. (Pardon my misdemeanour, but all I can think of when I think of Commonwealth Games is toilet paper.) A young chap in Peshawar has come up with a plan to recycle expensive toilet paper. He... he.... Maybe, he is not toilet trained, or something.

I wonder if Pakistan is a Commonwealth country because if it is then the satta (betting) market would go through the roof. They would bet on a Pakistani losing in every game. (Losing is easy you see, like you drop a catch, bowl a no ball, you can walk to the finishing line when all those stupid chaps try to beat the others running and getting their bones broken in the process. And your bhais make money betting that you would lose. Easy no? I guess there would be a bet on who can walk slower on the running track, an Indian or a Pakistani.

Like if a certain gentleman whose name begins with K was made coach of our athletics team for the Commonwealth Games we would have a lot more washing of dirty linen in public. Imagine all those hidden scandals waiting that would break out, our press would have a field day and the headline wouldn't be about who won gold but who was photographed with him in his hotel room.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pritish Nandy on MP’s Salary Hike. Sigh! An MP Draws 13 Times an Average Indian

Writes Pritish Nandy, former member of the upper house (Rajya Sabha), about the recent hike in salaries of Members of Parliament (MP):

"The job had many perquisites, apart from the tax free monthly wage of Rs. 4,000. Then the wages were suddenly quadrupled to Rs. 16,000, with Office Expenses of Rs. 20,000 and a Constituency Allowance of Rs. 20,000 thrown in. I could borrow Interest-free Money to buy a Car, get my Petrol paid, make as many free Phone Calls as I wanted. My Home came free. So did the Furniture, the Electricity, the Water, the Gardens, the Plants. There were also Allowances to wash Curtains and Sofa covers and a rather funny allowance of Rs. 1,000 per day to attend Parliament, which I always thought was an MP's job in the first place! And, O yes, we also got Rs. 1 crore a year (now enhanced to Rs. 2 crore) to spend on our Constituencies. More enterprising MPs enjoyed many more perquisites best left to your imagination. While I was embarrassed being vastly overpaid for the job I was doing, they kept demanding more."

Now the salary of an MP is as follows:

Basic salary: Rs.50,000 per month (Sigh! There was a time when I prided myself in getting more than the Sons of the Bhoomi (SOBs). No longer!)

Daily allowance for attending parliament Rs.2,000 per day

Constituency allowance of Rs.20,000 a month

Office expenses: Rs.45,000 per month

Conveyance allowance: Rs.4 lakh

Pension for former members: Rs.20,000.

Travel: free travel by train and airplane anywhere in India

Much, much, much more!

Remember, farmers are committing suicide and women in slums of Bombay can't go to toilet during the day, and in some parts of Bombay water supply is for only half-an-hour each day. Most importantly, the average man in India draws a salary (per capita) of Rs 3,700, that a thirteenth fraction of what an MP draws (Actually it is a lesser fraction, but I am making a much understood comparison here.).

It's common in business for the accountants and finance guys to pay themselves more (since the kitty is in their hands, after all). Fact of life: you will find fund managers paying themselves heavy bonuses in most mutual funds. I guess the parliamentarians took a cue from them and decided to pay themselves more, again, they have an advantage, the kitty is in their hands.

The Sea-link is only a “See-link” and the Metro is “Retro.” There Goes the BKC Neighbourhood!

Another bizarre day in the monsoon season. Brace yourself, what I am writing today may sound bizarre and is kind of, sort of, longish.
Business took me to Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) yesterday but, my God, what a ride. First of all it's tough persuading those thugs to take you there. They all are in a tearing hurry to roll down the edge of the earth at Chowpatty Beach on Marine Drive, or some such place.

Then sitting inside a ramshackle taxi ("Only I can close and open these doors," said the driver.) we crawled (yes, literally crawled on the roads) till we reached Worli where the driver decided to abandon us because the metre had stopped functioning. I said he had let me down and wasted my time. He said he took pity on my and Avinash by my side as we stood holding all that stuff we usually take with us for displays.

Then we changed taxis and again rode at 40 miles/hour for a few minutes and again we ended up in a jam. A ride that should have taken 45 minutes took us 3 hours. The taxi driver by way of explanation told me that the ride took longer because of the prestigious "Sea-Link Road" which was supposed to ease traffic congestion and speed things up.

"What, you mean all that money for nothing?" I was flabber-er-ghasted.

"They didn't plan the exit and entry to the Sea-Link. That's why you see this big traffic snarl."

"I see."

Yes I can see the Sea-Link Road is another "See-link" meaning another structure to see and take pride in rather than serve the purpose of the people.

Another such white elephant is the Metro. I have ranted about this often. I have said again and again that the Metro should touch Kurla and not by-pass it. Every morning I see this horde getting down at Kurla station to go to Andheri from New Bombay. Andheri is an important corporate destination and New Bombay is an important residential node. And their meeting point is Kurla and not Ghatkopar. So what's wrong? Why can't they take the right decisions? Taking the Metro through Ghatkopar wouldn't serve any purpose because it is skirting the congested areas which need to be, well, de-congested.

It's godawfully pathetic, our planning.

It's because our politicians and planners have little contact with people. It's all right for them to want to make Bombay look better with a Sea-Link and a Metro (so that it resembles Shanghai) but what about the hardcore planning involved to make the city livable? It is obvious outward looks are what a politician is interested in (see all those dyed hair, the natty khadi jackets with matching footwear), but then why don't they let the engineers and technocrats do the planning? Or, are those nincompoops worried muchly about letting their commissions go to others?

The verdict is out: The Sea-link is only a "See-link" and the Metro is "Retro." Both will take us nowhere, even regress us a few decades into the past.

When the function ended in BKC (which is one of the government's most prestigious de-congestion attempts) I was faced with another conundrum. It's 10 p.m. and there aren't any taxis and rickshaws available. Nor are there stands where the taxis and rickshaws can park. Nor are there proper road indications. Nor is there a place to eat (I am hungry.).

Damn! There goes the neighbourhood, the BKC neighbourhood, I mean.