Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ours is an economy based on recycling....has been since Time Immemorial perhaps. Can any of us not recall the friendly neighborhood pastiwalla taking away loads every month, the give aways to servants et all, the turning of leftovers into a paratha or a pulao?
But now...the times, they are changing. Instead of handing down clothes to servants and putting the rest into a box for the annual collection drives for flood affected and disaster driven refugees, today's mems' response to the collection drives is to send driverji into the market to purchase a load of cheap clothes and bedsheets etc......"how will it look ( to my husband's boss' wife...or whoever) if I take my old bedsheets to the collection center?"
Regular hand-me-downs of expensive outfits then spoil their own servants silly and cause frequent railings against servants getting bloated egos.
The disaster affected have gotten so used to getting brand new stuffs, I am told, many reject used clothes, or old towels and sturdy floor cushion covers which could do duty to save soft bottoms from the hard floor of the refugee camps in municipal schools or wherever.
Even as professional pasti wallas find newer and newer ways of recycling, it goes out of fashion at the household level where instead of newspaper in the waste box, plastic bags are used because it is so convenient to just take out the plastic bag and chuck it out!!
At others levels, necessity is still the mother of invention. I read recently that cassettes are being purchased to use the zinc in them for polishing leather, while in many parts of north India, old washing machines do duty to churn butter out of milk and make lassi; a typewriter puts old people to sleep in a Goan old age home, old buses are converted into chic restaurants, juice cans are painted to do duty as pencil or lamp holders and in many villages, discarded cycle tyres are converted into sturdy sandals and slippers.
Anyone cares to add to this little list?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Honor killings are the latest flavor of the season, just as once it was rape and earlier dowry death. Hardly does a young couple taste their married togetherness then the noses ("naak") of the male relatives gets longer and itchier and wham, bang, off with their heads, it goes.
Why this extreme reaction to the most natural phenomena in the world? what are these gotras and castes after all? when did women become chattels to be used as bargaining counters by the male of the species? How did this spree of honor killing become part of our revered ancient culture?
Chanakya's Arthshastra lists a bare handful of castes; few of them are original ones, the rest are the result of cross-castre marriages. From then on, through the writings of travelers like Huian Tsang, Alburni and others, plus our own venerable books and histories, down to British enumerators, the number of so-called castes has burgeoned into thousands of names of new castes created by intermarriage between persons of different castes.
Let me give an example:
I am a Sindhi lady married to a Punjabi. When they were kids, my children used to call themselves Panglo-sindhis, which was a take-off on Anglo-Indians. My eldest daughter, offspring of a Sindhi-Punjabi marriage married a young man who was offspring of a Parsi-Sindhi marriage. Obviously both belong to socalled 'new' castes and their offspring form a brand new caste again.. we call them either kitchdi or cocktail.
There is more to come. My son married a woman of Jain-sindhi roots, again a new caste? and their kids? another new caste?
That is exactly the four original castes multiplied thousands of times over and now we fight over the castes and actually kill off our young people for loving each other. Turning all religious texts to nought as they preach that one should spread love, not hate.
Nevertheless, honor killing just became even more dangerous when the long noses of the lady's relatives insisted that not only should the married couple be murdered, but that the killing should extend to the person who helped them! where will it all end?
Is our socalled civilised society going to rise up against this as they did in the case of Jessica Lall and others?

Bhopal Bleeding Hearts

Perhaps the oil slick in the US came at the wrong time. Or perhaps the wrong time was that of the final judgement in the Bhopal Gas Leak case which had malingered for 26 years.
For it revived the spirits of the Bhopal Bleeding Hearts with a loud bang. The debate over the quantum of compensation has sparkled all over again, with an eye on the figures that the Obama administration is demanding from BP.
No, I do not have anything against our own affected Indians getting some more money to pay for the woes that Union Carbide so callously struck into them.
My plea is for those vociferous bleeding hearts to please do some sincere checking: amongst the lists of affected and beneficiaries are any number of persons who just happened to be out of Bhopal that fatal night, but are listed residents. To this day, pensions are drawn by some residents of the affected areas, perhaps, just perhaps depriving those who were actually affected....a situation akin to the names of big shots showing up in the lists of residents and owners in Mumbai's Dharavi slum.

Was Draupadi gori?

This morning's papers splashed the news that the maker of the highly acclaimed RAJNEETI has decided to put together an international cast, led probably by Anjelina Jolie for a film on Draupadi, the long haired woman who is the pivot of the epic Mahabharat.
When will we get over our fascination for the gori chamri of Western women?
Correct me someone if I am wrong, but I do remember reading that Draupadi was of a wheatish complexion, more "sawli" than "gori-chitti".
Perhaps the film could work better with a dusky Indian actress, and we have many acclaimed ones with such a skin tone, and let the international look be provided by some of the Hollywood hunks who may be made over to look like some of the Kauravas and Pandvas; they were of north Indian origin and in those days, closer to the supposedly Aryan, Caucasian look.
But aha, the charms of the foreign actresses have overtaken Bollywood of late, haven't they?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blockading Peace

I read the fast and furious headlines generated by the attempt to break the Israeli blockage of Gaza within days of finishing the re-reading of a book I had last read when in school, Leon Uris’s masterpiece “Exodus.” His descriptions of the heartbreaking Israeli attempts to break through the British blockade of the same region 60 years ago were yet vivid in my mind as I pondered over the irony of what seemed virtually a scene-by-scene action replay, this time with the Isrealis as the blockaders of a hemmed in Palestinian populace, caught between economic oppression of their own leaders and the reluctance of Isreal to accept them in jobs without security against terrorism.
It was soon after the birth of Jesus Christ and the unrest following his preachings that the Jews were scattered throughout the then known world, awaiting a Messiah who would lead them back home. Unlike the peaceful assimilation they enjoyed in India, across Europe and Russia, Jews had, over the centuries been victim of ferocious pograms aimed at deciminating their numbers; for whenever they were allowed peace, their native talents blossomed into masters of business and finance, arts and culture, philosophy and teaching, which invited envy of native populaces. The crescendo came during the second World War when Hitler aspired to eliminate all the Jews of the world in the infamous gas chambers of his concentration camps.
Back in the late 1940s at the end of the War, it was British perfidy and double dealing, its desperation to retain its hold on oilfields which prompted it to diabolic measures to prevent the landing of the tragic survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps in Israel, to settlements purchased with dollars sent by American Jews to resettle their embattled brethren. The settlements had been started by early emigrant settlers who had poured their blood, sweat, toil and tears into the deserts to make them bloom, watched in amazement by the Palestinians who had for centuries left the deserts barren. It is this blooming desert which is being coveted by all who never worked to make their share of the desert bloom.
After first encouraging the Isrealis, the British then reengaged to foil entry of the survivors, packing off successive waves of boatloads to Cyprus and elsewhere, house in refugee camps which were in fact concentration camps minus the gas chambers perhaps. Don’t we Indians know all about British tactics of divide and rule and exit after partitions?
That was what happened with British cartographers drawing straight lines on maps to create ‘nations’ willy nilly and leave behind chaotic messes for them to stir forever after, India, Germany, West Asia, Cyprus, Ireland et all. Perhaps the greater tragedy lay in the native leadership.
India was lucky in its sagacious Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and others, who surmounted the bloody tragedy of Partition to rouse the refugees out of their stupor ASAP and encourage them to resume their lives, trading or working anywhere, to get out of the refugee camps at the earliest. There were hosts of animosities, heart rending tragedies and memories of unfortunates left behind, snatched by marauders, leaving sores in millions of hearts. But the result of the ‘get on with life’ motto is there for all to see, the entrepreneurial magic of the Sindhis and the Punjabis, much of which has fuelled the middleclass magic that is a base for the economic miracle of today’s India.
On the other hand, the Muslims who went to Pakistan are even today Mojahirs, outsiders even in the fairly stable Punjab and Sindh, while the rest of Pakistan and its northwest are dissolving into a myriad tribal entities constantly at war with each other and those around them, encouraged by the Taliban, the ISI etc. This troubled Pakistan is an arrow aimed at Afghanistan’s myriad tribal identities harking back to the pre-Mughal era of tribalism. Beyond Afghanistan, the arrow goes through the old tribal heartland of Central Asia, erstwhile members of the USSR and today republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and others which can boast of the most fabulous blue tiled mosques and minarets but lack the stolid democratic infrastructure to keep at bay either intra tribal mischief or that of the superpowers, past and dying and eyeing their oil and other mineral resources and ready markets.
In West Asia too, where is that sagacious leadership to overcome the hawks in each camp? The Palestinians have, for the past sixty years, funded their camps with petro dollars, feeding nursery children guns and violence rhetoric instead of nursery rhymes and peace; they have laid bare to international media every broken home, every baby dead from a bomb or a missile. How come we never see similar pictures of damage and death in Israel racked by Palestinian bombs and missiles? It cannot be that they are never fired, for otherwise on what are the billions of dollars being spent if not arms and ammunitions, for the populace does not look wealthy enough to have enjoyed those massive donated fortunes fuelled into Palestinian coffers over the last six decades?
Sandwiched between maverick leaderships in Palestine and Pakistan, fuelled by hate and hostility and petrodollars and the US ones, what can one hope for West Asia in the near future? India too has cause for worry. Our ties with those lands are as ancient as our civilizations and our population too carries a massive number of Muslims, more than in many of those countries or several of them put together. When is the old Islam of peace and prosperity and wisdom going to prevail?