Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mera Bharat Mahan....

Rukshana! What a brave heart this young girl has been, yet what a huge tragedy we have imposed upon her life. To live a life where you never know when you will become the target within the wars of another, or be held ransom and become fodder to fuel the dreams of the freedom of someone, is a burden not many may want as the price to be considered a national hero! As I saw this beautiful young woman's image being flashed on my TV screen through the day, I wondered how she must have felt having to protect herself by staining her own hands with the blood of an enemy that is faceless, yet omnipresent wherever she goes.

My India! I love the ring it has, yet what do I really know to be my India today? Do I weep the tears of the mother who watches her daughters body exhumed, just to prove a fact that all know too well to be the truth? Do I even remotely understand what starvation must feel like when crops fail and governments look the other way because the farmer's voice is already too feeble to be heard? Can I envisage what it must feel like to watch a beloved be thrown off a train and be crushed to death whilst the pregnant wife is raped, merely because an argument over a train seat occurred? And now I want to wash my guilt of apathy away once again and applaud this young woman who was obliged to protect herself by picking up a gun because "My India" is unable to figure out how to address issues of urgent need with solutions that offer answers.

Let's not allow the shadow of our cowardice be cast this far, where the terrorism of extremist politics has to be played out where the youth of our nation are forced to take to the gun. Where the discontent of a nations people start to be voiced through violent means as a method to survive. The suicides of diamond workers and farmers are only a recent past, yet Shahrukh Khan and Kajol being on the Vogue magazine cover, and Rakhi Sawant's break up with her fiance Elesh Parujanwala, occupies more coverage on T.V news channels! and is avidly watched by a nation with bated breath!

I commend Rukshana for her bravery, but that she was placed in a situation where a militant was allowed to target her is the issue that we should not be sweeping under the carpet. Something isn't quite right and we know it. Let us hope her act of bravery does not go wasted and that somewhere else a problem does not escalate where the consequences can be fatal.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Sense and sensibility ?!

I have always wondered why politicians need to make such a fanfare about their visits to wherever they are going in a country. Ok, don't start to tell me about security etc. because I am sure that these details can be well attended to, even if surprise visits are made by leaders and important party workers. I was pleased therefore to read today about Rahul Gandhi visiting with constituents of a region who are underprivileged, and doing so in ways that were not mere photo opportunities to garner publicity for himself.

The quiet work of a thoughtful politician is bound to have a far reaching ripple effect; where change through observation gets implemented, rather than promises boomed from microphones as grandiose gestures that fade away even before the frantic clapping of the chamchas die down. I must admit I never did give much credit earlier to this rather nerdie looking Gandhi child who does not have the sparkling charisma that his sister exudes, even when she is silent. But prove me wrong he does as each day passes, and he diligently goes about doing his work that he apparently appears to have great commitment for and which seems to be a formulated strategy, well worked out.

I think this different approach where a child of a politician charts their own journey without being held aloft by their genetic legacy alone, is heartening to see this young man evidence. I get disillusioned over news items about squabbles where family members are holding their parties to ransom for tickets and nominations to be given to "mera beta", and I wish a day would come where laws exist that ban such open misuse of office and nepotism. That good old Pratibhaben is trying her luck for her old sonny boy to get a ticket is truly shameful for the office of the President to be associated with. But then this is Indian politics, so tamasha dekho yaar!

I sincerely hope old Mayawatiji keeps her chaddis from getting into a twist over Rahul Gandhi's interaction with the Dalit community. Someone should inform her that upliftment and progress of the underprivileged should be encouraged, and being threatened by a young man half her age seems a bit mean spirited to me. Or maybe Barbie Doll girl feels that Rahul Gandhi may look better as a statue for the people, and that's whats making her restless!!!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Do unto others.....!

How rarely do we live the stuff that we preach! I am often amazed at how blase people can be when it comes to being ethical and honest when working with others. Surendran and I find ourselves today in a situation where old friends of ours are refusing to pay for work that has been done for them by another dear friend of the family! This work too was undertaken because we insisted that our friend provide his electrical expertise to our other friend who was in urgent need to renovate an old apartment into his office space. The saddest part of it all is that this friend who is now refusing to pay up the remaining pending payment is himself a self made man who has often faced similar attitudes in his own career, where people made him run around and feel humiliated to procure payments that were rightfully his. We have often talked together about our days of struggles as young professionals and yet today those memories seem blurred with his personal success, and like the proverbial evil mother-in-law, the same treatment that was once painful to receive is meted out to another without the blink of an eye.

I myself rejected financial support from my family since the age of 18, but then I have lived my life never ever owing anyone any money. This is my greatest pride. I am sure too that there are many situations where we may personally feel that the service of another is not worth the price that they quote. Also a painter if I deem the price I quote to be the value I deserve to the work that I am offering as a product, then I think I must equally honour that all others are entitled to define and decide their own value too. To later haggle after the work has been completed is in my pinion a criminal act, and one which no honourable person should ever do. It is therefore essential to be very clear on the actual budget we can afford when we start working, and what the actual costing of every item of work actually is when the implementation occurs, so that we do not later claim that the final bill does not co-relate to an initial estimate provided. For those of us familiar with building homes, studio's and office spaces, we are well aware that an estimate is only a guideline and will always change especially when the clients themselves choose to make umpteen changes from the original concept and to upgrade the quality of articles used. Style comes with a price and if we cannot afford it then we should have the courage to be content with simple things, because we are not judged for what we have as possessions but for the characters we possess. To make another person out of pocket for your expenses is shameful and a terrible lesson to teach our children who look towards us for example and directions in life.

I have attempted to personally request my friend on two occasions to please honour his commitment and complete the payment, but to no avail. Yesterday he flatly told our friend whose payment is owing that he has no intention to pay the remaining money!

It is indeed sad to know that such meanness can exist and such a betrayal of trust can occur. My fervent hope is that the conscience of this couple will kick in and better sense prevails. Baroda is such a small city and deeds of such a nature will only ferment the good will of a community of friends. If we do not value our interdependence it is truly a great pity. Also what goes around comes around lets do unto others as we would like others to do to us please!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Twitter bug....

What a complete idiot Shashi Tharoor is!!! If this is the diplomatic training he received during his tenure at the United Nations, then most certainly he must have been sleep walking through it all. You need to be an absolute novice to imagine that humour of such a nature, witty as it maybe considered in some elite cocktail party circles, could ever be considered appropriate when you hold the office of minister of state for external affairs of a nation. Welcome dear blue eyed boy to the world of reality, because you will soon learn in a jiffy that just as India loves to have it's favourite poster boys in public life to cosset and drool over, they equally will burn your effigy in a blink of an eye, with no qualms, if you ruffle their feathers on sensitive issues or appear condescending in attitude to the middle class values that rule the majority of Indian thinking. So next time you are downing the chotta peg beta, make certain you don't twitter the tweety birds exit line by mistake!

Which brings me to this craze of the twitter bug!!!! Twittering phones or singing canaries?! What a laugh! In my life I often wish that the phone would not ring so much , and trust me, I am not inundated with too many calls really! It's just that desire to sometimes shut off the outside world and get on with my own pursuits undisturbed. That people like Shashi Tharoor are hitting the button so to speak, and letting people have such access to them seems odd, unless it is related to helping you do your job, I think you are truly quite insane to want to communicate with strangers! Replying to silly enquiries with smart Alec witticisms just doesn't paint a very promising picture of an astute statesman of the future.

Am I writing the poor man's obituary prematurely? I don't wish to, but by the looks of it this posh lad doesn't quite cut the figure of a person with an agenda to work for the progress of a nation selflessly; where solving problems and not making them should be his aim. He looks much more the Armani suited, champagne and caviar Casanova to me. So lets see how this lad with oozing charm takes the rap on the wrist from the aunties of the high command, and whether after this he buckles down and behaves with the decorum and attitudes necessary to his office. If no, well then Bye-bye baby is all I can say!!!!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Fly the flag at half mast today....

That a bank manager in Andra Pradesh could extort sex from tribal women in exchange for sanctioning loans to them and then video tape this atrocity as a further extortion tool, becomes mind boggling to comprehend. It shows just how much the rot of male abuse in India exists through powers of office; and exist they do because someone always looks the other way and so much therefore slips under the radar of any accountability.

Shame! Shame! Shame! What a sordid society we are becoming. Rapes, lynchings, encounter killings, supari contracts - you name it, and we in India seem to specialise in it! I continuously observe how difficult it is for Indian society to feel truly comfortable with women who are empowered and govern their own existences. We almost believe that it is a cultural expectancy that women should be submissive, and if they aren't, well then just impose your will and break their spirit and force them into submission! Sex is a rampant tool of power repeatedly used because the offenders very rarely are punished in ways that could act as a deterrent to such crimes.

In moments where such exposes occur where real issues of a nation seem to be so badly handled, the superficial drama's of economy drives by the politicians in power at the centre where Rahul Gandhi does a rail safar parading as the aam admi, is truly like a high school play that is excruciating to watch! Let's please get real in the high command at Delhi and call into account priorities of a more compelling nature. That the women of my nation are humiliated in such a way as they attempt to empower themselves through appealing for financial aid, becomes a stain too indelible to be washed away the mere rhetoric of political debate any longer! Each infant girl child is tainted by this legacy of disrespect to her gender each time such stories come to light, and each of us must be committed to gift the right of empowerment as a path of progress to her and the nation should constitutionally uphold this stringently.
Let us all be more vigilant, because there is so much we all pass by and close our eyes to. One of the typical remarks we need to strike off our list is : Chodo yaar, que involve hone ka hai?....and maybe then such stories of exploitation will cease.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

He's my boy!

I was listening to an interesting debate on NDTV 24 X 7 yesterday conducted by Barka Dutt, where Vir Sanghvi said something that finally made me begin to understand why on earth Narendra Modi keeps getting elected back, again and again! Vir talked about how the Gujarati psyche looked upon this man Modi with a personal sense of identification that represented their pride. The pride of ownership, of deeming something important that stands in their name; and of believing therefore that their leader must be protected because in doing so they protect their sense of Gujarati identity out on the national political stage!

Wow! This must truly turn the Mahatama's spirit upside down, that the land he was born to upholds a mass murderer as being of significant value to represent the pride of a peoples state. Each election I will the logic of the people of my state to find a way to perceive a more truthful understanding of what they need to address when the votes get caste, but to no avail as it turns out. This megalomaniac man who parades in front of the masses like a bad magician that pulls illusions of progress out of his political briefcase, is still standing under the shadow of a genocide that will never go away. I hope a time comes soon when the memories of the people of Gujarat are not so selective, and that we charge sheet this politician for the crimes he has committed so openly, and in fact with our consent!

The Sabarmati Ashram of Gandhiji is only an emblem in our state today without the substance it should be able to evoke and the ideals it should instill. How hate of any kind can become woven into a political mandate of the people becomes frightening to conceive, and to live through, even more chilling. When will a new political sunrise occur in Gujarat that can wilt the lotus that lives in murky waters, is the real question we need to address.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Feverish ramblings!

Have been under the weather with fever and rigors and an intestinal infection and root canal treatment that made my face become lopsided (I paint a sad picture don't I!!!) I buried myself under a quilt for two days and shivered and sipped chilled coke with ice cubes and slices of lemon, and today am back on wobbly feet, feeling a lot better and a few pounds lighter. To celebrate being out from under the covers Surendran took me out for a lunch date to the new Chinese restaurant Mainland China! We both sat in an empty restaurant and ate as though we were truly the emperor and empress of Vadodara!

I started a painting today that is deciding to control me rather than the other way around, so I shall have to tighten my apron stings ( which in this sense stands for becoming more formidable with my brush and scolding my canvas!) and hope that I do not end up being the vanquished in this scenario!!!

I don't normally like plastic fact I rather despise them, but lo and behold I have actually purchased eight plastic chairs today! Not one, not two but eight! Hmm perhaps I can blame it on being feverishly delirious's always a good think to have your finger all pointy and in some emphatic direction that is certainly away from oneself in moments where ones aesthetic tastes crumble!!!!

Well enough ramblings for one incoherent meeting of minds! I will wobble back to my studio anon. I promise to put an ice pack on my forehead and get the fever down.....or else who knows what I may go out tomorrow and buy!!!

P.S Seeing Jaya Prada on Television, crying and screaming in a bullock-cart believing her end was to be in the waters around her ankles, was like watching a classic cartoon film but where the director was Hitchcock! Folly upon folly thy name is idiot politician!!!

P.P.S. Seeing Serena Williams intimidate the poor lines person was another cartoon enactment! What happened girl....didn't anyone tell you that violence is poor sportpersonship???!!!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Shining light so bright.....

My friends aunt has been diagnosed with cancer and I have been with her during most of the procedures of learning what we need to do to address her medical care. It is at times like this that one encounters how unprepared we all are to deal with crisis, especially in relation to emotions concerning mortality of our loved ones. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that courage is expected to hold no fear and optimism no space for doubt.

I sit in her hospital room and read or draw or make certain she eats all that's on her food tray. I love the elegance of this lady and her desire to be who she is, so completely. Her hair is always well combed and she dresses immaculately, even if it is only the hospital gown that adorns her. The air conditioner makes her lips dry and she puts her lip balm on, but I know secretly that the ritual is more significant for her than anything else, and she looks at me quite sternly if she imagines I maybe bossing her!

Routine orders her life and it is here that one sees how the quiet discipline of her life stands tall to guide her, even today, in the cold clinical space of a hospital room. And as we each of us try to bring light into her life, to infuse positive energy and be with her in ways that give to her; it is in fact she who gives to us. Quietly and with an economy of words, this diminutive lady who has taught so many young people as a professor of education, calls upon her own experiences to once again be the example and the touch stone for us all. Strong, courages and stoic.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Grass is not always greener on the other side!

I am sitting with a toothache because of some exposed nerves in my tooth and it made me reflect upon how many people in India are not privy to medical care at all. If anyone even so much as murmurs about government hospitals being places where the poor can receive medical attention and comfort from their ailments, I think my grumpiness from my toothache will erupt ! I feel so angered by the Shree Sayajirao Gaekwad General Hospital that bears the name of the late ruler and which has decayed into a hell hole. It rambles across prime land and is a white elephant in a city that needs to re organise much of it's infrastructures of civil support.
On one of my few visits to this dreadful place to visit a patient I was confronted with aborted foetus's in a ditch that dogs were feasting on. This macabre sight was so impactful in its disregard for all that we consider civilized and I felt emotionally drained for weeks. Also because it was extremely difficult to get anyone to even listen to this complaint, let alone act upon it and find a solution.
The poor in India have no voice because their poverty imposes a shroud of silence upon them from the fear of consequences, and the rich couldn't be bothered by the trivialities of others, painful or otherwise. The middle class are so caught up in upward mobility, and so whose left to really champion for the Aam Admi's medical care. Rahul Gandhi dear boy, are you listening? Isn't this grass root enough for you?!
The real Gandhian era seems a thing of the past with benefactors doing service via mobile clinics that provided health care to the poor and destitute and often in remote and far flung regions in the country . Today its owning cricket teams and selling dreams through beauty pageants and bollywood fantasies that are the philanthropies of the rich and famous. Pus and the smell of rotting flesh, or bloated stomachs and deceased people do not make for photographs for the jet setters and the page 3 groupies.
As I sit pampered by friends and family and even my cat (!), I know how fortunate I am to receive the care and attention for the silliest niggly ache to the times of more serious ill health; and that the medical care I take for granted is accessible to me only because I can afford it. I know that the British National Health Service is a debatable issue for many as to whether it is praiseworthy, but that all British citizens who can provide proof of residence have access to free health care is something worth applauding as far as I am concerned.
My family often raises their eyebrows and I see amusement flicker across their faces every time I remind us of how fortunate we are to live the lives we do, because every where you glance around you in India on the roads, you cannot escape the disadvantaged and their plight. Who knows why science produced you in the chromosomes that you took shape from, but I feel hugely responsible that we choose not to ignore that India is not a country of equal opportunities for all. So in moments such as these where I sit with a throbbing tooth, I know in fact that I am truly one of the lucky ones : To be encircled by those who care for you and to be able to provide for oneself, is indeed a great luxury in life.

Friday, 4 September 2009

As it floats from the page....

I am reading a beautiful novel It's an all night fair by Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the simple and quiet prose is just breathtakingly magical. It can never be accurately described what a good book can do for the reader because it is such a personal experience. How one gets completely transported into an experiential state that configures with the imagined and the real to extend beyond the pages of the book and take shape as a memory within one, is what is so special.

It is always the human condition that underlies most beautifully written stories, and for me personally I look to find within them something that informs me that makes me reflect about my own concerns within life. A story about a father and a son, with so much suggested about longing and that which is lost for ever, It's not an all night fair has a quiet urgency which talks about survival and the darkness of shattered dreams.
What does the spirit of life clamour for most than to know hope ? Without romanticizing it, it is indeed a fact that pain and hardship forces many to find the core of humanism at times of extreme trial, to retrieve belief when otherwise our souls would be completely destroyed forever. Imprisoned by both the Dutch and the Indonesian government, this writer has embalmed the pain of these experiences to become the contours of his world in ways that show him the light.
For those of you who make the excuse about not having time to read good literature because of busy schedules, please pick up a book today (or an audio book) , and spend just 15 minutes of your day reading (or listening). It will open up your world in ways that are profound. This I promise you.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The fallen angel.....

I have had my eye on the on going case of Jon Anand, the young Indian designer who made it big in the fashion world of the USA . Today he is behind bars with a 59 year jail sentence for rape and sexual assault, and I remain baffled as to whether these accusations are true, and if so what prompted a young person whose career graph was a success story for others, to indulge in criminal behaviour.

Maybe it is the mother in me and the fact that I have a young and successful son who lives away from home too, that makes me look at Jon Anand with a personalised sense of anguish and conflicting emotions as he remains incarcerated in a foreign land. I have never met him personally, but each time I see him through the media coverage of this story, handcuffed and shackled, I see a young man who is both lost and frightened. And I wish so fervently that I could set the hands of the clock back where he could start his life all over again, only this time with a framework of values that could avoid him being misguided and where accountability of actions governed his deeds.

There is such a thin line of difference between being over protected in ones youth or being completely unsupervised. I think that no one decides to tip a balance that crashes one into excesses in life, but the danger lies when small transgressions go unnoticed, which boosts the bravado of the person acting out such behaviour, to up the stakes of risk just that teeny bit more......and that's how the apple cart finally tumbles.

The lure of money and the dream of fame is a lethal combination that can entice many to behave in ways that are foolhardy. But where are the opportunities where young people may stop and consider, because the myth that they are fed on is that once you are on that roller coaster ride to success you are supposed to hang on and just go wherever it takes you.

I want to believe that Jon Anand is a victim of conspiracy. I want to believe that all the 16 cases are trumped up accusations that falsely implicating an innocent man. I want to believe that this young successful Indian boy could not have done what he is being accused of. And if it is all true, then why Jon, why?!