26 December, 2008

Choice of Mate, Reflection of Personality? ;-)

I was thinking about the Mahabharata. This one work does address all of human relationship issues that even the great bard Shakespeare could not assimilate together. One incident stopped me to reflect on today. Why did the wives of Pandu when given the choice to mate with gods select the ones they did? Does this in some manner answer the kind of personalities the women are?

So by this logic can the defining character of an individual be seen from the actual choice of a partner itself. How in a pairing does the character of a person emerge? Does it at all? In a marriage or choice popularly called “Love Marriage” this may be clearer. A large part of Indian marriages are arranged. Here the choice of a partner may not be exercised by the individual. But it is safe to assume largely that even in such cases, the final approval is the individuals (boy/girl) alone. This is not a generic as in non-urban India this may not apply. Just for the heck of it let’s pursue this train of thought.

As we dwell on the characters an interesting fact arises. Pandu in his wives Kunti & Madri, the union as depicted, is a brilliant confluence of both; the arranged marriage with the King and the choice of a partner(love marriage) as exercised by the queens. Pandu was cursed to die the moment he would have a sexual union with his wives. Kunti had been blessed by the sage Durvasa with a boon in which she could invoke any god and be blessed by him (read have a sexual dalliance to beget a child). This could happen at the most five times. This is at once fortuitous for the situation and with Pandu's permission( he permits Kunti to use her boon) a moral dilemma is averted.

However It is in the choice of gods by themselves that the true character of the women emerges. Kunti, the sober dutiful one was young and impressionable when she was blessed by the sage. She wanted to test the boon. She lookeed up and the dazzling powerful Sun impressed her and she called out to him. She tried her nubile charms with her boon & once invoked, he cannot go away . The union is consummated & so she begets Karna. She has to abandon him in keeping with her unmarried status. Later in her choice of Dharma or Yama the god of Death it is almost as if she desperately is seeking the Truth to rectify her earlier mistake. Yudhishtira is born. She refuses to do it again after Yudhishtira but Pandu requests her to and she invokes the powerful Vayu ( God of the Wind ) and begets Bheema , and Indra the King of Gods to have Arjuna the warrior.

Madri to whom Kunti gives her last boon chooses to invoke the Ashwini Twins. The Twins Nakula & Sahadeva are born to her. Madri is described to be so sensual that Pandu could not resist her. In one version his death is attributed to their coupling and he succumbing to the curse he forgot about. He touches Madri after she emerges from the river after her bath.

Kunti’s character from her choices is responsible, strong, generous and a person who is committed to duty. The mates of her choice are also radiant, powerful fair and regal in their bearing. She is thinking ahead of the future in the sons she would have. Madri on the contrary comes across more as "here and now" oriented. She also comes across as highly sexed, a slave to her sensuality. She opts for twin gods or two men together and even later Pandu who is cursed to die if he makes love approaches her she doesn’t stop him. So physical satisfaction was important to her. So what if her ill fated husband would die.

Ones choices define ones character. Hence the mate also becomes another character defining or character reflecting choice. These are my thoughts as I run into my ex-colleague after a long time. In my memory he always was the bindaast (fearless) dashing corporate star. Never have I seen him outside the office and this is the image in my mind as I call out..Abbey saaley bhe….d kidhar gayab thaa re itney din? Naveen seems highly embarrassed. I never thought I would live to see the day, says hush..chup re..wife..missus saath hai. Hello I say to the woman beside him. She has a bland expression on her face quite pale regular features but her back is up and nods. In my enthusiasm I yet persist “Lets go get a drink someday and he looks around furtively then longingly at me and mutters “ummm..not now let me check” scared & indecisive Naveen..is this the same man? The wife has stretched her lips without the smile reaching her eyes and I give up.

We may have known a person for years in our daily interaction. But that’s only one part of the story, if he or she is married. There is another side to her/him as a life-partner. Somehow the complete picture emerges only when one observes the same person with their respective other halves. Stray thought this…I ponder on..

20 December, 2008

Honking, Drivers and the Law of the Jungle

The Honking
PAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM…went the horn from the vehicle behind me and was irritated. It was a SUV with yellow plates (commercial taxi service) and he went honking. I ignored him. The signal had just turned red and traffic was packed bumper to bumper. It was not at me that the horn was directed, he was just generally honking. The signal wouldn’t turn green for another 2 minutes and that’s all the wait would be..all of 120 seconds.

I thought to myself and wondered, that who does that driver think he is ???…Moses... ??? That the light would turn green for him and the traffic like the Nile would part, all because he honked? As if on cue every 20 seconds he let out one PAMMMMM PAMMMMM.

A well maintained yellow and black cab with an old Sardarji at the wheel was parked next to him. Spotlessly clean was his white turban and the white shirt-trouser of the owner who drives (the employed ones wear Khaki). He calmly just tapped the window of the driver who was honking. “Beta aap driveri me aaney ke pehaley bandwaaley thhey kya? Politely he asked. The honker caught off guard by the polite query instinctively replied “Nahi to” to which came the rejoinder “To beta abhi kyu jaana chahatey ho wahan, itni practice ki zaroorat nahi hai. Ye haarn zaroorat padney par hi bajana hota hai. Dekho sabhi rukey hai". The elderly driver had on his face a smile while the eyes had a steely glint. The honking stopped and I burst out laughing and looked at the Sardarji.He just nodded with twinkling eyes. The signal turned green and we were on our way. Honestly there is little use for the horn unless it is really needed and most of the times it is not.

Indian Drivers
But then we are Indians and we shall honk and keep honking. Doesn’t matter whether we are passing by hospitals, schools or residential areas, be it any time of the day or night , we shall still honk. We have vehicles and vehicles have horns. Every Indian behind a wheel is born with the divine right of way. Rules are for others. On traffic signals we shall stop on or even beyond pedestrian crossings.We shall always endeavour even when the signal is red to gain ground, inch by inch, to the other side, no matter if we block half the road for the ongoing/incoming traffic.
We shall yell at others, choice swear words, loudly, almost to test the power of our lungs. Sound pollution you say, what the heck is that? That’s some imported nonsensical idea. We shall cut and weave through without signaling and parade this as a skill. So what if the other drivers are at risk, contemptuously we shall mock their sissyness and call them amateurs. Anyone overtaking us we shall treat it as a personal affront and declare war. We wont give way even to an ambulance carrying patients when we are ahead and if behind it, shall shadow it using its right of way to our advantage.Women drivers shall remain the constant butt of our jokes as if men came out of the womb holding steering wheels, with their flailing baby feet on the clutch and accelerator. If we are caught breaking rules by the fine upholders of the road safety law, we shall exhibit our finesse in palming off currency notes slickly. The lesser the denomination that we can get away with,the sharper we are. Its not considered improper to later even boast about it.

Law of the Jungle
Its not limited to the drivers, even the law, the traffic cops, have some quaint traits. They are never present where they are supposed to be. If there is a traffic snarl our vigilant authorities largely are conspicuous by their absence. They are skilled hunters and are on a hunt. They are not the organizers who would sort out the situation and manage the traffic. That’s just idealistic theory. It is useful strictly for inside classrooms in police schools, for passing the requisite examinations. Outside it is a very different world they sagely tell you. Practically the cop-hunter blends into the scenery behind an electric pole just off the signal or a bend and pounces on eager victims.Fresh game ( read drivers who would be unlucky to get caught) would actually drive upto them unknowingly. Both the offender and inhibitor are least bothered about the actual infringement, its just a game, somebody wins so somebody has to lose.

When the trap is sprung and the victim snared then the strategy of the slipped note is initiated. Impractical victims would want receipts.Poor naive souls. The cop-hunter then puts across the honey trap, why pay 200 when you can get away with a warning? No demand is numerically ever stated, one has to just understand.Paternally you are chided, that’s not the way to drive. One should be more careful.If the underlying message is not understood, again the hapless innocent would be asked " Pavti fadoo kya, soch lo?"They are generous to leave you an escape route. Well, the victim may be connected higher up and hence along with proper protocol the cop-hunter's posterior is also strategically covered. Once the deal is concluded favourably he may even bid you a smiling farewell too. Its bonhomie time once again. The game goes on...

The driving license alone is just not sufficient. In the veritable jungles which are the Indian roads one needs to also master these special soft skills that go way beyond driving.

A post script for the others
There are good drivers with excellent road sense, consideration to law and civic sense. There are also honest cops who do their jobs diligently & well. But the whole system is so geared, that its weight is leaning on one to bypass it. Sooner or later one ends up doing just that.

Till then drive safely, dont honk unnecessarily, wear your seatbelts/helmets, avoid taking calls while driving and if you must then either park on the side or use hands free devices. Most importantly do not drink and drive. Do remember on the roads its not just you, any slip-up can also endanger others.

19 December, 2008

Mumbai's Best South Indian Vegetarian Food : Restaurants of Matunga

Matunga-East is one of the oldest suburbs of Mumbai. The Ambedkar Road divides the same, facing South Mumbai we have the Parsee Colony on the left and Hindu Colony on the right. The Hindu Colony has an eclectic mix of Maharashtrians, South Indians and Gujarati’s. The Hindu Colony area has three major landmarks namely the Ruia College for Science and Arts, Podar College for Commerce and the famous Matunga Gymkhana. It’s a quaint suburb that’s at once sleepy and buzzing. The buzz is on account of colleges while the sleepy relaxed look comes from the genteel retired pensioners who slowly walk along the wide tree lined footpaths and gardens dotting this place, or sit around the low wall (katta) of the gymkhana. Matunga (E) from Hindu colony to King Circle has in this small geography the finest South Indian Food that Mumbai can offer.

It’s been 22 years since Ruia now, but once in a month I regularly drop in at the eateries that had nurtured me then. My father too accompanies us sometimes tells me that the taste & the aroma’s take him back 58 years. Somethings, I realize you dont want to change, ever. These places are such landmarks. For around seven decades now authentic food is made available to the guests with a consistency thats unbelievable. Consistency in quality over such a long period is by itself an achievement. People who have eaten here have carried in their memories the aroma,the taste and the atmosphere of these places. When the memories dim all they to do is revisit and refresh it. Its present here exactly as it was in its original glory.

I share with you these places. Hereunder have categorised them into two classes as Flavours from Madras and Taste of Mysore separately.The ownership or management maybe Tamil, GSB, Shetty for the stated restuarants below but the classification is strictly on cuisine type. The cuisine is quite different in its subtleness between them though the base items sound and look the same. Some places are new additions to the old eateries we frequented but are equally good. The new would have a (n) besides the name and were not in existence 15 years ago.

The Flavours of Madras

Sharda Bhuvan : Opposite Matunga (Central) Railway Station, LN Road, Matunga (E)
This place serves the best sambar amongst all South Indian eateries. It’s not the spicy-sweet variety of the regular Udipi joint one normally frequents. On special days one gets to have the vengayam ( small button onions\ ) sambar too. The food is top class and very economical. The service is good and the place itself has an old world charm of wide windows and marble topped wooden tables from an era gone by. This place serves the best Dosas , dosas as they should be. They are hot ,golden & of the right thickness and texture, neither too thin and crispy nor soft and flabby. Their pongal served on Sundays is exceptional and upma is very good too. For those who are partial to fried stuff , one should try the Kela ( Raw Banana ) bhajji. No meal here on in any of the snackeries mentioned hereafter is complete without a tumbler of piping hot kaapi ( filter coffee only ).

Mani’s Lunch Home : 153/C. Mhaskar Building, Matunga,Near Ruai College
A perennial favorite of all collegians is this landmark eatery. Founded in the late 1930’s the place is small, has about 16 covers inside. But people are served in their cars, on the sidewalk on plastic stools too. Almost Parisian one would say, not quite. This place is always buzzing and getting a table is a task. Eat out on the walk but eat here one must. The Dosa’s are good here too but the signature dish is the idli wada chutney or sambar. Both Sambar and chutney are unlimited and wonderful. My mouth waters as I write this and should be going there soon.
Mani’s have a lunch home that serves meals at Sion and another one now on Telang Road which they opened a few years back. Here, full south Indian meals are served on ellai or banana leaves. If one prefers then the same comes in steel plates. The meals are rice meals so don’t ask for chappatis or roti’s. Go there really hungry.The food is traditional with its three courses in rice. This place does not have the same buzz as its snack joint though.

Anand Bhavan : 461/A,Ram Niwas,Maheshwari Udyan,Ambedkar Road, King Circle
Anand Bhavan is a favorite of the locals who are tamil bramhins and gujaratis. This is on account of the non-deviation from traditional recipes. The Onion Roast or Onion Uthhappa is a dream come true. One should also ask for the molukkapudi ( dry red powder chutney topped with sesame oil ) to go with the idalis and dosas. This place also serves some genuine Tamil sweets and savouries. Badam halwa and Badam kheer, so also the khaara boondis are exceptional. This restaurant is run by GSB's from Udipi , but the flavour is too Tamil to be put in the other segment.

Amba Bhavan Coffee Club : Bhandarkar Road, Patel Mahal 373, Matunga (C.R.)
This place is the haunt of pensioners who would converge for filter coffee and conversations. Though slightly low profile in comparison to the other three, it has its own fan club. The filter coffee is truly yummily bitter and the roasted chicory beans flavour is unique. The usual fare of Idlis, dosas and snacks are available here too. The fare is good but the bustle of the others is missing. Quiet though it is now,the standard is way above any standard Udipi joint in any other suburb. They have another outlet in Vile Parle which is quite popular again amongst the old Gujaratis of that area.

The South Indian Concerns Ltd : 401, Concerns Building, Telang Road, Matunga (Central Railway), Matunga
This place on Telang road is famous amongst its residents and travelers. It easily is the most popular joint for bachelors who sought work in erstwhile Bombay and stayed in the lodges or as paying guests in the locality. The trend continues, now even families come here to have wholesome meals. It is food like the Tamil mommy made at home and served with equal concern, hence the name. Today the set up is more professional and the food is superb. Average meal cost today is between Rs.40-60. Sweets are extra. A full three course meal of Chaadam ( Rice) with Sambar, Rasam ( Tomatoes or Tamarind), Mor –Butter milk with two bhaajis one pachaadi or curd based salad. Its followed by a glass of Buttermilk. Apalams or poppadums accompany the meals. It is not so crowded in the afternoons on week days, but weekends & dinners one may have to wait his turn. They parcel meals too but one has to carry their own containers. ( Now Closed for Meals ..available only for their own lodgers )

Hotel Madras Café : near Bhau Daji Road and King Circle junction
Not quite there now, this joint is dimly lit and run down off late. But the Bissi Bella Bhaath ( Sambaar Rice mix )is easily one of the best I have had anywhere in a long time. Modestly priced and totally value for money, food is excellent but dim atmosphere & peeling paint turns me off and people who are not so light sensitive can enjoy the food. Better option is to parcel it home if you stay closer.

The Taste of Mysore

A Rama Nayaks Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding : Next to Matunga station (e) 1st flr, Entrance from behind Matunga Market Building
This is a top class meal act. When South Indian meals are referred to this place would quite easily occupy the top spot. May it be the options (Limited /unlimited , ellai/plate, single/family) for wholesome food, convenience or its service. The food is simple and here you are served chappati’s too. They have coupons for everything and you sit on the table and keep handing in coupons. Now apart from this irritating aspect and the fact that finding the entrance to this place is a fine art this place rocks. Once you have entered you wont return either hungry or dissatisfied.

Ram Ashraya : Opposite Kabuttar Khana , Bhandarkar Road, Matunga (E)
This is one of the best Udipi joints for snacks. The Dosas and Idlis are good and the sambar is nice , again not too sweet . The winner, here is the curd-rice, which has pieces of sliced ginger or cucumber in it accompanied by lemon pickle. Definitely worth a visit, this place is quite crowded.

Hotel Saraswati : Opposite Matunga Station (E) Far entrance
This is a typical Udipi as it can get in the heart of Matunga. But it stands its ground and serves delicious food in a very clean ambience quite professionally. This place is large in comparison to the others so getting a place is not an issue here,

Café Mysore: 1/461, Durlabh Nivas, Bhaudaji Road, Opp. Maheshwari Udyan, Matunga
The touch in the cuisine though tagged Cafe Mysore is more Mangalore in flavour. This joint amongst its south Indian peers, is more high profile than content in my opinion. It was the first south Indian hotel to have an A/c section and was higher priced than the ones above. The others (save Sarasvati) still don’t boast of a/cs and focus on the food. The signature dish here is the Rasam wada and Mysore Masala dosa, the takeaway savories are more interesting than the food served in the restaurant. It’s marketed well and is adequate on all parameters of food and ambience.Service does leave something to be desired. Given a choice with the others above, Café Mysore won’t feature here in my list but singly on its own it has its merit and is well known.

Mahabhoj (n) : Bhandarkar Road, Diagonally opposite Podar College in line with Matunga Gymkhana
This is another joint which serves meals. It has become extremely popular and there is a lot of waiting. Primarily in my opinion because seating inside is inadequate. This joint serves good meals but is neither a patch on either Concerns or Shri Krishna Boarding. Yet people swear by it and it’s finally a matter of preference. The tastes are balanced according to local customer’s preference and there in the purist in me was offended. But it is popular so I may be mistaken in my stand.

Idli House (n) : Next to Vasant Breezy Chamber, King Circle, Matunga (E)
This is a new place but it certainly makes the cut here purely on account of merit. The idlis are nice and the varieties are terrific. The Khotu ( Jackfruit leaf wrapped ) or mudho ( banana leaf ) and the kancheepuram idli are all part of the varieties here. Chutney sambar or butter accompany it and is very good. It’s a must visit place. Another nice aspect is that in plate there are four idlis and quite nice sized portions. Superb for people who watch their weight, just don’t take the butter and u can live here. But one small complaint, its closed during lunch times..quite silly but true.

Given the above list my personal preference favours the Flavours of Madras. But you go try all and form your own preferences. The trial itself can be a feast to last a week.

16 December, 2008

Jannat to Jihadis 26/11

Just an idle thought crossed the mind in its wandering.
10 terrorists ( they called themselves Jihadi's) killed 178 and injured 360 odd people in Mumbai to achieve Jannat ( Paradise ). If these souls are to achieve paradise, then arent the souls of the innocent victims better off in Dozakh ( Hell ) lest their paths cross once again in the hereafter?

Scales of Justice and the Sword Hand

The law by just its meaning is a tenet/s, rule/s or the guiding principle/s on which an ecosystem or society functions. Look at nature, it too has an order and functions in just such a way, we see it in the natural order of things around us. The earth revolves around the sun, the moon around the earth. water flows from higher level to lower level; dog chases cat, cat chases mouse. Trees take in noxious gases and convert it into life giving oxygen. Nature is balanced because of the very laws on which it operates.

Man is different. Across time he moved from the caves and jungles and evolved towards progress, the wiser amongst him had the foresight to frame rules of behaviour for him and his future generations. This was required because he is a selfish animal motivated by greed. In nature, man is the only animal that covets and tries to acquire more than he needs. Unfortunately the rules that he frames are conveniently interpreted by him to suit his own purpose. This varied interpretation causes the balance to be upset.

How does he deal with a situation where other men have broken these rules? He creates another system/platform to address this and calls it a court of law or the legal system. It is the very cornerstone of civilization, this system of law and redressal. If we examine natures legal system versus the man made one. Nature punishes everybody who abuses its order of things. The punishment befits the crime. It is not always so in the man-made legal system and herein lies the catch. Justice is often delayed and the meted out punishment doesn’t always suit the crime. The law has to be fair but powerful and something that a wrong doer should be afraid of. The fear of law should deter or contain crime. Our legal system is weak and vacillating. Delay of justice is justice denied. This too is a crime, being perpetuated indirectly against the victims, by the very courts of law. Nature on the other hand has neither pity, nor mercy or delay in its dispensing of justice, the consequences are swift and terrible. Laws of nature because of this power are feared & respected.

On the background of recent happenings of 26/11 the question before us is what now? In the official casualty tally, 178 are dead and 360 are injured. Is there justice for them in the Indian courts ?

Is the Indian system functioning and functioning well? Let us look at three separate cases; two instances that are not related to terror and one which is.

  • The Bhopal gas tragedy is the most horrific industrial accident anywhere in the world. The leakage of MIC or methyl isocyanate gas resulted in 3000 people immediately dying and lakhs suffering the after effects. This happened in 1984. This case was settled out of court for a paltry sum and is still pending as its impact on life and environment are yet under discussion more than 24 years after.
  • Second is the Bombay textile mill workers strike headed by the late Dr. Datta Samant. This changed the industrial face of Mumbai irreversibly and completely. Lakhs of millworkers were out of job and most have died by now. The cases are pending yet. This is from 1982.
  • The third is the red handed arrest of Mohammad Afzal aka Afzal Guru for the attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. He is sentenced to death in 2006 a good five years later and till date that sentence is not carried out. There is a legal stay on this order.

The goddess of law has the scales of justice in one hand and holds a sword in another. In the attention to the drama taken to balance the oscillating scales, over time even the goddess has forgotten her sword hand. Its time now to remind her.

13 December, 2008

The ties that bind … Goodbye Uncle

13th December 2008. I receive a call at around 8.00 am from my classmate Nalin that Pradeep’s dad who was hospitalized for now over two months is no more. The first reaction is surprise followed by numbness and then regret. The rites are at 10.30 -11.00 am at Mahim at Deepak’s, his elder brother’s home and then it was off to Shivaji Park.

From Mulund which is around 25 km’s away, as I started on my two-wheeler all my thoughts were on Pradeep. He is settled in the USA now with his wife Ameetha, Son Taran and Dog Samba. None of them could be here at this point. He had been here last month when Uncle was first diagnosed ill and the recovery took its own time and we got to speak then, not meet. Nalin had met Uncle in the hospital during the time he had stabilized. He recounts that Uncle was mighty happy that his life had been made complete by his two sons who had settled well in their life and their families there on. After a long battle with his ailment he made his peace & moved into the next world.

In such cases my heart always goes out to the people he left behind; his wife and partner of more than four decades, his sons, daughters in law and the grandchildren. On all of them his mark was left in some measure. Deepak the elder son was performing the rites as Nalin, Mohnish and I watched along with many friends and relatives who had gathered to pay their respects. The hurt in the eyes of Deepak was palpable in the stiffly held shoulders, he who had to be the strength here, while some part of him wanted to break down himself. Aunty was crying and the softly sniffling sounds of grief from a lady who till now always was high decibel were painful.

My memories of Pradeep’s dad are sketchy. He always was the stern faced, gruff man who would sit in the balcony of their house in Gloria society. The demeanor though stern was only that, until one looked into his eyes which had pure mischief. He would sneak in a one liner which would be so funny that it would have us in splits. My pal gets his comic timing from his dad for sure. The house would be full and noisy all the time and not with one word were people made to feel that it is a trouble. It was an open house and a very very warm household. Aunty would make this yummy fish curries and the smells of cooking and domesticity would abound. In the speed of achievement and establishment of selves, the trips to that home had stopped and meetings by themselves became occasional. Pradeep went to the USA and it became even more difficult. Then Deepak moved to Mahim. Surprisingly the environs is quite similar to Gloria society at Mulund, was my impression today.

Deepak broke down when the last mortal remains were assigned to the flames, in the arms of a friend, though he quickly composed himself. All of us were there for Pradeep and share his loss. The call of the career puts people in geographies so distant that it is gut wrenching to see when a stark reality like this prevents their being here in person. Pradeep would say goodbye to his Dad in his own way, maybe he already did. I pen this on behalf of all us guys here in Mumbai and there in the USA who would be feeling no different. These are the ties that bind us…the ties shall remain always as we say..Goodbye Uncle.

06 December, 2008

Epical India..Speaks

It was an odd day and like always was walking to my design studio through the market street. In a crowded market one cant help but overhear talk as one walks by. “Garam hai loha, maar do hathoda” ( Strike now , the iron is hot ). The person was passionately discussing with his companion about the future course of action of the 26/11 incidents.
Walking a bit ahead a pair was shouting in raised voices & by the time I reached the spot one of them had finished with speaking and caught the other by the scruff of his collar. Before anyone could intervene he had whacked the other with a brutish slap and the guy collapsed. A voice came from the background “Chhod do thakur” (leave him be). After all he is your brother, brothers should not fight so. The man furiously turned on him and said “Kishan bhagwan ne Arjun se kya kaha thha? Haath mut kaanpne do, bhaichaara mut dekho. Bhai hua to kya hua, Isney chori ki hai apney hi dukaan me, sirf sabak sikha raha hu.” ( Lord Krishna in Mahabharat on the battlefield counseled the brave warrior Arjuna whose hand shook on his bow. Your duty now is to shoot arrows not look whether the man on the other side is your brother. Here there are only enemies. There is a right and a wrong.He has stolen money in our own shop. Wrong doers must be punished)

Walking still further a woman was hitting a man who was obviously drunk. She screamed at him for having cast aspersions on her character. “Main koi Sita nahi, ki koi dhobhi ke ilzaam pe chali jaoongi aur chup rahungi. Saaley fod dalungi. Khud daru pita hai aur mujhipar ilzaam lagata hai?” ( I am not like Sita to quietly accept an allegation and be leave my own house. Creep, I shall retaliate. You drunkard, you have the gall to call me names). Very naturally a crowd had gathered. All of them were enjoying the free entertainment being provided. Not one even ventured to sort it out.

In an earlier instance, had been the mute witness to an irate manager complaining about the owner of the company siding with his son in a dispute. “Andhaa Raaj hai” ( The ruler is Blind) . This was an all too popular comment on the blind King Dhritarashtra from the Mahabharata. In the same office the tea boy who had a darker complexion was summoned jocularly “ Arrey o kaaliya, chai to pila”( Hey blackie, will u serve us some tea?). He coolly asked back " Kitney aadmi hai?"

Epical comparisons spices up mundane situations & creates a sense of grandeur and fun in the repartee. It inflates our sense of self and the extra spice takes the conversation to a different level. Notice though, that the more unimportant the issue, the more flamboyant would be the quote. The Greeks have their Iliad and the Odyssey, and the conversations are liberally speckled with Homerisms . We too have our own works and their influence has percolated deep into our everyday conversations. We use them quite unconsciously, its just an observation.

Our very own Indian epics,The Ramayana,The Mahabharata and Sholay ;-)

01 December, 2008

Courage under Fire..

Extreme situations test the mettle of Individuals. The actions and character they display turn ordinary persons into heroes. Heroism is often associated with bravery but what is actually being brave? Does it mean, that one is not afraid?

It is the acceptance of fear, coming to terms with it and yet doing your duty, irrespective of the consequences that makes brave individuals.

The Terrorist attack on 26/11 has thrown up very unlikely faces. Most of the faces and names, we may never know. Some wore uniforms of the force they represented whether NSG, Army, Police or the Fire Brigade. They saved lives while sacrificing their own.

There were staffers of these commercial establishments who escorted their guests to safety. Look at the irony, why should staffers do this for their customers? The hotel industry is the only commercial service that addresses its paying customers with the nomenclature of “guests” and it is from this tag that the nature of caring achieves a different meaning. The turbaned bearers of the Taj did not leave their posts. The Chefs and the Major Domos herded diners and locked them in safety. The tale of the young housekeeping executive at Trident, who shoved his guests into the elevator ahead of him as a terrorist climbed the stairs, is tragic. He died as the elevator door closed on him, under bullets intended for the guests. All are exemplary tales of bravery.

Extra-ordinary is the effort of the CST railway announcer who when he heard the firing at the outstation platform announced to the passengers of 3 incoming trains to disembark from the domestic gates.He saved thousands of lives with his announcements. There was firing around him then. Then there are the ambulance drivers who tirelessly carted dismembered bodies or injured people to hospitals. They were under peril but went about their jobs.

The fellow hostages who helped each other with a kind word or act shall be remembered forever by those who survived. This is bravery in action and we take pride in these souls who stood up to the occasion and brought out their finest instincts in support of humanity. We salute these heroes with all humbleness, and take pride in their acts of honor, when the occasion demanded.

We would not desecrate the memory of these souls by mentioning the politicians in the same breath. Those who roared from mikes and newspapers that we shall attack and drive out our enemies. Their roar was only against defenseless civilians of different states whom they targeted and attacked in a mob. In this hour of need when the victims cried out, these so called leaders were conspicuous by their absence. There were many in the mob who lauded the bravery earlier when these leaders took on the establishment and held this very city to ransom. But now when the city needed their bravery, they hid in the safety of their homes. Not one peep came out of them. Their actions too speak louder than their words.

We shall not forget any of this; the tales of bravery and those of abject cowardice.