Monday, December 31, 2007

I've learnt...

Through a fairly painful process called Life, I've learnt a few things. I'm sharing these with anyone who wants to avoid the entire cycle & prosper on borrowed wisdom!
  • Not to offer advice unsolicited.
  • Never to criticize anyone. It shatters the other person's self-esteem. A gentle word is more important than correcting somebody. The Quran apparently says something to this effect on criticism: "Criticism is akin to eating the flesh of your brother"!
  • No matter how many interests I cultivate, no matter how much I know about everything, No matter how much capacity my brain has been blessed with, I've learnt that even that has it's limits. I know now that in order to achieve something big, you have to make sacrifices, you sometimes have to go through trauma.
  • I've learnt: that often we’re too hard on ourselves. We judge ourselves too harshly, expect too much, even perfection from ourselves. I've learnt that it's not working for me. I've learnt that we’re as ordinary or just as significant as everyone else. So what I’ve learnt is this: No more judging harshly, and no more totally unrealistic expectations! Ambition yes, but none of the previous expecting the earth stuff!
  • I've learnt that I'm as important or as strong and as susceptible as the next guy. So no more fear of bullies. You can tackle them, and with just a little bit of luck superbly! So no more getting intimidated by bullies or unnerved in the face of aggression! Stay & FIGHT! You stand almost as much a chance of winning if you fight. If you don’t fight, then you stand no chance at all!
  • We don't understand right from wrong, or spirituality or religion when we are young. We understand these things only later, when we're battered and bruised. After we have sinned(?) and learnt some lessons in humility and in our fragility and impermanence. And we have been thru moh and have realized what a devious mistress it is. And that the devil is a seducer who tempts as depicted so effectively in The Devil's Advocate. How even a virtue can become a vice if taken to extremes.
  • Peter sinned before finally tending to the flock. Even Jesus and Mohammad started preaching late in life. Using that analogy we realize that we lesser mortals have stained damans before we begin to receive the first rays of enlightenment. Because it is only the test of fire that makes fine steel.
  • Not to worry. Worry leads to anxiety & stress, and these can become lifelong mental & physical conditions is unchecked. After all, there are billions who go through life's ups & downs unpeturbed. What do they lose? They same that everyone else loses! Also, read these two excellent couplets from 2 great poets:

Chinta se ghate chaturai,

Dukh se ghate sharir,

Lobh se ghate laxmi,

Kah gaye das Kabir..*


Chinta se chaturai ghate

ghate rup aur gyan

chinta badi abhagini

chinta chita saman

tulsi bharose ram ke

nischint hoyi ke soye

anhoni honi nahi

honi hoye so hoye!*

  • I've realized after much misunderstanding & maligning it, that Religion is essentially a school. Or a course therein. Of Spirituality. When you want to learn about Law, you go to Law school; when you wanna learn about God and Spirituality, Religion teaches you.

Note: This list will expand.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Roz subah sirf utho nahin... JAAGO!!!

OK. If you take pride in being an educated, intelligent, humane Indian, here's what you should be reading:

And need I specify what you should be doing?

I am going to do what Anjan has recommended. For a start, I am not going to shop at Reliance Fresh anymore. Spencer's, a nice secular South Indian company will get all my money. No quarrel with Reliance Retail. They're Headquartered in Bombay. None with Reliance Communications for the same reason. Quarrel only with companies operating out of Gujarat. Reasons below.
No more buying fuel at the Reliance petrol pump in Vashi. Will buy from HP.

If anyone has more ideas to add to this list, we'd love to hear!

A boycott is a time-tested form of protest against the actions of a state (as represented by its "management" or "government"). Think about the Swadeshi movement, for instance - its participants chose not to buy British goods not only as a positive endorsement to India's handloom industry, but also an economic action that disrupted the British textiles supply-demand curve. Were those factories not staffed by people like the employees that you refer to, or run by businessmen whose intention was anything other than to make an honest living - supported by a nation-state that was quietly pursuing its agenda of repression against India? Did the owners of those factories stand up and pressurize the British monarchy to give India its freedom - or did the collective weight of the Indian protests in both non-violent and militant expression drive the British out? We all make choices.
Arvind Mills and the other companies that chose to be where they are made theirs. It is our belief that a widespread boycott will compel them to rethink this - and to put pressure on the state leadership to at least shift away from the politics of hate if they are to retain their economic position.

List of companies to watch for:
The list is rather long and still under scrutiny for accuracy (we do not wish to penalize companies that may have registered their offices there years ago but operate de facto HQs from elsewhere - it is quite a hassle to switch the State for a Corporate office)... still, here are some of the obvious ones identified so far:

Arvind Mills (Healthier Alternative is KG Denim I think)
Torrent Pharma
Cadila Pharma
Zydus Cadila
Gujarat Gas
Paras Pharmaceuticals
Ashapura Mines
Remi Metals
Amul (Britannia/Nestle are alternatives)

Edited: 07.01.2008

Friday, December 07, 2007

Road Rage with a twist

There was another post that spoke of road rage some time back, but it's been some time since then. By God's Grace, I'm older & more mellow now. Or yellow as my twenty something cousin would put it. Here's a couple of my recent responses to aggravation on Poona roads.

I do not try & run Pune-ites off the road anymore. There's no point. They're stubborn & are willing to get their own vehicles damaged if you end up damaging yours in the bargain. So I keep my cool. I cannot overstate the importance of keeping a cool head in every situation throughout your life! Even if you have to defend yourself physically, there's no reason to let your adrenaline take control of your mind. You can do more damage to your opponent if your mind is thinking of vicious ways to do it. But more on cool in another post.
So what I do these days is stay calm & think of ways to cause permanent psychological scarring rather than get worked up, get my blood pressure up, get into a shouting match. Such as:

The Koregaon Park - Mundhwa road is being repaired for the past month. As a result of which, it is now temporarily a one-way. But Pune-ites being the priceless lot they are, break every traffic rule in the book & then some more. They drive right into the one-way, in hordes, causing immense discomfort for those legitimately on that road. Thankfully I realized the futility of trying to shout down 40 motorists. So I called the Traffic Control Room & appraised them of the situation. They're Pune-ites too I guess, so they said they'd take immediate action, but did nothing for a long time. Then one day, as I was driving past the other end of the road, I saw a police vehicle stationed there & a couple of cops. And of course, there were motorists leaning out of their windows, alighting from their vehicles, /begging/negotiating with the cops to be let off. This was my moment! I stopped my car, rolled the window down & in the loudest voice I could muster I hollered to the cops, "GREAT JOB!!! WONDERFUL!!! CATCH MORE OF THESE GUYS! DON'T LET THEM OFF EASY!" And I clapped as well. I wanted to get out of the car & do a little jig, but I was in a bit of a hurry. Plus judging by the response of one of the motorists, I think I had done enough! :-D
But it doesn't end here. As I drove onto that road, a couple of metres ahead, I saw more motorists heading down the wrong way. So I slowed down, rolled my window down, and signalling the errant motorists to stop I said, "Run! There's a police car coming right behind you!" And that sent the Puneri drivers scurrying. Where? Straight into the waiting arms of the cops at the other end!!! LOLOL!!!! BLOODY MADE MY DAY!!!

The Katraj - Hinjewadi Highway is supposed to be just that, a highway. But unlike anywhere else in the country, this highway is littered with Pune drivers, not sticking to their lanes, weaving in & out at 80 kmph, driving at 60 kmph in the right lane, not allowing you to overtake blissfully unaware of rearview mirrors that will tell them that someone behind them is signalling them to move!
Once I got stuck behind one such truck. Normally my response was to honk until the guy moved. That would entail hand on horn for a good 300 seconds and having to put up with that noise yourself! Not to mention the aforesaid blood pressure! But not now... Nah...
So I overtook this guy somehow (didn't slow down near him to wave my fist/finger or anything), and then slowed to 30 kmph right in front of him. Then one deep breath and I decided to drive like that for the next few minutes. Suddenly I saw this car overtake the truck from the left & join me in front of him. Same speed. And he waved at me as if to say, "That's the way to do it"! And then both of us drove like that for the next few minutes, in front of the trucker @ 30 kmph. :-)

As the other car pulled away, I saw his registration number. Bombay car. Gosh, I love those Bombayites! Imagine! Crazy Bombay Stranger-Friend joins me in getting back at a stubborn/deaf/blind trucker.

Apparently I'm not the only one who does this. Quite a few non locals who live in Poona for work adopt this route to get back at their tormentors. As they say in Bombay, "Tension lene ka nahi, Dene ka!"

PS: Did another nice thing that Koregaon-Mundhwa day that I forgot to mention. After the applauding, I called up the Pune Traffic Control Room (whom I have called earlier to complain) and told them what a wonderful job they were doing. I personally believe that they must have been all smiles in that office for the next 10 minutes. I doubt if they have ever received what is called an appreciation call in call centre parlance!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Racist friends...

I have this f(r)iend who's been chewing my brain for the past 6 months on how people from her native state rule India's socio-cultural conciousness. She's from Bengal & they're a people who're traditionally proud of their heritage. But this particular fiend's pride tends towards conceit, tends to get argumentative & tends to talk more than listen. So I'm adopting another route to conversation. One where she can read but cannot interrupt! This is a point by point dissection of her race-supremacy claims:

Bengalis "RULE" India!
OK... By what Logic? Here's a list of Indian Prime Ministers & Presidents. I don't see even one Bengali in here. So what exactly do you mean by "rule"??

Bengalis have the richest culture!
OK, let's use that logic again. What exactly comprises Culture? I take it to mean a mix of a regions Art, Music, Dance, Literature, Cuisine etc. Superiority in these areas will be taken as an indicator of cultural superiority.

Art: Leading Indian Artists are M.F. Hussain, Tyeb Mehta, Raja Ravi Varma. Theirs are the paintings that command the highest prices in the world art market. Any bong names here?

Music: There's Hindustani & there's Carnatic in Indian Classical Music. No Bangali. Exponents are Pandit Jasraj (Haryanvi), Bhimsen Joshi (Kannadiga), Gangubai Hangal, Shobha Gurtu (both Kannadiga). Then you have Pt. Ravi Shankar (after 3 Kannadigas, a Bong finally!), Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia (UP-ite), Ustad Allah-Rakha, Ustad Zakir Husain, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan. Any Bengali names there? We'll come to popular, film music as well, but for now I'd like you to retract the statement you made that people from other states of India have contributed very little to India's culture & development!

Dance: Well, India has Kathak, Kuchipudi, Bharat Natyam, Mohini Attam, Odissi, hell it even has Naga! Here's a full list that has Manipuri & Assamese dance forms. But no bong as far as I know. So where does this false sense of superiority stem from? A feeling of inadequacy...?

Literature: Everyone acknowledges Gurudeb's greatness & achievements. But that was over a 100 years back! And if you really wanna go back in History, there hasn't been a greater poet than Ghalib on the subcontinent & may well never be! If you take the current baromater of literary success to be the Man-Booker, then India's winners are from Kashmir, Gujarat & Kerela; Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai & Arundhati Roy. And with the exception of Arundhati Roy, the rest are foreign nationals actually! Only our desperation makes us claim them as our own. So before you start claiming Dr. Amartya Sen as your own think again!

Cuisine: Mughlai anyone? I rest my case here! Though I will acknowledge my preference for Bengali sweets here!

OK! Moving on to more trivial pursuits, Indian Films! Names like Kishoreda & R.D Burman are thrown at me! As I duck for cover I realize that this is History being thrown at me. Again! My favourite singer is Kishore Kumar. My favourite composer is R.D Burman. But I would be the last one to refute the accomplishments of a Rafi or a Shankar-Jaikishan who Kishore & R.D. themselves held in very high regard!

But to counter my friends arguments, I list Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor & Dev Anand, the trio who ruled the film industry of yore. Yes there was a Guru Dutt, but he was actually either Maharashtrian or Kannadiga. Yes, there was a Satyajit Ray, who I think is India's only Oscar winner. But remember Mehboob and K. Asif? Mughal-e-Azam was not made by a bong. Nor were any of India's 3 Oscar nominees for best foreign language film: Mother India, Salaam Bombay or Lagaan.

Today's top stars are Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan (yes, he's a star; he may be a below-par actor, but even if it's bizzare, he is a star.), Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar & Salman Khan. No bong names here! Aishwarya Rai is the country's top heroine not Sushmita Sen. Bipasha and Lara (though YUM!) are still mere starlets!

The leading composer today is A.R. Rahman. The leading singers today are Udit Narayan (a Bihari/Nepali) & Sonu Nigam. And Sunidhi Chouhan! India's leading drummers/percussionists are Trilok Gurtu & Sivamani.

Yes, I will acknowledge the incandescence of artists like Shaan, Kajol, Rani etc. But your argument that your people "rule", holds no water!!!

The Nobel's too establish no superiority. There's an equal number of Bong & Tam winners & a Punj in the list too! Our desperation is at it's height here. We claim Mother Teresa to be an Indian on the basis of her work in India, but we also shamelessly claim two others who have spent an entire lifetime working in the US & the UK!

And now to tackle that History book that was being constantly hurled at me... Historically, India's greatest kings have been Akbar & Ashoka. There's been a Mughal Dynasty & there's been a Bihari Empire (Magadha, Patliputra). There's been the Chola dynasty down south, there's been Hyder Ali & his son Tipu Sultan. There's even been a minisicule Peshwa rule! Bengal's impact on history in comparision has been zilch!

You see little girl, the larger the scheme of things grows, the smaller our local achievements get. Even on the world stage, we are recognized for our achievements in the English Language. And we're all viewed as Indians. So really, drop this racial supremacy attitude. The last person to use it was Hitler!

THERE... THAT FELT GOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!