Archive for the India Category

Relation Chips

Posted in Musings, People, Society on January 12, 2011 by samudranb

An understanding of human relationships continues to elude me.

I guess like my friend says, I should stop being surprised astounded at how humans are. They just are the way they are. There is no right or wrong to them, just like there is no right or wrong to a coin toss.

I am having a difficult time accepting this.

I thought I was immune to fluctuations in people’s behaviour, but apparently and obviously, I am not.

As I look back at the relationships I have seen in my life, I seem to have arrived at just a single constant – nobody behaves the way you feel is the ideal way they should.

Whether it is the girlfriend who cheats, the daughter who – on her father’s death- regrets not calling him more than once a month, the friend who lets you down on the verge of the big day, the parent who does not come to your first stage performance in spite of promises, the friends who break your trust, the husband who wants to go seek pleasure somewhere else, the boss who lies to you about you, the uncle who lies about how successful his business is, the politician who lies about his sources of income, the clerk who lies about the bribe he received, the witness who lies about the murder he did NOT see or the chowkidar who lies about how promptly he submitted the payment for your electricity bill, everybody behaves in a way that seems far from ideal, possibly even in their opinion.

But is it really their fault? Is it possible that what two people think is the ideal way to behave, given the same set of circumstances, be so divergent from each other as to actually effect shock in the one and surprise that it “effected shock” in the other?

“As a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery.”

– Wachowski Brothers in The Matrix

Did they hit the nail on the head? Do humans create pain and suffering in their lives willingly and knowingly? Does it satisfy some evolutionary calling that I am unaware of?

Have we moved from a “primitive”, “tribal” society based on intense interdependence encompassing huge families, tribes and a social framework more dependent on natural sources and resources and – more importantly – on each other, to a modern society without those “inconveniences”? Does modern society force us to go about life with chips on our shoulders? Do we, not having access and permission to the traditional dangers and excitements of hunting and killing for food and fun, resort to creating drama within the confines of our own puny social circles by means of bad decisions, self aggrandizing propagandas and false dichotomies? Are we constantly on the lookout for perceived attacks on our self, and for preemptive counter-measures?

Is this evolution?

Or devolution?

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Cinderella of India

Posted in India, People, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by samudranb

X: Dude! Did you know about the Manipur blockade?!

Me: Of course! It has been going on for 67 odd days now.

X: Yea? I just found out about it! And to think I prided myself on being up-to-date on world affairs!

Me: Yea, the media has just caught on.

X: Damn man… and here I was more worried about the Gaza blockade!

How does one react, when people are more aware of what is happening in other countries, than they are of what is happening in their own?

How does one react, when people ask if one’s state is a district of West Bengal?

How does one react, when people do not know whether the place where one comes from is a part of India or not?

How does one react, when the history teacher says the reason there is no mention of Assamese or other North Eastern states’ history in the syllabus, is because they are “not important”?

It’s not just the ordinary people who seem to have forgotten that there are indeed some states east of Kolkata. The administration too.

For the last many decades, while the rest of the country has progressed on to the new economy, NE states still languish in the old economy. While the rest of the country argues over 3G, NE states still await broadband (which is of course, only 256 kbps). While the rest of the country goes gaga over the latest Hrithik / Shah Rukh movie, Manipur goes gaga over the latest Korean movie, because Bollywood movies are “banned” there. While the students from the rest of the country fight to get into one of the best Medical schools across the length and breadth of the country, those from the 7 NE states fight to get into the 6 medical colleges available to them.

Why is the rest of the nation so apathetic to the NE? Is it simply because of the cultural differences? Shouldn’t the differences be highlighted, and celebrated, the way we do with J&K, Rajasthan, or any of the other states? Why is the North East consistently given a step-motherly treatment from the centre?

Is national integration even on the agenda for the central government? Should India even be one country? Does it even make sense?

Or should we wait till midnight to find out?

Na’vi and Naxals : Does Pandora (in Avatar) parallel India?

Posted in India, Society with tags , , on December 25, 2009 by samudranb
Avatar (2009)

Avatar

I finally joined the legions of fans that James Cameron has picked up. I do not have any new words to describe “Avatar”, so I will repeat whatever others have said about it – marvellous, path breaking, jaw dropping, epic, yada yada.

But I could not help but draw parallels between what was happenning in the movie to the Na’vi, to what is happenning to the Naxals.

In the movie, the Na’vi are sitting on top of huge reserves of “Unobtainium”. Here, it is minerals.

In the movie, a big corporation tries to push out the Na’vi from their homes. Here, it is the government and big corporations (in their corrupt forms).

In the movie, the Na’vi use bows and arrows and spears. Here, the Adivasis use the same.

In the movie, the “civilized people” bring the heavy artillery, including air strikes and ground troops. Here, it is Chidambaram.

In the movie, the “civilized people” believe they are “developing” the Na’vi. Here it is all of us right leaning people.

In the movie, the Na’vi live in perfect harmony with nature. Here, the Adivasis depend on it for their survival.

I used to be firmly in the “development is good” camp. After watching Avatar, I am not so sure anymore. Are we becoming blind to reality, as soon as we take off the 3D glasses?

Lessons Learnt – 2009

Posted in About me, India, Lessons, Life. Or something like it., People, Society on December 21, 2009 by samudranb
  • Bali is beautiful. Thailand is incredible. And the people of both these places know more about “Indian culture” than most Indians.
  • Voting in a general election is pretty useless. But you should still do it.
  • Employment is over-rated. Quitting a job is no big deal. Just be sure to have enough money to last you a while without any inflows. And keep an eye on the credit card expenses.
  • It is possible to have an expensive DSLR, and be made to feel like an idiot by a 18 year old kid with a Point n Shoot.
  • Shutter block is BAD.
  • It is possible to mail the President of your company and expect (and get) a reply. It is possible to tweet Pritish Nandy, Chetan Bhagat, Gul Panag, Imran Khan and Barkha Dutt and expect (and get) a reply. It is possible to tweet Mallika Sherawat and Priyanka Chopra, and expect (and  get) promotional merchandise from their latest movie.
  • It is possible to find your ideal job, and go for it. It is however not in your hands whether you will get the job or not. Just give it your best shot.
  • It is OK to delay BIG plans. It is NOT OK to give up on them.
  • Dress code for a wine tasting festival – collared t-shirt, khakis, as ridiculous a hat as you can find and a nose angled at 15 degrees higher than usual. Strict NO-NOs – formals of any kind. (Suits? Die you pretender! ) Also, it helps if you can keep a straight face and use adjectives like “herbaceous” / “comfortable” / “smoky” / “high notes” / “oaky” to describe a wine (never mind if you dont have any clue about what they mean).
  • I prefer white wines to reds. Chardonnays to Chenin Blancs. And Reveilo reserves to Chateau Indages or Chantillis.
  • I prefer wheat beer to dark lager to premium lager to apple cider (The last one should actually be called “apple shudder”).
  • Never EVER trust directions given by a woman. 15 minutes later, you will end up at the place where you got an indignant “Of course!!” as reply to your “Are you sure this is the right way?”.
  • God invented porn. Just like everything else in this world.
  • Dating is fun. Not dating is fun too.
  • People who do not value your time, are not worth it.
  • Most people are more interesting than they seem.
  • Always ride your bike at 20% lower than the speed that seems safe.
  • No protective gear is ever not worth the money.
  • There are way too many India’s in India. And there are way too many TVS service centres in South India. And not enough in the rest of the country.
  • The Indian government is doing an OK job. I only wish they would do it faster.
  • Having patience is the most difficult thing to do.

Update:

  • Use sunscreen.
Wine tasting dress code - ©Chaitanya

Would you exchange 2 cappuccinos for peace?

Posted in India, People, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , on December 13, 2009 by samudranb
Priyanka Borpujari, friend and freelance journalist, has been working closely with the issue of violence in Chhattisgarh. She is headed to Dantewada district in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on December 20, 2009. A place which has become a living hell — tribals from 644 villages have been thrown out, some villages have been burnt over 10 times, women raped, murders rampant daily, and where the perpetrators of this might be the state police, through the alibi of Salwa Judum. Why the hell is she going there?

She is also trying to raise funds to take to Dantewada, for the Satyagraha, at which 50,000 tribals from Dantewada alone are expected to congregate. All she wants from you is a minimum of Rs 100 — the cost of 2 cappuccinos with a friend at barista — which will take care of one adivasi person’s one day’s food and lodging in Dantewada during the Satyagraha. The donations need to be made in cash, and I can collect the same in Pune, on behalf of Priyanka. You will be furnished with a receipt once she is back from Dantewada. The donation would be made to Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, about which you will find in her blog. You can always get in touch with her directly (her contact details are at the end).

You might be tempted to think that this does not concern you. That this is not really your responsibility and hence, you would wonder about the need to respond. But in truth, the idea of civilization, culture and country means that problems, responsibilities, benefits and accountability is shared. Sooner or later, for better or for worse, everyone is affected. And responsible.

Especially if the problem is large-scale and involves millions of people as it does in this case. There’s a war for justice going on in the tribal hinterland of India. The people may be denied justice once, twice, thrice… maybe even 10 times. But everyone has a tipping point. There comes a time when those who are denied justice rise up against oppression and then everyone comes in the line of fire, you and me included. Millions of Adivasi people have been denied justice guaranteed by the constitution. This is an attempt to give them that, so that they don’t feel cheated by the country and the government that is supposed to protect them. It is everyone’s collective responsibility to ensure that they get it, so that they do not lend an ear to those that are telling them to take up guns to get what they deserve.

Your sacrifice of two coffees (Rs. 100 or more), goes a long way in ensuring this. Let’s, for a change, do something real. Lighting candles at the Gateway of India is a start, but in this case wont it be better to save that money on candles and instead give it in the pursuit of justice and fight against violence? Can peace prevail without justice? You decide.

I do not subscribe to many of her political views, nor do I share her opinion of the administration at the centre and big corporations. But I do agree with her that injustice has indeed been done, and that more needs to be done to bring those issues to light, and resolve them peacefully, for everybody’s benefit.

And yes, I am donating.

Priyanka can be reached at 9820741992 or aa.priyanka@gmail.com. Please read Priyanka’s blogpost to know more. She would be more than willing to take your queries and doubts, and reply to them.

The life of a soldier

Posted in India, Life. Or something like it., Love, Musings, People with tags , , , on November 9, 2009 by samudranb

How much (or how little) do we know about the people fighting for our safety? Do you know what kind of life they lead? Their dreams? Their aspirations? Their personal battles? What are their lives like? What do they dream about? Do they find girlfriends easily? Do they like chocolate? What do their non-military friends and family think about? Why don’t they just follow in everyone else’s footsteps and do an MBA and go for a 9 to 6 job? Do they invest in mutual funds? Who does their taxes? Do they like fast bikes? Do their wives support them? What do they teach their kids?

Pritish Nandy laments the misuse of the word “Hero”, and the dearth of real heroes. But I think we are surrounded by them.

Its not just the soldiers. Even the neighbourhood policemen. The honest ones and the dishonest ones. The rich ones (ha!) and the poor ones. The fat ones and the fit ones.

Its easy to be critical of the system. Its easy to think of these people in abstract terms. Its easy to ignore them. Its easy to think only of ourselves. Its easy to sit back and enjoy your book/ coffee/ free porn/ farmville/ girl/ bike/ Crème brûlée / IMAX movie / whatever.

But when it is presented in front of you in the form of real-life flesh and blood, you do sit up and take note, don’t you? I did. This marvelously impartial photo-essay on how an american soldier made me wish I knew more about our soldiers too.

I would love to do something like that. To take an abstract term (soldier / policeman) and flesh it out for you. Make it real enough for you to sit up and take note.

How? I have no idea.

I think I am good enough a photographer to be able to take the photos. But I have no idea how I am going to get the permissions, the access and the funds.

Can you help?

How many Indias?

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by samudranb

3000 kms of riding through India changes many things in you. Some changes were expected. Many were not.

The most surprising change that happened, was in my opinion of the Indian govt. Surprised?

I got to see many many faces of India on my trip, which existed previously only in my imagination. And with this “actualization” of the many Indias, came a new found respect for the government. Specifically, the Indian Government.

Why, you ask?

Do you know how many people India has?

Do you know how many different people you have met in your ENTIRE life? If you are pretty sociable, a few thousand.

Try and recall the most number of people you have ever seen together, at a single moment. Probably a lakh, if you have been to a live cricket match.

Now multiply that by 10000.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is still less than the population of India. More than 116 crores.

If you met 1000 new people every day, it would take you more than 3194 years to meet them all.

Oh, and thats hoping that they are not reproducing at the rate of 1.548%.

Do you know how many roads there are in India?

Do you know how much you commute from your home to your office/college? 5 kms? 10kms? 15 kms?

Now imagine doing that 10 km commute 6500 times. That will give you the approximate number of National highways in India.

But oh wait! That only constitutes 2% of the entire road network. So that makes it… umm… 3250000 kms of roads all over India.

If you covered 20 kms everyday, and never covered the same road twice, you would have to be on the roads for more than 445 years to cover it all. Assuming of course, that the Indian govt does not build any more roads in the meantime.

Do you know how many villages there are in India?

Do you know how many villages you have ever been to, in your entire life? Zero? 1? 5? 10? 20?

If you visited a new village EVERY SINGLE DAY, it would take you around 1749 YEARS to cover them all.

Yes, there are 638,365 villages in India.

Do you know how many people do not have access to electricity in India?

According to this, 47% of the rural population are still NOT using electricity as their main source of lighting.

If everyday, 1000 more people were given access to electricity, it would still take around 1096 years to reach all of them.

Yes, there are 400 million in India, without access to electricity.

Do you know how many languages are spoken in India?

How much time did it take you to learn a new language, the last time you tried? 1 year? 2 years?

If you learnt 1 new Indian language every year, it would take you more than 262 years. Assuming you already know English.

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And the Indian Government is supposed to take care of ALL of this?! While we, the “intelligentsia”, sit in our comfortable homes, twiddle our thumbs, and accuse it of not-functioning?

Yes, I know it is slow work. But it IS working!

Yes, I know it should do more. But it IS doing SOMETHING!

Yes, I know criticism is just a way of pushing the changes forward. But cannot WE do something more too?

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UPDATE: Really liked this video. Click here.