India, Me

Two incidents, on the same day.

Before I tell you about the two incidents yesterday, l have to say I had a mildly interesting week: Lost all my belongings (that included about 12 years of piano sheet music, music notes in general) that used to be in my store room, (thanks to a highly incompetent group of managers at my housing community), only to have this burning intuition very soon that I’ll never see my stuff again. I am actually quite fine with losing everything that might have been in that store room (if you don’t even remember the contents, how important can they really be?), except for my music notes, the only misplaced item that I happen to remember, which kind of proves its sentimental value. I am left with the arduous task of deciding if I want to sue those bastards, or escalate the matter to the Upper Management, or drop it completely. The lawyer in me wants to exercise Option No. 1, the lazy-do-I-really-care part of me wants to go with Option No. 3. Which means, Option No. 2 it’ll be for now.

Then, yesterday, took my dog, Sasha, to see a “dog shrink” (Read: Behavioral consultant) for the first time when it should really be me who should pay a visit to a shrink (more on that later), but we do all we can to keep our dogs healthy and living for as long as possible, fully aware of their short life spans, and yet, we let ours fall into disrepair. Or at least I do.

Now that I have these thoughts out of my head, let me move on to the two incidents themselves.

Incident 1: Happens while I’m out grocery shopping.

Random desi, catches me just when I’m about to check out. You have to realize desis DO NOT just walk up to each other in the US and talk about Bharat desh, mangoes and Indian politics. In fact, desis will go to great lengths to avoid each other in public places.  So, you can imagine my surprise when this mans walks up and says, “I think I’ve seen you somewhere?”. Umm, sir, no you haven’t. He probes a bit about my profession, where I work, and how long I’ve been here, and volunteers the same information. But this is not what was offensive. What’s offensive is this –

He: So, which state are you from?

Me: Huh?

He: No, which state are you from?

Me: I’m from Calcutta.

He: Oh, do you speak Tamil?

Me: (WTF?!!!) No, I don’t.

He: I will introduce you to my wife. Both of you can go shopping together.

Me: (faking a faint smile)

He: Oh, by the way, I have this family type business. Let’s talk about it.

Me: Sorry, gotta rush. Let’s catch up again. (And on my way out, cursing myself for giving him my phone number. Should place him on the block list ASAP).

Incident 2: Late at a party, same day.

Friend 1: Where are you from in India?

Friend 2: I’m from Bombay.

Friend 3: No, no. He’s not from Bombay.

Friend 2: What do you mean, men? I’m from Bombay.

Friend 3: You’re Tamilian noooo…So, Tamil Nadu.

Friend 2: WTF? Are you crazy? I was born in Bombay. Always lived there.

Friend 1: (Stunned. Cursing himself for asking the question)

**********

What is wrong with the people of India? So many blogs, so many Tweets, so much of awareness online. All for nothing. Yet when most folks of my generation look to marry, they will first look for a girl or a boy of their “caste/religion/state” and if for some reason, this is not a possibility, then they’ll go look elsewhere.

Edited to add: Sometimes, people won’t say it aloud, but they’ll silently calculate the “mother tongue” of the person based on his or her looks (especially the color of the skin), the first name, and maybe the last name, if they’ve had the balls to exchange this information.

Current mood: Pensive.

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General ramblings, Independence, India, Movies, Politics

Khamosh Pani

Silent Water (Khamosh Pani in Hindi) handles a very sensitive period in history surrounding the hanging of Pakistani PM, Mr. Bhutton & the rise of the martial laws, under General Zia. The change in the political air of the country and it’s effect on the lives of ordinary Muslims of Pakistan has been portrayed through a middle aged Sikh woman and her not-a-kid-not-yet-an-adult son, who gets swayed in the jihadi direction, all due to radical Islamic influential talks and the in-born need to be powerful.

The movie provides a rare, visual glimpse of the miseries surrounding Sikh families who were forced to move to India during the Partition in 1947. It speaks about the apathies faced by women, who, among other things, were most often mercilessly killed by their male family members, when preservation of family “pride” was deemed more important. The ones who survived faced a life of abduction and rape. We are treated to views of village lanes, Gurdwara, run-down fortresses and Masjids in a small, quaint village of the country. Sikhs from India who travel to the village for a religious tour as a result of an India Pakistan agreement try to re-live their past days, and find old connections, in a miserable attempt to still feel at home. Even though the environment is politically charged, folks who moved into the village during the Partition and folks who moved out, still manage to maintain outwardly humane relations…void of any common thread.

Just when I thought I’d seen all that the director had to show me, the movie spins out into a new direction, when one of the Sikh travelers from India, goes around old shops in the village by lanes, desperately trying to find his sister who got left behind during the Partition.

Kiron Kher has done a phenomenal job, playing the role of a woman, who has nothing in her except for a young son & flashes of her past life. Seeing her in such an under-played role is a welcome treat. It is a far cry from her loud performances in most of the commercial Bollywood movies.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie, which shows the son sitting at the end of the river, staring at on old, battered suitcase laden with personal belongings, being carried away by the river currents. His old flame stands on top of the hill, watching both float away- the lover that she knew as well as her old life. Three decades later, the same boy emerges as a powerful, Jihadi leader. His old lover, now an independent, hard working woman, watches him ruefully on a street side TV set. Top marks to the cinematographer for sealing the emotions so beautifully.

The movie is about a important piece of history, changes in the lives of ordinary people, choices painstakingly taken by women, sacrifices done at the behest of the society and the shame faced at the hands of one’s child.

Link to the movie on Google Videos: Link. I found this movie in the section “Your recommendations” on Netflix. At times like these and at all other times, I love Netflix so much.

Rating: 9/10

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british rule, Calcutta, General ramblings, History, Independence, India, Life, Thoughts

The Pre-Independence Calcutta

I was lucky enough to stumble upon these pictures while roaming around the internet. This collection is a rare gem for people who’ve ever lived in Calcutta. Nothing seems to have changed, except for the model of the cars and the crowd on the streets. And the color and quality of the pictures. I wish I could go back in time and live in that era. Everything becomes history, even before we realize it.

These photos were taken by Frank Short, an American serviceman, while in Calcutta and Madras in 1944. He was on duty in the Burma theatre during World War II.

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The Honest Corporator

Nadkarni had received his transfer order for the 60th time in his 25 year career. His superiors were running out of places to transfer him to. They had sent him to the most arid regions of Maharashtra where water visited taps as sporadically as sense visits an imbecile. They made him live in areas where electricity hadn’t been invented but all their efforts were in vain since in the end, the man remained as stoical as ever. When the politicians, whose campaigns were funded by the restauranters and merchants whose shops bore the brunt of Nadkarni’s honesty noticed that punishments didn’t affect him, they resorted to bribes. After all, it is said that everyone has their own price. Unfortunately for them, they never discovered what Nadkarni’s was. It was said that no deals could be made under Nadkarni’s table because he bred scorpions there. Needless to say, his honesty earned Nadkarni more enemies than friends. Due to the continual shifting, his children suffered; they had changed more than 15 schools and as a result, didn’t make many friends. The pressure of adapting to a new environment once in a few months also took a toll on his wife’s health, especially since she was a diabetic. His family often wondered how life would’ve been if Nadkarni had been venal. Overtly, they gave him great mental support, never complaining about how nomadic their existence had become or how they had to travel in a battered down ambasaddor while his peers rode in air-conditioned Japanese cars like princes but inwardly, they led shattered lives. Their only property was a two bedroom apartment in a seedy area of Pune in a building that wasn’t even occupied anymore. The apartment had been stripped completely-lights, fixtures, faucets and even screws, by its tenants over the years. If they could’ve robbed the walls, they would’ve taken them too.

Nadkarni and his family entered the outskirts of Pune early in the morning. As he had expected, nothing had changed. If anything, the encroachments had multiplied. In the narrow strip of suffocated land that was hardly wide enough for a single bus, the traffic ran two-ways. At the very edge of the road, just as the tar ended and the mud began, shops rose up. Private property invaded public areas like an ominous domestic quarrel pouring out into the neighborhood. The city was a bad joke on its population.

Realizing that his time was short, since big cities had richer places and people, Nadkarni began doing his job, which was to destroy all encroachments on government land. The first one was a high end disco in the commercial district of the city; it was a popular get-away for college students and young professionals and was owned by an MLA. Just as the wrecking crew was setting up, a notice arrived. Without reading it, Nadkarni knew it was from his superiors who always discover clauses and legal barriers at the last minute to prevent the demolition of the property. Sliding the unopened envelope inside his pocket, Nadkarni gave the order for the disco to be torn down as it was occupying land originally meant for a garden. An impeccably dressed man, who looked like the manager, ran towards him and implored him to stop.

“You cannot do this”, he blurted out, “do you know who owns this place?”

Unfazed, Nadkarni told him, “Yes, the Government. Now get out of my way and stop wasting my time”.

The manager frantically pulled out his cell phone and spoke to his master, sweating profusely as he did so.

“yes…yes sir…I’ll tell him…I know, I know…don’t worry Sir, I’ve the situation under control”

Then he spoke to Nadkarni.

“My boss tells me that we could arrange something, come to a mutual understanding, get what I mean?” He said, smiling shrewdly. “a small token of his respect for the government”

“How much is he offering?”, Nadkarni asked him and the manager seemed relieved. It was true, every man had his price.

“We can discuss that inside, over a glass of Scotch or if you’d prefer something else, we have that too. Our bar is well stocked you see, in order to handle contingencies like this”

“ah, nothing like a good drink eh? I see you know how to treat your guests”

“of course, of course. After all this is the hospitality business and we are always hospitable to our guests, even those who threaten to ruin us”, he unctuously said.

“Please lead the way, I’ll follow you” Nadkarni offered politely.

Inside, the disco had a gothic kind of decor with gargoyles springing from every corner and chains hanging from the cieling. The place was unoccupied since it was very early in the morning, an inauspicious time for bars in general as since time immemorial, night has always been the best drinking companion.

The manager took out two glasses from the freezer and began pouring a golden colored liquid into them followed by soda. Then using a pair of silver tongs, he took out some ice cubes from an ice bucket and dropped them inside the glasses. They sank to the bottom producing a steady stream of bubbles that looked like miniature pearls.

The manager lifted his glass and Nadkarni lifted his own. The glasses clinked and the manager said “cheers”. He quickly finished his drink in one gulp and saw that Nadkarni hadn’t touched his drink.

“What is the matter?” He asked him with an air of concern, “don’t you like Scotch?”

“I never drink on the job”, Nadkarni told him matter-of-factly.

The manager didn’t know what to say. It seemed to him that the fellow in front of him was deranged.

“All right then. Let’s get down to business”, he said seriously “name your price”

“You can’t afford it”, Nadkarni told him bluntly.

“You don’t know who my master is”, the manager told Nadkarni arrogantly. “He buys people like you wholesale”

“Then pay me the opportunity cost of not constructing the garden”

The manager didn’t understand.

“Are you joking?”

“Which is”, Nadkarni continued, “the price of the happiness of thousands of people”.

“Are you mad?” The manager shouted, getting up from his seat, “stop talking nonsense”.

“I cannot accept checks. Pay me in cash, right now”.

The manager again pulled out his cell phone and started speaking to his boss.

“Sir, this fellow is completely mad, he is talking all nonsense, some opportunity cost crap…yes..yes Sir, I’ll put him on”.

“hey, you”, he said addressing Nadkarni rudely, “My boss wants to speak with you”.

Nadkarni took the phone from him. The manager wore a sadistic expression on his face that seemed to say, “he is in for it now”.

“yes…yes…I understand…no…of course, I know who you are, thank you, you’re very kind”

He finished talking and handed the device back to the manager.

“So now do you get it? What did the Boss tell you?”

“That he will have me transferred if I touch his establishment”

“Aah, I told you not to bring him into this, we could’ve handled this between ourselves. Anyway, I’ve a lot of work now, its time you and your men cleared off”

“it is. Unfortunately, your master doesn’t know how many times I’ve been transferred”

“What did you say?” The manager asked him, in utter disbelief.

By then, Nadkarni was out in the sun and gave the final go-ahead. The Manager watched them trembling as a bulldozer razed the construction to the ground.

That incident earned him a lot of fame. A photograph of Nadkarni wearing a yellow work helmet appeared in the local newspaper a few weeks later under the letters, “Honest man or Honestly Mad?”. The article was as follows:

“Amit Nadkarni is an icon of integrity in today’s corruption ridden society. Where most people would have given up and succumbed to the pressure, he refuses to back-down. The past few weeks have been hectic for him as he moved from one street to another tearing down all encroachments upon public property. Since he arrived here, he was demolished six hotels (all of them three-star), four dance bars, one disco, four restaurants and twenty three paan stalls! Wherever he goes, he creates an aura of fear and respect around him. He bows to no one, maybe not even God. The world needs more heroes like him”.

The journalist who wrote the article was fired the next day. Someone else replaced him and another article about Nadkarni was written, this time, brutally criticizing him.

“Nadkarni is a menace to society. He thinks of himself as a modern-day Gandhi whose mission is to bring peace and integrity to a troubled world. He takes it upon himself to demolish whatever he sees fit to be demolished. Neither does he obey his superiors nor the will of the populace that has clearly expressed its concerns over the loss of such fine establishments that have been the pride of our city. It isn’t surprising that he has been transferred more than anyone else in this country, maybe this planet even. It is time the people stood up to bullies like him”.

A week later, an international channel broadcasted a program on Nadkarni, praising him in the same manner as the first article written by the journalist who was fired. The entire country suddenly knew about this hitherto unknown government servant who was literally turning the earth inside out to stand by his principles. Everyone said that he would receive a national award from the president of India. The local channels aired his activities all day long. Wherever Nadkarni and his crew went, journalists from TV channels followed behind them closely. But Nadkarni quietly went about doing his job, which was supervising the demolition of private buildings on government land. He neither accepted interviews nor gave speeches. If someone called him a hero, he would politely shake his hand and move on with his crew. During his tenure in the city, he destroyed many more illegal establishments ranging from cheap motels to elitist wedding halls, all of which were brilliant examples of constructive destruction.

Gradually, people started getting bored of watching the same thing over and over again. They wanted something else to focus their attention on, like a crispy sex scandal involving Bollywood actors or an international match between India and Pakistan and within months, Nadkarni was back to anonymity. His brief stint at being popular was over. That was when the bureaucrats decided to sink their claws into him. They claimed that the building in which his apartment was situated posed a safety hazard as it was more than 20 years old and constructed from inferior quality cement. The only piece of property he owned in the world had been given the death sentence. Unfortunately, they couldn’t compensate him for this apartment as the legality of the land on which it stood was questionable in the first place and they pointed to a law suit-“The state of … vs. ….” . Nadkarni read this and in the same non-nonchalant manner in which he had tucked the envelope he received outside the disco into his pocket, he slipped this envelope inside his pant. The next morning, he got news that he had been transferred. He got inside the battered ambassador with his family and as he was leaving the city, everything he had demolished seemed to have been re-built. His wife sobbed silently next to him in the car and the children remained silent.Nadkarni knew it was the opportunity cost of being honest.

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Business, Cars, Finance, Forwarded E-mails, General ramblings, India, Jokes / Funny Stuff, Tata Nano, Thoughts

Side Effects of Tata Nano Car

UPDATE (1/27/08): Kirtish Bhatt, the cartoonist who’s actually made these, surprisingly, e-mailed me today. I wanted to let you guys know that you can go to his blog to view more cartoons. And believe me, they’re lovely. 🙂

I never thought that I would do a post on Tata Nano, but I got these really funny cartoons in a forwarded e-mail. Since they’re in Hindi, I’ve tried to translate them to English.


A man goes to a car show room and wonders if he can exchange his two wheeler for a Tata Nano car


Inside a car showroom- a simple man has enough money to book not one, but TWO Nanos!


An advisor tells a politician ” Television etc. are old things…now tell people that you’ll give them a new car”. The old saying “Food, Clothes and House” should be extended to “Food, Clothes, House and Car”.


In a toy shop, a boy tells his father that he doesn’t want the toy car. He wants a real car like Tata Nano.


Even an ordinary man staying in a small house has a Tata Nano, even though his house might not be centrally heated!


Beggars get more freedom with their new found mobility, thanks to Tata Nano.


You’ll never ever be stuck in a traffic jam, thanks to Nano’s style and design. 😉


People driving “People’s Car” ask for “People’s petrol” at gas stations!


A politician is worried because of a new demand made by men- “Parking reservations for poor people!”


A wife tells her husband, “These days, our maid has a new excuse- I got late because the car tire got punctured!”

(If you find a particular translation to be wrong, then please leave me a comment with your suggestion).

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Replaying Old Ads and Songs

Ever since I wrote that post on Malgudi Days, I have not stopped thinking about Indian Television and the shows/advertisements/jingles that we used to watch in ’80s and early ’90s. If you’re away from India, like me, then it is likely that you miss these shows much more and can’t wait to catch a glimpse of these.

I’ve tried to collect some of them in this post-

1. Ek Titli Anek Titli (Thanks Bong’o’P’ondit)- An old song that talks about the strength of unity.

2. Mile Sur Mera Tumhara- The objective of the video was to instill a sense of pride and promote unity amongst Indians, highlighting the different linguistic communities and societies that live in India. Created in 1988 by Doordarshan. (From Wikipedia)

3. Humara Bajaj Ad- We hardly get to see such genuine, patriotic ads these days!

4. Doodh Doodh Doodh- It’s fresh. It’s pure. It’s co-operative Milk! Not so sure about that anymore. The proportion of water is definitely greater than milk. Lovely ad though. 🙂

5. Surf Lalitaji Commercial- Bhaaaisaab! Need I say more? 🙂

6. Jungle Book- Chaddi pehen ke Phool Khila Hai 😉 Wasn’t he the hottest guy?

7. Mahabharat Opening Credits- Every Sunday morning, every single household in the country had this song blaring from their television sets..I’m dead sure.

P.S- I don’t mean to hurt the feelings of people belonging to other religious sects. It’s just a general recollection.

8. Cadbury India Ad (Kuch Khaas Hai)- Never seen a hotter batsman…seriously. 🙂

9. Yeh Joh Zindagi Hai- Beatiful Title Track sung by none other than Kishore Kumar and starring Shafi Inamdar, Swaroop Sampat, Rakesh Bedi and Satish Shah.

10. Orangie Orangie I love you Rasna!

11. Complan Commercial- The young stars in this ad are supposedly Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia.

Famous punch line- I’m a Complan Girl! I’m a Complan Boy!

12. Old Liril Commercial (1975)- I’m surprised that they allowed a bikini clad woman to be aired in an ad in 1975. 😐

13. Surabhi can be viewed at Youtube. (Thanks Ulag- for reminding me)

Some ads I couldn’t find-Does anyone have these video?

1. Bajaj Ad- Jab mein chota bachcha tha, badi shararat karta tha…meri chori pakdi jaati…tab roshan hota Bajaj.

2. Vicco Turmeric Nahi Cosmetic ..Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream.

3. Boost Ad (Kapil Dev)- Boost is the secret of MY energy…OUR energy!

4. Priya Tendulkar as Rajani. When I tried searching for this, I only found hits relevant to Rajnikanth and Sivaji. 😦

5. Old Nirma Ad

Please feel free to add more to this list. I’ll edit this post accordingly. 🙂

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Remembering R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days

Does this picture invoke strong memories in you? Chances are that you were born in India in the ’70s or ’80s. As a kid, I use to eagerly wait for R. K Narayan’s Malgudi Days to be aired on Doordarshan. The half an hour long show was a treat to watch, because it used to help a six or seven year old imagine the lives of simple folks, living in a small, fictional town called Malgudi.

A couple of months back, I came to know that all of us can watch Malgudi Days for free at the Rajshri Website. Only people who can understand Hindi can watch these episodes though. There are no subtitles, unfortunately. Needless to say, I watched each and every episode, back to back, for a couple of days. My favorite episodes still remain the same-

1. A Hero- That talks about a young boy called Swami, who’s afraid of sleeping alone. But his parents are determined to make him more courageous. Little Swami makes them proud when he not only manages to sleep alone, but also catch the burglar who tries to steal from their house. In the process, he lands up on the front pages of the local newspaper and becomes a hero.

2. Leela’s friend- Leela is filled with joy when she finds a playmate in her new house keeper, Sidda. But events take a wrong turn when Leela loses her gold chain and this incident coincides with the mysterious disappearance of Sidda.

Each episode can be downloaded for a fee of $1.99. Alternatively, you can use many of the freely available tools to download the videos illegally (Disclaimer: Please do so at your own risk. I’m not encouraging it by any means). By the way, there are a number of old movies, including Abhimaan, Amar Akbar Anthony, Anupama etc. that can be viewed for free at the Rajshri Website. Lovers of Ekta Kapoor will also find older episodes of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki.

How many of you have watched the Malgudi Days recently? Which is your favorite episode?

Edit: Introductory Video found on Youtube-

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