Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Destination Pichavaram!

It was yet another christmas morning; I was lazing around rather aimlessly, which is what I have always done all the Christmases I have ‘celebrated’ so far. Well, this one I didn’t celebrate, thanks to evolution, which is happening a little late in my life (anyway, it’s better late than never)! Ok, I was lazing around wondering what to do with the rest of the day, and nothing but only sleep seemed delectably alluring, and as I was about to give in to it, when the little devil at home started one of her songs (this one was called, I will do everything in my power to irritate you into submission) about joining her to Pichavaram (the second largest mangrove forests in the world). So, just to shut her up and since a phone call also confirmed that I wouldn’t be doing much over the weekend (no one else needed me or my company you see, which is how it has always been, hither to…), I set sail on a journey to the mangroves, though with a heavy heart, since I will have to put up with 4 attention seekers! Imagine, giving attention to so many! Nevertheless, I set sail…

At CMBT, we boarded on to this government bus bound to Chidambaram. All of us managed a window seat, but two windows refused to open, and we had to make do with whatever images filtered through the dust-coated glass windows. Of course, the ECR ride was pleasant, filled with memories of other trips on the same road…we crossed Dakshina Chithra, the ECR dhabba, Muthkadu, Croc Bank, etc…by the time, we hit Mahabs, it was dark already and our bladders seemed to be bursting at the seams, and one of us even refused to move even a micro inch for fear of tipping over the bladder! Thankfully, the bus halted and we were relieved. After some stretching and walking, we got into the bus to resume the ride. Do you see the relief on our faces in this picture?

Then, the attention seekers started their own trip of antaksharis and what not; and all I could do was feign a sinus attack and snore. Intermittently, I was woken up by Deepan’s inimitable capacity to catch the most difficult of some Tamil ragas; in fact, he gave me a complex. (Ok, for those of who miss the satire...I can't sing like two lines to save my life. So, does the satire come across at least now??) It seemed like one unending journey, punctuated only by the hungry noises my stomach was making! Mercifully, the journey ended and we could finally grab something to eat. After some essential cleaning up and stuff, we slept, only to be rudely awakened by a radio that blared some gibberish at 6 in the morning! It took Sri some super human effort and ingenuity to figure out how to turn out the damn thing! Anyway, after some more inane things, our journey began…

First, I walked into the Chidambaram Nataraja temple. I must say it was truly a beautiful temple, though hidden under its beauty was untouchability and brahminical fascism. You can read about these here and here. I went around the temple talking to different people about what they felt about the government take over; each one had a different take. One thing that was common was the overall acceptance among people about the brahminical domination over a place of worship! Anyway, the issue is sub-judice. But, that doesn’t mean one should be quiet and let justice take its course, considering it's rather dismal record so far! What’s now necessary is a dialog or a debate on the temple, on who can conduct the poojas, on why one mustn’t sing in Tamil in that temple, on why it’s essential for the government to control the temple and its property! I walked out an agitated woman…wondering what is happening to the case and to the 10-year-old movement spearheaded by Arumugasamy, a Sivan Adigalar who's been waging a lone battle here. Quietly, I boarded the bus to Pichavaram, and as an answer to my various questions, a young man boarded our bus and started talking in clear language about the issue, making the ordinary people understand the importance of thinking, the importance of participating in the change process, and also contributing to making the change!

Rejuvenated, I embarked on the rest of the journey. The bus route from Chidambaram to Pichavaram is a picturesque one…vast stretches of green fields, cool breeze from the back waters, canals, birds, snakes, etc dot the road. A Muslim woman was my co-traveller who explained to me many more things about the area and of course even invited us for a fish lunch! Slowly, the green fields opened out to something that looked like a huge lake, but no! It was a bloody sea filled with trees! Check out the pictures that follow. Read here about what a mangrove is. I am stopping here so that you guys can enjoy the pictures…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis the season to be jolly…

It’s just another sleepy morning as I wait for the sleepy clouds to clear out and the bright sunny mood to come out. In fact, a colleague remarked that this is not the season to be snappy or even crabby, and as she said to those words, just to irritate her and myself, I started droning (in my besura voice) tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la…

In any case, the post is not about my mood swings, rather a collection of some thoughts that trapeze through me as I negotiate yet another day in this day and time.

Today, I managed to find the ‘right’ bus; an air-conditioned one, which plays FM radio and also provides nice view (the windows remind one of French windows). More about the bus in the next thought. So, as the bus negotiated a turn, where we (the metropolitan bus passengers) get a view of the moffusil buses, my eyes fell on a tall, dark, handsome guy. He had pierced his ears and had also grown his hair just a bit and perhaps was quite aware of the effect he had on women. One thing was writ large on his face though, and it was hope. I started wondering what that hope could be…and my mind whirled past to a rather disturbing article I had read in the Tehelka about many such beautiful young women who alight at this very bus stand with the same thing this young man had: hope! Read the article here to know what a terrible place this city could be for dreamers…

These AC buses are something of a novelty to the city. These buses charge 3 times the fare and have conductors and drivers in uniform! Imagine wearing a cap and all in this hot city! A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a bus conductor, who shared his story of how terrible their working conditions are. They no more enjoy any kind of job security, or at least the kind ‘government servants’ are supposed to enjoy! In making things ‘better’ for the IT crowd, these buses are quickly replacing the ordinary buses that working class people take to go to work. For example, a construction worker just stepped into this bus only to be shooed away by the uniformed conductor, who anyway has a broad grin for the IT crowd! His grin of course hides all the actual grief and insecurities he has…and, we the IT crowd smile back, hiding our insecurities spurred by recession! At such a state, I can’t even articulate my thoughts…

Then, I come to office and my mail box contains an invite (only for people with Christian names; well, didn’t someone know that first freedom one is denied in life is choosing one’s own name!!) for a Christmas dinner! Coz, it’s the season to be jolly…yea, to be jolly! Let’s all be jolly, decorate our plastic Christmas trees (even if buying them means contributing to globalization), make and distribute cakes (even if it means workers at McRennet and other cake shops must overwork and be underpaid), attend our morning services (even if it means being sleep-deprived for the sexton and his family), and order Biriyanis (even if it means an exponential amount of goat slaughter and extensive, back-breaking work for the children who work for a pittance in catering houses!). Yea, let’s all be jolly!

So much for my thoughts, people, this jolly season…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Selective Politics and Individualism

Often, I have been branded as being ‘backward’ or even ‘regressive’ for some of my views. Although this post is about how I wish I were neither, it is also about a certain kind of pop politics that seems to make up for politics that comes through serious study and application.

Firstly, my views on the ‘pink chaddi’ campaign. For those of you who didn’t know what it was, read it here. While I totally empathize with the sentiments expressed for the right wing group, what I found repugnant was the coming together for one’s own class, and in such large numbers, aided by the press. The press that is a mute spectator to the millions of women who go through rape and torture in police thanas, at construction work sites, on the bus, in the street, and, why, even the Khairalanji massacre etc.

And, of course, I have my views on the pub culture per se, especially in the context of women empowerment (sic!)! Very simply, are all the women who go pub hopping or the ones who participated in the campaign empowered? Well, empowered to do what? Well, what with new ideas of empowerment doled out: a woman with sindoor on her forehead sipping wine and having a cigarette in hand; and even worse, you would wear the mangalsutra, wear jeans, and party, and you are empowered! Give me a break ya, guys!

A brief glance at the pubs today! A colleague, sometime back mentioned about some new types of pubs that have come up all over the place, which have an amazing d├ęcor and color combinations because all of them were cotton mills earlier! Yea, the mills from which thousands of workers (both men and women) were thrown out on the streets and all their families reduced to migrant labor so that all you pub goers can go and have a good time, gyrating to the latest rap and consume litres of liquor! What else does this pub culture do, well to the those very people who pub hop! Guys, don’t you all have a life? Really? I mean, look around, people are on the streets (actually thrown out so that u can have a cozy space to gaze deep into each others’ vacuous eyes), there’s rampant diseases spreading (because you guys can have the best treatment), and even the planet is breaking away, and all that you can come together for is your space to consume liquor and send pink chadis, after even chadis are in abundance! How much more pathetic can you get! The more you (or we) continue this, the more are we going to land up as broken, individualistic dehumanized robots! Wake up, when it’s not too late!

Secondly, clothes! Especially, the way (young) women dress. I have been at the receiving end of a lot of flak of late. I know, am almost opening a pandora’s box here, I would still go ahead and do it, so that perhaps all of us gain some clarity about what is ok! It is my view point that most of the clothes that women wear are designed to make her look curvaceous and attractive and appealing to a man. Now, I am not getting into attraction and sexuality here (which again, I don’t think rest on one’s looks as much as they do on each others’ attitude and mental makeup). So, what is the need for clothes? Just find something to walk out of the house, rather than spending thousands (at branded outlets finding the right fit, etc.) and hours before the mirror, and all for what? Just to turn some heads! I mean how much more pathetic can it get? And, what amazes me is the amount of vacuous politics that gets into the picture about justifying or even rationalizing skimpy and even vulgar clothes! And, it really leaves me befuddled when people ask me to explain what I mean by vulgar! Ok, now, am open to the bullets…let’s get the discussion rolling.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For the Working People!

It was late morning when Dhatichiyani akka, our domestic help, came running to our house last Sunday, when most of our family had gone to church. She came to tell us that she wouldn’t come to work only on that day because a close relative of hers had had a fall. Her relative is a construction worker and so is her husband. They have all migrated into this city in search of jobs, fleeing perhaps caste oppression or agricultural labor, which is again unreliable thanks to the failing monsoons and of course land grab under the name of development! She had to make the arduous trip to another city, with the promise that she will return by the very next day so that she could save her job here, which anyway pays her a paltry sum. In any case, she returned one day late with the terrible news that her relative may not make it after all, or it would be tough to save his life. But, why did she return, if that’s the state of affairs? Obvious: to save her job and also to arrange for the money the family so dearly needed! It’s with a heavy heart, filled with anger, distress, sorrow, and helplessness I make this post, in the hope that we, the ones who have the means to read this post (we didn’t get here only by accident; there’s an entire class/state machinery that’s working continuously to keep us where we are) will think; yes, at least think when a entire generation of humanity is perishing under our very eyes as we surf channels, read the morning astrological predictions, match horoscopes, meditate on world peace, and shop at lifestyle to deal with our depressive episodes!

Why did this person have to fall? A skilled worker, who has experience in construction for the last 10-15 years, falls just like that and crashes his rib cage! This is how safe our construction companies are! And, the metro bridges crash in Delhi is of course not old news as yet. And, in this case, apparently the construction company, which must be grossing its profits in crores, has the murderous gall to say that the worker must have been drunk and so missed his step and fell! And, these companies will even be recognized with standrads adherence awards for their excellent working conditions (spit on you, you murderers!). In this case, I do not think the worker was drunk; even if he was drunk, why does he have to work under such high risk areas for such something as meager as Rs. 150 (or even less) for a day? And, our dear army personnel are paid in lakhs because they risk their lives every day; and, of course it is a separate matter that they also rape and murder women as part of their job requirements in Shopian and Meghalay! If it’s not bad enough that the worker had to fall in this manner when his management is distorting the case to save their skin, the civil society/government (the great welfare state that we are) doesn’t even have proper hospitals that can give him proper healthcare (where will our government have the time when it brings out stamps to commemorate the great service renedred to the uppermiddleclasses by private hospitals?). Of course, not to mention that the worker has been admitted in a ‘service-minded’ Christian hospital for better healthcare; the hospital apparently says they can’t do much, but please get a hefty amount ready, for which our domestic help rushed back!

Tell me, all of you, who is to blame? Is there a real way out of this capitalist mess? Is there any hope to redeem humanity? Can we really hope to make a new world? Can we break out of this tapestry of violence spun only by greed and selfish motives?

Only these words come to my mind; does anyone have any other alternative? (words in bold are my additions):

The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.
Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Working People of All Countries, Unite!
----The Communist Manifesto.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Eyes

Do eyes really speak a million stories?
Of the million moments
They traversed
Through the sandy waves of time

Of the smiles that lay buried
That refused to play
With the lips

Of the tears that lay heaped
That shied away
From the lashes

Of the wordless language
That communed to itself
And not you

Of the intoxication that spreads
Unslurred by reputation lords
Guarding the divine

Of the potent dreams that spin
Pain and poison and hope
In the grey tapestry of freedom

Destination Sikkim - Till we meet again

On the third day, we went to the Sikkim Himalayan Zoo. It was day of little rain and much mist. The walk into the zoo was surreal because o...