Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Personality Test

The walls are white. There's a huge mosquito sitting on the wall. It's too "full" to move, so you know you can just slap it to its death.

What do you do?

A. As promised, you slap it. It's dead. A mangled parasite, with some traces of blood on the wall, which you promptly try to wipe out with a wet cloth.

B. Just shimmy, so the mosquito wakes up. But it's too slow, and you catch it in mid-flight and squeeze it to death. The blood is on your hands, which you promptly wash off.

If you chose option A, you are probably in your parents house or a rented apartment.

If you chose option B, you probably own the place.

Based on a true-life conundrum.

A Life less ordinary

Anarkali is not a piece of fiction.

She is an actual person that is a part of our life daily. As you read this, she is probably sweeping the floor of our house. Or someone else’s house in our building. Most of the stuff I wrote is true, at least it is how she has described to me. Some of the part is creative license. The part about her mom telling her what age she should say (her mom told us she was 12), the part where I implied her dad used to drink and beat her mom. That is fiction, but I do believe that in no way did it add to the already dire situation that she faces. To this I apologise to her dad in writing.

But this one thing is true. I have never seen anyone enjoy the task of jhaadu / pochha so much. She does have her moods, especially when she comes in late. But she really cannot tell the time since I doubt there is a time piece that she sees before she comes in to our house. She doesn’t know much about the days of the week (all days being the same) and every Saturday we tell her to come late the next day (we’ve learnt from experience). D tried teaching her the months of the year, but she gets confused between the number of days in a week and the months in the year, and her standard answer to both is 10 (saves time). In another life, she’d probably be an engineer. But in her good moods, which are more common, she’s the most talkative kid around. Her amazement at the concept of the microwave, is seen to be believed. Though she’d rather have us buy a TV, since we could then see movies. The “Camputer” is something she has learnt. (It is a testament to how much India has developed as a software center, that she does not know what a desktop is. All the houses she works in have laptops.) All music is Radio Mirchi (brand conscious kids) and so are speakers.

What haunts me though for some reason, some haunting reason, is that she is smiling when she enters our house. You’d think she actually enjoys sweeping floors. And here’s the strange part. Around the time she comes in, I am on my way to get bread and I see kids from our building going to school.

Not one of them has a smile.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A day in the life of Anarkali

Anarkali is 14. Or so she has been told by her Ammi. She has to say that she is 14 if someone is to ask her. She can count, but really once you cross 10, you don't have enough fingers on your hands to count so if Ammi is giving her the age she has to say, it makes her job a lot easier.

Since she stopped going to school last year (or was it the year before, she really can't tell) her life has become a little more fun. She wakes up when the sun shines in her eyes. On days that are cloudy, Ammi wakes her up. Either case, she is out of the house with Ammi in about 15 minutes. She first goes to the nice uncle and aunty's house where she does their jhaadu and pochha. The nice uncle and nice aunty are fun people. Always smiling and listening to her, and really jhaadu pochha is so easy. Definitely easier than learning science in school, which some of her friends are doing. The nice aunty also gives her some food to eat once she is done. And good food. Then she goes to the house with the young baba to do some more jhaadu pochha. But here there's also some bartan to be cleaned. The young baba goes to school (why would a 3 year old go to school, Anarkali wonders) and the aunty there does her stuff. Once she is done there, she goes for her main task. To the oopar ka maala, where she spends most of her day. There is a younger baba there who has to be taken care of. Anarkali is experienced in taking care of young babas. She after all has taken care of 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Along with taking care of the young baba, she does her usual jhaadu, pochha, bartan and also cleans the bathroom. When the aunty gets hungry, she lets Anarkali head out for her lunch, so she goes down to meet Ammi and Nani and they have lunch together. After lunch, Ammi and Nani sleep by the stairs, while Anarkali goes back to the oopar ka maala. Young baba is asleep after his lunch, so all she has to do is watch him going to sleep. After some time, Aunty says it is 5.30 pm and so Anarkali has to go home. She waits for her Ammi, who comes soon. Together they go home which is not very far. She helps Ammi make the gosht for dinner, which her Abbu brought home from work. Gosht is really nice, and Abbu is now a changed man. He doesn't come home all crazy any more and doesn't beat Ammi any more. He smiles at Anarkali also, sometimes. She also is busy with her youngest sister, who is just "itni si". After dinner, she goes to their common stall in their "housing complex" where there is a TV running. Today it's playing a Shah Rukh Khan flim. She thinks of her nice uncle and aunty, who don't have a TV in their house, and really cannot understand why they would want to miss out on the wonder that is a television. "I shall ask them tomorrow" she tells herself. Soon, it's time for bed. Anarkali puts her brothers sisters to sleep and then goes to sleep herself.

"What a fun day", she says "better than going to school and discussing Harry Potter and Something or the Other with your friends"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Are you Racist?

Sounds like the world's worst opinion poll question, doesn't it?

Substitute Racist with Communal, Casteist, or any of the other "-ists" you can add after any of the "-isms" of the world, and I bet over 90% of the populace will say they are not. But the fact is that a majority of the people do suffer from some kind of discriminatory behavior. I do. Much as I hate it, I can say that I too suffer from some form of discriminatory behavior (and I would not like to take it further, except saying that I am working on improving my behavior). The more I think about it, there's nothing you can do to change the mind of people who are not comfortable with certain people. You can only do your bit to convince them that you can't really generalise people into silos.

Case in point:
1996 World Cup. The LTTE struck in Colombo. The Australians and the West Indians refused to play in Sri Lanka citing player safety, despite the LTTE announcing a cease fire specifically for the World Cup.

Cut to the 07/07 bombings in London from a couple of years ago. Horrible horrible event, and the worst possible thing that could happen to a peace loving country. Al-Qaeda has announced that Australia, the US and the UK are their targets. The Australian cricket team was preparing for the Ashes in England at the time. They stayed, and played out the series.

So, how come the same country feels safer when they are announced as targets and not when the terrorists say they will not attack them?

But I am not calling anyone racist. The Aussies felt a lot more comfortable in the UK than in Sri Lanka. Bound to happen. I am more likely to feel at home in Edison, NJ or Sunnyvale, CA than in Topeka, Kansas(if I am in the US). You can't change the way people think.

It all comes down to the lack of information you have about some other country / people. Globalization has brought these issues to the forefront, and globalization will help solve them. Trade between people will help interaction between people, and remove personal barriers. Something tells me, global trade will trump global terrorism and the world will be a happy place. Any other way, and your grandma was wrong.

Good would not always trump evil.

(Oh..By the way, the Aussies lost the world cup in 1996 and also the ashes in 2005!!)

Things I think I think..

-- It's very difficult to blog consistently.. Yes, that's the first thought that comes to my mind .. I have a solution now to my "oh-that's-bloggable-but-where-the-fuck's-the-computer?" conundrum (part solution so to say), but let's see how long it goes. I try as far as possible to write stuff.. I know I even have a stretch goal of writing a book, but I doubt that's going to happen. Blogging is the best that I can do under the circumstances.. But it's got to a point where all the stars have to be aligned for a good blog to come out .. I read Words (by the Unabashed Chocoholic) and I get all jealous on how she can write with such beauty.. I make a "sour grapes" note to myself that she's been to some creative writing class .. (and she does poetry) .. But the fact is, I would love to write like she does (I bow to Thee, O Master of the Good Blog), though her stuff at times has too much X-chromosome for my taste.. (that's not a criticism by the way, dear sis-in-law)

-- I am seriously considering organizing a Non-Cooperation Movement against Pune's auto rickshaws. I am going to do it. They are rude (not all.. some are nice) and do not hesitate to take advantage of the passengers. It is an economists dream to deal with the rickshaw waalas. Hardly any body now goes by the meter. Kids / Techies from out of town have spoilt them by agreeing to their demands.. All while a majority of the Ricks are now LPG operated and therefore the fuel cost is considerably reduced.

-- I don't miss the television. I now only see it when I go to my parents place or D's parents place. There's nothing to watch.

-- One thing I miss about LA is the restaurant variety, and the concept that every time we would go to a new place, we would come back pleasantly impressed. That doesn't happen here, because there's hardly any new place to go to!! There's a lot of new places to eat out, but having been old Pune residents there's a hesitation to go waste your money on something so ludicrously expensive. Since we were new to LA, we really had no old baggage

-- I was really saddened by the London bombing suspects.. Probably more than the train bombings in Mumbai last year. In the Mumbai case, there was a feeling that it was still uneducated brainwashed folks doing this. But here's absolutely educated human beings doing stuff like this. One is a PhD is Computational Fluid Dynamics, something so grandly difficult that I have no idea how the guys in my office do it, they show me their simulations and the cool stuff, but it still goes over my head.. (and they are just Masters graduates).. I won't be surprised if we (in our organisation) had interviewed this gentleman, given the fact that we are always looking for people with good educational background and with exposure to the western work culture.. It's obvious to me, that the current mode of tackling this problem is not working, since it's not stopped at all, and if anything there's more of this every day..

-- I have never said it in public, but now I do. George W. Bush is incompetent. Nuff said. Why would anyone believe in democracy, if the best that the US can come up with is him?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Can you answer this Mr. Darwin?

How is it that mosquitoes have evolved enough to be resistant to all the chemicals, but humans have not evolved enough to be resistant to mosquitoes?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

India has arrived..


I know this probably has something to do with my IP address being registered in India. But when you see an ad for Georgette and chiffon saris on the New York Times website, it has to count for something..
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You go to orkut, and you have many friends... One of them is honest enough to write that "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" is his favorite show.. This brings out a wave of nostalgia .. You click on the auto link to see if there is a group somewhere.. There must be one.. but what comes up is a whole bunch of people who have this as their favorite show.. All's fine till here..
However, what got me intrigued was how many of these people were located in Kolkata / Mumbai / Delhi / Chennai / B'lore / Pune .. In other words, India.. As far as my knowledge goes, the show comes in an international edition on CNN once a week.. It's not as much fun as the original, but you can make do.. But the international edition is definitely not in the league of Frasier / Friends / heck, even the O.C. So it got me thinking.. 
Does the Daily Show come on a different channel daily or are these guys just aping the west by randomly putting channels? 
I would love to see the former as an option .. but I get the feeling it is the latter..