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Showing posts from August, 2007

Man meets dog

Have you ever noticed how traffic moves in Bangalore? Mornings, everyone's in a rush to get to work, so to hell with the signals or the rules -- cut in front of the santro here, zig around the swift there, zag round that cyclist, just miss that crazy biker, brake in front of the BMTC and swish... you're at work.

Not that evenings are any better. People seem more dazed then, more zoned out, the traffic signals are just another 'to do' item on the list and the pesky pedestrians? To hell with them. The general consensus is: Let's speed up when they're trying to cross the road, let's chortle helplessly as they run to beat a traffic light that stays 'walk' for precisely five seconds. Who said life is fair?

Yesterday, at the Cubbon Road-M G Road junction, there was the usual mad scramble. . Like a group of well-trained zombies, a group of us obediently scurried to the middle of the road, then we paused, like ballet dancers en pointe, like sprinters strai…

Give and take

The other day, I got a call from a woman I'd interviewed for a story. She is quite a visible Bangalorean -- often seen in a daily paper's events section. Which is why I'd spoken with her in the first place!

Anyways, she said she'd called to invite me to her son's first birthday, to be held at a five-star hotel in two days' time. Call me a stickler for propriety or a stick-in-the-mud, but I'm not the type to attend such bashes. I know many people call it networking, so essential for people in the 'media' especially now that reporters don't just report news, they often make the news themselves. But such events are totally not my scene. So surprised as I was at the invitation, I made my excuses as best as I could, thanked her nicely, wished her a great party and all that. Then she asked: "Don't you do parties?" Out came the reason for her invitation. I did wonder why we were suddenly playing friends and acquaintances and I'd comple…

Khulja sim sim...

Today, a colleague and I went on a professional call to a big hospital -- you know, one of those corporate places that are spotlessly clean and quiet and where I always get lost and where I always feel my shoes make an awful lot of noise. Anyways, she was sitting in the reception waiting for me, when she noticed this little boy. He had come to the hospital with his grandmother. This is one of those hospitals that have those 'sensor' doors -- the kind that automatically open and close as you go near them.

This little boy was too young, I think, to be overawed by all the corporate plushness around him. So with little boy daredevilry and mischief, he went right up to the reception doors and yelled: "Khulja sim sim!" Then he went to the other side and yelled : "Band hoja sim sim". And it did. Just like that.

Sometimes, I think we forget to be enchanted by the little things in our life -- the warm, toasty feel of a cuddle in bed especially when its nippy outsid…

The many faces of Bangalore

Every city has its glam and gritty sides but Bangalore, more than others, is full of heart-wrenching contrasts. Poverty thrives at its main traffic junctions. How many times have you rolled up your car windows so those grubby-fingered children can't get close or whine in your ear? How many times have you quickened your step so those very same kids won't touch you? I've done it myself - pretended to be deaf, dumb and blind while a human version of a Raggedy Anne, babe in her arms, stood outside my window and launched into an irritating and piteous drone.

The traffic junctions -- residency road, m g road, manipal centre junction, cubbon road, especially -- are also a breeding ground for another kind of desperation -- the kind that provides a service for which there is immense demand. This service is put on show every evening and you cannot miss it. The service providers are too visible for that: their red lipsticks, bared cleavages and heavily made up faces, are unmistakable…

All in Yellamma's name

Why are women dedicated as Devadasis? To find that out, you have to travel to Belgaum, or better still, leave the city behind and go into its talukas. You will find that poverty, illiteracy and caste politics are the true enslavers.

Here, everything happens in the name of Goddess Yellamma or Renuka -- the patroness of the Devadasi community. She is everywhere. Shrines dedicated to her dot the countryside; sugar cane factories, fancy stores, bars and restaurants, all of them prosper under her name. The annual Yellamma jaathres (fairs) at the various shrines bring in much-needed revenue for these talukas and for the old Devadasis too. The best known fairs are the ones at Saundatti or Savadatti and the one held at the Kokatnur temple near Athani. It is at these fairs that 'dedication' takes place, under cover of course (because it is banned by the state government) but it happens.

But why are young girls -- often babes in their mothers' arms -- married off to the goddess? Don&…

A little place called Malabad...

There's a little school near Athani, Belgaum district (North Karnataka) which epitomises the best and the worst of the 'rest of India' -- an India we city-dwellers would not care to know for it's an India ignored by even the politicians and the cable television mafia.

The best of that India lives in the Malabad Vimochana Residential School for the children of Devadasis and 'normal' children. This school is set in a couple of acres and is 20 kms from Athani town. Athani is a filthy, pig-infested place, where it is best to always insist on boiling water (rather than boiled water). But the Malabad school gives you the impression of an untouched place, for these children have literally no contact with the polluting influences of our city life.

The school, which has 400-odd students, is one of the very few in India which caters to the Devadasi community and it runs solely on donations. There are a couple of computers here -- just so that the children learn how to iden…

The honkers and the quiet ones

I think there are two kinds of people in this world -- the ones who honk and the ones who keep quiet. The honkers, as the name suggests, are our vociferous brethren. In team meetings, they talk the loudest without making any sense, really; they also crack the worst PJs and in traffic snarls, they invariably honk the loudest and the longest.

Then there're the others -- the quiet ones. I think I belong in that category. Today, I had to travel across the city for some office work. Ever noticed that it's always the taxi or auto you get into that has the aspiring rallyist for a driver with the lousiest and loudest taste in music! Well, as if fate had willed it, that was my lot today. Throughout my two and a half hour drive, I couldn't help but notice that my driver also had the irritable remote syndrome -- you know, that strange urge that comes over us when we lay hands on the TV remote or the FM Radio dial.

He had an FM radio, so I spent my drive listening to snatches of Kanna…

Cosmopolis,... really?

So, Bangalore has its fair share of glitzy malls, funky dudes, happening raves and noodle-strapped gals. Does that make it a cosmopolis?

Not as long as a lone woman walking down the street, sitting in a cafe, waiting at the mall or even trying to flag an auto, is considered easy prey. Not as long as middle-aged Romeos in Marutis, who act the part of dutiful husbands and fathers and sons in their homes, think it is a matter of pride to shadow a woman, to try and 'pick' her up. Not so long as a woman in distress is ignored by everyone - even other women.

As a woman, I burn with anger when a man walking towards me brushes against my breasts, when the policemen/autodriver/passerby, mutters something only I can hear, even if I am walking with my husband. I am outraged when the idiot lolling against the railing starts whistling a tuneless ditty the minute I walk past him and I am disgusted when a gang of Gap-clad guys decide it's cool to harass the girl in the t-shirt and jean…

Putting people in boxes

Are stereotypes born or made? We shout ourselves hoarse about the narrow-mindedness of others but aren't we stereotyping people all the time? We want people to play the roles we choose for them. We put them in little slots inside our heads and take comfort in the thought that they will only do this much and no more.

And we do this quite unconsciously -- a home, at work, with the people we love, the people we dislike, with each other. A colleague or boss does this when he/she allots work to the team. The favourites get the plum assignments, the silent ones end up the worst off. A parent does this when he or she lays down the law -- tells the child to do only this and not that.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe, we are all more than a little cruel, deep inside. We don't want to re-think our image of others and we most certainly don't want them to do something we think is out of character for them. Maybe we do this because there is a deep fear inside all of us, a hunger to…