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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Madras Musings I

Been back in Madras for a little over a week now and there are so many random thoughts going through my mind.

Recession seems to have hit a precious few. People are still spending, and the flash of plastic can be seen everywhere – from the grocers’ to the computer store.


Everyone. And I mean EVERYONE has a mobile phone. 3-member households have 4 phone connections including the landline…


The civic sense of the Madrasis has only deteriorated… If there is something lower than rock bottom that is. If you are at a traffic signal, chances are that at least 3 people are spitting in your direction. Wherever you maybe.
And the ‘have penis-will pee everywhere’ mentality continues. The Madras-man is so unashamed of unzipping his pants (or hitching his lungi) to pee, even if it’s on the crowded Nungambakkam High Road or Mount Road.


The Woodlands Drive-in is no more. I never liked the food there, and was always amazed at how unabashedly, unhygienic the joint was, and how it managed to attract such a massive clientele. Yet, the place was an ideal meeting place for many. A place where lovers met. A place where the weary traveller stopped. Where marital alliances were often fixed. Where journalists met their sources. Where politicians convened. Now it’s nothing.
I live around the corner from where it once used to be. I still can’t get used to the empty sprawling piece of horticultural society land. The shut gates, and the muddy area around it, provides a good open air toilet.


There seems to be fewer walls than political parties. Every public wall is filled with combinations of red and black. One corrupt politician vying with the next, to get the attention of a weary population.


Anyone over the age of 12 in M Karunanidhi’s family seems to be assured a cabinet post. Is there no end to a man’s greed? No end to nepotism?

The music scene is on full swing. And no amount of ‘Yaaru Ootla Party’ kind of songs and its popularity, erases the enthusiasm for Margazhi festival.


Chennai is cool and pleasant for most part of the day. Yes, it’s true. I am not kidding.


The autorickshaw drivers’ greed seems to have plateaued. No great hike in their fares since last year.


And every other teenage girl has rebonded hair. I really miss seeing the frizzy Madrasi hair that I seem to have held on to, despite being away from the city.


So Madras has 2 more newspapers than it’s been used to for so many decades. Unfortunately, neither are real value adds.

… random thoughts will continue

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I hate admitting this…

…But I do think I am a workaholic. Though I was eager to take the break, days before I left Doha I had my apprehensions. And now I am SO BORED!!!!! I miss my routine. Of work, of running my home… I even miss O’s school and her homework. All this defined my day and life, and now I feel restless.
I am sure it will pass, and I will become the lazy cow I love being.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Today, I went to the recently opened Museum of Islamic Art in Doha – a fantastic collection of art from Europe, Africa and Asia. A collection that would be only half of what it boasts now if we in India had learnt to take care of our treasures.

Though we love to talk about our rich culture and heritage, all that we are capable of now is splitting hairs over religion. We have scant regard for the richness we have inherited. Just look at how we treat our archaeological sites.

Let me stop the general rant and talk about what really bothers me.

It’s the Maqbool Fida Husain Collection. That’s what upset me.

I can come to terms with the wonderful collection of centuries-old jewellery and daggers and pottery that we have lost to people who better appreciate it.

I think it’s quite wonderful that M F Husain – an Indian – is the only living artist commissioned to do a collection for the Museum, which will include artistic representation of the 99 names of Allah.

The above is his representation of the Last Supper.

But I can’t accept or digest the fact that we’ve lost him due to our intolerance to a country that doesn’t even pretend to be secular or tolerant.

How can we force an old man out of his own home and country? Our temple sculptures and art are far more provocative than what he attempted. We are so intolerant because he happens to be a Husain? Not a Srinivasan or Arjun or whatever…

Please don’t start with ‘would he do this to Fatima or Khadija or …’; that is nonsense and shirking our responsibility as reasonable folks; Till we decided to make an issue of it, Husain was only known as an Indian painter, a great one at that, with a quirky passion for Bollywood actresses.

We, because of our intolerance made him a Muslim painter.

He was so obviously crazy about all things his country boasted of – from Bollywood to whatever else. Yet at 90 he has to live in a foreign nation?

Reading the legends in the Gallery made me want to scream out loud…

Under the title (not of the painting) Controversy and Comprehension hangs the painting below:

And next to that is this legend:

Read it carefully…

In the 1990’s some of M.F.Husain’s works provoked controversy due to the representation of naked Hindu goddesses. However, the admiration he earned from the International community provided protection that afforded him a barrier from the controversy.
The State of Qatar, in its wisdom and tolerance, offered M.F.Husain a residence in Doha. Here, the painter has initiated an important…

…in its wisdom and tolerance?

Let’s forget how ironical that sounds. Let’s just focus on how it reflects on us.

India, the melting pot of cultures and civilizations, couldn’t provide protection to its artist, its citizen, its national treasure.

And worse still, we lose him to a country that doesn’t allow the residents to display (non-Islamic) religious icons in their cars, and only recently deported dozens of families who had dared to congregate and pray in their homes – Indian Hindus and Christians all.

Isn’t it sad that we Indians for all that we like to boast of are not really any better than them?

It makes me angry that we allow ourselves to be held to ransom by a small group of deranged folks… repeatedly. If it’s not the 10 terrorists in Mumbai, then it’s the MNS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, the Jehadis… we allow people with vested interests to dictate the terms. We don’t protest, we even justify it.

Meanwhile, we continue losing our treasures…

Yipee… my baby bump was spotted. At last!

The first time, and now again… my baby bump is not an obvious one.

Apart from those who know I am pregnant, no one can make out that I am some 30 weeks far into it. With the help of some maternity clothes and a dramatic tilted walk, only a few can now guess that I am not just a big woman, but one with a bun in the oven.

So imagine my joy today when in my regular clothes, someone managed to guess that I was pregnant.

It took all my self control to not jump on the rather cute security guard and hug him.

I was at the Museum of Islamic Art entrance, when one of the security guards pointed out my bump to his colleague and asked him to let me skip the metal detector routine. And I wasn’t even doing one of my exaggerated pregnancy walks.

Just hope the guys at the airport check-in next week let me skip the economy class and bump me up to business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

how heavy is your life?

what's the deal with people who have so many dislikes, so many hang ups, so many biases... how do they unwind or just get on with life.

these are well educated people i am talking about -- who can't seem to tolerate people or opinions that are not a mirror image of self.

In short, for these people: if you are not of the same caste or religion, don't speak the same language, have the same quirks, enjoy the same movies or move in a certain circle, then you don't deserve a chance to be respected or tolerated.

If you are so wound up and lost in your prejudices, how do you get a good night's sleep?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

just a job? no! a career, if you don't mind...

if i had a 100 riyal for every time i've been advised this, i would be retiring and going back home for good!
if i actually heeded the advice, i would have far more money than i can care for.

why don't you apply for a job* in Q-Comp-1/2/3...**

*=secretary/pr executive/teaching assistant/school ayah/accounts assistant
(all respectable jobs, if that is what you are qualified to do or want to do)

**=the top Qatari employers that pay obscene amounts as salaries, and compensate by assuring little or no job satisfaction.

there are some who give me this advice out of nothing but goodwill.
i can forgive them.

but there are some over the last 9 years who are pig headed in believing that what i do (after nearly 15 years in this line) is just a job, not a career. most of these are women. housewives who take up temp jobs or women who have no concept of 'careers'.

i asked one of them if she would ask her husband to give up his job as a professional accountant, and take up a job as a sales executive because it pays better. she was offended, yet could not understand why i was uppity about her suggestion to take up a 36-hour a week, teaching assistant job.

why is my claim to a career not taken seriously? i know it's not merely a case of gender bias. a female physician wouldn't be asked to take up a job as a school nurse would she? (or would she?)

it is also the mentality we grow up with -- the only careers worth pursuing are that of a doctor, engineer or chartered accountant.

so if you are a journalist or a teacher or a social worker etc, then you can't really be serious about a career!!!!!!!

and out here, if you have no qualifications to speak of, and no focus in life, then teach. take up the immense responsibility of moulding the young and educating them, because you don't stand a chance in the job market. how pathetic, sad and scary!

i used to get ballistic when people suggested this to me in the past. now i try and explain to them rather patiently why it wouldn't work for me to give up my 'career'. and when i realise that i am talking to someone who is not interested in what i have to say, deafened and blinded by their own reasoning, i just ignore them.

but i seethe inside. just as i'm seething now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

They didn't punch me in my stomach. Thanks for the advice!

Last evening I took O and three of her friends out for a movie (Madagascar 2) and dinner.

R advising O before we left: "Don't trouble Amma. Listen to her. Don't fight with each other (friends not me). And don't let anyone punch her in the stomach because she is pregnant."

Now, was he giving O and her friends an idea or what?! Because it is not like people routinely punch me in my stomach, pregnant or otherwise!

For what it was worth, they didn't punch me on my stomach.

PS: The movie sucked. No story to speak of, and really boring lines. Nothing catchy. Stupid. And why should a Giraffe fall in love with a Hippo. Isn't it unethical for 2 different breeds to hook up? It didn't help that I am not a fan of animation films.

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Save me from the Autograph hunters. They are terrorising me!"

When Rome was burning...

Or something on those lines.

MS Dhoni (whom I LOVE as a captain/cricketer) is not happy with the 2 dozen cops giving him cover.

So in these tense times, the cops are going to up HIS security.

This is what our country needs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He has definitely come down a rung or two in my eyes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why Khan is a Bollywood title, not a surname

CAST: M=O’s best pal (6 ½ years old); Umm M=Mother of M; O=my first born

M: I want to be an Astronaut

Umm M: Oh, that’s good

M: O wants to be an Astronaut too

Umm M: Really? But her mother told me O wants to be an actor

M: What? Then she will have to be O Khan is it?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It’s still a wonderful world to bring a child in to. I think or I hope or I wish or Am I just plain wrong?

Or rather I think, I think. I have to be right on this one. I am bringing a second one out here, in a few months.

I have a couple of friends who have chosen not to have children. Ever. They are both borderline cynical, but one actually loves kids. They managed to convince their respective partners to not procreate, because they think the world can do without another innocent soul being corrupted.

I am not really Ms Sunshine, but I am an optimist; I have a lot to be grateful for. And I still see the world as a wonderful place. Not a perfect one (but then if it is, how will people sell their religion as the path to heaven?), but a beautiful one.

But somewhere deep inside, my Jiminy Cricket asks me if I am sure. Absolutely sure? And I am not.

I think by hugging my child(ren) everyday, dozens of times a day; by listening to them; by teaching them right from wrong; by loving them unconditionally; by educating them; by giving them a good social environment, I am ensuring that they will grow up as good human beings. Who may sometimes falter, who may have flaws, but who will always try to be better.

I feel by doing all this, I justify bringing a child into this world. I am assuming every parent wants to do this too…

So, did the parents of 21-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Ameer Kasam really mess up?

Or are hugs and love and education not good enough? Where is his mother? Or for that matter, the families of the other nine youngsters who we know as ‘terrorists’.

What will happen to 2-year-old Moshe? He will never be allowed to forget how his father and ‘heve’ (6 months pregnant at that) died. Eighteen years from now how will he be moulded? How different will he be from the pitiful child crying out for his mother at the funeral service.

Everyday, every moment, there are human achievements and nature's miracles that makes me grateful for being here.
It may be a spider weaving its web, the process of birth, the process of making the baby, a kiss, a lioness chiding its cub with a heavy paw on the head because it’s going astray, pollination, a baby’s laugh, breast feeding, a Bollywood entertainer, a fantastic cricket match, the Mars rover, Chandrayaan, Usain Bolt’s victory dance... and so I think it’s a world worth bringing another child into.

Sadly, everyday there is death and terror.
But like all of us I want to believe it won’t happen to me and mine.
For how long can I continue to believe this?
When will my beliefs be dismantled brutally?
When I board the flight to India?
When I next switch on the TV to watch FRIENDS and stumbled upon a news channel showing a blast somewhere?
When I go shopping for a new bag or underwear?
When I decide to go for an anniversary dinner?
When I am attending a friend’s wedding?
I dread the rude awakening. I hope it never happens.

I want my life to be boring and uneventful.

I want my hugs and kisses to be protection enough for O, Plus and R.

I want to believe that Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Ameer Kasam has never been soothed by his mother, and didn’t have a normal childhood.

I want Moshe to have someone step in and be his mother and hug him, without crippling him with sympathy and hate.

I want to believe that’s all that the world needs. More hugs.

ETA: A colleague pointed out this video on reading the post. Free hugs. What a wonderful idea indeed.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Maximum City

Maximum deaths were at CST. Maximum coverage was not on it though. Maximum blame will probably be on the cops in the station, because CCTV caught their inaction.
Maximum bias, maximum insecurity, maximum snobbery, maximum city.

Added: Gnani has said it much better and much more forcefully here.