Friday, June 24, 2005

what is it about..

Was just reading one of Jabberwock's stories on rediff on what blogging really is, and one of the things he said struck home. Once you are a blogger then anything and everything and sometimes nothing can inspire you to want to run back to the office or home to write. Look at me, it's 11.30 at night, I'm dying to sleep and I actually switched on the computer with all good intentions of writing a story but instead, and I had this sneaky feeling in my head that I would, I'm blogging. It's actually something that's been in my head all day, and then a friend sent me a text about the same thing, and I thought 'this is it, I have to write it'.
As you all know, the Mumbai rains are here, and I'm done with my grumbling, or so I hope. I know it's going to get worse and commuting will be a pain, and trains will get jammed and roads will be a mess, and I've seen more rain in Mumbai in three days than I see the entire year in Delhi, but paying heed to the advice of an RJ -- yeah, can you imagine that -- I decide to look at the cheerful side of things. So as I'm in the cab from Churchgate to Nariman Point, I approach Marine Drive, which manages to actually look pretty whatever the time of day or night and whatever the season, and I see the waves actually come right up to the road. The palm trees are swaying, it isn't raining, just a light drizzle and the urchins have never looked happier. They stand at Marine Drive and get splashed and they have that expression of amazement as if they didn't know the waves were coming. As we drive on, I see scores of people literally stand up on the parapet to experience the same feeling, the water on their faces. It really is a beautiful feeling. For a minute I forget I'm in India's concrete jungle, and think I'm in Cherrapunjee, where the waterfalls are so breathtaking, you can feel your pulse race and stop at the same time. It reminds me of the most gigantic and popular waterfall -- there are tons of them and after a point I stopped counting -- which apparently cascades like the body of a woman, and in front of which I was standing but which I could not see. Can you imagine standing bang in front of a gigantic waterfall hearing the gushing water but not being able to see it? No I was not temporarily blinded, or you could say I was, by such a strong mist that was impenetrable.
But no, I'm in Mumbai. And the first thought that comes to me is: what is it about nature that is so uplifting to our spirits?
What is it about the small things, just a breeze, a light shower, a strong ray on a cold, wintry morning, that influences the way we smile, think, see and react. Many moons ago, nature was deified and magical powers attributed to all of nature's manifestations. Mythology abounds with references to nature and its powers, both powerful and dangerous. Shakespeare talks at length about thunderous showers and cloudy skies and storms when all is not going well in the world, when patricide is being contemplated and executed. Enid Blyton has given children worlds of imagination and poetry and stories and fairy tales constructed around the magic of the forest, the faraway tree, movies are still made about what goes on in the jungle, the forests, the animals, the worlds we are allowed to see and the hidden worlds within.
When we break the fast at karva chauth it's the moon we see, when the women in Mumbai tie the string around a banyan tree to pray for their husband's long life, it's a tree they choose.
What is it about nature, about a small bud that's about to flower, each petal a different shade of the same hue, what is it about the verdant green of a leaf that makes so many people want to talk to it, what is it about a new leaf sprouting that makes you want to jump with joy. What is it about the effort of a small centipede or caterpillar, dragging all its feet to move to the next inch of mud in your flower pot.
Is it the largeness, the vastness, the power, the fact that it' so out of your control yet it controls your life? Is it that nature has the power to elevate your mood with just a small gesture, like a bud, and the tenacity to ruin your life, your home, your shelter, even take your life. Is this what makes it so awesome, so inspiring that odes and ditties are written galore and paens sung to its majestic beauty. is it a unifier, and equalizer, that the rich and the poor the caste and the casteless all burn under the same sun and cool down under the same rain.
I don't have the answers, but for once, I'm enjoying the questions.

Monday, June 20, 2005


In the past few days, I've seen several pieces of completely unrelated, but fascinating bits of news in the paper, and I've been wanting to blog on all of them.
> Indians are declared the most avid readers in the world. Wish Oprah's research team would get her hands on items like this before doing a tete-a-tete with Ash. And instead of asking ' do Indians have sex a lot' she could ask 'do Indian read a lot'... which would also explain why we're brighter and sharper. But then I guess the inevitable question would be 'why is the country the mess it is'. Of course I'm still pissed that Ash didn't bother to highlight any of our achievements. Forget Kalpana Chawla, we have 13-year-old kids like Anurag Kashyap who win spelling competitions, we have other kids after whom celestial bodies are named...

> Breast feeding in public. There was a recent PIL in some European country filed by a woman who says she feels uncomfortable at the thought that people are uncomfortable looking at ehr breast feeding in public places, and that she is contantly asked to shift to a family section in stores etc. 'I can't help it if they can't differentiate form from fiction'. She also says she finds it bizarre that women are baring their breasts on Tv, in live shows, but it's not Ok when it comes to breastfeeding. As a result, many women are now opting to not breast feed and switching to bottled milk much earlier.
Personally, and I'm not talking from experience, I think I would be extremely uncomfortable at breast feeding in a public place or having someone breast feed sitting next to me at a restaurant or a bus. Maybe it's because we belong to a more conservative society, and women almost give up having a life for a while, at least till they're breast feeding, and I know that a lot of countries don't have the concept of help at home so women who want to venture out have to take their babies along, and well breast feed, but it's a bit odd to look at someone and then keep looking at them without being embarrassed or conscious. When you see a woman in a music video or a live dance, you 'expect' them to be clad in a certain way and you expect them to be baring some part of thir breasts or whatever, but when you just come across someone breastfeeding, it's a sight you are not expecting, which is why it results in shock or embarrassment. That is the basic difference so I don't think it's ok to expect people to differentiate form from function and accept that seeing breasts in both situations (in a live show and breastfeeding) is one and the same thing. That said, embarrassment will only go away if it becomes a common sight and hence, acceptable' as say holding hands or kissing in public almost is. And that will result in a more mature society, but India is definitely not ready for it. The women on the streets, the beggars, you will argue, they breastfeed in the open, but then they almost do not exist for most us, we half look through them, and in a recent study in Mumbai by an NGO, it was found that many of the city's poor are forced to use public space for private activities, which means there is a thin line dividing public and private space for them, but not for the rest of us. This debate on space, is any case, in a realm of its own. Interestingly, someone put it very succintly the other day; Delhi affords physical space; Mumbai affords mental space. Why the two are mutually exclusive, I don't know; why do we have to compromise one for the other?