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Tag: India

Shimla in the rains

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When it rains in Shimla it is grey, dull grey. When the rain stops and the clouds lift, hesitatingly, a thousand shades of green explode. And then the journey back in time. A bit of nostalgia, a sepia memory, a lingering smell, myriad shades of green, rain and more rain. The cold seeps into the bones. Fluffy clouds drift into windows, rubbing on the roads, holding the whole town to its in its claws, not wanting to give up. Chilly wind and slush…the long walk home.

And then the break of the sun, thousand shades of red and orange, life is great, we are happy….let us go out, to the lovely crisp evening, to the mall road. Toss a new discussion around coffee cups. Gaze a million stars. The merry go round of faces, pretty faces…Years have passed and I remember Shimla, a piece of heaven as it were.

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Kashmir Tales – 2

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Flower of hope…

It was an unusually harsh winter. Old man Bab and young child Baccha passed most of the winter huddled together. Old man held the child close to his heart. They survived  because of the warmth that only human touch can produce.

Bab had seen many winters before, only to welcome the spring sun as it kisses the wet earth and see a  hundred flowers bloom and hear the air fill with distant rhythm of a ‘Chhakri’

But this winter is different, he thought. It is a particularly severe winter. It does not seem to end. 

“Baba, Where do flowers go when the ground is covered with snow?” asked Bachha as he cuddled closer to Grandpa.

“They wait, they pray, their roots huddle together…just like us” Bab whispered.

“Have you seen this happen before?”

“For hundreds of years. Our winter never ends. Our God has forgotten us.” tears formed in his old, arid eyes.

“But why does this happen to us?” innocent quiver of the eyebrow.

“Because we are full of hatred. We are wretched people, we hate our kin.”

“Is hate like this winter? Will it never end?” asked Baccha

“Yes. It can. You can make it happen. You can let all flowers bloom, red and yellow and golden…” said Bab. Both fell asleep under that pleasant shadow of a hundred flowers.

Baccha got up in the morning and peeped through the window. Golden rays touched the ground. He saw the snow melting away. He saw tiny blades of grass sprouting from the ground…and he saw this most magnificent of flowers. Grandpa is wrong, he smiled, God has not forgotten us.

 

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Genesis of corruption

I could write a world class treatise on corruption, having seen it all around me for so many years. No need, though.

I shall attempt to explain how and why corruption seeped into Indian ethos:

Scarcity of resources: More people, less opportunity. Not only hard commodities in the marketplace but services, admissions, travel tickets, practically everything.  So in a state of near panic, we jump the que, neglecting all lessons on moral education we received in school. Our political system sensed this opportunity to make money way back in the 60’s. They made sure the equation stays this way. More scarcity leads to more panic leads to heightened desire to jump the que. So bribe your way out of any situation. QED.

Excessive laws and controls: Excessive controls in post independence era created a plethora of opportunities for the bureaucracy and at a more immediate level, the babus, to fleece the common citizen. Keep the laws twisted and beyond understanding. This was practiced in every single government budget, policy and procedure. Sadly, it continues even today.

Scant respect or fear of law enforcement: Not that a common Indian is not scared of law or officials. On the contrary it is the very fear which drives people to evade taxes, fines, regulations and at a more specific level evade punishment for offences of all nature. Law enforcement machinery will show you the way. viola!

Lack of education: and as a consequence little awareness of rights and no awareness of duties. Democracy without an educated people is the basic reason why we went corrupt and enjoy being so. As of today, the educated percentage of India’s population is a pathetic 74% (less than 60% for women!). India has the world’s largest illiterate population. Add to this the deficit of quality education that’s available to lower income groups, you have a perfect recipe for disaster. At the DNA level.

Dishonest Governance: I will not comment on this one. A dishonest society will get a government to match. This alliance has continued for a long time and the society has grown immune, insensitive and resistant to change. We get what we want. Quid pro quo of sorts.

Rise of the professional (murky) politician:  Seduced by the abundance of easy sleazy money, the more aggressive members of society took to politics as a profession, right after college, rather than as an avenue for service to the nation. They misinterpreted our constitution and threw all standards of morality into a dark and dirty pit where ironically, our political system has stuck its roots and derives sustenance from.

The greatest tragedy of post independence India is that it allowed corruption to seep in, take root and find a congenial, receptive, fertile social soil.

Who knows, this might be the undoing of this once great civilization.


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Bangalore pays price for progress

Bangalore started getting strangulated in the ’90s. Once a sleepy hamlet, not exactly known for industry or innovation, but surely the finest town in India was known for its picture post card greenery, fresh air and mint cool weather.

Between 1970 and 2000 Bangalore population exploded. From 1.7 Million in 1970 to 5.0 Million in 2000. In 2011, hold your breath, it is almost 10 Million. Add to this human zoo, an astounding 5 Million vehicles of all sizes and shapes, belching poisonous fumes.

Bangalore’s arteries are choking with humans, vehicles, garbage, stray dogs,  ….

  • Bangalore has the highest number of 2-wheelers in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of pubs in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of public sectors and government organisations in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest density of traffic in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of Anglo-Indians in India.
  • Bangalore was the first city in India to receive electricity.
  • Bangalore has produced the highest number of professionals in USA – almost 60% of Indian population abroad are from Bangalore.
  • Bangalore was founded in 2nd Century and still has the same infrastructure drainage & sanitary systems – the oldest in the world.
What has left Bangalore (forever) are its big majestic  trees, lazy moments around dosa and coffee, aimless walk in the drizzle, old sprawling bungalows peeping through foliage, leisure and coolcool  breeze. Sad barter for an urban eyesore!
…….
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Shimla in the hills

 

Most visible and the most photographed landmark in Shimla is the Christ Church on the Ridge. It is indeed an awesome monument, almost at the top of Shimla hill (further up is the steep Jakhoo top but not everyone visits that place!). With a tremendous backdrop, the church has imposingly presided over the town for over a century.  Church has a long and interesting history. It is ingrained into the lives of people of Shimla, be it a reference to a direction or a meeting place. Many a face lifts later it still retains its stoic grace and majesty, silently looking over a town, which has been blissfully busy with its own growth.

I have a few pics of The Church. Such a pleasure to see how it changed over the last century. But the surroundings (less described the better), are victims of pathetic, greedy urbanization. Shimla today is stripped of its joyous, peaceful charm.

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Hot Cup of Tea

Tea means morning, evening, anytime sojourn with friends and associates. Even  a silent soliloquy with self and all those special moments when you do nothing. Tea when you get up. Tea when you are tired, cold, happy, visiting friends, seeing off friends, birthdays, mourning. Tea is gender, occasion neutral. Trust me, a hot cuppa tea on a mistycold morning at a railway station is God’s personal blessing to mankind.

Welcome to Tea land, India!

Considering tea  is a recent habit, north of India did not take tea till late 40’s, south India, predominantly a coffee consumer, is still not an avid tea lover. Then how and where did tea take over as a national drink?

What range and variety? From pale gold aromatic ‘Darjeeling’  to dark molasses like ‘Assam’. India consumes tea in excess of 1000 m Kg every year. Now, that’s a lot of tea.



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We the people…

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Delightfully slow!

My generation were  children of post-independence. Flags in hand, 15th August function at school, sweets, Nehru on Red Fort, dreams and more dreams, Binaca geetmala, Rafi and Dev and Lata…. life was so good.

Then something went awfully wrong.

Slowly, inching in with soft steps, a desolate dullgrey haze of corruption surrounded us. Loss of values. Rampant public loot. Degeneration of public morality. Layers of desperation. We were buried under an all pervasive pile of corruption. We metamorphosed from bright youngsters with a dream in our heads, to hopeless disconnected middle class citizens, trudging along, our heads cradled in our hands, scrapping our knees to attain material prosperity. Welcome to India of stifling bureaucracy, long ques for shoddy services and products, hope and despair for those of us who wanted to breathe an honest fresh air,  in the lap of our own country.

Sadly….. this happened to millions of us, the children of Independent India.

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Why 360º?

In India, there is no correct  insight about almost any subject, situation or person.

Reasons: | We are perhaps the world’s most heterogeneous, multisliced society | There are severe built in contradictions within society – cultural, economic, religious, political, geographic | There is invariably a strong right side up and an equally  strong belly side up view, held concurrently | Who hasn’t heard of the argumentative Indian?

Hence, a 360 degrees view….



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