Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


musahars are a community in bihar-UP belt. their primary occupation is to
make pattals (plates made of dry leaves stitched together with strips of
bamboo) for a living. A hundred plates sell for just Rs.20, and even that
depends on whether there is a wedding or death feast in the area. read

also they work in brick kilns or any other occupation which will give them a chance for survival. they are at the very bottom of the caste scale and face unimaginable hardships. kids are dying of malnutrition on a gut-churning scale.

the most important lessons taught by the parents to their children is to learn to sleep hungry. desperation forces them to hunt down undigested grain from cattle dung.

first heard of them from some friends from varanasi. many human rights orgs have taken up their case. the asian human rights commission, the people’s vigilance committee on human rights. but progress will be painfully slow.

wish these people join the thousands who come to mumbai for survival in a more dignified caste-less society.

Monday, May 28, 2007

manual scavenging

the most demeaning job in the world is manual scavenging.
even after it has been deemed illegal in 1993, lakhs of people are employed in this work.
it is the shit economy, stupid. this is india stinking.

it is the end of human dignity, a collective slur on our society that this is still practised.
more so, when potential solutions exist.

the national human rights commission and planning commission has ordered (in 2003) the complete elimination by 2007 (as of now).
but progress has been slow, deliberately.

i first read their account in harsh mander's 'Unheard Voices: Stories Of Forgotten Lives'.
i did not sleep that night, enraged.
the stories are soul scarring.
had a chance to hear him speak today. was reminded of that night.


met this lad last week. strapping young man of around 20 years or so.
does work in colaba area with tourists. very passable communication in english (he was proudly displaying his spoken skills). in the off-season, he sells stuff in ladies compartment in the train.

he introduced his elder sister, who could also speak italian!!
you know, desperation gets people to scale the everest.

i noticed the boy's forearm was lined with fine thin welts. on enquiring, his sister said "girlfriend problem". he was slashing himself, either to prove his 'undying love', faithfulness, etc., or prove his martyring capabilities.
grotesque ritual.

in my wisdom, i left him with a trademark "khoon, pasina sirf apne liye hi bahana" (shed blood and sweat only for oneself).

earthy logic

overheard this nugget of conversation at a shop.

customer (brandishing a Rs 2 coin) - do you have 2 Re coins ? (do ek rupai ka sikka hai?)
shopkeeper - if you want change, then ask directly. (agar chutta chahiye to puchiyo to sahi).

i also hear this often, "can you do this?", "can you come here?", etc.
why would you want to question ability, when you actually want something done.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


one stream of my daily news dose comes from rediff.
they allow discussion boards for people to post their comments on the stories.

it is quite hilarious at times. but more often it is depressing. some questions.
1. how do people have so much time for drivel creation?
2. why is there so much hate?
3. why cant they learn a language before they try to swear in it? (that's always the fist thing one does while learning a new language).
4. why don't they stick to the topic in question?

here is why i went a bit cold today. tragedy of hamletian proportions. the global warming scenario will see the likely extinction of peanuts.

there goes a potential nobel, melted away in the intense smorgasbord of NOx and COx. the greenhouse effect has scorched away the pathbreaking ludwig-csm nut index. this blog would have been called chaana in recognition to the humble nut.
not a good day mates. not good.

* gutted/muted/neutered


the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of india is a central government agency for "promoting excellence in public sector Audit and Accounting services towards improving the quality of governance".
their recent report on the violation of laid norms in the narmada dam water allocation caught my eye.
their reports keep coming out with a frequency of a virar fast train (speed and punch). this is a google search page "CAG reports". many govt departments and agencies are regularly pulled up for violations and irregularities.
the italics in earlier sentence is the rest of this post.
what is pulling up?
just pointing our errors and misdemeanours in itself serves little purpose, if there is no room for action. the action mechanism (this is a PDF document) is so elaborate in red-tape. here is the starting paragraph:
After the Audit Reports, Finance Accounts and Appropriation Accounts are placed
before Parliament they are examined by the Public Accounts Committee [PAC] of
Parliament set up under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the
Lok Sabha. Another Financial Committee called the Committee on Public
Undertakings [COPU] set up at the Centre under the Rules of Procedure and
Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha examines the Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Public Undertakings.
here is an dated article by someone who feels that CAG is toothless.

the other central watchdogs are the central vigilance commission (CVC) and the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). this is the website of ACB maharashtra.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

naya paisa

the indian rupee is made of paise, or rather naya paise. 100 of them. naya paise means new money. The decimal system was adopted replacing the old monetary system of annas. The conversion was 16 annas = 100 paise = 1 rupee. see here for more info on the indian coinage evolution.
unlike the cents, nickels and dimes, the value of paise is very low. most items start at 50 paise.*

so I was travelling by bus in chennai today and the ticket was Rs 4.50.
i gave a Rs 5 coin and did not get back the change. The conductor indicated that he would give later. happens.
as the journey progressed, there seemed to be no indication of transaction closure. as passengers thronged the bus, he was all the time tied up. so I thought, ok…will take later when I get down.
a parallel stream of thinking got me saying...after all 50 NP, why make it a big deal. Wont it be embarassing to ask for such a meager sum!!…
a third thought…what if he is deliberately delaying. if he even does this for 10% of his passengers a day, he would make a neat pile every day. the bloody fraud…

see what 50 NP can do!!

in this mind muddle, i went ahead and asked him for my change back which he handed to me simply. mattter closed. simple really.

* - The cheapest item would perhaps be a bidi (indian cheeroot), 10 for Re 1.

Friday, May 18, 2007

my sisters

i have spent this last week interacting with some of my cousins. since i lived in an all boys household, then school and college, the interaction with girls has been limited to my sisters.
and somehow I have also built up this image of being this fun bhai and i have been on the top of their bro charts!!
while 1 was in bangalore, it was for the engagement of one of them. while these are usually joyous occasions, i was told by the engagee’s sister (both of them are my sisters, mind it) about the events which led to the engagement. like all large traditional families, we have a of eager beaver mama/mami combination whose primary objective is to ensure that all nieces and nephews are married, whether they want it or not. nothing wrong with that of course, we need these social glues as these are sole occasions when the larger families assemble together. but the manner that this happens needed to be addressed.

so of course i figured out that it would be good to engage in a discussion with the relatives on marriage and general stuff. one of their main agenda items was to nail me. I was well past the sell by date and the core group was in deep distress…rapid and firm action was the order of the day.
I was also quite keen to make sure that they also understood my point of view. It is important in any relationship to openly and honestly discuss matters and more so within close family (and this is the place where it happens rarely).

So after my part which was satisfactorily dealt with (that’s altogether another post), it was my turn to get to my main agenda item.
All my sisters have been given great opportunities and freedom to choose their educational paths. All of them are now independent women with their own space. It is certainly a matter of great pride. But this independence has a serious dependant clause. They are independent because their parents allow it!!

The education and work is giving them a physical security as well as expanding their own sense of space and freedom. This comes into serious (but unsaid) conflict when it comes to their marriage. While societal norms (and eager beaver mamas etc) force them into quick matchmaking, their independence quivers with indignation at this breach. So this girl had a 10 minute window with her to-be fiance to make up her mind. And this is for a group which would take an hour to buy a saree. How fair is that, I asked them. Faced with this vague position of conformance and independence, my sisters are conforming silently.

Well, not anymore. I think this conversation has at least given a new voice with new ideas. I am writing to each of my sisters to get them to ponder over above and then start voicing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

baby blues

visited my cousin sisters today. my dad’s younger sister’s girls. after quite some time, like 3 years. The elder sister (still younger to me…bah… doesn’t matter) just had her second child, a very minute boy of barely 10 days.
her daughter is around 4 years old and like most of her current generation, quite a pocket dynamo.

which brings me to the subject of this post. why are current 2-6 year olds all pocket dynamos?
this term is loosely used to denote hyperactive, smart, tantrum throwing and tough to handle kids. all this is in comparison to what we remember of ourselves (which should not be too much) and closer, kids of the 90s.
some of the obvious facts are:
1. lot of television, especially the hyper violet cartoon networks
2. sugar dosage through colas and candies
3. peer group influence (neighbour-has-birthday-party-and-so-I-need-one-too type)
4. super indulgent parents and grandparents

some of the other insights from my experience and ‘expertise’
1. little to negligent ‘alone’ time. too much accompanied child-rearing by the parents is killing the concept of unsupervised learning. this is the building block of curiosity and trying to figure out for oneself.
2. fear of hurt. This is a tough challenge for anyone. Letting kids rough it out and get knocked and bruised a bit is essential for building general body immunity as well as a healthy respect for things that inflict such hurt (like fire, ground, iron, wood, etc)
3. uniformity of rules. Since there are multiple care givers, it is imperative to have a set of rules formed which is then uniformly applied. Kids are always able to identify the weakest link and keep attacking there (remember jurassic park 1 when the raptors are checking out the electric fence).
4. ignoring hypersonic screams. with their powerful vocal chords and abilities to move into 'bat' sonic frequencies, kids hold auditorily unchallenged (those 'sound' of hearing) adults to ransom. for them this is the astra (weapon) for getting things their way. i have not managed to try this effectively, but ignoring is the best tactic for parents. not always, mind you, but when the parents recognises that the scream is a scare tactic and not a real call for help.
5. no reprisals. i do see kids who thrash (rapid limb movement with little to nil aim) around a lot really trying to hit the other person. while tv plays a role in moulding this kind of response, adults also inadvertently inculcate the concept of revenge. say when kid fall down and starts bawling. most responses i have seen, the adult inflicts a beating on the 'hurter' (namely floor, desk etc) to assuage the crying kid. bad move. technically, the 'hurter' is not at all at fault. and hence 'punishing' them totally gives the kids the wrong ideas.
i say, use 'both-are-hurt' funda and hence both need to be treated.

the perfect parent is one who has all the theoretical knowledge and has no kids of his/her own. – a quote from readers digest.

i qualify. this is post no. 101. so that way at least :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

karunanidhi's record

tn has been in the news recently with the much publicised spat between the marans and the core DMK family, which led to the unfortunate mob frenzy which killed 3 innocent journalists.

see some news items here and here on related matters.

all this happened on the eve of a historic occasion, the 50th year of karunanidhi as a legislator.

this means that from 1957 till date, he has won in every local MLA election held. that is 11 consecutive elections. and add his 5 tenures as the CM of tamilnadu, this is impressive in any field of work. to win through the MGR frenzy and the emergency times calls for some staying power.
also to be seen in the light of the fact that he has a literary presence which is significant in quality and large in quantity. adding up to an impressive achievement overall.

having linked all this and said all of the above, i don't have much respect for him.
he has had the chance to raise above the muck and dirt of indian politics to blaze a unique path, but he has shown his failings and inanity like every other run of the mill neta.

there is nothing like a legacy that he leaves behind politically. i don't expect him to last too long and when he is gone, it is countdown to curtains time for the party.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

melting pot

this is not in reference to new york or mumbai which are popular culture mishmash cities and hence melting pots.

this refers to the end result of a pot kept out in the sun in chennai today. it would have melted in the intense heat.

apparently it was the hottest day of the season (this is from sun TV news) bangalore, much to my dismay.

started getting overcast towards the end evening, but never really made much of a difference. i over extended it to a csm effect in cooling down things.

need to figure out ways to literally chill out.

Monday, May 14, 2007

softening hard ends

dialogue on bangalore* bus.
csm - majestic (that's the destination)
conductor - sixoo (i had given him a Rs 5 coin).

the 'oo' sound is very telugu/kannada. same as the 'oo' in tool, pool etc. the mouth also takes that shape on utterance.
the same in tamil is a sound that i am struggling to explain in english alphabets or their combinations.
let me try. it would be sicsu. the ending sound of 'su' is the same as the starting of cipher or cypher. only remember that it is relaxed accompanied with an exhalation and not an abrupt snort.
now you have to just eliminate the 's' sound to get the pure vowel sound, which can be appended for the tamilian softening process.

in general, the gist is that there is a certain softening created by dravidians to hard syllable ending words.

on further study (mind you, this is all happening during the bus journey, an expert lab setting) i realise, tamil itself uses a lot of hard ending words while the similar ones in telugu and kannada are 'oo'ed. there are several examples, but one that i analysed and then extrapolated.
veeran - tam, brave person - english, veer - hindi, veerudu - telugu
veeram - tam, bravery - english, veerta - hindi, veeramulu - telugu
here the 'u' sound in telugu is same as the earlier 'oo' sound.

you must have noticed how the hard sounding tam endings are softer in telugu. kannda is quite close to telugu.

it is such a mellifluous rendering, that unless heard, this post is quite useless. (which it is if it has been heard)

* - i still call it that instead of bengalooru (see here it is again)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

taste change

something has changed this time in bangalore.

i first came here in 1996. don't count earlier times as i was too small to realise stuff.
it was for the quarter final of the 96 cricket world cup - india v pakistan.
totally super charged atmosphere. saw it live. my first time. quite awesome, more so with the victory. (cricket since doesn't have much appeal anymore)

still somehow i never got to like the place as a city. for sure, i did not get to spend enough time getting around. but you how these first impressions are...

since 96, i have come enough times on business and leisure. without a single exception, the distaste or aversion or dislike of the city continued and even grew. the travel/traffic has been tiresome, and the ITness etc., never scored points with me.

ff to 2007. here i am again in bangalore and with a new frame of reference. i am surely staying in a more relaxed site and the easy pace of banglaore is very much in evidence. that's nice. the weather has been outstanding (worth standing out for). especially after the sizzler in chennai.
i like it here. this is the real banglaore we heard about... the garden city and all that.

this may change after a joust with the new banglaore. but nevertheless, this experience has led me to realise that rigidity is useless, especially of the mind and of the notions we carry.
be open to relooking at earlier established norms.

p.s.: since i wrote this, i did a small errand and while thinking about this taste change, i also realised that this could be a double rebound scenario. first was a sweltering and muggy bombay which i endured for a month and then a blast furnace evening in chennai. with this, there is a chance that bangalore waltzed right through. still taste change...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

sankey tank man

there is this nice water body near my brother's place in bangalore. it is called sankey tank.

nice large walkway around. garden and all. tons of people early morning as one would expect.
not a single one was smiling. yes, this was one of the most sullen group of early morning exercisers.
the only one person who was enjoying was a girl with a couple of stray dogs.
this is so ironic considering that bangalore has been in the midst of stray dog madness. here is some high court news and mad reaction by the authorities.

btw - my bro has this fantastic set up at home, which allows continuous and high speed access to net. so sorry mates, no respite from the csm's venom.

Friday, May 11, 2007

heat is on

this is chennai today.
this is chennai yesterday.

am today in bangalore. phew. escaped my dears.

last night was spent in wondering how hot my house was. the outside last night was around say 28 deg C or so, but inside house was blistering at 34 deg C (read from the AC counter).

next 3.5 days here in bangalore. hopefully things will settle down by then.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

out of office

will be on a holiday from 10th to 20th may.
postings will be meagre.
i know my millions of readers will be missing their regular dose but i will be having regular dosa.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

conversion confusion

read this case which got dropped in my lap.

1. lady x is born into islam
2. marries a hindu and gets converted to hinduism and now is named x*
3. has 2 children who are hindua and b
4. husband dies, she reverts back to islam, i.e., name x
5. marries again to another hindu y, but this time, the husband converts to islam as y*
6. has another child, c, who is pure muslim
7. has 2 properties, one in her hindu name x* and one joint with husband 2 in their muslim names, x and y*.
8. ration card has all their hindu names.
9. a gets married to a muslim and is now a*
10. b also takes on a new muslim name b*
11. x is now on her deathbed with AIDS
12. her original sister has all the official documents and is looking at possessing the property.
13. x wants to make a will leaving all to husband y* and children from all marriages, a*, b* and c.

now tell me who has the most interesting job in the world.

Monday, May 07, 2007

central vs state

someone i know wanted to change schools. from a bombay municipal school to a kendriya vidyalaya. from maharashtra state board to cbse. from bad school to good school.

fairly a no-brainer for any parent who has the economic capability.

school change involves documentation. there is the school leaving certificate (aka transfer certificate) which is issued by the 'leaving' school and is to be submitted to the 'joining' school.
there are some intricate and befuddling rules governing this as i find out.

the cbse dude wants the LC/TC to be countersigned by the education board (over and above the school principal). the education board guy says that he will only sign for transfers outside the state and intrastate transfers (even though across boards) do not need a counter sign.

well well. 2 rules books to contend with and both dudes are top contenders for Indian Idle.

so attempts to try to lay hands on the rule books with no success.
had a telecon with the ed board dude.
more than incompetence, he was plain rude.

rd (rude dude) - why do you want to change schools?
csm - parents want him to go to a better school.
rd - this is not a rat race competition between schools. one school will lose and other will gain. (don't ask me to explain...)
csm - parents have a right in a democracy to choose the best option for their children.
rd - if you were here i could tell you what democracy is and what it entails.

no appetite for a civics lesson, i close down the conversation fast.

rd was simply
1. waiting for some under the table.
2. worried that municipal schools enrollment numbers are falling rapidly.

hoping for a chance to meet him and stuff his backside.

Friday, May 04, 2007

conspiracy theory 1

fire razed down1 the slum rehab agency (SRA) office on may 1. this is the nodal agency for rehabilitating slums in mumbai. here are some reports: here and here.

only a month ago the SRA was under the scanner for tons of irregularities. here is the notification on the ACB site.

they are saying that the probe will not be affected by the fire. pshaw. what else. obviously thats what they would say.

the reach and influence of the moneyed is well known. but the depths they can plumb too is just hell-worthy.

1 - down is used superfluously here. since it was on the fifth floor, it was just razed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

trickle down effect - pshaw

read this really interesting interview with an senior economist (prabhat patnaik) on the growth in india and the accompanying damage it is causing. 2 things piqued my interest.

1. It's futile to expect that higher growth will actually have a trickle-down effect.
2. The logic of capitalism is that capitalists compete against one another. But here, the capitalists have a monopoly and these governments are ruthlessly competing against each other to attract investments.

read the whole interview here.
hat tip: charity focus blog

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

crazy weather in TN

ooty is in grips of a freak weather scenario.

coastal TN has seen some abnormal rainfall along with cyclonic winds. see this seasonal rainfall totals.

this was the satellite map in early april. the cyclonic formation in the bay of bengal is clearly visible. this looks like late november.

whats up mates.