Friday, October 31, 2008

A tiny thought to ponder

Why do we love meeting long lost relatives?
Why do we love school reunions more than going for dinner with current office mates?
Why do we love looking at older pictures?
Why do we love telling stories about what we did as kids?
Well, perhaps, back then relatives actually discussed life, without worrying about what anyone would think. Maybe relatives had that faith and belief that perhaps someone would care.
Perhaps back in school, we never worried about who would become CEO of the cupboard monitors union, or who would have the maximum money to splurge, or who would be successful in life in comparison to others.
There is an old saying that goes that as you move on in life, lengthwise and heightwise, it gets lonely. People either fall away, out of step, or fade away, or run off far ahead of you. But the relationships you build early on in life before jealousy, greed and a secretive nature creep in are the ones that last for life. But do they really? I don't know. In many cases, old friends who've been together for 10-12 years, suddenly get caught up in life, or get too busy to waste precious time on frivolous old friends. What's there to talk anyway? Nostalgia and nothing else. In some other cases, even old friends drift apart since their paths in life are no longer aligned - on account of the field or on account of the degree of achievement. Is there anything one can do to preserve the sanctity of friendship from the daggers of life?
I don't know, but it is just a failure of humanity over the years. I have seen my grandfather's friends, staying in touch for over 60 years! And these days, it is difficult to maintain a 'no expectations' friendship for even 6 years. Disgusting? Yes. But I guess I need to reconcile to it as a fallacy of my times!!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flipside of festivity

Yippee Diwali's here Diwali's here!!! Lights, sounds, noise, cheer, festivity, and all things wonderful. We meet people, long lost friends, relatives, all of them are bound by the phrase 'Happy Diwali'. Kids are exuberant because they are all over the place bursting crackers and making merry. The last working day prior to Diwali is almost a quasi chutti. Why? since festivities are in the air! So no one works, everyone's smiling, and setting 'out of office' email replies, and generally beginning to plan their paid vacation. Companies distribute sweets among their employees. Therein starts the problem for those with a terrific sweet tooth! Well, folks at home make the 'once in a year' category of sweets. To be on the safer side, companies distribute the cocoa temptation - chocolates - of all sizes and shapes, that lure you from wherever. Add to the predicament the fact that holidays are nigh! How on earth is someone supposed to stick to a decent diet? But I tried, and I tried real hard since I have a mission to be of certain dimensions, by a certain time!!! So I stayed away from my sworn enemy - the refrigerator. I even refused to drink chilled water, so that I can keep my eyes away from sweets.

But then, the smell of a Mysurpa, the color of a Jalebi, the shape of a Laddu - started tormenting me every moment. They'd appear in the form of an aunty asking me why I am not eating the Mysurpa - 'It is sooooo soft... it just melts in your mouth.' An uncle says, " Beta you won't get Jalebi (the south Indian version) at all times of the year. So kha lo, it won't hurt." A cousin with a svelte figure says, " C'mon - don't act so stuck up." I ran away from there. They all reminded me of the luring devil - the kind that always torments Snowy in Tintin! And as I ran, I bumped into the Bai who was busy loading something into the........ refrigerator. I peeked inside. MMMMMMMMMMMMM. I tried... I tried....... I tri.... The Mysurpa is actually yummy... And you know? I actually discovered a certain fine nuance of a taste in the Mysurpa only while was eating my third piece. Wow! Fruit N Nut!! Awesome..... Happy Diwali to me!!!!!!!

Diet gaya tel lene. Diwali comes once a year. I might as well enjoy myself. I pakka won't gorge on Pori during Kaarthigai, and maybe stay away from Dundee cake during Christmas. Perhaps even start fasting for World Peace!

Cheers everyone - and Happy Diwali, New Year, Bhaubeej to you.....

Why rains in India make so much noise - Reason 3

Technically the rains in Mumbai are supposed to end soon after Ganpati leaves. But global warming is nothing short of a reality and climate is simply going haywire! So if winters in Mumbai can dip to 7 degrees it is no wonder that rains sometimes prolong way into October as well. But this was just about Mumbai. In Tamil Nadu, AP, and even West Bengal the rains are caused by the North Eastern winds. And so, they get rains from October till December. So the rains in India continue to make a lot of noise!!!

The third reason is Navratri and Dashera. Soon after Ganpati, comes Sharad Navratri. During this time, similar to Ganpati, people bring in idols of Goddess Shakti or Durga. They worship her for the nine days of Navratri and then take her also on Visarjan. Till a few years ago, the number of Sarvajanik Pandals for Durga Puja were few in Mumbai. But of late, even those have mushroomed to a great extent!

Durga Puja Pandal at Chembur, Mumbai. Pic Courtesy Ms Payal Dutta.. You rock babes..

Durga Puja is a huge festival for Bengalis. Even bigger than India's biggest festival Diwali. All Bengalis shop specifically for Pujo as they call it. During Ashtami and Navami, almost all Bengalis are out about the town, visting Pandals, socializing, dressed in their best, and thoroughly enjoying themselves! The traditional hooting, drums, Arti - all complete the varied aspects of the festival. Meeting, greeting, treating - the high point of this period is people coming together. This time in fact, the number of non Bengalis at Pandals was a lot more than the Bengalis!!

Another part of the story is the annual Gujju dating festival! No offence, but Dandiya and Garba places all over Mumbai are meeting places for all eligible guys and gals and quite a few alliances get fixed soon after Navratri! People buy tremendously ornate clothes - Kedia, Ghagra Choli, ornaments, the works. Special artists perform for these functions and there are competitions on who can dance the best, and prizes also include a trip to the US!!!! People from all over India come to participate at some key places, and the amount of preparationthat goes into these acts is humongous. And if you have Garba, Dandiya, and music - the concoction is enough to be Reason 3, Why Rains In India Make So Much Noise.........

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Rains in India make so much noise - Reason 2 - continued

Reason 2 - Ganpati continued.
Just that this time, I am going to allow pictures to do all the talking.... All pictures - courtesy me. I'd suggest clicking on the pics to open them up as a separate link to see them better. I had to upload them as a collage, since I didn't have the patience to upload all of the 50 odd pics....

IDOLS - Depending on the devotees involved, the idols would look either like the idols of North India or South India. The minute you see a vermillion spot on the forehead of the idol - it is decidedly Southie!!

Also, all devotees around the area of the Sarvajanik idol keep their household Puja idols with the big idol for Visarjan. The result - lots of tiny idols all around or below the big guy! There are even competitions between idols! Most vistited, most unique and so on. Note one idol made entirely of cashews and almonds....

The whole city is lighted up. The mood is festive, with music playing everywhere. Almost everyone is out on the streets, celebrating the arrival of their favorite God..... Lights dangle from trees, on banners, on buildings, between buildings. Lights and buntings are at times shared by large idols as well. Economic meltdown?? Baad mein dekha jayega is the mood all around....

And when God is ready to give some free publicity to people who need to be seen all the time, what you have is a melee of hoardings all over the place. Have lamp post? Will hang banner!!! So what if God is upside down somewhere???? He needs to look skywards sometime right???
And when elections are next year, everyone wants to wish the world. Somehow the old song - 'Everybody wants to rule the world' keeps swimming in my head.

And finally it is time to bid adieu to the Lord, but only after taking a promise from Him that he'll come soon next year! I don't know whether that really happens, since last year Ganpati came around the 15th of September and this year, He came on the 3rd! Bizarre? I don't know. But Ganpati Visarjan is nothing short of a fair for the people of Mumbai. Almost the whole city is out on the streets. You get a chance to see almost all prominent idols as they head towards the sea. Rumors abound over the price paid by news channels for space on the balcony of houses facing the sea. Truck loads of people travel with the idol to the sea. People sing and dance all the way, and when they get tired, they get into the tempo or truck for a while and then resume dancing. Women, children, men, boys, all alike, happily wish their favorite God goodbye. And in the meantime, many others come to watch. Vendors sell standard kidde stuff like whistles, blow horns, crinkle caps and so on, and adding to the noise around are tantrum throwing kids!!! Kids hoisted on their parents' shoulders, families out for a night of roaming around, women dressed in their best all taking in the sights as the Lord goes back home. But the most beautiful part is the unification of religions, regions and people in general. All bound by the same thread of festivity! This time Mumbai faced a terror threat just before Visarjan. But there was absolutely no trace of fear or apprehension in people as they stepped out. The police had a tough task on hand controlling the crowds and trying to avert the terrible. But I guess when God is on your side, all evil needs to literally go to hell!!! And thus ended one of India's largest and most popularly celebrated festival.

Email to Wiki to Blogs - Next is What???

My generation has actually witnessed the inception and growth of the World Wide Web. Hotmail and a certain were 'cool stuff'! Crazy email IDs - cooldude99, - characteristic kiddie IDs. Idiotic forwards would crowd the 100 MB mailbox. All of us would spend at least an hour everyday 'checking emails', laughing at the crazy jokes and cartoons. Anna Kournikova was news - not because of her wonderful tennis, but for the virus that spread by her name. Points of quarrels at school would be the fact that someone skipped another in their 'forwards list'. Then came IMs. MSN Messenger - slow, sluggish, but still cool. Avtars, names, images, et al. The new trend was chatting away to glory all the way into the night! And then meeting the same people in class the next day and talking about what you chatted last night. Then came groups like yahoogroups - bulk mailing groups. One of the most exploited uses was to notify the group to proxy attendance in class!!!
Then came the GOOGLE!!! I bow to thee Google!!!! In just a matter of a few years, one simple idea is a household name and will soon be a concpet in the dictionary. Believe you me.... Just google up 'Google in dictionary' in a few years and you'll see what I mean!! :) Need an answer - google it up. From Hindelburgh to Paris Hilton to Sarah Palin to Oscar Wilde to penicillin. The world wide web has in effect proved the X-files catch line, albeit with a small tweak..... What you seek is out there. Wikis were the next generation knowledge resources - all gyaan on a topic, under one roof. So if you search for sub-prime, you get everything - definition, summary, causes, effects, links. The veracity of the stuff written there is open to debate, since anyone can contribute there. Likewise blogs - your take on anything - freedom of expression takes an all new meaning. But it is a healthy manifestation of people's opinions on things that matter to them. And it is a wonderful way for people to collaborate - the essence of Web 2.0. Social networking - new expressions like 'I ain't orkuting', or 'are you on Facebook', are new icebreaking sentences!!! Social networking sites are the chatrooms of yesterday, and people's profiles on these sites are sacrosanct.
Next is what?????
P.S. I posted this by emailing my blog.... Technology in step with Thought........

Mortal Combat - Annihilation!!!!

Who said the final annihilation is ages away? As politicians are tremendously busy playing sectarian politics and law enforcement is busy deciding what to do, the young blood out there is busy playing tit-for-tat. Putting aside any chance of trying to do something constructive (besides sanctioning projects for digging holes on all major roads, making any road commuter's life hell, while not showing any decent progress or result for those digging activities) everyone is busy riding the regionalism wave. Bravo! UP kill Marathi, Marathi kill UP. Awesome!!! At the end of the annihilation, everyone would end wiped out! And then, in the bevy of corpses, one really wouldn't be able to know who started it all. But then again, at that time, it really wouldn't matter....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Modern Art - Yeah I am silly enough to not get it!!

When I was a little kid, my mom once told me the story of the Emperor's new clothes. For those who don't really know it... I guess my generation sure as hell would know all about the story, but the current Yuppie kids - I have my own doubts... on account of their preoccupation with Pokemon, Need for speed (I hear my nephew screaming - Chittiiiii those are sooooo old!!! Today's kewl game is Call of Duty). Ah yes Call of Duty! Wasn't this the game that the Canadian boy was glued to, which his folks in a traditional 'uncool parent' way prevented him from playing, with the terrible result that the kid ran away from home? How do I know this? Well, because Microsoft has offered a reward of $50,000 for anyone with information about the kid! Incidentally the game was on his xbox console - and all these nuggets of news have made it to the Indian media. So the Emperor's new clothes is a fairy tale of a vain king who gets conned by 3 clothes makers who make him new 'clothes', that can only be seen by the wise! So even the king can't see those clothes, but he is scared to admit that fact, since that would mean that he himself is foolish....

I was reminded of this story not so long ago. I have had a modest brush with modern art. I remember rendering one of my sister's beautiful scenery paintings into a piece of modern art, when as a kid I knocked over a bottle of bright purple paint onto her sheet. What followed thereafter, is left to your imagination. But a friend of mine recently bought a Mark Rothko - Earth and Green. She was very very proud of her acquisition of modern art. She kept raving to me about how each time she'd stare at the painting, new meanings would erupt! Wow! I took a look at that painting - a deep long look. A sideways look, an upside down look. And no meaning leaped out at me. The painting - a white background, with a dark green rectangle beneath a brick red rectangle! But I was too stumped to admit the fact that I just didn't understand it. I thought about it over and over again, and somehow, just couldn't piece the puzzle! Mr Rothko sure can give old man Da Vinci a run for his money, in the puzzles and riddles domain!!! After so many hours, days and months of thought, I guess I finally have to agree - that I am silly enough to just not understand MODERN ART!!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Global economic meltdown - a new dimension

There have been loads of reports in the newspapers these days on how the global economic meltdown is affecting shoppers. There have been reports on how people are cutting down on spending, on account of the terrific uncertainty in the markets. In just a matter of 8 months the Bombay Stock Exchange - BSE Sensex (for sensitive index... Man! it seems more sensitive than a Cancerian woman!!!) has tanked almost 13000 points! 20,000 to 7000, and still nose-diving! So most urban Indians whose wealth is locked up in the markets are a little wary about spending. To the extent that on Dhanteras, when people generally buy gold or some other valuable - considered auspicious to do so, many refrained from purchasing anything other than essentials! So sellers want to lure people somehow or another.

Now, as we face a bust everywhere, with real estate prices going for a correction, the stock markets diving deeper and deeper, people do not want to invest any more, at least not to the extent that can hold up the exaggerated property prices. So builders who embraced the whole 'redevelopment of old properties' concept face either unfinished projects, with huge outflows or finished buildings with no takers! The result - they have had to slash prices and also offer freebies!!!! Buy a house, get a car free. Buy one house, get one free. Bizarre how things have shaped up in just a matter of months.

But the most bizarre thing is, that this dire attempt to lure customers has hit other markets as well. Just this evening, while I was at a food mall, there was an announcement - "Buy half a kilo brinjal, and get another half kilo absolutely free."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State of flux...

Sultry Sunday. A week of cleaning culminating in a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment led to a lazy morning. Looked at the vintage Lilac Avenue, and somehow something felt insufficient. So I started looking up places to revamp the look and feel of this place. And I literally stumbled upon a means to make my lazy morning, a fairly occupied morning. The result - A new look for the Lilac Avenue. The image of the road you see at the top of the banner, is a typical tree-lined avenue, pristine, calm, and totally reminiscent of the countryside. A refuge from the madding crowd of the city - the city of blinding lights.

Change has been effected, but somewhere something pushed me to come put these words down. As though telling me, " Enough of the laziness, let's finish off the unfinished business. Its already Diwali, and my post series on Why rains in India make so much noise seems to be stuck in traffic." Note to self - by this week's end, I need to catch up.

So please keep visiting and please do comment on what you feel about the stuff written here, the look, the content, the issue being talked about, and almost anything else... In the meantime - happy festivals....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Something Saturday : Politics....

The wretchedness of the human nature comes to the fore only in politics. The extent to which the thirst for power can literally bring out the conniving, scheming Iago within a human being can be seen in politics today. It almost looks like one waits for the first stumble of a person to make it into a 100 ft fall. And this is the fallacy of politics. Gone are the days when politicians wanted to do something for the country. Remember the age old – ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ essay? Prime minister was once on top of that list. There was once a time when Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel were lauded for their vision, their mission to build India. They had stars in their eyes and a wish to make a difference. And now, when asked to name a profession for which I would say, “Don’t pick me”, I emphatically say ‘Politics’. Why? Either I have opened my eyes to reality or there has been a decadence of politics over the years, or perhaps both! I remember this old Malayalam movie – don’t recall the name though, where a group of crooks manage to lay their hands on a huge loot and wonder how they can spend so much money while growing it without attracting attention. They think of various ways – from social service to trade till finally they settle on…. Politics. So that is what this is all about – kickbacks, ‘kitna taka mera’, under the table, over the table and everywhere else – just ways to make a bundle – and a big one at that. So no wonder then that power corrupts.

And when it comes to swaying the electorate, they’ll stop at nothing to pull out any and all tricks out of the bag to win. A terrible past, a criminal offence, a foreigner by birth, the lack of a cell phone, a pregnant teenage daughter - the list is endless. 2 days after Palin’s nomination comes news that her teenager daughter is five months pregnant. Wham! To all those conservative Republicans. Did Ms Palin suddenly realize this???? I remember the movie Sweet Home Alabama. Patrick Dempsey’s mother is a politician, and the minute her son breaks news of his engagement to a small known NY fashion designer – Reese Witherspoon to his mother, she calls a quick meeting to pull all skeletons out of the Reese’s closet, before her rivals get wind of it all. This was comedy in the movie. But this really happens in India. As if politics is all about scandals and glitzy gossip. No wonder then that politics can be likened to movies and many film stars and crooks have excelled at politics! Indian politics provides a continuous news feed to the 24x7 news channels. When we have bandits, gangsters, accused murderers, even convicts – who file nominations from prison, politics in India is nothing short of drama on a massive scale. One truly wonders when Condoleeza Rice talks of the alliance between US and India as an alliance between 2 democracies – the oldest and the largest! We are the most populous country with a ‘democratic’ form of Government, no doubt. But to what extent is our population enfranchised? And to what extent are we exploiting a very exclusive right? I remember a report on Afghanistan soon after the Taliban government was ousted. Men and women were dancing on the streets overjoyed at the fact that they could finally have a say in the government. And here, abstaining from voting seems to be the best thing we can do for the country.

Take for instance the newest political drama in Maharashtra.

A fervor that when unbridled in unemployed youth can blow up into something unmanageable! There are scores of issues facing the country these days. Unemployment, creaky infrastructure, poverty, a global economic meltdown. This is a time that calls for unity, calls for a united effort to solve common ills. Dividing a state under the garb of regionalism will not lead us anywhere near progress. The issue was the fact that railway vacancies in Maharashtra were not advertised locally. Ok, the issue is a legitimate one. But beating candidates? What will that achieve? Other party people swoop in and gather brownie points on the sympathy that follows these victims. Another theatrical arrest in the dead of the night. Yet again newspapers and TV channels get enough for a 24x7 unique feed! Irony comes to the fore, as newspapers hunt out Maharashtrians whose property was damaged in an offshoot of the violence. Pages and pages are dedicated to the cause of Marathi! Language is supposed to bind people through literature. The USP of India has been ‘unity in diversity’. A Muslim celebrating Diwali, a Hindu wishing a Muslim on Eid, Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Christians coming together on Christmas. Somewhere in the murkiness of politics, all that beauty has been lost to regional, sectarian and communal divide. A regression of sorts, indeed. Extrapolate this situation a little bit, and you have a cartoon that is doing the rounds these days – Think about it…..

I think it is high time we started acting like civilized, educated human beings with a mission and a purpose in life. Just being called an ‘emerging economy’ will not ensure sustained investment and growth. But frivolous destruction and hurdles to progress will almost certainly stop any chances of growth!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday : In retrospect

Someone once asked me to name a weakness. And I said – retrospection. People call it the ‘power of retrospect’. But I’d rather say that it is a pain. How many times have you entered an exam hall wondering whether you prepared enough? How many times have you exited an exam wondering whether you wrote enough? How many times have you looked at your marks and wondered whether you could have done more? How many times have you given an interview and wondered whether you answered to people’s expectations? How many times have you sat down and asked, “Why did I say that?" How many times do you almost crucify yourself over a goal you could never have achieved? How many times have you tried to wonder whether a situation could have panned out differently, if only….. How many times have you said to yourself - 'If only hindsight were foresight, life would be so much easier'?

I seem to do it all the time. The net result is that I am always thinking. What if, whether, maybe, perhaps…. A couple of my friends have told me this as well. Maybe that’s why this place is the thought center! Do I engage in retrospection on purpose? Do I enjoy looking back and wondering whether I could have done more? Not really. But I try to convince myself that such retrospection is a means to improve. But an excess of anything can be painful. And this constant ‘if only I could turn back time’, only ends up giving me a morbid masochistic pleasure. Does my retrospection change the past events? No. Can it change the future course of events? Maybe. Since I might learn key things from my retrospection and operate differently when faced with a similar situation in future. But then that again is subjective, since fatalistically speaking, future events are already preordained, and so, technically all my retrospection activities combined cannot change what will happen in the future.

So can I wish that I want just sight and foresight- no hindsight at all? Again that's a tough thing to say. If I could actually foresee everything, I would actually know what I would do in a situation, long before the action would actually take place! In which case life itself would become so terribly predictable! So if hindsight were really foresight, would life be any better? Naaaaaah.

So at the end of it all, of what relevance is the sentence - 'If only I could turn back time'? If you ask me, I feel that I'd rather not give the sentence any more importance than saying that it is a very nice song by Aqua! And as for me, I am sure that I will be forced into a retrospective tailspin, soon after I hit the Publish button with cogitation over whether this post good enough!The answer to my tortuous retrospection - Even time can't tell.......

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What I saw Wednesday : Cheers to childhood

The past few days have been rather hectic. There is a trend among all Indians to engage in what is called – Diwali Cleaning. It is a period of torture for the members of a house and one of exhilaration at the prospect of improved cash flow for the maids of the house. I was caught up in a similar quagmire, wherein the annual cleaning festival was happening in the house, and my participation was implicitly solicited. So battling the dust, in the garb of a terrorist, mercilessly exterminating tiny spiders and the occasional cockroach, by the end of the day, I was phooped! Not just because of the work, but on account of the incessant sneezing post the exposure to dust! So let alone blogging, I didn’t have the enthu for hogging! Ok, terrible rhymes apart the focus this week on What I Saw Wednesday is still on precocious kids.

The other day, 2 little kids from an adjoining building came over to our place in the afternoon. One was perhaps 8 and another was 6 years old. They spoke perfect, fluent English – ‘Would you like some handmade paper weights?’. Well, these kids were tiny, and their fearless nature was very welcoming. So curious, we let them in. The paper weights were small stones – around 2 inches in diameter. Clearly they were picked up from a ground or a garden. These stones were washed, cleaned and painted. They showed us the merchandise. All paper weights had a theme. One was ‘ the Sun’. The object – look at the picture – was a stone, painted all blue, with a smiling faced sun, in yellow! Another was a fish – and this was ‘sold out’. This was a stone painted in green, with small kiddie fish shapes painted in black. Another theme was – crab, a blue stone with an orange crab. The funniest one though was ‘Unity in Diversity’. A cleaned black stone, with the words ‘Unity in Diversity’ painted on it in a glittering red. Even cuter was their catalogue. They catalogued all these paperweights by theme name in a table along with a column that said – ‘available/ sold’. Once the sale was made, the buyer would need to strike off his purchase on the catalogue. The merchandise was definitely not a huge work of art, but the idea is to be lauded. When asked what the kids would do with the money, the 8 year old said that she was saving up for a gift for her mom’s birthday. Sweet!

I remember roaming from house to house when we were kids collecting money for Helpage India or the Blind association. I was reminded of the number of aunties who’d had to pay up to a whole slew of kids who’d come knocking at their doors. And the aunties who’d mercilessly slam the doors on our faces, and the hushed ‘bitching’ we’d do about those aunties as to how mean they were and how they were ‘acting too smart’. We’d compete over who collects the maximum money, in a race where we'd implore all known individuals - who'd suddenly become known uncles or aunties or maybe even ultra close relatives to pleeeeeeeeease give more money, since ‘she or he who is my worstest enemy... (wonder why we'd always use terrible superlatives as kids) has collected more than me!’ And then would come the preening in front of the whole class as the teacher would call out the name of the kid with the maximum collection. So when these children came over to our house with this idea, I was reminded of the old times. Cheers to childhood indeed…….

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why rains in India make so much noise - Reason 2

Second reason! Well, I did mean to put this up a lot sooner, but one thing led to another and an effort to lend 'a method to this madness' required me to push this post to today. So the second reason why rains in India make so much noise is because we Indians like to make a lot of noise when we have guests around. Indeed, Ganeshotsav is all about bringing India's favorite God home. Most non-Indians generally know about Diwali, since all said and done, Hindi movies have immortalized Diwali since time immemorial. In fact, even Ganeshchaturthi/ Ganeshotsav had never taken on the behemoth proportions that it occupies now, till a few years ago. The practice of getting Ganpati idols home, conducting the puja with varied foods as offerings, till finally immersing the idol in the sea or a river, has been going on since eternity. This festival has so many varied facets and offshoots, that in India, Ganpati is a phenomenon. Since the aspects are many, I plan to dedicate 3 posts to this piece of religious/festive consciousness... Hope you have a good time reading....

Since the late 1600s, the 10 days from the Shukla Chaturthi to the Anant Chaturdashi (fourth day to the fourteenth day in the waxing moon period of the Hindu month - Bhadrapad) of Bhadrapad have been celebrated as Ganeshotsav. Traditionally, the whole family used to gather at the house of the patriarch, and a ceremonial Puja would be performed of the Ganpati idol in the house. This was the practice in North India. Now, in South India, on the Chaturthi day, there would be a 'vendor' who would 'plop' Ganpati 'lumps' on to a wooden plate. Surprised? Well, my grandma has told me, that on the Chaturthi day, the lady of the house would go with a wooden plank to the vendor who sold the Ganpati 'idols'. Now, these idols were just mounds of fresh, wet clay in a mould shaped like Ganpati. So when a customer went to this vendor, he'd literally plop the idol onto the plank. These Ganpatis would be brought home, placed along with the usually worshipped Ganesh idol of the house, and once the Puja is done, the clay would be washed off into the nearest rivulet!

The key factor here is the fact that people come together. In the olden days, it was family members in far flung locations who would all make an effort to come together to one central place, for religious reasons. This fact was converted into a phenomenon by India's premier freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak. He initiated the practice of the Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav or the public congregation for the celebration of the festival, with the idea of uniting the people against the Raj. This festival and its associated congregation became the medium to get political messages across to the general population.

In free India, it has become another reason to rejoice and make merry. The celebration is generally accompanied by loads of lights, loud music, crowds, Prasad, and some general merry making! It doesn't matter what language the songs go blaring. On day one, there is a perennial 'background music' of drum beats. Tiny wagons, huge trucks, all have some form of drum accompaniment as they move along the roads. This year, however, the first day - Chaturthi coincided with the last day of the Jain festival - Pajushan. Therefore, garish music was at a minimum. Rather almost non-existent. Now, all the while that I have had to live with the perennial bam bam that goes with having a pandal next door, I have gone from annoyed to exasperated with the complete loss of my noise-free peace. But this time, when all was silent, something did not feel right. In fact, I sort of missed the noise. I felt like the festival had become hollow, carved out from inside. I even asked a few people around, as to why all was so quiet, contrary to the tremendous noise that is omnipresent every year. Some said that the silence was on account of directives by the police to keep it down, so that they could hear bomb blasts! Funny? Yeah!!! But thankfully, on day 2, the noise was back, and so was the festive mood and spirit. It was as if the whole city was out to absorb the religious consciousness that wafted in the wind!

Tomorrow - Bringing the Lord home - a few snapshots.......

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday : A life so frivolous

Ever wondered why the most squabbles happen inside a car?
Ever wondered why 4 people of a family travel smiling on a bike?

Ever wondered when vacations became exclusively exotic foreign locations?
Ever wondered when going for 2 months to a cousin's place stopped being the best vacation plan?

Ever wondered when phone numbers were exclusively home numbers and not numbers that could make you talk on the road, in the temple, while driving, while sleeping?

Do you remember the smell of sea water, or the feel of the sand giving away beneath your feet at the beach?

Ever wondered when you last refrained from a fight?
Ever wondered when you last smiled?

Life is a struggle.

If you are in Mumbai, or for that matter any metropolis,
traffic, pollution, stress, irritation, frustration, depression, are all elements of your character. It is a fight to get to work. Push and pull inside a local train, which by and far is the most convenient mode of transport compared to having to waste 2 hours stuck at the same place in a wretched traffic jam. It is a fight to work. Your peer wants the job you are doing and will pull all tricks in the bag to make you look bad. And what do you do? Pull tricks out of your bag to retaliate. You so want to buy that house. Who cares if you get a matchbox at the price of a mansion? All said and done, it is a roof you can call your own. But, the income is down and out, with crisis after crisis mounting one on top of another. With the low demand that ensues thereafter the prices rise even higher. A never ending loop indeed! Till one day, unable to bear the pressure you resign and give up. Ever wondered why begin the rat race in the first place? Ever noticed how the quest for something better eventually leaves you worse than before?

If kids as I described yesterday could be carefree when they do not know whether their next meal is assured, why do we worry about a life so frivolous? Think....

I'll conclude with one of my favorite poems - Leisure by Davies....Since I need to sleep now, or I'll be late for work!

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What I saw Wednesday!

Little kids! They can be engrossing, enthralling, and at times, awe inspiring. Has it ever happened to you, that you look at an event or an entity and just stop in your tracks - wondering HOW? Well that happened to me today. Here is what happened.

I was walking home from work, thoughts in my head, and a weight on my shoulders (literally as well). Although the music was one of my favorites, I just somehow was too preoccupied to pay any attention. I was too busy wondering why things were happening the way they were. Wondering about the terrible traffic, the constant pollution, my resultant breathlessness, the American elections, the economy, what a chap said at work, my deadlines for tomorrow...non-stop chatter. And all along, Yanni was playing the Marching Season, which happens to be one of my all time favorite songs. In spite of that fact, thoughts about the genius' masterpiece were relegated to some distant crevice somewhere.

And as I looked blankly at the road prior to attempting to cross it, I saw this BMC tempo, the one with a 6 inch broad ladder attached to its back. And there were a bunch of 3-4 year olds screaming and yelling with joy as they tried to climb this ladder! Big achievement - one could climb the second step and jump off to a perfect landing. The second was dared. He climbed one step higher and successfully jumped. The typical 'thenga' signal ensued and the third kid decided to beat both his friends at 'jump off the tempo ladder'! He climbed on to the fourth step, realized that the height of the jump was almost 2 times his own height. Surprisingly, and I say this because caution is generally left to the wind at such a young age, the kid quietly climbed down 2 rungs and jumped down. Then ensued the 'catch me if you can' or 'pakda pakdi' all around the tempo. A little distance ahead, there sat another kid, not more than two years old, with a top. The top had its paint peeling off, the tiny tail was all rusted. The kid had in his hand, a bright pink piece of thread that was all but pink in color - it sported a color somewhere between pink covered with varying shades of grey and black. Clearly this toy was picked up from a nearby garbage dump. Nevertheless the child was engrossed in trying to spin the top with his thread, while wiping off the sweat and grime from his face. A few more steps ahead, was a small plinth, on the crossroads, and there was this lady and her 3 tiny children on this plinth. The lady was asleep, as was her elder child. The younger one was an infant, who was sitting squatted on the bare floor, not even a tiny bit afraid of the loud and noisy vehicles or blinding lights. It had the company of a 6 ft long stick, that it was intent on lifting with one hand. It would try to lift the stick up, barely hoist it a few centimeters above the ground and drop it back with a resounding thud. Over and over again.

The attributes of these kids - rags for clothes, their skin sported all shades of grey and black, their hair looked muddy and brown, and none of them knew whether they'd get dinner that night. But one thing they did know - how to live in the moment..... And as I walked home, Yanni started playing - 'Until the last moment'..........................

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trends on Tuesday : Maharashtra to legalize live-in relationships!!

It's a concept that has been plaguing the debating world for ages. I remember organizing the English debate competition in college, and 'live-in relationships - for or against' was a topic for debate back then. And now again, as if the existing issues and topics were not enough, the Maharashtra government has decided to legalize the status of a woman in a live-in relationship.

I have just one question - why this

Ok, so the world has decided that it is time to wake up to issues that have been on the wrong side of the majority human bias for so long. Well, what else explains the current scene in American politics? The Democrat race for nominations is a fight between racial prejudice v/s sexist prejudice. In an attempt to sway the feverishly feminist voting population, the Republicans decide to put a pretty face as their vice presidential candidate. (flash news - hockey mom booed in an ice hockey game! Talk of irony!!!)

Ok, as the world awakens to its prejudices and decides to capitalize on previous wrong doings in an attempt to earn brownie points, our own government has decided to show its humane 'we care for women' side. And what do they do? they try to table a bill that suggests that a woman involved in such a relationship for a “reasonable period” should get the status of a wife. The proposal is based on recommendations of the Justice Mallimath Committee which said if a man and a woman are living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period, the man shall be deemed to have married the woman according to customary rights of either party. Now, what purpose does this serve?

Look at it from another angle. A married man, walks out on his wife and 'lives in' with another woman. Indian society calls her just that - the other woman. In spite of dreary battles in court the wayward husband doesn't come back, or give his legal wife a divorce. What happens? The other woman is now his legally wedded wife? Holy Christ! Are you protecting women? Or creating a new loophole for the errant men? And why now? Maharashtra couldn't house the Nano, since Sharad Pawar famously declared that he could very well have asked Tata to get Nano here, but with the guarantee of just 12 hrs of electricty. MNS guys beat up anyone who doesn't speak Marathi. Hell, Indian movies are not ready to allow 'modern thinking'. But some people want to show that they can be ahead of the times! Talk of duplicity - here it is.

I for one, have never been a supporter of this 'live-in business'. According to me, getting into a live-in relationship is more like entering a room while simultaneously cementing the escape route! How very cowardly is that? And why do we need to try to follow what is a common practice elsewhere? Why are we so unwilling, indeed ashamed of our culture and tradition that protects the rights of people through a tool called 'fear of social stigma'? "I can't run away from my wife and live with someone else, since my parents will not be able to lift their head high in society!" - is the single biggest fear that prevents people from going astray. If you look at the Western world, a growing number of American/ Canadian males want to settle down with women of Asian origin and upbringing, because of the values of a stable family that such women grow up in. Likewise for North American women. I remember an episode of Dharma and Greg, which used to be like a cult humor show a few years back. Dharma - the hippie is married to Greg and living happily. Dharma's parents (you can imagine how old they are) have been in a live-in relationship all these years (which is one reason why Greg's family find them ewwwwww!!!). So when Dharma in exasperation asks her parents why they don't finally get up to it and tie the knot, her father very dolefully replies that he is 'afraid of commitment!!!!'

So, when the West is taking steps to do what we used to do best, we try to follow them in their follies! So, one small step forward for civilization in the west is one giant leap backwards for our so-called civilized East!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Moody Monday : Beating the blues

Bangles didn't sing 'It's another manic Monday' for no reason. Psychlogists have shown in more ways than one that there are some specific psychochemical changes that happen in the brain on a Monday morning, that make people want to get all glum and sad. When the gurus of the field say that chemical lochas in the brain are responsible for the downcast, depressed mood on Monday mornings, who am I to refute that? But two things that I can do are perhaps describe in great detail the terrible depression that engulfs me each Monday morning, and keeps me gloomy all the way till Friday, or I can tell you why this Monday was a bit different. For those who want to know, read on. For those who don't, well you came here, so you gotta read on!! smiles...

How many of us enjoy reading. My hunch is, that the fact that we actually spend so much time writing and reading each other's cogitations, shows that we do, no matter in how small a measure, love to read. So when was the last time you got that flutter, that preoccupation with a book. A thrill as you rode the car of the protagonist as he wove through the lanes of Paris to avoid his killers? When was the last time you were so lost in thoughts that you didn't hear someone call out your name? Just because you were wondering what Rebecca/ Jason / Robert would do next? Well, for me, this Monday was not so melancholy, because I had something to look forward to. In a way, I wanted to get the mundane day out of the way, so that I could get back to my book.

At present I am reading 'Pursuit of justice' by Mimi Latt. I have to thank my library guy who suggested this book to me. You see, I have always been caught up in the rut of the 'oh-so-famous authors', that I failed to notice masterpieces by people who don't really churn out a book a year! This book - and I promise a book review soon - is about this lawyer lady whose lawyer husband disappears off a boat. His death is ruled as a suicide and he is accused of misappropriation of a whole lot of money from the firm where he was a partner. Everyone buys the story, but the wife is resolute that the death was a murder and that the motives are sinister. As she moves through the maze, realizing that every dependable friend is indeed an enemy, she is up against a formidable foe in a fight to find the truth. No, I did not copy the summary on the back of the book. But yes, this book has been the cure for my Monday morning depression.

I'll close this post here, since I really need to get back to the book......

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change in plans - Sporty Sunday : Whose race was it anyway?

All F1 races happen on a Sunday. Grand Slam finals happen on a Sunday. Major cricket tournament finals happen on a Sunday. Of what use is writing about an event a week after it happens? Therefore, something on Saturday and Sporty Sunday! That said, I guess today's F1 race at Japan at the Fuji race track was a key 'management lesson'. In a way, our F1 superstars turned management gurus today. How? You ask? Read on

Lesson 1 : If life gives you an opportunity, capitalize on it. Don't squander it away on account of an unrestrained ebullience! If you are on pole, do as Schumi did. drive and drive like a man possessed. Build a 20 second gap, and leap on to the top step. Why lose out and then fight back and lose out even more?

Lesson 2 : And this is a story my grandma told me ages ago. This is a story that Indian history has taught us in a rather boring way through text books. And this lesson is, that while 2 contenders fight for all wrong reasons, a third shrewd contender very conveniently walks away with the spoils. So while Massa and Hamilton were busy giving each other drive through penalties, Alonso walked off with the victory, depriving both of them of the much-needed points that could have bolstered their title prospects.

Grandma said - 2 cats went a-fighting over a piece of food. A monkey intercepted and offered to settle the dispute. Tearing the piece into unequal halves, and then using scales, to equalize the two, the monkey attempted to settle the dispute. Each time one pan tilted more, the monkey bit off a piece off food as though trying to equalize the food portions. The result - either cat got nothing, monkey got everything.

Indian history - petty kings were busy fighting one another on meaningless issues. The British invaded, colonized and ruled for a good 150 years.

Who said sport is a means of entertainment? Sport teaches life's lessons - first hand. If our ancient Indian kings had seen this F1 race, we would perhaps never have been colonized! What say?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian sport - what exactly are we trying to convey?

Are we to feel proud of Indian sport?

Well, for time immemorial, India has been obsessed with cricket. It enjoys greater following than the anointed national sport - hockey. We didn't even manage to make it to the hockey world cup this time. Tennis - we had talent. Lee - Hesh could quash any opponent. But there was a classic case of self before country, self before team. What their reasons were, no clue! But the fact remains that we again had a star that paled before it could begin to twinkle. Sania Mirza - wonder why people make a big deal at all! Motorsport - Narain Karthikeyan - In a race with 6 racers - a fiasco called American GP 2006, he didn't manage to make it to the podium. Olympics - less said the better. China sat like a quiet giant, watching, observing, assimilating. No participation till 1984. And then, they burst into the scene, as winners. They play to win. And here, the story is dismal to say the least.

As we look back at a year almost past, this has been a rather poor year for Indian sport. Yes, we did try a first by starting the IPL, which was a starry attempt at building cricket cohesiveness - county cricket on the world stage. We did win the T20world cup. We did win an Olympic Gold. We did win a couple of Bronzes as well, by far the best performance to date. But then what? And these days, we see pages and pages of coverage on a test series, called the 'badla' series by some hoardings and banners. Revenge? Can someone please open a dictionary and prove that revenge is not meek submission, but actual badla?

No I am not saying that we need to be winners everywhere. But then why move around making laughing stocks of ourselves? There is a story that goes thus. A she-jackal and a lioness sat talking about their respective cubs. The jackal bragged, saying, " Mine is a momentous achievement, since I have 7 cubs in all, all lovely silky brown cubs." And the bragging went on for a while. The lioness stayed quiet for a while, and then gently replied, " I have one cub, and he is a lion". The purport - Go figure!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A method to the madness

I just got back from a corporate team building/ training exercise, and as is the practice in almost all such exercises, there was a piece on stress management. This multi faceted corporate trainer, after a few gentle pastel colored slides, told us to practise deep breathing, while becoming 'aware' of the sound of air entering and exiting the body. He then told us to just be aware of the continuous thoughts, while not actively following any of the thoughts, as though treating the thought as a bird that comes to perch on the tree called us. Soon after, he asked us how many of us were able to concentrate on the sound of breath. Someone from the team confessed that her mind had a muddle of thoughts - unrelated, but still vying for the attention of the mind.

Today, as I sat with my evening coffee, I felt as though my thoughts which I wanted to 'blogify' were more or less along the same lines. A murky muddle of unrelated ideas, all vying for that place on the lilac avenue. Up until now, I have just picked the idea that could result in a rather verbose post. But then, at times, I find a trigger enough to just pen 3 lines. And there are weeks and months where I have no idea at all. It's like I am lost in a maze called the lilac avenue.

So I felt - 'Why not make a map'. So what I want to try is this. Think along certain lines, by which I could post on....

Moody Mondays
Trends on Tuesday
What I saw on Wednesday
Thoughtful Thursday
Festive Friday
Sporty Saturday
Something Sunday

It's a thought.... Let's see if I can do something like this...........................

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tata says tata

Tata leaves Singur for greener pastures – literally. As a rather strong proponent of capitalism, like most of the younger generation these days, I feel vindicated again. For enterprise to grow and thus foster growth of a nation, the answer does not lie in Communism! Look where Left Bengal has gone!

Politics is a media circus. The whole US Presidential election 2008 replete with moose, pigs, makeup, racial sentiments, feminism, and blockhead politics is testimony to that fact. But that a political party would ditch potential growth for those measly 15 seconds of fame, leaves me wondering whether India has been hit by another syndrome post the global economic meltdown. A syndrome called ‘idiocy in politics’!

The scene in West Bengal - A friend of mine who has lived his life in Calcutta says that the sleepy city is in no way comparable to a metropolis. He’d been to Cal for around 10 days on an assignment, and when he came back, he said that he was happy to be back, since had he continued there, he would have become lazy and lethargic. His case you can argue, is an exception, but who can argue against the number of stirs and strikes that are commonplace in WB? Every other day, shutters are down for some reason or the other. But with a growing population, and more number of graduates the dearth of jobs is a reality. Where do they go? Move to other cities. Brain drain on a smaller scale. But what does that do to the state and its infrastructure? Every state, no matter how small or inconsequential, has state machinery that needs to run. And for that the state needs investment. An investment to the scale of the kind that Tata envisioned, would have opened up the floodgates of investment. Maybe Reliance, Vodafone? Daimler Benz for all you know??!!!?? Ironically ,the Communist government in WB noticed that fact, which Ms Banerjee chose to ignore. She went on and on hammering into the heads of anyone who would listen and also those who wouldn’t, that she wanted to protect the farmers, whose rights had been cruelly snatched by the alligators of corporate capitalism! Whoa, and this poor alligator could have given jobs, much needed tax revenues to the desirous millions in West Bengal. India is an agrarian economy, no doubt, but somewhere one needs to move on. Agriculture alone cannot feed, clothe, house and develop the zillions of people. Khmer Rouge and Polpot had such nefarious intentions – a complete regression to farming and the ways of the olden times man. The result – a wipe out of a whole generation in Cambodia. Which again brings me back to wonder how one woman could have been so foolish???

Two instances make me believe that perhaps West Bengal is opposed to anything new. They abhor change of any sort! Traditionally the Left with roots in West Bengal, have been very good ‘opposition’. No, I don’t mean it as a compliment to their political methods, but they operate in the true sense of the word – oppose anything that comes your way. The government said – ‘Without nuclear energy we would literally be left groping in the dark. So support the nuclear deal’ The Politburo said – ‘we hate America and all things American. So shoo the nuclear deal.’ I wish someone had then told them that nuclear energy does not belong to one country! It is property of the world community, scientific community, rather. Second, an Indian company made bold and decided to set up shop in WB. Two years ago. Why did the agitation begin to reach feverish levels only just now? Where were the protests before this? Save for a few breaks of the gate and screams here and there all this while, why protest now when the plant is at a stage where relocation costs are exorbitantly high? Where were these disgruntled farmers for so long? Spending the money they received as compensation? And when the moneybag ran dry, they found a reason to ask more? Has greed reached such abysmal levels? Ms Banerjee perhaps never imagined that the man of steel – Ratan Tata would move lock stock and barrel. She thought she could formulate a truce plan that would benefit her so called oppressed farmers and also bolster her long lost plans of becoming the CM next year. Unfortunately, the whole plan backfired. Now the youth are aghast, since much needed employment is gone. The state as a whole is disgruntled with her, and the glacier between her and the ruling government has received 10 more layers of ice! And irrespective of what Mr Tata may say to anyone, any future investor would think a billion times before embarking on a project in hinterlands of Mamtaland.

The biggest loser, however is West Bengal. They were legendary for being thought leaders. Rabindranath Tagore, Shantiniketan, Bengal Chemicals, a majority of the freedom fighters, all have their roots in West Bengal. With the advent of the Left government, the state started sinking into the oblivion. Blame it on policies, or the lack of it, reticence towards development, a cushy comfort in the status quo or whatever. But now, such cruel selfish politics has managed to sound the way downward for one of India’s once most illustrious states.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Faked in China.........

A walk through a bustling marketplace. Well, a surreal experience indeed. A different form of advertising – raspy screams talking about the wares being sold. Festival season – the whole of Mumbai is on the streets, buying flowers, fruits, and all things religious. Women – well, haggling comes naturally to them and every raspy scream is followed by a ‘ barabar ka bhaav bolo’! and somewhere, in some nondescript corner, preferably under the shadow of a tree, is another person – someone with a stand as easy to carry around as a portable stereo! He does not scream at all. Although the customer knows exactly where to find him. A case where the mountain comes to Mohammed. Anyway, walking through the marketplace, a hushed voice says – “Madam, all new DVD. Beshht kolty. Seedha China se aaya hai!” And true to his word, there were DVDs of movies released yesterday, movies that would release next week! And no, this is not new. One of my friends who was in China recently, recounts how the then new Bond movie DVDs were lying callously on roadsides. And I thought – was this free enterprise? Or infiltration of the third kind? Or was this just plain something that the Chinese were good at – ‘faking it’?

Recent cases – Chinese astronauts delivering their successful mission speech and the airing of the same prior to take off! The man faking the picture of the rare tiger. The girl who lip synched at the Olympics, because the original singer was not ‘pretty enough’. Adulterated milk packs getting ‘OK’ labels pasted on them. The Chinese company, Taian Chiran Machinery Company Ltd, had been reportedly marketing a copy of India’s Bajaj Pulsar motorbikes in different Latin American markets under a certain ‘Gulsar’ brand and had launched it in Sri Lanka in 2006 under the Ranomoto brand. Also, since ages, Bajaj’s landmark autorickshaw that is ubiquitous on Indian roads was made and marketed by Chinese manufacturers under the name of Bajaj Auto! But settlements, IPR infringements? Who cares?

Cut to 2005. India – China was big news. Time magazine,Forbes, the Wall street journal, everyone was high on India – China – The great Dragon-Elephant dance. People spoke of the bright future as having the trail blazing zest of the dragon with the rock solid support of the elephant. So, although the Dragon – Elephant tango sounds ambitious, I am sure both the dancers would look upon one another in any way but with love! I for one have never been a huuuuuuge fan of the Chinese! I really liked a Sino – Indian relationship tracker on the site – check this out. at the recent nuclear deal. Nehru had vociferously supported China’s inclusion in the UN ages ago. And when the time came to return a favor, China, who had pledged to support India’s bid for the nuclear deal, ended up being the largest hurdle! We all remember the recent controversy surrounding India’s Arunachal Pradesh – the Chinese called the state their own and refused to grant a visa to an Arunachal Pradesh member of a visiting delegation. Who grants a visa for one’s own???? The fact remains that Chinese at least for many Indians, are a group to be wary of. So with such a past and the publicly well known terrible track record on human rights, I am really not surprised that the Chinese could be called the masters of the FAKEiverse!

Let me attempt a personal anthropological evaluation of why this happens. For years Chinese were rejected by the world community. Their growth story still has had thought leaders stunned. Their population is what they were always associated with in the past. But to give credit where it is due, their economic model of being a core manufacturing oriented economy is noteworthy, unlike ours, where a great part of GDP comes from services. But another not so commendable aspect is the gross disrespect of human rights. Chinese working conditions are notoriously bad! But as a community who has faced censure all along – from invasions by the Mongol barbarians to exploitation by the West, they now had a success story to tell, and they wanted to hold back nothing while presenting a picture to the world. Everything should be ‘inch-perfect’, even if it took a certain degree of ‘fabrication’. "Our people are beautiful, talented. We manufacture, we market, we are the future." And when faults are condoned by authorities who also want to see China as the single dominator of the world, at all costs, such follies are bound to arise! And we as a world community need to take the dragon with a cartload of salt!