Tarini is at a birthday (ice skating followed by lunch) and Kumud, Mira and I are at the mall where eleven year old Tarini is to be picked up post lunch.
The newspapers have been filled with articles on the increasingly expensive tastes of Mumbai's youngsters. Rs. 5000 in spending money per month is par for the course, the youth are becoming major targets for the luxury brands and leading restaurants. Children complain of feeling "unconfident" (sic) if their clothes don't carry a label.
Went to Nagpur on work two weeks ago, a so called tier 2 Indian city. Nagpur is much cleaner than it used to be, thanks to an energetic commissioner who knocked the place into shape. "I now feel reluctant to throw my banana peels on the street", a customer professed, "and hang on to it until I get to the office". My colleague laughed and said that people faced no such inhibitions in Mumbai.
We drove 100 km outside of Nagpur, where life is still very rustic, basic and poor. People had lighting, but that was about it. Our visit was to a steel factory in the middle of nowhere that provided employment to 1000 people.
Mira talked the other day about the personification of cars. "My friends always talk about their 'car being late', 'the car not being able to find parking', all examples according to our budding scholar of the "personification of the car". Her mother (and my wife) piped up to say that the more relevant issue was the fact that the drivers are considered irrelevant and of no consequence, and certainly of less relevance than the Marutis or Hondas that they drive. Please read White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I haven't ready it, Kumud has, so I feel like I've read it. By the way, I similarly feel that I have read:
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Varghese
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, and not to forget
The River of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh
I'm still struggling (just a little) with Wolf Hall, another 100 pages to go.
Anyway, the relevant point about the drivers is of course their de-personification, more so than the personification of a piece of Korean engineering.
It’s 12.07 a.m., time for bed. Raja, one of the two mongrels dogs belonging to the compound, is barking at passersby. Raja was banned from his spot with the guards downstairs because he apparently bit one of the rag pickers. Rag picking is an organized trade in Mumbai I’ll have you know.
Raja has since started living with the guard of the other building in our compound, a half completed structure under litigation due to a dispute with the owners of our compound. He still comes to say hello to us when we walk Rustom, but has stopped tagging along for the walk. He has also by the way, made friends with the rag picker.
M.F. Hussain, India's greatest modern painter died in London late last year, a citizen of Qatar (!), unable to return to India as he was hounded out by extremist Hindus. And now Salman Rushdie, India's pre-eminent writer in the English language, has been stopped from attending the Jaipur literary festival due to fears of a 'law and order' situation.
What law and order situation could be caused by Mr Rushdie's visit that the country hasn't already seen in some shape or form?
Why is the political class so hell bent on exerting influence on issues that are best left alone and why is it so intent on ignoring issues that require their attention?
For years in the run up to the commonwealth games Suresh Kalmadi and his cronies made a hash of things, siphoning off money to the UK, among others, all of which went unnoticed. But within weeks of Jeremy Clarkson’s ritualistic insult of his latest host country in Top Gear, the Indian high commission feels the need to further humor Mr Clarkson by protesting the tone of his broadcast. Were they expecting any-thing less than a full throated guffaw from the Top Gear host in reply? Are we expecting him back anytime soon, wearing a turban perhaps?
290 million Indians are under nourished and 4 million Indian children die annually due to malnourishment, but there's no fear of agitation against that.
The perpetrators of terrorist attacks await trial and conviction for years, if not decades, and yet the High Courts have time to issue notices to Google, Facebook and twitter. Can you visualize it, Mark Zuckerberg showing up for a court date in Delhi? Not happening.
The irony of the Indian state is that the only law and order it seems able to enforce is on those people and entities who had no intentions of disrupting it in the first place. Shame on us.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.