Rahul Bose See the link on Times TV
We spent the better part of our Sunday at an event organized by a bunch of 16 year old schoolkids from Mumbai, one of whom is Kumud’s nephew Raghav, reexamining the impact of the partition of India into India and Pakistan 63 years ago. What started as a relatively small and innocuous school project by Raghav and his friends a year ago turned into a full - scale function moderated by leading Indian actors and addressed by M.J. Akbar, a leading Indian intellectual, and Dr Indu Shahani, the Sheriff of Mumbai and the principal of H.R. College.
The organizers had managed to bring seven fellow students from a leading school in Pakistan to debate the day’s topics, participate in skits and fast forward 25 years. What will India and Pakistan’s relations look like then?
It was, as Rahul Bose so eloquently put it, awesome. Crispy samosas at 11.00 in the morning helped too.
10 rupees for light
Dr Shahani spoke with passion about a student at her college, Jyotirmoi Chatterjee (“JC” for friends) who has managed to jumpstart a campaign to provide solar powered lighting to villagers for 10 rupees ($0.21) a day, or Rs. 3,650 a year. The campaign (see the link to their Facebook page at the left) is expanding to the rest of Maharasthra and other parts of India. Apparently Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent of the Congress Party, wants to meet JC to see how the campaign can be introduced in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state
Most of these villagers have never had electricity after sunset, 63 years of independence and economic growth notwithstanding. The biggest cause of mortality is snake bites, when villagers wander out of their huts in the dark.
Dear Diary, on a lighter note (ha ha, pun not intended), we have stopped going to Vijay Electricals for our haircuts, since Sanjay first mistook that establishment to be a barbershop. Even though the account of that visit led to much hilarity among the reading public, there is a limit to the sacrifices one can and should make. Our blog went viral, people started booking flights to Mumbai in the hope of catching a glimpse of my haircut, traffic came to a standstill, but I Claudius (speaking of bad haircuts) had had enough.
So we now visit Toni&Guy. Not quite sure where Guy is, probably putting the kids to bed, but Toni is a hulk of a man, with tattoos all over, bulging muscles and those horrendous ear - lobe expanding earrings that seem to be all the rage among the hair dressing community. What is it about Papua New Guinean fashion that makes anti - establishment types want to emulate them?
Anyway, Toni doesn’t have me fooled. HIs London accent notwithstanding, I know who he really is. He’s one of Slobodan Milosovic’s former henchmen on the run, masquerading as a froo froo hairdresser in SoBo (South Bombay) until the coast is clear.
Diwali is round the corner. On Chowpatty Beach they’ve started with performances of Ram Lila, the story of the Ramayana. People gather in the evenings to hear the actors recite large parts of the Ramayana verbatim.
Where no news is truly good news
Some countries need to make up news, anything to keep themselves from going mad. Singapore comes to mind. “Chewing gum banned! Government clamps down! Read all about it!”. And then you do, for weeks on end.
In India we don’t need to make up news, plenty of it gets made on a daily basis, much of it outright explosive and gory. So when there’s no news, when there aren’t any riots following a ruling by the Allahabad High Court on the disputed site of a temple / mosque in Ayodhya, then that’s good news.
Two weeks ago on a Friday offices and schools were closed early, the streets were deserted, and then nothing of any signficance happened. No riots, etc. The government had been appealing for calm for days and the police was out in full force, in Ayodhya itself of course, but also in Delhi and Mumbai
Flowers for your girlfriend?
Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons are busy times in Asia for people eating out. We wait for 30 minutes on Marine Drive, with a hot wind blowing in our faces at 8.30 in the evening, waiting for a table. By the time we come out the waiting time has gone up to 50 minutes.
As we eat an eight year old girl tries desperately to sell a flower to a young guy standing outside with his girlfriend. He backs away, admonishing her not to bother him. The girl presses on, desperate to make the 5 rupee sale. The girlfriend laughs, as she turns to her mobile phone and starts texting.
When we step out I slip the flower sellers something. Tarini rattles on, less and less unnerved by the surroundings and increasingly commenting on which buildings she likes, and which is ‘her’ building on Marine Drive, something she imagines herself owning some day. She used to throw up when we just got here and she saw people sleeping on the street.
You start recognizing the truly destitute, who aren’t Mumbai’s destitute by the way, but straight off the countryside. They need anything you can give them, and look you in the eye to thank you.
Some of Mumbai’s ‘destitute’ are under investigation for selling the apartments the government built for them and moving straight back to the slum. The government has agreed to allow slum dwellers to participate in their choice of construction companies.
God wanted us to be movie starts
If he didn’t, then why would he have arranged for all religious ceremonies (or at least the 1562 that we have been privy too since arriving here 12 weeks ago), to be accompanied by some form of Bollywood music?
We’ve just celebrated Ganpathi (see link to the left) and are now smack in the middle of Navratri (nine nights of Durga Pooja). “I think they must be praying to me”, Tarini says, “because Tarini is another name for Durga”. Right.
The long and short of it is that for the past several nights we have had loud thumping filmy music going on in the compound next door, which houses a number of political parties and a temple, we think. There is periodic shrieking and loud whisteling, as someone else joins the frey.
It occurred to me that us Hindus have never done much proseletyzing. We don’t send delegations to Salt Lake City in the hope of converting them to our point of view. We don’t need to, we ust point the speakers facing out and “PUMP UP DA VOLUME!”
Finally, some economic news
We’ll try and do this more often, include a bit of economic news, although in true Indian fashion it will have to come afer religion, politics and the stories of haircuts.
As a sign of the times, take a look at this story,http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20101008n4.html. Honda is launhing a new low cost motorcycle to compete with Chinese and Indian firms. To see up close what Indian and Chinese companies are planning on a global basis, in industrial, agricultural and consumer product production, is incredible. More later.
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.