Thursday, August 03, 2006

scribbles from july...

Being Loud is not the same as being important.

I am almost asleep when the captain uses the speakers to say we are at 34,000 feet and on our way to denver. i didnt know what to feel then. In some ways I was relieved that I was going back to a world I created for myself however small or insignificant it may be. But I was also sad that things have degenerated back in India and none of the people I knew could do anything about it. The voice became louder and louder as if the captain wanted to wake up every sleeping passenger and drum it into our heads that we were flying. and then there was the feedback of the mike.

Aaj sabhi yaatriyon ka Air Deccan ki is udaan mein swagat hai. I was flying from Mumbai to Chennai for the first time on a low cost airline in India. Was I happy about it? Of course yes. No more travelling for days on the train and spending every minute of your time debating issues that dont matter.No more hogging yourself with stuff you bring from home, the weirdest but completely normal location for a family picnic in India. Partly the reason for that being no open spaces. The Women had their gossip to keep them happy, the Men spoke sternly about politics and how the government almost always screws them. Kids, we had our fun climbing on the berths and swinging off them, a mission to get the rusty fans to work and inevitably waking the anonymous ticketless person sleeping on ure berth to begin with. Those were different times I guess, not that I miss any of that. I just wanted to spend more time being places, getting more experiences. Not stopping the middle of nowhere because someone forgot to turn the signal on.

And thats when you meet the types you despise from the bottom of your heart. They keep standing when the seat belt signs are switched on, they scream their arguments like they were the only ones on the plane. But what could you do? You can stare at them all you want you can ask them to quieten down, they ask you to lighten up as if it was your mistake in the first place. And then you realise ure in India. You CANNOT do anything about this.

I can only stare in wonder on how every rule and every law gets broken every minute of every day here. Why is it so hard to follow a rule? Why is it so tough to do things the way its supposed to be done. Its not that Im complaining because I cant survive in a lawless society. I can weave through the system the way I did before. But then ure so busy weaving through the system that u completely forget what it is to live ure life the way u want to, doing the things u want to, when u want to and not leave a million other factors decide them. Probably the lack of faith in anything mortal is directly proportional to the number of temples in the country. I saw many people who solely rely on prayers to get anywhere because everything else has failed them. But even prayers arent just prayers. The ones who chant them the loudest are deemed to be the most important members. aka Loud=Important. and then u have this huge ambiguous region which allow for a million interpretations and a billion arguments. If there is one thing people fear it is clarity. Bring the issues face on and learn to deal with them. Talk about stuff. But in the process you would probably rob a million interpreters of their livelihoods. Its an economy of
sizes here.

Koi dikkat nahin ...

...said my driver as we swirled and sped through the tiny mountain roads of Himachal Pradesh. His estimation of time and space was as baffling to me as any equation in quantum mechanics. He first estimates the time between Chandigarh and dharamshala: 8 hours. We travel for 4 hours and then I ask him how much longer. Bas saab yehi kuch 7-8 ghante. I just stare at him like he's lost it completely. Distances arent any sweeter. His initial guesstimation was that we were some 100-200 kms from the place. Uh...which one exactly...100 or 200? we shall never know.

The thing here is that you cannot blame anyone for anything. If you got somewhere late, ya you got there late. Everyone just shrugs it away and moves on or rather they shrug and sit put wherever they r.

Am I the one being paranoid?

I am taking my own sweet time to put this piece together. The reason, I dont want to overheat thinking about the futility of any situation when in reality things r perfectly fine. India is a marvellous place if you just want to let go. Its like sitting on a roller coaster ride, you know its going to be bumpy, the turns are going to be unexpected, the drops will make you blame yourself for getting on the ride in the first place. But in the end you walk out laughing and feeling good about the choice you made. The same goes for a visit to the place. An insider will never complain about the obvious things, on how the cyclist drives on the middle of the road or how the trash accumulates everywhere except the trash can. He will instead complain on things he just doesnt need to be bothered about, on how Bush is doing a bad job, on how Manchester United shouldnt have let Nistelrooy go or how Bill Gates should just leave. I feel this sort of thinking helps the place survive the complete anarchy any outsider would have run away from.

The traffic lights at an 8 way intersection are turned off at 7 in the evening in the middle of the rush hour. I dont know why, but well it makes things easy for all of us who know that the only way anyone gets anywhere is to keep driving till someone blinks first. Its all about rudimentary, granular judgement here and the best part is that the playing field is levelled when you have a truck take on a cyclist and the cyclist wins. They both abuse each other and then laugh about it to their cronies and move on. and ure left stranded wondering what just went on.

Connections and Purchasing parity.

One thing I found out on this trip is that a dollar is actually only worth 20 rupees when you measure the purchasing parity. Which means you can buy something worth a dollar for 20 rupees in india. It works well in numbers when you can mope your way to a CCD ( cafe coffee day for the uninitiaed), an economy version of Starbucks even in a place called Dharampur on the Haryana, Himachal Pradesh border. The same tasteless mocha for 40 rupees and you feel happy you've managed to spend your moolah on something completely useless once again. I ducked at the opportunity to visit these coffee shops when I was alone, visiting them only when I had company. You still get the cutting though now for 5 rupees instead of the 2 we used to spend in college. And thats when it hits you, that all along you have been living completely inflated lives. Big, Huge things we just dont need. A clash of standards perhaps but its really important for you to understand what makes you happy. I am happy having the cutting. I guess the closest you can get over here is the 99 cent coffee at a gas station.

And while we are at talking about how people concern themselves with things they just cant do anything about, I have to add how the connections dont change, just the people connected do. I met up with a few friends who somehow used to scare me with their connections talk when I was in college. On how the only way you could get anything done was if you knew that guy. It has been almost four years now and they still give me their factoids on whom to know. And thats when it strikes you, you never knew any of the morons these guys talk about all along and you did do pretty ok. But thats for inside thinking. Outside I just nod along, wondering whether anything will ever change here. Its just that the ppl who talk keep talking, the ppl who do do.

Degenerate slide to conveyor belts.

I visited my college to see what was left of my alma mater. To the ones who dont know my academic past, I was probably one of the bolts in the nut squad of engineers Bombay University churns out every year. My batch of college mates were the most random bunch of intellectuals you could ever put together. We were much smarter than the place made us feel, which kind of resulted why most of us arent really complaining right now. But the place where we spent four years has degenerated into a nothingness because of the agrarian policies the government seems to whip up every year. The quota regime has somehow found its way back into the happenings from Economy to Education. ( Alphabetically descending EC to ED) Vacancies in teaching because of such rotten policies have left students fend for themselves. But here's the trick. You somehow manage to get through those four years and life IS good now for the ones who want to make it. Thank the IT sector in the country for establishing these conveyor belts for engineers. Which is why I also believe as far as India goes, there is a very deep checks and balances system in place. You dont go up. You dont go down. You just stay in the same place.

More to follow.....

1 Comments:

Blogger Sujata said...

Nice!

6:55 AM  

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