Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cell Phones

My cousin’s children were to come over to my house in Bombay for the weekend. I’ll call them jack and Jill in this narration. Jill lived in Bhayander and Jack in Churchgate. For those who are not familiar with Bombay, Churchgate is the starting point of local trains and Bhayander is way out beyond the suburbs and is the terminus for many trains. I lived in Parel, closer to Churchgate than Bhayander.

Jack and Jill called me up separately to say they’d start by four o clock. SO I expected Jack by five, and Jill after 6.30. I prepared their favourite dishes and waited eagerly for them in my house from where my children had flown away across the seven seas.

By seven, the doorbell rang. I opened to find both of them, with cell phones glued to their ears, muttering ok, huh , ok huh rather unenthusiastically into it. Then they cut off the phone almost simultaneously and looked at each other, shaking their heads in a resigned manner.

“What’s up, guys, I asked”

“I wonder who discovered this cell phone”. That was Jack. A very soft-spoken refined guy.

“How did your parents manage when they sent you to hostels, Mollyaunty? There were no cell phones in those days”, asked my gentle niece.

“Oh bliss it must have been to live in those days”, said jack, his eyes raised to the heavens.

“Hey hey, what’s happening”, I asked.

“Mama has been remote controlling me and appa, Jill”.

“Oh”, I said.

“She called me at 2 o clock and asked me to start only after 5.30. 'Jill ought to be given a head start so that both of you can reach the Sewari station at the same time' ”

“Appa had been tracking me even since I left the hostel for the station”, said Jill.

“And mama would tell me where she had reached. They were calling both of us every fifteen minutes”.

“Are they in their respective offices?” I asked.

“No”, said Jill. “Both are at home. It’s Saturday today, and half day”

“I see”, I said. I imagined them sitting in the drawing room, each with her/his cell phones tracking the train journey of the offspring from two ends of Mambai.

“When I reached Sewari Station, mama asked me where I was waiting. She asked me for a landmark. I told her I was waiting near the step in front of a huge Hutch hoarding”.

“And appa called me around that time and told me to head for the steps and look for Jack in front of the Hutch hoarding”.

Together they got into a cab and around the time they reached my apartment complex, each got a call from the parent. They wanted to know if Jack and Jill had reached their destination!

“Really, Mollyaunty, this is too much”, said Jill. “How did your parents send you to far off boarding schools and hostels in those days when there were no mobiles?”

“Not just, mobiles. There were no STDs in those days. One had to book a trunk call and wait for the call to be connected. Most hostels did not entertain calls from home 24x7. There was a fixed time once a week.”

“Were your parents scared?”

“Don’t know, my dear. You guys will understand only when you become parents”.

This episode takes my mind back to a little incident. Once, I had gone to Mumbai to take care of my son who had a stretched ligament. His leg was in cast but he couldn’t miss classes and sessionals. WE were accommodated in a guest house a stone throw from his college.

It was a public holiday and he was free that day. We got into a discussion about over protective parents.

“I really don’t understand why you guys have to call me so frequently. You know I’m capable of looking after myself?”

“WE came to know about your ligament problem because we called you. You were keeping it a big secret.”

“That’s because I knew both of you’d freak out at something so small”

“Small, eh? You heard what the ortho said”

“Listen amma, I am an adult. I can look after myself. You guys pray such a lot. So why don’t you trust God and just believe that God will take care of things?”

We went on for some more time but I kept silent. It becomes difficult to counter the logic of our children.

The same evening, I went out to Fashion Street and Colaba cause way. I told my son I’d be back in two hours but in two hours only half the job was done. Exactly one minute after two hours, Mathew called me.

“Am not yet done, math”

“Ok”, he said.

Exactly fifteen minutes later, he called again.

“Finished, amma?”

“Heavens NO”

Another quarter of an hour passed. Then he called again.

“Almost done?”

“No”, I snapped into the phone.

“Hurry up. It’s getting late”

“I’m not going to hurry up. I’ll take my time”.

Another 20 minutes and I get the irritating squeal of a text message.

“What on earth are you doing, old lady? I’m getting worried”, it said.

I didn’t respond. I was really irritated.

Five minutes later, he called again.

“Amma”, he sounded tense. “Please stop for the day and come home”.

Annoyed, I decided to call it a day and hailed a cab.

“What was all that about, math”, I asked as soon as I reached home. “It’s totally inconsistent with you high flown discourse this morning?”

“You are an old lady (and I was still a few years away from fifty then) and have BP and the streets are crowded and you are absent minded and careless. So I’m justified in getting worried”!!

My mind now goes further back to those days before cell phones took over our lives. Those were the days when all human beings were compelled to give each other that space into which the cell phones now invade so oppressively.

Are we living in a topsy turvy world where the wise saying of our forefathers are being reversed? Do we live in times where invention is proving to be the mother of necessity, instead of the other way round?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Of Amitab Bachchan, Narendra Modi and Kerala

The newspapers are playing it up - the fact that the party which kicked out Abdullahkutty 'cos he sang the praises of Narendra Modi has officially invited Amitabh Bachan, the brand ambassador of Modi’s Gujarat, as Kerala’s posterboy. MODI’S POSTER BOY, BIG B, IS AMBASSAOR OF CPM-RULED KERALA TOO, says The New Indian express of today, Kerala edition

It’s a happy coincidence for the media that the official confirmation from the Kerala government of Bachan’s role as Keralais brand ambassador should come on March 10, the day before the sensational summons were issued to Narendra Modi by the SIT to appear before it and provide answers to certain questions to which hitherto Modi’s reply had been a deafening silence.

Certain issues beg consideration here.

Ø Has Bachan erred morally in agreeing to become the poster boy of Gujarat? An answer in the positive would inhere the presumption that the entire state/population of Gujarat is responsible for the post Godhra pogrom. Cynics might say that they twice re-elected the man who engineered the genocide, and so his actions have the endorsement the people. Well, the issue is complex. Modi perhaps – at least I’d like to believe – was not reelected for his role in the post Godhra ethnic cleansing, but for the much hyped development agenda he promised his state - of which he himself has become a poster boy and a powerful symbol. So powerful that Abdullahkutty from within the ranks of CPM was swayed into praising him. But it is sad, that the people of Gujarat lost sight of the fundamental democratic principles and inalienable human rights which were pooh poohed when the Modi administration cracked down on an entire community to the punish the unpardonable act of miscreants. I would say the election of Narendra Modi twice after the genocide point sharply to the Achilles heels of Democracy.

Coming back to the Amitabh Bachan issue, I got this excerpt from his blog from the following link.

“He (Modi) lives simply and with mere basic needs and most unlike the head of a state. He speaks with affection on development and progress. He is welcoming to fresh ideas and ideals. His oft repeated phrase of him being a CM, a common man, is not misunderstood.

“He does and acts as he speaks.”

“He talks of raising the level of awareness for his state through tourism and I volunteer to participate in any activity that would help promote that,” Bachchan wrote explaining his interest in promoting Gujarat.

Well, I find this shocking and slavish – and absolutely without character. Big B, no matter what a goliath he is, cannot right a terrible wrong by showering such fulsome praise on a man who let loose horror on helpless people, on a Chief Minister, who instead of apprehending and severely punishing those who indulged in the brutal terror act of the train burning, used the state machinery to wipe out a community. And Bachan goes into ecstasy over his life of simplicity. He waxes eloquent on Modi’s mode of articulation He speaks with affection on development and progress”. I call it a betrayal of the people that Bachan who entrenched himself in the heart of his fans as the angry young man who fought against the powerful to protect the weak and the vulnerable, should sing this psalm of praise to the man who used the state machinery to mow down a helpless community.

Shame on him!

Guess Bachan stood to gain from this association. His films have become tax free in Gujarat. It would be interesting to know the size of the pay packet he gets from Gujarat tourism authority.

Maybe we cannot blame him. The memories of his financial distress before Kwon banega made him a crorepathy must be still green in his mind. And he never claimed to be a champion of the underdog or a principled individual. It is the people who thrust that image on him.

Now that mask - the kereedam- is knocked off, we see the real Bachan.

Does Kerala need such a brand ambassador? How can the government of Kerala unilaterally decide to have a person of dubious principles selling my state?

I am angry.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Is the New Indian Express stirring up a Storm in its V-Cup?

I’ve been loyal to The Indian Express for ever so long – probably from the Emergency days. In the good old days when I had enough health to sit on the floor(thara in Malayalam) , my day began on the floor with my legs stretched out, back against the diwan, a cup of light tea and the Indian Express which my son always thought was a crappy paper. Seeing me on the floor with the paper, he’d say jokingly amma is thara in every sense of the word, meaning sitting on the thara I read a thara paper!

Today I had a reason to think about why I need the The Indian Express the way my husband needs the Malayala Manorama with his early morning black coffee – despite his remarks almost everyday that the paper’s become hollow. One must conclude from this that old habits die hard.

The reasons I arrived at for my addiction to The Indian Express are

1. Being politically correct is not one of its fortes.

2. It does not put the English language on a pedestal and perform poojas to it. It believes in Englishes, rather than Queen’s English.

3. Its editorial too uses the English language rather irreverently, accommdating slangs, elisions and those borderline expressions.

Today’s EditPage, however, took a giant leap from its already liberated position with regard to written language in the most serious page of a newspaper. There was an article by none less than its Editor-In-Chief Aditya Sinha. Talking about who India would give its Oscar award to from among the actors in the political arena in the subcontinent, he felt the best actor award should go to Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the reason being, I quote

Suddenly the guy acts as if his balls have turned into cannonballs!!!

My MY! What next?!