rarefied air


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Apocalypse of Love


The world is turning turtle
what's wrong with you my man?
You are spinning in a circle
stop! or i will go insane

People are acting funny
No not the ones that make you laugh
These here will make you sit up and stare
squirm till you become daft

Girls leaving their husbands
to rewrite their unpleasant love stories
Let go! Let go of him! They shout
after you have made him feel sorry

Women calling off marriages
to step into the dark
Oh! He was being so nasty
I let go and enjoy the foot fall

Men losing their sanity
to wither into dust and grain
Live in eternal tragedy
for the one who showed them pain

Women and men coming together
to live- in and live life afresh
I am shocked at the similarities
that differences have begun to furnace

Men aging quickly
choosing the life they dread
Letting go of women
who promise to take them ahead

What is becoming of this world
Why are peers loving sorrow?
Where have gone the days
When pigeons flew on the farrow?

I have fallen into the trap
of rejoicing my fate
Enjoying the pins and needles
that make me like hatred

I sing aloud in ecstacy
at another failed and hollow
love that was imagined
and died a pale shadow

What is wrong with the world?
When lovers refuse to sleep
and husbands migrate to fallow land
to ask, question and beseech

Where has the romance disappeared to?
in the darkest hour
I seek and get no answers
even in my randomest showers

The rain doesn't enrich
the soils of my land anymore
The stars don't shine enough
to make me dance on encores

The light from the sun itself
blinds me dims me narrow
The sharpness of its rays
has blunted my arrows

I wait and wait for somebody to arrive
on the scene and bear me through
To somewhereland that still creates
the magic promised for the Demi Moores

But i think i wait in vain
for the summer to change to spring
for this is the bleakness of winter
that has and will forever sadness bring

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There is a limit to below average mediocrity

The human race is violent violent
The human race is violent

Oh great majority populace
Oh the benevolent
Oh the altruistic
Oh the charitable

When will you stop counting your minorities?

Monday, August 10, 2009


He came this morning.Out of the blue.And made me sign a note to the Gate Keeper allowing him to come into the complex. He calls himself a 'Maali' or Gardener, but in modern parlance, he is nothing more than a middle man. He gets plants from the 'Laari' or push cart that is parked outside the gates of the complex. My guess is that he charges us more than what he pays the owner of the push cart. He is from a town near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. I do not know his name, but I do not that he was away for around six months undertaking his marriage in his town. That is why our plants died, due to lack of fertilisers. That is why he came today, out of the blue. He came to replace the dead plants with fresh ones. He replaced one for free. The other plant had gotten infested with ants and so my mother threw away the pot. So the made us buy another pot and charged us for everything. He is a smart man. He says there is money in Gwalior but not enough work to get by on. That is why he has left his newly wed bride at his home and returned to the city. My father says he saw him on Ghodasar Road, selling plants. But he denies it. He has to show me (his customer) a clean one tracked business profile. There are many like him who come to the cities from the villages in search of work and visit their towns or villages with lots of cash once in six months. Most of the people in transportation business are migrant workers. Almost all rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers in any city of India do not belong to the city they work in. They hate this life. "My life is like that of a dog" said Shabbir bhai, driver of rental cars who took me to Sabarkantha district. He has driven all types of cars ranging from luxury buses to Indica to Taveras but he says his life is terrible. He has to be at the beck and call of his rental service owner, there is no fixed working hour. He works non-stop for 48 hours, sleeps for 4 hours and then again works for 24 hours straight. Such is the life of all of these migrant labour that runs in the transportation industry in cities they don't belong to.
Ahmedabad attracts labour from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. People from prosperous cities in these states come and work as menial labour in the city. Gorakhpur is the biggest town in its district in Uttar Pradesh. It feeds hundreds of families from the surrounding towns and villages. People will always migrate from villages to towns, towns to cities, from cities to metro cities and from metro cities to other countries. But the order is not rigid. People may also travel from a village to another country directly. It all depends on the level of risk one is capable of taking. In such a reality, the cities cannot not take responsibility of its migrant labour force. A big city is big because by definition it is supposed to be able to support a bigger population and primarily a population from outside. Bombay cannot say no to UPites, Delhi cannot ban Haryanvis, US cannot say no to Chinese, Australians cannot ban Indians. Restriction cannot be permissible, as it goes against the basic nature of human beings, that of migration, travel, in search of better opportunities.
Cities should constantly revamp their infrastructure in order to provide facilities to people from outside. Government hospitals, for instance, are the second biggest draw of this population from outside, after transport services. There are no hospitals in the rural areas and so villagers from Khalilabad will always go to Gorakhpur for treating their illnesses, people from Murshidabad will go to Kolkata or people from Dignagar might go to Krishnanagar. Government hospitals complain of not being able to bear the load. Government hospitals in India are built on vast expanses of land. How difficult is it to add more beds? For years now, every government hospital knows that it is going to be over burdened and under staffed, beds are going to be insufficient. Why not add those many beds that you already by now, know will be needed? Why not build those facilities that you are lacking? You keep complaining that we need 1000 beds but we have only 200 beds so the patients lie on the floors. So why not go ahead and build those buildings that can house those beds? Ambumnai Ramadoss' who come and go, who divert their energies and resources in targeting celebrtities are the ones that should be banned. The Ghulam Nabi Azads should know that Swine Flus will also come and go, why not build permanent infrastructure?
This does not mean that infrastructure should only be increased in cities. Infrastructure and opportunities should be made available in villages and towns as well but with the knowledge that more and more people are bound to go to the more developed areas every time and settle for less dignified work, but nonetheless. Does that mean at some point the villages will be desserted? No, certainly not. They will become thinner but there will always be people who will stay back to till those fields. And then there will be the parents, women and children who will live there. Only the young men of the villages might no longer be found there. They will come back every year during the sowing period to take care of their fields and then go away to the cities to build bridges, carry water and clear garbage. Indian youth of the cities, women included will go to the Americas, The Londons and Singapores of the world similarly and return home for the Pujas, Diwali or New Years. Or when there is a death in the family. They rarely come for marriages unless of extremely close people.
Cities cannot wash their hands off its migrant population.

Sunday, August 9, 2009



We shifted here a year ago and other families are still moving into the complex.Many people have moved to this 'developing area' that is considered one of the most sensitive zones in view of communal riots in the old city. Our builder, now afflicted with throat cancer, is applauded for his bravery in entering an area that nobody chose to go before. The Bangladeshi people's ghetto is right across the street, on the banks of the Chandola Laka and it is alleged, by Hindus that all bombs ever blasted in the city, have been made there. There are very few shops in the area, and we have to travel miles to buy a potato. So our brave builder decided to do further good and leased some land for 12 shops to be built outside the complex. Two kirana shops have come up till now, both selling identical goods and competing against each other by giving customers of the complex heavy discounts. Nobody is complaining, least of all me. I am getting used to living here. I avoid talking to people here, but sometimes one cannot escape too soon. As a journalist I interact with diverse people daily, but am distanced disinterested in my own backyard. People are curious.They ask questions. Sometimes pointedly, like the other day this woman asked me if I was the wife or sister of the boy with whom I live and whether the woman was my mother or mother-in-law. Mostly I avoid talking to people, but the shadows behind you are constant. That is why I end up wishing that services such as hair cutting, buying stuff, etc would become automated and one wouldn't need to interact with people in order to get them.Because, from where I stand, it is becoming difficult to credit the person providing the service rightfully. For example, my two-monthly visits to the Parlour woman for waxing are very uneasy for me, for though she is providing a very intimate service, I do not like talking to her, in fact, when she begins to get chatty, I discourage it. It is not for any other reason but just the fact that she wants to tell me what the best shopping deals of the season are and since I am unable to respond to the kindness appropriately, she must feel put off. Or she wants to discuss some recipes from the kitchen, that I have simply no knowledge of. Or a cookery or singing show that I have never heard of. But it becomes tricky because I think its wrong to not talk to somebody who you are so associated with. Practically speaking, she is rendering me a service and I am paying her for it, but somehow, this logic is uneasy as it is materialistic and selfish. This compels me to sometimes enter into awkward conversations with her,that do nothing for her or me, while knowing fully well that we are simply saying what we are either from boredom or due to the linkage of service. Below is an excerpt, not very interesting, but hopefully telling, which might or might not explain my discomfiture.
It took place in Gujarati so there is an original version, followed by a translation in English below that.

Kirana Store Keeper Woman-A
Kirana Store Keeper's Helper-B


C: Dahin chhe?
A: Ha chhe ne. Ketlu aapu? Saat rupiya na pouch waadu aapu?
C: Ha. aapi dyo.
A: Tame su...job karo chho?
C: Ha.
A: Kyan karo chho
C: Chhaapa maan.
A: Chhaapa-maan? Etle..kaya chhaapa-maan?
C: The Hindu-maan
A: haen?
C: Hindu-Hindu
A: Oh! Hindustan!
C: Ha Ha...eej.
A: (To B) aa chhaapa-maan kaam kare chhe...pellu Hindu Times chhe ne...eman
B nods head in approval
C smiles.

Day2 Morning:-

C: Dahin chhe?
A: Ha.Dabbi-waadu aapu ke pouch-waadu?
C: Pouch-waadu.Dabbiwaadu monghu hoe ne?
A: Ha.Khaali 250 grams aave dabbi-maan.
C: Hmm.
A: Tame..em toh...hindi bolo ne?
C: etle?
A: matlab ke..ghar-maan, hindi....?
C: Na, Gujarati boliye. Ame Gujarati chhiye.
A: Oh! Evu chhe...achha...
C: Kem? Jova-maan gujarati nathi lagta? Bhasha alag chhe
A: Ha...em nai pan....maari jem hoon gujarati phata phat bolu chhu, tamaru em nathi aavtu...
C: Ha.Thodu alag chhe. Ek toh ame Kathiawad na chhiye, ane upar thi Kolkata maan motta thya chhiey, etle bhasha thodik alag chhe..
A: Oh Kathiawaad na...kayu gaam?
C: Rajkot.Amdavadi toh nathij
A: Achha...evu chhe....toh theek.

Day2 Evening:-

C: Kheeru raakho chho?
A: Ha rakhiye chhiye ne.
C: aapi dyo...ek killo. Ane nariyal chhe?
A: Ha baare padya e-ne.
C: Ha ha ej. (Picks one up from the sack)Ketlanu chhe?
A: dus rupiya
C: Oho. Bou bhaav chhe tamare toh
A: Haha. Aatlu toh hoiyaj ne. Toh ketla be rupiya-maan venchvanu?
C: hmm dai dyo chaalo
A: Aa kon banavse? Tame...ke....tamara mummy?
C: ?.. Koi pan banavi lese...banne banavi lesu..khabar nai
A: Na...tame job par thi aaiva chho, pachhi thaaki...
C: Na, eman su chhe
A: Tame banavo em..,,?
C: Hmm.Kaale banavsu



C: Do you keep curd?
A: Yes we have. How much should I give? The pouch worth 7 Rupees?
C: Yes Please.
A: Do you do...a job??
C: Yes.
A: As in, where do you do it...?
C: In a newspaper
A: Newspaper? As in, which newspaper?
C: The Hindu
A: huh?
C: Hindu -Hindu
A: Oh! Hindustan!
C: Yes yes that one
A: (To helper) This here works in a newspaper...that one...Hindutva Times
B nods head in approval
C smiles

Day2 Morning:-

C: Do you have curd?
A: Yes. Should I give the one in the pouch or the one in the cup?
C: Umm.The pouch please. The one in the cup is expensive no?
A: Yes, that it is, you get only 250 grams in that.
C: Hmm.
A: So...you ..generally...Hindi no?
C: Waht?
A: No as in....you speak Hindi at home....no?
C: No no.We speak Gujarati.We are Gujaratis.
A: Oh! Is that so? Ok.
C: Why? We look different or what?
A: Yes, not like that...but....the fluency with which I am speaking Gujarati, that you still don't have
C: Ya it is a little different because we are from Kathiawaad and been brought up in Kolkata
A: Oh Kathiawad! Which village?
C: Rajkot.
A: Oh ok! and kaalkutta!
C: Ya. Born and brought up there
A: Oh! That's why!
C: what?
A: Thats why the difference! Then it's ok.

Day2 Evening:-

C: Do you stock batter?
A: Of course we do.
C: Please give one kilogram of it. And do you have coconuts?
A: The ones kept outside, those?
C: Aah, yes, these. (Picks one up from the sack) How much is it for?
A: Only 10 Rupees.
C: 10 Rupees!That's a bit too much, isn't it?
A: Haha. Then what, you want me to sell it for 2 rupees?
C: ok ok give it.
A: Who will prepare this? You or your mother?
C: Both of us...I dont know
A: Ok...you return from work....and must get tired....
C: hmmm
A: so you cook, eh...?
C: Hmm..sometimes i do
A: oh! so you work in office and you come home and cook, eh?!
C: ...sometimes
A: so it is you who will be making idli with this batter? or dosa...?
C: i am not sure, really....
A: (to helper)This here cooks!
Helper nods in approval
C picks up batter and leaves