Wednesday, April 29, 2009

His Eyes

He was then fifteen. He was a silent boy, thoughtful; and the quietness in his deep grey eyes seemed to me like a promise of warmth and understanding I had never known. There was a tightness in my chest, because it hurt to be shut out from the world of simple kindness he lived in. I sat there, opposite him, and said to myself that I had known him all my life and yet until this moment had never understood what he was. I looked at those extra-ordinarily clear eyes, that were like water over grey pebbles, I gazed and gazed, until he gave me a slow direct look which showed he knew I had been staring. It was like a warning, as if a door had been shut.

- Doris Lessing,
Flavours of exile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good Governance

As India plunges into nationwide Lok Sabha and Assembly polls this month, my small standing in the country, as her citizen, has suddenly become a hot topic. Why? Because I can vote and suddenly, I am in demand.

But like me, many others who stay away from their hometown and won't be able to make it in time to vote, will lose their chance. Then, many others will stay away for no party seems just right. Then again, many will vote not for a just candidate, but for the caste he belongs to.

Good governance. That's what we want at the end of this mad rat race.

BJP has a huge flipside because of the hardline, anti-minority image it has created for itself. It banks on the good governance bit though.

However, a good governance cannot be reached till a country is plagued time and again with separatist agenda. It cannot be reached till churches are attacked, Muslims and Sikhs are killed in riots and girls are beaten up, told what they should do or wear. It cannot be achieved till a political party decides what suits Hindutva and what does not.

Good governance cannot be achieved till we allow religion and caste to come out of our homes and entangle with everything and anything. There should be a demarcating line between your religion and your being a good citizen. Till we continue to mix the two to dangerous outcomes, we and our future generation won't be in a comfortable state of existence.

Good governance cannot also be reached till we keep on banking on reservation status instead of merit and intellect. Yes, good governance cannot be achieved by the carrot of reservation, when basic primary education is muddled with lax teaching policies, fatal corporal punishments and finding rats in mid-day meals. On the same lines, good governance cannot be achieved by finding an easy way out, by patronising health biscuits to do away with the responsibility of cooking a hygienic mid-day meal.

Good governance cannot be brought on sentimentality and emotions. Politicians are cunning, corrupt, divisive. And so, junta should be shrewd, opportunistic and manipulative to ultimately get what it wants. And wants should be prioritized well.

Good governance needs to start from the way down. It has been a long, tiresome wait. We are still waiting...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Of maids and earrings

Has it ever happened to you? That nagging guilt. You cannot find a costly earring, or think some cash is missing from your wallet. Zoooppp--- you lose no second in doubting the maid. In a second, guilt envelopes you. It makes you feel low and mean. And yet, doubt stands by stubbornly. You are crushed with two opposite, very strong emotions. The maid comes and goes and you eye her each moment, guiltily, stealthily, nervously. You think you are a bitch to do what you are doing and yet you can't decide whether to doubt, feel guilty or ask. What adds to the trouble is that you are no great sharp head yourself. You must have lost the earring or spent the cash on a glass of cold drink. You spend the rest of the day brooding over the loss. More so, you spend the rest of the day over loss of faith and plunge into complicated realms of morality. The next day, you try to ease your guilt by asking the maid to leave the clothes and just do the dishes. A bigger pile to wash the next day, you fool.

Or has it ever occurred to you that you are being used just like the rag she uses to mop the floor? You don't follow her about the house, watch her every move or nag her every other minute to wipe this corner or that. You believe she will do her work well and fair and don't interfere. And then you discover dusty corners, dishes not done well. You tell her gently to do things right and she doesn't reply back. She never does. She simply does what she feels like in one hour dot and leaves just as lazily and she came. And every few months a big tragedy falls on her house and you find yourself handing away one extra advance payment after the other. The work remains just as mediocre. Why should you ask work in return of help, you ask yourself. But why not, a more practical, slightly dark side instantly quips. Yes, why not. You are again down with two conflicting thoughts and end up feeling a perfect fool.

And scene no. 1 has many possible answers. After a fortnight, you find the earring from a forgotten box in the safe. Or, your maid comes wearing it absentmindedly and either owns up when you ask (if you ask) or cooks up a fabulous story that can put David Dhawan to shame...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Simple steps to happiness


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

How less they demand. And how much they give back...

My mother's love for gardens was instrumental in making us shift from a flat right in the city, to a house on the outskirts. She nurtured rose beds and creepers that gave huge orange flowers. She grew bhindi (ladies fingers) and brinjals and we were trusted with the task to collect them. The bhindis grew so much that we began gifting neighbours and family with the produce. After a time, we complained of 'garden fresh bhindi' she thrust down our throat in every possible form. Bhindi stir fried, bhindi with vegetables, bhindi with kadhi. Bhindi, bhindi, bhindi.

Those were the days when our garden had gone mad with a sudden flush of fertility. Everything grew and bloomed and blossomed. The Sona (Kanchan or Bauhinia purpurea) she planted all those years back is now a tree and covers the lawn with bright pink petals every winter.

When I moved here in Kolkata, I had a faint image of the kind of house I wanted. I wanted to recreate Ahmedabad in the small space I had. I bought lots of plants, only to realize I was either duped with bad cuts or the good ones just died due to watering too scant or too much.

When I set my eyes on this Adenium plant in the nursery, I knew I wanted it. It was costly and after some haggling, with both the nurserywala and my husband, I got it home. It has stuck. We have made some emergency visits to the nurserywala when the leaves turned soggy in winter. It was left in his care for a fortnight. This plant tends to go a little weak when it rains a lot or in cold. The nurserywala had told me told water it once a week. And so I did, only to realize that the plump obese stem (from which it gets its scientific name Adenium obesum) was shrinking away.

A person selling manure shook his head in disapproval when I told him this. "Water it daily, you understand. With this hot weather, how can you feed it just once a week." And he put some packets in my hand with precise instructions. That was about four months back. The leaves had developed some worrying spots then. I was keeping my fingers crossed after the medicine, manure and plenty of water routine. Last year, the flowers were great too, but now, they seem to have a new life. This year the bloom has been extravagant...

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