Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tales of Christmas from Far and Wide.

This is how sometimes Christmas has played out for me over the years. Weather wise, Christmas this time has been the best. No snow, plenty of sun, and just enough cold to make one feel it's still the Christmas season. I made so much food that eventually I fell down in exhaustion and went to bed early. Next day, feeling fresh, I called India, where tales of all kinds abide in abundance. The latest one was of my aunt telling me how my dad's brother had gone quite mad; she said that he had made his wife the owner of all his property. Result - the wife promptly threw my uncle out and my uncle was effectively rendered homeless in one fell swoop. Now, nobody can wish him merry or happy Christmas. Still, no disrespect to my uncle, but I thought that it was a smart move, choosing a house over a husband.

I however made a different decision, albeit an early New Year's resolution that I will write one letter every year to no one in specific. This seems weird because just this year, I had chosen to stop sending greeting cards to all and sundry. The ones I’ve been receiving, have been dwindling with each passing year. Nonetheless this good feeling came from me putting up and lighting my Christmas tree, well in time. Most times it had been done when everyone was taking theirs down. I also managed to squeeze in some last minute shopping at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, just when the store closed and I stood pleading with L.L. Bean to let me in. I told them mayhem would result in my house if I did not get their famous slippers for my son. Anyway, not letting me in after the doors had closed on Christmas Eve - would not fly well with the spirit of Christmas. I was let in and let out in 5 minutes flat.

Anyway, in my home, until late in the afternoon, my younger one still hadn't opened his presents, so the older one decided to do the honor. He said ‘that’ was going to be exciting. Eventually two people opened one person’s presents amidst a lot of scuffles. Then on the other side of town, on Christmas day, my Mum's alarm decided to go off at 3 a.m. for no apparent reason. She of course doesn't know anything about alarms and what made them work; nobody does. She threw some shoes at it, then when it hung precariously by some wires, ran and woke up some neighbors. One of them just took the battery out. I told her to leave the alarm alone and come to my place for some good cheer. Thank God, the season is going to be spread out in my house for some more days because my husband’s presents haven’t arrived yet under the Christmas tree; they will after Christmas and perhaps New Year. Should I blame Santa? Thankfully my husband understands I mean well. After all, he’s not transferring the property to me. I am willing to share my presents with him. He can read one book while I read the other. That truly is the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Death of a Dear Departed Despot - Kim Jong IL

I saw North Koreans fainting over the news of death of Kim Jong il. Then there were army generals and military officials looking shattered and broken and sobbing. Was the army really expressing sorrow? Have the people known any better or worse than these 'despicable dear leaders'? North Korea is a country where besides a thin sliver of elite, the rest of the population is in a constant state of starvation and death. But what do the dear leaders care? They must fire missiles at something; they must have the marches and drills; they must have every nook and corner of the country plastered with all dead and alive dear leaders' unsmiling faces. 

This is a country where the military presence is seen everywhere and where the unseen secret service and government spies can be felt everywhere. This is a country where if a tear failed to fall in an expression of sorrow over the dear leader, it could easily be 20 years of hard labor; where a nervous smile could fetch another 10 years; where if the dramatics of despondency did not rise to the expected levels, entire families and generations could be shot dead - if they were lucky. This is a country where thousands just fall down and die each day; where for the rare visitor, villages are moved en masse to avoid giving the wrong impression, where stores are routinely stocked with artificial food, where terror reigns supreme and people are just shells of their selves.

Maybe those army generals were really shedding tears of joy at the opportunity for a coup. Just maybe those wretched people were really fainting from hunger and starvation and did not even have an inkling of the death of a despot. Those dear departed leaders were not supposed to die. They were mythical entities, good enough to be worshipped. Perhaps a sincere prayer could have gotten them a few grains of rice. China  will be worried it will have starving masses cross into their land; South Koreans will not want to recognize their brothers in such dire conditions; the world will worry about a power vacuum in the Kim Land and those starving North Koreans - well that tragedy will just go on.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wanted: Ugly Indian.

The newest fad is Wanted: Ugly Indian!
No longer will advertisements of 'wanted fair and beautiful' be relevant. That is history now. It's the age of the ugly now. Every once in a while, a true people's movement comes along where its participants sweep away not only the rot but old attitudes and dysfunctional thinking. Here are a bunch of true occupiers where they occupy for just enough time to claim what was theirs, do the deed, and move on. These are the true Gandhians where they are truly the change they want to see. Forget Anna and his fasts. Forget all those hollow men and women. Here are a bunch of people who took it upon themselves to get India to shine again albeit in small corners. But it's the corners that have begun to stretch into streets and roads and soon enough the change is going to traverse the entire country. The onus is on destruction and transformation - of the dirty, the filthy, the smelly - to places of beauty, not monuments and Taj Mahals but simple walk ways and roads that people will take pleasure of stepping into and corners they will want to snuggle into.

No, the Ugly Indian did not have marches and protests. They became the protest with their brooms and pans. For most of us, this would have been too lowly. Here is true grit. In the face of the mammoth task, Ugly Indians did not shrivel and retire in their pristine homes,  they did not hold their noses when they stepped in those pot holes and puddles of murky  water, they did not avoid those marked and stained walls of piss and spit. They did not change their path. They altered reality. They made the path decent enough to walk on. Ugly Indian is truly a remarkable phenomenon where the ordinary has been transformed into the extraordinary by sheer tenacity in the face of filth. It is a shame that our politicians and other elected leaders who pay themselves plenty for doing nothing - never saw the need for a clean and healthy country. Street by street, block by block, city by city - the Ugly Indian is making its mark. It's time to claim our land. It's time to belie beauty and become the Ugly Indian.   

Notes: The Ugly Indian is a grassroots community organization; their motto shut up and do it.