Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Ride in the Admiral's Car.

I was getting married in two days. My father-in-law was coming for a little talk with me in two hours. My husband-to-be disappeared on his Bullet (motorcycle) in exactly two minutes. Not a very auspicious beginning but I stayed brave. I saw a gleaming white Ambassador arrive adorned with a whole bunch of fluttering flags. Then I saw white shoes emerge followed by white pleated trousers, then white buttons, and then a white hat. I saw all these white things marching up to my little pad. I was expecting a normal looking father-in-law not an Admiral in full Navy regalia. Nonetheless, I welcomed the Admiral and gave him a little stool to sit on. For the entire time of the Admiral being there, I was transfixed by the rickety condition of the stool, which threatened to crumble any time. Perhaps the Admiral too realized that and recommended we go for a ride in his car. I couldn’t agree more and so we marched down the steps to the waiting car. I counted the first salute from the chauffeur; there were many more to follow. 

I sat in one corner of the seat and the Admiral in the other corner. Then the Ambassador speeded down the road and what a spectacle that was. Any time the gleaming thing stopped, I saw regular traffic police salute the car and then the Admiral smartly return the salute. Somewhere I thought I should do the same. So while my father-in-law returned the salute from one side of the car, I returned the salute surreptitiously from the other side of the car – to everyone and no one in particular. I was amazed at how shabbily the traffic treated the traffic cops. No one paid any attention to the traffic cop and he was just pivoting round and round with his whistle. I thought he had gone mad. Then suddenly he spotted our Ambassador and blew his whistle for so long that all traffic stopped out of sheer surprise. He saluted and our car breezed by. Boy, was I impressed!

To break my reverie of such traffic surprises, I heard my father-in-law say ‘do you know what you are doing because my son doesn’t, neither does his mother and nor do I’. I thought he should have added my name to the list as well. Then I heard him ask how were we both going to support ourselves, where were we going to live etc. Frankly speaking, I hadn’t thought about such existential questions before. Suddenly, these became very concrete much more than the pending marriage itself. I thought I should impress the car and the Admiral and almost told him that I was working for UNICEF and that when I stopped, his son would find work and that the hole er the one-room pad would suffice and that men and women somehow found a way to get by. Thankfully enough I said nothing. In fact, I joined the Admiral in wondering as well. My mind had also begun to wander about what exactly was the correct way to do the Navy Salute. Was it palm up or palm down or palm straight out. Was it on top of the nose or the forehead or on the side just near the ear? God, was my mind confused? Damn, I could’ve at least asked the Admiral’s son about it.  But the Admiral’s son was absconding and here I was trying to learn the salute and how to descend gracefully into marriage. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Duality of being Indian.

The duality of nature is in the core of an Indian. It's there and not there as the Indian nods his head both for yes and no. We speak like that as well, no? Whatever has to happen will happen and we are the legitimate children of destiny; yet we start collecting even before we are born. Despite the belief, families and parents have already decided the course of life for their children, aided by pundits and horoscopes. Children are born, not knowing if they will be that perfect one or the horror of horrors. It's all Karma yet we continue to kill our baby girls and burn those women on the pyres of piety, honor, and greed. Woe to the world which stays stuck in the many zeros of their debt in trillions; we Indians are different - we marvel at the very concept of zero that one of their own discovered many many centuries ago. We claim many 'firsts' but don't take responsibility for the mayhem and filth in the streets. We worship the Mahatma but continue to wage communal wars in his birth place.

Here is a land that worships the female form but nobody wants girls; it's the boys they are pining for; with the result the female gender will eventually dissipate and boys and men will be forced to turn merry and gay. That's good for the gay community, the world will chime but then Indians are not gay, at least not in the open. Men have wives and children and boy friends on the side. Families of such confused (foolish) men continue with their pilgrimages to Shirdi Maharaj and life in the land of a billion people goes on as long as the status quo is maintained. After all, one son is a doctor and the other son will be an engineer, if he doesn't stray on the gay path. In maintaining its status in the world, India will send its girls to colleges; it may frown upon sleeveless blouses and shirts but will keep its promises to the male gender of providing well-educated girls for their households. The girls needn't bother with the pretense of work; their dowry and fair looks will make sure of that. The darker ones need not bother with marriages; they are used to every prejudice there is.

Continuing with the binary nature of things, the two studies of medicine and engineering from the two institutes of Harvard and Oxford from the two countries of USA and England will lead Indian sons to become doctors and engineers. There are no other known disciplines or professions or educational institutions in India. That is where the prosperous will go; that is what Indian children must aspire to. Heaven forbid if teaching or theater or art or culinary work is mentioned. We don't do that kind of stuff in India; that is only done in the West where incidentally most well off Indian children will head to anyway  to get their masters and doctorates in medicine and engineering, after their parents have railed and ranted about the abominable culture of these countries! Consequently one in every five doctors in America will be Indian, but here he will have to ensure himself against the ire of patients who may not see him as god and when that happens, Indian parents and families will curse that goddamned West.

But just in case an obdurate child who wants to learn cooking (whoever heard of that) parents will ignore that as a passing fancy hoping that eventually that fancy will morph into business and ownership of all the restaurants in the world. In all this limited space of aspirations, the possibility of Shah Rukh Khansama and Meenakshi Khandarni of Bollywood will continue to bring in a silver lining through film mania but then the above two film stars knowing the wheeling and dealing of the film industry will eventually want their children to practice the safe and proven lines of medicine and engineering! There are other opportunities of IAS and IFS but these two are usually connected with politics along with the other activities of maiming and killing your opponents (common activity prior and during elections). Two new opportunities of becoming rich and famous opened up through Kaun Banega Lakhpati and Kaun Banega Crorepati but these are likely to fade because they go against the grain of the duality of Indian nature; you cannot be poor and win and there is no way you can aspire to be what you want to be - unless you want to be a doctor or an engineer of course!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dentists and New Delhi Cops

What could Dentists and Delhi Cops have in common? Come to think of it, the two fields of medicine and crime couldn't be further apart. Then too, there's something sinister in the way these two groups operate. Both delight in knocking people's teeth out. For those not familiar with Delhi Cops, here's the scoop. Delhi thullas are notorious for their vision of a crime-free society. No, they don't believe in rehabilitation through talks and discussions and workshops. They just beat the crap out of people and hope they will get many more chances to do it again if the miserable souls didn't learn their lesson. The old saying in Delhi still stands 'may your enemies never visit a cop station'; the notoriety of cops is that solid.

Anyway, the similarities between the two groups - dentists and Delhi cops are plenty. Both delight in knocking people's teeth out - dentists take their fee upfront while Delhi cops wait for later with the added threat of taking the entire jaw out. If lucky, Delhi cops will retrieve your knocked out teeth from some corner for an additional fee while Dentists will willingly give you new teeth - for a hefty fee as well. There is however one small difference in the way of operation. Dentists will make you lie around squirming under bright lights while they prepare their drills and grills just behind your back when you think they're going to grind your entire being. Delhi Cops operate in dimmed lights and just take a hammer or a boot or a fist and in one clean sweep knock out which ever tooth or teeth are in view. In short, discretion is the difference.

It's really very disconcerting to visit dentists or cops. The only one who does not emerge without a smile is you - the one whose teeth get knocked out. At the dental office, you have been rendered numb and cannot smile or eat or drink for a few hours. At the Delhi cop station, you have been reduced to a pulp and cannot do the additional thing of cursing along with the inability to smile, eat or drink for quite a few days. On a good note however, you will eventually feel stronger and emerge brimming with self confidence. Perhaps feeling lighter in pocket may also contribute toward a light bounce in life. After all, not many can survive this kind of an onslaught and not smile, with or without teeth. It may also call for a new kind of New Year resolution to take better care of your teeth.