Posts Tagged ‘social customs’

Economic development and its dependencies: different lifestyles

December 15, 2014

Visiting any large city,and observing the different worlds that co-exist, is always a thought-provoking experience. Gurgaon is no different.

Here’s the view of one of the thousands of high-rise apartments that have come up in this was-a-sleepy-village:


To me, however, what gives character to this photograph is not the high-rise..but that cluster of buildings nestling below it, with the spire of a temple as well.

In those homes live the people who make life convenient for the occupants of the high-rises; the faceless people who provide so many services: maids, ironing-wallahs, drivers, security guards, gardeners, the innumerable tasks that the relatively cheap labour in India takes on.T The prosperous middle-class would collapse without these services that take away some of the strife of daily living in this country, rendered by people who do not have other people to take away their own strife.

Motorized fossil-fuel transport, of course, is the backbone of this kind of residential area, but right next to the motorized transport in this photo, is a greener option: the cycle rickshaw, which does not depend on electricity or fossil fuel. I was happy to see many plying everywhere.


Here’s someone delivering large PVC pipes somewhere by cycle rickshaw, this one modified for cargo:


In fact, I was tickled to see some motorized transportation being consigned to a dusty oblivion:


Here’s someone who fills mattresses with cotton (or is it some artificial filler, I wonder) and then sells them:


Some provide services by carting away the deteritus of a consumer lifestyle:


Some get excellent exercise while commuting:


Here’s a “chik” (bamboo-slat blind) maker, whose blinds will add to the ambience of so many “ethnically” decorated apartments:


Other people provide services for those who provide services. Everywhere, mobile carts catered to the needs of those less financially well-endowed than their high-rise brethren:


Here are the people who tend to the the little greenery that surrounds each high-rise:


Here, a mobile cycle-rickshaw, so ingeniously fitted with a pressure pump,that allows car, van and truck tyres to be inflated:


This is Indian


at its best…no more waiting at petrol pumps to inflate one’s tyres!

The urban scenario is not a pretty one for the lower economic strata:


Pollution and litter seem to be part of their lot, and yet they manage to exist…and thrive, and have a blue-eyed vision of their future:


Here’s a night view, with the building (in the first photograph) to the left:


Fascinating to see how, in the same space, so many different lifestyles go on!

Navaratri Golu Conversation

October 13, 2013

“Hi, A!”
“Oh…HI, B! Sorry, I just didn’t see you in the crowd. This is my fourth golu visit this evening, you know, things are so hectic…so how ARE you? My, you’re looking just gorgeous!”
“Oh, thank you! Is your saree a new one?”
“It’s just a simple one I picked up on my last visit to Sun-Dry Silks, they have such a unique collection!…Oh, hi, C! You haven’t aged a bit!”
“Hi, B..and A is here, too! Have you brought your adorable children? Oh yes, there they are…such beautiful princesses. How they’ve grown! It’s been a while since we’ve met.”
“I *know*! It’s just one mad whirl, you know? How are your daughters doing?”
“I have two sons, A. They are doing fine, thank you!”
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten…one of them is doing medicine, isn’t he? Such intelligence, after all, they are your kids!”
“Oh, I don’t know….well, we MUST get together soon…muaaah! I’m in a rush, I have to pick up my younger son from practice, so bye…!”
“C always seems in a bit of a rush, doesn’t she? I don’t know how she juggles so many things, B..I’d never be able to do it, A, I’m sure!”
“Oh, you and I are just simple people, not career women…we take more pride in our homes and keep everything nice and organized. C doesn’t need to bother with all that.”
“I do agree. A..did you get the number of the Hispanic couple who come do the house cleaning?”
“I’ll get it for you the next time, I don’t seem to have it on my mobile. Oh, my, I just LOVE your jewellery…C wears more traditional designs, you know…”
“She’s not into jewellery at all. Some of us are just different…she’s quite casual about her cooking, too.”
“How I wish I could be like her! My husband and children want everything just so, and I really slave over the dishes…our children are at a growing age, they do need the best nutrition possible…”
“I did notice that C’s younger son is a little short…”
“Oh, well, nothing that can be done about it. Tell me, how do you manage to remain so slim?”
“Ha, ha, there’s really nothing to it…I asked C also if she’d like to join my gym, but she’s so busy that she doesn’t have the time for it.”
“Is that the new gym, Fat2Fit? I just LOVE the way they make the exercises fun. Next week will be my fourth day!”
“I also tried to suggest a good nutrition consultant to C.”
“Oh, just tell me the name and number, I would love to have some good advice for my hubby! I think it’s his metabolism, I just can’t get him to lose weight. He has no time, with his business taking up all his energy. Poor C, life must be tough for her….”
“I can imagine, and she must have been so disappointed when her younger son didn’t get into Wonderful Academy…they say it’s the best school in town.”
“I can vouch for that, the children are enjoying it so much! It’s nice when your children are gifted! My little one won third prize in the kindergarten art contest!”
“That’s incredible! Wow, I’m sure she gets her talent from you. C’s children are so natural…they don’t get all formal-mannered, it’s nice to see a change.”
“Oh yes, we can never hope to emulate her easy-going attitude to life! Even with a husband not doing too well, she never complains. Well, it’s been great running into you…we must meet up for a coffee or something one of these days.”
“Of course! Let me take down your mobile number. Ciao, catch up with you soon!”

Yes, I know, miaow, miaow, miaow…but I am attempting a reconstruction of an glowingly friendly conversation between A and B, when C was also present for part of the time. I was part of the furniture (I had not Been Introduced), so I sat and was very much entertained.

Poor C, I am sure she cannot understand, as she rushes off, why she’s bleeding from so many claw marks. Between running into each other and running down C, A and B seem to get enough exercise even without the gym.

The perils of rapid urbanization

April 3, 2013

Sumeet is a person with very interesting ideas, and in a recent conversation, he talked about his liking the following definition of independence by M K Gandhi:

“Independence begins at the bottom… A society must be built in which every village has to be self sustained and capable of managing its own affairs… It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without… This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces… In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever widening, never ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”

This took him in a different direction, about the state of schooling in our country today; but I thought in another direction, and my response was,

“Rapid urbanization is one of the banes of our present form of society. If we had been able to develop all our villages, we would not have everyone leaving other means of livelihood because they are not economically viable, and rushing to the urban centres, weakening them further with demands….resulting in both villages and cities being inimical to a good quality of life, in various ways. I still find it very hard to articulate this problem that we’ve allowed to develop over the decades. The same problem happens in other countries, too, I think…this rapid urbanization is, I think, something that impacts our quality of life very adversely. It’s like the rats on a ship…as long as they are evenly distributed on a floating ship, all is well. But when the ship is in trouble, instead of remaining that way, they cluster to the few floating spars….and that ensures that all of them sink that much faster…or, at least, suffer being immersed in water, perhaps not drowning, but having a ‘poor quality of life’.”

I’ve seen this problem happening, in graphic and immediate detail, in my city of Bangalore. The population exploded, exponentially, as the IT industry boomed, with no commensurate increase in infrastructure. Government agencies either ignored the need, or struggled with measures that were too little, too late. And as the focus went to meet power and other demands, the rural areas suffered even more, making them that much less desirable to reside in. A vicious cycle of rapid urbanization was set up, and resulted in the creaking and inadequate infrastructure that my city is staggering along on, today.

In every sphere, it is, ultimately, letting go of a small, well-knit, I-know-you-you-know-me kind of caring circle for an impersonal, run-it-from-far-away system and culture that doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run, but which only postpones the problems to a date in the future. In my country, I see overpopulation, and the extreme increase of demand over supply, as contributing largely to these problems. But I am still trying to think of how the situation can be rememdied….


February 17, 2013

Terraces….I look at the houses around me in St.Louis, and this is one feature I miss…all these houses have sloping roofs, so that the occasional snow can slide off. However, in India, most houses and apartment buildings are topped by flat terraces, which have multiple uses, and which add to the rich texture of life in my country.

The first use is, of course, to harvest all that solar energy that hits the rooftop of the house. Women bring their vegetables, pickles, and fritters to be dried in the sun, and the terrace of a home is often a delight for a small child, with delicious tibits spread out on mats. Some children are also given the job of guarding these self-same tidbits against marauding crows and sparrows, with the promise of a small reward (augmented, of course, by regular samplings!)

The terrace is the place (no longer true in apartments, alas!) where the family’s washing is brought up to be dried, by free solar power. Who has not been entranced by the lines of colourful clothes billowing in the sunlight!

Terraces have always been associated with love, which often is carried on under the guise of all the activities above! Those who are caught up with the mundane details of life in the lower floors, often come up to indulge in romance….the young girl spreading out the sarees on the clotheslines often lifts up her eyes to the young man teaching his younger brother to fly a kite…

Unfortunately, the terrace in a building is quite a public space, and other people (epecially children) delight in spoiling the mood of the lovers.

Here’s a song with children playing voyeurs…” mottai maadi mottai maadi love jodi love jodi”…terrible lyrics, but the song is fun!

ThanimayilE inimai kANa mudiyumA (Can you find sweetness in loneliness?)

Many Muslim houses also keep their “kabootharkhana” (pigeon nests) on the terraces, and its beautiful to see the birds fluttering up in unison against the morning or the evening sun.

The terraces of old houses have given rise to many romances, and many songs are pictured on terraces. Here’s a beautiful song set on a terrace:

Here’s a nice cartoon about love-on-the-terrace:

terrace 220213 photo terrace.jpg

With shamiyanas constructed on them, terraces also used to make a good place for food to be served during family weddings, in the days when weddings were held at home.

I remember, so many of us together, during the Leonid showers a few years ago, or when there were lunar eclipses, gathering with chai and snacks to watch the celestial spectacles.

Even today, in an apartment building, a terrace is often a kind of common space where neighbours can meet and spend a little time together. On a terrace, one is somehow apart from, and above, the cares that oppress one down below. The perspective and the view are different, and it’s a good time to enjoy oneself, or introspect….

Given this social history of terraces, it’s a pity so many builders just put a lot of water pipes on the terraces of apartment buildings, and completely spoil what could be a great place to gather and socialize. I do love terraces, as an extension of Indian habitation.

This whole morality thing…

December 14, 2011

I just saw something on Facebook (I suppose a friend sent the wrong link) which showed a photo of three girls smoking, and a series of comments about them being “bad girls”.

Why, in the twenty-first century, are we still such prudes and hypocrites? And why double standards? Well, at least one person said, ” Only if you don’t smoke and drink you can say ‘bad girls’…”.. but there were several other comments, which included the word “bitch”.

The questions I am asking are:

So…men can drink and smoke and be “good” people?

Does not smoking and not drinking automatically make a person “good”, the way drinking and smoking seem to automatically make a person “bad”? I don’t smoke or drink, and I know how bad I can be.

I simply cannot understand how a society that was so open, became such a society of prudery, and utter hypocrisy…being so judgemental about things that do not matter at all.

I am reminded of another FB update…a cleric has said that women should not handle cucumbers or bananas because they should “avoid sexual thoughts”. That cleric seems to be to be the most dirty-minded person! He is like the Roscharch-test patient who was shown a series of blots, and asked what they reminded him of. For every blot, his answer was, “Sex”. Finally, the psychiatrist told him, “You seem to be obsessed with sex.” “Me!” exclaimed the patient. “It’s you who’ve been showing me all the dirty pictures!”

Speaking of which, I saw the movie, “Dirty Picture”, and liked it very much. Excellent acting by Vidya Balan, and very well directed, too…and the photography is superb. It shows our double standards…and the way women are utterly exploited. They have to use their bodies as their strengths, and soon the strengths become their weaknesses….

Smoking is bad for the health, that’s been proven, but why attach a morally bad tag to it? And many cultures advocate moderate social drinking….

Social lubrication conversation

October 25, 2006

When I was younger I used to get very impatient with what I used to call “inane” remarks and conversations, such as this one that I hear at EVERY social function I attend:

A: “Oh, HI!!! how ARE you? SUCH a long time since we met!”

B: “HI!!! Yes, it’s been a long time…so…how’s things with you?”

A:”All well, and how are your children/parents/family/dogs?”

B:” Oh, carrying know how it is….things are SO hectic you know…”

Well, I am much more tolerant of these conversations now. I know that it allows A to desperately hunt around in hes mind for B’s name, and for B to check out A’s children/jewellery (and also possibly recollect HES name), and each to size up the other in case they really can’t stand each other, and gives them the space to make polite further conversation about either how good it was in the old days, or some vague talk about “we must meet up soon” so that they can part amicably until they meet again at the next social gathering.

….and I viscerally HATE air-kissing and social,keeping-my-saree-and-jewellery-intact hugging. Any hugging that I do is genuine,so somewhat rare. My hand-shake is also firm and deliberate and I detest the limp pieces of flesh that are sometimes put half-heartedly in my hand. And I think there are only a handful of people on earth whom I would kiss, and THAT would not be just because I am meeting them….

I am NOT a socially adept animal!