Archive | December, 2008

Hope

14 Dec

hope

Credits: OJ fooling around with the Boy’s Olympus E-520 DSLR.

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Ivy

12 Dec

The two are so intertwined, you can’t tell where one ends and the other rears its twin spine. Nestled in each other, they feed off the flesh, the bones, the robust spirit, offering themselves readily, even eagerly, hoping to be consumed so identities will blur. Biology calls it symbiosis. They don’t and couldn’t care less. Escapism and Survival, regardless of the price, must necessarily become each other.

This Terror, It Makes Us Strange(r)

11 Dec

I’m late because I had to go back upstairs to get a scrunchy. Imagine being stuck for hours in a siege with hair flying all over the place.

~Me to a bemused Boy last night

Message in a Bottle: Condi Saves the Night

10 Dec

[While I figure out some picture transfer issues on my camera, here’s a tall tale. It was written as a Children’s Day present for WJ‘s Imp. With some simplification, it works decently with 3-5 year olds.]


You may remember the story of Sascha and her jostling bathroom friends who bumped off poor Hair Oil into the toilet bowl. Not much has changed since, and the bottles continue to live bickeringly and gossipingly on the window ledge, still a little resentful of Hair Oil for enjoying a plum position on Sascha’s dressing table. All except for Condi. Ever since he played a part in pushing Hair Oil off the ledge, Condi had been feeling rather ashamed. He had a kind heart and was, in retrospect, truly sorry that his action had caused his neighbor so much fear and worry. But he was afraid the other bottles would laugh at him if he shared his regrets and so he held his tongue and said nothing.

One day, the house was in a great bustle. Bags were brought out from closets, clothes and toys packed into them, and Nanny came into the bathroom, clicking her heels busily. A brisk scan later, she picked up all the bottles from the ledge and carried them off to the vanity case, leaving only Condi behind because he was too tall to fit. They were all going on a holiday! “To the beach!” said Baby Powder, sneaking a peek into the mirror (for she was as vain as ever). “Or maybe to the water park,” hoped Shampoo, knowing he’d have to work extra hard at cleaning sand from Sascha’s hair. “On a train, a real train!” shouted Soap, sliding around in excitement. “The hills would be pleasant too,” yawned Suntan Lotion, who was hoping to get a little rest himself. In all their chatter and anticipation, the bottles quite forgot poor Condi, who was left standing alone, feeling bereft and miserable. Windows were shut, doors slammed, keys turned in locks and Sascha’s family was off, off, off! Condi leaned against a corner, trying to get used to the silence and let slip an occasional sigh. Pigeons cooed in the alcove outside, the tap dripped out a watery tune, and Sheroo the neighborhood dog barked indignantly at the postman. With the ledge all to himself, Condi sprawled in a cool, sunless spot and decided to take a little nap.

When he awoke, it was dark. The sun had set some hours earlier and he shivered a little in the night breeze. Cricket and his family were crackling outside, saying grace before their evening meal. The birds had flown home, all the cars were parked for the night and the sounds and lights of television shows filtered through the louvres of Condi’s bathroom window. His eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness and he found himself enjoying his newfound solitude. “Quite the lord and master of the house,” he thought smugly to himself, strutting down the length of the sill and striking a pose. He amused himself for a while by peering into the cabinet and rifling through the contents of the first-aid box. “The scissors look so shiny and sharp,” he thought, and reached out for them, when suddenly he heard a low click and then the sound of the heavy front door creaking open. Frozen into place, still clutching the first aid box, Condi heard stealthy footsteps echoing down the hallway, coming closer….and closer…. and closer.

A man in scruffy clothes and an old sack tread carefully past the open bathroom door, onward to the dining room. It was a burglar, Condi realized, and tried not to scream in panic. His plastic heart was thumping against his tall, slender frame and he was certain the man could hear it. From his perch by the cabinet, he could see the burglar filling his sack with Sascha’s mummy’s precious china plates. Oh no! She would be so very upset when she returned! Looking around wildly, Condi hit upon an idea. With all the strength he could muster, he pushed the first aid box off its shelf. Crash-landing on the tiles below, its contents shattered noisily. The thief started and hurried out of the apartment, leaving the sack and its contents behind. But the force of the momentum had been too great. Condi went flying into the air after the box and had a wet landing in the pot below. Splash! Thankfully, he was a tall bottle and the toilet bowl was rather shallow, so there was no real fear of drowning. There he lay, soaked but thrilled at having scared away the nasty thief.

Sascha’s family returned the next morning. Oh what a to-do there was when they found the front door open and the sack with the plates lying on the floor! Condi was fished out of the water, cleaned and pushed to the back of the ledge, where he proudly recounted his tale of heroism to his open-mouthed friends and pointed to the wreckage on the floor as proof. Bai cleaned the mess grumblingly, but was thankful the house was safe. Sascha’s parents had stronger locks put into the front door and Sascha herself was just glad that her beloved computer wasn’t stolen. How else would she read OJ’s blog everyday?

And so ends the story of tall, brave Condi, who risked life and plastic limb to save the day. Nobody but the bottles knows about the part he played, but he doesn’t mind. He’s just glad he could do something good for a change.

Four Weddings and a Funeral…

6 Dec

…is a good movie title, but in the non-celluloid world, a clutter of heartening and heart-wrenching events can put you on the straight road to Loontown.

I’m in the middle of a big family event, the second of four this season, and while I greatly enjoying being with my extended family, it’s been hard. To smile, to dress, to welcome guests without the bile rising in the pit of my stomach, all the while questioning how we can celebrate while our city lies brutalized. But troopers are us, and if only for the sake of those we love, get to it we must. For two precious little girls with the warmest hugs possible and for what their navjote means to them.

Add to this a post-horror pilgrimage on Tuesday, a solidarity rally at the Gateway on Wednesday, a failed internet connection for three days and our anniversary coming up tomorrow, and we have enough peaks and troughs to resemble the Rockies. Strange days these, when so many of life’s miseries and joys are compressed into a capsule, like the blending of multi-colored playdoh.

Apologies for being AWOL at a time like this. I will put pictures up once the immediate whirl abates. In the meanwhile, a quick update before I rush off again:

I spoke with Dr. Jyotsna Kirtane, head of pediatric surgery at the J. J. Hospital and she recommends providing protein powders like Pediasure to the children’s ward. These are usually unaffordable by the hospital administration and assist greatly in physical rehabilitation. For adults, Complan is a good bet. (There aren’t too many children admitted for this particular tragedy, thankfully.) Dry fruits are also welcome. Do not send perishable foods, they already have plenty of those. I did raise the question of tinned goods being cornered and re-sold in the black market, to which Dr. Kirtane said we could open the tins in front of the staff if we wished.

There was no urgent blood requirement as of 3 days ago, but you can keep checking at 23701366. To be honest, I didn’t expect the phone to be answered, given the magnitude of workload they are currently facing, but it was and a coherent response was given. As the initial hullabaloo abates, the hospitals will struggle for resources again, so some of you may wish to be continued donors instead of one-time respondents, if you think that’s manageable.

Next up: Locating a fund for families of soldiers/policemen/commandos who died in the line of duty. Does anybody have updates on this? I have contacted Dina Mehta and am waiting to hear from her. My friend in the media is another point of contact, but she just got proposed to, so I don’t want to rain on her parade with sombre questions unless I absolutely must.

In the meantime, take a look at this page. A bizarre, chilling thought entered my head while I looked at this site. What if the terrorists set up one of these pages, to misdirect funds or simply gauge public reaction and gloat over it? I wouldn’t put anything past them. Anything at all.

And now that I’ve completely creeped myself out, I must go pick out a saree, contort my hair, cross my fingers and hope that I’m a good enough actress to pass muster tonight. For so many of us, the nightmare began on this day, 16 years ago.

God bless.

Links: 1, 2, and 3.

Hark The Rich Bitch Speaks

3 Dec

Late last night, I received a forwarded email that contained this piece and an individual’s response to it. I recommend skimming through the piece before you read any further. The individual who responded to it is a friend of the acquaintance who sent it to me, one Rasika Gaikwad, who wrote the following:

skimmed thru the article….in a harried/hurried way
but i totally agree
i mean the whole thing is hyped because its bombay and the rich died
not to belittle anybody’s grief, but if the affluent and the
educated speak out only when their tail is on fire, this country has no hope

ULFA is a terrorist organisation…..which has caused enough mayhem
who cares abt the north-east problem though?????????????????
hell…i m sure way more than 200 people die in police custody each year
and many of them innocent… they are just poor and generally muslims
fucking hell…. i means lakhs and lakhs of femles infants are killed every year in India…

9/11 killed 3000 americans..and these people (english spouting, drug lapping zombies jolted by a fire at their favourite hotel) extol america’s reaction???
it fucking bombed the wrong country and killed thousands of children…
bush continued to pal up with the bin laden clan for oil….
is this wht we r supposed to learn from america?????

india loses so many more lives to terrorism than any other country except Iraq and we r not even at war…….
military men at the border face fire routinely

point is….we just react to drama
damn ya… we need to evolve beyond prioritising on the basis of what provokes visceral shocks
we r not even identifying teh problem correctly
or rather are not focusing on the right ones
how on earth are we going to solve them???????

i was driven crazy by what happened this week (my sis was out almost all night till it lasted..we barely slept)
but what incapacitated me were the 2006 train blasts.. i still can’t bear to think abt them for more than a minute
no minister resigned then….

if the ‘more important’ people getting affected makes news; so be it…
news is business…. its about TRPs , not truth…
(and what fucking imporatnt people…. no big scientist or artist or leader died as far as i know (correct me)
what shocked the crap abt of these people is that even money can’t buy safety..
i mean..’WE CAN’T BE SAFE EVEN AT THE TAJ!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The country really is in deep shit..’

bombs have been going off in crowded market places across the country for teh whole of last year…

1 billion plus people…and the newspapers are full of people telling us
how taj was like a second home to them… well maybe so..these are the sentiments of a miniscule section of society and they expressed it..genuinely too ….(and oh my god..heritage be damned..when did we start caring abt that..???
many old, beautiful buildings in bombay are in ruins… ratan tata will take care of taj… teh govt needs to worry abt CST)

the govt. needs to treat its subjects equally… even if the media doesn’t.
(atleast now we need to be more sensitive towards the kashmiris
imagine living in mortal fear for decades…. !!!)
no one fucking called for the ISI chief in the last 60 years…
not enough evidence of involvement of pakistan there, is it?????????

i sincerely wish though that not just families bereaved (and not just because of yest’s attacks but because of every single cruel, violent act), but all of us start caring about what happens sround us when the grief settles down as a natural part of our system

**********

I could not wait until the next day to respond. Propping matchsticks between my eyelids and seething with anger, I dashed off the response below to my acquaintance. Plenty more arguments occurred to my fresher mind this morning, but I will post my response exactly as it was sent:

*********

This sounds almost resentful–both the original article and your friend’s response. It is natural that some events and actions hit closer home than others and we choose to react to the ones that hurt us with their intimacy. I am not indicating that all the points made are invalid, but to show righteous outrage about equality at a time when persons are deeply grieving their private losses unveils a small, disgruntled mind that refuses to grant a moment’s reprieve that is basic human decency. It is clear that both the writer and the respondent are far removed from the current situation, and therefore unaffected. Hence they can afford the luxury of going all moralistic on somebody else’s pain. I strongly object to the sweeping generalizations made about (sic) RICH SPOILT KIDS WHO WOULD DRIVE THEIR VEHICLES OVER SLEEPING AAM AADMIS ON THE PAVEMENT. Not everyone who goes there is rolling in wealth and certainly not everyone who visits is a murderer. But of course, the person writing this wouldn’t know that. He’s too busy trying to prove an “original” point to verify facts. Yes, CST did not get as much coverage. But there are understandable reasons for that act:
1. It did not devolve into a hostage situation, unlike the other 3 locations, and was a limited time-frame episode that did not involve engaging continual resources. It is but natural at times like these that social fair play takes a back seat and more pressing priorities are dealt with.
2. The very NATURE of these attacks is different from the boom-and-it’s-over tactics that we’ve grown immune to. Here, the enemy had a face, a voice and a sustained plan of action. We weren’t left picking up the pieces because it was hell bent on ripping the shards to shreds and the targets in question had to be wrenched out of its control. A little consideration toward this all-important differential fact would have gone a long way in making the writer and respondent’s arguments worthier of attention.

Please send this to both, if it is possible. And have them know that they disgust me. Humanity clearly isn’t missing from just terrorists.

*********

It’s back. The you-have-means-and-are-therefore-less-deserving-of-sympathy argument. The deeply erroneous assumption that the better off care only about their immediate environment and don’t move a facial muscle when the lower economic stratas are impacted. It makes for a good social justice essay. And probably acts as a feel-good, oh-I’m-so-uniformly-fair kick. But beyond its initial hook to make people stop a while and rethink their view of the world, the premise and its arguments both ring hollow.

Firstly, WHERE is the empirical evidence to prove that people with fatter paychecks felt no anguish at other attacks on their city? Yes, there have been a thousand November 26s in Kashmir since militancy ravaged the valley. People who can afford tea at the Taj do have a basic level of education and don’t need Sankaran to do the math for them.

Secondly, IN WHICH RULEBOOK is it written that all human beings must feel equal anguish at all events? In the years since independence, India has been at the receiving end of enough terrorist aggression to fill a book, and at some point, our shock and horror have been muted by the regularity with which these events occur and the intimacy of the situation to our own lives. What is so sinful in realizing that I will absolutely feel more devastated when the attack is closer home than when it is in a part of my country that I haven’t had the privilege of visiting? Why does my deeper reaction to something that holds more meaning for me make me a callous bitch who cares squat for more distant wounds? And no one demonstrates this better than the writer of the original piece, Mr. Gnani Sankaran, who would be sobbing a very different tune, were he not sitting in faraway Chennai, removed from the immediacy of our latest nightmare.

Thirdly, WHY do we have to prove our allegiance to our fellow Indians by expressing equally rationed quotas of outrage every time a terror strike occurs? Why is my integrity toward my fellow citizens and country questioned because I didn’t howl like I am doing today? Must I shout from the rooftops that 7/11 was as heartbreaking? Must I tell you all today that I had friends waiting on streets to hand out bottles of water and juice to commuters stranded on the way home? Must I prove my love for Delhi by announcing at this juncture that I wrote letters to editors, sobbed into my pillow and grieved for my nation’s beautiful capital? Should I be assuaging Mr. Sankaran’s righteous indignation by assuring him I would be as horrified, were a similar calamity were to befall Chennai?
The reasons for the sustained focus on the Taj and the Oberoi have been mentioned by me in the email. The novelty of the attack, the demands of the situation and length of the assault all contributed to the five-stars receiving increased attention. The CST, fortunately or not, was not put under the same kind of lengthy torture as the other 3 locations, the third one being conveniently omitted by Mr. Sankaran, save for a fleeting mention.

He then goes on to lambast the moneyed by calling them swindlers, spoilt rich kids and even murderers, who supposedly cruise over bodies without a care. Mr. Sankaran, Salman Khan, to the best of my knowledge was not at the Taj Mahal Hotel that night. Would you bother to point out who else it is that can’t differentiate between a pavement and people? If Cafe Leopold is, in your clearly superior opinion, also the hang-out of spoilt, rich, murderous kids, why was that not given coverage after the initial rounds of firing, Mr. Sankaran? The media, the commandos, the intervening authorities, though far from perfect in intent or operation, clearly had more common sense than you, who, blinded by your misguided moral outrage, targeted the first punching bag you could set your unfocused sights on.

This is not a volley to defend the media. Neither am I speaking as a representative of the rich and powerful. No Page 3 person is my friend and the two people I lost were both upper middle class men who worked hard to feed their families. I needn’t scream until I’m blue in the face that this time around, it was different. The audacity, the means, the end goal, the target populace. It is but natural that this twist in our usual terrorism script will bring about more volatile reactions. Yes, South Bombay is the home and haunt of fatter wallets, better educations and greater entitlement. It is also the contributor of much to the city and the nation. Take a walk down our streets, Mr. Sankaran, to see what India can be like. I say this not with arrogance, but with the pride I carry within me for my amazing city within a city. Deriding its people for what they have and the media for its first-time coverage of such an episode is hateful, small-minded and downright pompous. It belittles our pain and serves no purpose but to further torture our already shattered spirits.

At a time when we look to our nation (and, to an extent, the media) for strength and resources, this rant peppered with search-friendly phrases and textbook ideas of equality and social justice reeks of injustice to the sufferers of this tragedy.

Shame, Mr. Sankaran. Shame, Rasika Gaikwad. I have nothing but loathing for your petty, unworthy sentiments.

Just When I Was Feeling Completely Useless…

2 Dec

… The Huffington Post tells us “Bloggers Provide Raw view of Mumbai Massacre

And goes on to mention the comic relief provided by some user named Orange Jammies.

Hmm… what was this tweeter thinking, being a clown at 3 a.m.?

Thanks, Whipster, for the ping.