Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nations & Borders

Two news items on the same day.
1. Sarkozy and Merkel came together today to pay homage to World War I heroes.
France and Germany who were on opp sides in the War, now come together, and are a vital chunk of the EU.
A couple of days back Germany celebrated 20 years of the breaking of the Berlin War.

2. Indonesia accuses Malaysia of stealing its language, its culture, its food, and turning them into more successful commercial interests. The irony is that they were all one nation and part of the Khmer empire for 6 centuries.

On one hand, the world celebrates the removal of borders, while on the other another lot talks about creating new borders, where none existed.

Closer to home,Kashmir wants to be independent, Vidarbha wants to separate itself from Mahrashtra, Belgaum wants to be free of both Karnataka and Maharashtra. Karnataka and Kerala dispute over Kasargod.
Orissa has disputed bordes with all its neighbours, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal and Andhra.
Himachal and Uttarakhand are locked over Dehradun, Ironically these are the states I go to, to find my peace.

While Singapore to begin with never wanted to be a separate nation. It strove to be a part of a bigger nation Malaysia, which rejected its appeal. (You may say look how successful Singapore is today, but being a small country has limited defence).

I can think of very few exceptional examples where nations/races have tried to come together.

Are humans separatists by nature? In the struggle to have our own identity, do we forget the shelter that could be achieved by being under one umbrella? Are we just territorial like other animals?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Me, an Indian?

Indians outside the country? Oh no, they are everything but Indians. They are Marathi's, Gujarati's, Punjabi's, Tamilian's, outside their country. You would think they would find similarities amongst themselves and stick together, far away from their homelands. No siree, this is where the regional identities emerge. I look around me, and what do I see, Marathi associations, Gujarati mandals, Punjabi gatherings, Tamilian brotherhood, where is the Indian? I still hear comments like "Are there any Marwaris in Tampines?" or "can I find a Telugu badminton partner"?

Whoever, thought of India as a Hindu-state is grossly mistaken. India is a state of mixed-regional identities. When a Gujarati goes out into the world, it is not his Hindu or Indian identity that he exposes to the world. It is his dandia-playing, oindhiyo-dhokla self that he carries out into the world. Ask what goes into the rasam and he is lost. Because, according to him rasam belongs to an alien region that he hardly knows anything about. Similarly, ask a Tamilian to do the gidda, and she will be lost for words, coz she comes from a land where its his Tamilian identity that she fiercely guards, not her Indianness.

People, still ask me if I'm a South Indian, due to my Mangalorean origins. But how could I be anything but a Bombayite, who grew up with Pu La Deshpande, and adored Suryakant, Chandrakant,or Ajinkya Deo in later days, who gorges on Bharleli Vangi and jhunka-bhakar, and was quite inspired By Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, at a one point of time in life. My cousins back in Mangalore do not identify with me and do not have the same upbringing as I do. While Marathi friends in Mumbai, do not partake of my festivals, Christmas, Easter, or do not necessarily appreciate my western ways - clothes, dances, etc.

I'm fortunate to have lived in a truly cosmopolitan city, Bombay, where I was able to appreciate, the Punjabi bhangra, the Gujarati oindhiyo, the Keralite avial, the Marathi lezim, all at an early age. Bollywood, also helped to stitch it all together. But them I come to Singapore, a strange land, miles away from home, and at what juncture do I find myself? Tamilians wanting to stick together, and Punjabis wanting to stick together, even to the extent of looking for Punjabi maids. Anybody out there who complains that India is a Hindu-state, take a second look. It definitely is not a religion but a regionalism that prevails.

Me? I was baptised a Catholic, but I have nothing in common with either Goans or Mangaloreans (though Christians are spread all over the country). Ask me what I know, and I can close my eyes and tell when the train approaches Mahim purely by the stench of the creek, I know humidity in the crore of my being, and feel out of place in dry weather, I can smell vada-pao from miles away, sunsets for me mean Juhu beach, with paani-puri, not puchka, not gol-gappa, my lungs are filled with the polluted smelly air of Bombay, I do not understand fog, Ramzan for me is Mohammed Ali Rd., not Chandni Chowk, and I can wade through a flood without a second thought. Ask me to name the seven sisters in India, and I'm at a loss. Ask me about the nawabi of Lucknow and I ain't quite sure. Diwali for me is chakali and karanji, unlike the sweets of North India.

How then can I say that I belong to a hindu-state? For that matter, how can anybody? Diwali is the most happening event in my part of the world, while that's not true for my friends in Kerala. Hindus in Mumbai are irritated by the influx of Hindus from UP/Bihar, Hindus in Bangalore are bothered by the North-Indian Hindus finding jobs in their IT Haven. More regionalism, more local politics. Religion, if its there, provides more garb to the existing regionalism and the languageism. How then does India become a Hindu-state?

And then again, if I turn my back on to the regionalism I see around me, bhangra, garba, onam, or pongal, can I truly claim to be an Indian?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Are Indian Festivals losing their charm?

Here's something I wrote recently in response to the abvoe question:
Traditionally festivals were a way for communities to come together and connect. The original idea behind a lot of festivals like Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi (started by Lokmanya Tilak for a socio-political reason) was to provide a platform to bring people together. Most festivals are not necessarily about religion, but they celebrate relationships for example, Raksha Bandhan, Karwa Chauth, Ras Leela, Tulsi ki shaadi, etc.
Most festivals are symoblic, for example Diwali for me is the victory of good over evil in a society. Similarly, both Chinese New Year and Christmas are no longer celebrated for religious reasons, but more so, as an excuse for families to get together. People come back to their families from any part of the world purely for a reunion.
Some festivals are definitely marketing gimmicks, for example, Santa Claus was created by Coca-Cola, Friendship Day and Valentine's Day, I'm sure is a Hallmark Card creation.
Personally for me, I enjoy these festivals, as long as they bring people together and strengthen relationships. I'm a little put off by the commercialisation aspects of these festivals, and the unncessary noise and smoke created while celebrating them.
Thus, I would ask which aspect of our festivals do we want to leave for our future generations?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Deep Joshi wins Ramon Magsaysay Award

Pradan was started back in 1983, when it was not yet fashionable for NRIs to return back to India, to join the social sector. Here were some of the best brains in the country, who chose not to leave and country and instead go rural. Pradan was an initiative started by a bunch of IIT/IIM graduates, who brought professionalism to the NGO sector. Deep Joshi was himself an MIT/Sloan School graduate. Their work and their people have now reached in the farthest corners of the country working on different issues in rural areas.
One such example I know is Pramod Kulkarni who started with Pradan and moved on to start a new orgnisation in Bangalore, that identifies meritotorious students in the IXth and Xth grade who may be sons and daughters of cobblers, sweepers, or for that matter fatherless, and funds their higher education making doctors, CAs, engineers out of them. This is one example of one organisation by one of the members of Pradan. Pradan has been in existence since 1983 and has sowed hundreds of such seeds all over the country working on a variety of issues right from irrigation methods to micro-finance.
Hence the award is not for the work done by one organisation alone. It recognises a movement that was created by spreading out these highly educated professionals into the deepest interiors of the country.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Did u know bells could make sweet soulful music? I didnt, I only discovered it today, thanks to M.O.B. Music on Bells. I chanced upon this performance of M.O.B. at the Concourse at Esplanade this evening. Oh, and before I forget, I have seen some of the most creative, quirky, and intriguing performances for free at the Esplanade Concourse and Theatres by the Bay in Singapore. Coming back to M.O.B. these guys are brilliant. They play entire symphonies merely with hand-bells. They a number of movie-scores including The Olympic Fire, The Star Wars Theme, Darth-Veda Theme, you got to see it to believe it. The tune that stuck in my mind was "Phantom of the Opera theme", but the icicing was "Pink Panther theme". These guys create magic with their hand-bells. Here are some of their you tube videos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dance of Democracy

Congratulations to all Indians out there celebrating your right to vote in, your own government. Congratulations on the election of a stable coalition government.

I mention below some of the highlights of the 2009 elections:
1. The largest democracy in the world with a population of over 1.1 billion with 714 million eligible voters. I look at Burma, which has had its actively elected prime minister under house-arrest by the junta for the last 20 years, and thank India for my right to have my say.
It is commendable that a population as diverse as India's has managed to stay together for the last 6 decades, and still remain a secular, republican, democracy. You may say its not perfect, but I look at our neighbouring states who achieved independence around the same period as we did. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Should it not be easier for them to manage a much smaller nation. Given the fact that they are not made up of so many religions, languages, and cultures as ours. Pakistan should have been the most strongest of them in that case, for it was built upon the very concept of 'one nation one religion'. You would say they should have had the least problems with their state. But still, everytime a new government is formed, I pray that it is not the victim of another military coup. Thank God, our alliances however shaky do last.

2. 35 parties make up the constitution of the parliament this time. You may laugh at that. But, how else do u represent ever issue of every diverse region in this huge nation. A nation that votes for a different issue in every state. Security in Mumbai, stability in Delhi, economy in Bangalore, caste-clashes in Rajasthan, infrastructure in Chattisgarh, or terrorism in Jharkhand and povert in MP? Cong, BJP, JD, DMK, CPI have all had their agendas and have stuck to them for ages. However miniscule or insignificant or irritable they may be, it is the likes of the MNS, the TRS, the BNP, etc. that represent the smaller issues of the smaller people in the smaller regions of the country, that the bigger parties tend to overlook. My friends ask me whats the point of voting, in such a scenario. The point is, however small insignificant or irrelevant your candidate may seem, the fact that he sits in the parliament (either on the ruling or the opposition bench), allows him to represent your cause in the parliament. If you do not vote, you have lost the opportunity of having your concern voiced in the parliament.
Coalitions have made it possible to break the trend of having one party rule for generations leading to dynasty, heirarchial politics. Thanks to the new wave of younger politicians, the likes of Rahul Gandhi, who refuse to shine under their family names and wish to earn their way into the the cabinet. I hope it only inspires our Priya Sule's and Priya Dutt's to contest fair and not inherited seats.

3. Around 36% of the electorate was made up of the age agroup 18-29. I remember how disgusted I was with the state of affairs during my growing up years. My parents would cast their vote every election, irrespective, while I thought it was a waste of time. Why bother taking time out to go vote for somebody who eventually turns out to be corrupt. Miscreant candidates rig the results anyways, so why bother. Times have changed. Technology has made an appearance. Mass-registration campaigns and electronic polling booths were the order of the day. Media was more creative than ever before. Awareness, which was the forte of a few NGOs, now seems to have engulfed the IT/BPO generation.

4. India successfully completed the most peaceful polling in recent times. While over 20 people were killed in election-related violence this time, the figure was 48 in the 2004 general elections, and nearly 100 in 1999. IPL may decide to take cricket out of the country for security reasons, but polling has to happen here. With electronic booths, booth-capturing and impersonations may soon be a thing of the past. And will also give my generation one lesser excuse for not voting.

5. I still wonder why my bretheren in Mumbai stayed away from the polling booths. Voter turnout went down to 43% from 47% in 2004, especially after the outrage expressed at the terrorist acts in the city. People came out in huge numbers, a la Rang De Basanti with candles to protest against terrorism. 'We will not forget this time' they vowed. I expected a dramatic response from Mumbai this time. Most of my friends to whom Election Day denotes "holiday" said they did not really care about the system or who was in power. These are highly-educated, executives working in multi-national organisations in high positions, who are ready to criticise at the drop of a hat. These are highly ambitious, go-getters who get through daily life fighting with manipulative bosses, competitive colleagues, complicated systems, complex work policies and emerge triumphant. I wonder why we are filled with excuses when it comes to the simple act of registering ourselves and casting our votes.

6. The Election Commission now makes it difficult if not impossible for a candidate with a criminal record to contest the elections. Voters can now have access to information on the qualifications, experience, criminal records, social status of a candidate, before deciding to vote. On the other hand, while the world, queues up for space tourism, India still creates political parties with caste, religion, and regionality as their bases. 60 years after the British left, we still play 'Divide and Rule' politics. Wonder where we are taking this country that our founding fathers created as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.

Sources & References:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Being vegetarian in singapore

Chaat - Khansama at Science Park Drive serves up some excellent chaats with fresh ingredients and fresh sweet curd, and lovely sweet and spicy mint and tamarind chutneys.

Roti Prata - Mr.Prata at Clementi Ave, Block 320, just outside Clementi MRT dishes out light, crisp non-oily prata's. These are neither roti's nor parathas, the way we know it in need. Roti Prata is thin layers of dough spread one on top of the other and fried and heated on a hot plate - a unique Singapore creation, evolved from a Malaysian version. It comes loaded either with butter or cheese or mushroom or the way u like it, with an accompaniment of a spicy curry.

Mr.Prata is also the place to go to if you are craving for a good home-cooked South Indian meal, interestinng sambar. A good place for a cheap meal, money-wise.

Burgers - Burger King, McDonalds and KFC have no veg burger in Singapore. Burger King agrees to give you their regular burger without the meat patty, with the onion tomato and lettuce, but refuses to either reduce the price or susbtitute the patty with mushrooms. Carl's Jr. does substitute the patty with mushrooms but at an extra cost. McDonalds in India has a variety of veg burgers. I wonder why they ignore the huge Indian vegetarian tourist population in Singapore, that relates to McDonalds as the only familiar food chain from back home.

The only chain that has a veg burger with a veg patty is Mos Burger, called the Croquette Burger, which is the euqivalent of an Aloo Tikki Burger in India. Not bad for fast food. They also have an better spread of drinks, apart from the colas.

If you dont mind shelling out those extra bucks for a good veg burger, then the Melting Pot Cafe at the Holiday Inn Atrium serves a lovely veg burger. Also, the veg strudel is worth paying for, a delicious mix of bell peppers, zuchini, eggplant and dips. Lovely!

Sandwiches - Vegetarain sandwiches at O'Brien's are just ok. Nothing much to talk about. Just sliced veggies in bread. Not worth the price.

Pasta - Pastamania may not exactly be fine dining, but I have had some of the best pastas ever, there. Good spread of vegetarian pastas. I especially like the ones with the thick tomato base. They also serve a fine minestrone soup.

Lunch / Dinner - The only pure vegetarian restaurant I have visited in Singapore is Original Sin at Chip Bee Garden, Holland Village. Every dish I have had there has been impeccable. May not be the place for lovers of Indian masala, who need to flood every dish with salt and pepper. These are lightly spiced, healthy meals with loads of vegetables. The Moussaka which is a cake of layers of cheese, whole lentils, cheese, eggplant. The Absolut pasta comes with an infusion of Absolut vodka, and the Tiramisu is just heavenly. Refreshing Mediterannean healthy recipies. Beautiful ambience. Rates are fine dining.

Kinara North West Frontier at Boat Quay your regular dhaba roti-sabzi. I had a crisp garlic naan with mushroom masala and a very watery jaljeera. Regular north-Indian fare. I would say Kinara at Holland Village has better quality, and tastier gravies than the Boat Quay outlet.

Thai Express has always been a delightful experience. The yellow and green veg curries are made with freshly grated thick coconut milk. This is the perfect meal for the Indian who lovws his spice.

Crystal Jade la Mian Xiao Long Bao - Yes, this Chinese cuisine chain, has a good enough spread of vegetarian dishes, and you can actually order vegetarian here without shrimps or even eggs. I had an absolutely light non-oily Fried Rice with a sprinkling cripy fried honeyed peanuts along with a side dish of sauteed Kai Lan. Mixed with the roasted chillies sauce and the vinegar, this meal actually tasted good and reminded me of the chinese we eat at roadside stalls in India. But thats just the sauces. The food is light, non-oily, non-spicy and goooood. The iced lemon honey and watercress honey were perfect. I spent $15 per person.

Pizzas - Modestos at Vivocity, Level 1, has the thinnest crispiest pizza base, with a generous sprinkling of vegetables and olive oil. Light, non-oily, not overtly-cheesy, non-spicy, fluffy pizzas. Nicccccccce :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pakistan and Me

Terrorists raid a police training centre in Lahore. Rescue operations have been on for the past 5 hours. Well i guess at such a time most Indians would say serves them right. I wonder what the average Paki goes thru. The average citizen who lives the class-struggle and slogs to get two meals a day. Keeps waging a war against corrupt politicians and beuraucrats constantly. Suffers a military coup every 4-5 years, in a country where political assasinations is business as usual. Hopes for a liberal, unbiased education for his kids. Craves for a better media, with more freedom of speech. Fears further confinement of its women. Dreads another bombing in the neighbourhood. Is he really any different from the average Bihari in Mumbai dreading the onslaught of the Sena? Are his problems really any different from mine? Does he really deserve this?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How I became Charlie

Life has been all about learning new names and trying to decipher them, starting with mine, Charlotte. Now, that simply read in school to first graders, sounded like char-lotte. Though my parents kept addressing me as shalu, it was only after 5-6 years of existence on this planet that i realised that shalu was a pet name, the actual name was Charlotte. There started the dual identity - Shalu in the neighbourhood and Charlotte in school.
Growing up in the lower middle class society of Sakinanka in Bombay, Charlotte was the most disastrous possessions I could have ever had. But then, life introduced me to names more weird than mine. The chawl I lived in, Pansare Sadan was made up of 25-30 families. My neighbours came from all varied races, religions, castes, and regions in India. I was surrounded on all 4 sides by 4 Maharashtrian families. To my right were the Patade's from the ghats, the hilly regions of the Sahyadris, and to my left were the Patare's from the coastal region of Malwan. I spent the first few years of my life trying to figure out the difference between Patade, Patare and oh yes Pansare - to me they were tongue twisters, and sounded the same. Then there was this family called Lokhande (Lokhand? Iron????). Besides there were also other Maharashtrians, belonging to different communities, Malwas, Kshatriya's, etc.
Diagonally opposite my house, were two Keralite families, the Kutty's with fair skin and the Sukumaran's with darker skins, again from different regions of Kerala. Much later in life I learnt that those were just misnomers and not their real family names. Those days in Bombay, all south Indians were referred to as Madrasis :)
A little ahead of my house was a Tamilian family with the family name Singh. Now this puzzled me no end, coz according to me Singh's should have been Punjabi's. Then there was the Kannada Poojari family and the Marwari Shah family, who named their store, Patel Medical store. Why would you do that, isn't Patel a Gujarati name. I lived a better portion of my life on this planet, believing that Marwari's and Gujaratis were one.
And then there was this Marathi family who were traders of different varieties of Tea. I still, can't remember their family name, they were always referred to as Kisan Tea. And then there was the Mali family, and I wondered why they were Mali? Did they live up on the Mala (loft in Marathi)?
I was a Fernandes. Now that was quite western and exotic, in this kind of an environment. Though living with a name like "Charlotte" is still quite an effort sometimes.
Living in a microcosm of different cultures, made me feel one with them. I was at home at Pansare Sadan, while the other chawls around were alien to me. But when I went to school my friends came from different chawls, so then I belonged to St.Anthony's against other schools in the neighbourhood. And then when inter-school sports drove us against neighbouring areas, Sakinaka was so much better than Chandivali or Safed Pool.
School was a mob of names lashed at me. The immediate bonding was with Catholic friends from the same religion, Bonet, Joy, Zeena, Rina, Daphne. And then there were Catholic friends with Hindu names, now that was another puzzle - Sachin, Roshan, Savita. Why, I thought Christians only had western, English names for their kids. School taught me that was not the case.
The front-runners in my class were Simmi and Sheeba - Oh My God. Have mercy, I'm only 6. How am i supposed to remember names so similar. Merlyn had a nice ring to it, while Samina took some time to learn. Dipti used to talk a lot, while Monica was timid.
Being the tallest in class, secondary school was about being a back-bencher, and that was when I was introduced to the notorious Lords of the Last Benches (LOLB) Vinod and Praveen were easy to remember, but why couldn't Nazmul and Shamshul simplify their names??????????
Going to school with all these names, melted my religion and my regionality away. I was no longer a Mangalorean Catholic, I belonged to St.Anthony's Sakinaka. That was my third identity. If school was all about being lower-middle class, college was a microcosm of different classes too. And then being a Sindhi college, I got introduced to a new community - the Sindhi's. So a whole new gamut of family names - Totlani, Kukreja, Gopalani, and the Parsees, the Daruwallas and the Batliwallas, and of course my Bohri Muslim friend, Rampurwalla, my Nepali friend Bogati, to name a few. College made me leave Sakinaka behind. I now belonged to Tolani college Andheri. And was always proud of the fact, that it was the only college those days that concentrated more on academics, than anything else. That was my fourth identity.
As life progressed, i crossed boundaries, from my chawl, outside Sakinaka, and then outside Andheri. Identities seemed to keep adding on, as my boundaries kept widening. Different jobs took me outside Andheri into the rest of Bombay. Chaat at Juhu / Chowpatty, coffee at Reclamation, movies at Eros, walks on Marine Drive, brought me closer and closer to my muse, Bombay. All other identities apart, now I was only and purely a Mumbaikar (Bombayiite preferably, coz it was Bombay that i was born in).
No, I was not Marathi, but I topped Marathi in school, amongst Marathi students. Yes I was a Mangalorean, but I knew the chawls and gullies of Bombay better than any other region in the country. Yes, I was Catholic, but I knew the rituals of Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Sankranti, better than any other Hindu in school. Yes, I was taught the Bible, but ask me about Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gnyaneshwar, Sopan, Ramdev or Tukaram, and I will be able to tell you a tale or two more than the average Hindu. What is it that makes me different from the Hindu then?
I started traveling out of the state, Himachal, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and my affinity towards the nation grew stronger. I was no longer Catholic, no longer a Mangalorean, not even a Bombayiite. How could I be, when people in these states welcomed me like family, made me feel at home, and were no different from me. They had the same issues, the same views, financial, psychological, political, as mine. Marathi, Gujarati, Bihari, Tamilian, or Malayalee, they all seemed to be the same - two hands, two legs, red blood. Wherever I went the colour of the skin changed, but the colour of blood seemed to remain the same.
And there was Bollywood, how could I stay away from its charms. Bollywood made me a fiercer Indian than I ever was. Being an Indian meant sticking to your roots, not gunning for the United States of America, and hating Pakistan for devouring Kashmir.
While the Rath Yatra, changed everything in India, 9/11 changed everything around the world. The BJP, the Bajrang Dal, the RSS, kept playing divide and rule and pushed the minorities towards drastic measures and into terrorism, while Bush played God and pushed Islamist nations further into fundamentalism.
I moved on from Bombay to Bangalore, from Bangalore to Singapore, and to newer identities. I realised people were no different in Singapore. The middle-class here was exactly the same as the middle class in India, warm welcoming, family-oriented. They had the same problems and the same sense of humour. Singapore is made up of Chinese and Malays. They follow different customs and rituals, but how they are different from me, I cannot see. The colour of the skin changes, but the colour of the blood remains the same. Women have the same worries about fair skin, and slimming, and finding a rich husband, to name a few and men worry about finding good paying jobs and having a good career, that pays for a house, a car and a barbecue.
Does it strengthen my Indian identity, I do not see any reason why it should. I live in a strange land with strange people, I long to have friends, I long to be accepted. Does that mean I do not want to be Indian anymore. No, it means I want to stop being something or somebody.
Pakistan is in dire straits, ousted lawyers who helped in electing a president, are now out to get him. Terrorism seems to be the order of the day. Women are still supressed, and people still starve. The Taliban they created against Afghani forces, is the very Taliban that proves to be fatal. But I am an Indian, should I be delighting in the fall of Pakistan, should I say they deserve it, for the terror they inflict upon India. Should I pride myself on how I belong to a much better, and democratic nation. If this is what being Indian does, then I'm ashamed of that pride. Are they not as human as me? How different are their women when it comes to fighting the moral police? How different are their mountain -dwellers when it comes to surviving? How different are their parents, who worry about a fair and liberal education for their kids? How different are their politicians when it comes to corruption? Then what is it that makes me different from them, that makes me scoff at them and find pleasure in their doom. Is this what being Indian means, delighting at another's pain. Then I would rather not be a Bombayiite, I would rather not be a mangalorean, I would rather not be Catholic, I would rather not be an Indian or a Singaporean.
Every identity of mine has only categorised me. Every identity of mine has only pitted me against others, has only put me in a slot and separated me from others. People who belong to different communities, different regions, different religions, different nationalities. If belonging to something means being separate from others, then I would rather not belong. If being human means the extinction of other species from the face of the planet, then I would rather not be human either. in a world troubled with global warming, am I going to suffer any lesser than a Tibetan or lesser than a Tiger? What is my identity?
If it separates me from you, then I would rather not have one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An ideal society ?

Two cops are suspended in Etawah, UP for ruthlessly beating up a little girl, as shown in a video clip by the Indian media. It is not for the first time that this has happened. In fact, I would say that this is no different from the way the Indian parent beats up his kid for not "behaving". This was probably the first time it was caught on camera. So, I would say that the cop was only behaving in a manner that was expected of him, from the society that hands over a six year old to him for thieving. What kind of a society, I ask, has 6-year olds thieving around instead of going to school? What kind of society makes a six year old desperate enough to steal? What kind of a society, instead of providing for its children, hands them over to the cops when they falter? And why should I bother about society, I dont live in an uneducated, impoverished Etawah? No, I do not, but that is where my driver, my maid, my plumber, my watchman, my sabziwallah and dudhwallah come from.

Oh no, I would not take this opportunity, to blame the uneducated politicians of UP, or the corrupt bureaucracy. It is the common man, you and me, who does not bother about the state of our future citizens. It is easier to blame the authorities. But what have we done to ensure that our kids get a decent education, to ensure that they get two meals a day, to ensure that they are clothed and sheltered. Instead, we are ever-ready to teach these six-year old miscreants a lesson. Arent we experts at doing that, turning a blind eye to the urchins banging at our car windows at the red signal?

Oh, but what can I do? I'm so helpless. We Indians, are experts at technology, we are experts at strategy, we are experts at multi-tasking, diplomacy, working in stressful conditions, and even ass-licking. We just feel so helpless when we see a six year old being beaten up on camera.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chingay Parade 2009

The Chingay Parade 2009 set afloat with an array of floats and performers from all over South East Asia and the Far East. Students from polytechnic institutes in Singapore, viz. Nanyang, Republic, Ngee Ann, and others put up a colourful display of brightly lit up pyrotechnic floats adorned with acrobats performing their acts. Performers from all over the region masqueraded the streets with their vibrant art and culture. Tourists and locals thronged the streets with their family and kids, trying to catch a glimpse of the masked capers.

I ran from pillar to post trying to grab the best spot I could to catch the performances. But I must say, that this was something i would never do, if i was by myself back home. Inspite of the rush to get the best spot, not once was I ever pushed or jostled by the crowds. Mobs lined the streets from City Hall to Raffles Avenue, but not one person even acidentally brushed past. Back home, we have no concept of space. For the first time I realise my sense of space and how I can respect it. Singapore does teach me basic courtesy, and I wonder where it comes from. I return home late in the night after the parade, and I feel pretty safe in this city. Not one
person staring at me as if I had committed a crime by staying out late. In fact, I love being taken for as a person, as an individual and not as a woman. The happy-go-lucky Singaporean couldnt care less about your colour, your race, your nationality or your social status.
Anyways, the fireworks were beautiful, and the street party after the parade the most happening ever. The recession-affected streets of Singapore were filled with life and joy, and not for a moment did I feel lonely in this vibrant melting pot.
It was a last minute decision for me to land up at the parade and hence these pictures from my Nokia 6233.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown

Pictures from the River Hongbao. The river festival for chinese new year. Brightly lit installations on the floating platform at Marina Bay

Here are pictures from Eu Tong Sen Street at Chintown.

At one of the stalls selling Chinese decorative hangings.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Veg meals in Singapore

Chella's vegeterian corner serves an excellent crispy dosa or fluffy idlis with 3 varities of fresh coconut chutneys the fiery kinds. Havent tried their meals yet, but they definitely know their food

Komala Vilas recommended by a lot of bloggers here is a huge spread with 3 veg, dal, sambar rasam, curd curry (mor kuzhambu), salad pickle papad and a decent south indian meal. Meal for 6.50 SGD

But the one that took me closest to home was Masala Hut in a quaint little stretch of Chander Road, off Kerbau Road in Little India. This was the best south indian meal i have to date in Singapore. The sambhar and rasam were completely homely and the leafy vegetable was just like mom's. At 4.50 SGD, this meal is a steal.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Culinary delights

Been out of action for sometime, since my laptop has been giving me problems. I'm not really sure what the problem is but this is the 4th time in 2 months that my notebook has crashed. The HP Service Centre in Bangalore kept telling me that the mother board has crashed and that they had replaced the mother board all three times i went to them. But the HP Service Centre in Singapore tells me that they did not find any replacement of motherboard in their India records. Now that is puzzling. This time they say they have replaced the main board. I hope it lasts longer than a month this time.

Anyways, now that my laptop is back, let me tell you about all the new restaurants i have discovered.

Go India at Vivocity is the find of the month. I would say that's the best Indian food, I have eaten so far in Singapore. The lacha parathas were nice, crispy, and as lacha as they come. And the Bharwan Baingan Masala was heavenly. It came with a medium spicy peanut masala with a generous helping of curry leaves. It was delicious. This must be my first satisfying meal in Singapore in the last one month i have been here.

Apart from Go India, Thai Express has been an absolute delight. Thai Express is a chain of restaurants, and has a good variety of vegetarian meals. The vegetarian laksa (Thai noodles) was heavenly. The yellow coconut gravy was thick and spicy and reminded me of those awesome curries back in Kerala. Portions were huge, with generous helpings of a variety of vegetables. Aw, well I still cant use chopsticks so we better not get into details of how I eat. The dessert was a delicious non-oily batter-fried banana fritters with coconut ice-cream. We are fans.

Little India has been disappointing for a second time The Banana Leaf Apollo had none of the Apollo dishes available for dinner. I took with me a couple of Vietnamese friends to taste the Indian curry. And after being told that 3 of the dishes they had asked for were not available,we finally settled for the Murgh Dahiwala with rotis. The Dahiwala was a delicious gravy, and the rotis crisp, so were the garlic naans, though the Simla Mirch Masala stuffed with cottage cheese and corn was a disappointment. It was loaded with added colour, and spicy. Though tasty, I wouldnt really call it a healthy meal with all the extra colour and oil.

Oh but the best meal, for all you Indians out there missing Mom's food, is at the Kopitiam in the basement of Vivocity. Look out for the Indian counter in the non-halal section. They have set rice meals and set chapati meals with 3 vegetables of your choice and a dal. The food is light, non-greasy, subtly spiced, and delicious. Just like home-food. Its a favourite with office-goers from around Vivocity.

Kopitiam (coffee - tea centre) are basically cafe's that have a variety of food counters ranging from chicken, fish, wok, claypot, rice, vegeterian, etc. Kopitiams generally have two-section halal, marked by yellow counters and non-halal marked by green counters. While back in India, green would mean purely vegeterian :) Koptiams can be found all across the city, and are a good stop for a clean, tasty, meal that doesn't burn a hole in your pocket.


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