Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

51. Andhra Flavor

One of my hobbies is to visit places, whose names I cannot pronounce. On Wednesday, I was at Chadhamutthyreddygudem.

Can you pronounce it is one breath? I tried and failed. My team smiled. They told me that I could just say ‘CMRGudem’ – that is the name in daily use.

Great. We Indians are intelligent enough to derive such names that no one can easily utter. However we are practical enough to draw short forms, so that life is not difficult. I liked it.

You know, I keep on withdrawing from so many things, that I must add new things to my life. Otherwise my mind would be a big vacuum. So, when the opportunity to visit Andhra Pradesh came, I was happy to take it. Actually, I have been through Andhra Pradesh a number of times. Once my field area was in Karnataka, the guest house where we stayed was in Karnataka but for food we went to a small village in Andhra Pradesh. But I had never really stayed in Andhra Pradesh.

The visit began in an utter confusion. For more than one month, I was communicating with my team, and they were not telling me the name of the hotel where I was supposed to stay in Hyderabad. My train was at 4.30 in the afternoon, and till 2.30 I did not know where to reach. Finally I could make my colleague to tell me the name of the hotel and I started my journey.

I was told to get down at Nampalli station. But my Pune colleague found no such station on internet. I asked couple of passengers in the compartment and was told that Hyderabad Decan and Nampalli station are the same. If someone wants to go to Boribandar in Mumbai, s/he will get only a ticket for CST … it was like that.
Early next morning, I woke up with red glowing Sun on the horizon. It was very freshening.

Next day I went to a place, which everybody called Bhongir. I did not know what it meant. In the evening I saw a fort on a huge rock and also the name BHONAGIR. I was wondering that the name has something to do with a fort of a king. I come to my room in the hotel in the evening and my mobile shows ‘Bhuvangiri’. Ah! Now I can make the connection. This was a famous fort city of some historical (how ancient I don’t know) king.

I hardly understand Telugu. I know only one sentence in many Indian languages. ‘Tamil Teriyaad’ in Tamil, ‘Kannad mataad tumbaa kashtam’ in Kannada, ‘Mane Gujarathi nathi aawade’ in Gujarathi, ‘Aami Baanglaa bolbe naa’ in Bengali… all these meaning ‘I do not know the language’. I picked similar statement ‘Telugu nadu’, which was the only thing I could say to people around me.

But when you don’t understand the language, the situation is very funny. I still keep eye contact with the speaker and try to pick up few words which keep on repeating in various conversations. After doing it for few hours, the language appears to be making some sense. Some people try to speak to you, even when they know that you don’t understand the language. But some are more practical. Half the people I met did not at all look at me but looked only at my colleague who was translating. And when he translated to me, they looked at me to know whether I followed. But in these circumstances body language works much better. For example one woman was sharing her experience of how she faced various difficulties especially men’s response to her work. She took her left hand towards left ear and took her right hand away from her right ear. I could easily interpret it as ‘I do not pay attention to what people say’. She was absolutely delighted that I could understand her properly.
I visited four five villages, talked to many people through translator – a Kannada speaking young man who has learnt Telugu and can speak Hindi – tested Andhra meals, tried to read headlines in Telugu newspaper and smiled to hundreds of people – on the bus stand, in the bus, in the field, in the hotel, at the tea stall, at the temple….We wanted to talk to each other, but couldn’t. I was sorry for that.

Suddenly it rained. We stopped the bikes and went under a tree. We all were getting wet. But a local farmer was enjoying his bidee with a local umbrella. That is traditional knowledge. And do you see ‘More’ carry bag with him? That is modernity. Farmer combines these two in his/her life.

I am happy that my life has Andhra Flavor now. It is something different.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

50. Long Live India…

Today is 15th August. India’s Independence Day. For a land (and people) that has a history from time immemorial, the 63rd Independence Day still means a great moment.

The atmosphere outside is rather depressing. Pune is panicked with the fear of swine flu. Educational Institutions, Shops, Malls, Hotels, Theaters and Markets closed. There is hardly anyone on the road. In villages, people are waiting for blessings of Rain God and there is wide fear of a drought worse than 1972 – a kind of ‘benchmark’ for drought in Maharashtra. Prices have risen to sky and people are not sure whether they will be able to afford certain necessities six months afterworlds. The recession has hit number of families and especially the young generation. Natural calamities, Religious madness and Terrorist attacks are unpredictable and hence there is a general feeling of insecurity. Life seems to be indeed bleak.

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed the moment of Flag Hoisting with pride. It reminded me that there was something to live for and if required to die for. The freedom history was motivating and inspiring. I still remember the sad shock when I found (after consistent queries) that none of the people in my life at that time had participated in Freedom Struggle.

During college days, NSS (National Social Service) camps, which were generally held in small villages worked as an eye opener for me. Though I was brought up in a similar kind of resource poor village, I had not objectively looked at the situation till then. I still remember the women queuing up at the deep and almost dry well at 3.00 in the morning to fetch up one pot of water. I still remember a dinner with a Dalit family. Four kids were eating just chutney and jowar roti… and I was served potato vegetable with roti. When I naively inquired why the kids are not eating potato, the younger one smiled and spontaneously told me, “Oh! We don’t like it”. The realization that they were feeding me at the cost of their hunger still lingers on my mind. Once a six year child was cooking food and her face was sweaty and red with the heat of chulha, and she was trying to pacify her younger sibling who was crying… that picture still remains with me.

This was the India I had never thought about, this was the India I hardly knew anything about. This was the India, who did not know that they were ‘Indian’ and many of them did not know the importance of 15th August, simply because it did not change their life, it did not bring light in their life. Unfortunately, this India still exists, still struggles for a pot of water, still cooks in the midst of smoke and still can't afford a good meal....

Many such experiences were the turning points. I stopped attending flag hoisting ceremony on the two days (15 August and 26 January) realizing that I need to do more than just following the ritual of patriotism. Like religious rituals, there are patriotic rituals – I am not sure whether I did right but somehow I stopped attending these functions.

Does it mean I do not love India? Does it mean that I do not love ‘my’ people? Does it mean I am not grateful to the earlier generations who gave their life to make us free? Does it mean I am not concerned about people around?

May be few years ago, I would have asked these question to anyone who justified absence from flag hosting functions. But today, I don’t ask such questions – not asking questions is a sign of getting old; yes… that is what I used to say! Nationalism is a means to achieve larger goals; it is not a goal in itself – though it appears to be so at some stage of life. One has to grow out of it and not shrink due to it. Whatever objective we have, we cannot achieve it through hatred, violence and arrogance - even cultural arrogance!

Every year, there are difficulties – natural and human made, which the country faces. The poor pay more price during each such calamity. But these difficulties do not stop celebrations – religious and social. Life goes on in spite of pain and suffering. For those who live, they need purpose, they need relevance. They want to break the web of meaninglessness.

Life keeps on going; irrespective of, in spite of the realities. Actually life adopts these realities and moves on. People have the tenacity to overcome difficulties and they somehow try to make life livable.

When someone says ‘Long Live India’, I smile with the knowledge that Life Lives Long…

Saturday, August 8, 2009

49. Rolling Stone

Whenever I come across Rocky Mountains, I remember the proverb ‘Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’. I have not been so far able to make the connection. I have a strong childhood memory associated with the proverb though.

I had just shifted from a remote village to a comparatively better village, to learn English. I was in 7th standard then. My classmates were studying English for two years, and I was not sure whether ‘Aunty came to my home yesterday’ was correct or ‘Ant came to my home yesterday’ was the right statement. I invariably made such mistakes and the class laughed, making me feel more stupid than I was.

May be because I made kids laugh, I had many friends. One was my best friend, I still remember her. Because she wrote with left hand, I too learnt to write with left hand –just to remember her throughout.

One day we had a serious disagreement. The teacher had referred to ‘Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’ proverb in the class. During the break, I told her, “I am going to Roll so that I gather no Moss’. “You are absolutely an idiot”, she shouted at me. Kids generally are not hypocrite. Today instead of ‘weakness’ we say ‘scope for improvement’ and we don’t dare to label anything as ‘failure’, we say ‘it is not failure but a delayed success”!!

“Didn’t you hear the teacher telling, ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS”, she was still shouting… you know how noisy it is during breaks in school. “But exactly that is the point. I don’t want to gather moss”, I too started shouting.

My friend was pained. She came near, held my hand. She explained with lot of patience, “But moss is not really moss. It is knowledge, wealth, fame, power… if you keep on moving, you will not have any of those. Please, do not decide to roll, stay rooted at one place and you will be successful”.

I completely disagreed with her. I interpreted moss as something one should not have, and she interpreted moss as something one should strive for. We had a long heated argument. Other friends tried to divert our minds, but we kept on arguing. As a result we did not speak to each other for a week. Then there was a kho-kho match with other class and we came together to discuss strategies. Somehow the ‘rolling stone’ never appeared in our conversation in the next three years while we were together. Then I completely lost track of that part of my life.

Even today I am not sure who was right then.

It all depends on interpretation, perspective, understanding and vision. I guess both of us were right in our sphere of thinking. If we keep our ideas to ourselves, it is ok. Problem arises when we start convincing others and when we try to win heads and hearts.

It seems that the proverb is against people who keep on moving, because it is assumed that moving people do not take responsibilities. As they do not have roots, they become reckless and they tend to create dissent. So, it seems that people see ‘moss’ as something desirable.

Wikipedia informs that: The literal meaning of the statement itself is true. This was in fact validated by the television show MythBusters, which after the course of six months confirmed that a rolling stone does not grow moss. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rolling_stone_gathers_no_moss

But what if you look beyond physical stone and physical moss? What if you look beyond matter?

One sees non-rolling stones with no moss. One sees non-rolling stones with lot of moss. One sees rolling stones with no moss and one also sees rolling stones with lot of moss – in whichever way you define moss. Some people who keep moving have better understanding of life and some people who have not crossed the boundary of their village can have similar sensitivity and understanding towards life around.

What I find funny is that the proverb assumes that a stone has a choice whether to roll or not to roll. It also assumes that moss has no such choice. When the plant kingdom is supposed to have more consciousness than the matter (remember our classification of animate and inanimate in the school?), how come matter takes over consciousness? The stone may or may not have choice about gathering moss… and it does not necessarily have complete control over its movement. It is also assumed that all moss is always desirable. Being human, sometimes I want ‘moss’ (it means different things at different times) and sometimes I do not want moss – how to deal with the dilemma? And what about the price the stone has to pay to accumulate moss? What if one can do without moss?

Recently I visited a place, which I never wanted to leave… and I said, “Thank God, it was wise of me to leave….” The other day I was at a place which I badly needed to leave but did not leave and I said, “…..”

Never mind what I said. The point is even if I roll or I don’t roll, I keep on gathering lot of moss… making movement meaningless sometimes.

Now I am going to search for that ‘best friend’ and see how she interprets the proverb now. I seek either an interesting movement or an intense stability.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Packaged Water Bottle

The July 09 Poll question was:

'On an average how many how many packaged water bottles you use in a month?'

30 readers answered the poll.

10 readers (33%) do not use packaged water bottles. Great! They seem to be the ones who do not travel much...

6 readers (20 %) use 1 to 3 bottles, which is a moderate use.

7 readers (23%) use 4 to 10 bottles... worrying trend..

7 readers (23%) use 11 to 15 bottles in a month... the last two groups need to find out some working alternative.

Unfortunately I too fall in the last group because I travel a lot.
Any suggestions are most welcome...:)