Monday, September 26, 2011

Picking sturdy buffaloes

"All right losers, I am off for a day!" That is what Pradeep would say to us on Saturday evenings. Before retiring with a bottle of cheap alcohol, a couple of packs of cigarettes, and sometimes, rolled up "cigars", that contained various types of  leaves. Of disputed legality, that God has been kind enough to share with His creation. His room would stay locked from the inside on Sundays. And on Monday mornings, he would emerge, metamorphosed, and rejuvenated  -- like a butterfly from the cocoon. And then, he would go straight to the class, since Fluid Mechanics as a subject, had never looked so good.

Those were the golden years. In my undergraduate days, in my IIT, which too, is on that terrible list.  The list of IITs, that have contributed to ten student suicides this year. Since this topic is very close to my heart, I decided to write about it -- in a non-political way, that does not do creative accounting with the blame. If there is blame to go around, there are ten fingers for every person that wants to point them. 

During my four years at an IIT, we did not have a single student suicide. There were a couple of unfortunate deaths, from accidents and disease. Young lives cut short, by things we had little control over. But, most of us, spent a happy set of four years, unaware of the various problems in the scary world out there. And completely aware of the power of intoxication and camaraderie, and how the two can get you through the toughest times in life.

So, why are we seeing the disturbing trend of young people killing themselves in the IITs? We too had tough times, during our times. How come we survived?

I have thought a lot about this, and I have come to a simple conclusion. Perhaps, the problem is with one word that is so prominently showcased in the names of these institutes -- technology. When we went to school at the IITs, there were no cellphones and no Internet. To call home, you would need to walk up to the telephone exchange, and make arrangements for a trunk call. Google, Facebook and Twitter were yet to be invented -- we would trade gossip the old fashioned way. Sitting around on the mess-rooftop and smoking our cheap cigarettes, with promises to send each other cases full of Marlboro, after we had made it. Some of us did make it, but the cases never arrived. But that, is beside the point.

I was recently appalled to find that the IITs now have Internet access in every hostel room, and the students spend most of their free time, surfing the web. Locking themselves up in their rooms, with no immediate support structure to fall back upon -- if someone gets the cold shoulder from a romantic interest on Facebook. Thousands of miles away. If someone lands a million buck job, there are tweets about it, that everyone can get on their mobile phones. Gone are the days when the promise of a good job, was followed up by the promise of a good bottle of alcohol, to be shared till the last drop was washed out with water. Celebratory intoxication made our bonds stronger. Than ever.

We too had tremendous academic pressure in our times. We didn't have the latest marvels of technology to engineer the natural world. Some of us were still using log-tables during our initial years -- to predict when a motor would overload, or an engine would blow. But, good friends, good times and the dreams of a good life, never let us blow our engines, or overload our motors.

The strangest, and the the most hurtful thing that I have heard of, in this sad situation, is IIT-Kanpur's decision to get rid of the ceiling fans in the hostel rooms. So the students would not be able to hang themselves. Of all the people in the world, the professors at these IITs should know, that if someone wants to kill himself, he can find a hundred different ways. And I am pretty sure that one can use Google to get the necessary information.

An obvious solution here is to completely stop Internet access in the hostel rooms. The students, should have down-time, specially, if the curriculum is one of the toughest in the world. And one more solution, is to force people out of their rooms for a few hours every evening, no matter how reclusive they are.  It doesn't matter what they do in that time, they can get drunk if they want -- a drunk student, even a dead drunk one -- is  much better than a dead student.

One more thing that can be done in this regard, is to change the selection process for these institutes. The joint entrance examination has now become so stressful, that students are half broken by the time they get in. For someone sitting at the edge of a cliff, sometimes, the temptation is very high. To jump off it.

As you know, Desi Babu likes to make use of his Desi philosophy on serious matters.

So, I need to tell you a story from my childhood, when I had a conversation with the local milkman, when he was showing off his latest acquisition -- a sturdy buffalo, with a shiny coat. When I had asked him if he had selected the buffalo based on its shiny coat, he had remarked, "Babua, chamdi ki to palish aur malish ki ja sakti hai, par asli bhains ke to daant acche hote hain. Maine daant dekhkar kharida hai apni bhains ko. (Child, the buffalo's coat can be polished and massaged for a good shine, but a good buffalo has good teeth. I selected my buffalo, based on its teeth.)"

For years now, the IITs have preferred an entrance examination, that tends to choose the shiny skin over the healthy teeth. Let's hope that they can change -- to select sturdier buffaloes that can stand the test of time. Based on healthy teeth, and not shiny skin.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Goat Curry

I remember the rice paddies. Vividly.

As the late afternoon breeze would find its way through the tall and golden paddies, it would make the shiny leaves and stalks sway back and forth. And together, they would make waves -- in a sea of gold. At the time,  I was six years old, and, like it goes for six year olds, everything around me, was much taller than it seems today. And, at that time, I was slightly shorter than my grandma, which meant that I could still hide behind her. If the situation demanded so.

My grandma, her height notwithstanding, was a lady of determination and grit. So much so, that the entire village would listen to her gentle and persuasive voice, and usually, her wish would be their command. On that afternoon, I was trying to be brave, standing in front of my grandma, and looking at the sea of gold in front. The harvest season was fast approaching, and we were all eagerly looking forward to the fresh crop.

That was when I saw Idris Mian, for the first time. He was dressed like the average Muslim farm-hand in North India. He was dressed in a lungi and a well worn undershirt. He had a skullcap on his head, which didn't seem to have much hair on it. He had a long beard, and no moustache. Idris was tall, and well built, with a general appearance that would scare any six year old. So, when I saw him walking towards us, through the fields of gold, with a shiny sickle in his hand, the sight was enough to get me scampering. To hide behind my grandma, which I thought was the safest thing to do.

Idris walked all the way across the field to stand close to us, and then, he raised his hand in a Saalam. My grandma nodded in acknowledgment. And then, the conversation that followed gave me the impression that grandma was hiring him as a farm-hand. To help with the harvest, and till the crop was ready, to help with growing some vegetables in a patch of land, that she owned. After the conversation was over, and Idris went away to get acquainted with his work, I whispered in my grandma's ears, "Grandma, that man looks scary. As if, he ran away from the prison." She smiled and said, "Not quite. But he did get out of prison recently after serving a jail term. Luck must have been on his side, since the man he had beaten up in a brawl, did not die. That man Idris, is a very hard worker. But, he is extremely hot-headed."

I had no idea why grandma would hire such a man. But, he came highly recommended by a trusted farm hand. And, we always knew, that grandma knew better.  Than the rest of us, combined.

I was visiting my grandparents, and my grandma would sometimes take me to the farm with her. Grandma had inherited a lot of land from her father, who was a Zamindar (wealthy landowner). As my grandpa wanted to have nothing to do with grandma's inheritance, she took care of the land. And grandpa, was happy with his government job in the city, where they both lived in a huge house that my grandpa had inherited.

At that time, there wasn't really much for me to do. I would raid my grandpa's supply of classics, to read through a leather bound edition of 'Robinson Crusoe' for the five hundredth time. Sometimes, I would chase the neighborhood cat around till it would either admit defeat and run away, or, scowl in a way, that showed its family connection to the big cats. And then, I would admit defeat, and go and do something equally boring -- like babysitting a cousin. But, all this while,  I would tune into the stories of the occasional visitor from Grandma's farm. About how Idris, the new farm-hand, had turned the vegetable patch around. Grandma would hear the tales of  the tomatoes and the pumpkins in her patch, and smile a gentle smile. The gentle smile, that meant, "Wasn't I right, in hiring that guy?"

Then, there was a week, in which grandma went to the farm by herself. That was a hurried decision, based on something that had happened on the farm. She did not take me with her, and I suspected that something was wrong. When she came back the day after, she looked very serious. That evening, we all sat down for dinner, on soft mats on the kitchen floor. Around the warmth of the chulha, from which, grandma would take out fresh baked chappatis, to go with the spicy goat curry she had made for us. With a slice of onion on the side, that dinner, was simple, but heavenly.

Grandpa asked grandma about the farm. And that is when, I found out why she had to let Idris go, and the things, that led to it.

Apparently, in a couple of weeks, Idris had turned the vegetable patch around. He had toiled night and day to get the pumpkin vines to the point where they were showing signs of flowering. Grandma's village was a village of Hindus, while Idris lived in a neighboring village of Muslims.  Initially, there was some resentment about his presence, but things, were finally falling into place. And then, a neighbor's goat, broke the cease-fire.  It somehow got into grandma's vegetable patch, and started devouring all of Idris's hard work. And when Idris discovered the goat, it was already too late -- the pumpkin vines, were gone. And that is when, Idris the hot-head, lost his head.  He took a stick, and started beating the goat. Mercilessly.

By the time the village folks got to him, the goat was half dead. And then, some people got the idea that a Muslim farm-hand, had beaten up a "Hindu" goat. Had grandma not arrived the next day, and pacified everyone, there would have been a full scale riot in the village. With Idris at the center of it.

And so, grandma had to let Idris go.

After grandma finished her story, the first thing that grandpa verified, was if the goat curry we were having for dinner, had the same goat in it. Grandpa would not eat a goat, which had suffered such terrible cruelty. When grandma confirmed that it wasn't, it was my turn to be disappointed. After all, it would have been such sweet revenge -- to eat the goat, that had destroyed our vegetable patch.

Since grandpa had to share his wisdom, he turned towards me and said, "This story of religious hatred must be quite shocking to you. But remember. In the end, there are no Hindus and no Muslims. In the end, we are all dead."

It's been many years since. And grandpa, has moved on to a better place. And many years, over which, I have been accumulating my own wisdom. I am sure, if I had all this wisdom to share with my grandpa on that day, I would have said, "And remember grandpa. In the end, there are no Hindu goats or Muslim goats. In the end, there is only goat curry."

I wonder if grandpa would have liked that.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Of snips and clips

Whenever I get my hair cut, I prefer the street side hole-in-the-wall barber to the one running the air-conditioned salon. Any day. First, there is that little matter of paying a lot less for the same service. Then of course, there is the small talk and gossip. You just can't beat a barbershop, as far as smalltalk goes.

Barbers, will tell you amazing stories. So amazing, that sometimes, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, will pale in comparison. And sometimes, you will learn new things about the great epics themselves, that glorify all sections of society. Including the barbers, of course.

The small Desi town I grew up in, had only one barbershop. But, there was an entire bunch of "traveling" barbers, who would come to our home regularly, to check who needed a haircut, and who needed their nails trimmed. Once, while getting a haircut from one such "barber on call", I came across an interesting story.

After slaying the demon king Ravan, when the Hindu god Ram came back to his kingdom of Ayodhya, the streets were adorned with flowers, and the men and the women dressed up in their finest silk and gold. To welcome the king back home, from all his years in the wild, fighting monsters and demons in a way that the world had never seen before. But, before the king could re-enter his kingdom, people close to him realized that he badly needed a haircut.  And so, the first group of people who attended to the great king -- were a bunch of barbers. According to my barber, that very fact showed how important a barber's place in society is. Since Lord Ram, God's own avatar on earth, needed the barbers before anyone else, on his way back to the golden throne.

In case you don't believe it, like I didn't for a long time, you can actually open up your personal copy of the Valmiki Ramayana. And, in chapter 128 of book 6, the Yuddha Kanda, right after a bunch of verses describing familial love and propriety, the king's brother, Bharat, realizes that the king needs to look like a king. After many years in the wild. And then, out pops a verse with -- you guessed it right -- a bunch of barbers in it. With gentle hands, if I may add.

We are just about a couple of weeks from the beginning of the biggest festive season in India. From Gujarat to Bengal, and Kashmir to Karnataka, people participate in nine days of rituals -- to worship the mother goddess, in various forms. But, the tenth day, is usually reserved for the Lord Ram. On that day, during the festival  of Dussehra, people celebrate the homecoming of the warrior prince, to take up his throne. And many places in Des, have the ultimate form of entertainment for Desis like me, in the form of Ramleela, which is a form of folk theater, that reenacts the famous  battle between Ravan, the demon king, and Lord Ram.

Like all small towns, ours too had its own Ramleela troupe. A handsome "pretty boy" used to act the part of Lord Ram, and the local pehelwan (wrestler), used to act the part of Ravan. The pehelwan, let's call him Bajrangi, since I don't remember his name, used to express his frustration over the fact that year after year, he would be defeated in battle, by the "pretty boy". And year after year, his requests to act the part of Lord Ram, were declined on the grounds, that he was too fat for the role. So, since eventually, every pot boils over, Bajrangi's did too -- during the enactment of the famous battle on stage. We had to hurriedly pull the curtains down, and break up an irate audience with all sorts of excuses. And the next day, the entire town saw the "pretty boy" with a black eye. And a very happy Bajrangi, gorging on jalebis, at the street side halwai's sweet shop.

What we learned out of that entire experience, was the simple fact that the battle between good and evil, personified by Ram and Ravan, is still not over. And everyday, new Rams and Ravans are created -- and the battle -- rages on.

So, the barbershop, that I used to visit regularly, was run by two barber-brothers. One of them, was a Mr. Ramachandran, who would give me the most awesome haircut and head massage for about fifty rupees, and throw in some smalltalk and gossip in his strongly accented Hindi, for free. Sometimes, he would also tell me with a lot of pride, that he was named after Lord Ram, the demon slaying Avatar.

Then, the barbershop suddenly closed its doors. People told me that there was a very public falling out between the two brothers, and they shut the place down. I had started looking for another place to get my hair cut. And then, last week, the place reopened. With my favorite Mr. Ramachandran gone. His brother, gave me an excellent haircut and head massage, but the smalltalk was missing, which I attributed to the poor Hindi he spoke.
I asked the guy what his name was. He told me that it was Ramachandran. I remarked, quite innocently, that it was quite strange that there used to be another Mr. Ramachandran in the shop, who used to give pretty good haircuts. 

Like Bajrangi Pehelwan from my small town Ramleela troupe, the new Mr. Ramachandran, exploded. In his heavily accented English, he told me, "Sir, I am the true Ramachandran. That man you met before, was not Ramachandran. His real name was Ravanna."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh God! No God?

I love history. More archaeology than history, but some of that is mere semantics to the uninitiated in the subject. Like me.

A lot of my love for history probably stems from the wonderful storyteller-teachers I had, in school. But, by the time I came across the first Indiana Jones movie, I was already in love with nuts and bolts. So, there was no turning back. But, I have often wondered what it would have been like -- to be an archaeologist. Being in the elements for days, with a shovel and a brush in hand, and sometimes, yelling at the workmen in the pits. To be extra careful, with that new mummy they found. 

Recently, I came across a wonderful book by Abraham Eraly, called 'The Mughal World: Life in India's Last Golden Age'.  It is one of those books that you can open at any page, and still, come out happy after a few pages. Happy, that you learned something new. And so, I was recently happy, that in spite of all the history that I learned from my wonderful teachers, I learned something that I did not know about. That the Mughal emperor, Jehangir, could actually have been an atheist!

Jehangir, is probably the least known Mughal emperor of India. He pales in comparison to his illustrious father, Akbar the great, and his son Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal. And, as the history books say, he spent most of his time drinking and womanizing, and so, did not really have much time for the matters of state. But, his thinking was probably influenced by that of his secular father, and so, he took it a step further. He tried to decouple religion from the state -- unless, the mix gave him a moral authority to rule. And, on one occasion, he had quite the conversation with a European missionary, who writes, "..and he said that if you throw the cross and the holy book into the fire, and they are not consumed by it...I will become a Christian.The emperor of India is an atheist!"

I sat up when I read those lines, because, once, I had used exactly the same words with someone, who was trying to get me to accept his religion. And, at that time, I was experimenting with the religion of those, who did not have a religion -- atheism. It is not really a strange thing for most scientists and engineers, to have fiddled with atheism, at some stage or the other in their lives. Our training, conditions us to ask questions, and only believe the things that can be proven with experiments. And so, as a neo-atheist, when someone tried to browbeat me with the fire-and-brimstone speech, I had used the exact same words, that Jehangir had used. To test the might of God, and his religion.

I was recently reading a news story about how many of the young people in today's world are turning atheistic. The article attributed this turn of philosophy to education and rationalistic thought, which is now strong enough to counteract years of upbringing -- sometimes, in extremely conservative and religious environments.

But, what the article forgot to talk about, was the fact, that by default, most young people are willing to challenge the status-quo,  even if the challenged entity -- is God. So, when I was eighteen, I too was an atheist. And even now, sometimes, the temptation is very high. To be an atheist -- and sometimes -- to be eighteen.

Over the years,  I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the path of polytheism and monotheism, agnosticism and atheism, and now, my bus seems to have halted in the town of spiritualism, for a few years. Most of my spiritual base is around the philosophy of Shaivism, which usually preaches the path of monotheism and self-realization. Through contemplation and meditation.

I do not believe in Gurus, but sometimes, one comes across absolute pearls of wisdom from the spiritual masters out there.  Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, one such spiritual master, had once made an amazing statement during the festival of Shivaratri -- about Shiva:

"The word Shiva literally means that which is not. That which is, is existence; that which is, is creation. That which is not is Shiva. If you open your eyes and look around, if your vision is for small things, you will see lots of creation. But if your vision is really looking for big things, you will see that the biggest presence in existence is a vast emptiness ...... The only thing that can truly be all-pervading is darkness -- nothingness or emptiness .... Don't pass tonight without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of the emptiness that we call Shiva."

Once, as a teenager, I was aimlessly wandering around the banks of the river Ganges, in the holy city of Haridwar. I came across a Sadhu, sitting on the riverbank, and smoking pot from his chillum. I was brave enough to approach him and ask a question, that was plaguing me for quite some time, as I was experimenting with atheism. With his permission, I asked, "Babaji, mere man mein ishwar ki jagah khaali hai, main kiski puja karoon? (Holy father, the place for God in my mind, is empty. Who should I worship?)"

The sadhu took a long drag from his chillum. Then, he looked at me for a few seconds with his blood red eyes. And then, in a thundering voice, he said, "To phir beta, khaali ki puja kar. Bada mazza ayega! (Then son, worship the emptiness. You will like it a lot!) ".

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you on..

September 11, 2001.

It is hard to believe that a decade has gone by. A decade, which in certain ways, has changed the world around us. As humans, we tend to remember certain defining moments of history in our small and insignificant lives. And invariably, when we talk to each other about those moments, the first question that springs up, starts with the phrase, "Where were you on...?

I remember where I was, on that fateful day. I was just about to start my day. I remember logging into my computer at about eight in the morning. The entire front page of the news-site, that I had set up as my home page, had only one news item -- in the largest font that I had ever seen on any news site. About how terrorists had crashed a plane into the world trade center. I also remember, that at that moment, I had done two things, rather frantically.  I had dialed the phone number of a close relative, who used to work in a Wall street firm. And, I had made a mad-dash for the television in the living room, which, on a normal day, wouldn't be switched on before evening. I also remember how busy the phone lines in New York  city were on that day.  I spent a tense couple of days before I heard back from my relative about his safety, only to realize, that many were not as lucky as I was.

And, within a few minutes of turning on the television, I remember seeing the second plane crashing into the other tower. Live. As I was staring at the screen, I remember the newsmen on TV sharing my sense of disbelief. On that day, there was no work done at work, as most of us, congregated in the break room, and stared at the television. For hours. We already knew, that this was probably the most profound historical moment in American history, after Pearl Harbor.

The details came much later. Soon afterwards, we saw some fundamental changes to the way, in which, America did its business. In small ways, freedom and national security came at loggerheads with each other. The years of a decade, and many lives, were lost to two wars, and the business of maintaining peace. I moved on with my own life, and came back home to India. But, that day, will remain etched in my memory. For ever. 

Today, as I was remembering 9/11, what came to my mind, were not the tall and mighty towers of glass and steel crumbling under the horrible impact of an act, which I never imagined human beings would be capable of. I remembered something else -- a bunch of school students, in the parking lot of the neighborhood grocery store, washing cars. For a few dollars, which would be collected and sent to the brave souls of the New York Fire Department. That was one small way, in which the teenagers of the 9/11 generation, would be able to do their bit. For their country.

An old lady, who was probably someone's grandmother, was helping with the cash collection. In retrospect, I think, she was probably as old during Pearl Harbor, as her grandchildren were, on 9/11. These were two generations, forever changed by the events, that they had witnessed in their own times. I keep wondering, how they remember, where they were -- on those fateful days.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tea Time in Karol Bag

A few weeks ago, I was in Delhi.

I was staying in a seedy hotel, a short walk away from the one street "Boulevard" of the famous Karol Bag market. It is a really curious place to hang out at. I have been lately complaining about the disappearance of the old India, that I miss so much. If you ever go to Karol Bag, you will see a strange sight. A street-side temple of the Hindu god Ram, replete with marble tiles, and bright colors, is located next to a few juice stalls, and an open drain. Located right across the street from this homage to the old hero of Indian culture, is an ATM, perhaps, the only one in the market. To say hello to God, you just need to walk in. To withdraw money from the cash machine, you need to first stand in a line, and then, walk up a short flight of stairs. Just like you would do, in the old days of the old India, when you wanted to say hello to God.

In most Indian cities, it almost seems like the grand lady of old India was a little careless, bathing at the pond. And, a hungry crocodile didn't want to miss out on the great opportunity of a free meal. If Bangalore is the city, where it looks like the crocodile had a hearty meal, Karol Bag in Delhi, is the place where you will see most of the torso still  hanging outside the crocodile's jaws. But the head and the shoulders, alas, have fallen, to the crocodile of development.

Macabre comparisons aside, it is quite an interesting place. Really.

There are rows after rows of stores that sell the same thing. If they ever taught you about product differentiation in a kick-ass business school, Karol Bag is not the place to try it.  There are big shops, really big ones, that stock spices to make Punjabi pickles. Row after row, shelf after shelf, shop after shop. That's all they sell -- spices to make Punjabi pickles. And, if you pause in front of the door for a few minutes, wondering who in the world would buy that stuff, you might get trampled by a healthy looking family of Sikh ladies and gentlemen -- on their way to pickle heaven. I almost got away with my limbs intact. And then, I decided to look for tea.

It was quite interesting, walking up and down the Boulevard, like the Chicanos used to, with no tea in sight. Most shopkeepers didn't seem to have a clue about where to find tea in Karol Bag. There was a Starbucks like phenomenon close to where I was standing, but I wouldn't be caught dead drinking tea in a place like that. And, pay close to a hundred bucks for that nefarious concoction they like to call tea. I was almost beginning to wonder if the people in Delhi didn't drink any tea. Or if they did, perhaps, they didn't care much about the quality. Or the price.

And then, I thought about asking a street-side vendor, about where I could find tea. Real Desi tea, with lots of milk and sugar.  The guy casually pointed me to a narrow alleyway between two rows of shops and said, "Ask for pundit, he makes the best tea in Karol Bag. Remember to ask for the Aam Aadmi ki Chai (common man's tea)"

Now that, got me curious. Common man's tea?

If the sun has already set for the day in the great city of Delhi, that alleyway, is a place you simply don't want to step into. Trust me on that one. But then, at the end of a row of shops, I discovered a small hole in the wall, where Mr. Pundit had a nifty little arrangement going on. He had two kerosene stoves, with pans full of boiling liquids in them. One was close to where the customers would stand, the other was a little away. Both, seemed to have tea in them. When I asked him for tea, he asked very casually, "Aam chai, ya khas chai? (Common tea, or special tea?)".

Now, Delhi, is a city of common people and special people. The Mughals, in their famous courts, had a Diwan-e-aam (Court for the common people) and a Diwan-e-khas (Court for the special people). So, I thought, why should Mr. Pundit's tea shop be any different? But then, in the past, I have drunk special things, mixed in common drinks. Perhaps, you have read my past post on Bhang (crushed cannabis leaves mixed in a sweet drink), during Holi, when I almost attained seventh heaven, albeit, for a few seconds. So, I asked Mr. Pundit, what the difference was. Between common tea, and special tea. The man is very reticent, and I don't think he felt it was worth the effort taxing his vocal cords, for a commoner like me. So, for seven bucks, he poured me a cup of the common man's tea, and that, would have been the end of it.

But then, a few of his customers walked in, after I did, and all of them asked for the special tea. They all had one thing in common -- they weren't exactly the kind of people, that you would invite home for tea. Some had red eyes and unshaven faces, and some, complained about life and wife, in no particular order --  in the famous street language of Delhi. With multiple references to the sisters and mothers of people I didn't know, in ways, that I wouldn't call too kind. So, I assumed that these were special people -- with special needs for special tea. And by now, I was not sure if I really wanted a cup of the special tea.

After I finished my cup, I tried to poke Mr. Pundit again. One last time. So, I asked him about the difference between the common tea and the special tea.

"Pundit jee, hamara desh to aam aadmion ka desh hai,  phir aap khas chai kyon bechte hain? (Mr. Pundit, ours is a country of common people, then, why do you sell special tea?)"

Without batting an eyelid, the reticent Mr. Pundit said, "Yeh Dehli hai saab, yahan bahut khas aadmi rahte hain. (Sir, this is Delhi. A lot of special people live here)."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Re-roasting the peanuts

Since I started writing on this blog, many months have passed. It has been a delightful experience to find that there are many out there, who like my style of writing, and the way I like to express my thoughts. I have also greatly enjoyed reading the comments on my blog -- the readers have been extremely supportive, and I consider it an honor to have such a diverse and opinionated group of people, who visit this blog on a regular basis.

When I wrote my first post,  my intent was to write about the things that I like, and the things that I miss about an India, that seems to have moved on. The new and "resurgent" India, that I see around me, is quite different from the one that I miss. But, somewhere along the line, I started writing more about politics, and less about the things that I like.

I recently received an absolute gem of a comment from an anonymous reader. It seems that he (or she) likes my writing, but feels that I shouldn't be writing about petty politics. I couldn't agree more. I have seen that as one starts writing about the stories in the news, one finds a lot of things to write about. And politics, seems to make news, every few seconds. Eventually, writing gets quite overwhelming, and it does not provide the satisfaction one looks for. So, I have realized that writing about politics, is not something that I enjoy.

Thanks to a well-meaning reader, I will get back to doing something that I like to do. Write about things on The Peanut Express, that give me joy. And perhaps, to a lot of my readers.

So, no more politics. Sit tight my fellow campers, it is time to re-roast the peanuts!