Friday, February 24, 2012

China and Dhanno-ki-Amma

Many readers of this blog send me emails, sometimes, with a very basic question, "Is your name really Desi Babu?" And sometimes, an associated question is, "Is that photograph really yours?" My answer to both these questions usually revolves around the two basic things that I believe in. That, every Babu from Des deserves to be called Desi Babu. And, that our photographs should really depict what we want to look like, not what we really look like. So, there you go.

To extend this line of thought, then, one might ask, "What should Desi Babu's wife be called?" Fortunately, I have an answer ready for you. My wife's name is Dhanno-ki-Amma. In fact, countless Desis, around the world, take great pains to name their firstborn daughters Dhanno, so they can call their wives Dhanno-ki-Amma -- for the rest of their lives. And this Desi, is no exception.

Our home has a china cabinet. And, it has some priceless china, that  Dhanno-ki-Amma received as wedding gift, a long time ago. Desi Babu is not allowed to go anywhere near that China. On days, on which I get a packet of steaming hot Jalebis home, and find that every single dish in the house is in the sink, I sometimes eye Dhanno-ki-Amma's china rather longingly. And, if she realizes what my intentions are, being a tigress who grew up in the great state of the Bengal tiger, she roars, "As far as I am concerned, you can eat your Jalebis off the floor, but if you dare touch my wedding china, you are finished!"  And so, whenever I hear my wife uttering the word "china", my first reaction is usually that of fear. 

There is another thing about Dhanno-ki-Amma that you should know.

While my reading habits are extremely pedestrian, and usually, the great literary pieces I read are written on the old newspapers that my Jalebis are wrapped in,  Dhanno-ki-Amma is a regular reader of newspapers and magazines, that scare me with their depth of analysis -- specially, The Economist.  Armed with one of those business degrees from the land of the free, she sometimes tries to explain to me, with great pain, what the difference between Keynesian theory and free market economics is. This rather futile exercise usually concludes with a blank stare from me. For no fault of my own, since you can never blame a man for not being too bright. But it does give me one of those complexes -- of not being too bright.

So, yesterday, Dhanno-ki-Amma was reading from a two-week old issue of The Economist, and suddenly she said something with the word "china" in it. As you might have guessed, my primal "flight or fight" response kicked in. But, after I regained my composure, I realized that she was telling me something that was of a truly historic nature. Apparently, from now on, The Economist, the most refined magazine for people who care about business, is going to have a weekly section on China. After 1942, this is for the first time, that they are adding an exclusive section on a specific country -- the previous two countries being Britain, and the Land of the free.

My first reaction was, "What does this mean? Has China finally come of age? I thought that they already announced that to the world, when they hosted the Olympics in Beijing."

Dhanno-ki-Amma had a more restrained reaction. She believes that China has finally become more newsworthy to business and finance people around the world. And, after their perceived "leadership" in trying to resolve the European crisis, the world wants to look at them more closely. And that, brought me to the second question -- does the editorial, announcing the "arrival" of China,  mention Des, somewhere? Well, there was a rather strange sentence I found with India in it, and I will leave it to you to make your own interpretation.

"In ways that were never true of post-war Japan, and may never be true of India, China will both fascinate and agitate the rest of the world for a long time to come."

Another thing that I decided to do, was to flip through the new "exclusive" section on China. There were a couple of stories about the tobacco industry in China (one of the largest in the world) and, about how a coffee "revolution" is brewing in a part of China, that is heavily into tea. A story, that caught my eye, was about "tribes" in China. No, it does not talk about painted braves wearing Mohawks, dancing around fire. Apparently, people in China are now grouping themselves into tribes. Some of the intriguing names of such tribes are --  yi zu (tribe of small town graduates moving into cities), shan hun zu (lightning marriage tribe) and fang zu (tribe of mortgage slaves). I found it rather strange that for some reason, the more developed we tend to get as a civilization, the more tribal we wish to become. I wonder what primal human thought process is at play?

Finally, with a grave expression on her face, Dhanno-ki-Amma asked me, "So, what is your opinion on this whole thing about China?"  I wanted to tell her, that to find out the long term impact of such a momentous editorial decision, we should conduct a small Desi experiment. We should get a bull off the streets, feed it some Jalebis laced with Bhang, and release it in a China shop, and see what happens.

For some reason, I chose to remain silent. Divinity was not too far behind.


  1. you know babu--Nostradamus predicted that the third dictator,after hitler, will be born in china.There is enough ambiguity in this prophecy,but china may well be on that path already.
    china is stinking communism and brings nothing to the spiritual platter,i feel china lacks something very basic,which i can't seem to put a finger on.Can you babu?

  2. China is very delicate topic in India . how can a home of Desi Babu be an exception to the rule?

    Well written .. :-)

    1. Thanks Aativas. Thankfully, the delicate china in our home in not from China.