Sunday, 18 November 2012

Pink is in and whirligigs are go!

Trees bloom in pink at Richmond Park, 13 11 2012
The colour of the day is pink! Noticed this on my way back
from buying sparklers the other day. I took this picture with
the phone on my camera, so it hasn't really done justice to
the breathtaking wave of colour that caught my eye.

I'm not sure Mr. Krumbiegel planted these trees in particular,
but he was responsible for the variety of blooming trees
around this city that dress Bangalore in one colour or another,
all year around. Whenever I look at a blooming tree, I'm grateful to
Mr Krumbiegel for his lovely legacy to this city.

Mahogany tree at the Church of South India graveyard, 13 11 2012
More breaking news - the mahogany tree's "potatoes" have
 split open and their whirligig seeds are ready to catch the next
breeze. I love these seeds, and often collect the ones that fall
on my terrace. If I'm lucky, I catch our building's senior citizens
sitting downstairs on a bench after their evening walk, and
surprise them with a shower of whirligigs from the terrace above.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

That's more like it.

Although yesterday's post has it's value, I much prefer this auto-rickshaw's message to the world.

For those of you who don't understand Urdu or Hindi, that says:

God willing
we will meet again
May God keep you in his care
My fellow traveller

Nice to know that someone feels that way. I'm always on the look-out
for interesting "Auto Backsides"; some get very creative.

For some reason, however, most auto drivers seem to like
decorating their, er, backside, with a dagger dripping blood.
I can only assume it's a silent plea for help and compassion.
It must be hell driving around in that bumpy three-wheeler
all day. I'm pretty sure there's a correlation between the frequency
of dripping-dagger-decorated auto backsides and the vast amount
of Piles & Fistula Clinic signs I see all over the city.

Friday, 16 November 2012


Was fortunate enough to catch this public service announcement
on the back of an auto-rickshaw the other night, after dropping
a friend off at the Indira Nagar bus stand.

Social awareness activist and his moving media

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Dr. Ambedkar Blues (an unfinished symphony).

Every time I go to Nanjappa Circle, I'm bugged by this
 mysterious figurine wrapped in blue plastic. Its contours echo
those of a smaller statue just behind it, which has been painted gold.

All I knew was that these were statues of "Ambedkar". They've
been there forever (well, a year at least). So I turned to my
personal guru and said, "Oh Google! Tell me! Who is this man?
And why has he been blue for so long?" And this is what she told me.
  • Dr B.R. Ambedkar was born into a caste that was considered "untouchable".
  • He was the first "untouchable" student at Bombay's Elphinstone High School and Elphinstone College.
  • He not only got past social and financial obstacles to get a college education in India, but went on to earn post-graduate degrees and doctorates from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. And took his Bar exams too!
  • He lost his book collection when the ship it was on got torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in World War I (As a book lover, I deem this a significant tragedy, worthy of mention. The good news is, I read that by the time World War II rolled around, he had built up another book collection of over 50,000 books).
  • He was Professor of Political Economy at Sydenham College, Bombay, where other professors didn't like him touching the same jug of water that they used.
  • He was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of our Constitution.
  • He developed Type 2 Diabetes in his middle age.
  • He campaigned against social discrimination and the caste system and spoke out frankly on many topics that were important to him.
  • He ruffled a huge amount of religious and political feathers.
  • He accomplished a massive workload in his lifetime. 
  • He was a very busy guy from start to finish.
  • He had guts.
  • He sounds very interesting, and though I'm not sure I'd agree with everything in them, I think his essays and books would make for some good reading.
All of which made him, to me, fascinating. I wanted to find out
more about the man hidden behind the blue plastic wraps. And
it struck me - find about the blue plastic wraps themselves.
Back to my guru I went, this time to learn not about the man,
but about the statue/s up at Nanjappa Circle.

On March 29th, 2010, newspapers reported that Dr Ambedkar's
statue at Nanjappa Circle had been toppled over, outraging
the Dalit community. (Back then there was only one statue,
made of plaster-of-paris, since stood back up and painted gold).
This statue of his now stands in the shadow of the new
blue-wrapped one. It shall never be toppled again. It now
has his feet firmly encased in cement up to his ankles for protection.

This statue-toppling is the sort of senseless act that normally
leads to communal violence, but fortunately, there was none
(that I know of). The municipal (BBMP) elections were being
held that day, and though there doesn't seem to be any logic to it,
I can only assume that someone intended to benefit from this act
and the feelings it would arouse.

Who did this? We may never know for sure, but the papers
assured us that they were MISCREANTS! A very popular noun
in Bangalore newspapers, another word for "rowdy elements"
or "mischief-mongers"). Or perhaps political party supporters,
as I believe all the major political parties accused their
opponents' supporters - Miscreants! Oh, you Naughty Miscreants, you! -
of being behind this HEINOUS act of GOONDA-ISM (two other
popular words in a crime reporter's vocabulary).

Conclusion: Mischief-mongering miscreants' heinous act of rowdy
goonda-ism was something to do with votes and politics. Nothing
new there.Or perhaps something to do with religion. Nothing new
there either.

Anyhoo. In time, a second statue appeared. The BBMP approved
two Work Orders. One for the construction of a new statue
at the cost of six lakh rupees (Rs 600,00/-), and one for
the construction of a pedestal and ornamental grill at four lakh
rupees (Rs 400,000/-). I looked up their impressive-sounding
"Global Project Management System With Remote Eye Monitoring System" page,
but beyond the Estimated and Approved Cost and the name
of the Chief Engineer, every other entry just reads "0". (That's
a zero, not an oh. Although an oh would work there too, with
either an exclamation or a question mark, as the situation requires).

So no clues as to whether they consider the work finished,
or if they ran out of funds, or anything.

Well, the new statue is up, at any rate. Standing high on its
four-lakh pedestal (and the ornamental grills, let's not forget those.
They could do with some painting, by the way). It might be
a bronze statue, we do not know yet. Those plastic blue wraps
have been firmly affixed to withstand both monsoon and miscreant,
and what lies underneath is yet to be unveiled, nearly two years
after the first statue was toppled.

Dr Ambedkar's death anniversary is coming up on December 6th.
I'm hoping that the long-awaited unveiling will be held then,
a symbolic rebirth. If not, we can pin our hopes on next April 14th,
the day of his birth. And if not then, well, let's just wait for the next
election day to roll around.

Any day now, people. But don't hold your breath. Instead, gaze upon
my really bad photography and read my little poem to pass the time:

Dr Ambedkar, why so blue?
If I was in your place, I guess I'd be too,
Waiting a whole year under wrap
Held in suspense for someone else's crap.

Drs Ambedkar, (for there's not one but two)
I'm sad when I gaze upon both of you.
One year and ten lakhs have gone by so fast.
I'd like to see more of the man who fought caste.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Children's Day.

"To honour children globally."

"To protect children working long hours in dangerous circumstances 
and allow all children access to an education."

"To promote mutual exchange and understanding among children."

"To initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world's children."

"To let students have fun. "

"To consider those conditions in society which affect the lives and future of our children."

"To strengthen children's rights."

"To focus on the practice of sharing, loving and caring as well as honouring our children."

"To emphasise the importance of children in society."

"To give children the opportunity to have fun."

"To create awareness about the significant role of children towards 
the development of the country."

"To observe the rights of children."

"To remind ourselves that children are the future builders 
and developers of the country and the world.

"To enable parents and children to spend the day together, 
and work together to reconcile their problems."

"To celebrate childhood."

These are some of the reasons countries and organisations
around the world have given, for celebrating Children's Day (source: Wikipedia)

How sad that we need a reminder to treat children this way.

Today, India celebrates Children's Day. November 14th was chosen
because it was the birth date of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,
India's first Prime Minister. He was known as Chacha Nehru
(Uncle Nehru) by the children of his day. (He's also Rahul
Gandhi's great-grandaddy.)

I wiki'ed Children's Day and discovered that various countries
celebrate it, at various times of the year. Here are some other
dates upon which people celebrate Children's Day around the world.

January 6th
March 17th, 21st and 25th
April 4th, 5th, 8th, 12th, 23rd, 24th and 30th.
May 5th, 10th, 17th and 27th
June 1st and 2nd
July 23rd and 24th
August 16th
September 9th and 10th
October 1st, 8th and 12th
November 11th, 14th, 15th and 20th
December 5th, 23rd and 25th

I'd like to see people celebrating their children daily. But if
that's too much to ask, then try this:  make a note of these dates
in your calender and celebrate them all.

I did my bit.

Yes I did.  It would have been rude of me not to. Went out and
 bought a packet of sparklers in order to contribute to the air pollution
levels last night. Got a lungful of sparkler smoke in the bargain.

 Okay, I confess. The real reason I bought those sparklers was
for that smile you see in the picture above. My mom's housekeeper couldn't
go home for this Diwali, so we didn't want her to miss out. She lit candles
at my mom's front door, and had a great time playing with the sparklers.
The cough I have this morning was totally worth it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Festival of Lights

It's Diwali! I liked this festival a lot more when I was younger and immune to the startle reaction of over-loud fireworks. I also liked it more last year, when I did not know that it's a bad idea to make a breakfast of the plateful of home-made sweets my neighbours bring over every Diwali morning.

A garland of marigold at my neighbour's front door (and yes, a leftover Christmas decoration from last year!)

 Diwali is by and large a Hindu festival, although I believe
that Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains also celebrate it (that's what
President Obama said so it must be right!) The Festival of Lights ..
and it is quite a sight. A lot of people will set off fireworks tonight
and tomorrow night - I love going up on my terrace to watch
the rockets being set off from all four directions. Even from
a distance, it's lovely to watch their beautiful explosions
of light and colour. Some are pretty complex (Made In China,
I've heard) and those are the most expensive and the most
ah-inspiring. Tonight, thousands if not lakhs (that's a hundred
thousand to non-Indian currency users) will go up in smoke.

What I don't love about Diwali is the noise created from strings
of little (or big!) red firecrackers or the ones packed tightly and
given appropriately lethal names like "Atom Bomb". These set off
car alarms, drive stray dogs into gutters and pet dogs into
anxiety disorders. They terrify babies and unsettle the elderly.
They make heart patients nervous, and PTSD sufferers nauseated.
And their tattered remains will decorate the streets tomorrow morning,
adding to the already nearly-at-breaking-point garbage problem
that sits soggy and stinking on practically every street corner.

As far as I know, this type of cracker has very little to do with
Diwali. It's the Festival of Lights, right? Not the Festival of Noise,
or the Festival of Make-Life-Hell-for-Everyone-Else. There are
some restrictions set down by the police and/or government,
but these are largely ignored or unenforceable, and fireworks
are sold freely like some seasonal vegetable in large open
courtyard markets set up around the city.

Over the past few years, fireworks sales have been going down,
though, largely due to greater public awareness of the
environmental damage and the nuisance factor. A few years ago,
Diwali morning would be grey and choked. I'm hoping tomorrow
won't be that bad, because as I write this, I don't hear a non-stop
string of explosions that lasts for several hours, as I did say,
five years ago.

I like to think that means more people are showing compassion
for their fellowmen/women/dogs/cats/cows/birds/etc. And showing
respect, not only for their city/nation/planet, but for the festival
itself:  for Diwali.

I read this today, and I thought it was a beautiful description
of what Diwali is meant to be.

"Diwali or Deepavali is the Festival of Lights. On this day, 
Hindus decorate their homes with light, using candles, 
earthern lamps or electric lights.  Light symbolizes the removal 
of inner darkness, as well as the glow of knowledge that can lead 
mankind from illusion and ignorance to an understanding of truth. 
The essence of Diwali, very simply, is a prayer for an enlightened world."

That's from an article The Essence of Diwali by Mark Sharma; if you'd like to read the complete article, click here.

A clay diya with oil and a cotton wick, outside my neighbour's front door.
I think that is such a beautiful concept. What a pretty, simple
and sweet way to remind oneself of the importance and value
of this kind of light in our lives.

I'm not a Hindu, but tonight I am celebrating Diwali. I'm off now,
to place candles at my doorstep and on my balcony as a symbol
of inviting goodness and light into my home and heart, tonight and always.