Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Community Bang Bang!

Each community in India has their own quirks, many cities too. Now I am no expert on all the communities but I have interacted with some closer than the others and have discovered each have their admirable traits, some that are downright funny and some that are quite vile. Now who wants to read paeans of praise…let’s face it, we all (okay, most of us!) like to rip into others or read others ripping into them! So, here go my (wicked) observations on each community that I have interacted with. Politically correct…these are not. So if you are going to take offence, please don’t read. The last thing I want is hate mail!

A society of hypocrites

Thought I’d start with my own community lest I get accused of being biased! God’s own country is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty of the breathtaking variety. Unfortunately, its residents can’t be said to share the heavenly traits that the land possesses. Now here is a community that is by and large hypocritical, narrow minded and parochial. If you trace the history of the Nair community in Kerala, it was fairly liberal and women could even have multiple sex partners (not that it meant they were not sexually exploited but many were libertines by choice). Today, interaction between the sexes is looked down upon…net result…a community that is sexually frustrated. (I can hear outraged gasps). Now what happens …the men, in particular, are frustrated. Also, today, unfortunately, the average man in Kerala has no respect for women. Apart from Delhi (which is a hotbed of frustrated ‘machismo’, chauvinistic men) and Bihar (where goons with political patronage think women are slaves), the average Mallu man on the street is FRUSTRATED and has NO respect for women.
My worst experiences of eve teasing have been in Delhi and Kerala. While the Mallu man may ogle lecherously at a firang woman, they take offence to an Indian, especially Mallu, woman, dressing in jeans and being independent. The comments they pass are downright lewd and offensive. Given a chance, they will try and paw women, especially the so-called ‘Westernised’ Indian, especially Westernised Mallu, woman. I’ve encountered it countless times…to the point where I was traumatised about travelling on trains to God’s own country. The prospect of encountering frustrated Mallu men on the train once we’d enter the beautiful state would make me shudder. Oh yes, I’ve even got pawed inside the ‘sacred’ confines of the famous Guruvayoor temple…not by some uneducated lumpen lout but by an educated, decent looking young man. Makes me wonder…have they come there to pray or lech and finger women?
Continuing about hypocrisy…take drinking. Kerala has the highest per capita alcohol consumption. But talk to the womenfolk in the state and one would think this is a state where drinking barely happens. A few times that I’ve observed, the men don’t drink larges; they gulp down patialas like the liquor bottle is going to disappear! And, a sizeable number of Malayalee women drink…but surreptitiously. So, if you decide to drink openly, and you are a woman (horror, horror!), you are but naturally branded ‘loose’. “Loose’…a term I’ve heard so often…obviously applied to me since I wear jeans, sleeveless tops, drink and smoke (Ishwara!) . The fact that I don’t claim to be drinking coke while enjoying my rum and coke doesn’t attract any admirers! Only brickbats!) Behave yourself in a society that puts a premium on hypocrisy and you will be welcomed with open arms. Drink if you must, but no one should know.
Let’s go on to the next big thing…adultery. Now, that is apparently a huge, huge happening in the Lord’s chosen state. Why? It’s the ‘gulf marriage phenomenon’. Young men and women are married off to each other. The man goes off to the Gulf (every Mallu’s favourite destination). The women are left languishing and frustrated. What happens? Extra marital affairs on both sides…the man (in the Gulf) has his needs (as everyone who wants to excuse a philandering man would say), and the women (left behind for years often) (yeah, they have sexual needs too…if only the hypocrites in Mallu land would realise), have their share of affairs (of the heart or the body, one can’t say). Whether it is adultery or college crushes or love affairs, everything is kept hush hush in this strictly circumscribed society. As long as ‘four people’( ‘nalla aala’ a colloquial term) don’t talk about you, it’s fine.
In the meanwhile, Mallu society drinks themselves silly, the men especially (but it’s alright…men can drink and get abusive; it is their birthright according to society); the man on the street is the worst example of eve teasing (frustration has to find an outlet); many women find their meaning in life in secret love affairs or alcohol (masquerading as Coke, Sprite or Fanta)…but ask a Mallu of any religion…and they will boast about how their society is the best. In Kerala, hypocrisy rules (which is not to say it doesn’t in other societies; it’s just different avatars). In God’s own country, as long as you are outwardly moral, you could be anything otherwise. Only appearances count. If ‘four people’ say you are good, you are saved!

To be continued….

Friday, February 5, 2010

I don’t wanna know!

There are people in this world who have an opinion on everything…yes, everything. Yu could be talking about cooking, your pet’s health, music, medicine, travelling, writing…whatever…and they will butt in with an opinion or a suggestion….every goddamn time.
What is it with people? Why oh why must they dish out unsolicited advice on every topic under the sun? Don’t they realise how annoying it is to the recipient to have to listen as an authoritative voice drones on and on with maddening certainty about any given topic.
Tell them you are feeling tired. It could be that you haven’t slept the previous night…or you’ve been working too hard. They will diagnose you with diabetes! Assuming you have been diagnosed with an illness, they will pooh pooh whatever your doc has said, and list out medicines that you should be taking. I guess a doc’s MBBS degree is no match for all the trawling that the know-alls do on the Internet. Oh yes, they know better than your veterinarian about what could be causing your dog’s skin problem. They are expert cooks too. They will taste your food and give you suggestions on how you should have prepared it to make it tastier or healthier or whatever.
My only request to know-alls…sure maybe you are this bottomless font of information and knowledge…but please, oh please, could you keep that expert knowledge to yourself and dispense it only to those who seek your opinion? Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Unholy Brethren

Today our neighbourhood school, St. Vincent’s Matriculation School, Chennai celebrated their Annual Day. What is a celebration for the school turns into a nightmare for residents as cars and bikes are parked haphazardly all around blocking off entrances and exits, and the roads too. This apart the noise can be quite deafening, and all the neighbourhood porkis also land up to ogle and get their share of free entertainment.
What puzzles me with our (un)holy Catholic fathers who run the school is their complete unconcern for the trouble they cause others. What happened to Christian charity and loving thy neighbour? I guess all that is paid lip service at church sermons when they also invoke the wrath of God on sinners. Apart from preaching with such passion, couldn’t the sanctimonious fathers put their preaching into practice? Or give their flock some practical tips on how to practice loving thy neighbour or caring about the common man/woman.
But no! One observes year after dreary year…when it comes to themselves and their celebrations, the (un)holy fathers are only concerned about themselves and showing off with pomp and arrogance…neighbours, passers-by and the rest be damned (to a living hell!).
Many of us have approached the (un)holy fathers requesting them to be a wee bit understanding and empathetic about the huge problems we face every time the church or the school decide to celebrate. What happens? It falls on deaf, indifferent ears. One observes the utter smugness, arrogance and holier-than-thou art attitude that seems to sum up almost 90% of Catholic fathers that I have met. They stand at the altar and make thundering speeches, sorry sermons, but the reality is so different. There is no humanity, no humility, no acceptance of another point of view. Just this smug attitude of ‘ we are priests and we are better than you’.
What lessons are they teaching their students? That it is all right to trouble the world and create chaos and disturbance as long as you get your way? Their attitude – ‘Look at us… we break the noise pollution laws, we ignore pleas from neighbours, we don’t care about the old and the infirm, we don’t care if people’s are facing health concerns because of our activities, who cares if others are inconvenienced…in the name of God, we can do anything’. Doesn’t that suck?

I must add, we did go and speak to Father Vincent, the Principal, the next day, as the senior school function is on this evening. For once, a Father greeted us courteously, heard us out and promised to ensure that we were not troubled. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dog Days

Almost everyday, I receive mails about people seeking homes for dogs. Either they are leaving town, or their flat associations are causing trouble or many take in a dog and realise only then that they cannot afford the dog or they are clueless about how to train the dog. There are owners who whine and whinge about how the puppy is not toilet trained, or is chewing everything or is jumping friskily around.
Many owners even callously abandon their pets on the road. Are these people humans or beasts? I would call them the latter. After a dog has been used to getting fed at home how is it supposed to scavenge on the road for food? And how does a homegrown dog protect itself against attacks by stray dogs?
Irresponsible ownership is a problem world over. Someone brings in a dog because their kid wants one. Kid doesn’t look after the dog; dog is abandoned. Or the dog works out too expensive; throw it out.
On the other hand you have the greedy callous ones who think dogs are status symbols or want to breed them to make money. These will buy pedigreed dogs for the sole purpose of showing off or for breeding. While many do look after their pooches well, there are others who chain them all day and never give them any love or affection. Dogs are like humans; they need plenty of love. And they give us unconditional love. The worst thing we can do is to deprive them of hugs and cuddles.
Then we have owners who don’t train their dogs and when these badly trained dogs bite neighbours or attack people or other dogs on the road, they give the canine community a bad name. Very often, if a dog in an apartment block bites someone, then all dogs in that apartment block come under the scanner and soon a resolution is passed – no dogs in the building. Owners must understand that they are wholly responsible for their dog’s behaviour. If they are incapable of training, handling or controlling their dogs, they shouldn’t have got them in the first place.
It is terribly sad that so many people are abandoning dogs. It doesn’t speak very well about us…the human race. Where is our humanity? No human being will ever give us the love that a dog will. Please let’s not throw dogs onto the road for them to get maimed, injured or killed. Let’s put a stop to it now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whither the Hippocratic oath?

They are supposed to be healers but modern day doctors seem to have forgotten what the Hippocratic oath is. Healing and administering is not a calling; it’s a job, a profession. And the aim? Very simple…make as much moolah as you can, line your pockets and build your fancy house, drive your swank car, take that foreign holiday…at the cost of fleecing others out of their life savings and their homes. Compassion, empathy, caring…that’s all forgotten in the mad racket of lining their pockets.
Look at the corporate ‘five-star’ hospitals. These monstrosities have only one objective in mind – forget all those oh-so-touching ads, posters and brochures with lines like ‘We care about you’ or some other sickly sweet lines dished out by some agency copywriter. Their only care is maximising profits at the cost of anyone. Batteries and batteries of tests are prescribed. Hapless patients with only lay knowledge have no choice but to comply with these greedy and lazy doctors who send them spinning to labs and scan rooms. God help if you decide you’ve had enough and go to another hospital. The doctor there needs to make his/her cut and the hospital has to meet its own targets so off you are sent off, very often, to redo all those very same tests. If you protest, they politely ask you to go somewhere else.
Recently, a friend was in hospital. Apparently at least ten doctors came and ‘checked’ on him. Except for a couple, the rest just read his chart or came and peered at him for a few seconds. Per doctor’s visit he was charged between Rs.300 and Rs.500 for each. How do these doctors sleep at night with a clear conscience when they are cheating patients – spending 5 seconds and earning mega bucks on the patient’s suffering and helplessness.
Apart from their callousness and greed, we come to the next point – their utter arrogance and complete disregard for a patient’s time. At one ENT hospital in the city, the appointment schedule goes like this – for every time slot, there are 4 patients, and each time slot has a five-minute gap. So, to give an example, for 4pm, there are 4 patients, for 4.05pm there are another 4 and so on it goes. Sometimes, you end up waiting for three to four hours for your appointment. But then, docs think they are God and yeah, they are playing with our lives and, when we are sick, our life is in their hands so they take advantage of that mercilessly.
These days it’s rare to find doctors who really care for their patients, who are willing to spend quality time with them. Most of them, especially those in the big hospitals are concerned with only one thing…money, money and more money. It’s sick!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Calling in Vain

Calling in Vain

"Good morning/afternoon/ evening. How can I help you?" And thus starts the long-winded often traumatic process of speaking to a Customer Care Executive from a Call Centre for your bank, telephone company or mobile company (to name just a few). Frankly, I’d prefer the old system any day. Yes, I know some of you may point out that getting through to speak to someone was difficult…the lines were constantly engaged etc. But then, have things changed with Call Centres? Hardly! First you go through an interminable process where a disembodied voice instructs you to press the ’star button’ or ’hash’, then options for English, Hindi and Tamil, and then you have to listen (im)patiently while you are instructed on which button to press to have your queries answered. And finally, comes what you have been waiting for - "Please press Nine to speak to our Customer Care Executive". A sense of elation overcomes you and within seconds you come crashing back to earth thanks to the next message - "Our customer care officers are busy. Please stay on hold" - or "Your wait time is 4 minutes 35 seconds" And then you wait, all the while listening to the bank or mobile company advertising their latest products either through the disembodied voice or by playing a jingle. By then you are ready to shoot someone! If you are unlucky, all of a sudden said voice will inform you sagely - "Due to technical reasons, your call cannot be completed now." You gaze at your watch in desperation and realise that the call has taken up ten minutes and you are back to square one - dial, listen to menu, press buttons, listen to litany of ads…and if you are lucky second time around, you may be able to speak to a human voice. In today’s hi-tech world, the least one expects is high standards of efficiency. No such luck. Most executives have been trained to parrot a precise set of lines meant to soothe irate customers. But very often they are clueless as to how to deal with complex problems because they don’t know enough about the product or the company or complexities arising due to these. They just cluck and reassure you that the problem will be sorted out. If it isn’t, you call the next day and what happens? You get another executive and you are made to repeat the entire problem again, only to get the same standard reassurances. Each time you call you have a new voice and you reiterate the same problem, though some lucky ones finally get their problems solved. Anyway, as these Customer Care Executives say when they sign off, "Have a good day!" That’s all we can hope for in these days of ghostly voices and parrot-like executives!
This article of mine appeared in Madras Plus in 2006. Am just reproducing it here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The human fiend

Why do people label murderers, paedophiles and rapists etc as ‘animals’? It always puzzles me. Animals are not inherently cruel; human beings are. Animals kill for survival and attack out of fear, or again for survival.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that we are oh-so-evolved. The sad truth is, we are not. We, human beings, are possibly the cruelest race on the planet. We kill out of greed, jealousy and revenge. We have perverts who rape, maim and torture other human beings out of lust, anger or even sadistic pleasure. Take the case of paedophiles – these beasts, monsters really, prey on young innocent children, scarring them psychologically for life. For rapists it is a power game; for women who are raped, the scars remain, always under the surface. Life may go on, but it is a life that is scarred forever because of the actions of monsters.
In India, female infanticide is horrifyingly common. Do we, and can we, call our society civilised when female children are routinely killed at birth just because of their gender? What about eve teasers – men who lech and grope at women? Another set of beasts.
Even in the 21st century, people are going to war and human beings routinely kill each other in the name of patriotism when most often it is the greed of politicians and dictators that have brought on the war. Religious fanatics think it is perfectly all right to blow up innocent people who do not share their religious beliefs. And, these fanatics actually believe they have a one-way ticket to heaven because of their dastardly actsSo let’s shed this notion about us being ‘civilised’ and ‘evolved’. And please, let’s not insult animals by calling these dregs of human society ‘animals’. They are lesser than animals; they are monsters who deserve the death penalty