Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

Monday, 12 August 2019

Climate Disaster and Waste

When you have a grandchild, who is, as usual with grandchildren, rather more precious than she needs to be, you have to think seriously about what her world will be in two or three decades when her children occupy their habitat. And whose is this habitat, anyway? Surely not just for the human animal, when there are so many more animal and other species to cherish.

   Even in my household we cannot achieve the simple objective of each person doing their best to avoid plastic waste, for instance. My daughter and I religiously use our reusable shopping bags when we buy groceries, but my son forgets every time. Similarly, we order our milk in glass bottles, but I break one or two every now and then. That is my senile clumsiness. My son wants us to go back to plastic bottles and we had a small civil war over that. Mind you, he generally does the cleaning up, frig, floor and all over the kitchen when I shatter another one and has good cause to be angry. But the bigger picture in my mind will not allow plastic bottles again. I break a lot of other things as well. Mugs, jars... My sense of space appears dismal, so I don't drive very much these days either.

   Apropos of waste, I consider all the things we now consider routinely essential, compared to fifty years ago. Indeed I remember my surprise when I asked an American friend, in 1985, what she missed most in the African bush, while working in Makeni in Sierra Leone, she said it was disposable kitchen napkins. Jesus wept!

   I am no less guilty -- I am aware of all the things I take for granted in this junk-filled planet, which I managed without in my life in Thalassery, during the forties and fifties.

   In Thalassery, salt and sugar and such like came wrapped in old newspaper. Rice came in gunny bags. There were no ready-made clothes in the shops, so we bought cotton material and the tailor made my skirts and blouses. We had just enough clothes to get by. Now, if I go to our wardrobes, (wardrobes? That itself is a new concept.) I find the clothes crushed into the spaces, hangers doubling up for existence. We clear excess out every month and the Heart Foundation man takes away several cartons of clothes. But we seem to just replace the ones we give away.

   There is the other junk too. Birthday gifts and Christmas rubbish, Mother's Day and all else in the year. I have banned gifts and told my children to give the money to Shelter. They are not impressed.

   This is just a beginning of my waste-wail. More to come. I'm sorry, but this occupies a good deal of my withered brain-space. Till next week when I shall moan and murmur again.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Make Britain 'GREAT AGAIN'

Boris Johnson flinging his arms about instead of his hair. claiming to be the spokesman for the many, bracketed on either side with Sajid Javid and Rees-Mogg, two true representatives of 'the many!' We are going to get a golden age and we will be the most prosperous nation in the world.

   Boris is looking like a pantomime act. May has declined the role of cruel step-mother, and Hunt has disappeared into the woods. Words pour out of the blonde head as though a switch has been thrown. Rees-Mogg pulls his shoulders in prissily now and then -- he must be in fear of those flailing arms. He is a man who has always found safe haven in the back benches, plotting coups and generally keeping a safe distance from the hurleyburley. Many wonder as we watch -- how did we get ourselves here? led by a clown with a following of bag-carriers, who will carry bags for anyone.

   And then I remind myself: we voted this monstrous Tory government in, just as the other horror was voted in by the American people. I worked with many young American here and there and I cannot remember a racist, sexist or elitist among them.  If there were they had the grace to be well-hidden. So who spawned these aberrations? Trump and Johnson.

   I am surprised at the fawning tones of the back-benchers. After the cull yesterday, I thought there would be some fight in them. But it appears they are all cowed.

   Corbyn is measured in his disapproval and anger, but the Liberal-Democrat leader, Jo Swinson wants a no-confidence drama, which we have no chance of winning. Grow up, Woman.

   And I wait for the country to start taking notice. Don't wait for the press , though. No good news from them. Johnson is one of their's, remember.


Friday, 19 July 2019


Racism as a topic of conversation appears unavoidable at the moment. It's all over the world, spreading like an epidemic of nastiness.

There is Trump's cesspit, and that sewer he promised, in 2016, to clean up; there are whole areas of the world from which the distressed are fleeing, including people being denied citizenship in the north-east of India, though they have lived there for decades. And all over Europe, many countries are turning their faces away from the sad and lonely refugees looking for a place to be. 

I am an immigrant too, I remind myself. I came to the UK in 1974, when attitudes to foreigners were more antagonistic, but I didn't notice the hostile environment, which shouted at me from buses and public places to go away. I got a temporary job at the North Thames Gasworks near which I lived, at fifty-nine pence an hour. Within three months I was offered a job teaching Mathematics at a school in Essex.

I had difficulty finding accommodation; most bed-and-breakfast landlords did not want black, brown or animals.A friend of mine put me up in her home for a weekend and then found me a place to stay with a Goan man. It was a tall townhouse and we were two Indians and two Irish girls. Apart from the days on which rent was due once a week I didn't see him. Rent was nine Guineas a week for a room with no heating, a shared kitchen and bathroom and practically no furniture. When the other girls came to chat we sat on the floor, near the gas metre, which consumed fifty pence coins greedily, while we brewed cups of tea on my kettle. Milk was kept cold on the window sill. Sometimes that worked.

Dinner was bread and jam with that tea. Baths meant trying to keep clean in four inches of tepid water. But, in school, I was treated with respect and camaraderie. My accent was, of course totally alien and I heard things wrong too.But it was all good natured. In Wickford where I worked I had a tiny, warm, box room and I was happy. Piles of Maths exercise books sat on my two-and-a-half foot bed.

My daughter was called a chocolate drop in school and I was Paki on the streets. Considering the state of alienation between India and Pakistan that was a joke.

Now I suspect much of the Brexit fever in the north of England is closely allied to the fear of the 'other.' They are willing to suffer financial collapse to get rid of the foreigner. Theresa May's hostile environment and those despicable slogans on buses failed to take into account the contribution made to the society by Asians, Eastern Europeans and all else who have come here to make a living, or to escape torment.

Modi's casteism  is like a malignant growth on the body-politic of India. The tragedy is also that so many of my educated, kind Indian friends can find nothing wrong in this policy. I suffer because, from day to day, I have never had a religion or caste to call my own. I gave all that up before I started wearing long skirts to school in India. I had a no-nonsense father to thank for that.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Cricket and Me


I started playing cricket with the other urchins in the neighbourhood when I was ten years old. My cousin, Appuettan, cut the stem of a big coconut frond into the shape of a bat. (The bat lasted no more than three or four days till the soft wood split)  It was my job to weave a green ball out of the thin leaves of the palm, with a stone inside to give it weight. This was an essential skill learnt early in life in a household devoid of toys. A wicket was manufactured out of branches from the bushes at the back fence.

So I learned the language of the game: boundary, maiden, Yorkers (a bit unsure)... LBW was a bit of a mystery, but not so much as an off side goal in football. By the time I was fifteen I was an acolyte, listening to Swaminathan's perfect diction describing the exploits of Ben Hutton, Vioo Mankad and Vijay Manjrekar (the present Sanjay's father?) Five days glued to the black Bakelite box until one day, I connected it up wrong, and it went up in smoke and then flames.

There were no twenty-twenties or one-dayers then. Before the time of Kerry Packer and IPLs. And I still prefer the test form to anything else. Mind you, my little town in Kerala, Thalassery was always a sucker for cricket. It claims that the first local India versus English match was played in the big Maidanam in town. Since there was no stadium then, (there were enough Englishman to make up a team in that town) many a ball would have ended up skimming the top of the Arabian Sea next to the Maidanam. If the batsmen looked up from the crease Tippu Sultan's old fort loomed, with all the history of Dutch, French and British trade and shenanigans attached to it. The Sub-collector, the top British apparatchik in Thalassery resided in a magnificient bungalow on top of the fort too, ass always the British picking a high ground with a view of the waters.

The present World Cup is a bonanza for the likes of me. The garden, kitchen, books, all go on the back burner. I eat large numbers of biscuits and devour many cups of tea. I take loo breaks when a wicket has gone and the ads come up. Or between innings. I expect this is true of many men and women in India.

Cricket Season Sindabad!

Monday, 1 July 2019

Boo boo is in good company

Boo boo seems to be in excellent company. Except that the combination of Amis and Solzhenitsyn is a bit hard to take -- even for Boo boo. They put her to sleep as they do me. But I believe London Fields is the Amis book I most enjoyed.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

That Testosterone:

That thing that men are cursed with -- poor things--they have so much to contend with from the time they are born. Including higher wages for the same work, the lions' share of ruling positions in companies, and of course, the deprivation: no trump-like folks grabbing at their danglers.
  Semenya won gold, running. She is tall and swift; so let's investigate her. This black woman has no business to be so unbeatable. There must be something wrong with her. Let's drag her entire life into the public domain, mutilate her ego and destroy her.
   I hope we can apply the same measure to everything else in life apart from running. Let's put a cap on the height of baseball players; what is the 'sterone' making them reach the basket with just a tiptoe? In passing, if anyone has an I Q over a hundred, we should banish them from entering any competitive examinations, entrance exams to universities, for instance. How dare thy become so clever? A frontal lobe operation might restore the balance in this case!

  This is a topic that is dear to my heart. As I grew older -- and then even older -- I have wondered about the 'sterones' abandoning me, the libido draining away, the breast almost at waist level. And saddest of all, that nice tush on a man does not excite. Not even mild curiosity.
  I feel sorry for Caster Semenya -- the wolves are baying.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

A Start-Up

A Start-Up
Who said a start-up had to be all glitz and glamour and huge bank-loans to prop them up? I’m looking at a start-up, Indian style. No bank loans, no business plans, no publicity.
  Looking at, I said. Well, I had no choice. In Bangalore I stayed with my aunt, Baby, a beautiful eighty-something lady who is two years younger than me. (In many Kerala homes there is an obligatory BABY, who stays BABY into the fag end of life). And when I looked out of Baby’s front-window, there it was: the laundry, the SRI S R S Laundry, Washing, Iron, two lop-sided stars either end of the name.
  The entrepreneur was always busy when I got up in the morning and still busy when I closed shop for the day. It was a one-man enterprise. When the man finished work for the day, he closed the two green front panels of his ironing box, put a small aluminium padlock on and went away. Not much to lock up in any case. There was a power point on the ceiling of the container that he used, probably belonged to the house behind his ‘laundry.’I wondered whether his wife washed the clothes at home and he just ironed.
  He had his regulars. Two young men turned up with predictable regularity. One came on a bike with the laundry in front of his seat, the other had a moped, and his laundry sat on his pillion. They’d stop, hand over the clothes for ironing, and stay gossiping, one foot down on the ground. Meanwhile the laundry-man would be sprinkling water on the clothes and spreading them out to iron.
  The spot was a social hub – the men and women who came by congregated, talked to each other, while the owner-less dogs slept in the sun. From our house Baby always kept a share for the laundry man when we had special sweets. She’d call him over and pass the ladoos and jilebis to him through the iron railings of her house. When we had things to iron they were also passed through in the same manner.
  Ten rupees to iron a shirt? I wondered whether he made enough money to feed himself and his family, pay school fees for his children and the odd Bollywood blockbuster at the local cinema, of a weekend. This laundry-man is one of many cheeky start-ups in India who live from day-to-day, and make sure that their children have all the chances they didn’t have – the freedom to choose that comes with education.