Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
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Sunday, 18 December 2016

The British Sense of Values

The British Sense of Values

We hear this periodically. Some unfortunate foreigner, or group of foreigners don't have this particular grace, according to some value-pundit.

   Starting from the assumption that all men are created equal (even in America, but may not be treated as such by police officers.) I logically also assume that all mean must mean all men, women and children, including the poor old losers like me. In which case, in all places and nooks of the world, populated by the rainbow hues of humanity, there must be value systems that the 'good' proclaim and practice, and other value systems that the 'wicked' adopt and also practise.

   It then follows that all over the world people understand what is good and bad, irrespective of whether they acknowledge it or not, and proceed to abide by it or not.

   Now - puleese, some value-elevated British person, define for me the 'British sense of values.' Do we mean the ones practised by Teresa May, Modi, Blair, The Salvation Army, The police and the foot-ball coaches...? Have the values changed from the time India was plundered, its young men (including my father) imprisoned, some hung for standing up to the British Raj? Has Christianity re-adjusted, re-wrote its best practices. No more burnings clearly. Are we going to get a new Tablet like that of Moses?

   In my long life I have had the good luck to travel to various disenfranchised parts of the world and I have found the same diversity of values preached and practised as I have found in England.

   Don't for a moment equate the ISIS with the average generous, friendly, kind muslims that I grew up with in Kerala. If women are raped in Delhi that particular abomination is world-wide too. The press is not particularly honest, the Governments are partisan and self-serving and the likes of NIgel Farage are worried about the British sense of values getting diluted. Ah well, there might be values that need to be thrown away altogether. Like talking about immigrants as though they are barely human. Shame on us!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

OMG - The Colour!

The colour. Oh my God, the colour!  I had forgotten the colours of my homeland.

Coming out of the aircraft in Chennai, I felt zombie-like. The steel-grey-pretending -to-be-blue of the seating inside the cabin, the subdued black and beige of the stewards, all conspired, no doubt together with jet-lag, to make me feel as though I was swimming underwater.

   And then came Chennai. Magenta flashed from saris, duppattas, children's clothes and adverts. It was accompanied by brazen green of all kinds: grass green, cow-dung green, peacock green and all things in between. Mingling with these were many shades of blue and bold mustard and yellow. Not to mention the saffron of the holy men. No rainbow ever got close to this.

   I looked at myself - navy blue top, slightly lighter blue trousers, blue cardigan, blue back-pack. For heaven's sake! When did I lose my colours and get drab and boring like this? I remember the days when I flaunted all the colours in front of me, but would I dare now? Another thing that has been bludgeoned out of me by the cold U K weather and the blues and beige's and blacks of working England.

   When I travelled to England in 1974, running away from an unsatisfactory marriage, I wore a forest green, full length crimplene skirt with a huge, animal and palm-tree design on it. With it went an orange satin blouse and a red coat. What utter confidence! And open sandals, despite the freezing February blast into which I landed 

   When I started working in Beauchamps School, I still wore the clothes I always wore in Zambia. Dark pink trouser suit, skirts in many shades of bright green... I must have looked like a migrating bird which had wandered into the staff room by mistake. I tried tights once. Trying to get my legs into the tights made my room-mate laugh. I gave up on that, thank God.

And then slowly the colours dripped away from me. Probably with my self-confidence. I adopted the blues and the beige's, and the stare that looks through and past people. I watched out for my vs and my wubble us, for which I took much teasing.

   I tried to be really English, adopting lipstick and rouge and matt-finish light pink powder, till Raghu, my son, looked at me and said,'Doesn't do anything for you, Mum.' And Kitta helpfully pointed out, 'It's Mum's English face.' I gave up. The make-up disappeared into the back of the dressing table drawer and the home-made black mayyi for the eyes came out. I stuck with that. But the clothes continued to be apologetic as befits a migrant.

   Today I decided that I shall go back to the bright shades of my youth. After all, at eighty-one no one's really looking at me. Next summer I shall take my brightest saris out and flaunt them past the dour shoppers and shop-keepers.

   Thankfully, I discarded the polite reticence of my adopted land very quickly. I now accost women, children, dogs and telegraph poles alike. I smile at people indiscriminately and for no reason. Sometimes I win and make a new friend. It takes time, but time I have at this point. So hello neighbour, passer-by, child, dog -Happy Christmas!



Money, Money, Moneeey...

Was definitely not funny, Chaos reigned with the de-monetisation, as they called it.

Last time I went to my bank in India my rather lovely bank manager gave me half my 'entitlement' (my money had become inaccessible overnight) for that week, and said, 'You don't really need more, do you?'  Made me think. 

 I was travelling all over India all of the next week and wondered whether I'd find myself in some god-forsaken village with no access to coffee-money. But she was right and I managed without. A quick exercise in budgeting. I bought one Paragon biriyani rather than two, which my greed required, and one packet of Halwa for gifts rather than two. I gave my maids old thousand-rupee notes, which they could legitimately change at the bank counter and felt a bit guilty. At the bank they may not get the same treatment I got - coffee with the manager and all services done by her very efficient assistants for me.

   In Chennai, though the new thousand and five-hundred notes had now arrived, people were still struggling. The taxi driver could not provide change and neither could the small way-side merchants from whom every-one usually bought their vegetables and fruit. They lost out.

   So did the fishermen in Kochi, who could not sell their catch to the local buyer.From day to day the goal-post was shifting and we had no idea what we could manage the next day. Back-packing tourists just gave up as they found they could not pay for way-side purchases. I waved my Barclaycard around a lot and lost hugely in the exchange. This could be done in the big stores only.

   The queues in the early weeks were long and exhausting; eventually people left a marker - chappals, plastic bag, newspaper... and sat near by. Rumours that a few millionaires had shifted huge mountains of money overseas weeks before the cash-drought made the average citizen very angry. And the farmers in remote villages did not even realise that their market-economy had gone bust, as they continued to trade in valueless paper money long after the demonetisation. 

   A wealthy friend of mine mentioned in passing that two BJP apparatchiks had asked him to launder money for them. He was amused.

   I am not a Modi supporter - God forbid. But I did think the fundamental idea was good though the execution was disorganised and untidy. It also hit the poor most.

   Then again - Indians are good at getting past rules. There is a whole underground network building up, finding ways to get past the new rules.

Why do I think only the poor got wiped out with this demonetisation trial? As usual?