Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

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.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

A Tale of Two Indian Cities

In 1964, I fell in love with Bangalore. I lived for a while in a modest two-bedroomed house in the Cantonement area, once famous as a hunting ground for the British army, with a drunken brawl every night. Right in front of the house was a small park, and across from it the St Joseph’s school, which my niece, Geetha, then five years old, attended. Every morning and evening I escorted her to and from the school, in between times, stopping to enjoy the quiet and the greenery.
  I decided to buy a little house there but couldn’t get the money together, as always my reach far short of my grasp. I scurried around the town, shopping to take saris and sarongs back to Enugu, where I worked at the time. The obligatory Mahatma Gandhi Road, one of Bangalore’s main thoroughfares, was a beautiful street, with multi-coloured Cannas holding up their heads proudly, down the central reservation, for miles. Wherever I have lived since, I have started my garden with Cannas of all hues. I tried them out even in surly Purley, but they refused to co-operate.
  I have been back to Bangalore now and then since. I noticed that the decibel levels in the streets have gone sky-high, garbage has established itself in all available nooks and corners, and the community of half-starved pie-dogs slope around looking for offal. I spent eight days in the city in February, and was glad to escape with my life.
  In Bangalore, the pollution is not an insubstantial idea, it is a toxic curtain in front of your face. My friend, Sreelakshmi, is prone to wheezing; in Bangalore she gets Asthma within a day of reaching there. The residents complain that all the techies have two cars apiece, and they are all on the roads at the same time. People learn to meditate while the traffic tries to move.
  I was glad to escape to Madras (which is now Chennai) though most people of my generation still call it Madras. My first visit to Madras was when I was seventeen years old, representing my college at a debating competition. I hung around in the St Thomas Mount area, where the seat of the British Government had been, taking in the dignity and grace of the buildings. The High Court was a special favourite, I could almost forgive the British for hanging around in India, long after they had outlived their welcome, because of the majesty of that area.
  When I am in Madras, I live with my aunt and uncle in Adyar, a leafy suburb of Madras. How did it manage to have huge tracts of land devoted to trees? Driving in Adyar, you come across yet another mini forest every two minutes. The Annie Besant centre is here, with a wide, tree-filled compound; she tried her best to get beyond India’s repressive caste system, but the system was stronger, and had more patience.
  I can walk in the streets of Adyar without taking my life in my hands,; the traffic is sparse, slow and courteous. In the evening, as early as six, the birds are gathering, twittering in the branches of the trees, which form canopies over the traffic. Senior citizens like me can wander and ruminate.
  Even the pie-dogs look better fed and better-behaved.