Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dreams wishes and ambitions

It is the day of Ayudha Pooja.

I take my car to the temple for the annual worship of my vehicle that enables me to drive to work and make my living.

A coconut, four lemons, a flower garland and two hundred rupee notes is what it takes for me to broker with goddesses of wealth, knowledge and power ( Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga ) to express my gratitude and also throw in my wishes for the future through the priest who has been doing this for my car for five years now.

As the priest goes through this ritual children from the nearby huts where construction workers live swarm up around my car. The tractors, that,  later in the day pick up garbage from the streets do their early morning rounds when they arrive to pick up the workers to take them to building construction sites for work.  In the afternoons when their parents are at work the children loiter around the temple. Some of them go to the government school run by the municipality more often than not for the free afternoon meals offered there.

Today however is a special day. It is a holiday at the school on account of festivities and therefore there is a lot of activity at the temple.The boys are here to pick up the pieces of the sweet coconut that the priest would break after he performs the Pooja for the cars.

Many people would come to the temple to get their cars, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and hand carts blessed by the goddess on this auspicious day.  Some would even choose to buy their vehicle today.

The priest applies kumkum to my steering wheel and goes around with the incense stick incensing the insides and outsides of my car while the two tall boys try and have quick glance on the insides of my car. I get a little uneasy and keep a close watch on them.
My head tells me to be cautious and to shoo them away.
My heart tells me they could mean no harm, so I should let them be.
Just a curious bunch of boys trying to look inside a car.

'New car' says one of them to the other.
'Does not look like a new one' retorts the other in Tamil presumably their native language.

Suspecting I do not understand Tamil the older / bolder one asks me in English "new car madam ?"

To encourage his English I tell him in English that it is not new but 5 years old.
He translates to the other boy and reconfirms to him that the car isn't new.

How much ? He asks.
What ? I ask, a little perplexed with the way the conversation was getting slightly intrusive.

How-much-money -car? He puts together the sentence.

5 lacs 5 years ago I say.

In that typical boisterous boyish way he tells the other boy that the car costs 5 crores, in Tamil.

I correct him and reply in Tamil saying 5 lacs and not 5 crores.
5 crore, I tell him would be 500 lacs.

Oh !!  he exclaims to acknowledge that he stands corrected.

I instinctively know that in his mind he is calculating how much 5 lacs would be.

I also know that he has decided he would buy one when he gets there.

I am certain that when he gets there it will bring him an immense sense of pride and achievement atleast for a while.

Well,,, to each their own dreams wishes  and ambitions !!!.

This post was written for Write tribe's # Monday musings...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The best exotic marigold market ...

Tucked away in the second floor at the KR market is the marigold wholesale market. On an ordinary day where tons and tons of marigold and woven over long threads for fresh flower decorations across temples, marraige halls and funeral procession across the city.  

This is a post for the Thursday photo challenge where the theme this week is
  ORANGE (Fruit, Vegetables, Flowers, Signs, Clothing, Vehicles,...)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeev Sahota - Book review

The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeev Sahota 

‘ Unputdownable’ could be the apt word to describe the book.

It is no thriller. Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘The Year of the Runaways’ is a neatly crafted work on the struggles of migrants desperate to earn a living in the hope of making it big someday in an economically struggling England. 

The narrative is so well researched, intricately described and honestly portrayed that it gets difficult to find a fault with the novel. The main reason behind it is simply that it is probably so close to the near truth that it does not read like a fiction.

You meander through the heart wrenching poverty of Bihar, the caste politics of small town Punjab, the desperations of families struggling to make a living, the promise of the west as a one stop solution solve all the financial woes and most of all the heart wrenching exploitation of the immigrants, illegal or otherwise who throng Europe, particularly England in search of a better future o merely to escape the brutality of their lives in the Indian sub-continent.

Sunjeev Sahota’s characters are clear about their morals, each one of them wearing their heart over their sleeves, a martyr in the making with a never say no attitude about them.  They could come across completely self centered, ambitious, vulnerable, na├»ve and last but not the least victims of their own circumstances.

The novel primary focus is on the struggles of immigrants particularly the ones that illegally immigrate and constantly live with the fear of deportation.  The story moves back and forth and is centered primarily around three characters Randeep, Avatar, and Tochi.  Narinder the British born home schooled girl from a Sikh family caught amidst circumstances that bring her to a point where she agrees to be the Visa wife to aid one of the immigrants into a safe passage into England in exchange of money.

The story is hard hitting and heart wrenching from the beginning to the end. But it is the epilogue that is the clincher.  I do not want this to be a spoiler alert … read the book in its entirety.  Avoid if you are depressed and are looking for some escapism.

It is a book that will leave you in a state of melancholy mixed with the kind of bliss that you experience when you stumble upon a sincerely rendered piece of work.     

Certainly my personal favorite for the Man Booker Prize 2015.  

Satin Island - by Tom McCarthy - Book review

Satin Island - by Tom McCarthy

McCarthy’s Satin Island is’nt a book with any kind  of format and structure. It breaks all conventions of what structure a novel would generally follow and probably questions the necessity of a format. To be fair it follows a strict format that reads like a corporate dossier. By the time you are through into a couple of chapters you wonder if this structure is meant to be satirical or if this is a deliberate attempt at conveying something.  

Brutally honest, unashamedly ambiguous and written like a bullet point corporate power point presentation, it is the ramblings of a consultant employed by a corporate consulting firm. U – the main protagonist of the novel if you may call him so is an ethnographer -anthropologist  employed by his boss Peymann to help bring in an ethnographers perspective for a massive project they have just won. Throughout the novel U is rambling about perhaps tyring to tell the reader and assembly of his thoughts and bring out the point through a connection, point out the missing links or atleast
 lead you through an understanding.  

The book reads like a journal of the daily happenings in his life, about his ramblings on the search engine on the internet and on the minute insignificant observations that he makes about people around him, like a chance remark  by his girlfriend , the ramblings of his terminally ill friend afflicted with thyroid cancer and the minister who buckles and unbuckles her shoes underneath the table as she is attending a debrief meeting on the project.      

At  less than 200 pages it was the shortest amongst the Man booker shortlist for this year.   I picked it up first for that main reason. (I do not count the book by pages anymore. I listen to them and this was the 6 hour something which appealed to me since I could finish the book faster than any of the others) . How wrong I was in that assumption.

Do not be fooled by how short the book is.  Every 30 seconds I found myself rewinding to ponder over the point made. I wish I had more time to ponder over.  Not that I was in any kind of hurry to finish the book, but this one is a more leisurely read.
The one that you would take with you on a solitary holiday or when you have the time to let yourself aimlessly wander. 

If you are not exactly a fan of ambiguity then this one certainly is not your cup of tea. But definitely worth exploring if you enjoy experiencing something different yet strange and profound.  

Not my strong recommendation for the Booker prize but definitely one that will garner many votes just because it has a style that is what in India we would called ‘hatke’, literally translated would mean different from all others, rather unconventional.    


Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Man Booker Prize 2015 - Shortlists

On my book shelf for October are :

A Spool of Blue Thread By Anne Tyler

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Brief History of Seven killings by  Marlon James

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Satin Island by  Tom McCarthy   

Reviews will follow soon ...
Meanwhile  the Man Booker prize itself will be announced on Tuesday the 13th of October.

P.S : I happily drive two and a half hours ( both ways) through maddening traffic every weekday , spend hours in my kitchen garden over weekends, dust, clean, dishwash and look forward to doing every bit of monotonous work without complaining.
Thank you Audible.

2015 Reading Challenge

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Twilight in the sky

This is a submission for the Photo theme for Thursday where the theme for this week is

NIGHT" (Dark, Low Light, Twilight, Evening, Shadows, Long Exposure, City Lights,...)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Basavanagudi walk

Basavanagudi  walk

Starting at the foot steps at the famous big bull temple in Basavanagudi the Basavanagudi Darshan Walk was a walk into the almost 500 year old history of the city that has now burst and expanded way beyond it seams for what was conceived by its then Cheftain Kempe Gowda.

Ancient Clock tower built around 1537 
With four clock towers connected by a mud wall that ran across marking the city boundaries legend had it that if the city expanded beyond the boundaries great misfortune will fall upon the settlement.

Bangalore city - dubbed the silicon valley of the east ironically seems to have been blessed with fortune much to the disdain of the ancient legend. But Mansoor Ali our Tour guide conducting the walk thinks otherwise. Perhaps the city's mounting garbage problems, nearly  poisoned water bodies the maddening urban chaos are warning signals for the misfortune that awaits the city in the no so distant future, he says. 

As a relatively new immigrant into this city who has made it home for the past five years, I have taken many an American across to the old city of Bangalore … particularly to Basavanagudi  for  a quick dose of 'Indian Heritage' for the time strapped visitor to India. 

But the walk with Mansoor Ali of Bengaluru by foot  was very different and enlightening. Do not go by his name, he could put a pious Hindu to shame with his indepth knowledge of Hindu mythology and the familiar ease with which  he walks you across the ancient temple town of Basavanagudi. 

An architect by profession, and a native resident of Basavanagudi,  Mansoor has not just the knowledge but the experience of having grown up in times when the city around him transformed  unrecognizably into the arguably ugly monster that it has turned out to be. 

The priestly abode - about 450 years old 

A keen insight into the temples of Basavanagudi combined with a lot of history and trivia thrown in made it nice heritage walk.  Visiting the cave temple of Gavipuram and a sneak peek into the 450 year old house of the temple priests who live besides the temple was when the true experience of a heritage walk sinked into us.  For, to experience the heritage one needs to see how its original inhabitants live  today.  Very little of it is still preserved and thanks to a very resourceful Mansoor we just walked into the house of the priest and caught him unguarded resting bare chested in his cot when his wife emerged from the kitchen with a wet towel draped over her hair.  It was a cute moment when she coyly  hesitated to get photographed with us saying she was not dressed for the occasion.

Ah .. women the world over are the same .. remarked my fellow Canadian walker who was thoroughly enjoying his insights of a 100% genuine local experience. 

Friday, October 02, 2015

Catch ‘em young

Catch ‘em young

At the stroke of ten my door bell rings. I am not even half awake.  After all it was a Sunday. Alas !!! Vedant, James, Jessy and Shreya are at the door letting me know they are ready for the day.  That is when I remember and  hurriedly gulp my Sunday breakfast, slurp my tea conscious of the fact that I am keeping my  eco-warriors waiting.

We have been a team for a few months now.  We pick up plastic, water the plants, plant seeds  and do whatever else that needs to be done to enrich the soil around the little patches of land left in our apartment.  

The gardener appointed by the apartment management considered our company a  nuisance. We  persuaded him to stop growing the typical ornamental crotons  that are mindlessly grown in all apartment landscapes so that we could plants trees, shrubs, herbs and vegetables. He is still not a convert but our pester power has won him over and he lets us have our way as long as it does not end up in more work for him. 
Today the eco warriors dug a compost pit in our garden on a patch where no plant, shrub, or weed dared to grow.  As we dug along we knew why. All those dreadful  layers of plastic,  debris, cement and other non biodegradable waste emerged.  We dug two pits that were knee deep and was enough to empty my one month collection of kitchen waste from the smart bin. We collected the dry leaves from all over and added the browns to the greens before closing up the pit. 

The eco warriors now claim they are experts in digging and composting.  It is only a matter of time that I receive enquiries from their parents for composting.

The trick is to catch ‘em young and for sure it leaves a lasting impact.


P.S:  This post is submitted as a part of Write tribe's Write your heart out where the challenge is to use the following words and craft your post . 

alas, awake, dreadful, company, typical, lasting

P.P.S :  For a more responsible way to dispose your wet garbage read on more about SMART  BIN over here


Thursday, October 01, 2015

31 ways to make a living : The Sambrani Man

The Sambrani Man
The smell of the Sambrani incense wafts through the dingy dungeons of the nearby corner shop as the oppressing heat of the mid-afternoon blazing sun darts the eyes.  At the end of the row ahead in the shop the Sambrani Man  is collecting his ‘dakshina’ ( donation) after  having spread the lingering fragrance of his Sambrani incense through the interiors of the pan shop. 

He will stop at the tea shop next before he heads to the Xerox and stationery shop. 
This is the Sambrani man's routine everyday except on Fridays when he takes his weekly off. His customers are the shopkeepers who donate a few rupees into this bowl as a matter of routine.

Sambrani in English is called the benzoin Resin which is obtained from the bark of a tree. It is then dried, powdered and sold either in powder form or as blocks.  

When powdered and put into charcoal fire it gives out a dense smoke that wafts through with a special fragrance that can freshen up the atmosphere of an otherwise dull and dingy place.

In the crowded market places of many small towns, the Sambrani man's ritual is taken for granted and his income from his loyal customers keeps him stuck to his occupation. 

One of them has been featured on youtube. 
With the advent of super markets and the annihilation of small time corner shops his is an occupation that may well be on the brink of becoming extinct.


P.S : If you are familiar with Sambrani, and this post has evoked some sort of nostalgia in you, then over this weekend make sure to take a leisurely oil bath, put on some divine music, dry your hair through a dense smoke of sambrani, before going overboard on your Rasam -rice and curd rice. When you wake up after your siesta that afternoon you will know what paradise feels like.     

This is a part of write 31 days - a writing challenge every october every day for which i think I may have signed up in drunken stupor.   Neverthless i am committed to keep up my promise (atleast till now ) .


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