THE OPEN TANK


“Bangalore roads are not meant for constitutional walks. Try to take walks in your own compound or on some level ground.” Thus advised my orthopaedist when I complained about not being able to go for walks outside my house.

Fortunately, I had discovered that I had no problem negotiating the staircases. So I decided to go up two flights of steps, some 30 in all and walk on my terrace. It was a good decision. The tiled terrace not only provided me with level ground to walk, but it also gave me an unpolluted air with the fragrance of the ‘road mallige ’flowers which had profusely blossomed on the tall trees situated on the next road.

The houses were built back to back. So, at that altitude I could get a bird’s eye view of the terraces all around my house and thus I had a fairly good idea as to the general fitness and tidiness of the inmates.

On the back of my right side neighbours, there was the house facing the next road, whose members (let me call them ‘Joshis’) hardly ever bothered to come up the two floors, while their left side neighbours (let me call them ‘’Sharmas’’) seemed to be highly environment and fitness conscious. Sharmas’ house had been built to include a coconut tree. I would often see the lady of the house taking brisk walks on the terrace and the couple would often be seen making full use of their sunny terrace for activities such as making pickles and preserves.

But, coming to Joshis,there was a small cement water tank on  their terrace, which had been covered with a light corrugated zinc sheet and weighted down with strips of light wall tiles. In addition to this tank there were two covered ‘Syntex’ tanks also. From my vantage point I could not see whether all the three tanks were inter connected or not. So, I had no idea whether the water in the cement tank was flowing or stagnant.

One evening, I was shocked to see the corrugated sheet had shifted. I could see big chunks of scum floating on the surface, making it an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes. I had heard that an area of 2km radius around any stagnant water was most vulnerable and there was a great danger of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya affecting the whole neighbourhood. How to convey the information to the Joshis and ask them to cover their tank? I was not acquainted with them as their houses faced another road. With my arthritic legs, I could not negotiate the bumpy footpath to go around the block, locate their house and inform them. I was desperate. It carried on for 3-4 days like that. On the 4th day, I saw Mr. Sharma on his terrace. I was not acquainted with him either. Moreover, my voice would break if I shouted across two houses, which meant a distance of 80ft. So, I clapped my hands and managed to attract the attention of the gentleman. Using sign language and a husky voice, I managed to convey the situation to him and requested him to ask the Sharmas to cover their tank. He nodded his head and assured me that he would do so.

Next evening, I was gratified to see the corrugated sheet back in its place weighted with  more wall tiles. I heaved a sigh of relief that I could relax till the next gale dislodged the sheet on the cement tank.

video courtesy you tube.

 

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BINDI -THE INDIAN RED SPOT


Image result for picture of an Indian woman with Bindi

 

Our generation in India has had a strange dichotomy built into our psyche. While we were being taught Science in schools and colleges, our Indian films have been consistently and persistently nurturing our minds with superstitions.

Indian Hindu women have always sported a red spot on their heads to signify that their husbands are alive. So much so, in the sign language of the aurally handicapped, the bindi signifies India. This red spot was made up of a red powder called kumkum. People would display different shapes and sizes of the same, some doing it free hand and some using the copper coin with the round hole in it prevalent in those days for geometric perfection.

Later, stickers called bindis came into vogue. These used to have maroon coloured velvety surface on one side and a non -drying adhesive on the other side. Though dancers and teenagers used glittery, sequined ones to adorn their foreheads, the round, red stickers were more popular with the middle aged people as they came close to the traditional spot of kumkum.

The sticker bindis had one advantage over the traditional powder as they never got smudged. But  our filmwallahs continued to use kumkum on female characters, as  smudged kumkum  was a very handy symbol to indicate a rape victim or a new widow or a bride who has had successful consummation on her bridal night. Thus except for the third one, the smudge had always been associated with undesirable events. As a student of Science and later as a teacher of Science I never believed in this bunkum till I was jolted into confrontating a similar situation.

Ramu had been lying in coma in the hospital for 5 days since Sunday. We had not given up hopes in spite of dire prognostications by the doctors. My sister and I would come home every morning for bath and breakfast. Our kind son-in law would drop our daughter in the hospital to keep the vigil and bring us home and take us back to the hospital in his car after our hurried morning ablutions.

It was the month of March and very hot in Bangalore.

On Friday, I had my bath and was sweating profusely. I was about to light the oil lamps in the Shrine when I remembered that it was the day of routine Lakshmi Pooja. I also discovered that I had forgotten to stick my bindi on without which a Pooja would not be conducted. So I dipped my hand in the kumkum bowl and applied it on my forehead. As I was conducting the Lakshmi ashtottaram Pooja with more kumkum on the idol, sweat was pouring down my face and I had kept wiping it off.

As I came out of the Pooja room my sister gave an almost audible scream and asked me to look at myself in the mirror. I was shocked to see kumkum combined with sweat had spread all over my forehead in a bizarre pattern.

Two days later Ramu breathed his last never surfacing out of his coma.

Was my smudged kumkum a macabre portent or just a coincidence? It was almost as if fate had told me that I would no more have a right to wear one.

Whither my Science and Scientfic temper?!

(picture courtesy Pinterest)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Weighty Come down


Vector illustration of vendor pushing vegetable cart.

THE WEIGHTY COME DOWN

Couple of years back one of my friends complained that the vegetable vendors visiting her road refused to sell 1/4Kg of any vegetable to her. She being a loner and not believing in storing them in her refrigerator lest they lose their nutrients did not want to buy more than a 1/4Kg of each variety. Thus she had to face the sneers and snubs of the vendors.

But now the prices have shot up so much- doubled, trebled, quadrupled…… that the sellers themselves have become aware of the fact that if they were to empty their merchandise they better dispense the quantity the consumer demanded. Earlier in their disdain, they would not only not carry the standard 1/4kg weight, they would even bring a stone from the roadside and claim it to be 1/4kg. But now it being a buyer’s market they are forced to carry one. While cucumber used to be quoted at 5 for Rs 20, they are now willing to sell them piecemeal.

I remember those good old days when vegetable sellers in Delhi would dish out freebies such as a handful of green chillies or a bunch of coriander leaves along with the vegetables bought. Of course, we never came across such generosity on part of the South Indian sellers. On the other hand we were rudely asked not to touch their vegetables more so with the left hand lest their sales suffered then on. If one were to dig one’s nails into a cucumber or broke the tip of the ladies’ finger (okra) to test their freshness or maturity, it would be calamity and a permanent full stop to the seller-consumer dynamics.

Now it is a moody market. If tomatoes are sold one day for Rs 50-80 per Kg, another day it would be strewn on the roads next to the village farms as the transportation charges to the town market would far exceed the price they would fetch there. Of course, the Spanish festival Tomatino is beginning to find flavor with India after the movie ‘Zindagi nahi milegi(a) dubaara’.

Another thing that has found flavor with Indians is Capsicum or Bell pepper as they are known abroad. When Pizzas were introduced in India, the farmers made a good profit out of the growing demand for the vegetable.

I have a vegetable vendor who takes a big load of fresh vegetables on his cart every day early morning without shouting his wares. In fact, he sneaks past our houses pushing his cart without making any sound as the vegetables are probably meant for a posh colony where he is guaranteed a better return for his goods. If I happen to see him and stop him, he dishes out the items with such a bad grace (as refusing to sell to the first customer does not augur well for his further sales that day) that I get a vicarious thrill making him stop and sell the vegetables to me.

Who knows a time may come when vegetables like beans and ladies finger also would be sold at a rate per piece instead of in fractions of Kgs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE KINI-GATE


Cartoon Characters Swimming

THE KINI-GATE

The other day in a resort in Kodugu where we had gone for a week long holiday, an elderly lady expressed a desire to get into the pool though she did not know swimming. Her daughter who owned a full body swimsuit lent it to her so that she could have some fun in water. The younger lady used to don the full swimsuit as she was allergic to sun and ultraviolet rays. Nobody had any objection to the suit as it was health based. Then I wondered why all the furor by associating such a suit with religion, calling it ‘Burkini’ and linking it to  the highly religion-associated costume ‘ Burkha’ and to the  fanaticism and asking for its ban in the pools of the developed world?

Men have an easy thing wearing the universal trunk. The problem arises when we women get into water. Our mothers would take religious baths in rivers and ponds in their 9 yard sarees. Half the saree would be tied around and the rest floating. Apart from standing in a shallow area their upper body would hardly be under water. They would just have a ritual dunking of their heads in the water, their fingers tightly pinching their noses to prevent water getting in.  But, if they were to get into the swimming pools, would they have chosen to do so in ‘madisaar-kini’ or ‘mel kacche –kini’? Just a thought!

When I started going for swimming, my mother-in law asked me naively, ‘What do you wear while swimming?’  Probably she thought I would be modest enough to wear a saree or a petticoat with a dupatta for the upper body. She was quite taken aback when I told her that I wear a single piece swimsuit. She was polite enough though not to reveal her mental shock. People forget that one can look more sexy and ‘revealing’ in a wet saree than in a practical swim suit as proved by many of our film heroines.

Bathing in rivers is quite different to swimming in a pool. Apart from the fashion statements, a swimsuit is highly practical allowing free movement of limbs. Wearing a bikini like the world class swimmers though does not guarantee a world class standard of skill.

Of course, when one is not interested in the exercise resulting from serious, brisk swimming, one can just hang around the pool wearing attractive bikinis which I have noticed quite a few young girls indulge in.

Swimming is a unique experience. Water is a totally different  element where one experiences wonderfully  the gravity being countered by buoyancy. Aquatic exercises are particularly advised for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. One can start teaching swimming even to toddlers; earlier the better.

I feel the medical benefit and pleasure one derives from swimming is more important than what one wears to get it. One should be allowed to wear what one feels like. Nobody should make unnecessary religious associations and go to the extent of getting it banned. So long as one doesn’t get into the water in street soiled clothes, the pool authorities should not bother as to what one wears (or doesn’t wear as in some cases).

Let’s hope that with Burkini, there will be a revolution in the field of women’s swimwear- shalwar-kini, jeans-kini, leotard-kini, dhoti-kini !

Illustration courtesy illustrations of. com

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The Ubiquitous Sisters-in law


32147498-crowd-of-indian-women-vector-avatar[1]THE UBIQUITOUS SISTERS-IN LAW.

The word ‘sister’ has only one definition. She is the one who is born of the same parents as yours. Of course, there can be a half-sister (referred to as step-sister in India) who shares only one parent with you.

But ’sister-in law’ ? There can be many definitions. It could be your brother’s wife or your husband’s sister or your brother-in law’s wife. And then these sister-in laws might have their own wide network of their own sisters and sisters-in law. With both my father and father-in law being prolific sires (as was the norm in the plentiful, prosperous 20th century) I have a whole lot of sisters and sisters-in law in India not to talk of those who have settled abroad.

During my teaching career, I would be commuting to the schools I served in by school buses or private ‘Matador’s. There not being a very big fleet of them, they would take a circuitous route all over Bangalore picking up the teachers and the students.

It so happened that wherever we went along the route there was bound to be a sister or sister-in law residing in that area and I couldn’t help pointing it to my co-passengers.

Once a North Indian colleague who was of the firm conviction that fair complexion was the monopoly of the North asked me incredulously, “Are you from Bangalore?” I replied, “Yes indeed, born, brought up, educated, married and hope to die in Bangalore.” One of my fellow commuters burst out with gusto, ”She is not only from Bangalore but anywhere you go in Bangalore you will find a sister or a sister-in law or sister’s sister-in law or sister-in law’s sister or sister-in law’s sister-in law of Vimala. I don’t think there is any place in any part of Bangalore where she doesn’t have a relative!”

But God bless them all. They are a sweet lot (unlike in the TV serials) and I cherish their company.

By the way, I forgot that in our Indian custom we call our cousins also brothers and sisters. So, it happens that the spouses of our male cousins  and the husband’s cousins (female)  and spouses of his male cousins also become our sisters-in law.

I think I better stop before the heads of my readers, specially of the modern generation believing in ‘We two, ours two’ go spinning beyond  limits.

 

 

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The Story Of Segregation


First time I heard the word ‘segregation’ was in my school history text book where the segregation of the blacks (known as ‘negroes’ those days) was practiced in United States of America. I was quite amused when our Municipal Corporations adopted the word to educate us about garbage management as a part of the ‘Swacch Bharat’ campaign. Pamphlets were distributed, big adverts filled the newspapers, the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s were screamed out of ‘mic’s fitted to vans over and over again and we were up to our ears with the ‘segregation’ and ‘segregation’. People had been even threatened with prosecution in case they did not follow the rules.

We were told to dump all the wet garbage generated in the house and kitchen separately and to collect all the dry waste such as paper, plastic, thermocole etc separately. A group of items such as sanitary napkins, torch cells, e waste etc were all to go into different bins, some of them to facilitate recycling. The Corporation would not be responsible for the garden waste from cuttings, trimmings and repotting. It was left to the resources of the house owner to dispose them off.

A laudable idea and we were all eagerly looking forward to garbage free Bengaluru. Ideas were even solicited for the disposal of waste. When I wrote about making it compulsory to fit all kitchen sinks with blades as they have in US where the kitchen waste could be blended into a liquid and disposed off , no one paid any attention to it.(Probably recycling it for farms was a better idea for the Agro people). I had even seen how the dry garbage was separated on a conveyor belt in a European movie and was much impressed.

Well, anyway, being a conscientious citizen, I decided to be meticulous about the segregation of garbage. I kept two separate bins and made sure that the wet and dry garbage did not get mixed up. But not my maid! She considered it a futile exercise as she argued the garbage chaps would mix it all up again.  In the house upstairs, my nephew and his wife – a modern ‘dink’ couple who believed in mostly e marketing thus generating lot of garbage lived, the maid with none to supervise or object would mix up all the waste and bring it down in a big black bag and dump it in one or the other bin.

One day when I came out in the morning, I saw that the bin had been upset by a dog in the night. The black bag dumped the previous day by the maid had burst and all the stale food with all the Styrofoam cups, plastic spoons, plastic zip bags etc had been strewn all over my concrete driveway !  The maid was on leave that day. So, I sat and mopped up all the garbage, wet and dry, segregated it and scrupulously put them in the two bins.

It was time for the garbage collector to come. He came in a van, picked up the two bins and emptied them simultaneously and probably into a single container kept in the van. I was shocked. I asked him, ”I took so much time to segregate the dry garbage from the wet one and you are mixing up both?” He grinned and said, “Only for today ma’m” and walked away nonchalantly.

 

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The Odissi Dance I Saw


I SAW AN ODISSI DANCE

DD Bharti (National TV channel for cultural items) is always known to telecast classy programs. One of the items I best like to watch is the direct live telecast of Indian classical dance festivals held in Khajuraho, Bhubaneswar and other places in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.

The dances are mostly Odissi with items of Kathak, Kuchipudi and Bharathnatyam on some days. The settings are beautiful with the programs held on open air stages with the famed temples in the background. The timing being 6 in the evening onwards is just perfect. The stage lighting is very aesthetic and efficient. The colour filters, the strobe, the dimmer –all work without a hitch and are no distraction from the presented performances. The background music artists are introduced by the emcee (MC) with spotlights trained on them in the dark. They carry on the rest of the time with a flash- light trained on the sheet containing the lyrics.

The audience is an interested, culturally aware, and well behaved one with a few foreign faces here and there.

The stages are wide enough to accommodate a number of artistes and the dance dramas are well choreographed with many young artists with slim figures undulating gracefully.

The only snag is when the organizers want to honor senior artistes by allowing them to perform on the stage. Arts like music, literature and painting appeal to the connoisseurs irrespective of the age and fitness of the artists. But a performing art like Indian classical dance is one where there ought to be an age limit. I know that artists as they age and mature acquire a great degree of knowledge, skill and depth in their art; but they forget that their presentation has to appeal to the audience. Their bodies may not be able to cope with different nuances of their art which is pre-eminently visual in nature. As a result most of the senior artists make their performances a long saga of Abhinayam (mime)  with hardly any footwork which any expressive face, say that of  an actor can project and emote.

With due apologies to senior dance artists, I must say that I am not asking them not to dance. But let them do it in privacy. While concert goers prefer to avail of season passes, the organizers should not cheat them by introducing a geriatric element and force them to watch.

The particular dance I witnessed (Of course I could have switched off the TV and saved myself from the torture. But then I would not have got this blogJ) was of Radha and Krishna. The lady artiste playing Radha was quite old. At least her body was. Her face had been heavily painted to cover the wrinkles (very obvious in close-ups). Dewlaps of loose flesh were hanging from her arms and they quivered with every movement of her arms distracting one totally from the dance. Her dance movements gesticulating full breasts were pathetic to say the least. Though Odissi is a dance of tribhangi with head, thorax and hips moving independently, the poor lady’s body was a single solid mass not registering any individual body movements or swayings (And this in Khajuraho which is known for wall carvings of shapely damsels).

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