Monday, December 11, 2006

Bengalooru: Is this the right time?

My plane had departed from Frankfurt, on its way to Muscat. I flipped through the pages of the airlines magazine and came across an article about the new destinations offered by that airline. Each of these destinations had 2 or 3 pages dedicated to that place. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a destination “Bengalooru” in India! Darn! The airline tickets, boarding card etc had all read Bangalore. So it had never occurred to me that I was actually traveling to Bengalooru and not Bangalore!!

I landed in Bengalooru early next morning. It was the same old, cramped, “Bangalore International Airport” and not “Bengalooru International Airport” as I was expecting it to be. In the next few minutes I was out of the airport and we were on our way towards our home.

Nothing much has changed since the time I left, of course except that the traffic has become more pathetic. The vehicular population has doubled but the roads are still of the same width. There is nothing to indicate a lane. People create and follow their own lanes. From the peddling bicycles to huge trucks, every vehicle is precariously perched on these narrow lanes. These lanes often double as parking lots as parking places house eateries, shops, religious shanties among others. The footpaths are used as filler roads when a parked vehicle is encountered on the lane. There will be no space which will be left unused. Any available space will be occupied by a vehicle of suitable size. It doesn’t really matter which lane this occupying vehicle comes from or which lane does the outgoing vehicle move to. What really matters is proving the theories of maximum utilization of resources and survival of the fittest. Pedestrians do their part by filling the smallest space which could not be occupied by any vehicle. Here you see man and machine in perfect harmony.

Every now and then you see boards of Bangalore Metropolitan Rail Network or the Bangalore Metro for short. There is really no metro or railway system in place. They are just boards which indicate that Bangalore city might soon get a Metro. The talk about Bangalore Metro is not new. The metro concept was first mooted in the year 1982!! Yes, 24 glorious years have passed since the concept was first proposed but there is nothing at all in place even now. I think a surcharge is collected on every liter of petrol sold in the city, which makes petrol prices in Bangalore among the highest in India. Wonder what use, this surcharge has been put to.

Bangalore Railway station, Bangalore bus stand etc have all remained the same. Same shape, same size and same age old method of working. Only their names will be soon changed to Bengalooru Railway… etc. Bangalore is not alone in getting its name changed. Other major cities like Belgaum, Mangalore, and Mysore etc too are getting a name change. Belgaum will become Belgavi, Mysore will be Mysooru, and Mangalore will be Mangalooru. Nothing else will be changed in these places either. In fact nothing much has changed in these places since the British left India 59 years back. Being the capital, if the condition of Bangalore is so hopeless you can very well imagine the condition of these other cities. I think the government of Karnataka wants to purposely retain the cities in this way so that if the Queen of England or some veterans of the East India Company ever visit this place, they can recall those age old days!!

Roads too get new names every now and then. You might be at the correct address but still searching for the address. People too change their names keeping in pace with time. You can find rows of ads in newspaper of new names and the person’s picture. One of my high school friends changed his name thrice. I call him with his name which he had when he was in high school. His college friends call him with his name which he had when he was in college and his work friends call him with his most current name!! Changing city names is also not uncommon. Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai etc.

You might have come across products, in which companies would have changed the product packaging to make it look more attractive. The product will however be the same. This city name change is also something similar. The roads, buildings, people, and language nothing has changed. Only the name has become Bengalooru from Bangalore. I think, a new rule should come in place which prohibits change in names without a major change in the product. If such a thing happens, Bengalooru seems to be way ahead of our times.

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It’s no more a Yes

I was at the health club watching the evening news on the raging fires in southern California. There were these 2 men sitting next to me who were talking about forest fires, environment pollution, deforestation etc. Seems one of them had watched a program on global warming some time back. Their discussion was like this-

Stranger 1 – You know, 1000’s of acres have already burnt down in this fire. The people, you know, where will they go, I mean where will they stay?

Stranger 2 –I heard this is the biggest fire that has happened in the last 5 years you know.
Stranger 2 – I watched this program on global warming you know. They say earth is becoming warmer and by 2030 70% of corals will vanish it seems.

Stranger 1 – Yeah you know I heard there was a volcano in Siberia, sometime back. Seems it had covered the area of a football stadium.

Stranger 2 – A football stadium is big you know. I mean it had to be a big volcano.

Stranger 1 – Yeah, It said it was something like the Detroit stadium. That’s big you know. It’s a huge stadium. I couldn’t make it for the super bowl you know.

Stranger 2 – yeah that’s big. Did you watch the game between lions and ……

The conversation slowly shifted to football. I sat there thinking, as they discussed the Monday night football. It wasn’t the raging fires or the vanishing coral reef I was thinking of. It wasn’t the smooth transition from global warming to football which surprised me. What really caught my attention was the number of times the words “You know” and “I mean” were used in the conversation.

I am not complaining about the use of these “filler” words. Many of us do that. I think we use these to buy some time or make the sentence look lengthy. We need a word to complete the sentence but don’t have it. So one person assumes the other will know what to replace for “You know” or “I mean” and the other person somehow WILL get the exact meaning and the conversation goes on!! But what is never realized is that a language is being killed in the process. Words are slowly forgotten and a dictionary is needed even for a simple word.

This problem is not only with English. I know of many such filler words I use in Kannada or Marathi or Hindi. It’s just that we are slowly killing all languages we know. I had once asked my friend about the food at a restaurant close to our office. He had said “it tastes like sh%t.”. I don’t know what all our people eat but I am sure the “inventors” of English language would have never thought of so many different contexts for these words!!

Anyway it was really not surprising that the topic shifted so quickly to football. “I mean” we all talk about global warming, “you know” and we all know it is happening. So if somebody asks you if we are killing our environment, just say yeah or yo or yup!

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More than ever……

I was on the flight from Houston. It had been sometime since we had left Houston and we were now in mid air. I flipped through the pages of a magazine from the seat pocket and found an article on a new yoga destination somewhere in Mexico. ”Yoga in Mexico?” I questioned myself and immediately started reading it. I am not sure if I would have read the article with the same interest if it was “Yoga in India”.

The article had explanation of some basic concepts such as birth of yoga, meanings of some Sanskrit words, explanations of asanas etc. I finished the first 2 pages and was about to flip to the third page when I noticed the woman, maybe in her mid forties sitting next to me, reading the same article. She too had noticed me reading the article.

Woman: Interesting write up, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah. Good one

Woman: Where are you from?


Woman: Do you do yoga? It says people in India do yoga.
(There was a picture in that article of a man practicing some asana near a river bank in India)

Me: Sometimes
(I forced myself not to say no. I remembered that the only asana I had ever learnt was the surya namaskara, and it was ages since the last time I did it)

Woman: What is this pran-yam

(There were names of some asanas in the article and Pranayama was the first.)
(I did not want to take this question though I knew something about Pranayama, because I realized where my answer would lead to; question to the meaning of the second asana in that list. I had not heard of any other asanas mentioned in that list. There was no explanation of these asanas in that article. I decided to answer the question on Pranayama and excuse myself back to the third page of the article)

Me: Pranayama is a breathing technique. It’s an asana involving inhalation, retention and exhalation…………
(The lady nodded her head and I felt she had understood something. She looked down at the article. I was sure she will ask me the meaning of the next asana in the list. I had to act quickly and decided to get up from my seat when I heard someone saying “Excuse Me”. It was the flight attendant who had come over to give us some snack packets and drinks. I heaved a sign of relief as I put the magazine back into the seat pocket to pull the tray table. The lady too put back the magazine to pull the tray table)

I was thinking about the conversation as I drove back home from the airport. I felt ashamed at my ignorance about such a great technique. It is from the same country I am from and my knowledge about it is close to zero. I don’t know what else exists that have become famous else where, which have their roots in India. India has such an excellent culture and we are forgetting it all. I think every county would have something excellent from the past which its people would have forgotten. We realize the importance only when someone else finds it and shows the world how valuable it is.

As I write this blog and think to myself, I don’t know if I can write this same blog in Kannada or Marathi, the languages which are closer to me than English. I don’t remember when was the last time I read a Kannada or a Marathi newspaper or a book. It would be really shameful to call myself an Indian just because I was born in India. I feel it has become more important to know our own culture before I try to learn others, more so in this era of globalization.

~Narendra V Joshi

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Chemical Cell

I had been to a restaurant with my friend the other day. The coffee I had ordered came with sachets of sugar and colorful sachets of artificial sweeteners. I had seen ads on TV of one of the sweeteners and picked it up to add to my coffee. Most of the sweeteners I knew said they were meant for diabetic patients. But this sweetener said it is nearest to sugar and is ideal for the whole family. My friend stopped me and asked me not to use artificial sweeteners as they are made of chemicals which give them the sweet taste. This one said it is made from sugar compounds and so I argued with him that it is not like the other sweeteners which are made of chemicals and I had seen ads of this sweetener since a long time. If it contained harmful chemicals it would have been out of the market by now. Both of us argued our minds and finally he went with normal sugar while I went with the artificial sweetener.

I got a mail today afternoon from the same friend in which he had sent a link to one of the sites which said, contained the truth about artificial sweeteners. It had a mention of the sweetener I had used the other day. It seems there is no tested data or any evidence to say that this sweetener was really closest to sugar. It also said no testing was carried out for knowing the long term effects of this sweetener. Now I am not sure if this is a gimmick from a competitor company or if it is for real but the supposedly long term effects of different such chemicals used in food was really scary.

Read through the list of ingredients of any food product you buy. There will be at least 2 or 3 items which you will not know. The bigger the list of ingredients the bigger is the list of unknowns. All these unknowns from so many different sources go into our body every day. Who knows what will happen when an unknown chemical from one product mixes with an unknown chemical from another product? I remember the color changes, the boiling and the spurting, the fumes etc which I had seen in the college chemistry lab when we mixed different chemicals. Maybe something like that might happen in our body too. Who know!

Do you know how the ripe red tomatoes retain that color even after 3-4 days? It seems at some places they are “fed” with some kind of chemical, due to which they retain their freshness for days. It looks like all my favorite vegetables can be adulterated. The chemical story doesn’t end here. Meat eaters too have their share. It seems at some places, animals which are reared for meat are fed with certain steroids and other chemicals which make them meaty and grow faster compared to those which grew without these chemicals.

Looks like the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe are all contaminated with chemicals. Our body will slowly become a repository of chemicals!! A day will soon come where you don’t have to feed the animals reared for meat with separate chemicals. The chemicals will be readily available in what ever they feed. Humans too, will be at the receiving end.

Maybe a chemical might affect the brain of one person and the finger nail of another. Maybe it might not have any effect on someone. Maybe one day after years of chemical consumption and its reactions, the color of our blood might change to black or blue. Or maybe our blood might turn into some liquid similar to petrol or diesel and it might be used to run cars. Maybe human body might be used as a chemical cell to generate power. Maybe................I can only imagine.

~Narendra V Joshi

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Man on the first floor

I started walking towards the apartment complex from the parking lot. The hot summer sun had started to descend. Our apartment was a veteran compared to its peers in the area. It had seen and survived decades of sun and rain and snow. I entered the complex and took the stairs for the first floor house. The squeaking sounds from the wooden staircase reaffirmed its age. I unlocked the door and entered the house. The burst of cool air and the distinct sound of the working AC clearly said the AC was switched on. He was already home. I called out and searched the whole apartment. He was nowhere to be found. Maybe I had forgotten to switch the AC unit off that morning before I left. I locked the front door and secured the latch so that nobody could enter the house even if they have a key.

Ten minutes later I was on the sofa watching a comedy TV show with a bowl of corn flakes in my hand. These comedy shows are really puzzling. You get to hear the joke and also people laughing at it. I have never really understood why they have to add that sound track of people laughing. Is it to make the audience aware that it was a joke or is it an assumption that audiences are so dumb that they do not understand the joke? I suddenly felt that I had heard something; like somebody had moved behind me. I got up and looked all around. There was nobody around.

This was not the first time it had happened. The other day I was working late I heard foot steps outside the room. The foot steps were rather heavy and I was sure he was outside the room, maybe in the living room. I dashed into the living room. I looked around and went to the balcony. There was no sign of anybody around. Suddenly I heard water flowing. It came from the kitchen. I rushed to the kitchen but it too, was empty. The taps were all shut and there was no sign of any water being let out. Maybe it was from the adjoining apartment.

This kind of experience in the kitchen was not new either. I had had several such incidents and close encounters in the kitchen earlier too. My closest ever had happened some weeks before. I was at the kitchen table cutting onions. I was constantly using my T-shirt arms to wipe off the tears. I could barely open my eyes and my nose too was filled with the pungent odor of the onions. Suddenly I felt somebody blow near my ears. I turned around. I knew it was him and this time he was the closest we ever had been. I tried hard to keep my eyes open. I looked in all directions and checked the entire house. There was absolutely no sign of anybody else in the house. I returned to the kitchen when a thought came to my mind. I had always thought he was around me and was trying to harm me. But why would he come so close to me, blow softly at my ears and vanish? Maybe it was a she and not a he. It had never occurred to me that it might be a she who was doing all this! Maybe she was the previous occupant of this apartment and she had liked this kitchen very much and that was the reason for my frequent encounters in the kitchen.

But I was still not very sure whether it was a he or a she. But the thought of a “she” was really good and I now wanted to know who it was. Months passed but there was really no breakthrough until that day. That day I knew my time to vacate this apartment had come and I had strong reasons for it. But the thought of whether it was a he or a she still lingered in my mind. I made up mind to find who it was and put an end to this, the next time it happened. I was washing my face when I felt a presence. I knew he or she was next to me. I waited for an opportunity to catch the person and so did not immediately respond to the presence. In the next few moments I knew the person was still next to me and he/she too might have been thinking why I still had not responded. Now was the time and I knew it. I prepared myself and quickly looked up. There I could see him in the mirror and it was only him in the mirror in front of me. He too was alone like me and there were nobody else around.

The sound of the boiling water on the medium kitchen flame broke my thoughts. I am standing in the new apartment into which I have recently moved as the lease of the previous apartment had expired. This apartment is smaller than my previous one but one word echoes in my ears whenever I think about this. “Location”; this was what the apartment office person had told me when I had come to look around this apartment. This apartment has shopping malls on three sides. I added the tea powder to the boiling water when I suddenly heard a sound and footsteps in the balcony. Somebody was there in the balcony of this first floor apartment. I rushed to the balcony to find it empty. I looked around and I could see nothing but the vast graveyard with rose bunches here and there under the setting sun. “Location”; the word again echoed in my ears. This apartment has shopping malls on 3 sides and a grave yard on the fourth. I closed the glass door as I again entered the apartment. I knew he was there and he was now inside this first floor apartment.

~Narendra V Joshi

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sweet Painful Gift

I like to go jogging in this park. Start with a brisk walk and slowing move to jogging on the paved fitness trail. It was the usual track. The park is normally filled with families with children around the picnic tables, some bikers, people with their pet dogs and those familiar jogging faces. But today was a bit different. I had reached the park a little late from my usual time. The exit area was really crowded. The inside however wore a deserted look. One of those rare occasions where you have the entire trail for yourself!!

The brisk walk had moved to jog and I was next to the children’s play ground. There were 2 kids playing on the slides. Very soon I reached the intersection near the garden. The path I was threading crossed the one coming from the other direction. I slowed a bit as I jogged the intersection. On the crossing lane were 2 dogs running towards me. Hounds or maybe retrievers but they looked really ferocious. There was a man behind them and he held the short lease. As they got closer I noticed that the man was on a skate board and the dogs were actually pulling him!! I continued jogging and very soon I could hear them on my same lane. Suddenly there was a loud noise and I turned around. The man on the skate board had fallen down. Before I could think of helping him I had noticed that the dogs were on loose. My heart skipped a beat!

I turned around to see if there was some place to go where the dogs wouldn’t follow. Unfortunately there was nothing in sight. It was just the guiding track in that serene surrounding. I looked back and the dogs were closer than before. Their determination to bite and rip me off to pieces was even more evident and I did the obvious. I started running in the opposite direction. I knew it was a futile effort as there was nothing really protective in sight. I took God’s name and prayed as I ran. Maybe my prayers were answered. I heard the man calling out for his dogs. He was probably running behind us. The dogs seemed to have stopped. I thanked God and tried to make full use of this opportunity and run to a safer place!

As I turned around I heard the dogs too had started to run behind me and I immediately realized that it had been a while since I had been to the temple and why will God help me when I remember him only in such dire situations? I started running to my full speed again. The faster I ran the louder I could hear the growls. I felt the dogs were now too close to me and were probably inches away in sinking their teeth into my flesh. I saw a pond or a lake on my right and dashed towards it. As I reached closer to the water body I could see the ground below the water and so dashed across it. I was half into water as I waded across. Soon I was on the other side and the dogs too were on the edge of the pond. They had still not got into the water and this gave me some time. In front of me was a barbed fence. I knew if I somehow crossed the fence I can be safe and I ran for my last hope profusely sweating. The fence was made by tying thin metal wires to poles. The wires were 2-3 inches from each other and stood probably 6-7 feet high. My aim was now to pull out the bottom most and crawl under it to safety. Both the dogs were now almost in the mid of the pond. I had to act now and I had to act real fast. I pulled the bottom most wire with all my might and it gave away. One wire closer to heaven!! A shrill noise like a siren or something started as the wire gave away. The dogs had now swum the pond and were almost out. I had no time to pull the second wire. The noise was becoming shriller and louder by each second. It was becoming unbearable. It was clouding my brain so much that I could no more focus on the dogs or their snarls. I think the dogs had backed off with that sound and I too wanted to escape it. I lay on the ground and crawled on my back under the broken wire. The sound was too much for me to take. I somehow wanted to cut it down. I wanted to close my ears and escape from this piercing force. Something must have happened when I pulled the wire and I had to stop this.

With great difficulty I pulled my self up and looked around. It was very hazy and dark. Slowly I could see some light under the blinds of the window. The noise was still defying and I had to stop it. I turned on to my right and saw the alarm clock. It showed 5:45. I hit the button on it ending the deadly battle!!

What a pain this alarm clock is!! Can there be a more lethal combination than an alarm clock and a Monday morning?!!!! It was gifted to me and I cannot throw a gift!! This is the pain which I see last before shutting for the day and this is the pain that pulls me into the day!! I don’t know who invented this but I know this is the most useful; pain filled gift you can give or ever receive!!!

~Narendra V Joshi

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Dishonored Death

One of the rarest and probably the most difficult thing is may be finding a Kannadiga who has not seen a Rajkumar movie. A recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award, his was a larger than life image in Karnataka. The number of people who attended his cortege in Bangalore stands as a testimony to this fact. An estimated 500,000 people had gathered to have a last glimpse of their idol.

I might have seen around 20-30 movies of Rajkumar out of a little more than 200 movies in which the star acted. A versatile actor, who started his career as a dramatist and later moved to cinema. He was also a talented singer whose renditions ranged from classical to devotional to even fast numbers. He is one star who never smoked on screen and except for a few films in his initial days he never played the role of a drunkard. Every movie of his were family entertainers in real sense with the subject of good over evil and he being on the good side most of the times keeping to his extremely staid image.

There was a sense of incommodiousness as I read through the news items of Rajkumar’s life. I feel the names of Balakrishna, Narashima Raju and Vajramuni should go synonymously with the name of Rajkumar when the talk is about a movie. A majority of hit movies of Rajkumar had either Balakrishna or Narashima Raju or Vajramuni or all of them; Balakrishna, I have heard was partially deaf. His screen presence is really note worthy. He almost always played the role of a crooked relative or a friend. Narashima Raju, on other hand almost always played the role of the comedian/supporting actor and Vajramuni the role of the villain. Probably it is this combination which was the formula of success of most of the movies. Straight comedy, devoid of any sarcasm or vulgarity was the trade mark of Narashima Raju. Bunny teeth, razor thin physic and his innocent foolish questioning look makes him the toughest competitor for any comedian. Vajramuni on the other hand was probably born to play the part of a villain! His voice, hairstyle and his dialogue delivery were simply superb. Those were the days, in my opinion, the golden era of the Kannada film industry. An industry with the fan enthroned king, Rajkumar at the helm. The king, who was a demigod to the fans, yet humble and down to earth. Such was the life of Rajkumar and the respect for him in the hearts of the people.

But fate seemed to have planned other wise for this respected and honored star who met a dishonored demise. The unruly rampage and the riots that accompanied his last journey leave a permanent scar. The death and destruction that followed will be written alongside the name of the thespian in the pages of history. The only other time I had seen riots in Bangalore growing so much out of proposition as it has happened now was when Rajkumar was kidnapped by Veerappan. The law makers exactly knew what to expect but were simply incapable to handle it. This incident exposes the horrifying attitude of a section of fans of this cosmopolitan city. The same fans who were responsible for the fame and honor, gave a send off, with destruction and dishonor.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mr. God, Please wake up.

He is all knowing; he is all powerful; he is everywhere; he is in everything; the air you breathe; the food you eat; he is the beginning; he is the end; he is the purpose of every life; he is one who makes all rules; he transcends sin; he is beyond limitations......

He is dumb; he is shy; he cannot protect himself; he silently suffers all humiliation; he needs support; he lacks courage; he has gone into an indefinite hiding..................

Who is He? He is Mr. God.

I was reading about the recent cartoon controversy in which God of one religion was showed inappropriately. There were more such related links which took to different such incidents in which people had “misused” the names/life stories etc of Gods of other religion. Every time it had happened, there were protests from people of the religion whose God was in news. People burning posters and flags and other things to, disgrace the other persons God. Most of the protests had turned violent and people had even lost their life in them. But one striking missing piece is that, there is not even a single mention in any of the news, of God himself trying to protect his own image and reputation.

Just see around for yourselves. Everybody will react in some manner to show their anger if they have been abused or ridiculed. Some might react immediately and some might take a longer time but everybody will react. But this person Mr. God hasn’t ever reacted in spite of he being the centre of controversy and in spite of the fact that it is his name that is getting tarnished. If he is all knowing, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omni this, Omni that etc where is he? Is he sleeping? Is he afraid of something? Can’t he show his displease?

Okay, for the moment let us concentrate on what he has already done instead of what he is doing. He has created everything around us; he has created humans, put brains in our heads so that we have the ability to think. He made people come up with different languages, beliefs and more importantly different religions having different God’s!! Look into the teachings of any religion. It is the same. Peace, Peace and more Peace. He is the person who makes all rules and his creations are really beautiful. But did such a minor thing of not creating different Gods and different religions miss his mind or he couldn’t he think about it when he created all this? If only he had given only enough intelligence to humans to create only one religion or have all people follow only one God none of the incidents which happen in his name would have happened. Or much better, don’t create any religion at all. (Maybe this is a bug in his coding which missed out testing too!! But even after so many production problems this bug is still not cleared or corrected!! I am only wondering why he can’t fix this bug!!!!!!!)

Starting from creation, every aspect, of the concept of religion was ridden with problems which God never took responsibility of. So I think the root cause for all these problems is God himself in one way or the other. He is the person to be blamed and not anybody else. It’s high time he takes action to protect his image and reputation or take responsibilities and fix the bug he has put, if he truly wants peace, peace and more peace.

~Narendra V Joshi