Impressions 'n Expressions

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life is when dreams are surrendered to reality.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Failing memory

Last night I went to this shady place for dinner. I remembered having had dinner there a couple of years ago and I also remembered it to have been quite good.

I realize, I don't remember too well.

As Agent 86 would have said, 'That was a sucker punch to my gonads'.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Rooster Coop trap

India Shining was the campaign slogan for a new generation of Indians, for whom the surging stock indices, burgeoning malls, swanky office buildings, IT and mobile phones were tangible affirmation of the coming of age of a country that was mired, till yesterday, in everything retrograde...corruption, a failing health development index, poverty, inadequate health facilities, lack of potable drinking water and an apathy in looking for a solution. The biggest mechanism that brought an end to the sordidness that was old India was the medium of television and the 'national news channels'. IT revolution had made India an economic superpower and mobile phones redefined communication. India started producing millionaires and we had our own silicon city. Every mall that was built added one more brick to the success story. Urban India never had it so good and the news channels and their news stories complemented and celebrated new India. We were ready to take on the world. Health development index as a measure to gauge social and economic well being was given a short shrift, while the concerns of the industry houses and the IT czars were given paramount importance by a government who existed solely for the gratification of itself and be complicit in its pandering of big business. What can you say when the upswings and downswings of the stock market is used as a mirror to reflect the economic well being of a population of over a billion people, half of who do not have access to clean drinking water...forget health care, education and equal opportunity.

The White Tiger, Arvind Adiga's debut novel, is a story of the new India, albeit told using a protagonist who comes in from the 'Darkness'. This is the India you don't find mentioned around you. Here the villages don't resemble the virgin, verdant beauty of a Yash Raj blockbuster. This is the India that you see around you everyday, but choose to be blind about. This is the story of India you see at traffic signals in most metros, this is the India you recoil from as you watch from inside your air-conditioned cars.

The eponymous protagonist, Balram Halwai, is a driver with a rich guy in Delhi, one among the millions on whom the light hasn't shone yet. While tremulously he has learnt to accept his servility, Balram also realizes what goes on around him and though resentment is creeping in slowly he fails to act on it, caught as he is in his 'Rooster Coop' mentality. The servitude of the community bound within the 'Rooster Coop' is such that even if the 'key of his emancipation is given to him, he will throw it right back at you'. Gradually he picks up on all the traits by which servants can get back at their masters and that include inflated car maintenance bills, pilfering of petrol, lying and plotting his way up the servant chain. All this while his mind is festering with the germ of an idea to break free from such a non-existent existence. He wonders about being like his master, being able to walk into that swanky mall without being stopped. But to get out of the 'Rooster Coop' be the white tiger, that which comes once in a lifetime, he has to break free and that will mean rising above his servile existence, and if it means having to commit a cold blooded murder, if it means that his whole family will be killed, he has no other choices and no regrets either. It is not easy for someone who was born in the 'Darkness' with no hope, to become a part of the economic prosperity that is the new India. It will involve sacrifices.

The story narrated in the form of letters to the Chinese Premier who is about to make a visit to India, is not novel or new. We have read a lot about all the wheelings and dealings that go about in the pursuit of success. But Adiga brings to this a topicality that has been ignored by the powers that are work. His India is populated by people who come from the villages that we don't see on the NDTVs and the CNN-IBNs, his India is populated by corrupt politicians and bribe giving masters who have come to expect their superiority over others as a matter of fact. His India is not the one we see in those glossy posters given out by the tourism department. This is an India where everybody can be bought and elections are rigged and the Government exists only for the upper middle class.

Adiga's writing is quite easy and direct to the point of being too explanatory. His writing is fairly simple and quite literal in its transcription of the ideas and anger that went into the making of this epistolery piece of work. But unlike the writing, there is a lot of profundity to the the questions that arise out of this story of another successful entrepreneur. Though I found it to be digressing in parts, the core remained an angry look at the dichotomy that is our country today. This is almost a satire, except that I didn't find it to be an exaggeration and neither was it too distanced from reality. Some may complain that by highlighting the plight of the so called 'under privileged' or the 'dis-enfranchised', Adiga has missed the point about the success of the IT generation and the privileges it has accorded to the rising middle class, but at the same time one can argue that, for too long have we been wearing pink glasses and for far too long we have deluded ourselves about India having arrived...we haven't arrived when the divide between the have and the have-nots are increasing, when the gains of one section of the society does not percolate down to those who require assistance, we haven't arrived until the Balram Halwai's of our land do not need to resort to extreme measures to be a part of the India Shining campaign.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Breaking News...

Young british tourist raped and murdered in Goa.

German woman tourist molested by cab driver in Jaipur.

Old couple murdered in their Noida home. Servant suspected.

Police arrest parents for murder of little girl.

All this when the nation is going thru a crisis of grave importance...rising oil prices. While the major oil companies are losing about Rs.600 crores daily on subsidies and Mr. Manmohan Singh has come out and told that the Government won't be able to save the consumer, the main headlines in our national news channels are about Amitabh Bachchan's new found obsession with blogging. The shrillness of news reporting is in stark contrast to the vacuousness of the content. Media's voyeristic frenzy in reporting isolated issues as national calamities coupled with playing an activist role with a crusaders zeal in protecting the rights of the urban upper middle class is disconcerting at even the surface level, but dangerous when you look deeper and consider the apathy we show towards actual issues that the country faces.

While contemplating pneumatic mode of transport that doesn't require fuel, I am forced to listen to the latest breaking news,

An American woman student found in a drugged state in Chennai...undergarments missing.
Question for the day, Does the missing undergarment expose vital clues? Please send in your sms's to...

Long ago you had magazines like Crime, Murder Weekly and it's you have NDTV, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, Times Now and more.

Where is the green plant when I need it...