Friday, 28 July 2017

Random thoughts 27072017

Contrary to the popular belief many Indians have , that it was brought by the Portugese,  Christianity had its roots in India even before England and Ireland heard about  Christ. Though it is widely believed that it was introduced to Kerala within a century of Christ's death , by St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus himself; it can be confirmed that the advent of Christianity was established in India by the 6th Century A.D. Kerala always had a substantial population of Jews in its coastal areas , particularly Cochin and most probably they were the first converts to Christianity because of the language affinity.

And it may also be noted that the first mosque of India, was supposedly built in 629 (during the life of Prophet Muhammad) in Kerala.  Many won't believe this  but this is a fact and there is nothing to be surprised about it. Even before the religion of Islam was established by their Prophet Mohammad , Arab traders were in contact with India. Merchants would regularly sail to the west coast of India to trade goods such as spices, gold, and African goods. Naturally, when the Arabs began to convert to Islam, they carried their new religion to the shores of India.

So those who believe or want us to believe that both Islam and Christianity are alien to our country may please note that it is more integrated with our country and its culture than USA, England, Russia,Australia and China. Those who believe in any religion can let others  practice their own religion, in peace without doubting their nationality, intention or purpose. But it's much better not to take any religion seriously. They are all controlled and propagated by vested interests.

Also people should note that our history did not start with the establishment of or freedom from the British rule. It dates back to many centuries . Much of it may be myths but nevertheless the study of recorded points of history can dispel many misconceptions that we have in our mind.

Random thoughts 28072017

With the onset of the rainy season, I now have to drop my wife every morning to her school. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the place from our residence, out of which half the time is taken to negotiate a  stretch of about 200 meters just in front of the school.

The place is well connected; a straight wide lane connects the school to the main road. On both sides of the lane, there are multi storied buildings and housing complexes. People living there are all quite well to do and more or less belong to the upwardly mobile class. Being in Navi Mumbai, the roads and buildings are well planned, well maintained and spacious too. Everybody would like to stay here and definitely aspire to buy a flat in such a locality

BUT IT TAKES ME MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES TO CROSS THE LANE, A STRETCH OF ABOUT 200 METRES IN THE MORNING. Why ? Because on both sides of the spacious lanes, cars belonging, presumably to the owners or tenants living in those flats and building complexes are lined up on both sides of the road,. And with parents coming out to drop children to schools in their own vehicles and school buses picking and dropping children from this school and also to other schools, it is a two-way traffic and becomes dangerous considering everybody is in a hurry and kids walking and crossing the road. In spite of two cars parked on both sides of the lane, it is wide enough to accommodate and allow two more normal sized cars to pass, in opposite directions. But the moment, someone drives out from the gates of one of the housing complexes or a big school bus stops to pick or drop children, there is a clogging of the lane. Honking and cursing by irate drivers start immediately as everyone is in a hurry.

I am sure this scene is repeated during the afternoon too when the schools close for the day. And this is not a one off or a unique thing happening to me or only at that place. I am sanguine that if this can happen in a well-planned locality like Nerul in Navi Mumbai, much more and exponentially irritating clogging of roads are happening every day in the thousands of bustling towns and cities of our vast country. It is nothing new. And it will carry on like this. That's what people will say. Only I am bothered because I have a nit-picking, intolerant and negative mind. The remedy to this is having a deep breath and forget about it.

OK, so far and so good. Let me come to the crux of the issue which is prickly enough and make everybody lose the slight hint of a smile at my lunatic raving and ranting.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS ROAD BLOCK?  The answer is simple enough - Occupation of the common space provided by the Municipality authorities in a planned city by the residents there. Yes, that's the truth. Bitter, maybe. Why,  some of us might be doing the same thing. You can't blame people for parking their cars on the roads. Where will they park their cars then? The government must do something, the municipality must do something, the resident owners' committee must do something, the local council-member must do something. Well, in effect, everybody must do something other than the person who parks his car every day on the side of the common road, as if he owns the space by virtue of his buying or renting a flat in the adjacent housing complex.

And mind it, none of the people who do this are impoverished. They are well heeled and their families belong to the top ten percent of the population of this country by income considerations. In many of the cases, the car parked outside is the second or the older car in the household with the costlier and newer one safely parked in the parking space within the housing complex.

I recently discussed this phenomenon with a gentleman. He immediately got offended and in a very much irritated tone told me that I was not saying anything about the slums that grow up in different places by the encroachment of government land. Then he accused me of harboring an anti-elite bias and also being a habitually anti growth person. Rounding off, he marked me as a Communist - speaking like a bloody Commie - that was the exact word he used. Probably he meant it as the vilest abuse that can be made without being charged of being an abusive person.

And this is exactly the point I want to make. We, the privileged, park our cars on the roads, the common spaces provided to make our living nicer, as a matter of right and perks of being privileged. Then from the cozy confines of our aseptic and comfortable lives, we castigate the poor for the "Jhopadpatti" they create by encroaching. The average price of a car nowadays would be more than Rupees Five lacs. It will take 10 years for a person to earn that amount ( not savings ) going by the minimum wages paid in India. And needless to say, not everybody is paid the minimum wage prescribed.

The other point that can be made is that the lack of planning both at the individual , societal and governmental level. You will find that numerous housing colonies come up and people buy them without providing common spaces, for parking. I  myself have such an experience. People don't plan for their future growth while buying a flat because the main consideration is the price, not the living. And then later, after they attain a certain level of disposable income, they think of buying a vehicle. And for parking, the roads and the common spaces are naturally the choices. The real problem is of the mindset. People come and live in cities but can't discard the village from their thinking. So just like the bullock cart that is parked in front of the house in villages, they park their vehicles in front of their house in cities too, be it a public road or a common facility.

There will be many who will point to the lack of good public transport system in our cities and towns. And they may be correct, but to an extent only. It is not the only reason. If you don't agree then I request you to visit places like Cuffe Parade, Nariman point and other such places which are considered to be posh areas and see for yourself how the cars of the rich and powerful occupy the roads. Some of them may even be costlier than a small flat in a smaller city. I can well imagine what happens in the numerous towns which have come up without any plans throughout the country. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Random thoughts 26072017

The price or rather the sudden rise in the prices of Tomato is a subject of discussion both in the society and the social media. As nobody seems to be able to do anything about the price rise the people have no option but to adjust them to it. And as usual, make and circulate jokes about it. Some of these jokes are quite funny and sarcastic. But all in all, as seen from the laments of the middle class and the poorer alike, it can be assumed that the dear Tomato has proved itself to be the ubiquitous vegetable in our households after Potato, Onion and Chillies , in that order. Strangely and to the delight of many (Thank God for small mercies) the prices of Potato and Onions are quite stable and affordable. Otherwise it would be a real cause of worry for the powers to be , by heralding the long awaited revolution.  

A very interesting social angle to the whole issue is the gradual acceptance and the obligatory presence of Tomato as a must have in the vegetable basket of the Indian housewife. Tomato is no doubt a versatile vegetable which can be used as accompaniment in soups and salads. But the most common use of Tomatoes in Indian kitchen nowadays is for imparting flavour and juice to the curries. The sweet and sour taste of Tomato by itself blends perfectly with the hot and spicy style of cooking by the average Indian. Therefore it is no wonder that it has placed itself at a position of high importance both as a vegetable and a spice additive. Bengalis use it to cook their Maachher Jhol, South Indians use it a lot for Rasam, Punjabis use it for Butter Chicken and City dwellers can’t do without the Tomato Ketchup in, well almost everything.

But it was not like this even half a century back. Tomato was not such a key element of Indian cooking. I distinctly remember my relatives from village referring to Tomatoes as “Bilaati Begun” (Bilayati baingan). The concept of adding Tomato to curries or “Sabzis” was almost nonexistent earlier. Maybe it started after the 60s or 70s and caught up the fancy with more production of it by the farmers after the Green revolution and better seeds, manure and storage facilities. 

Whatever it may be, the addition of Tomato with our food and by association with our culture is recent by the standards of time and history. In fact Tomato was never a vegetable grown, cultivated or seen in the twin continents of Asia and Europe. It is a fruit of the “New World” and came with the discovery of the Americas, just like so many other things.   If you consider the fact that Columbus discovered America in 1492 then the introduction of Tomato to the Europeans itself is an event which is just about five hundred years old, historically. This means that Babur was establishing the Mughal Empire at the time when Spanish conquistadores were getting to know about this berry like fruit in the jungles of Mexico. 

The Spanish in fact, even have a festival called La Tomatina , where participants throw tomatoes and get involved in this tomato fight purely for entertainment purposes. Of course the festival started in 1945.  The English word 'tomato' derives from the word 'tomati' its name in Nahuati, the language of the Aztec people.  The English form 'tomate' first appeared in the 17th century, and was later modified to 'tomato', probably under the influence of the more familiar “potato”. Tomatoes were originally grown in Britain and the rest of Europe as ornamental climbers and were cultivated for their decorative leaves and fruit. The French, as usual were convinced that tomatoes had powerful aphrodisiac qualities and called them pommes d'amour (love apples). trust these frenchies to add the amorous angle to everything.

Soon after the tomato's arrival in Europe, it was also known as the Peruvian apple. The first cultivated tomatoes were yellow and cherry-sized, earning them the name golden apples. They were considered poisonous but appreciated for their beauty. Tomato proved itself to be adaptable to all climates and with the production of sheet glass, could be cultivated in colder climates too in greenhouses. Presently the variety of this vegetable that we find in markets is fully hybrid and genetically modified to make it available for mass production and longevity after ripening.

It may be interesting for trivia buffs to note that though Tomato is actually a fruit grown on a shrub, it is treated like a vegetable. The question whether Tomato is a fruit or a vegetable became a subject of legal wrangle and in 1883, the Supreme Court of USA passed a verdict classifying it as a vegetable.

The arrival of Tomato to India must have taken quite some time after this. Most probably it came with the Portuguese (or maybe other Europeans). But it remained somewhat exotic and belonged to the “Sahib” culture. There is not much description of this fruit or vegetable (whatever you call it) in the old Bengali novels, poems or plays. Even the old style Awadhi or Hyderabadi cuisines do not have any mention of it. In fact some chefs of traditional Indians food would scoff at the thought of having this item as the ingredient of this item. However, the fact is no Indian food preparations served in restaurants nowadays would be complete without this vegetable.

Since this fruit is not a native to our country, old texts and ayurvedic, Unani or Hekimi style of diet as prescribed by the old school also does not include it in their guidance. So it is a wonder how Tomato has become such an important part of the lives. Often we hear some group or the other deciding on what we should eat but till now none have published their edict in this regard. We have accepted and embraced Tomato in our life just as we have become accustomed to wearing trousers instead of Dhoti or Pajama. It has become another example of globalisation of taste, out of choice and convenience. And now, its absence in our vegetable basket worries us, so much, as if it has been a traditional item of living.

After reading up to this, dear reader, you must be having an urge to through tomatoes at me. But wait, that will prove a costly error at this price. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Random thoughts 25072017

Mumbai previously known was Bombay under Portugese rule from 1534 to 1661 A.D. It was given away to the English under the Marriage treaty of 1661 when king Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of king John IV of Portugal. To keep the historical context in mind , the first battle of Panipat which heralded the Mughal rule in India was fought in 1531 . Which means that Bombay was almost never a part of the Hindosthan as ruled by the Mughals . The British occupation of Mumbai also as contemporary as  Taj Mahal which was completed in 1654.

Aurangzeb was the only Mughal ruler who realised the threat of the English .After the death of Shivaji in 1680,  the Mughal rule spread to the Konkan area too. This brought them in conflict with the English and Portugese who tried to blockade the sea routes to Arabia and beyond.  Between 1686 and 1690  the British East India Company and the Mughal empire fought a war commonly known as Child's war . Emperor Aurangzeb issued orders for the extirpation of the English, and the confiscation of their property. The English possessions were reduced to the fortified towns of Madras and Bombay.

In 1689 the strong Mughal fleet from Janjira commanded by the Sidi Yaqub and manned by Mappila (Moplas , Muslims from Kerala) and Abyssinians (Habshis) firmly blockaded Bombay. After a year of resistance, the English surrendered, and in 1690 the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behavior in the future. The emperor withdrew his troops and the company subsequently re-established itself in Bombay and set up a new base in Calcutta.

In 1686, the English East India Company, which had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a firman, an imperial directive that would grant England regular trading privileges throughout the Mughal empire, initiated the so-called Child's War. This hostility against the empire ended in disaster for the English, particularly when Aurangzeb dispatched a strong fleet from Janjira commanded by the Sidi Yaqub and manned by Mappila loyal to Ali Raja Ali II and Abyssinian sailors firmly blockaded Bombay in 1689.  In 1690, the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behaviour in the future.

Siraj ud daullah , Nawab of Bengal who fought the East India company in the battle of Plassey was born after four decades of this English defeat and magnanimity of Aurangzeb . In fact his maternal grandfather Alivardi Khan , whom he succeeded was born in 1671 .

Friday, 21 July 2017

Only, you never knew.

Go, scour the distant shores ,
the myriad alleyways of the world
to seek the elusive nectar
they call as happiness.
When you come back ,
you'll find it , within you .
A pearl hidden inside the shell .
Only, you never knew.
Feel it, kneeling down all alone,
on a vast green meadow,
as the rains drench you.
Smell it , as you walk under a tree
laden with its fresh blossom.
Hear it, in the silence of the hills,
punctuated by the rustle
of the leaves, nodding gently
to the soft whistling breeze.
Taste it, in the clear water
of the spouting spring ,
cupped in your palms.
Watch it , on the canvas of the sky.
as the early morning unravels
the colours of the sun
You will understand , how
it was always there, within you.
Only, you never knew.

Sunday, 9 July 2017


In this kingdom of
the sparkling sunlight,
a terrible fear of heights 
stopped me from climbing .
So I remained rooted
somewhere near the base camp ,
even as people crossed me
and went up high and higher ,
first, beyond the sights
and then beyond the vision.
Some how I never realised
how the ground beneath me ,
which I stand was getting dug up ,
inch by inch, deep and deeper
than ever before.
Earlier I could reach
across the other side ,
crossing the old bridge .
Now often the question
that haunts me -
What happens if the bridge
that connects us breach someday
and leaves me stranded
across this deep abyss of mistrust .
The sum of my all fears are back. 
Be it the heights of  fantasy
or the depths of desolation ,
the curse of vertigo stays with me.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A whole night of love

A whole night of love
on a wet night
with the sound of rain
falling on the tin roof .
Forget everything ,
all those woes of life ,
this is the time to savour
the moments of madness.
Break free
into the prison of desire
that binds us together.
Walk on the sky
to reach the stars above.
As our world explodes,
in the ecstasy of two souls
the sudden fragrance of passion
spreads to make our tryst
a never ending journey
to its final consummation .