Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Brute Question

Once at an interview with Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala at IIT-M, I asked him why India lagged behind China in development. Everyone I knew at that time was visiting that country and raving about Shanghai and Beijing, the flyovers, the smooth traffic, the works...

He said in reply (not verbatim) - I don't know... The way they work, the government simply assigns lands and if your property happens to be there, then too bad. Whereas in India, that can't happen. Would we want someone to take away our lands without our consent even for development?

The answer for most of us would be a big, resounding NO! Even if it is not "my" land, I don't like my neighbouring haven for birds and animals being taken away for the metro. But a court case on that matter has been dismissed. Which is fine - at least we have the freedom to register our protest. The outcome is never in our hands, in any case.

An addendum to the matter on China, last night a neighbour said that apparently, in Shanghai, as part of plans to expand the roads, multistoried apartments have been marked yellow. Those with the mark have to be demolished by the owners, who are to relocate 80 km away in designated land. If they don't, then the government will demolish at the owner's cost.

India, please remain a democracy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


As we sit wondering about the explosion in the nuclear reactor, I cannot help wondering if this isn't nature's way of getting back. There is a Tamil word that fits our attitude to nature appropriately - sorandarathu. Literally dig our nails into the last available resource and grab every iota of it in our greedy hands.

But having got used to our comforts, where is it that we can cut down? Will we stop killing trees, reclaiming land, mining, poaching, drilling, populating and therefore restarting the entire cycle? In retrospect, is industrialisation a boon or a bane?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Used to the Luxury

When the recession hit sometime in 2008-2009, Economic Times Chennai did a supplement on banking and I was roped in to do some of the articles after interviewing heads of nationalised banks. I met the chairman of Karur Vysya Bank, a very senior man, close to retirement or past.

He said: I am not worried about the recession or how India escaped. I am more concerned about the youth of today. My wife and I, we have seen tough times; if we lose money, we can still do without luxuries. We can sleep on the floor, we can walk distances and make do with what we have. But the youth of today, what will they do?

It set me thinking. Even my contemporaries would have seen tough days - when everything was budgeted and we knew to accept "No" from our parents. But do our children know it? My daughter wants to know when summer will start so that she can start using the AC - it's a strict no-no right now because even in Chennai it is not summer yet though the nights are warm. I never take them walking even short distances - preferring to zoom on my bike or take the car. Though they don't get everything they see and ask for - I am still probably old fashioned - nothing is beyond reach for them and they are aware of that.

No harm done...we earn better and to live better on hard-earned, honest money is no crime. But what if life goes topsy turvy? Are we prepared? Do we prepare our children? Can we prepare ourselves for it?

When I see the indulgence some children get - mobiles at 7 and 8 years, branded clothes and what not...I shudder for this generation. Birthday parties in five-star hotels, event managers stepping in to manage the simple living, high thinking a thing of the past?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Never Say No

My mother says that. Let me start with movies, there will be this hero or heroine who will keep quoting his or her mother/father and I have always wondered about such "quotable" people.

I was thrillled that I could start with this quote. "Never say no, for that is what you will get," meri maa kehti thi...truly. Though she said it only in one context which I won't get into here.

But it applies so well to certain things in my life. I said: I will not study literature, become a journalist, learn to type or use computers, or become a teacher.

Graduated in BA Literature
Second job onwards, been in a journalistic set up.
Have to use computers to type in stories, and am pretty fast with typing.
The only thing I managed to achieve till last year was not become a teacher. This year was a dance teacher at my kids' school.

Each has been a satisfying experience. On Mar 12, when the annual day happened, the applause to the show my six kids put up was heart-warming... Will do it again, and again, and again...

Glad that you sometimes get what you don't want. Or else, how will you know how satisfying an experience it can be?

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