Sunday night, tired after speaking to some 50 students for 4 hours I stepped into a bar in Trichy. Alienated, sitting silently on the bar stool, sipping my beer, I was greeted by a gentleman. A white guy; smile, curiosity, skepticism on his face. He sat next to me and greeted me with a hello. Thick Italian accent. I nodded my head and reached out my hand and shook his.
We started talking about the usual stuff that an Indian talks about to a 'firangi'.
"Where are you from?"
"How did you like this place?"
"Where all have you been to in India?"
Patrick, was from Italy and had been to many countries, USA, UK, etc. and before arriving in India he had been to Germany. He found the people there rather rude and was happy with the way India was treating him. When I asked him about his purpose in India I expected a regular answer like a business trip (but then he would've been in a place like Mumbai or Bangalore not in Trichy) or visiting some ashram or things like that, the answer that came from him excited me! He was an author researching on 'Happiness'!
He had been to many places of the world and before he arrived at any conclusion he wanted to discover this mystic land properly.
I asked him if he was happy. He said it didn't matter, and he had never given it a thought if he was happy or not. Interestingly, as long as you don't give it a thought you can neither be happy nor sad, you would just exist! He was exactly that, he just existed, neither happy nor sad, just going to places observing things, writing them down in his diary and then moving on to some other place and observing some more ...
Thought he said he was not sure if he was happy or not because he had never given it a thought, being with him make me change my attitude and I was considerably very happy after that!
Guns in the field and the forbidden biscuit
Lalu is known to create a buzz with everything that he says, and this master 'spokesperson' knows how to strike the right cords! Bihar (and the rest of Uttar Bharat) is facing a severe water shortage. Rains have failed the farmers who are now forced to guard the little water that they have with guns! Everyday they pack guns and ammunition with the farming equipments to 'protect' the water from other hungry farmers who are a little more unfortunate than they are. Violence has become the norm of the day for these hard bread earners even when a good crop seems unlikely.
In the midst of all this pain that the State is going through, Mr.Lalu has come up with a statement which may sound like a typical 'movers and shakers Lalu joke' to you but is potent enought to instigate bitter feelings in this drought struck land.
His remarks about Nitish, the CM, that the current drought situation is provoked by the CM's act of eating buiscuits during the recent solar eclipse is starting to be taken seriously at the village level.
When there's nothing else to be blamed, the poor and hopeless people are putting the blame for their misery on this 'forbidden biscuit'. Mr. Nitish has put aside the comment as a joke and an attempt to mislead the ignorant people of the state but even he knows that Lalu needs to be taken seriously even when he comes across to you as a naive populist preacher.
The 'Swine flu' is yet to hit these states in a big way yet but frenzy promotions in the media are bringing people under the fear cloud already. No doubt, the PM's independence day speech included both these issues. The media has already delivered the impact on both these issues which makes up for the light-toned, non-impact speach of our PM on 15th of August!
Swine flu masks, condoms and helmets!
Walk past any commercial street in cities like Bangalore, Pune or Mumbai and you cannot but notice 'swine flu masks' being sold everywhere. People (scared and helpless) want to do everything to protect themselves and their families from H1N1 virus and don't mind putting themselves in a little discomfort in the form of this mask. It is amazing to know how everyone has accepted this discomfort so comfortably! Barring the occasional outrage at how illequipped our medical facilities are people seem to have accepted the fact that swine flu has entered India and they should do everything in their power to keep being safe, even if that means tolerating a stupid piece of cloth around the face every minute of the day! All the medical agencies and government dossiers have clearly said that a 'mask' would be unnecessary if you are not a victim yourself or are tending to someone infected with H1N1. But, people don't want to take any chances; it is a matter of life and death after all! Let's compare this situation with a few other threats that exist in our country - AIDS/HIV, road accidents. The figures for the number of cases reported of AIDS is alarming and even when the disease is much more deadlier than 'swine flu', people (even the educated ones) neglect the use of a condom which could act as a wall between life and death. The cost of a condom (if you are not satisfied with the ones that the government gives for free) is nothing as compared to the money that the people are paying for these masks. The effectiveness of these masks is also not quite proven while the faithful condom is known to protect even in the toughest of conditions and trials! Similarly, the importance of a helmet has been emphasized so many times that it has now become a cliche. One of the oldest ads by Union Public Service Commission that I remember was the one in which a hammer crashes a coconut which is unprotected by a helmet ("Marzi hai aapki, aakhir sir hai aapka")! The only reason that most people wear a helmet is to avoid the traffic police guy who would demand a minimum of a Rs.100 bill. Compare this with the cost of life. The facts are that in any city (not just Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai), more people die of AIDS and road accidents than swine flu every month. The concern of people towards H1N1 is reasonable but the overwhelming frenzy that this flu has commanded is a little uncalled for. If safety is the only concern of the people, then condoms and helmets should be given a similar status as a swine flu mask by everyone!