The Strange Case of Indian Feminism

As a kid I remember both my grandmother were smokers and me going and buying the Indian version of cigarette called “Beedi” from the nearby shop was common. Now I am not sure when and how they had started and unfortunately by the time I was old enough to ask them they were not around anymore. There is no doubt about them being devout enough. My dad’s mother would religiously go to Ganga every morning before the sun rises and do her daily prayers. So one really can’t say that they were forward looking or modern. But today when a lady smokes eyes turn and it comes as a shock.

When you look at temples like Sun Temple Konark (have visited personally) or famous Khajuraho (only heard), the depiction of images that are considered taboo today.  Guide at Konark was really shy showing us the sculptures himself. I am not sure why places of worship will have such display of things that nobody wants to talk about in modern world. This is quite intriguing that people were so open in those days.

Today when we stand for young people wearing dresses that they want to, going to places where they like to, speak about things that they would like to, it should not be considered  an extra privilege but more as way of life.

I am not sure when “purdah” became a system, when women folks were not allowed to move out of homes and when dowry became the norm. We do not have texts or historical evidences of common people’s life but I would like to believe all this to have started due to extreme invasions or violence which became sort of common after 1000 AD.

The society created these artificial inventions that became traditions that people would die in order to protect. It became age old way of life that forced women to be in walls of their house where ever they go.

It became so much so that the mom-to-be would like the one in the womb not be what she is. She would not like her to face an uneventful life like hers and probably the yearning of having a male child started and this took to imagination of other folks as well.

I think a society will only reach true potential when everyone has equal opportunity and it is true for modern women folk as well.

In today’s world there are many who have the opportunity to shun these age old traditions and come to limelight but they prefer to be cocooned in the artificial boundaries created for ages.



Why American’s Don’t Walk?

Recently I was on a short trip to US for work. I was in a town called Longmont, Colorado. At this time of year which August the climate was very pleasant with bright sun. The temperature was hovering around 25-30 Deg C which was very near to what we have in Bangalore. Longmont isn’t that big  a city but very beautiful with Rocky Mountains running north to south and can be seen very easily.

In United States you wouldn’t see lot of people walking around. Coming from India where you would finds lots of people walking, many because they don’t have means otherwise, many because like walking and then many times taking a car or a bike out is a hassle so you walk around. Getting a car in US isn’t that difficult but driving on US roads isn’t that straightforward. There is this driving on the right/left that confuses people and then there are these traffic rules as well the speeds. Driving is simple here than in India’s chaotic conditions but it takes time to get used to.

Anyways, on a Saturday me and couple of office colleagues thought of walking down. We walked more than 2 miles to a Best Buy store and then lunch at Twisted Noodles (It was really a twisted place as when you order noodles you get a pasta and when one orders a pasta gets a noodle). And you couldn’t find a single soul walking on a pleasant sunny Saturday morning. There was only one young lady standing on the pavement asking for money to buy gas.

So I was wondering why Americans don’t walk and there are few things that we have to take in considerations

  • Ubiquitous Motor Cars – Everyone has a car and in a family there can be multiple cars
  • Absent Public transport – Public transport isn’t probably used much here and hence the services are generally not that great. And whenever you find one it is somewhat costly
  • Climate – The climate can get really cold in winters with snowing which probably makes it difficult walking in cold areas. Extreme hot weather of Arizona may also create its own problem for pedestrians. The pleasant weather may not be for long and hence the habit of walking takes a hit.
  • American cities and towns have elaborate  roads with major roads within cities having speed limit of 45MPH which makes it scary for pedestrians. There are crossing and sometimes one has to walk a lot to find such crossings. And then you have 20 or 30 secs to cross the roads Hence people find it easier to take a car out rather than walking.
  • The places are designed very motor friendly. The place where one lives, the place where one works and the place where go to buy stuff is all in different directions with distances of the more than 2-3 miles at the least. Offices and Malls have acres of open parking which is quite a luxury for countries that don’t have such open spaces.

Walking makes the city more happening and perceived safe  and people more healthy. In addition to hitting the Gym or walking around a Park, if walking to nearby shopping or to schools or offices can be made safe and more friendly.Once walking is habit the walkers wouldn’t get stare from everyone else in the car and doesn’t feel intruding into comfortable driving.

I would not say that conditions for pedestrians is great in our Indian cities. Just that people many times don’t have choice and are ready to share the roads with all the vehicles running  around. I think when people who come from places where the traffic is quite organized, find it very difficult as to how it really works for us.

Hawa Mahal (All India Radio Program) – A primer

Hawa Mahal is 15 min radio program broadcasted by  All India Radio’s (run by Indian goverment) channel Vividh Bharti. These days there is a FM channel 102.9 MHz where this program is played at 8PM (Mon – Saturday)

Stories, Anecdotes, Snippets, skits, plays or natak, jhalki, vyang in Hindi are what Hawa Mahal deals with. The specialty is the  local stories that are close to us, our culture and stories of this land. In this globalized world where a Television Series like “Game of Thrones” is so popular worldwide and has stormed the world, somewhere these stories have taken backstage. In this globalized you can soon become an outcast who has not seen Game of Thrones, Friends, How I met your mother, Big Bang Theory and what not. I am sure they are good and definitely have their own place with viewers mindshare. With Indian TV spewing out venom in all their daily soap operas that are nowhere close to what story  telling should be all about. Indian storytelling isn’t new, there have been numerous storytellers and their everlasting stories still reverberates in the hearts and minds of people. But with so much clutter out there it is very difficult to  find things that are not shouting it loud. AIR and Hawa Mahal would not resort to modern advertising techniques as they cater to their loyal audience and probably believe that newer generation would never like these. Also it would not be considered “cool” if  you start discussing a play whose telecast was done last night on Hawa Mahal rather it would be considered perfectly okay discussing the various tidbits of “Game of Thrones” not only in office but also social media. Nevertheless I am still old worldly and somehow like listening to these kind of stuff. I should put the disclaimer that I have not seen GOT and Friends and probably a big outcast already 🙂

I have started to listen to Hawa Mahal again and many of the stories are just amazing. These stories are probably little dated sometimes but still have the Indian touch which makes them all the more interesting. I have gathered some of the episodes online and collated into a soundcloud channel.

Bin Bah Ka Sweater – A sweet little Indian love story, very subtle, very Indian                    (Half Sweater)

Dhoop Ka Tax – In today’s scenario of various taxes seen, this one is quite valid even today (Tax on Sunlight)

Ataichi Case – Married couples will definitely find this very relevant and interesting (Suitcase)

All  copyright lies with AIR and their respective writers/directors on these links. I have just gathered it from online sources and put together on soundcloud. This is kind of advertisement for AIR and Hawa Mahal Program.

Hopefully this will encourage more listeners to enjoy many of these masterpieces. But these can only be enjoyed by Hindi Listeners. I am not sure there may be local programmes as well which I am not aware of.

I am sure any anthology in Hawa Mahal will be a very good collection to have especially for people who are driving their cars and that also in extreme traffic.

Even if I get few people back to listening Hawa Mahal on AIR’s Channel Vividh Bharti I will be very glad.



Numismatist by Stroke of Luck

I am not sure about the year, but it would probably be somewhere in 1992-93, I was playing cricket in an area which wasn’t our normal playing ground.I have blurred memory of that day and it was a nice cloudy day , mostly at the start of winter, perfect for playing. Boleng used to be a small hamlet surrounded by Himalayan Hills with distant constant burble of mighty Siang. I was probably fielding in the mid off area and as this one was not a regular playing pitch for us, there were patches of bushes everywhere. If you have lived in Hills you must know that it isn’t always easy to find a nice flat ground to play. Someone hits the ball towards my fielding position and ball must have hit hard as I was not able get hold of it and it went into bushes. We never had the luxury of having multiple balls and whenever it got lost there was a search mission until we found it. Sometimes it was found, sometimes we will find one that was lost long back and sometimes game stops with search abandoned for another lucky day. Boleng at that time did not had a shop selling these cricket balls and if we don’t have backup will have to wait for Dad to go to Pasighat or Along which were nearby towns.Thinking of those days and writing about it today makes me go into a different world, for those who cannot think of this scenario can watch the movie “The Blue Umbrella” , a Bollywood movie where Pankaj Kapoor plays brilliantly a shop keeper in a small hilly village.

Anyways lets get back to our story, as I was searching the ball suddenly I saw a soiled corroded plastic sac full of coins. It was like finding a hidden treasure. I picked it up and it did not belong to anybody by the look of the sac and coins that the sac had. I was not sure what should I do with these coins but then as there was no claimers to that and I took it home. My mom was very angry and asked me to throw all as it may be the grave goods which is a custom with the local folks in Arunachal Pradesh like the Pharaohs of Egypt. I was somehow not convinced with her conjecture and wanted to get a second hearing with Dad. Finally when I showed these to my Dad he agreed that these coins are somewhat old and should be kept and not thrown. And because of his rational decision I got to keep all of them and it was cherished property for all the time until I was in school. All those coins are still there with my parents. Most of the coins were on 60’s and 70’s and were not much in circulation in 90’s. That accident of finding some coins which were either grave goods or someone’s lost and forgotten hidden money my  coin collection started. I won’t lie that I did go again to that area to search more but wasn’t lucky anymore. But I started collecting coins and oldest I got was 1835 East India Company coin in my collection today. I have been collecting old coins as well coins of different countries. The picture that you see here is what I have collected in last 10 years. The original collection is not with me currently.

There are times when life puts you  suddenly into things that becomes your lifetime memories and here I am carrying someone else’s legacy and an “Amateur Numismatist By Accident”

Every drop makes an ocean

“Boond boond se banta hai sagar” is what we normally say in  Hindi in India

Here is picture from my personal experience  which does convey this message Screenshot_20160506-091324

This is a snapshot of my Runkeeper and I had kind of promised myself that I will share my experience once I had done 1000KM recorded on the app. I have been active on this app for more than one and half years and had tracked around 217 activities of which 70% is walks averaging 3-4 km and rest 30% is cycling trips averaging 7-8 km. I had used Strava for tracking my cycling for some time but the snapshot here doesn’t include that.

While doing all this somewhere on the way I bought a fitness band couldn’t afford Fitbit or any of the smartwatches so bought Goqii for 2000 rupees which came with 3 months coach subscription which was unique feature that provided a human touch. I did not renew the coaching after three months as I did not wanted to be driven too hard anyways.

I guess there are two kinds of people one who likes to see progress captured in numbers and others who really don’t care much about numbers. I believe if one knows the number then one tends  get encouraged to keep up. Even if you don’t feel so just give a shot using any of these free fitness apps and probably it may work for you.

In no way this is over for me, it just the starting and hopefully I keep walking and tracking. In the modern world where being physically active is not a priority and sometimes it does become difficult to maintain but keeping track of the walks or runs or cycling trips will help you hit the road again.

I have averaged 4.6KM per activity and almost took year and a half to do my first 1000K tracked which probably isn’t that great. Hopefully I can better the average as well as lessen the time taken for the next 1000KM.

I just want that I never become too obsessive about these numbers, they just encourage me to keep walking and nothing else.