dancing beneath the diamond sky

And we'll dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free Silhouetted by the sea Circled by the circus sands With all memory & fate Driven deep beneath the waves Let me forget about today until tomorrow... Hey Mr Tambourine Man play a song for me...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Whats new & whats not

After three days in India, here's my first take on what has changed and what has not.

WHATS NEW

The fact that Thangam (our housekeeper), Shobhana (the second maid), Gobi (the driver) and Hussain (the watchman) ALL have cellphones this time round. I suppose it was inevitable, but it is still surprising to see it happen.

The fact that Hari Sri Vidya Nidhi High School actually has fans and tubelights in all the classrooms now ! And the kids studying there now complain that there's no air conditioning. At the risk of sounding like a 70-year old talking about those good old days, I will place on record that all those days during the monsoon season when the sky would get dark and it started to pour, we would have to peer down at our notebooks because there was not enough light to see anything; and the kids sitting close to the windows would run to the front and sit on the floor because they would get drenched by the rain coming in through the windows. But it was fun, though. Hee hee.

At the risk of sounding like the typical penny-wise, pound-foolish NRI: how expensive everything seems to have become. The musambi-juice at Trichur Fruits cost, amazingly enough, fifteen rupees and I had to borrow cash from Gopi to pay the shopkeeper !

The number of traffic lights on the streets. As also the complete nonchalance with which auto-drivers seem to ignore them.

Apartment buildings everywhere ! I mean everywhere. In my little town of which I would so proudly boast that it had NO ugly high-rises anywhere. who lives in these apartment buildings, I wonder, and where did these people come from ? Where were all these people living before the high-rises came along ?

The Hindu going colour. Very disconcerting. So no longer does the distinction exist between the unrelieving black-and-white newsprint that merits serious attention on the front porch as opposed to the nattering colour supplements that I would disrespectfully call "The Bathroom Papers".

The Hindu crossword. Gone. Replaced by (what else ?) Sudoku. Everything else I could grant is just mildly surprising. But this falls (along with the subway strike in New York City) into the realm of the unthinkable, the sacrilegious. Fads will come and go. But the Hindu crossword, I thought, was beyond the momentary winds of whim. Apparently not. So nothing IS sacred. Huh.

The erstwhile deadlock of Thalaivar & Ulaganaayagan on Tamil cinema, broken.

The less-than-complete integrity of Thrissur auto-drivers. We're not quite as bad as Madras yet (where the fare quoted only moves in multiples of 10) but definitely gone are the days when the meter showed 7.80, you gave the guy 8 rupees and he returned 20 paise to you.

AND WHATS JUST THE SAME

The complete and total scarcity of small change in shops everywhere. Does this economy run only on 100-rupee notes, I wonder ? No shop, supermarket, taxi-driver, or auto-driver seems to have anything less.

The utter chaos at the point when MG Road meets Swaraj Round, and me having a panic attack for five minutes before being able to cross the road at that intersection.

People building 20-storey highrise office complexes without making any arrangements for visitors to park their cars.

Reigning heroes of Malayalam cinema: still going strong at the ripe old age of 50-something; Mammootty and Mohanlal.

Karan Thapar on TV: as abrasive as ever.

TKS George in the Indian Express: as depressing, gloomy, alarmist and pessimist as ever.

Shobha De in The Week: as abhorrent and fascinating as ever.

Appa's skill at swatting mosquitoes : he's still the world champion. (In fact, I think he's improved with time.)

The content of the 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM "mega-serials" on cable: still a bunch of well-dressed, overfed women sitting around and weeping about their miserable lot in life.

The alarming number of uniformed young students lounging around on the street at 11 AM in the morning, right outside the Government Model Boys High School.

The sheer audacity with which Doordarshan interrupts the Sunday-afternoon movie telecast for a thirty-minute news broadcast that nobody listens to.

The total lack of respect for other people's time. I show up for a 1:00 PM doctor's appointment at 12:55, and end up seeing the doctor at 3:00.

Oblivion to the idea of serving people in the order in which they arrive, at most shops and restaurants.

Indian ice cream: still creamier, way yummmmmiiier than Haagen-Dasz.

The taste of amma's aviyal : still a small mouthful of heaven.

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