Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat
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|Another Footwear Story|| |
| After reading my stories of 1976-77, many people have written to me about their
own experiences of Emergency in India. Some had their brothers and fathers
in prison for no fault, and some feel the same danger exists in India of today.
The most amusing feedback is about my bare feet in the
picture. It was common at the time to go around the town
in barefoot. I did have some footwear, but everybody in my
school came barefooted, so I also did. After some time,
the bottom of my foot became so callous and hard that once
I tried to bang a nail into it, and it wouldn't hurt!
Another Footwear Story
Like I said, my family bought us footwear, but we never
wore them, except on special occasions. On one such occasion,
my cousin Pradeep wore his chappals (Indian footwear) to a relative's house
for the annual
death anniversary of an ancestor. While returning (you leave the footwear outside
the home while visiting), he forgot that he had worn shoes to the function!
One year passed, and the occasion came again.
We were instructed
to put on good clothes and footwear. But Pradeep couldn't find
his chappals! -- He had lost them one year ago!
Essence of the story -- For a whole year, Pradeep didn't need his footwear.
FYI: Even today, a lot of people India walk barefoot (pictures)
See more stories like this in Personal Stories from India
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Monday, February 4, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
|Memories of Indira|| |
| Speaking of Indira Gandhi|
The other day, I blogged about Indira Gandhi, and it brought
to my mind a montage of childhood memories.
It was summer of 1976, and I was barely nine years old.
Indira Gandhi had suspended the constitution of India and
had assumed dictatorial powers.
She had banned the RSS, and saying anything against
the Government or Indira Gandhi landed people in jail without trial.
One day some of us boys got up early in the wee hours and
wandered the dark streets of the town writing anti-Indira graffiti.
"Down with the Dictator" we wrote, and "Damn the Bitch". I was
careful not to deface people's homes, but apparently
some others weren't so diligent. After vandalizing the entire town, we went to wash
our charcoal soaked hands in a waterfall just outside of town.
By the time we returned, it was school time and everybody everywhere was
reading our propaganda. It was great. I felt like the
heroes of India I had idolized, who had fought to banish the British.
But when I went home, there was a big "Indira Gandhi is a Whore"
written on our wall! My uncles were very angry and upset. I was told to
wash the sign with soap before my uncles and I got arrested. I just
remember that the darn thing won't come off!
Subsequent to this incident, many people in my town were
arrested. I personally know of two people who were
kept in prison for a whole year without trial, because
they opposed the programs of Indira Gandhi.
I believe the year was 1977. By now Indira was the self-proclaimed
Amma (motherly figure) of India, and she
came to our town of Honavar for campaigning for the election. The whole of Honavar and
neighboring towns showed up. It was no small event.
We waited like hours and hours for the helicopter to land. It was
my first time seeing an aircraft, and I believe so was for the other
30,000 who had gathered. Indira Gandhi was taken to an open stage
that had been erected for the occasion where she spoke for a few
minutes. But the crowd did not move from the helipad, all of
them had come to see the helicopter!
As she left, some in the audience started shouting the slogans "Indira
Hatao, Indri Bachao" (Avoid Indira and save your genitals!). See,
in the name of family planning, Indira and her evil son Sanjay Gandhi
had forced many poor people to undergo vasectomies, under their
20+5 Point Programme.
A Piece of History
In a stunning display of resiliency of Indian
democracy, Indira and her son Sanjay were defeated in that election,
by candidates who were still in prison. Indira's Congress Party lost power, and a new political force, the Janata Party, emerged. But the weakening of opposition Indira Gandhi had engineered was to have a far damaging impact on the nation, resulting in successive governments that were weak and unstable.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Tuesday, January 29, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/27/2003
Tags: desitale, honavar
|On Indira Gandhi|| |
What I Really Think About Indira Gandhi
A researcher asked me (via email) what I really
thought of Indira Gandhi. The summary of my answer:
I am proud of Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi) for holding India together,
for winning the 1971 war against USA-blessed Pakistan.
I blame Indira Gandhi, for her abuse of power and democracy, for
her lack of vision, for sacrificing the nation's interests
for the benefit of her coterie, and for playing immoral (and bloody)
politics against the Sikhs.
I just cannot deny her important role in forming of
20th Century India. Neither can I deny that she died
while serving the nation, and hence deserves the reverence
of a martyr.
Indira Gandhi -- by Vinay Lal
(update) Speaking of Indira Gandhi...
Today is India's Republic Day
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Saturday, January 26, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/23/2003
|Suicides in India || |
| Suicides in India - Some Notes|
Mahesh Shantaram, a blogger from India writes about his rules for euthanasia.
I am leaning towards a stance for death with dignity (politically correct name for assisted suicide),
but I find that someone else making up the rules of death (like tape recording
the procedure ?!) very repulsive. Isn't self-determination the crux of this debate?
India perhaps has the longest history of assisted suicides. Described as Ichha-Marana or desired death, it is mentioned in ancient Indian epics such as Mahabharata. We have the cases of both men (Bhishma) and women (Madri) undergo desired deaths.
The Sallekhana, Sati, and Johar systems were essentially suicide mechanisms
in ancient (and not so ancient) India.
The Sallekhana was practiced by devout Jains by fasting and meditation, and the
participants starving to death. The most famous person to undergo Sallekhana
was the queen mother Machikabbe.
The Sati (a.k.a. Suttee) was the system in which a window committed suicide on the funeral pyre
of her husband, believing in (or forced into) an eternal marriage.
The Johar occured when the women of a town preferred death to dishonor
and committed suicide in large numbers after a war.
Attempt to Commit Suicide
Indian buses tend to be extremely crowded, and it is common to
overload the buses.
Once I was going to school like that and was arrested by the police (that's
India for you; instead of improving the public transportation system, the government
harasses the citizens.) I asked on what grounds the police were arresting
us as we had been issued valid tickets by the government operated bus service. The
inspector told us that we were being arrested for "Attempt to Commit Suicide"!!
It was then that I learnt that attempt to commit suicide
was a crime in India. (For record, I wasn't attempting anything, except going to school. We were let go with a warning and a demand of a bribe, but that's not the point...)
Since the days of Gandhi, Fast-unto-death protests have become common in India, where the activist in an non-violent protest goes on an hunger strike till his/her demands are met. I wonder if those qualify as attempts to commit suicide.
Indian Suicide Links
The Sati (Suttee) System of Suicide
Death by Demand in Indian Culture
Sati or Not? --a thought proving (and perhaps disturbing) article by S.S. Kshatriy on Sulekha.com
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Saturday, January 5, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
|Understanding the Illiterates|| |
| Understanding the Illiterates|
Context: A couple of days ago I wondered how the
people in India who cannot read or write, compute
and conduct business.
Many years ago, Saver Fernandes was an employee (we called him a servant then,
but that's another story) in my family's cloth shop in rural India.
One day Saver showed me the label of a garment and asked me to read the brand name, which I did
and asked him why he had asked me to read.
He smiled and told me that he didn't know how to read!
It blew my mind. Saver had been with us many many years and constantly
had to deal with brand names, product names, sizes, and reading of packaging (without
opening them). There's no way he could do his job without being able to
read. But amazingly, he was able to cope up with the job without anyone
ever suspecting! I then asked him how he distinguished a Bombay Dyeing suit
from a Raymonds Suit (or size 8 from size 6 for that matter). He told me that it was
all intuition and experience.
At that time I thought that he was kidding me and had asked him to read numerous printed matter in the
shop (brand names mostly), which he could, but could not read the newspaper except
for the name of the newspaper.
Few days after this incident, we received a large consignment of undergarments from
Erode in Tamil Nadu (topics), all of them packaged with instructions (product names, sizes)
in Tamil language. What was the supplier thinking? No one can read Tamil
in the town of Honavar!
But see, for an illiterate, Tamil language is same as English or any other language!
Saver had no problems whatsoever in dealing with the different
product names or sizes. It was only then I believed that he couldn't read.
BTW, in the later years Saver did banking errands (he used a thumb-print instead
of a signature) for the shop. He also could measure (length of the cloth) and compute (how much it
will cost for 70 centimeters -- the cloth required for a typical blouse worn
by Indian women -- of cloth that sells for 16.50 a meter etc.), without being able to read or write.
Education and intelligence are two different, unrelated entities.
See also: The Bengali Dhobi
-- Righteousness and education are two different, unrelated entities.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 19, 2001|
Last Modified: 11/27/2003
Tags: desitale, honavar
|Pretend Fight, Pretend Cry|| |
| I Pretend Beating, You Pretend Crying|
There was a poor family in my village in India, who was always
under debt and financial hardships. They owed money to
every merchant in the village. Every time a creditor
went to their house for collection, he would find the
couple in a fierce, family fight with husband trying to beat
up the wife, and the wife crying for protection from the abusive husband.
Turns out that it was a clever ploy by the couple not to face the
creditors. Afraid of being dragged into the family feud,
the collectors would go away. The strategy worked every time!
The emerging feud
between Sharon and Bush reminds me of this
strategy. "Let us pretend a fight between Israel and USA for now, so the Arab nations can support the alliance."
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Saturday, October 6, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
|This is how I surf the web. Turns out
creating your own start page beats all portals, back-flipping,
personalized corporate pages, and book-marking tools.