The long road HOME

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In less than a week, my son will step foot on the land that is a part of me. This city that defines me, the cacophony that am at ease with and the roots that I cling on to. He will see for the first time the walls that I grew up in, the roads I travelled and the extended family that raised me.

He is still too young to understand India – The myriad contradictions, the restricting culture, the frustrating traditions and the free flowing banter that borders on the offensive. But he will be old enough to get kissed every time a pair of hands pick him up, the affection that envelops him like a cozy quilt on a cold day, the aromas that linger from his parents childhood, the granny who wants to nestle him on her lap with her fingers lacing through his hair singing sweet lullabies.

His arrival will be celebrated like Diwali,his grandparents will wait on him hand and foot. The auto drivers will willingly take him on a drive, the flower lady will deliver extra garlands just for him to rip, the fruit vendor will give him bananas for free just by patting his cheek wishing him to grow fat, even the Ganesha in the corner will bat his lashes welcoming him home. Babysitting will be done without request, cows and dogs will parade for his meal time entertainment and the television will provide the much needed white noise. Here is where he will be the center of the world, the star of the show and king of an entire clan.

My son will love my city. The city that is a part of my identity and the language that I resort to in happiness and grief. He will see the grand marina – soak in its water and realize beaches have tides and warm water. He will step foot in countless temples with the puliyodharai and sakkarai pongal defining a new level of deliciousness. He will ride in all modes of transportation from cars to bullock carts. There will be shocks but there will also be surprises.

In less than a week my son will see where I come from. India – complex yet comforting, aggressive yet adoring, nosy yet devoting, confining yet generous. My hope is that on this long road home, he learns an important life lesson – To always look on the bright side.

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All aboard the Modi Express

220px-ABD_0165You can like him, hate him but you cannot afford to ignore him. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat may very well beat the Indian electoral system for the third consecutive time. So it may come as no surprise that he will emerge as the undisputed winner even before the votes are counted in the Gujarat assembly elections.

Narendra Modi started his political life as a RSS member and slowly rose to the higher ranks in the BJP. LK Advani picked him as the face of the party in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 1998. By 2001, in less than three years, he would be leading the state as the chief minister. Such was his charisma. Although Modi faced heated criticism in 2002 during the Godhra train carnage and communal violence in Gujarat and subsequently resigned, he was elected back to power. Several investigations tried to link him to the carnage but none were successful. Despite his fanatic religious dogma, Modi has the charm that most politicians in India lack to lure both the rural and urban Indian alike.

Internationally, Modi was a pioneer in attracting foreign investment to Gujarat. He made visits to China, Singapore and Japan and claimed to be instrumental in the release of the Indian diamond traders jailed in China. Due to his linkages to the 2002 riots, the UK and US refused direct links with Narendra Modi. Although the UK withdrew its policy, the US still refuses to grant tourist/diplomatic visa to Modi. Narendra Modi wields tremendous power in Gujarat that even the Congress treads carefully while campaigning against him. Rahul Gandhi makes an appearance in Gujarat short enough to silence any reports of real apprehension but not long enough to directly contend with Modi. Every time women race from behind the drapes to take active part in politics, candidates run for cover. But not Narendra Modi. Neither Jagruti Pandya nor Shweta Bhatt can rock this man’s cradle hard enough to topple him.

To really understand Narendra Modi’s hold over his audience one only has to attend his rallies. His oratorical skills captivates the audience making the sway like snakes to the charmer and when he is finished there is only one word ringing in Modidom – MODI. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t promise, he simply asks the questions. Will we leave Gujarat in the hands of strangers? Reminding them that he has been in power as their longest serving chief minister. He makes a mockery of Sonia ben and Rahul Baba, India’s first family in politics and gets away with it.

Narendra Modi is also extremely tech savvy. He conquers the youth and elite population by tweeting from his @narendramodi account. His website http://www.narendramodi.in is frequently updated and he might be the only politician to actively congregate using Google hangouts. Modi’s Sabarmati waterfront project won the hearts of many and Ahmedabad’s thriving skyline stands testimony to his keen business acumen. By bringing manufacturing hubs like the Nano plant, he delivered a home run. Although rural Gujarat is infected by similar woes that the rest of the country is engulfed in, Modi has learnt to play right into the hearts of Gujarat’s nobility. Urban Gujarat chants the Modi mantra vigorously and rural Gujarat grudgingly accepts their fate for a Modi rule.

Modi might not be the torch bearer for Indian politics. In a country where most politicians are con men and there is no real choice in candidature, any progress that a politician promises is a good sign. Indian politics is plagued by hooligans trying to augment just their bank balances, the country be damned. So while Narendra modi is not the perfect choice, he might be Gujarat’s only choice for a future. While most politicians seek shade under the party umbrella, Modi has shunned both party and politics and reached directly to the people. He understands that this is what counts in the end. Even as the boat rocks during this election, there is no doubt that Narendra Modi will dock safely.

But will his sail soar high enough to reach the chambers of Delhi? Are we ready for him to lead the nation? India, is Modi really the best you have? I sincerely hope not.

(This article is my first foray into politics and was published here in www.behindindia.com. By this time, Modi had a hat trick victory in Gujarat and reinstated in his throne.)

India Chronicles – Part 2

* Chennai highways kicks ass – NH 45 truly rocks. Would love to wield the wheel but would be stumped without taking orders from GPS. Bengalooru are you taking notes?

* Radio mirchi – This was an obsession of sorts, so am listening to FM everytime we drive and my dad aint happy about it. He hates the annoying RJs and their lame jokes and i actually miss them 😀 He thinks i’m cracked in the head… too late appa.

* New addiction – Yathey Yathey ennachoo… Dhanush sent Vijay into oblivion.

* World Cup is all you need to know. NFL or World Cup.. which do you think is more popular?
(Any suggestions on how to catch the Superbowl in india.. i know SIGH!!)

* SRK, Rajnikanth, Amitabh, Aamir Khan are all part of Indian of the year.. for what exactly? Guess the same reasons for why US is obsessed with Brangelina more than healthcare and yes Brad enough with the babies.

* Radio Tags on Indian students is causing a huge outcry. Why do i think that is not the issue we should be worried about? 

* As promised… Internation Pheeling… Take it Rasa!!

(to be continued)

India Chronicles – Part 1

CHENNAI – This city is in my blood… the sweat in my forehead, the noise ringing in my ears, the quickness in my step are all genetic from being born here. So when i landed, i anticipated thrills, shocks, laughter,amusement, smiles and chennai.

* You can feel your ears and they can listen. Not just the horns, the pressure cooker, television, phone… all from your neighbours house.
* It is not ok to be brown to be indian. So please apply fair & lovely or vivel if you want to be visible.
* Every “friendly” neighbour and your maid servant will be interested in the US economy and your green card status.
* I dont care if the seat belt sign is on, the minute the landing gear hits ground, i will get up, grab cabin baggage, jostle the queue, race immigration and wait forever for baggage to arrive(tirupathila balajiya kooda parkalam check in baggage …..)
* Pallavan -> Auto -> share auto -> Jeep -> Volvo Pallavan ( Life does come full circle). Obama should take a leaf out of chennai for public transport.
* Indian advertisements rock. Watched some really funny ones… video links soon 🙂

…to be continued.

I miss you

We had Mira Nair as a guest lecture in our city last week and i have to say, the lady can speak well.
The crowd was mostly caucasians sprinkled with desis and most of them have watched monsoon wedding, salaam bombay & missisippi masala. The effect Slumdog Millionaire has on people. Let me clarify, i’m not going to patronize that slumdog is an Indian film or that India has finally arrived. How many times can India arrive at the global stage?

Mira Nair’s talk on Namesake rang a bell closer to home. When we were heading out of the hall, i was thinking to myself, what is it with us that we want to fit in? For me India is always home. I can live here till i die but i would never feel nor call it home. The heat of Chennai, the madness of Rajni, the blaring of Sun TV, the buzz of vegetable vendors, friendly neighbours, not so friendly neighbours, gossiping aunties, swarming relatives, exotic weddings, colorful dresses and a piece of me. I would miss all that eternally. But this post is not about that.

When we are here or in any other part of the world, the first thing we do is google fellow indians in the neighbourhood. We try to find a community, make a close knit group of Indians. I dont suppose there is anything wrong with that but i have always frowned upon the clannish behaviour. Yet i would happily be a part of it here. The joy of finding a Indian grocery store, googling theaters that screen indian movies, finding meetup groups, visiting temples i have done it all.

There is also a group of Indians here who have a chip on their shoulder. They would not smile at you at restaurants acknowledge your presence at the grocery store(not necessarily Indian). This breed of Indians think they are “smarter” and more “modern” . They would not want to socialize because we are prob a class lower. It makes me grin, sometimes at their perceptions and sometimes at their ignorance. Wearing shades, straightening your hair, wearing tighter clothes(sometimes much too tight and much too short) does not make you cooler. Infact it makes you insecure. (Pardon me, but i’m not generalizing). It makes me wonder if i trace back the roots, then we would prob be even related.

I’m not condemning indians who wont socialize with fellow indians not am i appreciating the people who do. We have our own battles to fight,  our own principles and our own lives to live. So strictly no name calling or judging the people who are not like me. It just makes me wonder if we have finally reached a stage where being in a foreign place does not make you special. I have always remembered my cousin who use to fly back from US every two years and the entire house would go crazy on his arrival. I would wonder why is it so special when people return?

I can strongly say this craze has finally ended. Being in India is a choice many people take voluntarily. Going to a foreign land is what many people choose not for better living but for a better experience. Somehow i can see the changes happen right before me. The next generation would prob choose to be home and that would be a better option. That is why my friends, India has finally arrived.

Being at home still makes you special and content. We dont have to change our outlook, make excuses for the accent, wonder if the neighbours can smell our curry powder or even change our wardrobe. Everybody knows what it takes to come from a country of myriad colors and diverse traditions. The better part is we feel proud about it. You dont realize how much you miss something until it is really missing!!!