Cosmo on the railway platform

I was away this weekend in a small town on the Andhra Pradesh – Karnataka border – one of those thousands of towns across India racked by identity crisis – literally, as the journey takes you across AP and Karnataka in turns every few minutes (this happened to me in MP – UP too) – now you see boards in Kannada and now in Telugu and now again in both AND Urdu too!

Anyway, the point is that as I was waiting for the train to arrive at the sation (on my way back to Bombay yesterday), I browsed through the small book stall on the platform. This guy did not have any newspapers in English – Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Urdu, yes, but English, no.

Neither did he seem to have any English magazines – when he proudly dug out one for me – the latest issue of Cosmopolitan! Obviously small town rural India’s priorities too centre around ‘eight ways to keep your man hot’ (or whatever, now that summer is here).

I am still trying to understand this – and while on this, will a Hindi edition of Cosmo sell as well?

From Delhi…

Been in Delhi the last few days – haven’t been blogging regularly… Have been so spoilt as a Bombaiya, am still trying to come to terms with the work culture in Delhi (or total lack of it)…

Spent my first day in Delhi riding in a cab all day with Night Queen stickered on both the front and rear glass. Still musing on what the cab does for an alternate source of income…

Spotted : on a sign-board in Janakpuri in West Delhi : DO NOT BEG TO THE BEGGARS. Ok, whatever you say !

Delhi through the centuries

Just finished reading Delhi by Khushwant Singh (I cannot stand Khushwant Singh and do not like Delhi, so why did I even bother?) Discounting Singh’s sex fetish that pervades the narration, the book is an excellent treatise on the psyche of Delhi, the city. As it has been through the ages. As it is today. Ravaged.

The entire commentary is through the eyes of the author (with his obsession for Bhagmati, a hijda prostitute, symbolizing the simultaneous allure and decay of the city), interspersed with stories of the various invaders and rulers recounted by the rulers themselves.

Like I said, this book leaves the reader with a clear understanding of what drives the city today. Instinct. For survival. Of the fittest. As a city that has seen innumerable invaders and plunderers, Delhi has learnt to survive. People come and go…. But Delhi goes on. And the people go on, the only instinct that keeps them going being their innate aggression. The same is true of all of North India as such. It is each one for himself there.

People pouring in from all over into Delhi. True the Turks and Persians no longer inhabit Delhi, but for UPites, Biharis, Punjabis, Delhi still is asylum…… Post partition, Sindhis and Punjabis flocked to Delhi and rebuilt their businesses and lives. The commercial instinct survives to this day.

As opposed to this, look at the South of India (and the West to a large extent, notwithstanding the Portuguese and their love affair with Goa). This region has been away from the action, so to say, and left to mind its own business. A sheltered existence through the centuries. Untouched (literally and figuratively) by what happened in the North. Free to concentrate on their scholarly pursuits, no business-shusiness for them, folks!

And this also reflects in the attitude of each region towards women. After all, what else is left to plunder once the gems and gold have been seized?

A reader had left this comment on my blog a few days ago – about Bangalore – The most surprising thing I encountered was people leave you alone on the road, they don’t innocently bumped into you, as the guys in North do

As a researcher who has traveled through the hinterlands of this country, I know what she means. There is a persecution complex that attaches itself to the women as soon as she steps into the North. Let me assure you that this is not mere imagination but the truth. In the North, prepare to be ogled at, pinched and harassed in other ways. Not just in the interiors but in good old Delhi itself.

And it is true (again I say this from personal experience) that a woman feels much safer in the South and the West (like most others, I have no idea of the East of India).

I remember what I had read about Human Instinct as described by Robert Winston. To me, it is amazing how instincts survive through centuries and centuries…. And define the lives of people in this day and age.….

Talking of Namma MTR

It’s Goodbye Bangalore time….. time to head for good old Bombay….. no Mumbai for me….. I leave that to the Shiv Sainiks….. Bombay…. my first love of sorts……

But Bangalore has been good to me…. As I leave in two weeks time, I am writing about things that define Bangalore the city….. atleast for me……

Where else can I start but with Namma MTR. How many establishments, especially eateries have managed to embody the spirit of a city…. And trace the same path as the city….. from good old traditional MTR to the hep Namma MTR* joints in the most crowded places of the city….

The LalBagh MTR stood for everything the city was…… a small place, clean and cheerful, a place to spend a leisurely Sunday morning (or if you are willing to convert your stomach into a bottomless pit just that once, then, Sunday lunch – ask Asli about it!)…. Relax, take it easy and soak in the atmosphere along with the waft of pure ghee…. Like the pensioners’ paradise Bangalore of yesteryears….

Ask any localite and you will hear this for sure…. Bangalore has changed so much…. It is no longer the slow peaceful city it used to be…..

So has MTR changed. Grown, to use a better word. Into vacuum packed ready-to-eat foods, and dosa wraps and stuffed vadas…..

Symbolizing Bangalore as it is today…. people in a hurry….. moving in and out of the city….. no time to stand and stare….. or in this case, wait for the dosa at MTR, gimme the dosa wrap instead. And fast….

But just as Bangalore has retained much of its charm, its gardens, and to some extent, its unhurried pace, so has MTR. From a small town in coastal Karnataka (Mavalli, I almost missed it as I drove through it), Namma MTR has come a long long way.…

One of the things I will definitely miss about Banaglore…..

* MTR refers to the traditional eatery at LalBagh while Namma MTR refers to the new swanky quick-eat joints all over town

Country roads……

My recent holiday took me into the heartland of apna Bharat. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh… the works…. Travelling by train and road, I was appalled at the state of (non-existent) roads there…. One understands perfectly why Digvijay just had to go (I am no BJP sympathiser, but ten years of Diggy has left MP ravaged). A car journey of 220 km between Jhansi and Kanpur took us close to seven hours recently…. Accustomed to doing Chennai – Bangalore (360 odd km) in six hours, I was in a state of shock by the time Kanpur came into sight….. To mention nothing of my bones…..

In pleasant contrast was Uttaranchal. The roads were in top shape and a pleasure to travel on. The locals I spoke with claim that all this was made possible only after these regions broke away from Uttar Pradesh. Overall better infrastructure and a better life, some of them said…..

Of the bunch of new states (Jharkhand types), Uttaranchal was the only one that ever made sense to me. A state created with the objective of Focussed Development. (As an aside, it seems to be paying dividends; Uttaranchal being in fifth rank, of places most visited by foreign tourists in India – Source : Outlook. Can you imagine Uttar Pradesh ever on that list??!)

I’d written earlier about the PM’s Golden Quadrilateral Project…. Great intentions, albeit with horrendous mistakes like Satyendra Dubey colouring them…. But what about basic infrastructure across the North? Long way to go……

Anyways, just to end : my own Murphy’s Maxim of Mountain Driving

On a steep mountain road, two cars coming from opposite directions will always cross each other on a sharp curve.

Know what I mean ?

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