Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Of Gifts and V-Day 

What do pseudo-intellectuals do on the Valentines Day? They muse. Or they think they muse. Whatever. So here is my V-Day muse or rambling.

V-Days are linked so closely to gifts, and I'm a bad gift person. I mean I'm really bad. No, I'm really really bad. My theory of gifting is derived from Jesus Christ -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Problem is, when I think of the gifts that I'd like to receive from people, the list is short. Tiny almost. Well it can be written in two words - Books and Music. Not a very helpful rule, I'd say -- so what if it's golden? To be honest, there are more things that I'd like to receive as gifts from people -- like a state of the art laptop, a sedan class car, a Boss home theater, so on and so forth. But I don't add them to the list, just so that I'm not obliged to think of them as alternatives (still people are welcome to go ahead and gift them to me)! That brings us back to the gift problem.

Anyway, all that changed with the entry of Sayali. She is a gift person. I remember just before our first V-day, she handed me a polythene bag that I was to forward to some friend of hers in Pune. I hate forwarding stuff to people I don't know. But then, I was already feeling guilty that I couldn't spend V-Day with her (yeah, yeah, we all know it's commercial crap and all that, but try telling that as an excuse ;-)). So I mutely carried it back home, wondering which new friend this was that I had never heard about! On the V-Day, she tells me it's a gift for me. That was just the beginning though. It's after we got married that I realized that she just has amazing talent for gifts. So these days, I get a share of "oh! we were thinking of buying this for so long!", "oh, this is so cute", "oh! chooooooo chweeeeeeeeeeet", when we hand over gifts to people. I've completely outsourced the gifting department, disowning my gift-philosophy. Who needs theory when he can use the master's services for free? Well the last is not exactly true (for the master doesn't just tell what to gift, but also when -- half of which I'd have forgotten otherwise), but I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

India changes every minute 

One minute you're sitting in an air-conditioned office, in a plush building, or moving through the maze of cubicles smiling that professional smile at people you know little about. Impersonal, professional, India -- plush, efficient, and spotlessly clean.

Then you step out. There is a company meeting in a five star hotel, and company has arranged a bus for taking all of you there. You step on the bus, to the sounds of "Pardesi pardesi jana nahi", on a music system that's surely not made with the concept of fidelity on mind. The loud shrinking sounds, and the dust, and the heat and the pollution accompanies you to the destination. The driver and the cleaner speaking some dialect of Hindi, laughing that all too real laughter.

You're back into a epitome of the urban India -- the snobbish high places. Spotlessly clean, slow elevator music in the background, air fresheners the body sprays intermingling, the cool air wants you to pull a sweater on. An utterly impersonal world, where every attendant keeps calling you sir for no reason.

Another day, you're sitting in a tapari, with oily pakodas and hot ginger tea in almost dirty glasses. The weary indifference on the face of the chaiwallah breaks down when you tell him it was an excellent tea. He never expected to hear that from you. He's unabashedly happy as he returns you back the exact change. Another ghastly song is playing on the old radio, but somehow that doesn't bother you.

India changes every minute. What does it mean to love or hate India?

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