Just Chatting with Life

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Birthday

The cars kept coming . Mercedes, Porsche, BMW you name it ! The kids alighted, all of them resplendent in gleaming Nikes, Benettons , Polos . They stepped on the carpet lest their shoes get dirty. The party was already in full swing . Raj's 10th Birthday was a matter of extreme Joy to his parents and they had spared no money to display their Joy . Cooks had specially flown in from Delhi, Decorators from Autralia had made the home into a mini Hogwarts . The cake was a stupendous 10 feet high marvel. They had hired City's topmost DJ to entertain the kids, a livery of servant were on call .

The kids blew kisses in a poor imitation of their parents. They danced, ate, shrieked, chatted on Cellphones, and made merry. But there was one kid who was not making merry. He was staring wide-eyed at the spectacle. This was the first time he had seen such a big house. Back in his village, they used to have just a single room hut . It was only yesterday that he had come to Bombay for the first time. His mother was one of the scores of servants hired especially for today's party. He stared at their clothes, their cellphones , their gifts with disbelief. He wished he could also get expensive gifts like this. He had only 2 pairs of clothes, one of which (the one which was least torn) he was wearing today. His mother had washed him and applied soap, a luxury for him . After all, it was a very special day.

He suddenly saw something shining infront of me. It was a gold chain. It must have fallen off somebody. He picked it up in order to search for its owner. Just then one of the guests saw him and started yelling "Thief ! Thief" . The boy was stunned. He just stood there, paralysed. The kids started laughing at his shabby clothes . The owner of the house stepped forward and was about to slap the boy, when his mother came forward.

"Stop Sahib !!" , Said She, "I have stolen the chain and gave to him to keep"

The owner got very angry and slapped the mother very hard several times. He then instructed the Guards to throw both of them out.

Out on the street, the mother broke down. She could not stand and collapsed. The boy, too, now in tears, embraced his mother. He tried to explain that he was not trying to steal.

"I know", Said the mother between sobs, "I know you were not stealing "
"Then why mother, why did you do it " , Wailed the child.
"Its your birthday Chhotu", She said, " I could not let anything bad happen to you on your birthday" .

It was then he remembered that it was his birthday too, why his mother had cleaned him, why she had taken him to the city for the trip. He realised that he did not want any of those expensive gifts. He had got the best gift of all, his mothers love ! He just hugged her and smiled. She too smiled back . One bond had just gotten stronger !

Monday, August 21, 2006

Chaos at the Oval

A farce of amazing proportions at the ENgland Pakistan Test match at the Oval. Whatever might be the reason, the sequnce of events is plain unbeleivable . Read it here

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cola Wars....A ground reality ??

In response to my previous post, i got a mail from a class 10th student, Anupama from Kerala. She has written about the plight of the Villages where Coke has setup their factory . Read on -

I am Anupama.Studying in 10th.From Kerala.I have got much work to do than write an email to someone I don’t know.But you must know trhe truth.
Today when I read your opinion about Kerala government banning cola,I was absolutely shocked.

I used to drink cola-till a few years back.
One day ,a middle aged man with a white beard came to our school.He told us about a place called Plachimada.The coca cola plant is situated in plachimada.

The company promised jobs for the villagers[mostly adivasis].But only a few got jobs.
The company dug 16[or 60] borewells.
The water table depleted.Within 1 year,the wells there dried up.Even if there was water,it was salt water.The villagers started a protest in front of the company.
The company gave the waste matter to the farmers saying that it was a good fertilizer.But the trees were destroyed and the once green village is now barren.
The women have to walk 5 kilometers every day for water.They have to buy drinking water.

Our school went there with a group of students[I included] to support their protest.
Our teacher wanted to go to toilet.The man of the house said,we don’t have enough water,since we have to buy it.So please use it carefully.
Our sir was touched and he paid the price of one bucket of water[60rs]

The next time we went ,it was an international conference.We had food from there by the organisers.But we could hardly wash our hands because there wasn’t enough water.

We stopped drinking cola
-not because CSE found pesticides in it
-not because government banned it
-not because we wanted to show-off

But because we were touched by the plight of the innocent villagers.
Later media & politicians used the chance to their advantage by banning cola.

The local newspapers carried reports of even solid waste in cola bottle[my friends have the paper cuttings]

In UP too there is a plant and the villagers are suffering.
Wherever the company has spread its tentacles,protests broke out.




A really passionate plea from a young girl . I myself am ambivalent about the issue. I am concerned about the exploitation and yet somehow i cant bring myself to stop drinking colas . Dont know what to do about this

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ho Hum ...and we ban colas !!

There you go, the Kerala government has decreed that as the guardians of public health, they will not allow any of the good citizens of Kerala to drink Coke and Pepsi. But wait a minute, why did they do this. Ah well, you recall CSE (The Centre for Science and Environment), the same organization that had found alarming level of pesticides in Cola in August 2003. Yeah, the same one! Well they just refuse to go away. With a nicely orchestrated media performance, they have once again brought cola majors into limelight. This time they have found an astonishing amount of pesticides which is twenty-four times the normal prescribed level.

When we talk about a level which is twenty four times the normal level, we assume that we know there is a normal level. But is this the case? Lets us examine the facts as put forth by CSE. According to CSE, the level of pesticides in Colas is 11.85 ppb (parts per billion). Now the standard to which they are comparing is not actually a standard, but a proposal for a standard, which is pending before Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). This proposal states that the level of pesticides should not be more than 0.5 ppb. But at its heart, a proposal is well…a proposal. It is not yet implemented. Hence to proclaim that the cola companies are in the wrong seems to be a bit premature.

Let us talk statistics now. Now BIS may not have standard for Colas, but it does have standards for a lot of common food items. Now these standards specify how much of pesticides you can have in the food items. And believe it or not, the level of pesticides, the prescribed one, that is, is much higher than the levels which CSE found in the colas. For example, the prescribed maximum level of pesticides in one large egg is 1931 ppb, whereas for one cup of tea it is 4668 ppb. This means that to ingest the same amount of pesticides that you would ingest by one cup of tea, you will have to drink an astonishing 394 bottles of Coke. This is a startling statistic. Suddenly, the level of pesticide in a Coke bottle seems pretty insignificant. The same story is repeated for other food products such as rice and milk. And yet, the CSE, the media, and the political parties are targeting the cola companies.

This is not intended to be a defense of the cola companies. But at the same time, we must understand that the CSE findings must be taken with more than one pinch of salt. There are several issues with the CSE report. Consider the validity of the results. There is a National Accreditation Board (NAB) which has accredited about 20 laboratories which are authorized to undertake such tests. You could be forgiven for thinking that surely CSE is accredited by NAB. But the truth is not quite flattering for CSE. They do not have accreditation from NAB. That raises questions about the validity of CSE results. CSE mentions that they have tested the colas according to the US EPA standards. But surprise, the US EPA lacks any such standard. One really wonders how the reports of CSE managed to gain such credence.

Enough of nitpicking. We need to see the larger issues involved. There are two key players in this issue, without whose support, the issue would have died its natural death: the media and the political parties. Both have gained a lot from the issue. The media got an issue which they could sensationalize mindlessly, again, and hence gain that precious viewer attention. And the political parties found a new excuse to make a ruckus and shout slogans against Videshi companies. It is difficult to point out which of the two has behaved more irresponsibly. The sad part is that over the years, we have come to expect this from the political parties. But in some tiny corner of one’s heart, one still hopes that the media is a watchdog. Sadly, the television news channels are hell bent to prove us wrong. And the newspapers don’t want to be left behind. So what we have is the mindless ban by the Kerala government which was undoubtedly prompted by the eagerness to play to the galleries. If the state government is so concerned about the health of its citizens, it would do well to invest in improving the standards of public health in state. But, as it is not half as newsworthy as banning the multinationals coke and Pepsi, the government won’t even think of doing public health. Some parties have found innovative ways to play up the issue. Novel methods such as spraying colas in fields, making animals drink Colas might seem amusing on the Television. But these images hide disturbing truth - that beyond such mindless displays of exhibitionism, the political parties are capable of little else.

So while the Colas face flak once again, while the political parties continue their tamasha, media continues it’s breaking news, CSE finds even more startling results, I will put up my feet on the table and sip my Coke. After all, if so many cups of tea have deposited so much of pesticide in me, what more can one bottle of Coke do?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Imitators

Are Indians the biggest imitators on earth . How much of our culture and heritage do we really know .More importantly , what is our identity ? Are we the Indians who speak our mother tongue at home , or are we the Imitators who talk in a Yank accent even in our houseolds ? I think the next few questions should give us an answer -

1. Do we think in our mother tongue (or even Hindi for that matter ) ?
2. What is the medium of instruction in our school , college or Institute ?
3. What language am i more comfortable reading ?
4. Do i quench my thirst with Coke, Pepsi or with Chaach , lassi , nimbupani ?
5. Are my favorite hangouts Barista , Subway and McDonald ?
6. Do i wear anything other than Nike, Adidas , or Reebok ?
7. Do I listen to English Songs more than Hindi Songs ?
8. Do i prefer Hollywood movies to Hindi Movies ?
9. Do i use expressions such as "Chill Dude" , "Lets hangout " , "rock the party, man" ?
10. Do I think that Philip Kotler is Marketing God ?
11. Are my preferences shaped by American media ?

These and many other questions might help in really thinking about your identity ! I confess that I seem to have lost mine .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Test

He was just a little boy. A sapling amongst the aged trees. As he walked into the battlefield , myriad emotions were swirling in his fertile mind. There was intense heat, not all of it from the sun. There was a knot in the stomach making him squirm as if it was a living being. His throat was dry , not all of it from thirst. The enemy stared . There were many of them . All of them jeering at the young boy who had just started to use the razor. They threw unspeakable insults on him. And yet, his gaze never faltered. The boy who would be king was getting ready for his first battle. His adversary was a seasoned campaigner , someone who had struck terror into many a brave warrior. The boy looked around the arena. He Saw the crowd baying for his blood . His partner was in his own shell. It was a solo battle .

The boy and the enemy . With their weapons in their hands, the two stared at each other. One craving for blood, other sparkling with unseen energy . The enemy was running towards the boy . He ran like wind. The crowd was mesmerized . The boy stood absolutely still . He remembered his guru teaching the nuances of the battle . Stay still, stay focussed, and be confident - This is what the Guru had told him . And the boy obeyed . The enemey hurled his weapon . With a flourish , Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar brought his bat down and the ball went past a raging Waqar Younis for Four. The battle was over ! There was nothing stopping the boy ! He won many battles and became the king of the kings ! But he never forgot the day he had his biggest test , the day he became a man ! The day Sachin Tendulkar announced his arrival to the applauding world !!