Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What can you do about it ?

I came across this very thought provoking article during my blog-trek this afternoon.It really set me thinking,brooding,contemplating over it for a stretch of a few hours.Thought about sharing it ... So, here goes..

Life sometimes changes its direction in unexpected ways, through an event which seems to be of little importance at the time. It happens to almost everyone and at most times the change is not so much in what we do but rather in how we think about doing things. My life changed the day I decided to skip a movie one pretty Saturday evening and landed up at Janaagraha's office . More about Janaagraha later.

I have been associated with this organization for over four months now , in different programs ranging from public disclosure of BMP's finances to writing articles for their monthly publication. Across the board , a common trend is the lack of enough young people in community related activities. Almost all the people under the age of 35 are college or school students and very few of those are actually working at the local community level. But I live in Bangalore , so I must have missed counting a key segment of the population under 35.

Ahaa , the young professional.Everyone , including John Kerry and a certain George W Bush, knows about the young professional in Bangalore. Highly skilled , well educated , motivated , with a well paying steady (sometimes not so steady) job, unmarried or just married , spotted often at Garuda or Forum or MG Road/Brigade road especially on weekends. Perfect! Only , sometimes I wish Kerry knew a little bit about this professional's city as well.Bangalore sucks! The awful roads , the flooded drains , the incomplete flyovers , the one ways , the smoke , the rising temperature , the electricity and water supply , the this and the that . This list is endless. Often this topic becomes a reason to engage in feel good afternoon banter about the role of a former Prime Minister. But more often than not , the young professional says , "I am unattached, I do not belong here. I abide by law and pay my taxes. I am calm and never get excited(except the one time when I watched Rang De Basanti)". Cynicism , then.

Where does this cynicism come from ? How does it become so all pervasive? Is it part of our genetics or something that I imbibed along the way? To know the answer , I , the young professional need to step back in time , when I was at school. For all the history and civics and other social sciences I crammed up as a kid , was there a single moment I felt that I had a responsibility beyond my house or my school ? A responsibility not to spit my chewing gum on the street , or to keep my neighborhood park clean or to ask my mom not to empty her dustbin in the drain. No , never. If childhood is when I could have learnt to become responsible outside my house and school and my teachers and parents could not teach me such a basic thing , then maybe it is a collective failure. A lost opportunity which may not present itself again. See , it is so easy to be cynical , to blame "the system" . There is a popular phrase for such a thought process : "conventional wisdom" e.g. "the system" is corrupt , "the government" is inefficient, our "cultural values" are different and so on. John Kenneth Galbraith , the renowned American economist , defined conventional wisdom as associating truth with convenience , with what is aligned with our self interest and personal well being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. No wonder , we accept it so comfortably without understanding much about what the "government" or the "system" actually is.

I do not claim to know or understand any of the problems that afflict my city , let alone the solutions.Heck , I don't even claim to know who or what a typical young professional is. But , at a personal level, I have asked this question to myself over and over again in the past few weeks. Should I leave the future of this city in the hands of "the system" and wash my hands off it? With my education , my skills, my ability to reason , my youth and my energy whether all I can do is twiddle my thumbs while the active citizenry comprising of mostly old and retired and some not so fortunate people slug it out in public meetings to solve my day to day problems , go through the budget of the ward works to make sure the drainage is working and ,in general, engage with the government to make Bangalore a better city to live in. I find it very offensive , and downright insulting , when a newly returned Indian (or NRI for the pun inclined) rattles off the list of ills that plague Bangalore and how there is no hope. It definitely helps to know that America took more than 200 years to get where it is today, and NRI's did not have any role to play in that process until the recent past.

In the end , then, the debate rests on a very fine line between whether I just care about this issue and wash it down with regular pepsi at INOX or I am willing to take the extra step and let it agitate the hell out of me. What I eventually do and whether I want to shoot down a defence minister or talk to my ward sabha representative about a flooded drain is a matter of finer and minor detail which , if you believe me , can definitely be sorted out.I am sure each one of us has brilliant ideas and I invite you to generously comment on what I have written and what you think can or should be done about the issue as a whole .Remember , though , if it helps at all , that a doctor treats the disease not just the symptoms. Remember , as well , that this blog is just an effort to let a collective thought process evolve , so what YOU think is most important.

-Author:Bipin Singh

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chef in-the-making...

God really has his own way of getting people like doing stuff they wouldn’t prefer doing on a normal day. Mom got operated exactly a fortnight ago. Since the operation involved an incision on her right wrist, her right arm was bandaged with strict instructions of resting her arm for atleast a month.

I did spend a couple of sleepless nights figuring out as to who is gonna do the cooking (the rest of the household chores could be shared equally between Dad and me).Thank God, granny was around to initiate me into the kitchen. For someone who could barely make sippable coffee (the colour of the concoction itself, made by yours truly, used to put people off so much that I was very sweetly told not to be seen near the gas stove :D), preparing a proper four-course meal has been quite a journey and to top it all I’ve loved every bit of it.

I absolutely love the way my chappatis turn into a nice circle before I toss it onto the pan, and when they start swelling up (as they should) my spirits soar along with them. I kinda get the same kind of elation as a potter would, when he sees a mound of clay proudly whirring into a beautiful pot on his wheel. All this after many days of producing rotis the shape of the map of India or Asia or many a times North America, made of rock hard dough, as soft as the toughest piece of leather. No one complained (to top it all , Dad even praised the “hard work” behind making it).Then Science came to rescue-Putting more water in the dough will result in fluffy rotis and rotating the belan with the right amount of pressure at one place while flattening the dough gives u nice round rotis.

I now love experimenting with the different varieties of masalas and other condiments, different varieties of oils and sauces. It really amazed me as to how just by altering the quantities of any of these wonderful raw materials we can churn up a new variety of a traditional curry. But the best part of it is, no one gets judgmental and snappy when I goof up- the plus points of being a late and unlikely beginner.

I still remember the tiffs I used to have with Mom when she wanted to watch Khana Khazana , and I would get all worked up and sulky and would hear none of her pleas. Now, I kinda linger on when a cookery-show comes my way while surfing channels on the television. The result being – I can rustle up a neat Italian omelette called frittata whenever I feel like having something out of the ordinary.

Now, I`m really hooked onto my time in the kitchen at the stove,or at the oven or at the mixie and the joy gets doubled when I see Dad,Mom or Granny lapping up my indigenous creations.I just wish I had some more time ,what with internship and GD preparation taking up most of it, to indulge in this new-found indulgence.

People say ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’; why keep the ladies out of it, I’d say the way to anyone’s heart is through his/her stomach. Not convinced? Just step into the kitchen and find out for yourself.