Tag Archives: United States

When Raju Lost Faith in Ganga…

By Ankit Chandra

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Remember that movie starring Raj Kapoor, ‘Jis desh mein ganga behti hai’ ? Raj kapoor played the role of a guy from I think Banaras, and goes on to use his sanskar and values to transform a group of dacoits. I think the assumption in the movie was that Raju had complete faith in the values of the mother land.

Cut to Champaign in US. I have met a lot of NRIs here. Some have no traces of India in them, some still have a very thick Indian accent, some dress in ways you wouldn’t imagine on Indians, and then on the other hand you would have people dressed in Salwar kameez, but as soon as they open their mouth, you get amazed at the American accent that hits your ears.

It is interesting to interact with these people, as they aren’t Indians anymore, but thats what they identified as, or they identify themselves as (when they have nothing Indian in them). So in a restaurant, you would hear an Indian American talking to her American friends talking about Aishwarya Rai and saying that Indian people have beautiful names, and that Aishwarya Rai has a portugese ancestory, as Indians don’t have the genes for such beautiful green eyes… Or I heard another NRI in a party saying that Indian people gang up against NRIs coz they are rich and if your car hits a person in India, they would get after you, coz you are a rich NRI and thus you should be punished for that.

I wondered, what was the reason for these people to leave India and come to US… Was it the land of opportunities, or was it something else? I was going for an interview to a Multinational company in a city in US, and my cab driver was an Indian. he said to me : ‘Hope that you are interviewed by a white guy. if you get an Indian, he might ask you for money to let you in…’. Oh my God! I thought. I knew thats so not true, but that exposed me to another perception of India, that I have mostly been unaware of. That of a very common man, who still undergoes a very torturous life of subsistence living, where bribery is still the order of the day, and you have to fight for basic amenities. Indians here are either the most prosperous immigrants who live in Silicon valley or they are these poor Indians who couldn’t find a place for themselves in India. Probably most of you who would read this blog from India , would invariably have come from backgrounds where we have either shut out the ugly side of India, or have created a comfort zone around it.

So why do people leave their own home country to come to such a culturally diverse land where you are mostly cut off from the main stream? I could come up with a few reasons, but this is NOT an exhaustive list by any means….

Lost faith:

One of the people I know here lost his home to a tenant, went to the courts, got nothing done for years, and then had to accept an out of court settlement, finally paid money to the tenant to vacate his house. In his words, there is no ‘enforcement agency in India’. Every time I talk to him about India, I can see his hurt face. The face of a man who expected his environment to provide him with a decent living standard. Most of his words seethe with a latent anger towards the system. He got a chance to get rid of it, and he did. He lives a modest and comfortable life here.

Never had faith:

Some people here came coz they always believed that India wasn’t a place for them. They prolly pick up the foreign accent most easily, curse India in everything they see, and eventually become the worst ambassadors for us. I have met these people in parties here, who would narrate their stories in India, when surprisingly all things that happen to them are bad things, and seemingly they find nothing bad in their current country of residence. (I can point out a few right here).

A special third category:

Is of the people who were born here, but were forced to remain Indian at home, and then left out in the open foreign air to convert into what we call ABCDs. These are a very special variety. Some of them would wear salwars and shirts which were in fashion maybe 20 years back, and when you see them, you would think they have just come in from a remote small town in India. But as they open their mouths, they spew out American english, with ‘Oh my GAAWDs’, ‘This is soo kewwool’ etc etc.

To a person I met recently, I had to say that India she knows and India that I come from are two entirely different countries! These people evaluate their India trip from the American perspective. So Mumbai trains are ‘Sow ppphackked’. And that you have to get into a local train while it is running! (Can’t you wait till it stops or till you get accustomed to it??). They are scared of lizards, and almost all lizards fall on them when they are in India (maybe coz they are NRIs and lizards want to punish the rich NRIs), and so on…

Some of the things that happened to them are real, and maybe, as Indians, we are just used to them. I was just reading the article in the Economist : “What’s holding India Back”, and the reasons mentioned there were pretty much on the above lines. I agree there still are differences in the standard of living here for an common man vs his counterpart in India. Maybe studying these NRIs gives us another perspective of what we need to change in our system to restore the faith Raju had in Ganga…

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Why I Don’t Wanna Work for Infosys

By Ankit Chandra

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Well that’s because I don’t like the Blackberry phone. The blog could end right here, but then if I don’t explain it better, you would keep me in the same category as Infosians, who I dislike anyway…

So what’s the big deal? It happened like this… We are a bunch of Indian students here at an American university, which is kinda considered one of the best in the world, and we feel quite proud belonging to this place.

Even more so when the job fairs happen. There are companies abound that come here looking for great talent and increase their organization’s productivity. All the stalls are brightly lit and the recruiters stand outside their stalls to ‘reach’ out to the students, so that they could talk to them and see if they are a good fit. Even if they are not, they are more than willing to listen to you and explore whatever opportunities there could be for you. Even if it turns out that there aren’t any opportunities available, you would walk away thinking that you had the best conversation you wanted to have, and too bad there weren’t opportunities, but you would want to try again…

The stalls are a story in them all together. draped in their company colors, the stalls are all lit up shining bright. These people go an extra mile to get their stalls looking great for people to get attracted like a moth to fire.

So I was having a good time in the job fair, talking to different recruiters, and having a quality time there… And then I walk into this next row of stalls… this row was kinda different. It had mostly hardware and earth moving equipment companies. As I walk down through the aisle, there came this corner… the stall was blue, and it seemed that either the lighting was not done, or some of the bulbs had prolly blown away. The caption there said, ‘The world is flattening.. are you ready?’ hmm… when i looked around there was just one person in that stall, and just above his wavy hair, I read the name, Infosys…

The recruiter here was kinda weird. He was sitting behind the table stall and was totally screwed on to his Blackberry Phone! a few people passed in front of him, and he didn’t seem to notice. I thought it might be his boss on the phone, and I would come later…

So I took a round of the hall and then went back to the stall. This time the recruiter was talking to someone. So as was the case with other stalls, I stood in line waiting. Generally, recruiters tried to give equal time to all people waiting in the line, and made sure that the line didn’t feel ignored. But the guy here at Infosys, looks at me, and says ‘I am talking to this person, and will take time. You can go and have a round of the hall, and come back after 5 mins.’ Well, umm taken aback by that, I smiled and said, OK…

So I took a round and went back to the stall.. The chat was still going on, and now the recruiter was actually sitting on the side of his table and it seemed that it was more of a gossip mode than recruiting. And he was still playing with the Blackberry in his hands while gossiping with that kid…

‘aah nevermind’ I thought, and moved on to Yahoo.. By the way, I went for the final rounds of interviews with Yahoo at SF, and they have a rocking atmosphere and campus. And of course, you are treated very well there…

Reflections On The Understanding Of Poverty

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Malathy Madathilezham tries to decipher the real definition and the measures of poverty and more importantly tries finding ways to get rid of the malaise. 

Poverty is a much-debated topic. We all have at some or the other point discussed on some issue related to poverty. The ‘poverty line’ is a recurrent topic that comes into picture during these discussions. How do we define and measure this complex’’ phenomenon? More importantly how do we get ‘rid’ of it?? These discussions are never ending and inconclusive, there is no right answer.

During the major part of my life I had not been exposed to the abject levels of poverty that exist in India (and many other parts of the world!) What I knew was from what I read and heard or what was shown in the media. Even more appalling was my inadequate knowledge on caste (Yes, there WAS discrimination! That’s what I knew and actually thought it was not relevant in these ‘modern ’times!) It is safe to say thus that most of my arguments related to poverty were quite superficial and mostly hearsay!

What has changed now? In short, I can say a better (a long way to go still!) understanding of the theoretical aspects of poverty, some experience from interacting, living with the poor and a stronger conviction that the solution is not simple and neither is it going to be easy to work out.

There are success stories. Those glorified poster picks from various organisation on how so and so person has overcome poverty due to such and such project and his/her own will. Thank god for the fact that there atleast these success stories to take inspiration from! But we also have to look at the kind of society that we are living in. The levels of disparity that exists and that are overlooked by us daily.

Yesterday evening, I saw a group of 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys sitting outside the apartment that I have taken for rent. They were basically searching for dry wood, plastics and other materials in the dump. They seemed to be from a nomadic tribe. Unfortunately I could not understand their language. But here they were, all children of school going age right in front of the house of a principal, scavenging!! How do we ensure that these children and many more like them have a better future ahead and not just in terms of an education?

We need to work on identifying the reasons why generations after generations, families continue to live in extreme poverty, with little or no improvement in the quality of life. This is in spite of the various agencies which include the government having different kinds of schemes, projects and programmes aimed solely at poverty alleviation/eradication/elimination! There is also a need to introspect about so many kinds of inequality and inequity that we have accepted as part of life and may be even consider it right!

It is still a wonder for me that just by the virtue of my birth in a particular kind of family I have a set of options and choices about the kind of life I can aspire for. Yes if I am one of the few persevering and determined kind of people that exist in this world, I can may be, reach the uppermost echelons of success. But largely our choices and options are governed by where we are born, who are our parents, our caste (a sad reality for many even today!) etc. It is important to realise that most people in our country do not even have any options to make a choice! They lead the same kind of lives that their parents, their grandparents lead… TV, mobile, bike and a formal education hasn’t done much to change their lives in a profound manner!

So what makes this happen? Does the society perpetuate one or the other kind of inequity and inequality?  Is it the poverty that leads to inequity and inequality or vice versa? What can an individual do to bring about change at one or the other level without being cynical about everything? These are some questions I am pondering on….

Schizophrenico-Hallucinato-Totallyjoblesso-Dyselixcosis

By Ankit Chandra

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Yah i think that’s what comes closest to what I have been suffering from ever since I was 5 years old… And why alluva sudden am I writing about this? Bingo! another proof that I have that disorder. ( I should call up my 10 std maths teacher to tell him that I can finally prove theorems 😀 ).

My first memory of that is when my unassuming mom sent me to the next door grocery store in Pradeep Market to get some sugar ( Umm i guess it was sugar, coz it cannot be what I think it was). Well, on the way I saw this scooter, pale green in color, which was I think a Bajaj Priya. Since obviously the color was very amusing, and it reminded me of an Italian movie I had seen then, I thought how an Italian would speak while riding his scooter in Italy… what if he actually hit an American while riding, and they get into a fight? and in this, one of my classmates (Montu Sharma) gets involved, and the Italian and American then end up beating the shit out of Montu. Yah! that way he will not find time to study and then I will come first in the class! yahoo! then I will get a prize in the school day celebration… 😦 till now I have only participated in school day in the group songs.. so totally not cool … Then when the principal would call me on to stage I can maybe kiss the school head girl! she is sooo pretty, and then even mom will not scold me for kissing her, coz I came first in the class! :D… then mom will send me to Pradeep Market to get that big box of crackers that I have always wanted to burst alllll by myself!! 😀 ….

umm wait… where am I? that’s when I realized that I had walked almost 1.5 kilometers and had left Pradeep Market almost 1.3 kms behind! I was very sad that I was back to square one and will not get to kiss the head girl, that I thought I almost had.. sigh…

Standard 10th. I was sent to my room to study Geography.(yawnnnn…) . anyways I open the book and begin to read.. I was looking at the map of India, and suddenly I looked at Bihar… Its structure looked like a side profile of a woman, with a pretty stylish boy cut hair style. umm something like that of my principal who was to give me the prize when I was to come first in my class… I imagined this face turning towards me and that it was the most pretty face I would have ever seen… what I saw is still etched in my head very clearly, but the trouble began after that. All I could remember from that learning session was that face. The next day in the Geography class, my lecturer walks in. Although I am very sure I am straight, and especially my lecturer was not even in my wildest imagination, someone I could fancy, but as soon as he walked in, that pretty face replaced his umm rather, umm not-so-pretty-masculine-with-moustache face… I don’t remember anything from that class… all through that class all I did was doing a lot of rather interesting things with that face .. all around some park…

Its very dark in the night in a jungle, and there are dark clouds all over the sky. A storm is impending, the tress are all dry and most of them dead. An old black crow is squeaking somewhere near. From somewhere, an innocent young girl draped in a tattered shawl is slowly, aimlessly walking through this forest. She has very recently been hurt in love. She is walking and wandering… The sky begins to thunder and lightning strikes into the forest dangerously close to her… but she doesn’t notice… A creepy shadow is following her closely. But she doesn’t notice.. she is just walking and wandering. Lost in her own thoughts…

This is picture I got in my head when I listened to the song ‘Dil cheez hai kya jaana’ by Bally Sagoo. Do this. Click on the link below and listen to this song, with ur eyes closed…

Link Click here!! 

Now you would agree with me on either that my imagination is right, or that I have that above mentioned disorder that i don’t wanna type again…

Hence Proved 😀 (Yahoo! Thankachhan Sir! R u listening 😀 ?)

psst: okay I suck at creating a horror movie scene, but in my head, it sure looks creepy 😀

No Rhyme No Reason

no rhyme no reason

 

By Malathy Madathilezham

No rhyme no reason

Why I

Am with you

 

The pain I feel

Drives me closer to you

I realise that now

The days pass by

The fights, abuses and all

But I come back

How long,

Will go on this ?

 

No rhyme no reason

Why I

Am with you

 

The feelings the same

But something’s changed

The joy’s gone,

More of a hollow within

I loathe looking at you

But I can’t leave you

How long

Will go on this?

 

No rhyme no reason

Why I

Am with you

 

Yes, I love you still

But something’s changed

More of make believe

The thought of your touch

I shudder with fear

How long

Will go on this

 

No rhyme no reason

Why I

Am with you

 

 

 

 

The Road to Hana and Haleakala – I

By Kartik Kannan

Not having much time on a 3-day break in the US, I decided I would take the plunge and do a road trip instead of signing up with a tour operator in the city. The challenge, however, was to drive on the right as they do in the US, in contrast to driving on the left in India.

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I rented a Lucerne Buick, a luxury sedan and slowly set off from the airport, rambling about slowly for about 20 minutes, trying to din it in my head about driving on the right. As the rubber met the road and the GPS were starting to make me feel comfortable, I started to turn the music on to the yesteryear Kishore da road trip number ‘Chala Jaata Hoon’, humming my way along the expanse of the 60 mile ride to my hotel.

I am sharing some photographs of the trip:

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The contrast of the grey roads, with the Blues and Greens is noteworthy

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Caravan lunch by the road!

A Visit To The Jallianwala Bagh

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BY Ankit Chandra

Somewhere in June three of us, Asad (childhood friend) , Anshit (my bro) and I went on a trip to Amritsar. There were 3 places that we wanted to visit : Jallian Wala Bagh, Golden Temple and Wagah Border. I will concentrate on the Jallian Wala Bagh for this post…

For all us who don’t know what Jallian wala Bagh stands for, click here.

Amritsar is a very cute city. pretty much like the other small cities across the country, where shops are usually small, the roads only as big as 2 by lanes, the streets even smaller yet all so vivid and colourful! full of life… kids playing across the streets, cars and scooters fighting yet maneuvering within the available space… there seems to be a very highly developed code of driving that seems to have evolved from this specifc eco-system of traffic. It might look very chaotic, but look carefully, and u wd see all vehicles just missing each other! only that it is not by chance, but the skills of the driver.

We were walking through these roads and by lanes, looking at the shops and their interactions with the world outside… we were looking at these buildings that have stood there for 100 odd years staring at the world and its changing ways, testimony to the changes and corruption of its inhabitants.. there was definitely this feel about these buildings.. they looked like these time warped things that were half stuck in past and the other half existing very much in this world with us. I felt that if we went into these buildings we would all of a sudden be transferred to a time that was long gone! Such was the eerie attraction of these buildings that you could do nothing but gaze at them, and then gather your self and keep moving ahead…

entrance

But one such building’s entrance kinda held us. unusually colored, it somewhat melted into its surroundings, yet stood out as something that had a totally different story to tell. As we gazed around the building, we saw the board that read ” JALLIANWALA BAGH”.

Pretty much like hypnotised souls, we almost floated into it… The entry to this place has forever remained as it is, and is nothing more than a very narrow passage… When we walked through it, it struck me that this was the very passage that General Dyer used to enter into the premises, and much to my disbelief, he also tried to bring in a battle tank!

Jalliawalabaghpassage

I don’t know if the pictures running in my head were from the movie Gandhi, or I could actually recreate the scene from 1919, but I could pretty much actually feel the soldiers walking through this passage.. with rifles in their hands, marching in, bringing death closer to the people inside who were totally unaware… What also struck me at that point was that the soldiers were Indian ( although working for the British) and the people inside were the same flesh and blood too!

If you remember any movie that was based on some flash back concept, try using that ‘blackout and reemergence of a picture’ stuff of a flashback to this case. Thats what I saw when I waled into the Bagh ( the Garden) where the massacre had happened. It looked like a very peaceful garden, kids were playing here too! sprawling lawns, fountains, people walking around…. this place actually looked very calm… Only that this calm prevailed not from peace, but from silencing of hundreds of lives… people like me, like you… like the shop keeper outside or the co-passenger in train with whom we played cards on our route to Amritsar… If for a second we forget the 88 years of time gap, you would feel that those people were just… us…
A lot of us were killed there that day.

JalliawalabaghWell

The calm there indeed felt like the one on a battle field after the battle finishes and there is no one left alive… to cry or to howl… As we moved inside there were these places that stand as a snapshot of that day, that time. There was this well into which people jumped to save themselves from the raining bullets from their own brethren who were just ‘following orders’ of their masters. More than the people killed, it was them who were enslaved by the British. The well has been covered since then.

There was another thing that had stood as a witness to what had happened that day. A Wall. Now standing all alone, as if it was punished to first witness the whole massacre and then made to live for eternity to keep remembering that bloodshed and narrate it to all with the bullet marks strewn all over it.

JalliawalabaghWall

Just near to this Wall was a writing made of stones that read “Vande Mataram’… And it was then that all of this fell more or less into place. The only way we can respect those who died that day is by believing in these words that lay there with the souls of all those who still could be around there watching the world outside just like those buildings as I had described earlier.. staring at the world and its changing ways, testimony to the changes and corruption of its inhabitants…