....The Rains Came Down...(and some hail stones too )

posted on: Thursday, September 27, 2007

...Yesterday, we had some fantastic thunderstorms in Chennai...what is supposed to be the end of the monsoon season is only beginning, thanks to the tsunami they had a few years ago...

It started in the afternoon and with intermittent breaks, continued the rest of the day and part of the night. Do you remember when it rains in the US, how all the streets look so washed and clean, the trees look green again and all the cookie-cutter houses look like clean, scrubbed soldiers all lined up for inspection??? Well, in India - not so much!!!

In India, when it rains, at first you cannot detect that it has rained if you look at the earth...it looks bone dry for a little bit as the rain water gets soaked right up due to the stifling heat which makes it very dry. After several minutes of a downpour - you start to notice strange things....

...the most creative raincoats made from plastic bags, jute sacks, saris, handkerchiefs, etc...

...what is supposed to look washed and clean, suddenly after receiving heavy rainfall looks old and streaked with dirt and dust like buildings caked with dust from everyday traffic, when it rains, gets washed alright but it shows the real color or lack of color of the building and emphasizes its flaws...

...the concept of proper drainage is only now starting to hit the Indian government, although the Aryans had created an entire town with all this drawn into the plan ages ago...this lack of proper drainage leads to main roads being flooded with nasty-looking water and if you dare to breathe, nasty-smelling too...

...which leads to the other side effect to rains in India - it intensifies the smells to a level that you wish you had an oxygen tank hooked to you permanently and didn't have to breathe in anything from the environment...garbage, rotted vegetables, slums, dirty rivers that flow through the city, dirty clothes being washed on the sidewalk of a very busy main road, cows and buffaloes and their excretion also residing on the same sidewalk just a few yards away from the women washing the clothes, wet stray dogs, the piles of open garbage, sweat-filled buses...

...rains in India cannot wash away anything due to the solidifying of dirt and dust over long periods of time, that when it rains, it allows the new dust and dirt to stick to the old block and just keep increasing in size. Even if it were to wash it out, where would it all go????

...in the later part of the evening, some parts of Chennai actually saw hailstones fall out of the sky...they were not like the ones we are used to seeing..the ones that stay on the ground..these ones melted as soon as they touched the ground...several people on motorcycles said that the sound of hailstones on their helmets was thunderous....

...thanks to global warming and tsunamis, unexpected weather conditions are to be expected...we are in the months of September and November and it is usually not so hot but we are experiencing heat like the summer months some days...

..and the rains keep coming...

Humble Beginnings of a Dreamer...

...several times in my life, I have experienced overwhelming moments when I have felt that I have so much and need to give back to my family, my church and my community...

...several times, I have written in my journals about the same feelings and mulled over the realities of achieving my lifelong dreams - eradicate poverty, illiteracy and provide better health care opportunities for the under-served populations of the world...

..through divine intervention and an inner prompting that I followed, I ended up in India again after 10 years of being gone, only to realize that this is the place where I could make all those dreams come true - what better place in the world than India that has all those three major issues to contend with!!!

Living in a country that exists daily in a world that is a mixture of these three issues alongside the progression of globalism is a very ironic state to be in. Recently, I have been drawn more to these societal things that affect the basic human rights and dignity and it is hard for me to not remember my dreams, as they are soon becoming the mental images that flash through my mind when I lie awake in bed, unable to fall asleep.

SO I DECIDED THAT I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

I am beginning to research the possibilities of building a free health care center to help those underprivileged who are in the poverty stricken areas receive free testing and medical treatment, educating the masses about AIDS/HIV and the prevention of the disease, conducting and promoting classes to the adolescents and the young adults on the importance of safe sex, drug abuse and prevention, abortions, pregnancies, and a whole lot of other issues that are not publicly addressed for fear of social stigma and abandonment by the community and family.

This fear also prevents the people from coming forward to accept free treatment - they want to remain anonymous so they can still have jobs, or their family will still include them.

In thinking more and more about this, I began to see how this could help me fulfill some dreams that have haunted me from a very early age. These lifelong goals came about because of personal experience in poverty and seeing family and friends and neighborhoods around me struggle and sometimes succumb to alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide due to shame, abortions, poverty that prevents further education and therefore no future...

I had made up my mind a very long time ago that I was going to be different. I was very observant as a child and I still am and I knew that I did not want the same life that everyone submits to in India. I was going to be different!!!

I was going to be somebody - a somebody whom everyone would know and it would allow me to achieve these dreams that have been stopped from progressing into reality because of society and family limitations.

I strongly feel that the time has come in my life to make those dreams a reality and given the talents and capabilities that I have been blessed with and with the help of so many others who fight for the same causes, these dreams can become a reality...

In doing some preliminary research, startling statistics tell me that I am on the right track....

I am going to write some more about this as I progress in my research and will keep this blog updated with the results...

I hope that those who read this will, as Stephen R. Covey says, "Find your own voice and help others find theirs."

OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!!

posted on: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On hearing the nature of the upcoming strike in the state of Tamil Nadu, the state I reside in, I was immediately transported back to King Herod's time...

On Monday, the 1st of October, all of Tamil Nadu will be shut down.

The official reason stated for this event is for the speedy implementation of what is called the Sethusamudram Project - which is basically to create a shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka. This is said to provide a continuous navigable route around some very shallow waters called the Sethu Samudram. Benefits - it will enhance trade and reduce travel time for all ships passing through.

Issues to deal with : possible imbalance of ecology in that particular zone and could cause high tides, oil spills will reach the coast faster than before, coastal line erosion might be more rapid. Another large concern is that it might open up the economic route for funding the LTTE - a militant Tamil organization that has violently demanded that Sri Lanka create a seperate Tamil state in what was formerly known as Ceylon.

OK!!! Now to the interesting part...

The unofficial reason for the state-wide strike is due to this:

A former member of the Parliament, Ram Vilas Vedanthi, made a threat against the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu allegedly stating that he was going to have the Chief Minister beheaded and would offer as a reward, the weight of his head in gold!!!!

Okay, people...King Herod still alive in 2007???

This statement created great tension in the community as it endangered the life of the Chief Minister . So here is another chance for the Tamilians to protest and violently nonetheless...

The ironic thing is that although I never thought I would see the day there would be a 4-day weekend in India, the day following this possible violent strike or bandh as it is called here, India celebrates the birthday of one of its greatest leaders, Mahatma Gandhi - the preacher of non-violence. No where else in the world could you find this juxtaposition between violence and non-violence... It is a National Holiday to commemorate his great life and remember the Freedom Struggle - only 50+ years later, they are still struggling with it among themselves.

For those of us who have lived outside of India, it is unimaginable to shut down an entire state for one day knowing that it could have some serious $$ loss to the country - no trade or transport, period. And the feeling is that the political parties are using this as a platform to promote themselves and the ones who will be fighting will be the common man with not much to lose but his life.

Another day in India....








To Work or Not to Work??? That is the question!!!

posted on: Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recently, I have been hiring for various positions in my company. The process of hiring and interviewing is completely different but even that is not as surprising as what I had the opportunity to experience...

I had hired someone to join as a Telecaller(ISP) to join on a certain date. Everything seemed fine for the first two hours of her arrival. After two hours, she came in and told me that her mother-in-law had an accident and was in the hospital and that she needed to leave immediately. She would call me tomorrow and update me. I thought this was odd but things happen.

Well, the next morning, I get a call from her father ( again, very odd) saying that she needed to stay with her mother-in-law and would join the following Monday. I agreed. Monday morning arrives and no sign of the absconded telecaller. I called, only to have her mother answer the phone saying that she was out of town at a cousin's wedding and will be back on Tuesday. She will be able to work on Wednesday...

I was beginning to think that I ran a charity organization that allowed an extremely flexible schedule versus a training company. I said I would see her on Wednesday and hung up. Come Wednesday morning and no telecaller again ( no surprise). So I called and again, her father answers the phone and I hear an excuse or a reason that I had never heard before to explain why she is not at work...."Madam, she will not be coming to work today as it is a very inauspicious day to start work." I explained to him that this was a job and not a date for marriage...to which he replies, undeterred, "This is what our caste dictates madam, what to do". (said in a thick Indian accent, of course)... I was speechless!!!

Living in a country that is progressing at such a rapid rate that even your office boy (peon) has a cell phone that is 4 times more advanced than yours and housewives go to bars and drink with their husbands, the caste system of India is very much alive!!! It was confusing to me why this telecaller even applied for a job since her life was so dictated by her father and her husband that she did not even answer her own phone. Her life and the lives of a very large percentage of the population of India was ruled by this caste system.

Here is a link( and there are several more) to more info on caste systems in India - and these are very real and exist today:

http://www.indianchild.com/caste_system_in_india.htm

Will write some more on the subject in a later blog...for now, read and be amazed that some parts of the world outside of the US live in a manner that you could never imagine being your way of life!!

MENTAL IMAGES OF INDIA...

posted on: Monday, September 3, 2007

...tiny streets, so tiny that one would wonder how anything bigger than a bicycle could pass on these streets and yet, cars, buffaloes, motorcycles, and everything that moves under the sun shares this street...

...muddy, slushy roads with stagnant pools of water everywhere that makes the area become a popular maternity meeting place for mosquitoes, which are so many in number, they look like an aerial tapestry and sound like a dull power drill...

...small shops, big shops, even smaller shops selling anything that you can imagine, all packed together so tightly that sardines in a tin can would rejoice thinking they had more breathing space...

...street vendors hawking products they now claim are the best in the world, who then tie a tarp over their goods to prevent it from the rain and leave the whole thing overnight, right there on the street, so that they can return the next morning and have the same spot to work in...

...coffee shops that are open all night, hotels that couldn't be larger than an average bathroom that serve all kinds of food at all hours of the day and night. (sorry to compare a food place to a bathroom, but it would not be a stretch of the imagination in some parts of this country.)...

...decorated cows and buffaloes which decorated themselves with mud claim their part of the road and contribute to the foot traffic...

...mini-temples and shrines to deities interspersed with daily life, with garbage strewn along the sides of it, beetle nut juice stains on the temple itself, cow dung piles along the road, and people worshipping in the street since the temple is 5ft by 5 ft...

...open sewers that lend that unforgettable "aroma" to the city, that permeates your skin and hangs in the air...

...marriage halls or kalyana mandapams as they are called here, which are always richly decorated and almost always in business except for the months that are considered inauspicious by the Hindus. These are reception halls where it looks like a walking showroom for gold jewelery-the women find it difficult to stand up straight due the weight of the adornments...

...helpful public who were telling us to turn around while we were stuck in a traffic jam that was caused because they were building a makeshift stage in the middle of the road in front of one of those miniature temples to celebrate a temple festival...

...banana leaves that substitute for a plate in South India especially in Chennai and a staple at every marriage. It eliminates the budgeting need for china and cutlery at a wedding since banana leaves and fingers are the only utensils needed to eat with....

...open, heaping piles of garbage that provide colorful distractors for one to look at while stuck in traffic, add to the "perfumed" streets, invite all forms of insects to have their own Discovery Channel on every street corner....

...a raging bonfire in the middle of the street where the makeshift stage I had talked about earlier was being built, the law cannot prevent this as it will enrage and upset the balance of life and religion....

... carts being pulled by cows or bullocks (male cows) sharing the traffic madness and sometimes being the cause of the traffic madness, lending a new meaning to the term, "mad cow disease"...

...stopped at an intersection only to find a woman drenched in gold jewelry and riding a moped stopped right next to me, on her cell phone and wearing a sari...

...mobile phones in the hands of those who have no real homes to live in or food to eat, flower vendors to your own office boys have better cell phones than you do; stores selling mobile phones and accessories competing for space to set up shop in Chennai...

...stray dogs that roam the street at all hours of the day and night, the causes of several life-threatening accidents, one of the reasons why garbage does not only get piled up on the corners of the streets but get distributed along the entire street, and this might also be the reason why the stray dogs are fatter than the people themselves...

...driving down a street that is lined with jewelry stores that cannot be more than 300-500 sq. ft. with the title that belies the size - LMV Mansion of Jewelry...

...whizzing past the the shops, ok, I lied, crawling past the stores, I suddenly spot a BASKIN ROBBINS...

...tons of sweet shops and bakeries that contribute to the high rate of diabetes in this country...

...lush green parks smack dead in the middle of the city, where people just hang out in groups or pairs and listen to the sounds of traffic around them...

...walls, electricity poles, cement bus terminal seats, lamp posts, anything that had a smooth surface would be pasted with posters of all kinds - movie posters, posters of grinning politicians who promise the world and give them nothing, advertisements for everything you can imagine within reason...

...an occasional cow chewing these posters off the walls...they probably find the politicians more delicious than the movie stars...

..old fashioned way of weighing things with the scales and weights when you go to a local shop or vendor to buy groceries...

...billboards...

...open construction sites that get more complicated to maneuver around after the rains for fear of falling into subsequent open ditches...

sitting in an auto rickshaw sandwiched between a bus that is leaning too far in one direction due the it being overcrowded and an SUV with the passenger hanging out of the window trying hard to look into your autorickshaw...

...lorries (trucks in India) packed with workers in a sort of coyote style...more people than can actually fit in the back...

...makeshift aluminum fences that are sunken into the saturated mud after the rains and solely supported by the tons of garbage heaped up around them...

...cooking gas delivered to your house in red cylinders that are transported by the delivery guy in open rickshaws...

( more to come...) hope you enjoyed visualizing these...
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