Sunday, August 31, 2014

Madras Yenga Madras…

Madras Yenga Madras…

Every year for Madras Day I do a blog post on the city I grew up in and lived for a majority of my life. Having had my entire life turned topsy-turvy recently (in a good way) I was noticeably reluctant to do one this year as I am pretty badly exhausted by the time I get home from work and sitting down in front of the computer to type sounds less and less appealing as the days pass by. But enough of that. My blogger friend Susan Deborah has initiated a blog theme on “what I would like to change in madras” and she has provided me the much needed spark to park my butt down and type this post. 

So what would I like to change in madras? Well, off-hand I would say “nothing at all, the city’s fine as it is”. But that sounds too glib, doesn’t it?  On further reflection I do find that there is one thing I would love to change in madras, but more about that later in the post. Right now as part of madras day celebrations I would like to record for posterity (hahahha….feel free to laugh too- at my expense) a few unforgettable landmarks of my childhood days – which are now in the unique peril of being forgotten by everyone except a certain generation who grew up in the madras of those times. 

I would like to record my remembrances here of a few places like: 

Maskanchavadi – also known as Koli market (Chicken market)colloquially, it was THE place to go to buy a pet, any pet you fancy- right from a cockatoo, an angora rabbit, love birds, mynah birds,  any kinda bird or dog or animal you fancy- you name it and the dealers there could procure it for you. The maskanchavadi market was at a tri-street junction off Broadway, right opposite the old Broadway theatre building and it used to function on Sunday mornings- when the crowds came from everywhere to just look around the menagerie. But repeated raids by our efficient local police force to check for illegal/rare bird selling businesses has driven down the entire market to death and it now exists as a paltry few shops selling broiler chicken for the table. Times move on and what was once considered commonplace- now resides in memory as a quaint old place.

Satti-Panai Kadai – right off koli market as you keep moving towards the interior of Broadway you run smack into the Pots and Pans market- where once people who cooked exclusively in earthenware pans and drank water off mud pots used to come to buy the stuff. Now that the market has shifted to aluminum and eversilver (stainless steel) cookware the pots and pans of earthenware have died a natural death and returned to earth (so to say).

Roundu-Kuzhai- As the name indicates it was a big rotunda with a municipal pump bang right in the middle of it all with various streets branching off in all directions. It was situated off Mint Street and connected most of the other streets parallel to mint street in one single place. People used to give address locations as “you know round kozha? Take the 2nd right….etc” in the pre-Google maps era. The area was also notorious for being the place where most riots started and you often learnt that some political party or the other had declared a bandh/hartal when the stones started flying around the roundu kozha area.

Broadway Theatre/Padmanabha Theatre/Prabhat Theatre/Murugan Talkies- none of which exist as theatres now but places where a lot of film history was made. In the end of their cycle as viable entities going to murugan was often synonymous with going to watch a bit-film….you know the ones where in the midst of a normal/boring movie they insert a little pornographic slide or two just to wake up sleepy audiences? That’s what I mean…Murugan along with Parangimalai Jothi theatre was the pre internet era’s easy access porno knowledge providers to a whole generation of boys growing up without official sex-ed.

Krishnappa Naicken Tank Agraharam- would you believe an honest to god kumbakonam style agraharam (a brahmin community only) kind of locality in the midst of busy Broadway? Yeah, it existed once- situated roundabout krishnappa’s tank- in concentric streets off the tank area.

Finally Diamond Tea Stall- the place where boys turned into men- the fag end of Mint Street right opposite mint bus terminus- this was THE hangout spot for all the rowdies and roughnecks of GT area- where awestruck people used to point them out as celebrities. The language was all pukka madras bhashai – starting with kasmalam and asking about nenjullu erukkara manja soru. And dress code? Strictly Lungi…pants were for sissies.

I could go on and on…but what the point? These places even though they no longer exist physically still stay on as evergreen memories in all long term residents of George Town area. 

And oh about the changing madras thing? I would of course like to change madras’s politicinas – the ones who didn’t hesitate to jettison the wonderful old name madras for chennai under the guise of langauge pride in the hopes of a few paltry extra votes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Fellowship Craze.

My Fellowship Craze.

So, last week I went for yet another examination to get myself yet another degree. Now before you move away from this page thinking that I am just showing-off here let me assure that this is not about my patting my own back in appreciation. This is more about how no one else around me could understand why I wanted to study yet again or go through all the horrors of examinations again and again at this advanced age. Every single person I confided the fact to was actively belittling and discouraging my urge to write exams. From my dad who asked me if they would give me a promotion at work if I got an extra qualification to my boss who let me stew for day’s on end without signing my leave letter to go write the exam, everyone around was against my writing it.

 Never mind that it’s my own money which paid for the course or my hard fought and saved leave (by working even on days in which I was sick) which I hoarded throughout the year to go write the exams. What they fail to understand and what I couldn’t make them understand was it was not the money or the prestige or whatever which drives me to go for these fellowships and degrees- its not even that I like the sound of them after my name. It’s simply the challenge- whenever I hear that so and so exam is soo bloody tough that it’s like climbing the Everest, and then I am oh so tempted to try and climb it metaphorically or go join the course, write the exam and measure myself against the best of the best. Its purely competitive, animal spirits. I want to see where I am, where I stand when I am pitted against the best, especially youngsters and fresher’s who have had the benefit of just finishing college and having the subject on instant recall, while I have been away from reading and jaded with clinical practice for all these years. 

I guess if I had been a swordsman I would have gone round challenging others to duels every time I felt jaded in life and wanted to prove a point to myself. But being a geek, I sign up for advanced courses and write exams as if my life depends on it. Even if they are kick ass tough exams which have me gibbering in fright the night before. Even if the exams (And results) have no real world effect on me or my career- nothings gonna happen if I fail or pass. It’s just the pressure of self pride and a love for education. There are dozens of ways I could waste my money and time. I choose to waste it in higher education, on doing interesting courses and spending my free times (the relatively sparse time I get off work) on studying, reading, writing and passing exams. Now is that such a bad hobby? I leave it to you readers to judge me.  

P.S. Continuing medical education is not compulsory in India- it’s discretionary. Besides once you reach a certain level of competence in your field there is nothing – literally- left to learn in a formal education setup.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Indian Politician And The Death Of Innocent Civilians

The Indian Politician And The Death Of Innocent Civilians

So I read this sms forward about how the Israelis were hiding their population behind missiles (missile-screens) and how the Hamas were hiding their missiles behind population (people-screen) which I found not only funny but also quite thought provoking. Ever since the brief Gaza war started nameless members of parliament (Indian parliament) have taken to rushing to the floor of the parliament to raise the problems of the Palestinians in Gaza- never mind that not a single one of these MP’s has ever (never) raised a single voice in favor of their constituents who voted to send them to parliament and who are living out their miserable lives hoping that their government would do something for them to better their existence. But when did domestic policy ever bring votes to an Indian politician, so it’s been the Gaza, Gaza and Gaza for them all week in the hope of a few Muslim votes consolidating behind them for having defended “Islam”- never mind the illogicity of it all as the Palestinian question has never been about Islam- or that’s what the Palestinians themselves say.

Anyway I digress. To come back to why the Israelis were bombing the Gazan's they give a perfectly logical reason that the Hamas terrorists (yeah, there I said that- I used the word terrorists- for in my book- any group which kills non combatants and innocent civilians are terrorists no matter their justification or whatever appellations they hide behind as freedom fighters) were digging tunnels which they were using to cross over into Israeli territory to kill civilians. And the Israelis responded as they always do- disproportionate use of force which targeted many innocents- what’s called collateral damage. Now before we blame the Israelis let us reflect as how to this war started and who provoked it all- you can’t stick your hand in a beehive, get stung and later blame the bees for not discriminating between the hand which was used to rob honey and the hand which didn’t. When you poke a beehive, you do it expecting to get stung and Hamas knew what it did would bring the Israelis wrath down on the heads of innocent Palestinian citizens who were caught in the cross-fire. So the blame for the whole “deaths of civilians/collateral damage” thing should be laid squarely at the feet of Hamas – who coldly, callously brought this destruction down on their own people, regardless of the fact that it was Israeli bombs which killed them. 

If the Hamas terrorists had even just a bit of conscience they would engage the Israelis in open warfare and not from behind the skirts of their innocent civilians. But when did terrorists care about ordinary people, people like you and me? They simply use us to justify their bloodthirstiness and their need to take others lives for their own fanatic causes. So like all terrorists everywhere the Hamas have the blood of their people on their own hands as much as the Israelis have- no two opinions about it. And so do their backers and financiers- the gulf sheiks who channel money into jihad in the name of Islam and just end up killing innocent Muslims who would welcome hospitals, schools and other real help rather than armaments and munitions designed to reap more blood of the innocent.  But the little people never get a chance to voice their opinions do we? Its all realpolitik, high finance and strategic moves- no matter that the people who die don’t have a say in their lives.

And to add insult to injury we see the sight of these false guardians, these crocodile tear-shedders who jump into the fray whenever there is a communal issue anywhere they can use to get votes. Do these people know about the poverty rates in India? About the malnutrition rates? About the number of orphans and elder citizens who don’t have access to orphanages or old age homes? About the lack of drinking water- disease free, potable drinking water all over the country? About public toilets and sanitation facilities? About farmer suicides and farms depending (still- even in this century) on rain fed irrigation? Or how certain districts in India see more deaths and misery due to poverty than even war torn gaza? Now when did you last hear our honorable MP’s disrupt Parliament for these questions? Or our independent newspapers carry these questions on their front-pages for a whole week? And we say we live in a free country. Do we? Really?