Column: LUV PUNE

Living in America, the US and especially in San Francisco Bay Area now a days is quite an experience. You are always torn between the feeling of being at home, literally every 7th person you come across is from India as the census goes, and feeling like an alien in a world of highly developed infrastructure and high speed cars, public parks groomed like private lawns and high-rise buildings illustrating the affluence and technological advancement. Yet, living in US is far different from what one imagines as an outsider.

The real American life, or the real life for a person living in the US is no different than the life elsewhere, and here I refer to life as ones ability to extract out of life, whatever one can. There are homeless people in the US too. And in my observation, their level of disorientation is no different (or better) than that of an Indian beggar. In India, being homeless is not that big an issue, some people live without a home by choice. People here drive the ugly, scrap metal cars too. People here also skip eating-out to save money like our parents always tell us back home. People do ask for help from neighbors and friends, and family when they are in need. People are unhappy about certain decisions made by the government and do express their displeasure in all the usual ways that we do back in India. So, what is the difference of living in the US. I believe the difference is freedom of personal expression. “I am who I am and no one has the right to make me feel ashamed for who I am.”

I was driving to work the other day when I saw a license plate on a car ahead of me, it said “LUV PUNE” and what a pleasure it was to see PUNE embossed on the license plate of that sedan.Why the heck didn’t I see that ever back in India? Why?

For starters Regional Traffic Office, the Indian counterpart of DMV, doesn’t even allow one to have a personalized license plates. And even if they did, I don’t think anybody would ever put up a license plate saying “LUV PUNE” or “LUV DELI” or “LUV JAPR” becauseĀ  we are too proud to associate with anything that is local. It is considered as a sense of low self esteem.

Secondly, it certainly looks more cool to have a the firebrand Metallica poster on your car rather than printing “I listen to Laxmikant-Pyarelal.” Now come on, who listens to them anymore. If you asked the kids, they would faintly associate it to some musicians that their grandfather might once have possessed a broken record of, without realizing that their parents were singing the songs composed by the duo to woo each other back in the 80’s. As a matter of fact, that is the time when Metallica was just beginning to form a band. I guess, as long as you keep banging your head and no one can see your lips, to check the lipsync (or the lack of it), you might as well pretend that you are the greatest fan of Metallica and advertise it on the back of your car.

Dear readers excuse my ancient views, but I feel strongly about the old times, for the quality of life and artful existence, which is being replaced by strong economic focus and mechanical way of life!

Anyway, moving on, I tried to think what made that person put such a license plate on his car. Was it nostalgia? Did it emerge from the need of associating with one’s roots? Or was it because it was exotic to use a name that most of the people (here in the US) wouldn’t figure out easily?

Whatever it was, I just felt good to see that someone had dared to express themselves. This post doesn’t have any point as such, just a random rambling. I just wanted to praise the person for having expressed their love for their roots.

Keep up the Luv!

Do we want religiously homogeneous Nations around the world?

I just now read my post that I have written as a dialogue with myself, and I am so disturbed to realize that there is an unequivocal communal streak in the tone of my voice in that post. I am sure I was very angry while writing that stuff, but I am surprised that I could have been so angered as to lose the perspective I have maintained for most of my life. Thanks to our politicians and their vile, to have created again a situation in our country that made people of two major religious persuasions to be at each others’ necks with the loggerheads. I had almost fallen prey to this malicious political propaganda. Thank God that I didn’t get carried away!

I am a secular! Yes. I don’t mind living with a mix of people, following different sets of religious persuasions and living by their own standards, practices and customs.

However, what I am extremely against is the disregard towards a Nation’s policies and laws. The lack of respect towards the integrity of a country, in the current age of cut throat professional (economic) competition, by the citizens of that country. I recently visited Malaysia and Singapore, both of which regard themselves as Muslim countries. The infrastructure, civic sense and development in these two countries are amazing, given the fact that they are both at least 10 years younger than India (in terms of attaining political independence.)

Now, how can I say that it is a certain religion that comes in the way of development of a Society or a Nation as a whole. That is certainly not the case! These two countries are not only with the largest Muslim proportions in South East Asia, even the cultural and social system (based on whatever I could observe as a tourist) is not as communal or racial as I would have expected it to be (having lived most of my life in India and having been taught to look at the other religious practices only from the corner of my eye, as if they were ready to convert or kill me if I dared to look at them wholeheartedly or if I looked at them and decided to be indifferent.) With more than 70%, 80% or 90% people belonging to the same religion that the whole world is criticizing for encouraging world wide terrorism, these two Nations have come a long way in terms of growth and development. And I heard the natives say more than once (of course I had provoked such a reaction) “We are not racial!”, as an indication that they didn’t subscribe to the much promoted Jihad that militant groups like LeT and Taliban are endorsing.

Masjid on the way to Mutiara Burau Bay Resort

So, what makes people in these countries focus and work towards the growth and development aspects of their Nation. Why would they not spit all over the road as symbol of freedom in a democratic country? You can often hear the cabbies say, “It’s a free country.” What makes them so proud of it and honor the traffic regulations, lane driving and cleanliness requirements of the city life.

Why can’t we, the Indians, have equally clean roads, and by-lanes that don’t stink of urine and human faeces? Why can’t we follow the lane discipline or honor a pedestrians’ right to cross the road, without the fear of being run over? Why can’t we expect our children to walk through the market unattended and return home safe and sound?

It is not that there is no crime in these two countries, of course there is. I recall hearing the Crime Prevention Beureau commercials, requesting the citizens to be attentive and fight crime by following security guidelines. However, a normal family in such countries spends more time planning a picnic to the tourists spots than worrying about the queue for public facilities at the tourist spots that are either hardly usable or way too outnumbered.

A village house in Langkawi
One might say that it is because the people (the majority being that of Muslims) of these two countries don’t feel any threats to their religion and hence have no insecurities. And only because they are safe and secure, they tend to focus more towards the development of the Nation.

I have major objections to such frog-in-the-well mentality. Indian sub-continent has nations that are mostly homogeneous in terms of religious mix of people. Yet, they haven’t managed to follow the growth path as phenomenally as Malaysia and Singapore have. Tourism is widely popular means of earning a living in these two countries and citizens take all the care in maintaining the cleanliness, infrastructure, public transport and other lifelines of a country rather than mutilating them by over use or misuse.

Why then is it so hard for a Nation that so proudly carries a heritage of more than 5 millenniums?

To be continued…