Saturday, August 28, 2010

Once upon a time in Kerala


I'd been to Kerala last weekend for Prem's wedding. Met with an accident. It took an accident to realize that something's wrong with the devas of God's own country. We were traveling at around 70 kmph when this old man kind of did a flip-flop step while crossing the road. Despite a sudden brake and a screeching halt we managed to hit the poor fellow who plonked to the tarmac. I ran out and picked him up (to clarify, luckily for him, I wasn't driving). He took my hand and uttered the two most beautiful words ever from an accident victim- "Haaappeee Oooonammmm". For the uninitiated, Onam is Kerala's equivalent of New Year, the day when a good king from ancient times visits us to see whether all of us are in peace and in one piece. But this old man was so drunk, he did not even know what hit him. As usual the drama after an accident unfolds with people milling around us. He was not hurt badly - just a few bruises here and there. However, what was really odd was the fact that everyone around me in Kerala were Irish - drunk like crazy. We managed to move the old man to a hospital. His son came in and looked pissed (from what I assumed, he was miffed - possibly having been called out of a binge drinking session).

There was another interesting incident in which an insurance agent went into a morgue to sleep after feeling tipsy. You can imagine the scare he created. I know I eulogized our drinking habits in a previous post, but the situation is fast getting out of hand. A population of alcoholics can do no good for tomorrow.

Now to the other sin that my state is part of - lottery. How much is that worth? The leader of opposition says that is at least worth Rs.40 crore a day. Lottery gets a lot of press these days with allegations of corruption - with obviously the government on one side and private players on the other. A kingpin in the gambling racket is a fellow called Santiago Martin - names don't get more mafia than that.

Together booze and lucky draws are worth 26,000 crores at least - close to 6 billion dollars worth of business in a year. And don't get me started on the other vices like pros-tagonism.

I just looked up the GDP numbers and these two sins alone would put my tiny state ahead of 50 out of 180 nations listed by IMF, much ahead of Kyrgistan and Nicaragua.

But I see glimmers of a silver lining. Possibly in the next post, we'll talk about it.

P.S: BTW, I took a bumper lottery ticket....just in case luck comes calling and asks for some sort of a supporting document.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bangalore musings 1

It is true that Bengalooru has a strong tech flavor. Chances are that you have been asked by strangers when you visit any other part of the country if you are "in software." Somehow people believe that all of those who work in Bangalore are software fellows, that's what they are, and that's what they are all meant to do.

Few years back, I was admitted in a hospital in Trivandrum three weeks before my wedding down with chicken pox. The middle-aged lady doc who was treating me asked the same question. I replied in the negative and and she was surprised and wanted to know what else could I possibly do in Bangalore. I did not want to start a gyan session on "content management" so I plainly told her I work in publishing. Curiosity does not end there - she wanted to know if I'd been to the USofA on projects. I said no. Next question - will I be getting a chance to go to the US. I told her I really don't know. Not the sort of itching and irritating questions that you want to answer when you're down with chicken pox. Any way, after much prodding she left me thinking I'm one of those way-down-the-pecking-order Bangalorean who prints something for a living who will never see Statue of Liberty in his life. The logic behind the questioning must be simple - groom hunting for a relative. A guy in Bangalore, who makes "software", who goes to US or Belgium or any other exotic location on projects is a safe bet.

Well, almost. There were two years in recent history when parents of homely girls were willing to bang laptops on the heads of any broker (more on this breed later) who uttered the word "software." Those were the good old days of depression when people were losing IT jobs like anything. Now that green shoots are sprouting everywhere, and that "the worst is behind us" the marriage market for "software" is apparently back.

Back to Bangalore. The other day I was purchasing vegetables (I do that) and I saw this IT family with a kid. Dad was sporting his favorite apparel - company T-shirt- and mom was wearing the usual techie wife's attire - jeans and top. The kid should have been a year and a half old. Training session inside veggie shop - Dad keeps his hand to his head and says "Dekho beta (See, son :-), Oh...Shit" The kid did not pay much attention. So daddy goes again urging the kid to reapeat. "Dekho beta, Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh...Shit" I heard him say the stuff at least 5, 6 times. Thankfully, the kid did not pick it up (or may be like all kids, he loved embarrassing his dad in front of others).
I pitied the scenario. Mom picking vegetables, dad teaching the kid Swearing 101.