Sunday, April 25, 2010

Older than dirt

I receive a forward mail from a friend of mine, in which the originator starts with a nostalgic memory in old age. A young man asks him what kind of fast food the old person used to get during his youth. The person says, well there was only food available for him that was prepared by his mother and had to be eaten together with all the family members after his father returns from work, whether one liked the food or not!. So goes on the message with some more nostalgic memories and finally the person lists 15 items and asks reader to see how many of the things the reader has recognised. The listed items are :

Older Than Dirt Quiz:
Count all the ones that you remember, not the ones you were told about.
Ratings at the bottom.
1. Sweet cigarettes
2. Coffee shops with juke boxes
3. Home milk delivery in glass bottles
4. Party lines on the telephone
5. Newsreels before the movie
6. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. (There was only 1 channel [if you were fortunate])
7. Peashooters
8. 33 rpm records
9. 45 RPM records
10. 78 rpm records
11. Hi-fi's
12. Metal ice trays with lever
13. Blue flashbulb
14. Cork popguns
15. Wash tub wringers
If you remembered 0-3 = You’re still young
If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older
If you remembered 7-10 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 11-14 =You're older than dirt!

Well, I have a couple of my own nostalgic memories, which I would like to add to the list.

When India got independence on the 15th August 1947, I was only a couple of months away from my 4th birth day. So I faintly remember the euphoric celebrations at midnight in my town, not so big, having around 300 population and added surrounding village would not cross the 1000 mark. That night there was a huge gathering at the town temple square right in front of my house. Though I don't remember the details, I clearly remember that there were dozens of petromax (With pump and brightly burning mantle) lights and as there were celebrations everywhere, these bright kerosene lights were on short supply on the day!

Power came to my native town in 1958, till when we studied under kerosene lamps. There was one brand named USCO which was brighter and cleaner than other brands. There was only one portable USCO in the house for which I used to fight with my elder sister!...though finally we settled for sitting on opposite sides of the lamp and do our home work.

Another thing is the journey of the camera from 620, 120 and 35 mm films (I don't know of earlier ones!) to today's amazing digicams with so many options.

During marriages, professional photographers had to carry an acid battery hanging from his shoulder connected to the camera hanging on the other shoulder. And he needed an assistant to carry a lot of 'flash' bulbs and film rolls. Flash bulbs are of single use; the bulb fuses out with a bright flash along with shutter opening. Later electronic flashes came into use.

Those days the professionals preferred 120 size film rolls as the size would give clearer enlargements than 35 mm films rolls even though 120 roll contained only 12 films against 36 in 35 mm. The contact size picture of 120 film was around 2B size and to save enlargement costs many preferred contact size. .... And 620 was bigger than double the size of 120, almost a post card size! Rolliflex and Kodak are most preferred professional cameras, each costing over a five thousand rupees those days. Agfa Isolette, a cheaper one with fairly good results, was best suited for amateur photography.

I would like to add these two items to the above list to judge how older than dirt you are.

16. Kerosene lamps
17. Burning flash bulb cameras

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Me and Happiness

According to J.Krishnamurti, the reason for every human misery is the attitude that always says 'I am this; I want to be that'. I would like to go a little further.

Both I am this and I want to be that are illusions. What do I mean by this? How do I know myself before I say this? I know myself as a result of collective opinion by various people around me. I am kind hearted man, because I cared to help you when you were in need despite myself being in much more troubles. I am kind hearted to my daughter because I took out quality time to coach her on the subject of her school Essay Competition, in which she subsequently won first prize. I am kind hearted because I regularly donate blood to the local Blood Bank. This is but only one aspect of recognising 'me' as me from the people around. And so is the whole of me is recognised through various people in various situations over time. I also change with time. Pride enters my head and I slowly take it for granted that I am a virtuous man! I become arrogant.Social interactions mixed with religious and cultural influences shapes 'me'. Is not that the way I know myself? Is there any other way to know myself without a single bit of information from outside me? Try it!

Basically this 'me' itself is given to me, with a name, with a personal identification mark such as son of so and so. This information on my paternity is given to me by my mother. Who else can be a better informer than my mother to get information about my paternity? And the funny thing is the information about my mother also is given to me by herself, which I have no option but to believe! So the whole gamut of 'me' stands on belief, is it not? And belief is not always the truth. So right from its basics, this 'me' is built on beliefs, right? So I am this is an illusion; and I want to be that is speculation. That precisely is what causes human miseries. All because every human value is dictated by society, culture and religion irrespective of its veracity. Is there any value independent of external influence? I think in understanding this core of human life, lies true happiness; the happiness that is not defined by my society or culture.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Civil Society (?)

I am very pleased to read an editorial today. It is about a landmark verdict by a district court in Haryana. Death sentence is handed down to five people who had killed a young couple for marrying against caste norms. It is for the first time in the history of Indian Judiciary that a capital punishment is awarded in such a case.

I have seen a lot of reports on so called 'honour killings', but our courts seem to have not taken the crime so seriously as it actually should. The perpetrators of the crime in the name of family, village, caste or cultural honour, were let off with light sentences. Now with this landmark judgement, even though by a lower court should send clear signals to the village panchayats called 'Khaps' in Haryan where, such crimes take place on a regular basis, to think again before it gives its verdicts in such cases or marriages and elopements. In this particular case, the marriage was not even inter-caste but the girl and the boy belonged to the same 'Gotra'! I am also pleased because justice was delivered pretty fast. The crime took place in 2007 when the eloped young couple was located by relatives of the girl including her brother and was brutally killed. It is only recently the Home Ministry viewed such killings as murders.

The social malady is spread over Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and parts of Uttar Pradesh. I even refuse to term this as social malady. In my opinion it is the barbaric instincts, though present in all human beings but given expression among the uncivilised people.

Not only these honour killings, I also see rape cases, kidnaps and all kinds of uncivilised manners and practices reported regularly every day. There was a shocking incident reported yesterday. A nineth grade minor girl was kidnapped by an astrologer for performing a puja to some minor deity in order to get hidden treasures. The girl's own father convinced the girl to co-operate with the astrologer, who took her to a remote village and raped her! The astrologer was subsequently caught and the girl was in trauma and was admitted to NIMHANS, Bangalore. It was suspected that the girl was later to be sacrificed!

I dont know if the West and other so called developed and civilised contries are any less superstitious. But the big question always haunts me - are we living in a civiled world? Is religious fundamentalism and terrorism civil?