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A discussion about voting and its role in transforming the political climate of India.
What is this voting people talk about? 40% population voting carefully will bring same results as 80%. The question is who to vote for.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut nope it wont - out of 40% ppl voting - v know who r voting
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
NOT voting is also a political statement. A statement that I don't trust any of the options.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
we are too given to pat solutions we like the sound of. Very little analysis of where the problem really lies.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
.@sureshnakhua it is a fantasy that the people not voting would have voted how you like. No real proof.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut if u see voting patterns - and analyse data - u wud see that we middle class enjoy our holiday on voting day
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua so that is their political statement. They don't see anyone worth wasting their holiday to vote for.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua never helps to deny reality for an interpretation.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut its not a political statement - its cynicism - dammit v hold arm in arm and candle marches after 26/11 and then vote 40%
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut do u justify that ?
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua nothing to justify. free country.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut agree its a free country - thts why voting shud be compulsory and not as a right
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut didnt get u
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua free and compulsory are opposite in meaning. Doesn't make sense to say voting shuld be compulsory because it is a free country
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut being a free country - isnt it compulsory to take ur birth certificates (for admsn),driving licences (for driving),passports (trvlg)
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut simple if u want govt benefits / contracts / facilities - u need to vote - EVM's can be made to generate receipts
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I am willing to attend an election and mark present. If I must exert choice, I must have freedom to not exert it.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I still don't see a relation between voting and becoming 'deserving' of all those facilities you mentioned. @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut You must also have the freedom to not go and mark "present". @sureshnakhua
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua If I want government benefits, all I need to be is a citizen. The rest is political brainwash.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Why, so? @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua then let us stop pretending to be a democracy.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan already sec 149 exists for that but hs never been publicised @Vidyut
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua No, I'm not taking the Constitution as sacrosanct. What's the rationale behind voting being mandatory/obligatory? @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@KetPan u need a licence to drive. u need a PAN card to get contracts. tell me if i m wrong @Vidyut
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Yes, you need them. Though, am not sure of reason for there to be PAN card to get contracts. @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut so wht do we mean by democracy? taking out candle march after every attack ?
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua You don't need a licence to ride a bus! only to drive. why should non politicians be forced to vote? @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I don't see how voting would be any more effective than candle light marches! 😀 @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@KetPan agree COnstitution is not sacrosanct. Thts y this amendment is needed. and yes u wud need PAN for everything @Vidyut
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua you're being absurd. I have no time for assumptions. where do candlelight marches come from?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut if v dont vote we dont hv any effing right to criticise the politicians @Vidyut
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua you don't need PAN for everything. If you are not paying taxes, you don't need PAN @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan @sureshnakhua @Vidyut I advice book "Predictably Irrational" a book on behavioural economics you will see merit in mandatory voting
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
@AnilAarush Surely, you can summarize the thrust point in a few tweets? Thanks! @sureshnakhua @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut candle marches come from outrage after 26/11 and a mere 40% voting in General elexn @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@KetPan @sureshnakhua @Vidyut As long as there is none of these options I guess it's as close to free thinking as a mandatory duty can get.
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
RT @sureshnakhua: @Vidyut candle marches come from outrage after 26/11 and a mere 40% voting in General elexn @KetPan
eswarsrinivas
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Yes but what you state is based on the premise that voting is a 'solution' to terrorist attacks, with which I disagree @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I am a believer in democracy. I fucking HATE candlelight marches. I find them dishonest. Don't assume. @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@AnilAarush But why make it mandatory duty in the first place? @sureshnakhua @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut @KetPan the ideal situation would be mandatory voting with none of the above / present but not voted option @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
RT @sureshnakhua: @Vidyut @KetPan the ideal situation would be mandatory voting with none of the above / present but not voted option @AnilAarush
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua But how's that 'ideal' and how is that a 'solution'? 🙂 @Vidyut @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua opening bank account. Accepting payments in that bank account, fixed deposits, depositing money in accounts under 50k @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan no no voting is not a soln to terrorism - it is a long term soln to get better politicos @Vidyut @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Are we of the belief that the 40% who vote, do so for exactly the politician who'd *support* terrorists? @Vidyut @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@KetPan @sureshnakhua @Vidyut Human mind is wired to act on deadlines that too if it comes with penalty otherwise it just dithers aimlessly
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua By what exact *mechanism* will higher voter turn out ensure better politicians? @Vidyut @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut ok agreed u r believer of democracy - can u tell how mandatory voting will hurt democracy ?
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua @KetPan @Vidyut Precisely these things are not fix all switches, effects will be visible only in course of time
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua you cannot get better politicos with more/better voting if all the options are not good. @KetPan @AnilAarush
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan whts wrong with it - ur comments @Vidyut @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@KetPan @sureshnakhua @Vidyut I won;t be able to do justice to the book in few tweets, it anyway is easy mellifluous read download and read
AnilAarush
July 29, 2011
@KetPan voting is of course not the solution but a way to choose better solution makers @sureshnakhua @Vidyut
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I never said there's anything "wrong" with voting. Am asking how exactly is it a virtue? @Vidyut @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua by undermining the free will of the people. By exposing people to pressures and brainwashing to vote for some person.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut opening bank a/c (other than no frill acc) needs PAN, anything abv 49999 need PAn - be realistic @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@KetPan its not tht way bro ..... suppose 40% vote - and the winner gets 60% votes - so effectively he wins on 25% VOTE @Vidyut @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua by magnifying competition among political polarities and wasting further national resources in pissing contests.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan they would be more accountable - middle class constitutes a huge percentage @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua heard of form 16A? @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut @KetPan @AnilAarush @jemin_p thts y i told - option of none of abv - and if more than 50% vote for NO… (cont) http://deck.ly/~PhPv1
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@KetPan it wud make politicos more accountable @AnilAarush @jemin_p @Vidyut
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Would just add to the election expenses in my opinion. @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut haha thts not called competition among political polarities - thts democracy which u said u respect
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I hope you are aware that most of the population has no frills accounts, and rarely deposits above 50K? @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Also, I don't think politicians prioritize getting re-elected over recovering election expenses @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua what is more, you can get around the 50K limit simply by splitting the deposit slips. @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
.@sureshnakhua democracy is the rule of the people through representatives. Pissing contests are the quality of the representatives.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut i hv definitely heard about form 16. i was talking specifically abt middle class @ketpan @AnilAarush @jemin_p
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@KetPan thts a misconception sir - othrwise Shared Powar wudnt hv developed Baramati @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut u mean representatives elected by 25% of popular vote ?
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua that is the quality of options, not quantity of votes that is dividing the percentage.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua but, FWIW, yes.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut if u r not happy with options - take a dip urself -
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua I would be another bad choice... I am a thinker. But still, I may once my son is older.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut sure. frankly think tht if u hv to clean filth from gutter, good ppl will hvae to enter gutter @jemin_p @KetPan @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua administrating takes a heck of management thinking, which is not my forte. But I may develop those skills for my country.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua It is not a gutter. Only that too many pigs are camped there. It is a beautiful country. @jemin_p @KetPan @AnilAarush
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut agree country is great .......... i was referring to general political atmosphere @jemin_p @KetPan @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua As Indian voter, I have full RIGHT to demand clean politics even by being out side the system @Vidyut @KetPan @AnilAarush
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut guess - gutter = politics, all the mre cuz of politician in it, bt i still wuld say politics is not dirty tht much too @sureshnakhua
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p I think everyone wants that. The question is who will bell the cat. @sureshnakhua @KetPan @AnilAarush
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p y wud they listen to u if u dont vote ? @Vidyut @AnilAarush @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua it is their JOB to listen to citizens - not conditional blackmail for votes. @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua read - wat i said Indian VOTER - also maalik u forgot my fav subject is high voting 😛 @Vidyut @AnilAarush @KetPan
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut u r mumbaite rite? just tell me how many times did corporator of ur area came to listen to ur grievanc… (cont) http://deck.ly/~FPJx7
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut v by constant vigilance - high voting -persuading right candidate in the process (long one though) @AnilAarush @KetPan @sureshnakhua
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p i was just making a point @Vidyut @AnilAarush @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua What is Baramati's voter turnout? Is it significantly greater than that of Mumbai? @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut My 2009 blog - http://bit.ly/p3WPeG Why should v vote - tries to ans - @Vidyut @AnilAarush @KetPan @sureshnakhua
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut and how did they get that job? By the voting, na? @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p "high voting" is the red herring. If you have a good candidate, 100 voters will show a trend. @AnilAarush @KetPan @sureshnakhua
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Let's assume Keshu Patel was ineffective & NaMo is effective. What was voter turnout difference? @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut agreed - bt end of the day every thing boild down to target audience n prospective beneficiary @AnilAarush @KetPan @sureshnakhua
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua In fact perhaps NaMo was sort of appointed as CM; was not CM-candidate to begin with. @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut exactly thts y v need to vote . ask any LIGs - the same corporator wud hv gone thr hundreds of time… (cont) http://deck.ly/~lMaT0
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb that is a simplistic jump to conclusion. Realistic is there weren't better options. @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut my theory - min 3 election of constant high voting will churn out unwanted particles out - not befor tht
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua They wouldn't listen to you even if you vote, if their listening lessens their 'profits' 🙂 @jemin_p @Vidyut @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut if candidate was good - thn 100 voters will show trend ? thn how did meera sanyal lost in Mumbai @KetPan @AnilAarush @jemin_p
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p what is the data you used to arrive at that hypothesis? Any precedents, existing trends...?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan Guj voting % is around 60% and in times of Keshubhai was hovering around 15% @Vidyut @jemin_p @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Who's Meera Sanyal? 😀 @Vidyut @AnilAarush @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut is not voting solution then? Voting in huge no. has given more results than not voting @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb I am not saying don't vote. I am saying, don't make it mandatory - difference. @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan did i say 15% - thn its typo - during keshubhai's time it was hovering around 45% @Vidyut @jemin_p @AnilAarush
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut @KetPan also abstaining from voting- is also a pseudo voting one does for elected member is disguise - no decision is also a decison
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua Okay, 45% sounds believable. 🙂 @Vidyut @jemin_p @AnilAarush
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut is mandatory with none of the above option okay? @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
RT @jemin_p: @Vidyut @KetPan also abstaining from voting- is also a pseudo voting one does for elected member is disguise - no decision is also a decison
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb so that needs studied for what factors made more people vote, and what got results. @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p Which is not a bad thing unless and until one's sure that the other person not getting voted is *actually better*. @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p absolutely correct. and people should have the freedom to do it. @sureshnakhua @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p Why do we have to presume that the candidate who does *not* win would've been more effective and cleaner? @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb makes little sense - for voting is to select a option, if i m not wrong @sureshnakhua @vidyut @AnilAarush @KetPan
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
+100 RT @KetPan: @jemin_p Why do we have to presume that the candidate who does *not* win would've been more effective and cleaner? @Vidyut
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan i never say tht - infact i say he will be corrupt too - n hence the theory of 3 election cycle in the article @Vidyut
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p How and why will things change in three (or more) election cycles? @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
RT @PunditComment: Could someone please check what happened between April and now and who met with Suhel Seth? Highly amusing performance on @thenewshour
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
RT @KetPan: @jemin_p How and why will things change in three (or more) election cycles? @Vidyut
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut do ppl compare the candidates of their constituency fr election n get convinced that none of them is good b4 deciding not to vote?
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p you are speaking of 15 years where 5 are reasonably sure to fail. Big investment. On what basis? @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb I don't know. I am going by the fact that none inspired support.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@KetPan @Vidyut lets take a scenario of one hypothetical constituency, where voting percentage is very (cont) http://tl.gd/c1i96l
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p I've read your entire blog post and commented there as well. 🙂 @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut send u the particular abstract of the theory @ketpan
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@KetPan didnt recv ur comment 🙁 - bt my point lies thr - nd i have not gvn benefit of doubt to loose to b clean, its only vigilance @vidyut
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut ok. Now that you dont vote, do you check personal abilities of all the candidates b4 convincing urself that none of them is good?
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb That is a good question, I must say. 🙂 @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut no shortcuts mam, time may increase even, bt cleaner politics wont b immediate @ketpan @sureshnakhua @AnilAarush @dibyabttb
jemin_p
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb I would say this is a better point of intervention than voting. Can information about candidates be made more easily available?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut of course. Candidates ll give info if voters want to seek more info about their candidates/leaders.
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb that is not what I am saying. On asked, everyone will give. But to increase informed voting, can it be organized?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut @jemin_p @KetPan @AnilAarush sorry guys lappy conked off - hd to search for charger
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut when a candidate asks you for your vote, seek his info from him. Ask his vision, plans and ideas.
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb mandatory voting will not necessarily increase informed votes or accountability. People can vote for anyone, from compulsion
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut @dibyabttb mandatory voting wud definitely increase accountability @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb again, that is an individual's initiative. Not everyone will do it. How about organized interviews covered by cable channels?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@sureshnakhua lol. You have high faith in humans. @dibyabttb @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut i do hv faith in hindusthan to be precise @dibyabttb @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut i already said - its a long term solution - not like some noodle - 2 min mein ban jaayega @dibyabttb @jemin_p @AnilAarush @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@jemin_p http://bit.ly/r6oxgR has some non-force ideas for better accountability @sureshnakhua @dibyabttb @AnilAarush @KetPan
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut But info giver ll take interest when the info seeker takes interest. Interaction w/ other voters is 1 way to make informed decision
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb It won't work. Psychology. Trust me 😛 The one who wants votes must tempt the one giving them. That is the natural way.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb to some extent, they do - liquor, saris, etc. But that is not what the middle class wants. They want inspiration.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut used to be public meetings where all candidates used to come and speak. In the past. That stopped when ppl stopped taking int
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb so cover them and beam them into homes. Cable TV. Hold competitions for best questions to ask candidates. Civil society.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb Making an automatic connection between pre-election talk and keeping those words is not wise. @Vidyut
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb how many of us - i again mean middle class do interact with our elected represnetatives @Vidyut @jemin_p @KetPan
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut but there is not the only one who wants your vote, no?
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb exactly. Let them work for it. You spoon feed votes, how the fuck will they run the country if they can't get their own votes?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut sure. Who will do that? The People.
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb did you read article?
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
RT @_R_Srikanth: @KetPan if we view voting as feedback on governance (as it be ideally), an uninformed vote is liable to slew results worse than no vote.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
Exactly http://j.mp/qOFe4y by @_R_Srikanth
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut on mobile. Will read tomorrow for sure. Btw nice talking. Have to leave now. Good night
dibyabttb
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb yes. Local bodies, amateur journalists, local wedding video walas Cable TV operators should provide this as service.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@dibyabttb @sureshnakhua @jemin_p @KetPan Good night! Thank you everyone! This was a very interesting discussion.
Vidyut
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut Sorry, but didn't really raise any new issues for me. 🙂 @dibyabttb @sureshnakhua @jemin_p
KetPan
July 29, 2011
@Vidyut read the blog - well written but felt sort of cynicism hidden in the blog - didnt get anything new o… (cont) http://deck.ly/~P7tdP
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011
Thx everyone @Vidyut @KetPan @AnilAarush @jemin_p @dibyabttb for a nice discussion Good nite tk care - and dammit its weekend - so enjoy
sureshnakhua
July 29, 2011

6

Raw version. Publishing before I lose guts. Will take a look for editing in a couple of days.

As I was thinking of the Besharami Morcha coming up in Delhi, I found myself reflecting on clothes. I looked for examples I could "use" and found a narrative of my life in clothing.

I grew up with my maternal grandmother, who was a whole different creature from my father, so don't expect continuity of context all through.

I don't remember when I became aware of clothes as such, but it was fairly early, because I remember running around naked escaping my grandmother as she tried to get me dressed. That was real young, because I remember a sensation of a lack of confidence about the running.

Then there are snapshot stages. Running in knickers, then slips. The slip stage lasted long. The clothes themselves, I hated. Oh, I liked them when they were pretty, but on the whole, keeping them tidy was a pain. Somewhere down the line, I got "trained" into sitting modestly (in other words, without flashing my knickers). Within a few years, a girl who couldn't do it was a bad girl. I was quite happy about this state of affairs, because it was pretty much the only good thing about the hideously oversized dressed my father used to buy me. My father was this huge depressing influence on my self image.

He had grown up in poverty and was used to wringing every drop of utility out of everything, so the idea was to buy clothes that were larger, because kids grow fast. Uh.... kids wear them out even faster, so ... I was always dressed in oversize frocks. And yes, it was the opinion of the man that mattered, because no one else ever questioned this order (except once, later).

He had this belief that fair was beautiful, so all the fairer cousins were supposed to be this role model, and he was forever bemoaning my dark skin. Didn't help that the maternal cousins I grew up with were fairer. It was an undisputed fact that I was ugly. It hurt, but actually not in the sense of how an adult takes it. I accepted it pretty fast, only it sucked totally. There were other rigid rules. Not leaving hair loose, not speaking with boys, not this, that and the other. It all sucked.

Ingenious kids that we were, we quickly cottoned on to the time honored tradition of "muh bola bhai". So there were these boys who were also - pay attention - a year younger than us, who were like our brothers, hence we could play with them. Not that the adults liked it any better, but we'd figured no one was going to call our bluff unless they wanted to insult the *gasp* holy relationship between brother and sister (which was another massive thing with the father, since he is one of twelve siblings).

Before you want to lynch him (and I'm not defending this attitude at all - its flat out wrong), I also loved him. Because he is pretty much single handedly responsible for my love of reading and curiosity for what's beyond the horizon. Early childhood was always about storied to help pass the walk. And he never told rubbish (at least I didn't think so). In saving money for rickshaws, I discovered Rolls Royces, Wright brothers, wonders of the world, famous people, stories of films, Harry Houdini... and many, many wonders.

I never lacked books. Never. He used to buy them used on the street cheap - loads of them. I never cared about the used part, and nor did he. I was always reading. Always reading. In school, out of school, happy to miss school, play, anything to read. Used to put Enid Blytons inside textbooks and read during class. Lost track of how many were taken away by irate teachers. They provided me with a world where I could LIVE. Ironic, because they were also the biggest power I had, when my father let me down. Clearly there was a very definite line in what would be encouraged and what would not. Anyway, moving on. This is long enough.

Then puberty hit, and trouble right along with it. My first clash with my father was when my mother and I were debating bras. She was of the old school and said she would stitch one for me, as I didn't need support as such. I was aghast. No, thank you very much. My friends use bras. They have them in my size. I want those. The same with cloth and sanitary napkins. My father had an opinion both times, and it was mortifying both times.

I was becoming a woman. I had boundaries and they were being violated and I was powerless.

To be continued in A life in Clothes - Part 2 : Teenage

8

A memory of how my High caste Brahmin grandmother took a Dalit girl under her wing and mentored her education... a relationship triggered by me, but sustained, nurtured and celebrated by one unlikely pair.

As I read all the stories of intolerance, a shining memory of a confluence of humanity comes to mind. I grew up with my maternal grandmother. A sweet, loving woman, who never had a bad word for anyone. I grew up relatively free of abuse (no hitting, no insults and a lot of charm for discipline). Grew up in the lap of household democracy, so to say.

Ours was a cosmopolitan society. All kinds of religions, regions, classes.... one playground. The aunties used to be out on the park benches chatting with anyone around. If there were conflicts, they never really reached our sphere of awareness. Hindu-Muslim riots came and went, and my Muslim friends were right there, where they always were. No one roamed around with drawn swords. In fact, blood thirsty child that I was, I used to feel that nothing exciting and newsworthy happened 😀 Let's just say I had no concept of what violence really was.

I was the bright, much acclaimed 'clever girl' - inexplicable, since I was an utter dreamer, and not particularly interested in studies, though I got good enough marks. I was known then too for my "wise words" on education (wasn't praise then), and how most of is is boring and useless and how anyone can be clever. And I never hesitated to make my opinions known.

One such conversation happened with the watchman of our building - Govind. He had a daughter called Vidya, who was about three years or so younger than I was. When he praised my exam results and said that Vidya was having a difficult time, I explained to him earnestly how "anyone can be clever" and its not a big deal and volunteered to help her with her studies - particularly maths and science - where I was supposedly a genius (oh how we buy into educational fantasies).

Thus, it was arranged. Every evening, when we came out to play, I would spend time with Vidya like tutions. While I admire that childhood me and the generosity of heart in offering this, reality unfolded differently from how I had envisioned. Our first big stumbling block was that Vidya studied in a Marathi medium school. I found it difficult from the word go to understand the very different jargon in the textbooks, and spent time having to learn it.... complicated. Not to mention my speed in reading Marathi was nowhere near my English reading speed of a 200 page novel in 40 minutes flat. Vidya was really hopeless at reading aloud to help me, stumbling and fumbling so much that by the time she got to the end of a sentence, I'd forgotten the beginning. At the grand old age of 11 years, I was in over my head and discovering at that young age what it means to bite off more than you can chew on a very important initiative.

Luckily, I was child enough to fall back on the traditional problem solving route. I went to the grandmother, presenting it as ME needing help grasping all the Marathi concepts (yeah, too much pride to admit failure). Sold the idea to her as an educational initiative for me and said she was the best person to help me, since she had gone to school for seven years - Marathi medium! Now, I am willing to accept that she probably saw right through me from the word go, but generous, sweet person that she was, she agreed to help.

Then started the caste disasters. We are Konkanastha brahmins - fabled to be so full of our own importance as to claim that there are only two castes in the world - Konkanastha Brahmins and others. The girl was Dalit. The grandmother, while not the cliched "oppressor" certainly didn't have any concept of a low caste person mingling with us. Now what?

We moved in our "classes" into the house, but compromised with her sitting on the floor, while my grandmother sat on the bed. The girl took it well enough, though I was utterly embarrassed by this "insult" to my new friend. Grandmother told me that I could take it or leave it. I took it.

Did I mention the old woman had failing eye sight? That didn't go well with the long distance reading. We graduated to Vidya and grandmother both on the floor, but at a distance from each other. By this time, I had realized I was largely redundant (not to mention incompetent) in the teaching process, and started visiting my friends playing outside, slowly graduating to full time playing like before. Within one month of our teaching project starting, I was a happy traitor, leaving Vidya to the grandmother.

I had fully expected the thing to go on till exams and then stop. To my surprise, it continued. And it went on and on and on. When I moved to my parents after my SSC, Vidya was still coming to study, and she kept coming till she passed her own SSC Board exams.

I vaguely remember Vidya freelancing as extra help when we had a lot of guests. I definitely remember going with the grandmother to a puja in their house, where the grandmother didn't eat anything, but no one minded. Dang, she was educating their daughter free, and she had visited with respect. Plus I was hogging enough for the both of us. They really didn't mind.

A spectator after the first month, I was witness to this remarkable relationship and the changes it went through. All through, my grandmother never stopped me from having any kind of interaction I wanted with Vidya, even as her conditioning prompted herself to keep her distance. I was free to eat, drink, play fight, study with her... whatever. And I did, but honestly, I lost interest really fast. She was too quiet for me, too well behaved, younger..... and all my friends were out playing. Meanwhile the sweet girl and the sweet old woman together bridged a gap created over centuries of prejudice.

They started sitting closer with time as they pored over the same textbooks. When my grandmother found it uncomfortable to sit on the floor for long periods of time, she started putting a carpet on the bed to pander to her conditioning and they both sat on the bed.... From a timid, inaudible mouse, Vidya got a first hand dose of the Brahmin "ucchar" - CLEAR PRONOUNCIATION - no mumbling. She actually could be understood at first shot with time. Both of them genuinely cared.

Snacks, tea, small errands.... the peripheral stuff was offered on both ends.

To the end, the grandmother never really "mixed" with the low caste, but she didn't let that stop love, caring, commitment, responsibility. She simply found "excuses" to change traditional distances into closeness. She would have been surprised if anyone accused her of not maintaining distances from the low caste - not that it fooled any of us. She had taken that girl firmly under her wing 😀 India could do with a lot of this brand of "discrimination" 😉

A few years ago, when I returned to Mumbai, I visited my grandmother again. Watchman Govind was at the gate, and we spoke and asked after each other's well being. Vidya is married, has two kids and a job. Doing very well, happy. When my grandmother died on March 26th, 2007 I spent a tearful while at the gate speaking with the watchman, also in tears. He said Vidya wanted to come to pay respects and asked if it would be appropriate. I was surprised that he had to ask. If Vidya couldn't be there, I am sure I shouldn't be there either.

10

He'd throw a fit at his granddaughter calling him an awesome guy. "Disrespect!!!" he'd call it, while chuckling about this post if he reads it. Must ask my cousin to show it to him.

Ajoba, if you're reading this, its Soni. Gundi shared the post on Sobati about you, and I'm very happy and proud to see you featured there. I've saved your video clips.

Since that post is in Marathi, I thought I'd write something for these day's young people who don't read Marathi fluently.

Sobati is a group in Vile Parle. It means "Companions". This group has been an important part of Ajoba's (grandfather, as I call Mr. Balwant Godbole) life or as much of it as I have seen. Their get-togethers have always been a high point in his social life, and I remember many times as a child when he used to rehearse some song or the other to play at their meet ups, with us three grand daughters listening and providing unrequired feedback.

What I find special about him is his energy and enthusiasm for his interests, and his ability to be at peace with what is irrelevant to him. I have never seen him unnecessarily voice an opinion or gossip. His chief interest in life is music and recital of religious texts.

I grew up with him, and I remember countless nights when I slept to the soung of the Ramraksha or Gita..... I don't have any religious inclination, and studied in a convent, but I know a surprising amount of Shlokas by heart just from having listened to them so many times in my childhood. Its strange. Someone asks me if I know them, and I say I don't. Then I recite right along as I hear the words.....

Another of his loves that he passed on to me is music. He plays the violin really well. As kids, music was a big part of our childhood. Learning to sing, play the violin, keyboard.... were all highly appreciated things a child could do. I learnt to play many songs just because he played them, and I wanted to "copy". Slowly I developed a ear for music (and it has been in my blood ever since) and as a teenager, the sounds of ajoba's chanting in the dark were replaced by Kishore Kumar songs being played on a keyboard by me. To date, when I meet him, this subject comes up. He wants me to sing or play some song.

There's a whole slew of memories, but one that my husband will remember forever is the first time he met my grandfather. A lot of Raka's friends are into music, and he had heard a lot about ajoba from them before we even decided to get married. He was slightly awed when I took him across to meet my grandparents. Aji (grandmother) was alive at that time.

After some pleasantries, I suggested that ajoba play something on the violin. I knew Raka was dying to hear it. As ajoba got out his beloved violin, Raka put himself on alert to recognize some fantastic classical piece from some ancient times. Imagine his shock when the tune that hit his ear was "Aika dajiba" (for those who don't know, this was a current "pop" song doing the rounds with an extremely peppy beat)!!!

This is classic ajoba - no stereotypes - he goes with what he likes. I've known him to play latest Hindi hits happily when I used to live with him. He thought that a young "javai" (son-in-law) would want to hear something from his generation, so he went for that. Raka still hasn't got over that surprise.

What more..... there's so much.

Once when I spoke with Ajoba, I was in Bangalore. After exclaiming that he could hear my voice as clearly as if I was next to him, and some trivial stuff, he ended the call with "Have a jolly good time!" How can anyone call this 88 year young man old when people a quarter of his age end calls with insipid murmurs?

If you're reading this post Ajoba, I want you to know you're totally awesome and that I love you and am very proud of you.

BTW, head over to that post on the Sobati blog if you want to hear Ajoba play the violin.