Friday, July 31, 2009

So, Where are We Heading?

I live in what was once a nice quaint place known for its ‘nawabi culture' . People were polite and courteous. And unlike a bustling metropolis like Bombay ( as it was known then) our small city had a laid-back attitude where life was slow-paced and considered an ideal place to retire. But, now, that is debatable.

It could have been the migration of people from other areas. We suddenly had a new set of inhabitants who were aggressive and brash. And in no time, it seemed, the city embraced not just the people, but their habits as well. And now, every rule is broken with utter disregard, the courteous nature has disappeared, the thugs – it could be the locality hooligan, the roadside ruffian or the political heavyweight - but they are all there throwing their weight around.

Traffic rules are no longer observed. People speed recklessly, go through the red signal at intersections, drive on the wrong side of the street. Construction workers dump their rubble, bricks, cement on the road. Litter is strewn on the streets. As a conscientious citizen if you as much as stop and question any of them, they are quick to retaliate.

Where are we heading?

Ulrich of the U of Texas, states that that small acts of disrespect and lawlessness are the kind of behavior that could easily be reformed. Superficially it may appear to be a minor infraction but is actually a small act of anarchy. Even a traffic violation is lawless in the sense that it is carried out in defiance of the law. It entails an attitude towards the rules of society not merely the legal rules but also the lesser guidelines that have been tacitly established by society to enable us all to live in close proximity without hostility . The lawless are openly scornful of these rules, and when they act according to their inclinations, they attack, even if inadvertently, the very fabric of our civilization.

It thus seems that lawlessness spreads via small acts and it may be more important to tackle these than to concentrate only on the seemingly big problems.

It is this very concept that is the focus of the Broken Window Theory by George L. Kelling and Catherine Coles . A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, they say is to fix the problems when they are small. Repairing broken windows in a building within a short time, will reduce the risk of vandals breaking more windows and doing more damage. By cleaning up the sidewalk every day, the tendency for litter not to accumulate is lessened. Problems thus do not escalate and the neighborhood is more likely to have respectable inhabitants.

Unfortunately, not much is being done in this direction and at times it seems that this state of lawlessness has lead to a situation where perpetrators of petty crimes are viewed with sympathy. A news report appeared in the papers last week. A fatal accident occurred in our neighbourhood. The victims were on a two wheeler that was moving on the wrong side of a one way street when they were struck down by a vehicle . The report stated that a case was registered against the driver of the vehicle that knocked down the persons on the two wheeler for reckless and negligent driving. It was regrettable that lives were lost, but strange that action was being taken against a person who unfortunately was involved in an accident that was not his doing. And he was not breaking any law!

BN Harish, an advocate in Chennai writing in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks also stresses on this topic. He says, we seem to be heading into a state of lawlessness, not just that of the external terrorist attacks , but that of lawlessness of our own making. If our governing institutions are not used to, or know how to carry out their duties properly on a day-to-day basis in times of calm and peace, is it surprising that they are found wanting in times of crisis? Law enforcement cannot make a distinction between 'our' goons and 'their' goons. It has to make a distinction between goons and law abiding citizens. We need to start respecting the law and internalise the integrity needed for the governance for this country.

And if no corrective steps are taken now, we will be at a point of no return.
So, where are we are heading?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weaving Magic - A Visit to Pochampally

Pochampally is a little village in Andhra Pradesh which is famous for the Ikkat fabric - a tie and dye weave. I tagged along with a niece as she took her young daughters on an educational tour. And the magic came alive.

The weaving is done by the villagers in their homes. The homes are kept open and one can walk in and watch them weaving. They are used to tourists and carry on with their work. Some of them are communicative and answer your questions, while some just do not want to be disturbed, but at the same time allow you to wander around .

These are some of the pictures taken in different homes, and most of the steps in the weaving process have been captured.
yarn being wound from hank to bobbin

Weft on the tie-dye frame where the design is marked with charcoal . Designs are generally worked out on graph paper. The areas where the original colour is to be retained is wrapped with water repellent material like the inner tubes of a bicycle which is cut into strips. This has to be done with great care for the design to be achieved.

After wrapping, the threads are dyed. Above the threads are ready for the dyeing process

Dyeing of thread in progress
.....and then hung to dry. According to the design the yarn is dyed in different colour as many times as required. After which the tubings (ties) are removed to expose the parts that are left undyed.

The tie-dyed yarn is placed on the frame for rewinding...

The yarn is then wound again. The warp is placed on the loom and the weft is placed on the shuttle . And the weaving commences...the pit loom

One came back from the village in awe of the effort of the weavers. A sari is ready after 5-7 days of continuous and precise weaving.

I have always appreciated handloom fabrics and they form a major part of my wardrobe. And hope in my own way I have contributed to keeping the handloom industry alive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth
is in the north-west of Trafalgar Square, in central London. Built in 1841, it was originally intended for an equestrian statue but has been vacant for many years.

It is now the location for specially commissioned artworks.
And this summer Anthony Gromley, the sculptor, has created it into a living monument - One & Other. For 24 hours a day, for one hour each, from July 6 2009, the Fourth Plinth will have different people who were chosen randomly from applications, to stand on it. The occupant can use the space and time for whatever he chooses as long as it is legal.

Of course, there has been praise and criticism for this project.

But the question is Would this ever happen in India? Would a plinth be left vacant? Would a common man be allowed to occupy a plinth?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Have You Done your Good Deed for The Day?

The mobile phone was created with a definite purpose. But now, we don't just talk, we listen to music, take pictures, set reminders, use it as a wake-up alarm. And now the iPhone has a app that can make you DoGood.

Each day you get a message that urges you to do a good deed - like thank an old teacher, make someone laugh and so on.

I thought we had a conscience for the very purpose, but apparently these days you need a reminder ...

If it does indeed succeed in what it hopes to ... that is to motivate at least a thousand people to do an act of kindness, even with a little nudge, I guess it is a job well done.

We could even gift an iPhone ( of course, from public funds) to each of the 545 members of Parliament and to the MLAs of different states with DoGood messages.

Visit your constituency today. Do not take that bribe. Provide drinking water to the village. Attend the session. 365 messages. What a world of good.

It would be money well spent!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Who Needs a Makeover?

I am definitely not qualified to talk about fashion ( if you know me , you'll know why!)

But I love watching shows where the participant get a makeover. I admire their spunk to come on the show. And letting the stylists look into their wardrobe and tear it apart. All their favourite clothes get thrown out. Some of them do need a makeover , while some really don't, but they do seem to look more stylish by the end of the show. But then, I am sure most of us would too designer clothes....if they did not cost the earth.

A participant in one of these shows, remarked that dressing fashionably made her feel so good and confident. We know that, don't we?

In my younger days, we did not have much to choose from . No brands, no readymades. We were at the mercy of the tailor . Most times they were terrible. Clothes may have been custom made, but not necessarily to our size! Makeup was not encouraged. And by the time I 'grew up', I had no interest in them anymore!

I read a column the other day by a male writer - where he discusses dress styles and dressing according to age. I never really thought men had a problem. After all it was the woman who had to ensure that she did not dress like a teenager. Not all of us have the figure of Madonna. But then Madonna does not have to clear the table after a meal. That's where the trouble starts. The start of the middle age flab.

Tim Gunn in his realty show TG's Guide to Style, advises viewers to take time while shopping for clothes. Give style a thought, he says, and buy what suits you. Never buy in a hurry. And always try them on.

Some suggest that as we grow older it is not the question of dressing according to age, but to dress according to shape. Ah.... that makes it difficult. Clothes are stitched for the masses and not for particular shapes.

For those who have age on their side, dress well, and be presentable. I may not be qualified to talk about fashion, but age does give me the wisdom to speak from experience. And being smart - that includes dress sense - can give you the edge.

And for those like me... if you cannot dress fashionably, atleast dress comfortably. We don't have to walk the ramp.

(Image used

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