Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Rise and Fall.....

I wonder what he would be thinking, if he were to look around and see the statues that were up one day and down the next.

What got me thinking about statues was the recent news item about a man being arrested in the UK for ‘illegally’ bringing the ‘butt’ of the statue of Sadam Hussein from Iraq.   This was a 2ft bronze lump that he saved from being melted down after it was toppled by the US marines in 2003. He brought it back with him and now Iraq wants it returned. They claim it is their cultural history (??).   

But(t) it raised several questions in my mind.  About the statues of the past and those of the present.  I am sure the sculptors of yore put in a lot of thought and worked to make it a piece of art.  They chose subjects that were worthy of their skill.  Mythological figures, of kings and queens and of great leaders.

The living had no thoughts of transfering their image in stone or metal. That was unheard of.  Did Madam Tussauds wax models of living celebrities bring about the change?  Anyway I knew Sadam had one only after it was brought down.  And of course, recently in the news for all the wrong reasons, are that of Mayawati.

While I grew up, apart from the statues that were left behind by the British (as they took away priceless pieces of art) , we had the occasional statue of Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Patel.  It was after Jawaharlal Nehru passed away that some of his statues came up. But these were few.  It is only lately, with petty politicians aplenty that statues are put up with public money of those who have made little or no contribution to society.

Statues to me are a cause of ire.  We have one right at the beginning of the lane. Of that of Rajiv Gandhi.  It served as a landmark while giving directions to the house.  All that changed once Congress came back to power.  At every occasion a dias is put up overnight, the ‘leaders’ congregate, flower garlanding ceremonies are planned for the busiest part of the morning leaving all office-goers stranded.  And for us, we are stuck in our lane with no way out,.  All I do is fret and fume.  Thoughts of toppling it down have also entered my mind. 
And it is therefore no surprise that statues are the targets of mob fury and political vengeance.  Who can forget the destruction of the statues of The Buddha by the Taliban?  Well, anyway the BJP, SP,  have said that if they come back to power in UP, they would auction the statues of Mayawati.

It appears that statues are no longer meant for posterity.  They are to be toppled, destroyed, covered or even auctioned!
 But I would think, all it takes is a pigeon.  And as the fictional character David Brent of the BBC mockumentary ‘Office’ said You just have to accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.  

 And Mayawati and others like her would well do to remember that !

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Be Indian, Buy Indian - Abroad

We came back from our trip to the UK with two shopping bags.  My daughter insisted I take them.  She said it would be useful since there was a ban on plastic in the city.  It was priced at 2 pounds each.  They are neat.  They  hold large quantities.  Easy to carry since the handles are designed so that they do not hurt the palm.  After repeated use, feeling pleased with the purchase and thinking it was worth the money, I examined the bag to find this tiny tag stating – ethically made in India. 

Take a look at this fragrance warmer my brother got me from the US.   It looks beautiful, the work, as in the case of the jute bag, was neat – no jagged edges.  I said aloud, such a beautiful piece, why can’t it be made here.  And there it was, hidden away a small etching.. made in India !

While I am glad our goods are finding their way abroad, I wonder why  inferior goods and export rejects finding their way into our stores?  Why cannot we be more quality conscious and push our manufacturers to give us the same goods that they export?

Better quality basmati rice, jute and leather bags, good quality handlooms and handicrafts, superior apparel, better alphonso mangoes, specialty tea  -  all find their way out of India.  We pay probably the same price for goods of lesser quality. 

It is not as if the higher priced goods do not find a market here.  One visit to the supermarket and you have shelves with  poor quality Kashmiri Apples, shrivelled Nagpur Oranges competing with expensive Australian Kiwi , California grapes,  Thai Rambutan and Chinese apples all ridiculously priced.  And there are buyers for them too.  It seems as if the display of poor quality Indian fruits with the better looking imported goods is intentional.

 ‘Yeh export quality hai’ is what the sales guy will tell you when he wants to push a product and  wants to justify the price he has quoted.  Export quality – that is to say only the best can be exported.  The rest is for use at home.  Are we not discerning enough or are we satisfied with sub-standard goods? When the best products from abroad find buyers here, why is it that the best made in our country is not available to the same buyer? 

Do we need to shop abroad to bring our own ’quality’ goods back home? 
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