Friday, February 22, 2008

Langkawi - Feb'08

Langkawi - A fine getaway. Not as commercial as some of the other beach towns. A great place to chill out in for a few days away from the hustle-bustle. Highly recommended! A few pics.


Monday, February 18, 2008

New Sights, New Soul? - Counterpoint

Well, yeah... 2 sides to a coin and all that. Did get a few responses to the last post and it set off another train of thought. The fact that the last post was written with more than just a touch (in fact, with generous dollops!) of sentimentality cannot be denied. It was also written from NRI perspective (there, I said it) is also tue. The counterpoint being, that those who live outside the city or country love to return to familiar territory. Missing the 'good old days' is just a rant these days and should not go into being fodder for an anti-development campaign. True, there will be shedding of some of the old characterisitics of a place, as it evolves into something new and different, and that is but natural. From some of the angry responses I got, I weed out a few arguements. One said, NRIs love to come back to the place they once left behind... if they see change, they can't take it and start writing silly pieces on their blogs in protest of the changing 'soul' of the city and all. Another was that its about time that Calcutta took off in the right direction (the current development drive) after decades of neglect and disrepair, and there is nothing to be ashamed or apologetic about it. If people have the money to go to Bangkok instead of going to the Book fair, then its their right to do so and we cannot be in a position to comment. How many people 20 years ago could afford to do so? So now if there is properity, why rail against it, under the garb of sentimentality? There is merit to these arguments... we go ga-ga over the malls in London or Singapore, but claim that all the new malls in Calcutta are a scourge for the city's infrastructure and youth. The young generation will be the I-pod and PS3 generation, just like we were the Amar Chitra Katha and the gali-cricket one. So what? Why the double standards?
The drift of things is thus.. poeple living away from the action tend to have a city caught in time in their heads and refuse to let go. This leads to an altogether irrational view of things, where one set of rules seem alright in the country of residence (mainly developed countries), and different set of rules tend to apply to the land they left behind. Nostalgia can never be reason enough. In my defence, the post was intended as a call to keep alive the cultural soul of a city caught head first in the battle between old and new. Nothing more. But still, the counterpoint does beg attention. There are sacrifices to be made to gain something. All I ask... is the soul too big a price to pay?

Below is reproduced a witty piece from the Times of India, written by C Rajaghatta. It bears some relevance to the topic under discussion.

"It’s all over for the NRIs, folks; long live the RNIs! If you are not familiar with the latter acronym, better get up to speed, because it could apply to you. It stands for Resident Non-Indians, a term manufactured by the now deposed and embittered NRIs to describe those they say are residents of India only in name, but who don’t show the slightest sign of being Indian — which to nostalgia-stricken NRIs means listening to Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar of circa 1970 while driving to work on the Beltway; not the Bollywood Rap the RNI types are soaking up while stuck in traffic jams in India.
The tidings about the demise of the NRI cachet and the rise of the RNI legend was brought recently to America, the largest hangout for NRIs, by a crestfallen member of the long-hyped tribe. He had returned from India rather shell-shocked. It’s not just that the dollar had sunk below Rs 40 and touts at Taj Mahal were using greenbacks to blow their kids’ noses, he sniffed; it was the way he was treated at home. When he sat down for breakfast expecting to be served pohua and idli, he was fed Post’s Banana Nut Crunch. Olive oil had replaced asli ghee in the making of parathas. When they went out to dinner — Tex-Mex, no less — friends whipped out their wallets faster than Clint Eastwood drew his six-shooter in For a Few Dollars More, and didn’t allow him to pay. His Amex card returned to the US unmolested.
There’s just no respect anymore for NRIs, he moaned. What happened to the good old days when nephews and nieces begged him for Levi’s and Nikes, for Chanel No 1 and Poison? Why, as recently as a couple of years ago, snotty little brats were pleading with him for playstations and iPods. But now all these were available in India, as were the latest laptops and cellphones. Having gone from Non-Returning Indian to a Non-Resident Indian, he had now been demoted to Not Required Indian.
So, here’s the scoop. Apparently, our bharat mahaan is rolling in so much lolly, and such is the attention being lavished on it by the world, that NRIs are being told to take their depreciating dollar and dafa ho jao. Dirhams and euros are still okay, but the dollar is definitely in the doghouse. Heck, even the Taj — the hotel, not the monument — is reportedly telling folks they would rather be paid in pesos. People, it’s Pox Americana time, and the American NRI is bearing the brunt. As a long-suffering itinerant who straddles the world of NRIs, RNIs, IRNs etc, i can attest to the hardship the poor NRI is going through with my $0.02 of insight, the equivalent naya paisa being too unaffordable. It’s a terrible chore these days to shop in the US for the family in India. For one, there is hardly anything that is ‘Made in USA’; and what is available is already outdated in India. The horrible moment of truth laughed me in the face when i handed out a nice T-shirt i had bought for a brat, only to be thanked with "Chee! It’s Made-in-Bangladesh." The sneakers, it turned out, were made in Thailand, and the baseball cap in Vietnam. The nadir came when the gang espied my cellphone, a model that was apparently discarded in India in the 20th century.
So, where does that leave the NRI? Word is that they are pressing for a change in nomenclature. They’d now like to be known as INRs — Indian Non-Residents."