Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Conflict of Ethics

CLASH OF ETHICS

Brought up in the east and exposed to both the eastern and the western styles of behaviours and attitudes, I experience ethical conflicts about many issues. Here are a few of them.
Note: This was written over several days and I notice that I have wandered away from the topic and rambled about other issues too such as difference in ethics between countries and cultures, etc.

GIVING ALMS/MONEY TO BEGGARS:
In India, I was told by my grandmother to give money to beggars and if there were simply too many, to give to the old, the leprosy patients, the handicapped, the pregnant women, the little children and not necessarily give to the young, the able-bodied and strong appearing beggars. I was told that giving them will help me get ‘Punya’, get into heaven; I will get help when I need it if I help others now, etc. Also that these people are suffering from poverty and helping them will better their life. Ignoring them and moving on leaves many people with a sense of guilt.
Giving to beggars is also extolled in Hindu Dharma and also mentioned in books on Islamic faith, Buddhist and Jain faiths. Begging is not considered a crime or shameful but many famous saints, seers, sanyasis begged for a living. Many famous beggars include the God Shiva, Buddha, Saints and Seers, Philosophers, Devotees of God, etc. Many famous mythological kings begged for alms at some time in their life. Begging is therefore not strongly associated with negative images in India or in the east.
A few argue against giving to beggars, by giving reasons such as : these beggars are not really handicapped but pretending, they are thieves, they are lazy and refuse to work, they want easy money, that begging is actually an organized and profitable business, run by clever and evil men.
As far as I know, many people give to beggars than not give. This may explain why there are thousands of beggars in India.

In Toronto, Canada, there are few beggars. Many people do not give them money as they believe that the government is giving them enough; if given money, they will spend it on drugs; they ought to get a job and stop begging. The people who ignore pleas of the beggars on the road without a qualm are those who generously give money to organized charities.

I am constantly torn between giving or not giving. Many who ask for a buck look like they are on drugs and they appear so pathetic I want to give but also worry about their spending it on drugs and harming themselves. Depending on which side of the argument wins, I either give or not give that particular time .

Feeding free birds & animals in the cities:
We see in Toronto, several signs in parks which say do not feed the birds and animals. This is of course to stop interfering in their natural habits and see that they do not become dependent on humans and lose their natural food gathering/hunting instincts. But people, especially of Asian origin think of feeding as a kindness and not feeding as a sign of cruelty. In spite of explaining it is difficult to change their ways, especially the older folks.


Animals in the wild:
Do you all remember a debate going on internationally about the fate of a polar bear cub Knut, in 2007 in Germany? This cub had been abandoned by it’s mother and some people wanted Knut to be looked after by humans and saved while some insisted that it should be shot than cared for by humans as it was against animal rights? In India, it is unthinkable for any ‘decent’ person to even think of killing a baby bear for animal rights ! While in the west, there are people, who are equally ethical but think that the right choice is killing this bear !
These incidents indicate how highly valued compassion and kindness in the east (or at least India) while other values trump kindness and compassion in the west.


Hunting and Fishing:
I am a non-vegetarian eater and eat everything like all sorts of meat(pork, beef, mutton and chicken), eggs and fish. However I have this dislike and guilt about hunting and fishing especially for sport. I keep thinking of the pain the animals and fish feel, the intense fear when they are being chased by the hunter, the pain of being alive and wounded and running away. I also shed tears thinking about the mate or cub/s of the hunted animal waiting in vain for the hunted victim to return. I have still not understood how people, who are ‘decent’ otherwise, can hunt and fish and not put themselves in the shoes of these hunted animals and fish. I do not have a conflict of Ethics here …I am clear that it is unethical….but to me the wonder is that the hunters and fishermen do not feel conflicted about this issue.
You may wonder how come, I who eat non-veg food, use products made of animal parts can feel so guilty and upset about hunting and fishing. My excuse is that I am not hunting or fishing for sport i.e. killing or causing them to suffer pain or fear solely for my pleasure. Each Saturday I see this program on hunting and fishing on Canadian television and wonder how the people can go about hunting and fishing without qualms.
Commenting on a related topic, I am not happy about the animals in the west who are on farms which confine them in small spaces their entire life till they are killed for meat. I am referring to poultry and pigs kept in small spaces. There is no conflict of Ethics here…it is clearly unethical. Other similar issues which to me are clearly unethical are the use of animals for sports such as fights like cock-fights, dog-fights, etc. I am not sure to what extent the animals in circus and animals in shows are ill-treated but if they are ill-treated and kept in unhappy circumstances, it should be stopped. I think wild animals especially lions, tigers, etc who are in circus, prefer to be free and in the wild than in captivity in limited spaces, in noisy surroundings, etc. The same for nocturnal creatures who are made to endure lights in cages (owls), nocturnal creatures in zoos in day time, animals out of their natural environments like polar bears in the Tropical country-zoos, etc.





Respect :

In India, children are brought up to respect adults i.e. elders (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers, priests, etc). Often, adults who are pretty disgusting such as alcoholics who beat up their wives and kids, teachers who are extremely cruel and nasty relatives who behave atrociously are all ‘given respect’ and never once questioned about their atrocities. Even if they are questioned and taken to task by adults, the kids or anyone younger that the person are expected to show respect and never be confront these people about their abuse or unacceptable behaviours. The emphasis is on respecting ‘age’ of the person than any virtue in the person. I have often seen bitter, angry young children, silently wishing to escape their homes as they cannot take the shameful treatment by these adults whom they not only cannot confront but also have to ‘give respect’. It is so hugely conflicting for children growing in these cultures to confront the elders whom they are supposed to respect, unquestioningly. I have seen many of my friends who lived with extremely abusive elders and though they know that they were abused or still continue to be abused, feel extremely conflicted about confronting the abuser simply because he/she is older than them. They continue to tolerate, some do not even consciously acknowledge their distress and think that they love and respect these elders.
In the west however, I have seen young teens who boldly confront their abuser, irrespective of age and many of my friends who had been ill-treated by their parents as kids, refuse to have anything to do with these abusive parents now. I was shocked initially when I heard a Canadian lady call her dad a bastard and tell me how mean he was. In India, I have seen many daughters who have received such harsh treatment by their fathers but who will not call the father a bastard even in their dreams ! Even with intense and righteous anger, the children from these cultures cannot bear the thought of confronting their elders when they do wrong.



Blasphemy
I think I started writing this to talk of the clash of Ethics I have within me but now I am gradually veering off into Clash of Ethics between different people I think. With regard to Blasphemy, I personally do not experience any clash; I am okay with blasphemy. I am talking of this under conflict of Ethics as the value attributed to Blasphemy is so different in different cultures where the eastern and less modern and more rigid cultures give terrible punishments for Blasphemy while the western and more modern, less religious countries and cultures laugh it off or do not take it as seriously as those in the east. I am on the side of the west, more modern, who do not take B seriously.
In India, Pakistan and many eastern and mid-eastern countries, Blasphemy is a big issue and one sees articles in papers about incidents of Blasphemy or imagined Blasphemy by people and how they were punished by the mobs or religious zealots. There is no mention of Blasphemy in some countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in the papers…do you know why? Not because it is not considered as serious but as it is considered ‘very’ serious and consequently the punishment is so severe, that there are almost no incidents of Blasphemy at all ! The more religious the country or the rulers in these countries, greater the severity of the punishment.
In my opinion, yelling abuse at God is done by people (1)mostly out of frustration or (2)to provoke people who are religious and as some claim,(3) it is not Blasphemy but it is Art.
Whatever the reason for Blasphemy, it is best to ignore the Blasphemy as the person is not hurting another person. And I do not think that God is thin-skinned enough to feel hurt if one of his own children yells at him or mocks him!
I have enjoyed the jokes about Gods in English movies and serials (British and American); I have enjoyed the art i.e. paintings, sculptures and books about Gods which can be considered as blasphemous by some. I have enjoyed the jokes too though some seem to be more distasteful than funny. The artist in me found some stuff distasteful but not enough to kill the creator!

It saddens me that the value system in the east is rigid, concrete, primitive and probably functioning at the lowest level of Kohlberg’s stages of morality. It saddens me to see how relatively sensible and intelligent people, get upset by the people who are blasphemous and want to punish them. The most famous recent examples of Blasphemy are of course the Danish cartoonist’s drawings of Mohamed and the nude art works of Hindu Gods and Goddesses by M.F.Hussain. But there are countless examples of Blasphemy in the eastern countries leading to death and destruction of property by hooligans ostensibly protesting the Blasphemy. The most recent and saddest I heard was a Pakistani Christian woman who is to be put to death for merely saying ( to people who were coercing her to convert to Islam) that Christ had given his life to save sinners and asking what has Mohamed done for the people.
What kind of Ethics is it to put a person to death for making a statement while rapists and murderers get away with heinous crimes in these countries? I could go on about this issue but I guess I have made my point. Also I feel so deeply saddened at the stupidity and cruelty of these people and wonder if God really exists and if he can sit idle watching the injustices going on.
I also get intensely irritated by people who deliberately provoke these already concrete thinking people through Blasphemy …In India, there are hooligans leaving Pigs or pork in Mosques and beef near temples just to cause fights between these two already volatile communities.
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How does one bridge the gap between the two types of cultures or two types of countries with such opposing values? When the value system and Code of Ethics is shared, it is easy to have a dialogue and come to some sort of agreement. But when the value system held and code of ethics is so opposite, I think it is simply impossible to bride the gap.
I am referring to the value systems held in countries where Religion dictates the government’s policies and Modern Democracies. Use of force to enforce a certain code of ethics or value system is not the answer. Force will not work but instead causes resentment and opposition. I am referring to the use of force (war) in countries like Afghanistan by the US forces. I do not for one moment believe that the Afghans will change their value system and start giving rights to women, etc just because the Americans say so. In fact, I think, they will become even more rigid in following their code of ethics in order to show that they will not be cowed down by force.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

SAP-NEERU/COW-PEA SOUP

COWPEA SOUP (SAP-NEERU)
Ingredients:
Cowpeas-half cup,
Green chilli -2-3
Salt-one table spoon
Tamarind-20grams
Onion-20grams
Fresh coriander leaves: 10grams
Water of course.(3-4cups)

Process:
1.Soak cowpeas in water for 6-8 hours.

2.Boil cow-peas in water and add salt so that it is absorbed into the cow-peas while it is cooking. Boil in a steam-cooker for about 20 minutes (The longer it is cooked, the softer it becomes). If you do not have a cooker, and boil it in a vessel, it will take a longer time to cook/become soft.
The water quantity for boiling the cow-peas is variable—you can use 4times the amount of cow-peas or more if you want the soup to be thinner.

3.Roast two or three green chilli
4.Mince about 20 grams onion into tiny pieces.
5.Wash and mince about 10 gm of fresh coriander leaves.
6.Soak in warm water and squeeze pulp from 20 grams of tamarind; or you could use tamarind paste.
7.Roughly mash the cooked cowpeas with a wooden masher or your hands.
8 Take some of the boiled cow-peas water in a vessel and mash the green chilli with your hands into this water. Pour the water back into the cow-pea mix through a sieve and throw out the seeds and flesh of the chilli.
Note: If you sieve out the seeds and flesh of the green chilli, no one will get hot chilli surprises while eating the soup. But there are some hardy souls who leave the chilli in the soup.
9 Add the minced onion, minced coriander leaves and tamarind and stir.
10. Ladle the cow-pea soup into bowls and serve warm.
It’s great on a cold winter’s day. Better than beer for some folks !

As you guys know, cow-pea can be substituted with a whole range of other stuff for soups and rasams. The quantity of ingredients I have given can be varied. Some add more chillis than I can handle and some add more tamarind. I find a lot of people who stick rigidly to the recipes especially quantities. But I think one can make lots of small changes to a dish, experiment and get good results.


I believe this is a south Indian dish from Karnataka. People in Karnataka call this sapneeru and dip ragi balls in this mixture and eat as lunch or dinner. Rice too is eaten with this but I prefer the taste of ragi balls with sap-neeru than rice. The cow-pea soup is too thin for rice, in my opinion. This is a simple, easy to make dish, with hardly any spices, tasty and nutritious. I don’t think it is fattening. This dish may feel rather simple for the sophisticated urban palate but what the heck ! My grandfather was a simple farmer from a village and I love this dish!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MY DREAMS

MY DREAMS

Finding buried treasure---not broken pottery, even if it 5000 years old but solid gold and stuff !

Saving a rich person’s life…provided she/he repays me with overwhelming gratitude

Winning a huge sum at lottery—that I do not need to work

Winning a lottery so huge , I can solve the problems of all my relatives and friends (not necessarily in that order)

Watch movies, tv programs, dramas, dances, etc from all over the world….if the programs are good but not in English, then I would get them translated into English .

Read my favourite crime fiction, humour, etc

Travel…in the most comfortable style

Fight crime and corruption…..should I start in India where I am from or where the crime is the least (so it is easy to clean up fast and move on to the next place) or where it is the most or where I am currently living or where it is most tragic???

Fight religion’s evil effects on people…I wish I could abolish all religions except maybe Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism…..I have this belief that these religions do not damage the earth or people…but I may be wrong !

Ethically reduce the population of India by 90%...One way of doing it is to educate the people into not having kids and wait for the ones already born to die of old age…but that is soooo sloooooooooow . Another is to pack them off to other countries where there is a population shortage and their skills match the needs of the country but this too sounds impossible. Being ethical is like working with your hands tied and eyes blindfolded.

Once I had dreams of collecting various things like stamps, coins, gems, etc but now I don’t think of that anymore. I find that collections are dry and not really serving any purpose for me. (plus the bother of dusting them, jealously guarding them and the space they occupy in limited homes).

Other dreams are private and I am afraid of putting them here in case someone I know guess it is me !

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chutney Pudi Recipe

Recipe for Chutney Pudi (Dry Chutney Powder..hot and spicy)

I had asked my mother to give me the chutney pudi recipe and she dictated it over the phone. I made it and it was a success.

After I ran out of it, I made some again but I had lost the recipe she had dictated and made it from memory. It was a success again.
But when I told my mom, the recipe I tried the second time, she said she had not given me that recipe ! That she would not have all those ingredients but used only a few of them.

I am putting up my version of her recipe i.e. My recipe.

Of course as you all know there are probably thousands of recipes of chutney pudi and each family has it’s own versions . That is the beauty of the cooking art. One can be experimental and creative and add or subtract ingredients and make so many versions of a dish.

OK. Here goes my version of Chutney Pudi

Ingredients:



For heat Dry red chilli -50(Indian chilli or Thai)
 For salty taste: Salt 40 grams or more if needed
For sour taste: Tamarind-50-100 grams
For sweetness: Jaggery-100 grams



Body of the chutney pudi:
Peanut-four cups
 Urud dahl-one cup
 Split yellow chick peas-one cup
 Roasted split chick peas-one cup

White sesame seeds- one cup
For flavour:
 Dry coconut-half or one
Curry leaves-about 50-100 grams
Garlic-one large whole


Process: Dry roast on low heat, until done the following i.e. chilli, peanuts, urd dhal, split channa dhal, seseme seeds, tamarind, garlic, curry leaves ( you will know it is done by change of color and odor)
the dry red chilli (this gets done fast; it makes the house smell, so do it with the kitchen door closed and windows open)
peanuts (do it one cup at a time if you are using a smaller vessal). No need to throw the skin …nutritionists claim there is some good stuff in the skin too
the split chick peas
the urud dahl
the roasted split chick peas
the dry coconut: either grate the coconut and then roast it for a brief time only or cut the dry coconut into pieces, roast it and then put in the mixer
garlic- remove skin, roast the pieces until soft (roasting till the moisture disappears takes too long and may not be necessary)
Tamarind-cut it into small squares after removing the fibre and seeds and then dry roast it till some moisture evaporates. This tends to stick to the pan and so do it at the end.
Curry leaves: roast them till completely dry. I do little at a time, so that the leaves are not sitting on top of each other while roasting and get done faster; if each leaf is on the surface of the pan, it dries quickly.



For garlic, tamarind and curry leaves, instead of roasting on stove in vessel, one can put them in the oven on low heat for a few minutes, until they are dehydrated but not burnt



Crush the jaggery into small bits before putting in mixer with other ingredients. if the jiggery pieces are too large, it will make a lot of noise when in mixer.

Now grind all the ingredients ( until you get a coarse consistency) in a mixer and pour into a large wok; add the powdered ingredients (salt and jaggery) and mix all the eleven ingredients in the wok. Fill it in bottles after mixing.

The ingredients can be ground in the mixer in two ways:
(1) Grind the ingredients one at a time in the mixer/grinder  ;  then mix all of the twelve crushed ingredients in a large wok.
(2) Put a little of each of the 12 ingredient in the mixer and run it; then empty the mixer jar and again, put a little of the 12 ingredients and run the mixer. continue this until all is done.  Stir the chutney powder in the wok until all the chutney powder is thoroughly mixed.

I find the second method better as the ingredients are mixed well with little effort;
Also grinding certain ingredients, one at a time is a problem as you can see below.
When the chilli alone is ground, it hurts to breathe;
the tamarind sticks to the mixer blades and it sounds like you are grinding stones ! Same problem with jiggery.
the dry coconut leaves oil sticking to the mixer;
the garlic is not fully ground but sticks below the blades of the mixer.


When you check for recipes you will see several varieties of chutney pudi. I love the dry coconut chutney pudi and the ginger –garlic-coconut pudi too.
This chutney pudi can be eaten with rice (hot rice and ghee with this chutney pudi is heavenly !) or with curds and rice. You can also eat this with roti or chappati or similar stuff. Sprinkling this pudi on any of savoury dishes too is fine. I have friends who sprinkled it on pasta, lasagne and bread .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Value Systems in India

I have always wondered about the values system in India and praying for it to change.

There are so many unnatural values we adhere to, I am surprised that the people have not been more active in revolting against it.


There are many values in India I am against and I am sure a lot of people feel like me. You may ask, why I am doing nothing about it. I am doing nothing about it apart from talking and arguing with people. I find it simply too overwhelming to do anything more. I feel like a tiny ant trying to fight with the ocean……It seems impossible.


But I am at least going to write a little about it.


Once again, what I have written here is in no particular order but I am writing as things flash to me.


Suicide: Suicide is an act attempted by people who feel depressed, feel that there is no way out, feel hopeless and helpless. I believe like others, that one should not attempt suicide but instead seek help to resolve problems or seek help for depression. But instead, several movies glorify suicide and it is a resort chosen by several movie heroines ! I have also heard of a father telling his daughter, why she did not kill herself and that any self-respecting person who had failed in exams would have done it ! I have heard of people who scream at the family member who angers them to kill themselves as if suicide is a worthy option ! Suicide is valued as a respectable option to be adopted by a person in shameful circumstances….. a female who has been raped is supposed to opt for suicide. An abused wife who is thrown out of her husband’s house is supposed to die rather than seeking shelter at her father’s or getting a divorce or moving out.

Fortunately the situation is changing at least in the urban and educated classes. I have stopped seeing Indian movies but I hope it has changed there too.


Dowry: That giving and taking dowry is an offence and recognized as such by the government of India is well known. However like many many rules in India, it is only on paper. People who are unable to give dowry experience a sense of shame and the people who did not get dowry or ‘enough’ are affronted ! The value system is so perversely opposite of what it should be ! Once again, this perversity is glorified in Indian films…at least the movies I had seen about 6-8 years ago. You see the hero (Kannada movie) sweating his guts out to collect enough dowry demanded for his sister’s wedding and feeling bad if he fails to get the money ! What kind of a value system is the movie trying to propagate ?!?

I also hear people boasting that they were not offered any dowry but they still got married anyway…They are so proud of it……it is as if they have done a big favour to the girl by marrying her without dowry ! The wife of course is expected to feel grateful for his kind benevolence !


Obedience to parents: Indian parents with kids who toe the line are so smug and complancent about this unnatural level of obedience, I want to slap them hard! The parents proudly state that their son/daughter will not cross a line if they ask…and they are not talking of kids below ten years but of adults. A child, even if an adult is not allowed to have a mind of his own or her own but seek parents guidance, permission and approval for all decisions. An independent child is a disobedient child and therefore not a loving or good child ! Parents seeking to control their adult children quote ‘model’ children from Indian mythology and try to guilt their kids into complying.

the parents who fail in their attempts to interfere in their adult children’s decisions, change their tune and boast about how they are so ‘broad-minded’ and ‘modern’ that they let their children make decisions themselves ! The decisions can be major decisions like what course to do in college, person to marry, employment or even minor decisions such as hairstyles or clothes !

Unless the value system with regard to autonomy and independence for children comes about, we are going to have a nation full of spineless kids, forever dependent on their parents.


There is a lot more I wish to write. I will write again when the mood strikes me again. Ta Ta.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A few of the ten thousand reasons I am glad to be out of India

The reasons are not listed in any order but in the order they flash across my mind :

No more facing the ‘eve-teasing’ i.e. the dirty behaviours of males towards females in public places like buses, foot paths, etc.

No more standing in queues and watching with frustration while people simply join in ahead of you

No more facing rude behaviours of people especially in government offices…where you have to beg humbly to get your work done (it’s their job…they are not doing you any favour but act like they are). Pay a bribe to get it done. And the worst for me was that I have to be respectful even when I am paying the bribe…the slightest bit of anger or sneering on my part and the bribe gets refused or pocketed but the work is not done ! One has to pander to the inflated yet frail egos of the government clerks without uttering a word of protest against their slowness, errors, refusal to work, inefficiency, corruption or anything .

Religious and classical music: I am not a fan of music and I especially cannot stand classical (Carnatic) music and religious songs. Living in Bangalore, I was forced to listen to loud religious songs on every religious occasion, coming from the television or radio at my home or from the loud speakers in far off temples. And what I hated most was listening to the same set of songs every year, several times a day (on that religious day…like the Gajamukane Ganapathiye… on Ganesh Chaturti). I can stand carnatic music if it was live but to listen to the high pitched voices of women on cassettes was brutal ! I so enjoy the blissful silence at my home now and to listen to music of my choice and when I want it
The daily transactions or interactions with people which really wore out my good nature (or what little of good nature I have !) in Bangalore was the interactions with the bus conductors, auto drivers, the guy in the government ration shop and so on. The most disgusting was the looks and comments of the oglers on the streets.

What else ? The beggars really did not bother me as they did some of my friends. I in fact feel sorry for them, even the young able bodied ones….When many many educated people I know, could not get jobs in Bangalore, how can one expect these poor people to get jobs, given their lack of education and skills. Begging seems a lesser evil than thieving.

There were a whole lot of irritations I faced in Bangalore which seem to have gotten worse now(2010) such as the frequent and long power failures, the shortage of water, the frequent breakdown of telephones (landlines), the inflation which is just eating up my dad’s pension and causing a decline in his quality of life, day by day.

My dad and so many people who did not leave India rant at me about my lack of patriotism and intense dislike and criticism of India. But my question is what is patriotism ? Should I like India as a geographical entity or should I like Indians or Indian culture? As one Britisher said, I like India but cant stand Indians ! That I cant stand Indians is an exaggeration of course, but there are so many habits and behaviours of my fellow country men which intensely angers and irritates me.

When I hear from my folks in India to return and help out “India” or “Do something for India” I want them to see my perspective. For example, I hear of a flood in Bangalore and that the govt is collecting funds to help. I would like to send money of course, but I always have the suspicion that the money sent from here will not reach the true victims but is stolen by the government officials in charge. The magnitude of corruption puts one completely off India or helping India.
Now I would like to say something about why I disliked schooling in India( I was in school from 1971 till 1980). I do know that schools have improved a lot since my time but I am sure there are still a lot of ugly features in Indian schools even now.

I was a typical average kid, not too bright and not retarded ( I hope !). Being an average kid in some schools like the National English School (Now it is National Public School I think…the one with Gopal Krishna as Founder/Principal)is a nightmare ! Every child, irrespective of ability level is expected to do well and punished quite severely if not doing well. The punishments were so physically and emotionally brutal that I am sure most kids self-esteem was permanently damaged. I do not want to go into the details as I am sure most Indians will know.

Another thing which made me miserable all through my school life was the difficulties I had studying Hindi and Kannada ! It was torture especially the “Old Kannada or Hale Kannada”. I learnt Hindi so well later when I saw Hindi movies and serials but the way Hindi was taught in school was so uninspiring. Plus the Hindi teacher was the most brutal in her punishment and I remember praying for her to be absent every class. Sometimes I think my emotions in school (as also that of millions of other Indian school kids) is like that children in Dickens novels….pure terror.

Now that I read a lot about child psychology, I cant imagine how life must be for special needs kids in India like the ones with ADHD, DD, Dyslexia, Epilepsy, etc. While working as a counsellor in Bangalore, I saw many cases of kids with these problems whose problems were not recognized and they were beaten by teachers and parents. I still remember telling a teacher that the boy is not lazy but has a learning disability and the teacher curtly told me that “middle class parents like to call their lazy or dumb kids dyslexic” ! I wanted to smack her but had to shut up and gently request her again to help the boy.

The long line to use the toilets in school, the long lines at the taps if you did not bring water, the boring and tedious exercises in Physical education classes, the boring moral education classes (we had to learn so many Psalms by heart that it was torture…My friend copied them in test which defeats the very purpose of moral education, isn’t it ?)

I have been cribbing for so long that I am sure you readers are getting put off. So I am going to recall and write of things I liked in India. There are tons of those too.
Mangoes (both the sweet variety and the Totapuri), jackfruit, sapotas, the Seetapala especially the milkshakes of Apple, Seethapala and sapota at Ganesha fruit juice centre at Basavanagudi. I like other fruits too but these are especially dear as I cant find them now, where I live.
The Masala dosas in hotels and also the set dosas. The wonderful capsicul bonda near Arya Samaj at VV Puram, Bangalore filled with shredded raw onion, carrot, coriander leaves and sprinkled with chilli powder and salt with a drop of lemon juice squeezed on top. The ‘bele obbattu’ made at home by my mom , ragi mudde with bas saaru, or kalian huli, ragi roti with kadlekai chutney, etc. Each aunt of mine was known for a dish and I loved all those dishes.

Roaming in M.G.Road or Brigade road after buying the tickets for an English movie was another favourite. Seeing an English movie was another favourite pastime of mine though it was a long process with several steps. Waiting for a good movie to come to Bangalore, convincing father that it is not vulgar, that is probably educational, that seeing the movie will not negatively affect my studies, wheedling the money to see the movie, finding a dress in the bare wardrobe, befitting the occasion, leaving the house well in advance of the movie (as very few buses ply from Rajajinagar where I lived to Shivajinagar, where the English movie was.
People watching in the M.G Road and Brigade area was a lot of fun too. I loved seeing the fashionable clothes the people here wore and I always wondered why I did not see them on the buses leading to M.G.Road or Brigade road. Did they all have cars or arrive by autos? I don’t know.

Hmm. What else did I love in India or Bangalore where I spent my entire life? Roaming the streets for books which I have already mentioned in an earlier blog in detail.

I loved shopping for clothes (rather I would buy dress materials and get them stitched) and have spent several happy hours in Commercial street, picking materials with friends or my husband. After which we ate at one of the eateries off commercial street or at Bhagatram’s in commercial street itself. I also hugely enjoyed going to the many many handicraft exhibition and buying the handloom materials, bedsheets, etc. ( I loved the smell of those handloom clothes !) I must admit my husband started getting fed up of the handicraft exhibitions and I had to literally drag him to them after a few years !

Going to the tailor with the dress materials , giving measurements and getting them when they were ready was not fun for me. I disliked it but I had to do it.

One mild pleasure or rather a relaxing peaceful time I had was when I visited some temples in the afternoon of a working day when the temples were mostly empty. These temples included the Lalbagh Anjeniah temple, the Basavanagudi temple for Basava/Nandi, the Kadumalleshwara temple in Malleshwaram. These temples are really peaceful in the absence of crowds and the chimes of the bells (only in the Malleshwaram temple) or the rustle of the Peepal tree leaves in the wind was very comforting.
I have always found uncrowded temples such as those in villages or remote places and simple temples ( by simple I mean with just a deity and a bell and not much additions like tube lights, etc) more conducive to contemplation of God than the jazzy ones. Sadly, the more people like a certain temple, the more the contributions and more the decorations and crowds and then the temple is no longer attractive to me for praying.

In Canada my social life is next to nil, as I have not made many friends after moving here. However I had a great deal of friends and relatives and had a wonderful social life in India. True, I found some of my relatives very intrusive, there were severe disagreements, tears, fights, hurt feelings and what not but there was never any boredom ! I think social life is something I heartily miss.

Another major thing I miss is the humor I enjoyed with my friends and colleagues and relatives. Canadians are great people and I love being here but the kind of humor and repartee I enjoyed in India is impossible here. The Canadians I interact with are polite and I think 90% of the jokes I made/enjoyed in India would be unacceptable here ! The humor I enjoyed in India was really funny but politically incorrect, crude, hurtful to several people (the jokes were about one’s caste or a disability one had and so on). Let me assure you that both the people I interacted with and myself are relatively decent people and harbour no ill will towards any group. But we did make jokes attacking people. For example, the Gowdas in my group poked fun at the two Brahmins in our group who in turn attacked the Gowdas in their talk. Then it would be women attacking the men and the parties would realign as men vs women. At least a few of my colleagues in India were very witty and it was sheer joy to see the verbal attacks and defenses when they got together. Needless to say, the relationships were so good that there was no possibility of misunderstandings or hurt feelings or egos, however sharp the comment.
I did try joking a bit in Canada but I got such shocked looks that I decided to shut up until I understood what sort of humor tickles the Canadians. It is not that the Canadians lack humor. They have created some really funny and enjoyable movies and tv series (e.g. Newsroom , Trailer Park Boys) but I am unable to have the same fun chatting with them as I did in India. I can relate to the Indians who have moved here but their kids born and brought up in Canada are a different set altogether.

My husband misses the Baale-yele oota (food served on banana leaf), the Basavanagudi area and his friends.

We definitely definitely definitely don’t miss the Indian movies and television at all. God ! I hated them when I was in India itself !
The same story in a million movies, the same type of music, the same stereotyped acting, the same poor jokes, Ugh ! To escape being subjected to the Kannada/hindi/ whatever tv serials is one major blessing for me. I know that the current youngsters in India have access to some American and British movies and serials on cable and a lot more on the internet but I could see only a few English serials when in India. I feel really miserable when I think of the countless kids in Indian villages exposed to the poor fare offered by Indian movies and television and that they don’t know something better exists . The city kids have a lot of options.

What else do I miss and don’t miss from India? I don’t miss the dirty or absent toilets for women travellers in India. I miss the ‘Yelneer’ or tender water of coconut which we would drink when the bus stops while travelling. To me, yelneer is manna from heaven compared to the coco cola and other soft drinks we get in Canada

The pleasures of poverty

My childhood days were like any of those Bangaloreans living middleclass lives or lesser in the seventies. We did not have what we do today: telephone, gas stove, fridge, television, furniture such as a dining set, car, ‘own’ house and so many other things we own now. Today, my house is overflowing with books and clothes and electronic and electrical gadgets, and so many other things while the house of my childhood was almost bare.

That Spartan life however had countless happy hours which I remember to this day; I think I am missing that happiness now, because of the overeasy and abundant availability of things . The pleasure one finds in small acquisitions is great when one has very few things around. I still remember I had a small wooden box and I had filled it with chalk pieces, ‘balapa’ i.e. another type of a chalk piece, bits of candle, a matchbox and some broken and some intact marbles I had found on the road. I think I also had a stash of safety pins and hairpins. This collection was precious to me and I often opened the box to look and enjoy my store of things. I also remember feeling immensely proud and happy when the electricity failed and my grandmother asked me to give my store of small candles. Todays kids have tons of toys, games, books, electronic toys and what not. But I doubt that anyone of them experience the pride and joy I did when I gave those candles to my grandma !

I remember picking several objects on the road and bringing them home as I thought it would be useful to me or my family at some time. Usually the items were nails, bits of metal, hairpins and I cant remember what else. Even these items were a source of great pleasure to me ( Was hoarding, a habit I developed early?)

I seem to remember having more happy times when I had less of worldly possessions ; I have gradually become richer and I did buy things I had wanted. However there has been no proportionate increase in the happiness or excitement when I acquire these things. I have also noticed that when I had less things, the more I used them.

There was a time when there were a mere handful of books at home. I spent so many happy hours reading them over and over, and each time of reading/rereading was a pleasure.
I would get storybooks for each birthday and I would read the books over and over again till my next birthday ! (There weren’t any public or private circulating libraries near my house then;). There were a few favourites which I have read so often that the books practically fell apart.
Now I have tons of books at home and there are so many of them, I have not read at all and several half read and discarded books. The same goes for clothes, dvds, vessels in the kitchen, vases, footwear, ornaments, etc. The more I could afford and the more I got things, the less I used them. I think I now have stuff, lying unopened for months after purchase ! Now the excitement seems to be more in the hunt for the object than in using it. The excitement seems to disappear once I have acquired it and there is only a little pleasure when using it.

The same applies for movies and television. (There was no television in Bangalore in the 70s and my house did not have a television till the mid 80s). I was taken to one film a month as a child and I remember running the movie in my head with various changes ( I am the heroine !) daily and getting a kick out of it. ( This type of daydreaming is the cause of my poor academic performance). I have spent countless hours in these fantastic daydreams. When my dad bought our first television, I did not miss any program, however boring it was ! If you remember, there was only one government run channel initially and the programs were beamed only for a few hours every evening.

Subsequently, movies were shown every week on television and I obsessively tried to see all but of them. However, I could no longer remember them all and even started getting the story lines mixed up ! Now I have become so picky, that very few movies hold my attention or interest. I wonder if I would have been different that is enjoyed the movies, however mediocre, if I had been deprived?

I am happy to say, I still derive a great deal of pleasure out of television serials even today ! This maybe because I deprive myself of cable ! I don’t have cable ( after getting into a major argument with my cable provider) and get about 6 channels daily. I really enjoy seeing the serials available on these channels and I watch them in spite of the blurred and double images ! I have also bought a few dvds of some shows and watch them a few times over months. I pray to God that I don’t ever lose the ability to enjoy them.

I think the word I was looking for while writing all the above paragraphs was “jaded”. Now people are jaded with the surfeit of things they have while in the past, due to scarcity, they could appreciate and enjoy the few things they had.
I can remember all the toys I had as a kid though I am in my 40s now. But my nieces cannot remember the toys they bought last year I think ! They have so much and therefore play less with each toy and do not care to remember them.

There is a lot to be said for poverty or deprivation. I definitely got more pleasure out of each book/movie/toy/thing when I had very few of them or had very limited access.
Now, however, trying to find things which interest me seems to take more effort than in actually participating/enjoying the activity. For example, when I go to borrow a dvd movie, I scan several and can rarely find any movie which interests me enough to borrow. I go to a library and browse through many and often come out with nothing.
I am wondering what could make me so indifferent to things I enjoyed so much in the past. Am I jaded? Am I depressed? Am I getting old and is it true that the older you get, the less you enjoy ? Am I becoming picky and so it is only a narrow range of things which I enjoy instead of the entire spectrum of books or movies or whatever? Is it a change only I experience or a lot of others do? Am I becoming tired or lazy? It’s difficult for me to pinpoint what reason is affecting me. It may be a combination of them or only one of them.
But again when I am in a place with limited access to things I love, I again, completely use up what little I have and enjoy it ! Like when I go to India and cant lay my hands on books to read, I read whatever I can lay my hands on ! But in my home here, I have tons of books which I like but not got round to reading ! Is a state of deprivation mandatory for me to enjoy ? Does owning things make me feel comfortable/complacent about owning and make me postpone actually using or enjoying the item? The same goes for the dvds I have, clothes, accessories. Food too. When I have one sweet or snack item at home I relish it but when I have stocked up, I just don’t feel like eating anything ! (maybe I am lying about food. I think I do eat something as food is something which I am never tired of !)

I had very few clothes (Wednesday was the day we wore coloured clothes instead of the uniform to school) in my early days and I remember all the clothes I had then and how much I loved those few clothes and the joy I got wearing them. Now, either because we (my family) are better off than before or because Indian society itself has changed, there seems to be an abundance of all things . Yet I do not see a proportionate increase in satisfaction with this abundance. Children today have more clothes than I ever had and yet them seem to want more and are critical of what they have. The same goes for the variety of games, toys, foods available for kids today. I can imagine adults feeling jaded but children jaded?? And bored with what they have and always wanting something bigger or better or more exciting ? I think unless, kids (and all of us) experience some deprivation, they will be headed towards a life of constant boredom and constantly seeking something “more” thrilling or exciting or whatever.

And this makes me think of another idea. Is it that today’s children’s attention span or interest span is getting shorter? I mean that , children or yester years would be happy with one game or toy for many months before losing interest in it but today’s kids, explore a toy for a few days and then their interest fades and they want something new to stimulate their interest. I am not saying all kids are like this or all toys hold all kids interest for a short span of time. I don’t think the constant craving for something new and exciting is so bad. But I am concerned that these days, objects hold one’s interest for such a short period of time and one wants a new item, even before fully trying out the item in hand.
I wonder to what extent this problem is fostered by the fact that rich and indulgent parents frequently buy toys for their kids . If you buy a new toy everyday, why should a child play with a toy you bought last month?

Below is an account of what I went through to reach this stage of ennui and short interest span ….my experiences of financial insecurity followed by security and the pattern of enjoyment during the financially insecure period followed by a sort of ennui during financial security.
As I have told elsewhere in this blog, I emigrated from India to Canada and we had to start from scratch. We had to find jobs, live on less so as to not run out of money before we find a job, manage on what we got in our 6 suitcases until we got jobs. Though we were tense and focussed on getting a job, we did have the time to enjoy lots of things. We had a blast reading books from the libraries, buying used books from the Goodwill stores, watching shows on a black and white tv (someone had thrown out a black and white tv set on the kerb and we got it home), taking long walks and exploring the city, chatting with our families on yahoo chat, watching people ( and their clothes, hairstyles, jewels and accessories, ), etc.
Over time, we got jobs and started buying the things we could only enjoy through shop windows. And slowly the pleasure and joy started decreasing and the same sense of ennui set in. Now I feel the pleasure seems to be more in the chase to acquire something and once the object is got, it is used briefly and lies forgotten in some corner of my home.
One of the chase related rushes I get is when I am bidding for something on ebay. Fortunately I have cured myself of this ebay bidding habit and saved myself a lot of time and money ! ( Or rather, my office cured me of it…I was bidding at work and now the ebay site is blocked at my office computer)

Sometimes I think, I would like to start again, from nothing, as the excitement of the struggle lets me experience a plethora of emotions: I could do with the sense of achievement, the pride, the thrills but I could definitely do without the fears and tensions one has while struggling. The boy who repaired his cycle without any help from the father enjoys the sense of achievement which the boy who was helped by his father cannot.

Enjoying life beats the jaded feeling and ennui which some of us have. If it takes financial insecurity or job insecurity or “not being” rich, to appreciate and enjoy and experience things, then so be it. Many parents ( my relatives and friends and so many good people out there) want to provide their kids with ‘everything” and especially those things they wanted when they were kids but dint have. Parents also want their kids to ‘enjoy’ and ‘not suffer’ or ‘struggle’. I think they need to rethink about the benefits of ‘letting their kids struggle to achieve. They need to rethink the benefits of providing ‘everything’ to their kids. I see this a lot in parents who have had major transitions in their lives…those who moved from villages to the city, from India to other countries, from a lesser socio-economic status to higher. Maybe all parents have this need to provide everything for their kids, I don’t know.

I don’t have kids so it is easy for me to comment and criticize parents ! But I do understand the joys they feel when they buy their kid something ( I am now becoming convinced that parents get a greater kick out of buying their kids things than the kids get in playing with them !) .
I really appreciate the super rich parents who have to exercise discipline when bringing up their kids ! Imagine Bill Gates kids demanding sweets or toys or rides daily . He can afford it and he may want to give it to them to show his love but he has to ‘not’ give in to their excess demands if he wants them to develop good discipline or whatever….. Infact, I think it is easier for a economically ill off parent than for a rich one to bring up kids with discipline ! The ill off one does not need to be disciplined to not buy his kid…there is no struggle as there is no money ! But the rich parent, has a huge struggle on his hands ! He can easily buy but should not . Boy ! I hate that kind of a struggle as I have no discipline at all !

I keep telling my sister, that adversity or deprivation can be a blessing than otherwise as it gives her a chance to struggle and this struggle gives her so many things which wealth (by wealth, I mean, whatever is the opposite of adversity and deprivation) cannot give…the joy of achievement, the struggle which keeps her on her feet and saves her from boredom, the pride of doing it on her own without help. More importantly, the knocks from a struggle harden her and she is better prepared for any new knocks life has for her in future. The failures during a struggle, the taxing of one’s mind and body, all go towards building up the resilience and strength of the person. To be ‘lucky’ and hence to be deprived of struggle is like the body being deprived of essential exercise :one may become weak without facing adversity.
Wealth or comfort or support (support from family for one) really can be an obstacle in itself in that one misses out on valuable experiences of learning, growing, acquiring maturity, and misses on the emotions which follow a struggle: relief, happiness, thrill, anger, sadness. Remember, even emotions like sadness or anger or sense of failure can have positive consequences and not experiencing them can be a loss.
Children growing in families where they lack nothing and children from families where there is some deprivation are equipped differently to face life. I am not saying that one is better than the other. But I think I really liked my “to some extent deprived” childhood.


This which follows is vaguely related to the stuff I wrote above. I am throwing it in anyway for what it’s worth…….Another odd quirk I have noticed in me---I enjoy some songs (Like Kid Rock’s sweet home Alabama and Duffy’s Mercy). But I lose interest completely if I own the cd. I however get a great deal of joy if I hear it by chance on the radio or someone else’s system. Is it that the moment I own some things, I no longer care for it? Go figure.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Used book stores in Bangalore

Anyone who lived in Bangalore in the 80s and 90s would remember the guys selling used books in the different parts of Bangalore.
I am an avid reader of English fiction. Started with Enid Blyton books in primary school, then adding on the Hardy Boys, the three investigators and Nancy Drew books . Then the Mills and Boons in High school and also James Hadley Chase. ( I was in High School in the late 70s and it is important to know the time here i.e. the late 70s and early 80s….the new generations have not even heard of James Hadley Chase). I then moved on to Alistair Maclean, Arthur Hailey, humor by P.G.Wodehouse, James Herriot, The Doctor series by Richard Gordon, the really sad Doctor novels by A.J.Cronin, etc.
I could never get books from the Public Libraries as they never had the books I wanted. Moreover, the intellectually challenged authorities at the Public Libraries always bound the books in such a way that one had to open the book to know which book it was ! The title on the spine was never visible and one had to pull out the book and open it to know the title ! To find a book, one had to open all the books until one finds the book one wants ! It was a nightmare !
I lived in Rajajinagar and there were hardly any private libraries. There was one called Prasad stores ( I think) near the Navarang theatre but it was too far for me as I lived in the west of chord road and my dad would never let me to go alone till there to visit the library.
My dad is a fanatic book-lover but unfortunately he would only buy Kannada books. They were books of great merit no doubt, but I hated reading in Kannada and would never read them ! My dad always tried to make me and my sisters read them but to no avail. Reading the Kannada texts at school was more than enough for me ! I was slow in reading Kannada and I think I have read one serialized novel in the now extinct Prajamatha magazine (I read it because it was made into a Kannada movie with Vishnuvardhan and Aarthi I think). We have thousands of kannada books at home but I have not read even one of them !
My dad had so many books that when some people suggested he open a library, he took the suggestions seriously and opened one. My dad decided to subscribe to various Kannada and English magazines too, to attract members. The subscriptions included Indrajal comics, The Illustrated weekly of India, Femina, Filmfare, Stardust, Reader’s digest and a few Kannada magazines like Kasturi, Tushara, Prajamata, Sudha, the yearly Deepavali Sanchike. I was in middle school and eagerly awaited the Indrajal comics especially for the Phantom ones ! One can only experience but cannot fully describe the joy of getting the Indrajal comic early in the morning from the Newspaper delivery guy after waiting for a month (or was it 15 days? I don’t remember) and reading it !
I also loved the comic section of the Illustrated weekly which included my beloved Phantom comic strip, Beetle Bailey, some comic called Hubert and Dennis the Menace. I loved the short stories in the illustrated weekly and the lovely illustrations. The only illustrators names I remember are Kavadi and R.K.Laxman.
After many years, I even tore the comic pages from the illustrated weeklies and bound into 2 huge books. I also tore the short stories and bound them.
I feel so nostalgic thinking of those times. I had a super time reading those books and mags. I also think I spent more time than I should reading them as I never did well in school. I could not bear to study and the tougher the subject (science, maths, hindi, kannada, and social studies were tough…that is every thing except English !) the more I avoided it . I would always make promises to myself or my dad that I would read just one comic/story/whatever and then study but I never kept my promise.
I remember one day when my family discovered that a member of the library stole a couple of expensive books. My dad was so upset that he immediately closed the library and all the magazine subscriptions were stopped as we could not afford them as we dint have money from the members. I was upset by the stopping of the English magzines and persuaded my dad to continue them as they were “educational”. I think my dad did continue to buy the Reader’s digest and Illustrated weekly but the film mags were stopped.
Some interesting things I learnt from our library venture were: even “decent” people i.e. middle class people cut out pages from mags and books ! That people are really careless with books which do not belong to them. And of course, that people steal books.
Very few friends of mine owned books which I enjoyed reading. So I could not really borrow much. But there were a few neighbours who were “relatively rich” and got books for their kids. I managed to borrow a few Enid Blyton books from them. I loved the smell of their books ! It really felt 'foreign' !
I have spent innumerable hours weaving fantasies after reading these books. I was always a heroine either finding treasure or saving lives in these day dreams of mine. And whether it is because of these books or something…I have a dream which has recurred over years …I am in some underground city, parts of which look like the Kaadu Malleshwara temple of Malleshwaram, in which there are lots of old and precious statues of Gods & Goddesses.
Coming back to the guys selling books in Bangalore. Buying new books was simply out of the question due to money constraints. So it had to be old books. I discovered wonderful treasures at various book sellers all over Bangalore. Many who sold on the streets instead of shops no longer exist for various reasons. I bought books at Malleshwaram, Majestic, Shivajinagar, M.G.Road, the Sunday market on Avenue road and city market. Some of my favourite treasures include a hard bound Billy Bunter book, English Textbooks for children printed and published in Great Britain( the print, the pages, the illustrations, the pages, the woodcut etchings, are fantastic), Westerns i.e. Sudden books by Fredrick H Christian and Oliver Strange. One treasure I got and also lost was a hilarious book of schoolboys boners. I paid about 50 paise for it and it was worth it’s weight in gold ! I probably loaned it to some friend who dint return it. I have also searched in Mysore city for books and I am not sure if I bought any there. There are several books at my dad’s home from these used book shops but most of them are now available either as reprints or on ebay, amazon, etc. But finding Billy Bunter in hardbound or Sudden books today is really difficult even on the internet. I even found Lolita, a book banned in India, in one of these second hand books shops.
Some of the most joyful exciting moments in my life was receiving from the postman,  the books we had ordered from reader's digest company. I was ecstatic when I could persuade my dad to buy the book(RD has published some amazing books and we have a few of them such as Joy of nature, the RD three volume dictionary, How to live with life, etc). We really could not afford the books but my dad was kind enough to buy them. I loved looking at the pictures in the books and felt so alive when I was with those books.
People and children from Canada, USA and other such countries have no idea of the scarcity and accessibility  of 'readable' books in countries like India in the 70s. In Canada and USA, there are millions of  great books available and accessible TO ALL, whether you are rich or poor, living in the rural areas or cities.  I was so hungry for books and had no access and so the joy when I could find a book or buy a book was great. Deprivation really makes one's experience of joy greater than having ready access twenty-four seven!
While finding a rare and out of print book is a joy in itself, the whole process is a memorable experience. Finding a good book, hiding your joy and maintaining a poker face ( You do not want the seller to hike the price, proportionate to your joy, do you ?) when you ask the price and bargain, pretending to leave without buying hoping he will call you back with a lower price, is all part of the experience. Feeling abashed by a street vendor who asked, “Do you know this is Wodehouse madam? Where can you get Wodehouse for 5 rupees?” is another unforgotten experience. This was a Tamil guy, who was unnervingly savvy about books and authors and it was impossible to bargain with him. I had a good rapport with the book sellers. I visited one of the guys selling books on Mysore Bank road after a long hiatus and he remembered me ! He asked if I had left Bangalore and I told him I had married and moved and hardly ever passed through the Majestic area.
Now of course, book stores profiles have changed over time. I find some stores selling new, used and pirated books.
I find that book stores like Gangarams no longer sell only books but sell a whole lot of other stuff like stationary, etc. Stores like Blossoms at Church street, sell used books at higher prices than I ever paid. But maybe I am the only one who thinks the prices are too high… To explain, I moved out of India 6 years ago and I am not able to get over the shock I get when I see the inflation in Bangalore after a 6 year absence.
Blossoms was a fantastic find for me when I came to India for many reasons. After living in Canada, I have changed in that I no longer grab at any dog-eared book by a favourite author but I would like to have a neat and clean book. At Blossoms I got several books by my once favourite author James Hadley Chase. Chase is not available in Canada and people have not even heard of him. I did get a few in the Public library (but it was in large print for the elderly !) of Toronto but only a few. I also got a few other books at Blossoms like Haruki Murakami. They were new books and much cheaper than at say Gangarams or Higgins Bothams. And no. They were not pirated!

Russian books in Bangalore

Russian books in Bangalore: I was born and brought up in Bangalore.I spent 5 years of my life (Puc & BA) i.e. between 1981-1986 travelling daily to the Home Science College and Maharani’s Arts College. I enjoyed my college and more so my visits to the used book stalls by the roadside near Avenue road and on Mysore Bank Road. I bought a huge number of books at really really low rates from those sellers . The books were usually dog-eared, dirty from being exposed to the dust of the heavy city traffic and faded from the sun and age. I also bought books from sellers near Majestic theatre and the Upparpet police station.

I also discovered the NavaKarnataka publications which sold tons of new Russian books (English translations) at ridiculously low prices. I cannot remember how many times I bought copies of Leo Tolstoy’s short stories for children with beautiful pencil sketches,(here is the image of the book cover) to give as gifts at children’s birthday parties.


The Russian  books had glossy pages and I always wondered how the hell the Russians could make a profit by selling books at such low rates ! I had to pay more than 100 rupees for a paperback book by James Hadley Chase printed on cheap paper while hard bound Russian classics like a book by Anton Chekov printed on glossy paper were less than 15 rupees each!

My dad was subscribing to the magzines from USSR since I was a little kid. I still remember the Kannada USSR magzines we had at home and also the Sputnik magazine from USSR. I loved the lovely photos and the glossy pages. The photos of women in their colourful skirts, golden hair and long plaits wound round their heads were a pleasure to see. I loved the photos of the snow covered forests and mountains, the farm land and massive farm machines. I remember fantasizing owning a farm and living on it like in Russia. (It was only later I learnt of the lies behind the photos…that there were huge problems in Russian agriculture and their economy and so on). I did not really find the Russian cartoons as funny as the ones in the SPAN magazine coming from USA. The SPAN was another lovely magazine which was inexpensive and informed about things in USA. Though I bought a lot of Russian books I read very few of them. I did love having them though ! I went through a phase in my teens and twenties when I wanted to have read all the classics and study literature and become a  famous writer ! I did read the short stories by Leo Tolstoy for children, started War and Peace and could not finish ( I did manage to sit through the complete movie which came on 2 or three days in parts. We had a black and white television then and it was a time in the 80s in Bangalore when award-winning foreign movies were broadcast by the Indian government who ran the television stations. I did read a huge chunk of Crime and Punishment (my dad had a lovely leather bound copy by Heron publications) but it was so depressing that  I stopped mid-way.
Why are all Russian classics so depressing? At least the ones I buy?

I do have plans of reading these books some time and right now I  have them all in my tiny house, eating up valuable space.  I have War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The brothers Karamazov, Anna Kareena and some books  by Anton Chekov.

The only Russia based books I have really enjoyed are the short stories for children by Leo Tolstoy and the Martin Cruz Smith books of the fictional Moscow detective Arkady Renko. And the Rostnikov series by Stuart Kaminsky and the triology of books by Tom Rob Smith.

Oh My God. I almost forgot ! I have bought tons of the Russian science books for my little sister (there is a 20 year age gap between us) …books on maths, chemistry, machines, physics. She recently said she did enjoy those books and they did help her learn a lot. She remembered a book about the periodic table with stories in it. I also remember that I got a few Russian books as prizes in school. We had B.Ed students (i.e. students studying education to become teachers)who would take classes for us in school and at the end of their term they held competitions for the school-students. I had won a few Russian books, given away as  prizes;  the B.Ed students probably chose Russian books as prizes as they were dirt cheap and also educational.

Now that the USSR no longer exists, I cant find the cheap Russian books in India any more. I miss some of them, especially the children’s books.