Thursday, February 26, 2015

Honesty and Friendship… disappearing virtues...casualties of the 21st century?


Honesty and Friendship… disappearing virtues in India…maybe in the rest of the world too!

 

Having decided to buy a house in Bangalore, I contacted my husband’s close friend, a real estate dealer and am currently in the process of buying. When I shared this information with two colleagues, who are also from India, both commented I was lucky to have someone I trusted to take care of the purchase. They commented that they would have invested in India if only they had someone whom they could trust to take care of their purchases. We then chatted about the horror stories we knew of NRIs investing in India who had been duped by their own kith and kin or friends whom they trusted. Some had been duped by close family members or friends, some had been duped by the very lawyers they had hired and many had been duped by the real estate agents.

I realized, how precious and how rare were the fast disappearing virtues of honesty and friendship.{I know many honest people; I also have several really good friends.  And of course, all my friends are honest.} I am so damn lucky to have a friend who is called “Karna” in his circles because of the way he cares for his friends, and he, unlike many Indians is scrupulously honest in all his dealings plus he's in real estate!

To find a person/real estate agent, in India especially, who's both honest and  dedicated is nearly impossible! On my part, I am paying my friend/real estate agent his full commission and I am not exploiting him. Truth be told, there are several real estate dealers who take their commissions and yet do a shoddy job or outright cheat their clients. But thanks to my fantastic luck, I have this great friend/realtor buying a house for me and I have complete peace of mind during the process! As this process is going on, I am marvelling at this person's friendship,honesty & dedication and shocked that I cannot find a single other person to fill his shoes, were he to be absent! He belongs to the rare breed of honest men who are becoming extinct in India and maybe in the world!

When I see the children and people of today, I feel depressed about the absence of friendships in their lives. Trust is disappearing day by day, people are becoming wary, & judgemental and it’s rare to see healthy friendships between people or even between children.
Some children have  toxic parents who caution their children not to befriend children because of their caste, poor performance in school or for ‘playing too much’. In high school, feelings of inferiority seem to set into a few children and they avoid friendships. Parents try to break friendships as they think it interferes with ‘studies’. How the hell will a child develop social skills if he has to focus on studies to the exclusion of all interactions with people. Parents actively discourage their children being friends with kids who don’t study well, who have any sort of a handicap and this is unpardonable. I have also noted with disgust, a few parents who encourage their children to be friends with children of ‘well-connected parents’ as it will be ‘useful’. Seeing all this, I wonder if friendship will die out altogether in this increasingly toxic-competitive  and paranoid world.

In colleges, especially in professional courses, there are a few health friendships but also a lot of invisible psychological damage caused by competition between the students. I have seen friends who were bitterly hurt when a friend whom they considered as ‘best friend’ kept secrets from them…secrets such as applying for GRE or a job or whatever.

I have worked only in two places in India and I am grateful to God that I had great friendships with my colleagues.  We shared our joys and sorrows, we were open about our thoughts and had arguments and did not carry grudges or talk behind backs. This great camaraderie may have had to do with our personalities and also the fact that we were not competing with each other. In today’s private sector, such as the software companies of Bangalore, it is impossible for friendships to thrive…the office atmosphere seems to be non-conducive to building friendships.  In some cases the competition is cut-throat and there is neither friendship nor ethical decent behaviours in some of these places.

I wonder if a day will come when joyful friendships exist only between humans and their individual pets; between the children who are in day-care/kindergarten i.e. children who have not yet lost their innocence, children who have not yet  become too competitive  to feel friendship, children who are still too young to mistrust and children who are young enough to enjoy friendships.

The one absolutely positive development in urban India over the last decade I have seen is the growing interaction between boys and girls of teenage and above. About 40 years ago when I was a child, boys and girls did not speak to each other; a girl would be teased if she spoke to a boy and a boy would be teased if he spoke to a girl. Now there is a wonderful change where boys and girls interact with each other with ease. They travel together, eat out, visit each others houses, etc. Even platonic relationships between boys and girls was discouraged by parents and by society in the past. Romantic relationships between boys and girls were a definite no-no in the ‘olden days’. However, now parents in urban India are tolerating friendships of their children with the opposite sex. Now I see lots of young boys and girls who have fantastic friendships and are simply thriving!

I will next write about what I think are the factors that foster and factors that damage friendships.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why to stop buying books

Space Space Space...books occupy space. and with the increase in population and decrease in size of homes, space is becoming precious and books, if hoarded, simply take over precious space. If you can get a e-book reader like Kobe or Kindle or download books on your computer, you would save lots of space, cost of bookshelves, time and effort spent in dusting the books, save on the trouble of keeping them safe from silverfish, dampness and borrowers who don't return.


People move a few times over their life and moving books one has hoarded becomes a problem. Especially if one is moving long distance or into a smaller space with less space for book storage.


One of the most important reasons for not buying books is that books become outdated. Textbooks, encyclopaedias, dictionaries all become outdated so fast these days due to the constant influx of new information due to new research, findings and discoveries. Books cost a lot of money and once you buy a book, believe me, it's value has depleted by more than half. If you can get the information online or from a library, do that.


One of the main reasons we bought books in the past was for INFORMATION; For example, most middle class houses in the 70s in Bangalore had a dictionary, an atlas and some rich people had encyclopaedias. Now the  information these books gave us is available on the internet and also it's  constantly updated information. Hence these sort of 'information books' have become redundant. Whatever information, one wants, one can get it on the internet. I do know that in-depth information is not available on the internet for free but a lot of information is available.


Some of us buy books we love as we believe we will read them over and over again or we simply want to possess it as we love those books. I have bought a few books for these reasons. But I have discovered that I am constantly reading new books and though I have the books I love, I hardly seem to have time to reread them. Today, there is also the constant demands on my time by the new TV shows. Between TV shows, books, work, home upkeep & travel I have zero time for rereading old books. They are simply sitting in my basement and now I have to dry them out as my basement got flooded!


Saving/buying books for the next generation or for someone 'else' I realized is a no-no. My sister bought the books she loved in her childhood for her kids but they prefer the books of today! She bought them Enid Blyton but they like the Harry Potter and Diary of a wimpy kid series and the Blyton books she paid a fortune for, are simply gathering dut in her home, unread! If you buy books(or anything) buy for yourself; don't buy for others because you love them and you expect they will love it too.(I find giving cash as a gift is the best as the recipient gets the freedom to get what he/she likes).
 I have seen one insane parent spending a fortune he does not have (he takes loans) to buy Kannada  books  for his grandchildren who read only English! He wants them to read Kannada but they are not interested and he does not back down! Similarly I have seen parents buy books (or items they love) for their kids and try compelling the kids to read/use them ! We want our kids to enjoy what we did and we simply don't accept that tastes have changed, times have changed and even if it's a classic, it is not the same...experiencing a book today is a different experience from reading the same book 30 years ago. Only a few novels are timeless; most novels are enjoyable in a certain time and context; times and contexts change and the books do not have the same effect years later on a different set of readers. Here is an example: I loved the novel 'Painter of signs' by R.K.Narayan when I read it maybe 35 years ago when it was published in the Illustrated weekly of India(serial form). I bought the novel recently to reread and I found the main character so lame and annoying! The book has not changed but I have changed so much! My values have changed and now, I simply cant stand the painter i.e. the chief character in the book!


I believe people buy books, though they don't need, for reasons such as their inability to change; they were buying books before the internet, Kobe & Kindle came and they are unable to adapt to these new entries into the world. People may also buy to help authors  and the book industry but  people with this particular motive for buying are few in number. People may also be buying books as they get a sense of security but that is a sheer waste of money! ( I have seen a friend buy books, 'to read when she retires'. She has access to reading these books free of cost from the Toronto public library but she's buying books regardless.(she's also not well placed financially)


So, I believe, people buying books in today's world should examine why they are buying books...Buying books (or DVDs, CDs, etc) may be due to a psychological problem and the problem should be fixed; buying books is not going to fix the problem!


There are many places where the libraries are not good and the only option is for people to buy books. In countries like India for example. So I suppose buying books in such places is okay. (India has the internet and e-readers but people prefer to buy the books second hand which is cheaper than pay in dollars to download into their e-readers...I think). Many books in Indian languages are not available online and so one has to buy those books I suppose.



















Sunday, February 15, 2015

CRIME FICTION SET IN NIGERIA

I tried reading the crime fiction novel by a Canadian writer, Will Ferguson set in Nigeria (and a bit in Canada). The novel is called 419 and it deals with the internet scams originating from Nigeria.

I started this book partly because I am now into crime fiction from various parts of the world and mostly because I have myself received a few of these scamming emails! The emails read something like this...I am having a lot of money and I need help to move it out of my country...blah...blah...blah.
(Believe it or not, I know of 'educated' people with double degrees who have fallen for these scams!

I did not finish reading this book as I found it too slow for my taste. It is a bestseller in Canada and it must be good, but it's not my type

Another book set in Nigeria is An African affair by Nina Darnton. It's written by a journalist and not a novelist and  she  narrates the ongoing events in a style which is not appealing to me.
However one does get a glimpse of Nigeria as she has described cities, a bit of villages, the daily life of ordinary people and the politics. It is through novels by journalists like this one, that I am discovering the dirty role played in the underdeveloped countries by western 'democracies' and the companies from the developed countries. 
One paragraph in this book, about Lagos a major city in Nigeria, certainly applies to the Bangalore of 2013, I visited. I have typed the part of the para here
.....As we kept driving, the houses got bigger and nicer, but the smell never changed and the garbage mounds were just as high....

When will the Karnataka politicians find a permanent eco-friendly solution to the growing garbage problem in Bangalore! Your home in Bangalore may be luxurious and cost over a 300,000 US$ but you will still find stinking garbage right outside your house, you will still face water shortage and power outages. Indian politicians boast that the Indian economy is booming and Bangalore is a silicone valley...yet, people have to live in filth!
Now in 2015, I dont know if the Bangalore garbage-disposal situation has improved but I doubt it.



A book called Americanah by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the best books I have read in over a year! Incidentally, this book is not crime fiction.  This writer has such an accurate  perception of people, honesty  and is a gifted writer! Another great book by her is Purple Hibiscus. It is her first book and we discover the life of Nigerians during a military coup in the country. Domestic tyrants have always  disturbed me due to the vulnerability of their victims...women and children. In this book, is a terrible domestic tyrant and his victims all of who seem so real, one wonders, who the characters are based on!
When people move from one place/country to another their perception of the old place and people is altered by the experiences of their life in the new place. Adichie has written about her fellow country men and women with her new perception.  This is something a lot of people can relate to.

If you are going to read only book this year, you should choose to read this fantastic book. Other books by Adichie are Half a yellow sun and The thing around your neck.  

CRIME FICTION SET IN KENYA

I have read two crime fiction books set in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya by Ngugi Mukoma Wa. The books are:

Nairobi heat  
Black star Nairobi 

 Learning about the places in Africa though crime fiction novels is certainly entertaining and not boring like the history texts I had in school!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

CRIME FICTION SET IN JAPAN

I have tried to read crime fiction from Japan but for some reason the books simply don't hold my attention and I give up. Once again, I would like to state, "It's not the book...it's me. there is something wrong with me!"

I cant recall the names of the Japanese authors or the books I tried reading and gave up.

But I did read-to-the-end a few books  by Sujata Massey which were set in Japan , California and Hawai. I liked them enough to finish and they were funny in parts but, they are not the best books I have ever read.

The only reason I read these books were because of the author's name, "Sujata" which is an Indian name. I was so thrilled to see the name Sujatha on the cover that I got the book immediately!

CRIME FICTION SET IN CUBA

I visited Havana, Cuba a few years ago and loved it. I enjoyed the sultry heat ...I visited in March to escape the brutal winter and winter blues of Toronto. I enjoyed the stay in my hotel, the sumptuous breakfast...I ate like a pig but was starving by 12 noon!
I loves the shopping in the market with handcrafted items...lovely wood carvings, the jewelry made of seeds from trees and plants of Cuba. I loved the Mojitos with mint leaves and rum and had one with lunch and dinner daily.
Hmm...What else?  I enjoyed looking at the colorful and huge American cars and photographed them like crazy! My husband enjoyed the cigars, though he did not smoke much. I saw the
once-majestic-now-crumbling buildings and sculptures in downtown Havana with melancholy, joy, grief...philosophical resignation? I liked the people...they were friendly, danced beautifully(outside on the streets), I loved the music in restaurants, the  innovative way they recycled things and crafted art from what would be dumped as 'garbage' in Canada! Believe it or not, I don't think I saw a single obese Cuban! Whether this absence of obesity implies Cuban poverty or Cuban good health is up to you!
I tried to read as many books about Cuba and Havana around the time of my trip. And Cuba has a special place in my heart because of the communism and socialist leanings. 
 I believe that if human beings were 'decent; nothing works better than communism and socialism.
Reality Check: But as human psyche is what it is, communism wrecks havoc and should be avoided like the plague

To date, I have read three books set in Cuba, of which two are already mentioned in my article titled, CRIME FICTION SET IN RUSSIA

The three are :
Jose Latour's Best Friends

Martin Cruz Smith's Havana Bay

Stuart M Kaminsky's Hard currency

I enjoyed both Havana bay and hard currency.
I found Latour's description of Havana and Cuba realistic(I read the book after my visit to Havana) but for some reason I did not like the book.. He has written a few other books but I am not in a hurry to read them ! I simply could not relate to the characters or maybe  the story was too complex for my brain!
.....................


Leonardo Padura Fuentes has been hailed as the greatest living Cuban writer(at least in the article I read) His  crime fiction works have been translated into English. These books have received rave reviews and I look forward to reading them as I am keen on crime from totalitarian and communist regimes.

Havana Blue 1991 (translated in 2007)
Havana Gold 1994 (translated in 2008)
Havana Red 1997 (Translated in 2005)
Havana Black 1998, translated in 2006
Adios Hemingway Translated in 2005
The fog of yesterday Not yet translated into English
Havana fever
The man who loved dogs(not crime but a raved-about novel)


I have not yet read Fuentes books.
 

CRIME FICTION SET IN SOUTH AFRICA

I have enjoyed crime fiction since my teenage years. When in India for the first three decades of my life, I had limited access to crime fiction and I read and reread the few books I could lay my hands on. After moving to Canada, thanks to the public library I have  free and  unlimited access to crime fiction! I have been steadily devouring books since I came here 11 years ago!
As mentioned elsewhere, I have recently developed a fancy for crime fiction set in countries which are similar to India...i.e. countries with high crime rate, corruption and poverty. I greatly admire writers who set their stories in these countries. The hero/heroine in the novels set in these countries has to face near insurmountable  odds to solve crimes. The odds include corrupt bosses in the police force, low pay, lack of adequate resources and of course, powerful criminals. To pull off an exciting yet, 'convincing' story in these countries is far more difficult than a detective novel set in USA or any west European country. That's my opinion.
 I Googled for crime fiction set in Asian & African countries without much hope of finding good stuff. To my pleasant surprise,  I discovered so many  exciting and fantastic crime books, it's unbelievable!
Here are a list of the books I really enjoyed. I hope you get access to these books. They are really good. Keep in mind, dear reader, I have at least sub-clinical level of attention deficit disorder(ADD) and if I could complete these books... with enjoyment, you too will definitely love them! Satisfaction guaranteed! All the books given here are available  in Toronto Public library.
The books below are set in South Africa

 The 4 books in  Jade De Jong series by Jassy Mackenzie 
Pale horses
Random violence
The fallen
Stolen lives
Jade is a female PI in south Africa and I find that unusual! She is in love with a police officer who has some Indian blood in him and that is another exciting thing for me! ( I am so thrilled if there is an Indian in any crime fiction book as Indians don't seem to figure much in crime fiction books. That is changing now) There is quite a bit of violence and sometimes when reading her books, I feel it must be scarier to live in South Africa than in India!


Friday, February 13, 2015

CRIME FICTION SET IN ICELAND



CRIME FICTION SET IN PALESTINE-ISREAL REGION

The only book I can recall at this time set in the Palestine Israel region is
The collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt beynon Rees

I remember that I did not really like this book but cant remember why. Yet, I did learn a lot about the life of the common folks living there and  sadly, it was a eye opener which cleared the illusions I had about a certain group of people!

If you guys get a chance to see a TV mini series from UK called "The honourable woman" you should see it. It is excellent and the dark story is set in the Palestine, Isreal and West Bank.

I recently read , "The missing file" by D.A.Mishani, set in Tel Aviv. I completed reading the book but it's not one of the best mysteries that I have read. I felt a bit annoyed by the main character at times and wished the plot moved faster.

CRIME FICTION SET IN SLOVEKIA

Michael Genelin's Commander Jana Matinova series are the only crime fiction books from Slovekia that I have read. I enjoyed them.

Frankly or should I say, "i-am-ashamed-to-say,  I was not even aware of this country called Slovekia  until recently!

The books I read are:

Requiem for a gypsy
The magician's accomplice
Dark dreams and
Siren of the waters

CRIME FICTION SET IN PAKISTAN

I have come across very few books  set in Pakistan. The  crime fiction set in Pakistan which I read and liked is A case of exploding mangoes by Mohamed Hanif. This book also had a lot of humor!

The warlord's son is an exciting novel which gives a realistic picture of today's Pakistan &Afghanistan. The novel was   thrilling and I loved the descriptions of the places in this book by Dan  Fesperman. I have never visited these places but  his descriptions of the place and people ring so true.
These books are a must read for anyone interested in knowing a little  about the state of  these places today. God knows, it is  difficult  for a curious tourist to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan today.

 Reading these books, in the safety of your bedroom, gives one both  thrills and information about  Pakistan and Afghanistan, without the fear of  whatever befalls visitors to these places.

 I have to next read the books by Dan Fesperman, set in war torn Bosnia.






I had read a story by Kushwant Singh which was published by the illustrated weekly of India in the 70s or 80s which was 'like' crime fiction. It was about the debaucherous life of the Pakistani elite i.e. the politicians and the military. I think the illustrations for this series(or was it a single short story? I don't remember) was by M.F.Hussain. I don't remember the title too.

I would be so grateful if someone could tell me the title of this, if they remember reading this in the illustrated weekly of India.




I discovered that Ibn-E-Safi from Pakistan  is a popular writer of crime fiction in the Urdu language. I have not read his books as I cant find them in Toronto.
Even if I found the books, I cant read Urdu...I need English translations. I am sure the English translation could not have captured the beauty of the poetic Urdu language!

http://urdunvls.blogspot.ca/2013/12/jasoosi-novels-jasoosi-dunya-by-ibn-e.html
The above link is a list of his books.

Pakistan, like India with it's endemic corruption should actually be an excellent resource for crime fiction writers! I hope more crime fiction comes from here to help non Pakistanis learn about Pakistan...in an interesting and entertaining manner!

Other crime fiction by Pakistani writers or stories set in Pakistan are here below. I have not read these books but got their names from the internet.

Akbar Agha: Juggernaut. Pub: 4 hour books, India
Cheryl Benard: Moghul buffet Soho crime publication
James Church:Bamboo and blood
Simon Conway: The agent runner
Jack Coughlin: Running the maze
Omar Shahid Hamid: (Book 1)The prisoner and (book 2) The prisoner Pub: Pam Macmillan, India
Naseem Hijazi :(1)Muhammad Bin Qasin(2) Shaheen (3)Dastaan-e-Mujahid(I don't think these books are in English)
David Ignatius: Blood money A novel of espionage
Humayun Iqbal AKA Sabiho Banu: Challawa written in Urdu and Farsi in the 60s and recently translated to English by Mohammad Hanif (about a Pakistani lesbian detective!) and appears as a short story in the book edited by Faiza S Khan (Pub: Hachette books) i.e. The Life's too short literary review 01:New writing from Pakistan 

Mazhar Kaleem & Ishtiaq Ahmed: (1)Maka Zonga (2) Black Zero (3) Target mission (4)Kaghzi Qayyamat (5) Begaal Mission (6)Seamoon + G.Moff (7) Seamoon ki wapsi (8)Ghar ka samandar(I don't think these 8 books are in English)
Mary Louise Kelly: Anonymous sources
Shea Kinsella: Blood canal
Martin Lessem: A cloud in the desert
Khalid Muhammad: Agency Rules Never an easy day at the office  Pub: Dead Drop Books, Pakistan
Robert A Shaines: Secrets in a time of peace
Yusuf Toropov: Jihadi- a love story


-------------------------
A wonderful non-crime fiction novel about a Pakistani family in USA I enjoyed was the American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar


Another wonderful book of non-crime short stories set in Pakistan I really admired is 'In other rooms, other wonders' by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Every character is so real, with all their human frailties and I discovered again, how similar the  psyche, behavior, thinking and culture of Indians and Pakistanis is, through the characters in the stories. The stories and characters here could have just as easily been set in India. I loved this book and would be sooo grateful if I had the skill to write like this!


CRIME FICTION SET IN AFGANISTHAN

As I mentioned in my other articles, reading crime fiction set in various countries has seized my fancy for the last few years. There are several countries which do not figure often in crime fiction though these countries  are probably racked by plenty of 'real' crime!


The two crime fiction books set in Afganisthan which I had the pleasure to read are

The warlord's son by Dan Fesperman (He has written another crime fiction novel which is set in Dubai)

The third book in the trilogy of Tom Rob Smith i.e. Agent 6 is set in Afganisthan. Though the entire book is not in Afganisthan, it gives quite an insight into the Afganisthan during the time of Soviet invasion. One realizes what a bloody mess the two giants USA and USSR have made of Afganisthan over the years as one reads this and other books! 

CRIME FICTION SET IN DUBAI


Layover in Dubai is a crime fiction novel which give a realistic picture of today's Dubai by Dan  Fesperman. I found this book fast paced and enjoyable. I think Indians who  have relatives in Dubai should read it. They will get an idea of how tough life is there and how unfair the system is to the thousands of foreign workers living there  especially those from economically deprived sections of society doing manual work.

CRIME FICTION SET IN SAUDI ARABIA


I am compiling crime fiction books I have read and enjoyed by the country they are set in.

Raja Alem's A dove's necklace, to be released in May 2016 won the Arabic Booker award in 2011. 
The reviews have rated this book very highly and I am looking forward to reading it. Though it is a murder mystery, it is much more than a crime fiction.  And the story is set in Mecca which would have shocked and irritated the religious bigots of the world! Today, I have placed a hold on it in TPLibrary and hope to get it soon and read it!
I read  A dove's necklace for the first hundred pages and gave up...sadly, it's not my cup of tea!



 Here is the list of 4 crime fiction books set in Saudi Arabia I enjoyed.

Finding Nouf 2008 is the same as The night of the Miraj 2008
City of veils 2010
Kingdom of strangers 2012
All of the above four books are by Zoe Ferraris.
Incidentally, Ferraris is an American lady who was married to a Saudi-Palestinian Bedouin when she wrote her first book "Finding Nouf". By the time she wrote her second book, she had separated from him and moved back  to USA. Her books reveal how claustrophobic life is for Saudi women. The more I read books set in Saudi and other Gulf countries, the more I grateful that I was not born there!


A Gentleman's game: a queen and country novel by Greg Rucka. This is a thriller about a female assassin of the British government who kills a terrorist.
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Other books  I read which are not crime fiction but are set in Saudi Arabia are :

 The Ruins of us by Keija Parssinen, which reflects life of a Saudi family and the emotional difficulties faced by a son born of an American mother and Saudi father.

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea and translated by Marilyn Booth is another fast, interesting read about life of girls and women of a certain section of Saudi Society. This book gives a peek of life in Saudi Society which is always a bit of a mystery to many as there are  few books from this country.
Princess Sultana's circle by Jean Sasson is another book set in Saudi which I read and felt disgusted by the fate of women in the country.


Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis by John R Bradley. He is  a journalist and tells about today's Saudi Arabia ;this book is highly  readable, though it is not fiction! It was after reading Bradley's book,  that I was inspired to read  crime fiction book set in Saudi Arabia . I liked all of the crime fiction I read but was  appalled by the life of women in Saudi Arabia. I thank God that I was not born in that wretched country.( I apologize sincerely to the moderate Saudies and all women & children of Saudi for calling their country wretched)

Dan Fesperman's Layover in Dubai is a crime fiction I really enjoyed--it's set in Dubai, a city of UAE, the country which is a neighbour of Saudi Arabia.















Monday, February 9, 2015

I dye my hair...but admire folks who don't!

Greying set in before I turned 30 and I started dyeing my hair in my mid thirties. I tried to manage without  dyeing but the grey made me look simply awful! I had to dye!
Recently my sister asked me when I would STOP dyeing my hair and even after a lot of thought, I could not answer!  I believe, a lot more consideration is needed to decide when to stop dyeing than when to start ! Should I stop when I am 50 or 60 or ... Should I stop when I retire from work? Or should I continue dyeing but change the dye from  black  to brown and then stop altogether after a few years? Should I stop when my friends and peers stop? Should I stop when my sisters and husband stop? or when my colleagues who are also my age-peers stop? Or should I continue to dye till I die? Should I stop when I have grandkids? Should I stop dyeing just before I become an old joke... my wrinkled face contrasting with thin-yet-jet-black hair ?
When to stop dyeing is a  really difficult question to answer !
But if you insist on an answer, then I would say, 'when the dye starts looking fake on me'.


YET, in my heart, there is a nook, where I have a lot of admiration for those  men and women who don't  dye their hair! I am not talking of those who can't afford the hair dye or those who are not aware of hair dye. I am talking of those who choose not to dye and are so full of confidence and self-esteem that their grey does not bother them one bit! They are unyielding, yet, calm and smiling when their well-wishers earnestly advise...nay, beg them to dye their hair!
They are aware they would look younger by decades if they dye; they know they will fulfil the conventional parameters of beauty if they dye, but they don't.
I admire their confidence; the fact that their self-esteem does not depend on looking younger or better. I admire that they take their stand unyieldingly against the majority viewpoint. I admire that they truly believe that beauty is skin-deep and there are more important things than  appearance and they are focusing their energy on those things. One set of people I would like to add to those who don't care about appearance is the Indian men and women I have seen in USA (in California especially) who dress in traditional Indian clothes like saris and dhotis without caring a damn about dressing to fit in with the majority. One of them is a guy who has a juttu(long hair tied) and is a software marketing guy in San Jose ! I admire the women with kumkum and jeans and jacket in California for their courage but I also dislike the unaesthetic combination of  the kumkum with western outfits!. ( I have such  conflicting emotions about this beauty versus don't-care-a-damn-about-how-I-look!)






In the 70s, 80s and even 90s Bangalore and my village in Tumkur, most people with grey did not dye. The middle aged women of those days idea of "dressing" would be wearing silk saris, gold jewels, kumkum, talcum powder on face.  Some of the richer or more 'modern' young folks of the 90s would also put lipstick and eye liner and maybe some perfume.
But since 2000, many middleclass people in Bangalore have started dyeing their hair. My mom and two of her four sisters have been dyeing their hair since the last one or two decades.


Now it is almost impossible to find greying women among middleclass Bangaloreans. Even greying men are becoming harder to find. What amazed me the most was finding absence of grey in village folks too!




Other pleasant but shocking discoveries in my village and taluk were finding that nearly all girls have shaped their eyebrows and the salwar kameez has replaced the langa and blouse! When I was a young girl visiting my village in the 70s and 80s, I was forced to wear saris and kumkum (I hate putting kumkum as it does not suit me)to avoid questions and odd looks from the villagers. If I wore pants I was asked if I was a boy; and if I wore salwar kameez or did not have kumkum on my forehead,  I was asked if I was a Muslim. But today, the girls of my village wear salwar kameez and some pre-puberty girls even wear pants...and no questions asked! Changes have been sweeping over rural India!


The increase in attention to fashion, even among villagers and the poor in India  is a reflection of many changes. It may indicate an increase in wealth or a decrease in poverty... if one did not have food to eat, would one be able to spend on things like hair dye, talcum powder and shaping eyebrows at the beauty parlour?
It may also indicate that people are having access to movies & TV and influenced by what is shown.
It may indicate a desire for a better appearance, indicate that the village folks are appreciative and happy to copy the urban/modern look.
It also indicates that the village folks no longer feel shy or embarrassed to try to look good or copy the urban fashions. They have become bold and open to experimenting and copying. They no longer fear the old taboos. (There are such a lot of proverbs and sayings and misogynistic viewpoints in India which say that women should not pay attention to beauty, etc.)




In the 50s era, I guess that only people on stage like movie stars and stage actors used makeup and hair dye. Later the makeup was used by women in major cities like Bombay and Delhi. Subsequently women in other towns started using makeup....this is my guess and not based on my observations or research. I still recall the middleclass morality prevalent when I was in school in the 70s and early 80s. The prevalent belief is that girls or women who used makeup especially lipstick were immoral or promiscuous or character-less or flirty or indecent or 'not-good-wife-material.! Especially lip-stick which was considered by old-fashioned folks or should I say bigoted folks as something only immoral women used ! The prevalent idea in the 80s and earlier times in India that I know was that 'decent' women dressed in saris or Indian clothes , did not 'do style or fashion' , did not use make up; 'decent women i.e. decent Hindu women had to use the kumkum on their forehead, flowers in their hair, earrings, and bangles. The lipstick and   rouge especially were a definite no-no! I remember my dad's fury when he saw  my 3 year old sister with red nail polish, which my neighbour who ran a beauty parlour had kindly put it on to entertain my sister !
The change in attitude toward fashion, dressing, western influences is visible if one sees movies of the different decades. The movies of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. mirror the changes going on in India.  The change is  180 degrees! In the old movies only the 'vamp' wore makeup and skimpy clothes while the heroine was demurely dressed in clothes which covered her fully and 'she was 'supposedly ' not wearing any makeup...as per the story. But now, the heroine dresses like the vamp and it's accepted(until she gets married ...after marriage she has to wear the sindhoor and saris...I think but I have stopped seeing Indian movies and so I may be wrong). Does anyone remember the 'pious' song sung by the 'pious' Kalpana in a Kannada movie..."e-dhenu-sabhyate. e-dhenu samskrute". That song was so annoying even in those days to me! Anyway, what I am trying to say is that, there are several scenes in hundreds of  'old' movies which depicted  that it was immoral to use make-up,be stylish, wear western clothes like pants or wear sleeveless tops and short skirts.




And I know psychiatrists in the late 80s and early 90s who would consider the diagnosis of mania if the lady was 'had makeup on especially red lipstick'! I know it does not seem to make sense today but it did make sense in the context of those times. The idea was that you go to the hospital when you are sick (you go to psychiatry department or hospital when you are mentally ill or you are dragged to  psychiatry against your wish) and sick people don't care about appearance; so if you have makeup on, and if you were not a regular user of make-up, it was considered as a sign of mania. I don't know if this view still prevails in India among psychiatrists but it did at that point in time. I observed as a student, during the 80s, that if a young mentally ill female patient went to the hospital wearing make-up and if she happened to be from an economically poorer background she was definitely considered to be 'manic'! 










In Canada and probably  in  the western worldit's difficult to find people who don't give a damn about appearance. Here looks (looking young) really influence one's chances of getting a job, getting promoted, etc. Even if one does not want to dye, one is forced to dye one's hair in order to avoid the discrimination against old age when hiring for (many) jobs. People in the west strongly believe they could not get hired or not get promoted or lose their jobs  if they are not 'beautiful' or 'slim' or 'dressed well'! Most employers will never admit these as reasons for rejecting a candidate but these factors are certainly influential in the hiring, firing or promoting.


All over the world, people trying to find life-partners are forced to care for their own appearance. When one is searching for a life-partner, it's rare to find a partner who does not care for  looks  but is looking for something deeper.
My sister was lucky to find one such guy who is now her husband! I have seen but a mere handful of men and women who don't care for appearance and their tribe seem to be getting rarer by the day! The younger the generation, the greater the value placed on appearance. The trend all over the world seems to be going for good looks and not for other more 'substantial' things like character, skills & ethics.


I would love to see the day when the concept of beauty is much wider than it is today...when grey is beautiful; when it's not a beautiful appearance which counts as beauty  but  beautiful is when the person is  kind, ethical and a decent human being.




In this 21st century, only people of religion such as priests, nuns & monks, Sanyasis and those in the pursuit of God or Moksha  do not put effort on their appearance. They are supposed to focus on 'spiritual' things and not care about their looks. I would be definitely wary of those people, 'apparently' in the pursuit of God who pay heed to their appearance!
For example, I have seen young priests in some temples, whose vibhuti is not smudged but perfect and I suspect these guys of having an eye on the good looking female devotees who visit their temple rather than on Vishnu, Shiva or Moksha!


I wonder if influential people of religion such as the Pope and heads of Mutts, give in to the pleas of  directors and 'make-up' artists in studios or stick to their guns and go on camera to give their discourses without any make-up? I honestly don't mind if the Pope has hair sticking out of his ears so long as he is a decent human being, who preaches well enough to hold my attention, and more importantly, he practices what he preaches. I would have no respect for a religious person who leads a sinful life in private but is a photogenic and interesting speaker!








Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Causes of poor judgement among urban, middleclass Bangaloreans




CAUSES OF POOR JUDGEMENT AMONG URBAN, MIDDLE CLASS BANGALOREANS.

Poor judgment refers to the inability to make appropriate decisions. Everyone makes judgements…both good and bad; however  some make mostly good judgements while some make mostly bad judgements. I believe three factors are essential to make good judgements: intelligence, relevant information and a well balanced mind i.e. when making a decision, one should be free of stress, depression, anger, jealousy, mental illness, addiction, obsessions, etc.  Even the experience of positive emotions such as love, joy and hope can impair ability to make good decisions!

Many people among my friends and family in middle class urban India made heaps of poor judgements. These are people with at least average intelligence, more than high school education, with no apparent mental health issues and with access to information.

There are factors unique to the Indian society causing poor judgements. I have not seen these factors in the Canadian society to the same extent as in India. Here are the factors, I believe which impair judgement and decision making among my Indian friends and family.

  • Many people I know don’t think. Or don’t think deeply enough. This leads to poor judgement. Among the folks I have observed, the reasons for not thinking are probably due to the obedience ingrained in them since childhood by teachers and parents and the Indian culture’s refusal to allow children to question adults…it has changed now but not much. With this upbringing, people don’t develop the practice of independent thinking before doing something. Not thinking is a major factor in poor judgement and choices. Many people with  superficial knowledge of a project take major decisions and face massive failures. For example, a student I know chose to study science in grade eleven,even though she had no aptitude for it. When asked why, she simply said, my friends are taking it and so I am too. She failed in grade twelve and then her academic career got stuck and she could not move on. She continued to make poor choices and one of the reasons was she would not think deeply but simply chose to study what 'others' were doing. 



  • Lack of common sense is a major cause of judgement errors. (A search on Google indicated that the average IQ in India is 82 which means the average Indian and majority of Indians are having lesser intelligence than people from developed countries; Low level of intelligence could be a major factor in poor judgement in India.) One sad example of this is the three students who lost their life while trying to take a 'selfi' by a running train in January 2015 in India.



  • Impulsivity &Impatience …the two symptoms of ADD lead many to make   poor decisions ; I strongly believe that ADHD exists undiagnosed in a huge number of Indians; or it exists at subclinical levels in the Indian population, sub-clinical yet enough to impair judgements and cause significant damage. An example of this is getting married to a  guy who came on three weeks leave to India and married a girl selected by his  parents without taking the time to get to know the fiancĂ©e and regretting it for the rest of his life.



  • I have observed in many people an inability to think things through …This is one of the biggest reasons for poor decisions and this inability to think deeply is also a symptom of Attention deficit disorder. A sad example of this is a person who bought a tractor costing lakhs of rupees...though he could not afford it, could not maintain it, could not afford the cost of gas to run it and really did not really need it.



  • Poor planning even for major, expensive projects is something I have observed often. For example, I know of people who travel long distances spending a lot of time and yet refuse to call before going and return empty handed!
  • There are many causes for poor planning which I will not go into at present. Procrastination coupled with wishful thinking and 'unrealistic optimism is one major cause of poor planning I have seen often.


  • Poor knowledge of the relevant matter before making a decision … i.e. the absence of informed decision making. Often people do not do due diligence before embarking on projects. For example, students enroll in terrible colleges and realize it too late simply because they or their parents neglected to do due diligence.



  • Absence of information or poor access to relevant information also prevents people from being fully informed before they make a decision. Many people, often do not bother to google for information though they do have access to Google. They know they could google for information but for some inexplicable reason, do not.



  • Pride or ego prevents people from discussing with knowledgeable people before making an important decision: Some people refuse to seek advice or discuss with people, who are experts simply because of pride or they don’t want to appear ignorant or don’t want to be ‘obligated to this expert. Many people reject good advice from ‘wives’ simply due to the culture of male superiority in India. Unquestioning acceptance of bad advice simply because it comes from a ‘respected’ source  such as ‘elders’, also leads to poor judgements.



  • People don’t approach professionals or professionals with a good reputation for their projects. Instead, they seek the advice of relatives and friends who are NOT professionals or go ahead with major projects on their own or by hiring amateurs.



  • Carelessness because of disinterest, indifference or a callous attitude are  also factors  leading to poor judgements and major mistakes. A sad truth I have often witnessed in India is that often, third parties  become  victims of someone else’s carelessness in the decision making process!



  • Poor assessment of one's own abilities...usually overestimation of one's capacities coupled with unrealistic optimism  are two other causes of judgement errors I have seen in many people.



  • Inability to learn from past failures is a frequently observed cause of poor judgement. There is often no learning from mistakes; they make the same mistakes again. Many people cannot or will not change.



  • Some people with poor judgement   do not take responsibility for their failure but often attribute failure to bad luck such as Shani Kaala or suspect their enemies have put a curse on them or done black magic on them and so they failed.  Many people would rather consult an astrologer, a priest or a palmist rather than science and professionals in the field to make major decisions. Belief in the supernatural than science to make major decisions is a major factor influencing judgements and decisions in India.  Success is attributed to Gods and failure of the project is attributed bad luck; in case of failure, the remedy is appeasing the Gods and not trying to find out what went wrong with the planning.

 

  • People often embark on projects with limited resources; they don’t have extra resources to buffer them if plans go awry. Ergo, there’s no leeway if things go wrong; Instead of buffers, people seem to rely on Gods & wishful thinking...that God will protect them; they are adamant in their  refusal to consider things may go wrong.

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  • People tend to deny unpalatable realities when in the thrall of positive emotions during decision making. Undue Optimism helps people avoid facing reality and is a factor in poor judgement. Hope, Love or passion about a project are positive emotions which interfere with rational thinking and good judgement.


  • Two other factors of poor judgement are Rigid thinking and refusal to change ..a few people are proud of their rigidity and boast , how they will never change, come-what-may!



  • Failure to correctly analyze the cause of failure and fixing it is another cause of repeated poor judgements. As I said before people do not analyze cause of failure due to their impatience, refusal to learn or refusal to change,  due to attribution of the failure to  illogical things such as bad luck. There are many ways analysis of cause of failure of project can go …the wrong way.

 

  • People who make poor judgements are often those who do not experience appropriate emotions such as sadness when they fail. For example, a man who attributes the failure of his project to ‘things din’t go well’ and not to ‘his own poor planning’ will not feel bad or try to change. These people continue making poor decisions, causing loss, yet feeling no remorse. They simply move on and expect that the mess will be taken care of. They don’t want to fix what they messed up but want to simply move on to their next project.



  • Greed and the intense desire to get rich and sometimes the desire to out-do relatives and friends can lead people to lose their judgement and make illogical plans which fail.


I cannot fully understand or explain, why I see poor judgement among so called 'educated, intelligent, Indians in India ;  I don't see similar poor judgement among Indians living in in the west; I don't see such poor judgement among Americans or Canadians  with similar levels of intelligence and education. Why is this poor judgement seen only in 'educated, urban, intelligent' Indians of India?
The factors contributing to poor judgement to Indians is :
a.Belief in God and attributing many things to God and not taking personal responsibility;
b.The belief in superstitions and attributing causes and effects to superstitions and not to the proper source of cause/effect;
 c.Low quality of education which contributes to lack of common sense and inability to think, analyze, deduct, etc.
d. Knowing what is the right thing to do, yet for inexplicable reasons, making the wrong choice.  For example, the person knows he better go to a doctor, yet, he will go to a temple or a relative who had similar symptoms. In the given example, Do Indians make wrong choices to please others, or do they lack trust in professionals as they have been let down by unscrupulous or poorly qualified professionals in the past? I know that many professionals such as doctors and engineers are worthless and so it is understandable, if people would rather trust a layperson, than a professional!
e. Low self-esteem and self-confidence is a national malaise of not just India but maybe all Asian countries(in my humble opinion!) This low sense of self may also contribute to poor judgement.
f.Many Indians don't have access to information freely like in the developed countries and so they make poor judgements.






  • In my next article, I will be talking about people who are victims of the poor judgement of others under whose control they have to live. I would be talking about the limited choices people have and how, it seems to them that no matter what they do, they are screwed and so what's the point in wasting time to think deeply before making a decision? I would also be talking about the people who seem to be making poor judgements but who are in fact doing what is right and not what will lead to success. I would be talking about people who fail even after  doing 'all that is right' ...due to factors unique to India...such as absence of  qualified professionals with integrity, the wide spread prevalence of corruption  and the interference run by criminal elements which render all efforts to make good judgements useless.