Experiences in the community

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Archive for the tag “#immigrant”

To say or not to say


For people who are visually differently-abled, the above reads –

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” – Voltaire wrote this either in late 16th century or early 17th century and those words were as apt in those times, as it is in these turbulent times as well.

Update 05/03 – According to @bla these words are attributable to a neo-nazi and apparently a child abuser. While I don’t know the context in which it was shared, it describes the environment in which we are perfectly. Please see his comment for a link and better understanding.

The below topic requires a bit of maturity, so if you are easily offended, feel free not to read further.

While this week-end I was supposed to share about the recent Science Day celebrations that we did last week –

Science Day celebrations at GMRT

Would explore it probably next week.

This week the attempt is to share thoughts which had been simmering at the back of my mind for more than 2 weeks or more and whose answers are not clear to me.

My buttons were pressed when Martin f. Kraft shared about a CoC violation and the steps taken therein. While it is easy to say with 20:20 hind-sight to say that the gentleman acted foolishly, I don’t really know the circumstances to pass the judgement so quickly. In reality, while I didn’t understand the ‘joke’ in itself, I have to share some background by way of anecdotes as to why it isn’t so easy for me to give a judgement call.

a. I don’t know the topics chosen by stand-up comedians in other countries, in India, most of the stand-up acts are either about dating or sex or somewhere in-between, which is lovingly given the name ‘Leela’ (dance of life) in Indian mythology. I have been to several such acts over the years at different events, different occasions and 99.99% of the time I would see them dealing with pedophilia, necrophilia and all sorts of deviants in sexuality and people laughing wildly, but couple of times when the comedian shared the term ‘sex’ with people, educated, probably more than a few world-travelled middle to higher-middle class people were shocked into silence. I had seen this not in once but 2-3 times in different environments and was left wondering just couple of years back ‘ Is sex such a bad word that people get easily shocked ? ‘ Then how is it that we have 1.25 billion + people in India. There had to be some people having sex. I don’t think that all 1.25 billion people are test-tube babies.

b. This actually was what lead to my quandary last year when my sharing of ‘My Experience with Debian’ which I had carefully prepared for newbies, seeing seasoned debian people, I knew my lame observations wouldn’t cut ice with them and hence had to share my actual story which involved a bit of porn. I was in two minds whether or not to say it till my eyes caught a t-shirt on which it was said ‘We make porn’ or something to that effect. That helped me share my point.

c. Which brings me to another point, it seems it is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about anything either before apologizing to everyone and not really knowing who will take offence at what and what the repercussions might be. In local sharings, I always start with a blanket apology that if I say something that offends you, please let me know afterwards so I can work on it. As the term goes ‘You can’t please everyone’ and that is what happens. Somebody sooner or later would take offence at something and re-interpret it in ways which I had not thought of.

Charlie Chaplin - King of self-deprecating humor

From the little sharings and interactions I have been part of, I find people take offence at the most innocuous things. For instance, one of the easy routes of not offending anyone is to use self-deprecating humour (or so I thought) either of my race, caste, class or even my issues with weight and each of the above would offend somebody. Charlie Chaplin didn’t have those problems. If somebody is from my caste, I’m portraying the caste in a certain light, a certain slant. If I’m talking about weight issues, then anybody who is like me (fat) feels that the world is laughing at them rather than at me or they will be discriminated against. While I find the last point a bit valid, it leaves with me no tools and no humour. I neither have the observational powers or the skills that Kapil Sharma has and have to be me.

While I have no clue what to do next, I feel the need to also share why humour is important in any sharing.-

a. Break – When any speaker uses humour, the idea is to take a break from a serious topic. It helps to break the monotony of the talk especially if the topic is full of jargon talk and new concepts. A small comedic relief brings the attendees attention back to the topic as it tends to wander in a long monotonous talk.

b. Bridge – Some of the better speakers use one or more humourous anecdote to explain and/or bridge the chasm between two different concepts. Some are able to produce humour on the fly while others like me have to rely on tried and tested methods.

There is one another thing as well, humour is seems to be a mixture of social, cultural and political context and its very easy to have it back-fired upon you.

For instance, I attempted humour on refugees, probably not the best topic to try humour in the current political climate, and predictably, it didn’t go down well. I had to share and explain about Robin Williams slightly dark yet humorous tale in ‘Moscow on the Hudson‘ The film provides comedy and pathos in equal measure. You are left identifying with Vladimir Ivanoff (Robin Williams character) especially in the last scene where he learns of his grand-mother dying and he remembers her and his motherland, Russia and plays a piece on his saxophone as a tribute both to his grand-mother and the motherland. Apparently, in the height of the cold war, if a Russian defected to United States (land of Satan and other such terms used) you couldn’t return to Russia.

The movie, seen some years back left a deep impact on me. For all the shortcomings and ills that India has, even if I could, would and could I be happy anywhere else ? The answers are not so easy. With most NRI’s (Non-Resident Indians) who emigrated for good did it not so much for themselves but for their children. So the children would hopefully have a better upbringing, better facilities, better opportunities than they would have got here.

I talked to more than a few NRI’s and while most of them give standardized answers, talking awhile and couple of beers or their favourite alcohol later, you come across deeply conflicted human beings whose heart is in India and their job, profession and money interests compel them to be in the country where they are serving.

And Indian movies further don’t make it easy for the Indian populace when trying to integrate into a new place. Some of the biggest hits of yesteryear’s were about having the distinct Indian culture in their new country while the message of most countries is integration. I know of friends who are living in Germany who have to struggle through their German in order to be counted as a citizen, the same I guess is true of other countries as well, not just the language but the customs as well. They also probably struggle with learning more than one language and having an amalgamation of values which somehow they and their children have to make sense of.

I was mildly shocked last week to learn that Mishi Choudary had to train people in the U.S. to differentiate between Afghan turban styles of wearing and the Punjabi style of wearing the turban. A simple search on ‘Afghani turban’ and ‘Punjabi turban’ reveals that there are a lot of differences between the two cultures. In fact, the way they talk, the way they walk, there are lots that differentiate the two cultures.

The second shocking video was of an African-American man racially abusing an Indian-American girl. At first, I didn’t believe it till I saw the video on facebook.

My point through all that is it seems humour, that clean, simple exercise which brings a smile to you and uplifts the spirit doesn’t seem to be as easy as it once was.

Comments, suggestions, criticisms all are welcome.

The Indian elections hungama

a person showing s(he) showing s(he)

Before I start, I would like to point out #855549 . This is a normal/wishlist bug I have filed against apt, the command-line package manager. I sincerely believe having a history command to know what packages were installed, which were upgraded, which were purged should be easily accessible, easily understood and if the output looks pretty, so much the better. Of particular interest to me is having a list of new packages I have installed in last couple of years after jessie became the stable release. It probably would make for some interesting reading. I dunno how much efforts would be to code something like that, but if it works, it would be the greatest. Apt would have finally arrived. Not that it’s a bad tool, it’s just that it would then make for a heck of a useful tool.

Coming back to the topic on hand, Now for the last couple of weeks we don’t have water or rather pressure of water. Water crisis has been hitting Pune every year since 2014 with no end in sight. This has been reported in newspapers addendum but it seems it has been felling on deaf ears. The end result of it is that I have to bring buckets of water from around 50 odd metres.

It’s not a big thing, it’s not like some women in some villages in Rajasthan who have to walk in between 200 metres to 5 odd kilometres to get potable water or Darfur, Western Sudan where women are often kidnapped and sold as sexual slaves when they get to fetch water. The situation in Darfur has been shown quite vividly in Darfur is Dying . It is possible that I may have mentioned about Darfur before. While unfortunately the game is in flash as a web resource, the most disturbing part is that the game is extremely depressing, there is a no-win scenario.

So knowing and seeing both those scenarios, I can’t complain about 50 metres. BUT….but… when you extrapolate the same data over some more or less 3.3-3.4 million citizens, 3.1 million during 2011 census with a conservative 2.3-2.4 percent population growth rate according to scroll.in.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Pune Municipal Corporation elections were held today. Fortunately or unfortunately, this time all the political parties bought majorly unknown faces in these elections. For e.g. I belong to ward 14 which is spread over quite a bit of area and has around 10k of registered voters.

Now the unfortunate part of having new faces in elections, you don’t know anything about them. Apart from the affidavits filed, the only thing I come to know is whether there are criminal cases filed against them and what they have shown as their wealth.

While I am and should be thankful to ADR which actually is the force behind having the collated data made public. There is a lot of untold story about political push-back by all the major national and regional political parties even when this bit of news were to be made public. It took major part of a decade for such information to come into public domain.

But for my purpose of getting clean air and water supply 24×7 to each household seems a very distant dream. I tried to connect with the corporators about a week before the contest and almost all of the lower party functionaries hid behind their political parties manifestos stating they would do the best without any viable plan.

For those not knowing, India has been blessed with 6 odd national parties and about 36 odd regional parties and every election some 20-25 new parties try their luck every time.

The problem is we, the public, don’t trust them or their manifestos. First of all the political parties themselves engage in mud-slinging as to who’s copying whom with the manifesto.Even if a political party wins the elections, there is no *real* pressure for them to follow their own manifesto. This has been going for many a year. OF course, we the citizens are to also blame as most citizens for one reason or other chose to remain aloof of the process. I scanned/leafed through all the manifestos and all of them have the vague-wording ‘ we will make Pune tanker-free’ without any implementation details. While I was unable to meet the soon-to-be-Corporators, I did manage to meet a few of the assistants but all the meetings were entirely fruitless.

Diagram of Rain Water Harvesting

I asked why can’t the city follow the Chennai model. Chennai, not so long ago was at the same place where Pune is, especially in relation to water. What happened next, in 2001 has been beautifully chronicled in Hindustan Times . What has not been shared in that story is that the idea was actually fielded by one of Chennai Mayor’s assistants, an IAS Officer, I have forgotten her name, Thankfully, her advise/idea was taken to heart by the political establishment and they drove RWH.

Saying why we can’t do something similar in Pune, I heard all kinds of excuses. The worst and most used being ‘Marathas can never unite’ which I think is pure bullshit. For people unfamiliar to the term, Marathas was a warrior clan in Shivaji’s army. Shivaji, the king of Marathas were/are an expert tactician and master of guerilla warfare. It is due to the valor of Marathas, that we still have the Maratha Light Infantry a proud member of the Indian army.

Why I said bullshit was the composition of people living in Maharashtra has changed over the decades. While at one time both the Brahmins and the Marathas had considerable political and population numbers, that has changed drastically. Maharashtra and more pointedly, Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have become immigrant centres. Why just a decade back, Shiv Sena, an ultra right-wing political party used to play the Maratha card at each and every election and heckle people coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, this has been documented as the 2008 immigrants attacks and 9 years later we see Shiv Sena trying to field its candidates in Uttar Pradesh. So, obviously they cannot use the same tactics which they could at one point of time.

One more reason I call it bullshit, is it’s a very lame excuse. When the Prime Minister of the country calls for demonetization which affects 1.25 billion people, people die, people stand in queues and is largely peaceful, I do not see people resisting if they bring a good scheme. I almost forgot, as an added sweetener, the Chennai municipality said that if you do RWH and show photos and certificates of the job, you won’t have to pay as much property tax as otherwise you would, that also boosted people’s participation.

And that is not the only solution, one more solution has been outlined in ‘Aaj Bhi Khade hain talaab’ written by just-deceased Gandhian environmental activist Anupam Mishra. His Book can be downloaded for free at India Water Portal . Unfortunately, the said book doesn’t have a good English translation till date. Interestingly, all of his content is licensed under public domain (CC-0) so people can continue to enjoy and learn from his life-work.

Another lesson or understanding could be taken from Israel, the father of the modern micro-drip irrigation for crops. One of the things on my bucket lists is to visit Israel and if possible learn how they went from a water-deficient country to a water-surplus one.

India labor

Which brings me to my second conundrum, most of the people believe that it’s the Government’s job to provide jobs to its people. India has been experiencing jobless growth for around a decade now, since the 2008 meltdown. While India was lucky to escape that, most of its trading partners weren’t hence it slowed down International trade which slowed down creation of new enterprises etc. Laws such as the Bankruptcy law and the upcoming Goods and Services Tax . As everybody else, am a bit excited and a bit apprehensive about how the actual implementation will take place.


Even International businesses has been found wanting. The latest example has been Uber and Ola. There have been protests against the two cab/taxi aggregators operating in India. For the millions of jobless students coming out of schools and Universities, there aren’t simply enough jobs for them, nor are most (okay 50%) of them qualified for the jobs, these 50 percent are also untrainable, so what to do ?

In reality, this is what keeps me awake at night. India is sitting on this ticking bomb-shell. It is really, a miracle that the youths have not rebelled yet.

While all the conditions, proposals and counter-proposals have been shared before, I wanted/needed to highlight it. While the issue seems to be local, I would assert that they are all glocal in nature. The questions we are facing, I’m sure both developing and to some extent even developed countries have probably been affected by it. I look forward to know what I can learn from them.

Update – 23/02/17 – I had wanted to share about Debian’s Voting system a bit, but that got derailed. Hence in order not to do, I’ll just point towards 2015 platforms where 3 people vied for DPL post. I *think* I shared about DPL voting process earlier but if not, would do in detail in some future blog post.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: