Monday, February 25, 2008

The Last of the Marunadans.

warning:heavy mallu flavoured post
"Every man is a foreigner, it just depends on where you are."

This is what Wolfgang quipped over lunch while I was telling about myself being in a country which till the other day was just, where a charlie chaplin look-alike came from . His remark reminded me how most people back home construe about desi people living abroad. Everyone gets to see only those pictures of beaming fellas with an Eiffel tower or London bridge in the backdrop. It is just that flimsy print which seems to connote the idea of a supposedly paradisal life of any NRI…Any NRI seemingly lives in a villa reminiscent of the visuals from “The Sound of Music” and dines the finest food picked straight from the Eden Gardens. I am not talking about Mittal’s or Kapoor’s, but of ordinary Kariachen’s and Susie aunty’s. …If the typical IT junta back home savors going to the best mall, the flashiest pubs and the chic eat outs…The same folks while abroad switch to Wal-Mart, Lidl or penny market, dines at Mc Donald’s or Burger king's (only if it was simply unavoidable) and would browse through nickel-and-dime brochures for shops having clearance sales…Agreed they are the extremely frugal types. But I have seen families settled here for decades, though not having the flashier of jobs (the so called computer people) doing the same. Every time this desi comes home with luggages of Lindt chocolate, premium scotch and perfumes with names like ‘Passion’ or ‘Exhilaration’, we forget that he probably haven’t even had bought these things for himself/herself. I am not saying staying abroad is bad or tragic, But still life is not as rosy as many of us think.

There is no dhobiwala who comes and collect your clothes nor any Pressing shop where you get your shirt ironed for a paltry 2 rupees and. there is no errand boy who collect groceries for you…Many such people who eke a living because of our laziness suddenly becomes worthy.

India is a land of opportunities, but still not enough for a billion people.
Many such professions don’t exist anymore in parts of the world where manual labor comes at a premium. I still remember being taken aback ,when I saw a 80 something landlady cleaning up her own home…She owns a couple of expensive flats here and is probably a millionaire as well…I don’t think it was coz she couldn’t afford one to clean up her modest house .It was the difference between us and the west…More than the color its our credence’s that differ…A westerner takes pride in being able to live independently however old he/she is , whereas we are tuned to believing that any person with white hair calls for help…Having a errand boy at home is equivalent to being slothful as they see it here. For most of us we think it is just creation of a new job or a noble way of sharing wealth to the needy or a new opportunity.

Being here in this country for sometime I have been lucky to be invited to several Indian homes or specifically malayalee homes...Unlike say in the United States; it is quite rare to find an Indian in Germany. and even rarer find a malayalee...As it happened once when a fellow malayalee saw me...he was like yelling at his wife…”eureka..eureka...One of ours...take out the”And the friendship with one family got me acquainted with the rare species of marunadan* malayalees in Germany. Almost like being given preferential treatment I was made to feel like part of the family of mallu Germans inspite of being a newbie. After every get together some one would even drop me back home. It was sad yet true that I have seen some of the best people of my own outside the state.

It also makes me sad at the predicament they are in. They might have come in the early 70’s with an ambition of making some quick money and then settle back home after a few years. But soon they had kids and they started going to school. By time they had made enough money the kids were in mid school and wouldn’t be able to accommodate to Indian systems. Now most of em own big farms and classy apartments back home. I almost pity at their dilemma considering that in spite of the sacrifices made to achieve these they are now almost a foreigner in their own natural land. When I ask these folks they say there aint anyone back home to go back to. Though that is just one of the reasons I assume.

I have noticed that usually when a person starts living in a new city be it Bangalore or Berlin, first you start to look at the place in the eyes of an outsider…begin comparing the place with your old place and feeling nostalgic about the good things of your old town. But over a couple of months you begin loving your new place and over a period of time start calling yourself a Bangalorean or a Berliner . It happened with me once when I was sort of passionately lecturing a French colleague when he said something wrong about Hamburg...later realizing that sub consciously I had begun getting used to the place . That is what happened to many settled Indians out here…Most of em didn’t plan to settle here in the first place.
And this happens not just with a place but also with cultural influences. Most of the marunadan malayalees crib about the anarchic attitudes of people back home…Here I liked the part of both the husband and wife standing on equal footings unlike typical households back home where the housewife is pushed within the boundaries of the kitchen. Discussions happen with everyone during getogethers…not like circle of men discussing Oomen Chandy or a circle of women discussing the elopement of Annamma with Kuttichayan(that happened in Sthree roksham btw).. These folks enjoy currywurst and make excellent cakes as much as they enjoying relishing kappa and meen curry…Inspite of being expariates they have a mini naadu of their own..

These people are last of a breed…People who settled abroad long time before globalization...long time before IT. long time before internet. They took the best of both the worlds. Keeping traditions alive (even though I think it is harsh on the kids to expect to retain the same ways as their parents follow) and adopting virtues of candor and dedicated workmanship.. Now when I see some articles about some Brit or German visiting Kerala…speaking Malayalam or wearing a mundu and the media showering praise and singing hallelujah over the sahippu...I say we have been doing that for a long long time…in countless countries...and on a much larger scale… :-)


Offbeat am reminded of anecdote which I heard of ammachi who came to Germany in the 80’s(wearing glorious chattayum mundum) ..It was spring time and while she was being driven home in a car she glanced outside the window and told her son who was driving ..”Eda…Babyee evidathe rubberil ella onnum illallooda..”
*marunadan = expatriate malayalees

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Georgekutty of the Jungle or err.. the market.

I have been thinking about it for some time...or well for like last 20 years ..Because money is very important in our day to day lives…Going by today’s scheme of things money is like the real thing and everything else is like the illusion part of it. My friend's version of mastercard is… ”There are something’s money can’t buy for everything else there is Daddy’s fat wallet”. But seriously am not crazy or maniac about money! Like any image conscious person would say if ever I win a million dollar lottery, I ll give it for charity and fund for healthcare in third world countries....okay…that was just my press statement.

Talking about these days of degenerating values, when gandhian principles are losing its charm, I still admire and have high regards for Gandhi…especially notes with his picture on it...I particularly love those with that number 1000 on it and a smiling Gandhi who seem to say."hey you lucky fella.."…Unfortunately I am not really flamboyant with money matters unlike most of my colleagues, whose happiness quotient fluctuates with the BSE sensex...If I wanna get some work done from Mr. Patel, I just need to login at and check if it says a plus or minus. I seriously don’t understand this share market thing…which reminds me of those days during college when I passionately watched CNBC to watch a particularly hot anchor...It is pretty harmless you see , coz watching CNBC is very platonic and leaves no clue amidst your deep interest in graphs and market capitalizations..Sigh…She might probably be married by now!!

Coming back to the point Georgekutty uncle says, its always better to put your money on cows…sheep...hen or rubber, not necessarily in that order…That one hen laying eggs…100 hen’s next year…and a 1000 again story never failed to captivate me...He told it in simple math and I would just look at him in astonishment and say to myself..”Uncleinte oru buthiyee

Talking of shares I get irritated while going for lunch with guys who have put money in the market. Such people don’t talk anything else be it with friends...relatives...or even God… Having food with such people is a very ‘sensex’ual experience…

As I was preparing to explain about the pleasures of eating cordon bleu chicken the two vegetarian one Nasdaq Patel and another BSE Swamy …

Mr. Patel: “Reliance power 253 points...DSF...125 points...recession…credit crunch…RBI index...oh my god...”
Me clearing my throat: “ahem...”
A very traumatized looking Mr.Swamy:
Really??...How come that happened....Chidambaram said…micro credit flow into market...12.53% hike...and the inflation...”
Me:”The chick...”
Patel interrupts:”yes...yes. Swamy...but the problem with oil flow and the political instability in Bolivia”
Me: “The chicken is...”
Swamy:” kadavulei...It means good news for ONGC…but you know the problem with CRR ratio...”
Me. “chi…chicken…cordon...”
Patel and Swamy: “Oh my god!!…that means we have to buy them before new IPO is out and otherwise the federal fund rates!”

Few seconds later P&S disappears like in a Houdini act and reappears in share market discussion forums. Swamy calls up dad Periaswamy and convinces him to buy shares as well...This dad son combo in share trading is a story for another day in itself. These hardcore investor types you know..keep away from em..

I never believed in shares. I believed in the real thing...the real piece of currency. My love affair with money was a sheer accident which happened when I was in school. It was the times when I discovered that the guy in Shanti bakery would give me a cool drink if I gave him a coin from Appa’s wallet…I later discovered that he will give me a cutlet too if I managed another couple of coins.. Such discoveries made me realize the importance of money and the basics of transactions. But ofcoz I soon learned the importance of knowing better techniques used in movies like “Oceans Eleven” or “Mission Impossible”. But it was too late!!I was caught during a particularly daring act.

As money grew in importance in my life I learned the importance of having a good rapport with people who can give you money. I think I did good enough PR exercises before my holy communion and as expected goodies were showered on me that day. My expression of gratitude was proportional to the bestowments doled out on that day. Names of uncles and aunties who gave Puzzle books and educational gifts were noted down in part of my brain (however useless it was) where I kept “people whom should be taken revenge at list”. People who gifted umbrellas and decorative panels like “God is Love” where given looks like “you-came-just-with-that”. But those people who came with those little white envelopes were given classic “oh you know how happy I am because you came” look...At the end of day I was getting impatient as I badly wanted to count the loot…But few days later in a landmark display of sacrifice I was forcibly made to donate the money to parents for the home we were constructing back then..

Oh btw, I am now confused whether to invest like my uncle says for those ever procreating hen or listen to those intelligent looking people with Armani suits and gold rimmed specks posing on cover pages of books which claims to have sold over a million copies and names like “Shares, Marketing and Investing…A whole new paradigm”.

Do either have a clue?? ;-P

Over the years I have had different perspectives of money…Money isn’t just that coins which bought me candies …Maybe it has grown quantitatively about what I want to buy. The value of a gift is not in its price tag , but the intent..those superficial concepts of grading people by generosity of gifts.. Love or hate it, but money is simply influencing lives.. I have learned one important lesson over the years.

People change much more due to money than money change people’s lives.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ichak dana beechak dana..

As we all know today is a very important day in our lives…a very important day in the lifes of Archie's sales managers and florists far and wide...

A day of fond memories…and err..a day of profound tragedies…

For all beloved cupid stuck fellas..
I dedicate this song for all laila and majnu’s..
And this song for all Prem Nazir’s and Sheela’s…

For everyone else, don’t worry baba…we have ;-P

The best song out is for you…high fives!!:-)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Holy story!!…Well of a different kind.

Murder, looting, felonies…wars…racism…enough was enough...the gods decided…it was time to clean up the filth. In a landmark unanimous decision, the kingdom of Gods decided to come down and take stock of things themselves…

The year was 2052, the Chinese year of Bugs Bunny and our little world was going to the dogs…Raj Thackeray venting fury at street dogs in Mumbai for not speaking marathi and not respecting maratha manoos…Narendra Modi given Bharat Ratna in recognition of his untiring efforts to promote religious coexistence…Bush Junior IV running for elections again Clinton III…and several such predictable horrible things were headlines that ruled the day....

Meanwhile outsourcing had become a hit in the god world too…To cut the increasing number of sinners and spiraling expenses the Christian gods decided Yamadev would do a fine job and he will take care of the evildoers for sometime…The gods decided to descend earth in their own private jets and some not-so-high profiles did go for the budget ones (chal vaayu...masala jet they had plenty of options)…

As Lord Vishnu was doing tour in parts of Bharat he was appalled at diminishing moral values. The country of age-old traditions…principles...and other such good words.... There behold him the sight of hopeless sea of people fighting over each other in quest for survival…The Lord was heart broken seeing the sorry state of affairs.

In another corner of the country, Lord ram was doing his own yatra some where in West Bengal…There he saw a car factory and to his amazement he saw banners like....”One lakh car!!”

The Lord uttered...”Jeez...a car for one lakh rupee!!”

That’s when he felt someone tap on his back...No…No...It wasn’t those prickly arrows.

“Did ya call me?’

Jesus was in transit on his way to USA.... Already anguished at the conditions in European state affairs…so he thought he would check out India on the way as well. Lord Vishnu was mightily pleased to meet another God.

“Oh…what a pleasant surprise. Nice to see you Jesus”
“How is the tour going for you…I must say really disappointing out here”

Jesus wasn’t happy either.

“Exactly…And probably you might have noticed it is too hot out here…Around 2000 years or so ago, I was here and things were much better then…. must be the global warming thing!”

“mm...I now understand why it is getting hot up there too...we have our little place in the Himalayas…Narada was recently upset that he couldn’t ski as the snow melts much faster these days”

“You talk about skiing…mm… I can’t imagine how St Peter would have reacted if he had come with me…There aint any fish in the seas out wouldn’t do any good to his already bruised ego if he couldn’t manage a single Maththi*”

As the major league bhagwans brainstormed, it was interrupted by a call from Yamadev himself. Apparently furious he stated in no- nonsense terms that the billing rates were going to be higher from now on, as they are facing surplus supplies and the hell was already running in full capacity…Even gods were bearing the brunt…depreciating dollars…err…I mean silver, gold coins and such financial complexities.

The gang of gods, during a combined trip to China met Buddha who was hitch hiking parts of Tibet and Nepal…Being the benevolent host he offered the much needed rest at the Shangri la restaurant in Kathmandu…Few days later as they walked further east the gods were wondering why the people looked all confused out there…Apparently it dint strike any of em that the Chinese followed Confucianism…That’s when the lord ram quipped... ‘My bad…’

As the holy tour entered the last leg, they crossed the seas and arrived in US of A. This place was no good either…A country were ‘faith’ was a word which you would more likely see in a spelling bee contest…As they gathered and discussed over the details of the trip…they decided to catch a movie in Hollywood before they decided on what to do to fix up the world…

It didn’t take much long to understand why humans were so regardless of gods these didn’t take much long to understand why humans were going from bad to worse…as they rushed out from the theater there was this big crowd waiting for the movie.

The banners said.

The God’s must be crazy XIII!!”

*Fried fish typically eaten by malayalees.