Of Fabindia, mismatched blouses and pseudo-liberals

I’ve been rummaging my mother’s wardrobe for hours in search of a blouse to go with my Fabindia Kota saree. I need the two to be glaringly mismatched, like that Carnatic singer-cum-mini celebrity on my Instagram feed. My mother doesn’t seem to get the idea though.


 

My initial impression on Fabindia was made when at a literature fest in Delhi, I saw their brand worn by seemingly well-read women and girls ladies. I knew I was moved for life as I watched similarly dressed others on national television express vocally their critique/opinions on issues of the nation-state.

That’s when I decided I too would paint my life not with H&M or colors of Benetton. I was ready to embrace the Fabindia life – not only elegant, in vogue (and ridiculously overpriced) but also a sign of brains, wisdom and good taste. I mean, sure you’ve to wash them separately in shampoo but I don’t mind as long as I distinguish myself as an intellectual. The JNU kind.

The sari of course must be draped carefully to look careless enough. That somehow lets everyone know I stand for Indian culture and ethnic produce. And my solidarity with impoverished artisans.

All those ajrakh prints in indigo and maroon that are expensive enough to kill, but worth it because they announce my elite upper class or at least upper middle class status. Urban, classy, refined, English-educated and well-grounded with the Indian way of life. (Because I have an enriched vocabulary with phrases such as impoverished artisans etc).
To be worn with mismatched blouses – not because I can’t afford to match them (are you kidding me?) but because that’s the brand.
You know, that Fabindia look.

The stuff goes great with shades so I can step in and out of my (armchair) liberal look whenever I want to. You can stop judging me, at least I care about equality. And human rights.

Also, I paid for this shit.

I mean, this isn’t your 200/- kurta that was bought on a bargain off the streets, this was available only in 4 sizes catering to international standards, the smallest size available was still GIGANTIC for the native me to fit into but I still took it. I deserve some respect.

It’s almost sad how some alter them though – hand them over to tailors seated behind rusted sewing machines. If all you wanted was for the clothing to fit, you might as well have shopped at Max. But of course I support individual’s right to choices (now that I don my liberal attire). One should shop wherever they want to.

My Fabindia style was also inspired by a certain left-leaning uncle, who happens to be a women-empowerment evangelist. Back in the day he had my aunt quit her job to feed his insatiable stomach three times a day. I mean, food is important you know? Fabindia hangs loose and comfy against his throbbing skin on blood that’s boiling for (other) women’s rights.

I haven’t been to Sarojini Nagar since I got my first fat paycheck – the chaotic air and the crowd slathering their sweaty bodies against mine isn’t worth it, I realized. Again, I’m too busy attending the meet-up/litfests I mentioned before. Now I’m one of them.

Although I admit I have heard awful things being accused of the Fabindian style – ‘not everybody can afford it’. But come on it’s affordable for almost all, I cry.

All except the impoverished artisans. And you.

I mean if everyone could afford it, I would go unnoticed in a sea of kalamkari weaves and ajrakh prints – that isn’t the status symbol I pay for. I seem to have mentioned classy, make that class-marker, shall we.

The other day, an ambitious junior walked into my cubicle while I was browsing through the website catalog on my PC. “That seems like a reasonable price for a Fabindia kurta. I can finally afford one myself”, she seemed delighted.

“Dear”, I tell her, genuinely apologetic and squishing a fly that as its final bad decision landed on my 9k Kota sleeve. “That’s the price of the dupatta the model’s wearing with the kurta, not the kurta itself”, I had to explain to the poor girl (no pun intended).
Thank god Fabindia upholds its values.

Hopefully she knows she can buy an entire wardrobe at Sarojini market for that money (make that four).
The dyes from both places are going to run out when you wash their clothes anyway.


I hit “post” on my new Instagram picture captioned “Couldn’t find a blouse to match but this doesn’t look too bad does it?” hashtag ethnic hashtag handloom hashtag Indian fashion.
Afterthought : I feel qualified enough now to add hashtag human rights. Another picture, maybe.

 

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But why aren’t we cashless yet?

[I run the risk of coming across as cynical, pessimistic and negative by this post – I’ve been accused of being each of the three in three separate circumstances by three different people. So kindly send better adjectives my way].

I consider myself privileged to have been alive the day India decided to go cashless (November 8, 2016). With no TV set in my room, I only knew when my roommate arrived around 9:30pm exultant and jumping “I’M SO HAPPY NOW ALL MY IAS UNCLES ARE GOING TO JAIL”.

If you think this is going to be yet another article slamming the demonetisation-drama-debacle (come on, it came in a package), then no. Too late for that. And I know even the people that only scroll down their FB feed had enough of it. The trolls felt distasteful after a while, probably on account of mocking a mockery that was playing out in real life. I mean it’s all funny until you run out of money yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for less-cash economies. But if you’re anything remotely Indian or have really visited this place (and not just prosperous pockets of it), you’d know we’re lightyears away from a cashless economy, SO WHO WERE WE KIDDING? (Who was kidding who might have been a better question but I hope all questions have been appeased by now).

Casual fun fact about me: My stomach can’t digest beef. Now that casual lynching’s been crossed out, read on knowing that the author’s still alive.

Anyhow, this post is to share MY FAVORITE NEWS ARTICLE from the past one year. I guess it took a while to make it to the blog, mostly because there were trolls, satire and what-not being churned out everyday on the topic, and I generally dislike commotion.
I copypasted in case you didn’t want to left-click on the link. It happened in Delhi.

‘Digital’ village asks what’s netbanking – The Hindu (09/02/2017)


‘Digital’ village asks what’s netbanking

DE09_DIGITAL_MAIN

Around 10 days ago, a team of Delhi government officials handed over two PoS (point of sale) machines to kirana (grocery) store owners Surat Singh and Ramesh Kumar, both residents of Surakhpur village in Najafgarh, on the Delhi-Haryana border.
The officials taught the two how to use the machines. On Wednesday, when The Hindu visited the village, where the front walls of most houses are plastered with cow dung cakes, it found Mr. Singh’s machine “safely” locked inside a drawer in the shop. Mr. Singh (60), who runs the store his wife Raj Kor, said, “I run a small shop. People come here to buy basic items and the bill amount is usually low. For other necessities they go to ‘Delhi’.”

‘Who will bear cost?’

He said initially some curious customers tried to use the machine, but now there were hardly any requests for online payments. Mr. Singh does not know who will pay the Internet charges for the machine whose plastic cover is still intact. Also, the Internet connectivity is poor in Surakhpur. “Most of the time the server is down,” he said.

The approximate population of Surakhpur is 1,500 and the nearest bank and ATM are around 3 km away in Mitraon village. This effort to promote cashless transactions in Surakhpur started on December 26, when Sub-Divisional Magistrate Anjali Sehrawat, along with her team, inspected the area. A camp was set up and people were asked to get their Aadhaar cards made and fill up forms for opening bank accounts. “The purpose was to ensure that in each household at least one person has a bank account. Surakhpur was chosen for this pilot project due to its less population,” said Ms. Sehrawat.

Two workshops

The officials held two workshops at the chaupal, a meeting place for the elders, and taught the villagers about netbanking and e-wallets. LED screens were installed for the demonstration. After providing the PoS machines and opening bank accounts, the project was over.

On Tuesday, the Delhi government officially declared Surakhpur as the first village in Delhi to be “fully digital payment enabled”. But most residents here, particularly the women, are clueless about the project.

The literacy rate in the village is low and not everyone uses a smartphone. Meenakshi, a 22-year-old mother of two, said she had never been to a bank. “I don’t think any woman here knows how to withdraw money from ATM, leave alone making payments through phone.”

Like Meenakshi, most of the women The Hindu spoke to said they did not have bank accounts or smartphones.

Ajit Singh, a retired central government employee, was surprised over the announcement.

“How can they declare our village cashless or digital when the work hasn’t even started,” he said.

Water woes

Another resident, Amit Kumar, said he doesn’t know if Surakhpur is a “cashless” village, but it is definitely a “waterless village”. The residents still rely on water tankers despite a pipeline being recently laid. The villagers said the piped water is contaminated.

Some residents even contested the claim that each household has a bank account holder. A resident, who didn’t wish to be named, even wrote to the Prime Minister Office on January 16 after the bank in Mitraon village refused to open the accounts of 19 residents whose documents weren’t in order.

Even Ms. Sehrawat accepted that there was still a lot of work to be done in the project. She clarified that Surakhpur is not a “cashless village” as reported by the media. “The literacy rate is poor and network connectivity is low. Our main aim was to provide infrastructure, which we have. Now it is up to the people to make payments digitally,” she said.


I do not know if officials followed a target-based approach on attaining ‘digital villages’, but after all we’re the nation of Ramanujam and Aryabhatta and an array of astonishingly great GDP figures. Surely if nothing else we should be able to produce good numbers, no? A little twisting here, a little tweaking there and we’re good to go.

Nine percent of rural India had access to mobile internet in early 2016. That’s a single-digit-number. It may not seem shocking, but it would’ve had I asked you to guess the figure first. For non-Indians who wonder why this is relevant, seventy percent of our population resides in the villages.

Before we bash or hail decisions, and more so before taking decisions, it’s good to put some perspective in place. But whether it’s reasonable to expect that in a nation of political gimmicks is debatable.

PS : (For the purpose of closure) My roommate’s mom clarified that all her uncles’ cash was invested in real estate, they caught all the non-uncles in the country though I think.

 

Dear UPSC –

IMG_20170626_132622.jpgFrom UPSC Prelims Paper – 2017

When you read Statement No. 3 and wonder :

  • Was that sarcasm?
  • Or maybe it’s UPSC’s way of presenting to students a light-hearted moment in the middle of a stressful test?
  • WAAAAIT, is this a tactic to screen for anti/nationalist tendencies? If so, screen in or out? Omg, has the day come?

Answer is option (a), good to know that was uncalled for. Or maybe it’s a screening out process 😀

For those who want to know how my test went, maybe I’ll write about it in another post. One exam joke is quite enough for a day. Here’s the full paper –

Civil Services Preliminary Paper 1 (General Studies) – 2017

When Global Warming caught up with my school project – the Rise of the Dead

No we didn’t really have projects, we had assignments. But they were ‘project work’ according to the ICSE institution (or was it just my institution?) so yeah we wrote them up in outlined A4 sheets (no you weren’t allowed to get them printed) and attached a front-page titled <insert subject> PROJECT.

In 10th class (2009-’10), our Geography project was on Global Warming. Kavya was the only one I knew who wasn’t relying on the internet for material. Our Geography teacher had a piece of well-meaning advice herself for the class, “PLEASE pick up content from sources besides Wikipedia, I don’t want 45 projects with the same copy-pasted matter on my table”.

Also read as : Ignore first couple of Google search results, take pains to go beyond the first page, if need be.

After several clicks on  >Next, I found myself in that eddyhole of the world wide web with URLs that read handmadeprojectessaysforyourhighschool.com and myawesomespeechthatwonthepulitzer.com – that’s right. I was one click away from unlocking the Dark Net.

Luckily I’m the queen of abstention, so I just carried on innocently with my reading without employing parseltongue. I was on a decent essay, even a good one considering the dubious title of the site. But then I came across this one subheading under EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING :

“Eradicated diseases will reappear” – As permafrost and frozen soil in the Arctic regions thaw, human bodies and animal carcasses will resurface. Hence diseases that may have been wiped off the earth may soon find their way to infect us again.

I thought it was a joke, just the author (probably another teen like myself, I thought) on a lighter note. Of course I didn’t go after research backing it I mean I just wanted some unsame copy-paste okay. So I copied the lines in my sheet, all the while wondering if I’d be summoned to the staff room to EXPLAIN WHAT MY UNSOLICITED IMAGINATION WAS DOING IN THE PROJECT WORK. I saved the link, just in case.

I also mentioned it to my friends and we had a good laugh (‘SO FUNNY right???!!’ ‘yes so weird…funny sure’). If only I’d been held up for it I could’ve forwarded the Current News to the teacher with a dramatic caption (“I told you so”?). But maybe it already was a hardfact then or maybe teachers don’t really read the 45 copy-pasted – technically it wasn’t even copy-paste per se, it was our sweat and Cello Pinpoint ink – assignments.  Makes you wonder why you took the effort to click Next so many times after all. Life is cruel to us nice-people. I was 15, was I supposed to know that by then?

Anyway if you don’t read the newspaper like me from 10 months ago,  it’s been happening – what sounds like a spooky SuperNatural plot – the rise of the dead. Anthrax triggered by reindeer carcasses exposed from frost thaw being among the latest incidents. I don’t know if it was really happening back in 2010 but I’m pretty stunned.

Full story (from August 2016) here:

Anthrax outbreak triggered by climate change kills boy – The Guardian

 

How I Made It To the IAS

Disclaimer : This is a grossly misleading account of how I, a non-existent guy, made it to a non-existent service. Kindly do not take it to heart or mind or soul. More importantly, do not hunt me down.

This article is a standalone piece on my path to IAS aka Indian Acronyms Service, a new pseudo- All India Service created and tailored to suit the needs of the present government. If you came here looking for the Indian Administrative Service as I’m sure most of you did, I have to tell you this here is THE NEW bomb right now.

Did you really think the catchy acronymic names of government schemes with no-nonsense fullforms grew on trees (GoT)? It is a result of our Pact (Persistent And unprecedented Creative Talent) and Stuff (Sunny Times Under Football & Fun) and Shit (Shit Has no Ixpansion Though), and not putting together random words as many think it to be.

So here goes.

Getting into IAS is a 3 step process, a lot like the all India services, but not really.

STAGE 1 : The Preliminary Test

Although the competition isn’t as high as for the Civil Service test, I’m sure once this article is out, the number of job applicants will increase by tenfold if not more. The syllabus is pretty much the same which is everything under the sun. This is to ensure that even if somebody (more often than not) mistakes us to be an officer from the Administrative Service, which we usually tend to not rectify, we should be a convincing one at the least.

The exam itself is 50% LUCK, 50% Hardwork and 50% Qualifying Math which I’m naturally good at. I’d say another 25% part is played by political correctness.

For eg: What is SCAM?

(a) Save Country from Amit shah and Modi
(b) SP, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati
(c) Both (a) & (b)
(d) I support Jayalalithaa

Like I mentioned, this is not really an all India service to be apolitical.

I owe a lot of my success to Luck (Look Up online in Case of Konanders). For those that don’t know, it’s an app allowed in the exam hall, accessible only to those who voted Yes when MyGov asked “Do you support demonetisation?”

STAGE 2 : The Mains exam (written)

Pro-tip: Squeeze in at least one acronym in every sentence possible, the more it annoys the reader the better. Flaunt your creativity, even if you have none.

This is where they test your skills in balanced articulation, neutered criticism, etc (Exemplary Tailwagging to Central policies). Diplomacy here is key (Kickass Excellence in Your test). Okay I’ll stop that shit.

STAGE 3 : The Personal Interview

This has to be the toughest stage, what with the mental pressure et al (Every Two minutes At the Loo). Present in my interview board was who I will call MPD or Mere Pyare Deshvasiyon (not in the least cos naming him might get me in trouble)’s hologram.

I fainted out of sheer awe at the mere sight of it him.

“Would you like some nariyal juice?” a behind-the-scenes guy ran to me and asked.

“You mean nariyal PAANI, yes please,” I croaked. I knew the panel was impressed. Your degree of political correctness has to be breath-taking, even when your own breath has taken off.

“So tell us, since you fainted et al, why do you admire MPD?”

“Because he is a man with a big heart, sir.”

“Oh you have seen his MRI Scans?”

“Well what do you think the 56 inch chest houses then? Aloo gobi? It’s his BIG heart. I’m sorry to say (SOS), but you sound anti-national (ANAL).” The rest of the panel turned to him, fuming. I thought my job was done.

“Here’s my Adhar, and here’s my screensaver” – it was a cow Gomaatha, “I have a Jio Sim and I only use PayTM.” “Tch tch, sorry we misunderstood”.

“Well. Back to you. What do you think of India’s demographic dividend and our rising population?”

“Sir, when the Army officers and BSF jawans are working day and night at Siachen so that the country sleeps peacefully at night, I do believe people should just sleep peacefully at night, instead of contributing their share to the population. It is the least we could do”.

“Actually…,” the HR member cut in.

SHIT, I knew there had been a technical glitch. Wasn’t India’s population actually stabilizing? I’d fallen into their pit.

“… you do know that babies can be made during the daytime (DAD)?” Well thank god.

“Sir, perhaps if we could make a policy to empower moral policing groups in the context of PvtDA, as it already is legalized in case of PDA, that’s when India would really shine, and that is how India will become digital.”

I knew I was almost there. The cherry on top coming up.

“Or we could play the National Anthem in loudspeakers in every locality every few hours, that’ll terrify them out of their wits, and beds.”

At this, the 56-inch torso’ed hologram got up on his legs, and said, “YOU. YOU will join my Kitchen Cabinet on Monday.”

“But sir, I don’t have a degree in Political Science, I can hardly cook.”

“I’m sure we can do something about that,” said the HR guy. He was already on the phone  – “Yes it’s me again, we’ll need another couple of certificates.”


Like I said, the interview is a little unconventional, but if you get through, you’re a quasi-public servant/IAS officer. You also get a Jio subscription for lifetime complementary.

I soon got married to a rich businessman’s daughter on account of my job title *wink*. She almost kicked me out when she found  what the ‘A’ stood for. Her mother was about to hurl at me my beloved miniature figurine of UN-adjudged ‘The Most Charming PM in The World’ (kuch bhi) when I remembered and yelled, “The car! I still get the car! With the red beacon!”

“OH! Well why didn’t you say so in the first place, son? Come on in,” my mother-in-law beckoned.

Indian parents.

 

PS : This was written after I learnt what PRASAD stands for. I mean seriously.

Mind Your Own Pickle

Here I present before you the story of X, a typical South Indian middle class boy .(‘X’ so that I don’t have to keep repeating names like Ramesh, Suresh, Subramaniam, Gopalakrishnankutty etc but guess I missed the point already). So, X made and sold pickle all day and all night. Yes, it was the love of his life and he enjoyed every bit of it. How on earth does that fit into the ‘typical’ definition, you point out. Yes, yes, I’m coming to that, thou disrupted souls. Everything will be made right.

Once, X was at a funeral with his parents. Seeing this happy guy (the alive one, I mean), every one of his relatives who never had anything to do with him, didn’t have any idea what his name was, who naturally and understandably would be most enthusiastic about his career, felt compelled to offer free advice to his extremely irresponsible parents who let their son live jauntily with utmost disregard for his future (?).

A hitherto never before-seen relative uncle (who would henceforth never be seen again) approached his parents. “Pickle?!you mean ACHAAR?! How idiotic is that!”
“But maama, X loves making pickle. He’s super happy”.
“Happy?! Who wants to be happy making pickle?”
“Um. Me?” a disgruntled X muttered, confused.
“You should make him get a B.tech. What’s a boy without a B.tech these days?!”
“What? :o” his parents asked, curious.
“NOTHING!” he barked. “Are they providing food here? Miserly relatives these days, not many do, you know! No respect for the deceased or what? Let me go ask if there’s chicken”. He dashed to the dead man’s kitchen.

“Amma, I don’t have enough marks for B.Tech admissions. I’m a just pass, 41. You need a 50 for B.Tech”. X couldn’t believe this was happening.
“That rule’s coming into action only next year onwards. YOU LUCKY GUY!” the uncle beamed emerging from the kitchen, victorious, tearing off a fried chicken’s legs with his teeth.

Back at home, X begged the Gods (though I doubt they had anything to do with it) to know why on earth he couldn’t have been born a year later.
“Imagine our X having wasted his entire life with pickles! That man’s a lifesaver! Who is he, btw? He should be worshipped!”
“I’m on it!” X’s mom, who never missed a chance to worship anyone, opened her Facebook and found her homepage deluged with the previous day’s funeral pictures. And right there he was! Their saviour posing with the cadaver! She frantically clicked the Like button and had his photo printed, framed and hung next to the rest of her Gods in her Pooja room.

X on the other hand, packed his bags, and off he went to college. Sitting in class, he noticed how everyone looked similar to him. He soon realized it was cos they were all guys :D. Some were there to fulfil their parents’ -obviously- unfulfilled dreams, to some it was a stepping stone to a Ph.D at MIT, some pursuing the love of their lives (which to his horror X soon figured was a reference to Mechanical Engineering). He had to cram his brain, pockets, sleeves, shoes and any place undetectable to the staff with notes to get through exams.

Second year saw X entering the labs. As he rotated the wheel of the Francis turbine, he imagined processed apple pickle pouring out the delivery pipe. “This is the strainer at the foot of the pump”, the instructor explained. “There goes the essence of it. We’ll just have to use squashed apples then”, X replied, much to the bewilderment of his labmates.
He fantasized all day about constructing a machine that churned out pickle (If this were a hyperbolically written unrealistic satirical tale, trust me I would totally make him make one. Alas!)
Soon his hostel mates recognised the treasure that he was and with their support he resumed preparing pickle again.

Luckily for him, his pickles became popular in a jiffy. Infact, he was surprised at the rising demand for them from men’s hostels all around the city. “You should try it with Rasam, tastes awesome”, he suggested. “We have something better”, the pickle-buyer winked at an unsuspecting X.

Meanwhile the Student Health Club members protested against the exorbitant levels of sugar and salt used in the pickle. Grabbing the opportunity, the USA sued X for high rates of obesity there followed by surges in sales here, to the discontent of SHC (abbreviated club name but guess I’m missing the point again).

X’s pickles yielded unexpected results all about him. Around the college, attendance in classes went down as sales of soda and certain other commodities went up. As a discussion was opened in the Economics class as to the causes for this, someone suggested that law of variable proportions was at play when someone else shouted,”X’inte achaar thanne saar!” And as reality dawned on X, his world (he thought) came crashing down. Was he to be expelled? Would his parents disown him now? What if the uncle that had inceptioned the whole idea in his parents’ heads adopted him? He contemplated suicide.

However, here’s what really happened: the Dean being a fancier of pickles himself (no insinuations intended), asked X for samples. Thoroughly impressed by them, he let X open a counter at the college store, imposing restrictions on the supply nonetheless. Soon, curd rice and X’s pickle became a staple at the college canteen and his parents were informed of their son’s exploits.

Two years later, proud parents watched as X received the award for the best Final Year project design – a hydraulic machine that chopped, crushed and pickled anything you poured into it.(I told you that was coming).

After successfully completing his B.Tech, he came across a never before-seen aunty who, you bet, won’t ever be seen again either.
“Mone GPA ethra und? Namukk ini oru Mtech oke edukkande?” (“What’s your GPA son? Shouldn’t we take that M.Tech now?”)
“CHAKKAPAZHAM! (JACKFRUIT!)” he blurted out.
“Eh”
“..Vechoru achaar undakkunnundu! Auntykku veno?” (“I’m making a pickle out of it. Would you like some, Aunty?”) 😀

Moral of the story: You may like pickle. You may even love pickle. So make a career out of it, or not. But more importantly, stay the hell away from shit you don’t know shit about.