Saturday, 27 December 2008

slumdog millionare

I watched Slumdog Millionare yesterday. It was a very real film even though it had its practical I still dont know how his brother knew who created the revolver or how the blind child knew about Benjamin Franklin but I guess it succeeded by being an inspiring and interesting way of telling a story.

The movie told me the story behind the face I encountered so often, while driving through the streets of Delhi, of a child begging or selling something at red light junctions or picking their way through garbage dumps. I know a lot of us have felt saddened yet helpess when faced with such situations.

I was reminded of the time when I was waiting in the car for somebody, in Mumbai. A little child came along with a little monkey who he had been trying to train. The poor monkey cub could hardly perform any tricks apart from jumping at his little master's cue. I felt sorry for the twosome and gave the boy (he must have been 5 or 6 years old) some change. That was a mistake.

The driver in the car reprimanded me (I must have been 19) and asked me to sit tight and roll up my windows, as we faced an onslaught of an army of street children each with a little monkey on his arm, all plastering their noses to my window asking for money. I felt terrible, to say the least.

Another time, at a traffic light, a lady asked for money to pay for transport for her pregnant and now labouring friend under the tree. My mother, a righteous obstetrician and my dad a supportive citizen decided to go and see the woman and perhaps take her to Safdarjung Hospital where my mom worked. When they got out of the car, they realized there was no pregnant woman.

I am glad there wasnt another gang at hand to steal the tyres from the car. We continued to see such groups over time on the same junction, they would soon move on to another car when they realized who we were but I presume they continued to make money from their deceit.

Talking about the movie, I think the movie threw bad light on what was an excellent television program and very polite and positive hosts namely Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. I think that must be the reason nobody agreed to make the movie in India.

There was a lot of reality in the movie...the slum, Hindu Muslim riots, gang wars, child prostitution, organized beggars etc, yet it was an inspring story of survival and also flirted briefly with the upcoming other India- the call centres.

The movie dwelled on the foreigner's perception of India and thus, did not relate to the middle class modern Indian's life or aspirations. I dont think it will be appreciated in India as much as it has been abroad. Lets see how the Slum dog crorepati does.

I know of many other movies who deserve awards- Traffic signal (it was an excellent movie by Madhur Bandarkar on similar issues) Lagaan, Tare Zameen Par, Rang de basanti, Lage raho munnabhai, Corporate, Page 3 etc etc. but then I am Indian.

I can smell the garbage heap when I see it in the movie, can feel the street child's grubby fingers tugging at me or knocking at my car window and movies such as Slumdog Millionare disturb more and entertain less, though I must admit I was moved to tears by the time Jamal had reached the crore question.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Babies and personality

Early morning, the other day I was called out to the pregnant ladies' ward ...

The ward was dark and full of heavily pregnant women, wishing they could have their babies before Christmas. They were sitting up in their beds, segregated in their cubicles with curtains drawn all around them. Some had their bedlights on, but breaking the complete silence was the resounding repetitive sound of baby heart sounds from baby heart monitors attached to women's tums.

The little people, still safely kicking in their mothers' wombs, seemed to be competing with each other and the overlapping loud and rhythmic heart sounds made for a good rock beat, a very reassuring sound which ironically added to the peaceful harmony in the ward.

Trouble only ensues, when the beat slows down to that of an adult heart rate...thats when the the woman is asked to turn on her side, emergency buzzers are pulled and all hell breaks lose.

Another reassuring sound is that of a newborn crying. I am sure young parents come close to tearing their hair, when trying to figure out why the baby is crying. But my heart remains in a contracted state unable to breathe, after I have carried out an operative delivery, until I hear either a vigorous "what the hell do you think you are doing?" cry or even a reluctant, "Do I have to breathe?" kind of a cry.

That is probably one of the reasons, why I dont find water births physiological. God created babies to come into this world, fill their lungs and let out a wail...not be born under water like fishes or whales to swim alongside their mums...

After I have used a suction cup on the baby's head and I must admit, quite uncermoniously, pulled the poor thing out, I am usually busy trying to stitch things up at the bottom end, while the dad and mum hug each other, amidst tears of joy and relief.

Then, either the loyalist dad refuses to leave the mum's side until urged by the mum herself, to find out how the baby is doing, or in the more likely event, the dad is ready with his camera and follows the baby out to the baby's first consultation with the baby doctor.

But usually, when the baby comes back to the delivery room, he or she has a complaining wail, which is intermittent and to my guilty mind, it sounds like the baby is saying to the parents -" Yes, my head hurts, its that doctor in the green suit, she is awful, wonder what she had for lunch today, she really hurt me, what on earth are you thanking her for?...I am sure we would have been fine without her..." and so on.

I will never know what the baby is saying to the parents but I do wonder...I usually do personally say sorry to His/Her Highness...and am greeted by a "Go away!" cry or worse "who are you?" look. Newborns have personality, I tell you!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I am not an economist, but as a law abiding, tax paying, money saving citizen of the world, I am bewildered by the rapid demise of financial institutions and am tempted to ask, like the Queen of England did-"Why didn't the experts see it coming?"

The explanation, I suspect, lies in the modern corporate culture, which promotes people who survive by making projections, armed with graphs and figures which are based on half truths. Whistle blowers are a no no and everybody believed till a few days ago, that a debt fairy will come and pay it all off with a wave of a wand.

In recent times the people who have reported bad news e.g. "The pound is going to go down further" or "There is huge credit crunch lurking around the corner" have been accused of having caused such things to happen by predicting them, which is ridiculous.

One also hears the most implausible explanations from bigwigs like George Bush who said a few months ago, that the people of India and China have started eating and driving, and thus are to blame for the rise in oil and commodity prices.

Ofcourse since then, the price of crude oil took a free jump from the cliff and the jetsetting automakers were forced to drive the cars they can't sell and beg for a bailout, a familiar word nowadays. Airlines went bust, house prices plummetted and jobs are being lost everyday. As the discounts and closing downs are failing to make people spend foolishly, the world is deflating like a Hot air balloon going down. Wonder what happened to the Indians and Chinese, they perhaps went back to bicycles and eating one meal a day within a space of four months.

The weather and the economy are not the only bad news here in England nowadays, the horrendous stories of child abuse, a toddler being battered over months, before dying from his wounds and a mother drugging and kidnapping her own daughter for prize money, have made the world sick.

I heard a talk show on child labour on one of the Indian TV channels and one of the suggestions to prevent child labour was introduction of child benefits. If ever the Indian Government thinks in that direction they should study how this "something for nothing culture" has ruined the British society.

People have children not because they cherish them, but to earn child benefits. People are known to be given bigger houses if they have bigger families and even 1000 pound grants to sort out outdoor play equipment. Now when the Government is trying to crack down on people who don't want to go back to work, women dont shy away from saying on National Televesion that they would be worse off, if they went back to work. I know of staff at the hospital who enjoyed working but due to a change in circumstances like death of a spouse, were advised to leave their job to save their house and make ends meet. This leaves the workforce disillusioned and disgruntled as they are penalized for working while people on benefits go on holidays.

When there were jobs, immigrants from Eastern Europe came and took them and now when the Government, whose coffers are empty as the pound plummets below the Euro, wants people on benefits to go back to work, the Govt has the added responsibilty of trying to create jobs.

We live with our bags packed, but as a British doctor wrote in a letter to the editor of Hospital Doctor many months ago-"I am supposed to be sympathetic towards International Medical Graduates who have to return "home" because they cant find a job, but what about me? Unfortunately, I dont have another home to go to..."

Sunday, 7 December 2008

When you spend a winter or two in England, you begin to rationalize the quick peeling off of clothes and abundant show of bare chests and long legs by white men and women, as soon as they experience warm sunshine on their skin.

We too have started treating the sun with deference, which is a big change from when we were in Raipur, a town close to the Tropic of Cancer or when we were in the Middle East. The sun was taken for granted out there, because it hardly ever was guilty of any absenteeism, whereas here in this island in the Atlantic we hope, we pray and watch the weather forecasts for upcoming visits by the Sun God.

Today I woke up to freezing temperatures, which no longer deters me from walking to the gym, a much needed outing to curb my ever expanding girth. As if to prove the weather warnings right, the road was slippery and covered in thin ice. All the puddles were frozen, each of the grass blades was discretely covered in thin white fur of ice. The ground was sparkling uniformly as the ice crystals caught the early morning light, the cars were glistening as were most objects standing exposed, all covered by the solid form of the wonderful compound which is the USP of our planet.

Later in the day, people stepped on the puddles making them look like they contained broken ice, but they still showed no signs of melting. The trees were bare, the air was freezing and still. There were no signs of life in the cold outdoors except for wrapped up humans scurrying back and forth from cars and doors. This is in such stark contrast to the sweltering heat of the Indian outdoors in the monsoon season, which is shared by insects, lizards, snails, tadpoles and frogs apart from birds, cats, dogs, pigs, donkeys and cows, which share our space in all seasons.

I attended my son's school concert and watched lovingly as he sang songs of Christmas in a chorus with the other children, who somehow, seemed to blur in the background, for me.

One of the songs was "I am dreaming of a white Christmas" I know that the kids are, especially after they enjoyed creating numerous snow people, in what looked like a winter wonderland, a few weeks ago. I am not so sure about myself, but...I guess it will make decorating our very first Christmas tree, more fun.

Kids have ensured we think about celebrating Christmas, (when in England, do as the English do) and worry about the gifts, which have to go underneath the tree.
Hubby and I have less scope for arguments nowadays as kids tend to rule the roost. How about you all? Are you allowed to have options like...not buying gifts? I dont think so.

So long, take care and be safe!