Saturday, 14 August 2010

Money, money, money! its a rich man's world!

One of the most iconic scenes and dialogues from the Hindi cinema is from the film Deewar. Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor are brothers, who have parted ways, and are now meeting after a long time, under the bridge, where they had spent time together, when they were children. Amitabh Bachchan says in his characteristic flamboyant style- " I have a house, a car...what have you achieved in life, with your lofty ideals?"

Having been on the recieving end of numerous visa refusals for my mother, I can empathize with the crushed look on Amitabh Bachchan's face when Shashi Kapoor retorts with a lot of pride-"Our mother chooses to live with me."

This dialogue- "Mere paas ma hai" was referred to by A.R Rahman in his Oscar acceptance speech too. It has that universal appeal, which has made it a memorable moment in Hindi cinema's history.

It reiterates, in four words, the futility of worldly possessions and reinstates the value of human bonds and relationships. Movies which do that, usually go on to become great hits and the protagonists end up being worshipped as heroes. Yet the world reels under the ills of consumerism and corruption and continues to witness many warring brothers and wronged elders.

I have moved into this big beautiful house on an isolated lane by the beach, but am already missing the hustle bustle of hospital accomodation. I used to see a lot of familiar faces on the way home from work, including screaming kids and chasing mums, colleagues and visiting parents or grand parents. All that is a far cry from an empty driveway and a house where you have to walk half way around to make sure the kids hear your call for dinner and where neighbours either have tall hedges or are retired or just too faraway.

There is always a trade off! A friend's famous words.

My daughter had said in class, when she was ten, that -"If you can grow your food, have safe water to drink and have access to education, you dont need money." Her teacher wrote what she had said on the board, as a quote, with a date and her name. I wish I had done that somewhere, to be able to refer back to it, when plagued by her demands for clothes, holidays and restaurant meals and also to be able to keep things in perspective when she grows up to face the familiar dilemmas of modern living- Career or family?

The balancing act is a tough one and as the number of people who are well off in India, swells, so does the divorce rate. The more successful the gen next is, the less interested they are in mundane things like marriage and children.

I attended an Indian marriage in England, complete with the Punditji giving a running commentary in English into a mike, while he carried out the rituals in the mandap. The wedding was so keenly attended and enjoyed by the bride's and the groom's friends from the Western world, that it made me think whether the youngsters in India would at all be interested in the principles of acceptance of imperfection and committment for life, that Punditji kept reiterating. The slogan in the cities in India is- "Its my life"

When I was in India, I had the pleasure of hosting a visit from a cousin brother who lives in the village. We met after many years. He was technically the country cousin and I was the town mouse. I wanted to do my best to make him feel welcome in my house but found it hard- believe me.

He has a poultry farm so usually cooks 5 kilos chicken every week for the big joint family, which includes visiting nephews with ravenous appetites. The food they cook is freshly plucked farm vagetables, fresh dairy products (they have a cow at home) and since there is no power supply and thus no refrigerator, everything is cooked and consumed fresh. Few kilos of mangoes and bananas from the orchards makes up for the dessert. The food I served seemed rationed, processed, dull and stale in comparison.

Perhaps as a result of this excellent diet or because of the long walks he has to take, to supervise the farm, he looks forty when he is actually 50. One of the things he enjoyed, was watching television, but complained about the temperature of the water in the overhead tank (water from the well in the village is cool). When I wanted to buy a sari for his wife (my bhabhi), he said in his true village patriarchal manner- "If you buy for her, you will have to buy for my brothers' wives as well!"

It was good to experience his simplicity and goodness but it left me wondering- whether it is worth the while for us town mice to run the rat race for bigger cars and better houses, only to find that we need to go on fancy diets or need to pump iron in the gym for physical fitness, need cosmetic intervention to look young and need courses in meditation, parenting, marriage counseling and need to read self help books to keep us sane and able to cope with the "stress".

For the present though, we are already on the treadmill, trying to slow down....Enjoy each moment!