Life in the New IndiaBy Sulekha Rawat • Sep 8th, 2012 • Category: 24/7 Talk is Cheap - The Blog
India, Ever Changing, Ever New
Whenever I listen to Jagjit Singh’s ghazal, “Woh kaagaz ki kashti woh baarish ka pani”, I am transported back to those carefree, happy childhood days. Life was good, though we didn’t have all the modern appliances and gadgets like the children nowadays do. No cell phones or I-pods, laptops, nothing, but we used to have fun playing with a rubber ball and a simple but sturdy wooden bat, not a branded one but a local make.
I was born in Bombay and lived there for the first 30-odd years of my life; those were wonderful times, I got married to a naval officer in Bombay, had both my kids in this wonderful city and moved to Goa when he got transferred there. I left a part of my heart in Bombay and kept going back to look for it but it had merged with the city’s skyline and become an intangible part of it. I am settled in Delhi now but I still miss my hometown. My monthly trips to Mumbai to meet my family and my city keep me sane.
India – Then & Now
I remember my mother’s cooking and how the entire house used to smell like a culinary heaven then. She used to wash our clothes by hand because we didn’t have a washing machine; the only help she had was a cleaning lady who used to sweep and mop the floors daily. Rest of the chores were her responsibility which she performed lovingly and without complaint.
Fast forward to me now, I can’t think of managing the house like my mom and need a lot of help from a lot of people to survive. I have a lot of like-minded friends who are as hopelessly inefficient as I am. But the domestic help has also evolved with us, and are no longer the docile, simple kind. Their lifestyles have undergone a transformation too and sometimes they are even more advanced than their employers.
Land of the Tiger, the Peacock, and the Cell Phone
In fact, I remember an incident which happened about twelve years ago when we were living in Mumbai. In India we have people coming home to collect old newspapers and empty beer bottles for recycling, and one day a man rang my doorbell and inquired if I had any old newspapers to sell but since I was late for an appointment, I asked him to come back again in a day or two and check. His reply was, “Why don’t you take my cell phone number and ring me up at your convenience and I will come to pick up the papers.” I was a bit embarrassed because I didn’t have a cell phone or even a land-line whereas he had a mobile phone!
India: Ray Bans & Designer Labels
My friend Sama, who lives in Gurgaon, had narrated an interesting tale about her driver. She had employed him for picking up and dropping her kids to school in Delhi from Gurgaon. Every morning the driver would come to work in his Honda Accord car and park it in their garage and drive the children to school in their modest Matiz car.
The driver had picked up the job to keep himself occupied, since he had enough family property to live a lavish life – driving was his hobby, sort of. Once Sama had taken her kids shopping in the mall and had bought a couple of things for the house, also a pair of jeans for her son. Imagine her surprise when she had found about six designer label shopping bags in the dickey and her driver wearing a brand new pair of Ray bans! He had decided to while away his time by doing some shopping of his own. She and the kids had a hearty laugh and so did I when I heard this story.
In India, Paris Blues
My cooking lady keeps her phone on the kitchen counter, right next to her and picks it up on the second ring. While she talks on the phone, I try and salvage the chapatti and take it off the stove before it burns to a crisp. My cook is no ordinary cook, as she herself had informed me on her first visit. She had lived in New York for two years and has a valid passport – this bit of knowledge made her feel special and above the other local cooks.
One day while washing a coffee mug, she inquired, “Madam, have you been to Paris?” When I asked her why she wanted to know, she replied, “I recognized the Eiffel Tower’s picture on the mug. I too have been to Paris, on the way to New York. We had halted at Paris and gone sightseeing. I thought it was wonderful that we both have been to Paris!”
I hung my head in shame and scurried out of the kitchen and went straight for my husband’s jugular, “Even my cook has been to Paris and New York! When are you taking me there so that I can look her in the eye and tell her that I too have seen Eiffel Tower?”
My husband’s laughter is still ringing in my ears and I avoid chitchatting with my cook in case she brings up the name of yet another country that I haven’t yet visited!
Sulekha Rawat, along with Kriti Mukherjee, brings east and west insights into Chatty Divas, their blog on ‘Lassi with Lavina’
Check out Sulekha and Kriti’s site: www.socialpotpourri.com