Sunday, September 25, 2005

It's a Dog's life

Thrice a year, when the maid who takes my pet dog Blackie down for walk, goes to her gaon on vacation , I have to take him for his daily walks.I take him to lane behind my housing society which has virtually no vehicular traffic and there is large playground adjacent to it.We are familiar with the stray dogs who have made it their home.Most of them are borne here.They are in three groups,and each group has it's own garbage dump. In the morning they are in group surrounding the ragpicker who picks up garbage from neighboring societies sorts the garbage,and keeps aside what she can sell,rest is again filled in plastic bins,from where its picked up by BMC garbage van.Pack of Dogs have that short period, to rummage through the garbage to look for and eat.Skirmishes and fights are common features,since Blackie is not one of the contender for food,they don't bother with him.rather two young dogs want to play with him,tail wagging but Blackie likes only one of them so to other one his response is is to ignore or start low growl which keeps him away.I would avoid feeding them when Blackie is around as controlling them is tough.
Everytime I look for the addition and passing away of old friends.Socksy who was hybrid between stray and may be Pom was intelligent leader of the pack, always ready to rush when intruder was spotted.He was on good terms with Blackie as both had grown up together.But in May, Soksy was weak and disinterested. He would not get up to greet and would look with pathetic eyes.His coat was dirty and there were patches where there was infection.He was being treated but it was a loosing battle.Today morning I did not find him in the pack.It's loss of a friend. Kalu is stray,strong and present leader of the pack.He has many scars to show for the battle fought and won in last 2 yrs.There is a bitch in the pack. she is pregnant at present.May be this would be her third litter.I hope this time few of the new born will survive.From her last littre none survived.But should they?
It's pathetic situation.Since High Court has passed the judgment directing BMC not to kill strays, BMC has lost interest in them.It seems its more profitable for BMC to catch and KILL strays than to catch and sterilize them.NGO who had filed the PIL doesn't have financial or managerial resources to carry out sterilization of strays.They are dependent on BMC to give land to keep sterilized dogs.BMC would hate to part with anything.So there is explosion of Canine population.There is great strain on space and availability of food.Since pack guards its territory fiercely, there are fights and many are seriously injured.Weak ones have to sneak in others territory for food.If they are spotted, they are attacked and injured.Last May a dog had sneaked into our area at night.He was spotted and attacked.He took shelter under the School Bus parked during vacation.Hungry and thirsty he dare not come out from his safe place.He was so fearful that he would not come near the edge.It took almost an hour to cajole him to come and eat Biscuit and milk.He had wounds on the back, near ear and another near leg.During night he managed to sneak away safely- hopefully.When I was a child, we had practice of keeping aside food for Dogs and cows was believed by Hindus that feeding Dogs and Cows will prevent fights among members of the joint family and bring prosperity.Today the practice is dead and with fridge in every house there are no leftovers to feed stray dogs.So canine population has exploded and food source has dwindled.This is slow,painful death by starvation and disease.
Is there a solution to this problem? I don't know.These days one hears constant complaints about stray dogs creating mayhem.Their incessant barking and fights at night are the constant cause of complaint.Last month a stray who was attacking passerbys was stoned to death in Andheri.Group of sickos brutally killed a bitch and tried to burn her.In future stray dogs will be more aggressive as available space for them will reduce.There is no communication and coordination among NGOs workig for strays.Availability of funds is a problem for any animal lover.But people have inherent love for dogs and are willing to help care for them.A milkmen gives milk for all the three packs while supplying milk in our area.An old lady lugs heavy bag filled with chiken legs to feed strays in almost 2 km.area.She refuses all help and does this as mission.Its time for all the Animal Lovers and NGOs to pool their resources and carryout directed help in more organised manner.This problem requires urgent solution.Any suggestions from our IIM trained bloggers? I urge them to apply their skills to find solution to this problem.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Commercialism Of Education

Commercialism of education is one problem that perpetually bothers Indian mind. Our first reaction is 'Its bad and shouldn't be allowed.' But what is comercialisation of Education?. Providing higher education to students who couldn't get admission through regular channel-CET score- by charging high fee is considered bad. The student may have just few marks less than 'cut off ' marks and in many cases more marks than many SC/ST/OBC candidates.Besides if he is paying in lacs to get the education than he is basically more interested in subject than the student who has joined just because he /she has good score or is admitted through reserved categories. Should we unfairly assume that he will be a bad student and after graduating his first aim will be to recover the money spent on education and not provide service to people.This is absurd because students who take admission through regular channel don't charge less to the patients or take less salary as Engineers or B school graduates.There is hue and cry if Private Medical colleges-who have to have attached Hospital providing Free Medical treatment- charge 1.5-2 lacs as fees and wants to increase it but if Prof. Murli Manohar Joshi wants to reduce fees charged by IIM's from 3-4 lacs to 1 lac then there is great protests from likes of Narayan Moorthi.Its ok if IIMs-and other B schools- charge huge fees but bad if Pvt. Medical colleges charge the same fees for MBBS course.
This has resulted in funny situation.There are no new private Medical colleges started in India.-Except Minority institutions.On the contrary established Pvt. Medical colleges are threatening to close down and state wants to take over.Whereas all the neighboring countries have decided to tap this market and now one can do MBBS from Nepal,Sri Lanka,Mauritius,Seychelles,Ukraine,Russia,Uzbekistan and now even China. So we wont let Indians open a Pvt. Medical College in India but allow Indian student to pay 5-6 lacs Fees in foreign exchange and take dubious Medical education in above countries.This is abs. Novel way of preventing commercialisation of education in India.we need fresh, new thinking about higher education.May be its time to admit Paying NRI/Indian students to even state run colleges to make them financially viable and in case of state run Medical colleges to upgrade and maintain hospitals and provide better hospital care to patients.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Chawls of Mumbai

Maharastra Govt. order to evacuate and demolish dilapidated buildings and have brought chawls in the limelight once again.Chawls are unique for Mumbai and are responsible for cosmopolitan ,liberal ,tolerant culture of Mumbai.Most of them were built between two World Wars by people who had made money in 1st world war and the rooms were rented out to people moving in with families to Mumbai from interiors of Maharastra and Gujarat.They formed the famous 'Middle Class'.If you make money you move to flats of Colaba,Marine Drive,Walkeshwar,Hindu and Parsi Colony.The architecture was what they had in village they came from without the Angan in front and Court yard in rear.Typical tenement was common Gallery,large 12-18' x 10' room, followed by smaller Kitchen with Bathroom(Mori) at the end with Tap for water.Common Toilets were norm.There was no provision for underground water tank and Water supplied by BMC did not reach overhead tanks due to lack of pressure,so storing water in big drums was necessity.Que for the toilet in the morning,dirty ,stinking, poorly lit,chocked toilet was common and was ordeal most people dreaded.Many overcame the stink by smoking Bidis in toilets and got addicted to smoking.The Chawls had Wooden Beams and columns,Burma Teak meant good construction,Floor consisted of wooden rafters at the base,Brick coba, and china chips in nice designs,Kota or Shahbad stone or plain cement on the top.No tiles.I lived in small dead-end lane in Thakurdwar area.We had 3-4 stories chawls with 10-40 tenements.Residents of first two chawls were predominantly Gujarati and Marwadi,rest were inhabited by Maharastrians.Few of the ground floor rooms were dorms for those who had come to Mumbai for work leaving their families in village.They worked as Mathadi workers and others from Konkan area worked as plumbers,painters,peons in small offices. We had Chambhar(Mochi),Bhandari,Khatri,Kasar,Sonar,Brahmins, Desais and Low caste Patels from South Gujarat.There was no caste discrimination.Everyone took part in Festivals.Kamble who had shoe shop, was in charge of Sarvajanic Ganesh festival for many years.I dont remember being asked not to play or not to mix with low caste people.We were aware of the caste but it had no place in our day to day life.This has given Mumbai its unique character.
Tenement were small so there was no space for residents.You use home to bath,eat food and sleep.Rest of the time you have to be out of the house.So groups were formed according to age and each group had its meeting place.During holidays and vacation half the day was spent in company of friends. With plenty of time on hands you indulge in games-cricket being favorite,but we played Kabbadi,lagori and Marbles.Carrom was very popular,and Table Tennis on small wooden bench.There was no TV, so Radio Ceylon with Binaca Geetmala was hot favorite.We had timeon hand, so could take part in Election campaigns.I remember election meetings of George Fernandes for Lok Sabha.He defeated S.K.Patil of Congress and virtually put an end to Patil's political career in Mumbai.For decades Fernandes was called 'George the Giant Killer'.In seventy Marathi youth was attracted to Shiv Sena with its 'Son of soil' ideology.There was constant conflict between socialists and Shiv Sena.Most of us couldn't pursue studies after SSC due to financial constrains.Even passing SSC was tough as at home there was no space to study.We used to go to GMC Gymkhana bldg. on Marine Drive to study.Terrace was another good place.Most got job as clerk in BMC or in Govt. offices.Gujrati boys completed their college education and took jobs in Banks or offices.With hard work and diligence they progressed but couldn't reach very high posts.Very few could break through the Middle class bracket.
Festivals were the most enjoyable period. First festival of the year was Kite flying on 14 Jan.we would gather on terraces and it was funfilled day.Holi was no-no as there was no water to take bath in the afternoon.Monsoon session would start with Govinda.We had Handi which could be broken with 3-4 Thars.It was usually local affair but Govinda from Umerkhadi was famous then as well.Ganpati festival had Pride of Place.we had Sarvajanik Festival and most Marathi homes has Ganpati. for 1-7 days.Majority had Gauri as well.It was 10 days of fun,music,orchestra, 3 act Drama etc culminating in the Grand Visarjan which would start at 9 pm and end with immersion at Chawpatty beach at 1 am or so.For a quote a few years we had Pauranic themes played out by Moving figures.Entire set up and its perfect working for 10 hrs or so daily would take up quite a lot of time and effort, but there would be long queue to see the show which would make it worthwhile.In subsequent years focus moved to huge idols of Ganesh and for us there was nothing to do as cultural programme degenerated to 16 mm movie shows and an evening of orchestra.Most difficult part was Visarjan -to move and immerse 12'+ idol required great effort and to take it for immersion in deep sea, in darkness with full tide was scary as well.Navratri was celebrated by Gujarati residents with Garba and Dandia.We had Dholi and shehnai and dandia ras was more like "Dholi Maro... in DDCS than what we see these days at Falguni Pathak's show.Diwali was less noisy-most couldn't afford bursting crackers-and emphasis was on making Kandils, usually similar Kandils for entire chawl which gave beautiful look to entire lane. Very beautiful Rangoli was other special feature of Diwali-in fact we had Rangoli competition for few years.Entire night was spent in creating Rangoli,some with nationalist or Shivaji themes,other with intricate designs and few with nature as theme.Christmas and New year were not celebrated as we didn't have Christian families.
But most of all, it was feeling of being part of one BIG family.There was more togetherness, cooperation and help.If male member had to go out of Mumbai or a family member was admitted in hospital, one need not worry on home front.Neighbours would take care of children,and food was never a problem.Someone is available to attend hospital or be with you just to give company and courage.Somehow money needed for treatment was arranged.Almost everyone was invited to attend marriage.And attending funeral was almost mandatory.Everyone in your chawl knew almost everything about you, your extended family and sometimes about your guests as well.Many felt this lack of privacy stifling,but there was nothing one could do.Those bonds of friendship,togetherness are still there.Weakened,frayed but important part of my upbringing.It has helped me to be more understanding of other's problems,made me more tolerant of other's idiosyncrasies,liberal in outlook and to be practical and pragmatic in life.