Vidya Josephs Blog

Archive for ನವೆಂಬರ್ 2008

This is for real and this is here to stay!! Make no mistake folks, the world around us seems to like being dumb. A couple of years ago, when newsies hyped the dumbing down of the Indian middle class, most of us hoped that being dumb for long wouldn’t sit pretty on the educated buourgeosie and that they would bounce back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, this has not happened.

Today, the scene is far, very much far, worse. Last weekend, the Dharwad district administration and the government had organised a three day long district extravaganza – the Dharwad Utsav. The Utsav had everything – from serious discussions on Kannada language, literature, culture and politics to classical music and dance concerts, folk dances, the inevitable Hasyotsava and orchestras – you name it, they had it.

I attended the Utsav, mainly because the organisers had invited my husband for a talk. The other speakers included among others, my favourite K V Narayan.

You can certainly guess the number of people who turned up to listen to the seminar. My husband joked that he had arranged for his ‘audience’ (meaning me and the rest of the family). Though the talks were serious, thought provoking and certainly relevant, nobody seemed too keen.

Just an hour later, we visited the KarnatakCollege campus and lo! the whole place was flooded with thousands and thousands of people. The reason – a Hasyotsava followed by an orchestra.

Now how do we explain this? The middle class’s tale of woes has increased rather than decreased over the past decade. The much touted IT boom has helped just a minute section of this class. Then where are those voices of dissent? Where have all the protests gone?

Maybe the single sheet newsies in mofussil towns do have it right. Maybe people have realised that seminars are just that – discussions which lead to nothing. The scenario will remain just as bleak as it was earlier and maybe now, with governments becoming far more authoritarian, they realise that dissent will also mean the convenient tag – Terrorist/Anti-social/Naxal…

I finallly managed to take the kids out to Wonder La. They were so adamant that we should go, whatever the day, whatever the weather, that we consented and took them on a cold October day. It didnt seem cold when we started out, the sun was shining brightly and i used a liberal amount of sun screen on the two brats to prevent sun burn.

Wonder la, true to its name is wonderful. Very clean, neatly maintained with good hygenic food available at reasonable costs, it was a pleasure to be there. The only problem was that we had chosen a cold winter day to play in the water.

The minute I stepped into the play pool, the cold hit me and set me trembling. I tried to brave it out, but then a bucket full of water pelted on me, drenching me from head to toe and i, in turn, pelted out of the pool, as fast as  my feet could carry me. My brave two had no such qualms. Despite the biting cold, they (believe me!!!) enjoyed it. Dont ask me how, because I have no idea how kids brains work!

Srishti refused to come out of the wave pool and tried her small swimming lessons on all of us. Siri was a hit on the dance floor, gyrating to the pulsing music and dancing till she dropped. It was a day the kids will remember for more reasons than one, because I refused to go into the dungeon, frightened of its supposed scariness. The kids did that as well and then pulled me along where we had a long long laugh at the plastic skeletons which try desperately to scare us..

Shimoga, the one which most of you out there may be familiar with, is lost. Gone forever actually. For most of us, Shimoga immediately brings to mind the Holae (The Tunga River), Meenakshi Bhavan, Krishna Cafe, Shivappa Nayaka Market among other such landmarks like the Sahyadri College and Gopi Circle. The Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is a major land mark now, is a recent addition. But anybody coming to Shimoga city today, will be shocked out of his senses when he drives through the ancient B-H road. For, nothing exists there anymore. Meenakshi Bhavan is almost fully demolished, all the shop fronts have been brought down and the S-N market is a pile of rubble. The new government, whose chief is from Shimoga, believes that Shimoga should be (sic) upgraded! Which naturally means wider roads, more cars, more malls and god knows what else. The result, folks, is that we no longer have the Shimoga we loved and hated, cursed and blessed, which nevertheless was HOME. The government, read the chief minister, wants this ancient, rambling, historic city to be replaced by a so-called sprawling modern metropolis (maybe like Bangalore???) and the hundreds of ancient banyans and tamarinds and neems and honges which lined the shimoga-bhadravathi road were the first casualities. The Nidige lake, which was already fast disappearing because of silt deposits and lack of maintenance was the next. People of Shimoga, especially the merchant classes who had their shop fronts on B-H road were weaving dreams of larger tourist traffic and more business for them when the axe fell on them as well. The road extension of B H Road was taken up, ironically, on Ayudha Pooja and Vijayadashami festivals. The long five day holiday week turned into a nightmare to hundreds of merchant families which lined the B H Road. Even while we were trying to recover from the crassness of the entire operation, we stole a look at the devastated road and realised that Shimogas heartland had been mauled and broken beyond all repair.

I  do not know why this should affect me so much. I have never professed to love this gossipy, nosy old town all that much. But somehow this kind of modernism drives have very sinister overtones. I cannot but recall Hitler who was a hot favourite in Germany in the 20s and the 30s because of his so called dedication to development. Maybe the millions of ordinary Germans never even dreamed that their support to  this one man could result in the deaths of more than a million innocent people. Neither can I forget another mega development guru of our own times, Narendra Modi. A government which can use a festival like Ayudha Pooja to bring down the livelihood of hundreds, a government which is run by a party which professes the Hindutva ideology and swears by Hindu culture, can itself be an instrument which has destroyed a very ancient thriving native culture is, as I said, sinister.



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