Looking for the old amid the new…



Many, many moons ago, I had been to Hubli in Karnataka on a school exchange programme. I did not remember much from those times but the little that I did were memories of a small, quaint, old- fashioned traditional South Indian provincial town.

I returned years later – in 2004 to be precise – to cover Uma Bharti’s arrest for inflammatory statements during her attempt in the Nineties to hoist the national tricolour at the disputed Idgah Maidan in Hubli. It was still a small town but nothing matched my memories from my school days. The town had leap-frogged into the 21st century and, after work, when I and my colleague went on a tour to explore the city, I found much of the old flavour missing.

Glass-fronted buildings similar to the ones in Bombay and Delhi had come up all over town and there was nothing distinctive from Hubli that we could take back to friends and family `back home’ – much of what was available in Hubli could be had in Bombay and both of us were greatly disappointed.

But when we mentioned this to a friend of my colleague who had married and settled in that small town, her family jumped on us in outrage. “You want us to remain backward? You don’t want us to progress and catch up with Bombay or Delhi? You think malls and plush, posh shopping centres are the exclusive privilege of metro cities?”

That is not what we meant at all but we did not know how to explain that we were merely regretting the loss of tradition, the loss of stores like Iyengar’s and Paneerdas to malls and multiplexes… though not for a moment did we wish to deny the pleasures of modernity and globalisation to non-metro cities or their residents.

This week I returned to Jaipur after more than a decade and I had the same feeling – of modernisation swallowing up the distinctive flavour of tradition. There was less of pink to distinguish this city and more of glass fronts a la Bombay or Delhi to make it as like as any other city in the world. But I was glad to discover that traditions in some cities take some killing and parts of Jaipur have retained the same flavour and that is where I took my sister to soak up Rajasthani culture and traditions.

I am writing this tonight just after returning to Bombay and as I sat at the Jaipur airport waiting for my flight to be called, I couldn’t but help recall when I was there the last time. It was during the weeks after the demolition of the Babri Masjid; I had actually come to attend a women’s conference but with many parts of the city torn by riots, I found myself in the thick of that turmoil. My Bureau Chief at the wire service where I worked at the time asked me to get out of the city as fast as I could and I found myself at the small, one-airline, two-flights-a-day airport with a wait-listed ticket and nowhere to go after I failed to get on to the last flight hopping from Delhi via Jaipur and Ahmedabad to Bombay.

The flight should have taken off but then they could not find the pilot. He found me before they found him — standing alone at the closed counter, forlorn and frightened about the city burning behind me with nowhere to go and no friend I could call for help.

“You are travelling alone?” he asked. “You are not accompanied?”

“No!” I said in desperation.

“But this is the last flight out of Jaipur…” he began. I cut in with a desperate, “Can I stay over at the airport tonight? I will try and take the morning flight or try the railways tomorrow. But I simply can’t go out into the night, into the burning city and look for a place to stay at this hour!”

“You just wait here. I will see what I can do. No promise. But I will try,” said my saviour just as a senior airlines officer descended upon him screaming, “My flight is already delayed! How much further do you plan to loll around before taking off!”

“I am not taking off,” said the pilot, coolly. Then looking into his officer’s shocked face, he added, pointing in my direction, “until and unless you find her a seat on my plane.”

“Impossible!” said the officer. “The Jaipur quota is full.”

“Then offload some one or accommodate her in the Ahmedabad quota. A lady alone and a lady in distress has to be helped out. That’s all I know. I am not flying that plane unless you put her on it!”

They argued back and forth for 20 minutes until the officer gave in. They resolved the dispute by giving me a seat from the Ahmedabad quota but not before the outmanoeuvred officer told me maliciously, “I wonder how much he will be able to help you when they discover in Ahmedabad that you have eaten up their quota.”

The officer had to personally reopen the counter which had been shut down for the night – my two pieces of baggage were loaded without even being checked and I was waved through the security check without, well, any checks.

I landed quite safely back in Bombay past midnight but never forgot either that pilot or the Jaipur airport. Today it is one of the best airports I have passed through in my recent travels, but it is very anti-septic with no room for a lone woman in desperate straits to be rescued by a knight-in-shining-armour kind of pilot. For one, she would not be noticed in the crowds; for another she need not be desperate any more — even as I was waiting to board my flight there were two other flights that took off before mine for Bombay and another followed mine.

But beautiful as Jaipur and its airport is today, it is still a huge part of my regret for the loss of everything old and good, that has been replaced by the good and the new!

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  • http://incorrectpolitically.wordpress.com Akhilesh

    Reading your post, I am reminded of the attitude that India faces from Western tourists. When European tourists ( and to a lesser extent Americans ) come to India, one of their primary motivations is to experience the oriental culture and the exotic charms of India – something that they have read in history or heard from their grandpaents. They still want to see Elephants romping down the streets as mode of transport or snake charmers – charming away lazy natives.

    That is why you see many Hollywood movies still capturing India in these symbolisms. Remember the criticism that Slumdog Millionaire faced – that it showcased Mumbai as a city of dirt and filth and not as the city of thriving commerce that it is.

    We all take umbrage when the westeners do this to us. So, can you really blame your Hubli friend for flaring up, when you did the same to her? Indeed, when people like us, who live in metros, go visiting interior India and look for “old and good” – we exhibit the same attitude that an European shows when he comes visiting India. What the Europeans do at the macro country level, we do it at the micro town level.

    Should we not really change first, before asking outsiders to change and look at India anew ?

    [Reply]

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Yes, you are very right, Akhilesh. I know how that feels — to be asked about elephants and tigers and snake charmers and rope tricks. That is why I shut up when my friends in Hubli were outraged. But there is no denying the romance of the old and the traditional, though I myself could not do without the new and the modern. It is an unresolvable dilemma but my attitude is certainly not that of the foreigners — they look upon us as backward, I am merely looking for a piece of the past.

    [Reply]

  • Chinz

    really liked reading this post :)

    [Reply]

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Chinz

    [Reply]

  • Jasmeet Singh

    Well written article

    [Reply]

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Jasmeet

    [Reply]

  • http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sizegenetics/blog/3197 sizegenetics review

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    [Reply]

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_URSXATBEMZ7HUAB3OH36PLYWDM Ashok

    The troubling thought that came to mind when Adarsh broke was, What if these very senior chaps are not an aberration ?

    [Reply]

  • Deeparo

    Why is media so enthusiastic about CBI registering a case against Gen Thamburaj? For the info of my fiends this case was again unearthed by the army itself and held an internal inquiry and found few persons guilty allegedly conspiring with a builder Kalpataru over a select piece of Pune Cantonment defence land. One of the companies of the same builder is also under the CBI scanner for illegally obtaining prime defence land in Kandivili in Mumbai with the support of former minister of defence production Rao Inderjit Singh and former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor. The CBI has already registered a preliminary inquiry into the Kandivili land deal last month and moving towards registering a proper case.
    While it is impossible to isolate or insulate military personnel from increasingly money oriented Indian society, it is important that military ethos is maintained or professionalism will be hit hard in the services.And therefore, because of the strong ethos of this org and zero tolerance on corrupt activities it cleanse it’s org before being pointed by others. Media houses should restrict and report facts rather than sensationalizing it.

    [Reply]

  • Anonymous

    Two things that clearly emerge are that there is a lobby that would like to see vk singh retire earliest and second that MOD is also part of this lobby. As the article brings out this lobby is of corrupt like kapoor and others who are working with arms dealers and land mafias. Some of people in MOD are also on their payroll and hence the problem. The rot needs to be stemmed and efforts made by General Singh have been laudatory on this front. We must get after all the corrupt to cleanse the army and expose bad hats in MOD. All details available on age issue are clearly indicating deep malaise in MOD and machinations by two chiefs as also PMO. We should all pray that the supreme court gives a kick to all corrupt in army, MOD and PMO.

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  • Escapebeat

    The current price of petrol includes hefty government taxes over and above the justifiable price. I live overseas (not an oil producing country) and the price is cheaper here only because the government does not charge as much tax on the essential commodity as the Indian government do. And we all know where those taxes go…..

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  • Abhi

    I think there are more fundamental questions to it. Why this steep increase when crude oil prices are dropping? Also, there is a huge dearth of transparency on how the prices are calculated. Pricing these commodities at their price in an overseas market does not make sense to me. We need to fix this first.

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  • At Cheruti

    This article is empty of meaning because it’s starting premise is wrong.

    There is no such thing as an ”
    unspoken compact with the government” which was not spoken out or written or voted upon by the people of this country.

    [Reply]

  • Mitra

    Good article! Thanks for being honest – so few even try to be honest about this. They care about spending a few rupees more, not the country.

    [Reply]

  • Bharat

    Another paid article? The protests are not justified? In the name of “flourishing business” or rather selling national resources to business houses in Bharat and abroad is to be justified at the expense of common man’s pocket and there should be no protest? What liberalization of farm sector? Can you do anything in the name just by covering things in fancy words like “liberalization”? Bringing in foreign companies like Wall Mart suppresses the local small retailers too. 30% tax on petrol! WHY?? Why so many taxes everywhere? Why so much suppression? Is this the reform all about? So Indians traveling abroad are not looted for bringing back jeans and camey soap?! Is that what you are justifying the huge unfair increase in petrol prices? Is that what you want to use in justification of 16 times increase in petrol prices along with gas and diesel? Ever thought of the tons of grain rotting in Govt. godowns? Ever thought of the poor farmers who grow these grains committing suicide in this country out of poverty while the big corporates buying them out throw lavish parties? Ever thought of the people sleeping on the street? Ever thought of the crappy pot filled roads? Ever thought of Govt.’s failure to provide proper electricity, water – the every very basic amenities to the people? Wow! What a shame that someone wrote this piece of article. How long can we continue to wear rosy colored glasses on our eyes and not see the truth in our society, but run after fake image? Who gives a damn to the GDP when you can’t provide basic emenities to the people even after 63 years of rule? Who gives a damn if your great reforms brings the value of rupee from 1$=1Rupee in 1957 to 1$=56 rupees?! Who gives a damn if you cannot get out corruption from society or from the system? What about big leaders doing multi-billion scams spend a couple of months in jail and go free? While the law system takes decades to solve cases.
    The common man’s perspective and interests are side tracked, while the system caters to big businesses. It’s time we wake up and see the reality as well as face the truth. Face the truth and do something concrete to improve. Not just raise another price yet again ripping the poor off. Jai Hind.

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  • Junaid

    Petrol is taxed heavily to make up for the failure of government to collect direct taxes from the people. In this setup, the middle class (which is largely salaried) gets whammed twice by first paying taxes in form of salary TDS and then in form of petrol taxes. This policy of boosting the lagging IT returns through petrol taxes is what is wrong!

    [Reply]

  • Chinmoy Misra

    A hillariously misleading article. Look at what this moron is saying that patrol is used by the rich. Has he seen the rich driving a Alto or Santro in India. Only these cars and the 2 wheelers run on patrol now a days. When patrol is only 10% of the overall subsidy bill all the attention of the govt and its paid scribes are on it only. We as the middle class does not mind paying the due price for patrol, but at 70+ rupees per litre it is loot that the govt is indulged in. How can HT allow such callous writing or are they gone to such extend to support every govt. action that desparados like this writer are having a field day not. The writing defies logic and the publication does it more.

    [Reply]

    Kunal Reply:

    I think this is a hillariously-misleading article albeit for a different reason. Mr. Mitra is hell bent on implying “as petrol is not used by the poor, Govt is justified in raising price”. If I use this logic, Govt should sharply increase prices and/or taxes on houses, jeans/high-end clothing, furniture, audio/video equipment, restaurants, hotels………..Mr. Mitra is forgetting that high taxes are business / economy / job destroyers, i.e., if Govt raises taxes it would destroy whatever little gain middle-class scooter-owning “rich” people have made. Mr. Mitra, do some research on GNP per capita growth rate vs. tax rates and you would find an astonishing correlation. China / Korea / Hong Kong / Taiwan’s GNP per capita (absolute and growth rate) increased in 2-3 years when they reduced the tax rate. Hong Kong with a flat 18% tax rate has a higher GNP per capita than most of the European countries including UK!! Mr. Mitra’s argument notwithstanding, watch inflation go up hurting the very poor people, all of us are so passionate about.

    [Reply]

    Arjun Rodrigues Reply:

    Petrol use to be used mainly by the rich, Diesel mainly for trucks, the is why it was subsidized, petrol was taxed more. things change, now the middle class use cars, more are on the roads, the govt should give a tax rebate on hybrid cars, which use less fuel

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  • Ajay Kaul

    I believe if the govt. clean up the corruption, they can manage the economy better. The Petrol price hike does have ripple effect and affects the life of the common man, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. Govt. should also remove the subsidies they give on luxury items like Gold, Diamonds (last year 57K Crore exemptions were given on that). The protests are not because of the price hike, the protests are because of the mismanagement and complete mis-governance by the Central govt. – They are not able to get the black money (do not see the resolve in the govt even to try) from overseas banks, the tax payers money is siphoned off into the pockets of the corrupt who go scot free… Having said that, if the govt. has to reduce subsidies, they should also cut down on the taxes which amount to 50% of the cost of Petrol…. It is a good sign that the govt is not blinking in view of the protests, but they should stop the corruptions and scams which are ruining the country

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  • Girish

    Quite a statement, but sadly this article seems politically motivated. The article lacks the depth and does not cover inflation or current or future government policies which affects middle class and poor alike.

    [Reply]

  • Kris

    AM seems loke a child who does not understand economics and politics. The timing of the latest rise was only politcal. Why were the prices not raised when oil was $128 a barrel and now only $95 because at that time the sevarl elctions wer around the corner. Pleas AM do not thing that you or the govt can fool the public ALL TH TIME. Good governance is to build consensus before such actions.which this govt has completely forgotten. They think they can do whatever and whenever they like. Not in the 21st century. They are fully answerable to peole who have woken up. This govt did not even consult its allies on whose support they are in parliament. AM please grow up before justifying the autocratci actions

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  • Shwetank Bhushan

    Absolutely brilliant .. BUT I disagree with one of the assumptions ..

    “Petrol is a fuel that is used only by the middle class and the rich. The only machines that use petrol to any great extent are:
    * Cars
    * Two-wheelers
    * Portable generator sets
    The poor don’t use any of these. The middle class and the rich do.”

    Petrol/Diesel is majorly used for public transport and goods carrier .. and price hike even by a fraction directly/indirectly kills the poor if not the middle class or the rich.

    Fantastic point of view though ………

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  • anjani

    This guy is delusional…the indirect affect of price rise is more on poor & middle class….

    [Reply]

  • vinayak

    There are lakhs of electricians, plumbers, vegetable vendors… and many self employed youth are riding motorcycle, scooters and mopeds… are they rich?? Such hikes really damage their day to day survival.
    Let us take an example of an electician who moves using a two wheeler. Does not have stable income.. earns anything between 100 to 500 per day.. depending upon the season and work available. Even if he earns 15000 per month, do you fit him into a middle class? When the man lives in a urban village like badli, munirka, kotla.. on rented house..
    While the hike is inevitable, the scrupulous way it is done – that’s what makes every one angry. Why can’t they oil firms keep increasing/decreasing every fortnight – as mandated. The morons running the UPA govt will not let them do it – because – it suits them to hold the hike before major elections and it does not immediately hurt them when the price is raised when there is no immediate election.

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  • Suresh BV Bharadwaj

    Vladimir Putin, Lal Bahadur
    Shastri, Sir Sheshadri Iyer & Sir M Vishweshwarayya’s grand-sons Ravindra
    & DK Ravi, VS Acharya & BS Yeddyurappa (Churches were attacked; BSY was
    CM; VSA was HM), Rajat Gupta (made Indian companies globally competitive),
    Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi (converted to Christianity but was the son of a
    Parsee Iranian Shia Muslim), Homi Jehangir Bhabha (a relative of Pakistan
    Founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah), Shah Rukh Khan (father is a Pakistani Muslim),
    Indira Gandhi (husband was the Parsee-Speaking Iranian Shia Muslim Firoz
    Jehangir Nawab Khan Ghandy; USA President Richard Nixon sent USA’s 7th Naval
    Fleet , carrying atom bombs, against India during 1971 Bangladesh war but
    India’s trusted friend Russia sent its own naval fleet to defend India &
    told USA that any USA war against India is a USA war against USSR; the furious
    & sadistic Richard Nixon ordered for the assassination of Indira Gandhi
    & her sons with the help of Non-Aryan European Christian male & female
    human bodies, GPS & REMOTE SENSING SATELLITE – NANO & BIO TECH SENSORS–NEURO
    IMAGER –OR – BODY SCANNER – NEURO SCIENCE – NEURO PHYSIOLOGICAL – NEUTO PSYCHIATRIC – NEURO & BODY CLINICAL
    TRIAL – NEURO PSYCHOLOGAL – BASED REMOTE BODY AREA NETWORKS (BAN), REMOTE MIND
    READING NETWORKS & REMOTE MIND CONTROL NETWORKS, REMOTE EVERY BODY PART TOUCHING,
    MASSAGING, ROMANCING, LENGTHENING, SHORTENING, MOLESTING & RAPING NETWORKS
    & REMOTE 24-HOURS-A-DAY TALKING, SINGING, SOUND BLASTING & SLEEP
    DEPRIVING NETWORKS) Rajesh Pilot (a PM prospect & a future rival),
    Jithendra Prasad (contested against the Non-Aryan European Italian Roman
    Catholic Christian Sonia Antonia Maino for President of Italian National
    Congress), Madhav Rao Scindia (a PM prospect), LTTE Prabhakaran, his sons,
    daughter & wife (make Sri Lankan Buddhists & Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils
    fight & weaken each other), Raja Ram Mohan Roy (failed to convert him to
    Christianity), Narendra Vivekananda Paramahamsa (attracted European Christian
    females, including the sexually promiscuous Margaret Isabella, who gave him STD
    disease), Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (tricked him into worshipping his traumatized
    wife as Goddess Kali) & Mahatma Gandhi (made to eat meat & hear sheep’s
    voices inside his brain; killed by the European Greek Christian Nathuram Godse,
    whose European Greek ancestors came to India during Alexander’s invasion &
    European Christian Crusade Wars against Jewish Rabbi Freedom Fighter Joshua
    Jesus Christ’s Jewish Israel & Muhammad’s Arabia), Netaji Subhash Chandra
    Bose (made to have sex with Non-Aryan European Christian God Adolph Hitler
    worshipping European German Christian woman), Aurobindo Ghose (did not allow his
    wife to join him in Pondicherry but he was coerced into having a live in relationship
    with a twice-divorced, sexually promiscuous French woman) & Jawaharhal
    Nehru (did not allow him to sleep until 3 am every day until he wrote to Mahatma
    killer & Non-Aryan European Greek Christian Nathuram Godse’s Greek
    Christian relative Edwina Mountbatten) were victims of the Non-Aryan European
    Christian & USA Conspiracy to monitor, manipulate & control Asian
    Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Koreans & Nepalese. OM!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shovon-Chowdhury/507224224 Shovon Chowdhury

    And yet Dharampal is quite happy with the kerosene situation.

    http://shovonc.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/dharampul-remains-confident-of-getting-kerosene/

    [Reply]

  • gaurav

    i also have went there and the story u have written is, a bit different than their lives today that they are living ..

    [Reply]

  • gaurav

    this must be banned .. i dont know how to but it must be,, i have seen their miserable plight.. damn

    [Reply]

  • Modern India

    There is a unwilling tendency on the part of the Goverment to reduce the prices of pertrol and a courageous habit to increase it. . Unlike petrol is a fuel used more in cars rather than industries. But the Goverment rather than controlling the incerase in the number of cars has increased the price of petrol.
    Indai is a country of price rise whenever there is an increase of prices it is because of more use of petrol and not the sustainable economic growth. Mass construction of roads and other facilities of commutation has not resulted in the growth of the country for the last many years but due to rise in the price of fuel and gold it has lead to sustainable growth of the country which is measured in terms of stock increase and decrease. I still fail to understand as to what has lead to the increase in the price of a commidity. Is it the misuse of the commodity or he irrational use of other irrelevant products.
    The rise in the per capita income of a individual has not decreased the value of petrol but has increased the value of petrol by leaps and bounds. The net result is that the rich middle class has to suffer rather than the poor Indian.
    Taxes and more taxes has caused immense agitation not on the Goverment but on the Income Tax Authorities who fail to understand as to where will their corruption start.
    Today being the era of mass corruption it is not uncertain if you hear tomarrow anything which says “Petrol Scam”. Increase in the price of petrol itself is a big scam and it takes lot of courage to increase it more in future.
    Regards,

    [Reply]

  • http://www.facebook.com/pankaj.kumar.169 Pankaj Kumar

    Indeed, their story is poignant. How many of us are aware of their abject plight?
    I guess not many. Whenever name of GB road crops up, we deride that place or perhaps make mockery of the whole subject in discussion. It’s high time when people(including me) realized their predicament.

    [Reply]

  • sam

    tum log bus story pe story likhte raho
    koi unki help bhi karega ya nahi

    main unki help karna chahta hoon but mera koi saath nahi de raha
    is country ka aur in girls ka kya hoga kya koi inke liye aage nikal kar nhi aayega

    please help them

    [Reply]

  • sam

    hum logo ko milkar inke khilaf awaaz hi nhi uthani chahoye balki
    koi strict action lena chahiye
    humhe eksaath milkar in kotho main jaana chahiye aur un ladkiyon ko azaad karwana chahiye
    aur is kaam main jitna ho sake utne logo ko apna saath aur sehyog dena chahiye

    [Reply]

  • Danicasmith

    In actual ways what is the main reason for hike price of Petrol ?firstly this is my question that government do not raise the price the petrol easily there is lot of difficulty because there is lot of petrol supply from other country .Those people who are protest against Petrol hike price they are focus in the condition of other country even government has raise the price.

    http://www.prlog.org/12110348-uprinting-coupon-code-special-savings-immediate-action.html

    [Reply]

  • Chijindumsmith

    Basically every south Indian can not remember a traditional culture for the Karnataka .

    http://www.prlog.org/12109069-parallels-coupon-code-unbelievable-savings-act-now.html

    [Reply]

  • tjf

    I walked GB road and saw these women. I broke down and cried because its just awful. Its not just the women in bondage, but the men who frequent them and the pimps too. We as human beings need to get back to caring for each other more then money. We need to see each other as human beings instead of objects.

    [Reply]