Surrogate Caste System: Of Snobs and Snobs

I had an interesting discussion about Snobs/Rich/casteism with P a couple of days back. Much as we disagreed on my POV, I thought it was quite interesting. So, here it is –

P mentioned that LSR, an elite college in Delhi University, had a caste system of its own, despite the fact that it boasted of some of the most intelligent/educated women of/around Delhi. They  must all be people with high percentages and high ambition to have got into this elite institution. And even there, some kinda class system existed.  There were snobs of different kinds, is what was mentioned.

Now, here, I came up with my maxim – “Caste system is a gift to the society from the elites (?) because it justifies their position as elites. So, an elitist society cannot help but create a new caste system to justify the better elites. And so, it has been traditionally.”
This manifests itself in many ways – the masses (or, the non-elite) huddle together (and someone writes a book called the wisdom of crowds). Or, there are lesser number of within the caste factions (not divisions) amongst lower caste people. Compared to that, amongst the upper caste, there are surrogate divisions that exits. The rich and the super rich are two different breeds, who are very different from the nouveau riche. First generation rich people are different from second generation rich, and so on and so forth. The elite thrive on their differentiation from others. Even if you put them amongst elites, their need to be different is high, and hence the upper class caste system, as can be seen in a college like LSR, or a street like the Fifth Ave. in NY.
What do you think?

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Househunting in Mumbai: Its a nightmare

What follows here is a tale of great anguish and reflects totally and completely my experiences in Mumbai. Mumbaikars, with their flats intact since 1920s – please don’t hate me!

Searching for a nice place to live in Mumbai is worse than searching for a needle in a haystack. In the case of latter, at least you know that its there. In Mumbai, there isn’t anything called a nice house to live. People pay obscene amounts to live in ocean facing stinking and rusted flats (really posh), or posh-locality kholis (not so posh), or simply put, in an n and a half bedroom house for a prohibitively huge amount (where n<3). You wonder if its rent people are asking for, or ransom. Agar keemat nahi chukai to is shehar mein tumhara rehna mushkil kar doonga.

It goes back to 2003. I was lucky then. Not lucky as in Lucky-no time for love. But lucky as in fortunate. Few of my close friends who were working with ICICI had their employer cough out the 5 lakh (half a million) required for deposits. That 5L amount brought the rent down to 20k for a 2 bedroom flat. Here, I must tell you about this novel concept of “25 ka package hai” meaning the rent can be 21k if you pay a deposit of 4L, or 25k if you are not ready to pay a deposit. Who did the maths? I have no idea!!

Now then, there were 4 of them cosying up in that 2 BHK flat. And they were definitely not with alternate preferences (despite some occasional comments like – tu mere gullu ki tarah soft nahi hai!). But I insist- I was lucky. I did not have to go witch (house) hunting. And before I realized I was off after my 3-4 month stint! For some time at least!

I came back to the city in 2007 Jan. Things had become worse. A 1 bedroom flat rentals are anywhere upwards of 25k in Bandra. And why Bandra? Because otherwise, I would have spent more than an hour just reaching the office (yeah! Bombay traffic is another long blogpost). Back to witch-hunting, better the building, better the furnishing, better the rates. Mathur took a PG for 10k, I took a kholi for 16k. And I mean a kholi – which probably is the slang for a chawl kinda house. For the uninitiated a chawl is like a slum area where lots and lots of people live in small houses cramped together (I am sure a lot of Mumbaikars would be on me for using such generalized definitions). Every kholi has a single room and has more than 5-6 inhabitants usually. At a certain point in time, the real estate revolution took its toll on the lively chawls (inspiration for many-a-movies), and many of them got converted into what are called SRS (Slum Rehabilitation Scheme) flats. Here, the builders take up the existing chawl and convert it into a dual identity modern apartment. The nicer face and the front side of such apartments is sold to the normal buyers, while the slum dwellers get a 1 room kholi each in the backside of the apartment. These are constructed in a primitive manner with basic amenities, maximum space utilization for the 1 room flats. Some enterprising dwellers decided to get the interiors done nicely and rent out the space to generate additional income which can be quite valuable in this blood-sucking city.

So, as I was saying, I took this 1 room flat in a SRS building which I found quite nice for my appetite. Just a little beyond the limit I had set for myself, fully furnished (no AC though), nicely done interiors (comfortable sleep at night). The negatives were also simple- The walk between the entrance and the flat (the minimal requirement) would be peppered with people looking at you curiously. If you say something to your landlord, most likely the whole building will know about it by the evening. And stuff like that. Now, if you are a small towner like me, it doesn’t bother you that much. But yeah, your “status” does take a hit!

Now, my relearning began earlier last month. With office all set to move from Bandra to Andheri East, there was no point me fooling around with the rent I was paying for travelling 45 minutes either way. Economically and practically, it made more sense to move to Andheri. But guess what, its not all light and shining in the dark city (Andheri=darkness). Mr. Mathur, who was ready to shell out 10k for a studio/1BHK did not get anything decent. I went in with the same budget as earlier. For 15k I have a 1BHK instead of a 1RK now. But the quality of interiors and furnishing, nowhere close. Though there is some more stuff, like an AC thrown in. But the whole process of finding a good accommodation has been a nightmare. Between me and Rajat, I think we do have the contacts of 15-20 brokers who gave up on our limitation of not being borne in a family which can just lock away a few lakhs rupees as security deposit, or that of not working in banks which are ready to park someone else’s money as security deposit.

People talk about the great quality of life in this great absorbing city. I guess when it comes to the three basic necessities – Food, Clothes and Shelter, this city sucks bigtime. My personal experience is that leaving aside Vada Pav, the food bills here run far higher than the other three original metros. Accommodation, nobody’s competing with Mumbai. Mumba Devi is in a league of her own with innovative concepts like 2.5BHK where the .5 would not be considered a B anywhere but Mumbai. But then, the city has a night life to offer. What’s the need to find a decent acco mate! You can stay out all your life and pardy.

Lest I am charged with saying that all is wrong with this city – hell, no! I do love a lot of things about this city – most importantly, its people. It’s probably the only city in this country where the concept of personal space exists. It’s one of the rare cities in India which despite having such a big organized underworld, still has its markets and restaurants open till midnight and beyond. It’s a city which is a great leveler. Every day when you board a Mumbai local, it does not matter who you are and what your upbringing is, you have to struggle for your existence. And if you don’t want luxuries, you have to make adjustments. Go to the office at 8 before anyone else, and leave after 8 (after everyone else), and such things.

But, to make life easy for the wonderful dwellers, the city needs to start thinking. It’s not just good to be a spirited sportsperson, you have to be a thinking sportsperson too if you want to win! Mumbai – you are spirited. But you aren’t thinking.

Old Wine…

Some very old stuff written by me in 2003-04.

*************************

In prismic prose
The rainbow flew down
Yet I couldn’t find
The Color of my heart…………..

********************

The poet in me
Woke up
This fine morning,
As he called my name…
And lord!
Why aren’t mornings
Always the same……………….

************

One man’s destiny
Attached to another
Feather by feather
Makes me fly
This endless joy
Of you being you
And you being the one
What’s so special
That drives me insane
Takes me away
From things so mundane
Why isn’t everyone
Soo like you
Why ain’t the sky
Always blue…………….

****

Freedom
Perfection
Words
Desires
“I believe”
Is all I need?
Hold my hand
For a moment today
There is no such place
As far away………………

Movie Review: Om Shanti Om

It’s a weird feeling to be writing a blog post after so long. Not surprisingly though, to voice my opinion of the haute news in town – Om Shanti Om. But that does not mean that I haven’t been watching movies lately. Its just that I have been terribly busy lately. Busy is not new for me. Terribly busy happens all the time. But this has been the worst possible spell ever of busy-ness. Saluja would have been proud to see me putting so many night outs. Something even Inductis could not do with such frequency.
Back to OSO, a tribute to the yesteryears (that part is similar to how Main Hoon Na was done) and an open admiration of SRK, is definitely watchable. You smile almost throughout the movie, but at the end of the movie, you have this weird expression in your mind which is that of your squint eyes staring at you and saying, “Well…..”.
Deepika Padukone impresses in her debut. She does what she can do really well – she looks gorgeous. However, she does what I did not expect a lot of – manage her way in the acting department.
Shreyas Talpade, as usual, is subtle and good. Kiron Kher, as usual, is loud but good.
Most importantly, SRK is, as usual, LOUD, hamming, but quite unusually, fitting. It’s a role that let him be – an over-actor, with an ease that can only come when you’re not acting!
The movie is a mish-mash of Karz, Madhumati, with plenty of spoofs (like The Great Indian Laughter Challenge), quite a few gaping voids (people leaving the hot shot producers to lie on the floor just when a mishap has happened), some great editing (I loved the shots where DP is dancing with Sunil Dutt (not Sanjay Dutt) and old-time Rajesh Khanna and Jeetendra, average to good music and a lot of masala. Comments on the industry cannot be missed – be it a Sooraj Barjatya searching for cliché dialogues, or the subtle reference to some star sons being superstars by virture of being star sons (read- Abhishek Bachchan), or the dominance of Khans and Kapoors in the industry. The best comment is when a director Partho Roy (reference to great Bengali directors) who has put in three cameras – one for Bimal Roy angle, one for Satyajit Ray angle and one for GuruDutt angle is suggested by Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal playing a producer – Prakash Mehra?) – ek Manmohan Desai angle daal do, wahi kaam aayega! This definitely comes across as Farah Khan’s way of deprecating the industry/her comrades to create some laughters – just as dada (Subhrajyoti Ghatak) would do.
Story – Beaten to death reincarnation story, cameras panning in from all angles to remind the protagonist of his forgotten past life, a white-haired mother leaving no chance for cracking melodramatic monologues, a friend who’s grayed with the age and believes in his friend, a spirit who manifests just at the right time to seek her revenge, even as things are being kept as human as possible. A villain who conveniently commits a murder and leaves the country to return 30 years later where his past is waiting for him. Oh-so-convenient. Its not the story where the effort is put. The story is conveniently taken off from Karz, Madhumati (yeah! she thought I wouldnt notice!), chala murari hero banNe and the likes. It’s the screenplay and editing where the effort has been put.
Screenplay and editing – Good. Better than above average. Good comments, spoofs and humor.
Music – Ajab Si and Main Agar kahoon are definitely above average. Rahat’s Jag Soona Soona Lage is standard Rahat Fateh Ali Khan fare – soulful, nice, but wont make it as big as Saiyaan (Ta Ra Rum Pum) or Mann Ki Lagan. updated (11-Nov) – won’t make it as big as his previous songs (like Mann ki Lagan (Paap) or Jiya Dhadak Dhadak Jaye (Kalyug).  (Khan – Thanks for pointing out. My mistake!!)

Overall – Definitely watcheable once. Don’t go by my cribs. I think it’s a director’s movie. She has played it by her creativity which is weird and funny. And she has done a tremendous job of editing. Actors are fitting. Everyone fits. Even the over acting kkkkkk.. Khan. .. shahrukh khan.

and on that note -I do want to watch Saawariya. Despite the complete snubbing it has got from many reviewers. 1. Its based on Doestoevsky’s White Night. 2. It wont disappoint me on a couple of counts – Great camerawork and sets, and some great imagination.

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