Sunday, March 18, 2012
Kantabai's version of the Union Budget!
Aaaaah - holiday pics! Someone did ask for them, right? RIGHT?
Well, here they are anyway, and lots more where these have come from... you are warned!
I often get the order wrong, but here goes from top to bottom: C'est moi at the Cohiba factory pretending to smoke a cigar... effect ke vaastey!
That's the Bellucci ( Belushi?) bloke, people were going ga-ga over. Wonder why?
And one more of the magnificent Hotel Nacional...
Augustus Eglesias... heard of him? Powerful singer. Cuba's A.R.Rahman
My absolute hero - a childhood hear throb. Che remains the world's most inspiring rebel. A true warrior who famously said, "My dreams know no limits..."
The main square in Havana..
This appeared in Sunday Times today.....
Budget-wudget : “Where has all my money gone….?”
Kantabai was in an impatient mood as she scrubbed and cleaned her memsaab’s Italian marble floors while the Union Budget was being discussed on ET NOW, the saab’s favourite business channel.Kantabai was not impressed. First, she wanted to know why there were such few women on any of the experts’ panel on tv shows. After all, rising prices affected women first. Plus,she had a few basic questions to ask Pranabda and all those mighty financial wizards decoding the subtext of the Budget for the benefit of dumbstruck television viewers. None of this was making the slightest sense to her, but Kantabai was candid enough to admit it. Her saab was jotting down notes and scribbling numbers on a thick writing pad as if he understood everything. Her memsaab was busy fixing hair and nail appointments at the friendly neighbourhood spa and complaining about additional taxes on luxury goods. Kantabai was cross, really ,really cross. She’d heard her railway pass would cost more when she renewed it next month. And she really didn’t care which minister lost his job for annoying some agitated Didi screaming hysterically in Kolkata and asking for his resignation. Kantabai’s drunkard of a husband had told her to cut back on virtually everything, food included. He’d muttered something about PPF interest rates being slashed, which she took as yet another way of telling her about the tough ( tougher!) times ahead for the family. What was a ‘maamuli aadmi’ supposed to do? Each year it was the same kahani. Kantabai was sick of it. The answer to her fundamental question every year : ‘Will prices ever come down ?’ remained the same : NO! If that was the case, what was the point in wasting everybody’s time? Kantabai was not interested in why prices never came down. All she wanted was an assurance from the sarkar that her children’s life would be qualitatively better than her own. She didn’t want her daughter to scrub floors and clean toilets. She didn’t want her son to become an underpaid hamaal. She didn’t want to live for the rest of her life in a filthy shanty town without water ,electricity or toilets. But was anybody listening?
Kantabai kept hearing stories about what a great future was in store for every Indian provided people worked hard ( ‘discipline’ was the new magic word) and sincerely. She was told if she managed to save some money from her meager salary, she’d be able to educate her children. But what was left to save after toiling in three homes from 6 a.m to 8 p.m? Phir bhi, aapun ke mantri log are making bada bada bhashans and boasting that life will improve. From what Kantabai could tell, life had definitely improved, maybe not for her, but for the saablog in whose homes she slaved. From one car, they now possessed three-three cars ( babalog had grown up and needed their own, na?). Diesel or petrol, she wasn’t sure. Made zero difference.Kantabai’s parivar didn’t possess even a cycle. Each room in her saab’s house had a big tv, which was good because Kantabai could now watch her favourite serial in the afternoon while ironing heaps of clothes. The saablog also ate out three times a week. So, less bartans in the kitchen sink for her to scour, as compared to five years ago. Memsaab also discarded good, hardly worn sarees, jeans, even nighties. In the past, Kantabai would be given soiled, torn clothes from time to time. Saab’s old shirt-pants were enough for her husband. And memsaab had started tipping regularly for extra work during her kitty parties. Kantabai got far many more days off, now that the saablog traveled to their farm house on the weekend and took two or three foreign holidays a year. Sometimes they brought back imported presents for Kantabai which she carefully stored for her daughter, making sure not to remove the nice wrappers.Even the leftovers she was allowed to take home at night, were better, tastier these days, especially Chinese dishes which her children had started to love. Last Diwali, her memsaab had given her a cell phone! Memsaab had said it was just a present, but Kantabai knew it was to keep calling her at home on her rare off days to issue instructions. And yes, Kantabai had to pay her own telephone bills.
As Kantabai kept listening to Pranabda droning on and on, she laughed out loud. So many maha plans for the nation. Such fantastic promises. Her saab was clapping sometimes and frowning at other times. Talking about sensex-bensex or just sex. She heard him talking on the phone and saying it was a ‘mixed budget’. He said that every year. Memsaab was complaining about having to pay more for powder-lipstick. The Babalog were indifferent, planning the next weekend party, ordering daaru and other things from the regular supplier. Kantabai went back to work with thoughts of getting back to her community tap on time before it ran dry. Like this year’s Budget, Kantabai’s life was also ‘mixed’. But there was always next year…