Monday, February 19, 2007

MUSINGS…..ABOARD A TRAIN

For once, the train is on time. I have a first class ticket. That means I have some space for myself. I take out my Creative Zen Nx; select Richard Clayderman as the artist for the journey. Soft strains of ‘Medley of Four Seasons’ filters through the earphones. I take out my camera; can’t afford to miss the picturesque journey from Calicut to Mangalore. The train sidles out of Calicut with a minimum of fuss. Soon it picks up speed and a kaleidoscope of the Kerala countryside unfolds outside the window. The rocking motion, the gentle piano notes and the rushing scenery make me muse…..

Crossing Elattur Station at top speed

The placement season is on at most B Schools. Preliminary news filtering in is that the students are having a field day. The pay packets are increasing. My thoughts turn to my colleagues teaching at the B Schools. With a monthly salary (basic) that fetches a Professor Rs.18,400-22,400, an Associate Professor Rs.15,000-20,400 and an Assistant Professor Rs.12,000-18,000 with a measly Rs. 500 increment for Professors in alternate years, it is hardly a wonder that IIMs should have a dearth of quality teachers. Teachers’ salary , mainly in the US and EU, are at least 20 to 25 times more than that of IIM teachers annually. An average IIM graduate is being offered a much better salary than the one drawn by the IIM Director. Wonder how long will this go on?

The Road Bridge across River Korapuzha, Elattur

Backward minds cannot take a country forward. ‘Parzania’, the film about Gujarat riots, is not being shown in Gujarat. No, not because it is banned, just that Mr. Babu Bhajrangi, whose writ runs in Gujarat, decided that it should not be shown. Who is this guy? He is the principal accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya slaughter, (the greatest single atrocity of those days) during the Godhra carnage. His favourite pastime nowadays is to beat young couples found enjoying each other’s company in college campuses or public parks. Mind you, he has hundreds of thousands of people who look upon him as a hero.

Have you heard of the Pattali Makkal Katchi in Tamil Nadu? This is a front floated to ‘restore Tamil pride’. Newspaper reports say that this outfit wants students and youths not to be seen on the streets after 8 p.m. They want cinema theatres to have only two shows a day. They want women to know that ‘equality is not drinking and smoking like men’. A trained 300 – strong ‘Army of Black Shirts’ will keep vigil across the State and will enforce the strictures. And, of course, they have declared that ‘people of other states would not be allowed to exploit Tamils’. Sounds familiar?

The Black Shirts would have the support of the ULFA and the Shiva Sena. ULFA is ‘persuading’ people from Bihar to leave Assam. Meanwhile a film, purportedly made with the blessings of the Sena, called ‘Amchi Mumbai’ which shows why people of other states should leave Mumbai has not found favour with the censor board. When the Cauvery issue became turbulent, cable operators in Karnataka switched off Tamil channels. Wither my country?

A view of the Vadakara River

This time around, the valentine’s day has been less violent than usual. Of course, some couples were chased for the benefit of TV cameras. A western custom has become deeply involved with the Indian Diaspora, going by the sale of Valentine cards and trinkets; all this due to the concerted effort of our so called patriots.

I can’t but recall the ban of the film version of ‘Da Vinci Code’ in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Goa and some other states. It was a play for Christian votes. But not one country where Christianity is the dominant religion banned the movie. That makes me muse:

‘Jesus Christ will not be hurt by a movie & Indian Culture will not diminish because couples hold hands, or for that matter mooch, in a public park’.

On a bend...and at top speed!

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq doesn't seem like ending. If it was in Mr. Bush’s hands, he would have started a war with Iran and North Korea; not necessarily in that order. Meanwhile, the pro-American media, runs daily doses of how the allied troops are winning the hearts of the Iraqi’s. Can’t imagine how? They are confined to heavily fortified barracks – behind blast walls and razor wires. There, while air conditioners hum, the ‘boys’ watch beamed soap-operas and have roast meals. When they are on patrol, they are secure behind armour with a heavy machine gun trained on the civilian population. Winning hearts of the common Iraqi indeed!

View of Bekal Fort from a speeding train

The rhythmic motion of the train lulls me to sleep. I have slept for a mere 3 hours in the night. (More like it was the morning of Sunday.) We are on time, by the time I wake up, at Kasargod. Forty minutes later the train drops me off at Mangalore. The enthusiastic porter carries my luggage and runs towards the entrance after crossing an overbridge. At the entrance, he places my bags on the floor. I offer the customary Rs. 20. He asks for a further Rs. 10. I look at him quizzically. He smiles and mutters that prices are rising. I hand him a 10 rupee note. Probably the government will take my cue and increase the salary of my colleagues?

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