Sunday, December 25, 2011

Want Flies With That?

“The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his gray shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.”

So begins one of the great novels of English literature, “Lord Of The Flies.” I was thinking about the book while walking today alongside a huge graveyard here in Hyderabad. I became engrossed by the similarities in the novel with what I see in India.

India is a very young country demographically, and has been thrust into the global marketplace with very little elder guidance. The older generation is largely ignorant of the high tech world and the business structure and challenges facing modern start-ups. For all intents and purposes, young India may as well be on a deserted island.

The story of “Lord Of The Flies” centers around 4 main characters representing various points on the continuum between civilization and savagery. Allow me the license to redefine civilization as to mean effective and directed organization, and savagery as the chaos of “Me First.” We then have the four main characters:
Ralph is the character representing law and order imposed by society or government.
Jack is his antagonist representing the natural inner savage.
Simon represents order and morality as a better human condition not requiring outside imposition, but rather encouragement of the noble human.
Piggy represents science and its abuse by both sides and its dependence on civilization.

I see then a country filled with these four characters. Driving on the road, leading teams, standing in line, watching a movie, in each a Ralph desiring calm and predictable order, in each a Jack wanting to be first regardless of who it hurts including himself.

The story ends with civilization about to be defeated by Jack hunting and killing Ralph, but a military officer steps in at the last moment to rescue the boys and with them, civilization. The irony that he himself is taking part in his own savage destruction of civilization is completely lost on the officer.

India must end the story another way. India must give the conch back to the Ralphs or the one coming at the end will not be a well meaning officer to bring children back to worried parents, but rather foreign corporations feasting on the carion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monsoon Sanctuary

“From Which Country?” an old Muslim man hard of hearing shouted, apparently thinking everyone else was as well.

“Amrika” I replied.

The old man walked to the edge of the awning as he hacked up something from deep inside and spit it out.

“Amrika Is Biggest Terrorist Country!” again speaking loudly rather than angrily.

I expected this to happen one day, but I was surprised how long it was before it did.

“Amrika Makes...” he stutters and shakes trying to find the right word. “...Most Weapons And Sells Them! How Can... Peaceful World...How Can Peace... With Weapons?”

I looked out at the pouring rain. The monsoon was on full force and I wasn't going anywhere.
“World War I.... 1914... 1917... ekh, doh, theen... 3 Years... There Was A Purpose... 3 Years!”
I was trying to understand his point.

“World War II... 1939 to 1945... Six years... There Was A Purpose!”

The rain still poured down around us. The others in the group made gestures that he's crazy, but I don't think he is. I'm getting interested now to see where it goes.

“Amrika Always Fighting! For What Purpose? Cold War Building Weapons! For No Good Purpose!”
I nodded having given up trying to speak a while ago.

“Amrika, Russia, France, England... Most Terrorist Weapon... ICBM... Now Russia... Begging For Money... Now Russia Begging World For Money!”

The rain has let up a bit, but still enough to make leaving awkward.

“Amrika, France, UK, Now No Money... Begging World For Money.... Begging China For Money.”

“Amrika Fighting... 10 Years... For What Purpose... Begging Money To Fight...World Never At Peace if Amrika Keeps Selling Weapons!”

The logic was hard to ignore. Without the Soviets supplying the other side the US supplied both sides rather than neither. Is it the right thing to do? I don't know, but I don't think so.

“Amrika... Laser Guided Missles... Tanks...Weapons... Long Range Missles... Short Range Missles....Why Does Amrika Need Everyone To Come To Amrika To Work?”

I couldn't figure out what this had to do with immigration policy.

“Amrika Makes Weapons... Needs Workers To Make Food... Weapons No Purpose... Why... uh... Why...” He taps his head and speaks softly in Hindi. “Why... Make Amrika...Why Tell... Amrika Best Place To Go... Why Amrika Needs Our Workers... Amrika Makes Weapons For No Purpose.”

“Amrika Will Be Begging For Money... Begging World For Money... For What Purpose?”

As his rant trailed off, so too did the rain. I left the shelter of the little awning and went on my way. I don't know what he was trying to say beyond the obvious, but I've had many new revelations thinking about what he might have meant. He was trying too hard to make his point for it to be America should stop being mean. He really wanted to tell me something.

Perhaps one day in a little shelter from the rain I will have understood what he was trying to say and desperate to say it before the meaning was lost I will corner a stranger with a broken disjointed ramble from an old man everyone thinks is crazy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why I will cry when I leave India

There's not much I am sure of regarding my getting out of this mess in India. Actually there is only one thing for certain. When the doors close and the acceleration pushes me deep into my seat. As the wheels lift off and there is no going back. I will be crying.

Not tears of joy as I would have thought, but tears of loss, betrayal, and wistful what could have been. I feel like a man deeply in love with a siren knowing she is bad for me and knowing what could be. The fantasy of possibility dragging me onto the rocks. India has a beauty and a charm hard to express. It either sneaks its way into your heart or you are permanently immune to its charms. If, however, you are not immune there is no cure. You will forever love India as I do.

Every time there is renewed hope I will go home, I don't feel joy. I feel joy and a horrible tearing of my soul at the same time.

India has forever changed my view of the world. So often that is followed by tales of religious retreats and the spirituality of the Gurus. Horseshit! India is a cold gritty place with huge problems and violence and death on every corner, like NYC in the 70s. But it's also full of joy and camaraderie. A place where accidents are met with a rush toward the scene of people trying to help rather than sitting in cars hoping 911 will do something.

It's a world where politicians suck, but they all suck for the same reason. A world where we all agree the problem is round and the solutions are square. There is no pretending the corrupt greed of the rich and powerful are destroying the country, but rather the dismissive realization that politicians buy off rural voters at the expense of everyone else. Everyone knows corruption is rampant and nobody wants to stop it. The country is in agreement and is refreshingly open about how messed up it is. And I love it.

Contrast to the US where the economy is 12 freshly baked cookies and the rich take 11 while turning to the Tea Party member and saying “That Union worker is stealing your cookie.”

Here we all know the rich are taking all the cookies. Maybe the result is the same, but I never fear talking to someone about politics.

The world makes so much more sense here. The analysis of what works and doesn't falls on the stake of India. Nowhere more than here do pronouncements of what is right and what is wrong seem more laughable. Assertions that this cannot happen in the face of what I see everyday become comical.
India's major flaw is its intense divisive nature. India's major strength is its intense divisive nature. India has been a country divided for 6000 years. It may never become united, but having accepted the nature of India, it may have found a strength lost on Americans. The accepting nature of India to religious, ethnic, tribal, caste, and wealth divides allows an honest discussion not allowed in America.

Why will I cry when I leave? I will miss my little gecko friends eating the mosquitoes. I will miss the grunts of the cows. I will miss the kids playing cricket in every field and alleyway available. I will miss water Buffalo causing traffic jams at rush hour. I'll miss the monkey wars fighting for my food. I'll miss preserving drinking water because it is scarce. I'll miss washing with gray water because it is not. I'll miss the shop owners who take such pride in their little 3x5 shack. I'll miss the tea wallas who feel their tea is important to keeping you well and insist you drink enough whether they get paid or not. I'll miss the joy of the monsoon and mango season. A joy not owned by a corporation and shared by everybody. I'll miss great friends and souls so powerful I am like light and unable to escape. I'll miss talking without fear of boundaries. I'll miss not agreeing and it being OK. I'll miss long talks with Ashwin about the nature of man and structures of society. I'll miss Vishnu bringing a giant sack of joy wherever she goes. I'll miss late night auto rides across the city after an amazing night with friends. I'll miss Umair and Nickle trying to goad each other. I'll miss Surrengen and his fierce loyalty and guidance. I'll miss so many friends who refused to abandon me. I'll miss being asked if I want to see a movie and there are 20 other people. I'll miss freshers so happy to be making games.

I'll miss life. I'll miss a world where life exists on the streets and the front porch rather than tucked away on the patio or in the tv room. I'll miss the chickens and pigs darting through the underbrush rather than being disapproved of by a housing society. I'll miss a world where kids play and ride bikes and run around even though the traffic is a million times more dangerous. They don't get hit by cars and they're not fat. Go figure.

When I think I am going home I am filled with joy and sorrow. When those hopes are dashed I am filled with sorrow and joy. Leaving India will not be easy.