Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bang and Fizzle

If you are a resident of Sivakasi, fireworks are a part of your life whether you like it or not. We walk around oblivious to the crescendo of bangs and booms that would have ripped the eardrums of outsiders to shreds. The thick pall of smoke that mushrooms the entire town despite doing nothing to improve the decor is accepted rather like an annoying relative.

In other places accidents in the industrial areas probably cause a lot of noise particularly when lives have been lost. But not in Sivakasi. Oh no, we have become inured not only to noise pollution but to death as well especially if it happens in the fireworks industry. It happens too damn often you see. Besides fireworks are the financial mainstay of this dump. And safety regulations cut into profits. It simply does not make sense to bite the hand that feeds you does it?

On July 21st, there was an explosion at Sri Krishna Fireworks, a private fireworks manufacturing unit. 8 people were killed and 45 injured. I seriously doubt the veracity of those figures especially since it was a major accident and took the firefighters three hours to douse the flames. There should have been an uproar but there wasn't. The big bang that should have resonated across the place lamenting the tragedy of it all fizzled out. The entire episode was hushed up quickly with some token arrests made and all the other dirt brushed under the carpet. After all it has happened hundreds of times in the past and it will happen again and again and again in the future. Let us all get over it shall we?

For a town that has learned to embrace noise, it is remarkable how silence can be maintained on the gravest of issues. It is about time the inhabitants of Sivakasi made some noise and for a good cause.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Save the Kids

There was a special report on The Week entitled “Where Are Our Kids?”. It was one of the most disturbing articles I have read recently. According to the National Human Rights Commission, about 45, 000 kids go missing in India every year. Apparently India has become a Bermuda Triangle of sorts for kids. And what is worse these kids fall into the worst hands imaginable. They are forced to beg, are sexually exploited, or sold on the child labor market. While it appears that some of the children are abducted, others are willingly sold by poverty – stricken parents, who have been hoodwinked by unscrupulous carrion representing placement agencies that offer false promises of high – paying jobs and a better life.
Of course, there are strict laws regarding child labor of any sort. Pity they are not enforced. All this stuff got me thinking. Perhaps we are tackling this the wrong way. I have always looked askance at folks who hire little kids to work in their homes. But suddenly I am looking at them in a whole new light. Usually, the underage laborers are hired to look after their employer’s children or do relatively light household chores. At least these children get decent meals and a roof over their heads. I know a former child laborer who is now the proud owner of his own tailoring shop thanks to the munificence of his former employees. These children are definitely better off than the ones living on the streets.
Nowadays decent family folks avoid hiring children for fear of running afoul of the law. And yet laws don’t feed the bulldog. Consequently, people living in the lowest economic strata of society, have no choice but to sell their children to the predators on the prowl. So a bad situation has been worsened. Offering free education to these poor kids is hardly the solution. From their position, it is not a feasible choice as education is a luxury they simply cannot afford. After all they can’t be expected to squat under a tree and pay attention to poorly paid, ill – tempered teachers who usually don't bother to turn up for lessons. It would be nice if these institutions were run with a tighter grip and with some attention paid to the financial situation of the pupils.
A pal of mine and I were recently discussing what we’d do if we struck it super – rich in life. We decided we would start schools where kids will not only be offered free education under the tutelage of the best teachers money can buy but will also be taught useful trade skills which they will be able to employ for the benefit of the school and the neighborhood and for which they will get paid of course. That would be our Utopia. And since we are such lovely human beings we will also have enough left over to buy our diamonds, yachts, private jets, the Lakers, and Federer (I intend to retire him immediately). Sigh!!! Wouldn’t it be perfect? And while Jan and I are waiting to get rich, I hope other members of that elite made- of - money club have similar brainwaves.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mommyhood: The Agony and Ecstasy

Veda took a nasty spill the other day. It happened like this. I was trying to get her to eat her dinner and she took to her heels. Seeing that I was catching up, she tried to run faster, did not look where she was going and fell hard on her face. When I lifted her up, her face was covered with blood. And I am ashamed to say I totally fell apart. She is just one and a half for Chrissake! Babies should not be allowed to bleed. What do they have lousy guardian angels for if not to prevent this sort of thing?

Of course I went through the motions. Got some ice, rushed her to a hospital. But the thing is Veda handled it all with so much more aplomb. Apart from insisting that I give her some ice to suck on, poppet was a doll. She giggled all the way to the hospital, gamely helping my kid bro in his efforts to cheer her up, while all I could do was fight back tears and play the various futile 'what - if' scenarios over and over in my head. If only I had dived and whisked her away before she hit the floor... If only I had listened to my husband and stayed home that day... If only none of this had happened... If only... If only... If only...

Doc said she needed a single stitch and whisked her away to do the needful. Veda started screaming as soon as she laid eyes on the doctor (she hates them) and would not stop. I thought her Mommy would show some gumption, after all she never cries except in darkened theatres, in the solitude of the space under her pillow, or in the midst of a particularly heated argument with her husband if she feels she is losing leverage. But that day her mommy bawled worse than a baby. Sometimes you think you know a person, and then you find you don't actually.

Veda is sorta ok now. She has this giant bandage on the center of her forehead. When I showed it to her, she thought it was funny as heck and kept laughing at herself following regular trips to the mirror. The whole episode was thus dismissed out of hand and relegated to the darkest part of her memory where they are likely to be forever lost to her. I, on the other hand will never be able to forget those agonizing moments but I am happy she is happy. There we have mommyhood in a nutshell - agony and ecstasy.