Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dark But Pretty

These three words form the most commonly uttered phrase in India, probably beating even "I Love you". It sums up our collective psyche in a neat nutshell. It never fails to amuse me: "Dark, but Pretty"

It has multiple emotions layered in the nuances. It is a compliment, of course. Then, it is sympathy, for you are dark. It is hope, so what if you are dark. It is also justification, at least you are pretty. It gets defensive, it is full of pride. It is also a misplaced show of affection from most mothers and aunts to their daughters. It is not uncommon to hear one mom tell another on a park bench, "My Rhea is dark but she is pretty"; or to hear mummyji confess, "My son's bride might be bit dark but she has sharp features"...

My favorite is, "She is dark but she has an amazing sense of fashion!"

You are expected to lose your sense of fashion, sense of humor and even sense of direction merely by being a certain color. This is not racism. Quite ironically, the blind-faith in power of the Pale exists in a country where majority of the population is rather melanin-rich. Many years and many ebony lasses romping down the catwalk later, we still deny a concept that can be "Dark And Pretty". A flat nosed fair woman is considered a better catch in the marriage market than a yummy full-lipped, bright-eyed darker woman. Very few models make it big if they are dark-skinned, but the legendary ones (ohmigod!) have almost all been so.

Of course, times are changing.

Now even being a tall, dark and handsome man is fraught with danger. The new face of India is 'fair and handsome' and not afraid to say it. Six decades of obsessive over-use of fairness creams (and none the lighter for it) have taught us one lesson-- try harder the next six and this time, make sure the men are fair too! Life will not be "Fair" to us until then. If anyone doubts the credential of such claims, we have SRK targeting the metrosexual man in latest TVCs on air.

In true chicken and egg tradition, it is difficult to identify the origin of this stereotype. Fairness creams exist because people want to be fair. People want to be fair because they are told, often by these creams, that a lighter shade heralds a brighter life. Or, is it possible that, political correctness notwithstanding, people do see better jobs, promotions and boyfriends (now, also girlfriends) landing in the lap of the gori-chamdis?

I would love to bring Kabir into a world where it really don't matter if you are black or white (Michael Jackson promptly turned white after making this grand declaration. If it is any consolation, he was more salable before all his color drained out). To begin with, I'll call a Spade a Spade. Whether it is pretty or not depends on the other cards that Life has dealt me. Deal with it!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Axe (on Foot) Effect

Coming back to my favorite topic-- Bangalore Road Traffic. I am amused how much company I have while blogging this theme; almost any and every blog that mentions Bangalore also mentions the crazy traffic. Hyuk! hyuk!

Every city in India is crowded and congested. Note that the Bangalore traffic, though, is defined as "crazy"... not necessarily more in number or backed up due to poor roads. That is what makes Bangalore traffic situation unique.

Thanks to IT fellows traveling all over the world, it is natural to compare our traffic and find even third-world nations like Indonesia and Philippines manage better. The difference lies in the heterogeneity of traffic in Bangalore. We have equally large numbers of 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers and 6-wheelers plying on the roads. Each type of vehicle has its own characteristic. If a 2-wheeler guy sees space between 2 cars, he is bound to squeeze in. It is not a fault, but the nature of that vehicle. Similarly, a bus is expected to expect right-of-way. Again, it is natural by the size and sturdiness of that monster. As long as everyone follows a certain lane discipline, they follow vehicles of their own type, things flow smooth. When they start flitting in and out of each others' lane, causing sudden and dangerous brakes to be applied, is when the link starts to break.

Internationally, the right lane is for fast moving traffic and left-most is for slower traffic. Where the International conventions diverge from Bangalore Logic is that they think of cars as fast-moving traffic, followed by buses and trucks. Bikes and assorted vehicles belong to the leftmost lane. For us, the order is reversed and it is a matter of pride for everyone to belong to the right lane. So you will see a smoke-spewing (whatever happened to PUC?) rickety rickshaw plodding along in the fast-lane, with an SUV and a Bike jostling to overtake. While these nimble nut cases duel, the cars begin to pile up all the way to Timbuktu.

People tend to exclaim that Bangalore traffic has increased beyond control! A more patient observation reveals that the "number" of vehicles on road is a mere fraction of the quantity seen in other Indian and Asian cities. The situation merely gets exaggerated by everyone being in all lanes at once! The traffic cops could reduce their burden many-times by introducing strict lane-discipline and penalize people cutting across lanes.

This small and cost-effective measure could make going to work a pleasant experience, without adding more useless fly-overs and metro-rails to the mix.

Of course, reducing the number of auto-rickshaws in favor of more cabs and buses is always a welcome fantasy.