Friday, July 16, 2010

Sign of the times

It's a move that means everything and yet nothing at all. It is after all only a symbol, an oversimplification of a very very complex reality. A symbol it will become of the irresolvable tangle of history, faith and destiny that forms the core of India, of her long promised and much expected economic boom. Rampant corruption, blood soaked bitter caste/class struggles, a burgeoning population, and simmering communalism/regionalism - hang like a shadow of doom over the symbol, forever threatening to the promise of waking up to a better nation. 

The symbol in my opinion looks very appropriate for a nation that has lumbered on slowly but surely from the start of civilization while other great kingdoms rose all around it to violent dominance and were then reduced to rubble just as quickly. Its simple yet eye catching shape carries within itself a message of deep significance, a lesson which the foolish world seems always reluctant to learn. The swooping half R of the English alphabet or the "Rah" letter of the Devnagri script (Symbolic of the Rupee), topped by two horizontal lines which according to the symbol's creator Udaya Kumar symbolizes the equality of the world economy with solo superpower world political structures very soon becoming a thing of the past. Let's hope that his words come true. An apt choice indeed it would be then for a nation whose people have always embodied the spirit of "Live and let live" and understood the wiseness and justness in walking the middle path. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Voice of the Almighty

I now know why some people hate taking flights. It's because they have always been assigned aisle seats. My first experience of the incomparable boredom that accompanies being seated next to an aisle came on the 18th of June this year when I boarded the 9:00 PM flight from Kolkata to Ahmedabad. The check-in counter had informed me with sufficiently staged regret that all window seats on the flight were already taken. So I would have to be content with watching both my neighbours doze off before the plane even entered the runway (What a waste of a window seat, I say!), a pot-bellied businessman play Tetris on his Blackberry despite repeated personal requests from the aircraft crew to switch all electronic devices off (Whether he was just a ignorant moron or an arrogant SOB, I leave to your judgement) and be surprised at the huge number of people who had to make multiple visits to the toilet on a 2.5 hour flight (Must be something that they ate just before getting on the flight, I suppose). No wonder therefore that within half an hour or so, I was in that grey area between sleep and wakefulness. After all, there was only so much to keep you engaged in a bus with tiny little windows.

The speakers crackled to life and a booming voice announced "This is your Captain speaking. We are on course to arrive in Ahmedabad at 11:30 PM subject to landing clearance by the local Air Traffic control tower." And I am yet to figure out exactly why all pilots do give out this unnecessary bit of information, but this one too went on to add "The temperature outside is -25 degree centigrade. We are at an altitude of 10000 feet and our speed is 850 km/hr." How about that? We were in a metal container going at speeds unsuitable for human bodies, at heights inconvenient to human bodies and in the freak chance that we survived both, the cold low-pressure outside was sufficient to do us in. And God forbid (here's the real irony), if something happened to the guy who had just spoken to us, even God could not have saved us from meeting a fiery end. Come to think of it, there is no other place where hundreds of people have to put a direct, deep faith in the abilities of a man and his assistant than the trust that airline passengers put in the hands of their pilots. God Himself would have a tough time inspiring such blind faith in his most devout followers. For all practical purposes, at that point in space and time, the voice on the speaker might as well be that of a very old man who lives in the skies.