Tags: professionals



I have documented the many, unusual, and varied livelihoods people pursue...

Making and polishing furniture


Roadside iddli/dosa van (with monkeys to watch out for)


Selling corn-on-the-cob:


Wedding hall decoration:


Roadside vending:


Jewellery polish and repair (also done on the footpath)


Selling tender coconut water:


Chai seller (with the iconic brass boiler which is on its way out)


Selling bamboo baskets:


Running an eatery:


Making and painting pots:



Teaching young children:




Working on the railway tracks:


Footwear repair:


Selling jeans:


Cleaning the trains:




Waste collection:


Selling garlands:




Spreading religion:


Birthday party organizing:


Selling brooms and mats:


Selling flowers and fruit:


Selling clothes:


Carrying sand:


Running, or working in, a bakery:


Spraying crops:




Hawking seasonal vegetables:


Making steel cupboards:


Engraving plaques:


Serving in the police:


All in the day's work for a firefighter...

AM had come home from the De Baliviere garage, where the installation of the new fare-boxes is under way. As she spoke on the phone, she looked out of the window, and in the conservancy lane parallel to our home, she noticed a fire in a dumpster:


As we looked, the fire started taking hold:


She immediately called 911...and we waited for the fire truck to arrive.

It seemed as if a fire cobra were consuming the dumpster...


Collapse )

Their work done, they accepted our thanks, and drove away.


This was a simple job...but it could easily have been a dangerous and difficult one. My salute to the firefighters everywhere.

The Indian Educational Caste System


an analysis of the statistics of this year's IIM (Ahmedabad) admissions

and here's an article that talks about the truth of

those "highest salaries"

that the newspapers keep on featuring.

Both the statistics and the report are very interesting...and disquieting. I too detest these "highest salary" reports in the newspapers...it seems to reduce management to just money and nothing else..and of course, the exaggeration and mis-reporting makes it worse.

But then, we Indians are like that vunly. Can you imagine another country where topping the entrance exam is considered a huge achievement in itself (IIT JEE) Yes, I know it's a tough exam with lakhs of applicants, but it IS an entrance exam, after all...and I hate the fact that the top graduates from IIT seem (yes, even now) to migrate to "foreign" shores....

We have a very entrenched "caste system" to our education too...right from school.Science is best. Commerce comes next, Arts (Humanities) being the Pariah.... and even in the high-brahmin "engineering" stream there are sub-castes that are less desirable..I was asked, "Why does your daughter want to take Architecture when she scored good marks?" KM, a pure Brahmin in the ECS (Educational Caste System) with his IIT-IIM background, committed the folly of marrying a very low-caste me (English Honours and Philosophy post-graduate, and not even a doctorate to mitigate the situation...no degrees in music, even, in spite of 15 years of classical vocal training, and going for courses like German and Japanese and Tourist Guide Training....!)

A liberal arts education is equal to a "useless degree"(yes, I have heard many people use that term!) in our country. When I studied English and Philosophy, I was asked what I would do for a job. When I learnt German, I was asked WHY I was learning it. I cannot believe that we are the land of the Vedas....our "learning" seems entirely money-, job-, and achievement-oriented. Where is the love of learning that should inform any good educational system, side by side with professional and vocational education?

I didn't realize that I was also tainted by this "caste-system" until I found myself very apprehensive of meeting all the "highly-qualified" classmates of KM's from IIM-A...and when I did meet them, I found that instead of looking down on my lack of professional education, they appreciated so many other things about me....! That's when I stepped out from thinking of myself as "only an Arts post-graduate", and understood that the process of learning never stops, and that different fields of learning are as valuable as one another. But...the Indian educational system...doesn't seem to think so! Only the ability to earn, it seems, is important in a degree.

Well, perhaps we are not alone in this, I've always detested the publicity given to those million-dollar advances for writers, and to those who are in the running (or ultimately win) the Booker Prize, as if the others are of no account...but we as a country certainly seem more prone to this. "So...is your son 'well settled'?" is a way of asking, "Is your son earning well?" Last week, too, I spoke to someone in the temple at St.Louis who proudly told me how much his sons were earning in the US and how they had bought this, that and the other..."well settled" indeed!

Er, end of rant....! Any thoughts from the rest of you?

The Knife-Sharpener

knife sharpener

Though the small streets and the lanes he goes,
His voice echoing around.
He calls aloud, this sharpener of knives:
They hear him, the mothers, the sisters, the wives:
Each busy housewife knows
That he'll set the wheel on the ground:
The sparks will fly as he steps on the pedal:
Sharper and sharper gets the now-shiny metal:
He pockets the small sums that he's paid,
Perhaps drinks a cup of tea that someone's made...
Then he's off again, with his clarion call,
Whoever needs his work...he goes to serve them all.

I heard his "clarion call" (in Chennai, what he calls is, "katthi shAAAAAAAANAAAAA!") and rushed out on to the balcony to photograph his retreating form...my sis in law didn't want any knives sharpened that day!



We went to hear Dr L Subramaniam today. His mastery over the violin is complete; his playing has a clarity and sweetness rarely heard; and he is a talented musician as well. Then why did we all feel that we had somehow got less than what we should have?

In the first place, I do not see the need for him to promote his son just yet. Ambi is very talented, there is no doubt; but he is young, and waiting for a while might not be a bad idea. Bowing/ fingering virtuosity is not the only thing on a concert platform. I noticed the same kind of pushing when he played at the Air France direct Paris/Bangalore flight launch some months ago. Reminds me of the young executive  in the office who goes to the MD's cabin and asks, "Uncle, what is nepotism?"

Secondly, both of them seemed to be indulging in "playing-to-the-gallery" high jinks with all the percussion instruments,  and acrobatics. more to impress everyone with their facility for speed; melody and a sense of serenity was left behind in the mad race for mathematical calculations. Playing thishram, khantham and mishram in Aadhi Thaalam is phenomenal...but it can get tiring after a while. How beautiful the raaga delineation was, and how quickly forgotten its peace was, in the tempo circus!

Then, for a musician of his stature, who is used to playing non-stop in at least 3 hour concerts, what was the need, when the program started late, to take a 20 minute "tea break" (I quote him) after just 45 minutes?

And when he came back, why did we have to get a kind of pocket-book edition Raagam Thaanam Pallavi? He could just have played a song. It was like reading a paperback of "Gone with the Wind", in an abridged form.

Lastly, why did he have to mumble so softly into the mike that we couldn't even hear the names of the accompanists? (We now know that he was accompanied on the thavil by *mutter*, on the mridangam by *whisper*, on the kanjira by *lip-movement*, and the muharsing by *didn'tquitecatchit*.

And then he had the gall to say, he wanted to play for an hour and a half and had actually played beyond that time!

To top it all, never have I seen such an ignorant audience. They persistently clapped at all the wrong times (in the middle of a "korvai" or rhythmic pattern once)..and actually spoilt the build-up several times. This buildup to a crescendo at the end of the concert, of course, was so gimmicky and "for-the-applause", that it had several of us cringing.

I wish professional performers would not shortchange the public with these kind of gimmicks. It cheapens their talent and the music...the music becomes a drama instead.