Thursday, 1 May 2014

Musings on May Day

Today is May 1, a public holiday, in celebration of May Day, Labour Day or International Workers’ Day. It has a special significance for India and especially for the western state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai (then Bombay) is the capital. On this day, in 1960, a little over a hundred people sacrificed their lives during protests for the formation of a separate Marathi-speaking state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital. Marathi is the official language of the state and one of the twenty-three official languages of India. For this reason May 1 is also celebrated as Maharashtra Day. “Maha” means great, “Rashtra” means “nation” or “land,” hence great nation.

The formation of the state was part of the reorganisation of states under Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister after the British left. Maharashtra is the second most populous and third largest state as well as the richest, a distinction it owes to Mumbai which is the financial, industrial, commercial, and entertainment capital of the country. The city of everyone’s dreams, and not a few nightmares, pays maximum taxes to the central, or federal, government. In return for its generosity, Mumbai gets back very little, as evident from its poor infrastructure. But things have been improving, gradually, since the turn of the century. We have a new cable-stay sea bridge linking the old city and the suburbs—our very own Golden Gate, the country’s first monorail system, and a four-line metro rail of which Line 1 has been in the making for a few years now. It cuts right through my suburb. I won't be taking it as my commute to and from work is perpendicular.

I was born in Bombay and live in Mumbai, which is the same thing, and I thought I should tell you something about my city.

Meanwhile, this and next week I've lined up a few reviews of books and short stories I finished reading by April 30. Immediately coming up is a review of a vintage mystery, a short fiction, for forgotten books at Patti’s blog, Friday. I hope I do justice to it as I couldn't get used to the lingo spoken by one of the characters.

Posting from home has become a bit of a problem since I got rid of our desktop PC a couple of years ago. I’m not comfortable with a laptop. I can use it to surf and read, download books, comment on blogs, check emails, book tickets, and that sort of thing. What I can’t do as well as I can on a regular computer is type out a lengthy post or an article with two fingers (as I do) and scroll (with my forefinger). I still need the keyboard and mouse. So now I keep the laptop a little distance away, the keyboard right in front of me, and the mouse on my right—the desktop-laptop has made things easier.

29 comments:

  1. I have both a mouse and a keyboard hooked up to my laptop. Never been able to make the change without many mistakes.

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    1. Patti, I'm just not used to the "backspace" and "delete" keys on a laptop, one of the reasons I still depend on a regular keyboard.

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  2. Yeah, I hooked up a mouse to my laptop as well. But I generally do most of my blogging from the desktop system I have. I prefer it.

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    1. Charles, I liked our desktop system for a lot of reasons including listening to music via speakers, while surfing. But the system gave a lot of problems and it was not easy to get hardware engineers to come over and fix the glitches in the CPU or wherever.

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  3. Prashant: Thank you for some information on Mumbai. In reading your posts I realize how little I actually know about India. I appreciate you adding to my knowledge.

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    1. Bill, you're most welcome. I'm glad you found the post informative. I read about Canada off and on owing to my interest in world affairs and since I have close relatives in Vancouver. I have been told that Canadians are among the nicest people in the world as well as generous and hospitable.

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  4. Interesting post. I learn a bit more about life in India each time. I'm curious to see which book gave you the lingo issues.

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    1. Col, thank you. It's a hugely diverse country, and fascinating and exasperating too. I couldn't post the review of the book for Friday's Forgotten Books owing to some unexpected developments. I hope to do in a day or two.

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  5. Thanks for all that Prashant and hope you had a good celebration. - I haven't been there since it was Bombay in the late 80s but fascinated to hear of the changed. As a lifelong PC user I know what you mean about laptops - my solution, having got one, is to use a plug-in keyboard with it, which i find has much improved my experience.

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    1. Sergio, thank you. There isn't much of a celebration except for the holiday which is welcomed by all. Bombay, as it was called back then, has changed a lot since the eighties—generally, the city is now overpopulated, life is more stressful, and people no longer have time for each other as they did until a decade ago.

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  6. I prefer the fingeboard on my PowerMac laptop to the use of a mouse. Constant cleaning the bottom of the mouse so it will slide better (what is that gray gunk that builds up over a mere 24 hours of use?) drove me batty.

    "I was born in Bombay and live in Mumbai" is such an Indian sentence. You add "which is the same thing" indicating the name change only. I suspect it is not the same thing at all. It's a sentence loaded with layers of meaning even if it you didn't intend it as such. As usual you come up with some accidental poetry in your blog posts. Thanks for another cultural and historical lesson about your homeland.

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    1. John, I have never used anything from Apple though I keep hearing and reading about their old and new products. Apple iPads, iPhones, and iPods are popular here. Some months ago my son gifted me a wireless mouse that I found handy, literally, and especially owing to the absence of a cable.

      Thank you for your appreciation of my posts, John. I like the sound of "accidental poetry" which it usually is and as that particular line was. But you were very perceptive in your observation, for I still prefer the old name, a British hangover, to the new one, steeped in history. Mumbai derives its name from Mumbadevi, a five-century old Hindu temple whose deity is the Mother Goddess. I continue to use "Bombay" at a personal level, as do most people of my generation and earlier.

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  7. A very interesting piece of history. I just saw a film called Lunchbox, which I believe is set in Mumbai? I absolutely loved it, it was a delight.

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    1. Moira, thank you. I have not seen THE LUNCHBOX but I've heard good things about the film. It is set in Mumbai and in the backdrop of the city's legendary "dabbawallas," or tiffin carriers. These "dabbawallas," who have obtained ISO certification, collect food tiffins from households in the northern suburbs and deliver them, by local trains, buses, and bicycles, to offices in the island city in the south. A simple and hard working lot, they are famous because they don't miss or mix deliveries. You can Google their images. THE LUNCHBOX is parallel, or non-commercial, cinema, and it has noted character actor Irrfan Khan. He plays the adult Pi in LIFE OF PI.

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  8. Prashant, I did not know that May Day was celebrated in India or any of the history of your state and city. That was very interesting. I think I missed a lot of your posts while I was gone, I will come back and visit. Still settling in and very tired from the trip.

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    1. Tracy, thank you. May Day is observed more on account of its relevance to the formation of the state than as international labour day. I hope you'd a good trip to Alabama and that the recent storms and tornados there did not affect your visit in any way. You're welcome to this blog any time. I've missed visits to several blogs this week.

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    2. Thanks, Prashant. The trip was OK considering I got there and back and I was helpful to my sister, who is the caregiver for my sister. I came back so tired I have not recovered yet. Lucky for me, the heavy storms and tornadoes did not touch Birmingham or the outlying area my sister lives in. However, the whole state was in red alert at one time or another while I was there, so it was interesting in a scary way. They have a great meteorologist there to track all the weather. Very impressive. The tornadoes were coming through the day before I left so I was afraid I would not be able to get my return flight but all was quiet at that point. I was lucky.

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    3. Sorry, my sister is the caregiver for my mother, and I was helping out for a few days. My brain is tired.

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    4. Tracy, I'm glad to know the inclement weather in Alabama did not have any impact on your visit and back. We are bracing for the four-month long monsoon beginning June. I hope your mother is doing well. Looking after parents and elders can be mentally and physically exhausting.

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  9. So interesting (and instructive) to read about your 'home town', Prashant. Thank you. I always tell people I have two posting friends who live in India. Thanks to the internet, the world is just getting smaller and smaller.

    I have a desk top computer with a roller ball mouse. I can't stand the other kind of mouse. Don't think I'd like the 'flatness' of a laptop.
    Though my daughter has one and loves it.

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    1. Yvette, thank you for the kind words. I feel the same way about knowing you through your blog. The internet has truly shrunk the world. I'm getting used to the laptop though I do intend to revert to a desktop PC at some point in future.

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  10. I've just taught a lesson on May Day, Prashant but I had no idea of the Indian history. I would have added in a bit about it if I'd known. I've mentally filed it away for future reference. Happy reading in May.

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    1. Sarah, your lesson on May Day must have been very interesting. I'm glad you found this little post informative. Happy reading to you too.

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  11. Some history I didn't know ad I'm looking forward to your reviews next week.

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    1. David, it certainly is, as is a lot of Indian history. I hope to post the reviews soon.

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  12. I just put THE LUNCHBOX in the queue at Netflix and hope it pops up there before too long.

    Some day, I hope you will put together a reading list of fiction based in Bombay/Mumbai. Over the years I have had to rely on films for my knowledge of India, from JEWEL IN THE CROWN and Satyajit Ray to the occasional Bollywood production.

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    1. Ron, I read some good reviews of THE LUNCHBOX out here and I'm looking forward to seeing it too.

      There are quite a few good books set in Bombay/Mumbai such as MAXIMUM CITY: BOMBAY LOST AND FOUND by Suketu Mehta, THE MOOR'S LAST SIGH and MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie, SHANTARAM by Australian Gregory David Roberts, LOVE AND LONGING IN BOMBAY by Vikram Chandra, and FAMILY MATTERS by Rohinton Mistry. As for rest of India, I recommend first and foremost Nehru's DISCOVERY OF INDIA.

      Satyajit Ray was singularly responsible for taking Indian cinema to the West and showcasing India through his many films. I remember watching the JEWEL IN THE CROWN series on state-run television in the eighties. It had some very good Indian and English actors. David Lean's A PASSAGE TO INDIA, based on E.M. Forster's classic, is a film worth seeing. It is set during the British Raj.

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    2. Thanks Prashant. I didn't mention PASSAGE TO INDIA. Saw the film but only really remember Forster's HOWARD'S END (novel and film), which I believe is referred to as HOWARD'S BLEEDING END in EDUCATING RITA.

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    3. Ron, you're welcome. I think I saw HOWARD'S END on television a few years ago but I know I haven't read the book. I didn't know about its reference in EDUCATING RITA which, now that you mention it, I feel like watching again along with its distant cousin CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD.

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