I was occupied for the past ten days with my dad who was here for a regular medical check up but on the doctor's advice had a minor corrective surgery. Spending so much time at the hospital, I read and was also in a heightened state of observation. My family comes from Bihar, a part of India, which is part of India's "badlands", "cow belt" and perhaps one of the poorest. It is important to rub that in as quality health care is the stuff of our wet dreams. Glossing over such self-pity and continuing with my observations, the hospital, a heart speciality center, saw people from all parts of South Asia. There were Tibetan monks (so much for the austerity of monastic life), Afghani's and Pakistanis as well as Indians. The foreigners were easy to spot but most Indians look alike and it was the linguistic variety that helped distinguish a Madrasi from Jain and so on so forth. The hospital is over burdened with patients and the doctors were honest about it when my dad was turned away the first day despite waiting for the operation for almost 12 hours.
These days I do not read newspapers except the odd edit pieces online but owing to the nature of the past days, I was reading atleast two of them and later even watching television news, something I deeply loathe. So while I was cogitating over the basic function of the state in terms of health care, education and infrastructure, the media was covering these following issues.
1. The son of India's biggest cinema star Amitabh Bachchan, is getting married to probably the most known (or so the media wants us to believe) Indian face in the world, Aishwarya Rai. Abhishek the groom is himself a big film star. TV news is covering the marriage, a strictly private affair with less then 300 of the most important people in all aspects of Indian public life. The news channels have camera's manning all venues. The different news media's are also speculating on who has been left out among the select list of invitees.
2. Monday and Tuesday was devoted to covering the controversy generated by an onstage hug/kiss that Hollywood actor Richard Gere gave a Hindi Film actress Shilpa Shetty at a function to raise awareness of AIDS. On one of the channels, a call in from Dhanbad, Jharkhand, the speaker was visibly outraged at the gall of Richard Gere to kiss an Indian woman in public. It is not our culture was his explanation. Indian culture is different. The activists of the Hindu right wing parties organised processions and demonstrated against Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty and burned their effigies.
3. A 14 year old boy fell into a sewer in the town of Ghaziabad. The boy is said to be mentally challenged and he was playing with his friends when he fell into the uncovered manhole at 8.30 am. The pressure of the sewage flow is very high and it is over 4 kms long. Army was called in after the local authorities failed to find the boy. The boy remains missing as today's newspapers tell me.
4. A Hindu girl and a Muslim boy eloped from Bhopal and escaped to Mumbai to get married. The Bhopal police arrested the boy's brother and detained him. The Mumbai High Court came to the rescue of the beleaguered couple and asked the police to provide them protection. The Sindhi community from which the girl hails has issued a warning to curtail the freedom given to Sindhi single girls, no scooters, no mobile phones. The groom has converted to Hindiusm to marry the girl and this has raised the ire of the Muslim community and especially his father. The boy's father said that his two elder sons are married to Hindu girls who converted to Islam so why cannot the third do the same. A similar story was repeated when an underage couple (Muslim boy and Hindu girl) eloped to Mumbai from Surat. The police arrested the boy and sent the girl home.
5. The Indian state/province of Uttar Pradesh goes to polls today to elect a new state assembly. The Hindu right wing, fighting a losing battle, releases a Compact Disc which is meant to incite hatred and polarise Hindu votes against the Muslims.
6. The Mumbai Police Chief/DGP is said to have accumulated properties worth millions of Indian rupees. In the process building strong links to builders who are the key frontmen for the Mumbai underworld. The DGP is responsible for law and order in Mumbai the financial capital of India. The twin menace of terrorist and underworld have consistently threatened life in Mumbai and both the threats essentially employ the same footsoldiers.