Monday, November 05, 2007

Little world of ours

The wafer cover was prominent by its duskish color from under the crystal clear waters. Kashmir looks Delphic in fall and the potato chip bag thrown into the Manasbal Lake -- perhaps by a pack of tourists -- portends the extend to which forces of globalization have permeated us. Our surroundings. No shade of God’s green earth is sheltered from its ugly left-over. And our attitute to it has been rather sloppy. We seem to be in some sort of a neurotic love affair with its incessant, grabby pull.

Everything is nicely packaged. In little covers. Small boxes, cones and smart cans. Frankly, I don’t wish to throw some of these peel-offs, at times. The consumer fare is made available to us from the biggest metros to the smallest hamlets in Kashmir, where ordinary folks often think that a certain surname will make them superior to everyone else. And then they happily gulp more of the tangy juice and toss the wrappers on roadside. Carelessly.

Christened ‘New India Aeroplane’ the boat that I took, with my pals, had its termite-eaten roof, nicely covered in an Airtel [that’s Worldtel’s India version] canvas. The boatman’s cell phone kept on ringing and the little boat had to be stopped two times, while he took his calls. In reality everyone seems busy on his/her lucky possession [a sleek, high-end cell phone] in Kashmir. They even touch it from time to time -- in their pocket -- to ensure if it is still there. What is your cell phone model, eh?… is a very standard query. I’d to know mine to be ready with a standard response. Long live Nokia!

The mania has gripped all. You have cell phones suddenly clanking in mosques, in the middle of a prayer, in funerals and most irritatingly, in the middle of a conversation [what is buzzer mode]. Etiquettes, if there are any, are melting away, much like good old socializing. You seem to be chatting away with someone and suddenly he pulls the magic brick from his pocket and punches in something. And puts it back. You are completely irrelevant but you are supposed to take that in your stride. For the sake of Globalization. At the altar of manners.

All along the scenic road to hills, you find beautiful humps of golden crop with a buttery sun in the backdrop. The streak is broken only by Shahrukh Khan [selling airtime to the natives] slumped on a king-size chair, a number of times, with a mischievous grin on his 42 year old face. The beautiful fields with hard working peasants in them toiling away appear diametrically contrasting to the billboard. While the villagers thrash the autumn crop, SRK doltishly looks like one of those old world zamindars [landlord], overlooking his tenants.

People appear a lot rich to me in Kashmir. I don’t squeak much as long as they are prosperous and can afford great gadgets. I must admit that I mostly know people from my own social strata and they look blest. They talk about cars, master plans, local politics, plasma TVs and of course religion. However, I feel that most people living on the fringes and in the countryside are miserable. They are left behind while the grabby train has moved on.

I think the potato wafer is still there, under the clear waters of countryside Kashmir. The Lays chips company, Frito-Lay, was founded in1932 by Herman Lay in Nashville, Tennessee, US. The city is located on the banks of Cumberland river. Gliding in Manasbal, this fall and chancing across the Lays wafer in its depths made me think about Cumberland. I tried to connect the dots. Small world, alright. We live in a global village, full of consumerist stuff, I wondered.

The boatman’s cell rang just in time to break my drift.

Sameer

6 comments:

Jennie, New Hampshire said...

Sameer,

This is a great piece. You are right, in many ways, the modern globalizing ways have interfered with local cultures, and there is no doubt it has enriched them but created thhis huge dent in social values also.

I am a student of psycology so I observe trends but hats off to a very lovely piece of blogging here.

Jennie, 24

Abishek said...

grat sir

Manprit said...

oye,
thoughtful sam
why don't u call
BTW....SUPER BLOG

Anand Padwardhan said...

Sameer,

I have been reading you for over a year. I admit that you write good. You have style, a great command over vocab and since you are young, you retain the sense of justice.

However, it is your eye for detail and these beautiful satirical pieces that I enjoy the most.

Since you talking about the public apathy towards environment and the visual pollution caused by the forces of capitalisation here, let me add that over the past three decades, only 15 countries have enjoyed high growth whilst 89 countries are worse off economically than they were ten or more years ago.

In 70 developing countries, today's income levels are less than in the 1960s and 1970s. And in 19 of them (including Ghana, Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan), per capita income is less than in 1960 or before.

"Economic gains have benefitted greatly a few countries, at the expense of many," says the UNDP. The old cliche, that the poor get poorer and the rich richer, is unfortunately well backed up with fact after fact.

So much for Globalization.

Anand Padwardhan
New Delhi

Alex said...

You are a finance journalist as you mentioned somewhere in your blog, previously. It is people like you, sameer, who benefit out of globalization.

Alex

Samir Bhat said...

Blogger speaks:

I am not against globalization, per se. It is a perpetual discussion. Both pro-globalisation and alter-globalisation camps have their figures. Both will make you believe they are right. I have always believed that statistics can be a mistress. It will do what you ask of it.

On a more academic note, I trust, a clear majority of those who were poor as recently as 1970 have got richer, in both absolute and relative terms: over the last 30 years, about 70 per cent of the population of developing countries have experienced sufficiently fast growth in real per capita GDP to converge towards rich countries' levels.

Poverty has however worsened in some nations, particularly in Africa. But there are major developing countries, particularly in Asia, with large populations that have been growing quite strongly and lifting millions out of poverty.

Those countries where poverty is worsening are not those which have participated in free capital flows. On the contrary they are those that have been unable to participate in globalisation because of war, corruption, or maladministration. And their economic institutions are weak. Their share of global trade has actually halved over the last 20 years.

WE have seen othr economic models. Socialism, communism. Such countries have lagged behind in the march. I think we need is compassionate globalisation. While we benefit from the technology and advancement that globalisation offers, we have to be compassionate and inclusive. We have to take care of those who are left behind, take care of environment and maintain a balance between what we have and what we need. We have to have the political will to be able to do so. Corporate responsibility is another key element here.

I could go on...we'd need another blog ;)

Sam