Shit! It’s your food!

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Two months ago,  it was plastic in our rice. This month, it’s shit in our sweets.

Once again, I was involved in a panel discussion on a local TV channel (TV9 – Bangalore), about the safety of our food. TV9 mounted a sting operation on major sweet shops across Bangalore. Diwali is the most important Indian festival, and the demand for exotic sweets is especially high at this time of the year.

Manufacturers of sweetmeats take full advantage of the high demand – and the government’s lax attitude – to peddle all kinds of shit on unsuspecting consumers. And I mean that literally.

TV9 went around the city purchasing sweets and sent them to a reputed food testing lab. I know this lab well, and I can tell you this lab is one of the best in India. Can’t disclose the name of the lab, because the channel asked me not to. But they did show me the lab reports.

And those lab reports were horrifying. Horrifying, but not surprising. I’ve been in quality control and R&D since thirty years, and I know very well how badly our food is adulterated – and what evil lurks in the minds of those who manufacture our foods.

Without execption, all the sweets tested had high amounts of coliforms in them. Coliforms are bacteria that are found exclusively in the colons of warm-blooded animals (like us). Human and animal shit are filled with coliform bacteria. There are about a hundred species of coliforms and many of them are harmless. But a significant number of coliform species are deadly pathogens and can cause severe gastro-intestinal infections. To make matters worse, coliforms are usually accompanied by other deadly bugs like viruses, protozoans and fungi, all of which can make you crap yourself to death.

To make matters even worse, coliforms are resistant to most antibacterial medicines, thanks to indiscriminate prescribing by doctors. And to make matters still worse, several coliforms have long incubation periods, upto a week in some cases. That is, if you eat contaminated sweets, you may get severe diarrhoea a week later, and you will never know what caused it.

The presence of coliforms in your food therefore, is a clear indication of fecal contamination. In other words, you are literally eating shit. How does shit get into your sweets, you ask? Obviously, through bad water, bad handling and bad storage. And zero safety standards and zero enforcement by the authorities. And of course, bribery and corrupt officialdom.

The worst culprits are koya based sweets like peda. Did you know that koya is usually stored for months in the open before use? I am always scared of round sweets like laddoos, because I’ve seen how filthy are the hands that pat those sweets into a round shape.

And beware of all sweets coated with ‘vark’, i.e. silver foil. It’s not silver in the first place, and that foil is made by pounding whatever metal they use, between slices of raw intestines taken from slaughtered goats and lambs. That’s right, raw intestines. Filled with coliforms. And remember that an innocent lamb was butchered so that you could enjoy that kaju katli.

Not just coliforms, all the sweets had high amounts of lead – another indicator of bad water being used.

I’ve saved the best for the last. All the lab reports showed that not one of those sweets had sugar in them. No sugar. All had ridiculously high levels of saccharine in them. But no sugar. Saccharine is an unsafe artificial sweetener that can cause cancer, but you already know that, don’t you?

So. Your sweets have shit in them. Bacteria. Fungi. Worms. Heavy metals. Stale milk solids. Artificial flavors. Unsafe dyes. But no sugar.

As I said, horrifying, but not surprising. Our food has always been contaminated and heavily adulterated. But no one seems to care.

In spite of dire warnings by experts (like yours truly), in spite of sting operations by the media, in spite of validated reports by certified testing labs, morons like you will still pay Rs.500/- a kilo for those sweet little packets of shit.

Can’t you make simple sweets at home, to celebrate your festivals? That’s what our festivals are about. Home-made sweets, sharing with family and friends, enjoying simple pleasures.

The real criminal is not the thug who makes these packets of shit. The real criminal is the jackass who buys them. You.

Happy Diwali.

Srini.

BTW: If you can follow Kannada, you can see the entire TV report and panel discussion here.

 

 

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Bangalore fights back … the story of Puttenahalli lake.

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Puttenahalli lake today.

Twenty five years in Bangalore have made me a hardened cynic and a prophet of doom. I’ve seen this city deteriorate from a beautiful, innocent little hamlet into one of the filthiest, overcrowded, screwed up cities in the world.

I remember when this was a nice little town for pedestrians and pensioners. Now it’s a shithole filled with stray dogs and thugs. There were trees and parks lining every avenue here once. Now there are malls and brothels.

There were lakes and ponds filled with clear water once. Now there are open-air toilets and slums. Once there were flowers and birds everywhere. Now there are dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere. Roads with more potholes in them than tar. People defecating in public view. Hooligans driving two-wheelers on pavements. And hawkers squatting on what’s left of those pavements.

Bangalore’s demise is inevitable. Investing in this urban nightmare would be a remarkably foolish business decision. But still, there are determined citizens who have chosen to fight back. And there are some victories.

Puttenahalli lake is one such. Once a delightful waterbody tucked away inside Puttenahalli villlage, on the southern outskirts of the city, the lake suffered the same fate as all other lakes across Bangalore. Encroached, surrounded by concrete condos, filled with garbage and human waste, infested with mosquitoes, vermin and local goons.

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The lake was written off, waiting to be swallowed by land-sharks and politicians. A small group of locals decided to do something about it. The Puttenahalli neighborhood improvement trust came into being about seven years ago, with the single-minded objective of reviving the dead lake.

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It took them a great deal of hard work, and a considerable amount of their own money. But today, Puttenahalli lake is a thriving waterbody, filled with clean water, a home to fifty species of birds and all kinds of flora and fauna. It’s not out of the woods yet, there is still a slum to be removed, but I’d say the worst is over.

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To a large extent, the battle is won, and Puttenahalli is now officially known as a “saved” lake. Considering what it used to be, this is a major achievement by any means. And across the city, other citizen groups have taken up the fight to save their local waterbodies.

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For a city that has been destroyed by political greed and corporate thuggery, and is in imminent danger of death, Puttenahalli lake is a small beacon of inspiration and hope.

As long as there is hope, I think Bangalore city still has a chance to survive, however slim that chance may be.

Take a look at my Puttenahalli collection.

Cheers … Srini.

Where were you when your mother died?

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Our scriptures talk of ‘putradharma’ … the duty of a son.

Elaborate guidelines are given in our ancient books of wisdom, about the multiple responsibilities of a son. In modern India, the law is crystal-clear about putradharma.  Not just that, a son who is prevented from caring for his parents by his wife, has a legal ground to seek divorce.

No matter which religion it is, no matter which country it is, no matter which century it is. A real man takes care of his parents. Period.

An elderly couple visited me today, seeking my advice. Three sons. All three are abroad. All three are filthy rich. All three have abandoned their parents. Just abandoned them. They don’t give a shit if their parents are alive or dead. I was deeply moved by their plight.

It’s the same story with the parents of my NRI friends and relatives. It’s the same story with millions of elderly parents across India. Abandoned by their rich, expat children. Alone. Victims of abuse. Soft targets for criminals. Easy marks for con-men. And frequently found with their throats slashed in their own homes.

Some have formed support groups, some have sought refuge in retirement homes, some have wound up in ashrams. They are brutally exploited everywhere they go.

“This is not my India”, whines a popular music director, when some random crime that is totally unrelated to him, happens somewhere in the country. The “rationalists” and “secularists” rave and rant and organise rallies about “intolerance” in our country. A debate rages in our TV news channels, about a bunch of refugees from another country.

But no one talks about the millions of our own elders, who are abandoned refugees in their own country, left to die by their own children. It’s bad for TRP ratings, you see.

This is indeed not my India. In my India, elders are deified, they are respected, they are worshipped. In my India, parents are cared for. Not left to rot in a bloody “retirement” home.  In my India, a mother gets to die in the arms of her son.

I had a wife and daughter once upon a time. That wife and that daughter told me to abandon my parents, and migrate to the West. I told both of them to get lost. And they did. But not before they raped me in court though.

The ex-wife got herself an extremely rich, extremely old NRI husband. The ex-daughter got herself an extremely rich, extremely old step-father, took his name as her own, and now enjoys the “luxury” of the West along with her live-in boyfriend.

“Wish her well and be happy for her”, I was advised by an “enlightened” relative of mine. Why the eff should I wish her well?

A full decade of being single, and I am content. Content to lead my mediocre life. Content to be a dutiful son.

Will God give me a nice pat on the back? Will I get a nice berth in heaven? Will I get my just rewards in the next life?

Of course not.

As it is, I get insults and jeers from the general public, and pointless advice from elderly relatives. And I still get outright abuse and slander from my ex-wife’s fan-club in Bangalore. I ignore all of them.  A man does what he has to do.

Many years ago, I was in a train to Hyderabad. A hijra (eunuch) got in and asked me to make room for her. During the journey, we had a nice chat about various topics. Just before she got off, she told me something that has stayed with me through my life. She told me that in her community, they take care of their old folk, till death.

A man who does not take care of his parents is not even fit to be known as a hijra, she said in parting. I couldn’t agree more.

The elderly parents who wept on my shoulder today, made me realise how much better I am than all my NRI friends who sneer at me for choosing to stay back in India. I may be an impoverished, underachieving divorcee with a bald head and two stents in my heart, but I’ve got more balls than all of them combined.

Next time one of your NRI friends brags about his mansion, his Mercedes, his heated swimming pool, his wife’s boob-job, ask him just one question.

“Where were you when your mother died?”

Cheers … Srini.