In the name of progress

Synopsis : We have discarded many good things in the name of progress that allowed poor people everywhere to be self-reliant and earn a living and made it easier for the big and powerful industries to take over the void and push their antipoor agenda. The blog looks back at what we have lost.

In the name of progress

homepage-banner-tomatoes

Source : Google photo of happy  poor children with the farm produce

I remember many small vendors and tradesmen who used to sell many things like homemade toffee, candy and toys or tasty snacks in our narrow lane where we eagerly waited for them in the evenings. They sang the merits of their products in a sing-song way or had a bell they chimed to attract attention.

Their toffee or candy cost only a penny and they would shape their red striped candy into the shape of a bird or animal for you and stick it on a straw. But the ones we liked most was the cotton candy that they would spin on a pedal cranked  contraption they carried on their shoulder and gave it to you in colors like red or green or blue in a big shape of a ball on a stick.

Then there was a vendor who always came in the evening with a basket full of candy made of sugar and colored in the shape of small animals like a turtle or a bird. Another sold popped chick peas coated in tasty spices and rock salt that we loved. Nothing cost more than a few pennies.

One fellow had a big box on four legs with holes on one side from where we could peep inside and see the horses galloping or birds flying. He hand cranked the music while a disc with cut outs of horses and birds spun giving the impression that they were galloping or flying. It also cost a few pennies.

Sadly we don’t see them anymore anywhere because they all have disappeared. People call it the progress but I call it the loss of an era of small vendors who made a living this way and raised their family.

Now the kids buy the Cadbury chocolates or KitKat in the stores but they cost a lot more than a penny and it goes to big candy companies that spend millions in TV advertising their products to entice the kids. You see newspapers ads or big bill boards doing the same.

In those days there were many small entrepreneurs who made things at home that they sold later on the streets. They did not have the resources to put up a factory and produce the things on a large-scale like the big companies now do but they made a living on which they raised their family.

I remember a family in our community that made spicy chick peas called Kabuli Chana ( meaning Kabuli white chick peas). It was made at home by the mother or the grandmother and sold in various stores. It was a good business because everybody liked it but now I don’t see it anymore. Such businesses die when the old people who made the products die.

India is a country where the private small entrepreneurs thrived and to some extent still do because there were no restrictions on them, no red tapes and tedious business permits to acquire giving poor people a chance to make things and sell them on the street and make a living. They never got rich but they were self-employed and did not ask for any favors.

You still see them in many countries selling whatever they make on street corners.  It may be toys, snacks or serious street food that they sell at a low price. If you drive down the highways in India, you will see these ramshackle eateries made of bamboo and thatch called Dhabas where for less than a dollar you can eat very tasty food that are freshly made and served piping hot. The waiters there are so humble that they hesitate to take 20 Rupees tips that I gave because the service was so good and the food excellent. Compare that with waiters in Europe or in America.

There were numerous street jugglers, clowns and acrobats as well who made a living this way along with numerous snake charmers, the nomads with the dancing bears or monkeys and snake oil peddlers. Many sold dubious products like ointments to cure-all ailments while others read your palms. No doubt many were con men out to make quick money from people who believed in such things but they all made a living and survived.

I saw them in the streets of Paris or Mexico City but they are always harassed by the police who ask them to move on. I still do not understand what is so unlawful to make a living and be self-employed but such harassment goes on everywhere.

Now the police shoot and kill a poor black fellow who was selling a few sticks of cigarette or a CD in the United States because he did not have a business permit. A poor fruit vendor in Tunisia was slapped by a policewoman and his fruit trays over turned just because he did not have a permit to sell a few fruits and make a meager living. In shame he poured gasoline on himself and lit the fire while people watched helplessly the man burning to death. This led to the Arab spring movement that toppled many dictators.

There are millions of poor people who are self-employed, who provide a great service to their communities and make a living. No country in the world can provide jobs to every citizen so people with little or no education thus learn to survive on their own and not asking for any favors from the government.

But the capitalism favors big businesses with tax breaks and special treatment while the big businesses stifle the small ones that they perceive as competitors. One small dairy farmer in the USA somewhere had a few cows and sold the fresh milk in the market but the big milk company could not tolerate an independent milk producer like him so filed complaints that his cows were dirty, his milking sheds were unhygienic etc. The health inspectors came down hard on this poor fellow and found many things wrong.

The government health inspectors were always in cahoots with the big corporations and favored them over the small milk vendors so the poor man was put out of business. He had to sell all his cows to pay for the litigation.

The trend now is to push out the small people in favor of big businesses so you don’t see many independent small farmers in the United States where big corporations have taken over the production of crops and animals in large-scale.

There was once a great private farmer in the United States who had over 600 acres of very productive land that he cultivated with distinction and was very prosperous. But one day he died leaving his widow alone who did not know anything about farming. So every year the state took away a part of her land because she could not pay taxes until only her house was left to her and with no income. Finally a plea was made to the governor to spare her house which he did. She was black. I wonder what would have happened if the farmer was white.

In the old communist Russia they protected the right of everyone to have jobs but managed the agriculture and industries leaving nothing in the private hands. Thus they mismanaged the agriculture in large state farms and government-run and mismanaged factories giving people no incentive to work hard and produce.

We all know that their state managed farms and factories were unsuccessful so they are now back to square one and allow private farmers to grow what they want. The result has been spectacular. When people have a stake in their enterprises, they work harder and try to succeed.

But the capitalism as practiced by some western countries is anti-poor so they are slowly pushed out by the people who have money and control everything including the congressmen and politicians who make laws in their favor.

When Fidel Castro and Che Guevara made their revolution a success and gave the poor people in Cuba a voice for the first time, they were demonized by the capitalists who were pushed out of Cuba. The result was a trade embargo that until now has not been lifted. The big businesses are sacrosanct and cannot be pushed out of any country without consequences as Cuba learned.

Now this capitalism is spreading everywhere with grave consequences for the poor who are left out of the progress a country makes. They do not have the cars to drive on spanking new highways and pay ridiculous amount of toll fees. They do not have the money to spend in spanking new and massive malls where the goods sold there are for the rich.

They cannot buy a small house in fancy housing estates where only people with a great deal of money can live in gated communities. Their children cannot go to new colleges and universities where the cost is beyond their ability to pay.

They cannot go to fancy hospitals equipped with latest imported equipment and well-trained doctors and nurses because they are poor and can’t afford.

So I come back to the plight of poor people who during our childhood somehow made a living selling things they made and raised their families. Now such people find it harder to make a living. What was so wrong that poor people were self-employed? What was wrong with the idea that they tried to be self-reliant?

Why couldn’t other countries learn from the Cuban experience that a country makes progress only when the poor are empowered to manage their own destiny? The politicians make a great deal of promises to get their votes but who controls the politicians and who finances them?

These are very relevant questions that need answers.  Socialism that helps the poor is a dirty word in some capitalistic countries where making money at any cost is the normal practice. If the poor get sick, they can’t pay for the hospital costs so they die needlessly. One woman brought her injured daughter to the emergency room of a hospital in the United States and pleaded for her daughter’s life who was bleeding to death but she was kept waiting for 6 hours. The girl died before the doctors arrived. Rich people do not wait for 6 hours.

Another woman was refused admittance to a hospital because she did not have insurance so she gave birth in the parking lot. Can poor people be treated this way in any country that claims to be rich and developed?

If Castro did nothing except to make free health care for every citizen and gave land to every poor farmer, he will be remembered as a legend but he did much more. The literacy rate in Cuba is over 97% and where no one has to give birth in a parking lot. Sweden is another country where every citizen enjoys quality health care irrespective of his income but you will be surprised how the politicians in the United States make fun of Sweden just because they take care of their poor.

I know that the material progress any country makes comes at a price. The question is who pays the price? Do the poor make air pollution that chokes their cities? Do the poor produce mountains of waste that goes to the landfills? Do the poor produce the industrial wastes that pollute the land, water and poison the environment? Did you know that the poor people are the number one recyclers of waste?

Some people castigate China for the poor human rights record but a Chinese official said that China has lifted hundreds of millions of poor Chinese out of poverty and built millions of modern homes for them thus uplifting them and protecting their human rights in a spectacular way. Can other so-called developed countries claim the same where a poor woman is forced to give birth in a parking lot?

I do get nostalgic when I write about the poor people who made a living and raised their families on their small income. They now watch the development and progress everywhere in India but the progress has passed them by. Over 400 children in one government-run hospital in India died because of poor sanitation and lack of proper medical care. They did not have oxygen because the supplier was not paid. Rich people go to private hospitals.

There will always be a divide between the poor and the rich anywhere. The question is how to narrow this gap and help the poor in a meaningful way so that they too can someday join the middle class like they are doing in China.

If you empower the poor of this world by helping them get education, jobs and a higher standard of living, they pay back in spades in taxes and in turn generate jobs for others and help a country grow.

So I salute all the poor people everywhere who ask so little and contribute so much. They are the salt of this earth and number in millions. They are mostly self-reliant and ask so little or nothing from the government like those vendors during my childhood. If they can’t participate in the progress a country makes then the progress is meaningless. The progress should not and cannot come at any price because it should be inclusive and not exclusive.

 

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Small towns and dreamers

Synopsis: We all come from somewhere but the ones who come from small towns face more difficulties in their lives than the most and have a harder time to overcome them. The blog explores the possibilities of improving their lives if only they have the courage.

Small towns and dreamers

international-students-working-Australia

Source : Google photo of a working student

Where a person is born and grows up is really not up to him but it may have profound effect on his education, development of his personality and his perspective in life in just about everything.

He may have been born in Mosul and saw as a child the horrors of war, the death of his family and the destitution they suffered and continue to suffer. A child does not understand why such things happen and how long it may last. He only understands that his loved ones on whom he depends are helpless and are searching for safety and food where they can find it.

He may have been born in Somalia or Ethiopia in a village that was once peaceful and green with enough food for everybody and does not understand why there is famine and war that had destroyed their once peaceful life.

He may have been born in the beautiful city of Hue in Vietnam that he saw as a child being destroyed by the fighting and could not understand why people were fighting and why there were dead bodies in every street corner.

Or he could have been born in Bam in Iran or Port-au-Prince in Haiti that all of a sudden was destroyed by terrible earthquakes where people were buried under the rubble. A child may understand the power of nature like famine and earthquake but he does not understand why there are manmade calamities like war and flooding due to massive deforestation.

As a child his needs are simple. He needs food and shelter and someone who looks after the needs. He is quick to understand that food and shelter may be in short supply due to the calamities so he learns to share what he has with his siblings and does not demand what he sees his parents unable to provide.

It is heartwarming to see a child feeding his siblings and trying to protect them from harm as best as he can. A teen age girl sells herself to get a few coins to feed her siblings who have been orphaned by war like herself. It makes them grow up fast in order to learn to cope with such situations.

Now let us see the child who grows up in a lush countryside in the loving care of his prosperous parents who shield him from all the unpleasantness of this world so he never learns how others fare in other parts.  The small towns make him grow in a cocoon that makes the outer world irrelevant to him. He may watch the news and learn what is happening elsewhere but he develops no empathy for the suffering of others. Not all children are thus privileged although the lack of empathy is not a privilege.

The movie Deer hunter shows the life in a small town in the United States where the young people work in the only steel mill in town that provides them employment at low wages and a mundane routine and hum drum life where nothing exciting ever happens . They get used to such life and do the best they can to amuse themselves which may be drinking or going out to hunt deers or dancing during a wedding or in a bar playing the jukebox.. It is the life of a small town where everyone knows everyone and where they resign themselves to work in the mill at low wages that barely keep them out of poverty.

It is the life in a small town that keeps people from dreaming big and  try to break out of their vicious life and do something like going to college and getting a higher paying job to live in a big city suburb in a nice house and live the life of middle class.

I had a friend who had seen the world and lived in many countries who once told me that his home town in Texas was really small. People there were more preoccupied with the current soap opera on TV or the bingo games than anything else in the world. Only when a body returned in a coffin of someone they knew who had died in a war somewhere reminded these people that there was an outer world where people were fighting and dying.They were not concerned.  You could see the parade on the 4th of July when old veterans came out in their fading uniforms and their caps full of forgotten medals earned in some forgotten war fought long ago.They waved their flag out of patriotism.

Women were more concerned about the latest hair color and the gossip and fretted about who will bake the pumpkin pie for the church next Sunday. I feel sorry for the pastors of these small towns who have to deal with endless pumpkin pies. Their aspirations, their dreams and their struggles to better themselves had died a long time ago so they lived from day-to-day worrying about pumpkin pies and hair colors.

Most small town people live barely above poverty line so they can’t travel the world and see the Eiffel tower or the Taj Mahal. They have little education that limits their understanding of the world and perception. Those who break out of their small town and join the Peace Corps or the Foreign Service get the opportunity to travel and see the world find it very difficult to go back to their small towns where no one is interested in their stories and travel photos.

Those who join the army and are sent to fight in other countries come back with horrible memories of the violence and the PTSD problems. They often return home to find their wives gone and living with someone else or other such issues that they can’t cope with and take to drinking. Those with debilitating injuries find it even harder to live in their small towns where there are no opportunities for a decent living wage for a healthy person let alone someone with disabilities.

When they grow old, they too parade in their faded uniforms and pin the cheap medals they earned to their caps and then go to a bar to celebrate their pitiful life by binge drinking.

Their women once pretty become un pretty with bulging flesh and many medical issues that come from eating poorly unhealthy food all their lives. In their younger days they may have been the beauty queens in their high school class and may even have earned a few medals and plaques but it loses its relevance later and collects dust on their old piano.

I call it the curse of small towns anywhere that kills the dreams of a child who feels that he is different and has the power to unlock his potentials if given the chance. Who then provides him or her the chance to go out to the world and make a name for himself if not the parents?

If he comes from poverty as most small town people who depend on the steel mill or coal mine jobs do then his chances of going to a good college and learning skills needed to get a good job somewhere are rather limited.

If the parents can’t afford to send the kid to college somewhere then the kid finds a job after high school or even before just like his father and grandfather and becomes the resident of the small town community where he may marry his high school sweetheart and settle down.

The women fare worse in small towns where at first they get jobs as waitresses in a diner or hamburger stand and later may graduate to a super market checking the groceries. It earns them a living but barely so they too resign to their fates, marry and raise children who in turn become like their parents.

This is the story of small town everywhere. Only the degree of mediocrity varies. I do not denigrate small towns and the people who live there. They try to cope with their situation the best way they know how. It is not their fault that their town is small, that their only employer is the mill that does not pay well and does not require high level of education, that their life revolves around the church or the bar, that their children are also like them although they want them to be different.

It is just the grinding viciousness of poverty breeding more poverty that they do not seem to overcome and one day lay dead with nothing to show for except their ramshackle wooden house and a beat up jalopy. Most of the small towns in the world are that way where people just barely live and get by.

But once in a while a dreamer is born there who refuses to believe that he is going to spend the rest of his life just like his father or grandfather in the small town and eventually marry a country girl who only thinks of her hair color and nail polish and who later graduates to become the avid church goer with a pumpkin pie in hand. He is a dreamer who wants to dream big and break out of the boundaries of his small town and make something out of his life.

How can he do it?  Here is a story that might throw some light on this subject.

There was once a vegetable seller who also sold fruits and other things pushing his cart day in and day out and made a simple living. He had no education worth mention but he dreamed big that one day he will no longer sell fruits and vegetables and become rich.

So he started copying popular movie songs and sold the cassettes in the sidewalk for a small price. Soon he realized that he could not supply the demand so hired his brother to go to Hong Kong and buy tape copying machines there. Even then he could not cope with the demand so he set up a studio with sound proof state of the art modern recording facility where for a few thousand Rupees he recorded the popular songs sung by teen age boys and girls who had a good voice.

This way he sold cassettes everywhere that made him very rich. He then moved into cassette making itself and had his own brand which later developed into the manufacture of audio equipment to play the cassettes.

He was a religious man so he started feeding the poor by thousands and never forgot how poor he once was. He was later killed by the mafia that he would not pay bribe to so his life ended one day but he left his legacy in the empire he built that his relatives now run. This was a man who dreamed big and had the audacity to try his luck.

So I have hit on the word audacity here. Let me now expand on the meaning of this word audacity and how it can change your life if you happen to live in a small town and dream big. It is one thing if Barack Obama talks of audacity because he had grown up with some privileges and he was very smart but quite other if you are not Obama.

So what if you are not very smart like Obama and still dream big? What if your parents are too poor to pay for your college education? This is where audacity plays a role. Audacity simply means daring and not taking no for an answer.

I knew a Chinese girl from Hong Kong who washed dishes in our college cafeteria who one day said to me that her supervisor was an old but very mean woman who gave her a hard time. I told her that she was a princess in the making and one day her hard work will pay off when she graduates, gets a very good job and will become a successful person. This is the boot camp when a lowly sergeant makes life difficult for you but one day you will become the officer whom everyone will salute. The lowly uneducated woman who gives you a hard time will be left behind biting dust while you will forge ahead in life so just hang on.

So there are ways when any person with audacity and strong determination can succeed. Such a person can overcome all his difficulties and succeed against all odds as that beautiful Chinese girl did.

There are many schools and colleges that offer full scholarship to those who are smart or half scholarship to those who can find odd jobs to support themselves. It gets better once you get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject that holds a bright future that opens up many possibilities and doors. There are universities that offer full scholarships for Master’s or Ph.D. level studies and are constantly looking for qualified candidates.

What you need is a fire in your belly that can’t be put out. It will push you on to achieve great things in life but you have to take certain risks and endure hardship by becoming a self-supporting student and take any job  that can support you and your studies.

Such people are audacious and have a guardian angel watching over them all the time. He will come to your help in the guise of a kind professor who sees your potential and will recommend you for a scholarship somewhere for further studies.

I know it from my own experience but I am not here to write about myself.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

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Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

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My blogs at Wix site

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Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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Leather and pollution.

Synopsis : No one really knows what goes into the production of leather .We only see that the effluent from the tanneries poison the river and kill the fish and wildlife so the blog explores the possibilities of non leather alternatives that can reduce the very harmful pollution and save our waterways.

Leather and pollution.

Leather dyers

Source : Google photo of leather dyeing in Fez in Morocco

The primitive man did not wear shoes in prehistoric times because he was more akin to animals than human. His needs were simple that did not include shoes. But later when he started to hunt for animals for food, the skins came in handy and perhaps it was the women who first thought of making shoes out of animal skins to protect the feet so the moccasins were born.

The native Americans were expert is making moccasins and made it so comfortable that one could not feel if he was wearing them. It was made of very soft skins that they learned how to soften using plants extracts that had tannin. Even today the moccasins are considered to be the most comfortable footwear and stylish too.

The animal skins and pelts were used primarily for making clothes to protect them from the cold weather but later the skins were used for various other purposes like making bags to carry water, to make hats, to make cover for their tents and numerous other uses. Early Egyptians made use of air-filled goat skins to float stones down the river.

Even today you will see the donkeys carrying the leather bags full of water in Sudan in Africa and in other countries. I used to call them remote-controlled donkeys because once loaded with water bags, they headed toward the village by themselves. May be they were eager to unload themselves so they trotted on without any urging from the urchins who were given the task.

I had one leather bag made from the goat skin in Sudan when I was working in the Western part of Darfur because I thought that I should always carry a bag full of water tied to the front of my vehicle just in case. In Algeria they use sheep skin bags to keep water that naturally cools hung from a tree.

But the story of shoes goes back a long way. In ancient religious texts of all religions, you will find people wearing handmade shoes of some kind. Some were exquisitely made with decorations and tough leather soles for men while the women wore more feminine types also very well made.

African king Mutesa in Uganda ordered all citizens to wear shoes back in 1800s and punished those who did not have shoes. He was a tyrant extraordinaire but his people all wore hand-woven fancy cotton robes and handmade shoes while in other parts of Africa people went barefoot and nearly naked in those days.

As usual, the Chinese were at the forefront of designing and making wonderful shoes for men although they ignored the women who had to bind their feet to look pretty. They had strange notions of what was beautiful until Mao Tse Tung put an end to the feet binding. Women wished he was born long time ago.

At first people did not know how to tan leather except perhaps the Native Americans so the shoes they made were hard and caused blisters in the feet. In Indian villages they still make such shoes out of raw hide and soak it in oil for months to make it soft. They call it panahi but they are still tough to wear.

The ancient Indians made wooden shoes called Kharam  that perhaps the Dutch copied later but believe me when I say that the Kharams  are the most uncomfortable footwear ever designed by man so no one should in this day and age even think of wearing them. It is a punishment that I suffered when young during the thread ceremony to make me a Brahmin.

The poor people are innovative to say the least and developed use of discarded motor tires and made sandals out of it. I bought one in a market in the Philippines one day and realized that it made my legs sore because they were heavy so I happily gave it away to make someone else sore.

So the shoe industry is a big industry because everyone needs shoes of some kind these days so there are many manufacturers of shoes worldwide to supply the needs of common people. There are designers of shoes whose sole job is to invent new styles and designs that are appealing and has a market value.

There are shoes for all purposes. There are sport shoes, shoes for ballerinas, shoes for gentlemen and ladies for special occasions, shoes for children, for teen agers, orthopedic shoes for the aged and shoes for the common people. There are shoes that cost hundreds of dollars made of very costly crocodile leathers or exotic animals and there are shoes that you and I would be proud to wear and show off. The fancy shiny shoes are always a show off so vain men and women who tend to show off are particularly fond of them.

One woman in The Philippines collected over three thousand pairs of fancy shoes because she could never get tired of collecting them but most people are not crazy and are happy with a few sturdy pairs.

Now the shoe industry has found new ways to make money out of reluctant shoe buyers by making shoes out of rubber, clothes, canvas, mixed materials and even nylon or polyester materials or rami fibers so there is a wide variety of shoes in the market.

People laughed when I bought a pair of Bata shoes in India for 50 Rupees in 1967. It was called the Ambassador shoes and was indeed very well made. People did not buy Ambassador Shoes because it was considered so expensive that only rich people wore them. Bata Shoe Company is well-known for its quality shoes although a bit short on style. Now it is quite unthinkable to buy such shoes for 50 Rupees anywhere.

I met a fellow once on a flight somewhere who said that he was the manager of the Hushpuppies shoes in South India where they operated a big factory. It was because India produces high quality leather and the cost of labor is cheaper than other countries so there are many international companies making shoes in India for export.

This is the trend now. The international shoe companies manufacture shoes where the leather supply is unlimited and cheap and where the labor force is well-trained and willing to work for low wages making them huge profit in the process.

When I was a student in California, I saw that the agricultural students wore cowboy boots so I also bought one although not as fancy as the ones they wore. These cow-boy boots were hand tooled and were so well made that they cost a great deal of money that someone like me could not afford so I bought a pair of well-made boots for 15 dollars. But we had a naughty dog in our house that belonged to a hippie that found my new boots and chewed it up really well.

I have since then never invested in shoes expensive or not and get by wearing slippers all year round. I do have a very nice pair of sturdy leather shoes that I wear only once a year for a day and put it back in storage. The only problem is that if you do not wear shoes the whole year then your feet will not adjust to the confinement of shoes well and swell up.

The downside of the leather shoe industry:

Now let us consider the downside of the leather industry for a minute. We do not care how the leather is made, where it is made and how many animals are killed to obtain the leather. We do not care how the leather industry pollutes the environment and how it poisons the water sources because no one goes to the factory to see how the leather is made and tanned. We do not know how hides are processed into leather and what dangerous chemicals are used to tan them.

We only see the beautiful shiny shoes in the shoe shops and buy a pair to show off to our friends. But this industry has a terrible down side to it that very few people know about or care about. If you go to Kanpur which has lots of tanneries along the Ganga River in North India, you will notice that the river there is much polluted with the effluents of the tanneries that discharge their wastes into the river without any restriction. It kills the fish and the wild life and poisons the river water with its chemicals they use to tan and process leather.

One fellow I knew who worked in such a tannery got terrible sores on his body from handling poisonous chemicals. The leather workers are poor and cannot pay for the treatment of sores that do not heal easily but they continue in this hazardous trade because they need to make a living.

If you go to Fez in Morocco, you will see hundreds of vats full of poisonous dyes of various colors that people dip their leathers in to color and tan them. They make beautiful leather for the shoe industry or for other uses like the hand bags and suitcases made by Louis Vuitton and others but they pay a price with their health.

Now there are the artificial leathers that look like leather but are not made from animal skins so it can fool you if you do not know the difference. There is a great fake leather industry that sells all kinds of goods made of it and charges gullible people a good price who do not know the difference. But even these fake leather industries pollute the water and environment by dumping their chemical wastes.

The sport shoes that are mostly made of canvas, nylon fabrics and some artificial leather offer a good choice to those who want sport shoes. These shoes are bought even by people who are not into sports because they are comfortable and easy on the feet. Sure there are fake sport shoes like anything else but there is a market that offers numerous choices and designs that one can choose from.

35077-wood-3-4-man-shoes-pe13

Source : Google photo of fancy crocodile leather shoes.

The crocodile leather shoes are not for everybody because they are so expensive. Now there are commercial crocodile farms in the Philippines and in many other countries where they raise these animals purely for leather and make enormous profit. If you visit Vietnam or Cambodia, you can buy deer skin shoes in the market. I had a pair that one fellow in India took from me because he coveted it so much.

The shoes are made from animal hides so the shoe makers do not care if the hide comes from an endangered animal in countries where such animals are not protected by law. Now the endangered animal skins are used for making expensive fur coats, bags and shoes so there is a great danger to the rare species of animals that are killed just for the fur and the hide by illegal poachers.

I was once flying to Paris from Delhi when a co passenger showed me a tiger skin after taking off. When I asked how he was able to take it out of India where the sale of tiger skin is unlawful, he just winked and said that he had hidden it well and will ask someone in Paris to make a coat out of it. So these rare animals are killed and the skins sold to people who don’t care about the conservation so the number of endangered species are dwindling.

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Source : Google photo of river pollution in India by tanneries.

What concerns me most is the pollution of river water and the soil with dangerous chemicals used by the tanneries that go on unabated and there are very few laws to protect the environment and the rivers. It is true that we need to wear shoes to protect our feet but does it have to come at such a price? Can the Government continue to allow these industries to go on polluting without any restriction and can the national water ways, streams and rivers be allowed to die just because of the demand of an industry that has other alternatives?

Can we someday wear shoes only made of other materials that are safer and less polluting than leather? I do not know the answer.

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Heart of gold

Synopsis : She was born with a heart of gold and has grown into a beautiful girl who helps the poor in many countries overcoming their social difficulties through her expertise in the information technology.

Heart of gold

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Source:  A painting that has some resemblance

She was born on an auspicious day because it was the birthday of Jesus and decided to be born coming out of her mother with her feet first as if she proclaimed that she was to be on her own feet as soon as she was born. It was a joy to see her soft brownish and curly hair that was softer than the down feathers.

Her beautiful face with pencil sharp eye brows, tulip red lips and aquiline nose foretold everybody that she will grow into a beautiful woman someday and did not disappoint. Her parents considered her birth as a blessing because she came right on time and did not give her mother too much trouble.

Her grandmother who had raised many children during her long life time took her on her knees and rubbed her tiny body with mustard oil under the sun to make her limbs grow strong while she blinked.

She never cried during the night as most babies do and was content to suck the milk bottle and ignored her mother’s milk. They watched her grow day by day into a plump baby while her brother who was just two years old played with her.

She was only two months old when the parents took her to Mali in West Africa. Both kids were ideal that parents dream of having because they gave no trouble flying such a long distance. She slept in her hammock on the plane that the stewardess put up on the wall in front of the seat and sucked her milk bottle contentedly and mostly slept. Her brother was also a trouble-free child who only cried a little feeling the air pressure on his ears when landing.

The heat of Mali was terrible and their tiny bodies grew heat rashes that helpless parents tried to sooth with hand fan but still they did not cry. She was rocked on her father’s knee gently so that she could sleep and later slept in her crib.

The maid took her on her back the African way that she enjoyed enormously and steadily gained weight. Soon she was upright and learning to walk and ride at the back of her brother’s tri cycle. She gave her most beautiful smile for the camera when her father took her photo even though she was running a slight temperature. She was a joy to watch but so was her brother who was learning to talk in his most childish way and memorized the story of Trumpet the elephant.

When the parents moved to their new home in a village far from the town, the villagers fell in love with them. The maid took her on her back and wandered everywhere and the village women put some food in her mouth. The old villagers kept an eye on them and one old man came every morning to wake them up calling them softly to wake up.

By this time she was able to speak and memorize the nursery rhymes by imitating her brother and said I know papa I know and would repeat Ba Ba black sheep  and other such rhymes .

Her parents moved to India again where she attended the nursery school and her brother attended the kindergarten. She liked her nursery school although she could not speak their language; she imitated their nursery rhymes and enjoyed the company of other children of her age.

A few years later her parents moved to Haiti where they started schooling. By this time she was almost five years old and her brother seven.

Her parents took them to many countries .They climbed the stairs of Teotihuacan pyramid in Mexico excitedly, wandered  gleefully through Chapultepec park riding horses, watched the carnival  at Zocalo and in the Guadalupe church with curious and exciting eyes and  wandered through the Anthropological museum. They saw the Niagara Falls in New York state and Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C. They shared their stories with anyone who would listen. They played with snow in a rural village in France and climbed the stairs to see the Coliseum in Rome. Later they would experience Haboub in Khartoum and watch the Hippos in the Lake Tanganyika in Burundi.

They had been to Mali, India and now Haiti and were growing up with wide cultural experiences that very few children of their tender age ever got the chance to experience but this was laying the foundation of their character that they were both developing. Now a new country was added to their list where they were to grow up. It was the Philippines where they captured the heart of everyone who saw them. They were two lovely children who had lived in many countries and visited others at their very young age.

Now in high school, these two kids were miles ahead of their classmates in their knowledge and the fluency in English. Both brought home first prize medals in extemporaneous speaking contest and she brought home a medal she won in her science contest. Her parents proudly display all their medals in glass frames.

She was now a young lady and a leader. Her teeth needed some help from a orthodontist so she wore braces for a while that made her teeth beautiful. She also wore a brace to straighten up her spine a bit but she never complained and got through high school while her brother developed leadership in his school and did quite well. Both were getting ready for college now.

The parents watched them with joy as they grew into their teens. Both developed excellent characters and were always helpful to other students. No task given to them was too much. They visited their father who was working in Burundi and then Sudan and also spent some time in India.

The young lady was now in college and was chosen to be the beauty queen of the University but that was no surprise to anyone. Anyone could see that she was a very beautiful girl and had a sterling personality that charmed anyone.

Her brother grew tall and handsome and became a scholar in the agricultural economics department while she took to development communication like duck to water.

Then one day she announced that she was going to Canberra in Australia where she will study information technology for a master’s degree. The parents were overjoyed and brought her to the airport with some trepidation as she was travelling abroad alone for the first time.

The rest is history. The brother went to the United States to study at an Ivy League college and got a good job there after graduation.

She got a government job in Australia after her graduation and became Australian. They both were now independent and have moved away from the parents in a way that they know as predestined still they miss them. Children grow up so fast, it is unbelievable.

She became the darling of her office mates no matter where she worked. She got many awards and accolades for her work that included giving presentations to CEOs of large corporations and business leaders on various subject. People who were impressed by her fluency in English did not know that it was her first language but she also learned the language of the Philippines just like her brother.

She taught her father how to make power point presentations and many other computer tricks and was never impatient. She brought him a Kindle e reader so that he could read hundreds of books. She brought for her parents the Samsung Galaxy pad so that they could talk to her on Skype and e-mail her. She brought to her father paints and brushes because he had some interest in art.

There is nothing she would not do for her parents, for her brother or for his two children. Her helpful nature has impressed people around the world. She helped out a teen age girl who had psychological problems. She helped old people learn how to swim. She helps people out with money and advice.

That little beautiful child is now a young lady who travels around the world by herself helping poor people in many countries using information technology as a tool to bring social services to them.

She has a great sense of humor and often gets into all sorts of mischief as well like changing the letters of the keyboard in her office on the sly and watch the confused office mates having a hard time. She also hugs cheetahs in Africa claiming they are tame and does all kinds of naughty things.

But she has a heart of gold just like her mother. She is the most unselfish, kind-hearted, generous, empathetic, honest, hardworking and very educated young lady one can ever meet anywhere.

She is our daughter. We are proud of our children.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

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Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

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My blogs at Wix site

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Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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I love trains

Synopsis : The The era of Rudyard Kipling’s trains are vanishing under the onslaught of modern trains in India but something still remains that brings people together ,makes new friends and reconnect with the old ones.The blog explores the evolution of trains.

I love trains

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Source : Google photo of luxury train in India

Once I was in Paris and had to reach the Gare de Lyon during the evening rush hours so found a taxi and asked the driver if he could take me to the station using some short cuts for which I promised him a good bonus above the fare. He smiled and said that he knew some short cuts and will get me to the gare and monsieur need not worry. You will surely catch your train.

The evening traffic in Paris is horrendous to say the least but my taxi man kept his promise and through many narrow roads and other back roads brought me to the station. But my ordeal was not over yet.

I had to retrieve my luggage from the kept luggage room and then find my platform  so I ran to the concierge and said that please give me priority and get my luggage quickly because my train is about to leave. Wonder of wonders, he found my luggage and I then ran to find my platform no. 17 where the train was waiting. The light was green meaning the train could leave any minute but it was a night train and a couchette train meaning all the coaches had beds. I did not have a reservation on a train like this but I got on anyway hoping that the conductor will find a bed for me somehow.

Soon the train left the station and started to pick up speed on its way to Marseille. I waited patiently for the conductor who showed up and said that I had the wrong train because I did not have a bed reservation so I said that I had to take this train because tomorrow morning I must reach Marseille from where I must take the ship to Algiers. Please find me a bed somewhere s’il vous plait ? He smiled and said that he will see what he can do for me because he understood my situation. Soon he returned and said that a bed has been found for you monsieur so just pay additional 18 francs that I gladly paid. Knowing French helps a lot.

The trains in France are really nice. They not only have comfortable beds but they give you blankets and the coaches are heated. You are also given pillows that are sanitized and sealed in plastic. I was in the 7th heaven already and very comfortable.  My co passenger was a girl from Nice so we chatted for many hours and then fell asleep only to be woken up at 4 am by the nice girl who shook me and said monsieur monsieur wake up please. Marseille is coming up. I have forgotten her name but she was a very nice person and she was from Nice.

I have travelled all over Italy by train where you can buy a 3000 km ticket at a discount during the summer and go wherever you want. No reservations were required but often the trains were crowded so I stood in one corner. Soon the Italians made room for me to sit down and said You are from India? Your first lady is Italian. I silently thanked that lady.

But my experience in train travel in India is most extensive. India has a very large network of railway lines and runs over 11000 trains daily carrying millions of passengers to all parts of the huge country. Only in India you will find the super deluxe trains that you cannot find in any other country. These super deluxe trains offer pure silk bed sheets on king size beds, personal servants, extensive bar and five-star cuisines. You can sit in the lounge decorated with silk curtains and chandeliers. The floors are covered in plush carpets and no luxury is spared but it comes at a steep price so ordinary folks can’t afford them.

For the ordinary people there are the regular trains that have the first class and the second class with air-conditioned coaches and nice beds and nothing else. In many long distance trains they offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals at a modest cost that are very tasty and steaming hot. They take your order and either e-mail the order to the station where they serve the food or call them by phone and give the order. You do not have to go to the dining coach because they bring food to your seat.

The Indian railway has gone through great transformation over the years that I now notice. Now you can book your journey from any point to any point through computerized reservation system so you don’t have to fight for a ticket at the ticket counter but in the old days it was not so.

Then it was more of an adventure to take the train. I had to often get to my seat through the windows because the doors were blocked by luggage or people leaving people no choice but to find other ways to get in. The passengers sitting near the window did not like it one bit and often pushed people out who were desperately trying to get in. I had to once get in this way that the lady passenger found very annoying but later she became my fan when I said that I was going to Delhi to catch my flight to the Philippines where I had a  scholarship. It did not hurt that she and I had the same family name.

In those days of steam engines, the soot and the coal grits filled your hair and dirtied your clothes but it was fun just the same. You would meet all kinds of people who would take part in the conversation no matter what the topic and freely offered all sorts of advices. They shared food if they saw that you had no lunch pack or offered you a smoke. One conductor came to check our tickets and then sat down when people said that he smelled so good.

He pulled out of his pocket a vial of perfume of Lucknow and put a drop on anyone who wanted. This is the Indian train I still enjoy so much. You can meet someone and become a lifelong friend at the end of the long journey. I do not know how many romances blossom in trains but there must be many.

If you read Kim by Rudyard Kipling then you will get a real sense of what the train journeys in India were like and still are. The train journey there is never cut and dry but full of people who crack jokes, share stories with strangers, offer food and exchange ideas.

I have taken trains in France, Italy, Algeria, Hong Kong, Japan , the Philippines , Bulgaria and Australia. Each train ride was unique in its own way.

I will just mention how unique briefly in the following story. It was my train ride from Sophia to Istanbul which was quite an adventure. The train was not from Sophia but came from Warsaw passing through Sophia so I asked the help of a Polish gentleman to buy me a ticket as no one spoke English. It was a long journey through the night passing through dimly lit stations.

The trouble started at perhaps 4 am when some Turkish policemen asked me if I had a visa which I did not so they said that I should get off the train and go back to Sophia and get the visa. Somehow I convinced them that it was not a good idea so they should give me a visa. These crooked cops then asked me for twenty bucks which to me was excessive but I had no choice in the matter.

Now to make the matter worse they wanted Turkish liras which I did not have so I went back to my compartment and locked the door .They were not going to throw me off the train Gandhi style in the middle of nowhere so I ignored their banging the door. After some banging they went away.

Early in the morning another policeman came who looked nice so I told him that his companions were first class crooks who were bothering me for a twenty-dollar visa.  He said that the visa was only three dollars but I still had to pay in Liras. So I proposed to pay the fee at the airport in Istanbul because it all went to the treasury, right? He was convinced and stamped my passport.

Many years later we were in Sydney so we decided to take the train to Canberra for a change .It was a good ride but my Australian friend who took the same train a few days earlier had a bad luck because his train engine broke down just near the Canberra station. He was furious because they would not open the doors although he could see the station and offered to walk. Aussies can also be hard-headed so the train had to wait until the engine could be started again somehow.

We joked that perhaps the engine ran out of gas but his humor took some time to come back. In India the trains are electric or diesel so it is unheard of that they break down like this but Australia was different. May be the driver forgot to fill up his tank.

In Japan it was the bullet train that I took from Tokyo to Kyoto that was super-fast and steady. A glass full of water on the window sill would not spill a single drop such was the technology used there.  Outside scenery was just a blur.

But it was the Philippines train that was amusing at first when I could climb into the engine room with pack of beer in my hand and offer it to the surprised but overjoyed driver. You could never do that in any other country. I wanted to see the rails from the engine room with its powerful headlight so it was a unique experience.

Sadly the trains there have fallen into disrepair and one day derailed while we were going somewhere so that cut short my romance with the trains .We have never taken trains in the Philippines since. We were not hurt in that accident but I saw some bodies. Some thieves ran away with our luggage in the dark so it was bad. The poor condition of tracks overgrown with weeds, stations that are derelict and the trains in very shoddy condition make it one of the worst trains I have ever taken anywhere. It is no longer amusing.

So I return to India again where the trains are really nice and cheap way to travel anywhere. Now that the roads are being widened and new high ways are cris crossing the nation, more and more people are starting to take buses but train travel still remains the most popular mode of transportation.

The Indian railway stations are very unlike any you find in Europe or other countries. Here it is a very lively place where there are book stores that sell newspapers, books, magazines and many such things. There are food vendors, tea vendors, fruit vendors, vendors of handicraft and numerous things. It is a crowded place but there is an order where everyone gets to his seat easily even if it looks chaotic.

There are colored televisions everywhere so the passengers can while away their time waiting for their trains watching popular shows or play with their hand-held gadgets using the free wi-fi.

By comparison the American train stations look empty and forlorn. Very few people get on or off a train so the platforms remain empty of people and vendors. Most people there prefer to drive or take buses but I was once able to send my luggage from California to Washington,D.C. by train. Not only it arrived on time, it was delivered to our office downtown by the railway staff.

In India you can bring your motorcycle or scooter to the station where they will load it into the luggage van of your train. You can transfer all your household things from one part of the country to another this way.

What is interesting in India is the offer of the Indian Railway to reserve an entire coach for you if you have 40 or more people travelling together and want to visit all the famous tourist places in the country. They will join your coach to the appropriate train at certain stations but your coach becomes your sleeping quarters during the entire trip thus saving you considerable hotel expenses.

There are high-speed trains that many prefer who are afraid of flying and there are fast trains for long distance travel. If you want a really luxury train as I mentioned above then you can do so and visit the country for tourism .It is nothing less than a five-star hotel on wheels where every whim of the passenger is catered to for a price.

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Source : Google photo of a Luxury train in India showing the bar

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Source : Google photo of inside the luxury train in India

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Source : Google photo of a train in India

The future of train travel :

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Source : Google photo of Japanese bullet train

I have taken the high-speed train in Japan and know what it feels like travelling at 250 kms per hour. Many countries since then have developed high speed trains like in France it is the TGV and in Spain they have such trains as well. But the Chinese have made the most advance in the high speed train travel and have introduced Maglev trains and other trains that run at blazing speed.

Now India plans to build high-speed trains in collaboration with Japan and the first such train will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. This project is only the first among many such projects in India that wants to introduce the Shinkansen Bullet trains to India in a big way. Their effort to run such trains in collaboration of Spain did not get them very far so Japan is their choice for the transfer of technology.

In the USA there is a hyper loop train in the process of development by Elon Musk that will be the fastest in the world and will transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just two hours but it will not be like a train as you and I know. It will be a metal tube inside of which there will pods that will carry people at super-fast speed in a friction less environment. The practical application is still many years from now but some serious research is going on right now.

The traditional railways are spreading all over the world in which both India and China are leaders. China is working on a rail link to Europe using the old Silk Road that will join land locked countries along that road to open up trade and commerce. Already trains are running on some sectors in that project.

Technically you will be able to travel in comfort from London to Beijing in the future passing through Istanbul, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and places like Samarkand and Bokhara or you will be able travel from London to Beijing passing through Moscow. Russia has extensive railway lines and modern trains.

These are exciting times for rail travel. Chinese are talking about cutting a tunnel under Mt. Everest to join Kathmandu with Lhasa with modern railway. They have built a rail link to Lhasa from Beijing already bringing fast development to Tibet. The Swiss and the Italians have literally made the Alps into Swiss cheese by cutting tunnels through it and making rail and road links.

Ethiopia now has a modern rail link to Djibouti and India is building a thousand mile long railway in Nigeria and will supply all the hardware and technology.

What I wish is that the people do not lose their soul in the process but maintain the social link that a train provides in India that Kipling wrote about so long ago. That is what makes trains so charming so I love trains.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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Suleiman the tailor

Synopsis: He was our tailor when we were young but I saw the disappearance of personal tailors with the change of times when the ready-made and second-hand clothes have diminished the role of traditional tailors like Suleiman. I still miss him.

Suleiman the tailor

tailor-hardware-zone_1421313918_725x725

Source : Google photo

He was our tailor while we were growing up who made our shirts and shorts from the same bolt of clothes so we looked similarly dressed. He also made the button holes small making it difficult to button or unbutton in a hurry. We as kids were always in a hurry to pee so cursed the small button holes. This was when the zippers had not been invented or Suleiman did not know about it.

We had to plead with him to hurry up and get our new clothes ready before the festival season but he had too many orders to fill so said he will try his best and delivered in a nick of time making us all very nervous. What good did it do if we could not wear our new clothes during the Pooja just like others?

As my brothers grew older, they preferred their own style of clothes and long pants because they did not like to look-alike but I was way behind them so Suleiman still had a few more years to work on my clothes with small button holes. Later I too would choose my own style and  tailor who could make my long pants of white jeans that we called butter jeans in those college days.

We as college students had our own dress code although it was not required by the college. We thought that white shirt and white butter jean pants with shiny black belt and black shoes were stylish in those days. The white butter jeans were a bit yellowish at first but after constant washing, it got whiter and softer so it was really nice to wear. It was all made of pure cotton. The synthetics had not been in vogue although nylon, polyester, rayon and many such fabrics started to appear but they were costly.

Then came the cotton mixed with nylon, nylon mixed with wool and many such mixed fabrics that were expensive but looked very nice and classy. The Indian textile industry is world-class and produces the finest textiles in the world so you have a tremendous range of products and colors to choose from but we were just poor students then.

You could find tailors in your neighborhood who could make very decent clothes for you if you were not pressed for time. Nobody bought ready-made clothes so we all wore tailor-made clothes which now a day is a luxury.

Women wore saris so they did not need to go to a tailor. They made their own blouses and petticoats at home but the younger girls who had not graduated to sari still needed their shalwar and kurta that tailors made for them. They wore frocks up to a certain age as their school uniform that their mothers made for them at home. Their underwear were also home-made by their mothers or elder sisters just like ours. I even learned to make my own.

Then came the ready-made clothes. You could find anything of any color and any fabric in any size so slowly people started to buy them because it was readily available. One did not need to wait for the Suleimans anymore. Also people had more money now and found it very convenient to buy clothes instantly. All you had to do was to get the right size and fit.

Women learned for the first time that they could buy fancy panties and bras that fit them well and were stylish. Who did not like to be stylish? It is the human nature to show off in fancy clothes that attract admiring glances. Women were coming into the work force in very large numbers because the education was spreading everywhere giving them more opportunities to get jobs.

So they started wearing pants and tee shirts as casual dresses or shalwar kurta that they found very practical for everyday wear. Saris were relegated to special occasions or a simple at home wear now although it remains the traditional wear in villages and small towns.

I always think that people choose their clothes as a function of practicality so if the style can be added to it then it becomes the popular mode. Working women found it hard to wear saris because it often got caught in the spokes of a rickshaw or the handle of a bus causing accident. My wife once had a bad experience when her silk sari got caught in the chain of my moped but I was quick enough to stop and untangle it. The sari was ruined but she was safe and had no injuries.

So I have seen the evolution of style and ready-made clothes over a period of time that has put many tailors out of business.

When I came to the Philippines in 1968, I was able to go to a tailor and get very nicely tailored clothes in a short time. They had a showcase full of fabrics to choose from with the price tags displayed prominently. You chose the fabric and the color and gave him your measurements. He got everything ready just in a few days. The tailors kept a record of your measurements so the next time all you had to do was to choose the cloth.

But here too the ready-made clothes have taken over so practically no one goes to a tailor anymore. There are many fancy Malls where you can buy anything at a price you can afford. The signature clothes in dazzling colors and styles and sizes are in abundance. You just have to pay the price. It is the same in India.

This has given rise to a worldwide industry that produces clothes to supply the markets everywhere creating jobs for millions especially in poor countries but also exploitation that I wrote about in a previous blog. Although China is at the forefront of this huge industry, there are many other countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines that produce clothes for export.

My wife was amused to find Philippines made panties and bras in Haiti. We visited one factory in Port-au-Prince in Haiti where they made clothes under the supervision of Filipinos for export markets.

The tsunami of second hand clothes:

We have now come to the era of second-hand clothes but it started as donations to poor people who suffered natural calamities in Africa or elsewhere so the appeal was made to people in richer countries to donate their used clothes and shoes. Such donations often ended up elsewhere to be sold so a huge business grew out of it because people are unscrupulous and make money out of donated clothes. Huge container loads of such clothes are diverted to many countries where corrupt customs people take a share of the profit and release these container loads of used clothes.

They are then sold openly in the market where poor people can buy them at low-cost. They are called ukay ukay here in the Philippines but you can find such clothes anywhere now.

There is a place in Rome called Thieves’ market where you can buy a sheep skin jacket for only 5 dollars when the new price in New Zealand or Australia for it exceeds 300 dollars. They were supposed to be donated for the poor people somewhere so how does it end up in a market in Rome?

The containers are also used to hide drugs hidden among bales of used clothes but that is another matter. The criminals are always on the lookout for ways to make quick money this way. All they have to do is to bribe the customs people.

In the United States they have stores run by The Salvation Army where you can buy used clothes , shoes or suitcases among various other things very cheaply. Just don’t ask them where the stuff comes from.

So I have seen the changes from homemade clothes to tailored clothes to ready-made clothes just in one generation. People change their preference in order to keep up with the demands and exigencies of time. You will be hard pressed to see Japanese women clad in their beautiful traditional kimonos except perhaps on special occasions. Now the emphasis is on comfortable yet practical and stylish clothes that define the present era of educated youth everywhere.

The media and the fashion: 

No one can deny the impact of movies and TV shows on people these days. They will imitate the daring clothes worn by actresses because they think that it is stylish. If the plunging neckline and rising hem line is the fashion then so be it. If the faded jeans with shredded knees are the fashion, the women run to get it or get the blades to shred their jeans. If the short blouse that leaves their stomach bare is the style then you will start seeing many bare mid sections.

The designers and manufacturers jump in quickly to fill the shelves. The fashion is always a fad anywhere meaning it can change rapidly so make hay while the sun shines or in this case make quick profit while the fad lasts.

I started out with poor Suleiman who used to be our tailor when we were kids but we all have grown up and adjusted to the new world of ready-made clothes in most countries. Now the tailors here in the Philippines sew clothes for students who need their uniform in high school. I suspect it is the same trend everywhere so high-class tailoring is now limited to those who can afford their Savile Row suits or Nehru style jackets.

The ordinary people can’t afford them so buy ready-made clothes although the fake signature brands are doing a roaring business these days. You can buy Gucci bags in Hong Kong for ten dollars or less depending on your bargaining skills or fake Levis for a few bucks. Just watch out for scammers because those jeans may not fit you after just one wash and the fast color may not be fast at all so you get what you pay for.

Then there are those tailors who will come to your hotel room with a briefcase full of sample fabrics and will take your measurement and deliver your suit or coat or whatever within 24 hours. Their price is negotiable but again there is no guarantee that it will fit you after one wash although you will be given all sorts of assurances by these crooks knowing that you are leaving the next day and may never come back.

It reminds me of an incident that I found so funny.

There was once an Afghani itinerant trader in his long kaftan gown. People in India called them Kabuliwallahs. He showed up one day in our community with a huge bag full of goods and spread them all on the side-walk to sell. His most notorious item was a bolt of cloth he claimed to be made in England that was fireproof, of fast color and of highest quality that he staked his reputation on citing holy books so people were impressed. They had never seen a fireproof cloth made anywhere so they wanted proof which the crook eagerly supplied.

He then sprayed a small coating of spirit on the cloth and lit it.  It burned for a few seconds and then was put out leaving no trace of fire on the cloth that impressed the folks immensely not knowing that the fire burned only the spirit and not the cloth because the Kabuliwallah put out the fire before it could catch on. So someone bought  several meters of it for making a suit for him and my brother who got duped easily came home with a piece for his pants. You should have seen his face when his new pants were washed and all the color drained out shrinking the pant to a size even a kid could not easily fit in.

The itinerant merchant had disappeared long ago making money out of gullible people who were thus conned. It is good that my brother bought only a piece for his pants. I did not ask what happened to the fellow who had a suit made.

There are fake clothes, fake Rolex watches, fake Rayban, fake Gucci and fake everything because people buy them out of ignorance or greed or both. Just step out of the Termini in Rome where you will see these crooks.

Anyway the subject is Suleiman so I will conclude with him. He had grown old and bent with age when one day he came to see my father. He said that his eyes were not good enough to continue in his trade so he had retired. He said that most people these days bought ready-made clothes so did not need tailors like him.

He was a victim of shifting demography and their new tastes in clothes so I suppose the Suleimans of this world are a dying breed now.  I miss him though.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

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My blogs at Wix site

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Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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