Just returned last week from what has become my annual winter stay in India.  Friend of mine (actually my divorce attorney, but that’s for another post) asked me why I spent time there.  My reply?  BECAUSE IT’S CHEAPER!  To wit, I can live for at least a month on the money I spend on groceries in a week here in DC.  (At Safeway, definitely not Harris Teeter and, God forbid, not Whole Foods.) This amount also includes dinners out a couple-three times a week in India.  Then there’s the $200 a month rent for a house in Kochi’s best neighborhood which is about 10% of my Capitol Hill rent.   Plus my drugs cost about 10% of what I pay here.  (E.G. Viagra: US - $6.00/tab; India – $0.65 a tab.)  So, there you go. 

Somehow I feel as if I owe all my DC friends an apology.  While I was basking in warm, tropical splendor (85 degrees F - 30 C) apparently DC was in the grip of some Devil Vortex (and here I thought this term referred to Rush) that came down from the Artic just to play with y’all for a few months.  So as a means of atonement for abandoning everyone, I offer you my profoundest regrets that I was unable to share the glories of rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, frigid cold, icy winds, cracked windows, and dead car batteries with you.  Maybe next year.  (Nah!  Ain’t gonna happen!)

Voting began earlier this week in India – I think in 12 of India’s 29 states – but for the past six months the airwaves, cellphones, internet, newspapers, every wall that wasn’t already plastered over the “Post No Signs” admonitions underneath sported political ads.  Campaigns in India are much like those here in the US if a tad more raucous  – long, full of slogans, rallies and billions of ads – but there are some significant differences.  India has a parliamentary system like the UK and, therefore, parties and candidates have to be a bit cautious since they may have to work together after the elections.  But along with the ubiquitous ads and posters, there is also a flurry of First Information Reports (FIR’s as they are known) filed with local police concerning the “indiscretions” of one’s political opponents.  Very much unlike here in the States, according to Indian election rules, candidates cannot malign opponents, be untruthful, nor exaggerate deeds (alleged misdeeds, by and large) nor can they denigrate any party or candidate.  Every day newspapers and TV news report on the latest FIR’s filed by the major candidates.  And there are LOTS!

Narendra Nodi, BJP
I mean this sounds good – would that we had similar rules here (Freedom of Speech notwithstanding, from my point of view) – but unfortunately India’s cumbersome and cloggy legal system means that by the time an FIR is either accepted or dismissed by the local authorities (forget about actually doing something) the election itself has been over for six months.  Or a year.  But I do have a prediction:  Narendra Modi, head of the newly benign, but formerly Hindu Fundamentalist, BJP Party, will be India’s next Prime Minister.  But a new Party – the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP – headed by populist reformer Arvind Kejriwal who’s been running almost exclusively on rooting out corruption in government, is the one to watch.  He and his party have received enormous publicity and popular support but it remains to be seen whether his brand of populism is translated into Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) seats.
Arvind Kejirwal, AAP

So I am glad to be back in DC although I’m still waiting for Spring to arrive.  Not the date; the weather. There is one thing I’m not happy about: I’m doing battle with the IRS again.  (See prior “attorney” reference.) It’s a mistake like the last time but one that I have to deal with.  I’m anxious to clean up last year’s garden mess so that we can plant more stuff.  Many thanks to those of you who helped me – house, mail, car, etc.) during my absence and particular thanks and appreciation to the two friends who visited us in Kerala, “God’s Own Country.”  (Except for the trash everywhere – I don’t think God would approve.  On the other hand, I guess he/she/it does know.  Oh, well.)   


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