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28 December 2012

Dented and painted...

No, this story is not about a car, how it got dented and was repainted.

This is about a person who came briefly into my life (or shall I say our lives) and left without leaving any lasting impression, and now, after all these years, this person has come back into my life creating 'cognitive dissonance'. 

It was in the year of 1990.

I had been working in Durgapur Steel Plant for about three years. I used to work as an operations engineer working in shifts. Our shift team consisted of a Manager, a deputy / assistant manager, and an assistant / junior manager. As the junior manager in the team, I was the junior most.

One day a new person joined our team as the deputy manager.

Abhijit da (the new joinee) was a short, lean sort of guy, with a thick moustache and thick framed glasses. He was  a serious kind of guy and was quite courteous an nice to all. He was quite a team player, working with us in dirty environments and leading us where required. He had a self-deprecating sense of humour and while he never told any jokes, was prone to laugh heartily when he heard a good'un.

He was very good to talk to. Due to his natural courtesy, he will agree with you most of the time and will also contribute meaningfully to any conversations that we had. The conversations usually were about Durgapur, our boss, the people who we were working with...the usual stuff.

The only area where Abhijit da used to draw the line was when talking politics. I was an avid reader of various political magazines, and I had opinions on everything political. The main political events of those days included Shabano case, India's economic woes, Congress party's weakness...Any time the talk turned political, Abhijit da will cut us out like we were kids. 

He never liked discussing politics. And when he did, he didn't like any of us countering his opinions. He made it clear that he did not have time or patience for our inane observations, amateur theorizing or bookish knowledge of politics. It was almost as if he had been a practitioner, had 'been there, done that' while we were only novices in politics. 

That was unfathomable to me. We Indians love our politics. And here was a guy, who behaved as if he knew everything about politics.

He worked with us for about three years before he moved to Delhi.

Much water has flown down the river hoogly since...

The other day I saw Abhijit da on TV. 

He was in a profusely apologetic mood. he had made a very rash comment when asked about the protests happening in Delhi. Here is what he said:

"Walking in candlelight processions, going to discotheques, we have also led student life, we have been students. I well know what the character of a student should be." 

"Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), are highly dented and painted," 

"Giving interviews in TV and showing off their children. I wonder whether they are students at all," he said, adding, "what's basically happening in Delhi is something like pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities." 

What a terrible, insensitive comment to make. Are you naive, dada?

Apni eita ki korlen dada? Bolar aage janten na ke eai kothar impact-ta ki hote pare?

The impact of the above comment was swift and brutal. His sister came on national TV and apologized to all the women of India who were insulted by this ridiculous remarks, practically disowning Abhijit da. The anchors of national TV networks smelled blood. In the prevailing environment of deep anger and strong resentment against politicians, a politician coming out with such rash remarks was godsend. The newscasters kept pounding on dada and persisted on asking pointed questions. Abhijit da was obviously very uncomfortable. I made a mistake, he said. I have apologized, and will do again if necessary. Now can we forget and move on? He did not mean to insult any women, after all he has a mother, wife and a sister. It was something rash that he said and he was sorry.

I felt bad for him. I know Abhijit da. I have worked with him for three of my and his formative years. The character that you build during those years tend to stay with you. The Abhijit da I knew was very courteous and respectful to women. 

Now he has made a rash statement. And the media was ruthlessly painting him as a villain and uncouth.

Yes, Abhijit da, my ex-colleague, is none other than, Abhijit Mukherjee, son of Pranab Mukherjee, the current President of India. Dada who made an error of judgement and is now taking it on the chin.

Spare him my friends. He made a mistake, accepted it and apologized on National TV. What more do you want? What do you expect to gain?

Abhijit da was man enough to come on national TV and apologize profusely for an error of judgement. How many of them politicians out there are decent enough to apologize for their errors?

Let us grow up and stop thrashing him and accept his apology. I am sure he meant it. 

27 December 2012

Childhood Memories...

My father used to work as an electrical engineer in a cement factory in Kerala. He was a tough and fair manager and some of the workers who were working with him had strong views. And they demonstrated their dislikes in different ways.

There was a guy, I think his name was Rajan, was particularly nasty. When he was sober he was quite a nice guy. He used to say hello to us, kids, and even proffer a smile once while. He was a practising Christian and he and his family were regular at the Church on Sundays. And he had a cute, adorable daughter...

But...

Around the first week of every month, he will get the pay-check and the devout Christian will make a total turnaround. He will frequent the nearby arrack and toddy (Local alcoholic drink) will get totally sloshed. And every time he got drunk, he will stand in front of our house and let loose the juiciest of abuses.

The next day, the sober Rajan will come over to our house and apologize profusely to our father. 

This went on, month after month, year after year...

When we were small kids, we used to get very scared. The abuses normally start around 8 to 8.30 in the evening and last for about 15 minutes. The abuses were interspersed with chronicles of some actions of my father which Rajan did not like. The abuses were like fillers to the real story of how bad my father was. Everyone of our neighbours knew what my father did in the office and how it hurt Rajan or someone else like him. My father was a monster, according to Rajan, and countless are the number of people who dislike him, but, only he, Rajan, had the courage to tell that to my father's face. 

Initially, my father used to pacify Rajan but the attention from his boss only led to him being more violent. So, my father started ignoring him, which further made Rajan angrier and louder. 

Was between a rock and a hard place, my father.

As we grew up, we learned to ignore Rajan. In fact we used to joke about him a lot. As the new month approached, we started having a 'Rajan Count Down'. It was like 'Five days to Rajan', 'Four days to Rajan',....'Ah, there he is...'

Sometime into this, when Rajan had become a habit into our lives, a new Managing Director, took charge of the organization. 

This guy was a no nonsense, IPS Cadre guy with tons of ambition and authority to match. He quickly took note of this erratic behaviour of Rajan and terminated his services from the company. 

And soon, somewhere into year 5 or 6 of our becoming aware of Rajan, he died, of Cirrhosis of Lever caused due to excessive drinking.

Jobless and without insurance.

It was sad.

23 December 2012

The birthday gift to myself...

You can say I am naive....

Just look at the birthday gift that I decided to give myself.

I celebrated my birthday about three weeks back. As a gift I committed to myself that I will do a cycling trip around Mumbai.

I stay in Kopar Khairne, a little nook in the suburbs of Navi Mumbai (which itself is a suburb of Mumbai, so kinda 'Suburb Squared'...). The idea was to ride from my location all the way to Western Express Highway (the good ole authorities added 'Express' wishfully and lived to regret it I am sure) and return back having completed a full circle. As I saw it, it was so easy, what with an 18 gear cycle and the world at my feet, I could cross this hurdle like a breeze and back home before lunch.

All those actresses in the cycling ads do it effortlessly without even a single misplaced hair strand. So why can't  I?

When I thought of taking this ride, one question that came to my mind was whether I will have the energy to cover this distance. Justified to myself by using the equation E=MC2, since I had a mass of X Kg, I will have enough energy and some to cover this distance. I used every tool at my disposal, including Science, to motivate myself to undertake this adventure.

The most difficult thing about starting a long journey is taking the first step. Once you have done that everything else kind of falls in place. I spend an agonizing 45 minutes in the morning before I decided that I was going to go with this. You see, eventhough I have this romantic notion that I like cycling, this was serious business. I was going to go on a ride in a territory that I was not familiar with, the distance I did not have a clue on and the route I have never travelled, even by car.

Still I was going along with this trip. 

I am naive.

The route that I chose was as follows.

Start from Kopar Khairne--> Ghansoli -->Airoli Bridge --> Eastern Express Highway --> JVLR --> Western Express Highway --> BKC --> Sion --> Chembur --> Trombay --> Vashi --> Home

See? Breeze, isn't it?

It was with air in my tyres and spring in my steps that I started off on this adventure trip last sunday. I had a backpack which contained the coolers and a towel. 

I took the Ghansoli underpass and entered into the Thane - Belapur road, and took left turn into Mulund, went straight ahead and crossed the Airoli bridge....

I took, you know, the route.

When you start cycling, you will realize at some point, somewhere around the middle, that this whole adventure was a terrible mistake, that you hadn't bargained for how tough it is to meet your objective. Then to your consternation, you also realize that you have come long way and it doesn't make sense to turn around now. You might as well go through with. 

That is the tipping point, the inflection point, where a pleasure trip become a laborious exercise. 

For me, that happened somewhere on JVLR, just after Powai flyover. Later I realized that it was only 25% of my journey and I would have been better served had I turned back. But since I was not aware of the route and the magnitude of my challenge, I cycled on. 

One has to admit though, that the Mumbai roads are heaven for cyclists. 

Most of the roads are concretized. One these roads, the cycle just glides along, there is little resistance. Added to that is the fact that the city is flattish and hence you can cycle at a constant pace without having to get down and push it upslope like you have to do in some other cities.

Even in the roads that are tarred, there is hardly any potholes, unlike in Bangalore. 

When you are driving a car, you always go over the flyover to reach your destination faster. But when you are on a cycle, never cycle on a flyover. If there is a parallel road going below the flyover (most of them have) take that. The world lives below the flyover. By zooming over the flyovers, one miss all that is good about a city.

From Airoli bridge, you enter EEH and cycle for about 3 kilometers before you touch the JVLR (see next para for details. It was early morning and I saw a number of wannabe joggers jogging (well, what else are they expected to do? Dance?) on the service road. There was one old man who was jogging along with a lot of determination in his eyes. That was inspiring.

I also saw a Kenyan runner jogging on the service road. This guy was serious and you could see professionalism written on each of his strides. He was very thin with steel framed body. The word is lithe. He was so slim, slim as a.... well, if you keep this Kenyan and a reed side by side, you can tell the difference only because of the difference in colour. If by chance you pick a black reed, you have had it.

He was as thin as a reed (color of reed inconsequential...)

JVLR (Jogeswari - Vikhroli Link Road) is the road that connects WEH to EEH. The road is about 11 kilometers long. At the beginning of the road, I saw a taxi driver and asked him the directions to WEH. He was shocked. "Are you going to cycle to WEH?", he asked me incredulously, "it is very far". I told him (rather bombastically, I think) that I have 24 hours at my disposal. "Suit yourself", he told me, "you have to keep cycling straight".

And I cycled straight.

Eventhough I have travelled across India, I have not spent enough time in Mumbai. My current tenure is by far the longest that I have lived in this city. So cycling along this route, I covered some of those places that I have read about a lot but have never seen. The places like Powai, Sion, Andheri, Mulund, Saki Naka etc rang a bell as I cycled on. 

It was not that the ride was not tiring. It was. I grossly underestimated the distance and the effort that was required to cover this distance. Whenever I was tired and wanted to give up, I focussed on the next pedal. I focussed on individual pedals. I tried to count the number of pedals it required to cover a distance of approximately 100 meters. I told myself such motivational lines as 'Little drops of water makes a mighty ocean" and "You create a mansion one brick at a time" etc to keep me charged up. 

You may think that I was over reacting. But it is not easy being on a new city, being on the road without knowing where I was in relation to where I wanted to go. I think it would have been easy for me had I been aware of the lay of the land. Had I been familiar with the route that I was taking. When you know where you are in relation to where you want to go, the journey becomes easy. 

My friend, what applies to cycling also applies to life in general. 

(I hear some of you say that if I had a mobile with GPS, at least I would not have had to stop and ask for directions. But the pleasure of such a cycling journey is to talk to the lazy assess you see on the road and see the incredulity and admiration in their eyes. "What? !! you are coming from Vashi? That is a lot of distance, you mean that you cycled all that distance?". You can never hope to get that kind of admiration and feel the same kind of pride with a GPS). 

I started at 7.00 AM and reached home at 12 noon. On the way, just before I reached home, I drank a glass of the greatest, tastiest, sweetest Strawberry juice ever. 

A sweet way to cap a great day.

(Note: Yesterday morning, I retraced the same route. Despite being familiar with the route, the trip was emotionally tiring. While in the first trip, the thought was "OMG, I don't know how much more I have to travel", yesterday it was like "OMG, I still have to ride SOOO MUCH distance".

In the evening, I drove my car for the same distance and it came to about 60 Kilometers.)

09 December 2012

The Good, bad and the ugly - 08-Dec-2012

The good

Air India......

I am a Saggittarius. Linda Goodman in her book 'Sun Signs' says that Sags (we call ourselves thus) do not hold grudges and like the fire sign that we are, we are quick to get angry and quick to forgive. 

I am a pure Sag. I am a sucker for quality and I forgive far too easily.

There was a time, not so long ago, I used to dislike Air India. Given an option, I used to give that airline a wide berth and opt for its (sometimes more expensive) competitors. The reason was that, just like any normal traveller, whose sole concern is to travel from A to B, and the airline, notorious for its internal problems, was almost always mired in controversies and flight cancellations. I did not have time to glorify the incompetence of this airline by bestowing my patronage to this airline. Daily news about strikes, cancellation and pathetic experience of the people who travelled by this airline, did little to change my low opinion of this airline. 

All these changed recently. 

Ever since Praful Patel was taken out of the aviation ministry, the airline has turned around. Gone are the days where the daily papers are filled with news of airline cancellation and the evening TV news is filled with interviews with agitated passengers, littering all over the airport.

I got a chance opportunity to fly the national carrier recently. Without asking me, my company had booked me by Air India. I remember that I was a bit sceptical about the airline as I left for the airport that early morning. 

My experience at the airport belied all my negative expectations. The staff was courteous (Previously, they were not), the check-in process was very efficient and the staff even guided me to the security check in. 

If I was expecting a casually maintained airline interior, I was delightfully wrong. The airline interior was very neat and inviting. The seats were of sober mix of Beige and Orange colour and added a glow to the aircraft. The staff was very courteous. The beautiful ladies in their red and black sarees  adorning their brilliant white pearl necklace exuded comfort and confidence that a nuevo young air hostess in a low cost airline could never hope to achieve.

Plus....

This is one of those airlines which still believes in the concept of Indian hosipitality. They still serve you food and beverages every time you travel by the airline.

And...

Yesterday I checked out the Air India Magazine. The cover was awesome. I felt proud about our National Airline.



I love you Air India....

In fact I have taken a frequent flier membership with the airline. 

I am not the only one that share this view. Check out this news item in today's news paper..

The bad...

Of course, it is the Indian sports. We are almost on the verge of losing the Kolkata Test to England.  Almost all the sports associations are being de-recognized or disqualified by knowledgeable international organizations, our athletes are feeling let down, Tendulkar is no longer scoring centruries, Indian Hockey team lost the semi finals of Champions trophy (for those enthusiastic supporters out there who feel that reaching the semis is a big deal for Indian Hockey, I want to point out that we lost to both Germany and Australia, the teams to beat). Until something is done soon, I will be forced to move Indian sports to the Ugly category.

Hope it doesn't come to that. 

And the Ugly....

Definitely the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse involved in the Kate Middleton hoax call...

By now all of us know the story. Two RJs from the Australian radio station 2Day FM, Mel Greig and Michel Christian, made a hoax call to the on duty nurse at St.Edward VII hospital in London. The callers posed as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and wanted to know the latest update about the condition of 'Her Grand Daughter Kate'. The unsuspecting nurse, Jacintha, transferred the call to the duty nurse who gave a complete update about Kate's status.

Upon coming to know that she was taken for a ride, Jacintha, a 46 year old mother of two, died, supposedly a suicide.

The whole world is shattered along with the RJs who perpetrated this hoax. The radio station quickly suspended the show and took the RJs off the air.

Why did Jacintha commit suicide? What was the motive? Was it pressure, was is shame or was it the expected recriminations from the hospital that she worked for.

There are two points that I wish to make here.

First is that, as the hospital spokesman mentioned, the hospital did not have a documented process to handle telephone calls. It is not easy to take a call from someone who claims to be the Queen of England.  As someone told in a TV Panel discussion, it is not possible to ask the Id of Queen when you think that that is who is on line. How did the hospital handle this episode when it broke out? Did they support Jacintha? Did she have any friends in the hospital to confide in?

From the fact that she committed suicide, one can safely presume that this support did not materialize. Proof is in the pudding.

Second point is about the suicide itself. It seems that this lady was staying alone in London and would visit her family at Bristol over the weekend. I presume that the lonely lady was so stressed out of the whole affair, and with no one to console or confide in, would have given in to the pressure and taken her life. Would the results have been different had her family been staying with her?

I don't have any answers. I only know that I don't like this at all.

May god give the family strength to cope with their loss.

05 December 2012

The good, bad and the ugly...05-Dec-12

The Good

This is an article from today's Hindu Business Line that made me proud of being an Indian.


The author is Ashley J Tellis, who was a member of George Bush's negotiating team, who negotiated the Indo US Nuclear Treaty, in UPA 1 (that was so long ago). If you remember, that treaty gave India so much benefits in exchange of so little to be provided in return. That was vintage Manmohan Singh and that was the treaty that brought about the victory for UPA in the 2009 elections. Mr.Tellis is obviously a great fan of India and its people. He talks about how India, a multi racial, multi ethnic, multi lingual, multi cultural and a diverse country has defied so much of negative perceptions and has gone on to create one of the 20th Centuries greatest integration achievement. He paints a very bright future for our country. 

Then the bad.

This story  again in the same newspaper made a sad reading.


This article is written by Mr.B S Raghavan, who is a well known, regular contributor, who writes the 'Offhand' Column for HBL, give different examples of how India is poor in identifying and nurturing talent. He gives examples of Srinivas Ramanujan, a low paid clerk in Tamil Nadu, how was identified and nurtured by Professor Hardy, and who thrived in the beneficial environs of England, to become one of the foremost mathematicians of his time. Mr.Raghavan rues the fact that while it is India the country that gave west the concept of' Jugaad (low cost innovation), it is very poor when it comes to harnessing that potential and convert it into a movement that can significantly change the direction of the country. Mr.Raghavan, illustrates the point by citing the  article on 'Hole In the Wall', written by Sekhar Kapur, where he talks of a small mobile repair place in the bylanes of Delhi, who repaired his Blackberry in 6 minutes flat !. In other countries, such innovation would have been identified, publicised and even converted to some kind of startup with lines of VCs available for financing. But not in India...

I agree with Mr.Raghavan that while we have abundance of talent, we as Indians do a poor job of harnessing that talent in a systematic manner.

What a waste....

And the ugly....

And finally, this story made me depressed


This article is written by KAROLOS GROHMANN for the Stuff, New Zealand. I choose this site for the simple reason to see how foreign media views this news. As per the article, The IOA has been directed by a Delhi court to hold the elections adhering to the government's sports code, while the IOC wants the governing body to abide by the Olympic charter.'.

The IOC has been angered by government interference in the elections and had warned the IOA in a letter of a possible suspension.

Kuwait which was also facing a ban, escaped the same by amending the Country's law.

What is the impact of this ban?

The ban means an effective end to funding from the IOC to the national Olympic committee (IOA), no Indian officials attending Olympic meetings and Indian athletes banned from competing at the Olympics under their country's flag.

I did not realize the full significance of this development, until I heard Vijender Singh on the TV today. 

According to him, this ban means that "I will not be able to stand on Olympic Podium carrying Tricolour". 

This is the dream of every sports person and for which he devotes an entire lifetime. And this has been denied by a set of corrupt politicians and their cronies. I can't even begin to imagine the magnitude of the effects of this ban on the Indian Sports persons.

While all the other countries are trying their best to invest in their Sports infrastrucure and win medals in International competitions, here is a ridiculous situation where we can't even do the the basic things right. In other countries, the Sports administrators works for the betterment of Sports and Sports persons, in this country, the Sports persons work for the betterment of Sports administrators. 

A classic case of putting a cart before the horse. 

I am proud of our sports persons in our country. Here, the dedicated sports persons and coaches, almost work entirely on their own, with their hands tied behind their back, go and win medals in international events. Imagine the kind of stuff they can achieve if the administrative apparatus is there to support them wholeheartedly.

A sad state of affair. 

Politicians, get out of my Sports

02 December 2012

Countdown to new year....

I got this cool 'New Year Countdown' widget. You can download the same at 'Mycountdown' site. They have some cool widgets there.

How do  you get these widgets on your blog? Follow these simple steps, if your blog is on blogger.

1. Go to the above site and select the Widget you liked.
2. Copy the HTML code below the selected widget.
3. Open your blog and click on 'Layout' or 'Design'.
4. Click on Add a new Gadget. A popup window will open where you can select the gadget.
5. Scroll down and select 'HTML / Java Script'
6. Give the title. You can give any title of your choice
7. Paste the code that you copied earlier.
8. Save

Voila!!, the widget is now available on your blog. 

You are now in the 'Cool Person' territory.

Quick retributions....

They say that while the god sees every bad thing that happens around, but when it comes to delivering quick punishments, he is somewhat slipshod.

Examples abound.

You see corrupt people become richer with corruption. You see people taking advantage of the poor, without getting even as much as a minimalistic punishment in return. You see bad things happen all around, but do the perpetrators get any punishment, let alone quick?

No way. In fact corrupt become richer and leading luxurious lifestyles.

One is justified in asking, where is god? Where are the justifiable retributions that these guys so richly deserve?

When it comes to these people, god is notoriously lenient and laid-back.

However, when it comes to minor misdemeanor on my part, the almighty is always quick with his retributions. It is almost as if he is like my wife / boss, ready to pounce on my smallest of mistakes.

Else, how can you explain the following cases?

The other day, I was taking my son to an exam that he had to write. He had kept water bottle in his bag and at the gate, he opened the bag to take out his hall ticket for the exam and the water bottle tumbled out.

I got irritated. "Be careful when you open the bag. Ensure that nothing tumbles out", I scolded him. 

(Boy, ain't I glad I am not in Norway. In that good old country, people have been jailed for crimes minor.)

He didn't say a word. In fact, I am sure he did not even bother to listen to my admonitions.

But, there was someone else up there who was listening. 

After about 5 minutes, I opened my laptop bag to take out a book to read, lo and behold, my laptop fell down from the bag on to the concrete road below.

Did you see that? It was as quick a retribution as you can get for a very minor transgression.

Or take another case.

I was in Bangalore airport, early morning on a Monday, waiting to board my 7.30 (AM, mind you) flight to Mumbai. Having got up very early, (Bangalore airport being quite a good distance from my house), and it being a Monday morning, needless to say, I was not in one of those dandy, pleasant and affable moods of mine.

One of the great things about Bangalore airport is the spread of breakfast options that is available. You have everything from Continental, to North Indian, and South Indian cuisines available. One of the greatest food options available is 'Grab and Fly' where, by paying about 70 rupees (about 1.5 Dollars), you can get  a sumptuous breakfast of 'Mini Idly and Sambar (Smallish rise dumplings in Spiced Lentil)' or 'Upma (Coarse Wheat / Corn flour boiled in Onions and Chilli [Boy, I am good at this])'. Both options are delicious. 

Especially the Upma.

I stood in the 'Grab and Fly' line. At the counter, I asked and got the Upma.

While my order was getting ready, the guy behind me in the line also asked for Upma.

"Sorry sir Upma is over. You can take the Idly", said the genial guy at the counter (I am joking. No one can be genial early morning on a Monday. Grumpy is more like it).

I was proud that I got Upma and the next guy didn't. I felt as if I have won the competition. I gave him a sympathetic look, like I was Obama and he was Romney.

"Do you want Ghee?" asked the waiter to me.

What the heck. Even though I was on a diet and was exercising and never add Ghee to Upma, I thought it is worth giving a shot.

He added the ghee. The Upma was smelling delicious. I thought that the smell of the Ghee in the Upma will make the loser even more disappointed.

That thought made me happier.

With elaborate ritual (adding some sugar, carefully picking the spoon and fork). I brought the Upma to my seat. Preliminary to eating, I added sugar and made a show of deliberately and casually mixing the sugar in Ghee laden Upma. All the time casually looking around the airport for any acquaintances.

Cool guy preparing to have his breakfast, if you see what I mean.

Just as I was about to take in my first morsel into my saliva filled mouth.....

My hand hit the side of the plate and spilled the Upma all over. The ground, chair, the newspaper... There was Upma everywhere.

To add insult to injury, the white coconut chutney fell all over my black trousers.

What a mess.

A few moments ago, I was guilty of being filled with hubris. The guy above saw it, didn't like it, and gave me a quick retribution.

Why is it that when it comes to me, the retributions are swift, while when it comes to many others (Kalmadi, Bhanot etc for instance), the punishments are slow and never arriving?

Where is the justice, my good god?