Monday 22 December 2014

Batata Bhaji….Not Again!!

It's wedding season. Time to air those bandh galas, kurtas, lehengas and other assorted wedding wear. This time there was a wedding in the family and the extended family as well. I had no choice but to be present at all the attendant ceremonies, and lunches that precede the actual wedding ceremony. Thanks to the Punjabization of Bollywood all weddings, even if not Punjabi, need to have a mehendi and sangeet as per rasam and rivaz which was the case even in this Maharashtrian wedding. Luckily for me I was able to escape all that citing previous work engagements and also my child could not miss her school. So what if she is still in Kindergarten. She can't miss her doodling lessons.

Anyway, I was set for a three day session of chaos, general mismanagement and disorganization. On day one lunch was a traditional affair. When I mean traditional it must have Puris, Batata Bhaji (Aloo Subzi or Aloo Shak), and shrikhand along with the usual varan bhat and other side items. These are items no longer restricted to special occasions.  Your friendly neighbourhood Udupi will dish them out all year round in dry or runny form. Come evening, it was the same food. Reason - Not all the had invitees turned up. So it was leftovers. I can bear this.

On the wedding day, it was a traditional sit down lunch. And guess what, it was batata bhaji once again with puris. Third meal in a row, the same yellow batata bhaji with curry leaves, pieces of ginger and chilies. So not much to be argued but to eat the "traditional" food and hope that the evening would be better. The evening was a buffet so there was a possibility that there could be something different. Nope not so. It was not batata bhaji but its cousins, Aloo Chat and Dum Aloo kashmiri. How much potato can one eat. Obviously nobody had foreseen this or it was just a case of not too much thought being given to the menu and left to the caterer and his best judgment. Nobody goes wrong with potatoes and doesn't cost much too.

The next wedding I had to attend also had potato but in the form of batata wada which again is the same old batata bhaji dipped in batter and deep fried.

When did Potato become traditional food. Puri and batata bhaji may be soul food for a whole lot of people but the soul also needs something beyond that. Some research had to be done on this batata.

Potatoes originated somewhere in South America in the Andes and taken worldwide by the Spanish. Potato is Patata in Spanish which explains why it is Batata or Bataka or Papeta in western India. I don't know why it is called Aloo in other parts of the country. Globally the average annual per capita consumption is about 33 kilos. In some East European and central Asian nations, annual consumption could be as high as 75 to 100 kilos per capita. Potatoes were introduced to India sometime in the 17th century possibly by the Dutch or Portuguese traders after which only they were cultivated as a crop. Now there is good reason why potatoes are a common food in our everyday life. India is the second largest producer of potatoes in the world after China. It produces almost half of what China produces and double of what the United States produces. Indians consume approximately 25 kilos per year on a per capita basis at last count. Doesn't that make you proud!

As a taxpayer you should know that there is a government institute in this country only to research potatoes and they even bring out a Potato Journal. Yessir it’s the Central Potato Research Institute located in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh which originally started in the year 1935 (see ). That makes you double proud!!

Which still does not answer my question as to how potatoes became part of a traditional meal. If potatoes came to India only in the 17th century, what have they substituted? Was it some smart cook who saw the efficiency in cooking potatoes and just invoked God's name to place it on your plate.

God alone knows and till such time as we don't change, enjoy your potatoes.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Importing Goods for Personal Use, Please Check for Customs Duty

Here is an interesting piece of information I discovered last week in conversation with a friend who routinely does online shopping. Inherently all of us are looking for a good deal and we don't really care where the goods come from. If you are shopping from a foreign site, usually for fragrances and cosmetics, you are most likely to get a good deal. You pay by your card and the goods are shipped either by post or courier.  So far so good.

If your shipment tracker informs you that your shipment has arrived in India and is handed over for customs clearance, you may be in for a bit of trouble. Apparently there is a rule that you cannot import anything into the country by post or air for personal use worth more than Rs. 2000/- (including freight and insurance) unless it is a gift or a sample (both of which you have not paid for) in which case the limit is Rs. 10,000/-. If you do so your goods will be liable to confiscation or you will be liable to pay duty and penalty which can be Rs. 5000/-. Furthermore if you do not claim it within 15 days, the goods will be disposed by auction. Basically it means that you need to have necessary permits to import goods over a certain value or to do it through someone who has them.

Not many would be aware of this rule. None of your shipments may have even been intercepted. But if they do come under checking, you will receive a letter from the customs authorities to present yourself for appraisal and examination of your shipment. You will be asked to bring along a whole lot of documents of which you may have only the copy of the invoice and shipment advice. Once at the customs office the shipment will be opened in your presence, examined and it will be determined as to whether duty is to be levied as well as penalty. If you are living in Mumbai or any of the cities where the appraisal and examination is conducted at the inbound airport, you are lucky. If you are living at a distance which will consume at least half a day of travel or more, you may have to decide whether to pursue your shipment based on its value or let it be put up for auction.

But apparently there is a way out of this. The rule is applicable on per shipment basis and not on the total value you import in a year. So as long as each of your shipment is less than Rs. 2000/- (CIF), you are doing good. So if you are buying multiple items from a single foreign website and the value is exceeding Rs. 2000/- make sure you split it into multiple shipments. You may lose out on the free shipping and may also have to bear extra shipping, but it will save you a lot of money and trouble once the goods are in the country.

Another interesting observation is that goods shipped by express delivery are far more likely to be examined than those by ordinary shipping. Many will tell you that that they have received their shipments through ordinary post with a demand for customs duty attached to it and the postman collects it from you at your doorstep. Guess it's a matter of luck.
So the next time you shop online at a foreign website make sure to check the import rules and the limits beforehand.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The System Works

A few months back the general elections were held and as usual there was a scurry of activity amongst all political parties to ensure that all eligible voters had their names in voting lists. I have been a regular voter at all elections held till then. However under a voter eligibility exercise undertaken by the Election Commission (EC), a whole lot of citizens found themselves with missing rights. Apparently whoever did not answer the Election Commission's knock on the door were delisted. In a city like Mumbai where almost everyone is out at work during the day, there would be few retaining their rights in this manner.

Damage done, the EC swung into immediate action. One could visit the EC website or the local office, check whether your name has been deleted and then fill a certain form for enrollment. You have to submit some proof of identity and address along with photo. Nothing complicated. You could do it for yourself and all your family members as well.

The EC website for Maharashtra was extremely helpful, informative as to the purpose, and easy to navigate ( To my advantage the Karyakarta of the local political party provided me with the polling district number and the correct district name. I entered the details and lo behold, the details of my name deletion were before me. I quickly downloaded the enrollment form, and also took a print of the proof of name deletion.

The enrollment form was not at all complicated. Only basic details like name, address, and date of birth. Details of other family members who are registered voters at the same address which I guess was for a quick search and a ready reference. If you held a voting card, mention those details as well. Form filled, photocopies of proofs made and self attested, I headed to the local EC office at 11 am by which time I was sure the staff would be in their seats.

The local office of the EC was in a municipal school occupying the entire assembly hall on the ground floor. The staff seemed to have been sourced from various state government departments. On enquiring I was directed to a window that opened onto the back of the school. There were just 5 persons standing in front of me. Should not take long I thought. Well not the right thought I must say. The first person took 20 minutes which kind of set the tone for a long wait. The question to me was why was it taking so long if it was just about form submission. The problem was not about the process or staff attitude. It was the applicant who either did not have all the information requested for or was trying to establish some right for his residence or simply could not comprehend what was asked for in the application form despite its simplicity. Most of the time I realized was being spent in locating the listing of the applicant in the original list wherefrom it had been deleted. The applicants were either giving a wrong plot number or road or quoting the wrong name of their building or at times their nick names, suffixes and prefixes (a whole lot of balu, bandya, gotya, appa, anna, nana, tai, ben, etc). I have to admit that the person manning the window was showing huge patience in handling such crowds. Add to that each of the applicant was carrying application forms for almost all their family members.

When my turn came after about 75 minutes, I simply handed over my form and the copy of my original listing that had been deleted. The man at the window could not have been happier. All he had to do now was pull out the book with the number that corresponded with the number on the print I had handed him, go to the page number that was also mentioned, and confirm my name and address. This took less than a minute. Next he stamped my form, entered all corresponding numbers to my name in a separate book, stamped my acknowledgement and handed it back to me. Then he proceeded to thank me thrice and how I had helped him. Total time taken about 3 minutes.

I thanked the staffer and walked away feeling pleased at having done my duty. A month later I received a letter from the EC informing me that my name had been deleted from the voting list and that I should fill in the attached forms and submit them at the nearest EC office. Arrgghh. What happened to all my efforts. I chose to do nothing immediately and thought of visiting the EC office when the next elections were announced.

Yesterday I got a message from the friendly neighbourhood karyakarta informing me that the voters lists had been updated. If my name was still missing I have an opportunity to update it in the next three days.

I went back to the EC website ( and entered my name in the prescribed form in the search field for updated lists. My name appeared with my correct age and address. I even had the option of downloading the entire voters list for my district in PDF form and confirm my details.

The system works as long as you co-operate with it.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

No Route for my Bus

With the onset of the monsoon, I find that a whole lot of BEST buses, the commuter artery of Mumbai, lacking route indicators. Obviously the electronic route indicators that were installed on many a bus about a year or so back were not functioning. The reason can well be the rain water that may have seeped on to the circuit board rendering it out of order or just plain lack of maintenance.

I have multiple questions on the installation of these electronic route indicators starting with a very basic one which is are they really necessary as compared to the old generation low tech manually operated ones that had almost a zero chance of malfunction. And not to forget almost no or low maintenance.

The old route indicators were a simple mechanical system. It was a cloth scroll attached to rollers with different routes and route numbers printed on it depending on which depot the bus was to be assigned to. It had a glass frontage for visibility with a back light for easy viewing at night. The conductor was responsible for changing the route on the side indicator and the driver would do so for the front. All you had to do was roll the scroll till you got the route you wanted. There was another benefit to those scrolls and that was colour identification. If the route number was in red on white, it was a "limited" bus meaning that it halted only at a few stops. The regular ones were in white on black. And if it was an express bus, the route number was in yellow. Thus even if one were not able to decipher the route number from a distance, the colour of the route number would definitely indicate whether it was worthwhile to make a dash for it. It was highly uncommon for these indicators to break down. Maintenance possibly involved greasing the rollers and changing the back light. Once in a while the scroll would gather on one side rendering it difficult to read the route. However all it needed was a bit of straightening to bring it to order. No need for a specialist or waiting period to get it repaired.

Coming back to the present, you have an electronic indicator where the route and the bus number scroll from right to left without giving you a single window view. You are therefore left waiting for the entire route to scroll to figure out whether you need to line up for that bus or let it go. It can be quite frustrating.

Given that the quality of ride is the same, I wonder whether there is really a need for electronic route indicators on busses that nowhere come close to their western counterparts in all aspects. Some things can remain low tech or no tech without much disruption to life.

In all this there is one thing that has not changed and that is the bus route and number being written in chalk on the windscreen of the bus or on the body. Whether it be the old cloth scroll or an electronic scroll, the back-up is the same.

Saturday 19 July 2014

My Daily Traffic Grind

This is the daily traffic scene I witness in Mumbai from my window. Given are a series of photos shot at roughly one hour interval between 12 noon and 7 pm.

Before it all begins

The Beginning

Full on Action

Taxi Driver in White attempting to find a way

A Truck for Everyone

Finally a Cop to the rescue seen in yellow raincoat


Monday 16 June 2014

Chor, Police and Adalat

Possibly the only statute ever referred to in hindi movies is the Indian Penal Code with its sections 420 (Cheating) and 302 (Murder). Presenting 25 common lines said in a crime set up.

  1. "Main chor nahi hoon. Maine chori nahi ki"
  2. "Chaar Sau Beesi karte hua tumhe sharam nahi aati"
  3. "Main khooni nahi hoon. Maine kissika khoon nahi kiya"
  4. "Tumne ek sangeen jurm kiya hai"
  5. "Seeta ke khoon ke ilzaam mein hum tumhe giraftar karte hain"
  6. "Tumhe chaar o taraf se gher liya gaya hai. Apne Apne hathiyar phenkke bahar aa jao"
  7. "Kanoon ke haath lambe hote hain"
  8. "Main Bekasoor hoon. Mujhe phasaya gaya hain"
  9. "Hands up. You are under arrest"
  10. "Adalat ki karvahi shooru ki jaye"
  11. "Jis wakt khoon hua, us wakt tum kahan the"
  12. "Order Order"
  13. "Silence"
  14. "Mulzeem ko pesh kiya jaye"
  15. "Mulzeem Vijay hazeer ho"
  16. "Main Gita pe haath rakh kar kasam khata hoon ke jo bhi kahoonga sach kahoonga aur sach ke siwa kuch nahi kahoonga"
  17. "Jhoot bolne ki sazaa jante ho"
  18. "Objection Milard"
  19. "Mere kaabil dost yeh bhool rahe hain ke mulzeem ne khood kabul kiya hai ke us raat woh Seeta devi ke kamre me tha"
  20. "Objection Overruled"
  21. "Objection sustained"
  22. "You may proceed"
  23. "Tamam sabooton ko madde najar rakhte hooain aur vakilon ki daleele sun kar yeh adalat is natije par pahoonchi hai ke mulzeem vijay bekasoor aur nirdosh hai aur use iss mamle main phasaya gaya hain. Adalat usse ba izzat bari karte hue police ko aadesh deti hain ke who asli muljeem ko jald se jald pakad kar iss adalat mein pesh karein"
  24. "Mulzeem Ajay ko yeh adalat doshi mante hue dafa 302 ke tahet marte dum tak phaansi ki sazaa sunaati hai"
  25. "The Court is adjourned"

Saturday 14 June 2014

20 Things that Doctors say in Hindi Movies - a Life to Death Cycle

1.      "Badhayee ho. Aap Maa banne wali ho"

2.      "Garam Paani lekar aao"

3.      "Aap ko Beta hua hai"

4.      "Ghabrane ki koi baat nahi. Mai dawaee likh deta hoon. Inhe samay per dete rahiye"

5.      "Inhe dil ka daura pada hai"

6.      "Aapko poore aaram ki jaroorat hai"

7.      "Inko jald se jald aspatal leke jana padega"

8.      "Khoon kaffee behe chooka hai"

9.      "Inhe khoon ki sakt jaroorat hai"

10.  "Aap mein se mariz ke rishtedaar kaun hai"

11.  "Mein kuch dawaain likh deta hoon. Unka jald se jald intezaam keejeea"

12.  "Hame inka operation karna padega"

13.  "Operation ka kaafee kharcha hai. Aap paison ko intejaam kijiye varna kuch bhi ho sakta hain"

14.  "Nurse operation ke tayyari karo"

15.  "Scissor"

16.  "Operation successful raha"

17.  "Inhe dawa ki nahi dua ki jaroorat hai"

18.  "Hum poori koshish karenge"

19.  "Hum ne poori koshish ki lekin mariz ko bacha nahi sake"

20.  "I am sorry"

Sunday 25 May 2014

The Dread of Attending Weddings in Summer

I dread attending weddings in summer. It's something like visiting hell in all finery. If you are part of the immediate family, you not only have to suffer the wedding day in the heat but also attend to all shopping soirees and pre-wedding functions. It's like sitting in a steam bath wearing silk.

The pain starts at the time of departure from your home to the venue. You are fully draped and dressed in accordance to your relative distance from the bride or groom. The farther you are, the less of the finery you can be in. If you are just a friend or an office colleague, it doesn't matter how you dress. But you still have to suffer.

To make it easy, make discreet enquiries if the venue is air-conditioned or if in an open ground. If in an open ground would there be a shamiania/tent erected for the guests or only for the part where the solemnization will take place. If its during the day and usually in the forenoon, you should ideally carry a change of clothes. Not one set but preferably two or may be as many as you can. You should attempt to go dressed in shorts and a tee and change at the venue itself. That way you will not reach drenched in sweat. Please note the part that you get sweaty the most is attempting to find a parking space and if you do find one it will be at least half a mile away from where you have to be. If it's an open venue, stay away from the holy fire and be close to one of those pedestal fans, if there are any. Pay some gratuity to a waiter and ensure that any cold liquid being served is brought to you first and then to the others. Make yourself comfortable and remember that you get to go home at the end of all this. Avoid wearing artificial fiber. In the words of my tailor, your feet will be encircled by tiny droplets of sweat falling from the inside of your trouser legs.

Food is going to be another misery inducing item once all ceremonies are over. Having spent a good part of your time enduring the chants and mantras, drinking super sweet cool drinks and eating deep fried snacks, you would still be hungry. Lunch these days is mostly a buffet spread and very few weddings have a traditional sit down lunch. But the traditional food cannot be avoided and you will be consuming a lot of sugar that will eventually make you thirsty and spices with a slow release heat meter that will leave the soles of your feet burning, not to mention your innards.

Mercifully people have found a middle path and are renting air-conditioned venues. But as I said, they are a middle path as food is served in the attached open ground or a non air-conditioned adjoining hall. So basically your suffering is reduced by half.

A long time back one of my friends, a respected lawyer, once jokingly remarked that couples who marry in summer have greater chances of a divorce. His logic was simple. All the guests and invitees end up in discomfort that is forced upon them and instead of receiving blessings, the newly married coupleis silently cursed.

If this was not enough, you also have to gift something worth an amount that goes with your status and that of the family that has invited you. Effectively you are paying for your soul sapping experience. What an irony.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Banking and Signboards

Banking is a very difficult business. At a customer level nobody teaches you banking. You learn through trial and experience. Private banks deal with banking as a product and government banks treat it as a charitable service to you.

Anyway today's post is a result of the incomprehensible signboards on the numerous service windows of my bank. This bank started by one of India's most trusted communities with foreign origins, completed about 100 years last year. I have been an account holder for 30 years or so. Despite having held an account for so long therefore a visitor for all these years, I am still not able to decipher any of the "helpful" signboards made for portraying an image of being customer friendly. Nationalization and compulsory use of Rashtrabhasha has only made matters difficult. Use of archaic English is rampant when almost 90 % of the country's population has difficulty with foreign languages or at times with their own mother tongue. Do you know that a whole lot of government banks have Rashtrabhasha departments with the sole objective of promoting the use of Rashtrabhasha and for translating and releasing all official communication in Hindi. Apparently a Rashtrabhasha week is also celebrated every year.

Coming back, I was in my home branch to deposit some money. There were two windows, each one said "Cashier A/B", "Passbook printing". The Rashtrabhasha signboards were missing maybe because of the recent renovation and computerization. Previously there used to be Khajanchi, Mukhya Khajanchi, Adakarta Khajanchi and Deyakarta Khajanchi and of course "Teller". To me Khajanchi was my neighbour who owned several grocery shops in Dadar. Teller was someone who tells you how much money you have or don't have. Apparently in ancient times money was denoted by "tales" and therefore "teller" or whatever be its history which has no connection whatsoever with modern times.
I looked at the line of people ahead of me and what each one of them was holding. A visual inspection always gives a better idea of what to expect at the window. So there were hands holding passbooks, pay-in slip books, withdrawal slips and cash. I seemed to at the right window. After five turns and a lapse of about 25 minutes that included the time spent by the clerk for a toilet break I was able to push my slip book and cash through the tiny hole in the window and utter the word "Deposit". I was immediately shown a finger pointing to the adjoining window. I was aghast. What had I done wrong?  I quietly moved to the next window which mercifully had  no line of people in front of it. Yes there was sign on the window that said "Receivables above 25,000 only. Tokan payment only". Now what is that supposed to mean. Who is going to receive the receivable and on which side of the window. What is tokan payment. Do you get only part of what you are supposed to receive?

Thirty minutes later I am still where I was Thirty years back. I think I should write to the Mukhya Prabandhak asking for the installation of a Jaankari Kaksh at the entrance.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Terms, Conditions, and Declarations

This is something that most people don't read unless they have enough time on hand and nothing else to do. It's called "Terms and Conditions".

I booked a letter through a courier service right next door and was promptly handed a printed receipt or airway bill which could be tracked through their website. On the back in bold were the "TERMS AND CONDITIONS". I am sure there is only one original draft of these terms prepared by an attorney for the pioneer in this service and has been conveniently "copy pasted" by whoever has chosen to enter this business with their own twists and correctness. This is what caught my attention:

1.      Due to existing regulations the company will not accept the following items: Antiques, Currency, Drugs, Explosives, Fire Arms, Jewellery, Liquor, Live Stock, Money Orders, Personal Mail, Works of Art, IATA restricted articles, Instruments in bearer form and Articles in Liquid Form. The Shippers, sending any such article without declaration /wrong declaration, shall be doing so at their own risk.

2.      All freight excluding the items noted in Point No. 1 are accepted entirely at the risk and responsibility of the Shipper/Consignor.

So what does that mean.

Read term no. 1 carefully. To me if I ship any such article without declaration or wrong declaration, it will be entirely at my risk. But does that also mean that if I declare them, it will still be shipped that too at the risk of the courier.

If you read term no. 2, all items excluding those listed in point 1 above are being accepted at the risk and responsibility of the Shipper/Consignor. So again items listed in term 1 above will still be shipped at the risk and responsibility of the courier company.

There are other questions that come to my mind on the exclusions. What constitutes Work of Art. Are wild animals excluded as well. Is jelly liquid or solid. How do you figure out personal mail in a sealed cover.

What you declare and how you declare is also important as I learnt some time back. If you go to a post office, you will have to carry your parcel in a semi open/close state so that the clerk can check the contents. Once verified you will be told to get it cloth bound and sealed with red wax on the stitches. Now this sealing is done outside the post office and nobody is bothered whether you have exchanged the original contents with something else.

Move to a private courier/delivery service. There are no written declarations. The clerk will feel the packet, check the weight and if he feels so he will question you on the contents. If they do not fall in a category that he considers ineligible for shipping, your parcel will be accepted else rejected.

Now there was a sample of ladies face powder/compact to be shipped by someone I know. It was immediately rejected when the clerk heard the term "powder" irrespective of what preceded it. It was also immaterial that it was compacted in its small case with original packing and history of manufacture and could not be considered as weapons or ammunition grade. No amount of explanation worked.

Move to another courier company. The same "powder" when informed to the clerk over there as "ladies make up sample" was accepted without further questions. After all its about the right declarations.

Monday 5 May 2014

Health and Fitness - a culture or government policy

On a recent visit to Singapore, a news item caught my attention. The Government of Singapore was giving a grant of SGD 100 to all citizens and permanent residents to invest in sporting and fitness activities. This was to be facilitated by Sport Singapore (a statutory board of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) through its venture ActiveSG. And this is not just for the young. It's for people of all ages.

to know about ActiveSG

How about that. Here is a Government not just setting up sport and fitness facilities but actually encouraging its people to use those facilities and be healthy and fit. There is a vision to see all residents in good health. Good health means lesser expenses on healthcare.

Another thing that I noticed were the fitness and sporting facilities in the apartment complexes (having anywhere between 100 to 1000 apartments) and whether built by the Housing Development Board (HDB) or a private developer. Almost all had at least a full size swimming pool, tennis courts, gym, children's play area and even squash courts and open walking spaces. You can be rich or poor but enjoy almost the same basic facilities when it comes to fitness. Of course if you are living in a detached house of your own, you may have to step out of your compound to enjoy them.

Most developers here will give you a wading pool, a couple of treadmills for a gym and a 1000 square feet garden for an open area to walk and jog on.

Do we see this happening in our country. It's a Yes and a No. Yes for the sports facilities (read stadiums and anything that can be built under a concrete canopy) that all politicians are interested in setting up and no for anybody using them. For any grant that is available there is always a way of claiming it without putting it for its intended use.

For some reason sport and fitness are neither part of our culture nor lifestyle. There is emphasis on studying and working and not on playing any sport or games involving physical activity. You play games/sport as a child in school. As you grow you have to focus on your grades and career. A sport is wastage of time. There is greater emphasis on earning money and supporting the family (including extended family) rather than wasting time on physical fitness. In the adult stage, none of us really get into physical fitness till a doctor informs us of lying in bed in a vegetative state for the rest of our lives as an alternative to not being fit and healthy.

Honestly I do not see the government do anything about it. Forget grants for gym memberships, you will be lucky if your child gets a larger than a saucer play area. After all how many of our "leaders" or potential lawmakers promised you healthy lifestyles in the present elections.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

A Lesson in Reality at the Children's Park

It was Sunday evening and my daughter had insisted that she wanted to go the "slide park", a place I love to avoid on weekends. So we arrived at the only reasonably well maintained park closest to home with functional play equipment, a rarity in Mumbai.  

A  look through the fence and I knew that the next hour or two were going to be extremely nerve wracking with all senses on high alert. It was as if every child of whatever age in this city was there to play in the only existing park accompanied by their parents, grandparents, friends, maids, servants, drivers, uncles and aunts.

We made our way through the chaos to a multi-purpose piece of play equipment. It was part jungle gym attached to a fiberglass mini rock wall that allowed you to climb to a mini slide followed by a step up to a steep slide with rollers on one side and steel climbing net on the other. Towards the end were a spiral slide and an angular board walk with steel chain for support. Basically it was a piece of equipment that as a parent you would be scared to let your child get onto but hugely popular with all children. I must state here that safety was the last thing it's designers had in mind. I have seen at least one child being pushed off this installation from a height of approximately 12 feet falling head first. Luckily the ground surface being rubberized, there were no injuries.

Anyway there we were standing at the base looking up at the monstrosity of an exercise machine teeming with kids from the ages of 2 to juveniles of 17 all wanting a piece of action. A young mother no older than 20 who had possibly lost out on her childhood also formed part of it. Everyone was in a hurry to climb up and be the first to come down from whichever form of exit. Many of the impatient ones were going up the slide the wrong way trampling those on the way down. There was that odd maid or parent also climbing up with their reluctant wards to ensure that they were at the same growth level as their peers. Not to forget the high school students who were playing tag and running and pushing away whoever came in their way. Obviously this place was meant for all children including that inner child within all adults.

My daughter was already climbing up the steps and had become a part of the confusion. There was no looking back and my eyes were firmly on her movements. I could hear her admonishing someone for having pushed her. As she made her way to the slide, she waited till all the pushers had gone down and ensured that no one was climbing up the wrong way before she slid down. That's when I saw the real picture. This is what life is all about.

As I looked hard around the play area, it became even more clear that this is the snap shot of our daily lives. This is what one would or rather should expect in adult life.

Let me put my thoughts to spiel.

You have kids going up the wrong way on a slide trampling on those coming down and feeling no remorse about it. Pretty much the same about motorists who go the wrong way or take an illegal turn and put your and others life to danger while you stick to the rules.

Then you have those pushing and shoving others out of their way in a rush to be ahead of everyone. That's what office politics and competition is all about. It's like those who will push their way into a local train to grab the window seat. Again you are the injured one following the rules.

Then there are the much older kids and sometimes adults too wanting to play around and hogging the play equipment. This would be the big corporations entering businesses which are primarily the reserve of small scale industries or corporations usurping rights of locals. This will go on till some parent protests, others join in and the security guard called in to bring down the perpetrators. Something like what a government will do when small businesses or local groups protest.

Next you have those kids whose parents haul them up and place them on the slide while the kid whose turn is next has to wait for the slide to clear. These are the ones with influence who will be placed at the top while you struggle to get there.

Then of course there is the security guard. Old and well past his retirement age. He spends most of his time on the chair by the entrance gate occasionally questioning the single adult walking in and blowing his whistle randomly. Very few people will approach him with complaints for any of the above situations knowing that by the time he reacts, the situation may no longer exist. For those who do will be met with a response that not much can be done and the offenders will repeat their acts. Once in a while to show that he is alive, this guard will take a walk along the periphery of the rides and play equipment blowing his whistle randomly. This is like an overworked, understaffed, underpaid or indifferent management, regulator or government who is available, visible, aware but unable or reluctant to do anything. You will either accept what is going on, protest once in a while and/or simply move out.

The point I am making is that some realities lie right in front of you and you don't have to go too far to know what lies ahead. However much I may hate this place, it is in my child's interest that I bring her here so she can deal with what may come her way in her adult life. And it has worked to some extent. A year back she would give way to someone pushing her or wait till the slide clears off before she can begin her descent. Now she holds her ground. She still prefers to admonish the kid pushing her but does not hesitate to pull back someone cutting the line. Some lessons to prepare for life need to start early.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Fact in Brief

Some time back I had asked a friend of mine to email me his case history. He sent me one with the subject line "Fact in Brief" and this is the first thing that came to my mind.

Have tried my hand at cartooning this time. Enjoy.

Sunday 2 February 2014

The Month Gone By

A month of the new year already gone by and another 11 to go for the next year. In my previous post I had listed a number of things to do starting this year and continuing with it as a  way of life. They were all items without a target in the sense that you don't stop if you achieve something or realise a goal. In fact all were actions without an end.
With January gone I thought of taking a quick check on how I have fared with my resolutions, though I prefer not to call them resolutions. The results are not all that bad, that too without much effort. I have happily ignored by neighbour and other sundry characters. I have been exercising a little bit and doing some random acts of charity. There are a couple of problem areas that will need attention. I am sure you might have guessed them. Action nos 2 and 3. I will definitely need to put in more effort to earn some more money in order to invest for the future and buy some conveniences. An SUV is also on the list. But otherwise a very good start and I hope to keep it up.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

New Year's Resolution: To be or let it be.

Welcome to a new year.

Wish you all a year of happiness, joy and prosperity. Will this year be different from the previous year or any of the earlier years?

Yes I would definitely want some things in a better way this year and leading to even better years thereafter.

For starters, I will not be resolving to do or not to do any particular thing and make promises to myself that I know may be difficult to keep. So what is it that I want, not through a new year's resolution but as a way of life.

  1. To be in non-conflict with the world at large. That may not necessarily imply that I will start loving my neighbour but possibly come to terms with the fact that as an a******e that he is, he should largely remain ignored by me.
  2. Earn more money. Cause the best things in life are either illegal, immoral or expensive and you need lots of money to get into it. Just kidding. But yes with a really good SUV you can conquer as many mountains as you want.
  3. Spend money wisely. Buy some conveniences. Invest for the future.
  4. Do more charity. Help your own people. Do random acts of kindness. Give to someone on the street. Let me not dictate what makes him happy.
  5. Listen more and talk less. Talk less and act more. Maybe not talk at all.
  6. Mind my own business. Unless your business is encroaching upon my business.
  7. Talk more to God. It helps and it works. If you don't tell Him what you are up to, He will not know what to give you. Thank Him for what he has given before you ask Him for more.
  8. Meet friends in person and have a good time. There is nothing like hearing a good joke followed by the sound of laughter to lift your spirits. An emoticon just doesn't work that well.
  9. Take a Walk or a jog or maybe run a mile. Do some push-ups, pull ups or a few squats. Strengthen the body and the mind as well. Get rid of the negativity and get some fresh ideas.
  10. Remove all material junk and accumulated possessions that have no bearing on my present or future life. Less junk will give more space, to move and to breathe freely.
  11. Travel to new places. See new sights not necessarily exotic. Learn good practices from different cultures and bring them into work, home and surroundings.
  12. Spend more time with family. Go for a picnic, movie or hangout at home. Everything else comes next.

That my friends is what I have in mind. Hope you have a good year ahead. Cheers.