Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Assumptions! ...and I assume, will never end!

Oxford dictionary defines Assumption as a noun: A thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof. 
So an assumption is basically a statement that is feigned to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. Every day, across the world around us, we are victims to various assumptions. Now don't just say I am assuming that, check it out - you'd be baffled (oh no, another assumption) as much.

Let me take you to the root of this post, and why I am not assuming that assumptions are not fading away too soon!

Recently, an old relative of my father passed away, his nonagenarian paternal aunt (my grand aunt). As is the custom with Hindus (and more so with TamBrahms), my father - being from the same clan - had to observe a 10-day theetu (Tamil for exclusion or social isolation). The same obviously extended to me. Unfortunately, the death went uninformed for six days. Yes, you heard it right, in the communication age where technology has enabled mobile connectivity to every nook and corner of the world and instant messaging makes news spread fast, 6 days of no news is quite a surprise. None of the family members, my father's brothers or sisters or cousins got in touch. Each one assumed that someone or the other would have updated us. I am not going into details of what transpired in those six days. It’s disheartening, to say the least.

So, there we go, that is just one incident. I realised (not assumed) that almost every bit of happening in the social media revolves around assumptions. Most 'Breaking News' on TV is riddled with assumptions. Most relationships are made or broken by assumptions.

Most times we assume about what is going on in someone’s mind. We take it for granted to assume why one behaves thus and we do so mostly based on our imagination or bitter-sweet experiences. Likewise, most of us simply put a reason to why things happen as they happen and believe it to be fact, actually ignoring the fact, that it is just another assumption. 

For a human, judging others is the biggest of assumptions. In a majority of cases, our assumptions may not be wrong. The reason is we make quite a few assumptions for a single incident. We attribute various motivations for a person's attitude or action. Eventually, we tend to justify ourselves with the incorrect assumptions as the truth. We all make assumptions that can sometimes make or mar lives, some are flimsy while some could be a relationship or even life-threatening.

So, coming to the question… why do we assume? I read somewhere that human nature forms its understanding based on what’s happening psychologically within rather than on facts. We often tend to make judgments based on emotions, beliefs, expectations, and wishes. We fail to understand that our inner self is painting the way we see and understand the outer world, thus assumptions are formed and distorting things for us. Assumptions are only addictive and cannot be waned away easily. It ruins our rational thinking, practical approach and above all creates problems for everyone.

Is there a way to get rid of these assumptions? Can there be a way to base our understanding on facts? There are two ways to define or differ assumptions. Either assume things by observing factual information or do one’s own fact-checking, the choice is clear.

There is an old joke that goes: “when you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME”. If only jumping to conclusions based on assumptions were to be made an Olympic sport, we sure would have Gold medals for hundred years to come… with that random assumption, I conclude this rant by repeating what I started off with - ‘Assumptions… and I assume will never end'!

Pic courtesy: Internet

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Can we start Today?

Mourn the dead, but first celebrate life!

Exactly two weeks after my emotion ridden post on relationships (read here), I am back to writing about something that is almost similar and at the same time equally different.

Last week saw the death of a superstar actress and also the attainment of sadgathi of a pontiff - a Seer - a much revered Paramaguru. While I followed the posts on the tragic news of the actress through the social media overdose (I watch very little of TV news), it was the passing away of the Acharyan that disturbed me. 

I am quite a religious person and was one of the first to 'share' the news with many of my friends through WhatsApp groups. I said my silent prayers and reflected on the life and times of the Kanchi Mutt Peethadhipati HH Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal. I read at length his contribution to society, social and religious upliftment and the educational institutions run under his aegis. I kept my thoughts private.

I have been a big fan of Indian cinema and Bollywood has a huge influence on me - it's no secret that Hindi retro music rules my life (more here). Having said that, I did follow the news of the public outpouring of grief at the death of the diva - Sridevi.

As the Editor of a private weekly newsletter, circulated in a group of over 100 literary club alumni, I get to oversee the publishing of the club's activities and also curate columns from its members. One  article in the last week's edition raised a few eyebrows. A tribute to the heroine by a columnist was not the subject of debate, the inspiring Spiritual Guru not finding a mention in the columns of the Weekly was queried. It's a different matter that a club that debates in a formal forum also settles differences in its informal forums through debate. 

One of the key takeaways from the interactions on the above was when a member in the forum shared an article that was titled: "Why we mourn for celebrity deaths" - It explained the intimacy of the passing of public figures.

There were some pertinent points discussed in the article. It spoke about how we revisit their art -- watch an old song on YouTube, rewatch a favourite film, reread a beloved book. How we wonder why we are grieving about someone we never even met and revisit the memories they gave us. We wonder if our grief ought to be so intense given that we didn't really know them and there is so much else in the world to grieve about. It also answered why is it that we mourn the deaths of celebrities we didn't know personally.

Well, I am not going into that part here. I am actually digressing a bit to understand Why we need to celebrate Life!

That's when I did more reading. I decided to research the internet and ended up finding exactly what I wanted... On why people procrastinate celebrating life to another day. 

Let me share a few interesting pointers I found...

“I can’t wait until retirement. Then I’ll really enjoy life.”
“Once I get this project finished I’ll be able to spend more time enjoying my family.”
“Money issues are putting stress on our relationship” 
“As soon as I lose some weight I’ll get out and enjoy life more.”
“When I get this book project out of the way, I can finally do what I want to do.”
“If only I had more money, I could enjoy life more”
“I can’t wait until the weekend. Then I’ll have a lot more time for me.”

So, why can't we live our everyday lives, with whatever we have now,  as a celebration rather than wait for a future, which is not in our control?

Can we not have fun today? Watch that animation movie with our kids? Attend that fun session with college grads? A chill out evening with your best buddies at the local bar? Go on a Holiday to an exotic location? or more! Exercise, jog, run, eat, sleep, write - do whatever that makes you happy, today!

So where do we start? How about Today? Do an activity now, do another tomorrow, pick one the third day... keep doing things you enjoy...!

I did too... After contemplating for almost a decade, I decided to fight the flab, and yes have been fairly successful in my endeavour - I shed quite some kilos in about 3 months now. 

Then I decided to revive my writing - while I am at this blog, I have also embarked on my D Project - more on this another day!

For now, let's celebrate life - Our Life!


Pic courtesy: Internet

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The search continues...

The flight was to take off at 3.45 pm… The late winter afternoon chill in the North Indian city was not permeating inside the plane. A sharp ray of sunlight pierced through the drawn up shades. He was seated 20 minutes early in an entirely unoccupied row and was looking at the deserted tarmac pondering at the day’s events, no not just the day… he seemed to travel back in time.
It had been over 12 hours since he woke up to catch the early morning flight to reach this old world city.

That morning!

The 3.00 am alarm, the warm shower and coffee later it was an hour by cab to the glitzy South Indian International Airport. He walked through the security check with just a book in hand and the two hour long flight soon took off at 6.30 am. The poignant day unfolded in a city he was returning to exactly after 26 years, to the date. The landscape had changed, the highway from the Airport winded in almost into the city, before taking a detour. The air smelt different, the soil, of whatever was visible away from the concrete-topped-roads, was red. The jacket barely helped keep warm from the January cold. It hardly seemed like 10.00 am when he landed at the relative’s place. Reminiscences of childhood memories took over. It was mostly nostalgia, some sketchy recollections and some lost opportunities to connect. Hunger couldn’t wait and a quick lunch later it was back to the airport for the return journey.

The Thoughts!

So, back in the plane, looking out at the tarmac it was a silent period of waiting for the take off to happen. He was soon lost in thought… Not just the day… but the past few decades… Of people who walked along – the human bonding… friends, relatives, acquaintances… Life at large… …

As the big bird soared, he looked out at the ground below that made the contours visible in miniature… large expanse of uninhabited greenery, rivers, mountains, dry lands… the intermittently dotted towns with signs of human existence through man-made changes to the landscape. Somehow the eyes drooped and the sub conscious took over.

Over a quarter century ago…!

They were both sipping tea having just alighted from the train. It was almost sub-zero temperature – thick fog made visibility beyond a couple of feet impossible. Sunrise was still an hour away. In their early twenties, they were much energetic and the walk turned into a jog. The child like enthusiasm was more to do with the holy town they were both in. It was the place they were born; the cousins had last met as teenagers.

It would be another three hours before the next bus journey takes them to the royal city for a wedding. For now it was catching up time on future plans. While both were extroverts and gregarious, the younger one was less brash and came with his South Indian inhibitions, the elder one was quite a bubbly character, more of a born salesman and one he made a good career out of. They both had a common interest – music. They sang well, the elder was more mesmerizing, an instant hit in any get-together and was the life and soul with his melodious renditions. The younger one was a reluctant sales guy but an effervescent team player. They both spent the next two days together at the family wedding and were looking forward to carrying forward the bonding.
Soon they went their ways – The senior stayed in the North, got married in a few years, had a checkered career in sales, moved to different cities, didn’t make a fortune but won hearts with his ever increasing popularity as a soulful singer. The other cousin returned to his South Indian home and made a career in media, a family man – he stayed with his parents. He got married and grew up the corporate ladder. There was late career changes in both their lives, even as they both were now doting parents to teenage single kids.
Technology, they say has made the world a smaller place, bridging distances hitherto reachable in days, through instant messaging and virtual hand-holdings over video calls. Somehow the only contact the two had was through a social media platform – wishing birthdays through text, ‘liking’ family pictures and shared poetry. The bonding was lost in the growing up years – years of making a mark in the rat-race.

Everything seemed oh-so-made-for-social-media perfect life until the unusual phone call came. Yes, “you heard it right – he left us”…!

That was when he took that morning flight to be at the relative’s place to share their grief. The elder cousin, almost his age, had passed away less than 72 hours ago. It was easier holding back tears than consoling the bereaved family. Reminiscences of childhood memories could not fill the void. Nostalgia is not always a sweet thing, recollections and some lost opportunities to connect only made the years gone by miserable. He just closed his eyes momentarily!  

Jolted out of the tired slumber was the landing gear hitting the tarmac with a huge thud… Yes, two hours had passed… The visibility outside was fine, but the moisture had formed a thin film that just blurred the vision temporarily. He wiped his eyes and felt the heaviness in the heart that failed to get an answer… Is death the true meaning of life…?

The search for answers continues... Life goes on...!

----------Pic courtesy: Internet-------------

In Remembrance!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

If Cricket is Religion... Ashes is it's most revered celebration!

Day of Reckoning: Thursday November 23, 2017: Gabba, Brisbane

Cricket's greatest rivalry is back. We in India will wake up earlier than usual on Test match days this winter to witness the best form of the game. Two debutant Ashes skippers Steve Smith and Joe Root will dish out some exciting fare for the World to watch.

In the past, Australia have been ruthless against England in Brisbane and Perth, especially in the past 3 decades. The first Test will be no different. The hosts will surely get the head start. I am keenly looking forward to the 2nd Test at Adelaide Oval, which I presume will see some challenge from the Englishmen. Hope the newly crowned vice captain - James Anderson and the wily Stuart Broad will make the pink Kookaburra swing to their tunes in the day-night Test.

While the Boxing day duel at Melbourne will be keenly fought, the hosts could prevail over 5 days, the New Year's at Sydney could well be Nathan Lyon's way of saying happy 2018 for the Aussies.

Players to look out for

Of course quite predictably the numero-uno left-arm swing bowler in the world Mitchell Starc will be spearheading the Aussie attack, but shall look out for the Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins to wreck havoc on the English batting that will sorely miss Ben Stokes.

England will bank heavily on skipper Joe Root, but I shall also look out for old war horse Alastair Cook, new found delight Mark Stoneman, the mercurial Jonny Bairstow and the ever reliable all-rounder Moeen Ali to spring some special performances.

It is the Australian batting that is bereft of the usual star-studded line up. Skipper Steve Smith will have to shoulder more than the usual responsibility. David Warner will lead from the front, hopefully. I am big fan of the Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper and would love to see him score a few tons in this edition. Then there are Shaun March and Glen Maxwell, who will do well to improve their reputation.

I somehow see a 4-0 series win for Australia in this Ashes down under!

As always, I would love end with the same cliche that I used for my earlier Ashes posts:

November 23, 2017 is a day of reckoning, an eagerly awaited date for the connoisseurs of the game, for this will decide whether the longest version of the game will bite the dust or rise from the Ashes.

-------------------------------- pics : Internet----------------------------

Saturday, 22 October 2016

तुझको चलना होगा... तुझको चलना होगा...

मैं जब भी यहाँ आता हूँ... यहाँ पर घंटों बैठा रहता हूँ, और देखता रहता हूँ इस नदी के बहते हुवे पानी को... यह चौड़ा पहाड़ और दो किनारे जो हमेशा एक दूसरे से उतनी ही दूर
... यह मांझी... यह कश्ती... और यह लहरों पे लहराता हुवा नाचता हुवा गीत...
मैं जब भी इस गीत को सुनता हूँ ... तो मुझे ऐसे लगता है जैसे मेरा इनके साथ एक बहुत पुराना मेल है... जैसे इस धारा के साथ मुझे भी कहीं और जाना है...
कहीं दूर जाना है... जैसे मुझे भी किसी नाव का इंतेज़ार है... किसी माझी की ज़रूरत होती है |

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A jumbo leap over the Mumbai cricketers’ support Yojana

Anil Kumble’s appointment as Indian cricket team’s head coach is not just an overwhelming recognition of the genial cricketer and his abilities but a refreshing change from extending the dole to Mumbai cricketers in general and Ravi Shastri in particular.

While much is being written all across the media about the credentials of Anil Kumble and how he is the deserving candidate, I shift focus to why Ravi Shastri did not deserve the job.

The cricketer-turned-manager-turned-commentator-turned-Director had a long enough association with Indian cricket and it is simply time to put his clichéd commentary to rest too.

Yes, Mumbai has won 41 of the 82 Ranji Trophy championships. 70 of the 285 Indian Test cricketers have represented Mumbai in the National championships. Mumbai cricketers have served well and have contributed enormously to Indian cricket, but then so too has Indian cricket administration (read as BCCI) served these cricketers for life.

Post their cricket playing days for the country, many a Mumbai cricketer has went on to make huge career (and of course enormous money too) in various capacities of the game - from Cricket coach, to administrator to selector to commentator. They have been endlessly supported in their quest for monetary benefits. Not that they didn't toil in their roles, but then it is quite surprising that Mumbai gets pride of place in selection for any plum post.

Until Jagmohan Dalmiya and subsequently N Srinivasan took over the reins of Indian cricket administration, it was always the Mumbaikars who called the shots, even while the Bindras were at the helm of affairs!

Some Mumbaikars who had a longer than deserving innings in public view through their cricket associations much after they retired from playing were/are Ajit Wadekar, Ashok Mankad, Chandrakant Pandit, Chandu Borde, Dilip Vengsarkar, Lalchand Rajput, Pravin Amre, Sandeep Patil, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sunil Gavaskar. The last three have been the prime beneficiaries of the Mumbai cricketers’ eternal support Yojana. 

While at this, the time has come to rethink the commentary contract of the two ‘Kars’ too, the legendary Sunny needs to hang his ties and the irritable Sanjay needs to explore roles in Marathi cinema.

Hope, in the near future, Rahul Dravid joins his state-mate in mentoring the national team to continued glory. Meanwhile Indian Cricket is sure to see some achche din ahead. 

Kudos Anil.

----------------------------------------------------- Disclaimer----------------------------------------------------
I am a Big fan of Mumbai City and its cricketers Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar, but not the appeasement of the retired players!

Pics courtesy: World Wide Web.

Friday, 20 May 2016

On second thought…

Sharath Dev was turning 30 in a month and his parents were eager to see him married soon, they felt it was already late. He had a plum job in the technology sphere with a good salary and owned an apartment in the high profile IT residential corridor, most of his childhood mates were married and settled with a family of their own. Proposals were sought and match making was in progress. One such prospective bride's parents found Sharath a suitable match for their convent educated daughter, who had her own fashion design studio.

All things seemed perfect and then the girl's father Raghav took time out from his Central Govt duties and travelled to the tech company to meet Sharath's employers. He made discreet enquiries about his future son-in-law with the receptionist, the HR executive, the security guard and also the parking assistant. Raghav was more or less convinced, but for the little bit of information of Sharath's partying habits everything seemed fine.

Sushil just completed his post graduation in management following his civil engineering and was busy scouting for a placement in an infrastructure company, he had given an interview a week back and was excited about the thought of working with a start-up. His weekend plans were to meet a few friends in the industry to make enquiries about his soon-to-be employer’s credentials. On receiving the offer and almost having decided to take it up, Sushil was advised by his father to meet Surinder, a senior executive in a competitor infra company. Surinder spoke at length to his friend Raghav's son, leaving the young man quite perplexed.

Mohan was a manager at one the branches of India’s largest private banks, an independent thinker and a social media buff. With the recent appraisal and the salary hike he was keen to buy a sedan for his family, well he and his wife Shruti, also a banker – with a National bank, lived on the other end of the city to Mohan’s parents’ residence. The couple had made up their mind to buy a Japanese car, well almost. Neha, Shruti’s college mate, advised her to speak to Kishore, who was a happy owner of an Indian SUV.

Kishore was a popular cricketer turned real estate agent, known for his penchant for latest gadgets among other things. He was quite a gentleman in the business, making money out of sensible and honest advice to his clients. Recently Kishore celebrated the launch of his new venture and the next day bought a smart phone in an instant, he picked up an expensive android and was checking out the features when a middle aged man shrugged at his choice and suggested to go for the upgraded variant of an iconic American brand. Kishore did not regret the choice he was influenced to make, albeit he consulted the showroom salesman before splurging. He seemed to recognize Mohan, with his sharp features that resembled the man in the mobile shop, he didn’t take long to place Surinder’s son. Soon the choice of car was made!

Shruti thanked Neha and promised to make it to her best friend’s wedding the next month without fail, her fiancé smiled. The duo drove in their SUV to the Lebanese restaurant for a quiet dinner. They both loved Mexican food, but the place they originally planned to eat at was too crowded, and the online App suggested Lebanese. While they were skeptical about the spread, the chance call from Deeksha, and the validation from her made the evening quite memorable for the soon-to-be married young couple.

Deeksha spent an hour everyday calling friends and random people from her friends’ shared database to tele-market her new offerings at the boutique, that call she made to a dining-out Neha was just the one before she called an elderly man Vinay Dev. While the man was not keen about modern designer apparel, he had a worry of his own, he casually asked her if she knew any urologists in her directory. Vinay found Dr Ravindra the right specialist to concur with about his septuagenarian father’s reports for an impending surgery, he was overwhelmed by the referral and wished to thank the young lady, but neither knew her name nor her contact number, which he lost through the numerous call notes. 

Chandra Dev, a retired military man, was ailing but extremely overjoyed today, he had just overheard his daughter-in-law speaking on the phone - a confirmation call about his grandson’s engagement. Vinay walked in, touched his father’s feet and told him he will have a painless surgery much before his son Sharath tied the knot with Deeksha.

Next week, Raghav and his wife went to invite the Inder brothers for their daughter’s wedding. The older Inder brother was not at home, he was busy operating on an ex army officer that day.

A month later, the young Dev couple were going on their honeymoon and it was Sushil’s first day at work, at the office entrance stood his boss’ gleaming new SUV.

We all live a life well connected through a Second Opinion

Disclaimer: All characters and incidents in the story are a figment of imagination, any resemblance to anybody living or dead is purely coincidental

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Indian media fanning politics of religion and polarization

A minority that is giving the majority a bad name and defaming an entire religion and a slanted media narrative that is adding fuel to the fire – welcome to the new style of ‘politics of polarization’ taking roots in India.

 No, I am not referring to the now clichéd “minority community”, but the motley minority of extreme thinking Hindu politicians who have voiced opinion adverse to the tenets of Sanatana Dharma* and the concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam^, that is now the basis of a media generalization – happily lapped up by the political opposition and a ‘magnanimously-fed-by-left-liberal’ media houses.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 2.0 coming to power in 2014 with an absolute majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meant that every step of its parent body Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) would be scrutinized. While there has not been any drastic approach of the Government in imposing the “Hindutva agenda” as the Indian National Congress and its alliance partners have been mongering the Indian electorate for securing the power for itself for decades, few insensitive remarks by BJP MPs began to give enough fodder for the starved-for-sensationalism media to play up.

Every action or speech of a few outspoken Sangh background ruling party MPs gave discomforting moments for the popularly elected Government, causing enough embarrassment to the democratic fabric of the nation of diverse religion and culture.

There is a rising wave of anti-Hindu political reporting in the media, thanks to the jealously driven hate against Narendra Modi. An outspoken politician whose popularity gave his party the massive victory in the general elections and one that has only grown through the endorsement of his Government’s vision by the international community, Modi is continued to be undeservingly hated by the media for quite too long now.

It is really saddening that Hindus are being shamed just because the Gujarat chief minister, a Hindu icon, aspired to become the prime minister of the country and succeeded in his very first attempt, while dozens of ageing politicians across the left and left leaning socialist parties have been dreaming of and failing to grab the coveted post without adding much value through constructive debate in repeated stints in the parliament.

Vying with the opposition politicians are media houses, writers, film actors, celebrities of any and every kind - all ganged up against Modi’s idea of India. The vicious anti-Modi hate narrative is tilting its target towards Hinduism, which is becoming the victim.

While no opportunity is missed to highlight the repeatedly headline making quote “Terror has no religion”, justifiably too, there is always a “saffron terror” tag attached to one deranged Hindu’s act of crime. ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindutva’ are fleetingly generalized, a commentary that has been built by a pseudo secular political mileage driven agenda.

Sample these two excerpts from the recent media reports:

“A mob of two hundred Hindu men, incited by the village priest, killed a Muslim neighbour and nearly killed his son on the strength of a rumour that they had been eating beef.”

“A play titled 'Agnes of God' has been called off after religious groups objected to it.”

While, the lynching of a fellow human for the food choices he makes is inhuman and barbaric and needs to condemned univocally, where is the need to paint the incident as a general ‘Hindu” mindset?  The Church is justified in its objection of the play about an American nun who gives birth to a dead child and claims it is the result of a virgin conception, which has been made into a film and has played all over the world.

Isolated acts of crime including arson and looting at religious places get reported as “Attack on Christianity” and “Burning of Churches” by HINDU RIGHT WING. There are no follow up reports on the antecedents of the criminals nabbed in such incidents and stories die natural death when the purported crime has no religious hate attached to it.

Strangely the Freedom of Expression brigade in the media goes to town only when the sentiments of a few minority “religious groups” are hurt by the Hindu men and saffron terrorrists, but it is never the other way round. This polarizing trend is increasingly becoming the norm by the media with its ‘reporters’ who are happily peddling opinion in the garb of news and reporting. Equally deplorable is the intolerant few in the Hindu right wing support group on the social media expressing their disapproval through extremely acerbic language, easily avoidable in a democratic debate.

No editor has ever questioned the usage of the “hindu men” for mob, and the “religious group” for the minority presence in a crime scenario.

Changing times for India where the words ‘ethics’, ‘neutral, ‘unbiased’ and ‘objectivity’ are losing their relevance in journalism.

*Sanatana Dharma: in Hinduism, term used to denote the “eternal” or absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or sect.

^Vasudaiva Kutumbakam: A Sanskrit phrase which means "the world is one family".

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Celebrating the Silver Jubilee of R & D

Set the alarm and wake up at 4.00 am, brush and get fresh, have coffee and leave home by 4.30 am, park the car and rush into the railway station by 5.00 am for the 5.15 am train. Wait patiently for the announcement of the platform number, with no news till 5.30 go to the enquiry counter and get no response. More waiting, a round of bland machine coffee, pick up a newspaper, sit in a corner of Platform no. 1 and read through most of it while the ear reaches out to the announcement amidst the cackling noises and glancing eagerly at the far end television monitor for updates. Finally at 6.15 the ‘Chennai Express’ is sounded on the loudspeaker, to arrive ‘shortly’ on platform no. 6. Tuck the newspaper under the arm and climb the stairs to descend on the now already full ‘stage’. Some more waiting and a round of crossword in the now crumpled newspaper, with patience waned, the train chugs in slowly at 7.00. The frantic glance across the windows ends with the sight of the ‘relative’ standing at the door of S 12.

I proclaim with open arms: ‘Welcome to Hyderabad’, and uncle responds with ‘we are at Secunderabad right’, a broad grin masks my disapproval of the PJ.
The day went by with the usual ‘guided tour’ of tourist spots in and around the twin cities. The next day is for the shopping at General Bazaar, garments, pearls, Karachi biscuits and more. Late afternoon siesta plans are abandoned for its time for the return journey. Packed dinner in tow we leave home at 4.00pm to arrive at Secunderabad at 4.25pm exactly an hour before the Chennai Express departs. Some extended small talk while straining my eyes to sight the train which arrives grudgingly late by 30 minutes. The customary good bye done, I drive back home with the car stereo playing Kishore Kumar’s “Chala jaata hoon kisi ki dhun mein…” and the mind goes back to over two decades of R and D and gets nostalgic. Yes, Receiving and Dropping in short the R & D, of friends, relatives, cousins, aunts and uncles from and to Railway Stations, Bus stands and Airports seems to have been a practice, now over 25 years.

I recollect my college days when it was early morning travel by local bus to the railway station followed by the auto rickshaw ride home with cousins, then as years went by the pickup and drops by two wheelers and later by four wheelers. From summer holiday jaunts to business visits to attending functions of friends and relatives, to study related visits of younger cousins and nephews and nieces the innumerable R & D had brought lot of cheer. 

This apart the numerous trips to the old Begumpet airport for R & D of friends embarking on chasing their American dreams and studying in the land of opportunities, too have been countless. In the course of this R & D, I have done lots of research and development to improve the ‘service’ with the emphasis on punctuality being never compromised.

While most brought cheer, some brought gifts, some carried light luggage others carried huge ‘baggage’, some reciprocated the ‘favour’ at their home towns while others had none of it in their dna, nonchalantly arranging the neighbourhood taxi driver to engage in the R & D or simply see off from the local bus stop unemotionally.

The fast paced life and with changing times, the visits have been dwindling, the R & D reduced to an occasional affair. These days friends and relatives book their cab from their source city, prefer staying at hotels, drop into the city and take off uninformed, some even come and make this city their own, but remain incognito. 

Life goes on, as I await the next call for that much loved early morning mission and another update to my long list of R & D! 

Monday, 3 August 2015

What ails India?

In Conversation with a young lady journalist

A middle-aged middle class hard working salesman in a private manufacturing firm recently met a young lady journalist in a train and then they got talking on varied subjects… eventually the salesman realized the answer to many an Indian’s never answered question – What ails India?

The setting: winter evening - in a second class train compartment. Salesman travelling to headquarters to attend a two-day meeting sitting at the window reading a weekly magazine with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi featured on the cover page. Lady sitting at the opposite window reading a voluminous Ayn Rand novel with her spectacles perched over her head, occasionally glancing at her older co-traveler.

After exchanging few glances and bored of reading their respective books, they strike a conversation.

Here are the excerpts:

Sales Man (SM): Hi, that’s an interesting book you are reading, are you a student?
Journalist Lady (JL): No, I’m a journalist with a leading English magazine.

SM: That’s nice to hear.

JL: Do you actually believe that the man on the cover of the magazine you are reading is going to bring Achche Din (good days)?

SM: (Taken aback with the pointed question) Of course. He’s a proven administrator who has the wherewithal to lead the nation grappling with many ills into a better future.

JL: Humbug, he is a mass murderer … a man responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people in the 2002 Gujarat massacre… a right wing conceited leader who has no family, no respect for the constitution. I think he’s a huge blot on the secular fabric of this country.

SM: But wasn’t he elected with a huge mandate to lead the nation after a highly disappointing and corrupt administration crippled the economy?

JL: A mandate that is not a majority of the Indian populace, just a 30+ percentage that chose his party. He is going to destroy this nation. He is the worst thing to happen to India.

SM: You are being judgmental. Your prejudice is born out of excessive media hounding of the left-liberal kind that has been ever cynical of anything that is not conforming to the western ideals.

JL: Now you are bring judgmental and branding us with your fleeting generalization. We are the modern generation of Indians who like to be democratic in the true sense. We don’t like to be told what to do and when to do – we love to do things our way…

SM: … by compromising on our values and culture?

JL: What values and what culture are you talking about? We don’t need this government to thrust itself upon us… we know don’t need to be forcibly “Hindu-ised” with this culture thingy!

The conversation now had more spectators and heads turned with other passengers listening intently too…

SM: (Not wanting to be argumentative – digresses from the issue) so what do you write about as a journalist?

JL: (Beams, pleased to be talking about her work) I write on rural India, issues concerning women and the under privileged, travel a lot on the countryside.

SM: You are a young knowledgeable person, the nation needs citizens like you to set an example by contributing to its progress. Glad to know of your writing works… so what do you write about?

JL: I highlight their misery and how the government has turned a blind eye by promising big before the elections and now catering to the large corporate – we are doomed, the poor are getting poorer and committing suicides in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Our PM is busy touring the world has no time for these issues.

SM: Oh, you are back to your pet peeve – bashing the PM and his Govt. Isn’t this government just a year old and the poverty and the poor conditions prevalent for decades with successive governments having done little to improve? Have you ever been to villages in Karnataka and highlighted the farmer suicides there?

JL: Are you a RSS guy? A sort of Congress basher?

SM: I am a law abiding Indian citizen, a voter without a bias towards caste, creed, religion or any political leaning. I expect the press to do its role of being a watchdog without being biased and expect it to be objective in reporting. I find your question very subjective. So what makes you think I am one?

JL: (Glances at the magazine cover) Ok, let’s leave it there.

SM: Ok fine… Do you watch movies?

JL: Oh yes… Mostly Hollywood… they make filthy movies here in Bollywood.

SM: …and Telugu, Tamil South movies?

JL: They are all garish, loud and show women in poor light. Cheap quality stuff.

SM: But then I heard Bahubali is an expensive movie with massive settings… on par with Hollywood magnum opuses.

JL: There is too much hype here… I hate them all – glorifying Indian myths with over the top masculine dominated stories.

SM: Hmmm…well not sure Hollywood was any different, any way what else do you read? Indian authors? Chetan Bhagat?

JL: Oh, I have never read his books, the guy is so jarring and obsessive – a trashy novelist from what I’ve heard about his works.

SM: Are you not on the social media? Did you read his recent column in a newspaper where he called the Modi fans on internet – the so called bhakts – "Frustrated and Complex Ridden Male" who speak poor English and claim to be Modi loyalists?

JL: I’m on Facebook. Oh, he said that? I’m beginning to love this guy. (takes notes) I will have to do an interview of him for my mag. I should soon read his “best sellers” too! Thanks for that ‘lead’ (smiles)

SM: …and Shobha De? What about her writings – read them ever?

JL: Yuck! Is she a writer? She is one hell of soft porn writer who titillates to sell stuff to voyeuristic regressive Indian men. Shame on being called a woman.

SM: Heard she has been going hammer and tongs over the Shiv Sena and BJP in Mumbai – taking up cudgels against their legislators and making terse remarks over the Government’s initiative to promote Marathi in multiplexes?

JL: Wow! What did she do?

SM: She tweeted - "No more pop corn at multiplexes in Mumbai? Dahi misal and vada pav only. To go better with the Marathi movies at prime time" 

JL: I am impressed, she is right… what a woman. I must follow her on Twitter.

SM: So are you on twitter? Do you use the social media much?

JL: I’m on twitter, but only follow films, film stars and entertainment news - isn’t that all it is about?

SM: It is much more! Have you heard of Shruti Seth, the Hindi actress?

JL: No – who is she? Has she ever acted in any popular film? Must be third grade flop actress… why do you ask?

SM: She made a name for herself through twitter by posting against the PM and his recent project of #SelfieWithDaughter

JL: Well, that sounds interesting – bravo woman – must have been a very right thing to do. What did she say?

SM: She criticized the PM and invited the wrath of the twitter users who felt it was insulting to be critical of a ‘beautiful’ online initiative – she ended up calling the abuse and played the victim card… she is now popular.

JL: Must follow her. Twitter must be a wonderful place to be in.

SM: As a journalist what’s your opinion on Sagarika Ghose?

JL: Does drab boring stories, very predictable… loud and irritating. Got to the top using her Dad’s connection. Bleh!

SM: On Twitter she is a revelation. Makes fleeting comments against Narendra Modi, mostly very inept juvenile observations. I feel she does them to basically invite the negative comments from the PM’s supporters and then as usual play the victim.

JL: Amazing, no wonder… she comes from a rich lineage and has to be right – I guess I will soon be more active on twitter. Tell me more… some more interesting people to follow.

SM: I am sure you will be ‘impressed’ with Kavita Krishnan, Teesta Setalwad, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and a host of Indian TV journalists and of course Ashutosh and other AAP leaders.

JL: You follow them all? So how do you feel being on twitter… must be a great learning experience?

SM: I don’t know how I feel… Yes, I learnt a lot about the modern Indian cynic and ‘What ails India?’ - They call me names: Internet Hindoo, Bhakt, Troll and more…

JL: Good night.

SM: (yawns)… Good night.

------------------------------------------- pic courtesy: internet ------------------------------

Disclaimer: The above is a fictitious conversation..

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Beware! Your money is being whisked !

Cyber crime can hit anyone - no one is insulated

Thursday April 10, 2014:
 My family returned home late after attending the Bharatanatyam Arangetram of a friend’s daughter. Post dinner slept close to midnight, but since it was already summer, I woke up with thirst at 2.55 am on the Friday to drink water and noticed the Blackberry flashing text message notifications.

I was startled to see 6 messages between 23.41 hours and 00.10 hours during the intervening night of April 10 and 11th - all from the same source. It told me that a total sum of Rs. 80,000/- was withdrawn from my State Bank of India savings account through an ATM in Khargar, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. Another message timed 00.09 hrs stated that my online banking password was blocked owing to 3 consecutive wrong attempts.

That's when my agony began. I was pacing around trying to figure out what to do next? The 24 hour Customer Care number of SBI was not truly 24 hours service. I checked in the ATM at the local branch of SBI and found the transactions recorded through the mini statement. I could reach an executive of the SBI Toll free number after repeated trials finally at 8.15 am and got the card blocked.
I gave a written complaint to the Branch Manager of State Bank of India, Anand Bagh Branch at 9.30 am on the opening of business hours who advised me to file a complaint with the Central Crime Station – Cyber Crime.

I am now a victim of Cyber Fraud!

My ordeal thus continued as I approached the Centre Crime Station (CCS), Gachibowli – Cyberabad (under whose jurisdiction the branch falls) but was advised by the Inspector that the no case would be lodged and it was the Bank’s prerogative to approach the Police. They asked me to approach the Banking Ombudsman at Reserve Bank of India. I went to the RBI and was told to approach the Ombudsman only after 30 days. I reported back the same to the SBI, Branch Manager the same day.

I again met the CCS on Saturday April 19th. This time the Asst Commissioner of Police, Cyber Crime, did not accept my complaint and clearly stated that as per their guidelines, it was the Bank’s responsibility to file a Police complaint and not of the individual customers of the bank.

I also requested the ACP speak to the Bank’s Branch Manager over phone and relate the same. I then gave the same in writing too to the Bank and was provided with an SOP form which was filled and submitted to the Br Mgr the same day.

I did not receive any assurance of the likely time of reversal of the amount debited from my account.

Having undergone tremendous stress and also the amount of hardship being put into for approaching the Police twice, who are stationed 35 kms from the Bank branch and my residence, I wrote to the SBI Chairperson's office, Mumbai almost 50 days later on May 27th.

I expressed ire at the lackadaisical approach of the Bank in addressing my complaint and asked them to intervene in addressing the concerns of middle class salaried persons like me and that they not only provide financial security but also treat its customers in a better way.

I got a prompt reply from the Chairperson's office with a copy to the Local Head Office (LHO) in Hyderabad. It was only after a few more emails, that finally on Saturday July 5th I got my money back into my account. No interest was however paid for the 86 days period my money went into hiding.

I was told that my Debit card was phished and cloned through another bank's ATM, from where I had withdrawn money a week before the incident.

As a victim of financial fraud I would like to spread awareness of the likelihood of anyone being a victim if not wary.

Next time you are in an ATM check if your card slides through smoothly into the slot, check for suspicious objects like a camera other than the CCTV camera and hide your fingers while keying in the PIN.
Now, after over a year after the incident I have procured a new SBI ATM/Debit card.

Happy Banking!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

I was IMPRISONED and put in solitary confinement!

Another confession of a flawed perfectionist

 No, this is not fiction! A secret, the World must know, Now!

IT was 7.15 pm on Saturday April 25, 2015 – I had been sitting in the rickety white wooden bench for half hour now, dreading the outcome. My friend Sudhir was with me, he assured me nothing will be wrong, but he too knew all was not right.

As the moment arrived, I walked into the chamber nervously and then the man in the robe, just looked at me and the pronouncement was made, the verdict was NOT in my favour.
He handed over the papers to Sudhir with clear instructions. I felt my knees would give away, I was shattered. What was my crime? Well, I will deal with this issue later.

I was condemned to spend a week in solitary confinement.

8.00pm: I was remanded into the 8 feet x 12 feet room. A well painted one, it had a tube light and a fan, a stool with a jug of water and a steel glass, and just one calendar on the wall. A window, but closed, nothing was visible of the outside, a high ventilator. A side door which opened into a bathroom with a western toilet, neat with blue and white tiles. There was a wooden cot in the room without a bed, but I was asked to sleep on the floor mat with a thin cloth on it. I was also provided with pillows and bed sheet to cover. An electric mosquito repellant was there too.

I would rather call my ‘cell’^ a special room, for that gave me a feeling of having a special status and also sounded better.

I was asked to change into a long white shorts and a light round neck loose T shirt, I was given insipid curd rice in a small bowl and after partaking that I fell asleep on the mat, tired from the previous day’s incident. No, I am not going into the details, but one thing was sure I am going to endure this physical pain and torture for only a week… but the mental agony… for now - best forgotten.

I woke up late in the night and drank water from the jug, and couldn’t sleep at all, my back was aching, both the legs and hands were paining badly, I couldn’t get up and wash myself. I lied down again writhing in more pain.

The next day was Sunday, the ‘warden’* woke me with a broad smile, gave me my list of instructions: No bathing, No toothbrush, only toothpaste to be used with finger, No outside food, only porridge like dal rice and butter milk rice will be served, morning newspaper provided (thankfully – can check last night’s IPL match result) and some fruits allowed. Strictly NO contact with anybody whatsoever and NO VISITORS apart from immediate family, yes – I was allowed my medicines.

I dozed the whole Sunday, thinking of all the luxuries I was missing. That evening I was given my mobile phone, but no out-going calls* were allowed, I could check internet on the weak wifi. I logged in and out off Twitter and Facebook, no posts done... what will I post?

I kept thinking, what got me into this, how did it happen, I continued to have nightmares of the worst experience.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday too passed like a routine, with almost no activity, partook the insipid food, looked at the four walls and the roof all the time (the old brown fan needed to be wiped), read the newspaper, played a few games on the mobile, browsed the internet, made random posts on social media and dozed most of the time.

Thursday – April 30, 2015: My cousin Srinivasan was getting married in the same city, they got the news about me, I was feeling extremely sad that I couldn’t attend the wedding, my wife didn’t go, none from my family went either!

Friday was no different from earlier days, no change in the taste of the food, I yearned for samosas and mirchi bajjis, for ice-cream and chocolates.

Sunday, after a week I am released from the imprisonment. My face looks like a hardened criminal, unshaven for 10 days, deepened eyes, unkempt hair, dark spots all over the face

I have my first wash in more than a week and thank all those who were with me in this one week of utter torture, thanks to my family for bearing with me and my tantrums, special thanks to Sudhir Kutty for taking me to the Doctor, ‘the man in the robe’, who put me through this course of solitary confinement to cure the highly infectious chicken pox.

Ps: * marked items are added fiction - for the effect J
^the guest room in my house