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A different Perspective
Looking at the new emerging India with love, hope and critical eyes; we are destined for greatness if only we can shed our pettiness.
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CONTENTS ACQUIRED RIGHTS Andaman Getaway Concern, Candor and Critic ASHOKA THE HARBINGER OF CHANGE Our children are us. The Govt as a Whipping Post. Something to Chew Over The Most Fearless people on Earth Missing the movement. THE CASE FOR MORE HOLIDAYS. On a Leash Removing or Promoting The Revenge of the Villages. Self as the Benchmark. Snuffing Them Out Softly. Show some courage THE ILLUSION OF VIRTUE. The Language Conundrum Tradition, Modernism & Reality The WHYs behind the whys. A Bit on the Wild Side. TIRED for Nothing. THE TRAFFIC POLICE AND WE. Upgrade or perish The Trap of Virtue. Wake up to it; now! GRANDER THAN THOU CAN WE REALLY HELP? CORPORATE LAWYERS AND WHAT THEY DO
ACQUIRED RIGHTS A little scene occurred in front of our house the other day which reminded me of how we have allowed ourselves to be disinherited of our rights. There was some sparking, quite a lot really, and the current supply then went off. The dept was informed. A small group of responsible residents were grouped around the electric pole, waiting for the Lord of Repairs to arrive and put the matters to right. He did arrive and not very late either. Ours is considered a posh colony and this has some merits. Posh means moneyed is not lost on the service providers. This is how the conversation went. Repairman: Hum, Ha. This is a very bad jumble of wires. He hasn’t climbed as yet or anything. Everybody is looking up. This comment does not bode very well. Resident: It can’t be much. It was just a spark. You have to simply join the wires again. The repairman cannot tolerate this trend of thought. He was expecting a hefty something to be gained out of the situation. Repairman: It is so high (as if this is the first time he has seen a pole) and the jumble
makes it very difficult to reach. I will go and get a proper ladder (which they don’t really have) and colleague to help me. Terror seeps into the tone of the residents (If he goes, who knows if he will return or not or if he does, when.) This cannot be permitted. Resident: No, no. We can see that you have identified the problem. You are obviously the right man for this kind of job. We can see that climbing up the pole will be child’s play for you. Don’t bother about getting a colleague. We shall help you. All the others: Yes, Yes. Now this is what the repairman was waiting to hear. This is more like it. Eventually with more hee-hawing and problems being stated and resolved it was agreed that for a sum of Rs Two Hundred the repairman would risk his neck on the spot, without a ladder or assistance. The job was done in less than half an hour, the time it took to have the above conversation. The repairman did a job which he is already being given a salary to do. He is also under some constraints to report back to his superiors. Had the residents left the state of affairs well alone, they would have got their electricity earlier and saved themselves Rs 200.
This is what I mean when I say “We are so busy being clever, that we have no time to be intelligent” What has gone wrong with us? The attitude shown by the repairman is now part of our national character. The salesman in the shop, the cashier in the bank, the clerk in any office, the cop at crossing…..just about everywhere and everyone is behaving as if they are doing us a favor. Their salary is an acquired right, guaranteed by the constitution. Even if cash gratification is not always in order, there is always a lot of pleading and flattering involved in every exchange. If by any chance you allow yourself the pleasure of demanding by right that you be served, the other guy will go into a sulk and find millions of excuses to not do your job and you can’t do a thing about it. It is sadistic the way every little authority becomes a reason for ego-gratification or worse; pocket-warming. What have we done to ourselves? We are ourselves to blame. Over the years through our long and chequered history we have taught the public servant that we are prepared to pay extra for everything as along as our selfish interests are served first. So
much so that we have stopped keeping our papers or ledgers in order and we break most minor laws with impunity knowing or at least hoping that we shall pay our way through and avoid any official action. The bigger industrial houses with vested interests made this a regular practice with payments under the table on an acquired right basis. Then the democratic style of government learnt the trade, so much so that today everyone has rights except us, ourselves. We have given ourselves up for ransom and are now totally under threat of the system. So much so, that it has even permeated into our personal relationships. We are so ever ready to get into the groveling mode. Can we reverse it? I wonder.
Andaman Getaway Everyone has heard of the Andaman. To most it is known only as the penintiary for hardcore prisoners in the British regime and today it is being promoted as another beautiful corner of India. There is no doubt that it is a very beautiful place. I would say that it remains so lovely because it has remained out of reach of the modern man and luckily too far away from the mainland. All in all, my opinion is that all is well there. It is a lovely place for the person who finds happiness in the company of a book and is actually looking for a quiet spot far away from the noise, hustle-bustle and modern day hyper-activity. My opinion aside, there is definitely a case to improve the basic infrastructure in the islands and make it more accessible to tourists because that is what brings in the moolah and funds are absolutely required by the A & M Administration. The question at the other end of this viewpoint is that too many tourists, will they or will they not spoil the pristine beauty of the area?
Be it as it may, opportunity to me came in the guise of an invitation from a friend in Port Blair, which is the capital of the territory. Because of the sea separating us, Port Blair can be reached only by air or ship. We preferred taking a plane so we decided to take our flight from Chennai. It is very surprising why all the flights leave at 6 or so in the morning which means that we need to arrive in Chennai one day earlier and then spend time cooling our heels. Just when we have fallen asleep out of sheer boredom, it is time to get up early in the wee hours to report in time at the airport. This being nighttime for the taxi-wallahs, we ended up paying special prices. If you take all this into account, you end up spending a hefty amount just to take the flight into Port Blair. But honestly, the flight was good. The breakfast was surprisingly good which would otherwise have been a very unhappy beginning to a very looked-forward holiday. In passing though I do mention that the check-in was overdone by the security angle and any one with a modicum of intelligence and idea of security strategy would clearly see that the people there had no idea what they were up to. I wonder why no lawyer has taken up this question as a PIL and helped in removing this annoying frisking and messing.
My tweezers were confiscated. Have these people no idea that a trained close combat person can use anything as a weapon? As the old saying goes, LOCKS are for honest people – not thieves. Well, all said and done here we are in Port Blair. The plane has landed and we only had to make the effort of getting down by ourselves and then began the pampering. Oh Boy, I have never been taken care of like this. As we came to find out, these were the finest four days of our lives. We did not even have to go and fetch our luggage, it was done for us. The car took us to the guesthouse that would be our home for the next 4 nights. We were welcomed with coffee, and before we knew what was what, we were in a boat specially chartered for us and slowly chugging away towards Ross Island. Ross Island happens to be the island chosen by the colonial administration of the British to start a colony and headquarters. The ruins on the island are more than a century old. It is an eye-opening realization. The effort that would have gone into realizing this small oasis in the middle of the Arabian Sea far away from anywhere except the mainland of Andamans, which was equally wild. They had created Baths, Tennis Courts, Clubs and
Residences, Bakery and what not; a mini selfcontained Robinson Crusoe paradise. The small museum created there is a beautiful repository of history. Again, here I may reiterate that though this is one of the musts of the tourist spots of Andamans, it is more for the lovers of history. The place is beautiful as all untouched islands would be in the Indian Ocean. The natural beauty apart the old ruins now being claimed back for its own by nature is a sight by itself. We had the great fortune of going to the island on a Wednesday when there are no regular tourist boats in operation. So, it was an added pleasure to go about without groups of chattering hordes all around us. The first thing to strike me was the total absence of man-made mechanical sound. Absolutely none. This was heaven. I could think of nothing better than sit on the shore wall and enjoy the peace. But we humans are incorrigible noise –makers. I was only a few minutes into my ecstatic journey when a speedboat broke my reverie. What louts said I and got up for the return journey. One deer decided we were good for at least a small nibble and followed us. Here was a reverse case of intimidation. My wife was more scared of the deer than the deer seemed to be of humans.
The afternoon nap was a reviver. After all we had been up since 3 am. The evening was already planned out for us. We were to visit the Light and Sound show at the cellular jail. A good show, bringing out the story of the travails of our people in those trying times. But in passing I must say that some of our movies have given a very good idea of what reality would have been there, so there was a sense of deja vue. This visit was followed by a walk at the marina, which is well laid out and well lit. The cool breeze and the breaking of the waves was soft caressing and all this merited another bout of quiet contemplation. For some reason the navy was having a special day and all the ships were lighted up in the harbor, which was quite a sight. The return home was followed by a wonderful dinner and a very good night. Essentially, visiting Andamans is of value for its untouched underwater wildlife. We had only three more days in hand and we chose visits to Jolly’s Buoy and Havelock Island. In essence visits here give you a complete idea of what Andamans have to offer. The trip to Jolly’s Buoy was again another first of our lives. The drive to Wandoor gives
you a very good idea of the landscape of the island. The Keralites there have created a landscape, which matches quite a bit the original. At Wandoor, which is the headquarters of the MG Marine National park, we were received by one of the senior lady wardens. The small museum of marine life, especially of the corals is important. The warden gave us a very informed account of life around in the park and her knowledge of corals was to be appreciated. The slow and sedate boat ride was a joy. A one-hour chug-chug through the groves all around was like we had entered a journey in the national Geographic TV channel. Then a small glassbottomed boat took us into the coral area where every kind of sea life’s colorful aspect was seen in its entire splendor. Eventually we drifted down to the very small beach there and played in the water. Snorkeling was a possibility but we decided to enjoy the scenery instead. The beauty is in the clean and garbage-less vistas. The authorities are taking great pains to keep the modern day waste out from these areas. Plastic bags and bottles or such are not permitted. Picking up of even waste coral pieces is banned. Forget any hopes of fishing. The only hunting of any kind would be by a camera.
The Trip to Havelock Island the next day was just a short story in itself. A two-hour ferry ride was the first of our lives. Seasick we certainly were but let’s not harp on this. This area is peopled by Bengalis and over time they have created a landscape in their own mainland’s image. I felt I was driving through some area of Bengal. Our friend had organized our stay at the Govt resort. The first morning we just lay down in the hammocks on the waterfront and slept it out. Then we had lunch and a nap followed by a drive to Radhanagar. Now here was something. The most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Water as clear as that of a fivestar hotel’s swimming pool and comfortably cool. This was an experience, which will remain with me vividly forever. The swim was a dream adventure. It hurt when we had to get out and return back to the resort for the night. The night was lovely; the breeze flowing in through the open door of the room and flowing out by the opposite window. The silence was exquisite. I had to get up and by 3 am I was outside on the verandah waiting for the sunrise which was a superb show put up for us that day and lasted till 8 am. My other pleasure is a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. The restaurant gave me three. Surely this was heaven! Nothing was going to stop me from returning to Radhanagar for
another swim. And we did just that. Topped it by a cold coffee and lunch later, before returning to the ship for the trip home to Port Blair. Alas. We had no time, the next morning we had to take the flight back. But if you love the natural wilds, go there.
Concern, Candor and Critic I am what they call in Homoeopathy, a chilly patient, which means that I feel the chill earlier and more than most of us. Considering the years I have already spent on this planet, there would be very few of my close acquaintances who are not aware of this fact. Yet at the beginning of each winter, at every meeting, I am unfailingly greeted by the refrain “Say, your woolens are already out? It is not so cold yet!” And using this as a fulcrum to get going, they get into explaining how they are not able to tolerate warm clothes and how their health is good enough to resist the cold. What are they trying to say? Are they concerned about me or just showing off or letting me know what a miserable creature I am? They then go on to better this commentary with advice like that I should go for morning walks to increase my resistance because they themselves do so. One of my sisters makes this comment with such regularity that whenever she does not make this remark I wonder what is wrong. This same sister was down with pneumonia last January because she had been to an open air party in the dead of winter (a very uncomfortable way of
celebrating marriages that is becoming popular in Delhi) with not even a shawl on her shoulders. I suppose it was more necessary to show all her jewelery and sari than worry about a short bout of holiday in bed. The holiday also served the purpose of getting all and sundry to visit her in sympathy. What a perverted logic we follow in our lives? Why can’t we greet each other by saying something nice? The reality is that we do and with what panache! We praise only with a sting in the tail. In my last meeting with the same sister, she remarked how well I had maintained my figure – even at my age! Why the heck did she have to add “even at my age”? This technique of using praise to critically make a point is more rampant than we would care to admit. Now this is what I have never understood. Why do all the elders, without fail, always show their concern by noticing how weak or frail you have become! The other day my uncle came to visit us and the first thing he said to me was” I say Pradeep; you seem to have run down and lost weight. Is everything well with you?” Compare this with another incident. In my teenage years, I had hurt my back and was in bed for a very long period.
After a long and tedious time my health picked enough that I could start going out. On my very first outing my parents took me to visit my uncle’s family where the large size of the brood, as he thought, would cheer me up a little. When we reached there, the elder son made my spirits soar by remarking that I was looking remarkably good. And I felt so much better afterwards. We show our concerns in many ways that are really not conducive to our well being or go full out to make us uncomfortable and then expect to be appreciated. Quite often the behavior is, it seems, designed to put the other on the back-foot rather than make him feel at home. It is my experience that at gatherings when you are at the table, the host or some other active relative always insists on serving and pile–up your plate some more. Of course they do not want that you feel unattended to but their insistences can become not only forceful but down right tyrannical. Like force-filling up your plate with more and more “pooris” (deep fried Indian bread) till you feel pushed into a corner and have to either be forcefully unpleasant yourself and stop them with a frown or worse leave the extra portion uneaten; good food going down as waste.
Last Sunday I had a revelatory experience reminiscent of the old time friendly and unassuming culture of a small town, within our community. I went visiting some people with my 15 months old daughter. The door was opened and the moment the lady of the house laid her eyes on us they lighted up with a happy smile backing it up. We were seated and within no time a plate of goodies was served. Kachoris( spiced stuffed puffs) and matthies(deep fried biscuits) with spiced and pickled mango preserve just the way I like them. It was unceremoniously put into my hands and I ate them all with the same unpretentious gumption. The only thing that was amusing in its freshness were her continuous remarks on the child “ She is growing up well for age, her nose is typically of the family, she has got teeth too and how big and straight they are, her eyes are a little puffed-up, is she teething-what are you giving for easier teething, teething can be very troublesome for the entire family, she must be keeping you awake through the night, why is she all red in the cheek ( she had been playing with her mummy’s lipstick in the car and had smeared herself nice and proper), she has a big head (she had her head shaven only recently as is our custom), she seems to have become darker(being fair is the ultimate criteria of beauty with us)…..
so on so forth. It was a pleasantly friendly barrage, most noticeable in its candor but detailed in its observations. This reminded me of a quote by Richard Greenberg: “I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not. I think: Be civil. Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings. There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it. Be kind.”
ASHOKA THE HARBINGER OF CHANGE ( adapted from info downloaded from the internet) Go back to the times of 600 hundred years before Christ, when the population of the Indian subcontinent would have been around a mere 2.5 million (25 lakhs). When science would have been limited to making bows, arrows and chariots. When stress as we know today could not have existed and Mother Earth provided enough of everything. Yet the question of suffering held more sway then than now. Gautam Buddha was aghast at the sickness and death he saw around him. A prince of the realm, with everything going for him, he found life such a weight on his spirit that he renounced the worldly trappings for that of an ascetic in search of a more relevant aim in life, and eventually found and experienced a Truth, the expounding of which continues to this day. Some two hundred years later, another prince gave a strong foundation to this philosophy and reality in everyday life by personal example. This was emperor Ashoka, the third monarch of the Mauryan dynasty.
Very few archeological facts are to be found to support the legends that have gathered around these historical giants, but both lives created an impact that has survived in Southeast Asia. The stories carried by word of mouth and embellished, no doubt, in the telling is all we have to go by. The truth of the pudding is in the eating. The relevance of Buddha’s teachings leaves no place for argument. Countries like Tibet and Thailand are steeped in it. Though India was its birthplace, both in concept and implementation, the depth of Hinduism did not let it have sway as it has done in other countries. Today the pragmatic values are appreciated and followers can be found everywhere. The British historian H.G.Wells has this to say about Ashoka: “Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history…the name of Ashoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.” Ashoka’s attempt at governance on the basis of Buddhist thought made him an exemplary figure in Buddhist lore and information about him has been preserved in Buddhist literature. Till the 18th century it was all word of mouth, with no definitive historical record. Then came the pioneers from Europe
and discovered a large number of edicts in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, are a window into Ashoka’s time. At the same time Buddhist literature was also rediscovered and translated into English. The extent of Ashoka’s influence then gradually emerged. Translating the inscriptions took a while. It was only in 1915 that the name ASHOKA actually was found. Till then there was much talk of a king known as “Beloved-of-theGods”. The story comes out of a king who was terribly cruel at first and then converted to become a just and revered ruler. This could easily have been a mythical story depicting how a good king should be, and it was never taken otherwise. With all the stone pillars and edicts being found, it had to be accepted that this great king almost totally forgotten for 700 years, was a gem in India’s crown. Generally, Ashoka is known for his change of heart after the conquest of Kalinga. This is borne out from all the information available. Some time prior to his conquest of Kalinga, Buddhist thought had already come into his life. It is therefore assumed that his thinking process must have begun to be impressed by
it. The horror and pain that he saw on the battlefield had the effect of a shock that opened his eyes. From that day on he was a changed man. An ascetic at heart. A just ruler in practice. In his quest for a just and equitable kingdom, Ashoka began erecting his pillars and writing on huge rocks his advice and edicts to his people and functionaries. He now shines as a tolerant and caring monarch, adopting the middle path pragmatically. In his effort to improve the lives of his people he instituted many changes in governance and backed them with public utility works that would directly benefit his people. He would go out often on inspection tours and never allowed anything to come in between him and affairs of state. From a predatory foreign policy of subjugating every kingdom around him, he adopted coexistence and cooperation. Wildlife was protected and hunting of certain animals was forbidden, a concept that is only now percolating into the modern day governance. The fostering of all religions equally and helping them to coexist in harmony was encouraged. His officers were goaded into looking after the problems of his people and assisting the people towards a better life. Wells were dug and fruit trees planted all over the kingdom.
Though an ardent Buddhist himself, and in every move of his the influence of Buddhism could be noticed, Ashoka never imposed his own personal wishes on his people. He did try to inculcate a certain individual morality such as respect towards parents, elders, teachers, friends and even servants. He encouraged generosity and offering of alms in charity and assistance to the poor, including friends and relatives. Not surprisingly, he advised harmlessness towards all creatures. Following Buddhist principles, he advised moderation in spending and saving. For him it was more important to treat people properly than performing ceremonies and yagnas to create good luck. Good behaviour will bring in good luck in its wake. To increase mutual respect and tolerance, he advocated basic education in not only in one’s own religion but also those of the others. His deep sense of self worth is seen through his advice to his people to be kind, to self examine relentlessly, to be grateful, to act with genuine enthusiasm, to be loyal and to exercise self-control. We have no idea how successful he was in establishing his enlightened reign, but it is well known that his style of governance
became the basis of all advice to future kings, and in the ancient Buddhist world this was part of a prince’s education. This was the ideal to be followed. If you read today’s newspaper, you will agree that our powers that be could learn much from these centuries old edicts.
Our children are us. Recently I noticed an advert on the TV showing a proud man not taking help from his children while getting off the train. The song in the background sings of the fact that the head has never been lowered and never will it be. What a sad reflection on our values. Does becoming friends with our children make us into weak dependants? This speaks volumes of our intelligence and our attitudes. I read this sentence in my younger days and it has kept me on track since: “A lot of arrogance and nothing to be arrogant about.” Is pride only a matter of wearing a clean designer dress and standing tall and not even accepting your son’s hand in a gesture of love, respect and regard? Will our manliness be overshadowed and emasculated by letting our child stand tall along with us? Remember, we made him into what he is today. Can’t we derive pleasure from his persona and the grand guy he has now become? Do we have to be the guy in total control and know-all! It is funny how we think of our progeny only as our possessions and extension of our selves but never as friends and shoulders to cry upon.
What the electronic media is doing to the impressionable minds needs to be reflected upon. The lack of sense, reality is appalling. . Humor is still at the village bumpkin stage; an insult to intelligence. The intelligence of the people making these movies and story-lines can be gauged by the fact that in the 40s and 50s it was fashionable to throw barbs at Hitler, of course with the Hitlerian mustache. This has now become a fixed feature. You are supposed to know that the guy with the Hitler bush is there to give you a comic break. Stuttering is another feature. There is always a cabaret type scene and the drink of choice is always VAT 69. We seem to be stuck there too. Successful people with money to burn always have a bimbo on their arms and drinks to relax or forget. Rape has been made into a sport. Every time the zamindar gets angry he takes down the old 303 rifle to kill his malefactor. His word is final and he can get away with anything as if laws and other possibilities do not exist in this country. Kindness and generosity are traits not be seen in the educated and powerful class; these seem to be the exclusive domain of the poor. Doctors are shown as basically magicians who will cure everything with an injection. The practice of
medicine and law and other important subjects that can have grave repercussions is so badly and wrongly projected that people get wrong ideas because they take it at face value. We are spreading ignorance and misinformation by making story-lines easy. And worse of all we are giving them ideas. The number of instances where a crime was committed because the idea came from a movie or book is one too many to ignore. And as last parting shot, I might as well mention the over dressing, over make-up, over-lighting, over-talking, over-acting, overdoing the colors and deafening levels of recording and playback. What the heck are we promoting? Everybody (generally speaking) reads the dailies and watches the news. So if I bring up the activities of murder and cannibalism as reported at Nithari, I am not, I hope, raking up an issue. The question that bothers me is how this could have happened right in the heart of things. We can understand events taking nefarious shape in isolated uninhabited areas but in the middle of NOIDA?
Anyway this goes to prove that the best place to hide is in the crowd. Coming back to the point, there are two things of note in the Nithari events. One that the law-givers have lost all sense of proportion. Their lack of responsibility and using their position for living the good life is the main feature to come out in all this. Unfortunately what hurts is the fact that these so called humans are one of us. The perpetrator and the protector, both come from the same mould. So we may well ask: are we not as a people without any guiding principles? I am apt to say yes. We are one of the most inertia-filled, self-centered grabbers. Just look at how conveniently we allowed Sati, Devdasi, Thuggi and Bonded labor to become prevalent in our society and it is still there even after five generations of anticampaigning. How easily we put the match to our daughter-in-laws. How easily we throw out our pestering old parents. How callously the driver-conductor duo allows a child to be crushed under the wheel of the school bus. These are not figments of my imagination; these are pointers from news items from the capital of our country.
When I read that a senior official and his wife had been keeping a minor girl servant locked up, torturing her with beatings and cigarette butts, my heart wept at our people and the poor girl involved. The question is why if not just sadism? Let us ask ourselves quickly and sincerely if we have not allowed ourselves to be desensitized, become callous and somewhat sadistic? We may have abolished zamindari but not the “I-am-the-master-and-I-have-theright-and only-I-matter” attitude. I wonder if it is not getting worse?
The Govt as a Whipping Post. In my write-up Trap of Virtue, I happen to give the instance of “Free” electricity promised and given by the Chief Minister of an Indian state to farmers as an example of how the so seeming act of generosity was only a garb for the politician to be seen as virtuous; and I got squarely blamed for indulging in “Government Bashing” which I must admit is a very common sport amongst us. Everything from thunderstorms, dryspells, accidents, giving birth to a girl child, ending up buying stale bread and such are all blamed on the govt. If we had our way, we would need a government official (and an honest one at that) attached to every individual to do the thinking for him and ensure that the citizen of this great country does not get a raw deal! Somehow the lack of personal responsibility is glaringly obvious in every small act of our lives. Just look at the way the traffic moves in Delhi. If this is how we are going to live and let live, then I would say we have no right to complain. We have got it coming.
Once I was traveling from Bombay to Hyderabad. I had finished my work in Bombay and without much ado went to the railway station to catch the next train to Hyderabad. By experience I knew that all I had to do to get a berth was to contact the Ticket Controller and all would be settled for a price which was acceptable to me as the alternative was to wait two weeks or so in Bombay to get a proper reservation. I was assigned a berth and I went and occupied it. Soon after another gentleman came in, took his seat and straight away began his litany of complaints against the Ticket Controller’s integrity and then of course the government’s inability to stop corruption in the railways and for that matter anywhere. So I asked him blankly why he had become a party to the corrupt exchange. The Ticket Controller is just an employee. It is pure economics of demand and supply. How does the government come into it? Was he not responsible in promoting the corruption of minds? If there is a buyer, a seller is bound to spring up. I can assure you the gentleman was not at all pleased at this turn of arguments. The pervading logic seems to be that once we have voted a government into power, all our responsibilities are over. Fine. The
Government also responds in kind. Take the law that you cannot smoke, run to catch a bus, urinate in public and many such laws which cannot be enforced. We get the government we deserve. If you go deeper into the question, you will see even though there is a lot of complaining we are happy to let things ride in their present flexibility as it permits us to live happy-go-luckily, breaking laws with impunity. I wonder how we can forget that the people who are governing us are coming from our very ranks. It is all of us as a whole who are putting them there. Another time, I was traveling on a reserved berth from Nagpur to Delhi. On boarding I found the assigned berth for three people already occupied by four. There was just no place for me to sit leave alone sleep because it was a sleeping berth. So I asked around to know who was sitting there without a reservation. One man got the hint and got up and moved off but another woman refused to move. I asked to move but her argument was that she had no place else to go to. Another traveler chipped in with the fact that she was a widow as if that settled her right to impose on others. I decided to then use all my dramatic ability and give a fine show of
temper. That moved her and her sympathizers. One invited her to share her seat with a snide look at my heartless behavior. That suited me fine but the point is that I had to fight for my right of berth. At this moment one of the travelers took my side and started discussing the inability of the government to regulate anything. Although I must admit he was indirectly berating the other travelers but as this was not politically or socially correct at that moment, he chose to focus on the government as a whipping post – thereby saying his piece and not raking up a controversy. We have to collectively admit hat we are responsible for letting things slide and not raising our voices when needed. Though in parting I would like to ask the question, if the Chief Minister of a State is not the Government then who is?
Something to Chew Over There is no doubt that India is on the rise and go. Unshackled from the socialistic pattern of running the country, the greatness of the Indian spirit and enterprise has in a matter of few years shown what Indians are capable of. Tata was able to make a car from scratch that is competing with global brands. Our fledgling airlines are going all over the world. We are now even running the businesses for them from our back rooms. There is no doubt that for some time to come India is going to be a star. The question is do we have the vision and discipline to make it a selfsustaining effort. Take the history of many countries after the World War II and you see economies of countries from Japan to Mexico bouncing and then soon deflating into a depression. They started with cheap labor as their plus point fuelled by dollars and pounds. Soon the salaries grew and the economic viability reduced and the owners of the dollars and pounds went elsewhere.
On the psychological front, with satiety a certain amount of arrogance and complacency creeps in and the fire in the belly is definitely reduced. Let’s hope this does not happen to us. There is another more potent threat to us and that is from ourselves. There is no doubt that Indians are a brilliant people and have a lot of greatness and goodness in them. But the converse is also true. There is also a pettiness, vindictiveness and smugness that undermine us. I am certain that this statement of mine will bring forth the usual arguments that I am being narrow-minded and as an Indian I should not say such things. I still ask my countrymen to look a little forward and backwards. To begin with, look at the epic Mahabharat. The greatness of the Pandavas and the pettiness and blinkered thinking of Duryodhan and his father backed by all their ministers and loyalists. Then look closer in history. How did the muslim marauders from across Afghanistan find entry into India; because somebody wanted to avenge his pride and destroy Prithviraj Chauhan? How did the British manage to become the masters; because some people allied with them and conspired to defeat the local masters like Shirajuddullah, Tipu Sultan and
the Queen of Jhansi among many with hopes of becoming kings themselves? How did a handful of Britishers, outnumbered 100 to 1, manage to win in a short battle, the most impregnable fortress of those times of India – Aligarh? And more recently, how did we permit the division of our country into three and begin our story of independence with the disfranchising and murder of millions? We have to admit that there is an inherent weakness in our make up somewhere and until and unless we are great enough to look at it straight in the face, we shall surely undermine our march into the great future we are all visualizing. There is no doubt that we are spiritually a great people with a lot of kindness and understanding built into our basic character. But the converse also happens whenever money power and security is behind us. I often wonder where all these grim stories one reads everyday in the newspaper originate from. In some of the stories the viciousness and sadism is proverbial. But let me focus on the everyday happenings which are more the rule. I give some instances from train journeys.
I was traveling from Aurangabad to Hyderabad. I was stranded and there was no option but to get on that particular train without a reservation. The Ticket collector understood my plight and said it is OK by him if the passengers do not object. I told the passengers my plight. I suppose my style and education came through and the poor rural folk were so impressed that they offered me a berth and would not take a “no” while one of them slept on the floor. The gratitude in my heart knew no bounds. In another instance, I was traveling from Delhi down south in the middle of Dec. I had no warm bedding with me, hoping that my warm clothes would help me pass one night in the train. It was biting cold and there I was on my berth in the classical foetus position and wishing for the night to end. This, the old couple from Punjab on the other berth were not ready to tolerate. They provided me with a blanket and even tucked me in as my father would have done. The next day I was fed and taken care of like a favorite son. This is the stuff India is made of. But there are other stories not so pleasant. Once I was traveling and there was a girl from the north east in the compartment who
was not speaking well any of our languages. She had a little extra luggage. The Ticket Collector came and stared bothering her even to the extent of mishandling her belongings. I intervened and all of us in the compartment took the stance that in all we were eight persons and there were not enough pieces of luggage in the compartment to invite a penalty of excess baggage. Who is to say what belonged to whom? The argument was furious and lasted for over 40 minutes. The Ticket Collector went away empty handed threatening us and returned later with four more people. But we all fought him off together. He was visibly frustrated of having been denied his pound of flesh, left with a parting shot – “Go to hell” pointedly at me! In another instance there was a soldier traveling on an army pass with really a lot of luggage. He was obviously not much into the ways of the world having gone from a rural background straight into the army. The Ticket Collector honed on to him like magnet. He had a tricycle and the ticket Collector said hat it was illegal to bring cycles into the compartment. And he asked for a hefty penalty. I took up cudgels immediately. I requested the TC to look the other way; after all this was a soldier in the
Indian army and ready to lay his life for us, returning home after two years to his family and so on and so forth. But no, the TC would not be moved. Ignorance was no excuse he said. Then I asked him as a “gentleman” to use his powers to pardon the mistake and he replied – “I am not a gentleman, I am an employee of the railways.” This was so funny and serious at the same time. I told him I would rather throw the tricycle out rather than pay him four times its worth in penalty. It would be cheaper to buy a new one later. I told him squarely that I would not pay him anything and he could do whatever he wanted. I even spoke of a veiled possibility of a telephone call to Delhi and take matters further. This went on for a while; neither budging an inch. Eventually he had the grace to concede defeat and left with the sage advice that we should hide the tricycle so as not to invite the ire of any other TC. This is India in microcosm. If you can see the humor in the situation there is of course a lot of it but this childishness at the national level can in a collective way be the element that will undermine all our doing. Let’s see where it takes us. At the mall business level we are already hurting. There are a lot of
business possibilities but none of it is maturing. Reason- none of us is prepared to trust each other and whenever we do, the chances of being taken for a ride are almost 4 out of 5. To even the most inexperienced person living outside the realm of the selfemployed it would be clear that this scenario is keeping us back and will keep us back in the future too. I hope India’s greatness will help it rise above this shortcoming.
The Most Fearless people on Earth Recently I received a video clip of a couple who brushed passed a fast moving train in their hurry to cross the tracks. It is then I started wondering on the fact that we are about the most fearless people on earth. We are so conscious of the importance of time that we are prepared to play with death. I see this happening all the time when I go out on the roads in my car. Pedestrians and other drivers behave as if I am not there. I have noticed umpteen times that most pedestrians will see you coming and then simply merrily continue to go on their way. The motor cyclist at best sees you as an obstruction that has to be negotiated and they zigzag with impunity endangering themselves and others. They are too important, cocksure and fully in control, too much in a hurry and the necessity to brave the oncoming traffic does not deter them at all. The other day I was driving down to Gurgaon a small distance away from Delhi. I was on the highway to Jaipur and in front of me was
a SUV. I saw a scooterist in the by lane all ready to enter the traffic, revving away and you could see his scooter jumping with every revving which he would then control to keep it from running away. Just as the SUV was 3 meters away from him he lost control and shot off like a rocket in front of the SUV and got dragged a few meters before the SUV could brake and stop. So tragic. I suppose everyone is now aware of the fact that a driver’s view while rearing is limited; yet be it a pedestrian, motorcyclist or motorist, they keep coming on even when they can see the car moving towards them and I have had near misses 4 out of 5 times when I try to back out. What after all is behind this phenomenon? My analysis: We are a care-free people, which is a good thing from the stress point of view but in today’s life of mechanical monsters we also need to learn to be a little circumspect. Unfortunately the brain needs ideas to be planted in it for it to act on it. Our upbringing is sorely amiss on this point. Most children are brought up with so much love and care that they grow up to feel that it is the responsibility of the world at large to take care of them whereas they are doing us a favor by being there for us. So, of course
the onus of saving these pedestrians or motorcyclists or for that matter anyone at all is squarely on us. The rest is destiny. Nobody goes or comes without the appointed hour having come, so why worry. When you attach “Cleverness” with fearlessness, we have an explosive mixture. A trip out on the roads seeing the way motorcyclists and plain cyclists come out from nowhere and plonk themselves in front of fast moving vehicles is so ununderstandably hair- raising. This tendency then plays in even in minor happenings in our lives. Our tendency to be clever is so strongly motivating us that we would rather jeopardize everything we value then show a modicum of intelligence in behavior patterns. I will illustrate with two stories. We have a maid who comes in for the daily cleaning and sweeping of the house. One day I noticed a piece of broken wood lying in a corner for three days and queried her up as to why she was not cleaning that corner. Her reply: “I was cleaning the corner alright but I thought that the wood has been placed there purposely so I was replacing it there everyday”. Not doing her job was not good enough; she had to also show off how diligently she was doing it! Her fearlessness
in her attitude is stunning. Does she really feel she can con us and be taken seriously? Is she not afraid to lose her livelihood? On another occasion, I noticed that she had not removed the waste basket from outside the front door after the janitors had emptied it. So I left it there and decided to see what she would do when she came in the next day. She uses the same corner to remove her footwear so I was certain she would notice the empty basket and bring it in as a matter of course. But she didn’t. So I asked her why she was leaving the basket outside and not bringing it in. Pat came the reply that she had checked and there was no basket outside. Why did she give me such a stupid or shall I call it a clever reply? Perhaps (1) she thought that the answer would satisfy me, show her good intentions and later she would go and bring in the basket with no one the wiser or (2) She could involve me in an argument and if worse came to the worst, threaten me with quitting and shut me up nice and proper. But I did not fall for either of these tricks and in plain words told her that she was lying ( to make her realize that she should not adopt these silly tricks with me) and that she should go out
again and bring it in which she did quietly and meekly at that. The tragedy is that they never learn from their experiences. They continue to behave in the same way, as a matter of habit, very comfortable in their own infallible sense of ability to manipulate life to their entire benefit and satisfaction. If only they could see themselves as others saw them?! The intentions and show of fearlessness and cleverness can be seen at every level of existence. Be it an MD or CEO or the Canteen boy, parents, teachers, partners or friends; all play at this game. We take “Tughlakhi” decisions without concern or fear of consequences and then spend huge amounts of resources in resolving tricky situations and without a moment’s reflection interfere in matters that do not concern us. We are not afraid to make a fool of ourselves (though how that could ever be is unthinkable)as we know deep down that we can always rationalize, argue and cleverly carpet everything over. This colossal energy could be used to right the wrongs instead or learn from the mishaps and improve things and our own personas. But no; this is not in our style. The educated ones use their intelligence to a better degree while the juniors know full
well that they will not be hanged for it; so how does it really matter?! Missing the movement.
Traveling from point A to point B in your own vehicle can be quite an education in Delhi. We see other drivers behave in a manner which boggles the imagination. But I do not wish to simply repeat what had been said often by many writers and most drawing room conversations. I wish to put forth a point which I find hard to comprehend and illustrate. So in spite of the fact that I may sound a little dry and mathematical, I will make an attempt. First to make the point which is that even though we are in a moving traffic we calculate our position and movement vis-à-vis others and take decisions as if every other person was stationary, will remain so and is an idiot to boot? Let me now attempt to illustrate. At the cross roads, the light is red. When it goes green, you see the guy on the right cutting in front of you to go towards the intersection on your left. Why did he come to the right at all? This is a mystery. We can
only guess from the visual treats given by other drivers that the guy was in a hurry to overtake everybody even if it meant it would land him on the wrong side of the road. Then when the time comes to move he shoots off towards his destination – totally oblivious of the fact that others will move too. How do you explain that? And of course, the guy on your left wants to go to the extreme right. And he will cut right in front of you if he has to; you, after all you are most probably there to just watch the smart Alecs zipping about. Now why did this guy land up on the left side of the road when he wanted to go to the right? We can only presume that he did so because that was the only gap available to him at the starting line and a good pole position can mean everything in winning a motoring race. Then we have to also consider that his vehicle is designed as a racing wheeler while all the others are on the road to just see him jetting off. He has calculated well that others are all stationary because they don’t know better and will remain that way. He is the only one with any sense to get on with things. Just the other day a motorcyclist came from behind on my right, zipped in front of the car at right angles and stopped at my left to talk
to another motorcyclist waiting for him there. It was a beautiful little movement, deftly executed. My heart went “bump” but my head wondered why all this real ability of perfect timing and control is being wasted on such a useless and risky maneuver. Every time I read about a two-wheeler being rammed by a bus or truck, I think of these hard cored bike enthusiasts who are constantly risking their lives just to slip in front of the next vehicle. I am sure it is not just a matter of being in a hurry; there is definitely a lot of pride behind all this. I am convinced that in getting ahead of others gives them a high; always forgetting that all this is for naught as they would all meet again at the next red light. The same style of thinking and behaving can be seen in other walks of life. In our calculations we always forget that the world is in constant forward movement. We are just too warped up in ourselves. Yesterday at the petrol pump the lady ahead of me would not move her car even after the petrol had been pumped in. She had to first get back her change back and then make the milometer readings in her diary and all this she was doing comfortably as if there were no other motorists on the road. Requests to her by the pump attendants to move ahead a
little so that the other cars can take their fill was not having any effect on her. I find it hard to digest that anyone can be so blind and blinkered. Soon they will be outpaced and left to fend for themselves on the sidewalk while the rest of the world zips past. While these oldies were busy winning pointless skirmishes, the battle-front moved elsewhere and soon even the skirmishes vanish from their lives. There is nothing left but memories and a lot of moping to do. But luckily we are small cogs in a very big machinery and somehow or other we manage along helped by friends, family and the momentum of our own lives. Like in driving, the saving grace is always the consideration shown by others, the restrictive paths which keep us bridled in and we get by or are pushed along.
THE CASE FOR MORE HOLIDAYS. The Indian is not known as a hard or diligent worker. He will never work himself to the bone. The concept of the nose-to-the-grindingwheel is terribly alien to him. He believes in fate, luck and even though everything boils down to karma, he conveniently overlooks the point of his own effort. Cleverness is the hallmark; not intelligence. We prepare our kids well for this. The parents do everything for him so the idea that he can take control of his life never even vaguely passes him by. Then at school the teachers want to him to learn by rote and never ask a question which is simply seen as an argumentative disposition. The Govt then stepped in and gave him a protective Big brother embrace with a secure job and no responsibility. To this cauldron add the tendency to cheat on the side which makes us very amenable to reason when requested with a packet under the table. The Authorities continue to believe in the inscrutability of the Indian’s honesty; especially when he becomes an employee of the President of India. In contrast the rest of the population remains a lot of incurable scoundrels, selling the country down the river.
Side-tracking a bit, I mention here that why can’t we accept the truth of our nature and administer accordingly. Why do we have to presuppose that the President’s minions are all incarnations of Vishnu the Creator and the general populace all incarnations of Ravana the demon? All our laws and Administrative Rules have inherent flaws and promote the unethical side of our characters. The populace deemed worthy only of being lorded over; a very clear remnant of the colonial ethos. A good example of this theory is the sad state of our circulation on the roads. Nobody has been taught the rules. The Driving licenses are sold. There is no deterrent because rules cannot be enforced in the present state of affairs. And nobody could care less for the other guy. It is a free for all even to the extent that no-one seems to be worried about his own safety, leave alone about the other hapless fellow. Everyday, a show is put on by millions of Indians of going to their workplaces, and doing their little bit to take the country forward. Tonnes of fuel are used up in vehicles to transport these zealous workers to the workplace and back resulting in pollution, sickness from fatigue, accidents, medical bills, and at the office - inflated telephone bills,
electricity bills and so on so forth. And what have we to show for all this? – A totally disgruntled “praja”, with curses from both sides of the table. The Praja, wanting the President’s employee to do his part whereas the employee revolts on this attempt to curtail his constitutional right of freedom from work’s tyranny. We want a happy country; right? Why not have more holidays? All the excesses mentioned in the last para will take on a positive note. The exchequer will save millions, thousands of liters of fuels will be saved, pollution will be drastically reduced, there will be less sickness and the pressures on the medical services will more than half, there will be electricity in excess and water also. In one go, we will enter a period of plenty. The work will still be done as it is done with considerations under the table being negotiated in the cafes, restaurants and homes. The stress levels will plane out. There will be less strife and the courts will see fewer quarrels to deal with. The economy will not suffer. The same amount of money will be floating and doing the rounds changing hands in the market place. I see an exponential growth in trading and therefore manufacturing and therefore in
the gross national product and therefore in the per capita income and therefore in the collected taxes. I would even go to the limit and suggest that we work only on Mon, Tue, Thu and Fridays. Our present productivity levels are really not any higher anyway. With lesser interference from the administrative idiots, there will be less of impinging on the rights of the common man to lead his simple life. And, of course smiling faces will replace the care-worn ones of today. Sounds like Utopian Ramrajya – is it not?
On a Leash In the evenings, I go out with my child for a little while in the park in our residential complex. It is a beautifully maintained park and children from other complexes come there too. In the last week two instances took place which forced me to speak out and act. Children of all ages, as young as few months old were playing and of course with the children are many young ladies, both parents and maids. On some pretext or the other young servants of the area want to come into that area of the park; who knows when they will be noticed. Watchmen have been kept to shoo these young strollers but then the watchmen is not always there and there are always some new ones trying their luck. The other day one young man came in with his dog. A big black dog which was obviously scaring the kids. So I asked him what was he doing there with children all around; this is no place to walk the dog. His reply was simple “What can I do. The dog has pulled me here”. Now this made me angry and I showed it. I told him if he cannot hold the dog which is on a leash anyway, he should stay at home and leave the walking to his
master and I would beat him blue and black if he allowed the dog to pooh where the children were playing. He quickly beat retreat. Then about four days later, the same thing happened again with another caretaker and dog. The surprising thing is that children from the same houses visit the park too from where these dogs are coming, yet the owners have no respect and bring their dogs in this area to let their dogs pooh. Have they no sensitivity that they are dirtying the very area in which their children will be playing later on and opening the doors to sickness and worse? Where does this attitude come from? Is it our concept of secularism where everyone is allowed certain leeway which is translated as absolute freedom for everybody even if it is causing a nuisance to others? If these dog lovers are so serious about their dogs, why don’t hey have a toilet made in their houses for their animals instead of dirtying the entire complex? You step into the pooh of animals the moment you step out? Is the fundamental freedom only for them? Do I not have a place under this sun? What’s behind this need to keep dogs anyway? It can’t be love for animals because had it been love we would not confine them to the congested life of the cities.
Two recent forwards by email raised the same question. Are we secular or hypocrites or what? One email raised the question with comparative pictures about the paintings of M.F.Hussain and how they denigrate Hinduism. Well, I must say I had never looked into this subject with any interest until now and had treated all the brouhaha as the meanderings of the narrow minded. I had always thought that as an individual M.F. Hussain has his rights and you have the right to like or not like what he does. But making it a sociological issue never crossed my mind. I looked a little closely into what the email had to say and my feeling was this: A word of caution with this line of thought. You have to study the heritage of Tantra to understand the depiction of our Gods and their consorts. The Hindu tantras have always advocated spiritual emancipation through sexual release and bondage at the same time. It is yoga in practice in real life instead of running away and hiding in a cave. This is what we see in Khajurao and many other places depicted in stone and wall painting and even books like the Kama Sutra. When literacy was not prevalent and books could not be easily produced, stone was the
best medium. Study the culture of our yoginis. In Jainism, release from the earthly bondage always culminates in absolute nakedness. This idiotic concept of nakedness being a sin and bad has come to us with the Christian moral tradition. Let us not forget our basics and our general balance. Let us maintain our mental and emotional equanimity. My feeling was that the paintings had caught the mental and emotional thought patterns of each of the communities. Although Hussain could have been a little more circumspect and not depicted so much nudity knowing fully well that in today’s climate it would offend many. Artists are given a license and much leeway but they should not let their hearts run away out of control of their heads. If you are holding the leash like in the dogs in the story above, then you need to exercise restrain and manage the situation from every angle in consideration. Then in the second forward, the topic was how badly Hindus are being treated in their own country. So I asked the person who sent me the email - Are you really looking for an answer? Hindus are a confused lot and always afraid of what I have not understood.
We also have the bad habit of being utterly self-centered, have a very high opinion of ourselves and are afraid to fight for what we want or even speak out. Our want of moral values shows in our way of life - where else do they burn daughters inlaw? We are highly judgmental, always criticizing - I suppose this is a way to feel better & superior - yet envy is high on our list and we do not think twice in throwing our dirt in other's space. We talk of brotherhood but back-biting comes very easily to us. For a fistful of dollars we are prepared to sell our soul. We have always taken the route of appeasement in even the most minor decisions. We have always gone for shortcuts and appeasement is a shortcut! We are a spineless lot and we ostracize and ignore those who speak out as disturbers of peace and now some of us have resorted to violence to say our piece. If we could, we would want the rest of the world on a tight leash always happily bearing with us while we live with abandon and total unconcern for anything or anybody. In life we always get the treatment we allow ourselves to be given.
Pride in lawlessness A girl gets rapes, undressed and molested on the street and a whole crowd will look on but no one will lift a finger. Why? Because we just don't have the guts to speak out or make a stand. On a pragmatic level we do not want to invite the ire on ourselves which is understandable. We are always thinking as individuals and selfishly; never as a member of a community. I wonder if there should not be a law to purposely make onlookers and witnesses to lift a finger or face the ire of the law as criminals promoting violence by not doing anything. Humanity never learns. Hitler could getaway with what he did with the Jews because the neighbors were in quiet tacit agreement. The same happened later in erstwhile Yugoslavia. Closer to home every community is after the other for the most banal reasons. Every small time political figure looking for a little press coverage will raise the specter of provincialism by talking about jobs only for the locals or language or hate against other religious communities knowing fully well that the un-evolved mind of the masses will mindlessly take to the streets and burn, damage, hurt and even kill anything in sight. Isn’t this tacit approval of mindlessness and
violence? Shouldn’t there be a law against it and lock-up the instigators as criminals? This has been the path taken by many leaders all over the world to remain in power whereas the population slides into further misery and normally end up in economies collapsing totally. See what happened in Rhodesia, Uganda and now in India in the eastern, western and earlier this trend was seen in the southern states too. Matters that will really help us improve our lot are left untouched but we have time for petty things. Take for instance this hue and cry on a movie where so much energy is being wasted in worrying about what happened 500 years ago. But ask people to stand up for subjects like female feticide and they are too busy to bother. Don’t these people see the ridiculousness of it all when they see construction sites empty of labor and streets without cobblers and hairdressers as reported lately in the papers? I fail to understand how taking away the work from a foreigner which he is trained to do can help these locals. Then why as country others are not raising their fingers against it or revolt or raise its voice. These same political figures who want people out of their states, why don’t they ask their own people to return back and leave the other states alone?
Rather these so called political Lords get police protection and security. What I have never understood is how the common man, so full of virtue and compassion otherwise, becomes a heartless clerk the moment he becomes the employee of the President of India? Often using his powers as executive to harass and blackmail. Full of self-importance and righteousness to uphold the law but corrupt otherwise by first not doing his appointed work, then taking extra inducements without any feeling of shame and often not doing his job even after that. The entire legal machinery fails to deliver justice in time. More and more draconian laws are enacted. The police get more and more excuses to take the public to task with impunity. Rogue elements are having a field day. Today if we have something to be proud of, it is the pride we take in breaking laws and through it show our stature in life. Tell me how proud should I feel? If India is to move forward, it needs to have many second thoughts - now!
Removing or Promoting A news coverage commentary on CNN made me pen these few words. She was talking about the spread of this new disease in Africa. She was advocating further funds to be poured in aid of removal of suffering. My question is: are we removing or promoting? Why are we so eager to pour millions and millions into programs that lead us no-where? Why are we so eager to promote the welfare of people who are not really eager to do anything for themselves? It is fantastic how humans can delude themselves that life is one Silk Road with happiness and wish fulfillment is its goal. Life may be utter misery, so what? The very person who complains about it also goes about doing precisely what he should not to make it worse. This reminds me of an instance from my own life. Many, many years ago my maid came to me with a request for a loan. Not a small loan. Something in the nature of Rs 10.000 which left me aghast. I was paying her a salary of Rs 300 per month. Her monthly earnings were barely Rs 1200 from work in four homes. But look at her courage. She was prepared to take on a loan
which she would never be remotely ever to pay. I was well aware that her husband was a never-do-well and had never earned a penny in his life. He did assist in spending the money on a drink every evening. Her married daughter had been deserted by her husband and was living them. Her two sons were coming up the same way. She was bringing them up to become gentlemen with education and white collar jobs but she forgot to imbibe in them the value of work – hard or soft. In every household, starting with their own they were seeing the man of the house shirking work and yet being taken care of by the women. So finally both the boys grew up into expecting that their wives would take care of the earning and working part. They were convinced as would have been obvious to all that they were a gift to mankind or at least to their womankind. The maid was taking this loan to marry off her first born. I did not give her any money. I did not have any to give. I did ask her how the son would support a family. She had no reply. Sheer optimism won through. She did find somebody to give her a loan at an exorbitant interest and she went ahead with the marriage.
Some months ago I met her again working as a sweeper in the temple I sometimes visit and enquired about her family. The sons it seems were not doing anything. Their wives were working and keeping the home fires burning. Her husband was now too old and sick and although she did not say it, it could be seen that it was all a great burden. She had perpetuated her own miserable life on to the next generation. The loan had become a weight around the neck. What bothers me is this – when we assist these short-sighted people are we helping them or hurting them? Can we really ever help them? I cannot stop thinking that if she had not found anyone to give her the loan, she would be better off! In the same context a reality check is warranted on how we are living and how the governments are running the world. Look around you. We are systematically destroying everything around us that upholds life and yet we are not short on complaining. We all know about the contamination and pollution but individually how much are we doing to reduce it? We all know about syphilis from centuries past and today AIDS. Yet how many of us are
afraid to have a romp at the first occasion we get? We even go looking for it in brothels. AIDS today is on the rampage. The media is doing its bit to highlight it. Millions are being spent on research to look for a cure. Is this the right track? The person who is endangering his own life and the life of his partners, does he not have any responsibility? What is he doing to stop the menace? Are these people worthy of being protected and kept alive; for what effective purpose? Then there is also the next question. Why should they not die? That is the way the universe works. The pragmatic rule is of come and go. The universal rule is of natural selection of the fittest. Why are we fighting against it? What’s so frightening about death? The whole world is today swayed by this philosophy where death is to be avoided or delayed at all costs. Whose idea of immortality and youth is to keep looking twenty and have “FUN”; whatever that means? Look how the medicine systems and lifestyles are developing. Indulgence is the goal. It is not the quality of life but longevity that is their focus. I have seen families in India, ruined by the cost of so called “treatment” of incurable states of cancer or some such even with no hope and death predictably a short time away. Why ruin the
family that is left behind? Why is the world spending such big fortunes to delay the inevitable but so little in prevention, careful and sensible living? I think my question is pertinent. Shall we promote the best as our ancestors were forced to do in spite of themselves or shall we promote sickness and misery?
The Revenge of the Villages. My interest was aroused by a sentence I read in an article on the Revenge of Neglected Rural India. The last line – “..they will swamp the island of urban privilege, leveling them down to village India standards”, is a timely and pointed warning. Though the sentence is in the future tense, the truth is that it is already upon us. I live in Greater Kailash area of New Delhi. It is supposed to be one of the better, upper class areas. But does it belong to us today anymore? You have to simply step out of the house for a walk in the colony park hoping to meet some of the residents for a simple Good Morning and you will realize how far the disease has already spread. Nine out of the ten persons you will see are from the servant class. Jauntily dressed in the latest jeans and T-shirts, behaving as if they are the real residents of the place. Their very need to show themselves off with their loud posturing give them away but who will tell them so. I feel it is the psychology of the one who knows he does not belong, but cannot forget the fact that he is very much part of the scene and he expects to be accepted.
In the evenings when our young ones go out to play and frolic in the parks, the ayahs and other servants come out in droves along with their friends from other localities, making a perfect nuisance of themselves. They are noisy, overtly conscious to make a mark. They walk and strut around and literally bump shoulders. It is an affirmation of their status that they also belong. The movement grew to a point where they even felt courageous enough to romance in the open like good heroes from Indian films. The brouhaha reached such a crescendo that the police had to be called in to check in this disturbing atmosphere. And the problem is not only in the colonies. Go anywhere. Shops or offices. You are dealing with village level people with an exposure to life picked up from Indian films and TV serials. The shop keepers spend a fortune on their shops and then keep sales men they do not bother to train or educate. The buyers are forced to deal with personnel who have no clue to their needs nor even understand their language. It is a total mismatch. Worse, the owner of the shop could not be bothered. My feeling is that we are ourselves to blame. I may sound pompous but our need to retain
our servants has blinded us to all else. We call them Bhaiyas and try hard to maintain their goodwill. It is we who have made them behave as if they are the only ones who matter, very important and to be given all they ask for. What else can we expect when we are ourselves going to permit to lower ourselves to the level of the village standards? The biggest example is in the drivers we are all keeping. We buy vehicles worth lakhs and hand them over to village louts, who have just learnt to hold the steering wheel. Their sense of road etiquette or for that matter any kind of etiquette is so terrible that in the colonies or on the roads the result is total chaos and muscle power with selfishness rules, with we, letting them go on. The owners themselves don’t seem to know better and are happily ensconced in their snob envelope, while, others less lucky mortals are unhappy and grumbling. The revenge is already complete.
Self as the Benchmark. How subjective can we get? That we tend to take decisions and act on what is convenient and understandable to us and within our experience is not just a theory. Practical experience has proven it again and again. In the early 70s I had just put my first foot forward in the professional arena and had come to settle in Delhi. The Lord in his kindness gave me a good start and I rented a small 2 room flat for my bachelor self in a so called “posh” colony. I had grand plans and I was of the belief that a good start was half the journey. Success comes to those who “seem” successful. Plus I had the definite making of a snob and dinghy places were not for me. I was paying a princely sum of Rs 250 per month which happened to be at that time the average monthly income of an Indian. My ancestral home town being only 35 miles away from Delhi, I paid my cousins a visit. Of course they had millions of questions. The principle question was about the rent I was paying. In my simple childish honesty I told them the truth; and instantly the next statement I heard was “Leave it. You won’t be able to keep it”. Nobody in the family hitherto had done anything like living
on rent when he could have easily lived with a relative or even stayed put in the small town and commuted daily. Just imagine making it out on one’s own and not listening to one’s elders?! Not even asking for their advice!! This is a simple example of negative thinking from my point of view. Why always ponder on the failure? I admit that often I was hard pressed for cash and sometimes even borrowed to pay the rent but it all worked out in the end. My well-to-do family could equally well have said, “Fine. If you ever need something, we are here”. But no; encouragement and courageously venturing out is not our style. We want to play safe. We pride ourselves in our stable and staid thinking and behavior. Over ambitious acts are for the foolhardy. Good sense advises us to remain within well laid out boundaries and wherever possible stick to the straight, narrow and the obvious. No wonder then that the once rich landowners are today selling off their lands to make ends meet. I remember the HMT brand of watches. In our younger days it was a highly respected brand and then all of a sudden it started disappearing from the buyer’s wish lists. What was the reason? I don’t really know for
sure but what I heard was that the top management was acting as the designer of the final models being launched in the market and of course their tastes being the benchmark, their selections were plagued by subjective choices. I suppose it never occurred to the top bosses that they were fine engineers, gradually promoted to top management posts in a manufacturing unit and that although very superior when compared to the common man, their market savvy was incomplete. The aspirations of the buyers were never considered. No market survey ever conducted. It was a monopoly and being a government run organization, the focus was “for the poor” whereas the money was with the richer class. So evidently the actual buyers defected and today the brand has shut shop. This is a kind of reverse negative thinking; when you do all the right things for the wrong reasons. This is because all the decisions are taken while remaining within the confines of one’s own subjective comfort zone. Is it so difficult to see that the first principle of marketing is to find out what “they” want and give it to them? A little peep into our lives will show umpteen instances where we did the right thing by our
perspective, never taking into consideration any other factor. This always happens when subjective thinking is at work and our arrogance blinds us to any other possibility as impractical and impossible. Lately an advertisement is on the TV which shows a young lady going to great effort and paying a good price for a pair of jeans with the “used & torn” look. She comes home and places the brand new jeans on her bed. Her mother passes by, sees it and promptly takes it and stitches it up to make it more respectable, with absolute conviction that when the young lady finds it out, she would certainly be pleased. In the office, this kind of thinking will result in frustrations and expensive forays. To think that one may not be always right may seem negative but it is truly very positive. It shows a maturity that goes for good management. This will promote discussions and open ended discussions always result in new data coming forth. What is then required is to be positive enough to immediately change tack and incorporate the new data in one’s decision making. Thinking out of the box is I think the latest term for tangential thinking. I remember one incident with a firm where I was a visiting consultant. I was asked to
research the market on the pricing and packaging. My final assessment did not please the owner of the unit. He did not feel that I understood the ground realities very well of doing business. He comes from another field of expertise and was very successful in it. He copied the packaging from a pack from abroad and priced his product based on what he considered a good price, the price calculation based solely on the factor of his own preference and his own ability and readiness to pay for the said product. Needless to say the product and the whole project bombed. For all his business and international exposure, it never occurred to him that his view of the market is blinkered by his lifestyle. He is more used to moving in upper-class stores in AC comfort and higher priced products while his buyers would be from another class altogether and by using himself as the benchmark, he was dooming the project. Failures there will always be. They are part of the learning process. And hopefully they can be kept in the limits of what can be called “affordable”. Negative thinking is the mother of procrastination. Procrastination means that there is no urgent need to reach a goal but rather “seem” to be doing; appear busy and seriously involved; a very self75
defeating attitude. Considering that we have only a limited number of years on this planet, whatever work can be avoided is a goal in itself. Again the whole attitude is very personal and if that is convenient to the procrastinator, who are we to criticize? My question is can we really run away from life? One day I was visiting somebody in the hospital; there I noticed a weeping group. Out of curiosity, I asked an attendant what had transpired. It seems the lady being operated upon had breathed her last on the operating table. The doctor in question being a friend I asked him what went wrong. It seems that the family had been avoiding the operation for seven years in the fear that the unthinkable may happen. The sickly lady was on her last legs and it is then the family decided to go for the operation as a last resort. They had come around too late. There just was not enough strength and vital life force in the lady to sustain the stress of the operation. I wonder why they went in for the operation after all; was it to show to the world that they were doing as much as could be done even when fate was against them? Positive thinking and curiosity go together. Curiosity is the mother of learning. Learning results in enhancement of our quality of life
if we put what has been learnt into practice. When the turn came in my own family to operate or not, this old story came to mind and we did not hesitate. We are all happy now as the decision was well taken and everything turned out very well indeed.
Snuffing Them Out Softly. Thirty years ago I made friends with a carpenter and the relationship was kept alive by both of us because I had many odd jobs always at hand and the carpenter always could be counted on to be there. He is of Muslim faith but when I needed somebody to find me a priest for solemnizing my sister’s wedding, he, NIZAM, did the job and in the Grih Prevesh puja, he was there too with a priest that he had brought. He was always a fine reliable man with an open mind and a happy friendly disposition. Yet his disposition did not extend to his children. This is something I have found difficult to understand. With them he was the absolute monarch and kept them on a tight leash. Their training was limited and their education was stunted. They were never allowed to think or act for themselves. The principle of “REGARDS” towards the elders was so well embedded that there was an aura of total obedience in the air. Of course, today, Nizam has had to retire to his small farm holding and it is the sons who work. By good fortune, my relationship with the family has continued and I am considered part of their extended family. The son takes care of all my odd job needs and more.
Yet there is a sad extension to this story. The ability of the son is awfully limited. His learning process is severely stunted. Instructions tend to disappear from his memory within 24 hours. Everyday you have to reinstruct him and he rarely learns from his experiences. When I see people like him, I think of a calculator versus a computer. His mind is like a calculator without a memory. He lacks exposure of any kind outside what he has learnt from his father. His abilities are almost as if I am dealing with a person from the 60s or you can say a younger Nizam. As a child he was bright and exuberant but nothing of that child is to be seen. The Godgiven lively and energetic personality has been totally erased. The goodwill remains but the thinking and learning part of the persona has disappeared. Where did it go? And I suppose this has been happening over the ages from father to son as if locked in time. I would have thought it is easy to love and the sheer joy in the eyes of a child would melt the toughest heart. Till the age of two the child is treated as a soft toy and all the affection we are capable of is given to it. I suppose the problem begins after this stage. The ever growing child starts becoming independent and this is where we are unable
to reconcile ourselves. We saw it as a baby under our total care and we wish to continue seeing it this way. We have to steel ourselves to grow with the situation and allow the child to grow in his own God-given parameters. The truth is no one even thinks of this as a situation. Every individual sees himself as perfect and introspection is hardly the forte of human beings. Righteousness mixed with judgmental attitudes and the law-given rights of the parents permitting absolute control over the child blinds us to the relative personalities that we all have. I wonder in how many people the thought even remotely creates a shadow of doubt that we may be wrong and the child is not an extension of ourselves. When we are dealing with a child, why do we let go of all selfrestraints? In extreme cases parents have known to indulge in monstrous acts and when confronted they have always justified themselves. How come they do not see the suffering they are causing? I have noticed this phenomena in other better provided families too. As a teacher I have seen that bright spark go out by the time a child reaches class 8 or so. The keen and enquiring character of the child gets
taken over by a tendency more in the nature of calculating and manipulating. The desire to excel gets superimposed by the mundane. What happened? Where is the lacuna in our upbringing and educating that fine, bright, wide eyed, curiosity filled and intelligent children turn into people so much lesser than their possibilities? My own way of seeing is that, adults make life so difficult for the child that the child soon learns to do everything to please the elders. This conditioning is total. An element of insincerity enters into the character which becomes one of the strongest traits. Soon life becomes a clash of wills between the child and his elders. I remember a sticker, I saw when younger. It showed an angry looking father saying to his child- “The answer is NO. Now what did you want?” Do we really leave any choices to the child? The conditioning begins to take hold in the very early formative stages. The minds are badgered into submission as taught in our societies to think not, speak not, show no initiative but simply do as they are told and learn by rote whatever the teachers tell them. All expressions of curiosity and
activities of exploration and experimentation so studiously discouraged earlier, now form their personality. Even the best intentioned parent is unable to let go. Any vestige of individuality is systematically squeezed out of them. How often have you noticed that when you ask a question of the child, it is the parent who answers? The fine connection between the conscious thinking brain and new experiences that results in a thinking and consciously growing human being is snuffed out of existence. We need to teach them to think for themselves and NOT tell them what to think. We forget that children are given to us for bringing up and not as possessions. Of course as babies they need total dedication and care. But how can we forget that as they grow they are also becoming persons in their own right? These poor unfortunates have had their memory and learning boxes virtually removed almost as if surgically. These are supposed to be the fine young men and women we are helping out to mature and grow up as the adults of tomorrow. Eventually life will make them acutely aware of their limitations but what can be done? It’s too late to start all over again. The
mental make up is strongly in place and the demands of life leave no space. Emotional immaturity will only be adding to the woes. What we have brought up is a confused and unsure adult with an unrealistic ego. The parents will eventually realize this truth sometime well in their old age when the habits and attitudes that they have instilled in their wards come to haunt them in their own lives. The circle is then complete and pain is everywhere. Even if these people wanted, they would not know how to get out of this impasse. It is no wonder that o many are landing up on the psychiatrist’s couch. The good natured ones bumble along and the ones with a strong amour propre take refuge in forever justifying themselves, rationalizing and on the defensive if not outright arguing whenever there is any need for the brain to make an effort at listening and learning. What is to be expected of them? Not much. The cycle of this continuing education from parent to child and onwards on to the coming generation has to be somehow derailed. It would have been best done in our schools, away from possessive parents but unfortunately the schools are being run by adults with the same mind set and the entire
school programs have been subverted and fashioned to be an extension of this same style of upbringing. There is little conscious effort to run the schools for the child with only the child’s personal growth in focus. We are bringing up virtual zombies; something in the nature of the Bonsai plants – finely truncated! Then when in adult life, our zombies do not show much creativity or initiative, we berate them for it. What can we expect from young people who have only been taught to run back to their parents for every single thought or action? It is a cycle of “Stifling and Berating” that never ends and the same carries on from generation to generation. How shall we break this vicious cycle?
Show some courage For once I have something nice to say. It is about this advertisement I saw. The scene takes place in a public transport bus. A rough looking guy is standing by a girl who is seated. His hand gravitates towards her in an unwanted and definitely unsolicited caress. Now this is a situation which takes place everyday umpteen of times in the buses of Delhi and I suppose elsewhere. Things can even get worse with bottom-pinching or more. Normally most of the crowd avoids speaking up as nobody wants to confront the ruffian element. This of course permits eveteasers to get away with a lot. But in this advert an elderly man speaks up. I believe this is what we need to project and become conscious of. The old man remonstrates and the lout responds by saying that it was the fault of his unruly hand which slipped by on its own. So the elderly man responds by giving him a stinging slap and when the shocked Romeo looks at him, the old man quietly says the same thing: It was the fault of the hand – it slipped! If only more of us would have the courage to acknowledge and speak up. What are we afraid of? Why do we let so much in our lives to happen even when we are seething inside? We keep our anger
confined to discussions in our drawing rooms. If we were true to ourselves we would certainly refuse to take all that we consider nonsense as quietly and docilely as we do. Why are we Indians so afraid to call a spade a spade and pick up cudgels? We normally take the opposite stance and try to hush up things. In comparison at the other end of the spectrum is this little conversation I had. I was talking about our tendency to be oblivious to the presence of others. We love rubbing shoulders and cut the path of others as if the other is simply not there. I was relating a particular instance when I was in the very busy and highly crowded market place of Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi. I was having my six month old child in a sling and of course it was a little hard to protect her from all the shoving and hitting which we are prone to. To protect my baby from being hurt I was keeping my arms around her with my elbows outward. Yet one lady came barging up the alley totally blind to our existence and my elbow connected with her ribs. At this she woke up. Looked at us with annoyance and then had the grace to realize that she could have hurt the baby and quietly walked away.
But my listener kept on commenting as if trying to calm me down by saying things like “It was not intentional, she must have been occupied with other things on her mind, who would want to hurt a child and such”. Like a good lawyer that my listener is, she kept on trying to rationalize the act. Finally in exasperation I had to pose the question as to why she was so ardently batting for that woman as if she was her defense lawyer. Why was she not ready to accept my analysis of the situation? Why was it so important to placate me and make me think otherwise? We like brush irritants under the carpet. What is stopping us from accepting the fact that we do tend to live and move about as if we alone exist. The first step towards correcting a fault is to accept it. But we never look the problem in the eye. We take great pains to avoid problem-solving and our hoping has far more depth than our attempt to think things through and live with planning and circumspection. There is an element of carelessness and irresponsibility in everything and every aspect of our lives and we are extremely comfortable with it.
THE ILLUSION OF VIRTUE. Of all the tricks of illusion we get to see, this is the biggest that humanity has played on itself. What an absolute control it has on everybody’s sight and mind. Even if somebody helps us see through the whole game, the chances are that we would still like to keep our eyes closed and live with the illusion. How do I begin to explain myself? Since the beginning of time males and the females of the species have been playing with each other. What harm could there be in it? Yet somewhere along the way certain values were established and the play came under the rules and regulations of elders who promptly called it a sin. This gave them the right to censure and control the lives of their brethren. The brethren for some reason found it perfectly alright as the men specially could call the shots and control the lives of their women and possessions, and women acquiesced because it suited them too in some pervert way. This was not the only rule that took the form of sin or/and virtue but definitely the most mind arresting. These rules of what are sins and what is not virtuous rules our lives to such an extent that we have forgotten to live
our lives. The only concept that matters is to be seen to be virtuous. A little introspection will show us that most of our actions are based on our need to be seen as virtuous. A deeper look around will show us how in the name of doing good for the good of others we meddle in the lives of others and give birth to hurt and mishaps. It even absolves us from looking at ourselves and improving ourselves which is “the” tragedy of human existence to my way of thinking. Once we are in this mode we can so conveniently keep on pointing fingers at others and in comparison seem so wondrously divine. Let us begin with the legal aspect of illegal activities. Things and activities which are personal and were giving no trouble to anyone suddenly became illegal and gave the police a baton to wave around. This power has often seen to have gone to their heads and they misuse it for their own pleasure or show of virtue. Have you noticed with what glee they announce that they have broken a prostitution ring? Come to think of it, how much detective prowess is needed to find an entry into a madam’s “kotha”? This class of work which was once an indispensable part of the cultured life which gave rise to such eminent dancers and singers like Umrao Jaan is today bearing the brunt of the moral police
and often creating situations where the constabulary is able to get away with rape. There are of course other institutions that have legalized this profession because it suited the rulers. We are all aware of the institution of temple “dassi” where the damsel is married to the Lord and dances for him and is bedded by His servants. Then take the very common institution of marriage in which more women are battered than they are cherished. If it is legal it is fine. Even fathers get away with rape of their daughters because it is happening within the confines of the marriage and the laws permit no interference here in the name of virtue and sanctity of marriage. The whole society looks on and calls it a personal matter. Had it not been for the laws, we would not have so much of the police force wasting their time in stopping such innocuous activities and also wasting scarce resources of both the judiciary and the detective force. But I suppose it suits everybody. A huge trade is based on this illegality with huge sums involved. Trading in women, enslavement and stealing of children are just some of the activities that I can mention; add to this side dishes like illegal distilling and use of alcoholic drinks, pornography and
pedophile activities and you will see what a witch’s brew we have here. I wonder if the law makers ever give thought to the disaster they are giving rise to when they make a law. Take for instance the crack down on marijuana. This has been the staple diet of the common man for centuries and no rule ever condemned it. But the newage governments have ruled it as obnoxious and made it illegal; one would think they would relent when it has been conclusively proven that it helps seriously sick patients in controlling their pain. But no, they are too virtuous to let such nefarious products to contaminate our lives! Other strong opiates are so stringently controlled that the sums involved in successfully trafficking them go into astronomical figures. The temptation to trade in it is too great for the frail spirit of human-kind to resist. There is a concerted effort by the traffickers to hook people and create clients for them. If only the law makers would get off their virtuous backsides and understand that this is not the way to go about it. It is their stupid laws and little understanding of applied psychology that is making this planet a vice-den. Yet cigarette smoking is ok even with all the data saying it is really the most hurtful of human activities today.
India has one of the most stringent laws in the world regarding what women can do to fight for their rights. The anti-dowry and harassment laws are draconian to say the least. Beware of your wife. If she gets into the mood to play a fast one on you, all she has to do is to call the police and after that the legal machinery takes over. They arrest you and your immediate family and put you behind bars first for a week at least and then only ask questions. Investigations are more from the point of view to nail the man rather than find out if there is any basis of truth in the allegations. The whole process works on the basis that if the weaker sex is complaining there has to be some truth in it. After all only the male of the species is known to be malicious. Women on the other hand are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. It is another matter that it is now common knowledge that more often than not whenever a woman is upset and looking for her demands to be met, she is using the police and judiciary to harass and threaten the man into submission if she can. The list of such misplaced and misunderstood actions is long and can be seen in every phase of life. That parents are loving and cherish their children is one myth. That
beggars are forced into begging because they are without other options is another. When we go to temples to bribe the Lord into granting our wishes and then save our souls by giving alms to the beggars outside, do we ever stop and wonder that it is an organized syndicate at work? There are of course exceptions so let’s not get into an argument. It is also true that our virtuous conduct has given rise to a profession and a very unscrupulous group of people who indulge in stealing children, maiming them, and turning them into professional beggars and then live on their proceeds. Don’t think that beggars don’t pay taxes and are free to roam. They have territories and whatever administrative authority is in control of that territory, takes their cut from them. Many beggars are rich beyond their needs; miserliness having become a habit. So much for our virtuous conduct! If you are a believer in Karma, then think again; what are you really reaping?!! 50 years ago, the only touch with the outside world an individual had in India and many other countries for that matter, was through the cinema. This was not only a land where fantasies were played out, but where people met and asked each other out. It was the central focus of our society. Young impressionable minds were certainly
affected. Remember the tight fitting clothes of Asha Parekh, the sexual innuendoes of Mala Sinha and the gyrations of the inimitable Helen? At heart we all dreamt of meeting such a girl. Remember the bravado of the heroes whom we then went on to emulate; the antics of Shammi kapoor, the villainous designs of Pran and the inhumanity of the zamindars. What the youth saw they repeated. Their conversation, dress and attitudes all reflected the topics as delineated on the silver screen. Most theft cases of the complex kind were later discovered to have origins in the seeing of a film. The films gave ideas and the underdeveloped minds of the masses lapped it up. Whole generations were brought up on the staple fare of the cinemas. This was in those times when society was more conservative than it is today and I can say, more tolerant too. Otherwise will somebody explain to me why no voices were raised when the boys teased the girls and pulled at their dupattas? Why the cabaret dances in drinking bars were never blocked from being screened? What was the law saying then and where was the censor board? Even when the teasing scenes became more violent, nobody raised their voices. This was what two whole generations of youth saw and of course, found it acceptable. And now that we have entered
the 21st century, suddenly the Indians have found religion in its worst form and intolerance too. With religion have come the moral brigades and the violence of people who refuse to let others live their own lives. The truth is that we have ourselves to blame with our virtuous, saintly non-interfering outlook. Now it is too late. The script has been lost and it will have to be written all over again. The tragedy is that the TV and the pulp media are adding to the fire. Nothing is left to the imagination. It is even getting to be boring. But the fact remains that the average human is in a state of constant titillation. The young ladies in real life with their dresses or the lack of it are making it worse. It seems that they have a right to titillate but the young men are expected to maintain a saintly selfdiscipline. I maintain that our elders have failed us; they have failed in showing the way and instilling in their young the discrimination needed to wander in this wide wicked world. In many countries, in the last century, virtue reared its head in the form of “Prohibition” to stop both manufacture and consumption of alcohol. Every time it only increased the illegal activity in its manufacture and
consumption and unscrupulous elements made hay while it lasted. Yet every time a vote-catching line is needed, prohibition is the answer and is practiced every now then by our state governments. We never seem to learn. The voters fall for it every time and the leaders are always willing because it not only brings them to power but becomes a source of income as they prove to be the biggest behind-the-scene law-breakers. Ever notice how often everything in life is done only for your good? You would have heard this explanation from parents, elders, kin, teachers and associates at work. Never does anyone ever say that they are doing it because they want to and that there is more often than not their own gratification or profit in it. From the sound of it, we are all living very saintly lives, with no ulterior motives at all. We can be very mistaken and very misguided in our actions and decisions quite often. The man who comes to clean our car every morning, the other day, in the middle of the severest winter, was coughing away. I observed this for some days on and on and then wave of “virtue” overwhelmed me. So I took out one of my sweaters and gave him to wear it. But I found to my surprise that he
was not wearing it. Neither that day nor the days after; after a week, I could not resist asking him as to why he was not wearing it. His reply brought me back down to earth with a thud; he had given it away! At a more personal and mundane level let me tell you about a recent happening that shook me. We have among our midst a lady who is for ever ready with her time, advice and sometimes even money to help others. How virtuous! She did manage to acquire some qualifications of a higher order and rose even to the position of a director in some not so important school. This has made her vanity go right berserk. She is so visibly of the kind who knows all the answers even when they have no clue to the questions. Wherever and whenever she gets the opportunity, she is all ready to take over and make a mess of things. She is so busy in being seen as the virtuous do-gooder that she even gets angry if we give her the no-thank-you shake. As one of the adult in the family, out of respect many people did let her get away with it which has only stoked her intentions. Well the story is of this woman and a favorite niece of hers. As she was always there to think and do for the niece to the degree that I and you would call it imposing oneself, the niece grew up to depend upon her for
everything to the point she was seen by all of us as a complete lulu. Eventually all said and done, the niece got married, separated due to the continued interference of the family and came to live with her father with her daughter. Things were not going well at all. One day she fell sick with fever. Her father, a very authoritarian figure who presupposes that everyone is shamming and a louse, did not take it seriously and although she was taken to the doctor, it was all done very casually. After all as he said later, she had been sick a year ago too. She was lying alone at home. Then I suppose things got serious and there was nobody to call upon so the niece called her favorite aunt. It was late evening and the aunt in her wisdom rang her doctor friend who she was unable to contact. So she let things be and took up the matter in the morning. By then the father had also come around to see that things were really amiss. By the time the ambulance arrived the girl had already breathed her last having been infected by dengue. Unfortunately the story does not end here. The father and aunt have shaken off the episode by putting the blame squarely on “fate”. Now they are devoting their energies on the hapless 10 years old daughter who is the only one really mourning the passing of her mother. This girl
will now bear the full impact of their virtuous guardianship without any mitigating factors. I am of the firm belief, had the girl had a more compassionate father, and the aunt had not made her life so easy by saving her from all effort of action and thought, she could have grown into a more self reliant person and would have been alive and well today.
The Language Conundrum The British went all over the world to bring culture to the natives. Now the natives are no more comfortable to stay home. They want to go to England too. From a Royal Kingdom, England is now a multi-racial country. All this is fine but the problem is that the culturally deficient people that the British tried to upgrade have now a topsyturvy relationship with the English language. They are bringing more of themselves to Britain and to English than the British most probably ever bargained for. Everyone is not privy to a classical education which the English language needs so that it can be fully appreciated. In my 40 years of teaching I have seen a gradual simplification of the language. Now I realize that these changes are here to stay and it is useless to term them as “poor-grasp-of-the-language” and let things lie there. Students are learning a mistaken form of the language right from the start and by the time they realize that their grasp of the language is weak, too many ingrained habits leave them no room for improvement.
The English language is too complex to become a proper universal language as it is today in its pure Queen’s form. Ask the Queen herself; see how her Lords are hashing up “Her” language and she can do nothing. Yet she is compelled by circumstances to make “Lords” with antecedents in South East Asia or some other place from her previous colonies. In my 40 years of teaching I have seen many adaptations that are merrily in use. Some of the adaptations are brilliant and eyeopeners; and I say why not make them permanent? For instance take the problem of tenses. There so many verbs and so many different forms. Why? I had a student who wanted to improve his language command so that he could migrate to Canada. He had his schooling in a prestigious Public School of Delhi in the medium of English. After 15 years of schooling and 3 years of college he had only learnt an English of his own invention. As an example let me give you his rendering of the tenses; his simplification has a certain genius to it. I raise my hat to him. I asked him to conjugate the verb TALK in the three
simple tenses of Future, Present and Past. This is what I got: I will talk, I am talk and I was talk. This he did with all verbs without exception. And I said to myself –“But this is wonderful. There is nothing left for me to teach. This boy can manage any verb”. Let’s learn something from him and universalize this grand development. Another problem is in the use of the active and passive voice. The students with language abilities from their vernacular education simply do not see the difference between “She will kill” and “She will be killed”. The numbers of properly trained teachers are really not coming up. Faultily trained teachers are getting to teach new comers who are learning even less and more faultily. If the English language has to be properly universalized and made really common then we need to learn from these adaptations and incorporate them. So much will be simplified!
Tradition, Modernism & Reality Recently I received a forward speaking about how age old crafts are being lost and how the industrialization is pushing the old artists into abject poverty. This concern was brought up by foreigners from the western developed world who are hopefully really trying to keep the traditional arts alive. I give few lines from the same: This sari design, which has been in Javed's family for 100 years, can take up to two months to weave. Patterns like these have been a source of Indian pride for more than 2,000 years, with India's version of haute couture adorning wealthy women of the empires of Rome, Egypt and Persia. Until recently, weaving was India's second-mostcommon occupation, after farming. "This loom will be in a museum," said Javed's despairing uncle, Nazir Ahmed, 30, whose family was forced to shut down 12 of their 14 looms. "We would have never predicted this. We were India's artists. Now we are living in poverty."
India also lacks a social security system, leaving weavers, farmers and others vulnerable to market forces. In response my friend Mr A Vajpai has this to say and I agree with him: Modern India is far too aggressive now on the International scenario, and there is no reason why it should slow down (get bogged down) by a culture which produces at best only items meant for the richest of the rich, who can afford such hand woven stuff. To change and adapt oneself in a competitive world is the key to economic and social progress - and not to continue with something which is bound to become outdated and outmoded and which would render us obsolete. Adapt or perish - that's the mantra. Art must certainly continue and prosper, as art, and not as a livelihood in the name of tradition if you can’t make it pay. Of course we cannot allow the designs and artistry to die out. The biggest bane of the Indian society has been the unrelenting population
growth - for whatever reasons. Can anyone imagine what would have been the per capita income if only we had contained ourselves? Now, that this nation has found other areas of expertise to challenge the world at large, it has begun pinching everyone for obvious reasons. Is this a ploy to keep us tied down and behind the times? Worldwide, the social and economic status will balance itself out by some newer means, so let it take it's normal course. My own comments are: My experience when trying to help the less educated has been rather depressing. There is a resistance to change that creeps in even with the first sentence exchanged. When this is coupled with our tendency to take shortcuts and soft options, we push ourselves into a hole and then pine and mope. Let me just enunciate some points: - Refusal to see the misery we are propagating by having more and more children even when our own cupboards are empty. We see children only as eventual insurance for old age. How the child will be fed and educated for the next 20 years is not taken into calculation.
- Our socio economic environment is such that it spoils the boy child and burdens the girl. Most often it is the girls who keep the household provided for while the boys become loafers. - Lack of proper nutrition results in stunted growth; both in the visible state of the body and worse in the internal organs that we do not see. - Lack of stimulation and exposure results in visionless and aimless youngsters without mental development even of the basic kind. The underdevelopment of the brain is a reality. Their ability to learn and improve themselves is totally lacking. - By association the only trade they ever learn in their "learning" period is the one from their father. They have no other recourse but to follow the trade. - Their lack of “savoir faire” means they have to work for middlemen who are earning handsomely even in this shrinking market. Had these artisans spent some time planning their own education and future, things would be quite different. - Before you know what, the children are married off and some more children, "Gift of God" appear to feed and care for which the necessities are simply non existent. - The dreams sold by our celluloid world and now by the TV, giving a totally wrong
impression about the realities of life. Instead of showing the way, it is emotionalizing everything and leaving it there. Most of the Indian population is learning from these and patterning their lives wholly on the perverted nonsense they see through the medium of films and soaps on TV. - There is nobody to guide them or show the way. Especially the different norms and practices of different social classes and so they remain unaccepted by their peers and ignorant of business practices. - The art and artists merit all the help possible but not as doles. Let’s record it all for posterity and let Institutions like the Victoria Institute of Chennai keep the art alive. - The Govt can only play a limited role. We have to take responsibility for our own lives. -
The WHYs behind the whys. I read recently that people from lesser privileged backgrounds like the ghettos, jhuggi- jhopdis etc are more prone to violence than others from better & cleaner environments; the operative word being “cleaner, more attractive, well organized and kept and maintained surroundings. Here is a piece of news that we should all be sitting up and taking note of. There are so many similar related traits that I have pondered on and analyzed. How we carry the environments like a metal plated coat on our shoulders is not always appreciated although to my eyes is plainly obvious. Understanding of this phenomenon would help HR and our own relationships both personal and professional. Now the question – “why”. Why do they behave this way? Let’s try and understand these actions more in the spirit of starting a discussion than deep psychological unraveling to prove anything. Let me take up a few:
There is all the open space on the road. But the other guy still does not find enough space and bumps into you. This is the way they feel comfortable and justify their individuality and their being there. These unfortunate people have known only cramped surroundings that accord them no pride or individuality with little or no space of their own. They have never been alone. Living in cramped and often dirty surroundings with no respite in sight and with an underlying subconscious thought that life has dealt them a miserable hand.
There is a lot of empty space to park the car but the guy still double parks and blocks the road for everybody. Self importance makes them want to be seen always in a hurry. They take the shortest rout from one point to another, even overtake at curves and from the left or go over the other half of the road; so importantly they have to park right opposite the gate and subconsciously the only way they can attract attention is by being a bit of nuisance.
There is a Q at the milk booth but he still tries to push his hand over others to be served first. He is supremely comfortable in his own persona. Nobody else exists. He does not see anyone else. I was at the booth and this young lad came and tried to go over everybody, specially a small servant girl. I stopped him and told him flatly that he shall have to wait his turn; his answered saying that he did not see the girl. They live so much in a world where they are the single most important person that they automatically become blind to everyone else. Then cheating is part of life; is it not?
He sees the well kept courtyard and the first thing he does is spit in front of the front door before entering. The poor guy is really showing off his good manners; that before entering the house he was clearing his throat and all. It is not his fault that he has never known a clean “front” as part of one’s image. The street where he lives is the principal common drain too of the locality. A beautiful front as part of character of the home is too far away
from his conception of things. He has only learnt to see his smashing handsome self in the mirror and he is very impressed by his image.
The whole sleeping compartment is asleep in the train and two people wake up in the morning and start talking and guffawing. In their common life nobody has ever respected their privacy. The concept simply does not exist in their personas. They have known dirt, neglect and are acutely aware that for a few minutes of romp their parents have endowed them a life-time of misery. If they manage to get out of their abject surroundings, they have to let the world know it and it never occurred to them that what they are so loudly announcing to the world is not of interest to anybody or very commonplace too..
He can very well talk inside his house which is big enough and everything but still he prefers to come out on the balcony and regale everybody with his important
conversation; loud enough to be heard three houses away. He has risen in the world. How else shall he show it? In his childhood the family was scrounging with 400 rupees a month. Now he is making 40 thousand or more. It is cause for blowing the trumpet. The problems arise more when in today’s world you are raised and brought in one environment and then cash availability technically raises your level of social center but the habits acquired earlier and the concepts ingrained in early days do not go away and more often than not are not even understood or realized.
He walks nonchalantly in the middle of the road, stops to chat or whatever but always dead in the middle of the road. For this we need to study a bit of anthropology. Since ages when we were living with many more animals and wilder spaces, we have this instinctive need to protect ourselves from predators by staying away from any tree or boulder as far as possible. Where there is no option we stay as much in the centre of the open space. This is still in our make-up. We could take it as an
indication of how wild are our perceptions and therefore our reactions.
Doors are never closed behind them nor goods ever replaced at their appointed places. Fans and lights never put off. Be it an almirah/cupboard, or the front door. They will take the trouble to open them because otherwise they can’t get to what they want. But once their business is done, they will let things be for others to take care of the rearranging. Well they grew up in an ambience of total pampering by their elders. They did not have doors and things to worry about anyway. Then eventually all these habits become part of their fixed nature.
A Bit on the Wild Side. Holidays in the wilds make a lot of sense; Specially when one is living and working in the urban jungle among some of the most outrageously wild people and situations, as most of the live-by-wire do. Going back to the simplicity of the wild is therapeutic to say the least. Where can suggestions: KAZIRANGA Just reach Guwahati by any means and take the road to Dibrurgarh. Try not to miss the turn to the left to Kaziranga. Hopefully you have chosen a solid land cruiser type of vehicle because don’t forget that you are now in Rhino country. Not that the Rhinos care much for human company and their puny vehicles. The Indian Rhino is king here and knows it. Nevertheless do take time out to check on your vehicle’s insurance, if it does cover an attack by a two ton Rhino tank. The best option is to take the morning elephant safari. It is the safest mode of
transport in the tall grass, which can sometimes grow up to 10-12 feet. Arm yourself with a good camera with a high ISO. You’ll regret it if you don’t. PERIYAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY This is the place for solitude rather than the animals. This sanctuary is a lovely corner around the Periyar artificial lake built sometime by the British to provide water to Madurai. Kerala Tourism has a two-hour Ferry safari that is very enjoyable. There is also a lot of ground to cover for the footloose but the chances that you will really see any animals is not very high. To reach you could fly through Kochi. From there it is a 4-hour drive. RANTHAMBORE This is the most talked about Tiger reserve in India. The Fort of Ranthambore itself is a legendary spot. Because of the peculiarity of the terrain, there is a lot of open space and a lot of dry ground. This results in many interesting and memorable viewings of the
animals in their natural habitat. If you are lucky you may even see a chase or kill. There are vehicle safaris, a little restricted in their movement for safety but still something to go for. Besides the tiger, there are leopards and owls and foxes and so many other animals. But please remember this is wildlife country, for the animals - not you, so you need to respect their privacy and not shock them with spotlights, noise and such. Do keep your camera ready with a proper 200-300mm telephoto lens though. Who knows you may capture a picture that a good journal would love to print. You can reach Ranthambore by road or train. The nearest town is Sawaimadhopur. BANDHAVGARH This is unique as a place. It is really the place to go to if you want to feel close to natural wildlife in contrast to the urban wildlife. Think of tigers who couldn’t care a whit about the hordes of humans all the time. Think also of bears, hyenas, along with chital, sambar, wild boars and langurs. When you get to the top of the fort, you have a reached a bird watcher’s paradise. Hope your camera is up to the task!
This place is reached by train via Umaria or Satna KANHA This is where you don’t see the crowds ‘doing’ wildlife! This is the place where, when you enter the forest, you can go back hundred of years in time. To reach Kanha, go to Jabalpur. From there on, allow the Toursism Dept to take over.
TIRED for Nothing. My wife is one of the pillars of our country. She works so that people like me can enjoy a life of bliss. I am definitely one of the hangers-on; living away from the hustlebustle of modern day life and inconveniences. I am so used to the calm and silences in my life that getting out of the house seems like being dropped in a cauldron. The down side of living as a hanger-on is that we have to go where we are lead. So outings are decided by the time availability of my wife and I am taken along for the convenience; after all somebody has to drive the car, hold the baby and the bags, give technical advice on goods and products and if necessary talk the shop-keeper down. Now we are from the middle class. This means we cannot afford to go shopping in air-conditioned malls or other exotic locales; although I do remember going to one mall some time ago to have the experience. The place was full of young people with no place to go and the shops were empty. After a while I just wanted out of there. Coming back to my story, we go to one of the largest middle class shopping centers in town called the Sarojini Market. From a sleepy market it
has now become one of the most crowded and vibrant but in its favor one has to say that everything we are looking for we find them there and also many things that irritate us. Saturdays and Sundays are the only days we have free time. Unfortunately the whole town suffers from the same symptom. The shops are fine, even the crowd can be tolerated. What makes the experience tiresome is the walking area is full of well entrenched hawkers taking up the whole place and the shopkeepers displaying their wares outside the showrooms, taking up the walking area. Then the itinerant sellers with their wares on their shoulders keep coming on, they stand right in your path and ask you to buy their hankies, belts or tablecloths the list is long. I feel like giving them one. To add to the melee are the beggars. Dirt from spitting, garbage and the attitude that every corner is a dustbin if not a toilet forms part of the larger picture. So the poor visitors who make the market hum are left struggling with 4 feet of space to wander in. It is shoulder to shoulder experience and the fear that your pocket will be picked. I go there because I have to but
after precisely an hour or so, I absolutely demand a glass of cold coffee. This revives me for about twenty minutes. Then when the going becomes unbearable, we enter any of the showrooms that have created a haven by glass and air-conditioning. We pose at looking at their wares and obviously find nothing of interest. Revived then we go on again. And I wonder why I am getting so tired in this surrounding. Is it the carbon dioxide in the air or just my sensitivity or something else? Of course the attitude of the people we end up interacting with is very “do-your-thingquickly-and-go”; polite but couldn’t care less. Then I chanced to read a passage in the TOI. The writer says: “Stress is physically infectious. People under stress radiate stress energy to the surroundings through their chakras and auras. Consciously or subconsciously they transfer a great bulk of stress by being nasty and rude to others”. I find this explanation perfectly explaining the fatigue I feel. The relief I get on getting out of the market is palpable; as if coming out of a sauna.
The auras of others are not the only thing I would say. When you are used to cleaner environment and have spent a lot of time in beautifying your space, and you wish to live a “beautiful” life, you are annoyed and it shows when you have to tolerate the mess and dirt created by others – specially in public places. I have always used the condition of the toilet area as an indicator of the mentality of the owners and a very fine pointer to the environment and attitudes I will meet there. I have rarely been wrong. I have often wondered why as a people we are so callous about the cleanliness of public spaces. Just go to the posh M-Block market of Greater Kailash 1 market; one of the poshest colonies or at least with a very rich class of residents. People from all over come here. Pay a little attention to the state of affairs right at the entry of the market where they park their stylish cars worth a few fortunes. (SEE PICTURE ON COVER JACKET). But nobody complains so there is a tacit acceptance. When shall we insist on getting the best? Because as Somerset Maugham says: Those who insist on the best normally get it! It has to be a collective effort.
THE TRAFFIC POLICE AND WE. Everyone blames and criticizes the traffic and the traffic police. Where does the truth lie? Are the traffic police and the MCD alone to blame for the conditions? Aren’t we to blame also for the chaos we create on the roads and in our surroundings? Everyone has noticed that on the day the auto rickshaws and taxis go on strike, the traffic moves smoothly; why does this happen? Let’s study some of the major consideration where we are at fault.
1) The essential minimum rules of
the road. Ask ten people at random the rules of the road. The chances are that most of them would have no clue. Very many are not even aware that there are rules and there is an etiquette code. Take a simple question like: At a crossing, when two cars are coming from opposite sides, who has the right of way? The older generation that was educated in the 40s and 50s still has some inkling but the latest generation has none. Earlier, having a vehicle, even a scooter was a dream. Only the well placed or
well heeled could think of cars and these people were properly educated and small in numbers. Gradually, with every generation, the younger people began acquiring vehicles and licenses with ease and came on the roads without being properly trained. Nobody cared about this aspect. Even a minimum knowledge of the basic thumb rules would make things easier for everybody, if only we agreed to put them into practice.
2) The role of the police and their
limitations. The importance of selfcontrol. We, in India tend to blame others and never pay attention to our own faults. This shows in our attitude when we blame the traffic police for everything. The police are there to assist us and not to keep a check on our bad manners. When we break a law we are doing an injustice to our fellow travelers. Rules and laws of the road have been made after long years of research all over the world. These are for our safety. The fault is squarely ours. The police are not there to hold and control our driving. This would
mean that every driver would need a policeman in his vehicle and this logic even as a thought is ridiculous. Everyone on the road has rights. None of us is so special that we have any special right of way. We should be patient and move along with the flow. Under no circumstances do we have the right to endanger and create chaos in the moving traffic because we are puffed up by our self-importance. 3) Linear traffic movement. The advantages. The need to follow each other like a train for faster and safer driving. Have you noticed how trains move? In a line. Every bogey following the other at the same speed on a simple line. Hundreds of trains move on the same lines one after the other and there is no problem. This is applied physics. If you want to have smooth flowing traffic and reach home or office in time, this logic has to be followed. There is no other way and by attempting to be clever by beating the other drivers, we are not helping at all. The roads are not racetracks. Not to forget all the curses we are collecting from the other drivers whom we are disturbing and scaring into dangerous case of nerves.
Turnings. The geometry and physics of vehicular movement at turnings/curves. Correct behavior at traffic islands. The necessity to give way to traffic to your right. This is simple geometry. When turning, two vehicles will come in each other’s way if they break the rule of linear movement. Overtaking is simply bad understanding of each other’s movement and you will cross the other’s path, which would create a dangerous situation. I have never been able to understand how even after years of being on the road; these simple equations fail to get impressed on the minds of our people. 5) Slow vehicles versus fast vehicles. The need to understand and follow average traffic speeds on different stretches of roads. If you look into the speed of traffic, you will realize that certain stretches of roads have very individualistic characters. In some areas the speed of traffic is slow and in other areas, fast. A good driver gauges and follows the average speed of that particular stretch. This is advantageous to all. Here, we have to admit that all the different makes of vehicles which
have different max speeds are a nuisance. But we add to the brew by trying to go faster than everybody else and by hogging the opposite lanes we make matters worse and block the path totally.
6) Overtaking. Rules and good manners.
Avoiding potentially dangerous situations. There are certain established rules of overtaking. We break them only to our disadvantage and we put all on the road in peril of accidents. In India we drive on the left of the road and the steering wheel is on the right of the car. This means that the view of the driver on his left is limited. So we are only putting our own lives in jeopardy by overtaking from the left side. In a jocular mood I call it UNDERTAKING. But then the Indian’s driving style is more clever than intelligent. What are we trying to prove and to whom?
disaster zone created by zigzagging and trying to cut into traffic. The psychology of ‘Me First”. The psyche of a people shows in their driving habits. See how we want to be the first to go ahead. It is the ME, MINE
and MYSELF syndrome in action. How childish!
8) The hazards of jaywalking. The lack
of Concern for one’s own safety. Fast moving traffic has the right of way on roads. I have never understood the psychological phenomena behind the total lack of concern for safety the Indians show on the road. People see a vehicle come and literally jump in front of it. They cross roads at any point that suits them, as long as it is the shortest cut to their way home. Nobody ever seems to realize the number of times the drivers have to take evasive action to saves these idiots on the roads. Roads are made for the vehicles, and the least you can do is to take care of your own selves. This tendency, I think is the result of how we bring up our children. We never let them think for themselves. Right into adulthood, both the parents at home and the teachers in school spoon feed the children and do everything for them. The subconscious minds forever remain at the age of four at best. Chronologically people age but at heart they are children and show all the psychological traits of kindergarten kids!
Upgrade or perish As a consultant to industry, I have had the pleasure to meet many leaders who reached an enviable market position but then instead of improving and building upon it, let the company slide into oblivion. They often hit upon a good product and their foray into the market is successful. On the basis of this they create a small empire of sorts. But then the pioneering spirit gradually fades. The company head becomes more interested in spending the money he is making rather than worry about the company; after all the managers are supposed to do that. Only one thing would be amiss here. The owner does appoint managers but keeps all the authority of decisions in his own hands. So for every mishap, he has a scapegoat at hand and he is quite happy with the situation. It is quite akin to the old “zamindar” mindset. Lord of the realm; the money raking in without effort. The children being busy enjoying themselves; the very property that was feeding them going to the dogs due to mismanagement and vested interests of the managers who were creating small empires of their own at the expense of their Lord.
I have seen small and big companies close shop with a regularity that can only mean a faulty mindset. It is only when the company would start losing money that they would start thinking of taking action. Mostly I found that it was the second generation which was at fault. Their fathers started something and the enterprise flowered. The only mistake the parents made was to leave the education of their progeny to other agencies like schools and colleges. The time they should have given to train up the second generation to slip into their shoes, they simply could not afford. So it happens with a regularity that the second generation inherits an empire for which they were not adequately trained to handle. Management by the second generation is limited to action taken for sure in jerks and uncertain steps. It is more in the spirit of experiment than knowing what to do. When the fabric is old, patching up and darning won’t do. Whatever the action taken, it always is a case of too little too late when the company was beginning to take its last gasps and by then it would be too late. India is full of such brands and their promoting companies that were household
names in the 50-70s but today have disappeared. I had the fortune to be connected with quite some of them. Every time I would speak to them of the necessity to upgrade and improve upon their product line or diversify or take advantage of their market position with new approaches, I would get a singularly similar response. At best they would agree to some cosmetic changes but no more. In at least five cases I even found them new products and all they had to do was launch them but none of the companies had the courage or vision to do so. Of course I was dealing with the CEOs; otherwise read “owner”. In short this boiled down to their understanding of their product which was selling fine, their times which were glorious with all and sundry bowing to them and the fact they thought their position was unassailable and would simply continue on into eternity. They were making money and their product line was in demand and there was no competition in sight. They had arrived and the forward movement of the industrial world would now stop there while they raced on. It all depends on the individual and most do precisely what they should not. The moment
they feel that they have arrived, they become complacent. They see them-selves only in neon lights. They refuse to worry about such things as self-improvement and upgrades. It never occurs to them in their arrogant befuddled state that products, technology and markets change. And so do people. They can only see themselves moving forward and none to beat them. After all, time and time again have they not proven themselves as top-class and top of the class? It is so surprising to see this smug lot, not willing to acknowledge that a new crop of more-with the-times people are joining the world every year. Luckily too, life is not very long. 3 score and ten years pass in a jiffy. The sad part is that we never realize this part of life and never learn to be grateful. We live with arrogance and die preoccupied with what will happen to our goods and chattel built over with so much pain and anxiety.
The Trap of Virtue. Who decides what is virtuous and what is sinful? How do we decide what is right and what is wrong? On what grounds do we lay the rules of behavior and government? I know I am laying myself open to debate and ridicule but I am appalled at the trap people have laid down for themselves in the name of virtue. The government supplies electricity free to farmers in the guise of being helpful and promoting agriculture. Totally forgetting that there is not enough electricity produced in India and who will foot the bill. But it is a good ploy. It makes them “seem” doing good, feel good and garner votes. Then they raise the taxes and virtually force the rest of the population to cheat to make end meet. The industries on the other hand are deprived of power and then have to produce their own power and the prices of goods and services go up. You can’t clap with one hand. The entire nation goes into cheating mode. Corrupt practices become the norm. I ask: have they helped the nation really? The mother knows only one thing. Her darling is the best and only the best will do
for him. As long her darling is happy, the best that can be done has been done. So she agrees to all his demands, never bothering to teach him anything resembling discipline and self control or the polite ways of the world. For most the method to demonstrate one’s love is by feeding them and over feeding them. Today we have a crop of young people who are rude and violent and suffering from obesity which has gained the notoriety of being the highest killing disease. Guns come out of the closet at little or no provocation. Lovers throw acid on their beloved because their love is so deep that their amour-propre cannot tolerate a “NO”. Fathers can rape their daughters and get away with it. Couples are hacked to death because they dared to marry against the wishes of the community and the whole village considers this a virtuous act. For a few pennies more the wife who was wedded and brought home with such pomp and glamour is burned deliberately by the in-laws and this is not found gruesome enough to create enough of a howl. But an actress has the courage to come and speak about a truth that is commonly in practice and half the nation rises to act against it; as long everything is behind the curtain and we can all virtuously continue to remain the decent
human beings that we seem to be. Out of sight is good enough. We give birth to children because it is the gift of God without a thought to where we shall provide for the child that we are bringing forth into this reasonable, happy and beautiful world. Every birth is feted and congratulated. A great and happy deed has been done totally hiding the fact that the child was never the aim and is often not even desired. But if our sexual propensities can be satisfied only by accepting this, then of course we put up a sham happy face on the birth of every child. Children have been coming into the world since ages and the consequences are known to all but virtue is in having children and not in learning from history. We conveniently ignore the unfortunate young people, who are sick from malnutrition and have to sell their bodies to make their ends meet. But we do not refrain from vociferously condemning prostitution. We even go to the limit of hating these hapless young women as depraved and unfit for being seen in the company of the virtuous who are responsible for keeping the trade going. All these young men who grow up by some stroke of luck of destiny but with nothing
except two arms and two legs to call their own, what do they have to look forward to; no education, no training of any sort but hunger alone? They were meeting their bare needs and providing a well needed service by pulling rickshaws in Kolkata and elsewhere. Then the wise babus in the government, secure in their permanent guaranteed jobs, who have never know hunger, somehow saw the light. They decreed that pulling rickshaws is below the virtuous dignity of human beings and banned them. Now these proud dignified men and their famished families (yes; they have good and proper families) are part of a virtuous humanity but starving. So finally what is virtue if not a trap, a good excuse to look the other way and not take the steps to correct anomalies that we come across in our lives but dutifully ignore in our virtuous envelopes? Leave alone the world; we are not prepared to take the first step to better our own personal lives!
Wake up to it; now!
We as a people pride in breaking laws. The guy who can break a law and get away with it considers himself "greater". The roots being in some reason like political nexus, cash power, friendship with those maintaining law and order, and such. These people are convenient to have as friends so we massage their egos no end; forgetting conveniently that the demon of greed serves us only against a hefty payment from our soul’s treasury and some destruction around us. We use friendship and family to further our own ends to the detriment of others. Our entire arrogant make-up is based on this. Wishing and worrying about making it go away is not going to take us anywhere. Anyway the malaise has reached a point where anyone who opens his mouth gets literally bashed up. I blame our forefathers for not stopping it when they should have. When the first cases of corruption in administration came up right after independence, the entire political top brass's attitude was that all these leaders have suffered so much under the English yoke
and that they should be allowed some leeway!. Now this permissiveness and turning of the eye has percolated to the lowest of the low and newer laws are giving powers to those who have no self-discipline and understand only one thing - fill up your pockets as fast as you can - who knows when the sun will stop shining. AND on this I am emphatic - study the story lines of our movies since the very begining of our independent status. They all encourage, anger, arrogance, cheating, molestation and all. They glorify these traits in 3D. Three generations have been brought up on this. Now if you see the serials on TV..............awful. Arrogance seems to be the story epicenter and vengefulness the only trait on the basis of which the storylines move. Humor is still at the village bumpkin stage. The intelligence of the people making these movies and story-lines can be gauged by the fact that in the 40s and 50s it was fashionable to show the comic with a Hitlerian mustache. This has now become a fixed feature. You are supposed to know that the guy with the Hitler bush is there to give you a comic break. There is always a cabaret type scene and the drink of choice is always
VAT 69. Successful people with money to burn always have a woman on their arms and drinks to relax. Rape has been made into a sport. The people have been lapping them up and I can actually show you this behavior in action in those who watch these programs. Humans today have organized themselves to commercially benefit each other from titillating the baser instincts of man. They have thereby created a self perpetuating cycle of misery and now of course this is reaching proportions that threaten our own lives. Our first line of defense is by complaining where we clearly prove our sense of being virtuous but really do nothing about it. It is only when things go out of control and hurt comes home where it counts that we take up cudgels. But then it is a case of too little too late. So where shall we start? I am not able to influence even my wife. I dare not say a word to the neighbors because I have to live here. On the roads I would dare to speak up only if I had two lathi-bearing body guards with me. If I try to discuss these points, people laugh at me and justify these TV serials on the basis that they all know it is only "theatre". Now my baby is lapping it up too and I am appalled but there is no way for
love or money that I am able to stop the women in my household. When I did try to force my own viewing standards by sticking to selected programs on Hallmark, my mother to whom the TV belonged as I did not have one, quarreled with such force that peace came into the home only when I put “her” TV in “her” room and bought a new one for my wife. Now they both watch the same programs at the same time on their respective TVs and in their rooms and hate each other with a vengeance. Things are taking their course - I watch the TV sometimes in the day and the wife takes over in the evening. I sleep at 9 so this suits her fine. She keeps herself awake forcefully to watch the serials and the child is getting into the habit too. This has directly affected the health too as she tends to sleep late, have constipation and the rush to reach her office in time upsets her and everybody, including her eating cycle. Later in the day, you can see their behavior patterns are quite strongly affected by what they have been watching the last evening. I have stopped trying with the hope and prayer on my lips that the good Lord knows what he is doing. I am wondering if I shall be able to change the course of things for my child by putting her in a different
atmosphere or something when she is ready to move out of the umbrella of her mother. Then I also think of her own destiny. I wonder what and where it is all leading to. It is saddening, but I think in the long run, when the malaise will start hurting even the perpetrators themselves and everyone will object and fight back, then a sort of self regulation will come in and the improvement will sink in as a necessity. Till then we can go to the courts and form vigilance communities. But remember, when you invite the ire of the goonda element, don’t forget to take the required protection measures too for yourself. You will be laying yourself open to forces that you may not really understand fully and misjudge them totally in their vehemence.
GRANDER THAN THOU 0 to 60 in 6 seconds or something to that effect; so impressive and so useless. Yet this info is on top of the list of car manufacturers when they advertise their car. There must be something in this because even the buyers look for this info. Of what earthly use is it in the usual daily driving that we do and the grid-lock traffic of the city; this has been one of my enigmas. In the same vein I am foxed also by the advertising by certain ply-board manufacturers that their ply-boards are boiling water proof. Boiling water proof! Show me one person and one application where this info has been of use!! Let us though not be misled into thinking that nobody is swayed by these clinically correct but otherwise useless claims. The car buyers think that it indicates a powerful engine without ever thinking of how the car will cruise and will it be able to overtake easily when fully loaded with the whole family? In case of the ply-board, the advertising has worked because even my carpenter is totally convinced that this is the best ply-board and recommends it as a water-proof product, totally missing out on the “boiling” part.
A new sales pitch has come with pollution. Water filters using the reverse osmosis process. These promise the purest of water and at a higher price; to the extent that it may even be de-mineralized and devoid of all natural nutrients. People are going for the word “pure” and are impressed by the overpriced better product without once thinking of the notion- “Do we really want such a demineralized and lifeless water?” At the other end they buy expensive artificially mineralized water in bottles- the incongruity between the two never sticking anyone. I can give many examples of such presentations that impress the layman but are actually of no use; which leads me to the very purpose of this write-up: humans love and live in a make-believe world. Today the very basis of our pride is massproduced products. The criteria of being “Grander” than our neighbor is to own a product that is more expensive and having features that the neighbor’s product does not have. We then strut around like peacocks, fully assured of our superiority vis-à-vis others, totally forgetting that thousands of others have the same product and worse, can buy one anytime they want one. How easily
we are lulled into believing what we want to and then convince ourselves that the world is looking at us and we are the centre of attention. There is really no doubt in our minds that we are making quite a dash. Yet, in case something maybe amiss, we do not forget to slyly look around to make sure that others are looking at us or not, of course with the nose held high. Who will tell these poor misguided peasants that people are looking at you only to make sure that you are looking at them? Recently we had the pleasure of a new neighbor moving into the next apartment which had been lying vacant. It also being the most expensive of the apartments in the building; the new landlady made a grand entrance. From day one she brought in a team of workers that were hammering away all day and late into the night. Three times a day she would come around and explain to us all the problems she was having. Then she decided things were all wrong in the building and started making changes in the plumbing so that she could have water 24 hours on 24 regardless of the others in the building. The truth was the water supply was faulty due to certain defects in the main pipeline and
neither was the water supply adequate. This meant that the others would not have enough water or even none at all. Her point of view was clear although she did not say it in so many words, that as the owner of the most expensive apartment in the building, she should be enjoying a rather grander position. She never forgot to mention her business details and their turnover, never missing out on the amount she had paid for the apartment. Her description of her migraines was ludicrously explicit. Unfortunately nobody was impressed. Her changes were objected to and a neighborly fight ensued. The police was called in. Even with the police around, she made no bones about the fact that she thought she had special rights and that she would show to all those around her who were making her life miserable, who was the real mistress around here. Finally she had to pipe down and the changes were reversed. Everybody went back to their lives being lonely together. The sad part is that she is quite a nice person but she keeps her nose high and refuses to understand that others have their egos and intelligence to prove. If a simple apartment can do this to her, I am afraid to imagine what a Rolls-Royce and a Palace would do to her. Worse is the fact
that we all are tainted by this bug of basking in reflected glory of goods and relationships. It does not take much to give us a swollen head. There are always lesser endowed people than us and when we compare ourselves, we mostly do so with the ones who have less than us.
CAN WE REALLY HELP? I just made a discovery. At least I have not read or heard anyone talk about this angle on this subject. It pertains to the “help” we wish to give to our more unfortunate friends which forms the basis of charity all over the world. I am not into charity but I teach and support youngsters to get going in whatever capacity possible. My discovery is that although they are keen and willing, none have really gone far enough to surpass themselves. Then it hit me and I realized that the problem lies in the fact that these young people do not have a fully functioning memory. I observed the carpenter at work, the students who are learning English from me and my maid. Then I looked around and saw that most people have this problem. For instance the carpenter; it would be so easy to explain to him the plans and tell him what is wanted and then let him do it. He will nod his head to everything and you get the feeling that everything is clear and now you can focus on other things. In reality it does not work out so. Leave it to him and within half hour you
can see him executing the job in a totally different fashion. What happened? Take the instance of the students; they wish to improve their language ability as they see their prospects in life slipping away due to poor communications. The students I am talking of are all above 30 years of age and professionally well established above the average. They have picked up a packet of faults since their school days. Every time a fault is pointed out, corrected and explained it remains in their memory and for two days they remember it and everything is fine. Then by the fourth day when you are onto the next lesson the mistake pops up again. We are back to square one. Day in and day out this continues. Practice makes perfect they say. The same error is corrected for two months but it still keeps popping up. What is happening? My maid of 10 years who knows how and what is needed to be done in our house goes about doing her work and there is no problem. But tell her to do something out of the routine and she will say yes and then never do it. If you ask her why, she will say that she forgot; the intentions are
fine but it is never done. What could be the reason? Then I was called for a short period to try and teach language in a school that was having students from the lower income group. There I soon noticed that by the time I came to lesson “four”, the students had forgotten every letter of the lesson “one”. They could not advance further. This is when I saw the connection between all these instances. What I conclude is that due to the lack of stimulation, what I call mental exercise, they had not learnt to use their memories to back up their actions and thought. They are not advancing in any field because they are not learning; neither from their education nor from their experience. They never retain anything they learn. They live by habit and bumble along. They know quite a lot but the learning stopped somewhere at the age of 16. My carpenter needs that we sit by him when the work is in progress and keep a strict eye on the job. A moment away from him and he will cut the wood without ever cross-checking the plans for
measurements, totally confident of himself and his memory. This has happened more than once and once he cut a long, specially bought beam by half because he needed some wood. It never occurred to him to ask what the beam was doing there. This is more by habit then ill will. The students, and I have enough to base my study on, are from backgrounds that are definitely privileged as against the ones of my maid and carpenter. They have had proper schooling and even college education. I take the instance of two of the students. One is a senior executive in an insurance firm. Today he is near retirement and he is eager to be promoted which should give him a better salary and more importantly a better retirement package. I would say this would be motivation enough. But the needs of the day are strong. The insistent ring of the cell phone which he refuses to shut off even in class has more attractions than a distant retirement package. The demands of his clients cannot be denied. So although, as you and I would see it, his need and motivation is strong, he manages to come to only half the number of classes. He has no time to practice or
even listen again to the lectures which are recorded for him on tape. By the time he comes for the next class after a gap of 10 days, he has already totally forgotten everything from the previous class. Another student is from the travel industry. He organizes the inbound tours for his company but remains a back-room boy because he is unable to communicate in any other language but Hindi and the requirement for dealing with clients from abroad needs English. He tried for two months and worked real hard but no progress was recorded. He thinks in Hindi and his English is a transliterated version of his mother tongue. He really does not need English to survive. Between his family’s pressures and his job’s, neither of the students has any energy left for “learning”. Their memories remain in the background and the character is not strong enough to break the mould. A strong wish is there but the impetus that only a strong motivation can give does not exist. It was never instilled in the formative years and now it is too late.
The maid cannot be left to finish off any job on her own. You ask her do it and get it done there and then. 5 minutes is about the maximum her memory can retain anything. Even if she remembers to do the job, she will have forgotten the instructions. The other day I got a new trouser that is drip-dry. So I explained this to her that if she hung it properly, I will not need to iron it. I showed her how and for the next two times she did exactly as taught. Then for some days I did not wear the trouser. After a three week’s gap when the turn of the trouser came to be washed, she had forgotten it all. It was mussed up so badly that I had to put in special effort to iron out the kinks. When I brought this to her notice, she smiled sweetly and said sorry! Well, to be matter-of-fact about things, considering that she has been washing dishes and clothes since she was twelve and now she is 34 and she has nothing else to look forward to for the next 34 years, what interest does she have to learn about things that only increase her work? The other day my computer software guy came to remove a virus that necessitated formatting and reloading of the software. I was there yet when putting in my
identity he put in the first name that came to his head. When I saw what he had done, I remonstrated that he could have simply asked me but unrepentantly he replied that it never occurred to him that he could be wrong. The funny thing about it all is that he was so simply honest about it that there was nothing more to be said. I had to laugh it off. All these people I am basing my stories on are extremely nice people. They are now part of my family fabric but no amount of coaxing or lecturing makes them see any further ahead. Cross a certain limit and their vanity rears its head. They have accepted their destiny. Change means effort and that can mean a lot of effort and loss of time for questionable results. So beside a bad or non-operative memory, there is also an element of native shrewdness; they also know that when all is said and done, we need them to get the job done and we shall not quarrel or argue. They are well aware of the fact that we cannot be going about getting new people and workers into our lives everyday. So I suppose, they are really being pragmatic. Deep down they know their worth and their limitations.
What can we do? Nothing! They are what they are. A product of an upbringing and environment over which we have no control and the past cannot be changed. Then there is their Destiny and Karma if you believe in it. So I revert back to my question; can we really help? Yes; if you consider tolerating and promoting them as “help”. But if we think that we can help them to rise above their limitations and make for a better more economically fruitful life, I am not so sure.
CORPORATE LAWYERS AND WHAT THEY DO The other day I had the refreshing opportunity to meet a young man aspiring to be a corporate lawyer. As a career how true does it hold for the Indian condition? Till recently, from what I can see, the Indian corporations had not been allowed to go international and therefore remained small or fairly large entities with a controlling structure firmly in the hands of a patriarch or a small bunch of a family. The whims and fancies of the chief resulted in the decisions that the corporation then followed. The mind set was feudal and the management even more so. Nothing was straightforward. What the corporation purported to be doing and what it actually did to make a killing were two entirely different things. The Chartered accountant who knew what was going on would paint the correct picture for public consumption. The balance sheet would show red or black as the chief decided the need of the moment demanded and that was that. A public company was even more rampantly
badly managed as the share holders were the final losers. All companies were playing on the governments controls. The interest rates were high and monopolies were more the rule than the exception. The profit margins were high and clean business unheard of. In this scenario I would have failed to see a corporate lawyer making any headway. The companies would invest half their money in manufacturing or trading as shown on paper. The other half would be invested in other companies doing well for some reason or the other or in land. Fixed deposits would fetch up to 18% per annum. A profit that is difficult to achieve even by well managed companies today. Supplier’s payments would be delayed as long as possible so that interest could be earned on the amount and that would help the company keep financially afloat. All rules and laws were observed in the breaking more or less; the fear of the law taking speedily its course hardly being a deterrent. The legal system of India with its tortoise speed actually encourages breaking of economic laws. Businesses actually want to go to court. Keeping arguments sub-judice
is in their interest. This way they can continue holding on to funds that does not belong to them or supply substandard products and services at favorable margins. When the time comes of a settlement it is done out of court. By then, in the interweaving years which may be anything from 10 to 20 years, the company has doubled or tripled its capital base by earning interest on the blocked capital. It even tempts the corporations to edge over to take criminal risks. The activities are rarely illegal per se but highly unethical nevertheless. The corporate lawyer as I can see in the present context can only be a paid executive of the company doing nearly the same as any lawyer working independently. The only difference being that he becomes a specialist for that corporation’s activities. Still the question remains if he will ever get a chance to become an advisor and policy maker because that is where the actual fun is. Often the owners of the company play on the vanities of younger people to win their trust and promote them to director levels; they become unknowingly fronts for the owner and worse, get caught in the criminal net!
The opening of the economy has brought a different culture. A culture of a corporation working by certain principles laid down by the board is not exactly new to India but now is becoming quite accepted. All the international MNCs that have opened shop are bringing a whiff of some unknown managing customs. Good for us! In this change of managing methods, there is of course a place for the corporate lawyer. But gain I ask a question. In India where the legal system remains out of tune to the exigencies of the time, how much can a corporate lawyer really do? And if he will not be allowed to do much, is there a career in it? A corporate lawyer is at best a management expert with knowledge of the law for the time being and for some time it will remain so. The answer is elsewhere. It is in the Law firms which are fast becoming a force worth emulation and aping. They act as consultants to corporations and also take their cases to court. The corporation’s prefer to pay them a consultancy and get expert advice and support rather then depend on untried employees with no chance to broaden their scope of experience in a small enclosed
environment. The corporate lawyer is really coming into his own in these law firms. While we are on the subject, why not think International? With international trade growing and corporations from other countries active here and vice versa, here is fodder for the next generation as long as they are not influenced mainly by the vision of a high profile life as seen in the movies and TV serials coming to us from the western countries where the jet-set corporate lawyer is a power to reckon with. He not only knows the law but also assists the corporations to walk the fine fence of “just legal”. He carries a lot of prestige and even political clout as he holds a place nobody else can boast of in the hierarchy of the corporation. He is the only one who understands and often the only one privy to the complete picture. Of course the position then gives him huge corporate benefits such as limos and secretaries with his own jet and what not. If only life could be restricted to such glamorous visions!
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