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Grey Matter

May 16, 2019

In exactly a weeks’ time, the great Indian tamasha would be over. The results, whichever way it goes, is not going to enthuse me. I am a skeptic. I do notgrey matter believe that it is going to make anything better for me. The election results over the last 35 years have not made any significant difference to my life. It does not matter much to me, I am fairly well off, but that, in these 70 odd years of independence, it has not made any significant difference to the lowest strata of the society is what irks me. There has been increments in their lives, but when the base is small, the growth needs to be exponential. 1 becoming 2 or 2 becoming 4 is easier than 1 million becoming 2 million or 2 million becoming 4 million. The former has not happened to the common man, but the latter seems to have happened to the powers that be, be they be in the ruling dispensation or those who seem to oppose them, as is evident in the affidavits filed by candidates of various parties about their wealth. The less said the better about the political discourse. It has reached dismal depths of indecency. Sometimes I feel all of them is in this together and behind the curtains must be laughing away to glory thinking about their gullible followers who would lay down their lives for them.

Some of them followers are my friends both in the real and virtual world. There is one thing common amongst them. They believe that the person whom they support can do no wrong and the person whom they oppose can do only wrong.. They are filled with hate just like the people they support. I have seen best friends not on talking terms because they are both on different sides of the divide. There are some odd cases where family members act like enemies. And we say politicians are divisive. Frankly, they are not. They join together for their own welfare. Have you ever seen them opposing matters that benefit them? Here we are fighting amongst ourselves for them. It is ridiculous that beautiful relationships get lost for such selfish souls. You can have opinions that are or appear to be right for you, but why should you think it will be right for others. It is the bane of the social media. One opines something. There is one group supporting it and another opposing it. And we say the politicians are polarizing. Aren’t we the ones gravitating to the poles?  Black and White. Nothing in between. Have we wondered about the shades of grey in between (I bet there will be more than 50, if we look for it). You are watching a cricket or a football match and would be supporting a particular team, but would that prevent us from going wow over an exquisite cover drive, or a kick-in from the corner that loops into the goal, by the opponent.

There is no leader capable of leading the nation without prejudice. Not one, worth fighting for. That is my skepticism talking. I wish fervently I am proved wrong. Till such time I have to lead my life and as far as possible help at least a few to lead their life. Time to use the grey matter. Or is it irrelevant?

Image courtest: Internet

The game has started

April 11, 2019

The Game has startedThe quinquennial game has started. In right earnest. Of course sometimes the games are shortened due to foul play or referee’s invention. It is a very interesting game because some players will change sides before the game starts, citing that the team they were in is not so good as they thought it to be, or because they are benched and not given a chance to play. Then, there is a team in which the players fight with each other for the first half and play together in the second half. It is even more fun for the spectators for they are given to believe that they are the ones who will choose the winner. The players instead of playing their game usually criticise their opponents for their lousy game and the other side too does the same.

One team is full of right wingers and are not bothered about it because they think the centre is theirs anyways. Whereas in the other team there are no right wingers, but only left wingers. There is centre in this team but are divided as centre forwards and centre backs. The centre forwards claim they are playing for the backwards but the centre backs reject this and say they are the true defenders of the backwards. During play the left wingers fight with the centre for some part of the game and combine beautifully during the remaining time. Coming to goal keepers, one of them says that he is not only the custodian of his team but also of the other team and all the spectators as well to boot. But the other who has still not decided whether to be a goalie or a centre midfielder stoutly pooh poohs that claim stating that he has left a few slip.

At half time it would appear that the right wingers have become left wingers and vice versa. It is because at half time the teams change sides, but the spectators remain where they are. That is the bane of the spectators, but you will not see any regret on their faces. Instead you will see pride as they go about posting selfies to prove that they had indeed been the ones who had played a part in selecting the winner. And there are those who do not want to go the stadium even though they have tickets, scornful of those in the stadium wondering what the fuss is all about. For them It does not matter which team wins, for it is not their ball game.

There will the usual fights on the ground and in the stands. There will be referee bashing. There will be expert commentary. Betting and gambling on who the winner might be. And god forbid if the game ends in a tie. Both teams then try to entice players from the other side who have scored, so that their score can also be added to their team’s. I know it is a bit confusing, but if you keep at it, you would soon start liking it. May the best team win. Be a part of it. Or you may have to wait for another 5 years Good luck.

Am I an anti-national?

March 21, 2019

10-best-Inspiring-Quotes-from-3I am happy. This is my 100th post. I have done it at an astounding speed of about 0.8 blogs/month. I started blogging (if you can call it that) somewhere in October of 2008. It has taken about 126 months to complete 100. I can only comfort myself saying it has been quality over quantity. After all you must be knowing about the story of the dog and elephant. So even if there is no earth shattering tremble when I ‘deliver’ my blog, there is always a thud and shatter of my ego breaking when there are no readers. Anyways, I am happy, not because it is my 100th post. I am happy all the time. Well, most times, to be precise. There are times I have to pretend that I am sad and I am a pretty good actor, even I would not be able to make out that I am just acting. It is not that that there aren’t anything that makes me unhappy. Right from the moment I step out of my house to the time I get back, there are a myriad of things that make me unhappy- roads, pollution, traffic, people on the roads, people in office to name a few. There are also things and people inside my house that are capable of making me unhappy. Before you jump to conclusions, that it is my wife and children that I meant, it is actually the television, the Dish, Arnab, Rajdeep, Nidhi, Navika that I was referring to. Let’s leave it that. Nevertheless I am happy. There are a lot of people who are unhappy about this fact. But I remain happy. Truly happy. Period.

There is one problem though. It makes me an anti national. No, I never asked for any proof for anything. Maybe a couple of days back I had asked my friend Gulshan, the limerick queen if she really knew if Morarji Desai drank whatever he drank instead of vodka. It was just for clarification and not asking for proof. Then why? Recently UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network had published the World Happiness Report as of March 2019. It ranked countries based on happiness index. And India is ranked at 140 among the 156 countries that were part of this survey. It was ranked 133 last year and 122nd the year before. So here you have it, in a country where the citizens are becoming unhappier and unhappier, there is this guy who is happy and doesn’t that make him an anti-national. Though I have to admit that I am statistically insignificant.

Life is simple. It is not very complicated as most make it out to be. It is as simple as posting your 100th post 126 months since you started blogging. Really.

Indians, I will leave you with this.

Image courtesy: http://www.byniharika.com

Why can’t she be like Chanda?

March 13, 2019

newspaper

It is usually when I am back from my morning walk, sitting and reading the newspaper with my morning cuppa that she barges in with, ‘hey, how is the security guard’s mother?’ She is referring to the security guard at my office, whose mother is afflicted with cancer and had been admitted in the hospital. Or ‘Is the HR guy harassing his junior? Can’t she take it up with anyone?’ Or, ‘Is that Finance guy still having an affair with the intern? Does his wife know? You said she worked in the Plant, didn’t you? She surely must have got wind of it now.’  Or, ‘Did, whatshisname, the Marketing guy, go see the girl? He will be, what 34, 35, this June nah? What does he want actually?’ Or, ‘Is that Purchase chap, still making money in the side? Is there no way for anyone to find out? I think, it must be traveling all the way up.’  The great mumbler that I am, I usually mumble something, engrossed totally in the newspaper.

All this reveals one thing, my penchant for office gossip. But how the hell did she get to know all these? I am not much of a talker, really. There is no way I could have disclosed all this to her, in my right mind. And then it hit me. It is the newspaper. No, no, no, I didn’t mean all these were reported in the newspaper. In spite of all the news in the paper being already available in the many apps on my hand phone, some of them a day earlier, I still need my daily fix of the newspaper. If for some reason the newspaper is not available on a day, my hands would start to tremble. Such is the addiction. It is with the aid of this intoxicant that she had been able to elicit all intelligence, present and past.

There is more to this than meets the ears. I have found myself asking our maid, how her daughter’s first board exam had been. About her husband’s health after his typhoid episode. On both occasions it had caught both of us in surprise. There was a time when I was talking to the aunty next door, whom, for the record, I get to meet sparingly, complimented her on her dal makhani recipe; and congratulated the boy living on the first floor for winning the chess tournament. I also knew that an employee in the salon that my wife patronizes is planning to start a parlour on her own. I had absolutely no idea how I had known all this, till I cottoned on to the fact that all these inputs were fed into my ears by my wife, just when I was nodding off to the land of nod. Another strategic time, when these tidbits are seeded into the sub conscious and  ready to spring up when the appropriate time came up.

This is all so frighteningly eerie. Why the hell can’t she be like Chanda? My wife, that is. Or why shouldn’t I be like Deepak. Yeah, the Kochhars is about whom I talking about. It transpires that Deepak Kochhar is absolutely clueless about what his wife Chanda Kochhar was up to, in her bank and she was equally unaware what her husband does. For a living.  I know I am stretching it a bit, but as days goes by this will what we will come to know of them I am pretty certain. Much like the movie True Lies (I really like the tagline of that movie ‘When he said I do, he never said what he did’). We have  to give it to the Kochhars for showing us the way to be successful. More importantly a way for a successful marriage.

PS: This post was triggered by a news item in today’s issue of the Times of India Chennai edition which reported that Chanda Kochhar had told ED officials that she didn’t know that her husband was doing business with Videocon group and that Deepak Kochhar did not know that Chanda’s bank had given loans to Videocon. Yeah, you can say it all started with the newspaper addiction.
Image courtesy: Getmages

Who do we bank on?

March 7, 2019

bank

When I thought of writing on this, I didn’t mean to write on the bank scams, even though I was appalled at the way the perpetrators cocked a snook at the governmental agencies by refusing to cooperate with the investigations, saying they are in the middle of doing business or middle of massage or the older guy saying that he is in the middle of a CPR- cardiopulmonary resuscitation. There is one more guy, who says he won’t come back because the jails in our country are substandard? What does he want it to be- a 5 star hotel suite? It is another matter that we do have special cells for privileged crooks replete with library, air-conditioner, couple of cooks to cook food to your taste, a couple of masseurs, but the basic qualification would be that you should swindled a couple of thousands of crores (10 millions).  This is also not about them.

I learnt very early that it is good to have some connection in the bank. Way back, when there weren’t debit cards or ATMs or online transfers of money, we used to get our salary by Draft. There were fewer banks (Private Banks were non-existent) in a locality. Invariably the first week of the month was a very busy period at the bank, it would take half a day to fill out the pay-in slips and get the counterfoils stamped and signed. It would take a couple of days more for the Draft to be cleared and the money to be deposited in your account. It would take another half a day to write a withdrawal slip or a cheque, get a token, wait for your turn to withdraw money. Invariably, just when it is your turn the cashier will close the counter and go to the loo or for a coffee or for a smoke. This is when I realized that a lot of time is being spent in the bank. I made friends with one of the employees. He would collect the Draft, deposit it in your account and get your cheque/withdrawal slip encashed. I could collect the money at will, before the bank’s closing time. As a medical rep, most days I would have to start for work before the bank opens and will be back only after the bank’s transaction hours. All he asked for was a couple of paracetamol syrups for his daughter or a few bottles of cough syrups for his father as quid pro quo.  This is not about him either.

Today, the Enforcement Directorate had alleged that Chanda Kochhar and family, had gotten kickbacks to the tune of ₹500 crores and that their assets will be seized. Earlier she was terminated with all her entitlements and benefits revoked. Not long back, she was the brightest new kid in the block, credited with making ICICI bank the best retail banking in the country. Her rise had been meteoric, making it into the Forbes list of ‘World’s top 100 powerful women’ and other equally prestigious international acclaims. What a fall from grace! I fail to understand the mindset that makes one to amass wealth much more than they, their children or even their grandchildren ever will have need for, at the risk of losing all the good things in life- peace, respect & happiness. In such situations my thought always goes to the children of the perpetrators. They would have been devastated, surely. I would be.

It is not just her. There is a whole lot of them in the political spectrum too. Like termites in the woodwork. Successive governments always claim to root out corruption or accuse the other of corruption, especially during election time. And whoever comes to power will just forget about it till the next time around. I am bemused by the negative energy in the social media, as people go about fighting for or against someone, not realizing that it is them who are being taken for a solid ride. Such a waste of time and energy. All you can do, is not expect any help from the so called messiahs, instead try to help people who need your help and whom you can help. At least they will have someone to bank on. You. We do not have anyone else to bank on except ourselves.

Pic courtesy: Manjul, First Post

Of Helmets and Condoms

January 14, 2019

helmets
WARNING: You can look at the image on the right only if you are over 18  and by looking at it you admit that you are over 18.

 

Old habits die hard. On my way home from office, I stopped at the provisional stores from where we buy our monthly groceries. As I entered the shop there was a huge notice proclaiming ‘CARRY BAGS NOT AVAILABLE’. A ban on single use plastic has kicked in from the New Year in Tamil Nadu. Usually I get a plastic carry bag for a small fee, of course, to carry the stuff I buy. Regular readers (are there any?) will know that I am still not rich enough to own a car and my commute is with a help of a motor bike. Obviously it is no go without a bag. That, looks like the end of ‘casual shopping’.   At least for now.

The next day as I started for work, my wife called out from the kitchen, “Don’t forget the bag. “ Don’t worry you know whatever I forget, I never ever forget my lunch bag”, I replied. “Arré buddhu”, she said in exasperation, “I didn’t mean the lunch bag, I meant the shopping bag and I wouldn’t care less if you forget your lunch. You can always come back and have it, for dinner.”  I have been domesticated well and hence the shopping bag will become a part of my office going paraphernalia very soon. It is a good thing really, the way we are abusing plastic especially the carry bags.  More noticeable when you travel by train. Heaps of plastic mounds, plastic bags covering every  streams, rivulets  and creeks, plastic bags flying about caught in a whirlwind on a hot summer day.

It would mean the return of the ‘manja pai’ literally ‘yellow bag’ but connotatively meaning something rustic or old fashioned or both. When I was a kid, going to the grocery shop mandated carrying the yellow bag. The items were packed in old newspapers. The manja pai offered a great space for advertising and were usually handed out by jewellery shops and garment shops. I am reminded of an incident when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. We had got a blue bag, I think, from a garment shop. My assumption that it was a garment shop is because it was school reopening for the new academic year. Probably we had bought school uniform material. Probably a management graduate had suggested they make a differentiation by offering a blue bag to their customers instead of the yellow ones that every other shops were giving away.

It was a time when schools just did teaching and had not gotten into the business of selling text books and note books. We had to buy the text books prescribed for a particular grade, on our own. So one evening, my aunty and I set off to buy books for me with the blue bag. New and starched. Half way through it started raining. Rather heavily. My aunty covered my head with the bag and hers with her saree. We quickly got into a cycle rickshaw (There weren’t any auto rickshaws then). At the first drop of rains, power got disrupted. It was totally dark. The rains lashed with great gusto accompanied by winds. The wind was bringing the rain into the rickshaw. I sat shivering leaning against my aunt, as lightning and thunder flashed and boomed. The rickshaw-wala was finding it difficult to pedal. He stopped under a tree and braced himself from the lashing rain, against the trunk. Thunder roared and my aunt implored the rickshaw-wala to move the rickshaw from under the tree, but he didn’t pay heed. Or he couldn’t hear her. More likely. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started. It took about half an hour to reach home. Power had been restored. My aunt paid the rickshaw puller, something, which would look absurd today, for his efforts. The bag was still on my head for some insane reason. As we entered home my family burst into laughter. The bag had turned pristine white. And I had turned into Lord Krishna.  The blue colour had run all over my face. So much for differentiation.

So what is this about helmets and condoms? Implementation of this ban. So far the implementation has been good if not total. I have a feeling that I am seeing less plastic on the road, this past few days. Is it optics (a word learnt from watching too many news channels……wait, wait, I had a subject in Physics by the same name long long ago). Will the implementation peter down as it has happened to a host of other such rules, such as stopping before the stop sign at the signals, riding on the wrong side of the road, riding on pavements, riding on one way streets, no smoking in public places? All these are done now with impunity. There are not enough people to enforce them. Unless there is individual discipline none of these rules can be implemented. But because the High Court is behind the law enforcers, the police in this case, regarding implementation of mandatory wearing of helmets and seat belts, the necessary number of cases to satisfy the court are filed. More so for not wearing helmets than for not adhering to the seat belt rule. Why? There are 2 plausible reasons: 1. you do not know how important the person behind the wheel is or how highly he is ‘connected 2. Stopping a car causes a jam and a big traffic snarl, at least in a big city. Very discriminatory if you ask me. The fines or bribes in most cases have not deterred people from not following the helmet and seat belt rules. What needs to be done is hit them where it hurts most. No, I definitely did not mean their heads. Don’t settle their insurance claims, be it their vehicle insurance or mediclaim or god forbid their life insurance, if they are found not adhering to the rules. I think that this will ensure better compliance. These rules were meant to stop unnecessary fatalities. By the same token AIDS, is a big killer, you can’t have law enforcers monitor for people who indulge in unprotected casual sex (please note how cleverly I have brought casual sex and casual shopping together). By the way, are condoms bio-degradable? Or are they multi-use? Surely this is a case of one thing leading to another.

People are responsible for their own safety and that of the planet they live in. Hope better sense prevails and they make the implementation of the plastic ban a success. Without being fined or without being asked for a bribe. It is in our hands. Bag It. There is a documentary on our use of plastic, by the same name, the trailer of which you can watch by clicking the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Bag-It-HD/dp/B007JRUEL2

Image courtesy: AdAge.com

Video courtesy: Amazon.com

Listeners’ choice

December 29, 2018

Listener's ChoiceGeet:  Hi, I am Geeta. Friends call me Geet. I am from Kerala. I have been living in Chennai for the last few months. I got a job in an IT company here.  I am staying in a ladies hostel close to my office. I feel homesick quite often. I am not able to acclimatize myself to this new city and more so to this hostel. I don’t have any friends worth mentioning either at the work place or at the hostel, but I am slowly warming up to my roommate. Maybe it is shared liking for fish. Or is it communism? She is from West Bengal and there are so many similarities- fish, football, communism, education, hartals, movies and music. She is always singing. I do not understand the lyrics. Of course I recognized a couple of Salil Chowdhury’s songs, so very similar to the songs that I grew up hearing. She has a sweet voice. She also bosses me around making me do things for her. I think I am attracted to her. I like her a lot.

Mala: Hello, I am Mala. I have come here from Kolkata to study and boy, am I happy! I am just loving it here. It is only been a month, but I have started loving this city. Back home people had tried to scare me, saying that there was a strong bias against North Indians, about the food here, or safety, but I found all of them unwarranted. I found the people warm, the food absolutely yummy and I have felt the safest here in all my years of existence. I have to tell you though, that my roommate is a tad irritating. She is always behind me and touching me more than is necessary. There is a saving grace. Our room is bigger than all the rooms in the hostel and has a balcony, overlooking a park.  I am an early riser. I enjoy sitting out on the balcony with my tea (have to thank my mom for packing an electric kettle) watching the early morning joggers, and listening to the chirping of birds as they go about their daily routine of foraging for the proverbial ‘early ’worms. And the songs, that come from the house next door. I practically wake up and go to sleep listening to him singing. Amit is his name. His mother keeps calling him every third minute, asking him to do this or that. A doting mother she is. I have seen him a few times. Tall, well built, a body that matches his voice He sings in many languages, usually accompanied by a violin or a flute. His Bengali is awesome and flawless, I must say. And what a voice! A voice to die for. A voice to fall in love with.

Amit: My mother takes the cake. She is forever treating me like a small child. Always advising me what to do. I have still not gotten over doing what she had asked me to do. Engineering. Though my heart was in music. I still use technology that I learnt in my music. Music is my life and is in my blood. One day I will make it big in this music industry. My father died when I was very young, that I do not even remember how he looked. Whenever I think of him I can only visualize his face from the framed photograph in the Puja room. He was a good singer, my mother often says fondly, but that is what she says about my singing too. You have to give to her, for single handedly bringing me up. The sacrifices she had to make for me to have a happy childhood. I owe it to her. To make her happy. I think that there isn’t a place for another woman in my life. Maybe that is why I don’t get attracted by girls.  Now my time is spent in composing songs and sending them to potential music directors. Mostly to Sayan.

Sayan: I am a budding music director. Chances are that you would have heard my music many times over in the course of your day. Most of the popular jingles that you hear on television or radio were composed by me. I will be debuting as a music director in a movie that is to be released early next year. I am flooded with voice samples from wannabe singers. And this guy Amit is trying to bury me with his contribution. He has a strong rustic voice. Very different from the trained voices that I get to hear. Like a wild river. Mostly love songs. Soulful. And the quantum is mind boggling. I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows. About my preference. I had met him once after one of the music programs. A handsome hunk. I really wouldn’t mind if he knew.

PS: If you were reminded of Amin Sayani’s  Cibaca (Binaca) Geet Mala , it is purely intentional

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