Skip to content

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

Accident

October 27, 2018

accidentIt was right after lunch. There was a knock on my cabin. Before I could answer, he barged in. He was looking agitated. He was my team member. There are 7 people including him, reporting to me, but I have a soft corner for him. He is very  systematic and you can be sure that the work entrusted to him would be completed well before time and better than expected. He was a loner, did not have many friends, did not speak much and kept mostly to himself. He usually was the first to swipe in and the last to leave the office. An ideal employee to have. In fact I was about to call him before he stormed into my cabin. I had an urgent work to be completed and he was the best person to do it. Sensing his anxiety, I looked at him enquiringly.

“My brother has had an accident, I need to go”, he said with great difficulty. I thought he would break down and cry, if I asked him anything else.

“Okay, take my car, if you want”, I told him

“Thank you, but I will take my bike”, he said, hurriedly, his voice still broken.

The rest of the afternoon, breezed past with work and as expected the work which he would have finished immaculately on time, took much longer with many corrections needed.  By the time I went home it was a little late than usual. I took a hot shower. I could feel the drudgery of the day being washed away.

After dinner, I unlocked my phone. There was a message from him saying that his brother was alright and there was nothing serious. I thought if I should call him up and enquire and decided against it as it was already late. Knowing him, he would be the first in office tomorrow. I could ask him person.I opened my Facebook account. Scouring through the notification, I saw there was a post I was tagged in. It was my niece’s. It was a photo of her and 2 of her friends on a foyer of a mall or a movie hall. Something caught my eye. I zoomed in to see if it was what I thought it was. On the right corner I could make out the corner of a movie poster. It was a movie hall alright, I thought to myself and smiled. ‘Don’t miss this one”, my niece had written tagging me. “I will not, looks interesting”, I commented and ‘like’d the photo. The bath really had relaxed me completely and I fell into an undisturbed sleep.

The next day, as expected, he was in his seat. A few minutes later, he knocked on my door and entered.

“My brother….”, he started. Before he could complete, I asked him, “How was the movie and who is the girl?”

Accidents do happen all the time.

PS: This was triggered by a recent visit to a movie, where I was walking behind a group of girls taking a selfie. What was the probability of being captured in the frame, of the photo being shared on social media and of being recognized by ‘friends’?

Picture courtesy: Internet

Customer Care- Beware

March 21, 2018

'May I speak to the sucker of the house?'

Every medical representative will have at least one story on how he had been shabbily treated. The most common being, to be made to wait for hours, till the last patient, the one with a rasping cough, has coughed up his fee and left, to be called inside the doctor’s cabin and to be told by the doctor that he remembers all of your products and that you need not have to remind him anything; just leave the samples and yes, could he have a few more bottles of the vitamin supplements, for his brother-in-law, please. Worse still after all the waiting to be told by his attendant that the doctor has to go to an urgent meeting and wouldn’t be able to meet you. There is no other go except to grin and bear it. Of course there are notable exceptions. There was this highly qualified physician, who would come to the door to take you into his cabin and apologize for the delay, even though he would have spent the time with the patients. There was another doctor who had fixed a time for meeting medical reps and stuck to it zealously; and the only time he was late, as far as I know, it turned out that the clock in his cabin had stopped.

And so years of being a pharma salesman has taught me one thing- how to treat sales people or rather how not to treat sales people. Every door-to-door salesmenperson (there are a few lady readers who would stomp on me unladylike for being a misogynist) would be invited in, offered a glass of water or a cup of coffee (depending on the time of the day and the mood of the wife), his/her sales pitch heard (after having made it abundantly clear that I wouldn’t be interested in buying the product), a few usual doubts asked for him to showcase his product knowledge, a few questions asked to showcase my knowledge and ta-da the sales call would be over with both of us feeling happy. I remember the time when a Eureka Forbes salesman trying to sell me a water purifier. In his usual sales pitch of trying to establish a need, explained about the water borne diseases, the children missing out school due to typhoid, cholera and dysentery. What about Legionella, would it also take care of it too? I asked softly. He batted his eyelids a couple of times and answered in the affirmative. Are you sure? I asked him smiling. He got flustered. Where do you work? he asked me. I told him that I worked as a pharma salesman. He smiled sheepishly. I gave him 3 important lessons that day: one, a salesman has to learn as much as possible about his product, two, it is okay to not know something but not okay to pretend to know what he does not and be forthright about his ignorance to the customer and three, promise the customer that he could get back to the customer with the details that he seeks and get back as promised. He left without making a sale but happy. There have been times when I have bought things that I didn’t need, purely impressed by the salesmanship. Many times, my wife and I have gone shopping, to buy a certain brand of appliance, but have ended up buying a different brand merely based on the product knowledge of the salesperson or the lack of it, whichever way you look at it. My wife is capable of asking doubts which would appear ludicrous but would be brilliant if you gave it a thought. And the guy or gal who could give a satisfactory response would get the sale. Sadly the days of door-to-door salespeople are over. I don’t see them anymore. They have been replaced by telemarketers.

Telemarketers are less fun and impersonal than in the flesh salespeople. And thanks to the caller identifying apps are easier to get rid of than the persistent real salespeople. One swipe and they are out of your way. But there are some persistent calls from call centers and this happened to my colleague. He was hounded by a bank asking if he needed a Personal Loan. He told them he didn’t want any loan and to remove his number from their data base. The next day he got a call again from the same bank, he got really pissed off ad told them that he would complain to the banking ombudsman, but the next day when the call center called again he pretended to be a top police officer and wanted to know how they got his number. The rattled caller cut the call. We all had a good laugh and thought that was the end of it. But the next day, they called again. My colleague was at his wits end. He picked the phone and told the caller that this was his brother’s phone and that he had gone abroad and would be back only after a couple of years. In that case, the caller asked, would you be interested in getting the loan. Yes my colleague replied, how much will you give? Where are you working and what is your take home salary? the caller asked. I do not have a job and that is why I need the money, my colleague replied. They disconnected and didn’t call him ever since.

I do once in a while attend to some of these calls. The rules are the same. Treat them with respect and tell them I wouldn’t be needing what they are trying to sell. Once a girl had called selling medical insurance and also accident policy. She was explaining what I (or my family, if it came to that) would get if there was an unfortunate happening meaning an accident, resulted in an unfortunate event meaning my death and what was in it for me if I was lucky to survive but have the misfortune of losing both my legs or both my hands or if I was permanently handicapped by two of my internal organs like liver or kidneys going kaput. I stopped her at that point and asked her what I would get if I happen to lose just one limb and one organ. There was a silence at the other end and then she burst out laughing. Nobody had asked me such questions so far, she told in between her laughing bouts. We spoke for a few more minutes, she asked me where I was working and I told her that I worked for a pharma company, she enquired if there would be any openings for her, I asked her if there would be any openings for me at the call center. I didn’t buy any policy that day, but I think at the end of the day she would have had a smile on her face, thinking about the whacko who asked some really stupid questions, without shouting at her or cutting off the call mid-way.

Picture credit: CartoonStock.com

Purple Rose

December 10, 2017

Somewhere in the middle of the night, he made love to her.

Purple Rose

HE:

He woke up as the sunlight hit his face. He was confused. Was it a dream?  Or was it for real? Then he saw her silhouetted against the window, as she drew the curtains aside. He still felt unsure of where he was. He was naked under the sheets. His head throbbed with a dull pain. He felt for it and realized that it was bandaged.  So was his leg. The previous evening came back to him.

He and his partner were to meet a prospective client for their advertising agency. His partner had to back out at the last-minute as his father had to be hospitalized. It was too late to re-schedule the meeting. So he had to keep the appointment with the client.  As it was he hated going for such meetings, but normally his partner would do all the negotiations and take the discussions to favourable conclusions. All he had to was accompany his partner and smile his concurrence from time to time. His partner needed him for moral support. The arrangement had worked perfectly for both of them. Right from the time they came together last year, to start their agency, he has been the ‘concept guy’ and his partner the execution man. For all their advertisement campaigns it was he, who would come up with an appropriate concept on which his partner would work his advertisements. If you had been stuck in a traffic jam or at a signal, chances are you would have seen the giant billboards featuring the ‘genie in the bottle’ ad for the electronic major for their home appliances. They had just entered the home appliances segment and the prices were a little higher than the existing competitors. ‘Time is money’ he had said in one of the discussion they had with the manufacturer. So his partner had gone to work on the theme where he very decisively translated how the superior technology of the appliances was capable of saving time and in turn saved money. Whenever the appliance was used the genie in the bottle would come out, complete the work in a jiffy and would ask for more work. The advertisement had caught the imagination of the viewers and the client was able to garner a sizable market share, more than what they had worked out, in the first year itself. So it was, with other accounts too. He would come up with appropriate ideas/concepts that would be executed beautifully by his partner. He had a knack of touching a chord with the target audience, be it the affluent ones for the high-end products or the growing middle class who were making the economy boom with their newly acquired buying power.

They complemented each other perfectly and in the year they have been together nothing had come in between them, though there were a lot of people trying hard to drive a wedge between them. Both of them knew each other’s strengths; and their weakness’ as well. So last evening he had to meet their prospective customers on his own, much to his chagrin. They had lodged their customers in a resort some 40 Km from the city. He liked to drive and had never wanted to have a driver. He somehow felt that a driver would ‘overhear’ his thoughts. His partner had tried his best to make him see reason but eventually had to give in to his eccentricity. He drove all the way apprehensive of how the meeting would go. But the meeting had gone off well, much better than he had anticipated. The company was represented by their CEO and the Chief Financial Officer. They were highly understanding of the situation and had even said that business dealings could wait till his partner was able to be a part of the discussion. This in itself was a huge relief for him. He took an immediate liking to the CEO. The slightly balding man was soft and kind – a complete antithesis of a CEO that he had in mind. Added to that, he also reminded him of his father. He was surprised that he could make small talk. During dinner they had exchanged many anecdotes, you are never short of them in the advertising field or for that matter, in business. He had declined to have a drink, except for the toast they held out for the possibility of working together, citing that he had to drive back. By the time the dessert was served he was enjoying their company, the other two were visibly drunk and all his inhibitions had vanished.  It was nearly 11 pm when they got up and promised to meet again once his partner was back.

Driving back, he felt elated as to how the evening had unfolded. He was so engrossed in his thoughts, that he missed the first splutter of the engine. He became aware when it happened again. He pushed down on the accelerator and the engine caught on. He pumped a couple of times and it became alright. Then suddenly without any warning the engine died. He pumped the accelerator, but nothing happened. He cruised to the side of the road and stopped. He turned the keys but the engines didn’t crank. He got down, opened the hood and peered inside. Not that he knew anything about cars. He gave a customary tug at the battery cables but nothing much changed. He was resigned to the fact that he was not mechanically inclined and called the dealer. The security picked up the phone and assured that somebody would come first thing in the morning. Damn, he had reached the outskirts of the city. 20 more minutes and he would have been home. He locked his car and started walking towards the city.  A few hundred meters on he had a suspicion that someone was following him. He turned back and saw a dark shadow of what seemed like two men. He quickened his pace and could instinctively feel that those following him were also walking fast. He broke into a run and entered a side street lined with houses on one side an empty ground on the other. He could hear the footsteps of his followers getting nearer. He made a mental calculation of what he had on himself. He had a few thousand rupees in his wallet, credit cards, an iPhone, a gold bracelet which his wife had bought for him on his birthday. A smile appeared on his face, she must be asleep peacefully at her mother’s place, he thought about his wife, momentarily forgetting about his situation. Suddenly he realized that his followers had caught up on him. From the corner of his right eye he could see a blur. As he turned to see what it was, a metal rod hit him on the forehead. He could immediately feel the warmth as the blood started flowing into his eyes. The stickiness of the blood was almost blinding. He blinked his eyes a few times and still his vision was hazy. He was really scared now. He could feel his heart pounding. He picked up speed, as the adrenalin helped his heart to pump more blood faster to all his cells. He could break away from them. Then suddenly his leg caught in a pothole, buckled, and he went sprawling on the ground. On the way down, his shin scraped the pavement, blinding him with an excruciating pain. The pain was unbearable. His body reacted the only way it could cope with the pain. He blacked out.

SHE:

Normally she would be home no later than 9 pm. She worked as a nurse in a private hospital. Though her shift ends at 7 pm, it would be 8 before she can leave the hospital. Occupational hazard of being a nurse, she would say, plus the fact there is none waiting for her at her house. She didn’t really mind spending some extra time at the hospital. Her house is about 10 km from the hospital and on a normal day would take her 30 to 45 minutes to reach home on her scooter. Yesterday evening was different. A lorry had rammed into a school bus, injuring about 30 odd children and a couple of teachers, some of them critically. Since the hospital was close to the accident site, the children were taken there for first aid and treatment. Giving first aid treatment was a little tricky as the children were already traumatized by the crash. Then there were a lot of official formalities to be completed; worried parents to be assured. She looked at the clock. It was already close to quarter past 11. She left the hospital making sure that her presence was no longer required,. As it was pretty late, the ward boy offered to go with her to her house, drop her at her place, take the scooter to his house and pick her up the next day. Given the late hour the traffic was thin and they could reach her house in 15 minutes. As they neared her gate they saw a body sprawled on the ground, face down. They turned him over. His entire face was bloodied. She checked his pulse. It was feeble. They managed to lift him of the ground. A moan broke out from him. They managed to take him in and laid him on her bed. Dry blood had crusted on his face, making it appear as if he is wearing a bizarre face mask. With some hot water, they managed to scrub the dried blood off his face. There was a gaping wound, on the right side corner of his forehead. A couple of sutures were required to close the wound. She placed sterilized gauze and bandaged his head. They sat him up and removed his shirt. The whole of his body was bruised. She wanted to check if there were any other injuries on his body. She undid his belt and the attendant pulled down his trousers. On his left leg there was a gash on his calf muscle. She dressed the wound and stitched it up. He was delirious the whole time, mumbling something, what appeared to be a woman’s name. She injected a pain-killer, a shot of tetanus and a mild sedative. The ward boy asked if she wanted him to stay back. She told him that there was nothing that he could do and so he might as well go home and take some rest. He left, promising that he would come and pick her up the next day. She smiled to herself; it was already the next day. She locked the door after him. She was famished and remembered that she hadn’t had her dinner. She was about to go into the kitchen when the door bell rang. It was the ward boy. He handed her a set of keys. He had found it near the shrubs by the compound wall. It must be his keys, she presumed. It should have fallen off his pockets when he fell down. After he left she checked the bedroom, the sedative was doing its work. He was sleeping peacefully. She pulled a chair, next to the bed and sat down looking at his boyish face. The hard day took its toll. She dozed off. When she woke up, he was moaning and also shivering. She fetched a blanket for him

HE:

Over breakfast of toasted bread and omelet, she was advising him to go for a MRI to rule out any concussions and also X-ray to check if there were any hairline fractures to his tibia-the shin bone. Most of what she was going over his head, as he sat watching her. She was not the classical beauty but she was definitely attractive. She somehow reminded him of Julia Roberts. Especially the smile. He was wearing a shorts and a T-shirt which she had given him. Both were a size too small for him. His shirt and trousers were unusable with all the dried blood. His attackers had taken away all his belongings. Luckily the car keys had fallen off. Either they could not find it or they didn’t have the time to look for it. Surely they saw him locking the car and putting the keys into his pocket. He called his partner from her phone. His partner was anxious as he was not able to reach him since late last night. He was relieved that he had called now. He was really worried when he could not get through to find out how the meeting had gone He was bemused to hear of his experience. Yes, his father was stable but was still in ICU. He would arrange to pick him up in the next half an hour and also follow-up with the car dealer for repairs and send them right away. He made another call to his wife but didn’t tell her about the incident of the previous evening. What is the need to worry her unnecessarily?

SHE:

The ward boy came to pick her up. She informed him that she would take the day off.She told him that he could take the scooter if he wished as she wouldn’t be going out anywhere. She was visibly tired from lack of sleep and mentally drained by the happenings of the previous day. She would normally never take off from work, but this day was different. Besides she had to be with him till he was picked up by his friend’s car. She hoped that she would be able to sleep the entire day without being disturbed by any emergency. She looked at him as he ate his breakfast. He was grimacing as he chewed. The pain-killer was losing its effect. He appeared like a child with his boyish face. She realized she didn’t know anything about him. And he was not so forthcoming either. Must be the trauma caused by the incident, she thought. What is there to know anyway? He is just a patient and that was that.

HE:

The car came to pick him up. It was an awkward moment. He thanked her for all the care she gave. She just gave him her ‘Julia Roberts’ smile. He didn’t know what else to do. She reminded him about the scans and X-rays. He just nodded his head. Clumsily he got into the car. As the car started moving, he turned back to see her standing outside the gate looking at the disappearing car. Damn, he remembered that he hadn’t even asked her name nor had told her about him. Anyways, now that he knew where she lived he will come back one day this week. The people from the car dealer were already there. It wasn’t such a big issue after all. All it needed was tightening of some cables and voilá the car started without as much as a splutter. He drove home. Took a shower, without wetting the bandages. It was quite a feat. Changed to his clothes and went to meet his doctor. The doctor checked him physically and suggested a few tests to be done including the MRI that she had  insisted. He also checked the suturing and observed they were professionally done. Nothing to worry, about it being infected. Anyways not to take any chances, he prescribed a course of antibiotics. The doctor advised him rest for a couple of days for his body to get over the trauma. He went home thinking how much of rest was possible especially with his partner having to deal with his father’s health. In the evening he got a call from his partner. His father had passed away. He immediately rushed to the hospital. He had never seen his partner so dejected and down. He always thought of his partner as someone strong. On seeing him he broke down uncontrollably. He instantly knew that he had to take things into his hands. He made all arrangements for the discharge and all the necessary paperwork. Since it was late evening, the funeral had to be the next day. Hopefully the old man’s sons and daughters would be able to reach by then. He had personally called each one of them to give them the news. It was a sordid business, telling someone, that their dear father was gone, however expected, the end might have been. He then called the local crematorium and booked a time for the funeral. All the rituals had to be followed as the old man was a very orthodox man. So was the entire family for that matter. A few meetings were to be re-scheduled, some of them couldn’t be and he would have to take his partner’s place, as for the next 2 weeks he couldn’t be expected to go out on business trips. There were a lot of things to be taken care of. He had to do it for his partner’s sake.

SHE:

She had to go to her native place. Her father was not well and had to be admitted to a hospital. He would never agree to go stay with his daughter. If I have to die it has to be here, he never missed to say and emphasis his wish. Her parents were growing old along with her father’s adamancy. She decided to take a month off to tend to her father. Will the hospital take her back, she wondered. They would definitely, given her excellent record, she  responded to her own question. Life becamr easier when compared to the hustle and bustle of the hospital and the city life. She used to wonder about the day, night to be precise and whatever happened to him, secretly wishing that he might call.

HE:

The next four weeks went in a tizzy. He never thought that he was capable of doing things that he did in those 4 weeks. An extroverted businessman had emerged out of the cocoon of introversion. So much so he forgot about his condition. The MRI had revealed a small clot in his brain. Nothing to worry about; nothing that couldn’t be dissolved by drugs, his doctor had assured him. He remembered that he had not thanked his saviour on that fateful night. He went to her house, but it was locked.  The neighbours were not of much help. They just knew she was working as a nurse and were without a clue about which hospital. Couple of tries later in the week too yielded the same result. A locked house. With no name to go by, it would be difficult to locate a person in a city milling with people. He felt guilty even though it was circumstances that prevented him from trying to meet her and to thank her. Then he remembered. He had called his partner from her phone. He got the number and called her, but it was switched off. He tried a few more times till an automated voice told him that the number was no longer in use. He decided he will take some effort to trace her. He made a list of hospitals in the area and decided to go and find if she worked in one of them. He just couldn’t to any hospital and enquire about the nurses in the payroll. So he would go to hospital and just watch the nurses to see if he could spot her. Morning and evening, he would go to the same hospital. He was not sure how many shifts were there, but he assumed there would be 2 shifts at least.

In the fifth hospital, the ward boy recognized him. He had no recollection of seeing him at all, though he had come to pick her up the day after the incident, while he was having breakfast. The ward boy explained that it was he along with her, who had taken him into her house. No, he didn’t know what happened to her. A week back she had gone to her native place. Came back, resigned and left in a huff without even informing him. He didn’t know her whereabouts. His affection for her was evident in his voice. Obviously there were a lot of lives she had touched.

Time as they say is a great healer. The wounds were healed completely. The one on his forehead had left a discolouration of his skin. It now appeared like a purple rose. He slowly started forgetting about her. Sometimes looking into the mirror, only the purple scar on his forehead would remind him of that fateful evening.

 They celebrated their first million. Celebrations followed celebration. And in time they celebrated the fifth anniversary of their company incorporation. Business grew. More so, his bondage with his partner. They became very busy and were traveling frequently, mostly to different places to meet their customers or for various symposia, literally living out of a suitcase.

It was on one of those travels that he saw her again. His customer had come to pick him up from the hotel where he was staying. They were going to the client’s office. In one of the intersections, he saw a familiar figure, waiting to cross the road. She appeared to be holding a bag in her right hand. As they neared the signal, it turned red. The pedestrians started to cross the road. He watched as she stepped onto the pedestrian- crossing. On her right hand she was holding the hand of a baby girl of about three. When they came right in front of him, the little girl turned towards him. She was very fair. And on her forehead there was a birth-mark. A purple rose.  

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Image courtesy: Internet

What’s in a name?!

August 11, 2017

What's in a name!Who is that guy who said, ‘what’s in a name?’ I would like him to help some of my colleagues with linking their PAN and Aadhaar.

I was named Govind, without any controversy in the family since both my grand-fathers were Govinds             (one was  I N Govinda Menon and the other P Govinda Menon). Later when it was time to join me in school they registered me as P R Govind, the initials standing for the maternal ‘tharavadu’ name and my father’s name. So I grew up, completed my schooling and graduation as P R Govind, while my classmates and teachers called me PRG mostly and also other unmentionable names, from time to time.

After graduation, I set out into the wild world, looking for a job amongst other things. And soon enough I became a medical representative.  The first thing that my senior, who was to induct me, did was to open a bank account for me. We used to receive tour advances from the company by DD twice a month. The first one with the salary and the other one around the 15th of the month. With my senior, who already had an account in the bank being the ‘introducer’, the opening of the bank account happened in no time. The name in the account was P R Govind, the same as in my appointment letter, my application for the job, my business card, my graduation certificate and my mark sheets.

By and by my income increased augmented with raises and incentives for completing budgets/targets and I needed to pay income tax. They said I needed to have a Permanent Account Number (PAN for short). The application for the PAN wouldn’t let me write my name as P R Govind. It wanted me to ‘expand’ the initials. And so I became Perumpulavil Ramachandran Govind on the PAN card. Even now I am not very clear about what first name, middle name or surname really means. For the Indian passport they had also asked for my given name not realizing that I am used to taking names and never to giving.  I used to be scared if I was filling up my name the correct way in all the official forms till I understood recently that nobody gave a damn.  The PAN became one of the important documents as proof of identity but if you look at my photograph in the PAN card, and even if you had a vivid imagination you wouldn’t be able to imagine it is me. Copies of it were given for getting personal loan, home loan vehicle loan, opening bank accounts, getting mobile connection and such. And soon enough half of India was having my details. Soon I was inundated with calls from customer care executives wanting to speak to Perumpulavil, the Perpumpulavil pronounced in myriad ways the mind can conjure up. One, even wanted to speak to Perumal, but that is another story fit for the next post (when it will see the light of day, only god can tell).

Everything was hunky-dory till the government found out there were more PAN than the national population. They decided to have the foolproof identity based on one’s finger prints and retinal scans. That was the foundation for Aadhaar.  First they said that to get any government subsidy, Aadhaar was necessary. Since I wasn’t getting any subsidy from the government I didn’t bother to apply for the same. At the work place I was hearing horror stories of how one had to spend the whole day waiting to be fingerprinted and have their retinae scanned. So I was happy that I had given a go by to all the trouble. By and by the government turned on the heat. They wanted the Aadhaar to be linked to the PAN, to the Bank accounts, Provident Fund accounts to the mobile numbers and to a host of other ridiculous things, except the voter’s card, as that might shrink everyone’s vote bank. There is a joke going around of a mother rushing into the hospital with her 5 year old son saying that he had swallowed the PAN card. The doctor after the initial investigation says, we will make him swallow the Aadhaar and only when both are linked can the surgery be done.

So I was arm twisted into visiting the enrolment center with my aged mother, aging wife and my younger son. The elder one is working in Bangalore. After numerous visits to the enrolment center, due to non-availability of forms, non-availability of the person taking the finger prints, non-availability of person scanning the retinae, non-availability of electric power and you will not believe it, due to the non-availability of toner in the printer, we managed to get the bio-metry done and also an acknowledgement to that effect. By that time I was preparing to chuck my job, close all bank accounts, throw my mobile phone away and to lead a life of an ascetic, as it seemed like there will be no normal life without Aadhaar. To the government’s credit they sent us our Aadhaar card in quick time. Never had my mug looked recognizable in all the various government issued cards. The name on my Aadhaar card was P R Govind.

Before I proceed further let me take a small detour which will take us to the art of form filling. The forms were a mile long. I spread them on our dining table and like a General on the war front strategizing his troop movements I noted down what all needs to be filled and where. And then with the dexterity of a rice carver sculpting a Taj Mahal on a grain of rice I proceeded to fill the tiny invisible boxes with my name and that of the family, their date of births, their age, their relation to me, their educational qualifications, their marital status. It would have taken about an hour and a half to complete. Not a single dot had gone over the boxes. I felt like how the General would have felt if he had won the war based on his strategies. Why am saying this? Recently my colleague was pressurized by our HR to give his Aadhaar number, because they were pressurized by the Provident Fund office. He had not enrolled because he is a frequent traveler and when he is not travelling he is planning for his next travel. He wanted me to accompany him, as he was not familiar with our city as he is familiar with the cities he travels to. So I went along. They gave him a form which he couldn’t fill as it was in Tamil. He gave me the form but I wasn’t able to fill them either. It would have been a quite a task without the dining table and sufficient light as I don’t wear spectacles even though I need them very badly. If you want to know the reason it is somewhere in the tomes of literature I have dished out on this blog. All you have to do is google ‘I don’t wear glasses satmuse’ and you will find the answer. For the rest who say ‘WTF’ read on. So with both of us not being able to fill up the form, an altruistic gentleman in the enrolment center directed us to a facilitator, sitting outside the Center, who would help us fill the form for a reasonable charge of 20 bucks, of which the altruistic gentleman would get a share. The facilitator asked for my colleagues name, mobile phone number, residential address and scribbled them across the form in random, not bothering  to filling them up in the boxes provided and asked my colleague to sign on the dotted lines. I was baffled as it took him just a couple of minutes to do this and to think that I had spent an hour and a half to do the same thing. So the next time you have to fill some official forms don’t dwell on the niceties, because frankly nobody gives a crap.

Coming back to the linking of my Aadhaar Number with my PAN, as was necessitated for filing of Income Tax returns. I filled in the Aadhaar number and PAN to the income tax website, but a message flashed that the name in the PAN database does not match with name on the Aadhaar. I know that because on the PAN it is Perumpulavil Ramachandran Govind and on the Aadhaar it is P R Govind. I was suggested to change the name in either one of the document to match with the other, knowing fully well that I cannot have initials on the PAN card. This means that I needed to change the Aadhaar to match the PAN. I was surely not going to go through all the trouble again. Instead I tried linking the Aadhaar with the PAN a couple of times, every day and was met with the same result. I kept on doing this for a week and one day the linking happened. No suggestion to change the name or anything. Even as I write this, there are people in my company who are desperately trying to link both the documents. I don’t know how mine happened. I don’t think it was because of Technical Intelligence of the website. I had a suspicion that it is the Artificial Intelligence that took pity on me after seeing my tireless efforts for almost a week. The recent shutting down by Facebook of the Artificial Bots, since they were communicating in their own language, only confirms my doubt.

The story doesn’t end here ladies and gentlemen. A couple of months after we got the Aadhaar, we had to shift to another house. No, it was not because my wife didn’t like the neighbours or because she couldn’t stand the landlady’s attitude, it was more concrete this time. Due to some structural defect in the building, there was more water inside the house than outside when it rained. After moving to the new house, the only proof of residence at the new place was the telephone bill provided by the BSNL. So I proceeded to apply for change of address online at the UIDAI website. After completing the online application for the whole family (to match the details provided in English with that of the regional language, Tamil in my case, was so interesting that I didn’t realize that the whole afternoon had passed. You should try it sometime), I proceeded to upload the scanned copy of the telephone bill. The uploading of the applications was accepted with a Unique Registration Number for each of the family member, with an advice to check on the status of the application the next day.  On the next day, it turned out that only my application had been accepted. The others’ were rejected due to incorrect Proof of Address (POA). The telephone bill was in my name. Though my son’s application stated him to be S/O P R Govind and my wife’s as W/O of P R Govind, their applications were rejected. I called up the customer care of the UIDAI and spoke to a gentle man about my problem. He heard me through and told me that the POA should be in the applicant’s name. I don’t know if it is possible to have a telephone bill with all the family members’ name incorporated in it.  I went to our bank to change the address in the joint account my wife and I have, so that we could use that as POA for my wife. The Manager said that he needs to have our Aadhaar for changing the address. I told him that we wanted the change the address so that we can change the address on our Aadhaar. He clearly didn’t understand what I was saying or he pretended not to. Luckily my son had an account in another bank and luckily again there was a sensible person who understood what I was saying and helped me with the change of address. So my son too could change the address on his Aadhaar. My wife’s still hangs in balance. I have to find another way out.

I have a few questions for which I need some answers. When such a major assignment as having an Unique Identity for its population is initiated, wouldn’t there be one single person on the planning committee who would be able to foresee the problems that might arise out of demographic differences? Wouldn’t there be one single soul who could point out that there are people in our country who do not have surnames and have initials instead? Similarly isn’t there one person with common sense, who can say one POA is enough for the entire family?  I read in the papers that a few Pakistanis had managed to get Aadhaar for something as less as Rs.100. I also read that somebody had hacked into the UIDAI website and stole details. Though the government denies that nothing was stolen, there is a fear of what we got ourselves into. Is it safe? Will privacy be ensured? Can our information be misused? Is privacy still our Fundamental Right

And when the entire population of the country is coerced into enrolling for the Aadhaar, I chanced upon a prominent member of the ruling party say he wouldn’t enroll himself. https://youtu.be/i3lV3VTn8KE   I would like to know if he has or has not. If he has not how did he file his Income tax returns? Or is he not required to?

By the way, if you know the guy who wrote ‘what’s in a name?, just drop me a line.

Video courtesy: NewsX

The NN1 stories – part 1

March 29, 2017

This is the initiative of Ashwathy and  I have only re-blogged her post. Actually I was one of them  who was bullied into, as she has mentioned in her post. Just kidding, I don’t think she is capable of bullying anyone  and even if she did, no one would take it seriously. For that matter I don’t think she is capable of being serious and be without her laughter even for a second. I have not met her but when I see her picture I can hear her laughter. I will let you into a secret, in spite of her reminder about half an hour before the scheduled time, I missed it and the picture credited to me is actually a little later than the scheduled time. It was fun doing the click and the write-up, as everything with Ashwathy is. Now go forth and multiply enjoy the post- Govind

%d bloggers like this: