Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To do or to not do

"How can you be so irresponsible? This is blatant dereliction of your duty. You are here to serve us. You better do it properly!" Mahati heard an elderly lady shout at the newly joined, young travel ticket examiner (TTE) on the janshatabdi train, bound to New Delhi. Mahati put away her earphones which continued to play Channa Mereya, completely oblivious to what's happening around. Mahati quickly gobbled the Chole Kulcha she wished to enjoy slowly when she bought it at the Ambala Cantt. She wanted to help if there is any trouble. She inquired what the problem was, from her neighbour.

Her neighbour looked up from his jio-sim equipped smartphone, grinning. He was engrossed in watching the popular Hindi drama serial on Hotstar. Mahati understood that the guy knew what was happening around just as much as his smartphone does. She then realised that more than half of the coach were like her neighbour. So much to be a good samaritan! Just as Mahati rose to find out if everything was okay, an old man with thick beard and a blue turban which was tied down tightly to his chin with a cloth rope started to shout at the TTE as well. The old man is a daily traveler on the train and apparently, the previous day, the TTE failed to notice an unclaimed bag and that created a ruckus. Today as well, there seem to be few unclaimed bags. Mahati showed the TTE which all her bags were. The TTE struggled with the smartphone wielding youth who were uninterested in their own baggage and finally he shortlisted two bags to belong to none. He shouted for two coolies who came in like bomb detection squad. They all decide to not open the bags as opening unclaimed bags would be as foolish as trying to play a spinner with a cross bat. The bags are kept in a far corner. In Kurukshetra, the TTE relayed the information to the next, Karnal station and in Karnal, dropped the bags at the station master room.

The old man, the elderly lady and the other very responsible, respected people were satisfied. They stood the TTE on the spot and taught him the basics of his work. What wonderful teachings, wondered Mahati, just like Krishna to Arjun, at the very same Kurukshetra! After the TTE was allowed to go and perform his lesser important duty, other than listening to the elders, they all started to talk among themselves, quoting various incidents way back from the 80's. 'Do they even maintain newspaper clippings?' chuckled Mahati to herself. She then remembered her earphones. By now they were playing Kabira. As the train neared Panipat, two men, who looked like a tall and a short pahalwan entered the coach, looked on the racks and inquired the people around, in a rough language, where their bags were!

No one spoke. Mahati was listening to Ye tara wo tara, her neighbour was cursing the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law at the same time, from the hindi serial. A scared passenger brought in the skinny TTE and ran away. The burly man looked into the face of the TTE and menacingly asked where his bag containing his certificates were. The TTE informed that two bags were dropped off at Karnal. The men did not find place for their baggage containing certificates in their coach. So they decided to keep them in this coach. The TTE tried to explain the previous days incident and looked at the old man with the turban for help. The old man looked straight ahead, tugging at the rope which secured his turban to his chin. The TTE turned to the elderly lady who first noticed the unclaimed bags. She simply said, "I do not know what you are talking about." Enraged, the TTE made a phone call to his superior and assured that the youth would receive their bags by courier and that they need to pay for it at the New Delhi station. He then turned to the public and hissed, "You want to know why the so called 'public servants' neglect their duty most often? I just realised that it might be because the public do not deserve servants!"

A week later, Mahati looked at a newspaper report about a blast near Kurukshetra in a New Delhi bound train. The bomb seemed to have been in an unclaimed bag and no one bothered to report it. The TTE was suspended. There was no longer a chin for the blue turban to be bound to.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Fearless

In the movie, the Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had made an error. The bank robbers should have been wearing a different kind of masks, the mask of perfect gentlemen. Then the bank would have straight away given the key to the vault. Mr. Nolan has too little imagination!

Fear makes a person work hard and earn. Fear gives strength. Fear keeps a person honest. It is the fear of failure that made people like Virat Kohli what he is today.
Fear makes a person steal. Fear kills. Fear makes people lie. It is the fear of facing life that makes the likes of the suicide committing students what they are today.

Nirav Modi had no fear. He worked hard to earn by stealing. He had no fear. He lied that he was honest. He had no fear. He lived a successful life. A life which thousands dream of. To rub shoulders with celebrities. To be the patron of stars, to deal with the highest class of people, live in the best possible of localities and create a brand around one's name. A month ago, Virat Kohli would probably have been shopping for the finest diamond necklace from a Nirav Modi's shop and students from IIM Ahmedabad would be writing thesis papers on the Nirav Modi brand.
Nirav Modi had a clout. So did Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Dawood Ibrahim, Haji Mastan and many others who are still wearing a mask on their faces. Don't panic if your favourite filmstar or cricketer loses his mask and gets exposed.
Yes, mask it is. Nirav Modi had no fear. Neither does Lalit Modi or Vijay Mallya. They had their masks on. If you don't believe this, browse through all their company catalogues or videos, you will understand. They probably have no fear now, because the mask has been removed. So why not live the common man's dream. Vijay Mallya watches cricket matches leisurely while Lalit Modi tours one country a day. Nirav Modi would probably start dating one hollywood beauty every day. The common man will move on and continue dreaming while such people will live those dreams.

The opposition is having a field day. The government is in loggerheads with the opposition about the point, who is it to blame for the mishap. Finally, it is sure that there were multiple number of noses under which Nirav Modi swooped through and created an empire for himself. There is no point asking Raghuram Rajan what he was doing or telling P Chidambaram and Arun Jaitley to give an explanation. The damage is done and there adds up another set of NPAs for the public sector banks. No Manmohan Singh or Narendra Modi can save it in a day. Every government had been struggling to keep the PSUs alive for quite sometime now. By the way, just a point of observation. Too many siphoning cases are coming into limelight after 'Chotta' Rajan got caught in Bangkok a year and half ago. Any coincidences?

Yes, the public is shaken. So am I and are the millions of depositors in the PSUs who in reality stand guarantee for people like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. But as always, the public has a volatile memory. There is too much to read about, already. Soon, this will phase out. Just like the commonwealth games, 2G, coal, augusta westland, adarsh and countless other scams before, this scam will be forgotten. There will be other massive scams that will come up in future about which the public has to talk about. Brace yourselves! And oh, if all goes well and if people truly forget the scams, then like D. Raja and Kanimozhi, Vijay Mallya and co would probably make a comeback too.

It is a fact that such people live a king size life. Just type in Vijay Mallya/Lalit Modi/Nirav Modi king-size life on google, you will know. And they had no fear. They could now as well give a motivational talk which goes like, 'Do not have fear. Live your life. Chase your dreams. The Naomi Watts and Kate Winslets shall automatically come to you. Just keep one thing in your mind: Nobody is a saint but everyone is a gentleman. Just keep the mask on. Don't worry about the others, they will keep dreaming!'

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Path not Taken

Summer in Europe has come to an end. This is the last time one (by one, it is implied that it is an Indian who is used to temperatures as hot as Arnab Goswami's temper) could take a long bike ride in the nice evening weather in Germany. Cycling through a forest is great. It provides one with fresh air, good exercise, great scenery and improves reflexes, since one has to be quite agile, lest a boar should run full on to the fahrad. In short, biking through the forest in the south-western region of Germany is fun and the end of August is the best time to undertake this journey.

Good cycle, good headlights, good taillights. Enthusiastic driver. Time to go home. Enter the forest. Then two roads diverged into the green wood and the driver cannot travel both.
She must choose and choose wisely. It is time to go home, but an enthusiastic driver. What to do.
She looked at the one road and looked as far as she could.
Far she could see, to where it bent in the undergrowth.
But nay, she is the enthusiastic biker and she took the other path, just as fair,
because it was grassy and wanted wear.

Little did she know that Robert Frost had mentioned an Autumn climate, rather than the sweet summer. She now has a lot to face in the dense canopy of the forest which is so thick that it came to be called the 'Blackforest.' She has boldly chosen one and has to go ahead. Cycle she does, coolly at first and quickens her pace in a moment. The only source of light is that tiny diode on the front of her bike and the occasional firefly that kept hitting her face. The canopy felt like the vast sky, just without the bright moon and the twinkling stars which were blanketed. Few minutes into the ride, came they. No one who ever traversed the path near the forest had gone without tasting one of them. The eyes were not spared either. Squinting her eyes, she wanted to reach the end as fast as possible. But the forest never seemed to end. The little diode was still the only source of light. She rode at maximum power since she got well nourished after swallowing a million of those insects.

And then came the end of the road. She hated road endings but not today. She cherished it and felt happy that the forest ended, only to enter the farmland which was infested with enough insects to fill a boeing cargo! But back came the moon light under which she looked at her body, covered with insects like in the movie, Mummy.

She shall be telling this with a sigh
that she took the road less traveled by
the reason for which she now knows why

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Plant and do not forget!

"Monsoon finally! I feel as relieved as drinking sweet lime after biting into a chilli." said Mahati's friend. The summer this time was so hot that some Indians went to the Sahara desert to chill out. Added to the heat was the disappointing loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final. Hence only after few rains did things cool down. Mahati and her friend were on the terrace enjoying the monsoon rains which are much awaited for, in India almost every year. The Indian Meteorological Department failed again to accurately predict Indian monsoon and hence, as they always did, they rolled dice everyday to predict the weather forecast and the amount of rain. Today they said it would be overcast. It started raining in the evening. Close enough!

Mahati's body was in the state of a thermal gradient, with her feet experiencing intense heat being radiated from the floor of the terrace as the air above it got cooler. As it rained, the first rain drops to touch the floor got vaporized instantly, sacrificing themselves to take the heat away from the floor so that the next generation of drops can land peacefully. As the temperatures dropped and the air got denser, with more oxygen to breathe in, Mahati and her friend heaved a sigh of relief and decided it was time to enjoy a walk in the rain and went downstairs. As they reached the gate of their apartment, they saw the watchman who decided to enjoy a beedi in the beautiful rain. He just finished the beedi and was putting it out against the trunk of a tree which was sprouting fresh leaves. "Balram, it is not good to smoke, especially in such a weather and on top of it, you are hurting a tree?" asked Mahati. The watchman, bewildered at the fact that he was hurting something made of wood said, "This is how I have been putting out my beedi for the past ten years madam!" Feeling disgusted, merciful and amused at the same time, Mahati and her friend went on just as the watchman plucked out some fresh leaves to chew them.

Salutes to the brave women of the Chipko movement 
"People need to change. They need to plant more trees. Otherwise, this guy is going to chew all the fresh leaves, killing them all! It is monsoon time and Vanamahotsav is round the corner. In the academic year, this is the first ever festival that school kids need to celebrate. They should go on a sapling planting drive. I heard that in a temple courtyard recently, they planted 3000 plants. That is great!" said Mahati. Her friend asked casually, "How many of them survived?" Mahati replied, "You are so pessimistic. It does not matter how many survived. In the 3000, even if 30 make it t become fully grown trees, it is great, no!" Her friend asked, "then why can't they have simply planted 30 plants and made sure they all made it to become trees? Let me explain. Once planted, a sapling needs the care that one takes, for a baby. It is not at all practical to take good care of thousands of plants. Planting saplings is not a photo opportunity. It is the duty of the people. Vanamahotsav means 'The festival of trees and forests.' It is not enough to chop down a tree to make way for a politician to plant a flowering plant and pose for photos. That was not why it was started by K M Munshi and actively endorsed by our first PM Pandit Nehru in 1950. This is a drive to conserve forests and make sure there are more trees around us. It is not necessary to plant 3000 saplings in the hope that 30 will survive. It should be that 30 saplings should be planted and made sure they grow into trees, apart from conserving the existing trees. Plant and take care of it. Do not forget and leave the plant to rot. That is the idea of a festival of trees!

They kept on walking on the street in the potholes of which rainwater was settling down, not knowing where else to sink into the ground. "Still, something is better that nothing, right." Mahati said. Her friend stopped suddenly and pointed at a huge banner hung on the side of the road. The banner read, 'Planting drive to plant a million saplings by our beloved chief minister - Vanamahatsav celebrations, 2016. Jai Telangana'
Right below the banner, there was evidence of the planting drive. Ten neat holes were dug and fences constructed around them to protect the saplings. The saplings dried up and died. The banner continued to flutter, stronger than ever.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Puppy Shame!

It was Friday night and Mahati invited her friend home for dinner. She finished garnishing the pulihora and bisibelebath and they both were setting up the dinner table when her flatmate stormed into the room. She was coming back from her office and was visibly upset, angry and both. A concerned Mahati said, 'What's up? Anything wrong? I invited my friend for dinner and made a Andhra special.' Her flatmate did not quite notice Mahati's friend. She asked, 'How can people be so mean?' Mahati quickly put all the dinner in a hot pack.

'The guy that my parents wanted me to marry rejected me saying I am too thin for him.' said her flatmate. 'How can people judge someone based on their looks and physique? Is that not mean and hurtful?' Mahati replied, 'Absolutely. But what you should actually be doing is feel happy and grateful that you would not be married to someone who did not even interact with you to know about you. He let the weighing machine weigh your character. Obviously you would not want to marry a person like that. It is good news. Let us be happy for that, no.' 
Her flatmate did not cool down yet. 'Yeah, you are true, I should be happy. But what if all the people I know and will know in the future are like that? That is because, now that I think of it, girls who I thought would befriend me for what I am and of course, all the elderly aunts in my family also are the same. They judge me because I am thin. How correct is that? I am sure that some aunty lady would have told the guy that "look she is too thin. she is not suitable to marry." In fact, some so called friends are worse, whenever we go shopping for clothes, they direct me to the kids section. Is it my fault that I am thin? Is every one of them perfectly shaped? Does every woman need to have a so called curvy figure? Why can people not just be themselves and not indulge in bashing others for something they have no complete control on!'

Mahati understood her flatmate's agony and tried to console her. She said, ' Try not to think of all those. You might have only a handful of friends or people who like you for who you are. Only worry about those. Do not bother about others. When friends do such body shaming, it generally is in a very friendly manner, try to think of it that way. And when relatives say so, well, they are all relatives after all, what more do you expect.' she winked. 'However, even relatives try to tell for our "own good" you know. We do not realise it but we also do it quite often. After all, we are relatives for others too, is it not. None of us are Buddha or Gandhi. We do hurt others unknowingly. Just try to only take from what you hear, what you really need. All this might seem to be a way to escape the taunts of the society and not stand up against it boldly. But trust me, you would achieve nothing out of standing up. Nor do I say that you should start eating and exercising once someone comments on your skinniness and start dieting once someone starts bashing you for being a kilo heavier. Whatever others think of you, you do know that there always is someone who knows what you are. Don't let go of them! And now, enough of philosophy and let us eat before thermodynamics starts working on the imperfect hotpack!'

Mahati's friend who was listening all along laughed and asked, 'But what about me?'
Mahati's flatmate, who in her furore have not seen him till then, had a look at him.
He was five feet, three inches tall!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bucketing Down with a Shower

Well, yes, the title is a cheeky way to say that water is wasted when using a shower. But before starting any argument, let me confess that I use a shower daily, not because I like it, but because I have no luxury of using a bucket (In the west, you would find a lot of wastage of resources and energy). But somehow, there are a lot of people who are convinced that a shower wastes less water than a bucket bath. I do not think so. India has been facing water shortage since times unknown and we have come to a conclusion that using a bucket is the best way out. I support this 'tradition.' By the way, California too has just realised it. Maybe in few years time, we would be seeing buckets in every bathroom in California atleast.


One Quora explanation tells us to plug the water in the bath tub, take a shower and compare the water levels with the volume of a bucket. It is absolutely nonsense. Probably the writer got confused between a bucket and the bath tub (I am scared of the wastage created by a tub bath, so I will not even talk about it). I decided to do a simple experiment in a hostel bathroom in India. The reason for choosing a hostel bathroom is because generally in hostels, the shower faucets are clogged in most of the pores (the reason for this is a research problem no one has ever probed into) and thus I am literally using the slowest possible shower faucet. I filled a one liter mug with the water from the shower. It took me a bit more than 12 seconds for the mug to fill. That would mean 5 liters per minute and assuming 5 minutes for a bath, it consumed 25 liters of water. Assuming that those who believe that they are conserving water by taking showers will also bathe very fast, I cut down the bath time to a very very modest 3 minutes which brings down the consumption to 15 liters. Now, according to Milton, selling its products on Flipkart, the common bucket is 18 liters in volume, thus making a shower bath better, mathematically (in reality, it is not, you know! :-P)
However, to give an edge to shower faucets, I have made a lot of assumptions above. I have also not considered the initial wastage that generally occurs while using a shower and also the fact that a bucket is never filled to the brim (even the volume is calculated likewise).

Now, instead of my calculations, I look at the American "Faucet Flow Rate Regulations" (yes, there are such regulations), framed in 1994 (I really wonder if the US knows about a bucket! I am kidding, it does, Amazon.com sells them). According to the regulations, the maximum allowed flow rate is 2.5 gallons per minute which is about 9.4 liters per minute. The aim is to bring that down to 1.2 gpm but that is only in California but let me assume this is the norm everywhere. Even though it is a huge, huge assumption, let me go ahead and say that every shower faucet in the US urinates 1.2 gpm or 4.5 liters per minute, rounded off. An average person showers for 8 minutes. That would mean 36 liters of water in total. Phew! Again, the 'conservationists' who believe shower bath is good would let's say bathe for only 5 minutes which makes the count 22.5 liters of water. Again in the shower's defense, let us assume that a common bucket has a volume of 22 liters. The shower still uses more water!

However, I am showering no praises on bucket bath. That is because in the true defense of those in support of a shower bath over bucket bath, I have always taken into account that those who go for bucket bath only use one bucket of water which might not be true. Using two or more buckets of water makes it way water consuming than a regular shower bath. But hey, I have assumed so much for the shower players, I can make this small assumption as well. Just keep in mind that there are millions who are still thirsty while we bathe daily/weekly. Overall, "a" bucket bath is way better than shower in the present circumstances at least! Also, c'mon, with a bucket bath, one can reach any particular spot on the body but that is not possible with a shower bath. Most importantly, you can take your time in a bucket bath without having to worry about turning off knobs. What is the point of taking a bath if one cannot stand and wonder or recollect the lyrics of a really long song!

Some disturbing links:
https://www.unicef.org/drought/drought-countries.htm
http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/06/global-tour-7-recent-droughts
https://www.drought.gov/gdm/current-conditions
http://www.seametrics.com/blog/global-water-crisis-facts/

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Other Side of the Moon!

After a hard day at work, Mahati also had a hard time at home. The air in the apartment that she was sharing with her fellow Indian friends was full with unpleasantness. Mahati wondered what would have come up this time. "It is always difficult for us Indians to live in countries like this" her friend was saying. Mahati quickly realised the gravity of the situation and completely agreed with her friend and joined her in bashing the western world because she knew that if she did not, there would be no dinner and she was hungry. In the canteen the next day, her friend brought up the topic again. Confident that there is no problem with regards to food, Mahati freely spoke her heart out this time. 'Why are we unhappy?' she asked. 'Because we are not given the opportunity to be happy.' Mahati wondered whether it was the salad, because she was not happy with those huge lettuce leaves in whose pockets were hiding one or two tomatoes.

She realised that the salad was not the problem. 'Why are we not allowed to explore and express ourselves?' 'Who is stopping you from expressing yourself?' Mahati asked. 'We are discriminated by our looks, color and language. These are no reasons to discriminate. Why should we not be allowed to explore?' Mahati now understood. Something at the workplace or the salary slip, she decided. 'We come here for opportunities, yes,' her friend continued 'but we also work hard. We are here not because we have no opportunities back in India. We are here because, these countries are rich enough to have enough opportunities in every field of work. And since we do well in our work, we deserve to be respected on par with the locals.'

'Agreed. But I do not think that these are reasons enough to be unhappy about. We are all lucky that at least we are given an opportunity to prove our talents, to be able to eat food whenever we are hungry and sleep when we are tired. We also come from a country where there is enough food for everyone even though some individuals get food equivalent to a hundred people and some go hungry for days. Still there is food for everyone and hence most households are full of laughter. Maybe not every household, but every one who go out of India for these so called better opportunities all have a home to which you can look forward to going to and there is always some one looking for you to come home. What more can one ask to be happy? There are millions who cannot define what their home is. No matter what, we know that we can always go home, right, unlike many others.'

'Yes. But why on Earth should we not be allowed to be happy when we are away from home? Should I be happy only thinking about home?' Mahati replied, 'Nobody is stopping you from trying to be happy with your life, are they? Just try to enjoy life and be thankful.' 'Yeah sure. Thanks. Aah. See, look how happy that girl seems. She is fair and liked by everyone here. She has no reason to be unhappy like us.' he was saying, Mahati's friend. Mahati got up and went to the girl and introduced herself. 'Hi. Nice to meet you.' said that girl.
'Which part of this country are you from?' Mahati asked
'Oh no. I am not from this country. I have come here in search of some opportunity to work.' the girl said.
'I see. You were so nicely mingling with the people and seemed very ha..I mean, we thought you are from this country itself. Why did you come here then?'
'Oh, you see, I did not want to come, I had to come.' the girl winked.
'Where are you from?'
'Syria'