Friday, September 21, 2012

BANDHS and PROTESTS

Bharat bandh against price hike and FDI and numerous other problems? Ugh! How does a bandh solve all these problems. You'll tell me it's not meant to solve problems but it is a mark of protest against central government decisions.

Fine, you protest but at least let me do my bit. Your protest means burning tires, breaking window panes of cars and other big vehicles, hitting people on bikes or puncturing them. You think these are rich people and they should suffer for being rich! But what about the poor rickshaw puller and autowallahs? Why do you target them?

Ah! you have no answer. The poor person may have earned a dime or two on this particular day but your bandh leaves them poorer!

Yesterday a bandh was called by the NDA and other opposition parties. As luck would have it, I was out travelling. At places scenes of burning tyres greeted us, crowds looming with 'lathis' in their hands forcing people to go back. Whats interesting is the equation in the crowd: young men and kids apparent that they came from very poor background (the lack of clothes said it all) but wrestling hard on the streets. I live in a state ruled by the NDA and its alliance parties. The government is supporting the bandh -  no police any where on the streets! I wish the same government had ordered the closure of all government institutions which would have made the government employees easily support the bandh by staying at home and would also have been a mark of protest against the action of the central government.

But the government does no such thing. All employees are expected to report for duty, or lose a CL. How does an employee in such conditions get to the work place. Private vehicle good but what about those who do not have private vehicles and do not want to waste their CL unnecessarily?

It's time to 'rethink' Gandhi's non-cooperation. People talk of violent non-cooperation and of Gandhi in the same breath. Time to change, time to think and rethink and work out new strategies........

Who am I?

WHO AM I? This is one of the most important and weirdest question that comes up daily. I have a passport and  a voters' id and numerous documents which list the names of my parents, husband, my address, occupation and other necessary details. But is that what I am?

I have been thinking on these lines since my visit to the Passport Seva Kendra, Patna yesterday. When I was sent to meet an official, I found the entire place excited and no one was at his/her desk. Upon asking I was informed that they had 'caught' a TERRORIST.

Wow, a terrorist! I was pretty excited. Further questioning brought forth the following information: The TERRORIST was a BANGLADESHI. This information was interpreted by the guards and other staff as: ALL BANGLADESHIS are TERRORISTS!

Who will now reason with people who have such a line of thought? When I told that guard that he shouldn't club all BANGLADESHIS as terrorists, he said," Madam, he didn't have any id." My point is why would a  terrorist come to get a passport and that too at the passport sewa kendra. He would already have got one made by underhand means. Secondly, there are so many people on the streets who have no id proof telling us that they are Indian citizens. Should we class them as 'TERRORISTS'?

We love this word so much that we use it unnecessarily and create further chasms in society at large. I hope we seriously understand who's who before LABELLING people! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Good morning Patna!

I am democracy and I appear at various times like the General elections, the state elections and election to local bodies. People remember me in various ways and one is through the patriotic songs. This time I have again appeared in this extremely hot weather. I am trying to observe how campaigns are organised for electing representatives to local bodies. Outlined here are my observations:

 With the temperatures soaring this summer, political fever is also on the rise. The reason is the Municipal elections in in Patna and in the state as a whole. The profile of the candidates is pretty interesting and so is their fervor in asking for votes. From one auto comes the tune; ऐ मेरे वतन के लोगों ज़रा आँख में भर लो पानी .....I can understand the eyes getting watery due to the heat and sweat but why should I fill my eyes with water for this candidate? What act of martyrdom has she/he committed for the locals? Yeah one may say the candidate has taken a huge risk at being corrupt. S/he has had to show to the public that a lane has been constructed or a hand pump fixed and has also tried to make money while getting these things done. That's one big act of martyrdom.

On another auto one finds the following:न जात पर , न पात पर , वोते दीजिये कप प्लेट छाप पर ....Nice slogan which rises above caste lines but when it comes to getting work done, the eligibility criteria is nothing but 'CASTE'. Poor cup and plate. They too must be thinking how innovative the candidate is. I am surprised at the symbols each candidate has been allotted: pressure cooker, ceiling fan etc. May be I will get to witness a pressure cooker scam, if I am lucky!

Interestingly there are wards reserved for women. Someone asks for vote in the name of her husband. People are exhorted to remember the good deeds of the candidate's husband and cast vote for her as payment for those good deeds. If someone is fighting for re-election, s/he asks the people for vote as a payment for the work they have done during their tenure in office.

The handbills are very interestingly designed. The candidate stares from the front cover with folded hands and demure look in the eyes - the look will certainly change once the candidate gets in office! Then comes the long list of the issues on which the candidate voiced his opinion or raised them for discussion and action when in office. After that comes the long list of work undertaken successfully...a hand pump at Location X, a lane made 'pucca' next to the house of so and so etc.

While these are the obvious things which happen in campaigning, there are other aspects like daily parties for the supporters which include nothing but non-veg. and drinks. This expenditure adds to the qualification of the candidate. Without good food one doesn't get followers and one needs followers to do a door-to-door campaigning. And to think there are so many unfed mouths on the streets!

Thankfully the elections are on May 17th 2012. Whether things change or do not change, at least noise pollution will be reduced considerably and I can sleep till 15th august 2012 for the patriotic songs to re-appear on the scene! It seems I will live long in this country!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Calling Toll free?

We are surrounded with Toll Free numbers. all service providers have one be it the banks, cell phone companies, online shopping forums etc. We, as customers feel happy that we'll get quick assistance in case of difficulties or confusions and our grievances will be easily redressed.
Well calling on these numbers may be free of charge but we forget that our time is charged. And I had to face this problem last week. I called the toll free number of a public sector bank. After choosing numerous options and giving all kinds of details, I get to choose the option to speak to a customer care agent. I chose that option and then comes the message: All our customer care agents are busy. Your call will be attended in 38 minutes 40 seconds. I was shocked and couldn't believe my ears. My husband too thought I had made a mistake and asked me to put the phone in speaker mode. When the same message was repeated, we realized my ears were working properly. I was aghast. I didn't want to disconnect and go through the whole process again.
The phone was left in the speaker mode and we decided to do our work. After 5 minutes came the same message but now the waiting time was 28 minutes. I was happy thinking that finally things seemed to be moving. Suddenly my daughter was hungry. The waiting time was still 28 minutes. I happily fed her. Even her nappy was changed. all this took 15 minutes but the waiting time was still 28 minutes.
Then comes the maid. I explain the things that she has to do. The waiting time now changes to 21 minutes. and on goes the process till it's 1 minute 6 seconds. And this waiting time continues for the next 10-12 minutes. Luckily the call didn't get disconnected at any point. Finally I get a human voice to speak to. and thankfully it was a sane person who solved my problem easily.
After completing the call, I took a look at the call duration: It showed more than an hour!
Ah..toll free numbers...there is no money involved but the time costs are something we forget to mention!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lost Mind

Year: 2009 - Place: Toronto, Canada - Job: Business Entrepreneur. Very vague labels for a 44 year old Indian who back home would have had many other identity markers like caste and family history. True, Deepak's fore-fathers traced their ancestry way back to the 15th century. He had heard numerous stories from his mother and grand mother about the various estates and princes who had ruled them and had engrained a sense of belongingness through these stories. But these were just stories like any other story.

The reality was completely different. He saw his father work for bread and butter; his mother not only managed the household but also worked to manage the finances and give the children a comfortable and good life. Inspired by his parents and grandparents, Deepak worked hard and sincerely to graduate with a degree in Management from one of the top colleges in India. He worked in various firms and after several years of experiences started a firm of his own. Luckily things worked in his favour and his business grew and today he was one of the popular names among young businessmen in the world.

Inspite of his success there was a feeling of emptiness in him. There was a desire to go back to his roots and do something for the people who belonged to his native place: a place where his fore-fathers had once ruled. after a lot of soul searching, Deepak decided to delegate the affairs of his firm to the young, capable professionals he had hired and decided to return 'Home'.

Year 2010, Place: Rampur, India.
Deepak lands bag and baggage to fulfil his dreams for his village Rampur, where he has a lot of landed property managed by his uncles. His parents have retired from service and are settled in Rampur. he gets a warm welcome form all and the first few days pass in love and harmony. deepak shares his plans with his father and uncles; the plans get appreciative nods but when the time for implementation comes, people start wavering. Various issues crop up and weeks pass without any affirmative action. Neither his father nor his uncles are willing to give him any say in matters related to ancestral property and finally his father says,"son, you are well-settled in Canada. You have a good business running there and your wife and kids are doing well. Why have you come to this place and are wasting your time?" Deepak was shocked at his father's words. He had planned to work and reinstate the former glory of his fore-fathers but none wished the same.

Year: 2011, Place: Toronto, Canada
Futile debates and discussions, verbal bouts and heated arguments - nothing worked and finally Deepak returned to Canada and today he sits at his computer and creates numerous profiles on his facebook and plays cityville and farmville dreaming his unfulfilled dreams!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Dad's Dilemma

He strolled for minutes ..nah it seemed hours..before he could hear the cries from the operation theater and the nurse came out to inform him that he had been blessed with a daughter. At that moment gushed in feelings of various kinds: love, pride, protection and so on. he was a father now. There was someone who would call him 'papa' or 'dad'.

No one knows how time passed and the little bundle of joy started growing and reacting to his voice and kisses. Though men claim to be macho and strong but like women they too have a profound weakness. Women love the dark mane on their head but the men love the shorter version on their faces. Our new dad started thinking whether his lovely mustache of which he is as fond as Poirot was of his, was hurting his child and then knocked this thought on the doors of his mind: to keep it or not to keep it.

A Hamlet-like dilemma gripped him and he spent nights wondering what should be done. One fine day he decided that the mustache would stay in place but the beard should go. Later when he came to meet his daughter (minus the beard), the child just stared at him as if trying to recognize him. This was something he hadn't anticipated and so both the mustache and the beard (only for short spells) stay where they ought to be and one can hope the child doesn't ask her mother later,"Mom, how could you marry someone with a mustache and a beard?"



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Old Year/ New Year: It's all the same

Plans must have been made by now or may be in the final stages for the 31st of December, 2010 to say good bye to the year 2010 and welcome 2011. These plans would be ranging from bonfire dinners to hotel hopping and enjoying musical bands at clubs to a quiet dinner at home with family and watching programmes of various channels on the idiot box. Till a decade back a change in the years did not mean a celebration on a grand scale in Patna as it means now. None of the hotels lag behind in offering excitement and entertainment! Obviously one needs to cough up money for this excitement and entertainment. But we forget that there are people to whom the dates don't matter. it's all the same..2010 or 2011...the daily routine has to be followed, money has to be earned, children have to be fed! The change in years is just a marker of the passage of time; everything else remains the same. while I may fall in the danger of sounding pessimistic, I realise that the group I am referring to is becoming a part of the group which focusses on celebrations. So one hears of a break on the 1st of January..... a labour or maid may like to take the day off to spend with their family. Shops may be closed and one would find people flocking to different places for 'Picnic' on the 1st.
While in the new year everything else may remain the same, the first day of the new year is definitely different and each one tries to do things as differently as possible within their limited means!
So readers, what are you planning for the first day of the coming year?
Wishing you and your family a very happy and prosperous year ahead!