Employment on compassionate ground

Recently I heard this story of a person as to how he secured a job on a compassionate ground. There is no big deal in the story except for the curious turns of events associated with it. How lobbying and exploitation are imbibed in every stage that makes this story interesting.

Before really we go into the events, we will try to understand how a person gets a job on compassionate ground. On the face of it the method seems to be logical and simple. Jobs are offered by certain companies to a dependent of an employee on compassionate grounds such as untimely death of the employee while on job, serious medical issues which render the employee unfit for the current role and for relocation to other departments, etc. Both in the case of death or unfit for employment, the dependent have to prove his claim. In case of unfit for employment, the employee needs to be declared unfit by a team of medical experts. Here my story is about the dependent who claimed the job after the death of his father.

As I mentioned, it looked simple to apply and get the job. The dependent needed to prove his credentials like identity and the company would offer him a suitable job. To prove identity, the dependent is supposed to produce certificate from the local govt. official and after that the company would process his application and offer him a job. It seemed simple and a cakewalk.

Our person now embarked upon the journey from getting the necessary papers to submitting the same to the company office. Let’s name him Daya. Daya was from a village and not much educated. He can be termed illiterate as apart from signing he can hardly read or write. You can also say he was damn lazy in this department and always preferred to take help whenever any matter of reading or writing was involved. So when he approached the office of the company, he was given to a form to fill in and submit the necessary documents. Simple to us but an uphill task for him. He approached few people. Sensing opportunity, the people became touts and offered help at a cost. Different touts quoted different rates and quite astronomical sums. Daya was semi-illiterate but no fool. He understood people are trying to exploit his weakness. He approached a good Samaritan about whom someone had advised him. Let’s name the Samaritan Vishnu. Vishnu advised him how to go about the process and also advised that money indeed would be needed to be spent to get all the documents done and processed.

First the identity. Daya was from a village so the village headman had to issue a certificate. But the village headman is no govt. official so a govt. official has to certify. The village comes under a Block in the govt. hierarchy and the head of the Block called Block Development Officer (BDO) has to issue a certificate. The BDO has an office with usual array of junior staff who would prepare certificate. BDO’s job is to sign only but preparation of the certificate has to cross many hurdles and at each hurdle palms are to be greased. For example, a rubber stamp is to be affixed. The concerned staff would say that the stamp is to be procured as old stamps have been discarded and it would take a week for the new stamps to arrive from the approved vendor. Daya had to flash few greens and the stamp materialized immediately. Similarly details are to be entered in a register and the certificate would travel to the BDO along with the register. The concerned staff would flatly demand few greens to do the job. Daya is in hurry. He knows that each day’s delay would cost him money, a day’s salary. He also knows nothing would move if he doesn’t pay. This is the most important document to secure the job. The Samaritan Vishnu advised Daya to follow suit. Monies changed hands and voila, the document was with Daya. He thought the job was in his pocket. He was far from truth. Few harder hurdles were yet to be negotiated.

Armed with the identity proof, Daya submitted the application (filled in by Vishnu, of course) to the local office of the company. The official machinery in this office also had to play certain role like verifying the application. It took more than 15 days to start the process that too after paying some grand to the clerk who would put up the file to the officer-in-charge. The Officer had his rates fixed for such work. It is not daily that such opportunity knocks your door. So few more grands spent by Daya and the officer signed the file. Next phase was the file was to be dispatched to the head office of the company. The baboo at dispatch doing mundane activities daily without any extra earnings seized the opportunity. His pound of flesh was also disbursed by Daya. Vishnu knew all these ‘steps’. By now Daya has also become knowledgeable. He knew that without losing his purse strings his case would not move an inch.

The file reached head office. Another round of ‘checking’ done and usual delaying tactics employed to extract more moolah from Daya. Once paid, the file was quickly disposed of. Now, as per procedure, Daya is to undergo ‘medical fitness’ test.

Three paramedic staff (Vishnu had doubt about their qualification and competence) conducted tests on Daya, Blood samples taken, heart and pulmonary functions tested, blood pressure checked and some other ‘tests’ were conducted, all by these three paramedics. Rates were fixed for all these paramedics. So irrespective of the actual results, as soon as the greens changed hands, desired results were issued. The concerned doctor who is supposed to declare Daya fit saw the papers and not Daya. His cut was large as compared to the paramedics. Daya paid his cut and he was ‘medically fit’.

The paper reached its destination. Vishnu ensured minimum fuss at this stage and with a little more money; the file was finally cleared by the authorities. Daya was appointed by the company.

Wait, the story doesn’t end here. The file was to be sent to the concerned branch office of the company where Daya’s father worked and where he would be completing his joining formalities. Again, baboos and peons played their role. Some more greens changed hands and Daya could finally get employed in the same company where his father once worked.

Easy money (read commission) has penetrated at every step of our lives. Securing the job is like getting on the foothold. Once I am there, the monthly salary is for just attending the office. As for work, I am as good as the commission.

The whole chain is in deep sludge and no one dares to clean. I would say no one likes to clean. The stakes are high.


Saifu & the Labradors

Saifu was brought (or bought!) by Narender Singh to fulfill a promise he made to his daughter when India won an international cricket tournament. The cost was really a hole in the pocket. But never mind, the promise was to be kept. Saifu was a dog of pug variety which you often see in ads by a mobile phone service provider. For a moment there is no dog like propensity in the animal. It’s a toy, albeit live.

Narender always termed Saifu as no dog since Saifu lacked many of the qualities generally a dog possesses. It doesn’t bark, it was tiny for a dog’s size, its growth was slow, it doesn’t care who is its owner or who is a guest, it moves freely with anybody, it sleeps most of the time, it refuses to take an extra round in the morning or evening rounds when the owner takes it for urination or potty and it is very very lazy. All of these were true since we never heard Saifu barking or attacking anyone. In fact, we imagined how would be its voice when it barks. Saifu was and has been afraid of only Mrs Narender who never allowed to pug to enter her kitchen and got some sound smacking whenever it tried to. Saifu is fond of Narender since at 6 o clock in the morning when Saifu is desparate to go out to answer nature’s call, Narender is the only person in the family who took care. Saifu took liberty also for this as at times it climbed the bed and scratched Narender a few times to woke him up. Narender and family and we neighbors were now adjusted and habituated with Saifu more as a toy than a dog.

Enter into the scene two huge black Labradors belonging to the next flat resident. These two were ferocious looking and always loudly barking creatures whenever they saw anyone in the lift corridor through the iron grill door of the flat. Thankfully the owner of the dogs kept the iron grill door closed always. Some of the animal instincts (or should I say, some canine instincts) started developing in Saifu. He started barking and that too quite angrily. He started challenging the dogs next door. There was now a curious and funny scene of barking of dogs in adjacent iron grill doors. All three dogs barked, two in one side and one in another without any opportunity to look at each other. Saifu, whenever taken out for morning or evening stroll, would rush first towards the iron grill door of the adjacent flat and bark at top of its voice. The opposition is no less ferocious and would return the ‘fire’ in more vociferous scale. Saifu’s companion would have a tough time to control him and to take to the lift. Even from lift cage, Saifu’s voice could be heard. There was no match in sizes of the Labradors and Saifu. Saifu is a tiny creature of hardly 6 inches height and may be weighing a little over 4 kgs whereas his opponents were well built, a height of 2 and half feet to 3 feet and may be weighing 25 to 40 kgs. But the agility of both sides were same and Saifu never bothered about his persona so long as the daring is concerned.

This went on for some time. One day we heard that one of the Labrador is dead. Saifu continued its tirade against the unequal opponent in the same raucous way. Saifu was not aware of the death of one of the Labrador. In fact I have never seen Saifu barking at them by looking at them. His gaze is always towards the ground. And the Labradors shouted always with their face towards the roof. So it was intriguing whether they were actually barking at each other with a violent intent or actually they were having a conversation in their own inimitable way.

Since last few weeks, we were hearing only Saifu’s barking with no response from the other side. We enquired and were told that the remaining Labrador has also died few weeks ago. Saifu is unaware of death and birth. For him they exist next door. So Saifu barks as it is used to do so. We continue to hear his barking and scratching the floor outside the door at the adjacent flat. It’s a kind of solace for Saifu and some kind of eternal companionship for him as he feels their existence next door. Saifu finds his voice every time he comes out of his home and raises it to full pitch. For him they have never died, they have gifted him his voice and some of his own instincts which Saifu had lost in the company of human beings.

The bad times & unspoken words

I received a phone call from a known fellow. He managed my mobile number from someone and called. He did not call immediately after procuring the number. He was hesitant and called after few days. I knew this because the one who gave him my phone number informed me after doing so. I was expecting a call almost immediately but my phone rang after almost a week.

We are known to each other from childhood. So it was not amusing that he called. We talk once in a while and meet whenever we can. I met him about 4 months back. The man was in distress due to family reasons. And almost cried at his helplessness. I assured him of help financially which only I could do at that time and did help him with some money at that time. I also assured him not to worry and call me whenever he feels or needs any help, financially.

The call was short and ended almost abruptly. He exchanged pleasantries and before I could really start the conversation he was off the air. In fact, I was holding for a few moments before I realised that the line was dead.

Why he called? To know our well being, he need not call. There are enough common people we both know from whom he can gather such information. And as it runs in the family, no news is good news. In fact, an untimely call worries us. So really nobody calls to enquire about well being or whereabouts since such news is shared almost instantaneously.

So why did he call after all? From the tone of his feeble voice I could make out certain anxiety. Anxiety about family matters, anxiety about his own conduct and managing day to day business. I know this guy who is very helpful and ready to take certain responsibilities without really expecting any return. He has been exploited for this quality quite often. But he really never bothered. He didn’t have much of responsibilities so his lifestyle so far has been pretty ordinary. Though he was keen to take responsibilities but these were of mundane nature and didn’t require much attention and also were of no such serious consequences. He was happy with whatever he could earn and lived happily with his brothers and their families. Since his earning was meagre nobody really expected anything of him. But he was needed in the family due to his other useful qualities.

The bread earner of the family who was almost the fulcrum of the family suddenly expired leaving behind a small but sustainable business, 3 dependents and thankfully, no debts. Now the responsibility of running the business fell on our fellow since he was a bit aware of the nuances of this business. But he was out of tune for quite a few years and was ill at ease about the running the business. But he had no choice but to shoulder this responsibility since now he had to support the dependents that his brother left.

When I met him last time, 3 months after the death of his brother, he was finding it very difficult to run the business and blaming the circumstances all the time. I tried to reason with him and also to give him comfort, assured him of help whenever he needed. But I was certain that he was finding it extremely difficult to accept the changed circumstances. He is basically a shy guy and moves in a very small circle consisting mostly relatives and as far as I know no friends. For him dealing with the outside world is a cause of worry. To him the outside world is very harsh and cruel. He has not kept with the changed times. I found him fumbling with the mobile phone when a call got disconnected and he was finding it difficult to locate and call the same number. He handed the phone over to me to help him to connect to the caller. I could guess that the heavy burden which has befallen upon him has taken its toll on him. In easier times he might not be that shaky or puzzled. But the scene was different now and for him, it was extremely worrisome how to cope with.

Coming back to the call which he ended abruptly, I started pondering what he wanted to say. Was it a distress call? Did he require any help? Anything to do with the present circumstances that he was transiting through?

I got it! It was the mounting hesitance that kept him away. It is difficult to ask help if you are not accustomed to that. One may be weak physically; financially unhealthy, mentally not bold enough but definitely does not seek help at the drop of a hat. In vernacular we term it as though the tongue got stuck. It was not moving, you were short of words, ever-swelling timidity have got over you and you could not say what you exactly wanted to say. I can relate to this event as many a times I do not open myself to friends and others over certain incidents when I know it may help. It can happen with anyone.

As I understood his dilemma, I thought it would be prudent to call him suo motu and help him to open up with his confusions, his problems and help him to get over the present circumstances.

I called him and spoke. That is another story.

NH 24

Last week I was going to a branch office about 25 km away from my home. There are two ways to reach the office. The shorter one has a barrier in the form of the railway level crossing which remains closed most of the time and hence taking that route is risky. I preferred the route via NH24 which a bit longer but a safe bet.

NH24 starts from Delhi and as far as I know it goes upto Lucknow, about 500 km away. The road lies on the left of my habitation. It’s a four lane road for about initial 60 km from Delhi and thereafter it’s a two lane road when I last travelled on this road to Nainital. I don’t know if any further widening has been done in these years. It’s my daily commuting road to my office and I travel about 15 km daily on this road till its end at Delhi side. That day I was taking the opposite route.

Getting into the road is a bit difficult task these days (just about a km from my house) as lots of construction activities are going simultaneously in the approach road to NH24. An underpass is under construction for last two years, construction of overhead metro rail has started and few arterial roads are being laid simultaneously. It’s a cacophony of assorted vehicles and pedestrians at the junction where you hit NH24 from the approach road. It’s a daily affair now and as far as I see everyone has adjusted well to the situation. The shared autos don’t give way, the pedestrians cross the road and the junction as if they are taking stroll in a park, buses and trucks vie with each other – abuses are hurled by all and sundry to, again to all deaf ears as nobody gives a damn, ‘poor’ carwallahs like us honk for no avail and we shout at all of them without realising that our voice would not reach them as the car windows are never rolled down to save us from dust, fume and noise (and of course the car AC is on).

Managing to cross the junction comfortably and hitting the NH24 is a sort of achievement. I did it on that day after about 10 minutes waiting at the signal. Thereafter it should have been a smooth cruising as it was opposite traffic. Most of the daily commuters were going towards Noida and Delhi whereas I was moving in the opposite direction. So for me it should have been a smooth movement. Just about a km down the road, I noticed that vehicles ahead of me are taking the extreme left lane. I had to follow them. Then I noticed a stream of two wheelers and few 3 wheelers coming from the opposite direction on the lane on my right. The opposite lane was choc-o-bloc with traffic. For about next two km, traffic in my direction crawled in the left lane only as the other three lanes- two in the opposite direction and one in our direction were taken over by the oncoming traffic. After two km, it was normal again.

I started thinking why it was so. As I gathered my memory about this place I was getting to the reasons of this daily chaos. I don’t know when NH24 was built (I can Google but that is not the point). I have been living in this area for last 21 years. I have been using NH24 for the last 21 years. When I had moved closure to NH24 in 2003 – about 13 years back, there was little habitation around NH24. I vividly remember that on NH24, after crossing the UP gate, there was hardly any habitation till you reach the next habitation at a place called Pilakhuwa near Hapur, about 30 km away from UP gate. One of my friends used to live in Pratap nagar, an upcoming locality in Ghaziabad. To reach his home I used to take NH24 on my scooter and the drive of 20 km was just about 20 minutes, smooth and flat. No movement after dark as the road was deserted and avoided. In last 13 years, a great suburb has taken root along the highway. The 10 km stretch along the highway after UP gate is now full of habitation. Residential, commercial, educational, medical, governmental…you name them; all kinds of constructions have come up and are fully functional. Millions of people have moved in. The villages around NH24 which were sleepy once upon a time have become shelter for low income group of people working in factories, commercial establishments, educational institutions, hospitals, eateries and at households. Cost of living gradually moved up and people started to move down further in search of low cost living. NH24 was and still is the only lifeline between these habitations and the workplaces at Noida, Ghaziabad, and Delhi and beyond. People from both sides of the road have no choice but to hit NH24 even just to go the other side.

I don’t know if any other road has witnessed such humongous development around it in a short span of 10 years. I don’t know if any other road has been left high and dry to face the monstrous onslaught of such scale of development. If you see the central verge on the road, you will understand the negligence NH24 faced over the years. The verge is cut, overridden, crossed, used illegally at will by the traffic of all kinds daily. There has been no repair of the verge since the time I have been using the road. Forget repair, there has been no cleaning of the verge over the years. The iron railing on both sides of the verge has disappeared at many places. The shrubs overgrown and left unattended are at nature’s (and of course, at users’) mercy. With the development of habitations around, the development of NH24 should have been taken care of by the authorities.

I really don’t blame the people around NH24 for its misuse. They don’t have any choice. Nobody likes to drive on wrong lane, nobody likes to risk his/her life daily, nobody likes to reach workplace late, nobody likes face daily traffic jams, nobody likes to waste precious fuel, nobody likes to live far away from the workplace, nobody likes to spend extra amount on commuting daily, nobody likes to share the rickety, good-for-nothing vehicles daily. But is there any escape from these daily hassles? Only if the road was better, the traffic would have moved smoothly and life would have been good if not great. I observed that two wheelers were the most on the wrong lane. Why? Because two-wheeler drivers are kind of life line in business these days. They are the delivery men, take any industry.

The two km’s and about 15 minute’s drive compelled me to think the plight of NH24 and its users. I am sure there are many such NH24s in my country where the growth around has not touched the road and the users are jostling with each other for the same space on the road, daily.

Mother & Child

Today I visited a branch of my organisation. The branch is headed by a lady who has been working with the organisation for more than 10 years. She joined at entry level and with her hard and good work she has seen success in her career in the organisation and is fairly well-placed. Kudos to her as she now leads a team of 15 men and women and achieves her targets mostly.

She is also a mother. During the day, several times I heard her talking on phone to her family members. She speaks a language which I don’t understand. But when she speaks in that language, I understand that she is talking to someone from her family. As it happens when you live in cosmopolitan place, your own language gets contaminated with the languages that you also speak with others. So it happens with the family too. You start with your own mother tongue which gets sprinkled with words from other languages and the person listening to your conversation gets a hang of what is actually going on.

I got this couple of times. Once she was speaking to her child who should be in 4th or 5th standard (my guess, considering the mother’s age), and the child was, it seemed, a worried fellow. S/he (I don’t know the gender of the child) was blaming the mother for some wrong answer s/he has written in school. The child complained to the grandma and the grandma was trying to console the child. The mother was trying to reason with the child that s/he might have misunderstood what was taught by mother at home. The child had a solid defence in blaming the mother that she taught the child wrong. Grandma came to phone as the child was crying. Our lady spoke to grandma (may be her own mother or mother-in-law) and reasoned with her too. Grandma was in a precarious position as to whom to side with. The conversation with grandma veered to some other family matter and I lost the track.

She was definitely a bit worried as the child was in a bad mood. So after a while she spoke to some other family members. Started conversation in the same language that I don’t understand and predictably the conversation moved towards the education of the child with liberal sprinkle of local language, bits of which I could pick up. Same worries about child education, same worries of a working mother and same dilemmas of a working mother who is supposed to play double role.

Was I eavesdropping? No way. We were sitting across the desk at her cabin. I was made to sit in her cabin as there was not much space in that office to offer me a suitable place to work for the whole day. The cabin was best suited. She was in and out of the cabin due to her office work and sometimes to attend a phone call which she might have felt would disturb my work. But while talking to her family members she usually comes back to her cabin, sits on her chair and leisurely talks. She was oblivious to my presence or I am sure she might have felt that these conversations are of no interest to me hence there is no need for secrecy. Of course, these conversations are of no interest to me but they carry a great value to me to understand human behaviour and the challenges modern day women face both at home and at office. My wife is also working in a 10 to 5 job and manages both kitchen and her office. I pretty well understand the predicaments of a working women who also has the responsibility to run the kitchen, raise family and take care of the children.

The commendable part was how beautifully she (not to confuse with my wife) managed the home and office chores. She was brisk in her business dealings, competent in her office work, able leader in guiding her subordinates and alert while talking to customers over phone.

I could sense all these just by listening to her, through the day.

The traffic signal

While driving to office from my home every day, I come across a traffic signal at a particular point where 9 out of 10 times I get the red signal with the waiting time displayed in seconds and I wait for the signal to turn green. What’s the big deal? So many people do the same every day. Why am I blogging (or bragging?) about the same?

Well, it is not about the waiting at the traffic signal and not also about getting the signal red 9 out of 10 times. It’s about the behaviour of assorted people at that traffic signal. Some wait patiently for their turn and many don’t. No matter what is the colour of the traffic light, many cross the junction (in four directions) as if either they give a damn or for them the light doesn’t exist. Again, what’s the big deal? It happens at many places so what’s anything particular about the daily routine.

Let me give you the geographical location of the traffic light. On its eastern side mostly the apartment people live in group housing societies. On its western side, there is a huge ghetto, a totally unplanned, haphazardly grown colony where majorly the helping hands in offices, factories, schools, hospitals, shops and malls live. I have been told that nearly half a million people live in that area (seems to be an exaggerated figure nonetheless even half of that figure is awesome). On the southern and northern side there are offices, shops and institutions which are abuzz with activity during day time and quiet during night. Probably now you may be forming an idea why some people don’t bother the colour of the traffic signal.

Since I wait in this signal 9 out of ten times and for a good 40 to 60 seconds almost every time, I get my daily dose of people ignoring the colour of light. It happens from all directions. But to a great measure it happens from the eastern part. The traffic from that part consists of cycles, bikes, autos, shared autos and occasional cars. The cars from that side do slow down if the signal is red but they eventually flow with rest of the traffic because none cares. The bikers and the overloaded autos are the worst offenders. I am yet to see any biker or the auto driver obeying the light on his own. The autos are particularly the demons. The office hours are their best bet and best earning time. They drop the passengers and turn back immediately to get the next lot. There is a huge competition among them to get back to the stand where they would pick up the next lot. So for them the traffic niceties are passé. Most of them are so arrogant that even traffic constables are unable to control them. A lot of reasons are there for their arrogance and I can write separately not in this piece. The bikers are kings of the road and their most obvious move is overtaking from left even if there is space in the right and they hardly care for any traffic rules. The cycle riders are always late for their workplace and so are always in hurry to cross any hurdle that comes their way. Probably all of us know about these habits of auto drivers, bikers and bicycle riders. So what’s the big deal again?

As I stated elsewhere, the western part of the signal is populated by a particular working class, they show no respect for the traffic signal. It shows their behaviour, upbringing, social character and above all the area they represent. This colony is 99% illegally constructed. 90% of the people live there in rented accommodations and the owners are locally influential people who give two hoots for abiding law. Almost everything up there is for grab, be it land, buildings, water, electricity, civic amenities you name it. If anyone lives and grows in such an atmosphere, there is bound to be an effect on him to ignore law as he never sees any law and order in his locality. So abiding by a traffic light is such a miniscule matter for him that he just not ignores it but also has no faith in it. The moment he reaches the traffic junction he doesn’t apply brake but actually speeds up so that others who are about to cross the junction slow down or stop totally to let him pass. The drivers in vehicles in other three sides of the junction are well aware of the behaviour of the people coming from the eastern side and never show protest or things like that as they are aware of the futility of it.

The gist is that our upbringing and living conditions are benchmarks for adherence to law. And there is a mob culture which turns blind eye to law. The crowd coming from the western side represents a mob who no one dares to cross. People there earn their daily livelihood, pay rent, pay school fees, and probably also pay protection money. Most of them earn daily wages and their lives depend on it. They have seen arrogance and no respect for law are the order of the day. Slowly they get absorbed in such a culture and start believing in it, at least some of the traits. A mob forms whenever there is a tussle and they easily outnumber others.

The people from the rest three directions will have to live with it. God knows how long!

Attitudinal Shift

Change in attitude is also full of contradictions. I would start with my experience. These days I despise the roadside eateries. I am not against street food. What I find disturbing is the hygiene factor. There is a joint at my local market whose space is severely restricted and it serves food on the tables on the street itself. It a narrow street further congested by parking of cars, bikes and push carts. The cycle rickshaws add to the melee. Couple of round tops is placed on the road and diners eat standing. The road is dusty as side strips of the road are not paved. Dust is roaming in the air and settling on everything around including on the plates in which the eatables are served. The atmosphere is dusty, noisy, polluted and dirty. But in this situation I find young men and women are having Chinese or south Indian delicacies. They don’t mind the surrounding, it seems. I find it awful every time I pass through all these.

Now flash back like Gulzar’s films. Imagine a young man starts to his college at about 6 am by bus or later by bicycling almost every day. None or very paltry breakfast at home at that hour because of various reasons. Never mind, a couple of rupee in the pocket gives enough motivation to traverse about 18 km bicycling (the local bus service was unreliable, erratic and finally stopped in my final year of college). It is about 45 minutes to 1 hour cycling. Just outside the college, on the roadside there was tea shop which also used to serve samosa, kachauri and jalebi. There was no furniture in the shop except for a wooden bench. You have to eat standing holding the leaf plate on your hand balancing precariously two leaf plates at a time, one is filled with hot potato curry and in other two hot kachauris. Finding space to sit on the bench was like winning a lottery. The oven made of clay was extended enough to accommodate the cook-cum-owner of the shop. His cash register (a wooden box) was placed just beside him. The road used to be busy day and night as coal carrying trucks and dumpers plied all the time. It was also the main road connecting to the outside world. Dust specially the coal dust was the norm in the air other than diesel related fumes. Among all these situated our little tea shop. I used to be hungry and exhausted by the time I reached college. So refueling was prime necessity at that time. One rupee was enough for two kachauris and one jalebi and this much was ok for the time being. I never bothered about the surrounding pollution, filth, dirt and dust. I had no trouble from dust and pollution. I was frail (as I am still) but had enough lung power to cycle 36 km a day with a stomach which was half nourished most of the time. I can, at this age, safely say that such dust and pollution did not cause much damage to me.

Now when I look back and ponder about dust, pollution, unhygienic conditions of the roadside eateries, I conclude that hunger, necessity, economy, easy approach, abundance of supply and quick service are the reasons for these eateries surviving the relentless onslaught by govt. agencies, civic bodies, alert citizens and champions of cleanliness. In my locality lots of young boys and girls stay and work in tech companies and call centers. For them a quick bite is essential as cooking is a laborious activity and needs patience besides the wherewithal. Since readymade food is so easily available why bother to cook. But I am sure that when these boys and girls settle down in their lives, they would start thinking the same as I am thinking. There would definitely be shift in attitude, diagonally.

Negativity in news

Last evening during dinner table gossip I found the topic of my latest blog. I was joined in the dinner table by my 82 year old mother, 17 year old daughter and my wife (age cannot be disclosed). The TV was on and some news channel was blaring something ‘exciting’. My daughter is always against news TV channels as she finds news are boring and negative. So she was complaining why we are watching the news. Instantly the ‘negative’ thing caught all of us. Yes, it is true. News with negative vibes is broadcasted with all flare and noise. Positive news seldom finds space in these news channels.

That evening I was in the local weekly vegetable market to buy vegetables for the week. I was delighted to find the rates of certain vegetables were at bottom. I found my weekly bill for vegetables was at least less by 25%. Vegetable prices find their place in news channels, newspapers and even in panel discussions in TV channels when their prices hit the roof. Last year onion prices were talk of the whole country. WhatsApp was replete with messages on onion prices and creative minds were belting out jokes on onion prices, right from asking the Income Tax status of the buyer if s/he is buying 2 kgs of onion or declaring a vendor richest man if he is sitting on two bags of onion or to give onions as dowry. Few months back Potato prices shoot up and all hell broke loose. Yesterday I found prices of these two vegetables at rock bottom. Broccoli was costing 5 times of what was the price yesterday just a month back. Same was true for many other vegetables. But these positive trends find no space in news channels, newspapers, panel discussions and daily gossips.

My mother remarked that she has also started despising the newspapers and news channels since she finds these are splattered with negative news. Most of us begin our day with a cup of coffee or tea and newspaper spread on the table. What we find besides some headline news in the front page, all negative news in the inside pages. Barring the sports page and the business page where the publisher has no choice but to publish the truth (though in these pages, the publisher tries to insert some columns sometimes in which negativity about a sportsman or a business house is spread), all other pages are full of negative news. There could be some logic in publishing these negative news items. I do not find any logic in a news item published in a prominent newspaper with heading – man killed his mother-in-law (obviously I did not read any further). What purpose is served when such news is published? Many positive incidents do not find space in news.

We all thrive in negativity in our day to day lives these days. When we meet people and inquire about their well-being and if the response is good, the talk ends. The moment the other person says something is wrong with him, the talk lingers on. What, how, why all these interrogations start. Not all the time the idea is to find the cause of the problem the other person is facing and to help him/her. Many a times it is aimed at creating false sympathy for the person. Many a times it is to find another item for gossip.

I find it waste of public money when I see full page advertisement by govt. departments announcing any welfare programme or success of a particular policy. These should be news items instead of advertisements. Public money has been spent to achieve certain success. It needs to be lauded in every forum rather than the authorities need to advertise (such pages are quickly shuffled anyway by the reader).

The idea of this topic was why it is enthralling to be negative. Are we all paranoid? Do we all believe in sarcasm? Why is it so that negative news excites us? Pages of art and culture get only a glance and quickly shuffled, programmes of music and dance in TV are quickly changed and our gossips mostly veered around something negative, sleazy and groundless topics. All the soaps in TV channels compete with each other in negativity to score higher TRP. Good shows unless with some genuine comedy content fizzle out soon.

The contradiction is evident. It is said that no news is good news. Earlier we used to spend considerable time with newspapers. Now it is just passing glances. The matter below the heading is hardly read since heading says it all. We are hungry for news yet the hunger is quickly satiated seeing the quality of news. We must ponder why such a downward trend. Why my 82 year old mother who otherwise a vociferous reader despises newspapers or news channels? Why my 17 year old daughter is not interested in news?


Parental duties

In many of our discussions about behaviour and upbringing of our kids (of whatever age), the issue invariably revolves around the obedience of the kids. My colleagues and friends are almost unanimous that kids don’t listen to their parents or elders anymore (again kids of whatever age). They are also unanimous in the contention that while they were young they were very obedient and hardly went against the wishes of their parents.

The reasons are many for the contemporary behaviour of present age children. I don’t want to delve into that. Pages can be filled up enumerating and explaining those reasons. I will limit my arguments to just one cause i.e, the present age parents are simply not capable enough to control their offsprings and ensure obedience. Again reasons are many. But I wish to limit myself to one sole reason for this.

Some of our wishes when we were kids were not fulfilled by our parents for various reasons, sometimes paucity of funds or sometimes our parents decided that it wasn’t necessary. Our elders mostly took decisions about our upbringing and we were expected to just follow such decisions without protest or disagreement. This particular attribute embedded a secret wish in us in our childhood or at young age that we wouldn’t be so harsh (at least, that was the feeling) on our children when we become parents. At that age we were incapable to understand why our parents decided something against our wish. Affordability was one reason which was easy to understand even at a young age. But we never tried to understand why our wishes were not fulfilled when affordability was not the problem. So secretively a thought started taking root in our mind not to deprive our kids anything they demand.

So we showered gifts and goodies on our children right from the day they born. The children never had to really plan or demand anything. We, the new age parents, were planning everything for them.  Ist birthday, first day in kindergarten, first day in regular school, first test in school, first stage performance in school annual function, first major exam, new books and stationery every year, all school demands-reasoable or not, transport arrangements-school bus or own vehicle, the list is endless. What I mean to say that for all these the kid need not assume any responsibility. The parents are there to take care. I really don’t blame the present day kids for their misbehaviour or disobedience. We as parents simply did not teach them the lessons of life. When a kid opens his/her eyes in this world and finds everything related to him/her is being taken care of by the parents, the kid becomes oblivious to his/her responsibilities.  Gradually the kid takes all these for granted. I would rather say that the kids start believing that these are essentially parental duties and the kid is entitled to such parental attentions. The kid has nothing to do. Even his/her homework is also part of parental duty. Neatness of his/her school dress, shoe shining, organising the school bag, filling the water bottle, running to the school bus stop and dropping to school if s/he misses the bus…every day these rituals go on. Neither the parents have the courage to teach these responsibilities to the kid nor the kid care to learn. Not its fault, s/he was not coached at all. So why crib now? You have failed in your duties so you only have to shoulder the blame.

By no means here I meant that our parents were not caring or they were irresponsible. They provided everything to us and sometimes beyond their capacity. Their caring also included giving space to us so that certain chores were our responsibility whatever may be the age. This small discipline cultivated a sense of duty and responsibility in us which helped us a great deal in our growing years and later in our independent lives. But alas, we foegot to implant those qualities in our children. We cared too much, beyond necessary. And the trend is continuing.

About the blog

I am 57. I work with a financial institution. I like to keep an eye on whatever is happening around our lives. I am interested in social, political, cultural, economic, sports incidences just as anyone else. Most of us ordinary folks are interested in these areas though only at periphery. So long as we are not directly involved or engaged in any or more of these spectrum, we mainly comment and keep ourselves off to a safe distance. We comment as any other onlooker and move away without caring for the impact of our comments or outbursts. At least I have been doing that all these years.  Murmuring to myself sometimes, thinking aloud often and occasionally sharing my thoughts with family or friends.

Of late, partly inspired by reading my daughter’s blogposts and partly from my inner persuasions, I have been contemplating penning down my thoughts on various contemporary topics. More so because I was finding contradictions in my thoughts. Regarding any topic I was forming logic both for and against. Nothing extraordinary I suppose since I believe many ordinary guys like me think the same way. While I walk in the morning alone or when I drive to office with no one else in the car, I think of many topics, right from mythological to modern day themes. Sometimes an incident at office or an incident on road or an incident heard from an acquaintance or an incident in my mailbox makes me pause and think over it.

I intend to include all these thoughts in my blogposts. The idea is to test how far I can stretch my arguments both in favour and against on any topic, how can I be my best or worst critic. Let me judge that because my comments will be aimed at my own knowledge on the subject. The comments (or sometimes outbursts) are not aimed at anyone, living or dead, fictional or real, old or young.  The attempts will be logical and if I don’t find logic I will not proceed, promise.

That’s for now friends. Let me start and see how far my journey would be.

See you in my next post.