Are you listening?

 

In my daily drive to the office and other sundry places, one particular situation attracts my attention always. I think aloud when I see such situations. Even within the closed compartment of the car where no sound can go out, I murmur, shout, grimace, rebuke, make faces and sometimes (when I am alone in the car) use expletives as if the outside world is listening. The situation is the careless attitude of the passenger in any vehicle, the pedestrians, the cyclist and the standing crowd of men and machine (read vehicles).

Let us check the person who has just hailed a cycle rickshaw puller and after a bit of bargaining on the fare climbs on the seat. Immediately after sitting, he or she, if alone, would pull out the earphone sockets from his/her bag or pocket and after fixing one end to the phone and the other to both the ears, either start a conversation or listen to music. The rickshaw puller just feels the load on his rickshaw and pulls it on in his own way. The passenger does not at all bother as to how the puller is negotiating the crowded, potholed, uneven road. Both are in their different world. The rickshaw puller, however unruly about traffic rules, is at least careful about his own safety. The passenger is totally unmindful, ignorant and oblivious to the threat. He or she has surrendered himself or herself at the hand of the rickshaw-wala. That too without knowing, without realising. The passenger is not bothered at all the way the rickshaw-wala is cycling and negotiating the traffic. Dishonouring all the traffic rules, turning dangerously at curves, riding in the fast lane ignoring the honks of the fast moving traffic behind, sandwiching between the bare (or barely?!) space between two vehicles. The passenger is just indifferent to all these perils though he or she is most vulnerable species under the circumstances if anything goes wrong.

Now let’s check the passenger who has hailed a rickety shared auto rickshaw. In a capacity of just 3 passengers, the driver has taken at least 11 passengers. 4 passengers on the factory fitted seat, 4 are on a six inch wide improvised plank (wooden covered with a layer of resin) with back on the driver, 2 are on the left of the driver and 1 on his right side. The driver’s seat has been modified to accommodate additional two whereas he takes minimum three passengers. Two of them on the extreme right and extreme left, literally remain hung with one of their bums managing to find a place in the seat. The right or left knee (depending on which side the passenger is precariously balancing himself) is protruding out of the periphery of the vehicle and at the mercy of the passing vehicles. The ride will be from 15 minutes to an hour for any passenger depending on the traffic. During this period, the passengers are at God’s mercy (or should I say at the driver’s mercy!). Here also some are just trying to balance themselves all the while during the journey. The fortunate ones sitting in the factory fitted seat of the automobile indulge in either their mobile phones (earphone duly socketed) or chatting with one another. They never mind as to how the vehicle is driven. Among the drivers of the assorted vehicles, I find drivers of the shared auto rickshaw are the most undisciplined, arrogant, quarrelsome, and always ready to pick up fights. I am told that the owners are influential and hence the haughtiness of the drivers. God help the passengers!

Let’s check now a bit fortunate class of passenger who has just hailed an auto rickshaw which is not generally shared. Though these vehicles are supposed to be metered, but fares are negotiated as neither the passenger nor the driver believes in the meter reading. The condition of the vehicle is far better than the rickety shared auto-rickshaw whose loose, sharp and rusty metal is protruding from all directions. The seat is cushioned and there is some protection on the right side. The passenger hops in. The driver starts the vehicle. Now, these two occupants are in their own world. The passenger, like his/her counterparts in other vehicles, either on the mobile phone (earphone duly socketed as usual) or busy in talking if he or she has company. The driver is now focussed on reaching the destination as quickly as possible. He would manoeuvre the vehicle in all possible way (except flying over). He would break the traffic rules left, right and centre. He would also answer calls in between holding the instrument in a deft way between his tilted head and the angled left shoulder. He would enter any service lane, any gully, opposite to one-way roads and even on pavements sometimes to reach the destination as fast as possible. The passenger, meanwhile, is just as indifferent as a sack full of grain. The imminent risks are known to the driver and accordingly, he is mentally prepared to face any eventuality. But the passenger is just casual. He or she would never question the driver as to why he is driving so recklessly. In the event of a mishap, he or she would suffer maximum injury, at time fatal injury.

Last but not the least in this blog post, the hapless pillion rider on two-wheelers, especially bikes. I pity them. Pity them because the biker is just ignorant that he has a pillion rider. The women pillion riders in traditional Indian attire are most vulnerable. Due to the typical dress, the female is compelled to sit in bench style clutching the rider either on the shoulder or around his waistline depending upon the relationship between the biker and the female. If there is only one pillion rider the matter is somewhat manageable. The problem starts when the woman is either holding a baby or the third passenger on the bike. Three on a bike is a normal view. What intrigues me is the indifference of the biker as if he is alone on the bike. He would drive the bike the way the auto rickshaw driver does in the previous para. No wonder, fatalities in bike accidents are highest. I can go on and on and on about the pitiable driving sense of the bikers.

In my childhood days, I have seen people hanging on the door handles of buses or trains. I have seen people travelling on the roof of the bus or even trains. To be honest, I myself have undertaken such risky journeys. Accidents did happen. Sometimes fatal. But I haven’t seen careless passengers. Climbing on the rooftops of buses or trains was purely for the reason that hanging on the door handles was far too dangerous in comparison and there is not even an inch space inside. I used to prefer the bus roof solely for the reason that I could not hang on holding the door handle and I could judge the risk. Rooftop travel was risky at times due to low branches of roadside trees or an occasional overhead electric wire. But the passengers were careful as they negotiated those hazardous moments. They were alert and at times got down to avert any crisis. There were no mobile phones, fortunately.

I don’t find the same alertness among the passengers these days. I fail to understand the triviality. I see pedestrians crossing the roads hurriedly without caring for their own lives. Vehicles are wheezing past as a fast pace, the pedestrian signal at the traffic junction is either dead or showing red, assorted vehicles are on the road, ignorant and careless drivers are manoeuvring their vehicles dangerously with no respect for pedestrian rights, yet my dear pedestrians are just apathetic to the looming threat on their lives.

Hence I become vocal. Vocal to their apathy, vocal to the drivers’ careless attitude, vocal to the helplessness of the traffic police, vocal to the lawlessness of all concerned. But I remain within the cosy confines of my vehicle with the air conditioner running and the audio humming. My voice doesn’t reach out. It wouldn’t help either even it reaches out as the earphones are duly socketed and people are busy in talking to one another.

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Careless Passenger

In my daily travels to office and back on the same route, I have observed certain traits of people who perplex me. I wonder how one can be so casual about one’s own safety. No, I am not talking about traffic rules violation or dangerous driving. My concern is here about the passengers sitting in any kind of vehicle.

My wife suffered minor bruises few years back in an accident. She was travelling to her office by a cycle rickshaw. At a certain point, a biker hit the rickshaw. My wife fell from the rickshaw and suffered certain injuries in her head, fingers, hips and shoulder. She had to visit a hospital for first aid, got some stitches done and discharged. It took about a month for complete healing of the injuries.

This incident provoked me to think about the passengers who sit in pillion on a two-wheeler, on the back seat of an auto rickshaw or a cycle rickshaw, in car or in buses.

Never have I come across a passenger who is rebuking his rickshaw puller for jumping the red signal at the traffic light. So is the case with the passenger in an auto rickshaw or for that matter in any kind of vehicle. If I jump a red light and if my daughters are with me, I sure get a rebuke from one of them for not obeying the traffic rules. I even get rebuke from them if I drive a little recklessly. The common refrain from them would be ‘Baba. You are driving like an autowala.”

Why is it so? Why I am not concerned about my own safety? Why have I allowed someone to flout traffic senses and thereby jeopardising my safety? Sometime with fatal consequences?!

The other day a lady sitting on a cycle rickshaw got severely injured. The rickshaw puller was pedalling fast and in race with another one. As habituated, he tried to overtake from the left. The road was uneven. The right rear wheel of the rickshaw suddenly hit a higher patch of the road and the rickshaw was tilted on left. The puller could not balance the rickshaw and both the passengers of the rickshaw fell on road. One of them hit the side grills of a traffic island. The sharp edges of the iron grille pierced through her chin and she started bleeding profusely. It is another story how they were taken to nearest hospital. I was behind the rickshaw in my car and observed the whole incident.

The passengers were totally oblivious to the danger of the reckless pedalling by the puller.

I observe such a conduct by the riders most of the time. The passenger is always in a hurry. S/he sometimes hurries up the rickshaw puller or auto driver. The puller or the auto driver is the most law-disobedient person. For him the red light is a great hindrance. He will make all efforts to pass through the light. If he is trying to jump the red light, the passenger should understand that his/her life is in danger. It is a known fact that the pillion riders suffers maximum injury and at times fatal. The biker is holding the handle bars, his feet and hands are on brake and he is aware of the risk he is taking or the impending danger. The pillion rider is mostly ignorant to this. Especially in case of female pillion rider in Indian traditional attire, the risk is extreme. The bikers are, again, the most undisciplined lot. I have observed that 99.99% of the bikers will try to overtake through left side even if there is space on the right (i.e., the correct) side. In the process the bikers brush through the cars or other vehicles. They do not even care about the safety of the pillion rider while overtaking in such a way. Riding with two additional pillion is the norm whereas it is against law. I have seen a whole family (consisting the man, women and minimum two children) is on the bike risking lives of everyone. Sometimes, the woman is sitting holding a baby precariously on pillion. The rider drives the bike dangerously and fast. He is unmindful that a lady is sitting behind him clutching a baby and is in the most vulnerable position in case of any mishap. This is a daily site for me as I spend 3 hours daily on roads commuting to and from my office. I shudder at the sight and plight of the poor woman pillion rider.

Even in cars, the passengers are not very serious as to how its driver is driving the car. They hardly caution the driver. Rather they encourage the driver to drive fast, in zigzag condition and supports him in case of signalled down for rash driving. They even support in case of any brawl involving the driver and others even though they are aware that the driver is at fault. This encourages reckless driving. The road rage incidents happen due to this indifferent attitude of the passengers. Instead of quelling the dispute, they encourage.

As a passenger I should be cautious about the driving discipline of the driver. When we hire a vehicle during odd hours (say late night or very early hours), we take precaution of not only the vehicle we choose but also the route to be taken for safety. The same principle is to be applied on the driving style of my driver. If he is reckless he should be cautioned. Though not much problem is faced with four wheelers, majority of the problem is faced with small vehicles like auto rickshaw, cycle rickshaw and recent addition – e-rickshaw. In Delhi, I have observed that the DTC bus drivers are also drive their monster looking low floor buses irresponsibly causing danger to other vehicles and pedestrians. The public using such transports are to be alert and cautious. We cannot allow someone to put our lives at peril.

I have been driving on these roads for the last 30 years. Such an unbecoming behaviour from people is often seen and it has been continuing. I don’t know how to spread the awareness among the riders to be alert about the driver’s way of handling his vehicle. But this is a necessity. I don’t have data but I am sure that many accidents, at times fatal, are caused by this reckless driving aided by casual approach of the riders.

Road safety is like personal hygiene. One has to be cautious and self-indulgent about it. No one can teach you this trait forcibly. We have observed traffic police extracting fines from the erring driver. This is a daily sight. But has it deterred people from being reckless? I don’t think so. Roads are being developed user-friendly, widened, marked, dotted with various traffic signs to educate drivers, advisories issued by traffic department, timers installed at traffic signals, one way driving introduced, someone tried the odd-even formula, dividers introduced, flyovers constructed and all these to bring safety and comfort in driving on city roads. We have seen tremendous developments in the last decade. But, alas, the number of accidents, mishaps, road-rage incidents etc. also have gone up at a faster pace. All these due to the fact that we as users of these roads both as driver and user refuse to learn from our mistakes.

You are taught to brush your teeth every morning and take bath daily in your childhood. After few days of instruction no one at your home reminds you to do the activity. You get used to it and you become aware that to maintain personal hygiene this is necessary. It becomes your habit. Driving safe and keeping in mind others’ safety is just like that. It is mental hygiene.

 

Exit from Sector 62, Noida

Since the days the metro work started in Sector 62, exiting from the sector to go to any part of the city is a humongous challenge, daily, especially during office hours. The hurdles start right outside the gate of our society. I take a daily decision which side I should steer my car as I cross my society gate. Right side or left side. It’s a service lane on either side. If I take right side, I would reach the traffic signal at Mamura chowk (more conventionally called ‘lal batti’), where I would need to break all the traffic rules to go to any of the four directions. If I take the left, I would have to circumnavigate the cluster of societies to get to the desired road.

The metro construction work changes the goal posts regularly. The central verge is occupied by the metro company to construct pillars and viaducts. The company occupies the verge by installing portable six feet high steel sheet boundaries on both the sides of the verge covering about 20 feet of space in width. Since there are offices/complexes/shops/residential buildings on both sides of the road, there are certain intersections/passages for smooth movement of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Due to metro work, these passages have been blocked, causing great traffic jams and inconvenience to all concerned. As and when the construction is completed at a certain stage, an opening is created by metro construction company to give passage. This facility is at their whims and fancies. So the jams are shifting continuously as the goal posts are being changed intermittently.

The mother of all jams is at the Mamura chowk. The crossing is unscientifically planned from the time it has come into existence. The road from the southern side (from Flex crossing) takes a straight line till the chowk. From here, it moves further in a 75% angle. Similar is the plan from the eastern side. The road in any direction from the chowk is not at 180 degrees. The western face of the road from the chowk is particularly narrow and most chaotic. At this part, the problem is aggravated by a lane joining it just at the chowk from the southern side, the wall of a factory, an opening (locally called ‘cut’) 15 meters from the ‘lal batti’ exactly opposite to a petrol station. This particular stretch of the chowk is chaotic any time during the day until late evening. During office hours there is a surge of pedestrians who are already late for their workplaces and just don’t care about traffic rules. Anyways, the vehicles, who are supposed to mind the signals, don’t care about the signals, what to talk about and expect from the pedestrians. These pedestrians block the roads on all four sides. They are constantly on the move, right middle of the road, on alleys between various assorted vehicles and at all possible places. The pedestrian simply raises his/her hand (right or left, whichever is free) showing his/her palm with raised fingers as if some magical force would apply the brakes of the moving vehicles. I always find they are least bothered about their own safety while crossing the road in that fashion. I am apprehensive of a situation when the driver doesn’t or couldn’t care about the raised hand and the sign to stop and hits the pedestrian. The way certain drivers persists ahead (particularly, the bus drivers, 3 wheeler drivers, auto rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers), the pedestrians are always at great risk of losing lives or gravely injured. But I see hardly any such caution by the pedestrians.

The most hapless lot at the chowk are 4 or 5 traffic controllers. A couple of them are actually traffic constables, rest are from home guards or from the private security agency arranged by the metro company. I admire them. Not because they manage the traffic movement efficiently. But because of their tenacity to stand for hours in varying weather (mostly difficult) managing wholesomely unruly stream of pedestrians and vehicles of all types. Their people management is like a parent who has to control a bunch of disorderly kids. Bikers are the most dangerous lot as they never give two hoots for any traffic rules. A typical biker does not ride through the chowk. He always attempts at sneaking in and sneaking out. No traffic rule is valid for them. However, the sight of the traffic controllers is important as it brings some semblance of fear of law among the people using the chowk. Otherwise, we find certain junctions are completely unmanageable where there is no traffic police,

Then comes some vehicles who consider it as a right to stop their vehicles right at the junction either to take in passengers or drop out passengers. They never bother that they are blocking traffic and the time is ticking away for the light to turn from green to red. Any decibel of the horn does not affect them and they don’t even look at the traffic behind. They are focussed on their business completely at that time. They don’t even care for the cane-wielding traffic constable. Such is their arrogance and indifference towards law and plight of others. Mostly autos and three-wheelers are the culprits sometimes joined by local private passenger buses.

The private passenger bus drivers have another annoying habit. They would continuously press the high decibel pressure horn while approaching the chowk, passing through the chowk and getting away from the chowk. I don’t understand the logic behind this. Perhaps this is a kind of signal to intending passengers who are scattered around the chowk (as there is no proper bus stand) and also to such passengers who are at a distance from the chowk and would come running to board the bus. Marketing technique at its best under the given circumstances!

All these were necessary to explain my daily struggle to exit Sector 62. I need to cover just about 2 km to get on the main road to my office which is 25 km from my home. The 2 km expedition takes from minimum 15 minutes to any amount of time. There are several ways to cover this distance. I have tried all. All of them takes the same time more or less. I take a little left from the service lane, get into the main road and then take a U-turn on the central verge opening created by metro company towards Mamura chowk. Here the wait for the ‘lal-batti’ to turn green is anywhere between 2 minutes to 10 minutes. I take right turn here towards that congested and chaotic western road flanked on all sides by standing, waiting, walking, moving, jostling, abusing, hurrying, jumping, running, talking, shouting, quarrelling, ear plugging, spitting, gutka chewing pedestrians. 15 meters further, I negotiate the car among all kinds of traffic peeping out from a ‘cut’ opposite to the petrol pump. 20 meters further, I need to take a left turn for which I have to be smarter than few more cars, buses, bikers, cyclists, and of course, pedestrians. I take the left turn and also the first sigh of relief. Negotiating this far has already taken more than 10 minutes on a normal day and I have travelled only 500 meters so far. This one is a straight road punctured with numerous sewer manholes, covers of some are protruding dangerously up to 4 inches from the road level and some are craters of 4 to 6 inches deep. The road is also punctured by a couple of lanes from where all kinds of traffic barge in without any announcement. I have to be very careful in negotiating the manholes, potholes, sneaking traffic from adjoining lanes and of course, the flowing traffic. After about 200 meters down the road, I need to pass through a crossing. No traffic lights, no traffic controller and dominant indiscipline from all whoever is approaching the crossing. The traffic takes a peculiar turn at this crossing. People move in all direction wherever an opening or a slot is noticed. If two or more detect the slot at the same time, there is a race. Bang! Inevitable! The larger the vehicle, greater is the risk for it as the public sympathy always on the weak or smaller one. Bicycle riders are a special lot. They would not alight come what may. They would march, perching on the rod between the seat and the handle, however precarious it may. One foot on the ground and another is on a pedal. To hell with honking traffic behind, the rider would give side only when he is able to pedal on both the levers sitting pretty at the seat.

This one is the last but one hurdle for me in my two km (seems unending) journey every morning. The last hurdle is in Flex crossing where an underpass is under construction. The road across is closed. It is also the starting point of the half-built flyover which I take. But before reaching the point, I have to negotiate a treacherous spot which is a T-point and due to a certain design fault in road laying, traffic from all the three direction converge here. So I have to be careful from the oncoming traffic which, seemingly moving straight, may take a sudden right turn and come face to face with me. There is a chance of another traffic which is coming from the right side of the T-point and you cannot guess which side it would go, straight or left as it would give an indication only when it is on the verge of the left turn realising it is late though. The bikers, as normal (sic.) to them, would come from left or right depending upon the 12 inches slot they have noticed from 10 meters away. I need to have at least 3 pairs of eyes to safely negotiate the stretch. Obviously, I don’t have 3 pairs of eyes. So I depend heavily on my luck and on the prudence of fellow drivers whichever vehicle they are driving.

Lastly near the T-point where I have to take a U-turn to get into the flyover, a major cacophony is a daily scene. People walk on wrong sides (there is no choice), cycles, bikes, cars, buses, trucks, tractors all jostle in every direction. So getting an opening near the start of the flyover is a tough task. Once I am successful, a great relief flows through my entire self. The car is also happy and shifts to top gear within seconds.

The best and most positive part of my daily struggle to exit from Sector 62 is that I have not seen any major accident in this 2 km. The reason is mainly due to the slowest movement by all kinds of vehicle and pedestrians however they may try to be fast. There is no road that is not taken, no space to move, no manoeuvrability possible and no option left. Everyone tries to outsmart others and in the process everyone simply glee. I have been trying to outsmart other drivers by taking the right lane sometimes, left lane sometimes, middle lane sometimes, following a bus whose sole goal is to outsmart every other person on the road, but all these attempts are futile as I have realised.

Since I am driving on this stretch for quite some time now (metro work started about a year back), I have developed a lot more patience. I switch off the car engine at least twice being aware that each wait is not less than 150 seconds. I don’t try to outsmart others as I have understood its futility. I don’t want to trouble my car by reckless manoeuvring. I am content waiting for my turn. I know that this 2 km is the only strenuous part of my 25 km ride. So why bother?

ATMs and Frauds

I have attended quite a few meetings called by the regulator to discuss and find out ways and means to avert frauds faced by ordinary citizens in their banking transactions. The present piece is on how serious these meetings are and how the problem is approached.

The meetings are conducted on a serious note with the regulator showing due concern on the plight of hapless customers who suffer due to the fraud. But it has been my experience that the regulator expects the banks to do all the pioneering work to prevent the frauds. Very seldom I have experienced a novel approach suggested by the regulator to tackle the problem.

It has been seen that the reactive approach is employed most of the time. The trail left by a trickster is analyzed and measures are devised to prevent leaks which the trickster harnessed successfully. Mostly these are afterthoughts and nobody could really anticipate. Every time a new method of fraud is discovered and the same analysis method is undertaken. By the time the preventive measures are taken, such methods are no longer used by the tricksters. Everyone becomes wiser after the event and scapegoats are searched to blame.

Let’s see one example. A person lost his money at an ATM as someone could trick him to reveal the PIN, a four digit number. Now the search starts for the answer as to how the PIN was revealed, even after the PIN was revealed what were the mechanisms employed by the bank who deployed the ATM to safeguard the interest of the customer, whether the CCTV camera and recording were working, whether any guard was deployed at the ATM, how the machine kept alive even after the customer was gone, what is the time-out limit, etc. etc. These all are the processes which are being followed from the time ATMs are deployed and frauds are taking place. None of these questions ever helped in designing a system where such frauds no longer committed. Frauds of such nature are continued unabated and the numbers are only increasing. CCTV cameras are working, better quality footages are ensured, guards have been deployed, awareness campaigns sustained for NOT to reveal PIN of ATM cards, the software is redesigned to mitigate the time-out situations, hardware of the machine reconfigured so as to not to reveal the PIN while typing, and so on and so forth. But the problem exists even today and it is multiplying.

So what needs to be done? To me the answer is simple. Let’s try to make the attempt by the trickster unattractive, non-remunerative, not worth taking the risk, things like that.

When people used to store their valuables at home, the burglaries were a common problem and a kind of everyday incident. Then safe deposit lockers came into practice. Every bank started offering the service and people literally leaped at the opportunity. Now the thief knows that hardly any valuables in the form of gold or jewelry are kept at home, at least at urban centers. So theft of such type decreased. I am not saying the thefts are not taking place. But thefts for such items definitely decreased. The burglar now knows that most households won’t keep valuables at home. The attempt has become unattractive and non-remunerative for the burglar, not worth the risk.

So how do you employ the same logic in case of ATMs? We as bankers know the various limits for cash withdrawal from ATMs. It starts from Rs.10000 to even Rs.100000 depending upon the type of customer. We all know that one can use one’s ATM card at any bank’s ATM subject to certain limits. I don’t understand the logic behind high cash withdrawal limits. In this age of digital banking, EDC machines everywhere, less-cash campaigns etc., why such high withdrawals are needed. A priority customer gets a high cash withdrawal limit. In practicality, a priority customer hardly withdraws cash for his use. He mostly uses cards for payments, be it at petrol pumps, shopping malls, restaurants, multiplexes etc. I am a priority customer of a bank and at times I carry not even Rs.100 cash with me as I know the cards are sufficient and efficient enough to manage my payments. Even for an ordinary customer carrying a debit card the facilities are same. Why would he need Rs.10000 at one go? Especially in urban places, the EDC machines are almost at all shops. In my locality, even the kirana shop, the pastry shop and the medicine shop maintain EDC machines. This forms a habit and the habit has to be inculcated. Lower cash withdrawal limits would make the attempt unattractive to the trickster. There is no need for fixing various limits. Cash is needed sometimes to buy bus tickets, train tickets, to pay the road side eateries and for petty expenses. The amount needed for these transactions are not enormous. So a limit of Rs.1000 to Rs.5000 would be enough. Lower the cash withdrawal limit and you may see the change.

The matter can be made further unattractive for the trickster if the ATMs are selectively made inoperative depending upon the area. In certain areas the law and order situation is pretty bad. The ATMs in these areas may be made inoperative during the danger hours, say from 10 pm to 6 am. Added to this, if at all some ATMs at these areas are to be kept operative, lowest possible withdrawal limits may be fixed. I have heard that in Brazil, in certain areas the ATMs allow withdrawals for 100 in local currency, barely enough to pay the taxi bill to a nearest busy place. Similar limits can be fixed for the ATMs in such areas where the user would just need minimum cash at that hour.

The low cash withdrawal limit will have a positive effect on spending habits of the user. More EDC machines used means more tax compliance, more revenue for the authorities, more ease in doing business for the shops, less cost on cash management, less crime due to low cash volume at vulnerable points like petrol outlets, shops, higher low cost funds in the bank accounts to the benefit of bankers….so many such positive results. Low cash withdrawal limits also will curb the black money menace.

There is need for some change in rules. Banks typically allow free withdrawals of cash from ATMs upto a certain number of transactions. It is 4 to 5 in a month. The customers tend to withdraw more at one shot to avail the benefit of free withdrawals. If we go for less limits, more number of free withdrawals would be required. So the limits of free withdrawals need to be increased.

The low limit will also be beneficial to banks not only in terms of higher CASA balances maintained by customers but also keeping low cash balances in the ATM machines. From my experience I know a huge amount is cash is kept in ATMs all put together every day. The per ATM cash limit is derived on the basis of usage at a particular area. Cash in ATMs are dead asset for the banks. Less cash in ATMs means less dead asset in the books of the banks and that means more profitability.

In a society, crime and punishment live together. No one can eliminate crime altogether. We as civil society can attempt to minimize the impact and the loss. Making a crime un-remunerative or unattractive is an effort we should try. Lower limits of cash withdrawal facility at ATMs can be one such effort. There could be some inconveniences but as we are all advancing towards a less cash environment, we can forecast a day when there would be no ATMs dispensing cash.

Is anyone listening?

God or an industry

Last week I was on a short trip to Shirdi, a temple town 300 km from Mumbai dedicated to Saint Saibaba. As a personal choice and almost out of habit I go to this place almost every year starting from probably 10 years back. Not out of any religious connotations but an attraction which kind of forceful enough to compel me. The trips are very short, just for a day most of the time. I prefer to go alone though my family has been with me on more than one occasion. If I get a chance to go to Mumbai for any reason, official or otherwise, I make it a point to manage a trip to Shirdi. After so many visits to this not so small town anymore, this time I thought of penning down a typical thought hovering around my mind for quite sometime.

History and statistics about the place can be looked into Google for exact numbers. I am not getting into that. After so many visits starting from 1996 I have been witnessing the mind boggling transformation of the place. In 1996 the temple was in open with no boundary walls, no gates and makeshift structures were erected around the temple for the facilities to pilgrims. There was hardly any hotel worth the name. It was 4 to 5 hours from Mumbai or Pune or Aurangabad (the nearest airport) and 30 minutes from the nearest railway station. Hence most of the people used to take overnight bus and return on the same day. I did the same in my first few visits.

Over the years, building infrastructure in and around the place leaped, literally. The temple complex became a huge mansion complete with massive fortress like boundary walls, waiting halls, cctv systems, admin blocks, museum and sundry facilities. Around the temple complex various kinds of construction started mushrooming. Hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, convenience stores, government buildings, pucca roads around the temple, widening the highway. ..you name it…all kinds of constructions started and completed in record time. All these facilities were aimed at providing comfort to the pilgrims. And yes..pilgrims continued to swell everyday. Unlike other pilgrim places where the crowd swell during some particular periods, pilgrims visit the Saibaba temple round the year. So the needs for various facilities are also required throughout the year.

Now look from some other angles. The nearest railway station is about 16 km away. If you try to reserve a berth in a train from Delhi for this place, you won’t get a confirmed reservation even two months before. The buses from nearby cities doing overnight trips are always full. Numerous taxis, jeeps, SUVs, private vehicles make trips to this holy place 24 hours. You will be amazed to encounter men thumping your car window offering various facilities including, yes parking of your car. Pilgrims alighting from buses get offers to take bath at Rs.30 if they don’t intend to take hotel accommodation. This is 24 hours. I have arrived at 1.30 am at this place and all facilities are available at that hour too, the cloak room was open, the community bath facilities are available, there is nothing to be afraid of – darkness, availability of arrangements, law and order, whatever.

There are hundreds of hotels, numerous eateries and sundry facilities. Numerous people are employed to cater to the needs of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, I found none unemployed in this place. To my estimate thousands of people are employed here in various services. Thousands are self-employed i.e., doing some kind of business, thousands are in transport business- goods or people. People are in employment not just in this town. Due to this place, many are employed in far flung areas. In Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and nearby semi urban places and villages many are earning their livelihoods directly due to some or other activities relevant to this place. Take for example the never ending construction activities. Besides the materials, you need constant supply of skilled labour force. The hotels need skilled workmen. The restaurants need waiter, cooks and supervisory workmen. All these have generated employment opportunities greatly. This time when I went there, after completing my visit to the temple and to Shani Signapur and back to the town after a hectic schedule I needed a cup of my type of tea. I approached a restaurant which had extended some snacking facilities in the front courtyard. I ordered tea with no sugar. I heard two guys conversing between them in Bangla, my mother tongue. Little intrigued, I enquired how they have landed up in this place thousands of kilometres away from their home. Jobs, pat came the reply. How many of them are here? Plenty enough to celebrate several Durga Pujas. I was astonished. Look at the encashment of opportunity.

I am narrating the above with one motto. Very few industries can match the employment opportunities created by this place. A constant supply of livelihoods to millions of people. A nondescript and sleepy village sprung to life by a midas touch. Faith. Faith in the powers of a saint who died nearly 100 years ago, sleeping in his grave peacefully surrounded by a plethora of constructions, devotees, priests, guards and of course under 24 hour cctv surveillance. And look at the continuance. The stream is ever flowing, never seem to cease or dry up. I am amazed. Apart from the devotional part (or whatever left of it), I always look at the economic side of the whole hullabaloo. Faith brings millions to this place throughout the year. As I said there is no ‘season’ or ‘auspicious period’ for this seat of the Seer. So the streams of devotees are never ending. I have been here numerous times and at all seasons, even at very odd hours (1.30 am!). I have always faced crowd and it has been after a wait for couple of hours the ‘darshan’ is over, every time.

In our country such places are abound. Religion is a seasonal activity in most of the pilgrim places. Shirdi is an exception. Your basic needs are not seasonal. You need round the year employment. The Sai at Shirdi as the revered God has taken care of his people throughout the year, at all seasons. The economic side of the otherwise religious culture is amazing. Perhaps no one takes notice of this. But this is the net effect of all these religious fervours. The Temple earnings are now used for economic activities. The offerings are just not cash but in gold or other precious metals. The town is now directly connected with railroad. And I heard an airport is being planned (the nearest airport at Ahmednagar is 200 km away). Look at the prospects. Isn’t it amazing and mind boggling! An everlasting self-sustained enterprise.

I have a similar story for a temple in Himachal Pradesh, the temple of goddess Jwalaji. But for the present let us wonder at Shirdi. That story is for some other time.

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.