destination india

Friday, December 31, 2004

gains and losses 2004

A musafir wearing a khakee dress returned to swades. He meets a girl who was wearing a raincoat. He was looking forward towards marriage. So he asks her ‘mujhse shaadi karoge?’ The girl replies – ‘no young man, my heart yearns for more – nehi yuva, hamara dil mange more.’ To this, our young man thinks for sometime and says ‘you are the 56th girl to have refused me – ab tak chhappan ho giya. If you do not marry me, I will murder you.’ Immediately she retorts – ‘take my girl friend. She is available today – kal ho na ho kya janey!’ The young man smiles – ‘give me her address – quick. Main hoon na – usko gayab kar dunga.’ The girl giggles. ‘Be careful – don’t go alone. Hum tum ek saath chalenge – rok sake to rok lo! If you do not take me – hum dhoom macha denge!’

This is the latest Bollywood ishtyle scenario.

For those who do not know – all the words in bold are names of Bollywood films that have been released in 2004.

The fast pace at which hinglish is gaining ground through all those ads on TV, we may soon have a large section of the Chamber’s Twenty First Century Dictionary devoted exclusively to such lingos.

The time of reckoning has arrived.

It is the last day of a turbulent year. The beginning of the year saw a major Political party losing its shine whilst another one gained a halo – it reared its head again. Like a Sphinx, it rose from the ashes to argue its case for inclusion in the UN Security council – a very prestigious post. The year ends on a sad note. Thousands of lives are lost due to the tsunami – one more vagary of Nature. We pride ourselves on our knowledge but when Nature revolts, we become helpless spectators.

We are competing for the coveted but elusive Oscar awards – awards are still dreams but the efforts are opening up avenues of promoting business abroad. By no means a small achievement. One of our most popular heroines has managed to get her wax model in the museum of Madame Tassaud’s. Our queen of melodies has turned 75 and an actor of yore has crossed 81 – of course, when compared to Politicians, they would still be considered as children!

Unfortunately, we have had to witness a vertical split in one of the most important Indian families as also we have had to listen to ramblings of Senior Army Officers who put bottles of ketch-up to incorrect use. Temptations of awards made them become involved in fictitious encounters with insurgents. They made a mess of themselves and tarnished the image of the Army.

We were not able to leave our marks on any sports event during 2004 – the next Olympics are still far off, let us hope to reverse the trend then. Similarly, for our cricket and hockey teams – they are all in need of energizers. Let us pray to the Almighty to give us the strength to accept the fact that as one grows in age, some of his faculties start to surrender to the inevitable disease called aging. He should, at that point of time realize that the journey cannot go on for ever – he should call it quits when the going is good!

other interesting links:
destination india
indian satire
sweets of india
festivals of india
wonder women of india

Thursday, December 30, 2004

mission clean up

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, so people say. We Indians require a lot of cleaning up! A close observation of ads that vie with one another to catch our eyeballs will show that we are a really dirty lot. Therefore, it is heartening to note that manufacturers of consumer goods have taken it upon themselves to carry out this noble activity.

Whether it is our clothes or our teeth or feet, hair or legs, we are treated to wonderful visuals with foot tapping jingles that tempt us with unbelievable offers – like, buy a pack of washing powder, get a piece of cloth in the pack, clean the piece of cloth and discover your find – it could be a bonanza for your kid’s education! Side by side you have the washing bar that cleans dirty clothes in a jiffy like the sign of Zorro.

Or take the case of the anchor asking the women how clean is their ‘potty’? He demonstrates first hand the miracles of ‘the toilet expert’ and tries to convince his lady audience to switch brands.

Or consider the lady doctor who praises her liquid hand wash by saying – ‘if I do not care for my family, who else will?’

Or another lady doctor who shows how her stain champion enters the crevices and removes the stains.

And then there are the toothpastes that come in attractive packaging to woo the kids and youngsters – experiments are conducted to show how one brand is more effective than its rival when it comes to giving strong clean teeth.

And the advertisement of a mouth freshener really takes the cake – you are treated to hilarious scenes of a young couple trying to become intimate with their noses clipped. To counteract the effect of bad breath!!

Soaps are another range of products that tempt you with promises of glowing soft skins. Once upon a time there used to be one standard brand promoted by the reigning beauty queen of the day. Today, there is any number of brands – promoted by an equal number of beauties. The poor consumer is unable to decide whether to continue with her original brand or to discard it and switch over to one of the newer brands. A soap that used to be identified with sportsmen and ‘tanduroosti’ has today moved into the kid’s arena – with the addition of neem and tulsi to fight germs.

Apart from body soaps, other products that help in cleaning up ones image are the deodorants and anti dandruff shampoos. Some advertisers go to extreme lengths to impress upon the viewers the virtues of specific brands - the latest one being a renowned musician who removes his cap to display a bald palate. No hair, hence no dandruff!!

In India, we are accustomed to praying to God to deliver us from troubles – whenever in difficulties, we beseech him to lead us to the path of solution. We have implicit faith in His powers. If a Politician, then visits to temples are mandatory before Elections to seek His blessings. Unfortunately, we have yet to come across advertisers who attempt to clean up our Political field. Like the cleaning up of a hyacinth filled pond, it will be a really stupendous task.

other interesting links:
destination india
indian satire
sweets of india
festivals of india

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

encouraging creativity

Anything associated with the word ‘hot’ conjures up visions that usually tickle the baser instincts. Some TV channels show ‘hot spots’ mostly after 11 PM. Music videos depict young girls, in skimpy dresses gyrating to popular tunes of yore. Their gyrations only add to the ‘heat’ and such videos are marketed as ‘hot dance numbers’.

Hence, when I came across an entity called the ‘weblogs hot list’, I was pleasantly surprised.
I am associated with quite a number of blog sites in India and overseas. One of the sites has this beautiful system of awarding points to each blog depending on the number of persons who visit it within a specific period of time. A really novel means of encouraging talent. A competition is always under way to identify ‘the best’. The result is fantastic – each and every contributor tries to win the eyeballs and get elevated to the ‘hot list’. A wonderful feeling engulfs you once you reach that stage. Then comes the problem of retaining that position. That is easier said than done because, once the initial attraction wears off, visitors become wise. The secret is to influence the visitors continuously. How? The blogs are displayed on the blog-page along with the first twenty or so words. Obviously, these first few words must catch the visitor’s imagination. If the beginning appears to be full of promise, the visitor is bound to click on it and read further...

That is an art by itself.

As is commonly said, the morning shows the day! The beginning, therefore, has to be extraordinary - some thing like the ‘teaser trailer’ of movies.

In order to do this effectively, one option is to write on the latest happenings – like the ‘camera-phone’ scandal or the Kanchipuram seer affairs or the firebrand Laloo’s blow-hot-blow-cold speeches or related to the business house of the Ambanis or even calamities like railway accidents or tsunamis. All these are likely to stir the veins of curiosity in an individual and tempt him to click on the blog and try to add to his knowledge. If it does not meet up to his expectations, he will switch to some other piece. At the most, he may sign off giving vent to his disappointment in the form of some comments.

The second option is to write on something that is scandalous in itself! Probably some personal experience that has left a deep mark on ones mind or on some actions that have had a direct bearing on the lives of some friend or relative. Such things do not get any mention in newspapers or news medium but are important just the same – may be to some individual. And – penning it down helps us to get it off our chest.

other interesting links:
destination india
indian satire
sweets of india
festivals of india
wonder women of india

Monday, December 27, 2004

nutty resolutions 2005

Every year on New Years Eve it is customary to resolve to do something or the other in the ensuing year – or, not to do something or the other in the ensuing year. People may ridicule such noble intentions saying that these are predominantly western concepts and do not deserve to be encouraged in our Society. Still, resolutions are made even if only to satisfy our inner selves. We may not be serious about giving up smoking or from restraining our drinking habits or putting a leash on our hidden desire for the beautiful new-comer to our office. But, the charade goes on.

The twelve following resolutions have not been made Public ass yet and are likely to remain as such. These are to be taken in the proper spirit and you are at liberty to modify these to suit your needs! In fact, they may inspire you to evolve some more nutty resolutions –
So, here goes …

I am a sanyasin and need to be humble – in the New Year 2005 I resolve not to revolt in Public and embarrass those who have brought me in the limelight.

I am a cricketer. I resolve not to run after records. If 35 has to come, it will.

I am another cricketer. I resolve not to talk about impossible white-washes.

I am yet another cricketer and resolve not to brag about continuing to score three hundreds continuously.

I am an over-sixty actor. In my heydays, I used to be the idol of all young men. I resolve not to lend my voice or my image to ads that look and sound silly.

I am a young actor. My father pulls my legs in public and my friends delight in putting me in straight jackets just to rid me of my chips. I resolve not to advertise chips during 2005.

I am a singer. I resolve not to pass off popular English tunes of the sixties as my own creations and earn accolades just because those who sit in judgment are not aware of English songs of the sixties.

I am a lady singer. I resolve not to blame my dress designer for my dress falling off when I do not want it to.

I am an actress. Before making it big on the silver screen, people used to love my dimples and the nutty chocolates that I advertised in. With so many dimple girls on the scene, I resolve not to show off my dimples.

I am a weight lifter. I resolve not to resort to performance enhancing drugs just because my trainer says I should.

I am a Politician – I resolve to find out the constituency from which I won the Elections and became an MP.

I am a lady Politician. I look the picture of the perfect Indian woman with my bountiful head of hair and the large vermilion bindi right in the centre of my forehead. I resolve not to entertain thoughts of shaving off my hair just to gain cheap popularity.

other interesting links:
destination india
indian satire
sweets of india
festivals of india
wonder women of india

Sunday, December 26, 2004

three letter words

Securing admission to one of the prestigious IITs after clearing JEE is no mean achievement. Once the initial hurdles of initiation (termed as ragging by some) are cleared, the parents are satisfied as also the student. Everyone knows that, in due course of time, the fresher will enter the World with views that can influence decision makers – but, suddenly you realize that the moon also has its dark spots.

The recent episode of the mobile phone with capabilities of capturing and transmitting videos has shown that paise kay liye log kuch bhi karega!! People will do anything for money!!

There is a prevalent notion that three letter words stand for some thing really bad. Three letter words are not to be uttered by gentlemen and ladies. Three letter words are not to be used in the company of the fairer of our species. Three letter words influence tender, impressionable minds. Three letter words are taboo from written matter that may accidentally fall into the hands of those who are not supposed to read them.

But do all three letter words fall in this weird category?

A toddler knows what is ‘net’, what is ‘dot’, what is ‘com’. All these are three letter words like ‘you’ which is one of the most frequently used words in English. ‘Sin’ is yet another three letter word that has lost its relevance in today’s age of corruption and malpractices. What was considered a sin in our youth are today’s virtues – we were taught to be honest. We had to write essays on subjects like ‘honesty is the best policy’ and ‘crime does not pay’. Our teachers tried to drill into our heads these two basic concepts through umpteen plus one examples so that we could learn their true values. Today, the clock has turned a full circle. People laugh at those who try to preach about the brighter side of being honest. We see dishonest people flourish – the TV keeps showing us footages of the bullies taunting the administration. Goons contest elections from prison cells and get elected. Mud slinging in Politics has reached its peak. There does not appear to be any salvation.

Everyone wants to win – by hook or by crook. ‘Win’ is one more three letter word that spells trouble. In order to win, sports persons resort to drugs and get thrown out of tournaments. In order to win awards, actresses go to any lengths to manipulate decisions in their favor. In order to win elections, voters are either threatened or are bribed by the muscle men of the leaders.

Youngsters who have joined Politics after getting elected to the Parliament in 2004 appear to be our only hope. Let us hope that they can pave the way for revival of our spirits in 2005 so that we can differentiate between ‘sin’ and ‘win’.

other interesting links:
destination india
indian satire
sweets of india
festivals of india
wonder women of india

Thursday, December 23, 2004

december dhamakas

2004 seems to be ending on dhamaka notes – we had the ‘sealed lips’ episode of two silver screen characters followed by the now infamous MMS brouhaha. The ‘Best bakery case’ is gradually turning out to be the worst case of mockery of democracy with the latest so-called revelation that eighteen is not a matter to be taken lightly. It can set a lot of things on fire! While one camp was, till now, shouting ‘off with his head’, this expose has added a new dimension making the other camp rejoice and jump with glee. Counter shouts of ‘no, not my head, off with their heads’ has already started. Our Politicians believe in building houses with the stones thrown at them!

Then there was the case of the seer whose only support is gradually turning to be his walking stick!

Of course, the less said about hairy eared Politicians, the better because they have mastered the art of stretching their necks to the limits.

Money changing hands is not anything new to Indian Politics – its attractions are accepted by one and all but the method of dispensing so volatile a commodity does give some credit to perpetuators of such crimes. For a crime to be recorded as a crime, it has first to be proved. That is an impossible task. Hence, it turns to be a case of one snake trying to swallow another snake. An improbable situation in practice but a wonderful one to set your imagination on fire. So what happens next? Parallels have been drawn to justify the action of handing out money by quoting similar activities of another Political figure that was caught gifting clothes to women on his birthday! Hence – a stalemate situation. You demand my resignation, I demand yours.
Then there are the dhamakas in cricket. Having lost to our equals, we are setting all sorts of records with the minnows. All for the sake of the game, experts say. But why such a farce – let us compete with equals. Yes – the minnows may one day become a serious threat to our own supremacy. At least, for the time being, let our second rung tackle them. That will keep everyone happy. But then – how will records be created?

Another week and we enter the portals of a new year – we will certainly make any number of resolutions. Let one of our resolutions be to try and root out corruption from our beautiful country. Not route corruption through unheard of channels to make them appear honest.
other interesting links:

sexy getaway
peekaboo
rape of a beauty
seductresses
sane sex
flying skirts
perfect murders
wonder women of india

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

twinkling twins

The exact point of time when twins invaded the entertainment industry is today shrouded in mystery – even Shakespeare succumbed to its charms: result –‘the Comedy of errors’. From time immemorial, twins have fascinated one and all. As they grow up, they land in awkward situations – continuously getting mistaken for each other. One has to bear the miseries and undergo punishment for the antics of the other.

In Bengali we had ‘Bhranti Bilash’ with the inimitable Uttam Kumar and Bhanu Bandopadhaya.
Twins see the light of day within a fraction of seconds of each other and, if both the twins belong to the same sex, problems are confounded. Dilip Kumar in ‘Ram and Shyam’, Hema Malini in ‘Seeta aur Geeta’, Sridevi in ‘Chalbaaz’ are some glittering examples.

Our Indian film makers were quick to pounce on the economic potentials of twins since one hero or heroine, doubling up as twins, could take care of hundred plus minutes duration of the complete film – hence, we started getting actors and actresses appearing in double roles. While one of the twins is virtue personified, the other is the reincarnation of evil – with a capital ‘E’. Invariably, they get separated in different circumstances; most popular location is some fair or the railway station. Occasionally, one of them is stolen by a villain. Once separated, they grow up in diametrically opposite environments – as a result, when they do come face to face after twenty years or so, they are unable to jump into each others arms. That scene is reserved for the last!!

There have been cases of twins who have defied medical logic – has anyone heard of a twin wincing with pain when his other half is getting beaten up somewhere else? Well, in our films, such actions are not uncommon – ‘Judwaa’ with Solomon Khan.

What prompts actors and actresses to opt for such roles?

A reason could be that, getting typecast in a particular groove they seek an outlet for their pent up energies, they wait for an opportunity to break free of the shackles, they want to experiment and try out something different. Relieve the monotony. Probably, that is a reason for an actor like Sanjeev Kumar performing in as many as nine different roles in one of his films – it gave a chance to the make-up boys also to try out their hands on handling exotic disguises.
Then we have had films when an actor intentionally takes up the part of a ‘supposed twin’ – Amitabh Bachhan did it in ‘Don’, Amol Palekar did it in ‘Gol Maal’. The script demanded it – hence, the audiences loved it.

Real life twins should have taken objection to such illogical portrayals – but, then, probably real life twins love such depictions. Who knows?

other interesting links:

sexy getaway
peekaboo
rape of a beauty
seductresses
sane sex
flying skirts
perfect murders

Monday, December 20, 2004

worshipping beauty

The female body is certainly an attractive one. Thanks to the innumerable TV channels, we cannot avoid seeing the fairer of our species involved in games of beach volleyball or in sports events like gymnastics and swimming. We are also treated to visuals of tennis players who have no compunction in showing off their assets.

This is one segment of woman power.

Another more down-to-earth segment of woman power is that wielded by the maa-beti relationships. In India, this flourishes mostly in the cine world.

Suchitra Sen had her Moon Moon, who in turn inducted Raima. Similarly, Aparna Sen paved the way for Konkana. Durga Khote and her daughter Shubha were glittering heroines of the cinema – both Marathi and Hindi. They even acted in a film together – Ardhangini in 1959! Probably a record of sorts. Shobhana Samarth ruled for quite a while with her daughters Nutan and Tanuja – the latter ultimately giving the nod to Kajol, who brought a new breath of fresh air onto the silver screen. Babita’s legacy to the filmdom are Karishma and Kareena while Hema Malini and Dimple Khanna encouraged Esha Deol and Twinkle to join the brigade of daughters following in the footsteps of their mothers.

It is interesting to observe that these daughters did not have to resort to gimmicks of exhibitionism to win over the hearts of those who matter.

Being born into a world of fantasies, they grew up in totally different environments – hence, their entries were on soft feet, without much fanfare. They knew that they had it in them; they had seen their mothers perform. The mothers exerted positive influences that added wind to the sails of their daughters. Whilst some of these daughters made it big, others wait in the sidelines.

In this context, it would not be out of place to mention that the vulgarity that we are exposed to via the electronic and print media is the creation of those who are trying to find toeholds in a highly competitive field. Winner takes it all and, in order to be a winner rather than an also-ran, the hopefuls do not want to leave any stone unturned. As a result, we come across crispy gossips and near erotic music videos. All is fair in love and war – while there is no love lost between the hopefuls, this is certainly a war: the war of supremacy.

A popular saying goes – ‘baap ka beta, sipahi ka ghoda / kuch nehi toh thoda thoda’. Someone should coin an appropriate set of words to describe the relationship between the mother and the daughter.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

the turning point

The exact point of time when teen-age love stories hit the Indian screen is difficult to determine but, if one says that it all started with ‘Bobby’, one may not be too far away from the truth.
The greatest entertainer of them all, Raj Kapoor had a number of firsts to his credit – including heroines in ‘wet’ scenes (Sangam and Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram). But ‘Bobby’ was certainly a path breaker – it was all about teen age love that did not have the sanction of the appropriate authorities, meaning the families. What eventually followed is something we read about practically everyday in the news papers – some even make it to the TV networks. The endings are seldom happy. When the children elope, the Police swing into action, make life miserable for their friends and close relatives and ultimately haul them up to court. While the girl is normally send to some home, the boy faces the law.

Happy endings are rare.

When such stories are translated into movies today, we are entertained by ‘youngsters’ who have just crossed the portals of schools and have joined college. Since in India, schooling ends by the time one is sixteen, these go-happy youngsters are obviously teen-agers. The boys meet at the gate; none of them appear to be carrying books! Their dresses and antics do not give any indication that they are in a college for studies. When the girls come on the scene, they play the fool with one another to impress the girls. Then there are those song and dance routines. Revealing dresses and provocative gestures garnish the song sequences – apart from titillating the basic senses, they appear to serve no tangible purpose. There are stock dialogues for these occasions and the group of ‘students’ automatically fall into line of the ‘leaders’ – the hero for the boys and the heroine for the girls. Invariably, a pair of the students plays the role of jokers. Here also, the role-players have mastered the art of boring the audience with their antics and stale dialogues.

As these ‘love’ stories progress, the villains make their entries.

These characters are usually the spoilt brats of hi-fi personalities like Ministers and Police Chiefs. Their villainy is depicted via scenes of unclothing some near and dear ones of the hero. What follows are marathon running, long chases and fights. Here, it must be said that our fight masters deserve credit for dreaming up sequences in which the hero is able to withstand inhuman bashing and, lift the villain and smash him several times on the floor. When the villain becomes limp, the hero still has sufficient strength left to hoist the heroine on his strong shoulders and walk away into the sunset.

It is a sad state of affairs when thirty plus heroes agree to don the mantle of teenagers. The message that goes out to the world at large about the Indian student community is certainly not worthy of emulation. In fact, they give rise to juvenile crimes.

There was that beautiful movie on teen age love called ‘Summer Holiday’ where Elvis Presley was the hero. He was a singer and, as a backdrop of his hit numbers, there was a double-decker bus in which a group of students were going on vacation. An acceptable situation – unlike the ones we see in our Indian versions. Similarly, there was that famous ‘Come September’ where the duo Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin gave wonderful and realistic performances as teen-agers and Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the more mature pair.

Bobby was certainly a turning point for Indian cinema.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

flights of fantasy

It was painful to read a recent news report on the sorry state of our flying clubs.
Being one of the aeronautical fraternity, it was saddening to learn that the Delhi Flying club has to rent out its premises for marriages and other such functions to arrange for finances to ensure meeting the barest minimum of expenses. It was even more depressing to know that the Bombay flying club, from where the father of Indian Aviation J R D Tata got his flying license and which trained RAF pilots in 1929 is heading for obscurity. On the plus side, it seems that young professionals (especially from the IT industry) are signing up for flying courses. Even though the rates have skyrocketed nearly 20 times in the last decade, these youngsters are willing to loosen their purses provided the flying clubs extend the necessary guidance. It is learnt that flying is emerging as a good outdoor activity for people who have sedentary life styles.
I go back to the late sixties when the Bengal flying club in Behala boasted of providing training to would-be fliers from the civil life as well as the NCC air wing. It had a couple of Tiger moths at its disposal and, while the trainee ground crew learnt about aeroplanes and its engines and instruments, the would-be fliers tried to master the art of flying along with their Instructors. It may be noted that the Tiger Moth was a biplane with wood and fabric construction!! Many of today’s Pilots who fly the Airbus-300 were trained by some flying club or another.
It is agreed that students who pass out from flying clubs today would have to learn many new things since the existing flying clubs are not equipped to provide the latest state-of-the-art modules. Aviation has undergone tremendous changes over the past fifty years or so. Every airline has to retrain their pilots. Still, the basics of maneuvers, take off, landing, banking, diving, and roll etcetera remain. First hand experiences of being actually airborne will certainly help individuals who possess flying club experience.
Of course, such a state of affairs could be set right if those in power agreed to extend necessary assistance either in the form of money or subsidies. Probably we would need an aviator in one of the key ministries to pull the correct strings!


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

travails of rail travel

TRAVAILS OF RAIL TRAVEL
Ever since the beginning of civilization, travel has been in the forefront of all human activities. In prehistoric days, ones pair of feet was considered to be adequate. Then, some bright individual invented the wheel. This was followed by various combinations of the wheel – the human powered bicycle, the human pulled rickshaws, the horse drawn carriages, in India there were bullock carts. One day, these surrendered to the automobile, the train, the aero plane and, if everything goes according to plans, soon we may be teleporting ourselves from one location to another as in Star Wars.
Side by side, we had the harnessing of wind power to let sail boats convey us via the water route. George Stephenson invented the steam engine and gave an impetus to faster modes of travel – both over land and by water. How the early American settlers fought to lay the rail roads has become history – a basic theme for all those Westerns that used to be a rage when Jackie Chan, Nicholas Cage and Albert Schwarzenegger were unheard of. Rail travel, became a luxury with the advent of the Trans Siberian Railway – which was the backdrop of a favorite Agatha Christie whodunit. In India, we introduced various luxury trains to be paid for in dollars with an intention to woo the foreign tourists. Running on specific routes between New Delhi and Jodhpur, they have a fixed itinerary. Every year, Rail budgets are drawn up to bridge innumerable types of gaps – most important one being between earnings and expenditures. Since rail travel is an extremely popular means of transportation for both people and luggage, sufficient care has to be taken to ensure that the Government of the day remains popular. As result, certain concessions have to be made ……
But, when a train fails to reach its destination, eyebrows are raised. Questions are asked. The electronic media move their OBVs into position to give a first hand view of maligned carriages, of covered stretchers, of wailing relatives, of shocked survivors. A string of help lines are announced followed by ex gratia payments, visits of dignitaries of the Railway board along with the concerned Minister followed by his retinue of dedicated followers. Statistics are put forth to justify that the percentage of such happenings are not as bad as in some other countries. And – at the end of it all, an enquiry committee is set up with directions to submit a report within fifteen days.
Whether the calamity was as a result of sabotage or negligence or an accident that was waiting to happen remain answered. Everyone plays out the role assigned to him to perfection. It is really strange that, when other countries boast of running trains at more than double our speeds with hardly any accidents, we are never able to take actions that need to be taken to avoid accidents.
We love to shed crocodile tears.
Accountability is totally absent in all our dealings. We conveniently forget that we would not have any ready answers when we face our ultimate destination.


Monday, December 13, 2004

wake up call

Children control the purse strings of parents. Therefore, it is but natural that, while working out strategies to make parents part with their rupees, the ad agencies rely on child artists to influence their parents’ decisions.

Today’s children are depicted as arrogant specimens – for example in the ‘shudh namak kya hota hai malum nehi?’ and the famous ‘toss-ka-boss’ kid who yells and shouts at seniors just to get his way. The other extreme is to depict them as angels – remember the kid who wanted to leave home and even went up to the railway station. Ultimately, his grandfather coaxes him back with the promise of ‘jilebis’?

Most of the products advertised on the small screen pertain to washing powders, detergents, sanitary napkins and soaps apart from cold drinks. Apparently, ours is a country where untidy men, women and children come home to roost. Dandruff is a national phenomenon. Our women do not know how to take care of their hair. Our floors do not measure up to the expectations of the medics.

Children are roped in by the dozens to showcase these products and justify changeovers. The ad agencies cannot be blamed because they are there to sell coals to Jharia and Raniganj.
In the recent past, cold drinks have suffered some sorts of set backs – but that is another matter. Of course, surrogate advertisements of hard drinks still continue – like the hypnotizing music of a hundred pipers that tames the furious demon of the waters.

An area gaining notoriety is the undergarment section – the age old ‘yeh andar ki baat hai’ is losing ground to undergarments hanging on clothes lines and coming closer and closer … what all ideas they can think up!!

Another popular segment is the automobile and accessories segment – here also, kids are extensively used to endorse the coziness of seats or the advantages of owning a particular brand of car or installing certain specific makes of tyres and batteries and how financers are waiting in the wings to ensure doorstep deliveries at the flourish of the pen.

The markets offered by India are huge and one of the most lucrative to Multi Nationals who are making a bee line for our shores with attractions of all shapes and sizes – ad agencies are here to ensure that these MNCs get their dollars worth. In the bargain, a large section of our population keeps sighing and hope to entice Lady Luck by resorting to lotteries. Some expect to turn their fortunes by sneaking into the race courses on Saturdays. And – a few take to illegal means to fulfill their desires.

None of these are good signs. The wake up call has been given.


Friday, December 10, 2004

character building exercises

A favorite saying goes – ‘health lost is nothing lost, money lost is something lost, and character lost is everything lost’. Management principles exhort us to give praise where due – praise in Public, criticize in private, they suggest. Never condemn a person unless he fails at something he likes.

Golden words which we all should follow but seldom do.

Building the character of a child rests both on the parents and the teacher. Character is not just about good manners in front of elders but also about the ability to rise above the ordinary when the situation demands. For obvious reasons, bookish knowledge is one aspect of education where the stress is presently being given but, for a child to develop into a complete individual, it is necessary that he is left to fend for himself once in a while. If someone else fights his battles for him, he will grow up to be an individual who will always be dependant on others and be at the receiving end.

There was a time when, in Germany, after finishing school, everyone had to either join the military services or go on a World tour – this was in the fifties. I am not aware whether such a system still exists. The intention of the Policy makers was quite clear – participation in the country’s defense services teaches the individual to develop his own personality – just as traveling around the Globe does. In both cases, one has to learn to defend for himself, to accept defeat gloriously. Such activities ultimately help in boosting his confidence level.

In our country, NCC was started with similar intentions.

Unfortunately, children hesitate to join the NCC – it has not been able to win over the support of the masses. NCC, today, is supposed to be a stepping stone to employment opportunities in the various branches of the defense, police and para-military services for students with less than average intelligence!! Every year during the Republic day celebrations, cadets of the NCC participate in the march past in New Delhi. Some of the lucky few earn medals; the more adventurous ones among the cadets go for aero modeling, excursions or local outings. Based on their performances, very few of them can boast of having put their knowledge to good use – either in the defense forces or the Police force or other para-military forces.

Building ones character is basically by participation in group activities – most important one being problem solving. It is a sad state of affairs that, due to the vast curriculum prescribed by the Education Boards, children do not have any energy left to involve in activities that help them to build their character. This is probably why they search for the easy way out of difficult situations.

Yes – the easiest way out of difficult situations is to exhibit the Power of money. They have learnt that Money alone can work wonders. Our children, today, are growing up with this idea firmly implanted in their minds. A dangerous state of affairs that needs to be corrected immediately.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

doctors in demand

The term Doctor brings up visions of Dr. Zivago, Dr. No and Dr. Dolittle –
Jokes apart - medicine is supposed to be one of the noblest of professions. Ever since one can remember, a Doctor was expected to be very much more knowledgeable than any commoner – yes, even an Engineer. Everyone held a Doctor in high esteem and young eligible bachelor Doctors were what young ladies’ dreams were made of. A Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP, for short) was authorized to issue Certificates of illness which were acceptable as substantial proof that the concerned patient did deserve to stay away from work – of course, his absence would be regularized against available leaves.

With the passage of time, the medical profession like any other profession has undergone immense changes. An MBBS of old was able to sit in judgment on any disease. In case he was unable to come to any conclusion or if the symptoms were new, he would obtain advice from his Seniors. The patient would remain his own primary responsibility. The family of the patient would have complete faith in him and would not hesitate to cater to his slightest requirements. Naturally, a bond was created between the two – which sometimes lasted for generations.
The total scenario has transformed – today each and every limb has a specialist. Right from the nose, ears, eyes, teeth – the list is an extremely long one. To cap it all, one part of the dental profession deals in teeth while another looks after the dentures. Similarly, the eye specialist will only check your sight and recommend glasses – for getting these you have to go to a different counter. Increasing the available options has its advantages – the most important among them being expansion of business horizons! As a result, we come across the Doctor being a dentist while his doctor wife runs a shop for selling spectacles and contact lens and his son dispenses medicines. It is agreed that over the years, the medical profession has not stayed stationary: advancements in the field have been introduced in investigation and treatment of diseases. It is but natural that specialists be involved where necessary. Due to this, nursing homes have mushroomed for those who can afford the expenses – for others Government Hospitals are a means to the end.

In this context, a recent news item revealed that ‘Doctors are now making a bee line for BPO jobs’. Apparently, these are better paymasters and, those involved in such activities, earn while they learn. Beginners with MBBS degrees are paid Rs 16,000 per month and those with MD degrees can command up to Rs 20,000 per month. In comparison, at a Government college, a tutor is paid Rs 10,000 which increases to Rs 12,000 for an Assistant Professor and goes up to Rs 26,000 for a dean and Rs 28,000 for a Principal! Little wonder then that cases of impersonation in medical examinations a-la Munnabhai MBBS are on the increase. After all, Engineers do not get chances to adorn BPO chairs.

All said and done, the fact remains that soon a day may come when the thirty two teeth will be broken down into two segments. We would then have specialists for the upper sixteen and the lower sixteen. Then we can have still more specialization.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

erosion of values

I normally dispose off my old newspapers once in six months.
As I was arranging the old issues for the next sale, I chanced to come across various tiny incidents reported from different parts of the country pertaining to the erosion of our basic values. We remain mute spectators to growing atrocities on women. The culprits can be easily identified and booked but the clout they carry based on the patronage extended to them from the seats of power makes any action against them practically impossible. We can only read about them and sympathize with the victims ….
2/8/2004 – Some lumpen elements misbehaved with NCC girl cadets … thanks to some brave boy cadets, the villains fled … they were returning from a training session when the ruffians entered the train compartment and started annoying the girls …
6/8/2004 – in two hamlets of Dharwar district, the men have to arrange for a dowry if they want a bride … more the offer, the better will be the life partner they will get … wedding bells had almost remained for the last three years because of successive years of draught …
24/8/2004 – Bar girls have to support large families while others have to finance their studies … these are revelations during a protest of bar girls in the Azad Maidan … some of them are housewives and do it out of economic compulsion … bar owners reportedly allow the bar girls to take home whatever tips they earn ….
25/8/2004 – a man was hacked to death by his wife … the man was an auto driver and the murder was over spending too much money on himself …
27/8/2004 – Delhi is fast turning into the sleaze capital of India … call girls and pimps are making their presence felt everywhere … the profile of the accused seems to have undergone a sea change … more and more middle and upper middle class women are becoming involved …
2/9/2004 – in a shocking incident, a rape victim has accused a woman sub-inspector of forcing her to drop the rape case against three persons in lieu of Rs 5 lakh in cash … a fashion designer by profession, the victim was gang raped by the men at a farm house …
3/9/2004 – College girls were punished by their college for wearing mehndi and coming to college … they were asked to run a lap around the college compound and write ‘I will not wear mehndi to school again’ fifty times …
10/9/2004 – Out of 900 life term convicts in the Central prison of Coimbatore, as many as 500 have committed uxoricide – unbelievable but true …. Ninety percent of these wife killers are in their late sixties … most of them got married first, second or third time after crossing 55 … most of the wives axed down were in the 18 to 22 age group … they were intolerant husbands who wouldn’t allow their wives to talk to neighborhood youngsters lest they should elope …
17/9/2004 – a national level boxer has been forced to dump her gloves and take up selling country liquor … daily she manages to sell handia worth Rs 60 to 80 which leaves her a profit of around Rs 30.00 … somehow, she survives …
21/9/2004 –An alleged case of eve-teasing claimed the life of a 25 year old woman … she fell from her scooter when she tried to escape as she was being chased by four youths in a car …
14/10/2004 – A Class-I Gazetted Officer married an eligible US based bachelor and woke up with a nightmare … her husband snatched away her money and assaulted her … instances of domestic violence against women married to NRIs are on the rise… it doesn’t matter whether the women are from progressive families or from lower middle class ones, domestic violence is all pervasive … in Delhi, the figure for physically abused married women above 15 stood at 14.1% second only to J&K.
11/11/2004 – a 22 year old social activist was molested and thrown from a running train … her attempts to register a Police complaint were humiliating … this was the second case within ten days … earlier a teenager traveling with her siblings was molested and similarly thrown out by a group of young wrestlers …


Monday, December 06, 2004

the seven wonders

The basic list of the Seven Wonders of the World was drawn up in 140 BC by a Greek writer and poet Antipator of Sidon.
It has now been reported that out of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the pyramid of Giza remain. Gone are the hanging gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Hence, a Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber is having a go at defining a new set of ‘seven wonders’ that may see us through for the next 2000 odd years.
What should find mention in this new list?
Yes, some of the wonders proposed for inclusion are undisputed like the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower of Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and our very own Taj Mahal. But then, if the Red Square of Kremlin is to be included, the Tinneman Square of Beijing and the Hyde Park of London should also feature in the proposed list. Holy places could also be included like the richest temple at Tirupathi or the Golden Temple of Amritsar. Similarly, the Golden gate bridge of San Francisco and the longest railway platform at Kharagpur should be contenders. Like the ‘Chunnel’ – the underwater railway link for crossing the English Channel. It is an engineering marvel. It is 32 miles long and runs approximately 500 feet below the sea bad. Inaugurated in 1994, it has ferried more than 15 million people till date. The normal journey over land between London and Brussels takes the better part of a day whereas the ‘Chunnel’ completes the journey in just 2 hours and 40 minutes – out of which it travels under water for only 35 minutes.
These are all permanent structures and should hold for another 2000 years.
The Trans Siberian Railway from China through Mongolia and Siberia and on to Europe certainly deserves a mention. Of course, if the wonders pertain to only static wonders then this is ruled out.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

the bold brave women if india

India is a country of many religions but the women of India have etched a name for themselves in whatever field they have been involved in. Yes, India is the country where a custom called suttee prevailed. It used to be performed in which the widow would mount the funeral pyre of her dead husband and be swallowed by the flames. Even today, widows are forbidden from participating in many religious functions but, simultaneously, widow remarriages are also taking place.
The Rani of Jhansi is one of the greatest reminder of the courage our women possess and how they handle situations – that is the reason why Netaji Subhas Bose had a Jhansi bahini in his Indian National Army – they fought shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts for the freedom of our beloved country. Like Matangini Hazra, the woman who used a dummy male model made of hay to teach her dog to jump at a man’s throat – ultimate objective to take revenge on the British rulers.
There were other equally renowned names – right from Vijay Laxmi Pandit, Sarojini Naidoo, Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa to the present day group of personalities like Sonia Gandhi, Renuka Choudhury, Sushama Swaraj, Uma Bharati, Mayavati, Jayalalita, Mamata Banerji, Vijay Raje Scindia etc.. We even had Phoolan Devi, a reformed dacoit of Chambal, who was a legend in her lifetime, P. T. Usha, the sprinter, who created history of sorts in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (she missed the bronze by 1/100th second – however, she has to her credit 13 Golds in Asian Games apart from 1 Gold ans 2 Silver in the SAF games of 1999)and Lata Mangeshkar whose golden voice has mesmerized generation after generation for more than fifty years. And then there are women like Kiran Bedi, the IPS Officer who earned the nickname of ‘Crane’ Bedi for obvious reasons, Durba Banerji, the first woman civilian pilot of Indian Airlines and Air Vice Marshal Padma Bandopadhaya who is set to become the first sari clad Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force – after Lt General Punita Arora became the first woman to don three stars in the Indian Army.
Each of them is gifted with certain characteristics that make her stand out……..
However, side by side there are others who have created impression of sorts in some way or another. Examples follow –
The group of women who lynched a criminal in Nagpur – ‘instead of dying everyday fearing him, we would finish him’, said a social worker living in the region. In a second incident, village women incited the residents to lynch two extortionists who were troubling the whole village. Then there was that girl Nisha Sharma who refused to marry the boy because of dowry – a Google search revealed a count of 3680 for ‘Indian girl who refused to marry due to dowry’! In this context, the incident of an IAS Officer’s case getting hauled up for battering his wife is still fresh in our memory.
No matter what others may say, the women of India make us proud.


Friday, December 03, 2004

laying the foundation

The child is the father of the man, so the saying goes. Just like another very appropriate one related to education – as you sow so you reap.

It is difficult for youngsters of today to visualize education sans private tutors. But, it was not so in the fifties when I used to go to school. In those days, one of the best educations used to be imparted in schools set up by the Christian missionaries. Co-educational schools were not heard of – but, nearby the boys school there usually used to be a girl’s school also keeping in view the fact that parents would prefer their wards both male and female to be able to travel to school together.

The dedication and sincerity of the school teachers can be understood by the two examples that I will now narrate…

It was 1957 – our class teacher was Rev. Br. Kelly. Our school followed a five day week. But, Rev. Br. Kelly had joined late and the class was lagging behind in some subjects. (In those days, there was one teacher for all subjects except the local languages like Hindi and Bengali.) He had to make good this deficiency and, he just could not bend the rules and request the Principal to ask the students to come to school on Saturdays. Therefore, he worked out a wonderful strategy – he declared that on Saturdays, he would be teaching how to fly model aeroplanes. The first Saturday, only two students turned up – they stayed near the school. Rev. Br. Kelly demonstrated to them how to start up the engine by revolving the propeller repeatedly with the right forefinger! During the week, the word spread and by next Saturday there were some more students in attendance. By the end of the month, the full class was present. It was then that Rev. Br. Kelly played the master stroke – he declared that first you must do some refreshing up of your studies and then I will show you all the intricacies of aero-modeling.

In 1958 our class teacher was Rev. Br. Shannon. He landed in our school with a not too good reputation – apparently, he had a terrible temper. As class teacher in Darjeeling, he had thrown the duster at a student knocking off his front teeth. Hence, his transfer to our school! I still do not know whether this was true or not but I do know that he was a dear. Since we were preparing for the Senior Cambridge examinations he expected that our basics to be sound. Therefore, when he entered the class on a Monday carrying with him thirty odd exercise books in which we had done an essay the previous Friday, no one imagined what was in store for us.
Coolly, he sat on the first bench facing the class and called out the name of one of the students. The student stood up. Then Rev. Br. Shannon opened the exercise book and displayed it to the whole class – it was scribbled with red lines all over the page. After that he proceeded to explain to everyone why each red mark appeared, what were the grammatical errors, spelling mistakes etc.. He continued the same exercise with each of the thirty odd books. His analysis left every one speechless. Within one month, we were ourselves surprised to discover that the red marks had reduced considerably, in some cases vanished altogether.

I do not know where Rev. Br. Kelly or Rev. Br. Shannon is today. But, the advice of our Principal Rev. Br. P. C. Hart still rings in my ears – ‘what is worth doing is worth doing well.’

Yes, that was what education was all about in our childhood. Laying a good and stable foundation that will pay dividends in the long run.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

anything can happen

When I was young, my father used to say that ‘impossible’ is a word found in the dictionary of fools.
As I became older and felt my wisdom teeth growing and growing, I realized that my father was so very right. Today, thanks to the enormous advancements in Sciences and to innovativeness that one can perceive all around, it has to be admitted that anything is possible – kuch bhi ho sakta hai! At the click of a button, you can travel thousands of miles. By deft manipulation of the mouse, you can interchange the face your favorite film actress with that of a porn movie actress. Uncouth videos sent by school children thro SMS have parents shouting blue murder little realizing that they themselves are to blame. Such ‘toys’ should not be given to kids in the first place. Open the newspaper and news of all sorts stare back at you and make you wonder - can such incidents really occur? But, then, who are we to judge? The news of ‘the man bit the dog’ category are splashed all over the pages and their authenticity can be established if one so desires!
That is why we are not surprised by the news of a five year old boy losing his life for the sake of Rs 15.00 only or of a holy man being held in custody for murder.
Ours is probably the only country in the world where commuters are thrown out of running trains and no eyebrows are raised. Rail accidents are a regular feature in our country and, such accidents are always justified by drawing parallels from accident rates in other countries. The Minister-in-charge visits the accident site wearing a grim expression and announces some level of financial relief and returns to the cozy drawing room.
We do not condemn people with dubious past who patronize the various Political parties and get elected to Parliament to sit in judgment on cases involving innocent lives. The saddest part is that they define the norms of Society.
I do not know about other countries but, in our country, entertainment extravaganzas are all linked to finance being made available by those who are much sought after by the law and should, rightfully, be behind bars.
Ours is a country where the dictates of the Honorable Courts are not implemented – when the Court says ‘no chakka jam for half hour’ , the organizers of the special effects come forth and say that they have not received the relevant communication!
Our Politicians change their party affiliations faster than a chameleon can change its colors. And, at all times, they have some excuse or another to put forward to their electorate. They conveniently forget the famous saying – ‘you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time’.
India is a country where wonders will never cease.