destination india

Thursday, July 28, 2005

flights of fantasy

Once upon a time it was mandatory to show a capsule of news titled ‘Indian News Review’ before the start of the actual movie as it was mandatory for the National anthem to be played at the end of the movie. All exit points of the cinema hall were kept closed till the end of the song. I have not entered a cinema hall for a very long time and am not aware of changes, if any, to these norms. Actually, I have digressed. I wanted to talk on the news capsule. We used to see ministers sitting comfortably in helicopters as they surveyed flood affected areas, once in a while the visuals would capture tiny dots on the ground huddled together on a comparatively dry portion and running after dropped food packets. There were no running commentaries, we saw what the minister saw and drew our own conclusions, we clucked, sighed, felt badly about how the vagaries of nature bring untold miseries to the commoner. Then we forgot the whole affair, as the minister also did – to him it was a part of his duty, to us it was compulsion. Finally, we concentrated on our dream heroes and heroines swooning in each others arms and going round trees and shrubs and birds bringing their beaks close enough and even touching them to emulate the forbidden kiss.

The situation has undergone immense changes – today, we have young and attractive experts who explain every aspect of what we see on our individual screens. The days of one screen and hundreds of viewers is history. The live coverage of the floods in Mumbai is a good enough example – viewers were taken all around the metropolis and surrounding areas giving close ups of stranded people, of people wading through knee deep waters, of a commuter sleeping leaning on a lamp post, of children running to collect food packets dropped from the air. In comparison to the dots of the fifties and sixties, we can see them more clearly today, thanks to technology.

Next comes the flying visits by ministers and dignitaries. They have to physically see the scenes to be convinced that a calamity has indeed occurred and that assistance has to be rendered. The local ministers have the first dekko along with their bureaucratic advisors and, in the flight of fantasy itself, they chalk out a tentative financial package ensuring that no one is denied his dues. Then a central minister descends from New Delhi, he also has a look-see, listens to what the local administration wants and then, depending on whether the party in power in both the centre and the state are of the same fraternity, gets the financial sanction.

What happens when the funds are actually received and whether any of it reaches those who are affected are questions that are never answered. But, the charade continues.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

the common factor

What do Sania Mirza, Narain Karthikeyan, Vishwanathan Anand, Major Rajyavardhan Rathore and Anju Bobby George have in common? They are all loners – they have only themselves to blame if they lose out in their competitions. Sania has to master the art of playing on clay, grass and hard courts. Narain has to tackle the vicious curves and hairpin bends at breakneck speeds. Vishwanathan has to anticipate several thousand moves of his opponent. Captain Rathore has to hit the bull’s eye every time he pulls the trigger and Bobby George has to scale newer heights to stake claim to the honors. They know that, when they do not deliver, they cannot pass the buck. Sportspersons, like them, have to finance their own careers – sponsors, if any, lend helping hands but are not the reason for them to play. When they win, they bring glory to not only their near and dear ones and family members but also to the country. The financial incentives are add-ons – eagerly accepted but not the main reason to perform.

On the other hand we have our team games – we brought home eight Olympic Golds in Hockey (six consecutive years from 1928 to 1956 and then in Tokyo 1964 and Moscow 1980) way back in the fifties. We also lifted the World Cup for cricket in 1983 once and reached the finals of WC and other important tournaments more than once. Our fans went delirious with joy but we upheld the tradition of losing out at the final post. All that is now history, we cannot rest on those laurels for ever. Failure brings with it criticism. We are told that we lack the killer instinct; we are told that we lose out invariably in the game of nerves, exactly when one has to keep his head we lose ours and gift away matches without any sign of resistance. When netting penalty corners, we always net one less than required and surrender tamely. Our body language tells it all.

The only game where we thump our chests gleefully even in defeat is in the game of politics because this is possibly a game where one never loses – those in power retain power and rejoice in lining their nests for posterity. Those who lose out bargain for more and more perks to ensure that those in power remain in power and continue to dispense goodies under the table. Another term for this typical Indian largesse is horse trading.

our wonder kids

The news of a nine year old kid Mridul getting acceptance as the youngest software engineer in the World makes us feel proud as a Nation.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1179306.cms

Simultaneously, we are shocked at the news of an 11-year old boy in far off Kent who was arrested by the police because he had a toy gun that resembled a real one. It seems he pointed the gun at a fellow student during lunch recess and demanded – ‘hand over the money.’

These are the wonder kids of today. They are wonder kids because they are one of the strongest mediums to carry home any message whether it is of detergents or toothpaste or undergarments. Rope in the kids (they don’t demand much), make them mouth those catchy phrases and the item invariably pops up in your shopping list. Kids have influenced the purchase decisions of families since long, probably one of the first was the ad of the kid who runs away from home and is located by his grandfather who brings him back with the inducement of ‘garam garam jilebi.’ Then there is the ad ‘yeh andar ki baat hai’ (pertaining to under garments). One of the recent ones shows a kid holding on to the overhead rod in as the school bus and letting his body hang on the grip. His friend comments – ‘you can’t become tall in this way’, and then suggests that he tell his mother to switch his brand of drink – ‘mummy ko bolo Complan deney key liye’ (tell your mummy to give you Complan). This is followed by ads that teach the girls in pre-secondary classes to cultivate the habit of using shampoo daily and specially designed body soaps in attractive shapes to entice the kids to bathe. The one by the kid who has come for admission in school and keeps on asking ‘ab puchiye na kya pooochna hai’ (why don’t you ask me what you want to ask?) is a gem, especially the innocence on his face. He is the brand ambassador for the advanced white version of RIN, one of the detergent powders. Alongside, we have another pair of kids who imitate a live interview session and say – ‘mere mummy super mummy, mere mummy key paas hai super white NIRMA’ (my mummy is super mummy, my mummy has super white NIRMA). Also in the league is the ad of Britannia TIGER biscuits where both the mother and the son prance like tigers and proclaim - ‘swasth khao, tiger ban jao’(eat health and become a tiger).

And, to cap it all, we have parents who gift computers to their children on their birthdays. A father even goes to the extent of meeting one of the Gods and requesting him for something that will make his son shine in his studies. The God suggests computers on EMI of Rs 499.00. The computers come at concessional installment plans and are offered by leading brands.

Kids of today are on the move and make the world move with them – no kidding, this is no kid stuff.

Monday, July 25, 2005

innocents beware

Trigger happy keepers of the law are on the prowl; they mistake the innocents for hardened criminals and, with shoot to kill orders readily available, they love the practice sessions and gun down whosoever they take a fancy to.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1181167.cms

When an ambush is planned to trap hardcore criminals, the concerned personnel must necessarily ensure that others stay away from the booby traps or whatever else they may have planted to snare their prey. Unfortunately, our jawans fire first and ask questions later. It seems to be a tradition of sorts. Probably they have a secret grading system where the number of notches on the barrel of the gun determines the efficiency of the individual and paves the way for his promotion and other perquisites. It may be possible that such persons finally land up getting photographed with bodies smeared with ketch-up and claim credit for exterminating terrorists and insurgents.

Our very own Bollywood churns out make believe movies where the wronged ones take the law into their own hands to set things right. They all have sad backgrounds and have similar tales to tell, the inevitable cruel landlord and the simple employee, his unwillingness to listen to the dictates of the master, followed by imprisonment on trumped up charges, then the release after serving the prison sentence, and search for the villain with the aim ‘to avenge’. He becomes a law unto himself. He shoots at will, gets plummeted and returns the favor ten times over until, at the last scene, he languishes at the feet of the woman he had wronged. Locations change as do the hero and heroines but the message remains the same – getting hold of a gun is child’s play, anyone can get it, hold it, use it to kill. Strange that in spite of such easy access, we have only a handful of people who can really shoot.

We excel in shooting off our mouth; we can’t shoot from the hips!

Thanks to TV coverage of live incidents via the OBVs and satellites, the world at large sees militants in action with the anti-terrorist squads trying to snuff them out. With sophisticated equipments at our disposal, it would be worthwhile to scour the countryside before embarking on missions of eliminating unwanted elements in civilian areas where chances are there that innocents might stray on to the restricted areas, especially at night and become victims of mistaken identities.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

into the jaws of death

When we hear of encounter deaths and deaths perpetrated by upholders of the law we find it difficult to come to terms with reality.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1180843.cms

How fragile is our safety? If the goons don’t get us, someone else will. I refer to the gruesome incident in London’s tube rail where as many as five bullets are pumped by the police into the body of an innocent person, on the mere suspicion that he is not what he looks like.

It is an accepted fact of life that man is not immortal, life carries with it the tag of death. They are inseparable, he who lives must die. All of us desire normal deaths which creep slowly upon us as we shed one year after another. With the passage of time, our faculties keep surrendering one by one to the inevitable, they gradually lose their effectiveness, they start to malfunction and members of the medical fraternity rub their hands in glee and pounce on us to extract as much as possible from him who is on the last lap of his journey on the road to meet his Maker.

These are deaths one expects, the aged and the infirm have to make way for the young. Once such a death occurs, the members of the immediate family go into mourning, they perform the necessary rituals and life goes on – the death causes minor, practically unnoticeable, ripples.

But when the departure is sudden, everyone is caught unawares. It becomes difficult to console those who are affected; the reason may be an accident, or a disease. At times, the person who dies takes it upon himself to leave this world on his own. Because he is unable to bear the torture that nature heaps upon them, he takes the easy way out. He is selfish; he does not bother about how those he leaves behind and how they will continue in his absence. It is true as much for a teenager as for one who is older.

And, the worst is when death is a result of snuffing out a life intentionally – on one side of this coin is an act that has the sanction of Society, the other side where there is no such sanction. Those who are responsible for the former are usually personnel of the armed forces and those who are entrusted with maintaining the law and order situation viz. the police and paramilitary forces. Those who make the latter happen are murderers.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

kolkata dreams

There has been a number of news on various attractive features of Kolkata and West Bengal, some are already in existence, others are on the anvil and will be thrown open to the public shortly. The latest one is about a Rs 380-crore food processing project with French collaboration to soon come up at Jangipur, about 250 km from Calcutta.

www.telegraphindia.com/1050717/asp/bengal/story_5000469.asp

The bridge to link the Eliot Park of the Maidan with the Citizen’s park is another venture. It envisages an escalator for ease of movement. The Eliot Park is built jointly by the Tata Group and the Calcutta police, was inaugurated on 22/11/2004 and charges a nominal entry fee of Rs 3.00. The total area covered is around 25 acres and it has a jogging track, artificial waterfalls, and fountain. Exotic varieties of cactus and other flowers add charm to it. The Citizen’s park was inaugurated on the5/5/2005. At present, entry to this park is free. In the evenings there is a tremendous rush for the Light and Sound programs, with dancing fountains whose water rises up to a height of nearly fifty feet. Here also, there is a large amount of greenery, laying a grass strip of Mexican grass is soon planned. The proposal is to have a combined entry fee structure for availing the facilities of both the parks, hence a bridge.

Yet one more park that is coming up fast is the Peace Park – it is adjacent to the Victoria Memorial. This is being constructed jointly by the Hoogly River Bridge Commissioners and Larsen & Toubro. This occupies an area of more than three acres and will have a large fountain of diameter twenty meters.
Next attraction for Kolkata is the solar powered housing scheme that will come up in New Town, the latest township in Rajarhat. The first phase of 24 such houses in the Integrated Solar Housing Complex will start shortly in the Action Area –I. The houses will have area of 1600 square feet each and are expected to be ready for possession by December 2006. Each house will be provided with rooftop solar panels that can generate up to two kilowatts of electricity. Air conditioned bus service is also being started from New Town, Rajarhat, to Dharmatolla, the heart of Kolkata. This will presently be operated by the State Road Transport Corporation on an experimental venture and ticket rates are tentatively fixed at Rs 12.00. At a later date, the service may be handed over to the private sector.

Side by side, there were some dark clouds in an otherwise bright sky – the airport was the scene. The radar became unserviceable forcing a whole number of aircraft to circle overhead waiting to land guided by the Air Traffic Controllers. Another time, passengers booked for Delhi had to wait the whole day for their aircraft. They were traveling on the ‘one rupee’ and ‘five hundred rupee’ tickets. Such tickets do not carry with them facilities like refreshments or lunch/dinner in case flights get delayed. As an official remarked tongue in cheek – ‘such conditions have to be accepted in the cheap fares scenario’.

never cry in a crisis

Yes, ‘never cry in a crisis’ is the quote of the day – rather, welcome crisis with open arms. Management by crisis is a branch of Management that we Indians have mastered. No one knows better than us that, if we delay the inevitable, the problem, either blows over, or is solved by others who are affected or loses importance, being overtaken by more serious problems.

Whether in the immediate family or at work, things have to be managed. Those, who foresee problems and take corrective actions in time, generally do not face crisis situations and are supposed to be good managers by the world at large. But, in the Indian context, they are considered to be fools because, if you are unable to capitalize on a crisis, you are no good as a manager. You are incompetent. Crisis is the nursery where efficient managers are born. Whenever a problem arises, look the other way, hide your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend that the problem is nothing but a figment of the imagination. That is the secret of success, that is how people flourish, that is how budgets are thrown completely out of gear – an initial sanction of one hundred crores and a time frame of two years stretches tenfold in terms of both finance and time. Cost and time overruns are the order of the day. The person who dreams up the project is seldom there to see it to its completion.

Crisis management gives rise to the opportunists who reap the benefits. In the work place, there are people who remain in the sidelines and pop up JIT with smiles and solutions. When a subordinate or a junior foresees a problem and apprises him of the same, he is quick to snub him and laugh it off. They are all attention when the boss opens his mouth; they are experts in the art of deception and staunch believers of the MBC theory. Just imagine, if we plan our activities with care and provide adequate buffers into it, we can avoid being caught on the wrong foot and blink at the last minute hoping for a miracle to happen.

A simple activity like going out on a holiday and ensuring a comfortable journey by booking tickets in advance makes more sense than running from pillar to post at the last moment and being at the mercy of unscrupulous travel agents. This is an example taken at random to illustrate the point.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

the new look team

The declaration has come at last – a team of sixteen with a huge responsibility on their shoulders. A mix of young and the not so young, we hope for good healthy competitive cricket on both the big and small versions for quite sometime to come. While the bigger versions test the sustainability, perseverance, tenacity, grit and determination of players, the smaller version is all about flashes in the pan on the particular day. With the bowlers being punished for the slightest error and the batsman always getting the benefit of doubt, it finally boils down to, in a lighter vein, as benefit matches for batsmen.

Rahul ‘Jammy’ Dravid takes on the task of the Captain and millions of hearts flutter in anticipation. Born in Indore on 11/1/1975, he plays for Karnataka and has earned the distinction as the Invincible one, the Wall. His face is always devoid of expression, his mind, a mystery. He takes wins and losses with equal aplomb. The team he finally gets has some old-timers, a few recalls and a couple of debutantes. A reasonably good mix, one can safely comment. With the World cup fast approaching, the team should set its sights on creating a winning combination, the players have to develop an understanding among themselves, when on the field, they have to interpret the tiniest of signals of their mates, they have to cultivate the habit of scoring singles and twos, of grounding the bats when stealing cheeky singles, of latching on to catches, of knowing when to play cautiously, when to throw caution to the winds. They have to work as a team – not look for individual milestones. When the team wins, milestones are created automatically. The concept of dependence on a couple of players to see the team through has got to be shown the boot.

The new Aussy coach can guide the boys, he cannot play on their behalf, he cannot take their decisions, he can only sit in the pavilion and sigh and bite his finger nails when he sees his ward commit stupid errors and lose games that should be won. It is for the boys to deliver, not shirk responsibilities. When the team wins, each of the players stand to gain some material goodies, let us hope it gets into the winning habit and not make tall claims. Runner up in a World cup does not necessarily mean that the team can mow down the opposition with ease – it has to prove that it can do it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

how to hold hands

Hands are the most important part of our body, and like other important organs, come in a pair.

We lend a helping hand to one who needs it and, it is the hand that rocks the cradle. We raise hands to draw attention; we grip hands to show warmth and affection, we join hands and form human chains to project a cause. We acknowledge the wishes of others with folded hands and shake hands with a person to share a sense of goodwill (remember the long never ending hand shake between one of our ex Prime Ministers and the Chinese Premier)? We always admire the safe hands of the fielders (in cricket) and that of the goalkeeper (in football).

Unfortunately, when it comes to the celluloid and the TV, we find that our actors and actresses do not know how to use this gift of nature to attain perfection. Invariably, they do not have any idea of what to do with those limbs. They just hang while the lips mouth those famous lines like ‘kaan khool kar soon ley…’ (listen with your ears open…) or words to similar effect. We have heard of people being tongue-tied but here we find people hand-tied. Another group of people who do not know what to do with their hands are the politicos – when not thumping desks or hurling missiles at one another in the parliament or waving to the crowd or joining hands on stage to express the beginning of yet another grouping, they love to sit with their hands in their laps, or use them to support the chin.

In marriage, the hands of the bride and groom are joined together in holy matrimony by the priest in full view of hundreds of relatives, guests and well wishers and with the fire God as witness – no one wants to learn of the background story, and what sort of goodies changed hands before the bargain is struck! When a person retires from service, his friends give him a farewell by literally lifting him off his feet, tossing him in their hands and singing ‘he is a jolly good fellow’. And – when we perform the last journey, we may not see it but we know that there will be a whole lot of hands to support the bier and lift it to the shoulders.

The bandit Gabbar Singh cut off the hands of police Inspector Sanjeev Kumar, to teach him a lesson – all of us have Gabbar Singhs within us, we would have loved to give tit for tat to so many persons around us and teach them lessons, but our hands are tied. Our wishes die natural deaths.

evil faces of eve

Those of the fairer species are normally associated with gentleness, love, affection, they possess a predominantly motherly attitude, are soft spoken, submissive. Therefore, when they come into news for activities that are more in the lines of the brutes, commonly known as men, and associated with violence, eyebrows are raised. It all probably started with the first bite into the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Later, there appeared on the scene Lady Macbeth and others like her who loved to reduce the population around her. The terrorist who presented a garland to our ex PM Rajiv Gandhi and blew him up, along with herself and innocent bystanders, is still fresh in our minds. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise to note that, within the last one month, several crimes, reportedly committed by women, have attracted attention.

Woman jailed for seducing minor – the woman is in her forties, the kid still in his teens. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1169477.cms

Kidnapping of the son of a rich businessman by a woman, reportedly known to the boy as Amishi aunty! http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1165860.cms

Five woman jewel thieves arrested in Hyderabad –
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1158706.cms

Step mother drives 12 year old to suicide –
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1150889.cms

A Kanpur version of Bunty and Babli –
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1144389.cms

Indian woman sentenced to death for child trafficking - http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1144001.cms

Woman involved in the twin cinema blasts in Delhi - http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1152504.cms

In addition, there are crimes reported in local newspapers that do not get mentioned in the National press. A few samples from the Bengali press:

30/6/2005 – a class IV employee who resides in the premises of the Calcutta Medical College is involved in a racket of smuggling girls out into neighboring states, she did not even spare her own teenage daughters!

1/7/2005 – one of the prime suspects in the famous Mithun murder case is none other than the wife of Gunjan, the kidnapper of Roma Jhawar of Salt Lake.

10/7/2005 – a woman hires a professional killer to murder her promoter husband. She is 55 years old and has fallen for a fellow promoter since her own husband has become financially unstable.

These are certainly exceptions and we still have doting mothers, loving wives, and caring sisters, but influence of external media cannot be ignored, we succumb to temptations that spell ruin – to both ourselves and to those around us who we do not want to lose. But the evil faces of Eve do paint a gory picture of the modern world.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

new look at hat tricks

Very soon, hat tricks will acquire a new meaning, the old concept of three wickets or three sixers off successive deliveries will cease to exist. We are on the way to bid goodbyes to threesomes! The BCCI is really and truly serious about the outcome of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Hence, it has authorized the new coach Greg Chappell to introduce his new look hat tricks. BCCI is determined to lift cricket from the dumps in which it finds itself. Players are proud of the caps they earn and don them in International meets to represent the country, magicians are known to bring out rabbits from their magic hats, and the Hindi version of hat viz. ‘topee’ has a special meaning of its own. Let us welcome with open arms the new age hat tricks.

The Six Thinking Hats theory, better known as the STH theory that Greg Chappell is keen to implement, owes its origin to Edward de Bono. He formulated it in 1985. It is believed to simplify the thinking process and streamline it. There are six different colored hats; each is associated with a different trait. White concerns information i.e. facts and figures, yellow means sunny and positive, green is creativity, red denotes emotion, black is for danger and gloom and blue, the organizing part. It seems that people, who experience problems in thinking how best to do too many things at the same time, get a lot of help through this analysis. The de Bono logic is that juggling six balls at a time is not feasible but tossing one ball at a time is easier. The STH theory assists people to think better. Further details can be had from the following website:

http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_bono_six_thinking_hats.html
Our sincere thanks will go out to Greg Chappell if he can get the Cup back for us via this route. He is a trend setter of sorts, but he will have to battle it out against innumerable odds. It will have to be seen how effective the analysis will be to the Indian contingent. Our boys love to do too many things at the same time, for example practice at the nets, shoot outdoors for advertisements, look around for prime locations to start restaurants, spend a few minutes to get photographed with a select group of handicapped kids, and attend to film premiers. In spite of these preoccupations, we clap and cheer them on when they reach any milestone because they achieve it against all odds. Till now, they have done so without the STH theory. With the top order vacillating between exit and entrance and with a new coach bent upon proving his worth let us see what difference the STH theory brings. Till then we can only chant – lagey raho, keep at it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the bubble will burst

The Church has decided that enough is enough; norms need to be defined for those who enter the house of God to offer prayers and receive His blessings in return.

It goes without saying that any institution of worship like the Church, the Temple, the Gurdwara or the Mosque are places where one enters to become one with the Almighty. He may reveal himself in different avatars to his followers, but the fact remains that His presence has to be acknowledged. It is, therefore, not unnatural for the guardians of Society to define certain basic guidelines – these were considered superfluous even twenty years back because our society was still conservative, our youngsters respected their elders, if a boy smoked among his friends, he would hide the cigarette when an elder happened to come on the scene. The elders could make out the little drama but the lines of decency were never breached. Today’s youngsters, on the other hand, flaunt their new found independence by blowing the smoke in their faces; probably they want to prove a point. What that point is remains a mystery.

Coming on the heels of dress codes that are sought to be defined by the educational Institutions, these assume still more significance. The elders of today are failing miserably to keep their wards in check, the way they pamper their wards and surrender to their tiniest of whims spells doom for the future generations. All of us love our freedom but we should learn to preserve it as well. It is certainly a difficult task when we see the topsy turvy world around us, we cannot flee from the lure of cheap fantasies in the form of silly movies that seldom earn more than three stars, we love to swing to the music of the sixties cast in the mould of the twenty first century, we love to dream of holidays in far off lands on EMIs. The resultant world of make believe is nothing but a large bubble waiting to explode.

In order to meet the requirements, we do not hesitate to bend the rules, or to hoodwink the law. We get ourselves involved in scams and, as we walk to the prison van, we put up a brave front; we show to the world our smiling faces – for all practical purposes, these smiles are artificial. No one ever gets to know the final outcome!

give them a break

A leading newspaper recently carried a report that TV is making kids forget the outdoors. It mentions that ‘…. among the 33 things a child should do before 10 are making mud pies and climbing trees… building sand castles or rolling down grass slopes ….’. Our children cannot readily identify themselves with these pastimes since they relate to a foreign environment and culture. Today’s children are more knowledgeable about remotes and computer operation and handling cell phones. There is even an instance of a 5-year old boy who drove his cousin in a Maruti van to the hospital, reportedly to take care of a minor ailment!

In this context one recalls the famous poem Leisure by Leigh Hunt – ‘ ….what is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare, no time to see when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass, no time to see in broad daylight, streams full of stars at night …’ The fast world of today has snatched so many beautiful things away from us, the grown ups feel their absence, our subsequent generations are probably not even aware of their existence! Does anyone remember the silent game children used to play – of making and filling boxes on the last pages of the exercise books? Well laid-out carpet of dots, two or even three could play at the game; all that were necessary were a pencil each. All that the contestants were supposed to do was to join the dots and create squares. Once a square is created, its owner identifies it with his initials. It was a wonderful pastime during periods when the teacher was late or when he was so engrossed with the first benchers that the last benchers could merrily continue owning the squares! There were other popular games like the bagatelle, ludo and snakes and ladders. Alas, they are obsolete – today’s children grow up on violence, they shoot down aliens and hoodlums and destroy minesweepers via the hundreds of computer games available freely.

One more activity that used to be the in-thing in days of yore was meant only for the girls – in the evenings, the elderly aunt or grand mother would sit with the younger girls and apply oil to their hair, then comb and weave the thick flowing hair into fascinating braids and plaits. The complete exercise would be accompanied by useful advises and tit-bits that young girls were curious to know about. Similar scenes are certainly shown on TV today but the purpose is to promote certain brands of hair oil. The actual events are, alas, missing. The reasons are obvious – elderly women do not find any place in the tiny satellite families of today and, girls hate long flowing hair. They grow up in the belief that shampoos and hair oils complement each other and best results are obtained by applying the types based on the specific nature of hair. Ads on TV even go to the extent of spreading the message that kids cultivate the habit of using shampoo everyday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

which way the wind blows

We normally tell others that you must know which way the wind blows, the hidden meaning is that you can get an idea of how the jigsaw puzzle pieces will fall into place. The phrase ‘which way the wind blows’ originates probably from the times of sailing ships – the captains of the ships used to go by the indications of Nature, they would navigate with respect to the Pole Star, they would predict storms by looking at the moon. Remember the famous lines of the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by the poet S. T. Coleridge – ‘Last night the moon had a golden ring/ Tonight no moon we see// The skipper he blew a whiff from his pipe/ And a scornful laugh laughed he…’ Well, those were indications that a storm was brewing.

The westerlies are the prevailing winds in the latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. The winds are predominantly from the southwest in the northern hemisphere and from the northwest in the southern hiem\isphere. Together with the trade winds, the westerlies enabled a round-trip trade route for early European sailing ships. The westerlies can be particularly strong winds, especially in the southern jemisphere, where there is less land in the middle latitudes to cause friction and slow the winds down. The strongest westerly winds in the middle latitudes can come in the Roaring forties, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude.

When winds are particularly strong, they are known by different names. These super winds are called: hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, typhoons in the Pacific, and cyclones in the Indian Ocean. These names depend on where the storms originate – although all three of these start over the sea. Tornadoes, on the other hand, form over land and are usually more violent.

Well, with Hurricane Dennis on its way to notoriety, I wondered what information the net holds on names we have long forgotten – like the westerlies, the roaring forties.

The word Denis brings to mind the favorite cartoon character Denis the Menace, created by Cartoonist Hank Ketcham. Dennis the Menace first began to plague his next-door neighbor, Mr. Wilson, in 1950 on the pages of America's newspapers. Today the comic panel appears in more than 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and in 19 languages.

These are replaced by names like Hurricane Dennis. In fact the following names exist in 1999 for Atlantic hurricanes (all the alphabets are covered except Q, U, X, Y and Z!!!) – so, here goes : Hurricane Arlene, Hurricane Bret, Hurricane Cindy, Hurricane Dennis, Hurricane Emily, Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane Gert, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Jose, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Lenny, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Nate, Hurricane Ophelia, Hurricane Philippe, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Stan, Hurricane Tammy, Hurricane Vince, and Hurricane Wilma. For details you can visit -

http://www.disastercenter.com/hurricd9.htm

Monday, July 11, 2005

safety an illusion

‘Safety first’ are two very important words that we grow up with but, the safety that we all crave for is an illusion. Close-in fielders are supposed to be athletes par excellence who are expected to latch on to the most difficult of chances, when the safe hands of such reliable close-in fielders puts down a sitter, the team feels let down, accusing fingers are raised.

There are safety pins, safety razors, safety matches. The engineering industry builds a factor of safety into its goods. In flight it is mandatory to keep your safety belts in position during take off and landing. In automobiles it is necessary to keep your safety belts fastened, at least on roads and junctions where the hawk-like eyes of the Law scour the traffic and wait eagerly to pounce on the offender to extract their pound of flesh. Safety helmets keep cropping up in the news – while some accept its necessity, others find flaws with the elaborate headgear. Screen heroes could be roped in to spread the message and start an awareness campaign – they could do it as a social service activity or, better still, make the helmet manufacturers sponsor the footages. It is quite surprising that a product like this does not attract attention – we have several products to take of dandruff, of white hair, of dry, oily or brittle hair but no one spares a thought for the head on which the hair has to grow. If there is no head, where, pray, will the products for the maintenance of hair go? Therefore, it is in the interest of all concerned that the head be brought into focus.

We have the police to safeguard interests in our day to day lives; we have the armed forces to safeguard the interests of our country. We keep adding sophisticated weapons to our arsenal to discourage opportunists; we maintain special security groups to ensure safety of our leaders. In spite of all these, crime is not contained, adventurism on the borders does not stop, militancy continues. The worst part is that the moment safety is breached, people bay for each other’s blood. Those who are actually responsible for the breach, go scot-free!

When we build a house, we take the utmost care to install alarms, interlocks, safety latches. Those who occupy ground floors take extra care to barricade windows. We have telephones in our houses to summon aid in case of emergencies. But, when the bad elements strike, we discover that all our safety measures are to no avail, they cannot prevent dacoities or robberies– the criminals resort to brute force to enter the premises. Some of them use trickery, especially in housing complexes in large metros where they identify themselves as the boy from the electrical, telephone or the plumbing department or even door-to-door salesmen!

Therefore a question arises – how safe are we? Once we step out of the house, we may meet with a road accident or get run over by a train or be a victim of bombing or shootout. We may meet our maker while trying to help the needy. Under the circumstances, why shout ourselves hoarse over situations that are beyond our control. Is it not wise to accept the fact that, no matter how powerful we are, we are helpless in the hands of destiny?

Friday, July 08, 2005

terrorism in india

Terrorists are reincarnations of Frankenstein.

Close on the heels of the terrorist strike at Ayodhya on 5/7/2005 comes the news that the London underground has been closed down due to explosion of bombs. Initial estimates indicate around 40 dead and over 200 injured. Only 24 hours back, London was in the news for totally different reasons – it was elated at having secured the honor to host the 2012 Olympics!

Terrorism is an unthinkable affair – in the Indian context, it probably dates back to the days of the Kashmir Princess.

The Kashmir Princess was a Super Constellation aircraft of Air India and was chartered to fly from Hong Kong to Jakarta on 11/4/1955 to carry delegates to attend the Bandung Conference. The flight was supposed to have carried the Chinese Premier Chou-en-Lai and it was fortunate that he was not on board. The aircraft crashed shortly before landing in Jakarta. Three of the journalists killed were from the Xinhua news agency, the eldest was 40 years old, the youngest only 26. The Chinese government remembered them on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the incident.

Nearly 30 years later, on 23/6/1985, Air India’s Boeing-747 Kanishka, blew up in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland killing all 329 people on board. Recently, a prayer for the dead was held on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.

The next was the hijack of the Indian Airlines Airbus-300 flight IC-814 on 24/12/1999 from Nepal to Kandahar. The hijackers demanded release of certain specific prisoners. One of the passengers was killed by the militants, he and his wife were returning from their honeymoon. The drama ended after eight days when the then Home minister flew to Kandahar with the prisoners who were to be released.

This was followed by the terrorist attack on the Srinagar State Assembly in which more than 30 people lost their lives. On 2/10/2001 a suicide attacker drove a hijacked government jeep, which was loaded with explosives, up to the main entrance and detonated it, while at least two other militants wearing police uniforms entered the complex and seized control of a building.

Then terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament on 13/12/2001- in which 12 people are killed. This was followed by the Akshardham temple episode in Gandhinagar on 24/9/2002. Two terrorists holed up in the complex for over 14 hours and Black Cat Commandos of the National Security Guards had to be flown in to annihilate them. There were more than 30 casualties on the final count.

All these heinous crimes are results of people who have got their priorities terribly mixed up. Certain groups are interested to keep a fire of hate smoldering at all times, it suits their purpose, it helps them to remain in the limelight and ensure that discordant notes continue to be heard. They are hypocrites to the core, when they say ‘we should not take advantage of situations’, they are among the first to instigate their followers, they believe in creating monsters without realizing that, one day, these very monsters will bring about their own downfall.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

terror is an error

Terror is an attitude of the mind more terrible than fear. It is a barbarous assault on unsuspecting, unarmed and innocent civilian population who has no idea of how to protect themselves when confronted with such situations.

All of us know what fear is - we grow up with it. It begins with the fear of stumbling when a child takes its first step, to the fear of the school when it joins the kindergarten, to the fear of studies and teachers as it grows up, to the fear of ragging when it enters the portals of higher studies, to the fear of unemployment and, when employment finally comes, it transforms into the fear of the work environment and of the bosses, colleagues and subordinates. As he matures, he comes to terms with fear, in practically all cases he is able to conquer this complex and he continues to prosper. When he gets married, the fear takes on different dimensions, if the match is an arranged one, each party is always apprehensive of the other, it amounts to a fear of the unknown – two souls are suddenly brought together and made to vow that they will live happily ever afterwards.
Terror is several times more severe. When terror strikes, it leaves the world dumbfounded. Terrors were usually associated with Nature. There used to be the volcanoes - when they erupt, and the lava flows downhill, they swallow everything in their path and leave a trail of destruction behind. People are terrified of volcanoes. Similarly for earthquakes, it is next to impossible to predict when and where it will strike and throw the world into total disorder, how much it will measure on the Richter scale, how much it will swallow into its depths. This is another form of terror. Next are catastrophes like the Tsunami – one more example of how Nature avenges herself. It does not spare any soul; it acts as a great leveler.

Man made Terror is something that defies imagination – when a bomb explodes and splinters fly around with the limbs of the perpetrators of the crime, it is a ghastly sight. Terrors are depicted on the silver screen in the form of Jaws, Anaconda, Godzilla and other such imaginary creatures – they are marvels of Technology, like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. We know they are figments of the imagination.

But, terror becomes real and more nearer home when terrorists threaten to blow up aero planes with hundreds of passengers on board or strap bombs to their bodies and attempt to create mayhem. They never succeed, they know they will never succeed but still they keep trying. They are doomed to failure from the word go.

The Japanese Zero bomber planes of WW-II were one of the first instances of human bombs - but, those suicide bombers were of a different genre. They were the fallout of an armed conflict between warring Nations.

Terror today is an error with a capital T – the T stands for Threat.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

a revised ganga action plan

If some one comes up with a revised Ganga Action Plan in the form a film – ‘yeh Ganga ko dho daloh!’(Clean up this Ganga) he might earn a nomination to one of the prestigious film festivals in Cannes or Berlin or even Hollywood.

The Ganges (or Ganga as she is better known) is one of the holiest of rivers. Its holy waters are an important item in performing pujas of the Gods and Goddesses. We all are aware of the fact that the Ganga originates in the Himalayas and flows down from the north to the Bay of Bengal in the east coast culminating in the inimitable mangroves of the Sunderbans made famous by the Royal Bengal tigers. In the course of her journey, she passes through states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and keeps on getting dirtier and murckier. In order to cleanse the river, the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was drawn up and it comes into the limelight in bursts, like when some legislator wants to be seen on the TV screen monitoring the cleaning up process with an eye on the forthcoming elections.

There is a large gap in the implementation of the GAP – this large gap between the plans and achievements is becoming more and more difficult to bridge.

At every opportunity we love to wax eloquent on our rich cultural heritage, but when it comes to cleaning up the muck in our own backyard, we look around for scapegoats. Industries were, once upon a time, set up along the banks of rivers for ease of transportation of raw materials and finished goods. Today, with relatively more options of transportation available, the river is used as a convenient dumping ground for the filth of the cities en-route.

Showman Raj Kapoor immortalized the Ganga in his film Sangam by the famous song ‘mere man ki ganga aur tere man ki jamuna’ (the river Ganges of my heart and the river Jamuna of your heart). There have been quite a number of films with the name Ganga appearing in their titles, very few of them deal with the holy river. Jis desh mey Ganga behti hai (1960 – Raj Kapoor), Ganga Jamuna (1961- Dilip Kumar), Ram teri Ganga mailee (1986 – Raj Kapoor), Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati (1988 – Amitabh, Mithun), and Jis desh mey Ganga rehti hai (2000 – Sonali Bendre) are names that come to mind readily. For those not conversant with Hindi words, the translations are as follows: Ram teri Ganga mailee (Ram, your Ganga is dirty); Jis desh mey Ganga behti hai (the country through which the Ganga flows); Jis desh mey Ganga rehti hai (the country in which the Ganga lives).

Is anyone game enough to take the challenge? Do we hear murmurs in the audience?

Monday, July 04, 2005

how to build up suspense

For a crime story to be depicted successfully on the screen, where the audience holds their breath till the last scene, is an art perfected by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock. How to build up the suspense is what counts most. Stories penned by Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Earle Stanley Gardener invariably keep the readers on tenterhooks – because, that is the basic criterion. Keep them guessing, the murderer is revealed in the last but one page and the readers sigh as they put the book away. The end is so unexpected – how can anyone have ever imagined that so-and-so, who appeared to be the innocence personified, commit so ghastly a crime as murder? Remember films like the Rope, Psycho, and the Man who knew too much?

In contrast, our Indian counterparts whether they are from Bollywood or Tollywood or Mollywood never seem to get things correct. Right from the days of China Town, we have seen it happen. There will be silhouetted figures that will be shown with their faces shielded, with hats pulled down over their heads, only the lower portion of the body will be visible when he alights from the car, that also, his shoes will be milk white in color. By the time the camera moves ever so slowly to take in his face, that all-important part of the body will be lost in a haze of smoke. The best part is that, even when he wears white dresses, no one ever spots him in the darkness! To add to that, he will have rubber soled shoes but each step of his can be heard from a kilometer away - they will go thak-thak-thak! It’s a pity that the heart doesn’t go dhak-dhak-dhak with it!

The inimitable Mehmood’s version of what suspense should be like was depicted in the film ‘pyar kiye jaa’ – the creaking of the door as it is opens ever so cautiously, the sound of water dripping drop by drop in a half full bucket, the sudden rustling of wings as a bat flies overhead. These certainly add to the effect and create an atmosphere in which the audience expects frightening events to take place. Unfortunately, the effect is lost when the villain enters the scene flaunting his spotless white shirt and makes the building shake with every step.

The trouble is that the Bollywood, Tollywood and Mollywood villains are typecast; nothing is left to the imagination of the viewer. Our film makers should ring in changes to make such movies succeed – if presented properly with more natural responses from the actors involved, we can boast of desi versions of Hitchcock.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

resignation aka emotional blackmail

This is one more game people love to play.

Resignation is a protest of the non violent type, a sort of emotional blackmail, more popular than the Satyagraha and more in keeping with modern traditions.

Resignation was, not too long ago, one of the preferred tools which could be wielded in the office to extract that extra rupee from the employer or an additional perquisite that establishes ones superiority over his rival. It envisaged moving out to greener pastures to try one’s luck. The wives of such persons delighted in fantasizing the complete episode to earn the jealous stares of their neighbors which they cherished till someone else came up with a better one. Alas, the afternoons of sharing gossip of the fellow dwellers have vanished; the vacuum has been occupied by TV serials that also fantasize. Only, they are one sided fantasy – the viewer has to listen to the same story wrapped in different size and color of bottles at different time slots. Alternately, she has to switch channels.

There also be used to be threats of resignation of political leaders – it was a method adopted to ascertain his or her popularity. In those days, there were no electronic polls, no SMS-ing ‘Y’ or ‘N’ to a particular number to arrive at an all-India assessment. It was each man for himself, threats of resignation used to be an effective weapon. If his party considered him to be really indispensable, it would consider meeting his demands.
These threats were very much similar to that employed by the women fifty years back to stress their point of view – they threatened with fast-unto-death type utterances. They pulled out of the dramatics once the man of the house acquiesced to her wishes. Both the sides knew exactly how far each could go, they made defeats look like victories.

Unfortunately, over a passage of time, this concept has also, like so many others, undergone immense changes. The other day we had a veteran leader who returned from a friendly foreign visit and landed among a bunch of friends-turned-foes. He tendered his resignation as a way out of the imbroglio. He was firm in his stand that he will never consider taking it back; finally he retracted it like any ordinary leader. The latest to follow is another one who proclaims to have been with the same party for the last 37 years. He resigns now since he does not see eye to eye with his bosses. We have to wait for the final outcome – probably, he wants a change of scenario or does he want a change of boss? Time only can tell.

Rediscovering India

Rediscovering India, the blog of Prabir Ghose that has been appearing in the blog section of indiatimes.com for the past nearly one year has been awarded the prize of the Blog with the maximum number of posts. He is a resident of Nashik. He retired from HAL as a Senior Manager in November 2004.

The blog is available on http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia

The latest statistics of the blog as on date are as follows (these figures keep changing every day):

Total posts 183
Total views 30,000+
Total comments 750+

The posts most viewed are given below -

Education in India
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/11/20/26927.aspx

The Seven Wonders
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/12/06/34568.aspx

Kolkata Book Fair (there are more than one post in the series, link is for the first one) http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/12/06/34568.aspx

Durga Puja (there are more than one post in the series link given is for the first one) http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/10/11/16141.aspx

Prabir Ghose blogs on blogspot.com also under the name peekayjee - some of these have appeareed here but the responses that they have generated are different and make for interesting reading.

Friday, July 01, 2005

big is beautiful

A recent ad that has caught the fancy of the viewers is that of a TV manufacturer who says – big is beautiful, the bigger, the better. But facts show otherwise – we love small cars, small families, small talks, to most of us small is beautiful. Miniaturization is the USP of the day, the mobile is becoming smaller, video phones have taken center stage. Yes, bank balances should be big, salaries should be big, and apartments should be big. Dada, in Bengali, means elder brother – well, they have big ideas, they try to implement them in big ways, unfortunately, somewhere down the line, some little one turns up to put a spoke in the works. We seldom come across big hearted people, everyone today is out to get recognition for himself – he is unable to see beyond the tip of his nose. There used to be a time when the catch words would be ‘live life king-size’. Alas, there is no King, no kingdom; we think big but live small humble lives. With big brother breathing down your neck and big B waiting to take the two crores plunge, we have to wait and see how beautiful ‘big’ really is.

We used to be part of one big country; there used to be rajahs and maharajas, there used to be zamindars. After independence, we introduced legislation to do away with that culture. The princely kingdoms merged with others and the rajahs accepted the mergers. Today, we are creating smaller and smaller entities so that more and more of us can become rulers. We threw away the reign of kings and princes only to renew them in their newer forms. What we see all around us are proofs that all of us want to become princes from paupers.

In a few years time, we will be back to square one – there will be reincarnations of rajahs – innumerable numbers of rajah of this-khand or that-khand, this-garh or that-garh. They will formulate their own laws – the unwritten laws of today will find acceptance in their newer avatars. The trends are already visible. The ‘big’ feeling does not seem to be at work!