Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is it Fair ?

The Railway Reservation System in Hyderabad has a separate queue for ladies - a system that has been done away with in Tamil Nadu. In addition, this is applicable to tatkal tickets too. Having gone today morning to book tickets, I stood straightaway at the general queue only to find later that the ladies queue applies for tatkal too. And a single counter caters to both queues.

Is this system fair ? The people before me came between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. I reached at 6:05 and was fifth in the queue. Still, as I had stood in the ladies queue, I get to be first. I take precedence over three other people over the same counter. A tatkal ticket is more a matter of luck and time. At 8:00 counters across India click for anywhere between 10 - 30 tickets allotted for tatkal. Every minute lost and every additional person ahead of you translates to a seat lost. In such a scenario, is this system fair with reference to issue of tatkal tickets.

My girlfriends may protest, so will other women. Still, is this system fair ? My answer is a no. I believe that ladies should not be given preference in the tatkal scheme directly or indirectly. It is just that it is not fair, it is unjust. Of course, people will say, that those men can bring their women along and make them stand first. But here, we speak about equal opportunity. Does this sytem give equal opportunity to men and women ? I personally do not think so.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'll miss you

Nine years ago
She came home
This teeny weeny person
With shining black hair
Scared and innocent
Weaned away from her mom
To our little world.

Our eyes glued
Our ears tuned
To her every need
To her every cry
For she slept in our laps
Our arms, her pillows
Our world revolving around her.

She grew up soon
To a beautiful lady
Her hair shining black as ever
Her looks mesmerizing
Her gait steady
Her understanding deep
Loving us more than ever.

She was always there smiling
First thing in the morning
Happy for every evening
Comforting us in need
Sharing our joys
By just being and
Demanding very little in return.

Today, she has gone
Leaving me bereft
In more ways than one
Reminding me
Of unconditional love
Of timeless memories
Of giving
Of time lost
Of time wasted
Of time unspent
Of the unsurety in life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Luxury malls - when our own countrymen starve

"Luxury mall showcases wealth gap in India" reads the headline - which is actually a little soft if you read the contents.

We all know of malls and boutiques that charge a fortune for the simplest of things which can be got at less than half that price elsewhere. As a country we got used to it. But this is vulgarity of the highest form - that too from a land which has as examples Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. The Emporio mall will have an entrance fee of $5 for its gold-plated ceilings, exotic fountains and the variety of designer labels on sale.

Isn't the scenario very familiar - sounds so to me. I hope for you who is reading this, Gandhiji's picture comes to mind. Of him getting thrown out of the train despite having a first class ticket - just because of his colour. Here it will be because an individual does not have enough money. What the englishmen did then, today we do to our own countrymen. Anger is not because it is a luxury mall - there are innumerable malls, but none of them charge the common man for entry. This one does so and thus, segregates:the basis, haves Vs havenots. I feel, this is the beginning of a division that is to come.

Where are we as a people headed to ? Why did our fore-fathers fight that battle with just non-violence as their weapon ? They must all be turning in their graves today so see how denigrated as a people we have become. They must be thinking of the lives and effort wasted when they look down on the poor hapless Indian begging for a meal a day. But then I think they still have a large heart - they would just wish that someday we would realize what we are upto, that we would understand and live for the ideals that they laid down their lives for.

Why do we ape the west so much - why can't we look inwards, at our own culture which teaches us that flashing wealth is a cheap act. Of course, all of us need clothes and sometimes costly ones too. But then, isn't there a limit - a personal limit that we need to set given the land in which we live ? I will be asked, "Who are you to decide the limits ?" and given lectures on freedom. We have weavers in AP dying because they are unable to repay Rs.50,000/- incurred as debt, the amount that a rich person would probably splurge on a designer pen or a designer handkerchief.
Similar is the condition of farmers in Vidarba, Maharashtra and Kalahandi in Orissa. Not to speak about tribals and farmers displaced from their land due to dams and innumberable SEZs built and being built to suit the needs of the city monsters(I know, it is a strong word, but doesn't it suit us ?). I personally think that it is distasteful for an Indian to wear Armani or a Dolce and Gabbana when that money could feed his fellowmen who are dying - and especially not in this manner with malls that segregate. What is needed is that we start wearing homemade clothes as much as possible, as a matter of pride and benefit.

The other day I read about an actress bragging about her collection of accessories and
on how she got accustomed to designer labels quite early in life. That was her take on her achievement and upbringing. I love Angelina Jolie and Diana for that - of course, they wear designer clothes, but their work is spoken about more than their clothes. Here, why should the rich bother ? Many of them think and know that India and its government works for them, to suit their needs. That their wealth will only multiply. Remember the story of Snow White and the wicked queen. Probably the rich live in such a world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Someone decided to wakeup

This is a continuum of "Music everywhere - or is it just noise?" about music being played, loud in public. Now, the EU has decided to get the music lovers to turn down the volume of MP3 players. To the extent that, Apple was forced to pull out its iPod player from store shelves in France and upgrade software to limit sound to 100 decibels. Sounds good and hope others will follow.

For more, read:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Random thinking

I am trying to take my eyes of the computer screen. They hurt and have started watering with the browsing and reading. Still, I am not getting anywhere - still more confused. Hoping that at the end of the confusion tunnel, I will find a little bit of enlightenment.

In the meanwhile, I am watching an insect crawling around my feet. Watching the teeny-weeny insect, I get questions which I am unable to ask and get answers. The crawly inhabits the same world as ours - but is she aware that this world is so big. How big is her world then - this lab or this dept or is it this university ? Has she travelled a lot ? Do I look like a dinosaur to her ? What does she eat ? Does she drink water ? If yes, there is none in this lab ? So, what does she do ? On her way to somewhere she comes across a bigger crawly and takes a diversion. Is she avoiding the other crawly or is she running away in fear ? I know, I know - I will be called many a thing for such thoughts - crazy, childish, immature, stupid thoughts; some will say that I am wasting time, that I am not doing the important things in life, that I am not focussed and that I need to grow up. Yet, this is what I am thinking as of now and I have no qualms about telling it aloud.

I remember the days, as kids we used to chase dragon flies in the vacant land at home. I have forgotten what it feels like to know these other inhabitants of the world. For that matter I have forgotten what it feels like to have green grass under my feet - I use shoes/slippers all the time 24hrs/day. Must find time to walk in the park. I have not stepped into sand and built castles in a long long time - must find time to go to a beach. So detached, so far away from earth. And from those simple pleasures of childhood.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tutor Ward Meetings(TWMs)

At the pooja in the department, there were around ten students in total. This reminded me of the pooja at CIT. Ofcourse, many students went home. But then, those who were there actively participated in the fun. Pooja was fun. Time when staff used to prepare sundal and pongal from home voluntarily. And when students used to get the labs decorated. When we got together, staff and students.

I believe this camaraderie was due to the relationships forged in the college. Most staffs believed in knowing and understanding their students. The tutor ward meetings conducted on a weekly basis helped a lot and is one thing CIT, Coimbatore stands out for. I loved it for it helped me go beyond the syllabus, to push limits, both for myself and my students. The focus was on knowing your students, understanding them, their positives, enabling them to build on it, being there if they wanted a ear to listen - just being there. It involved organizing and motivating students to conduct activities ranging from aptitude tests, GDs, skits, role playing, etc. Peer appreciation as has been proved, is the best motivating factor for students. They learnt their positives and found ways to improve. We, the staff, were the silent spectators, getting into it, when required. This helped us understand and bond with them, and all this did not happen overnight. It came through a lot of effort and time - a tutor is assigned for a class's entire duration(2/3/4/5 years dependent on the course). But in the end there is satisfaction. Satisfaction of seeing that spark, that smile when they do something well. I believe that every institution must follow this example set by CIT. Yes, many a time, results cannot be seen immediately. It comes later on, years after students have passed out. But, it is worth it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pooja at Trento

One year has passed - it is not simply they say, time flies but memories remain. Last pooja was at Trento. We had two poojas, one at Borino, and another at Villazano(famously called, Villazanzoo). For two days, all of us got together in the evening for prayer and dinner. It was a day I thanked the innumerable festivals that we have and the way we celebrate it. For, it is occasions like these that get us together when we are far away. Occasions that made us link to our motherland, our roots, with each other. Not to forget the food - Sreejith's sambhar, Divya's sweet, Minhaz's vegetable biryani, Vinay and co's pakoda, Naren's cabbage. And Vitali for his zeal to experiment with Indian food. We had fun. The innumerable photos with each one posing standing next to the diyas till they got the perfect picture.

This pooja is in Hyderabad, at the department unlike last year. So different - makes me want to go home to old times when as a family we had fun. With leave hard to come by, I have to again make do with the department pooja unlike last year. Hoping the guys there at Trento are having fun this year too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bagchi's Go Kiss the World

Bagchi's book is one I think, all of us can relate to. We can relate to the parent child relationships and the fun he had (especially the bear incident). For that matter, I remember of my dad's story. He was dared by his friends to sleep one night in the graveyard, which he did. The next morning, his grandfather ran after him and lashed him with the 'mattal'(part of the coconut leaf). He thought he had done a brave act, whereas his grandfather who was his guardian (his father having passed away when he was pretty young), thought otherwise. He still loves speaking about that story of his, and we asking for a repeat, despite hearing it a thousand times.

Yesterday's blog and a part of Bagchi's lines are very much related. How displacement is good. About learning new cultures and trusting total strangers. That is very true. I realize that Trento was our experience. And it felt good that someone felt the same way we did.

Thanks Bagchi for the good book.

How much time will it take ?

Arun and I visited Italy(Roma, Firenze, Pisa, Modena, Milano, Venezia and Trento) and France(Paris) last December. Yesterday, during the course of our conversation we remembered the people who made our stay in these places, memorable.

I waited in Roma station for Arun to arrive. It was past the time and I was still standing in front of McDonalds, our meeting point, having already walked the entire length of the station twice to check the McDonalds outside. Starting to get worried, I tried to call him up from the pay phone(I had decided not to use a cell phone for the six months I was in Trento) beside McDonalds. After wasting three euros, I understood it was futile to try using the machine without understanding it. I turned around to find an Indian couple standing in front of McDonalds. Walking up to them, I asked them if they knew how to operate the pay phone telling them that I had already tried thrice. Their answer was a blunt 'No' and they turned their face off. I felt like I was slapped. With tears stinging my eyes, I walked the three steps to my original place and waited there. After a few minutes, I tried the pay phone again. An italian came up to me and said that the pay phone was not working properly and that it was no use trying. I realized that he had been sitting there all the time and I had not noticed him at all, but he had noticed me. Another ten minutes and I saw Arun walk up to me and I flew into his arms. He could not understand why I was so emotional. I told him how I had been trying to reach him and pointed to him the Indians, my own countrymen, who actually shooed me off. That was how, our holiday started.

Next experience was Modena where the ticket clerk booked us on separate trains. No amount of explanation in english could get to him the point that we were husband and wife and wanted to travel together, as he knew only italian. It was then that a guy standing in the queue walked up to him and told him that we are together and questioned the ticket clerk as to how he could book the two of us in different trains. He got the whole thing sorted out for us. All we could say, was Grazie.

At Milano, we had walked a long distance trying to reach the Duomo. We ran out of time, and had to turn back. W didn't want to take a chance in missing the train to Bergamo Airport. So, we asked a gentleman walking in the same direction for confirmation of the route. Looking at our rather unsure faces, he told us to just follow him. At one point he pointed ahead showing us the train stazione and bid us adieu. Again, all we could say was, Grazie.

The next stop was Paris. We landed at 1:00 a.m. in the city and were lost. We found our way to the Metro station. After finding the way to the platform as directed, we asked a gentleman standing nearby about our destination and the train we had to take. He told us that he was headed in the same direction. He got down half way but in the meanwhile asked us where we were from. When he realized we were indians, he and his wife started talking about how they loved India. As a doctor, he has come to attend conferences in India and in the process visited a few places. Again, we were grateful to have met the two of them, at 1:00. Merci, Grazie.

We reached our destination, but the map showing us the way to the hotel was too vague. After trying the three roads leading from the stazione, we came to the conclusion that we would have to pick a random road and try our luck. At this point, (at 2:00 a.m.) we found two ladies sitting and talking in the car. We asked them for the way. They told us that they were not sure and try the straight road we were standing on. After 15 minutes of walking and reaching nowhere, we decided to make a U-turn and head backwards. We tried a different road, looking for the signs marked in the map but to no avail. 45 minutes and we had reached nowhere. At this point, we found that the two ladies were still there. We knocked again and told them that we didn't know what to do. At this point, one of the ladies asked us the hotel name, called up someone and asked for directions. Then, she asked us to get into the car and that she will take us there. We were very apprehensive. On seeing a kids chair at the back seat, we put our fears behind us . The two women, talking all the time over the phone asking for directions, dropped us right in front of the hotel. They saved us on that cold December night. All we had to tell them was, Merci, Grazie Mille.

Walking down the Champ d'Elysees, we wanted to take a picture of ourselves in what is supposed to be one of the most romantic places in the world. The walk is really great. We looked for someone who could take our photo. On finding a gentleman, walking fast towards us, we decided that he may help. I asked him if he could click one snap of ours. I then told him that I hoped I had not stopped or disturbed him. And he said, "Yes, I am busy, but then, how much time will a snap take ?" He won our respect and admiration at the same moment. And all this in just one minute and he went on his way. Again, only a simple Merci, Grazie.

Next was Venezia. Venezia with its winding roads and canals can be a real maze. We had one hour to reach the stazione from the place where we were shopping. After walking half an hour, we realized that we were taking the wrong route and had somehow got mixed up. We asked a venetian walking ahead of us if he was headed to the stazione. We told him how we had exactly half an hour to make it there. Again, he took us all the way to the stazione, and standing on the other side of the canal(bridge) bid us goodbye. All we had to say was, Grazie.

Again midnight, on the 1st January, 2008, on our way back to the hotel, we missed the bus stop. Arun asked a gentleman for directions. Understanding the we had come a long way, he offered us to drop us at the hotel. For this he had to take a slight deviation from his route, which he happily did for our sake.

We have met other people too in the course of our travel. The owner of Hotel Duilio at Firenze, Vincenza, who was the perfect host one could expect. Then, there were some bartenders who were not very friendly. At the Louvre, there was a young lady from the far east, telling Arun to move off when he was posing for a photo, as she wanted a photo of her compatriot standing in the same location, exactly at the same point of time. And the chinese restaurant, where we as vegetarians were looked down upon, as we could only pick one item from the menu.

But of all these, we would love to remember the kind Italians from Firenze, Milano, Venezia and the Parisians. Thankyou, Merci and Grazie are words that are not enough on occasions like these. We are ever indebted to the two ladies for their help at 3:00 a.m. at night. For not looking at color, race, language, nationality....... For the understanding. For the compassion they showed. It made us believe about the good in this world. That there was hope for us to co-exist. This is what we learnt in this new year, 2008. And thanks to the Parisian for the lesson on the Champ d'Elysees - one both of us will never forget. We will remember them not by their names, but by their actions. They are etched in our memories forever.

(This is only about our travel in the last week of Dec, 2007 and first week of Jan, 2008. In the course of my stay in Italy, I met some very wonderful people who will remain friends forever - for they gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to laugh, to be happy, to be crazy - unlimited).