Saturday, November 26, 2011

Only One Slap!!!

I did a random google check on the phrase 'Only One Slap" and a whopping 54,200,000 entries showed up. What made Annaji make that remark is not clear, but obviously he did tickle the giggle glands of the nation. Only one slap?.....Hee Hee !! Another one, probably more apt - "Only Sharad ?"
Why only single out Sharad, when there are so many others.
It all started when Rajiv Gandhi was attacked by a Sri Lankan sailor way back in 1987. Luckily he had good reflexes and escaped with a small bump on his head. Our agriculture minister however, was not so nimble footed, and got hit square on his face. In fact, knowing what a die hard fan Sharad is of Gandhiji, I almost thought he would offer his other cheek! I know this was not taken very kindly by the Political fraternity, and was condemned all round. They are all aware that they could be the next in line.

However, this incident made me always wonder - from where does these type of lone crusaders arise. Who are these guys?
We know of Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, who singlehandedly added a new genre of online games, when his Shoe Throwing act on Bush spawned multitudes of shoe aiming games online. He may have missed his target, but the game makers did capitalize on this incident to the hilt. Then we had the Ruchika case accused SPS Rathore attacker - . Utsav Sharma. He did manage to remove that morbid smile off the face of the tainted officer, at least for a while.

With the state of our politics, many more would join the ranks with Utsav and Harvinder. But what are a few slaps and may be kicks (on the butt) too, after a life time of looting the public and amassing untold fortunes. Our beloved Netas are so stinking rich that they are now at their wits end on how to spend their crores. They already own fleets of imported cars, wear garlands of 1000 rupee notes, have temples and statues built for themselves, and a lot more. If by a twist of fate they do get caught, they can enjoy government hospitality for a few weeks or months and then again go scottfree. We do not have even a single politician who has served a prison sentence for corruption. Our courts have obviously kotowed in front of these corrupt to the core Netas, so now street justice is our only glimmer of hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bribes - take it or leave it

Paying bribes are so much a part and parcel of our lives, I often wonder what will we do if all of a sudden government officials in our country stopped accepting it. Imagine, being stopped by a traffic policeman, for jumping a signal, and he actually giving you a ticket! Na ah !! that cannot be, I must be dreaming. Or imagine, a passport inspector visits your home for identification, and then when you offer him his due he refuses to accept it. If such a thing happens, how would an average Indian react?
O my god, I will never get my passport done. May be, I need to pay him more!
Yes, while we all voice our support to Anna, we are all equally ready to pay a bribe at the smallest of provocation. This is because, any government process is not only long and cumbersome, but also at times, downright ridiculous.
Sometimes, they are created to promote corruption:
  • Ration cards: While most of urban India have stopped using this piece of document for getting any subsidized provisions, it continues to be used as the most reliable Address verification document. So, if you are moving around the country, then every time you change a city, getting a new ration card is one of the tasks you have to finish as soon as possible.
  • N. O. C: or the No Objection Certificate for your vehicle, every time you move from one state to another within our country. And since this certificate has to be issued by the Transport Department, god help you, specially if you are a little hard pressed for time.
  • Traffic fines: In general whenever you get a ticket for jumping a signal, or wrong parking, your biggest worry is not how much the fine is, but how to pay it. Because you have to go all the way to the Magistrate's office and stand in a queue for it. Instead, its so much easier to pay the ever-ready traffic policeman and close the issue, for good.
These are just a few examples, and there are many more, which all of us face daily.

But whatever people have to say against bribes, if one is in a position to take it does not mean that he will take it. Asking for bribes is also an art that takes some time to be mastered. Few things I learnt from my encounters with various officials all across the country:
Never ask for bribe, just create a situation when people will offer it on their own:
Once stopped by a traffic policeman when I inadvertently took a wrong turn, the officer very politely asked for my Driving Licence - "I want some cases sir, so even if it is small mistake, I cannot let you go". I knew right away, I had some Bribewashing to do. I did, and drove home happily.
Give Premium Service when you are bribed; and NO Service when not:
I learnt it the hard way when I tried to reason out with a babu in local Electricity office. I had received an unusually high bill and wanted to get it checked. But no matter how much I talked I was not able to get his attention. He seemed to have become the most busy person on earth, trying to finish the entire mountain of files in front of him right at that time. While I was trying to figure out whether the radiation from the huge transponders outside his office had made me invisible, the humble peon sitting on the corner stool, watching my plight, beckoned me outside the room. He flatly told me to pay him 500 bucks, which I did promptly. Then he took me to this Babu and introduced me to him (as if I had just dropped in). Now this gentleman's reaction was astonishing. Not only could he see me now, he stood up, shook my hand and asked me to take a seat. My job was done in a jiffy !
Be greedy but there are rules:
My wife, who is much smarter when it comes to dealing with this ilk, offered a 500 rupee note to the Indane gas inspector when he came for address verification at our residence. The man turned red! and gasped. My wife thought probably she had misjudged this very rarest of the rare species: an honest government servant. But she soon stood corrected, when the gentleman fished out a 100 rupee note and said " I cannot take more from you madam !, only 400 is enough". We were visibly moved by his honesty and thanked him profusely. The next day we got our connection.
So, you see! taking bribes is no child's play, it involves a lot of ingenuity and may be a bit of caution?

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Hangman's Quandary

Kudos to 'The Hindu' for publishing the famous article - A Hanging penned by the celebrated British journalist of yesteryear's - George Orwell. This piece of journalistic beauty meticulously chronicles the last thirty minutes of the life of a condemned man, before he is sent to the gallows. This essay is food for thought for people both For and Against capital punishment. It is true, that the nature of crime for which this punishment is rendered is so heinous that a death penalty seems to be the most fit punishment for the guilty. But this is also true, that how much right do we have to snuff out the life of a perfectly healthy person, when we cannot create life in the first place. If a person is alive, then we still get a chance to change him for the better. As George puts it, all the internal organs of a person walking towards the gallows are 'toiling away in fullary' trying to keep him alive, totally oblivious, that this person will be dead anyway after a few minutes.
Presently the country is debating on whether the people in death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, should be hanged or given life sentence. Recently many parts of Tamil Nadu, saw protests against the High Court (HC) decision to hang them, forcing HC to put a temporary stay. Students protested by doing what they do best, i.e. blocking roads, this time the jugular of Chennai - Anna Salai for over 2 hours causing huge traffic problems.There have been some extreme cases as well, for example a woman gave up her life by self-immolation while protesting the HC decision of hanging. However, the police is still investigating the actual reason why she took this step.

The last hanging which the country saw was in 2004 of the rape and murder convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee. At that time too, The Hindu, had raised this question about how effective the death penalty is, and whether it can be done away with? As a matter of fact, there are over a 100 countries that have presently decided against using the death penalty. Should India, who has taught the world the merits of non-violence also follow suit?
Well, but then, what about the 'Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' justice. How will we send a message to where it matters most, by hanging the Afzal's and Kasab's, and say that we are not a soft state, and we will not take matters lying down. But strangely, the only people who are caught in the net for the capital punishment are people who are extremely poor. Be it Dhananjay or Kasab! U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas remarked once: "One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata of society."

Sunday, July 03, 2011

About Delhi Airport, Metro Rail and others

Elephant statues at Delhi Airport
 In my recent trip to Delhi I was spellbound by the new look of the Delhi's Indira Gandhi airport, post the Commonwealth games (debacle?). Although the games did see India win a lot of medals, but eventually the amount of badmouthing that had followed the games has made us wonder - do we really have to host such games. But looking at the Delhi airport, I was amazed by the spanking new Lounges, the long corridors of Walkalators, and beautifully decorated interiors.
To top it off, the Delhi Metro Express line is a class apart, though a bit steep for the Indian pocket. Thankfully, the spittoons are in place, and all the Paan and Gutka enthusiasts are forced to spit before entering the platform. No wonder, the ubiquitous paan stains criss crossing the entire length of the platform walls was missing!

Car Lottery
Recently in Chennai too, the government has not only started work on Metro-Rail, but even started feasibility study on Mono-Rail, which in simple terms is nothing but a train on rails. We certainly have to start thinking about augmenting our public transport in every city, as the number of private vehicles on Indian roads are increasing at an alarming rate, and so is the frequency of accidents. In India we cannot think of doing a Car-Lottery like China, where one has to participate in a lottery to get a licence plate for his car. If he is not lucky enough then he can certainly own a car, but not drive it on the roads.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Why I need a Play Station?

I have always been an avid games freek. The best ones that I like are Strategy games like - Age of Empires, and some sports games like FiFA and Cricket. But most of my gaming experience has been on my laptop. I wish I had a Xbox or Playstation. But to convince my wife, I need these gadgets come disguised as something much more useful.
I know that a Sony PS can double up as a DVD player, but guess what, we already have a DVD player at home. I wish we have a Game console, that can also act as a:
  • Set top Box, so we can plug it to our TV using the 3G enabled services
  • Organizer, so we can use it to set reminders
  • Phone, as it already has a USB port to connect with the internet
  • Exerciser, with the new Wii technology, I don't think that is too much to expect
  • Some Addon softwares like Photo Editors, Movie Makers will make the gadget much for useful.
  • Dynamo?? We repeatedly click the mouse atleast a 100 times if we play a game for 10 minutes, imagine the number of clicks or button presses when playing with a game console. This activity can be tapped to build electricity, that can be used to recharge batteries. I know it sounds far-fetched, or may be downright wierd, but hey I am just thinking aloud.
These will make the gadget much more useful for Family Guys like me. So are the Nintendo's and Sony PS guys listening ?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mind your language

I still remember my first day in Chennai, when a coconut vendor looked straight in my eyes and asked "Tamil terima?" - (You know Tamil?). Unfortunately, my ears still accustomed to hearing words in Hindi, deciphered this as - तमिल तेरी माँ ?? I was a bit outraged, as in Hindi any phrase with the words "तेरी माँ", is not taken very kindly. Looking at the expression on my face, my cousin who was accompanying me, intervened saying  "Teriyada" (Don't know!) Now I was totally bewildered. Was a stranger's abusing me with a word with "तेरी माँ" something not enough that my cousin had to complement him by saying तमिल तेरी अदा !!
It was only later when my cousin explained me the phrases with their correct translations that I realized my folly.
But such bloopers are not new to me, as a second generation Bengali brought up in U.P., I have seen many such unenviable situations arise around me. I still remember laughing to splits when my grand mother shot back to a rickshaw-puller, who was merely asking for some change, by saying "मेरे पास टूटा पैसा नहीं है बाबा, केवल गोटा पैसा है !!" - None of the money that I have is broken, all are intact !
Then we had lot of enthusiastic aunties, who would always love to 'surprize' us with their superior skills in the queens language. Now those were the times, when we did not have Tata sky beaming english lessons straight to our drawing rooms. I still remember our next door neighbour Mrs Jalota, who never got her plurals right, instruct her son "बेटा मेज़ पर बनानें रक्खें हैं, खा लेना." - Son, there are some bananas on the table for you. She also had a way of emphasising things by attaching the prefix "All over India" to it. So whenever there was a power cut it was an All over India power cut, whenever it rained, it rained All over India and so on...
Few days back it was my kid who surprized me. My daughter, almost of five years now, walked up to me with a sad look on her face and said, " I think my teacher thinks that I am a Deer!". Trying to keep my face straight and showing concern, I asked her why, to which she replied "well, she keeps telling me, 'come here dear!, sit down dear!". Of course I do not blame her, because the homophones can have a befuddling effect on even grown-ups at times, and she is just a child.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Whats in a Name anyway!

Or so I thought when I was subjected to the various mispronunciations of my name. From Gautam to Gowtham to Guatam and last but not the least Gothaam - yes where Batman lives !!! Generally Bengali names tend to be literary to the power of infinity and hence are that much more susceptible to mispronunciations. Take my wife's name for instance: Samapti. Literally it means - 'The End'!

First I had thought that this was a result of my father-in-law's wicked sense of humour. But later was informed  by a common friend (on seeing the bewildered look on my face) that Samapti (pronounced as Shaw-maap-tee in Bengali) was the name of a short-story penned by Tagore and it meant "The Conclusion". My father-in-law, a die-hard fan of Tagore, named his daughter after the popular short-story that was later adopted in Satyajit Ray's Teen Kanya. I thank my stars that he was not much of a sports buff given the penchant of Bongs for football. Incidentally Footballers around the world have had unusual names, some to the extent of hovering around obscenities :
  • Paraguay veteran Francisco Arce
  • Former England international Segar Bastard
  • Czech defender Milan Fukal.. to name a few.

The nick names in common Bengali households also are equally creative. Phuchkey, Peethey, Dushtu, Tubul, Golu, Gogol.. and so on. These names, strangely do not have any link with the real names of their possessors, but to a great extent describe the physical or behavioural attributes of them when they were kids. For instance, a chubby looking boy will always be vulnerable to be branded with a name like 'Golu', which will stick to him even when he grows up to be a strapping young lad with six packs that can give King Khan a run for his money.

I, as a child was assaulted by similar attempts to disparage my reputation when my grandmother decided to call me Buro (meaning Old Man). Her reason was simple - I was born without any hair on my head and looked old enough already, for her at least. Somehow that name didn't stick for too long, but then the second assault came from my aunt, who gave me another equally humiliating nick name - Piklu. A harmless sounding name you might think, am I out of my mind to object to that? But when I imagine children calling me Piklu Uncle or an older me being addressed as Piklu Dadu by my grandchildren, well it gives me the jitters. What did I do that I was subjected to such ignominious names? Finally, my mother came to my rescue, and gave me my final nick name - Bapi. Incidentally this name also means Dad in Bengali. So now even my kid chooses to calls me by my nick name, but she is merely calling me Daddy!

This reminds me of my erstwhile colleague who had a high sounding mythological name - Atharvan. For those who are not well versed with our mythological figures, Atharvan was the name of the vedic sage who had authored the Atharvaveda. Imagine his plight when one fine day an overseas client called up at our office and asked 'Hello, may I talk with Mr. Other One ?"