Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Failed Talisman

You do not know me.

You do not know me because I never wanted that. I do not boast about my work, nor do I ever list my achievements on Facebook/twitter profile. You also do not see my picture in newspapers inspecting schools, hospitals because when I do that, I never tag reporters along. You do not know me because I never aimed for that.

I am the nameless, faceless bureaucrat who is present all around. I believe in impersonality, hierarchy and work ethics and I represent the honest bureaucratic tribe. Believe you me, our percentage is much more than what it is made out.

My daily routine often involves fighting with politicians but the fight isn’t something you see on television channels. It is much more refined and nuanced, an art that I slowly picked up in all these years. I let them have their way when they are right, convince/cajole or force them alter things when they aren’t and I also occasionally need to put my foot down. Often politicians respect me for that and at times we part on amicable terms. Agreed there are bureaucrats not like that, but I can speak only for my tribe.

You do not know all this because I do not call news channels and tell them how everything is wrong in this world yet my dissent is taken seriously and often decisions are changed due to that. I also work very hard and enjoy my work. I doubt if any other profession can give satisfaction that I derive from my job.

I was brilliant in academics and I come from a place where reputation mattered more than anything else. I got goosebumps when national anthem is played and there was lump in my throat whenever I saw a hungry child. My parents said there was no other place better than Civil Services and I followed that. I was on the top of this world when I joined and my friends and family thought that I will change this country and so did I.

Things were more complex that I had thought; there was white, there was black and then there was a large zone that was undefined. Decision on black and white were the easiest but there was no norm for grey areas. I did many things in my job, there were many things I could not but at the end of the day when I lied down at night, I slept a satisfied man. There was this common man who looked at me with hope and trust and I was happy if I could protect his interest.  The talisman given to us was to do our work honestly with a clean conscience, and one would be respected for that. In hindsight, most of my decisions were right; some were probably not.

You do not know but I never felt worried as to why I took any decision on grey areas.  I never wanted the system to come to a grinding halt. My reputation traveled fast and I beamed with pride when I was appreciated for that. I knew I was honest and felt that would take care of everything else.

Then came a day when our country was angry at the corrupt. There were reports of scam after scam and all of us were aghast. I was as angry as anyone else, and wanted punishment for those who were responsible for that. There was loss and there was presumptive loss and lot of anger around that. Everyone wanted to fix it immediately and Courts were too willing to do that. They took upon themselves the burden of administering speedy justice and punish guilty for all that.

The jolt came when the first one to be convicted in this conundrum was Mr HC Gupta for Coalgate scam. They did not find politicians, they did not find any big businessman but conviction was awarded to a ‘bureaucrat’. He was an IAS officer, retired almost a decade back and was leading an obscure life before courts found him responsible for all that. This is not the first conviction of any bureaucrat but the problem comes when all agree that he is an honest man yet responsible for this ‘presumptive’ loss. There were people who put up the cases for coal block allocation, there were people who approved and then there were those who actually reaped benefit from all that. Being the Chairman of the committee that recommended the case, he was found guilty for all mess that went around.

I always thought Mens Rea or Guilty mind was prerequisite to commit any crime. I cannot be convicted for something I did not aim for. But I was told in case of corruption, any loss to public exchequer was enough. No personal favour was required and it did not matter if one did not aim for that loss. A scapegoat is as good as a solution and who better than a bureaucrat.

In all that cacophony, I found judiciary, press and many others bayed for the blood of bureaucrats. How could Mr Gupta not know what all was going around? How could he not do more than that? I felt for the first time that working with a clean conscience is not something that suffices. One also has to think how no blame could be attributed to oneself. I wonder if Judges will be sentenced when their judgement is overturned by higher courts due to any discrepancy, police officers will be charged for a crime if accused is let free for improper investigation and lawmakers would be booked if a law turns out to be wrong in hindsight.  

Today, whenever there is a grey area in decision making, I dread deciding on either side. Protecting myself may also matter equally than protecting interest of common man. Maybe I should just push the files and hide behind committees and committees. My conscience doesn’t agree, and for one person questioning bureaucrats, I see scores of helpless common men who look at us with hopeful eyes. I love my work and my country too much to be affected by Mr Gupta’s fate but it has left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe I will continue to work as I did all these years and just ask future generations not to opt for this job.

The talisman to be personally honest and do what one believes is right, failed Mr Gupta. In a way, we failed him too. Corrupt always had a motive in doing what they want but for us there is nothing more than reputation. It may not be worth it to spend years of your life fighting in courts for that.

You do not know me but I am sad. Just being honest doesn’t suffice anymore and today there is a threat to our tribe. The irony is it does not come from the corrupt, but from crusaders of honesty who are out to get as many executions as they can!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Procrastinators

I wanted to learn Guitar for a long time. I gawked those who could play Guitar and also sing along and envied them all my life. I thought about it for a long time, debated merits of acoustic versus electric guitar and searched for music teachers in and around my house. I discussed it with family and friends and also wrote about it at times. After spending a considerable me-time and thinking about that, I realized my actual interest lied in painting instead. Had I not procrastinated for a while I would have wasted time, energy and most importantly hard-earned money of my life.
These days I am trying to analyse why I would like to paint and know about the nuances of this art. If and only if it passes my procrastination test, I would take the plunge, something that would be beneficial both for me and Painting.
Procrastination has often been misunderstood in this world but I can hardly find any habit having benefits more than that. As a gratitude to this old-time friend, I want to like to talk about the virtues of this pal:
1. You become a better planner if you Procrastinate: Suppose you need to write a big report and you have seven days for that. Suppose you also have to buy a present for your friend’s birthday party and get your dog vaccinated during the same time. You spend quarter to seven days thinking about that. Now you only have six hours on a Sunday eve and you realize you friend understands you well and never expected a gift from you in his life. Your dog is also understanding and won’t complain to your better half. In fact, it forgave you when you missed it last couple of times. You fully focus on the report instead and in two hours you have something that would bail you out. You have accomplished in two hours what others would have wasted seven days on.
2. You effectively utilize your time: If you effectively procrastinate, you are never in a hurry all your life. You always have a lot of me time and you are not sure what you should do with your time. The dilemma is that you respect your time and the task must be worthy of your time. You can use your time to play, sing or to the envy of all you can spend your time in worthiest activity of all time, dozing off.
3. Your brain becomes sharp and attentive: Remember a time when you had an entire year to study for the exam. You tried so many times but you could never understand that complex calculus integration. You felt you are too dumb to understand that but thought one day you will sit for hours and finish that. You procrastinated and never found perfect environment and time. When your roommate explains it for fifteen minutes on the morning before exam, you have never known it better than that. Half hour before the exam was most productive time of your life. You remember each and every step to the extent where he smiled and where he smirked explaining that. You suddenly discover fondness for your sharp mind.
4. You can do so many things in this world: Those who do not procrastinate are always busy in this world. They are bogged down with work, impending assignments or are running to finish some task. You will find them saying they would love to so something but do not have time. A procrastinator will never say that and end up doing so many activities others can only dream of. One can procrastinate in different ways and in modern world, social media is of so much help. You can peep into personal/professional life of everyone else. If you are the hot head types, you can troll others you do not like and improve your self-worth in your eyes. You can also form mutual admiration societies and post selfies/pouts.
5. You do things which only you can do and no one else: You have a lot of respect for yourself and cannot do anything just like that. Suppose you are doing a project work with two other project partners and submission time is nearby. Everyone knows everyone else and there is a stiff competition for the biggest procrastinator award. The game for who has stronger procrastinating nerve has already begun and just before the submission time, someone chickens out and does whole work. You use your time in saving the country and participate in trolling/selfie fest instead.
6. You avoid stress disorders: Doctors have been screaming form rooftops that most of the diseases in this world are related to stress. One cannot name a disease which is not caused or made worse due to stress. A person who procrastinates never panics and is always jolly and relaxed. They know best how to handle pressure in their lives. In fact, an effective procrastinator increases the stress levels of those who try to give her/him stress. You are content in life and end up living a healthy, fulfilling and long life.
7. You believe in Karma philosophy and graciously accept all outcomes: Procrastinators believe in the philosophy that do your duty and leave rest on God. They work when they have to and sleep rest of the time. They are also not attached with result. Suppose, a person who has always been working hard fails, they cannot even explain to themselves how it happened and do not know how to accept that. A procrastinator even when the result is not conducive, knows the reason for that. She/he knows how to turn the tables next time. For others who have worked hard all their life, there remains no scope for improvement. A Procrastinator is always in control of life. You also truly internalize the 80-20 principle and practice doing 80% of the work in 20% time. You are not greedy to waste all your life for remaining twenty percent.
Now you know the advantages of Procrastination and if you are not convinced even now, I will give you a recent example. In the beginning of this article I thought about painting but now I realize my calling may lie in writing instead.

Let me give it some real procrastinating thought for now!

Friday, May 26, 2017

On your Birthday!

The biggest difficulty on your birthday as you move ahead in age is displaying candles on the cake. It is cumbersome to spread scores of candles on the cake, moreover it is also not pleasant to announce your impending old age. Even if you do not put candles on the cake, your birthday reminds you of your age.
The family is still as excited and surprises you with a birthday cake. With age, you realise that only thing that matters in this world is your sleep and you all decide to cut the surprise well before midnight. You still have friends who call when clock strikes twelve but you are already snoring by that time; and careful that your mobile is in do not disturb mode. I am not that old, the problem is I am also not young anymore.
Might sound strange to the uninitiated, during childhood I was excited about my birthday. The best thing that happened on this day was you could tear open gifts. There could have been a world inside the colourful wrappings and you dreamt of remote controlled bikes, superheroes and board games. More often than not the gift turned out to be recycled scenery but that excitement never left me. Those who gently remove the packing can never understand the excitement of tearing colourful paper from the middle. Mom made sure it was done after the birthday party and that never-ending wait for the guests to leave was extremely painful.
On your birthday, you were allowed to skip dress code in the school. You also carried a box of sweets and you could bunk couple of classes for distributing those. Often one could get away by not doing homework and was still not punished. God has been kind to me, but as they say, there is no one beyond blame. He made me pop out on 19th May and every year by this date, school had begun its summer holidays.
Birthdays parties at home were often swapped for ‘Havan’. You were supposed to touch feet of everybody to seek their blessings and by the time you were done, your back could bend more than 180 degrees. There was a collective conspiracy against children and elderly ladies handed you cash rather than wrapped gift on your birthday. You parents told of millions that were going to be accumulated in your bank account and swiftly confiscated those notes.
As you progressed in school, you could get birthday cards on your birthday. In the days bereft of social media, it worked well as an expression of interest in somebody. Birthdays then served as customized Valentine days and many people got married because they had a birthday. You could also boast your worth in class by the number of cards collected. I was an extremely popular person and guess God didn’t wish to demotivate many hence kept my birthday during summer holidays. When one went to IIT, you were showered with generous birthday bumps instead of wrapped gifts and those were not very kind to your rear side. Getting birthday card from opposite sex was anyway more difficult than topping IIT.
As I grew up, I am uncertain as to how I should behave on my birthday. Often there is an urge that it is just another date and I hid it from twitter/Facebook. What happens then is birthday greetings from Insurance companies, credit cards and online shopping portals dominate calls by real people. It is not a great feeling to get a call from an insurance company telling you preparations that you should make in case you decide to leave on your birthday.
Another ritual of this day is song ‘Happy Birthday’. Till date, likes of our cultural brigade have a misplaced focus on Valentine’s day but this was the song that pierced through our ‘Sanskriti’. I could never figure out how one should behave when others sing Happy Birthday. Am I supposed to join the chorus, dance in front of the crowd or just stand there and grin till my cheeks revolt. You just fidget with your hands and pray for it to finish. Once a kind friend announced that it was my birthday in a restaurant and I stood like a spectacle in front of crowd of hundred and ended up sponsoring their cake.
Over years after I came in public service, the thing that has become a permanent fixture is some strange person getting to know it is your birthday. This year someone who claimed his hobby was to wish officers on their birthdays called on mobile and before warning, sang ‘Baar Baar Ye Din Aaye’ for good 5 minutes in his hoarse voice. When he wanted to shift to the formal ‘Happy Birthday’ I politely disconnected.
The only thing that has remained constant is the urge to tear open gifts. In case you are thinking about sending one on my next birthday, please pay more attention to the gift wrapping to make it more enticing. My better half does try to save colorful gift wrappers but even today I rarely miss an opportunity to rip it from the middle!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Finally, some answers to the eternal question that has raked mankind for centuries.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
   1.  Because in these times of political turmoil, it wanted to be on the ‘right’ side.
   2.  Where were you when hordes of cows, buffaloes and goats were crossing the road? You didn’t ask it then, you cannot now.
   3.     It never crossed the road. Our Chicken is sanskari and always remains where it is. This is a canard being spread by western ideologues, liberals, extremists and the enemy within. The chicken shit spread in a particular pattern has betrayed leads of foreign funding.
   4.     Because it felt safe post meat ban in UP. This has been achieved in just a month due to new government and soon chicken would be crossing frontiers and seas.  
   5.     Because it was playing Tic, Tac, Toe! And you thought cross has just one meaning.
   6.     Because it wanted to run away from its nagging parents who only forced it to study all the time for Medical and Engineering.
   7.     Because it was told grass was greener on the other side. 
   8.     Because it wanted to create a stir and become prime-time debate topic on Arnab’s ‘Republic’.
   9.     It ‘Just Did it.’
  10.  Because there was a meeting of animals protesting the special status given to cows. All of them wanted Unique Identity Numbers like that being meted out to cows and also an ambulance service.
  11.  Because it hated idle people and it knew they would kill their hours trying to decode it.
  12.  Because being on the right side was mandatory for all to be a nationalist.
  13.  Because a whatsapp hoax had declared that crossing the road will make United Nations declare our National Anthem best in the world. It would also make them declare your country, religion, caste and your own self being the best.
  14.  Because a message on facebook told that each time it crossed the road, Facebook/Baba Ramdev/President of Honululu will give 2 cents for the treatment of that cute cancer suffering kid.
  15.  There are soldiers dying at the border and you are reading this. Think about those because of whom you are sitting in AC, cooler, fan (or even without electricity). Think about them next time whenever you get the urge to know anything.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Elixir's Quest

When Mr Sharma was a child, his teacher taught him about anatomy of cells. He was amazed to learn how cells grew and multiplied, and then transformed into various organs to form living beings.  He also learnt that day cells needed repair and maintenance, and they did so when we slept or took rest. Since that day if there was anything in this world Mr Sharma respected, that was cells; he also never compromised his sleep or gave up on an opportunity to take rest. There was only one thing equally important than repair of cells; quest for elixir on this earth, pure milk.
In good old days, people could find pure milk anywhere. Rivers of pure milk and milk products flowed in ancient India and you could directly drink from that. People never felt sick and lived for hundreds of years. In fact some people survived only on milk and milk products and they were strongest of them all. No Vitamins were needed to recharge their vitality and there were no antibiotics. People were also extremely virile and vast population on this date is living testimony to that. The sole reason for this healthy state of affairs was freely available pure milk.
If you still have any doubts about this elixir, remember Lord Krishna who lifted mountain on fingertips and killed gigantic demons even when he was just a child. The only reason for Krishna’s energy was his love for milk products. Lord’s story is less a religious text and more an endorsement of powers of pure milk. In case you are of atheist or agnostic variety and not yet impressed, think about Lord Krishna’s popularity in the fairer sex.
It was Mr Sharma’s misfortune that he lived in a city and only source of milk was colony’s Doodhwala who brought milk on his cycle in large aluminum cans. Mr Sharma examined that milk for long, sniffed and tasted it at times before grudgingly accepting the inferior quality. His inner voice told him something was seriously wrong; his kids sulked while gulping just a glass, curd or lassi did not taste the same and his cells came in dreams one day and said they were unable to effectively do repair works.
The watershed came when there was a news item of urea traces being found in milk. Mr Sharma did not wish to wait till his milkman learnt that trick and immediately surveyed entire town. Five kilometers from his house, a person had bought a cow and after fervent convincing, he agreed to sell milk at twice the market price. Daily Mr Sharma would get up well before dawn, walk for an hour and half and witness that surreal process of milk flowing from the udders of bovine.
Slowly the effects of pure milk could be felt on all.  His kids became taller and smart. Everyone in the family got fairer skin which was fairer than any fairness lotion could ever provide. All minor irritants like constipation and acidity bid them goodbye and even his neighbor (who often smelt boiling milk in the surroundings) reported his diabetes was in control.  
Nothing lasts forever and one day when Mr Sharma reached the milking spot fifteen minutes before dawn, he witnessed unthinkable in front of his eyes. The person who charged him double the amount for pure milk was giving an injection to the holy cow. All this time, they were drinking hormone/chemical induced milk.
 This time he decided to take things in his own hands and travelled hundreds of kilometers to purchase a bovine from a cattle fair. On his journey back, he managed veterinary inspectors with suitable bribe, survived ‘Gorakshaks’ who (only at times) took people’s life and brought this white bovine into his house. He tried to convince his kids that since they always wanted a pet in house, he has got them a lovely bovine. They were not convinced but his wife worshipped the holy cow.
That day, his entire neighborhood got divided into believers and those who were not. They were split along the lines of those who knew about the magical/spiritual powers of holy cow and those who never aspired milk that was purer than Amul, Mother dairy and their likes. A preaching session was daily organized around the revered bovine about the miraculous healing, medicinal powers of pure milk and virtues of cow dung and its urine were also described.
 The queue of followers continued to increase but there was also an equal number who complained about the smell of cow dung and its ill effects on the housing society. They even objected to mooing of cow at night and threatened approaching Sonu Nigam for help. Mr Sharma tried to argue about the elevated status of Holy Cow and efforts of the government to provide it Unique Identity Numbers akin to mankind. They were not convinced hence to break the deadlock, voting was organized. Believers won this election by a narrow margin with the blessings of holy cow and joy of Mr Sharma was seen flowing through his eyes.
Jealousy of men knows no bounds and Mr Sharma understood the meaning of men being sore losers that day. Someone complained to the Municipal inspector who gave notice to Mr Sharma to remove the revered bovine. Mr Sharma was told it is time to move on and he had no alternative left. He just gets bouts of anxiety and constipation coupled with nightmares about cells missing out on urgent repairs.
In case you know a place where pure milk is available in the town, please help Mr Sharma out!  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I am a Dead Man!

The water is cold at this place.   
River flows in its rhythm, fast at places and then in a playful mood. I remain beneath the water, hardly moving from my place. The water is not of bluish tinge as you would imagine, its colour resembles mother earth; or mud to be precise. There are small ripples in between where water dances in joy but everything slowly flows, as if everything is at peace and tranquil.
He threw me, or what remained in the end, into the river but I did not get far. I settled around the bank where many others lied; for years and centuries. The place is cluttered with many small pieces of burnt bones and ashes but I feel lonely. There is no one to listen to my stories. Perhaps loneliness is death; or this silence; or when everything stands still.  
My son did his best to throw me far but he is a frail boy. He is tall and somewhat thin and is not at all as smart as I wished him to be. He does resemble me when he smiles but he often doesn’t do it in front of me. I have seen him laughing aloud with his friends with whom he would spend hours idling. Yesterday too he was with them when he heard the news. He wept like a child and they consoled him. Some of them even cried and had they not been there, I wonder how he would have taken it.
When he came to the pyre, his eyes were swollen red and he looked like a little clown totally out of the surroundings. He looked strange in that shining bald head and white wraparound. I so wanted to hug him and say all would be fine; I do not recall when was the last time I did it. When he was small, he would come running to me and embrace me tightly; now he would not even laugh in front of me. When I saw him yesterday, a frail sixteen-year-old boy accepting condolences, I felt he is not yet prepared to take on this world.
Shama wanted a large doll house, the one she had seen in movies. They are magnificent and large, and extremely expensive. She would often make unreasonable demands and then force me get everything. For a twelve-year-old girl, her father means everything. She was more angry than sad yesterday. She was angry as to how I could have left her like that without warning, my sweet little princess. Her anger betrayed helplessness and disbelief. Her dad who could have never been wrong left her disappointed.
Her life will be different now and she would never get that Doll house. She would also not get many other things and all that will be left is a big vacuum. I know her well, my little angel. I know she would want that doll house all her life. We never give up on our unfulfilled desires, do we?
The sensation is unique. I cannot describe it but I do feel the stream. It is like your hairs being ruffled by the wind. The sky is dark but you can see some stars, they are shining brighter tonight. When was the last time I looked at the sky?
Will I lie here till eternity?
I wanted to say many things to my wife. On a rainy day, we sat together in a veranda and watched it rain. Occasional drizzle came on us with the wind and brought taste of rain. We sat there for long, quietly and still at ease. I held her hand all the time; I can still feel those water droplets that came with the wind and softness of her hands. Whenever I think about our relationship, that day comes to my mind. Our relationship was probably those held hands, or that comfort of being at ease. Our relationship was probably being we.
 She was a young bubbly girl when we got married. On her first day at our place, she was surrounded by ladies of the neighbourhood and she looked uncomfortable in a gaudy wedding saree. She looked at me with pleading eyes and just fainted. In that crowded house, she was sent to rest quietly in our room and I was asked to look her after. As I entered the toom, she opened her eyes mischievously and smiled. That day, I fell for her smile.
Yesterday too she fainted twice; a dead body lied in her front that resembled me. The body was swollen and strange; and almost ugly. She often looked at it and closed her eyes and a tear would trickle down her eyes. Her face was sweaty and sad and she was no longer that young mischievous bride she had been one day. She was the lady who shared my joys and sorrows; she was the lady who shared my life. I wanted to hold her hands and sit beside quietly.  I have this eerie thought that I will never be able to do it.   
When they lifted my dead body, I also walked along with the crowd. They were busy doing their worldly things and I waited for all that to get over. At times someone cried and I found his face funny. How people look different when they cry or smile! When the pyre was lit, I saw the flesh burn and bones crumble into small pieces. Within less than an hour, all that remained of this body were few pieces of white. My son carefully separated them from wood and ash and then threw it in that river. It was almost midnight.  
The stars are twinkling in the sky. I remember nights when a young boy would sleep on his rooftop and look at this sky. Some days his grandmother would tell him a story and on others he would count stars and constellations. He was timid and shy and lived in myriad dreams. He loved stories.
 I see his mother kiss him on forehead and he cannot hide his smile. She is now caressing his hairs. His dad is full of joy looking at him. Next, he is sitting with his friends. He laughed till his cheeks started aching. There are memories long forgotten but they came back too.
I remember a night when stars twinkled in the sky. There were houses far across and their illumination made them look like Christmas lights on a mountain. It was cold outside but her presence comforted me. Music and wine made everything more beautiful and I softly held her in my arms; her eyes acquiesced that she wanted me too. I held her tightly as if I could always keep her close. I felt her body full of life, her heavy breathing and the fire that lied within. After we made love, I rested my head on her bosom and closed my eyes. If I was ever alive, it was in that time.
I guess I am floating. I am young, I am old, I am not bound now by the restraints of time and age. I am the wind, I am the sea. I am also a song that someone is humming far away. I am a petal, I am a cloud, or I am one strong memory of a song or a smell, or of an embrace. I am the cold wind, I am the heat, or I am chill of the morning, and fog, and mist.

            The end is just a beginning!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The day that wasn’t!

1.     It is a Sunday morning. You wake up with a big smile and do first things first; check your mobile. You receive Good Morning messages from three unknown numbers and they have profile pictures of Lord Shiva, Marigold and Deepika Padukone. You wonder for a moment is that the real Padukone and then you smile at your joke. The messages have heavy images of garden and a rose and one good morning video that eats up mobile data yet doesn’t download. Your day has begun by getting annoyed.
2.     There is another WhatsApp and it is a forward sent by your uncle regarding heart transplant help for a poor child. It talks about forwarding it and the help that WhatsApp is going to provide. You have received this message for the thirteenth time and the same uncle had forwarded it six months back. You type a long message about hoaxes on social media and internet and just before pushing the send tab, you take a deep breath and delete it instead.
3.     You love Urdu poetry and read it to cheer yourself. You spend an hour with Ghalib, Jaul Elia and Faiz Ahmed Faiz and you have found that one couplet that has already made your day. You cannot resist sharing it on Facebook and within one minute, there are three comments and no likes; ‘All ok?’ ‘What happened?’ and ‘समझ नहीं आया पर अच्छा ही होगा’. You feel like banging your head on the wall but hold yourself.
4.     You want to be a rebel and think about torn Jeans for the first time. You contemplate about your old-fashioned self and the urge to be with times. After couple of hours you decide to take the plunge and now debate in your mind regarding from a store or online. It is an hour of serious thought and the deciding factor is indolence. You spend entire afternoon browsing online shopping websites. After risking credit card details at myriad places, sharing your mobile number and email id for receiving future spam, you are successful in payment. You pat yourself on your back and smile on being a man keeping pace with times; just then there is a curt auto generated sms that the product is out of stock and you can claim your refund.
5.     You spend another hour trying to locate the refund section on their website. You know all about their offers and products but you fail to find what you were looking for. You give them a call at the toll-free number and the auto-response system offers three options after every one. The diagram of the nuclear reaction chain comes to your mind and just then you hear a beautiful voice. The lady is extremely professional and polite, and asks you a dozen times as to how she could help. Just when you ask for refund, she cajoles/forces to go for another online purchase and you buy a Water jug. Your first online purchase was a success.
6.     You are desperate to rebel this day and you head towards a swanky apparel outlet.  Salesmen there outnumber shoppers by a ratio of ten and their hungry eyes struggling at their sale target evaluate the new sacrificial goat. Two salesmen are always behind you trying to sell perfumes, wrist watch and a best friend of the bridegroom outfit and you look at your receding hairline before discovering courage to ask for jeans that is torn (You mom already has many old ones that she has never thrown and some could be further torn but rebellion not prudence is the primary objective). You are embarrassed to look at price tags with prying eyes evaluating your purse and you end up selecting a seven T-Shirts and two trousers instead.
7.     You head towards the payment counters and scan length of the queues, efficiency and age of the billing clerks. You run various algorithms in your mind to decide which one would be the fastest. The time spent in the queue is full of anxiety and you hate to see three other queues moving fast. Just before your turn is about to come, you find a beautiful smiling girl heading towards your counter with just one item in hand. You pray that the person standing behind objects but even he does not and the obvious happens. Word stupid comes to your mind but you try to beguile yourself with chivalry instead.
8.     You come home tired and open the Idiot Box. Gaudy looking housewives are busy taking revenge and there is a beautiful lead who took two years to get married and will take another three to consummate. There is also a Nagin nearby along with black magic and predictable storylines. You convince yourself that you are here for the background music score and you love to see the camera focussing on face when it plays. The solace is that they always have some beautiful faces prepared to directly attend a wedding function after shoot. You become snobbish after sometime and tune on English news. Arnob Goswami is taking to task a timid guest and though the guest tries to murmur a protest, his mike has already been muted. It brings on that eerie memory of a unreasonable teacher/bully who could never be wrong and you turn the television off. 
9.     You open your diary to clear your heart and try to pen down things you do not like. The list goes on and on. You scribble that you don’t like stupid people and the majority in this world is already left out. You hate pretensions so you have nothing much for those who pretend to be smart. No one should be banal hence you can’t even tolerate one neither dumb nor smart. You also hate those who don’t get sarcasm. You think about a perfect man and after a long time you can only find one; the person scribbling these notes in diary.

10.  Your day wasn’t the one of your dreams but you always believe looking at the positive side. You thank god for everything that you have and whisper a small prayer in your mind. You turn off the light and are fully prepared to doze off. Just then your mobile beeps and a SMS declares that a lady on South Africa has bequeathed you ten million pounds. You just need to send them five hundred pounds as fund transfer charge. You smile and thank God for all the humour that goes around in this world. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Dear Darjeeling!

It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. – Ruskin Bond
One day there was a big hailstorm which went on and on for an hour. Hails like stones hit entire town and everything turned white. Shaking trees, squealing tin roofs and thickening layer of snow all around, looked petrifying. When it ended, a big crowd gathered at Chowrasta and they started playing with ice. There were kids throwing snowballs at each other, a big snowman standing in between and mesmerized tourists who could still not believe their fortune. I was standing wide eyed at a corner, awestruck and completely in love with Darjeeling.
I have left a part of me in that moment; a part of that day still lives within me!
Finally the day has come to bid adieu to the place we called home for almost two years. There is something about this place that made farewell so melancholic.
The journey till Sandakphu is as difficult as it can be. There is a collection of rolling stones which is sometimes called road. The scenery is breathtaking yet altitude of almost 12000 feet makes breathing heavy. When we finally reached, we forgot our aching body parts because we first needed to survive biting cold. That night was difficult and we swore thousand times that we will never again make such a mistake. In the early morning when we witnessed the Kanchejungha in all its
glory, we could not believe something could be so majestic. The rays of the sun first kissed its peak and then embraced entire mountains. All of us were sitting quietly imbibing we just witnessed something so mesmerizing.
I remember a night at Dello Guest house. It was somewhat cold with pleasant breeze blowing all across Kalimpong. I was the only one taking a walk in that big garden and caretakers probably knew I am a Ghazal aficionado. They played it in the background and I stayed in that moment for a long time relishing solitude. I can still feel that cool breeze caressing me.
Once we got up at three in the morning to see the sunrise at Tiger hills. We cursed the shivering cold and the crowd, and big serpentine traffic jam that snarled uphill. There was a group of youngsters who sang and danced, and I wondered what made them so jolly in this cold. When the sun peeped in and myriad colours danced on the morning sky, I could not help but feel how small we are in front of this beauty. The sharpest memory of that day is the first ray of sun hitting the horizon and how fast colours change in the sky. I also remember those happy youngsters dancing in the crowd.
Once some of our friends came down from

Kolkata and we stayed at a Tea Garden. The bungalow was one of the finest I had ever seen and was surrounded by lush green tea bushes spread across the valley. It had hills on all sides and the breeze made a continuous buzzing sound while knocking at gigantic trees. We sat in the open balcony and debated religion and politics. We fought and argued and almost reached the verge of tearing each other’s clothes. We stayed awake almost entire night and then our dear A played guitar, as he often did. I will always miss those heated debates and those songs that I heard in numerous such gatherings. How will parties look without his guitar strings?
Many other images have stayed on with me. The forest drive of Sukhna looked so pristine that one could find zillion shades of green in it. The vast bank of river was like a scene out of apocalypse. There were times when did breakfast in our garden and had Kanchenjungha’s view in front for company. One night a leopard crossed the road in front of my vehicle and looked at us with his shining eyes before disappearing. When I traveled to Kalimpong, Teesta flowed along and its emerald green water gushing with fast pace looked serene yet intimidating. There were clouds that came and embraced
entire town and the fog that made everything appear mystic. The rain once started poured together for days. There were stories of Ghosts which came back haunting whenever I was alone in my bungalow. Everything was so silent at that time of night that only those who have ever lived that silence can understand it.
And then there were people who were strangers before and became part of our life. We shared good times and sorrows, and cemented our relationship with those memories. They changed me in many ways and all those times of happiness or of melancholy, made life worth living. They took away a part of me and I often find them in my personality. They may always be in our life, or this might have been our last meeting but whenever I would look back in life, I would remember them fondly.
I remember sitting idle one night in a balcony watching myriads of twinkling lights on a hill in front of me, and a strong overpowering feeling came along with it; this is how life is meant to be. A sign of ageing perhaps, the feeling that I may not be able to relive all this is unnerving.
I loved you my dear house. You allowed us to call it home and gave us pleasant memories. I loved you
dear mountains, and your fog and your mist. I loved your serpentine roads that revealed your beauty from different perspectives. I miss you dear friends and maybe I will never get to say this, I would always love you. I always felt that I will never belong to any place but I was wrong; I belong to you, my Beloved Darjeeling!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ten Habits of Highly Effective Meeting Contributors- Simple Ways to Prove Yourself Smart!

Meetings are the most important activity in life of any professional. It is also the best time to tell this world who is most intelligent of them all. Follow these simple principles and emerge from any meeting unscathed, shining and smart:

1.      Well begun is half done; the first step to keep others intimidated from the start. Arrive early for the meetings, if it is at 10am, reach ten minutes before and then look at your watch and give dirty looks to all those entering the hall.
2.      Nod your head gently when someone speaks and make eye contact with as many as you can. This will emphasize that you perfectly understand all that and such an opinion was never expressed. You have also proved only you could decipher that.
3.      Scribble notes at times. Write ‘Twinkle twinkle little star, I have no idea why I came this far’ but appear serious and scribble it down. Underline it twice. Repeat the head nodding and again make some eye contacts. Others will be terrified by all that they have missed.
4.      To appear updated with technology, use gadgets like iPad/Tablet. Fiddle with them all the time and show your neighbors any junk data that Google search throws about the topic. Smile sarcastically at the speaker and then share the smile with anyone willing to do that. Reputation of the speaker is already destroyed.
5.      Interrupt the speaker occasionally and make generalist remarks like ‘that was a very interesting point, but are you really confident there can be no counter argument to that’. It will take some time to understand you actually meant nothing at all and you have already proven who is smart. Never take sides and never call something good or bad. Just words like interesting would be fine.
6.      You will have to do a lot of effort to answer difficult questions, instead keep asking them all the time. In a meeting relating to Vector borne diseases, ask questions like ‘Are you really sure mankind has discovered all the existing diseases or there may still be some where we are totally off the point?’ Once other participants are bowled over by your point, go back to your sleep/rest mode.
7.      Point out any obscure data from the handouts circulated and quote it whenever you find opportunity and time. Ask things like ‘In the year 1976 when Vector borne incidents were 127893 in the country, our city was still at 389. What can be the factor of error in this calculation?’ Most of the participants would have already fallen from their chairs by the time you are finished. 
8.      When your turn comes, speak in vague terms like ‘Let us go beyond our brief and try to contribute together something that will ultimately result in finding solution to the multifarious problems that we have been looking along. Only by joining our brains in collaboration, we can do that. ’
9.      Finish on a positive note. No words are sweeter that those used for flattery. Say things like ‘I am wiser and enriched after hearing so many learned speakers around and it was my humble attempt to match and build up the trajectory that has already gone far.’
10.  Follow the points mentioned above and you have achieved what you want. Now you should not waste your time. Always carry a novel, sketch book or a game of Sudoku and effectively utilize your time.  
 Let no meeting disturb your peace and may your reputation climb greater heights! 

PS: Just in case one is satirically challenged, a satire is a satire, is a satire. Nothing less, nothing more :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

A letter to Someone You Used to Be!

Dear Anurag,
I do not know if you will ever read this. Writing to you after twenty years is as stupid as it gets but will world be any interesting if it always goes by logic. You are going to be fifteen in some days; accept my heartiest congratulations for the same. This euphoria of birthdays will diminish soon and slowly all that will remain is the difficulty to accommodate candles equalling your age on the birthday cake. Preserve those paper Greeting cards; all that will remain in some days is some sort of an impersonal electronic wish. Also they may be the only memory of many friends and this time.  
Before I begin this letter, let me warn you. All your plans to marry Urmila Martodkar would go futile. If you find solace in his, she is not that gorgeous anymore. Rangeela is not the movie you should judge her with. Also get over Chunkey Pandey and Govinda, I can’t even tell you how their fate turned out to be. Your target of watching all the films of Mithunda is a bad idea to begin with, that man will soon start churning out twenty four movies yearly.
I know you are curious how I turned out to be. I am not that rich as you wish but I do can buy a lot many comics of Chacha Chowdhury, Nagraj and Super Commando Dhruva. Irony is I don’t feel like owning them anymore. Now there are other things which I want to possess but then I don’t have money for it, so our situation is almost the same. I have also not seen Niagra Falls, Sahara desert or the real Egyptian mummies so both of us have seen them only in books or movies. I am still as lazy you are, I lack a sense of style and have few friends who can be counted on fingertips. Change if any would have come unnoticed. Growing up may not be that fun as you imagine. I have turned out to be another boring human being, the lot which is available everywhere in plenty.
 The good news is I got rid of studies years ago. Now there is no homework, no school and I do not have to cram for impending tests. You will find it strange but sometimes I miss all of it. I miss that cold breeze which blew in the morning while going to school standing on the front of Dad’s Bajaj scooter (they don’t make any more of it). I also miss the tension of reaching just before the school bell, that chorus of Gud moorrrnniiig teaacherrrr and the naughty smile and giggles that were shared by the class afterwards.  I remember the excitement of opening the Tiffin box during recess, trepidation before the test papers were distributed and the happiness all around when the summer vacations were going to begin. Anyways, let me come out of that sentimental bit, I know you are uncomfortable with it.
I have changed in a manner that I almost stopped enjoying Western music. Accept it, you do not enjoy listening songs on MTV, you just watch it. And do you want to learn more; even your mom knows that bit. You are not that smart you think yourself to be and unfortunately I share that quality. I am somewhat into Ghazals and Jagjit Singh, Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali are my partners in solitude. I also enjoy poetry of Ghalib, Sahir and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Now spare me that bored teenager look.
Learn music now, if you want it. As you grow older, it is not going to easy. Also, for future embarrassment’s sake, learn a bit of dancing. For all you believe in ‘I can’t dance doesn’t mean I won’t dance’ philosophy, Baraat dance in New Year parties and marriages isn’t that impressive.
Your New Year’s resolution this time is to write your autobiography. You never fail to amaze me. Which fifteen year old starts penning an autobiography? It is going to be as fruitless an exercise as all your New Year resolutions will turn out to be. Agreed dreaming is a good thing but Autobiography! Anyways the only reason I envy you is the horizon of your dreams. You can dream yourself to be so many things while my dreams are somewhat limited now. By the way, I do write occasionally.
I can tell you so much now but I do not want to spoil the fun of failing. Still there is no point in hanging from those poles; you are never going to be six feet. Those advertisements of Horlicks and anecdotal talling tricks are all hoax, ultimately your genes will get the best of you. If you can do something, learn a sport. You will not be able to gain in height but your girth may need some watching. Also stop wasting time in making those elaborate studying time tables; you are never going to follow it.
            The world has changed in some ways. Gold Spot and Campa Cola no longer exist, no one watches DD National now and India has won another Cricket world cup. And did I tell you Sachin has retired from international cricket; can you imagine cricket still exists? They have made cricket into a strange game now, called 20-20 which has only twenty overs each side. By the time I get old they will reduce it to six balls and who knows one day just toss will decide everything.   
Internet, Social media, mobiles etc have revolutionised everything but there is no point telling you. World is mostly the same; True friends are hard to find, fairer sex is still not easy to interpret and Mom and Dad can be equally annoying. The strange part is you will also turn out to be annoying to your kids. I know you always wanted to have a dog and guess what, I have one now. His name is Hummer, a Labrador and he is as cute as you wanted it to be.
Anyways stop worrying about life; it will take its own course. Make friends, laugh, cry a bit too and cherish all those who love you. Give them back now. You will not always get an opportunity to do so. In the end you will be a product of people and books that come in your life, so be careful in choosing both. Slog a little bit more, try to be a little less shy and do not take yourself too seriously. Whenever you get time running around, take a deep breath and just think about this life. Someday your twenty years may vanish and you will not even realise a bit.
I am waiting for a similar letter from the one who is twenty years ahead in life. In the meantime whenever it’s possible, do write back to me.
One you are turning out to be,

Sunday, January 15, 2017

IAS Chronicles: You know you have become a Pakka Sahib when....

1. You are obsessed with ‘Sir’. The world is divided in two kinds of people, those whom you address as Sir and others by whom you are Sir’ed. You start responding less when called by your name and more when addressed as ‘Sir’. The word ‘yes’ for seniors is replaced by Sir and you are often heard talking to them on mobile Sir.....Sir.....Sir, Sir........Sir.

2. You spend half your time worrying about seniority. There are people who are senior to you and people who aren’t, and till you figure that out you never rest easy. You find different ways to decide seniority amongst different services, jobs and you find it difficult to remember names but you can smell seniority.

3. Your name gets IAS a permanent suffix and people address you as Mr XY, IAS. You start having an identity crisis without this suffix. Officers begin to write so in their wedding cards and this suffix remains loyal even in your obituary.

4. Your attention span reduces to two minutes and anything that takes more is not worth your time. By the end of the day, you have solved thousands of problems with devoting an average of one minute to each.

5. You do a lot of work but find it difficult to explain what your job is. As an IAS officer you are supposed to do anything under the sun and your kids always wonder what keeps you busy all the time.
6. You have seen best and worst of places, you have seen best and worst of people and basically you have seen so much in a short time, you become inert/immune to all around.

7. Your formal persona takes over your normal self and you find it hard to laugh freely or cry aloud. Your officer like qualities becomes your routine behaviour and it is difficult for anyone to spot you laugh or cry.

8. You stop opening the door of your car and wait for the chauffeur to open it all the time. It is unbecoming of an officer when you open the door of the car yourself. You also become incapable of sitting anywhere other than diagonally opposite to the driver and this arrangement can never be compromised.

9. You may do weights in the gym but in office, you can never be seen even carrying a diary. A peon will always accompany carrying your stuff and it is beyond the dignity of an officer to have anything in her/his hands. You also become obsessed about sitting on Chair covered by a towel and no officer worth their place in hierarchy can dare not to have one.

10. When you are alone, you find it difficult to cross even roads. You risk being run over by motor cars because you are in the habit of traffic being stopped by security whenever you cross the road.

11. You find it difficult to make new friends and your haughty demeanour keeps strangers at bay. You are always worried with whom you socialise and your reputation is more fragile than would be bride.

12. You start claiming free passes like your birthright and whenever you go for a play or concert, you spend most of your time in searching who could manage a better pass.

13. Everybody knows all the latest gossips about all around about their personal and professional lives and you have enough real/imaginary material to write a sleazy novel on any officer’s life.

14. In any official parties, right to speak is bestowed as per seniority and pearls of wisdom flow unidirectional towards the juniors. Most of the monologues start like ‘When I was posted at such and such place.....’ and you are doomed to hear this story for the nth time. As you progress in hierarchy, you also find yourself uttering ‘When I was posted at...’

PS: Slowly but steadily, the breed of Pakka Sahibs is becoming endangered but if you spot most these qualities in any person including myself, you know you have seen one ;)