Unusual Occupations

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z- Zest for life

     Z- Zest for life.
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with a picture
clicked by me on my mobile phone 

When I signed up for the A to Z challenge I knew exactly what I would write about for the letter Z. The rest I was clueless. Eventually now that I have made it through all other alphabets, It is only apt that the last post in this A to Z challenge should be  about a person whose Zest for life humbles me. 

Waseem gets a little irritated when he is being put on a pedestal although I must say he handles it with amazing grace when people especially strangers do that ever so often with him.
Therefore, instead of writing in third person, I asked Waseem if he would be the guest blogger for this post. This post is an extract from his speech at our Toastmaster’s club . At the cost of sounding pompous, let me say this. I edited, tempered  and mentored him for this speech. Therefore a wee bit of the credit for this post is due to me as well . ( You see, Humility is not my forte )   

Over to Waseem :

I am the third in my family. My parents rejoiced when I was born because after my brother who was born blind, they had a son who was sighted. But their joy did not last  long. I was around four years of age, living with my aunt  when I started losing my eyesight gradually.  I did not tell my aunt about it. When my mother came visiting I insisted that I wanted to go back with her. It was then that I told her that I was not able to see properly. By the time I was seven I lost my eyesight completely.
My parents were determined to give us a good life.  
My dad was an Auto Rickshaw driver and his Auto Rickshaw was his second home. He always said, my sons are my 2 eyes, so am I for them. They are  not blind.
My mother did not know kannada, she was not originally from Bangalore, yet she took me everywhere to make sure I get the best in life. 
Waseem during the intra company chess competition
Picture shot on Iphone 4S
Nov 2012 , Bangalore India
Many discouraged her idea of giving us  formal education saying, 'your blind children can’t study much' and anyway there are no schools for visually impaired. But she was very much firm on what she wanted to do. I was  educated at the Divine life society for the blind over here at Whitefield in the initial years. Later I moved to Ramana Maharishi school for the blind. 

It was there that we were taught not just reading and writing. They were practical and so I learnt a bizarre set of activities that included milking the cows, washing the cows, gardening, we washed our own clothes,made cargo boxes and even learnt to insert a thread into the needle so that we could mend our own clothes.   

That was where I was getting prepared to face the real world. Learning to play chess was perhaps symbolic of all that. It was a school plus vocational training centre. Besides that there were ample opportunities to learn classical music and even Bharathanatyam over there.
I have been learning to play the Veena for  14 years now and have given performance in Radio, TV and also once in the US. I am on youtube so check me out here.

I finished school and then went to college  for my PU ( pre university ) to the government’s boys PU college in Malleshvaram. Until the end of my PU, my reading and writing was all in Braille and at times volunteers gave me reading service to support my academics especially to write my exams. I graduated with a B.A degree from Surana college in Jayanagar specializing in Journalism and Political science.

I think every individual should vote and pay their taxes

Here is why I tell you that.  Many think giving in charity is good.  But no … Tax is the best form of charity. It is because when we pay our taxes a lot of people who benefit from basic education, roads and some like me get free public transport.

Ok let me fast forward …

I worked for an NGO for while, I travelled to various places with them including a trip to the US to assess the facilities that they have for the visually impaired.  

After a while I knew I had to get a job. I wanted a real job. 

When I came in for interview over here,  I was expecting it to be tough and I was nervous. But you know what they asked me ? They asked me to search in google for naukri.com and read a job description out loud.  They must be kidding, I thought. I have Jaws software installed on my laptop and I have been surfing the internet ever since I was in college.   

Then they asked me to draft an email. I thought they were asking me silly questions.  But Jayanthi tells me it was tough interview and a hard decision and a biog leap of faith for her to make. Later she told me that despite all her doubts about hiring me I got the job because of the one question that I answered.  She asked me the standard question that all recruiters ask. She asked me  where do I see myself five years from now.

I said I want to be a tax payer.  I want to be a tax payer to let everyone know that disabled people not only take benefits from tax payers money, but also give back to the society by paying taxes.  Really, I did not think an answer as simple as that would be a clincher.
That is how,  I  joined on a contract basis for six months . That was almost three years ago. I am now a proud taxpayer.
I am a software recruiter by profession.  I source resumes, interview people put them up for interviews with their line managers and finally negotiate salaries and get them to work for us. Trust me, if you know this industry, my job you know is not very easy. 
Anyway this was my first real job in the corporate world and for the first 3-4 months,  I was only sourcing. That meant I only called up candidates and scheduled interviews. Then I started sitting for interviews with my colleagues.  Since then I have recruited many ranging  from fresh graduates  to Senior managers  for various roles and skill sets.
I ask them really tough questions before I put them across for rounds with senior people, because I believe from my expereince that senior people ask very dumb questions …. < just kidding>.

When I email or speak to the candidates and schedule them for interviews, most candidates behave normally.  But when they come to office and meet me for the first time, I don’t know what happens to them.  Here is an example.
I was scheduling some candidates for a particular position and I had called this candidate for an interview. The candidate arrived on time, I met her at the reception, walked her to the interview cabin and I did my first round of interviews with her.  I thought she would make the cut for the second round and let her know that my colleagues would now come down to meet her.

She sounded a little nervous and uncomfortable, but I put it down to the stress due to the gruelling interview that I was subjecting her to. I called up my colleagues on my mobile phone and let them know that the candidate was ready and went off for a coffee break.  One of my colleagues  who was supposed to be interviewing her met me at the pantry and said that the candidate was not there in the cabin. Another one  went after five minutes and came back saying the candidate was not there.  
I was very sure I had seated her in that room and such are our security arrangements that no one could walk out without an access card. So I went along with both of them, opened the door and introduced them  to the candidate. I said, Hi Rituparna and introduced my colleagues and she said Hi.
My colleagues laughed out loud and that is when I heard one of them switching on  the lights in that dark room .  I learned that day, where the switches were and why it was important to switch on the lights in the room to make a candidate, especially a female candidate comfortable during interviews.  
<just kidding>

It takes time for many people to treat a blind person like any other. Yes… we need support initially to figure out where the table is, where the chairs are, ( although we do not necearily  need to know where the switches for the lights are) the layout of the room, of the roads and everything . But it is only a matter of getting used to.  I do not allow that support to become dependence. When people get overly helpful, I try to politely let them know. 
I have always been using the pubic transport  and come to work everyday using the  bus.  I never had my college, my music class, even my office close to where I lived and that helped me know different localities in Bangalore city. In my case I can say, I know the city of Bangalore like to back of my hand.

Talking of buses, here is one more of my misadventures I should tell you before I close.  
One day I boarded a crowded bus. I was standing and behind me was a man. Apparently a seat became vacant in front of us. He whispered to me over my shoulder that the seat ahead of me was vacant. I moved forward to take the seat.  I sat down, but by the time I sat down I realized the cushion was slightly different.  It did not take me time to realize that I was sitting on someone’s lap. I juggled around to confirm my hunch and then got up with a jolt. I was sweating and my heart started beating fast. I rushed out and got down at the next bustop to avoid any further embarassment.
I am not sure what that girl must have thought about me.  <wink wink>

          Thank you for listening to me. Good luck and do not forget to vote and pay your taxes.   

Picture courtesy : Vikram Gunasekaran
Picture courtesy : Vikram Gunasekaran

        When Waseem finished this tight rope walk set about 20 feet above the ground effortlessly is when the rest of us who were onlookers realised that     'What you do not see, you do not fear.'

Perhaps this is how it is for him to walk everywhere.    

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y- The 'Y' factor

Y -  The 'Y' factor  - YOGA :
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with a picture
clicked by me on my mobile phone 

One of the best things that happened to me last year was a Yoga vacation to Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, India. I had been yearning to go their Ashrams for a long time. The floods in Uttarkashi last year ruled out going to their Uttarkashi ashram.
Moreover Madurai was just hop-skip and jump from Salem where I go on work almost every month.
That is how I ended up in Madurai for a Yoga vacation for 15 days to spruce up my Yoga Practice. It was the most relaxing and enjoyable vacation  that I have ever had.

As they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

 My first attempts at Shirasasana ( the Head stand) were clumsy and I was not sure if I was meant to learn it. With my teacher, Shaju’s patience and encouragement , I have kind of gotten over the fear of falling down.
This reaffirmed in me the faith that one is never too old to learn . Unless you want to learn to compete at the Olympics. 

Sivananda Ashram Madurai, India
August 2013
Picture shot on Apple iphone 4S

Sivananda Ashram Madurai, India
August 2013
Picture shot on Apple iphone 4S

Neyyar River, Kerala India
April 2014
Picture shot on Nokia 520 

Neyyar River,  Kerala India
April 2014
Picture shot on Nokia 520

This time around I am at the Sivananada Ashram at Neyyar Dam in  Kerala.

This ashram, built on the banks of the Neyyar river is dense with lush greenery around. At the Ashram, with a set routine and discipline I am up and awake to watch the sunrise by the river on most mornings. Needless to say the view is breathtaking.

Sivananda Ashram Kerala India
April 2014
Picture shot on Nokia 520 

With a rigorous four hour schedule of Yoga classes and other mandatory activities, the Ashram life keeps you on your toes the entire day.  For the last two weeks I have been unlearning and relearning much more than yoga asanas.

Not all of that can be explained, it can only be experienced.

My fight with the 'X' factor seems to have been temporarily conquered as I put on a T-shirt with size M and not even L leave alone XL written on its collar. 
Now maintaining this is going to be a different ball game.

But I am taking it all one day at a time. J

Monday, April 28, 2014

X- The X factor

X – The  X factor  
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with pictures
clicked by me on my mobile phone

X is a very depressing letter.
Not because it is a challenging letter to write something for the A to Z challenge. 

For those of us who battle the bulge, every now and then, know what it feels like to pick up those dreaded ‘XXXXXXXXXL size clothes when you have to go to shop.

Picture courtesy : Google Free images 

I was never the slim and trim one.  As a child I was called the chubby one. It was very sweet and cute to be chubby in those days. All those babies who had 'Farex' formula food were supposed to be chubby.  I guess that is when it all started.
Amma in her enthusiasm to stock up empty tins of  Farex emptied them out on me in the name of healthy formula food. They called it the supplement. She took it literally. I was fattened up on Farex, it was like the desert after the main meal.
As I grew up the, long lasting Farex effect never ceased.  As a teenager I never wandered towards the trial room with anything like XS or XXS or even plain S.

In the best of my days it was ‘M’. And since then it has been the borderline with L and the XL.       
Over the years I clearly graduated to the ‘X’L.
In all those years while my mental image told me that 'L' was the size I should take into the trial room, the X factor would pull me back.  I would emerge from the trail room with a sigh since the size ‘L’ would not really budge into my contours.  And to top it all I would shop at the petite section. 

Petite is not all about being little, yes there are L, XL, XXL , XXXL and X to the power or infinity L in the petite section as well. It is just that we are challenged vertically and make up for it horizontally.
So you get a mental image of what I look like don’t you ?
Now all you readers who see me in flesh and blood must be thinking I am overdoing this.
Many of you have offered me kind advice and asked to me go for a walk, run , crawl , swim, sweep, starve, slog, hog ( yes that 6 meals a day thing),  dust the windows, ditch the lift, take the stairs, wash the dishes   etc… etc… etc…
Do anything but make sure you strut your butt.
You have also told me in many kind words  that lazing around by the bedside under the pretext of blogging over the laptop  is good exercise for the finger tips but it does not quite go down to tone the rest.
Especially those fixed deposits down the waist.
Yes I understand.         
So … here I am … a new avatar feeling fit, fine, detoxified and all prepared to take on the fight with the ‘X’ factor. 
Here I come back to civilization in a couple of days and I promise to go shopping.
I am confident, I may fit into L and maybe with some luck graduate down to M.
 For a while maybe.
 But so what ?
Now to quench your curiosity and the secret recipe to battling the ‘X’ factor watch out my post tomorrow on the ‘Y’ factor.
Until then good bye.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

V- Vote

V- Vote
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with pictures
clicked by me on my mobile phone

The elections to the lower house of parliament are on, all over India.

I must confess I did not vote this election.  I am away from my home where I am registered as a voter. 
Had I been around I would have definitely voted. 
In the coming years, very similar to the concept of ATM or cash machines, we should have a system of voting from anywhere within or outside the country.

Voting ink*
Picture clicked on Blackberry curve ,
 After voting in May 2013
(* For the benefit of my non -Indian Readers - in India every voter who casts his vote is marked with an ink on his / her index finger as a mark of having voted. The special ink takes about a week to disappear. This is necessary because as the largest democracy of the world, India is notorious for some highly undemocratic activities like Booth capturing, voting on false names, voting against other people's names etc. Sadly not more than 60-65% of the country's citizens Vote. Notably the educated and well-to do ones do not bother to vote. 
Things are changing and this blog is a small attempt to change that mindset. )

I would have voted for any candidate that I believe is the least corrupt, or rather holds up to his ideals and has a clean record. 

For I know it is not easy being a politician.  No matter how much you do, the politician is always looked upon as corrupt and opportunist by the people of the constituency. 
There are a whole lot of them - the corrupt and opportunists, but not all of them are corrupt and inefficient. Many of them mean well and mean business. 

When your drainages work well, roads are motorable, water supply is safe, vegetables cost reasonable, public transport runs adequately you do not think of all the effort that has gone in by your local politicians and the government machinery to keep all this working.

It is only when things go out of hand that the cynical, pseudo voter who does not even bother to Strutt his butt to get out of home on the election day gripes over all that, that is not going right.

Voting is not our right, it is our responsibility. If all of us voted and voted responsibly, we could hold our politicians accountable for what they do with the tax payers money.

Here is my favorite politician who for the first time in the history of India sends out  a half term report to all the voters in his constituency via his website in both English and the local language about the projects that he has initiated and their progress. (Nope - my blog does not support any political party.)

How many of us even know or dictate a job description and KRA’s  for the members of parliament that we elect to office ?

As citizens of the world’s largest democracy we should feel proud about voting and electing our members to parliament.
Voting is important. 
Take it seriously.         


Thursday, April 24, 2014

U- Ugly Indian

U - Ugly Indian
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with pictures
clicked by me on my mobile phone

Greenery Mockery
 BEML layout, Bangalore India
Picture shot on Blacberry curve
June 2012

There really is no shame in admitting this.
Civic sense is not the Forte of us Indians.  While the interiors of our houses are neat and clean and  aesthetically designed,  the ugly Indian does not think twice before spitting on the road  or throwing out trash ( recycling and garbage segregation are concepts that we turn a deaf ear to). 

It is not about the Indians residing India. Indians includes our not so friendly neighbours 
(those who shall not be named) as well.   And the wide diaspora of us and them that is spread out all over the world.

Source : Google free images
For example in an otherwise clean and disciplined city of London, Civic sense and lane discipline plunge as you head into the predominantly South Asian Suburb of Southall. Elsewhere we are law abiding immigrants   who obey rules. 

That is because we are a clan who obey. We obey authority. It is hard to inculcate a sense of self discipline amongst us.

Bangalore 10K run 2011
Picture shot on Blackberry  curve
June 2011, Cubbon Park, Bangalore, India 

Here were some pictures clicked after the Bangalore 10K run in 2012 at Cubbon park. The event raised  funds for many Charity organizations that included the ones who worked for the environment. Kingfisher also got a lot of advertising mileage doling out free water bottles to the runners and onlookers who littered it all along the way.
Source : Google free images 

 The ugly Indian – an organization that is committed to raise the civic sense consciousness of Indians is trying to fight this.  Check them out over here and if you are an Indian reading this, do something about it. Together we can . 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T - All the Tendulkar Fans

Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with a picture
clicked by me on my mobile phone
I just got my annual car insurance renewed online. So this derserves another post  dedicated to the Alphabet T- Tendulkar.
Read on to know more    

All the Tendulkar Fans

I grew up becoming a Tendulkar fan. I am not a cricket buff, nor have I followed cricket or Tendulkar as fanatically as so many others of my generation  have. But if you live, work with and are surrounded by Tendulkar fanatics, no matter how disinterested you are, you tend to fall into the groove.

For the benefit of the uninitiated Sachin Tendulkar is an Indian Cricket player. More about him over here. 

This blog post is about All the Tendulkar fans.   

If there is one thing that is universally appealing about Sachin Tendulkar, it is his down to earth simplicity, his reverence for the game of cricket, the ease with which he carried off his records and the complete lack of flamboyance despite all the wealth that he amassed in his career and as an undisputed celebrity in not just   the world of cricket.

He steered clear of all the controversies that surrounds the game of cricket in India.
There was a point in time when many players  in the game of   cricket fell into the trap of bookies and the lure of quick money.  When the high profile list of players suspected of match fixing were tossed around, many said with conviction that Sachin could not be one of them. Such that I had someone coin the term Sachin's game should be above suspicion, thus redefining the good old ' Ceaser's wife needs to be above suspicion'.
That is what gets him a mass fan following not only from the people watching the game but from his peers and senior players in the game of  cricket.

Being a Tendulkar fan, is not a just a guy thing.
My grandmother’s elder sister who is currently hovering around 90 years of age is a die-hard Tendulkar fan. She still curses her son for not getting her cataract operation done well before the time Sachin was playing  his final match at Wankhede stadium.

Anyway you do not have to follow cricket to appreciate Sachin's qualities.

Here is a Tendulkar Fan who rose to prominence during the world cup.

However this is not how people recognise him.

He is widely recognised for showing up at every home match the Indian team plays since 2003, with his body painted in the national flag of india. 

Sudhir kumar Chaudhary is a Sachin fanatic. He paints his body on the previous day of a match and skips sleep that night to preserve the paint on his body.

He has managed a wikipedia entry solely on the identity of being a fanatic fan of Sachin Tendulkar. 
Read more about Sudhirkumar Choudhury over here.

Of all the fanatic Tendulkar fans here is another one that bowled me over.

All the Tendulkar Fans
Picture shot onApple iphone 4S
November 2013
Watching the last match in November at the office pantry.  Here is a man who like scores of Indians has followed Sachin’s career and is a load of information on Sachin.

He rattles off with ease, information about Sachin's batting style, his best partnerships and an entire load of statistics from all the years of  Sachin’s career.

I happened to be watching Sachin’s last match over a cup of tea with Waseem  and learnt a lot more about Sachin than I knew in all these years of his career.

All the Tendulkar Fans
Picture shot onApple iphone 4S
November 2013

All the Tendulkar Fans
Picture shot onApple iphone 4S
November 2013

The thing about Waseem is that he has not seen Sachin play.
He has only heard them . ( More about Waseem in yet another post)
Or rather it does’nt take two functional eyes to be a Sachin Fan .. does it ???

Coming back about this thing on getting my car insurance renewed.

I bought my car about four years ago around this time. My car was going to get delivered.They called up to inform that I could collect it anytime after the 22nd.
Amma insisted it had to be the 24th, not the 23rd or the 25th because it was an Auspicious day.
Auspicious-  because it was the Sachin's birthday.    

This post is dedicated to all the Tendulkar fans on the eve of Master Blaster’s 41st Birthday.

T – Thennang kuruthu

Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with a picture
clicked by me on my mobile phone
T – Thennang kuruthu

On a sultry afternoon, walking along the East Mada street adjacent to the Magnificient Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple,  looking for a Saree shop that would sell the authentic Madurai Sungudi sarees is when I stumped upon this delicacy. It was sad to note after looking around, that Madurai’s very own Sungudi  Sarees in their original design and form are almost extinct. Even the government owned co-optex store in Madurai that is supposed  to encourage small scale industries and local weave, stocks something that is a more fashionable hybrid variety of the Madurai Sungudi variety that I have only memories of grandmothers wearing them in the sweltering heat of the summer months.

Anyway I digress.

Thenang kuruthu
Picture shot on iphone 4S
Location : Madurai, India
August 2013
Thenang kuruthu
Picture shot on iphone 4S
Location : Madurai, India
August 2013

Famished , thirsty and tired, the hygiene conscious urban traveler in me rejects all the oily street food fare that abundantly line up the streets surrounding the temple.
I stumble upon this one that a push cart vendor seems to be selling.  I ask him, what it is, in a Tamil accent that clearly reveals  that I am not a local.
Thennag kuruthu’ is his reply.  I guess it is the tender shoot of a baby coconut tree .  But it turns out this is the tender shoots of the baby Palm tree. The rich off cream colour and the ease with which his knife was cutting through the slices one guessed that this could be interesting to taste. 

Thenang kuruthu
Picture shot on iphone 4S
Location : Madurai, India
August 2013

I would presume Thennag kuruthu’  does’nt travel well. Else it may have got exported outside the country  like the Mango - king of fruits, which aptly said by Shashi Tharoor is now turning out to be the fruit of the kings. The common man in the locale where it grows hardly gets to taste the best of mangoes. Afterall they are worth their price in gold. 

I buy a few slices of Thenang-kuruthu for five rupees  to experiment and to taste what it is like.  Since the slices were cut fresh, I am convinced it would do me and my delicate digestive system no harm.
As I expectantly put one small slice of the ‘Thennag kuruthu’  in my mouth,  I am awestruck at the olfactory experience that I go through. The tender shoot exudes a subtle sweetness and a soft texture that makes you want to linger on to the taste for just a while more and stay with that moment. 

Staying with that moment, you close your eyes and experience the delicate, tenderness, sweetness, freshness and the awesomeness of nature’s creation.  It is indeed nature's gift to mankind ( woman kind as well ) to experience what could otherwise have grown into a tall sturdy palm tree.
Thenang kuruthu
Picture shot on iphone 4S
Location : Madurai, India
August 2013

Consuming it was a treat filled with that slight guilt considering that this one could have otherwise grown into a tall sturdy palm tree.
Worse is that here was a delicacy that really did not cost a lot in terms of money. They say all good things in the world come free. This one did not come free but came at a pittance in exchange for the experience that it offered my taste buds.   
It is impossible not to marvel at the creation and thank nature for the bounty and more importantly for the opportunity to have tasted this delicacy . 

Just how many more wonders must nature have in store that have not yet been discovered ? 
Perhaps they are better off not being discovered , experienced and exploited by mankind.

 But this one, I will be thankful for. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S- 'Swadeshi' comes a full circle

 S- 'Swadeshi' comes a full circle   
Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z
challenge features a blog with pictures
clicked by me on my mobile phone

An ad promoting Local banking on a Tube station in London says thus : 

Five questions you should ask your bank :

Does your bank operate right across Britain and nowhere else ? 
Does your bank serve only local people and local businessmen and not big corporations ?
Does your Bank refuse to gamble your money in overseas speculations?
Does your bank say not to using its customers money to fund investment banking ? 
Does your bank use every penny of customer deposit to serve other customers ? 
Go Local
Picture shot on Panasonic DMZ
London, March 2014.
 If the answer to all this is YES thank you for banking with TSB 

If not maybe it is a time for change.   

A hundred years after  Gandhi  may have stood on this station, here appears an ad that propogates what he would in the course of history become famous for. But then we do not learn from History's lessons. Do we? 

Swadeshi – the Indian term used to denote locally produced things was initially adopted during the Independence struggle to boycott British goods and adopt locally made Indian homespun. It gained momentum during the freedom struggle in the early 1930's and was popularized by Gandhi. 

Millions of Indians heeded to his call and burnt down clothes that came from the mills in Manchester and Liverpool. An entire nation took to the charkha ( spinning wheel)  as a symbol that would denote self-reliance and to encourage the local industry rather than fall prey to imported goods.
After India gained independence and Gandhi fell to Godse’s bullets his ideals got dumped or atleast became unfashionable.  Swadeshi  in India had became synonymous to all goods and services that were inefficient and of poor quality.  A highly consumerist social culture combined with regressive economic policies by a highly regulated socialist government that was way behind schedule with its policies was to be partially blamed. 
Few people in the post independent India lived by Swadeshi ideals.

A little less than a hundred years on, the world economy went through turbulence.
In the 1980 and 1990’s the bankrupt nations of the world opened up to world trade to pay up their debts. Free trade across economies promised to liberate impoverished countries from stifling policies that hindered prosperity. The floodgates of unregulated capitalism governed solely by free market economy became the buzz word and many nations were now trading freely with each other.

In India, by the beginning of the new millennium  Pepsi replaced Parle,  Ambassador and Maruti retired to make way for Hyundai, Ford, Honda and BMW.   HMT got relegated to nostalgia and a trivia question in business quizzes.
Elsewhere in the western world jobs shifted towards cheaper economies and so did the manufacturing industries. By the time we entered the new millennium the money started flowing eastwards. India and China became the back office and the manufacturer of the world respectively.
The service sector, the manufacturing sector and all other local jobs in the Anglo Saxon – capitalist economies slowly started eroding away. Jobs in the services sector were getting 'Bangalored' and the Industrial sector were getting  'Hangzhoued'. 

The information technology revolution closed in the barriers even further.  Money, the currency that determines the strength of a nation's economy also started moving freely across borders.
Soon it was a connected world.  A highly connected complex world.  The enormity of its complexity was difficult to fathom. 

As I copy this using a simple keystroke that was probably programmed by an Indian software programmer  employed by Microsoft an American product company whose patented  Microsoft product I am using ( MS WORD), on a laptop whose brand is American but is manufactured in China  and published over a blog of a multinational that is probably headquartered in Ireland or Cayman Islands.

Anyway, when global  capitalism was on a roll through the early start of the millennium, two old boys in downtown Manhattan brushed against each other. Boys they were.  Old enough but not wise enough.  Let’s call them Henry and Dick. No... that is too close to reality .

Humpty Dumpty
Picture shot on Nokia 520
April 2014  
Let us call them Humpty and Dumpty.
Because they played Humpty Dumpty in front of the entire world.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the kings’ horses and all the king’s men
Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.

That is how the old nursery rhyme goes.  
However in capitalist world Humpty had the last laugh.
He pushed Dumpty down. Dumpty cried.
Dumpty cannot fail. The world cried. 
If he fails, he takes the entire global economy down.  We are all connected. Cried Dumpty and his petrified friends.
But Humpty had worked out his plans. Eventually only Dumpty fell fatally. All the others were rescued over safety nets and were put on artificial respiration. But Dumpty met his fatal end.   
The world economy collapsed. Capitalism failed. 
 All the kings’ horses and all the king’s men
Have  been trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Wisdom came at a cost.  
Nations went bankrupt. 
Corporations closed down and millions went homeless.  
But we all learnt a lesson.  The world over.

The consumer consciousness grew.  Capitalism or rather unabashed capitalism was now looked down upon.  The Common man questioned his government , his bankers, his farmers and his supermarket from where he bought home the bacon. 
Investing locally, being accountable locally, doing small scale business and reaping responsible profits became the mantra. This time around, this was not in India. But in Britain.

Swadeshi has come a full circle.
And thus when on a tube station in London, TSB bank, a local British bank advertised this, it came after consumer activism in what was the citadel of capitalism and a country that propogated free trade. 

Mahatma Gandhi, the man who who popularized ‘Swadeshi’ would have been proud. He probably lived near this tube station about 125 years ago when he was training to be a Barrister at law.

Who would have thought that in less than a couple of centuries  ‘Swadeshi’ would indeed come a full circle?

But then again ... who knows History has a tendency to repeat itself again and again.  


Monday, April 21, 2014

R - Reflections, Rainbows and Railways

Mobile musings - the theme for this A to Z 
challenge features a blog with pictures
clicked by me on my mobile phone.
R - Reflections, Rainbows and Railways 
R - Rainbows

If we look at life in black and white we would miss the colors of the rainbow.

Guildford, England
March 2014
Picture shot on Nokia 520 

Guildford, England
March 2014
Picture shot on Nokia 520 
R for Reflections

It is in complete stillness and silence that we can see the reflection of what is magnificient yet so mundane to our lives.

 Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India 
April 2014
Picture shot on DMZ panasonic 

Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India
April 2014
Picture shot on DMZ panasonic

R for Railways

R is also for Recycle .  I am re- publishing one of my old blogs on Indian Railways, that I think is one of my all time favorite blog posts. Sadly it did not receive too many hits. J

R - Railways. ( Indian Raliways)    

That old and overused massive railway network that we inherited from the British.  For decades it has transported many dreams, hopes and journeys of middle class India in those burnt brown and chrome yellow coloured coaches.

Summer vacations to native place, school excursions,  journeys undertaken for weddings and funerals,  the unemployed 20 something who leaves his small hometown in search of the much needed  job in the big city to support his poverty stricken family back home, the young bride who leaves the comforts of her maternal home to start a new life, little boys and girls who leave their small towns and board the trains with dreams of making it big in the city.  
For more than a century, Indian railways has carried the hopes, longings, dreams, grief, joy, trepidation and a variety of emotions of millions of Indians in those brown and yellow coaches.   

In the days when air travel was relegated to the super rich, long distance travel in India was predominantly the monopoly of  Indian railways. Thanks to the Government of India, every salaried employee availed his Leave travel Concession to save up on income tax either to go to his home town or to some other place to visit relatives or on a pilgrimage. 

Those were days when holidays were not associated with hotel booking, sight seeing or package tour from holiday operators. You pretty much visited places where your relatives lived, stayed at their place and reciprocated their hospitality when they came down to yours.

The typical middle class Indian of the seventies and eighties worked in a far away state for a public sector undertaking or the government or a nationalised bank. His family, that consisted of a wife and usually two children, typically lived away from ‘home’  for 11 months in an year. Their annual visits to their home town got them income tax exemptions when they exercised their leave travel allowance.
But that was not the only reason they flocked homewards in summer. Summer, which typically has the most disagreeable weather in most parts of India is vacation time for schools.  The middle class Indian and his family flocked homewards to stay connected to their roots.
Family reunions, weddings, thread ceremonies,  bride seeing ceremonies,  ‘ mundan’ (shaving off the first crop of hair of the young children),  the annual family pilgrimages and various such other activities were all planned and executed around that time. In reality the middle class Indians were never uprooted culturally, economically and socially from their native place. They were merely transplanted for eleven months in an year and were transported back home by the Indian railways.

Train journeys were long, arduous and required a lot of planning.
You braved long queues at railway stations to book your tickets. The computerized railway reservation until the early nineties still required one to fill up a much battered and undecipherable railway reservation form and wait patiently to know the availability at the counter that could take a few hours especially  before the onset of summer vacation, to confirm and reserve your train travel bookings.  Until CMC designed the massive online railway reservation system and changed everything about how we travel.

The train travel itself was an important aspect of the holiday.
Those were not the days of excessive consumption.  Neither were  parents paranoid about hygiene and safety. Food was normally packed up from home so that it lasted the hunger pangs of an entire family till one reached the destination.  The humble ‘gooja’ or a decent sized water cooler  carried water which was refilled at major railway junctions where trains stopped for a longer time. Either the water quality in those was better or people in general were blessed with greater immunity. No one really got sick or suffered food poisoning after a long train journey.  
Before you boarded a train, clutching your reserved ticket it was only natural to check on who your co- passengers would be, at the railway chart put up at the entrance to the coach.
  Their name, age and gender that would be printed on the chart, in English on one end of the coach and Hindi on the other,  gave out pretty much a rough outline of your co-passengers lineage and other vital credentials. If there was any cause to worry the Train ticket examiner ,(TTE) always dressed in white shirt, black trousers and a jet black blazer unmindful of the weather conditions could always help you out. Sometimes for a little extra money.      
Indian railways and their chaste Hindi translations of everything that was English has introduced  many a south Indian, for whom Hindi was a foreign language  to his or her first foray to learning the national language. 

Appa, who by virtue of grown up in an anti-hindi regime in the Tamilnadu of the 60s and 70s barely learnt his hindi out of sheer necessity only because he had to step out of his home-town in search of a living. In one of those long  home bound journeys from 'north' to 'south' that we were undertaking, the train was running late. As the train approached and was slowing down at some small station, Amma who was sitting at the rear end asked Appa who was looking out the window, what station it was ?  Having managed to learn the devnagari script but not the spoken language, Appa did what best he could. He read out loud what he thought was the name of the station. 
It is "shauchalay', he remarked after deciphering what was written in yellow and black font right in front of his window. The co-passengers sitting in the train burst out laughing.   

Of the many Hindi words that have fascinated me, श़यनयान/sleeper coach has intrigued me the most. It is a word that rhymes well and has a tinge of sanskrit in it. It is a word that does not find common usage in everyday Hindi vocabulary. 

Picture shot on Iphone 4S
May 2013
Boarding the श़़यनयान gave you that peace of mind that your berth was reserved and the next 24 to 36 hours would be spent over a sleeper berth that you could claim your very own. 

It would be classified as lower, middle or upper berth. Irrespective of what the reservation chart said, the lower berth would be claimed by the elderly. Women with children or demure young women for whom it was too unfeminine to climb up the middle or upper berths would exercise their right over the lower berth.

My personal favourite in a three tier श़यनयान is the side upper berth. It is specifically designed for the petite Indian whose height hovers around the five feet mark. Those blessed with some extra height always found the side upper berth extremely uncomfortable and were ready to exchange it with the petite ones.

The side upper berth can also double up as a seat for two who manage to climb up for a chat or a game of cards to spend away their time while the train crossed different terrains  across the country sides to transport them to their destination.

The side upper berth, unlike the middle berth does not inconvenience your fellow passenger in the day. It let's you linger on to a siesta before, during and after your lunch.  It is over a side upper berth on those 24 to 36 hour long journeys that I have devoured many a book that needs to be read from beginning to end.  Uninterrupted.

The side upper berth is also best suited for the social recluse who would rather remain un-introduced to nosy fellow passengers who could engage in conversations to know about everything from your marital status to the political leanings and the general state of affairs of whichever place they come from or are going to.

A train journey especially on a second class ticket is a great window to experience Indian cultural diversity at its best. You not only get to see places from your window, you get to smell and taste the specialty of each station. Most stations market their wares based on what they dish out the best. Karjat station for its  vadapav, Lonavala station and its famous chikki, blankets from Solapur, the quaint earthen pot chai at Mathura junction, Bikaner’s bhujiya and  Agra's very own Petha.  To name a few. These were made famous because of the patronage of the railway journeys and its customers who carried the rave reviews far and long, mostly by word of mouth.  

You also get to  hear different languages and dialects as the terrain changes and get to socialize with strangers if you choose to come down from that ivory tower called the side upper berth.

Ah. Any piece of writing on Indian railway journey cannot be complete without the mention of that other, rather scary accessory always found in Indian railway coaches.

Picture courtesy : google free images

Penalty for improper use Rs. 250 and/or upto six months imprisonment.
Children across different generations have nursed a secret dream of someday pulling that chain but for the fear of getting caught and imprisoned.

The next on the list is the आपातकालीन िखडकी/emergency window. Every sleeper coach has three on either sides.  I have held on to a long cherished superstition that if on a train journey I get a seat near this dangerously designed window, the journey would turn out to be a lucky one. A couple of journeys  by the emergency exit have made me decipher the pattern.  Unfortunately, one can never book your ticket specifying your seating requirement. Especially  near an आपातकालीन िखडकी।
 Matters such as that are left to factors such as availability of tickets, law of probability and plain luck. Many memories of train journeys by the आपातकालीन िखडकी that have proven lucky and memorable, have left an indelible feeling of nostalgia that cannot be erased with time.

This 14 by 12 inches, oil on canvas painting was commissioned by me and executed by this grumbling reluctant artist who found it extremely unchallenging for her artistic instincts to execute this seemingly  monotonous (for her)  but profound ( for me) piece of work.

Shayanyaan-  Painting by Kriths
Picture shot on Iphone 4S
May 2013

This blog has been especially written to give a context to this painting.
I am sure this painting will evoke a sense of nostalgia in anyone who carries the memories of train travel aboard the Indian railways.
Speaking about this painting … well here is my prediction
What those drooping sunflowers did to a certain Vincent Vangogh’s career
What a certain Mona Lisa's smile did to Leonardo Da Vinci’s career as a painter
The श़यनयान will do to Krithiga, the creator of this classic piece of art. 
If you think that is a fair statement to make, please like her work on her Facebook page by clicking here.

Shayanyaan in my Bedroom with Supermodel : Nandini R
Picture shot on Iphone 4S
May 2013
The original is now on display in my bedroom, my very own श़यनयान (sans the आपातकालीन िखडकी) where I spend  a good part of my sleeping as well as waking hours.  It is only a matter of time before the officials from Louvre or Sotheby's would come and take it away. :)