Monday, December 8, 2008

What now?

The war with terrorists is over. One captured alive and nine dead, or so they say.
Now what? Now nothing!

The sentiment of our politicians is clear from the utterances of our beloved leader R.R. Patil to the effect that such small incidents happen in big cities. How cool. Somebody should explain to Mr.Patil in the language he understands that it was an invasion, not just an incident. Hundreds of people don’t lose their lives in incidents. But it was an incident to our politicians – it didn’t happen in their front or back yards. They are surrounded by security at our expense. Even after paying heavy taxes, you don’t buy your security. You buy theirs. The only response from our Government is to warn terrorists and our enemy countries that they should not try our patience. Warning? They laugh at us, make mockery of our warnings and prepare for the next attack.

It is not patience-It is cowardice, it is lack of political will, it is politics of vote, it is a shame on the nation.

What now? Now nothing!

Your comments……….

Terrorist Episode

Even nature is gloomy for the past few days after the terrorist attack episode in Mumbai, India. Yes, episode. I say episode because I feel terrorist attacks are like our Television serials. Longest running serial for that matter. In TV, serials like Saas-bahu last for four to five years, some last a little more. Whereas our terrorist serial is running for the last 15 years or so, and is likely to still continue. When one attack episode is over, you become cautious. You anticipate more. You wait, nothing happens. And you wait…nothing, and you wait some more. Still nothing. You relax. You feel that this serial has now been taken off air. And when you least expect it, comes the next attack episode, more powerful, more damaging.

The only difference in TV serials and Terrorism serial is that in TV serials, we know when the next episode is going to be telecast, but in the terrorism serial, the next episode is a surprise package. It can happen in a day, in a week, in a month , or in a year – but happen it will. You can’t wish it off air.
You comments………

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Musings-Simple Kapoor

When I read about the great Indian singer, Mahendra Kapoor’s death, I felt a jolt. It was as if I had lost a part of my existence. I had grown up listening to Mahendra Kapoor’s songs and I was his big fan.

Though I don’t know much about his background, I was very much impressed by his simplicity. A few years back, I chanced upon as interview he was giving on a TV channel. He was simply attired and his answers were humble. When asked about his initial struggle in the film industry, he very simply said he didn’t have to struggle. That, when young, he once participated in a singing competition, was noticed, and that was that. No ego, no ornamental words. He didn’t have to look back. His type of songs came to him only and he was satisfied. Simple and humble words.

Though he was a great singer, he never attempted to come in the limelight. While talents of other great singers like Rafi and Kishore Kumar cannot be denied, I believe, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood were a class apart with their distinct voices. Only these singers could have done justice to the songs that have sung. Who can forget Kapoor’s “Chalo ek baar phir se”, Manna’s “Laga chunri mein daag” and Talat’s “Phir vahi shaam, vahi gham, vahi tanhai hai”. Even after decades, these songs are liked by all and sundry.

While Talat and Kapoor are no more with us, may God rest their souls in peace. Manna Dey is still with us. Thank God for that. May he live forever-he is the last of the Greats.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Musings of a muse-The gang

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In the late sixties I worked in a private firm in Dharamtella area of Calcutta (Now Kolkata). It was a small office having a staff of little over twenty- all male- of various ages from middle twenties to fifties. The members of the staff were on cordial terms with each other. But we were a group of four, two Bengalis Dipak & Roni, one Muslim Shahed and myself, a Gujarati, all bachelors, ages twenty three, four, who were really close to each other. We were always found together after office hours – be it in a restaurant or in Cinema or elsewhere. In fact we were known as a gang.

Saturday was half day and on all Saturdays, after office hours, all four of us religiously went to a bar behind Metro Cinema. Saturdays were looked forward to and it was a ritual none of us wanted to miss. Our talks ranged from office to boss to sports to a little politics to Cinema to girls studying in Loretto School opposite our office. We had a great evening in the bar and expenses were shared four ways. Entire office was aware of this and some even wanted entry into the gang but found no way, some we avoided and some could not afford as they were married or had other responsibilities.

One day a Bengali lad of around 19 joined our office. He was a short fellow, having 5.2” with jerky actions. He was from some little town near Chinsurah in West Bengal and made daily up and down journeys to office. His name was Sarkar, I forgot his first name and it appeared that he was conscious of his short height and to make up for that he wanted to learn everything fast, from office work to City ways. He was put under one Mr. Saha – a simple man in his early fifties. Mr. Saha started to teach him simple work but he wanted to learn everything at a time. As he was a little fellow, everybody treated him as such which he didn’t like.

Soon, as was inevitable, he came to know about our gang and desperately wanted an in, which we would not allow. But he was desperate. Even a few in our office staff advised him to leave us alone.
On this particular Saturday we went to our regular bar as usual and had just settled when Sarkar entered. He must have followed us and waited outside for a while. When his eyes adjusted to dim lights, he noticed us and came straight to our table. He asked if he could sit with us. We were reluctant but Shahed felt sorry for the little fellow and relented. So Sarkar joined us, knowing nothing about drinks, not showing his ignorance in his desperation to join our gang.

The waiter came. He knew us as regulars. Roni & Dipak asked for large pegs of Aristocrat. Shahed went for small xxx rum. I ordered a large peg of old Monk. Now the waiter turned to Sarkar. Not to be outdone and not knowing a whisky from a rum, blurted; “One large peg of beer”.

He never made entry in our gang.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reminiscence: Down the memory lane

Way back in late fifties, I had one Marwari friend in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Let us call him Govind for the sake of identity. His father was a simple, generous man, totally uneducated. Though uneducated, if you asked him the amount of interest on a loan of Rupees 45000/- at 3.5 percent for nine months, he would come up with the answer in less than five minutes. He did not need any paper-pencils or calculator for that.

He was always eager to help children who wanted to study but could not afford it but never boasted about it. He helped people silently. He did not donate to schools or other educational or charitable institutions as such. But individually he would seek out boys & girls of servants and dhobis etc. and helped them financially with studies. So much so that he would go out of his way to persuade the parents of such poor people to send them to school and offer help. And it was said that if some poor child approached him with his problem, he was never known to have left without all help.

Govind’s father often told us how he started for Calcutta from Rajasthan in 1905 with practically no money on him. When he reached Calcutta, he had spent what little money he had. He was absolutely broke. He started his carrier as a peon in the office of another Marwari Seth who allowed him to sleep in the office at night against sweeping and dusting the office. He worked there for a few years learning the tricks of trade and eventually started on his own with the help and guidance of employer.

He progressed rapidly and for all the lack of education, made enough money to have his own bungalow in a reasonably good locality of the city in the span of 35 to 40 years. He had two cars in his compound – one Fiat and one Hindustan - in times when even having a two-wheeler like Bullet was considered luxury.

Once I went to his office to meet Govind. He had gone out for a few minutes so his father asked me to wait. He was talking to his office sweeper, almost imploring him to send his little boy to school. The sweeper did not seem interested arguing that even if his boy studied for a few years it won’t do him any good. Govind’s father told him that he will bear all the expenses of the boy’s studies and assured him that if the boy studies up to 10th, he would be given a job in that very office.

When the sweeper left, Govind’s father saw me keenly observing the goings on. He said, “See, I am not educated so there is a limit to my progress. I can never be a Tata or a Birla.” Then he threw me a gem: “Son, It is only after I made money without education that I really realized the importance of education.”

How true!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's in a Name? Plenty...

As a young boy I used to go to a Gujarati school along with a few neighboring boys. During recess and after school hours in the evening we used to play different games in our school compound. We had a big boned boy in our class who was at least six inches taller than the rest of us. He was quite a bully. He wanted to have his way in every game we played and behaved like half-mad. His name was Harshad and behind his back we used to call him Harshad-Gando (Mad Harshad ).

When we were in class seventh or eighth, he suddenly left city with his family. In a couple of months, we all forgot about him. The year was perhaps 1959 or 1960.

A couple of years back, in 2006, I was sitting in a beer bar with four friends – two amongst them Gujaraties. We had a couple of rounds of beer and were about to call it a day when tall shadow fell on our table. A tall man of sixty plus – about my age- was looking keenly at me. He asked me “You are Chitto no?” I was puzzled. He said; “Don’t you recognize me? I am Harshad.” Still I couldn’t place him. He slapped me on my back and said :”Arre yaar, hoon Harshad Gando.” (I am Mad Harshad). Instantly I recognized him.

He sat down with us and himself sportingly explained the title of Harshad Gando to my friends. He was Gando no more. He had retired as deputy manager after serving a reputed firm for a little more than thirty years.

Needless to say – we all had another round of beer with that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Good and the Evil

I once went to a colleague’s sister’s marriage in Delhi. This was about thirty years back. The ceremony and reception etc. went well. The guests were from some small town near Ambala in Haryana. They were very proud and happy for the respect and attention they received from the girl’s side. When all major events were over, they demanded hard drinks for Baraties, which was promptly provided by girl’s brother. Having drunk and danced to their heart’s content, most of them were drunk, which is common in that part.

Suddenly, one of the guests from the boy’s side had a bright idea and demanded to see the items (dowry) they had asked for the groom and wanted to compare these items with their list. It was near midnight. The girl’s brother happily obliged and took a few of them to a room where the items were kept. One elderly person, happily drunk, was checking the items against the list. From what I heard, quite a few things were there – from needle to sewing machine, fridge, music system, suit lengths, pants, shirts and even vest and briefs. Suddenly the elderly person shouted; “Juraban Kithe Hun?” (Where are the socks?). There was commotion. Apparently, they had demanded three pairs of socks for the groom, which were not there. All hell broke loose. No amount of cajoling, reasoning or promise to provide them the next day worked. Drunk they were as they insisted on having the socks then and there.

My colleague was in panic and literally trembling. His pleadings with folded hands did not work. He requested a couple of his friends to make a show of going to get the socks. The guests were told that two persons were going for the socks on their bikes. By that time I was bored and joined one of them on bike. We were in Shahadra and we crossed the river to reach the main city. It was after 1 A.M. Since we were in city, we decided to try. We found a few hosiery shops but naturally they were all closed. Near one such closed shop, we found a panwala having his last bidi of the night. We enquired with him and found that the owner of the hosiery shop was residing just two buildings away. We were in luck. We went there and knocked the door and kept knocking. After a while the door was opened by the owner himself. He was very angry and refused to listen to our tale of woo. We kept talking and requesting, offering double and triple price for the socks. Now he was awake and sharply scrutinizing us. All of a sudden, he turned, went inside the house and closed the door.

Disappointed, we just stood there – all hope gone. Just then, he came out with a long face, distinctly showing his displeasure. He rudely asked us to follow him to his shop insisting time and again that we had spoiled his night. He unlocked the locks and asked us to lift the shutter, all the time insisting us to hurry. We went inside and to be on a safe side, bought a dozen pairs of socks. We thanked him, and wanted to know how much should we pay him.

Still unhappy, still rude, still with a long face, he replied; “Aree jaldi karo, jaldi karo. Jo story apne sunai hai unke baad kya main paise loon? Apne to meri raat bigad di. Ab jao aur muje sone do.” (Hurry up, after listening to your story, how can I accept money? You people spoiled my night. Now please go and let me go back to bed.) Not accepting money, he ushered us out.

Next day we went to his shop with a big box of Mithais (sweets) from a reputed shop but he was not happy to see us and accepted the box, still with a long face.

Back in Mumbai, (then Bombay), I narrated the incident to my friends saying the shopkeeper could have shown a little more grace but the friends insisted that he had shown enough of grace by opening the shop at that ungodly hour and not accepting the money offered.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Cease smoking

To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know,

I have done it a thousand times.

- Mark Twain

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cricket antics

As a student I went to a school, which had plenty of sports facilities and a big enough playground of its own. It was a co-ed school but in those days in early sixties, boys and girls did not talk to each other. Socially it was not accepted. Of course, there were a few bold ones who defied the rule but they too talked furtively making sure teachers were not around.

Every year, after final exams, a cricket match was held between students and teachers. This occasion was looked forward to as girls and lady teachers remained present to watch the big match. And this was one day when students could take little liberties like girls congratulating good performance of a batsman or a bowler. The ladies’ presence made certain that boys played with vigour and received their cheers.

The captain of teachers’ team was our principal, a gentleman of such immense proportions and weight that nobody had ever seen him walk fast, let alone run, and having little knowledge of the game. Captainship was given as a mark of respect. While fielding, he was given a post at the boundary line with a lackey (usually a student) to run and field for him. While batting, he opened the innings and was given an underarm slow ball from half-pitch, which he tried to hit. He usually lasted for one over or thereabouts before being bowled or caught out. (No LBWs for him & he didn’t take singles). After his royal departure, serious action would start.

The teachers’ team had one Parsi gentleman known as ‘Parsi Sir’ as he was the only Parsi person in the school who was really a good and keen cricketer. He invited his son Jal to play for teachers though Jal was not in our school. Usually students won but for this father-son duo and occasionally a stray teacher who stood between students’ victory. Both teams wore flannel cream-white pant-shirts as cricket gear.

This particular year, students’ team had some good players including ‘yours truly’. The captain of the students’ team was one Suresh, very funny and full of mischief known as Suresh-sursurio as he could smoothly sneak away from any difficult or unpleasant situations, but a good fast bowler. Students had won the toss, had batted first and had made a reasonably good score. Now teachers were batting and students were finding it difficult to uproot the Parsi father-son duo. Balance was tilting slowly on teachers’ side. Suresh-sursurio was bowling furiously and desperately.

It happened suddenly. The stitches of Suresh’s trousers tore on the backside as he bowled furiously. The more he bowled, more stitches came apart. Now his V-shape blue underwear was clearly visible. Still, he continued bowling and the crowd; girls in particular, cheered, booed and went wild. In his next over Suresh took his tucked-in shirt out of his pants, continued bowling with his shirt flying as he took his long run. Imagine the scene and you can guess the howling and chaos it caused. When his over was finished, we advised him to stop bowling and to let someone else bowl. But the bull that he was, his mind was only on winning the game.

In his next over he took off his pants all together and bowled only in his underwear with his shirt flying high as he took his long run. The crowd of more than 800 students went wild. The scene, screaming, hooting, whistling, distracted the Parsi duo’s concentration and both were out one after another in a span of three overs. Thereafter, students’ victory was easy. Suresh was the shining star that day – the ultimate hero.

I suppose in today’s scenario, Suresh could have easily given Gangulis & Sreesanths a run for their money.