Friday, December 25, 2009

Thoughts-Things of the past

Recently, I read about old useful things like Rotary telephone, alarm clock (winding type), manual typewriters etc. which are almost extinct now, but were once very popular and in daily use. When we see one of them today, it does give us nostalgic feeling.

One such thing I remember is radiogram. Though not as popular as things mentioned above, I distinctly remember having a fixation on it. Earlier, there were only electric radios and hand winding gramophones. H.M.V. records were available in 78 rpms only, which were played on these gramophones. Then one day, probably in early sixties, I saw a radiogram at a relative’s place for the first time. A radio was fixed in a wooden cabinet on one side and a Gerrard record changer on the other side which could accommodate seven records at a time and played them automatically. On the lower part of the cabinet, one could store several records. The beauty of the cabinet with its compact design, highly glossy polish along with stylish ivory colored changer impressed me. I was instantly in love with it.

That time I was too young and knew we could not afford it, but, I had a single minded fixation on it and it was on top priority on my ‘want’ list as soon as I grew up and made enough money to buy one along with other things I wanted.

I did grow up and I did earn enough to afford it. But alas, by that time things had changed. Radiogram was replaced by small compact record players, in fact, two-in-ones, a small radio and a player of German or Japanese make. Radiograms were almost reduced to showcases adorning your room and easy to carry two-in-ones were in style. Then came three-in-ones, a radio, a player and a Grunding tape recorder in a brief case size container. So now these were the in thing and I wanted to possess one. I did eventually. But in my mind I was really sorry to watch radiograms vanish so soon, particularly, before I could enjoy one of my own. I still remember the royal beauty of those cabinets and changers. They had a charm of their own.

But like in life, things change and with that this also changed. I still feel that ache whenever I remember the past.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Experieces-Train travel

During my growing years, I was to travel from Calcutta to Bombay with my elder brother. There was some occasion in our extended family which we were to attend. At the last moment, my brother could not travel due to circumstances beyond control. We were thinking of canceling the trip, when my father decided to send me alone representing our family. I had never traveled alone earlier and was immediately scared. As it is I was not comfortable of the crowd and chaos at Howrah station whenever I visited it. So I told my mother that I didn’t want to go. When my father came to know about my reluctance, he told me that travel I will have to. There was nothing to be scared of. That my brother would see me to my seat at Howrah and my brother-in-law (my sister was in Bombay) would receive me at the V. T. station. So there would be no problem and I had nothing to be scared of and that I had to start traveling alone sometime.
I, or nobody else in the family for that matter, had the courage to talk back to my father. His word was law. I felt utterly depressed at the prospect of the coming travel.
On the D day, my father gave me two hundred Rupees (a very princely some at that time) in various denominations and instructed me to keep them in different pockets. As he was a man of strict discipline, he told me to keep note of every paise I spent. That he would check my expenditure on my return and I was to return the balance to him. My mother gave me some money from her own, without my father’s knowledge. I was a bit elated.
My brother came to see me off at the station, found my seat for me and gave me a few instructions like not to get down at every station. If at all, I should get down at a big station like Nagpur to stretch my legs and to board back quickly. He also requested a nice looking elderly couple, traveling opposite my seat to keep an eye on me. While getting off, my brother gave me a few Rupees to spend as I like. This was much more then I had expected. The cloud of doom started to lift and I was happy, almost.
During the travel, the elderly couple shared their food with me and offered me coffee every now and then. As far as I remember, I didn’t have to spend much, if anything, during the journey. My brother- in-law was there at the V. T. station to receive me. From there on it was a smooth ride. My-brother-in-law did not allow me to spend anything during my ten days stay in Bombay. While traveling back to Calcutta, I was a little less scared and in high spirits. On reaching Calcutta, I had more money then I could imagine even after returning the balance to my father. On the evening of my return, I went to my father with a piece of paper containing my expenses which were hardly Rupees forty or so, along with the balance to be returned.
To my utter surprise and disbelief, my father told me to keep the balance and didn’t even bother to check my expenditure.
Bingo…… I was a rich boy. I thought the balance would last me forever. But of course it didn’t. But while it lasted ….Oh God…. I had a real blast.
On another plus side, all my scares to travel alone vanished. On the contrary, I started looking forward to another venture alone, of course, with its fringe benefits.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts-Born free

By the time I was growing from a boy to a man, I was known as devil around our house hold. Later still, I was labeled dare devil among friends and relatives, during my high school and college days. But it was not always so. When I was small, I had no courage. I was scared of every thing. I used to tag around my mother. In my early school days, my school mates bullied me. In the play ground where we usually played after school in the evening, other boys harassed me and often threw me out when they did not want me to play. I tolerated every thing silently. Ashamed, I never talked about this in my house fearing rebuke from my brother, who was really brave.
One incident changed me completely. Once I was beatenn by three boys in the park. I was playing in the play ground known as Northern Park with a few Gujarati (Guju) boys. A group of Bengali boys came there and wanted us to vacate the corner pitch where we were playing and ordered us to move elsewhere. All were regulars there from near by houses and everyone knew everyone else. An argument followed and one of the boys said something nasty. Though scared, I protested and asked the boy to mind his language. Three boys set me up. There was no question of fighting back. I didn’t have that courage and they knew it. I was beaten badly. My friends just watched from a safe distance.
When my brother came home, he saw my swollen and bruised face. When he asked what happened, I started crying and told him about the incident in the park and about the other small incidents in school. All my pent up frustration came out and I was sobbing wildly. I expected him to teach a lesson to those boys, as some times he had done in the past. Instead, he let me cry and after a while told me to come to his room.
When I went to his room, he closed the door. Suddenly, he came near me and boxed me hard in the stomach. As I began to double up, he hit me on my mouth with his elbow. In a second, I was lying on the floor, stunned and humiliated. He asked me to get up and offered his hand. As I got up, he shouldered me hard sending me reeling against the wall. I was in pain all over. I had never taken such beating.
When I was a bit normal, he asked me in his usual mild tone: ‘Tell me, which beating hurt you more. Those three boys’ or mine? Which of the two was more severe and hard to take?’ I told him that though I was beaten by those boys, I had never taken anything like what he gave me.
He became a loving brother again and started to talk in his soothing manner. I still remember his words: ‘Look here, when I beat you, you are at a disadvantage. I am your elder brother, so you can’t hit me back. Out there in the park, you had no such scruples.

You were free to hit back. When a sudden fight erupts, specially among children, the blows you get are haphazard and can’t hurt you much. You took my beating. It won’t hurt you more then this. If you fight back and even if you give them your one against their three, in future they will remember that you fight back. It is all in mind, not in the body. Remember that. So next time it happens, just fight back. Then I will take care of those boys.’
I was excited and breathing hard. I was already thinking that if this was all it hurts, I could fight back. My brother understood and told me not to go about finding those boys and to pick up a fight. Only if it happened again, I was to remember his beating and to fight back. But I could not hold myself back. It was a kind of a freedom. As soon as he was out of sight, I ran back to the park. One of those three boys was sitting alone on a bench. Before he could move, I was on him. I beat him black and blue. He didn’t fight back, not because he couldn’t but he was taken by surprise as he never expected this from me. I gave him all I had and he just took my beating. I felt elated. More then anything, I felt free.
There after, I used to pick fights in school and playgrounds and sometimes I too got beaten, but I was not scared anymore of anyone and there was a feeling of freedom.
Complaints regarding my fights kept pouring in to my father and he used to punish me. I didn’t mind because i was FREE.
m

Monday, September 21, 2009

Musings-Harsha Bhogle's clone

A few days back, I was out to buy some milk in the morning on Link Road. It was still a little dark as it was early morning yet. There was a tea vendor on one side corner of the four road crossing. Two persons were standing on one side of the tea stall. One gentleman was leafing through a newspaper. His companion was enjoying his early morning tea. Of the two, it was the man leafing through the newspaper that caught my attention. He appeared to be a familiar figure, but I could not recognize him. On the other side of the stall were some young boys and girls, just out from their night duty in call centers, having their first tea of the day. This, of course, was a familiar sight every morning.

The boys and girls were looking and pointing towards the man with newspaper. They were whispering among themselves something about that man. I was on the opposite side of the street and from his diagonal side posture I too thought that the man was familiar. It was apparent from his uneasiness and awkward behavior, that he was aware of the attention he was drawing. Still, I could not place him. He must have faced similar situations in the past. Presently, he could not contain himself any longer for suddenly he turned his face towards the youngsters’ group and told them: “Arey… mi te nai re baba, kashala time khoti kartos….” ( I am not that man, why are you wasting your time…).

I saw his full face now and instantly recognized him- Harsha Bhogle- the famous cricket commentator. Same face, same height, same specs, same broad forehead, same profile….ditto Harsha. No wonder, the young group was exited. Hello, but what was Harsha Bhogle doing here?

Common sense, of course, told me that that it cannot be Harsha. The night bag on his shoulder along with his companion’s told me that both were also call center employees, like those youngsters. That explained their presence there so early in the morning. But, the similarity with Harsha Bhogle was so striking that, but for his outburst to the young group, anybody would have taken him for Harsha, as that group and I did. The similarity was so striking. Nature, it seems, sometimes plays funny tricks to fool us.

“Harsha, be aware, your clone is here in Mumbai itself somewhere.”

In lighter vain, if ever the need arises, Harsha can be at two places at the same time. A unique feat indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Humor thoughts-Disastrous romance

The year was 1960 in Calcutta. We had just shifted residence from our modest Hazra road flat to a relatively posh three bedroom apartment in Camac street. I was sixteen years old then. There was one South Indian family, Nathans , from Madras, in our adjacent building. My sister-in-law (bhabhi), though Gujarati, could fluently speak their language as she was born and brought up in Madras. Nathans had two daughters, Devi and Vatsala. They came to know about us, particularly my sister-in-law through common servants, and one day Vatsala, the younger one, came to our place to get acquainted with my sister-in-law. They started chatting in that bullet fast language, which none of us could understand and soon became close friends, though there was a gap of ten years in their age.

Vatsala was a plump, bubbly girl, quite attractive, of my age, tall, almost my height. She soon became favourite of our entire household. Even my father, who was normally a serious person and spoke little, chatted with her. She had that vibrancy. My sister-in-law and Vatsala started sending special dishes to each other, once or twice a week. Because of her, the two families mingled occasionally, but Vatsala was a daily visitor to our house, sometimes more then once. I was on hi-hello terms with her. Eventually, my sister-in-law became so fond of her that she started efforts to bring us closer. I played the mouthorgan reasonably well and at times she asked me to play a particular song of her liking. On one pretext or the other, like studies, cinema or music, my sister-in-law saw to it that we chatted more and more, and that I began to like her. Though at that time, I liked another girl in my class, I got attracted to Vatsala, may be because of our proximity and of course, efforts of my sister-in-law. Moreover, I didn’t have courage to speak to that girl in my class anyway, and never knew how she felt for me, not even now.

After a year or so, one day, my sister-in-law told me that she will speak to my brother and father about Vatsala and me when the time was right and that caste and other things will be no bar. It seemed possible because everybody in my family liked her, knew about us and silently approved. Or so I thought. I was on cloud nine, happy and content. And then the disaster struck.

Vatsala was very fond of cooking and invariably brought us South Indian dishes which we all relished. Encouraged, she once prepared Gulab Jamuns (Indian sweet), and came to our place with a bowl full. The sight of the round sweets, piping hot, beet- root red, the size of small oranges was tempting, to say the least. She declared that she had brought Gulab Jamuns for every one, but she had prepared them specially for me. Every one cheered. I felt ten feet tall. She came to me first and ordered me to open my mouth. I obeyed and she put one sweet in my mouth. What happened next was a nightmare. The next instant, the sweet came out with my spittle and a little puke all over her hand, and I started retching.

It so happened that Vatsala had cooked these sweets in coconut oil and the one thing I can’t stand is the smell of coconut oil, let alone eat something cooked in it. Every body in my house knew it but nobody had any occasion or reason to tell her about it. The deed was done. I rushed to the washroom, cleaned and brushed my mouth and teeth. I came out embarrassed and weakly apologized to her. She accepted the apology gracefully. Meanwhile, she had cleaned her hands and everyone else in the family ate those sweets and appreciated them. Even my elder sister, who was (and is) considered a wizard in cookery, liked them. But the magic of the moment was gone. Both of us felt embarrassed and after awhile she left.

Vatsala continued with her daily visits to our house but now she tried to come when I was not there. And even if I was, we were back to square one, to our earlier cordial terms.. The romance and thrill were over.

I thought: “Will I have to eat food cooked in the blasted coconut oil? And God forbid, will she wear coconut oil in her hair and come near me? Not done, most certainly not.”

She must have thought: “Doesn’t like coconut oil? God’s own oil? What kind of a creature is he? No way, I can spend my days with him.”

I don’t blame her. The romance was over even before it started properly. More then me, my sister-in-law was shattered. I was back to dreaming about that girl in my class.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thoughts-My Life

Life has strange ways of coming back to you. I am sixty five now, retired for the past several years. I have plenty of time in my hands to do - or not to do – anything I feel like. My son, my daughter- in – law and my wife look after me very well. They give me plenty of space. I am suffering from severe arthritis for the past few years and my movements are restricted to our building’s compound. This luxury of time and the leisure has given me time to look back, introspect and think about my life of sixty five years.

It is funny, but incidents which felt like sad or awkward then, seem amusing or trivial now. Some prestige issues then now seem most unimportant and I feel like laughing at my foolishness at that time. Looking back, life has been good and bad, fun and gloom, happy and sad, high and low, humorous and serious, with good relationships and bad relationships, urgent and relaxed, at times long and at times short, all rolled into one. There are many incidents in which, I feel, I would not have reacted now like I did then. But, looking back, on the whole, life has been great, in spite of its very many limitations and setbacks.

I often remember these incidents – right from my childhood – but not exactly in the sequence they occurred. Sometimes, when on a holiday or a rainy Sunday, I talk about these incidents and happenings with my family, my son suggests : “You have had quite a colourful life, why don’t you write? “

I had never thought of writing. I have quite a few hobbies though – reading, listening to music (light classical and Ghazals), occasional drinking, to name a few. I am fond of collecting miniature liquor and wine bottles. It’s a different matter that I have not been able to collect many. I am also good at, I believe, keeping a group of friends amused by my talks. But writing? Never thought about it. On the other hand, Why not?

I am going to share a few funny and a few not so funny incidents, not in the sequence they occurred, but in the order I remember them. Let’s try.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Musings-Operation smoke

As far back as I can remember, I was addicted to having betel leaves laced with tobacco from a very early age. When I got married, my wife was aware of my habit. She did not like it, but never let me know of her dislike. She had probably decided to make me stop having betel leaves (pan), once we got married. Not aware of her plans, I happily plunged into the marital bliss. After a couple of months of our marriage, she started hinting me to try cigarettes. She never mentioned anything about my not having betel leaves. Those were the happy times when people were not yet conscious of “Tobacco-smoking is injurious to health.” as they are today.
Being a Bengali, my wife, born in the era of legendary actors like Uttam Kumar & Co., who would ligh up fags at the drop of a hat, considered it hip. Youngsters were taken to smoking in a big way. In her own circle, her brother and her friends’ husbands all smoked. Nobody consumed betel leaves. My wife also liked me to have a fag or two. She probably thought, once I was on to fags, I would automatically stop taking betel leaves, or at least, it would be easier to make me stop taking them. Not that I was averse to smoking. Occasionally, say two three times a year, when I had occasion to meet an old school friend and if he offered a stick, I would happily indulge. But my true love remained betel leaves, then and now.
So, she seriously set about the task of first make me smoke and then make me stop taking betel leaves. She insisted that smoking was manly. All of a sudden I was offered cigarettes by her brother and other relatives whenever we met. My wife cannot say I did not try. I was sporting enough to accept the offered fags. I reciprocated by offering them betel leaves. After a while I was caught on to both the things. Not only that, her brother and some other people who were trying to change my habit, caught on to betel leaves. Their spouses started to blame my wife.
Now worried, she set about the task of making me stop smoking. Luck was on her side. Suddenly, it was “smoking is injurious to health” era and the new awareness was all over the place..She said I must stop smoking. I did.
I happily continued with my good old betel leaves. “MISSION SMOKE” failed, miserably.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Healthy bribe

From my early childhood I was very fond of reading books. I had studied in Gujarati medium up to class eight and then in English medium. So naturally, I was fond of Gujarati books from early on. I was a member of the school library and I used to read short stories, novels and later progressed to Gujarati translations of Jules Vern’s ‘The Messenger’ and such other books. My entire family was fond of reading as such, but my elder brother in particular, was an avid reader- even now he is. He too was a member of an English library and was heavy into Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. He was always after me to read one of the English books, but I didn’t show any interest. He insisted that he was not against my reading Gujarati books but if I started reading English books, a whole new world will open for me, but to no avail.

When all his attempts to convince me failed, he tried another trick. He offered that if I finish one Perry Mason book, he would give me one big Cadbury chocolate. I was very fond of Cadbury. We were a middle class family and Cadbury was almost a luxury. I was tempted. I started reading one Perry Mason book but could not go beyond three- four pages. After a while he asked me if I had read the book. I told him I could not make head or tail of the book. He was visibly disappointed. I felt guilty.

Next, after a day or so, He added a ‘Barna’ table tennis bat on top of Cadbury If I finish one book. Now this matter was suddenly serious. Cadbury was one thing and a ‘Barna’ was something else again. I was a good and keen table tennis player and had made my name in the school for my game. ‘Barna’ was the best available bat at that time and was every good player’s dream. But I also knew that my brother could not afford it. He had stretched himself too far. Hence I must make another serious and sincere attempt for his sake.

I started again with new determination. I took it slowly, reading a paragraph twice when I could not follow the gist. I closed the book often when my attention wavered, only to start again after sometime. Slowly I began to grasp the story. Even though I did not understand meanings of many words and legal terms (they were too many to refer dictionary), I began to understand the theme and story in general. When I was a little more then a half way through, I was hooked. I just could not put the book down. I finished the book and asked my brother for another. He did not have to bribe me any more. I told him I would settle for Cadbury. But my brother kept his word and in due time got me a ‘Barna’ bat.

Ever since, I am hooked to books. Of course, as time passed tastes changed. In my twenties, I was heavily into James Hadley Chase. Later still, I was into P. G. Woodhouse, Ken Follet, Sheldon to Wilbur Smith to Ludlum and others. Now at sixty five, I am a voracious reader, and reading a variety of subjects, thanks to my brother.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The smoking adventure

It was in late fifties, I was probably twelve or thirteen years old when I had my first tryst with cigarette. One boy in our class used to smoke occasionally and brag about it. So one day we four friends decided to try it out. It boomeranged miserably. We went to a cigarette shop and our expert friend, Nalin, was entrusted with the task of procuring cigarettes for all of us. We found a partly concealed corner and started our great experiment with the fag as it was fashionably called at that time. As luck would have it, one of my father’s close friends was passing by and saw us doing what we were doing. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him. Uncle wasted no time and went straight to my house and informed my father of what we were doing and where we were. Uncle knew the parents of other boys too because we all lived in the same locality. But he preferred to go to my house only, God bless him for that.

My father was a man of virtues. He never thought of alcohol, smoke, betel and such like. What is more, he never knew what betel or betel nut tasted like. He was a simple, straightforward and a very short- tempered man, but highly respected. We were all very scared of him.

So uncle told my father to catch us red handed. But my father told him to wait for my return and meanwhile share a cup of tea with him. When I returned, my father confronted me with uncle’s accusations. It was so sudden and I was so scared that I didn’t have time to think. Because of all the stories I had heard since childhood of his strictness and punishments mated to my elder brothers when at fault, that I thought he would throw me out of the house. Without thinking I denied the charges and said I was not there at all. My father told my uncle that if I say I was not there then I was not there and that uncle must have mistaken some other boy for me. However, he profusely thanked uncle for his concern. A little shaken, uncle went away. I heaved a sigh of relief.

The moment uncle was out of sight and earshot, hard came a slap on my face. Father was livid with rage: “ The moment you opened your mouth I knew you were lying. I protected you simply because however close a friend he (uncle) be, he is an outsider and I did not want to disgrace you in front of him. You have damaged years of our friendship. This slap is not because you smoked but because you lied. If I had called your lie then, you would not have ever been able to meet uncle’s eyes.”

Then came a gem of a line which neither I, nor anyone else in the family expected from my father: “Look here, I can understand and even appreciate your need to experiment at this age. But when faced, have courage to speak the truth. I don’t expect you to come and tell me of your own that you smoke, but when asked I certainly expect you to admit and face consequences. Whatever you do, do it without being scared of outsiders.”

Even at that immature age, I was impressed. As I grew, I began to understand and appreciate that one line: “ I can understand and appreciate your need to experiment
at this age.” Every time I remember that line, I wonder at the thought and understanding behind it. That one line has taught me how I should treat my own children.

However, a few days after this incident my elder brother informed me that father had doubled my monthly allowance for me to go for a good brand if I wanted to smoke. That was my father. I must have smoked hardly four-five times after that. I tried to continue, but couldn’t. Not because I had become virtuous all of a sudden. But for the fact that all adventure had gone out of it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Vanishing act

It was early sixties in Calcutta. I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old then. My elder brother owned one Italian Lambretta scooter. He had taught me to drive the vehicle. Occasionally when he had time, he allowed me to drive and himself occupied the pillion seat. My father didn’t know this and we were scared that he would find out. So my brother had warned me not to touch the vehicle when he was not around. But sometimes, when he was in office, I used to take out the scooter and give rides to some of my friends. I was on cloud nine on such trips. It was adventure.

On one such occasion I took out the scooter and went to my close friend Mahendra’s house. Mahendra was paper thin and light weight then. We used to tease him about that in school that his wife will have to carry him around. So we started from Bhowanipore to Lansdowne road to Rashbihari towards Gariahat. When we approached Gariahat crossing, we wanted to cross the tramline and go straight across the road. There was traffic and noise and we were moving fast as we wanted to beat the policeman controlling the traffic. At the same time I was talking to Mahendra and driving. I didn’t notice a small pebble stone lying on the tram track. When we were crossing tramline in speed, front wheel of the scooter passed without trouble. But the rear wheel came upon the pebble stone and because of the speed and momentum the rear wheel jumped at least four – five inches above the track and came down heavily. Fortunately, I could control the vehicle and speed across.

Meanwhile, I noticed some people gaping and some shouting from three – four sides. I didn’t realize that they were shouting at me. When I crossed the road I asked Mahendra if he was all right. There was no reply. I cut the speed and looked back. No Mahendra there.

Actually when we were speeding and crossing the track, Mahendra was leaning a bit and talking something in my ear. He was not holding on to anything. Both his hands were on his knees. When the rear wheel jumped, Mahendra’s bum jumped higher and before his bum could settle on the seat, the scooter sped from underneath. Instead of the seat, his bum settled heavily on the road. Because of traffic noise, I didn’t realize this. Actually people were shouting at me to stop. When I realized this, I parked the scooter and went back to fetch him. Mahendra was in pain but was cursing and laughing at the same time along with a few who had seen this freak accident from close.

I don’t know where Mahendra is now but hope he is telling this story to his grandchildren same as me. And of course, I hope he has gained enough weight to keep his bum firmly in place and more so, because his wife doesn’t have to carry him around.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cigarette packets

When I was a small boy, I got one empty cigarette packet from somewhere. While playing with it, I made a small article with that packet. In no time it became my hobby to try & make different shapes and articles from cigarette packets. The problem was to procure empty packets. No body smoked in our family. My father was very strict about that. None of our relatives or family friends smoked from whom I could get the packets. It was frustrating.

We were staying on the ground floor of our building. One Gandhi family was residing on the first floor. Our family was not on talking terms with the members of Gandhi family, except Gandhi uncle himself. The entrance and passage for both ground and first floor was common. That created problems between the two families. There were frequent arguments and frictions. But Gandhi uncle was a nice man. He visited our house at least once in a week. He usually occupied our swing and discussed economics, politics, share market etc. with my father over a shared cup of tea or coffee, which his family members did not like. This lead to frequent arguments in their family, but Gandhi uncle continued his visits to my father, sometimes fleetingly.

Now Gandhi uncle was a chain smoker. He used to smoke three packets a day. But my elder brother warned me not to bother Gandhi uncle as it would lead to further arguments in their family.

In our drawing room, we had four windows facing the street outside. One day I found one empty cigarette packet lying on the drawing room floor below the fourth window. It so happened that Gandhi uncle somehow came to know about my problem and silently found a solution. The sight of the first three windows was accessible from the first floor. The fourth window was diagonal. One could not observe the happenings of the fourth window from the first floor.

While going to office, Gandhi uncle used to empty his cigarettes in an old packet and used to throw in the fresh one from the fourth window. He used to repeat the performance while returning from office in the evening. Nobody said anything about it to anyone but everybody knew who was helping me. This continued for quite a few months till I grew out of that hobby and lost interest in it.

My father and Gandhi uncle are no more. I am myself sixty four now. But I will never forget his kindness even at the risk of displeasing his own family. I wonder if anyone will be so simple and thoughtful today. These small gestures make life worth living. AMEN.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Musings-Aggarwal's woes

Ours is a residential society of five wings consisting about a hundred flats. Most of the occupants are Gujaratis and Marwaris followed by a few Punjabis, Bengalis and South Indians. Among these, one Marwari family- Aggarwals-was staying in their ownership flat. Now they have left. When we shifted to this flat about five years back, I came to know most of the occupants in our wing within a week, amongst them Aggarwals. Soon I noticed that people were avoiding Mr. Aggarwal. As far as possible, every one politely excused himself when Aggarwal talked to them. A few elderly persons used to sit in the society compound in the evening but as soon as Aggarawl approached, they slowly dispersed.

In time I too got acquainted with him. Aggarwal was a rough talking person, almost to the extent of being rude. He had small, round cunning eyes, but also there was some kind of sadness in his eyes which few could detect. He was generally angry and displeased with every one and everything –watchman was not doing his job properly, milkman was mixing water in the milk, liftman was not holding door open for him, secretary was not listening to his complaints etc. etc.

When he started getting acquainted with me, I instantly realized that he was measuring me up, if I was a good listener. Though I did not like his abusive manner, there was something in his attitude which suggested that he had seen the worst side of life and was badly wounded, at least socially. So I listened. Slowly it came out that his children ( two sons and two daughters ) had thrown him out of his own house and business. That he had built the business and this house, that his sons were not trustworthy, so much so that they had managed to make his own married daughters to go against him. When he asked his sons to get out of his house and business, they went to court. They proved in the court it was a very small business and a single story house when they joined business, that they worked hard to make the business flourish and they had also helped in building two more stories to the then existing one storey. His daughters also gave evidence against him. The court verdict was that either Aggarwal compensate his children against business and house and takeover both or take compensation from children against the same and get out. Aggarwal got out after taking compensation from his sons. I don’t know if his sons were guilty or not but I felt sorry for the old man, until one evening when I entered our compound, I saw Aggarwal sitting on a bench. He started talking to me. I had some pastries for my grandson for which he was waiting. I wanted to go home immediately but Aggarwal was talking non-stop I could not be rude enough to intercept his talk and say I wanted to go. Just then, I saw my son hurriedly going out, almost on double. Still I called him And requested: “Please do me a favour. Go up and give this packet to your son and then go wherever you are going.”

Though in a hurry, my son took the packet and vanished.

Aggarwal was mighty displeased with me. He told me sternly that the boy was my son and bound to obey me. I should have just ordered him to hold everything and do my bidding first. He said people like me were spoiling their children and this generation. No amount of explaining that I knew my son would do my bidding, whether I ask politely or rudely, then why should I be unnecessarily rude to him, cut any ice with him.

Now I knew why he was out of his house and his business.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Real Culprit-The Strip tease mms episode

Mid-Day and other newspapers published the news and photo clips of “Noida sex clips” story. Reportedly, the girl did striptease for the benefit of her boyfriend. The boy later circulated the clip to his friends. The point is : though her photograph was pixilated, some people who are close to the girl and know the concerned prestigious institute must have recognized the girl. It is a possibility these people may tell their friends and relatives who the girl is. The poor creature, it appears, has taken entire brunt of this heinous episode whereas the boy has got away with little mention.

I am not against the girl’s pixilated photo appearing in newspapers but, with that, the media should have gone all out after the boy who is the main culprit. His name and a big photograph should have appeared in all news papers along with caption:

“BEWARE OF DOGS & THIS MAN”

The concerned boy should be taught a lesson that what happens within the four walls among two persons should remain that way, within four walls.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Privacy Policy

We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you.

* Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on this site.
* Google’s use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to users of this site based on their visit to this sites and other sites on the Internet.
* Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good cops do exist

On an average, Mumbai Police is known for its non-cooperative attitude and demanding bribe (chai-pani) for anything and everything it does. But post 26/11, it is hailed for its bravery and exceptionally good attitude during the crisis. I too have a pleasant memory of Mumbai police (then Bombay) from way back in late sixties on two different occasions.

In the first incident – I was working in Calcutta and had come to Bombay for few days for some sales conference. Once I was asked by my office to meet our Madras distributor at Santa Cruz airport. He was coming from Madras and was to take another flight in an hour’s time to another destination. Being new in Bombay, I was instructed that the taxi fare from our office to the airport would be about Rs.17, give or take a rupee or two, depending upon the traffic on the way. When we reached the airport, the meter showed Rs.55. when I argued, the cab driver told me that the meter was in front of me and for me to see it carefully. Other cab driver also gathered around and insisted that I should make the payment. They knew from my language that I was not a local. Time was running but I could not afford to pay the sum from my own pocket. A rupee was a RUPEE then. My office would not allow me more than 17 or 20 rupees.

Seeing the chaos, a passing inspector on his motorcycle stopped and asked roughly; “Kaay Zala?” (What happened?) All taxi drivers started talking at a time. He shouted them to shut up, got down from his bike and turned to me; “Tumi Bola.” (You speak). He listened patiently while I explained my predicament and my reason of coming to the airport, as well as my willingness to pay the proper fare.

Realizing that I was new to Bombay, he became instantly polite and told me to go ahead and meet the aircraft, finish my work and come back. That he was on duty at airport and will make the taxi wait and on my return will sort out the issue or we all go to the police station. I went inside the airport, had my discussion with our distributor and returned in half an hour. True to his word, the inspector was there with another policeman waiting for me. He told me politely that there were two things we can do. First go to police station, or, if I agree, we ride back to my office and he will accompany me and see what the fare comes. I agreed instantly. But the driver started grudging and showed his willingness to accept what I give, even forgo that. Other drivers had vanished. The inspector would have none of it. He downed the flag of meter and rode with us all the way to my office. The fair was 18 rupees. The inspector slapped the driver hard on his face, told me to give him Rs.35 and suspended his license for a month.
What really surprised me was – He went to the extent and apologized for driver’s behavior.

On another occasion, a year later, I was at V.T. station with heavy suitcase for a taxi to go to Kalbadevi, a short distance. No taxi would come. I was trying for 10-12 minutes and getting desperate. I could not walk the distance with a heavy bag. Out of blue, a constable appeared from nowhere. He asked me where I wanted to go. He whistled a taxi, asked the driver to take me to Kalbadevi with stern warning to behave, took down his number and told me to report if there was any problem.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Musings-In long and short

It was a sheer co-incidence. On the last day of my short visit to Ahmedabad, I came to know by chance, that Bharat, my early childhood friend, was residing in Ahmedabad. I got his telephone number three hours before I was to depart for Mumbai. We had not met for more than 50 years. Bharat was my neighbour in Calcutta. He left Calcutta when we were 11 or 12 years old. Since then we had not heard about each other. We are of the same age, give or take three-four months. Both of us are 64 now.

So I called him and told him who I was. In an instant he recognized me. He was very excited and happy to hear from me. After preliminaries of – come to my place at this instant – and knowing I was leaving for Mumbai immediately, he started asking short questions about me. In half a minute he was satisfied that he knew all he wanted to know about me and started talking about himself, that when he left Calcutta at the age of twelve, he didn’t know that his father was in a trouble in business. They tried to settle somewhere in Gujarat. His father lost money there too, that betrayed by partners and relatives, they were hand to mouth for a few years. Somehow, he completed hi matriculation, in the meantime his father expired. Then he came to Ahmedabad, got a job there, progressed and once again settled in life, that he got married, had two children, both educated, married, and both in the U.S., that his wife expired in 1997 and now he was staying alone. At that point I tried to offer my condolences at the news of his wife, but he brushed me off: “No no. Its ok. It was a long time back and I am fine now.” In less than five minutes he gave me his life story of 52 years.
Then we started talking about our childhood days. How after school we went home, threw our aluminum school bags, had a glass of milk and ran back to school to play in school compound. How we played badminton, cricket etc. how older students harassed us. That once older group did not allow us to play cricket with them and how we formed our own club then & there and named it Friend’s club. How once one tough boy hit him and how I had beaten that boy for hitting him. We went on talking for more than twenty minutes about those 10-12 childhood years. After a while he became sentimental and reminded me of an incident where I had saved him from certain punishment from our teacher on that occasion. I felt a little embarrassed and said: “Ow leave it, forget it Bharat. It was a long… long time back, In fact, Ages back.”
He exclaimed! “Ages? I feel it happened yesterday only.”

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bad joke

On Mr. Thackeray’s comments on empty threats to Pakistan, I remember an old joke I heard in Delhi years back. It fits India and Pakistan.

Santa Singh and Banta Singh were friends. Once for some reason Santa Singh hit Banta Singh.
Banta Singh; “Were you serious?”
Santa Singh; “No. No. I was just fooling around. Just joking.”
Banta Singh; “Then its ok. Had you been serious, I would have retaliated violently. Be careful next time.”

After a few days Santa Singh again hit him.
Banta Singh; “Were you serious?”
Santa Singh; (This time aggressive); “Yes I was. What about it?”
Banta Singh; “Nothing. I don’t like people fooling around me.”