Saturday, November 27, 2010

Musings-God disposes

It is said that, ‘man proposes, God disposes.’ At least in my case it is true. Strange as it may sound, but whenever I have decided to start something or do something on a particular day, God has rejected my decision, without exception.

Just the other day, I had promised my grandson to take him to the market to buy him a toy gun the next morning. The child was so looking forward to it. Half way through the market an auto hit me from the back and I was badly injured, so no market, no gun. More than myself, I was sorry for the kid. I wish the Almighty had warned me in some manner that He did not wish me to go. I could have easily sent some body else for the gun.

Looking back, on all earlier occasions, I have marked that whenever I do something randomly, that is without earlier planning, I have succeeded. But whenever I have planned something in advance or go about a thing methodically, God has disposed my plans invariably.

My wardrobe was in a mess. Last year on Christmas day, the 25th Dec., I decided that I would have my wardrobe spick and span by 31st. I decided to empty the wardrobe first thing in the morning. God had other plans. On the D day, I had a guest from Calcutta who stayed with me for four days. It took me three more months and many conscious decisions to clear the wardrobe.

On another occasion, I had been putting off my morning walks for quite some time. Once I decided to start the routine from Monday and made all preparations like cleaning my walking shoes, taking out my track suit etc. on Sunday evening itself. I got up early on Monday morning, got ready and walked out of the flat feeling tall. Sure enough, I sprayed my ankle while getting out of the lift. Again when the ankle was healed and it was time to start the walk, there was an unseasonal rain early in the morning.

I had intended to read ‘Nostradamus’ for almost a year but couldn’t get around to it. One day, determined, I went and bought the book with all intentions to read the book immediately or as soon as possible. But it was not to be. For one reason or the other, I could not start it for a couple of months. Finally, when the time came, I could not find the book. Later, my wife told me that one relative had borrowed the book and that she forgot to tell me. I am yet to receive the book, a year hence.

There are innumerable examples and incidents of how I have never been able to work in a planned manner though I am very methodical and organized by nature. So now I have decided to plan everything in an unplanned manner, so that God does not dispose off my plans. So far I have not succeeded. But there is always tomorrow, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Experiences-Heart felt

I have been hearing about Mumbai citizens’ apathy towards ordinary people lying injured on the road or victims of other unfortunate circumstances. But I had quite an opposite experience just day before yesterday. I must confess I had a learning experience of the true spirit of ordinary people on the road.

The day before yesterday, on the eve of Dhanteras, I was walking through a narrow bazaar street frequented by ordinary middle class people, with my grandson to buy him a toy gun. The Diwali festival rush was there and the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. Suddenly an auto hit me from behind with quite a force in a bid to move forward and overtake other vehicles. I fell forward face down, resulting in a deep cut below my right eye which was bleeding profusely. Fortunately, and I thank Almighty for that, my grandson escaped unscathed. Though shaken, I had not left the six year child’s hand even for a second.

Within seconds almost fifty-sixty people surrounded me, most of them ladies. The street was so narrow, hardly two autos could move in opposite directions, leaving no space for pedestrians. The traffic came to a standstill because of this accident. A few ladies tried to help me up from the ground, but could not find enough space for movements. Out of nowhere, a rough, tuff looking man approached me and helped me stand up, roughly shoving other people around me. While steadying me on my feet, still holding me, the gentleman whispered in my ears not to leave the child’s hand even for a second under any circumstances and that I should hold my strength till he brought his bike parked a little distance away. There was chaos all around. One lady fetched a plastic stool from somewhere, made me sit on it and put my child on my lap. Another lady arranged some ice and put it on my injured cheek. One elderly gentleman offered his mobile for me to call anywhere or alternatively take me to a doctor and not to worry about money if I was not carrying enough. Yet another young girl, all of twenty probably, traveling in an auto offered to drop us to my place wherever it be as it was difficult to find conveyance in that market.

The gentleman who had helped me on my feet appeared with his bike, all the while shouting at people to clear the road. Four more persons started to monitor the traffic and cleared enough space for the bike to travel without trouble. The gentleman on the bike made me and my child comfortable on the vehicle and took us to our home. Not only that, he came up to my place, removed the ice, made temporary padding on the wound and bandaged it. Then what he said made immense sense: “Uncle, I just wanted to see the child safe home. I have my doctor. If you want I can take you to him. But I have a feeling every body is comfortable with their family doctor. So if you have one, I can take you to him.”

Fortunately, my doctor resides in the same complex where I live. Satisfied, the gentleman begged to leave, refusing our hospitality, except a glass of water, as he was getting late for his job. At the lift I asked for his name. “Feroze Khan”: he said. I thanked him profusely.

Now, I am a Gujarati Hindu. He must have noticed images of Ganesha and Krishna on our walls. The lady who provided me with ice was Maharashtrian, the man who offered his mobile and money appeared to be a UPite, The girl who offered to drop me home may be, was Christain, I don’t know. Feroze Khan, a Muslim. And yet, we were all one in that moment of crisis. Nobody cared who I was, a human being, that’s all. Who says Mumbaites don’t care? They do. Ask me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Musings-Guest in peace

Human mind is complicated and wonderfully complicated at that. We have one regular member among regular members in our regular society sittings for elders in the evenings. About a dozen of us get together daily in evenings for a couple of hours. Topics range from newly weds, to soon to retire, from new born, to soon to depart from this unworthy planet (fani duniya). The gentleman in question, Manubhai, quite elderly, is a nice man but has one trait. He has problem with everything, right from flow of water supply (we have 24 hours supply), watchmen, maintenance, liftmen, neighbors, car parking, you name it. Manubhai is fairly well to do, to put it mildly and his sons and daughters-in-law have varied interests in varied fields. This Manubhai has one relative in Chennai by name of Shantibhai who regularly comes to Mumbai and stays with Manubhai every time. Now, Shantibhai from Chennai has other relatives in Mumbai including his own brother, but, may be for convenience like proximity to airport or whatever reasons, Shantibhai stays with our friend every time he is in Mumbai.

Whenever this relative, Shantibhai is in Mumbai, our Manubhai seems genuinely happy and treats him well. The guest too appears to be a good person of quite adjustable nature, lavish in spending and a good sport. But as soon as the guest leaves for Chennai, our Manubhai’s grievances start: “Aare…, he comes four five times in a year… we are a joint family…. Our flat is small…. I fail to understand why he doesn’t go to other relatives…. He has many…. Even his own brother is there…. It is so inconvenient…” and it goes on. A couple of months later, he would be booming and smiling from ear to ear, reason? “Shantibhai is coming…aare that Chennaiwale.” He would be happy.

This time Manubhai had a long face, reason? Shantibhai was coming to Mumbai and this time it was a stay of a week instead of his usual two days. Shantibhai was to get himself treated in some south Mumbai hospital for some bone deformity. X-rays, test reports and treatment would take at least a week. Manubhai, being his usual self: “Why can’t he stay in Kalbadevi where he has close relatives… from this far in suburb to Mumbai and daily updown… if something goes wrong, we will have to run…. as it is, we will have to visit him in hospital for courtesy if he stays with us….people don’t understand…. This is Mumbai….local travel is so inconvenient…” and so on.

For once, we also thought Manubhai was right this time. A day prior to Shantibhai’s arrival, Manubhai received a call from Kalbadevi, that Shantibhai would stay in Mumbai because of Kalbadevi’s proximity to the hospital he was to visit.

Shantibhai came and went. He kept in touch with Manubhai. When somebody asked Manubhai about his well being, Manubhai had this to say: “For years he has been staying with us every time he comes to Mumbai… this time he opted for Kalbadevi just because of its nearness to the hospital…. What about us….what will the relatives think…. What about our feelings…. The least I expected was a visit from him….but he came and went….whom to trust….”

What can you do about such Manubhais? As I said human mind is a wonderfully complicated thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Experiences-Door delivery

Among many woes of life, one is such that almost everyone must have experienced it to some extent in their lives and that is, carrying someone else’s parcel to be delivered to somebody else in some other city. There is nothing more weird then that. “Oh, you are going to Bombay? How lucky? Actually, last time when Monu came, he forgot his vest here. Please take it with you and give it to him. We looked after him so well when he was here that he was all praise for us and now if we don’t return his vest, how does it look, no? Moreover, such things can’t be requested to anyone except near ones like you.” Little realizing the fact, that the time and cost of delivering that vest could set one three times the cost of the blasted thing. But as they say, such is life.

We in our family travel regularly, some member or the other of the family is always on the go. We too have our woes of carrying others’ parcels and so, as a matter of principle, we sternly refuse such requests citing one reason or the other. Some understand and some don’t. There are a rare few who won’t take no for an answer. I have one bitter, almost tragic experience of carrying a parcel of one such person.

One of my close friend’s son was to be operated upon in Bangalore. The hospital was in the outskirt of the main city. The operation was serious and so the friend requested me to accompany him so that one can of us can be with the patient and the other can run around for errands like reports, x-rays, medicines etc. moreover there was a question of moral support. With pre and post operation care, the stay in Bangalore was to be more then twenty days and so it was decided that the two of us would go. One of my friends, Dilip, came to know about this and came to my place with a medium sized thick envelop: “These are legal documents, very important. I cannot emphasize their importance. Please deliver them to Kirit in Bangalore, address and phone numbers are written on the cover. So you should have no problem.”

Me: “See, I am going there to look after a patient. As it is, I am going to stay a few miles out of the city and in a guest house. I will be in the hospital through out the day. I will not have time to visit your Mr. Kirit.”

Dilip: “Aare yaar, you will be there for three weeks. There is no hurry. But the papers are important, so I can’t send them through courier. I trust you. These are to be given to Kirit only. You can go late in the evening, there is no problem.”

Me: “But I have a problem. I don’t know Kirit and I won’t have the time. So sorry, I can’t take it.”

Dilip: “Ok. Ok. Don’t worry. I will call Dilip and ask him to collect this envelop from you.”

Me: “I will be in the hospital or on errands. They don’t allow anybody without proper pass.”

Dilip: “Kirit does not need a pass to go anywhere, not in Bangalore. That is the least of your worries. He can go where he likes. He will find you. Don’t worry. You only call him and tell him where you are. He will manage the rest.”

Me: “I can tell you where I will be right now. I will be in guest named so and so.”

Dilip: “Brother, the least you can do is to call him there, fix a time so that he can come and collect these papers from you, the rest I will explain when I call him from here.”

Dilip went on and on. He would not take my no for an answer. We were wasting time and the envelope was not that big or inconvenient, so I took it.

Over to Bangalore: I reached Bangalore and after preliminaries in the hospital, I returned to the guest house and called Kirit, introduced myself. Kirit didn’t recognize me. Dilip had not called him.

Me: “Anyway, I have this envelop. He was to call you.”

Kirit: “When can you come?”

Me: “I can’t. You have to come and collect it. I am in so and so guest house.”

Kirit: “But that is out of Bangalore. I am a busy man. Why don’t you come on Sunday?”

Me: “I can’t. Dilip knew where I was to stay. He was supposed to call you and ask you to collect it.”

Kirit: “Ok. ok. Give me your number. I will call you in a day or so.”

Kirit did not call. After a week I called him.

Kirit: “Oh yes, I was busy. I will come tomorrow.”

Me: “I am free only between two and five in the afternoon.”

Kirit: “Fine, I will be there at three tomorrow.”

I waited for him until six instead of five, he didn’t come. I was so angry that I decided to take the envelope back to Bombay and not to call him again. But after two weeks I thought it would be wise to get rid of the envelope and be done with it. As it was, two of my friend’s relatives had come from a near by town to share responsibilities on week end so I was relatively free to go to the city and explore a bit.

So I called Kirit. He cut the line and switched off. I tried twice more. No response. I let it go. After half an hour he called. There was shouting and chaos on the line. He said: “I am in a movie house. You called right in the middle of it.”

I got so frustrated and angry that I rudely disconnected the line without speaking and decided that even if he comes I won’t deliver the offensive envelope. He didn’t come. One day prior to my departure he called in the evening. Look at his audacity. He suggested that the route to the railway station passed through the street where his office was located. I didn’t let him speak further and said a firm no. He noted my train number, seat number, departure time and promised that he would meet me on the platform. He never came.

And now the high point in the drama. Once in Bombay, I called Dilip and asked him to come and take back his envelope. At least he came. When I explained, He said: “What yaar, he is like that only, I had told you. You were there for twenty five days and couldn’t do me a small favor?”

NOTE: The hospital is NIMHANS and it is situated on the outskirts of Bangalore, a few
miles away.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Humor thoughts-Middle Class woes

I have been hearing about middle class woes from quite an early age of my life which itself was and has remained middle class. That both rich and poor are better off, that the middle class is sandwiched between the rich and poor, that the middle class has to keep a facade etc. etc. But nothing prepared me for the stark and naked reality behind these statements as a recent incident, which also reminded me of an incident, quite funny in its mirth, if you know what I mean, more then forty years back.

Almost half a century ago, one of my friends, who worked in a bank, went to see a movie with his wife on a calm, serene Saturday. My friend was determined to please his wife on that day, had planned to take her to dinner after the movie. The rates of a movie ticket, as far as I remember, were twelve annas ordinary, one Rupee and four annas for balcony, then one Rupee twelve annas and two Rupees four annas for dress circle. All classes were full that day, except dress circle. The couple stood there undecided when the wife noticed her maid servant dressed in her week end best with flowers in her hair and husband in her tow, beaming with pleasure, without any care in the world, saw only dress circle was available, bought tickets without any hesitation and went inside. My friend and his wife went home, dejected.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. This is 2010. Now to the present incident, recently we were sitting in our society compound one evening as usual, solving many a political, social and economical problems as is our wont, when one of our regulars asked if anyone could recommend a maid, rather recommend his family to a maid if truth be told, on temporary basis for fifteen-twenty days and that he was prepared to pay more then the prevailing rates. Now the topic of discussion turned to servants and maids when somebody asked what happened to his regular maid. The maid in question had left for her native place the previous evening because her father-in-law was ill. The maid’s husband, who works as a sweeper in the municipality, had received a message on his mobile that his father was serious. The man took leave from his office and went home. The maid said that within fifteen minutes, (mark the time frame) they, the husband and wife decided that the husband would take a flight the same night and the wife would follow the next evening in train after notifying the households she worked in and after collecting some money.

Here is the irony: I own a flat worth fifty lakhs. I intend to go to Calcutta for some work next month. After fifteen days of deliberations I am still not sure if I can afford a flight.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stories-Greed

The moral stories which we have all read in our childhood still stand in good stead in these modern times. Times change, appearances change, technologies change, styles change, but human nature is the same, as it was hundreds of years back. We have all read those “Once upon a time” stories, but one of my friends took effective advantage of the same a year back. Here is how it went, but first, a gist of the original story that goes thus:

Once upon a time there was this king named Raja Jaisinh. He was a just king and people were happy in his kingdom. Jaisinh had a worthy and clever minister named Buddhisagar. True to his name, Buddhisagar was wise and intelligent and the king largely depended on him for administration as well as welfare of his subject. Once, a farmer came to the king with a complaint against a local sharaf (one who deals in money lending). The farmer had deposited five hundred Gold Mohurs (coins) for safe keep, with this sharaf’s father who was very honest and went on a pilgrimage. Upon his return, the farmer found that the senior sharaf had died meanwhile and his son had taken over the senior’s business. Now the young sharaf denied his father having taken any Gold Mohurs from the farmer and asked if he (the farmer) had any receipt. The farmer didn’t have any because he depended on the senior’s honesty and rightly so. The king listened to the farmer patiently and instantly knew that the farmer was speaking the truth. But as there was no proof, it was difficult to accuse the young sharaf. The king called Buddhisagar and instructed him to do the needful. Buddhisagar listened to the farmer intently, asked a few questions, understood the situation and asked him to come back after a week. Then, he ordered his guptachars (detectives) to find out all about the young sharaf and his deceased father in two days. The guptachars reported that the senior sharaf was really an honest man, not a taint throughout his life, and people largely depended on his words while dealing with him. But not so the young sharaf, he had cheated at least two more persons who had not taken anything in writing from the deceased. Equipped with this information, Buddhisagar prepared a plan and called the complainant and explained what was to be done.

Next morning, Buddhisagar disguised as a rich trader, went to the place of the young sharaf and asked to see the senior sharaf, his father. The young man told him about his father’s death a few months back and asked for the purpose of his visit. The rich trader told the young sharaf that he was from a nearby town dealing in wholesale spices, that he wanted to go to another kingdom to explore further business opportunities, that he had heard a lot about the senior sharaf’s honesty and wanted to deposit ten thousand Mohurs for safe keep. The young man told him that this was the same office now taken over by him and the business was run on his late father’s principles and ideals, and the trader could very well deposit his sum there.

Just then the farmer entered the office and the young sharaf, knowing the farmer would demand his five hundred gold Mohurs and fearing he would loose ten thousand Mohurs, instantly said: “Welcome, welcome, here is your bag of five hundred Mohurs you left with my father. I found the entry my father left.” So saying he returned the bag of five hundred Mohurs to the farmer. Buddhisagar appeared satisfied and told the young trader that he would be back with Mohurs when he starts his journey in two days and went away. The farmer got his hard earned money and justice was done.

Now to the modern event, one of my friends, Rasik by name, remembered having read this story when one of his friends, an ordinary middle class man working in a private office narrated his tale of woe to Rasik. Sridhar and Jogi were two brothers. Sridhar, the elder one was an honest businessman. He often borrowed money from his friends on interest for his business, was fair in his dealings and was reputed to be an honest man. When he required money, friends readily obliged without hesitation. Jogi, the younger one, helped his elder brother in his business. Jogi didn’t have that brain and acumen of his elder brother, just followed sridhar’s advice and was being well looked after. Sridhar suffered heart attack right in his office one day and died before any help could arrive. Out of the blue, Jogi was now the owner of the entire business. Now earlier, Sridhar had taken a loan of Rs. one lakh from Rasik’s friend who was also Sridhar’s friend and had often dealt with Sridhar satisfactorily. He went to Jogi and reminded him (Jogi) about the amount he had given to Sridhar. Jogi, knowing well that there was nothing in writing, avoided the issue saying he would see if there was anything mentioned in his brother’s books as he himself was not aware of any such dealing. After a few visits Rasik’s friend realized that the amount was lost and with it, his meager savings of life. Having listened to him, Rasik remembered the “Once upon a time” story and decided to give it a try. Rasik explained his friend what to do and the D day was fixed after two days.

On the fixed day Rasik went to Jogi’s place. After offering proper condolences he said: “I could not come earlier because I was out of town. You probably know, I had borrowed ten lakh Rupees from Sridhar a few months back. I have regularly paid my interest and there is still a few months time for repayment. Now that Sridhar is no more, I want to return the amount so that my conscience is clear.”

Just then, Rasik’s friend who was waiting outside for his signal, entered. Jogi, now scared, immediately blurted: “Bhaisaab, come. I just found my brother’s little note. I don’t have that much amount with me right now. But, here, I will draw you a self, bearer cheque. You get it cashed first thing tomorrow.”

After a while Rasik told Jogi: “By the way, Jogi, as the amount was big, I had given a simple hand note to Sridhar for ten lakhs. Try and find it. As it is, this is sudden, so it will take me four-five days to arrange money.” Seeing Jogi hesitate, Rasik continued: “Look here Jogi, never mind if you don’t find it. When I pay, just give me a chit saying you have received money, we are quits and our account is clear.” Jogi visibly relaxed.

There was ample time for Rasik’s friend to encash his cheque the next day which he did. Every thing was back to normal for Rasik’s friend who wowed never to lend money ever again. Even today, human nature is the same, the greed is same as it was ages back.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stories-The wealthy jeweler

Soni is elder brother of my friend. He owns a jewelery shop. Mostly Soni lends money on interest against gold and gold ornaments. Himself a wealthy man, Soni is very popular among his borrowers and customers as being a very fair and honest person. His rates of interest are low compared to other dealers and lends almost seventy per cent money against gold value unlike others who lend fifty per cent. He is lenient in his dealings to the extent that occasionally, if a borrower is unable to pay full interest, but has arranged the amount borrowed from Soni, he returns his gold charging minimum token interest. More over, all his dealings are on paper, black and white.

Soni is also reputed as being an expert in gold, its purity and its value. His profit lies in customers who do not return to claim their gold in stipulated time, customers such as share market players, race goers etc. Soni usually waits for double the stipulated time and then disposes off the gold making fair profit. Though some people tried, no body has ever been able to fool him in his twenty years in shop, that is, until year before last.

One day, as Soni was closing his shop, a well to do man, obviously in trouble, walked in. Soni, against his better judgment and principle of not making any deal from half an hour before the closing time, listened to the gentleman’s tale of woe and looked at the necklace in a pink napkin placed before him. Instantly he knew its value to be around two lakhs. The customer wanted Rs. one lakh seventy five thousand against it. Soni apologized saying he could lend one lakh forty thousand maximum. Disappointed, the man returned the necklace in pink napkin in his pocket and started to move towards exit door, hesitated, returned and pleaded if Soni could extend the amount to one lakh fifty thousand. Feeling pity for the man was obviously in trouble, Soni agreed. By this time Soni’s two employees were half way through closing the shop as they were already late and the main lights were dimmed. The man took out the napkin containing the necklace and gave it to Soni opened the napkin, saw the necklace, put it in safe, prepared a receipt for the necklace putting its weight (he had weighed it earlier) and value at around two lakhs, borrowed amount, and lending period ninety days, his minimum. That meant that if the borrower did not claim his article in ninety days, Soni was free to dispose it off in the market and recover his money. He gave one lakh fifty thousand to the customer who was in no hurry to leave the shop, visibly relieved, thanked Soni profusely and promised to return the borrowed money in ten days and claim his article.

Next morning, Soni took out the necklace from the pink napkin to be sealed in the big cloth envelop with borrower’s name printed on it, as was his practice. The moment he took out the necklace, he knew he had been tricked. This necklace was simply gold plated, not worth even ten thousand, leave alone two lakhs. This was not the one he had been shown when that customer came in the previous day. That meant two identical necklaces were put in two identical napkins. Dim lights and his hurry to close shop had him fooled. He cursed himself. His shock was not so much for the loss of money. His ego, his expertise, his confidence were hurt. For the first time in twenty years, he was defeated. He could withstand the monetary loss, but not this defeat. However, being a wise man, he kept quite about it, although he confided in his younger brother who is my friend. After a few days, he accepted the loss and went about his business sure he had last seen the borrower.

After more then two months he took out the fake necklace and put it on display. Almost nearing three months two women came to his shop, bought one expensive ring, paid for it and suddenly saw the necklace and liked the design. Soni told them it was just gilt and not gold. But the women seemed enchanted with its design. Here Soni made his second mistake. Against his normal rule of not selling any mortgaged item before ninety days, he sold the necklace after some haggling for seven thousand and thought: “good riddance.”

Two days prior to the deadline of ninety days, the original borrower walked in whistling, quite happy. He produced Soni’s receipt which mentioned gold weight of the necklace, its value and amount borrowed along with bundles of currency worth one lakh fifty thousand, enquired about the interest to be paid and demanded the necklace. Red faced, Soni knew he was tricked again. But this time he decided not to keep quite. He called police and his lawyer. Both the police and the lawyer knew Soni was right. Meanwhile, the customer made a move and filed a complaint against Soni. After a few days of many deliberations with police and advocates and advice from elderly, experienced well wishers, the matter was settled mutually outside court with Soni paying another one lakh fifty thousand to the gentleman.