Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Writing Prompt - "I wish I had one more chance to ..."

After having a wonderful experience of responding to writing prompt no. 4 being hosted by Preeti Shenoy, I could not stop myself from taking it up once again this week. It is a great experience to see how different people think differently about such commonly used phrases.

The prompt this week is "I wish I had one more chance to ...". And here we go ...

I wish I had one more chance to live the moments when I met her for the first time.

Like it happens with many of us, I have also gone through the process of Googling to find my life partner. This too was one of those meetings when both of us decided to meet and to know each other better, where else but at Cafe Coffee Day.

[As a side thought, I wonder why does CCD not get into a joint venture or launch a co-branded credit card with the matrimonial portals. I am sure there are many would-be (and could-have-been) couples who visit CCD for this purpose multiple times, with the same or a different companion, and will feel obliged (pun intended) if they save some money (and earn some loyalty points / cash back) in case their repeated attempts fail. After all, there is something positive in everything.]

Anyways, a lot happened over coffee that day that I wish I experience once again! I wish I had one more chance ...

... to once again experience the almost doubled heart-beat in anticipation - in anticipation of meeting her for the first time and finding out how does she talk, how does she smile, how does she look in flesh and blood (as against those photo shopped pictures shared as a part of the customized proposal package), and of course wondering if she is the one?

... to once again see that bewildered cum astonished expression on her face - when she saw me waiting for her ... wasn't it too early for her to know the importance I give to punctuality?

... to once again experience the feeling of discomfort - when every time she looked at me from top to bottom - was she checking whether all my limbs are in the right place, in the right shape and of right size?

... to once again look at the gentle movement of her knee-long hair - while walking towards the cafe, from left to right, left to right ... or was I probably thinking that this will supplement my lack of hair on the head?

... to once again hear that soft and gentle "sorry" - when her hands accidentally touched mine while opening the door of the cafe - wonder if it was actually an accident?

... to once again get lost in her expressive eyes - do I want to bet that the beautiful eyes were expressing love at first sight?

... to once again get mesmerized by her intoxicating smile ... when we looked at each other continuously for more than 3 seconds for the first time - what an experience? I had never done that before. 

... to once again get the feeling in my heart when she said a "NO" for eating anything - did I do anything wrong? 

... to once again let the heart sink on knowing she doesn't like tea - and, there go my romantic dreams of having a cup of steaming tea, sitting in the balcony, enjoying the cool breeze (ok, not so romantic for all you beer guzzlers)

... to once again feel uncomfortable when she slightly giggled while I was placing the order - well, this was bound to happen when you stammer in front of her 

... to once again be a witness to her sudden blushing while looking right next to my eyes - did she find my ears funny? too big? too small?

I wish I had one more chance to live all these moments ... to once again meet her for the first time!!

P.S. Keeping in mind the result from last week (hurray!!!! and thanks to Preeti once again), I would like to take myself out of the contest this time. This post is just to experience being a part of the exercise once again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year driving resolutions

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I know I am already late in penning down my driving resolutions for 2013, what with 725 km already covered on the wheels (25 out of these on 3 wheels because of the potholes), around 35 liters of subsidized diesel already up in smoke (does that fuel average indicate "Regular maintenance of my car" should be there in my list?) and the monkey on my desktop calendar pointing his finger towards the 11th day of the year with a stupid grin on his face. But thanks to my boss (yes, being "thankful" to the boss is a nice New Year resolution to have), I am right on time in breaking one of the resolutions. Not too early, or too late, depending upon your own track record ... 

Here we go with what I intend to do, or not do, on the roads this year ...

Do not overtake from left:

On the roads where the heaviest and the slowest moving vehicles always take the right-most lane, where the cyclists and pedestrians refuse to use the lanes so lovingly carved out by the government exclusively for them, and where the big public transport monster always crosses you when you are sure even a dog can not pass through the gap, it comes as a culture shock for somebody like my father, who has always diligently followed all the traffic rules, to even think of overtaking from the left. His agony multiplies a 100 times when the offender is you, and you get "that" stare (you know what I mean) back from him. So, the next time when Chunnu Munnu De Papa Kee Gaddi, with those steel rods hanging ominously half-way out of the truck, is trudging along in the fast-lane, you, with your Papa in the car, decide not to overtake from the left, and wait for the truck driver to let you go from the right, when the opportunity comes. When that opportunity doesn't come for the next 1.5 kms, and it is already time for your Papa to see Arnab asking nation's questions to the hapless whatevers, you get a gentle nudge from your left side to break the rule. Phew! What 30 years of nagging by his better half could not do has been accomplished in a day by Chunnu Munnu's Papa.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Be polite and gentle towards the "lesser mortals" on the road:

Well, this doesn't come easily to someone who has always seen motorists considering the roads as their own property, and refusing to share the ownership with anyone else, least of all the lesser mortals like pedestrians or the law abiding citizens. But this all changed, when I went to another country a few days back and observed the kind of respect these lesser mortals get in a country which may be the size of my city, when I count the number of people, and the size of my company, when I count the number of registered vehicles in the country. And mind you, I am not even talking about a typical developed country - I believe their GDP will be the sum total of the annual CTCs of all the readers of this blog put together.

One fine morning, we were cruising at around 90 kmph and discussing about the latest scandal in which a senior minister was involved (well, not all things in that country are different). To my horror, my cab driver suddenly applied the brakes, waived gently at a pedestrian standing calmly on the foot path, and requested him to cross the road before he could even put his foot back on the accelerator. Similarly, I was taken aback when he gently blew his horn to acknowledge the other driver for letting him take a U-turn (and NOT for "shouting" at him - the purpose we usually use the horn for). Almost unheard of in our part of the world. It brought me to tears, and I felt like kicking myself black and blue, recalling the kind of atrocities the pedestrians back home have to face because of drivers like me. When I shared the reason of my uneasiness with the cab driver (of course, on being asked), he was astonished to hear that the first right to walk on the road in our country doesn't belong to the poor pedestrian!

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do not start ignition before the red light changes to amber:

With the amber signal almost becoming non-existent in my city (even if they are present, they are sparingly followed or used because the signal changes from red directly to green), I am sure many of the motorists around would have experienced this. You are standing first in the queue on a red signal. As soon as the timer starts inching towards 10s, and you do not show any inclination to make a move forward, even a tenth of a mm, the rest of the motorists, with far more urgent work than you have, will start honking. It starts with a small sound some 150m behind you, and becomes a cacophony in 2s. And it will reach a crescendo even before the timer has crawled to 5s. Do they feel you are actually enjoying a picnic standing first in that queue? I some times feel like getting down from my car, and sitting right there in front of the queue, refusing to budge till the signal turns red once again.

Do not stare back:

Don't worry, I am still sticking with my driving resolutions, and am not copying the third bullet point from my answer to the question "How to make your spouse happy?" Not staring back at the traffic offender is something I learnt the hard way while driving to my kid's school a few days back. A typical case of a stupid driver (it is never our mistake, is it?) overtaking from the wrong side, giving me a mouthful when it was he who almost added one more dent on my already bruised 7-year old car. As usual, I stared back at the bike driver, all ready with my retorts, having no idea that he was wearing a familiar looking head band, the pillion rider was holding a big flag with a ferocious looking animal on it - I bet I am not challenging you to identify their political affiliations - accompanied with 10 more samples, I mean drivers, behind him. The rest, as they say, is not worth mentioning. Well, to make it sound more agreeable to my ego, it was the kid's first ever stage appearance in the school, and I had to just move ahead, "humbled" by the experience.

P.S.: And did I say, all this happened, with a police van standing right in front of me!!

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Change response to high-beam users:

Even if my father would have always followed the traffic rule-book, this is one thing I have seen him doing very frequently. If the driver coming in your direction does not understand that high beam is not supposed to be used on city roads, and goes ahead to irritate you further when he fails to understand your request for a dipper, my superman decides to take the matter in his own hands, takes his car to the center of the road, and stops. He refuses to budge till the time some niceties have been exchanged and the other version of superman in front of me has learnt the biggest lesson on driving (and some more on you know what), and agrees to switch from high beam to a dipper. Needless to say, after trying to be a true inheritor of his bravado on a few occasions, I have decided not to venture further. I will probably add the high-beam users to the list of lesser mortals I mentioned earlier, and be polite and gentle towards them, and also do my best not to stare back at them. See it all finally comes together ...

Do not talk or text while driving:

Yes, this is nothing new, and hence, I don't get any marks for creativity here. But doesn't this appear on the resolutions list of all the drivers even today? Like all other resolutions, we have found our ways out of this guilt year-on-year. Just that, every year, the sentence gets suffixed (or prefixed) with a new phrase. Or it gets modified with words like using hands-free, listening to music on the iPod (this one comes from my spouse) and so on. We refuse to accept that we can ever be a party to an accident scene involving ourselves. We keep on having this as a resolution every year, because we break it for some avoidable reason or silly excuse as soon as it appears in our current list. And this is the reason, why this will appear in my driving resolutions list for 2014 as well. But when it is appraisal time, and your boss's name flashes on the screen, you can not NOT pick up the phone, more so when you have decided to honor your company's HR policy on flexible timing and sneaked out of the office a full 2 hours before the scheduled time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing Prompt - "I wish everyone loved ..."

I was browsing through one of my favorite "feel good" blogs hosted by Preeti Shenoy, and read one of the recent posts on writing prompts. Found the concept interesting ... and immediately set out with the latest prompt, as a small challenge to myself. The prompt for this week is - "I wish everyone loved ...". And here we go ...

I wish everyone loved …
Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

... being dutiful towards the society: Although a cliché, but the one quote that perfectly catches the essence is “Man by nature is a social animal”. In an increasingly self-centered world, where an individual’s duty towards the society unfortunately comes after almost every other priority, it is the need of the hour to reemphasize the importance of mutual existence and compassion for fellow individuals. It is every one's responsibility to think about collective good above personal good, to think about duties and responsibilities before rights.

Image courtesy of rattigon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

... being loyal towards the friends: Pardon another cliché, but still the best quote I have loved on friendship is “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. A loyal friend will always be around you, when the entire world has left your company. One of the best relieving moment in one’s life is when you find a friend on your side, when there is nobody ahead or behind you.

Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

... being affectionate towards the kids: Because this is one emotion the kids always look up to the parent for. Hugs, cuddles, kisses, tenderness, warmth – these strengthen the bond between you and the kids, and develops the relationship. If we daily check whether they have brushed their teeth or not, whether they have finished their lessons or not, whether they have said their prayers or not, it is equally important to check whether they have received their share of affection or not.


Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 ... being thankful towards the parents: Because they are the ones who brought you to this world. No matter what you achieve in your life, how rich and successful you are, how modern you are, and increasingly important today, whether you are married or not … you are what you are because of them, and your responsibility towards them never diminishes. You can not repay the debt you owe to them. The least you can do is being thankful towards them and be around them during their twilight years.

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
... being committed towards the partner: Because the relationship can not blossom without a commitment. Being one of the most beautiful relationships made by God, and supposed to be the one that belongs to just the two of you, it needs to be preserved. Commitment towards each other’s dreams and ambitions, commitment towards each other’s emotions, commitment towards equality of opinions … it spans across multiple aspects.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

... being honest towards self: Because the opposite is not an option ... otherwise, you can not be dutiful towards the society, you can not be loyal towards the friends, you can not be affectionate towards the kids, you can not be thankful towards the parents and you can not be committed towards the partner. You can not be YOU.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Protesting against rape: Are we focussing on the right issues?

There has been a growing clamor from all and sundry to have a special parliamentary session to enact new laws and strengthen existing laws on crime against women. As if that (the session) is the panacea for all ills! Although it is easy to understand the growing public outrage and impatience on the absence of political will as well as lack of stringent laws, a few concerns pop up in my mind.

To begin with, what can we practically think of achieving from a session starting, say, today? Will we be able to formulate and pass a stringent law immediately? What are the chances that the session will not end up highlighting the same old things - adjournments, walk-outs, "shaant rahiye"'s and some more - in the absence of something concrete to discuss on the "changes" and "modifications" based on thorough evaluation? It is essential for our law makers to spend sufficient time in understanding the nuances of all the proposed changes, then have a discussion in the parliament and see to it that the law does what it is supposed to do.

Our efforts need to focus on ensuring that we do not come out with a half-cooked solution like so many of us opined about the Government's version of Lokpal bill. How much time did we spend in having discussions between civil society representatives and the Government on Lokpal, before the former started blaming the latter for using time wasting tactics? Much more than the time spent in a special parliament session, right? Then, why this hurry? People may question the "spending time" argument by asking what has happened to the Lokpal bill. But many of us agree that it is in a cold storage (not exactly, but still not up there in every body's priorities) now because we could not focus and prioritize. Let's not politicize the case. There's a need to focus and prioritize, and from our experience, let's do it right the first time. Getting emotional on this issue is something our country can not afford.

Isn’t it true that more than absence of stringent laws, we have a problem of effective enforcement of the laws? Yes, it is important to have stringent laws that act as a deterrent. But all of us will agree that it is equally important for the laws to be feasible and enforceable. It is all the more important to ensure that the loopholes in the existing laws need to be plugged and at the same time, due stress needs to be given to the fact that any new law needs to be made safe from misuse. We do not want the watchdog to be kept busy with frivolous charges from people and agencies who all of a sudden feel empowered. Empowerment is good, whereas misuse of the same is criminal. And we can vouch for that from our past experiences on many ground-breaking and radical changes in the laws.

Taking a case in point ... so many people are proposing chemical castration of the accused as one of the punishments. From the look of it, it definitely seems to be an obvious choice - hit where it hurts the most, period! But just yesterday, I came to know how ineffective that measure might turn out to be. For the punishment to have a longer term effect, the procedure needs to be repeated every three months or so (have heard different frequencies from different "experts"), and would require regular observation of the convicts. Bottom line – it is not a one-time solution. Moreover, the experience of having chemical castration as a deterrent has had mixed success around the world. Do we still want to have this as a punishment? Somebody rightly said, severity of the punishment is not as important as the assurance that the punishment will be delivered.

All the protests today focus on one set of victims. With due respect to the current incident (and similar other incidents) and the fact that today the gender at the receiving end is the one in focus, doesn't the law need to think about the other gender as well? Do we need to face something like this gaining importance in the future? With the number of loopholes present in the current system on similar issues, it makes sense to focus on this aspect. Or else we will end up formulating ineffective laws which in a distant future will lead to protests by some other aggrieved parties. Given the enormity of the situation today, this is of course not a priority, but some thing that needs to be addressed.

Civil society representatives raised their concerns during the Lokpal debate that can we expect the same people to make tough laws against corruption, who have multiple corruption cases against themselves? Will the civil society raise their voice on similar lines this time as well? With many representatives from our political class exhibiting scant respect to the gravity of the situation by making shameful comments, are we right in expecting them to come with pertinent solutions, without the involvement from you and me? Let us all shun skepticism and send our suggestions to the committee headed by Justice Verma.

Among the many reasons given by commentators on the high number of rape cases in our country, one reason that finds a frequent mention is that the topic continues being a taboo in our society, and that there is no constructive debate across the spectrum. People belonging to a particular section of society are blamed for the malaise … I am sorry, cases we are witnessing on a daily basis suggest otherwise. New Year parties in five-star hotels are attended by rich and highly educated people. We have seen and heard top performers in the society discriminating against girl child. At the same time, I have been a witness to an incident where my next door neighbor (can safely assume that he is well educated) was correcting his daughter when she was singing a song that has been attracting a lot of controversy around degrading women. Let's face it - the problem cuts across all sections of society.

Why does it take occurrence of such a heinous crime for us to question, say, our films which are supposed to be a social barometer? Why do these thoughts suddenly become more acceptable today and were called anti-modern yesterday? Why do we not question the stark difference in the ratio of security personnel to common man vis-a-vis the ratio of security personnel to VIPs and VVIPs? Why wasn't this questioned earlier? Why not increase the scope of reforms to include this and avoid this? Why does this follow-up happen only when a similar crime is committed, and not as a part of a regular accountability test? Wouldn't the amount of time and energy we have spent in expressing our grief and support, and the seriousness with which we have challenged the intentions of authorities, be henceforth put to a good use in fighting the bully committing the crime in front of us when today most of us just turn our head or press the accelerator harder?

Making and enforcing stringent laws is just one aspect of the solution. With the target of this heinous act being girls as young as a few months, I believe the issue is as much at the psychological level as at the physical level. The issue is more in the brain than down there ... between the two shoulders and not between the two legs. And hence, the solution also needs to span across the two levels. Along with strict laws and their enforcement, we also need a change in attitude. It is sad to see that even in these times, we have reports on quacks and superstitions being responsible for rapes. What the society lacks is compassion for fellow individuals and recognition of the individual responsibility towards the betterment of society, towards the general uplift of quality of life for everyone, and not only self. There are enough people in the society who are capable of interpreting empowerment in their own unique way, and end up making a mockery of the existence of others around them. It needs to be understood that individual good can not sustain for long without general good. And this is something where you and me can contribute by spending time in explaining the correlation between the two "goods" to our kids. We need to stop telling our crying sons that do not cry like a girl, and at the same time need to stop telling our daughters that do not play car racing games like a boy.

In the end, going a bit tangentially, why don’t the political parties say – “We have wasted enough time of the parliament staging walk-outs on one hand and not listening to the opposition parties points of view on the other. Let’s have special sessions to discuss and pass key reform bills so that the economy gets a much needed kick-start.” Going a step ahead, why do we question only the age-old rape laws? Why not use this platform to force a review of all the antiquated laws? Isn't it time for a greater revolution?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Taking the first step ...

Finally, the first step in blogosphere has been taken. A lot of rants, ruminations, thoughts, ideas, stories, anecdotes ... now I can look forward to this space as one destination for everything. Or will it be a junkyard? Time here will decide whether this child who has been taking baby steps around the cradle for some time now and has turned the front door knob a few moments back, will succeed in moving ahead and while crossing the veranda, will gain enough experience to proceed towards the highway, or will get lost in figuring out how to cross the potholes in the alley or in trying to discover the best way to cross the speed bumps without causing much harm to herself. Only time will tell!

Been months, if not years, that the thought was going around in my mind. Was I not sure whether I wanted to join the blogging world? Probably yes. Or was it more of my usual procrastination? I don't think so. Was I just waiting for a trigger to take the next natural step to whatever writing, commenting, rhyming, liking and of course reading I have been doing more and more frequently during the last few months of my life? Acceptable. Am I sure it was not the confusion on what should be the theme - humor, emotions, social issues, travel, life style? I guess so. The date of the first step suggests to me this may be my new year resolution. Hmmm ... that's close! Or actually the real reason was the long ruminations on what should be the name of the blog. Yes, true to a great extent.

As it might happen with a wandering mind, the reason is not one but a combination of all these, with varying degrees of influence throughout the life cycle of the decision. I have reasons to believe that the chronology of these influences for sure follows the sequence in which the thoughts appeared in my mind, and got translated here. And now, as I read through the first few words I am contributing to the ever-increasing multitude of bytes on the Internet, I get this sudden urge to ask myself - why didn't this happen earlier? Well, better late than never.

Thinking aloud, the theme should not have been such a great challenge, knowing what the trigger is. Yes, a lot of events happening around in the last few days made it ever so difficult to hold on to this seemingly inevitable step. Personal, professional, social, political, economic ... a lot of negative energy flowing around everywhere. A lot of negativity has generally led to a lot of churn in our minds, some times in a systematic manner, but mostly incongruous thoughts going uncontrollably in all directions, leading to more confusion and a greater pessimism. And now I know, where the title and the theme come from? In hindsight, it looks so obvious.

By the way, it is not very encouraging to see first four names you have painstakingly shortlisted (or shall I say listed using a combination of the results on your favorite search engine, the words you dreamt of the previous night and the phrases you found interesting in the book you finished an hour back) are already in use, and hence unavailable. But it is indeed heartening to notice that the fifth one you pull out of your hat has been usurped by one of the richest persons in the world as a title of a best seller. Never mind ... may be it is good for a pauper to ruminate and ensure a positive outcome, like it is for a billionaire to be impatient and confidently put a high risk premium on the outcome. Only time will tell!