Hail December!

Actually, it’s November I look forward for it’s a pretty festive month for me. Apart from Diwali that more often than not falls during November, birthdays of my wife and daughter are other major highlights. Of course, being surrounded by scorpion friends and relatives, November ensures whole lot of action.

However, like the year itself, November 2020 was a month that I would like to forget, though I may not do so in hurry! At the beginning itself, I felt slightly under the weather, a position that consistently deteriorated. I was under high fever on my wife’s birthday and spent the day in bed, while on Diwali day that incidentally coincided with my daughter’s birthday, I tested positive for COVID. That heralded two weeks of home isolation, repeated blood tests and some none too pleasant experiences!

But all is well that ends well! As December starts today, I am almost recovered, raring to take a plunge into my day to day routine. I have dressed for my office, though for 2 more weeks at least, it will still be work from home. Medicines, except for some vitamins and supplements are almost finished and the heart is again looking forward to some pleasurable moments! Of course, spirit of Christmas only adds a bit of zip to the life!

The debilitating effects of Covid will be felt in the body for a few more weeks, but spirit is ready to sore again – in anticipation of good times, Christmas, new year and the end of the pandemic!

Why are the farmers agitating?

Farmers of Punjab and Haryana are on warpath with central government against three new farm bills passed by the centre. In fact, non BJP governments in Punjab and Rajasthan are openly supporting this movement by Kisans. The question arises is if the central government is firmly of the view that the new legislation is in the long term interest and benefit of farmers, why is this feeling not shared by the above two state governments and why nobody is able to convince farmers that these bills are in their interest? Why are we playing politics and that too with our farming community.

To have a view on this issue, it’s important to understand the issue first, especially from the view point of farmers and their sympathisers! Farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment). They believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.

Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

Farmers believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation. Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

The arhtiyas (commission agents) and farmers enjoy a friendship and bonding that goes back decades. On an average, at least 50-100 farmers are attached with each arhtiya, who takes care of farmers’ financial loans and ensures timely procurement and adequate prices for their crop. Farmers believe the new laws will end their relationship with these agents and corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need.

From the above, it seems, at least to my mind that the legislations are progressive that are meant to break age old quaint middle man or arhtiya system, saving gullible farmers from exploitation by them! However, age old systems and protocols cannot be changed overnight and that too by forcing such legislations down the people’s throat. The onus is on the central government to take all stakeholders into confidence, allay their apprehensions, bring in clauses that are desired by farmers to protect their interest and then try to promulgate the order. This has been unique feature of the present government. Because of its inability to take opposition and large sections of society along , all its legislations are being met with great circumspection and even the best of intentions of the government do not seem to be winning public approval.

On the other Punjab and Rajasthan governments should stop politicising the issue and work for suitable amendments in the bills so that farmers can benefit the most and are out of age old malpractice gives by arhtiyas and middlemen.

And farmers and their leaders should definitely not make it an Akali- BJP or Badal-Modi-Amarinder or last of all anti Sikh issue. Farmers’ only religion is hard work to feed millions of populace of this country and we all respect them for farming,to my mind, is the most difficult and underpaid of the professions and our heart should go out to the farmers of this country so that they are better off and there are no farmer suicides!

Jai Hind!

Diego Maradona – the legend

I am not a soccer aficionado in the sense that some people, especially in West Bengal and Goa are devoted, but would not mind watching a good game of football on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Of course, World Cup is closely followed and I keep tab of all the results till the finals. Like most of the Indians, Brazil is my favourite team for that team created magic with short passes and dribbles, the way Indians play hockey, instead of power packed football played by European nations. But there was a time, when like many of us, I too had shifted my loyalties from Brazil to Argentina. This was when there was a diminutive magician, to whom the ball used to get attached like an iron filing to a magnet and whose dribbling was mesmerising, was spearheading an underdog Argentina. Who can forget 1986 World Cup, which was Maradona’s World Cup, whose single handed magic won the cup for the dark horses ! And his two goals in the quarter finals against England shall remain etched in the soccer history for time immemorial. His first one, now famously known as “ Hand of God” was a foul unnoticed as probably God destined to pin greatness on this master artist, though the second goal was a sheer artistry and wizardry, with the maestro dodging past a host of English defence players with his magical footwork to score what will remain a connoisseur’s delight forever! That Argentina eventually went on to win the cup that year was a real tribute to Maradona’s artistry!

He represented Argentina in 3 more world cups, but one can only come down from the peak. His magic was there but only in flashes. But he had it all – from being the most expensive player to be hired ( I read somewhere that his club Napoli took a bank loan to pay up Maradona, though how he transformed another dark horse, his club Napoli into a soccer powerhouse is the stuff legends are made of ) to being coveted the world over! However, he couldn’t manage all the success and money and got into drugs and the company of drug syndicates. His health started deteriorating and he put on lot of weight. Even his stint at a Rehab centre didn’t help much, and at the end, the legend died when he was barely 60, leaving millions of soccer fans in a pall of gloom!

Like another great, Pele, Maradona had also visited India and his visit to Kolkata remains unforgettable for the master donned his playing shoes and some of the magic he showed on the field made soccer crazy Kolkata crowd delirious! In fact, Maradona himself was surprised at the adulation he got and craze for soccer in India and he promised to return, which he fulfilled, but by that time the man was a frail image of his self!

There will be more expensive players in the days to come – probably more talented or high profile, but legends like Maradona are born once in a century. He was master of his craft, enigmatic, mysterious and above all a magician who took the game of soccer to a different level. Also, lord himself wrote the destiny of this favourite child of his for we may never see god “lending his hand” in scoring a soccer goal ever again!

RIP Diego Maradona!

Unwanted sobriquet

As per a news item appearing in today’s dailies, at 39%, India has reported the highest bribery rate in all of Asia. It’s shocking, because at least I had a feeling that with technology, more and more activities would become contactless and transparent leading to reduction in bribery; but, Alas! It’s not been so!

A nation’s character comes to the fore in the moments of crisis. I thought, we showed a great resilience of character in our fight against the COVID. People were largely compliant and till unlockdown happened in phases, they stayed indoors. Of course, it’s not to downplay the sufferings of certain sections of the society- mainly migrant labours and poor – but within the constraints of population bursting at seams and other practical difficulties, we managed Covid better than many of the advances countries. We also rallied behind our Government, when China’s aggressive expansionism was effectively thwarted by our forces.

But how do we tackle these big social malaise of corruption in public life and practices such as bribery? I think there is a dire need of financially enabling certain sections like police, primary teachers, health workers, sweepers, messengers et al, who are not paid as well as their private sector counterparts. The contrarian view, however, is that no amount of money can be substitute for character building, which is primarily the responsibility of social institutions like family and schools. In fact, bribery and corruption are not limited to lower strata but in fact, could be a much larger game in upper echelons!

Indian doesn’t need such sobriquets like the one making us leading in bribery rate in all of Asia. Let’s work towards making India clean, green, beautiful, peaceful and corruption free, which is possible if we do not forget our spiritual teaching and roots that exhort us to detach ourselves from materialism. There’s no end to material requirement for which any amount of income may not be sufficient that would eventually lead to unhealthy practices such as bribery!

Parental love and filial affection

During this Covid break, lots of stray thoughts are coming to my mind, egging me to put the same on paper. The thought that has suddenly erupted inside me today is the strangeness or oddity of a son or daughter not speaking to his/her father or mother sometimes during the whole lifetime! Unbelievable, isn’t it? While some reasons are comprehensible – a son or daughter marrying outside the community or religion without parental consent leading to lifelong termination of this most sensitive relationship, a few others are beyond comprehension!

Such an instance first came to my notice when I was quite young, in fact in my pre- teens. That was when my aunt got married. I heard that my to- be uncle was a self – made man, an orphan, who was brought up by neighbours, though later it transpired that his mother had died when he was very young and his father remarried. This is also understandable for seldom love is not lost between step mother and step son, the role of the man – the father and husband- becoming dubious! The next instance came to my mind when another of my close relatives married a fine person, whose father didn’t accompany the baraat or wedding procession. We were told that father and son were not on talking terms for a few years, but expected them to Kiss and make up, though that never happened and the person couldn’t even make it to his father’s funeral!

Currently, two people very close to me are not talking to each other and it beats me that when the life has become so uncertain, especially in the backdrop of Corona and the need is for people and communities to come together and fight this enemy , we have these instances of close souls, related by birth and blood, bringing in their egos and preconceived notions and spoiling what’s god’s gift to mankind- parental love and filial affection! Only yesterday I had prayed for departure of Corona for we had learnt our lessons. But it seems , we could still be a little distance away from it!

No more Covid please!

Seasonal flu was an event

That happened without fail every year

When season changed its mood

It was that part of the year!

This year too was no different

For I had fever with chill and ache

Mentally I was prepared

For 2 days of rest and break.

Little I realised

This was not a normal year

A pandemic was unleashed on mankind

That was increasingly becoming hard to bear!

And I tested positive for Covid

There was absolutely no consolation

I was moved to a separate room

For a fortnight of isolation !

Doctor was circumspect

For it was no known devil

This was a mysterious disease

That was mother of all evils!

As I count my days of isolation

I thank my stars and prayers by all for my condition

I seem to have recovered well

God seems to have heard my petition

I pray for safety of fellow humans

And wish Covid an early demise

We have all learnt our lessons

And have become enough wise !

Back to theatres

Not only in my childhood but also larger part of youth, Hindi movies were the only source of entertainment. Going to theatre was a big event and it required good deal of planning, because for any good movie released fresh, tickets were seldom available across the counter and seats had to be reversed in advance, once the booking opened on Monday of the week during which the new movie was to be released on Friday.

I was just thinking about the grandiose movies, watching which was almost aspirational! Lot of names come to mind and as my prime movie going time coincided with Amitabh’s reign of stardom, these were mainly his movies – Trishul, Namak Halal, Sharabi, Amar Akbar Anthony, Shakti and an odd non Amitabh movie such as Karz, Chacha Bhatija or Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin. In fact, Sharabi and Shakti were two movies that I watched the second time, a rarity of my lifetime. But the biggest event as I recollect was watching Sholay for my father stood in queue for 2 hours to get tickets for two weeks after, when the movie had already run for almost 6 months! By that time, everyone knew each and every dialogue of this all time classic!

And then suddenly the standard and the content of Hindi movies deteriorated and so did the musical score and with so much alternate content available on cable TV, channels and now of course internet, the attraction of Bollywood faded. Of course, earlier elegant and well laid out theatres ( Plaza, Odeon, Chanakya, Sangam, Priya in Delhi and Sterling, Eros, Regal, Minerva, Metro in Mumbai) also shut down their doors replaced by very neat and clean with great acoustics but clinical Multiplexes!

Does it mean, I have no interest in any Bollywood movie? No, exception is always there. There’s one film maker for whose movies I wait eagerly, for his movies are based on rock solid scripts on which he spends lots of time along with his co-writer! He’s Rajkumar Hirani, the maker of two Munnabhai franchises and classics such as 3 Idiots, Peekay and Sanju! I look forward to his next though I don’t know whether his dream project , “ Munnabhai Chale America “ or for that any other Munnabhai franchise movie will see the light of the day for Sanjay Dutt is growing in years, though he seems to have conquered cancer.

More Hiranis can bring reluctant ( I won’t use the word discerning for that may sound needlessly egoistic) cinema goers like me back to the theatres, even if it means going to a multiplex and eating popcorn for Rs250 !

Intemperance is harming us

Intemperance is harming our great nation. Even the most sane and stable of minds are making irreverent statements. Like the one made by one of my favourite politicians, who really made a difference to the state of Maharashtra and city of Mumbai during his busy tenure of 5 years – Devendra Fadnavis. Fresh from BJP’s spectacular show in Bihar elections, where he was BJP’s main coordinator, he made a statement that as per his vision of “ Akhand Bharat”, he sees Karachi as part of India in future. Coming on the heels of Gupkar declaration, where even veteran and seasoned politicians like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have committed hara kiri of seeking Chinese intervention in restoring Kashmir’s special status! I thought nothing could have been more ironical than show of any solidarity with China after that country’s act of aggression in Ladakh. And we have Love- Jihad raising its ugly head again with UP trying to enact law, while Rajasthan Congress Government dismissing Love-Jihad as figment of BJP’s imagination as part of their Hindutva agenda! With West Bengal going to polls next year, the polarisation is likely to see another extreme! On top of it, external enemies continue to raise their fangs with a newly bolstered Pakistan trying tricks on the border apart from its standard ploy of pushing terrorists into our country.

Recovering from COVID, advice from my attending physician is clear – think positive, be happy and take no stress. Although I was working from home only, he has barred me from even that as office work could be source of tension. But for me, a nationalist, patriot, humanitarian, secular, broad minded and pacifist, nothing is source of greater stress than intemperance by our politicians. Aren’t Corona, Pakistan, China and economy big enough problems that we want to disturb the internal harmony by making untimely intemperate statements? Muslims are as much part of this Great Nation as any other religious minority or majority is! Secularism is the mantra that our forefathers bestowed on us through our constitution. No other ism will work and no body should attempt to fiddle with ethos of this country and its constitution.

If ….then

Self quarantine is providing me with an opportunity to watch TV and read. Though I must say that I was tempted to do both the aforesaid things when I was busy with my office work. Now that I have been advised to stay away from office work and have ample time for watching TV and reading, my mind is going towards office! Such wicked are ways of life and one cannot really help but go along.

As the title of this blog suggests, we have conditioned our lives in such a way that everything, including happiness, has become conditional. It’s always if preceding then, meaning fulfilment of condition precedent is essential for the aimed happiness. And this if-then syndrome is not only the guiding light for our future actions and outcomes, it also takes us into the pangs of guilt and regret over our past. If I had taken admission to X college, if I had got promotion in 1996 instead of 1997, if my daughter had settled in USA instead of RSA: it’s quite an endless list. And for future, if I get steady income after my retirement, if I keep good health, if I get to pursue decent second innings, if I have absolutely rocking old age: again the list is endless.

While the past is done and the present is just moving ahead, I will make definitive moves to save my future from this if- then syndrome. I want unconditional life, unconditional happiness and perpetual joy that’s not incumbent upon any conditionality. It will entail some serious work, but I am also serious post Corona – life is to be lived regally and unconditionally by staying in present.

If I am still resting my future happiness on the preconditions or specific events, then I will never be able to come out of this vicious circle!

If it can happen to me….

I took extreme care and caution. Stopped going out once the pandemic started. Mainly worked from home. In the extreme circumstances of having to go out, wore mask and maintained social distancing. Avoided crowded places. Drank hot concoctions ( kadah). Drank milk with turmeric. Took vitamins and zinc as supplements. Read somewhere about kalonji and ate black seeds everyday morning. Nursed a Corona patient with utmost care. And just when the world was celebrating abatement of pandemic and successful trial of vaccine, I got infected and tested positive for Corona.

I am no god; in fact , I consider myself to be more ordinary than the ordinary mortals. But the need is to get tested and then follow all the protocols. Many with good immunity might just have unknowingly defeated Corona, but they could be passive carriers. I suggest that anyone having fever or any discomfort of any kind should get herself or himself tested and only then can we defeat Corona and stop it’s transmission.

Is this blog being penned under Covid strain and hence has a pessimistic undertone? On the contrary, I am more resolute now to spread awareness through my articles. Do whatever is required and being suggested by the authorities and doctors. Build immunity and stay safe. But if there are any symptoms, get tested and follow the process. Testing is the key to defeating Corona.

You have physically downed me covid

But my spirits are still high

We have decided to fight together now

Your end is nigh!!!