Old, Plain Day

I saw an interesting item in today’s newspaper. It was around the dedicated days – in fact, it was about an overdose of such days and yearning for a free, plain day.

As the news item mentioned, moving from Father’s Day on Sunday ( which was also an International Surfing Day and international T Shirt Day – thank god I wore a T shirt on Sunday, albeit unknowingly) to International Yoga Day on Monday ( also World Giraffe Day and World Peace and Prayer Day) to today being a World Rainforest Day, it’s been one helluva busy period 😃! This is not all – tomorrow the 23rd is World Widows’ Day and 24th is World Fairy Day and World UFO Day. In fact, the news item further laments that all the remaining June Days are dedicated days, 1st July is International Jokes Day, 2nd July for some reason is World UFO Day again, 3rd July is International Drop a Rock Day and 4th July is International Day of Cooperatives! The item celebrates 5th July, exactly 2 weeks from today that has been mercifully not dedicated to any cause and is just a plain, old day!

In the earlier days of my blogging, dedicated days were my favourite to pen a new blog! Luckily very soon I realised that it’s not just Father’s, Mother’s, Teacher’s or Children’s Day ! Virtually every day, sans a few intermittent good, old , plain days as the aforesaid news item describes such days, is a dedicated day and I would have run out of steam and ideas had I persisted with my initial resolve!

Happy 5th July no event day!

Flying Sikh

Father’s Day is celebrated the world over on the third Sunday of June honouring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society. Going by the tradition, tomorrow, being the third Sunday of June 2021, is the designated day for this occasion.

India has a tradition of treating father with utmost respect not only in his capacity as the Head of family, but as someone who begets a child who is then born to a mother. Our most revered scripture Ramayana is replete with the stories of an ideal son, Ram, following his father’s orders most obediently though it meant tremendous hardships for him. We belong to the land that has produced sons like Ram, Prahlad and Bhagat Singh, who brought great glory to their fathers.

Respect for father requires no special day and this is true almost for all important days that we celebrate. However, this year in particular, Covid pandemic has wreaked havoc and it has been especially harsh on senior citizens – our fathers and mothers. This was not the end we envisaged for those who brought us into this world and whose love, affection and blessings we always craved for. There’s something depressing about this father day.

And today the nation received the sad news of the sad demise of another of his glorious sons – the flying Sikh Milkha Singh, who lost his battle to Covid a few days after his wife lost her life too! This father day let’s dedicate the occasion to the father of Indian sports – the flying Sikh!

Let’s defeat the third wave

Some people are brave hearts. While I don’t know whether they maintain social distancing or wash their hands regularly, but they definitely have an aversion to using the mask. They either don’t wear or wear it well below their nose, as if virus hates the nasal opening and likes to infect through mouth cavity only! It’s not clear whether their attitude arises out of ignorance or just that they have been plainly lucky to have avoided Corona?

But these are not all! There is another set that has an aversion to vaccine. These are easy preys of the canard being spread about the side effects of the vaccine. There have been news of bodies turning magnetic due to ill effects of vaccine.

Yet there is another set for whom crowded places are a must visit. Whether it’s their shopping requirement , religious affiliation or political inclination , they simply cannot sit at home or avoid such places where social distancing is made mockery of.

While writing the above piece, I am acutely aware of our Corona warriors – doctors, health workers, essential service providers et al – who are daily risking their lives for our sustenance. There are also daily earners who have no choice but to earn their sustenance daily. I salute all these and I think we should all remain eternally grateful to this section.

We can still fall victim to Corona in spite of mask, hand washing, social distancing and vaccination. But then we know that while death is a certainty, to walk in the middle of the road or railway track is suicide! We cannot defeat the death, but let’s not commit suicide.

Life is nothing but a set of challenges

And Covid is just one of them

If we can overcome all others

Why should to Corona we succumb?

Obliteration of Corona may not be immediate, but let’s ward off the immediate threat of the third wave that’s knocking at the door!

Stay safe!

Life and Death

In a sermon on death, a priest was explaining the truth about death to the congregation. He first stuns the audience by saying he’s dying. He said he started dying since the very day he was born, because death is the only truth and end of the life and the each day that we lived brought us closer to death. He then makes a statement that rankles everyone in the audience! He said, “ Everyone in this parish is going to die!” He looked around and noticed one man in front smiling broadly. “ Why are you so amused?” he asked. “ I am not from this parish,” the man said. “ I am just visiting my sister for the weekend.”

The incident reaffirms that we are all scared of death and do not want to reconcile to the fact that death is a reality and definitive end of this life. To avoid this reality, we go to any extent, like the man in the above incident, who felt he was immortal as if only the members of that parish were to die of which he was not a member.

Because we don’t regard death as definitive reality and the end of life, we continue to accumulate material happiness as if life is perpetual. Let my readers not get any impression of I turning philosophical preaching metaphysics, it’s just reiteration of my thoughts expressed in my birthday blog. Each birthday takes us a step closer to the end and while we should celebrate the day of our arrival in this world with our nears and dears, we should not forget to reflect on the reality of life!

I would like to thank Abacus Consultants, Colonel D K Sabharwal and Anindita for introducing me to Mitch Albom, whose work I found to be mesmerising and whom I want to read more.

Pain and pleasure

Came across these beautiful lines by Robert Browning Hamilton :

I walked a mile with Pleasure;

She chatted all the way;

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow;

And ne’er a word said she;

But, oh! The things I learnt from her,

When sorrow walked with me.

The above lines beautifully encapsulate our frame of mind during pleasure and sorrow. When we are happy, we move ahead merrily as if there’s no tomorrow. When we are entrenched in sorrow, we move ahead heavily, again as if there’s no tomorrow.

The above lines can also be interpreted with more relevance, if we substitute sorrow with problems. I think the Poet exhorts us to take sorrows or problems in our stride by taking them as learning and remain optimistic or hopeful because if pleasure is transient so is sorrow.

There’s another angle to interpreting the above lines. Pleasure seems to be getting over very quickly, for we are in celebratory mood and everyone is with us; when we are in deep sorrow or serious problem, we are alone so it seems mountainous. As a Hindi song describes it beautifully-

Sukh ke sab saathi

Dukh mein na koi

This is much oft explained enigma that pain and pleasure are the two sides of the same coin and go hand in hand. Like we celebrate a transient happy phase, we should keep hope in difficult phase too as sukh follows dukh and vice versa.

What’s in a name?

I have a dear colleague, who is a good friend too, having a very fascinating name – Nehru Singh. Before meeting him, when I heard his name, I found his name to be quite enigmatic. Nehru is a household name, rather surname, thanks to our first prime minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. We also know that people with Nehru surname are Kashmiri Brahmins or Brahmins at least as Nehru was always addressed as Panditji. Singh is a generic second name that follows the first name across communities and geographies in India – Sikhs, Jats, Rajputs et al. When you hear a name that comprises a surname and a second name, you are bound to be fascinated. But this fascination didn’t stop here! The person with a North Indian surname as a first name and a North India second name as his second name word, actually turned out to be a Tamilian from Deep South. Further acquaintanceship with him revealed that the place from where he came has had a long tradition of naming their children after famous and iconic personalities ! He has Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra, Gandhi etc all in his family!

The reason for this out of turn remembrance for Nehru ( it’s neither his birthday today or his anniversary ) is a fascinating piece of news that I read in today’s newspaper. Salem’s CPI District Secretary A Mohan’s youngest son is AM Socialism, who is marrying a girl from staunch Congress family. The girl is named P Mamta Banerjee ( report says that the girl was born when Mamta was in Congress). News further says that both the Tamil families seem happy to wear ideologies on their sleeves. Socialism has brothers Communism and Leninism and Communism has a son Marxism ( as report cheekily says – not the other way around- Marxism is hailed as father of Communism). We now have a classic case – Mamta, the Chief Minister of WB, married to the principle of socialism and down South a girl Mamta married to a boy Socialism.

In comparison to the above, the name Nehru Singh now appears to be music to the ears!

Long live Tamil Nadu and its tryst with the science of nomenclature!

Passion and profession

My readers would recall a blog written a few days ago regarding a big shift in my life from being a student to a bank employee. My memories were evoked by a story by PG Wodehouse in which the protagonist, an avid and talented cricket player, having a distinct chance of upgrading to county cricket and from there to England’s test cricket team, has to dump his dreams due to family circumstances and has to pick up a mundane bank job.

While a part of the story that resonated with my story ( though I was hardly a talented sportsperson or a scholar) touched the chords of my heart, the story of the protagonist does not end here. He works hard and sincerely in the Bank, but his heart is simply not there. Once cold and dark English winters pave way for warm and sunny spring, he feels suffocated inside the bank building and wants to be in the cricket field.

The story ends on a happy note. The protagonist is helped by his affluent friend to pursue further studies in university and try his luck with higher form of cricket and is thus liberated from the depressing and and suffocating atmosphere to pursue his interest.

The aforesaid story, which is full of interesting twists and turns, will resonate with many of us as we may not be in a profession or doing a job in which our heart lies. Especially those with interests in fine arts such as music, poetry or painting face greater hurdles in making their passion their profession too!

The current pandemic has forced many of us to think about our hobbies, interests and passions and to pursue them as stress busters if not source of income. Many of us are helping our partners in household chores ( cooking, washing etc) willingly and with enjoyment. We are also able to catch up on reading, exercising and meditating.

The pandemic may be once in life time tragedy for many of us, but there’s a learning that needs to be realised and imbibed.

India shining

Mumbai is reopening from tomorrow albeit with some restrictions. Actually, we should stop calling these steps or Covid related protocols as restrictions and lap them up as the business as usual for future. There’s no way that uninhibited return to Pre Covid life seems possible at least in near future.

So what are these so called restrictions that we need to adopt for all times to come at least as it looks now? We have no choice but to invariably wear mask when we go out of our homes. This we will have to ensure till at least 75% of the country’s population receives its first dose of vaccination. We will have to avoid crowds – difficult for those using public transport, especially local trains – but we should avoid if given the choice. And the foremost requirement is to educate ordinary citizens to adapt good hygiene. Spitting and urinating in the open should be a sin and not only a taboo! Let’s have more Sulabh shauchalays and let’s maintain them well!

To my mind, at least in megapolises like Mumbai, while Metros , housing and traffic management could continue to be top of the mind issues, we need to invest in two things – CCTVs and public toilets. CCTVs will address the multiple problems of traffic offenders, criminals, public spitters and defilers, pet owners ( who let their pets dirty all the pavements ), road romeos and all those who try to take the system for granted. And we need more clean public toilets, especially for our ladies.

India is a superpower, economic behemoth, space explorer and IT Hub. These are our proud achievements. Let’s now become a social superpower- one that provides the best life to its citizens with super social and physical security, top class and affordable health care and superb amenities. And then we will see number of migrations from India coming down- on the contrary, talent returning home!

That will be the true “ India shining”.

Two decades in Mumbai

I distinctly remember that it was in the month of June in the year 2001 that I was transferred to Mumbai, which today culminated into two decades of unbroken stay in this city of dreams.

I was put up in a decent hotel in Fort area, which was closer to my workplace in Cuffe Parade. But the first priority was my daughter’s admission to seventh standard and colleagues directed me to Poddar Santa Cruz. As I was to commute by train. Andheri was the first choice for residence. Natural affinity was for Lokhandwala, though a friend advised me to explore four bungalows as this would result in saving in commuting time. From Andheri to Juhu to back to Andheri four bungalows is a long story that I would touch upon some other time. But it was a smooth subsumption into a routine involving train travel from Andheri to Churchgate and a shared cab or BEST bus from there to office and back home. Occasional after office drink with friends, mostly on weekends in Churchgate or Fort was the big attraction. To put it mildly, for a born Delhiite, adaptation to Mumbai was seamless.

Of course, I witnessed huge changes. For once, I consider myself lucky to have savoured the experience of watching movies at iconic Regal, Eros, Sterling, New Excelsior and Metro, before they shut down ( except Regal) and reopened in the new avatar of multiplex. I could also enjoy the inexplicable joy of eating at some of the iconic Iranian Parsi joints and unbeatable Cafe Samovar inside Jehangir Art Gallery. The thali restaurant at Kalbadevi that started serving thali at Rs60 and the last price being Rs320, has since downed shutters. World Trade Centre gave the first experience of what the malls were going to be !

And so much infrastructure development that happened in last 2 decades changed the face of the city. Scores of flyovers, foot bridges, sea link, freeway, Monorail, Metro and of course, the world Class T2 are some of the transformations I have witnessed during the last 2 decades.

Of course, a few things have worsened too! Two wheelers have crowded Mumbai roads and the owners neither wear helmet nor abide by traffic rules. Auto and taxi drivers can be frequently seen not wearing uniform and running shared services by overcrowding their vehicles! More and more iconic places are shutting shops! And there are other urban malaise like water logging, traffic jams and lack of open spaces.

But these 20 years have been the golden period of my life highlighted by career and life progression – personally for me as also my wife and daughter. Some of the most interesting and important events of life have happened during these 2 decades.

Having lived in Mumbai for two decades, living anywhere else would be quite tough if not impossible. Mumbai is cosmopolitan, broad minded, all inclusive and advanced in its thought process. For those who can work hard, Mumbai has rich rewards. This is a classic example of karmabhoomi becoming more important than my janmabhoomi.

Brave face against fanaticism

A lawyer standing up for a just cause, getting the justice to a rape victim from the weaker section, who is group raped by the son of the powerful local politician and his friends, suffers character assassination and death in the process. He leaves behind his new bride of a few months, who is pregnant.

The new bride is exhorted upon by her parents to go in for medical termination of pregnancy and start life afresh but she chooses to stay back with her in laws and go ahead with delivery. She is like a daughter to her in laws, who also care wonderfully well for her.

There’s a girl from a conservative family who falls for the wicked charms of her paramour, who tries to ravage her modesty. She escapes unscathed but now has this stigma attached to her by a conservative society. Of course, she’s supported by her reformed father ( another story track) who admits her to medical college. She’s ill treated by her brother’s wife post her father’s death, but she fights it all for a happy ending for herself.

In between, the widow, who now has a 5 years old son, is encouraged to attempt starting life afresh as the young boy needs a father more than a grandpa or uncle. She finds an able suitor who promises to treat her son as her own.

There’s a doctor couple, who abdicate cozy environs of US to return to their native and start a state of they art hospital at a backward hill district. Apart from bringing world class treatment closer to these people, they regularly arrange camps to vaccinate and educate poor and illiterate villagers against devastating diseases.

There are standard parallel tracks around victory of good over evil that we see all the time in our movies too.

If you are guessing the above to be an extract out of a new Hollywood or Bollywood movie, you are quite off the mark! The above in fact is the theme of a Pakistani drama that we accidentally bumped into while searching a programme on YouTube. And once we started watching it, we ended up finishing 28 episodes of over 35 minutes each in under 3 days.

While there’s no dearth of entertaining content ( on OTT, YouTube, channels etc) and one can see any programme or event and therefore, I am not recommending this Pakistani drama for its entertainment value, the moot point here is the progressive thought coming out of a country from where we generally get news of regressive values. Equal treatment of sons and daughters, rehabilitation of widow daughter in law, giving the highest education to a daughter to make her independent are all the issues that are as much relevant on this side of the border as these are on that side. While there are fanatics with regressive thoughts, there is a section there that’s trying to put up a defiant face and that could be worth emulation.