Mere Pyaare Desh Vaasiyon….

Dear Pradhan Mantri ji

I am as much a son of the soil as you are (or claim to be). If not more.

But, For the fear of being trolled by a patriot missile:

All names, characters, situations, country, leaders and currencies in this blog are fictional and bear no resemblance to any person, living, dead or likely to be born. Nor have they been FCRA funded or Pakistan supported.

——

I belong to the vast minority of Indians who have not stashed away tonnes of cash under mattresses, in backyards, in lockers or through benami property. And as I now read, in secret vaults behind fancy bathrooms.

I believe you when you told the nation (after your demonetization surgical strike in early November) that this was done to flush out black money hoarders and attack the corrupt. Somehow, as the reasons keep fluctuating, the end date continues to get stretched and other reasons starting travelling the corridors of whisper, I have begun believing the rumours as intently too. The real reason the nation really wants to know. (Oh How I miss Arnab now).

At the outset, allow me to compliment you for this stated intention. (But obviously, I dare not oppose it for the fear of inviting the wrath or troll of the thousands of patriot missiles who are roaming the streets of social media in the name of being Namo bhakts.

Two years ago, from the ramparts of the Lal Killa, you said India wanted a Change. You would deliver it and we the people would be agents of change.

The last One month has been baptism by fire. Mr. Prime Minister, change is what we are still desperately looking for. Of course, this only applies to those who manage to get ahead in the queue to reach the teller counter at the bank, that is.

I come from a city called Mumbai, once popular as the Finance capital of India. In the nineties, everyone had a bomb blast story to share. In the 2000s, there was hardly any person who did not have a story relating to the deluge (July 26 when portions of Mumbai were submerged in rains).

You have succeeded in giving every Mumbaikar an experience to narrate to the next generation and Karan Johar the script for the next sad-com. How I met the Teller.

Mumbai is also a city which never sleeps. You have on one strike ensured that people remain awake. During the day commuting and at work and post work, till late night and as the clock strikes 12, at the ATM line hoping for a rat’s share of their legitimate money.

In the last two weeks, three things have kept me busy.

One is to try different ways of withdrawing money what legitimately belongs to me. Which I have failed and given up, leaving me with two other options.

 Aimless time-pass with fellow ‘patients’.

There are three categories of such patients. One, who are the sarkari bhakts. Official chamchas.

Who think and have always thought no end of you and that this surgical strike on currency is the next best thing to the world. The best being the birth of Namo. With such passionate vehemence they talk of you, dishing out non existing non substantiated numbers, statistic and data, that as a listener, you feel privileged that you voted for the Prime Minister of the World.

 

The second category is of the minority few who meet and greet you. Engage in some mundane chai pe charcha and speak of how robust the Indian economy is. Chappan inch (56 inch ) robust economy  they proudly boast. Half claiming credit for this all. Before quickly slipping in a worried question on the REAL motive of this strike. These are the service class bhakts. Mostly salaried. Income tax paying. Legitimately earning. Genuinely spending bhakts. Who are too scared to criticise. For the fear of a backlash. Then there are the traders and business community. One of them who had printed Namo tee shirts when you had been elected. Thrown a come one come all lunch party after the results were announced. Today, he would rather vote for Sunny Leone.

Mr. Modi, this category is increasing by the day. But we shall never know. Because this remains a hitherto scared tribe.

Apart from conversations, the last few days I have also been busy on my whatsapp.

Forcibly engaged with the millions unofficially employed by the Namo app. I applaud them for their ingenious forwards on social media.

 “In a few minutes from now, UNESCO will be voting for the best Prime Minister in the World. Please vote for him. He is anyways going to win”, reads one. Guys, start voting for the TIME person of the year. Not many people know about this poll so ‘press hard’. Vote and forward. Reads another.

Before you press delete, your inbox is flooded with equally patronizing ‘patriotic’ messages. (Donald Trump resigns and requests Namo to take over America’ reads another. Sorry, I made this one up. But, I will not be surprised if a message pops up like this too. “Modi ji bolna shuru nahin kartey ki 500 message inbox mein aa jaatey hain”. (Even before Mr. Modi starts speaking, 500 messages praising him flood into your inbox.) Remarked a stock broker from the building where I live.

Mr. Modi, while there are many who applaud your intended move, including me what baffles me is your under-preparedness to service the countless countrymen who are being subject to agony for no fault of theirs. For someone who claimed to have known the country’s voters, not to understand the magnitude of the damage is disappointing.

You live in a sarkari-serviced bungalow so you will not know the extent of damage caused to people in the street who need hard cash to buy and sell. Money for vegetables. Jobs to do and hours to commute. These are people who are now standing endlessly in bank queues, in vain. Taking leave from office when none is available.

You have a ready ambulance travelling with you and also on standby, so you will not understand the agony of the hapless Indian who has a family member in hospital. Hospital ATMs are as cash strapped. They run out of money faster than a Usain Bolt for gold. The physical agony has compounded the mental anguish. I talk of Urban India Mr. Modi. Where ATMs and banks are round the corner. (Now a days easy to identify by the serpentine queues any time of the day or night).

I am not talking of rural (non urban India) where the sight of a financial institution (and now money) is as scare as water during a drought.

 In the olden golden era, Kings disguised themselves as commoners to take stock of what people think.

I think it is high time you did the same. On second thought, may you should not be trying this. You may not be able to digest it.

 I am not an economist Mr. Modi. So I am not going to rattle of comparative statistic which substantiate the emotion which I have narrated. (Don’t give me facts, I know the reality, said Mr. Trump, in his bid to silence the vast majority who went against him.) Why do I get the feeling that your social media brigade will dish out a similar statement as HMV.)

To cut a long story short, Mr. Prime Minister, I don’t need a lesson in patriotism from your vast majority of bhakts. Think of the soldiers when you are standing in line at an ATM. Give me a break.

These whatsappers should be made to get to a Virar Fast local and told to get off at Andheri during peak travel time to know what hardships and life is too.

I started this piece by telling you I am an Indian. Proud to be one. All I need is for you to recognize the fact that there are honest salaried people who have a right over their legitimate money. And to be able to speak one’s mind without being trolled by your sena.

One banker told me last evening. It is high time someone raised his head and spoke his mind off for Namo to know the ground gravity of the situation.

The problem is, several heads have begun speak out. But are you ready to listen Mr. Modi?

p.s

 

Once again, for the fear of being trolled:

All names, characters, situations, country, leaders and currencies in this blog are fictional and bear no resemblance to any person, living, dead or likely to be born.

 

 

A DASH OF COLOUR TO OUR STATIONS..

It is just over a month since Mumbai’s  railway stations  got beautified as part of the Hamara Station Hamari Shaan initiative. 36 stations, across the 7 days of Daanutsav painted by over 25,000 volunteers and supported by close to 100 institutions. 

Now, as I sit back, trying to take stock of the month that was, October, or the quarter that was, from June, I still cannot believe that what we have managed to pull-off is,nothing but magical. (beep beep beep grumble the detractors).hshs2016-272hshs2016 435.jpg

It all started exactly four months ago, on a lazy Saturday afternoon at a regular daanutsav (daanutsav.org) meeting. I had been away all of the month of May and, had promised that once back; I would be a ‘regular’. The meetings were crucial and critical as the count-down to the Joy of giving (or daanutsav as it is popularized), had begun. Daanutsav volunteer is one of the many hats which I wear (www.shishirjoshi.com will give you a sense of what else I do).  In my full time role, I head Mumbai First (www.mumbaifirst.org) a not for profit think tank, as its CEO).

This time you MUST come, Umesh, Venkat and Shibika had warned me, there is someone we would want you to meet at any cost, they said.

At the meeting, I met a bunch of volunteers of Making a Difference Foundation (www.Makingadifferencefoundation.org) led by its Founder Haresh Shah. Truth be told, after the meeting, if you were to ask me if I remember any of those faces, I would say no. Probably, it would have been the same answer from them as well.

What we all shared around the table (apart from several cups of chai made out of water from a questionable source) was positive vibes and infectious energy.

The MAD team had earned a reputation of having beautified Matunga,Borivali and Khar stations in the past and this Daanutsav, they had offered to beautify one or two more stations. As discussions peaked that day, I remembering offering to lead the project and take up all stations, as opposed to a handful, when conversations had got initiated.

How many?  41, said one, peering into the Dr Google screen.. 22 on the Western Line and 19 on the Central. What about Harbour line? Maybe yes maybe no. The answer remained in suspended animation till we met again.

The core team was quickly formed and the first of the whatsapp groups got formed. (Within a month after that, my phone had nothing less than 44 of such whatsapp groups. Only for the Railway Beautification project. One for each of the railway stations, design teams, core teams, Railway teams, artistes, sponsor teams, etc. just to name a few. ).

The first meeting was scheduled at Matunga, at Haresh’s workplace. That was the first formal meeting and was very constructive. A bunch of us met and drew up an action plan and we all seemed much on target. Design teams were set up for each station with themes gradually getting identified, roles were assigned and a broader structure was laid out. We were still in June and October seemed so far away. We were happy that we were well within our target and deadline.

Then Haresh slipped and injured his knee in a freak accident in his building compound. With Haresh and I front ending the entire initiative, it was quite a blow. All the more because even we were just about getting to know each other leave aside knowing other members of respective teams. But what kept us going, was the common underlying selfless commitment.

Kuch Karna hai boss. Kar key dikhayenge.

Gradually, as the clock ticked, station teams started getting populated. Team leaders. Design leaders. Art work discussions started.

Haresh’s knee injury was (according to him) something minor and he would be back on his feet within a fortnight. That was not to be. As I met him for one of the meetings at his residence, reclined on his bed with a pillow supporting his back, it reminded me of Ashutosh Gowariker, who directed Lagaan, the movie, lying on a charpoy as his back had given way.

Haresh and I were spearheading the project and with him out of ‘action’, the front ending had to be done by me. While the back end coordination was left to him. The most important being, setting up team leaders and design options. (Then there was paint, budgeting, mapping of stations, paper work, communication, branding, PR…gosh. We soon realized there was so much to be done. ).

Critical among them was dealing with the Railways. All I can say here, was that it was not easy dealing with Central Railway. Much of it I can attribute to the constant change of guard taking place at the senior level there.

But I must concede, the Western Railway, be it  DRM Mukul Jain, ADRM Saurabh Prasad (who spent early mornings in the control room, afternoons with us and nights at home waking up to his newly born baby) and SRDCM Aarti Parihar (who made it a point to hop on hop off at as many stations as possible before and during the project to ensure work is moving at the desired qualitative level accompanied by our design expert Manisha,)  ensured that we believed in the efficacy of the ‘system’.

Permissions started pouring in. We were already inching towards end of August when we realized, time was moving faster. Our actions were not keeping pace. After multiple exchanges (and whatsapp played a huge role), we zeroed in on Hamara Station Hamari Shaan as the title. Then the warrior in Ragesh (his family name is Warrier) surfaced.

He first designed the logo (which went through a few hundred changes thanks to the democracy on whatsapp) before settling into the (almost) final version which got circulated, and appreciated.

With branding gradually picking pace, reaching out through the media was next. And we are grateful to the FM networks and newspapers who were generous in their initial coverage, which soon let to the wave of citizen support and social media chatter.(A big thank you to Mumbai ki Rani and Radio jockey Mallishka, and her team including Meetu, Ankit and Ankur of Red fm, who were our eventual exclusive radio partners for carpet bombing Mumbai with the Agla Station Beautification line).

“I heard it during a dinner conversation and I want to sponsor” said one. Someone whatsapped me a link and I want to adopt a station said another. Heard you on radio, messaged many. How do we register.

Friends came on board. Volunteering. Strangers began calling, Offering all that they could. Money. Time, energy. Skill. Support. Advice.

Soon, (and we realized we were in September) with budgets being structured, As the word started going out, MAD and Mumbai First divided their roles of tasks while Haresh and I played the roles of mentors and chipping in whenever required. Before we knew, more media had begun writing.

The power (and impact) of social media as well as word of mouth got us a tremendous response. (Possibly the only place I concur with Donald Trump.) The commitments came first, cheques and money a little slower but yes it began coming in too.

The response from Volunteers was like an avalanche. Before we could say Hamara Station…our otherwise quiet office resembled that of a call centre. Incessant calls, several queries, requests and more contributions to volunteer and enroll.

Everyone, someone and their relatives wanted to be part of this MOVEMENT.

There were the skeptics and there were the Optimists. There were the Opportunists and there were the Philanthropists. There were those who said it cannot happen. There was Haresh and I who always believed it could.

Then almost by quirk of fate, a chance attempted meeting with the Chief Minister in Mantralaya, led us to a few of his key aides. On their offering, suggestion and guidance, we were back in Mantralaya the following day. It was a janmashtami holiday. Our purpose, to present the HSHS logo to the Chief Minister. How, we had no clue.

We were ushered into a closed door ‘By invitation’ meeting. Chaired by the CM himself. Flanked by his senior cabinet colleagues. And. Industry captains. And. Bankers. And. Experts. AND Anand Mahindra, Dr Abhay Bang. AND Amitabh Bachchan. AND Ratan Tata.

Just close to the end of the meeting, I was invited to speak about the HSHS initiative and on our request; a gracious Chief Minister unveiled the logo, as the august gathering stood to applaud this initiative. This picture (of Haresh and me offering the logo to the hon. CM in the presence of the various ANDs ANDs went viral. (I must concede, much to the annoyance of the Railways who felt we had planned this but had not kept them in the loop). The real story, you now know. We had no role to play except pray. Rest was Luck by Chance.

Much of the last week preceding the October 2 launch went in a tizzy. So much happened. So much materialized. So much fell through.  Many of the committed sponsors opted out. Many new ones came on board. Jotun came on board offering paint. We accepted. Manish and Manisha Rangnekar took charge of the designs. We were grateful.

Then old friend and colleague Akhil chipped in to handle the facebook profile of the initiative while Aloka Syam helped in the outreach. Harshit came in with support for the painting equipment and Rajyashree Kshirsagar, Sridhar rao, Utkarsh Mishra and Isha Jhunjhunvala put in their might to ensure the history and design boards at every station became a reality.

In all this, the back-ends of both offices remained 24×7. Be it Amita Shah and Alpa Haresh Shah at the MAD end, Shibika at the Daanutsav end or Rosaline, Ronjyoti, Ashwini and Madhukar at the Mumbai First end.

The cavaliers (Enfield bikers) thundered across Mumbai for us from Dahisar to Churchgate and Thane to CST. Gratis. The drummers charged the atmosphere. The team leaders started working to the countdown.

In the interim, the inauguration ceremony had to be planned. It had to be grand. But work had to continue. Last minute planning and mapping continued as Rail Mantri agreed the disagreed and then finally, chose Bandra station. Member of Parliament Poonam Mahajan took charge to ensure the inauguration in her constituency goes flawless. Thanks to her, the Chief Minister made a last minute surprise entry at the inauguration. Catching even the Railway police off-guard. The heritage precinct of Bandra station turned jhakaas with Anil Kapoor taking the mike and walking down memory lane, and his local train stories.

I recall every moment of October 1, 2, 3, 4,5,6,7, and 8. How time went by. How volunteers worked hard. How the paint almost never came and then it came and how. The designs. The spitting the cleaning and re-paintings. The pain and the agony of a defaced art work. The welcome rains which sadly delayed work.

By this time, even the core team had become large. Everyone was playing a significant role. Everyone had a story. Of joy. Of agony. Of Frustration. Anger and then satisfaction. Of ego crushes. Of applause. Of joining the wave as strangers. Of departing as friends.

In the end, we had managed to pull of the unthinkable. 36 stations. 7 days. Over 6000 volunteers on day one and 5000 on the last day. Young, not so old and the not so young. Abled and differently abled.

There were so many of them whom I wanted to thank. Many of them I managed to. Some, I still try to reach out to. I wonder if I will ever get to thank all of them personally. There are so many. Large-hearted. Mumbaikars. Most of whom, like Royston of Jubilant foods, who often called to say, listen is there anything more we can do?

A brief moment I did get, at the closing ceremony. Attended by hundreds and thousands of our volunteers. Our heroes. Champions as our guests of honour. Held at Bhaidas hall in Juhu, it was a memorable morning of celebration dance and bonding.

For many, it was time to put a face to the faceless whatsapp messages and friends.

They say fortune favours the brave. Yes, brave ones we had in the form of over 25,000 volunteers.

Let’s reach out to the Guinness Book of records suggested someone.

Did it really matter?

We did not create works of art comparable to the best stations in the world (which some of our critics expected us to and I am sorry to have disappointed them). What we did manage was, to bring people of this city together. And for them to believe that it is Possible. Yes  Which did.

I always believe everyone has a good bone within them. As leaders of this pack, Haresh and I, Shishir Joshi, were plain Fortunate to be offered the good bone of so many warm- hearted citizens who helped bring colour to commuting in Mumbai.

Hamara Station Hamari Shaan is a joint initiative of Mumbai First and MAD Foundation, supported by the Central and Western Railway to celebrate Daanutsav.

I would have loved to mention the names of all those (and there are so many un-sung heroes) who entwined their fingers into ours, creating a stronger bond.   

The least I can say here is THANK YOU.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

If I do get the chance to meet you all again (and there is a project round the corner where I for-see us meeting again) I will personally come across and shake your hands with gratitude.

By the time you read this, I would be back from Spain having presented the Hamara Station Hamari Shaan citizen initiative as a model of Public Private People Partnership best practice, before a  gathering of city leaders from across the globe.

Ends

 

 

NaMo TRAVELS TO MARS….

WHEN NEWS OF MARS’S WATER BROKE..

The reported signs of water on Mars has led to fountains of joy erupting across the globe.

In India and outside of social media, the 5 am and 12 midnight firecrackers otherwise meant to wake up toddlers and ailing senior citizens during Diwali and Ganpati festivals, lit up Earth’s sky as news of Mars’s water broke.

The Ministry of External Affairs went into overdrive, looking pretty spaced-out though.

How could a planet highjack attention from the Great Leader who had just concluded his meeting with the Zuck? The thing had actually dropped out of the sky – and that too from a planet that had chosen to be red when it could have been saffron.

The Great Leader however was nonplussed. Outer space begone, this could be turned into a gimmick in the social media space.

Loosening his sweaty  grip and jaado jhappi on Zuck and deploying the full force of nasal passage, he intoned, “It is auspicious. This discovery on Mars coincides with my rediscovery of Mar(k)s.”

On cue, the crowd of 43 NRIs, photo-shopped to look four million, chanted NaMo, NaMo across made-in-China TV screens worldwide. The photoshopper wanted to include a few Martians in the crowd too, but decided otherwise because those darned Martians look green.

NaMo paused, stared into the cameras, wiped three branded tears on his Crocodile kurta and promptly told his team to cancel all forthcoming 18 foreign trips. “I want to go to Mars,” he announced, adding softly from the side of his mouth, “before the Patels get there.”

His crack social media team swung into action, launching (faster than ISRO could say Mangalyaan) the twitter handle NaMoMa (NaMo on Mars). The Great Leader has since then tweeted that part of the funds of the Clean Great River campaign will now to diverted to cleaning up the percholate-y, briny stuff passing off as water on Mars.

He has followed that up with another tweet: Not just funds, but H2O too will be diverted from the Great River to water the slopes of Mars.

The Make in India team has gone into overdrive as well. A crack team has been assembled to build a pipe to carry the water that will go from India to Mars. The pipe, cheap and hardy as all good desi products are, will come from the godown of Indian Pipe Dreams Co.

Congress, on the other hand, is up in arms. Its spokesperson, has just made a daring revelation that the Grand Old Party was the first to discover life on Mars. The Cong spokesperson declared that when the party’s heir apparent RaGa had disappeared and everyone knew not where, he had actually gone to Mars.

Twist in the tale: A revered saint from hinterland has poured water over everyone’s plans.

Mars, he says, is Shani. Which brings bad luck. “Mars jaogey to mar jaogey,” he has warned.

Last heard, our own DeFa has banned the use of the word Mars from all conversations.

In sharp contrast, the local alliance partner of this bad political marriage which also heads the BMC , has moved a resolution to rename Mars.

Meanwhile, NaMo’s teams are busy preparing visa documents for other available ‘auspicious’ planets.

RaGo has asked his distribution team to check if TiNo network will be available in Mars too.

We-Care-A-Damn spelt with an F

 

SORRY, BUT WCAD

That, perhaps, is the government’s answer in the handling of the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s appointment. It may take a hard-nosed investigating team (perhaps the one on the Sheena Bora case?) to get them to say more   

Whatever the stated intention of the Maharashtra government, in ‘routinely’ reassigning roles of two competent senior police officers, it speaks only of two things. Inept communication and non-verbal posturing indicating We-Care-A-Damn (henceforth abbreviated to WCAD).

And in its refusal to acknowledge and accept its blundering, it has caused immense damage.  Tick messing reputations. Double tick destroying careers.

With a young and able Chief Minister in Maharashtra, one hopes for better governance and astute decision-making. However, recent decisions reflect quite the contrary.

What is worrying is the apparent stubborn WCAD attitude. The latest decision is a case in point. In the abrupt transfer of the Police Commissioner, the government has raised a plethora of troubling questions. These are but just ten of them which, comprehensively and convincingly, the government needs to answer.

  1. When Maria was to routinely be transferred end September, what was the hurry with only 20 days to spare?

The Home Secretary said:  We didn’t want to transfer him in the middle of the festival season and create a vacuum in the CP office a-la the previous occasion.

This begs the supplementary question: Could the government not have held Maria back till the festival season was over, given that the Government insists it had no issues with his competency. Isn’t the existing officer better placed to handle Mumbai’s festival season than someone who would be just a week old in the hot seat?

Answer: WCAD

  1. If the post of the CP (currently being held by an Additional DG ranking officer, which Maria was till recently) was being upgraded to that of a DG ranking officer, then pray why did they not continue with Maria himself? Haven’t other officers stayed in the same job beyond their tenure earlier?

Answer: WCAD

  1. If this was such a ‘routine transfer’, why was it done in a hush-hush manner and Maria informed of it the same morning or possibly the previous night? Or are HR protocols and niceties not part of thick- skinned politics?

Answer: WCAD.

  1. Javed, a highly competent officer in his own capacity and with much experience in Mumbai too, retires a few months from now. When a government claims to be talking long term, why did they bring in someone with a short term in mind? Doesn’t Mumbai deserve someone with a longer tenure or do we have a paucity of competency?

Answer: WCAD

  1. By upgrading the position of CP to that of a DG, haven’t you distanced the goal post for so many IPS officers of the rank of Spl IGs and fresh Addl DGs? For those who dreamt of becoming CP in five years, it will now take ten years. Or will the rules keep changing to please whims?

Answer: WCAD

  1. By booting Maria out and then bringing him back to head a particular case (you once questioned why the CP is showing interest in one particular case and now you endorse his ‘interest’ by assigning it back to him), what signal are you sending to the new CP? We trust you, Mr. Commissioner but…?

Answer: WCAD

  1. Whom does Maria report to for the Sheena case? The government? The CP? Anew extra constitutional authority being created for this one case? Whom does the investigating team report to? To Javed or to Maria?

Answer:  WCAD

  1. What are the grounds on which a new CP gets chosen among equals (equal ranking officials to be more precise? Don’t we have a right to know? Don’t THEY have a right to know?

Answer: WCAD

  1. Earlier, citizens knew how these decisions were taken. But can you possibly explain the rewritten procedure followed this time?

Answer: WCAD

  1. And what about the much celebrated hand-over of the baton from one Police Commissioner to another? Did that happen at all?

Answer: WCAD

The Chief Minister may be well-meaning but the methods of communication, both verbal and non, have distorted the message. Assuming of course he did intend well.

ENDS

MULTI-SIBLING, MULTI-MARRIAGE, MULTI –LAYERED OPEN-SHUT-AND-OPEN CASE

MULTI-SIBLING, MULTI-MARRIAGE, MULTI –LAYERED OPEN-SHUT-AND-OPEN CASE

 

Just heard, ArGo is being roped in by top cop RaMa to ‘break’ IMu’s silence. Just also heard in another breaking news that an image of naMo whispering what was claimed a political strategy to his man Friday, during an election rally in Bihar,  was actually NaMo dictating a thank you letter to InMu for having diverted people’s attention from the laMo and SuSwa controversy.

The murder mystery of the day, decade, century, Lifetime, as each network has been working hard to piece together has managed to fill much newsprint and airtime, consumed a fair amount of coffee chai, pegs and what not.

Just anybody, everybody and nobody, is investigating the case. And as Tata’s, in their much famous brand line, say, ‘we also make steel’, here, apart from everyone else, cops say are on top of things. Except the case closure, I am sure.

That chief investigator and super top cop RaMa has not been able to slam shut the open-and-shut case and is far far away from it, is nothing but an open secret.

Somewhere, everything said by everyone is being doubted (everyone is lying, said one ‘source’ cop). But, it’s nice and fun to believe the media (and the multiple versions which are emerging. And so, I am also beginning to believe not just what appears in print and is shouted at through television screens, but also what is being spread through media first cousins, whatsapp. A whatsapp forward suggested that IIM A has been asked to figure out who killed cock robin. Sorry. SheBo. And help solve the multi-sibling-multi-marriage-multi-layered knotty affair. It may be true.

Amidst all this, I chanced upon one of the many exclusive interviews given by one of the exclusive husbands/partners to ArGo. The first time I had seen Argo be soft to anyone was to RaGa. The last time was to PeeMu (of the InMu murder mystery fame).

Obviously, ArGo treated SiDa with the same flourish as he would treat a congress spokesperson making a nonsensical speech or worse, anyone who dared to interrupt ArGo.

ArGo first queried, then questioned and then, after interrogating SiDa on TV, subjected him to a verbal third degree of highly irrelevant questions, forcing the latter to retire hurt, angry or both.

(For anyone who has missed this interview, switch on TiNo and you will be subjected to exclusive replays of this interview where SiDa dared to flip flop through alleged lies in front of the one and only Majesty ArGo.

Now as the case tapers to multiple dead ends, pun unintended (though the cops claim otherwise and the media is not unwise), here is a possible exclusive which ArGo and others can get. With suggested questions.

 

Interview one(Duration one hour) with a Bystander in Bandra who may have been present on the road when the alleged murder took place.

ArGo: Thank you for talking to me and becoming part of history. So you remember seeing the car as it was passing by and the murder taking place?

Bystander: I sell coconuts on the road and lots of cars stop by and go past. I am not sure what you are talking about.

ArGo: Do you remember a Corsa going past? InMu was sitting inside?

Bystander: I saw many cars and maybe in one of them there may have been InMu as you say.

ArGo: So you do remember that. Was SheBo dead by then? What about SaKha?

Bystander: I don’t know what you are talking about.

ArGo: Why are you lying? Whom are you scared off? Have you been paid off? Your bank account may be seized too. We will come back to you.

Even as the interview is being aired, the banner ticker flashes TiNo channel XXXXPLOSIVE. EXCLUSIVE. It has traced a Bystander eyewitness who saw it all.

Bystander Flip flops during an exclusive interview with ArGo.

( post script)We also have in our possession text clips of similar interviews of ArGo with InMu and the driver but, they are not being released as the content may hamper the course of the investigation.

 

 

SO LONG BALDY………

SO LONG, BALDY…….

It wasn’t just another face staring at me from Page 10 of the Times of India. That’s where the dear departed are often featured. The Obit (Obituary) page of the newspaper.

For some reason, day after day year on year, irrespective of how much of the remaining sections of the paper that I consume, this is one page I spend a lot of time on.

Faces of the not-so-young. Or sometimes, young. Occasionally, even younger, obvious from the year and date of birth.

There would be some faces I had grown familiar to, possibly because they would appear with such unfailing regularity. The displayed picture would more or less remain unchanged.  The brief prose, or sometimes poetry accompanying the picture betraying the deep pain and anguish of those left behind.

For instance, it has been 13 years last month, (September 19, 2002), but, every year, conspicuous is a small stamp size picture and a few touching words of remembrance to a lady called Priya Tendulkar. My generation would recall the fire-brand television actor who became a household name through her character Rajani, which took on the corrupt.

On Monday, October 6, 2014, my eyes remained transfixed to a pair of eyes staring at me from the obit page. It wasn’t only because the picture was much larger in size compared to the other departed names.

A Gentle face, not so young and surely not so old. Cropped hair. But oozing warmth and an unusual calm in the eyes.

It was, but obviously, an untimely demise. I tried to make some meaning of the possible reason of death or the antecedents. Or what the person’s occupation or family background was. The names, a large mourning family left behind going by the printed list, too, did not reveal much.

Felt sad at this early departure.

The same morning, another newspaper, in one of it’s inside news pages spoke about a young business tycoon and heir to a family empire having died after a massive heart attack while jogging, during a business trip to Maldives.  It was the same name.

This helped me join a few dots this time. Kind face. Large family. Young children. Untimely death. Business tycoon, I thought to myself.

A single paragraph news piece in another broadsheet newspaper the same morning caught my eye. Sports page. ‘Cricketer of yester-years and Sachin Tendulkar’s first captain in first class cricket passes away.’ A few cricketers had mourned the untimely demise. It was the same name.

Sportsman too.

Later that day, on facebook, I saw common friends, with different professional interests and age groups, commenting on the untimely end of this person. Each ‘friend’ contributing a new and fascinating aspect to the departed one. Donor, Helper, Good Samaritan, friend. Ever smiling.

I was amazed at the multi-dimensional persona of such a young face. And to add to it, was the aura.  And yet, he was gone. Just like that.

Two evenings later, stepping out of my office, my ears caught a soothing strain of music and vocals. It did not seem far away. Trying to trace the source, it carried my feet to the auditorium adjacent to my office. The otherwise desolate entrance had a queue almost half a kilometre long. From the entrance, inside, I could see another hundred odd people making their way up, to the first floor auditorium even as a parallel line inched its way down. They all seemed in shock. But for the gentle music, all the people around seemed bound by a common thread of sadness and voluntary silence.

It is a prayer meeting, said the security guard.

I wondered what made me do so, but I silently merged into the queue and about 45 minutes later, managed to make my way into the auditorium. The place was packed. Overflowing. People from different age brackets, some seemed businessmen, corporate types, young and old. Men, women. Youngsters. Some having come straight from work.

What could have brought so many people together? Who could have? It takes generations of hard work for someone to have such a following. For people to come across and admire you for whatever you may have done. Especially in a city like Mumbai, where you have no time for the living. Pray, what could have led so many to assemble for someone who was no more?

My eyes gradually traced the queue, all slowly making their way to the front of the stage, where the family of the bereaved, stood. Folded hands and fingers held tight together, almost as if, as if, the clasped fingers holding the spirit from crumbling.

Behind them, was the portrait. Of the same young face. Smiling eyes. As if watching his friends, well-wishers, asking them to continue showering his family with the love that had brought them here. Overwhelming was the moment.

Here, I quote a portion of the Obituary written by my friend Shishir Hattangadi, for Rajesh Sanghi. The young man who was no more and for whom, so many had chosen to change their routine.

“He played golf, ran the marathon, did all the right things to stay afloat in a world that can easily distract you with temptations. He liked a laugh and was always around for a chuckle, for old-time’s sake.

One is shocked and confused, can’t even imagine what his close friends and family are going through.

Time, I am told heals, I’m yet to find a balm that can give us the answers we spend a life time searching.

Rajesh Sanghi be happy wherever you are, and Mr. Destiny you owe his family and friends an explanation, and it better be a bloody good one.”

It is rare to find good Samaritans. Rare to find ideals. A species extinct as we look around us. People for whom life is so much more than just living. And in death they leave behind such a rich legacy. (https://shishirjoshi.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/the-man-with-the-umbrella/)

I didn’t know Rajesh. Baldy, as I am told he was popularly known across circles.

I first met him in the Obituary pages of the Times of India. I so wished I had the privilege to met him outside of that.

Yet, he left me with a deep sense of void and a lump in my throat.

What a way to have gone…What a way to have lived…

Ends

‘MAKE’ IN INDIA…..

This is the phase of democracy which I love the most. Pre-election time when affidavits reveal how much or how little, some of the most worthless people are worth.

I am one big sucker for numbers. These numbers. Who-has -what -and –how- much -more -of -what, has always been a point of fascination for me.

The icing on the cake is what I have listed here. Cherries which baffle me no end. (Or maybe I am sheer jealous).

STARS AND CARS:

Stars (read Bollywood) who gift their friends expensive cars. It is not about cars. I am not a car freak. So often have I read such stories in newspapers or doing the rounds, which it has made me wonder.

I am not talking about the story of a poker-faced star gifting two jeeps to the Mumbai police. Or the much trended story of the Poor Little son of a Rich Big man and how the son got away after Big Rich man ‘gifted’ a fancy car as compensation.

I am also not talking of instances where actors ‘ gift Jaguar car to wife’. (One TV actor recently did that). Or Sanju gifting a Rolls Royce to Manyataa. (I hope I have got the right number of AAAs in Manyataaaa).

But stories like SRK gifting his friend Farah Khan (or when she was a friend) a Black Merc. Gifted. Not sold. And this was the third car that he had gifted her. Similarly, Vidhu Vinod always dreamt of working with Big B and when that dream came true, he gifted the senior B with a Rolls Royce worth 3.5 crore. Fascinating isn’t it.

Apparently, Sanju baba gifted a fellow Director a wrist watch (obviously an expensive one) worth several lakhs (the cost was the numeric followed by eight zeros) because he shot a particular scene with sanju in a certain way which made Sanju happy. Sanju baba happy so gift worth lakhs.

The movie didn’t make as much money as the price of the watch, is a different matter altogether. Sanju was happy gifting. The Director was ‘gifted’.

One actor gifted four of his team members a seven-series Beamer, one to each of them, out of ‘love’. (Beamer is a BMW and not the style of bowling in cricket which some cricket pace bowlers excel in).

Post-script. The gifts are not ‘instead’ of the money but over-and-above what the person is due. I cannot even imagine what the Chartered accountants of these stars would get as gifts.

MAKE IN INDIA:

My other favourite past-time is reading about people who stash away the moolah. I read with great envy about the deputy collector whose salary was a little over 20,000 rupees but what the IT guys recovered was documented wealth over Rs. 200 crore.

The IAS couple in Madhya Pradesh too, had ‘MADE’ over 100 crore. (Here I quote a friendly IRS officer who told me that once caught, if the bureaucrat has declared X amount, that means he has  ‘MADE’ ten times that amount, because he knows he has to live the rest of his life under suspension, but maintaining the same lifestyle.

But this is about people who ‘invest’. What amazes me are the CASH people.

WHERE THE %@!$# DO THEY STASH IT?

Sukhram, the once-upon-a-time telecom minister had stuffed the cash in mattresses. So filmy. The only other place he could have was in the bathroom in a ‘hidden safe’.

I vividly remember the anti-corruption raid in Bandra, Mumbai, where cops were caught with tons of cash and they had no choice but to fling bags and bags of currency out of the third floor bathroom window.

It rained money and how. Stories like these are endless. My charcha over chai is always about such people. I have met a few, very few, who have unabashedly admitted that they make money. I have never managed to garner courage to ask them, paisa rakhtey kahan ho. Where the hell do you stash it.

WORTHLESS-VARDI:

But what excites me is election time. When reams of newsprint talks about the houses, cars, yachts and bullocks owned by the mantris and their santris.

It is interesting to read how much some of these worthless are worth.

A cop, once dismissed from service for having money more than his income (and now reinstated) has declared assets worth 39 crore. T H I R T Y N I N E $$%%x C R  O R E no less. And one of the assets declared is a 1200 sq feet house in Andheri east which he has declared to be worth 69 lakh.  Isn’t there someone who scrutinizes the claimed value? An 800 square feet house in the same area as the cop’s, was almost sold for 2 crore a few months ago. This cop claims his flat is worth ONLY 69 lakh.  Will you sell it to me for 70 lakh, Mr. Cooper? His wife has given loans worth 11 crore.

Pray how does the money multiply so fast, when there is no known source of official income? At least the cop had a salary from his vardi. What about the other unworthies who graduated from cycles to now drive around in fancy imported 4WD (four wheel drives).

It is time these questions were asked.

SANTRI-MANTRI

And last but not the clichéd least is the declaration by some ministers and politicians who have spent decades politicking but, shockingly, their affidavits show their financial worth not more than a few thousand or barely kissing the six figure mark.

One way to look at it is that there is hope. So untouched by corruption some of these ’poor’ politicians are.

One of course does wonder that if in four decades of political service they have not planned on how financially run their own life, how they can plan for an entire constituency.

Ends