Category Archives: Media

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

Ah, MEN….!!

What is it about men?

Why is it that despite a trim, clean-shaven leg-waxed metro-sexual look, they sometimes behave so MEN like.

They may spend hundreds and thousands on everything from perfumes to salons but, men, it seems, will be men.

I guess it’s all about crass. I mean class. Or is it?

Take for instance the various political hoardings which stare down at you from every street and corner.

The Janamdin ki shubhkaamnayein-type posters or the ones which welcome the appointment of the Bunty, Chintu, babbloo, Fakru and Tikku as the under-secretary of the deputy  shakha  in your galli.

Pitambar urf Pittya (Pitambar alias Pittya)  reads one and Chaitanya urf Chintu reads another  The names could be of the Chottya and Pintoos of the world, but, faces are of men in their forties and fifties.

It’s  not just the  chintoos of the world, even the Arifs,  Siddiquis, Patels, Pawars and Patils are up there on posters.

Palms clasped to appeasing, gold chains dangling from under their double chins, four buttons of their white or maroon shirt exposing a waxed chest, the pan stained  teeth staring down at you. Eyes gleaming of course.

Only the drool is missing. Looks which would embarrass Prem Chopra at his raping best.

Hasn’t someone told these wanted and wannabes that they look funny up there?  Very rarely would you find a woman politician posing so embarrassingly swarthy. Despite the Pajeros and the Lexuss’ that they park their backsides in, worth lakhs, haven’t they found one friend worth the salt to tell them they look silly with those looks. That it would look more appealing if they stuck a simple passport type picture up there instead of posing this way.

Apart from these politicians, I find equally amusing are those who gym.

Especially the regulars who “pump” in the gym. They walk as if they have something stuck in an unmentionable spot. As easy it is to identify a cop in plainclothes, it is to spot someone who gyms regularly.

Inflated chests, bulging biceps and backsides jutting out, the narcissist eyes furtively in search of mirrors of glass panes, so that they can check themselves. Given a chance they will even take themselves out on a date.

Then there are the men, who booze.

 Especially those who think that even after their fourth drink, they not only can carry their drinks, but also dance well. The ones who otherwise never dance are the pick of the lot.

 Have you ever noticed them? I have had the privilege of watching men at work (office parties) drink and dance. Trip, fall, throw up and dance again. And dance with the most ugly, vulgar and lewd actions, gestures and positions. Choosing as partners other men who are as drunk or more, are tripping and throwing up. A teetotaler, I end up consuming many a fresh lime sodas-sweet-and-salty-without-ice, so engrossed I am watching them for hours. These guys can give Shakti bhai a run for money in B grade movies.

Lastly, the men with their toys.

 Not only the blackberry boys. But all the grownup boys with their cellphones.

They hang on to it as if it’s their manhood. They keep it charged. They fiddle with it (for many, the great Indian male pastime, crotch scratching, seems to have been  replaced by feeling the cell phone buttons, even when the phone is not being used for a call or sms)  Even if they are not on a call, they stare at it as if the next KBC call from Bachchan senior will ring on their hand phone.

Anytime you drive, look at the guy in the car next to yours, or a man at the bus stop or someone sitting in an office canteen. Or someone sitting along a wall doing nothing.  One hand may be in his pocket, the Indian pastime,  and hence freer, but the other is always on his other prized toy.

I guess men will be men. Their obsessions will continue. I once wrote about men and their obsession to shave off their mucchis (mooch nahin to kuch nahin) . In a desperate bid to look younger.

With IPL round the corner, it’s again time to see the Souravs, Shanes, Harshas and Ravi Shastris to display their woven hair, covering their growing bald patch, a desperate attempt to conceal their ageing process.

I must confess, till not so long back, I was constantly holding on to my cell phone as if the world existed here. Now, I have de-addicted myself. To a large extent.

And yes, I did enroll myself into a gym. Paid a whopping amount but lasted there for all of two hours. Day one was the last day there.Lazyness had got the better of me.

Thanks to that laziness, today I still walk around like a normal human. Or so I believe.

Maybe mine is a case of sour grapes, because I don’t have a stuffed backside to show off.:)

 ends

THE (DEAFENING) SOUND OF SILENCE

 

Is Silence really Golden?  Whoever may have said it first, and, wonder why?  For anyone to actually ‘SAY’ that, in itself, is breaching silence. (err…by that I mean, when you speak, you make some noise, however meaningful your sermon may sound, it would be breaching silence anyways)

 

Silence holds different connotations to different  people.

There is Silence by order.

When Shatru saab thundered KHAMOOUUSSHHH,  it was the baritone which defined  the  Boss.

When (mafia) Don Corleone  swore his men to secrecy, the oath was one of silence.Omert’a. An Italian mafia’s interpretation to  A Code of silence.. Silence promising not to squeal even if caught by either the cops or rival gang members.

Then, there is silence by choice. ‘I like my space so I want to be quiet and be silent’; The Anna Hazare silence. Or,  I move into a conditioned and customized space to practice silence. Vipassana silence.

I am pissed off with you so I am not talking to you. Sulking Silence.

But this is not about the silences which are compelled by situations, circumstances or people. Voluntary or otherwise. 

This blog is on a different not, altogether.

 Is Silence really Golden today? Especially in a world where communication has become such a key? Where Speech has become even more critical. And misunderstandings  are like second nature to most situations. When Silence , however inadvertent, can lead to conflicts, bitterness or even assumptions which even time may not promise to heal.

Thus, this blog on the ‘other’ silence. That,  not by choice, or design, but, by default.

What if one is preoccupied? Or busy. Or unable to communicate (not deliberately but thanks to a situation which has cropped up all too suddenly). Don’t you have a right to that silence? And how accountable are you to the others, when faced with situations beyond your control at times? Is the word ‘accountable’ appropriate at this juncture?

 

In the silence by sulk, there is someone to blame. Action, Inaction, or very often, Ego.

But, what when the silence is provoked by nothing.? Who is to blame? The person who is silent for reasons beyond his control? Or the(other)  person who is suddenly subject to communicating with a wall when he/she keeps waiting for you to react?

Should one pounce on the other for deliberately withdrawing into silence? Assume that you are being ‘avoided’? And being unfair?  And slip into a persecution complex and launch snide attacks against the other? Or should the person who has slipped into a forced silent scenario still try to make the time and make amends? Is expecting even a moment of time from the ‘silent’ one to convey that he/she is busy, a fair expectation, or is it unfair to expect even that? Considering that the situation could be unforeseen. And that it could happen to anyone. Even you.

In a world where communication plays such an important role, is there any room for silence left at all?

Meaningless silence? 

Or should every quantum of silence come loaded with a meaning. I quote from an interesting book which I am currently reading…and I write this in context to what I am talking about.

Often, when we are confronted with silence from the other end, especially when silence is not the norm, we (and I quote) “over react, blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly and  focus on the negative aspects of life”.

“We get irritated, annoyed and easily bothered, our (over) reactions not only frustrate us, but actually come in the way of what we are really wanting. We lose sight of the bigger picture (and here please do refer to one of my earlier blogs by the same name, The larger picture). Somewhere, somehow, if we do not realize this in time, there is a possibility we may lose the person for life. Or, the crack is far too deep to fill. Unless, there is the willingness to let go and look at the person in the same light, as we once did before the ‘assumptions’ took over.” (quote ends.)

I have seen many-a-friend(ships)  move in different directions when a silence is misconstrued. I have seen many-a -friendships get back from the brink, especially if the situation is handled well.  

I am not here to judge who was wrong when the gap widened. But I, for one know, that a stitch in time, always saves nine.

And assumption, is just a step away from destruction.

That brings us back to the point that I began with. If it is likely to cause so many misgivings, misconstrued feelings and conflicts, is silence really golden?  Or, more frightening though it may sound, is it the end of the road for Silence?

ends

p.s. I remember a senior cop once explaining the concept of ‘silence’ and said people accused of a crime have a right to silence.

What about the common man. Does he, or doesn’t he have a right to silence? Ironically, the moment he invokes that right, he becomes an accusedJJ

From Wikipedia:

Omertà(Italian pronunciation: [ɔmɛrˈta]) is a popular attitude and code of honour and a common definition is the “code of silence“. It is common in areas of southern Italy, such as Sicily, Apulia, Calabria, and Campania, where criminal organizations defined as Mafia such as the Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Sacra Corona Unita, and Camorra are strong. It also exists to a lesser extent in certain Italian-American neighbourhoods where the Italian-American Mafia has influence and other Italian ethnic enclaves in countries where there is the presence of Italian organized crime (i.e. Germany, Canada, Australia).

Omertà implies “the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime.Even if somebody is convicted of a crime he has not committed, he is supposed to serve the sentence without giving the police any information about the real criminal, even if that criminal has nothing to do with the Mafia himself. Within Mafia culture, breaking omertà is punishable by death.

The code was adopted by Sicilians long before the emergence of Cosa Nostra (some observers date it to the 16th century as a way of opposing Spanish rule).It is also deeply rooted in rural Crete, Greece.

ends

OPEN LETTER TO THE CHIEF MINISTER

 

Dear Mr. Chief Minister

 

I should have written to you almost one year back, when you took over as the driver of the elected machine in Maharashtra. The idea was to give you a brief about the state of affairs. Or, affairs of the State. Since you would be(relatively)  new here.

Mercifully, it is not too late. You remain as clueless and as far from reality as you were then.

I wonder if you were any point interested in handling this State? (Your disinterest seems a bit too obvious). After all, you are Prithvi-raj (one who rules the world) pray then why would a tiny inconsequential state like Maharashtra, however MAHA  it claims to be, should interest you?

Or is it that the hangover of your previous portfolio, MOS in the PMO,  still remains and hence, matters  of  a state, belittle your competence.

Having said that, I must confess, you are ideal for the state of Maharashtra.  Why, that I shall justify later in this note.

Talking of ideal, at least you are ideally better off than your predecessor, who seemed too engrossed in his ‘ideals’ ( Adarsh),which  led to his downfall.  How can we trust a Chief Minister who can disown his mother-in-law and say she is not family, at the drop of a hat, or in this case,  at the sale of a flat.

But that apart, I think it is high time you knew something about your State.

To begin with, a lesson in state capital, Mumbai’s Geography and contours.

Mumbai is not seven kilometers  in radius, from Mantralaya to Varsha. (For the uninitiated, Varsha is the official residence of the Maharashtra Chief Minister).  Mr. CM, you may live in Varsha, but, the real downpour happens in the rest of Mumbai.

 Central Mumbai for instance, once had mills which Mumbai was recognized  for.  Mills have made way for Malls. What remains are chimneys, more as a heritage fascination. Obviously you don’t seem them billowing with smoke as in the past. Strangulated off their last breath by DBuilders , or people who have more filth in their veins than that flows through Mumbai’s archaic drainage system.

The little hope, from public representatives has been dashed. In central Mumbai itself, one such rep  notorious for his stone chawl which even cops fear to scale, while another is popular for his dahi handis rather than ‘upliftment’.

.

But then, people have given up expecting much from the likes of elected representatives. Many of whom have criminal records and share space with you in the cabinet, or under the same roof  in the legislature. You , Mr CM, do not have the courage to enquire why the most inconsequential of leaders manages to travel in the fanciest of cars the moment he gets elected.

.Lower your cr windows and look at their convoys too, Mr CM, You could pick a tip on which car to use for your convoy the next time round.

As I maintained earlier, Mumbai is not only the road from Mantralaya to Varsha. You must some day, drive into rest of Mumbai. Oh yes, there is actually life beyond Dadar too.

Bandra, yes, the same where the sea link begins or ends. Yes the same Sea link which your party leaders and alliance partners squabbled, over the naming, the day it was inaugurated.

What? You haven’t heard of Andheri is it? It is one of the biggest suburbs of Mumbai. Yessss….that’s where Bollywood is. Oh Bollywood you have heard of, is it? How come? Yes, Correct, the same Bollywood where one of your predecessor’s son is gainfully employed. Yes the same chap who went with Ramu Verma into Oberoi hotel shortly after the 26/11 attacks. No wonder.

 

Honestly Mr. CM, Mumbai has grown. Oblivious to your information, some of your colleagues, hand in glove with the builders have managed to make this city’s geographies extend to far and beyond.

‘Ab Dilli Door nahin’, was once used by politicians who eyed a ‘influential’ seat in the Delhi political circle. Your men in Mumbai have redefined it, by promising land to the hapless Mumbaikar in far-flung areas which may appear closer to Delhi than to Mantralaya or mainland.

When (and if ) you do travel to the suburbs of Mumbai, don’t be shocked to see vehicles with just three wheels bobbing up and down.  These are not smaller jet planes going through air pockets.

These are called auto-rickshaws, which are going through crater like pot holes.  (A little word of advice. Instead of filling up pot holes, your civic admin can simply join all pot holes by breaking the edges. The road will get leveled. It is far cheaper and faster. True there is lesser money to make, in such a scenario. )

I invite you to a ‘sponsored’  auto-ride. (Of course, the first test will be if you manage to convince  an auto-wallah  to stop for a passenger.  Nope, the cops are very unlikely to pay heed.

 

Talking of locals and cops.

 I think you need to look at the police machinery too. Of the 33,000 police force, as of last count, only a handful are busy in investigating crimes. (Yes some have committed them and some have been shielding those who have committed them). Rest are busy guarding VVIPs, political morchas, clear traffic when your party’s President or the country’s President also from your party visits Mumbai, the latter, so very often.

 

There are also some in uniform, too busy hiding behind trees and bushes to jump onto the road and scare the shit out of an unsuspecting driver and pocket some money from him for traffic violation.

Net net, you don’t see them doing what they ought to be doing.

The locals are next.(here I mean the local trains and not the Bihari babus  who Raj bhau seems to be fixated upon) The scores of massage parlors which were fronts for sex rackets have now extended themselves  to the local trains too. Ummmm…..This is a feel you have to feel.

Talking of Local trains, I sincerely urge you to board a Virar fast local, and try getting out at Andheri.  Don’t forget to inform the Congress Hi-kamaan (HQ) to start looking for a replacement in the meanwhile.  The term Molestation gets redefined in such locations, whichever gender you may belong to.

Well, Mumbai as I repeat, is much more fascinating than your eight minute drive.

 In some suburbs, after you get off the train(or get thrown off ), stop by a paani-puri wallah and gently bend down to look under the stall. Hello Mr. ,  I didn’t ask you to look at the paani-puri wallah’s  fingers pacifying his itchy lower half. What I want you to gaze, is  at the ground below. These are called foot paths, meant for people to walk. (Some of these relics  are visible in paintings of Old Mumbai and  portions of Ballard Estate).

Your over-zealous money-maker partners-in-crime  have done a magic trick. Like you. They have made the foot paths disappear. Filled them up with hawkers and, converted them into elevated footpaths, which most senior citizens find it tough to climb. But, who cares.

It is all a blame game.Your guys blaming the cops, cops blaming the system and  everyone making hay, waiting for Madam’ s son to shine. Just a little note to tell you that in all this, your Executive, who are meant to execute what you guys legislate,  are busy playing God to anyone with grease.  This is one lot, who do not need palmists for sure.

Net net, Mr. CM, you need to wake up. You need to smell the coffee. When you start smelling, you will realize that Mumbai smells like crap. Different suburbs, different smells.

 

As I said at the beginning of my piece, this city deserves you. You deserve this city too. For someone who is now known across political circles in Maharashtra as too good and too nice a guy, let me tell you,  translated, in hindi, it is not a very charitable way to describe a person.

But, as I mentioned earlier, Maharashtra  and Mumbai deserves someone like you. We, of recent past, now belong to the state of  anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. With great pride and excitement we attended his rally. Some of us also packed our cars with booze so that we could party the night away after the day was spent waving at TV cameras in our designer ‘I am Anna’ caps.

 Many piled onto bikes and scooters, a-la three idiots,ignoring traffic laws, whistling and passing remarks at women on the way.(How dare any one stop us, we are Anna’s brigade and fighting corruption you see).  Some were also stopped by cops but a hundred rupee note ensured , that our rally-party wasn’t dampened.

Some also told their respective office that they want leave to attend Anna’s victory rally, but headed off to Lonavala. Booze and butter chicken zindabaad.

Dear Chief Minister, we have pot holes and no footpaths. We have traffic and no roads. We have rainfall but no water and we are such a huge and large city, but, your men have made it unaffordable for the average man to buy a place here.

We have to make a living, but we have no life.

We are proud to be Mumbaikar’s,  Mr. Chief Minister.  But, we don’t really care about Mumbai.

Somehow, we are like you. Same-same, but different.  You claim to be there, but, do you also really care?

 

ends

The (Real) Game Changers

My generation may recollect a once-so-very-common  screen saver  on their now-extinct desktop. Much before palm tops, flat screen laptops and slim fit Kareenas  had begun to corrupt the body and soul.

 A tiny, cute ball would gravitate towards one end of the screen, gently kiss the edge,  and with the impact of that touch.  would bounce  towards another end. The touch would determine the direction the ball would move in. The point at which it would touch the screen would determine the angle the ball would move. 

So often I think of that screensaver.

Game Changer,  is what I have named it.

For years,  It was a permanent fixture on my comp screen and, fascinated, I would stare, for hours as the soft-ball image would bob across, almost smiling at me..Often,  my colleagues wondered  at my ability to go deep thinking, when actually all I was busy doing was watching the screensaver.

It was during one of these endless gazing games that the Eureka moment happened.  All along I had been staring at the movement of the ball. One day, I decided to monitor the position of that touch and how that touch changed the course of the balls journey. One small tiny feather touch.

For the ball, THIS  blink-and-you-miss touch was the Game changer. 

Our life, is no different from that of the soft ball. We celebrate the impact. The direction we are moving in  and of course the end result of that direction. A new job, an acquisition. Meeting someone new.  Or, just something nice happening. Almost invariably, we thank the one above. Thank God we  at least thank God.

Well, at times, it is not only the one above that we are grateful to. We quickly identify the next in line in that chain seemingly link responsible for the goodness to have taken place. Rarely do we go beyond that.

How often have we taken  the thank-you-I-am-grateful  thought   to  the last key person in the chain? The link furthest away from the impact/result? The one act/touch/or person who  may have actually actually started the movement?

For instance, My first job as a journalist can be credited to my English professor whom I had bumped into, at a newspaper’s Sunday magazine office where he worked as a consulting editor.  Or so I had begun to believe, for a very long time. (Then, I was pursuing my Law and Journalism as a career was never even a speck on the horizon).

It was he, who kept pushing me to keep writing. Appreciating and critically analyzing my work. When the first vacancy came up, it was his persistence which won over my laziness. I got that job on merit,. But had he not been persuasive enough, I would not have even known about it.  To Sir with Love, Thank you.

Thus, by all means, I often credited my being in Journalism to this man. But if the screen saver is my barometer, is it enough to thank only my English prof?

At least five years prior to me writing for magazines, I remember my school chuddy-buddy showing off his name as it appeared in letters to the editor column of the local English newspaper. In Nagpur. With unfailing regularity. Call it competitive shit that I had, or the desire to see my name in print, I asked him how did he do it. Much before the term came into existence, thanks to my chuddy buddy, I had not only become a citizen Journalist, but, would look for areas of civic improvement and write to the newspaper. Three weeks later, and onwards, I was a regular in the newspaper too.

This was five years before I met the English prof.

Now, it has almost become second nature to me. To recollect a pleasant happening, sit back, smile about it and start tracing the people and events, backwards, responsible for the good deed. Finally resting at the last stop. Then, step two is to pick up the phone, track the persons number and, tell him /her what an important role they have played in my life. Leaving them puzzled or smiling. Or maybe both.

That this exercise has brought me in touch with so many more old friends, is the bonus. And there are so many wonderful memories, events and people I have met in life.  For instance, of all the people in the world whom I could be friendliest with is someone who neither shares my age, nor my profession. So much that we haven’t even studied in the same school or college unlike some of my other close friends. Yet,  we are like a house on fire, whenever we speak. We have passed the test of time (I know him for 25 years as of this day).

Is it destiny? Or should I now put it, is it JUST DESTINY? Will it then, not be unfair to thank all those who  were mere dots in the line-up to the circumstances which led us to having met. Dots which are now a complete circle.

 Any one of the dots not being at its place at any given moment, and my life would be so altered.  Often,  the last dot in the chain maybe so completely unrelated to the final result. Yet,  its presence at that place that time is all that it took for things to turn the way they did.

As  I maintain, these dots have played a huge role in my life. There are so many good things, events, people that I have been blessed with in my life. There are so many more dots that I am eternally grateful to. A short visit to Shillong which was till some time back not even on the furthest horizon.

As I look back, the trip is now a wonderful memory filled with fascinating people who have each been dots in their own way.  Where does one begin, where does one end and whom does one thank, is in itself a wonderful exercise.

I am sure your life is full of such game changing events too. Take some time off and reverse-join these dots.  You may find very old friends, totally off your otherwise busy radar, who have played a big role in what you are today, and whom you have completely forgotten to thank.

Game changers. That’s what I call these angels from the past. Who have been responsible for my present.

THIS India, THAT India and PREGNANT India

Which India do we really live in? ummm…which one do we really want to be in? And more precisely, which one do we belong to?

There as many answers to this question as opnions on how  Sachin Tendulkar misjudged a Warney off-spin.

There is that India which DOES. The rest of India watches.  Sometimes, it is This India which DOES  and THAT  India watches.

Each, wanting a slice of the other. An invisible F divides the two. Fence.

One often wonders, whether this India even knows  what goes in the mind of the Indians in the other India. The twains never shall meet. Except on screen.

I remember when Mumbai was drowning almost six years ago. I was in the August company of a few celebrity salesmen.  One endorses shampoos the other laptops while two others were champion salesmen for luxury car brands.

All hard core Mumbaikars.

During the July rains, before during and after, all of them were art home.  “What? “ Reallly””? You mean a double-decker bus was submerged in water in Andheri Lokhandwala?” You mean this happened in Mumbai yesterday when I was at home? “ Oh FXXXK, and that’s why my cable wallah was not responding to my phone calls as my cable wasn’t working.

Finally, a week later, the salesmen were out on TV, appealing for likeminded people to loosen their purse strings. The meeting of minds did happen. On screen.

Their Mumbai and our Mumbai.

Do you know that they have a 27 storey house, only for themselves. Their car park is six floors and can fit in 168 cars and one floor for a car servicing station. That means, even if they fall on bad days, financially, the3y can make enough money only by renting the six parking floors through BMC for a car pay and park and make both ends meet, isn’t it? It means when it rains even if their ground floor gets submerged they can move to the second floor without extra cost? Wow.

The house is ready but the hose-warming will be next year. Saw it on TV.

Our India and their India.

Then there is an India which merges somewhere. I call  it the Then and Now India. When the young and the not so young compete for scores in the Tenth and Twelfth standard. When good marks are as easily available as a back rub in a Mumbai local train. My neighbor’s  not-so-bright teenaged brat  was depressed because he scored only 93 per cent.  His equally not-so-interested partner in crimes had scored 96 per cent.  Cool, is all that he reacted.

If 96 was cool and not a  big deal, I wondered how they would have reacted  had they heard what the topper in my tenth standard batch had scored  a whopping 63 per cent and had become  a school hero for his scores. Ummm….I was happy looking at my name in the “Passed” list.  Yes 34 per cent was actually passed, even in those days. Then India.

And just heard that a college in Delhi has kept a first cut off of 100 per cent.  Now India.

I Enough of reflections. This  India. That India. Then India Now India. Their India. Our India.

I decided to sit back and watch some TV.  The screen which binds the two Indias.

Watched  the previous morning’s images of  One India trooping down streets, some on hunger strike and others with candles, demanding strength to the world’s most populated democracy.

 Switched channels. This time, the evening image. The same India. Having changed into chiffons and silks.Candles replaced by candle-lit dinners. Ready to step out for a party. To celebrate  the good news that OUR  daughter-in-law was finally pregnant.

For newspapers, it was page one no doubt. So what only a single column. For TV (smoke) screens, it was the  Big (B) story.

Should India  worry that Lok Pal was still a distant dream or should India celebrate that the Bahu was pregnant.

This India and That India. We had chosen Both.

We are like this only. Same same. But different.