Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who’s having a blast?

The terrorists, for one, and we all know that. I was wondering who else was having a good time in the country… (For the uninitiated, I’m referring to this piece of news.)

The Excise officials?
I’ve done a lot of driving across state (and district) borders. The check-nakas or border check posts that dot the borders of states and are meant to curb transport of items for which the state has not collected tax. So, while driving out of Goa many a times, my car has been checked thoroughly for a bottle of Scotch that I could’ve hidden. But the search stops the moment you shell out some money. On an average, about 200 rupees per bottle… So, how much would the guy at the check-post have pocketed to pass these explosive-laden cars? Or did he already meet his 'target' for the day and decided not to check?

The TV News channels?
I was shocked at the number of advertisements cut-in during the reports of the blasts at Ahmedabad. The products were (probably strategically) selected to suit the target audience (Gujaratis) who were anxiously watching the program. How low will our media go? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we shall watch footages of the blast victims with a soundtrack of some b-grade movie song suggesting tragic loss! Sad? I’m not sure, but it sure as s#!t ain’t funny. But your media doesn’t give a damn! They’re already having a blast and laughing all the way to the bank.

The Intelligence community?
Well, they ‘were’ having a blast till the actual blasts took place. Now the poor guys are being blamed for whatever has happened. C’mon now! They were probably the ones who were actually gathering ‘intelligence’ about activities around them. Now does it really matter what those activities were? They can do just this much in their 10 to 5 jobs (leave home at 10, come back at 5). And the moment they are about to close-in on a lead, dang! It’s lunch-time. Or whenever they can get some verifiable intelligence, the media gets the leak and splash it on TV. Ejaz bhai will no doubt be thanking the media for helping him get away on time!

The police?
What they lack in ‘intelligence’, they make up with imagination. Like blaming Dr Talwar for his daughter’s death and creating a story around it. I really have a feeling that a section of our cops get together and smoke some 's#!t' whenever appraised of a ‘situation’. Arresting the culprit in Ahmedabad the day after the blast? Ingenious! But the unfortunate thing is that not even a jehadi is stupid enough to hang around the blast site and survey his handiwork. He’d rather be half-way across the world for all he cares.

The politicians?
Well, for sure! The NDA is cashing in on the blasts and trying to sweep the no-confidence debacle under the carpet. The Congress is frothing at the mouth swearing vengeance at the perpetrators of these ‘acts of senseless violence against innocent persons’. Other political parties have also rallied to ‘condemn’ the ‘unfortunate incidents’. It's business as usual, with the opposition too glad that something covered up the NC motion.

The blogosphere?
Oh yes! People like me who write and you who read. We’d like to know more. I was going through a similar write-up on one of my favorite blogs and I found this comment. Now the question is how many of us would’ve actually made that phone call? The more difficult question is, ‘How many of us would’ve confronted them?’ I know only a few who would, but the others would let it slide. And then discuss with shock and disgust about the state of affairs.

The corporates?
Sitting on ‘ergonomically engineered’ chairs in climate controlled offices looking at monitors with radiation protection, these guys (me included) cry hoarse at the UPA govt. revoking the POTA and other issues that are important. We cringe if the temperature in our work areas is a couple of degrees off and pat goes the call to the maintenance. Do we realize that we can demand the same level of service from the government? Like someone suggested, not pay taxes for the year if there’s been a blast in your state? Or not pay road tax if you find 10 pot-holes in your daily commute route? Guess not… Is it ‘cos you ‘re too effin lazy (like me) or because you don’t give a f$%k (like me again)?

So, it seems that all except the victims (and their kin) of the blast are actually having a blast. It’s sad, but true – We don’t give a rat’s ass for someone else’s problem. I hope I realize – and not too late – that one day it’s going to be MY problem. But till then, this cycle will continue and it will be another city, another set of innocent victims.

Say what? If you don’t leave a comment, I’ll get the message! Hehe

Disclaimer: This post was not written to hurt your sensitivities and I had no one particular in mind but myself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The City of Joy…

(Exhibit 1)

(Exhibit 2)

Well, it finally happened. My trip to Kolkota finally materialized. Two and a half eventful days, and I’m a convert.

Thanks to the clock-work efficiency of the Tatas, I got picked up from the airport and dropped at a well-maintained guest house in Salt lake. Had maach-bhaat and bhindi bhaja for dinner, which the caretaker was only too happy to serve thank to my rusty Bengali. The next morning, the adventures started with a phone call from the Kolkata office. They gave me a mobile number and a name. The number, I withhold, the name was Tuntun.

The name didn’t surprise me much since I’d already read a Bengali A-Z of sorts that claimed “G is for Good name. Every Bengali Boy will have a good name like Debashish or Deboprotim and a pet name like Shontuda, Chonti, and Dinku. While every Bengali Girl will be Paromita or Protima as well as Shampa, Champa and Buri. Basically your nickname is there to kill your good name.”

Oh, coming back to Tuntun. Tuntun was my driver designate for the day. A deadly combination of Rajpal Yadav physique and Sunny Deol demeanor. A mean motha’ with a profound dislike of any form of life and an equally profound fetish for trashy music. I was driven to Park Street listening to the likes of Vishwaatma’s “Dil le gayi teri bindiya, yaad aa gaya mujhko India” which roughly translates into ‘Your bindi has taken my heart, I remember India’. Before I could recollect a more shallow poem, I was dropped at hotel Peerless Inn.

I meet Ayan (pronounced ‘awe’ – ‘yawn’ as explained by him) and Arya, my colleagues in Kolkata. By the time we were done with meeting our client, the whole of Esplanade area is swarming with (an estimated 200,000) Trinamool Congress party workers. Now TMC (as the party is called), is headed by this lady called Mamta Bannerjee. I have never seen a more disturbed-looking politician. Ever! The poor lady never seems to be happy. Her promotional snaps always show a woman in a fit of rage. Or pointing an admonishing finger. Or plain constipated!

Anyway, Ayan had the presence of mind to tell Tuntun to wait away from the madhouse and we begin to walk. The worst part was getting 10 meters from the gate of our clients’ office through a sea of humanity hired and transported from the fringes of Kolkata (even civilization) and fortified with country liquor. Then, an hour or so later, we make a pit-stop at Nizams. I eat a much-awaited double-egg-double-mutton roll and a mutton tikiya. Ayan and Arya ordered biriyaani, which I politely decline given my unshakeable support of Hyderabad (and it’s biriyaani). We then digest them with another half-hour walk and half-hour wait and we are finally at the Kolkata office around 5 PM. I meet with Saurav ‘the Rockstar’ Chatterjee, Monami, Ishika, Shibani, Manju and the others who’d come back from Mumbai. Meet a few more of the staff at Kolkata, finish some work and crash! And did those legs hurt …

The next day was pretty uneventful work-wise. We weren’t driven by Tuntun. However, I went to meet my wife’s Pishi (Aunt) and her family. My first-hand experience of Bengali hospitality in Kolkata, and I was floored. Both my wife and my father-in-law have exalted Pishi’s cooking and I found out why. Pishi disappeared for a couple of minutes and reappeared with some Mughlai Paratha, Chicken, and Aaloo bhaja. Then came Rosogolla and Sandesh (Bengali sweets). Finally Pishaji forced me (and I thank him for that!) to have some divine mishti-doi (Sweet Curd). And that, according to her, were starters! I would’ve made her proud were it about a year ago when I was known for my ‘legendary’ appetite. But things change over time and I regretted having lunch… Pishi wasn’t too happy to see a ‘Jomai’ without an appetite. I promise to not disappoint her the next time and reluctantly say my good-byes. Then as usual, to work and then crash!

The third day, I am greeted again by Tuntun. This time, I ensure that both Ayan and Arya ‘face the music’ like I did the first day. We had a pretty long drive to Sonarpur and we were tripping on cult classics like Disco Dancer, Dance Dance, and other masterpieces of a ‘higher’ being called ‘Bappida’. On our way back, we had to ensure the doors were locked, coz we feared that Arya would jump out, but that didn’t happen and by the end of the trip, and we had another believer! I drop them at work, get driven to the airport (about 25 KM away) in 15 mins flat by Tuntun, and take the flight to Mumbai. I had a rather chatty co-passenger named Arnab (pronounced like doorknob, without the D) but his enthusiasm was no match for my sleepiness. Sorry Arnab.

Some things that this trip opened my eyes to:
There are always two sides to any Indian city. The clean side (Exhibit 1) and the other side.
Even Kolkata has bad English. (Exhibit 2)
Bengalis love to eat and to feed.
No one makes sweets like the Bengalis.
Being the jomai (son-in-law) is pretty cool!
Bengali women are pretty.
Malayalis are given ‘honorary’ Bengali status, especially the ones married to Bengalis :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rain, rain

Image courtesy BBC

The rains… they arrived about a month ago in Mumbai. A much needed respite from the heat… And in keeping with the times, there’s bundled offers too! Traffic congestion, the flu, pot-holes, the works!

However, one thing I’ve failed to understand is, when we all know that it IS going to rain around this time of the year, why doesn’t the Municipality? Why is the garbage cleaned (from the sewers onto the streets) just before the rains? Is this something they teach the BMC, NDMC, GHMC, and all the other MC (no pun intended) hopefuls?

If you ask them: What about the monsoon? How ready are we? You will most probably hear:
What about the monsoon? (Once you explain to them the concept of water precipitating from the skies, there’s a flicker and pat comes the response) Oh rain? Who can ever be ready for the rain? It is an act of nature. The Gods decide that and we are but mere pawns in His scheme. Did we predict the earthquakes? What about the Tsunami? The volcanic eruptions, suicide bombings, dumb TV anchors… these are natural calamities. And we should know better than to question His will. You people are hard to please!

And when asked how other countries are predicting and forecasting it, (The following is quoted from this interview and is NOT fictional)
One reason is their science and technology is better. Secondly, their weather pattern, their science of weather is different. Here up to 3 o' clock, there will be no cloud but at 4 you will get a cloud and by 5 it will rain. This won't happen in the US. If it's going to rain there at 4 pm, by morning there will be clouds. Even two days prior it will be known that clouds are coming. But not so in our country.
If the Americans are asked to issue a forecast for India, they will also do badly (laughs). That's what I feel because our weather pattern is difficult. When you assess a forecast skill, don't assess the (Indian Meteorological Department) IMD's skill with the skill of the USA. It is like comparing Tendulkar with a school cricket boy. It is meaningless.
You should compare the weather forecasting capability of India with any country in the tropics, that is a reasonable comparison. I am not saying the IMD is doing the best job, but it is uneasy for me to compare the IMD skill US or UK. You can compare India to Thailand or to some extent Korea, Singapore. Among the tropical countries, we are leaders, that's what I feel.

Now, I can sleep well, safe in the knowledge that the ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ of weather forecasting is watching out for us. And I’m done cribbing! We’re at-least better than Bangladesh! Or Vietnam, or Sudan, or Somalia in forecasting the weather.