Paan – Can this be fixed?

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Not so early morning. 7AM. DTC bus RL77. As the bus roared it’s engine, the man in front of me spat one long red pichkari leaving fresh deep red blood marks on the white foot walk that looked recently painted. I felt too lazy and confused to do or say anything. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth. Didn’t feel comfortable talking. The suddenness and profoundness of the sharp pichkari also left me thoughtless and speechless. So I collected myself and took admiring looks at the landmarks of central Delhi.  Two traffic signals later, came another pichkari. This time it wasn’t a long jump. The projectile of this one was more of a high jump and didn’t make it to the already dirty footpath but settled only a few inches away from the bus and few droplets on his face too. Might be an occasional slip because he otherwise appeared experienced.

Now the hideousness of this red rain was grossing me out. But apart from demotivating factors stated earlier, this time I also feared that if I speak to him then I too would get a slice of the red shower on me. I ignored once again.

But when the bus hit a speed breaker, the rain man lost some stability and poured down entire tsunami of redness in a consecutive series of 2-3 intense pichakris.

I had to do something now. In these early hours of the morning, I didn’t want to spoil his mood or mine. I didn’t want to lecture or preach. I wanted to just understand what I could do for him to stop doing what he did. What could be an alternative to pichkari?

First, to begin, I asked him if the bus went to a place that I already knew it would. He replied in affirmative and added that that place is two stops away. Now post this ice break I felt comfortable to shoot.

“अच्छा यह बताइये, की अगर पान के साथ एक डिब्बी या थूकदान  निःशुल्क दिया जाए थूकने के लिए, तो इस समस्या का हल हो सकता है क्या ?”   {“I want to ask you something. If a small spittoon is given free of cost along with pan, will that solve this problem?”}

“कौनसी समस्या ?” [What problem?]

“ये पान की पिचकारी”  [Pichkari of paan]

“हम्म .. ” [ Hmm ..] He didn’t totally see it coming but didn’t take too long get out of the mild surprise I inflicted on him through my unexpected question. So he replied after a brief pause.

“बंद कर दो”  [ Ban it ]

“हैं?” [what?]

“डिब्बी से कुछ नहीं होगा। डिब्बी के बाद भी मुझे बाहर थूकने में अधिक सुविधा होगी। टहनी को क्यों काटो। पूरे पेड़ को ही काट दो। पान पे बैन लगा दो। ” [ Spittoon won’t help. I won’t find it comfortable to spit in that. And why bother chopping a branch of an infected tree. Bring the entire tree down. ]

It was my turn to be lost in surprise. That too not a mild one.

“हम्म .. ” [ Hmm ..],  I responded.

“पता तो सबको है कि जर्दा सवास्थय के लिए हानिकारक है। तब भी सब करते  हैं न सेवन।” [We all know that Zarda is injurious to health. Still, we consume. It’s not easy to give up. ]

“पर बैन तो शराब भी है गुजरात में, फिर भी बिकती भी है और पीते भी हैं। ” [ But does ban work? Alcohol is banned in Gujarat, still, it is sold and consumed ]

“क्या बिना पुलिस और सरकार के सहयोग के बिना संभव है वो?” [Is that possible without the help of police and government?]

I had no answer.

“बैन करो तो ठीक से करो, सब राज्यों में करो।  सरकार ने गुटखे में जर्दे पर बैन लगाया और कहा की जर्दा खाना है तो अलग से खरीदो। अब जहाँ 1 रुपये में गुटखा जर्दा दोनों मिलते थे अब 5 रुपये का जर्दा अलग से लेना पड़ता है। जहाँ पहले एक पैकेट से पर्यावरण दूषित होता था अब 2 पैकेट  से होता है। और 5 रुपये किसकी जेब में गए ? सेल्स टैक्स सरकार का बढ़ा। ” [ If you ban, ban it properly and across the states. They tried to ban zarda in the paan by declaring that consumers would need to purchase zarda separately in Rupees five sachets. What did that result into? People still buy that zarda. It is rather more expensive now. And the government gets higher sales tax. And earlier environment was polluted by one packet, now we litter two packets ]

He deboarded.

 

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Socializing over Sonu’s Samosa in Sagarpur

In the past, talking to your friends did not require a background music of food or beverages. An innocuous walk would do. Or just sitting on the roof would do. That changed. Now socializing happens OVER something. ‘Let’s discuss this over a cup of tea’. ‘Let’s get drinks and catch up’.

It is what it is.

But why that has to happen in a Cafe Coffee Day or any fancy cafe or a bar or a fancy restaurant in a fancy part of your city. Honestly, at least in India, most of the fancy places serve food or drinks that are often equally unhealthy as the regular tea stall or neighborhood halwai shop or regular theka-bar.

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I had to meet a friend few months ago. We both are from the same neighborhood. It didn’t make sense  to go to a third place that is far off. We do not have a CCD or any cafes in our neighborhood. We decided to get a cup of tea at Sonu Halwai – a neighborhood sweets shop. He was making fresh hot  Samose then. We got those too. Background set, we spoke of the same things that we would have if we were in an upscale cafe. We ate and drank similar things as we would have otherwise except that it was way cheaper here and the tea was ready to be consumed. Unlike in cafes, here we didn’t have to grab sugar sachets and keep stirring sugar. Some fancier places are even worse – even tea water and milk need to be mixed by you. Although I do empathize with their attempt to celebrate individual taste . Further, it saved us the inconvenience of driving some kilometres to find a cafe.

Saving costs and convenience is definitely one push for this favoritism of mine for local and less opulent places.

But other equally strong, if not stronger, force is the concern for widening gap among socio-economic classes in India. Gap not really about how much people make or about their ability to make money, but about the ability of people to be present with each other. Often, you won’t rub shoulder with, say, an auto-driver when you are having a drink of rum or whiskey with your friend. The drink you may have at some bar in Connaught Place or on One Hundred Feet Road in Indira Nagar, in Bangalore, might be similar to those consumed at a theka bar. A less expensive rum or whiskey might be more common. Chances are that your preferred brand might also be available. Perhaps specific concoction like Mojito or Bloody Mary might be unavailable. Granted, the theka-bar may not have the ‘your type’ music, ambiance and crowd. But are these ancillary background items too big to bridge when all you wanted to do was catch up with your friend over drinks? Could it be possible to go over the fence once in a while?

I understand that at bars, safety can be a concern when female friends are involved. But for other socializing at least, like a quick bite or cup of tea, the place in your street isn’t too bad an option. If health and hygiene are concerns, a ten rupee samosa could very well be equally unhealthy as a slice of expensive burger or doughnut.

This occasional fence jumping addresses that widening gap in an interesting way. Going to those nondescript places creates the presence of otherwise disconnected individuals. When you go to those places, it is very much possible that there might be no conversation between you and those relatively less privileged ones. But sheer presence of all of you in the same space ushers in some sense of familiarity. Just occasional unintentional effortless overhearing of each other’s chats or musings will bring in more familiarity than the transactional chats you had with people like them earlier. ‘Will you go to Moti Nagar?’ or ‘How much?’. They too will perhaps learn to hold you in less awe or feel more comfortable with you.

 

 

Is Brand Modi Copyrighted?

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Was that a joke? Someone using Prime Minister’s picture advertisement can be fined up to Rupees 500? Is the present government just shoots from its hip when it has to make a law or rule?

A lot of noise in media amplified when Modi’s picture appeared in Jio ad. And it has been a month since then. Now Information and Broadcasting ministry woke up, that too with this crap of a rule?

Politicians making noise about this is understandable. Trash talk after all. But media? How could they interpret this as Modi’s involvement in Jio or Paytm for that matter that launched its ad featuring PM post demonetization ? Rakhi Sawant showed up in a dress with Modi pictures on all over. Would that mean that Modi gave the green signal? Or should she be slapped a fine of Rs. 500?

The issue has to be looked into detail to understand where to draw the line for punitive action. A tea vendor can put pictures of Modi or even name his stall as Modi Chai to sound cool and boost his sales. Can this fine be slapped on him too? In that case why same fine on violators regardless of the monetary value they stand to gain in their business with the help of this violation?

I do not have a clear answer. But I do believe that whether PMO office is involved or not in these ad campaigns, Modi’s brand value does influence consumer’s decision. He is the Prime Minister of the country after all. Thus while there shouldn’t be an assumption that government must have colluded with these businesses , yet government must make its position clear. Ideally, it shouldn’t be a part of this at all. It should levy a heavy fine on the businesses in proportion to monetary gains and ask them to take the campaigns be down and issue a public apology. This definitely can’t be seen as a revenue stream for the government.