Can You Recall The Five Faces You Saw Today?



Last Friday, as I was rushing for work and walking into the subway station on East 86th street, I was so lost in my own world and thoughts that I did not see a man coming from the opposite side at the same turnstile where I was about to swipe my card.  I noticed that only after swiping my metro card. Not even after swiping,  I actually saw that when I had moved turnstile in to enter the station and came in less than an arm’s distance from that man. Now I saw that he was blind and that he was now inching back to make room for me to move forward. I could not feel more shamed of myself, of my absentmindedness. This was so not mindful living. That man began doing without having any eyes, what I could not do, with two perfectly functioning eyes. A woman now assisted him in making the exit. She gave me a look of contempt, which I clearly deserved. These few seconds now were the moments of very high awareness and consciousness for me. I can never forget the faces of that man and the woman who assisted him.

Feeling awful about this, I got into thinking about the cloud of our personal thoughts that surrounds us, ALL the time when we walk around in New York City. The things that are allowed to be a part of this cloud are devices – our cell phones, our e-readers, our music players. We don’t really lift our heads up or take our eyes off our devices or books to make an eye contact. Even when neither of the devices are engaging, our thoughts are still elsewhere. We say New York is a melting pot of cultures, but we don’t even know the language of the person sitting next to us in the subway because Spotify is streaming into our ears, screening off any linguistic treat from commuters. From the time we leave our apartment in the morning, till the time we hit the bed in the night, we must be coming across at least 30 new faces ( no Maths done), but can we recall even five of those faces when our head lands on pillow for a good night sleep?

There was another face I will never forget. Few days ago, I was taking a cross town bus from west side to east side ( I don’t take buses otherwise ) and the seat to next to me was empty. A noticed a really old woman approaching towards this seat. I just smiled, which I usually do when I see someone coming towards me. Not a big wide grin, but just a moderate smile of acknowledgement. And I resumed reading the Metro News. The woman took seat and said, “Thank you for your smile”. I can’t even forget the tone and warmth of that voice. There are many people of her age who probably didn’t grow up in a time of wired humans. For them, it’s hard to comprehend this new generation that is wired in an individual virtual cloud. So possibly, it was a pleasant surprise for her to receive smiling acknowledgment of her existence from a random stranger. And it was a surprise for me, for I did nothing extraordinarily out of my way to please here, I did what I usually did.

I know that it might be too much to ask from urban dwellers to always stay in the present and notice every human they see and make eye contact with everyone. That will be a lot of visual information to process each day. But that done in moderation might make each day a more pleasant one as the researchers Nicholas Epley and and Juliana Schroeder found in their research at University of Chicago, which I still believe is nothing earth shattering. Often, the clouds are full of thoughts about past and present. Engaging with strangers help us distract from them and get back in present, at least for time. Looking in other’s eyes and seeing their faces make us more empathetic towards them because we begin to see them as humans and not as objects dotting our way to some destination. Who knows, you might not need to go to or OkCupid, because the person you were looking for was sitting right next to you on the Q train to Times Square, if only you two had allowed each other in your virtual clouds.

So, will you try to recall five faces tonight?


Reservation : Retake!

Let me start with saying that we do not need reservation at any point, not even at primary or secondary level.

Is there any school in the country which denies admission to kid because of caste (lower or upper)? Then what makes these kids from SC/ST require the need of extra support?

Fine, if you feel that people from SC/ST are generally poor too, so grant them this support at primary level or at most secondary level. Period.

At least in cities, I have seen equal opportunities for all. Any kid can get admission in to DPS, or into a government school. Similarly, all institutes if higher education, vocation – IIT, Amity, Delhi University, then WHY Manage Caste Diversity.
Why do we even think of caste at any academic place, leave alone IIT. Why can’t caste ( since it will always stay in India), be a personal matter like religion. For example, students are favored or despised pretty less in the matters of admission because of their religion, barring the very few minority institutions (like AMU etc., ), similarly, we can treat the caste as immaterial.

Cleanliness is Godliness

Imagine yourself walking down a road, and you see a white piece of cloth on the way. What will be your first reaction? You will get cautious and try not to stomp on sheet. Why because that sheet is so clean and you wouldn’t want to spoil it.

Now imagine the same walk, the same road, but in place of clean white sheet, there’s a dirty rug. Your first reaction? There wouldn’t be any, you will perhaps not even notice.

That’s what I will try to advocate here : If an area is clean, people would like to keep it clean, if something is dirty, it will get dirtier. So keep the surroundings clean.

Let me try to support the cause with my personal examples too.
Consider Noida vegetable Market. One fine Tuesday, I was jogging back from noida stadium to office gym, listening to that title track of movie swades. And here goes the clash of my 2 senses. My ears were listening something and eyes were seeing something else or perhaps my nose too. Song goes – ‘the fragrance of your motherland soil, how will you forget this’ there was no fragrance in the first place! It was awfully pathetic smell of the spoiled vegetable and fruit remains of the previous night, which brought me almost close to puke. So I wouldn’t really want to remember the odor of the soil. And after that foul smell, I tend to at least spit out, if not puke, which makes the road even dirtier, there goes the point I started with. Hence we should keep the surroundings clean.

That also reminds me of a small kid I saw at the IGI airport when I was landed from Vienna . That kid was telling his mom, “mom I can smell the scent of India” of course in a positive tone.

Dogs keep their place clean before sitting. If we keep only our homes clean, there wouldn’t difference b/w us and dogs. So we should do more than that, keep the street clean, then neighborhood, then surrounding areas, cities, states and the entire country. First thing that someone notices when he comes to a city for the first time is the cleanliness. All other things – public transport, warmth of people are seen later. Anyways eyes start their action earlier than any other sense. So tourists from abroad and from other cities will be happy to visit Delhi again if they find it clean. I remember a young woman on ND railway station walking around 500m to a dustbin to throw her cigarette butt. Of course those were ramodass;s days when smoking in public was banned. But the point is, if she can care for cleanliness of a place, which is not even hers. Why can’t we care even more for our place?

I am talking of sanitation; because that’s the easiest way of contributing to society and country without spend the costly resource of time or money. We should simply stop throwing litter- which includes ice cream cups, groundnuts shell, wrappers of toffees, chocolates and other edibles., keep them in pocket or in hand, and throw them in dustbin on road if there’s any or in the trash bag at home. Simple.

Priests say god resides in hearts of pious people. Well I say, Ram resides in cleaner homes and societies. No wonder we clean our houses to please goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. I will suggest please please her 24*7*365, not just on Diwali. And goddess will come by road to your home. So please keep that road clean too. To sum up, Gandhiji’s mantra – “Cleanliness is godliness.”

Delhi Governance

Delhi Government is perhaps the best government of all the state govermetns in India. Of course it too suffers freomn problems associated with govt. departments, but what Ms. Shiela Dikshit has done in Delhi duting her ternure so far is unparalleled by any of her predecessors.

I particularly like the simple advertisemsnts that they publish in newspapers and on bill boards. The advertisements are really simple to read with no fancy words and jazzy art. Somehow they take you to old word charm. And those ads are really informative, through them we learn what govt is doing, how can we access different services offered by govt free of cost, which most of the people are unaware of. Govt has so many grievances cells, and they would not know of problem unless we report them. We must make use of these services. The bhagidari scheme is another wonderful programme of Delhi Govt which is again no-nonsene kind of project. Citizens should participate in this to make things happen. I have used the grievance cell phone numbers to report a couple of problems, lets see if that works.

Talking of Delhi, I was recently impressed by visit of E Sreedharan’s visit to Delhi Metro. This guy asked for more soap boys in the premises of Metro Station for cleaning stone surfaces. When even in North and South Bloc, one can easily find gutkhas and paan spits, and bird nests, DMRC’s emphasis on cleanliness and maintenance is simply exemplary. They are also trying to make the look and feel of all stations uniform. That is what is perfection. I am so happy there some places in our country in govt sector, where this perfection is seeked.

India in the western veil

These days ,Indian companies make it a point that they have pics of non-Indians in their advertisements,billboards, posters etc.. One can only speculate their intentions behind this non sense. They may be doin this to attract people, thinking that Indians have always been attracted to fair skin or to foreigners (coz some of them are Africans or American blacks as well), so this will make their ads eye catching. But they often say that that they want to show off some kinda diversity in their employees and clients, that they are serving people from all over the globe , that a substantial percentage of people working in their company are non-Indians. But those guys forget that majority of them are Indians. The Times of India and the Economic Times always ensure that their articles somehow contain a pic of non Indian thing even if that thing has got almost zero relevance to that article. I am not chauvinism or xenophobic, but I am Indian. Globlalisation is indeed the order of the day , but forceful globalisation and blind aping and appeasement is not.

Learning history…….. any purpose?

When I was a kid, I used to wonder why the hell do we learn history? What has happened has happened. Why do we look back? Will seeing old historical monuments and other historically rich things fill the belly of several millions starving to death every day? Will reading about world wars bring some shed on the heads of millions of destitutes suffering from chilly winter nights ? As I grew up.I understood that reading history, learning about the factual information of past helps us to understand what went wrong? What were the blunders that were commited by mankind which inflicted irreparable loss to human beings whose nuber is uncountable? All this , so that such mistakes are not repeated in ordrer to ensure peace for the future generation. Fair enough.

But are we really learning lessons from history? It was racial hatred against Jews and others that caused millions of them to be annihilated in concentration camps. Similarly the racial discrimination was the root of apartheid. India paid heavy price for religious intolerance between hindus and muslims in the form of partition. But have things changed today? Are we still not continuing to repeat our old habits? What Materazzi did to Zidane in the worldcup final was a fine example of racial hatred still nurtured in the hearts of Italians and may be several others. The communal riots in India every year also give fair idea of how much we have learnt from our past mistakes.

Reservation : my take

The reservation bomb re-exploded sometime in april, if I remember correctly. Since then I have been a mute spectator of the happenings. Kept on reading and watching activities associated with it. The cry is a bit silent now, but yet not over. This is probably the silence before the storm. As lot of things are beeing planned for August 15th. I feel now it’s my time also to take some stand on this issue.

Reservation has been there for the past 50 years in our country. If even after so many years of its implementation, we find the need for more of it, then it has. by all logical senses, failed to prove to be a good solution to uplift the socially backward elements.

Yesterday, I read the minister of social empowerment and justice making a statament that, socially deprived kids don’t get proper opportunities for education. To the best of my knowledge , no where in India, one can be denied admission in school or college because of his/her caste. Rather, one has more chances of getting admission in reputed colleges like IIT’s if he or she’s from SC/ST or Other BAckward Clas, even if he doesn’t doesn’t deserve that on the basis of merit.

Secondly, a friend of mine, who supports reservation, feels that scheduled caste people suffer from discrimination as they face name calling. They being addressed as ‘chooda’ or ‘chamar’ etc. For those sharing such beliefs, well, atleast I haven’t witnessed one instance of such discrimination right in front of my eyes. I did read about one case in Delhi University long time back. In my hostel, in my own lobby, we have people belonging to sc/st. They are good friends of mine. Such feeling never came amonst us. We eat together and attend classes together. Infact several important posts in our gymkhana are being held by sc/st. And then again , in 50 years if this tool of quota could not eliminate the evil of the name calling and all that dirty stuff, then how do they expect it do miracles now, by increasing the quota?

Only after this reservation issue was raised up, and we used to discuss things in the hostel, we realized tht in any department of our college, the under performers are mainly from sc/st. They are the ones who are amongst the rich guys . In our country, already corruption has roots strong enough to give benefits to undeserving , but rich and powerful people , will not this propsed quota hike further aggravate the situation? Ofcourse even rich people also don’t deserve discrimination. But ours is materialistic society. It was observed in shlokas also, that a rich person will always be respected, no matter whether he is learned one or not. So chances of rich being at the recieving end seem to be less. Nevertheless favoritism of any form shudn’t be tolerated, but will it be fair to ask reservations for that? Is tht the only solution?

Recently I saw one documentary on 60 minutes show of CBS. There they showed the plight of untouchables, the people of lowere castes. I learnt that in the rural areas of UP and AP, untouchables remove their shoes and bow their heads while passing by some upper caste. The job of cleaning in our society is still entrusted in the hands of lower castes. They clean laterine with bare hands.

Manual scavengers

A dalit family

Upper caste people often rape the girls of lowere caste and dalits are economically exploited by the upper caste people. The peasants of lower castes working on the lands of upper caste people are given very less or no wage. All this is indeed inhuman. My support and sympathy is with them . But can someone explain how is quota system going to improve this ? Why do we rather not have good judicial and law and order system that can severly the punish the upper class perpetrators of crime, rather than supporting them when a dalit goes to police station for filing a complain? Probably the work of cleaning is in the hands of untouchables because they don’t have any other work to earn from, because of their poor literacy level. No where they can be denied job because they are from lowere strata of society. For this some other important measures should be taken up :

Also, in our nation, we have discrimination , not just based on caste, but also on so many other factors. I have myself seen in Assam, assamese are often favored, atleast by less educated people. And what about sexual minority? They are suprressesd not just in India but everywhere . So soon, different segemnts of our society and country will in its own right ask for reservation. So we will have social reservation, regional reservation (formation of new states is a already a consequence of that), sexual reservation and many other which I can’t imagine now.