Power of Apology

 

It was around five in the evening when I accidentally hit a bicycle in front of my car at the Lodhi Garden traffic signal. The man riding this cycle was carrying two LPG cylinders , tied on either side of the carrier of the cycle. The cycle and the man and the cylinders went through a tsunami of sorts. He looked back. His face red. Even before he could disembark from his cycle to come charging at me, I folded my hands and apologized. There were no words since my windows were rolled up. Through my face, my eyes, my gestures, I communicated my apology. The redness reduced. The face less angry now. He turned away. Signal was still red. Another 15 seconds  left. He moved few meters. So did I. He turned back again. This time I held my ears. I saw a mild smile on his face. Signal green now. We both moved with the rest of traffic.

I am sorry message

Heavy traffic made sure our average speeds were same between motorized and non-motorized vehicle and thus I saw him again at the next signal. I looked straight, but from the corner of my eye I was checking if he would recognize me and might want to settle any score. I just noticed that he noticed me. My apology began, again. This time no mild smile. Rather a warm smile and a gesture that conveyed, “it’s okay.”

In a matter of 10 minutes I averted what could have been a serious trouble. In such situations, general public usually charges on the 4-wheeler  driver irrespective of who was driving weird.

Fast forward two years. I had gone to Delhi around republic day to spend time with my family and hear my two yeard old newphew speak because he had recently started talking. I was waiting at the airport for my father. When he arrived on motor cycle, a big Toyota hit my father’s bike from behind. My father was just stationary, waiting for me to walk to him. The car hitting my father’s motor cycle left me seething with anger. I went to the driver, yelling at him. His replied, “ So what?”.  In that moment of anger, I forgot to not be surprised by this considering I was in Delhi. I yelled more. My father took me away and brought me home. I felt helpless.  How hard was it for him to apologize for a mistake that was evidently made by him.

Why is apology going away from our demeanors?

Apology has the power to disarm the angry ones. It can really preempt or impeded some harmful situations or consequences. Still intoxicated in power and money, are we are drifting away from this simple yet powerful tool. Perhaps our towering egos cemented with our relative affluence come in the way?

 

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एक ट्रैफिक पुलिस की विवशता

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शाम 8 बजे मैं उत्तम नगर ईस्ट पर उतरा। जैसे हमेशा होता है, आज भी फुटपाथ पर फल सब्ज़ी और अन्य चीज़ें बेचने वालों का डेरा था। बस फर्क इतना कि एक ट्रैफिक अधिकारी भी था। मेरे मित्रों के लाख समझाने के बाद भी, कि तू सारी जंगें नहीं लड़ सकता, चुन अपनी अपनी जंग, – फिर भी कहीं मेरी आँखों के आगे गलत होते मैं आँखों मूँद लूँ , यह मेरे लिए कठिन है।  यहाँ तो फिर यह सार्वजनिक स्थल का अनधिकृत प्रयोग एक रोज़ का मसला है।

पुछा मैंने ट्रैफिक अफसर से, “सर , इन ठेले वालों को कोई परमिट मिला है क्या यहाँ खड़े होके बेचने का?”

“अब ये  तो तू  SHO से पूछ, वो आगे गाड़ी  में बैठा है “

“आप नहीं जानते इस बारे में कुछ भी?”

“तू देख रहा यहाँ?” उन्होंने इशारा किया अपने कंधे पर। नाम था इनका रमेश  सिंह। फिर बोले, “यहाँ कोई फूल तारे नहीं हैं, मैं बस एक कांस्टेबल हूँ। मेरे पावर में जो हो सकता है मैं वह ही कर रहा हूँ । इन्हें कहने के अलावा मैं कुछ नही कर सकता। वो आगे अफसर है, 2 तारे वाला। उससे पूछ – पूरी पॉवर के बाद भी क्यों नहीं करता वह कुछ”

मेरे पास इतना समय तो नही था। मैं चलने लगा अगली बस पकड़ने। कांस्टेबल आए मेरे पीछे।
“सुनो, क्या काम करते हो?”

मैं अगर प्रोडक्ट मेनेजर कहता तो और सवाल होते। इतना कॉमन नही यह प्रोफेशन अभी।
“इंजीनियर हूँ”

“आप छोटे हो, बेटा समझ के राय दे रहा हूँ। इन झमेलों में मत फसों। सामने आके बिलकुल नही। सब को पता है क्या गलत हो रहा है। यहाँ सब खाने वाले बैठे हैं। मैं वर्दी पहनकर ज्यादा बोल नहीं सकता।”

मुझमें गुस्सा भी था, साथ में इनके लिए चिंता भी। मेरे पिताजी की उम्र के तो अवश्य होंगे। आज भी इन्हें भय में जीना पड़ता है। वर्दी पहन कर भी सत्य कहने में यह स्वयं को सुरक्षित नही पाते। इनके चेहरे पर विवशता साफ़ थी। कुछ कहना चाहते थे। जैसे लव्ज़ जुबां पर आ ही चुके हों। इस पल, इनकी विवशता का मौन ही, शब्दों से अधिक गूंज रहा था।

उन्होंने इधर उधर देखा । फिर बोले, “इन सबको इंसान की जान से पैसा ज्यादा मीठा लगता है। ऐसे सामने नजर में आओगे तो कब क्या कर दें तुम्हारा इनका भरोसा नही।”

“चिट्ठी तो लिखी है मैंने इन सबको – MCD को, पुलिस को, केजरीवाल को”

“बस यूँ ही परदे में करो। कहीं जाने की जरूरत नहीं। किसी से कुछ कहने की जरूरत नही। तुम्हारे आगे पूरी जिंदगी पड़ी है। ऐसे झगड़ा करने से कुछ नही होगा।”

मैं धन्यवाद कह कर आगे चलता बना। जानता था कि यह जो कर सकते हैं वह कर रहे हैं।

मुड़ के देखा वह फिर आ रहे थे मेरे पीछे। समझ नही आ रहा था कि रुकूँ या चलता रहूं। आगे ठेलों और लोगों की इतनी भीड़, कि  आगे बढ़ना सरल विकल्प था ही नही। इतने में मैंने थोड़ी जगह बनाई, वे मेरे समीप आ चुके थे।

“हम भी क्यों नही चाहते की टैक्स देते हैं तो फुट पाथ पे चलने की जगह हो, सड़क पर गाडी चलाने की जगह हो। बिना वर्दी के हमें भी तुम्हारी तरह ही खेद होता है फिर भी सड़क पर ही गाडी पार्क करनी पड़ती है।”

सिस्टम से इनका रोष साफ़ था। शायद यह कष्ट बाटने के लिए या केवल अभिव्यक्ति के लिए भी पर्याप्त अवसर न मिला हो।

“हमारा पूरा डिपार्टमेंट केजरीवाल  के विरुद्ध है। फिर भी मैंने उसे वोट दिया था। उससे पूछो की क्यों नहीं करता कुछ यहाँ के लिए”

डाबड़ी जाने के लिए इ-रिक्शा तैयार खड़ा था ।

“मैं आपकी सलाह याद रखूँगा”

एक बार फिर धन्यवाद करके मैं रिक्शे में बैठ गया।

***

PS :  गोपनीयता के लिए ट्रैफिक कांस्टेबल का नाम बदल दिया गया है

पहाड़ की मिट्टी तनिक लग लन दे

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पहाड़ की मिट्टी , तनिक लग लन दे
जे धुल तोरे तन पे, तनिक चढ़ लन दे

मैं जानू जे धुप, तोरी काया सताय
जाय खुजलाय, जाय लाल बनाय
पर फिर गरमाए, तोहे खूब लुभाय
इस खिलते सूरज को, तोहे छू लन दे
पहाड़ की मिट्टी , तनिक लग लन दे

मैं जानू के लोगन की बातें, बातन की आवाजें
तोरे लेखन में बाधा बनावें
जा कर के लायो तू पहाड़ में mp3 उपाय
पर जे पत्ते, जे चिड़िया, जे फूल कछु कहना चाहवें
पहाड़ के सन्नाटे को भी कछु कह लन दे
पहाड़ की मिट्टी तनिक लग लन दे

पहाड़ की मिटटी से हठ न कर
जाको रंग न जावे जाड़ों भर
बर्फ में भी तोहे याद दिलावे
तोरी मंद मुस्कान जहाँ घर पावे
ऐसो भावुक रंग अब चढ़ लन दे
पहाड़ की मिट्टी तनिक लग लन दे

— राजीव
नवम्बर ७ , २०१६
मुक्तेश्वर, उत्तराखंड

Onam Greetings ഓണാശംസകൾ !

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I had been meaning to write this post for a year now. I experienced Kerala in its full glory last year for the first time. Now that next Onam has arrived, this post is long due.

…..

I had limited exposure to Kerala. Growing up, I knew only two things about Kerala – it rains a lot there and people are highly literate. Festivals are great way to experience a new culture, and what better way to breathe Kerala than Onam! Now, even though it looks very small, in the shape of a banana on the map of India, yet Kerala is a big state and I had to pick one place to visit. I asked few people where in Kerala I could see nice Onam celebrations. The word Palakkad came up. I looked it up on google maps. Didn’t look too far. Next task – what to do in Palakkad. My idea of travel has irreversibly changed and my travels are incomplete without spending time with the locals.

I checked in my network to see if I could find someone known in Palakkad. Friend or friend of friend. That did not work. Some people knew. But unlike America, hosting a random stranger, even if he is known through common friend, wasn’t super common. My only option now was couchsurfing. I was skeptical about its feasibility. Palakkad is a small town in Kerala. What are the chances to find even a profile created in Palakkad. As it turned out, I did find out a host.

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He was Sid, an 18 year old kid who lived with his grandparents in Palakkad. He accepted my request. Before getting to Palakkad, I wrote a letter to his grand parents to introduce myself and thank them in advance for hosting me. I also thought it would be a good idea to speak with him before starting. As he spoke, his voice was nothing close to what I imagined. It had no trace of Malayalam! It turned out he spent many years outside India. I mean he could very well be from New York! Regardless, I was excited to hear his story and see Palakkad.

I arrived at Palghat station early morning. And as I got down, I was mesmerized by the density of greenery all around. I walked towards a cluster of auto-rickshaw men. As I got close, I found myself tongue tied, perhaps not able to figure out the language. Wasn’t sure of English or Hindi. I ended up asking, “how much”! . Without mentioning where I wanted to go! They laughed and figured out it was my first time there.

I reached my host’s place. He welcomed me, took me to a paddy field and showed me around and then went back to sleep. I wasn’t feeling sleepy. I was too excited. So I put on shoes and decided to explore this place by running.

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In less than an hour of having arrived here, I had hit the street. Wherever I looked, I would smile and people will smile back. After every 50 or 100 meters, I would look back to make sure I remember to way back. At every junction, before turning, I would make mental note to be able to trace the path back. I crossed a house in whose courtyard, a beautiful pookalam was work in progress. I stopped and asked for a chat. The family asked where I lived. I explained to them how I landed in Palakkad. They gave a perplexed smile. I wouldn’t be surprised if people found the idea of couchsurfing bizarre! I asked if I could help in making the pookalam. The grandfather gladly allowed me to assist him. We chatted and when I was leaving, the son in the family told me that I should come to their place for Sadya if i had no place to go for lunch. I had known them for only few minutes, but they were so nice that they offered me to join them for Onam feast! I bid them goodbye and continued to run around , and take pictures.

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It was time to head back, and as I had feared, I forgot the way. I barely remembered or even knew any other family member’s name other than Sid. I remembered that there was a temple nearby. I walked around and asked for help. Thankfully, a biker figured out where I was to go and he dropped me. Sid was up by now. I took shower and dressed up in black shirt and veshti to prepare myself to meet his grandparents.

We went to his grandparent’s place. They were so pleased to meet me. I met his aunt and cousin too. It was quite interesting to note that everyone spoke some level of English. Grandpa was quite an energetic and entrepreneurial man with child like curiosity to learn. He would ask me many questions about my family, my place, my culture. He even possessed a book on ‘Malayalam to Hindi translation’.

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He very proudly gave me tour of his ball-bearings factory. At his age, he was very active and engaging.  It was now the time for Sadya. The granny served such a big feast on banana leaf – there were different kind of curries , two payasam and kerala rice and bunch of other things. And the water was pink! Everyday they put some ayurved herb that gives that color and aids in digestion.  She would feed us with so much warmth and happiness that you would be filled with nothing but gratitude.

 

Next day, grandfather gave us his scootie to ‘go, see the town’! Sid took me to Dhoni forest. It was the first time I was driving a scootie but in few minutes I figured out. I hung out with his friends. Often I wouldn’t understand anything. But just hearing the sound of Malayalam was so pleasant.

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Soon it was time to end the trip in Palakkad. Before I left, grandpa made horoscope for me, that he neatly placed in file folder. It predicted that out of many friends of mine that speak foreign tongue, one would become my life partner. When I said goodbye to granny, she said, “Come next Onam also”

 

Goodbye दक्षिण : The South in India

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As I pack my bags and leave the city of Bangalore and reflect on the two years that I spent here, I couldn’t be more grateful to these two years for showing me the India that I was so little aware of. I was so ignorant that I couldn’t easily distinguish between scripts and speech of Tamil and Malayalam or Kannada and Telugu.

Two years later, my ring tone is Kanmani Anbodu, my favorite actor is R Madhavan and my favorite vacation place is Vagamon in Kerala. It was here in the south I discovered the world of millets in their full glory. Not a single day has gone in last so many months when I did not eat Ragi Roti. My kitchen would be stocked up with 15 varieties of lentils, half of which I never saw before.  I would source my soap and spices from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

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It was here that I could experience Indian festivals beyond Holi and Diwali. One Onam in Palakkad and I was sold! I was converted to a token Mallu. The big sadya that was offered to me by a granny in Palakkad made me indebted to her forever.

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Even Holi Diwali changed. For my  nephew and niece, I bought silk clothes from Chennai and turned them into little Madrasi boy and girl!

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New friendships happened. Some of the closest friends I made ranged from the lengths and breadths of the South. Even without the conventional presence of domestication through marriage, I was fairly domesticated. Starting the day by a leisurely walk in my mundu through the think canopy of trees to go fetch milk – was something I looked forward to every day.   My love for green only grew after coming to South.  Even in cities here, everybody tries to grow something. How could I be left behind.

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I think these stories will come with me wherever I go. Anytime I will hear Suprabhatam will bring me back into the temple towns of South India. Coconuts will be more than just a fruit. It would be reminiscent of everything that is beautiful about here.

Customer Support from Grofers

At the core of any customer support system is empathy. Grofers, the online grocery delivery service demonstrated this very well recently.

After hearing about them from my colleagues and friends, I used their app for the first time. I have had some bad experiences with other such apps. But due to recommendations from friends, I was having higher expectations from Grofers. In the evening, when the delivery arrived, I found that a bag of pulses had a hole because of which pulses were draining out. Further, the pulses weren’t clean. It probably wasn’t the end of the world. In Delhi, if I purchase stuff from local departmental store, this wouldn’t be extremely uncommon. But then this is a new age service company and I was expecting that they would do some Quality Check.

I tweeted the picture right away. And they got into action right away. I got a call from a customer support person named Varun. He was extremely patient. He listened to me intently and spoke only after I was done ranting. He assured the replacement next day. He kept asking for more feedback. I actually felt that I was talking to a human and not to robots from ACT or Airtel or so many other companies who hardly talk to customers in a way humans communicate with one another. This person spoke in a way how friends share concerns with each other. I thought he might be CEO or at least heading the customer support department. Because he demonstrated through knowledge of the product, the company’s roadmap and the customer’s pain points and came across as a matured professional. I was pleasantly surprised to learn he was one of the many customer support staff members. He explained that at Grofers, they are trained to get into consumer’s shoes and realize the pain and then resolve the matter.

It’s time other product and service delivery companies pull up their socks and realize that only fancy apps and websites won’t grow their business, but deep empathy with customer would give the extra differential push.

PS: Just like Jack Welsh from GE, this person gave me his personal mobile number and told that I could call him any time if I face trouble with the app in future.

Why is Mulayam still in power ?

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When I came across this, I got a brain freeze for few seconds. And then storm of questions hit me. Is it the lack of education in UPites in general ? But then, is education so critical and fundamental that on an average , its absence  causes people to make as ridiculous choices as Mulayam and clan? But then, there were those like Gaura Devi who never went to school, yet made name for themselves and their communities. Or is education after all, a necessary but not sufficient condition for people to chose wisely?
I am still struggling to find root cause of existence of Mulayams in power, in  a state as humongous as UP. They say India has lot of diversity. What diversity is it that such a big mass of junta is choosing a jerk to lead them ?  Diversity bas kapde aur khaan paan mein hi hai kya? Every kilometer , water and language change.. but way of thinking and choosing remains the same?