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.

Two questions for the Demonetization Drive

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The success of demonetization drive depends on not just economic factors but also operational efficiency drivers. Assume that, if carried out successfully, this drive will give the intended benefits.

For the economists – could there be a better method for achieving the goals that current demonetization aims to accomplish?

For the operations experts – could this be better implemented considering that giving more time and planning would have killed the benefits that sudden strike and secrecy claims to have achieved? Many argue that it was poor implementation – what would have been better implementation?

Frustration of a Delhi Traffic Cop

Last Tuesday, at around 8 in the evening, I got down at Uttam Nagar East Metro station. As usual , today too, footwalk was occupied by grocery sellers and other hawkers. The minor difference was that occasional presence of traffic officer, or I thought that he was an officer. Even though I had been advised several times to pick my battle, it’s hard for me to turn my eyes away and not act if something unjust is happening in front of my eyes. Moreover, this misuse of the public place had been a daily nuisance.

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I asked the officer, “Sir, these folks who are selling things here, do they have a permit to do this?”.

His name was Ramesh Singh.

“You ask this from the officer in the police vehicle ahead. ”
“You don’t know anything about this?”

“Can you see this?”, he pointed to his shoulder. “There are no stars here. I am only a constable. I am doing whatever is in my power. I can’t challan them. All I can do is tell them to move. The officer in the official vehicle ahead is the SHO with two stars. Ask him why he doesn’t do anything.”

I didn’t have the time to do that. I started walking on to catch the next bus. The constable followed me.  “What do you do?”

If I said Product Manager, it would invite follow-up questions. This profession isn’t so common yet. “I am an engineer.” No questions asked .

“You are young. As an elder, I am advising you to not get into these things. Certainly not in open. Everyone knows what’s wrong. They are all involved. They all want a pie. Being in uniform, I can’t speak too much.”

I was angry on this advice. But felt sorry to for the officer. He must be of my father’s age. He spent entire life in fear. Even today, in spite of being in the uniform, he hesitates in speaking his mind because he doesn’t find himself secured. His despair was very evident on his face. He wanted to say something more. It seemed that words had almost formed. But at this moment, his silence was way louder than any words he could speak.”

He looked around. Then said, “Listen. These people don’t value life. Nothing is dearer to them than money. If you come in the eyes of people, then what they  can do to you , no one knows.”

“I wrote letters to all these – MCD, Delhi Police, PWD, Kejriwal”

“Good. Keep working like that in stealth. You don’t need to speak to anyone. You don’t need to go anywhere. You have your life ahead of you. Asking questions like that in open won’t do anything.”

I thanked him and moved forward. I understood that he was doing all he could practically.

As I turned around, I saw him following me. I didn’t know if I should keep going or stop. The crowd of hawkers and everything else had  blocked the way ahead so moving further wasn’t an option anyway. And then as I tried to make space and move around I found he was standing next to me.

” We also want same things as civilians like you. Why wouldn’t we want to find a place to walk on the footpath when we pay taxes? Without the uniform, we also face same parking troubles as you do.”

His frustration with the system was very clear. Perhaps he never got the opportunity or right people to express it to.

“Our entire department was against Kejriwal. Still, I voted for him. Now ask him why he doesn’t do anything for here.”

An e-Rickshaw to Dabri was ready.

“I will remember your advice”, I thanked him again and got into e-Rickshaw.

PS: The name of the officer has been changed to protect the privacy of the constable.

 

 

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?

 

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।

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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