Thursday, July 20, 2006

Strike when the city is hot............

We, in the city of Mumbai, are uniquely blessed.

This must be the only city in the world, where the government plays a leading part in building up the character and guts of the people. Reminds me of stories where children are made to do obstacle races , and folks in the armed forces do tough boot camps , all in the name of "toughening up". Ever since womens issues have been highlighted the world over, we must be the only country, where hardship training for women is conducted, perennially, thanks to the various transport systems.

We have a unique city layout, long and mean. The folks who end up working the hardest often end up staying furthest away from their workplaces. Some of them take several modes of transport to work. The government doesnt want any of them to miss out on the character and physique building. So roads are dug up, year after year, by specialised diggers, so that those taking buses home can learn the fine art of balance and gender issues. An additional bonus, is that this throws the bus timetable out of gear, and they get crowded abnormally. Not to worry. They always wanted to give combat training to the women. This way they dont have to spend any extra time on it. A high level study trip to Israel showed some other methods, but we prefer these.

Just in case buses are NOT your cup of tea, we have trains with windows , where you get to practice the fine art of dodging stuff targeted by those indulging in target practice from outside; except this is a target moving at high speed. . Good for neck mobility. You will never get spondilytis, thanks to all those thoughtful netas who encourage people to live defiantly by the tracks. No parks near your house ? Why worry ? Fighting your way through a railway compartment to get out at a station, and running down railway bridges with worn out slippery steps, all to catch the train that will start moving in 5 seconds, will give you a new high, mentally as well as physically. Whats a little fracture here and there ?

Globalisation is here. It means less local stuff, and more global stuff. Designating a sister city to Mumbai is important stuff. High level types need to go study sewage treatment in, say, Venice. Its all that water flowing around, you see. They have gondolas. We have navy boats in Kalina . Inspiring , na ?

In the meanwhile, even nature conspires to help out the authorities. Year after year, the rains comes crashing down. Of course the authorities have washed their hands off all that high tides-and-floods stuff. Like the Tennyson chap said, tides may come and tides may go, but WE go on forever. People must learn . Its all part of the hardship education. Manhole covers , designed to be detachable, are a brilliant choice for introducing a surprise element in this water hardship training. All this water panic also ensures that the police on duty are unable to go home, simply as they cannot travel . Built in vigilance training. Wah ! , Someone who got stuck on 26/7 in 2005, decided to learn swimming and paid a thousand rupees to learn. If only she had waited till this year. She could have learned it in a very natural manner, while travelling to work and back, for FREE..

Actually, the government must be applauded for even thinking of students. It ensures that despite the age of IT, students get to practice hardship, thanks to hanging websites, changing timetables, late result declarations, and a general cattle herding, fee grabbing approach to new admissions. Your child in school ? He needs to carry a few more books to streghthen his spine, so they have now introduced more tests. Dont want spineless youth, do we ?

If those up there, point the way, can others be far behind?

So we have government agencies, like nationalised banks and incometax office people climbing on to the hardship training bandwagon. They take care of the mental toughening of the people of Mumbai.

So just when people are still reeling from grevious losses, personal, monetary, and otherwise, the IT folks did their bit. First they had ads where they said, file your tax or we will catch you . (Its all designed to shake up those of us, who thought we could gradually deal with the recent catstrophe and then deal with the IT deadline of July 31. ) The IT wallas will Strike, not attend office, as they are unhappy about some rules , which were probably made long ago.

They have now inspired our Banks, also to declare a strike. A token one day strike , that incidentally happens to append to a weekend. But the timing is a class act in introducing a new hardship concept for people. Your salary comes, but you dont get to use it. And never mind the days lost working because of the floods, the blasts, the injuries. Its so important that retiring bank employees get the correct pension scheme. everything else can wait.

Its called 'Striking when the City is Hot".

strike : v. m : to hit .
hot : adj m: angry

Friday, July 14, 2006

Resilience in the time of Rudeness

Words have specific meanings. Words like Spirit. Resilience. Coming from the mouths of those whose entire career is based on buying and selling of human votes and emotions, they almost sound like abuse.

For years together, its been a pattern. Grandiose plans are made to safeguard people. Committees with names and unpronouncable acronyms are established. The head of the committee, his prestige doesnt depend on what good work he does, but whether he has a car with a flashing light and a siren, and a police constable hanging on for dear life to the car. Meetings are held. No one talks of any expenditures less than several hundred crores. Lips are licked in anticipation of being designated a supplier of stuff to the office. Networks buzz overtime . Maharashtra asks. The centre reduces, or sometimes, even refuses.

We have heard for years that the police force needs to be augmented . They dont have money for it. Statues in the sea are more important. Statues in parks are even more important. They feel no shame withdrawing police from after-hours duty in the ladies compartment of trains, and putting them on security detail at railway stations, post the blast. Why the security detail could not be drawn from all those politicians who are granted X,Y and Z+ security (for their families as well), is not clear. What is clear is that families of these folks need complicated security, so they can drive and spend relaxing time at the various posh coffeeshops and restaurants and malls around town.

Why should a train carrying working women, returning home after a crushing day at the office, not looking forward to a two hour crowded commute, cutting vegetables in the train to save time, be given protection from predating males , who have traumatised and maimed so many women in an about to be empty comaprtment, in the recent past? These guardians of our law and order , prefer to morally police us. Energy is expended in banning bar dancers, slapping court cases on your political rivals, and basically forgetting the people who put you there in the first place.

The recent blasts in mumbai, proved all over again, that we dont really need a government in Maharashtra. When the crunch comes, the people of mumbai are absolutely capable of taking care of themselves, and whats more , others. Within an hour of the blast, the various injured were well on their way to hospitals , if not actually already admitted. The "aam janata" came out on to the highways and arterial roads to stop vehicles, and request them to take passengers in their cars, those folks that were stuck miles away from their houses due to the blasts. Entire building societies chipped in with blankets , food stuff and transport; the slumdwellers who may not know if they will have a house next week, ran out with bedsheets for transporting patients, and climbed into the train to extricate the casualties, using whatever little they had at hand. College students returning home, found out that they could help the police control the traffic and keep things a bit more organised.

And people who I cant classify (and wont classify) under any category but saviours, even stood out in the rain handing water bottles, tea, hot snacks , food packets and even simple accomodation , to those people returning home from work, standing for miles together , crushed in a bus, because their train was blown up, and others were stopped; and those unknown folks who stayed on at hospitals , contacting relatives, comforting the hurt till some family member turned up.

They did this in the recent floods, and now the blasts. And they will do it again, beacuse its ingrained. (Readers Digest , please note: one cannot learn this, like eg, saying thank you, wishing others, holding open doors . Some of the folks we are talking about , dont even have a door, forget holding it open. Some get all embarrased if you say thank you to them, and almost feel insulted. And i cant think of a more useless thing to do than say "Nice day, isnt it?", while hanging on to 5 square inches of an open door in a moving train, trying to avoid torrential rain, or a burning summer day. )

That is what one calls the spirit. Resilience is the ability to keep on showing this spirit, blast after blast, flood after flood, carnage after carnage, one inefficient shameless government after another.

Our so called elected representatives dont need to waste their time passing resolutions in the legislature, when they should actually be amidst the people who elected them , trying to make their lives a bit more tolerable. Announcing Rs 50,000 dole to those injured, and Rs 1 Lakh to those dead , is not the end of the responsibility. The government should ensure that money needed for special medicines for the blast patients is directly paid to the municipal and state hospitals. Relatives of patients shouldnt have to trudge in and out of hospital buying medicines written up by doctors. The Railways, also announce a monetary compensation. I can just see a bunch of unscrupulous ears perking up and hands being rubbed in glee by people who see a great source of income , on the side in all this, ensuring that papers move.

And there needs to be a rule that only the Prime Minsiter and /or Home minister can come and visit the scene of the catastrophe. Seeing a politician holding your hand, and mouthing inane nothings, has nothing to do in improving your vital signs like heart beat, blood pressure, etc. For them its a photo opportunity. A Khota opportunity , if you really want to know. And all those cars that swish into the hospital porch , supposedly as security detail for the politicians, simply end up splashing monsoon dirt on those waiting outside, not knowing if someone is dead or alive, and what direction their life will take from now on.

So those in power need to stop commenting on Mumbais spirit and resilience. It sounds like a convenient thing in the mouths of the parasitic, moneyvorous people in power. It almost sounds like abuse , from the mouths of those that know not what it really means.

Learn something from the one man, who despite being elected , has never been a politician , and despite being elected by a party, has never really belonged to it.

Dr Manmohan Singh, the PM. Three days after the blast, he and his wife paid a visit to the hospitals . One patient, with one leg and one arm fractured , sat up to salute him. Those with visceral burn injuries tried to give a hint of a smile , so pleased they were to see him. Patients couldnt stop talking about the empathy that radiated from the man and his good wife as they made their rounds, quietly reassuring people, strong and firm. Then he got on television and sent a no nonsense message acrross the border, with no sparing of words.

Governing in Maharashtra is all about squabbling and power, and talking rot. And , of course , making money . These guys dont deserve an electorate like the people of Mumbai.

Mumbai has the SPIRIT and RESILIENCE despite them.

It will continue to have it, irrespective of blasts, floods, carnages, and moneyvorous politicians.

And never mind those guys who declared us the rudest people on earth.

(Maybe they simply looked at our politicians. Eat you words, Readers digest. ).

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Tall Wall

I am not a cricket fanatic. i dont spout statistics at the drop of a hat. God knows, leg , to me is an antomical part and not a field area, and I realise that a point has several intriguing properties, but being silly is not one of them.

However, as a inhabitant of Mumbai, (where road traffic is a function of the crisis level in a test match being played thousands of miles away, as well as the batting of a Tendulkar or Dhoni,) throughout the last several cricket series, there is something that has stood out in all its shining glory.

Rahul Dravid.

Here is a guy who thinks . Thinks before reacting. Came up the hard way. Rose through the ranks. Became a Senior; but when they asked him to keep wickets, chipped in with a sincere effort, while the then captain enjoyed this buy -one -batsman-get one- wicketkeeper- free , facilty. There is a no- nonsense air about him. Its all about the team, and individual idiosyncracies have no place in his scheme of things. His system of leadership doesnt appear to be conducive to chamchagiri. You are given a chance to play, and a sincere intelligent effort is appreciated. You mess around , and someone else gets a chance. Its all about whats good for the team.

Dravid captains in a manner where one tends to always look up to him. Not for the glamour, nor the sound bites. But good solid knocks. Almost ALWAYS, when ever the team is in trouble, he appears at the crease, patiently piling on the runs while trying to keep the wickets intact, inspiring the player at the opposite end. Showing them how its done. He NEVER throws his wicket away, and you never hear about how pressures of captaincy are affecting the angle of swing or straightness of his bat. You never see him muttering, mouthing curses at the opposition, glaring people down. Yes, he is human, and occasional falshes of anger on and off the field are to be expected. Steve Waugh is thrilled that Dravid agrees to write a preface to his book, and after losing the Test series, Lara, selects Dravid to lavish all his praise on.

And he doesnt remove and wave his shirt; Thats just not cricket. The most one has seen him do is hold the ball up and run across the field as if in a trance , while claiming a wicket , sometime during Englands tour on India 2006. He plays mentor to those younger and newer; he doesnt create situations where there is an element of "neta giri". Even Greg Chappel appears to have nothing bad to say about him, as he makes his measured responses to queries. The coach probably cannot hide his own delight in being given a captain like this, as straight as the front face of the bat he presents to difficult balls. Cant find anything bad to say. Not about his cricket, nor about his man-management on and off the field.

He has a lfe off the field. He keeps it there. He studied when he had to study as a youngster. Did well. The studiousness has bred in him an innate curiosity about cultures and places different from his, as something to learn from. He is a keen observer of the history of any country that he visits as part of his cricket tours. He is constantly learning. While in Pakistan he made it a point to go visit Mohenjodaro and Harrappa sites. He actively campaigns for and takes part in AIDS eradication campaigns, after learning details about the problem from his wife , who is a surgeon.

He does commercial ads, and most of them non controversial. Keeps his family away from it all. You never see pictures of him hob nobbing with social butterflies, dancing away in discotheques, with groups of dubious people, flaunting style. No one has ever linked him with vague actresses, and no one ever hears of members of his family , various government types etc , commenting on the facets of cricket selection, play and treatment in India.

Young people unconsciously search for role models. Some appear fleetingly on the horizon, flashing across with the help of fawning publicists, and favoured journalists. Some are pillars of cricket but midgets when it comes to their non cricketing ways.

Somehow one feels reassured, that in a world full of Beckhams, Maradonas and such, found later on to be made of clay, so to speak, Dravid stands tall, a completely outsatnding role model for Indian children and older youth today.