Little things, Big values

When you visit a friend having a kid, its usual to carry a chocolate for the little one… But its disappointing to hear some parents remark rudely at that very instance of gifting (sometimes as early as when you have just hinted that there’s a chocolate for the kid in your bag or pocket or hand) – “hum chocolate NAHI khaate (we don’t eat chocolates)… /we DON’T like chocolates… /arreyyy, aapne KYUU laya ye sab, already itna problems chal raha hai uske dnaath ko leke (WHY have you bought all these, we are already troubled with the kid’s tooth)” !

Well, we (guests) are aware that the child may not ultimately have it owing to tooth or some digestion issues. But the host (parents of the child) needs to know and also teach the child why and how to refrain from the gift temporarily or whatsoever, and never to disregard the guest’s affection.

Some may suggest getting dry-fruits, cookies, fruits, etc. Well, if chocos can dent the teeth, so will cookies & dry-fruits ! Moreover, plain chocos will melt away and not sit in the tooth-cavities; dry-fruits will doubly harm by way of grinding and sitting in the cavities. 🙂  A kid may not realize to clean it or clean it at the earliest ! As for fruits – kids will simply throw it away for obvious reasons, and parents would not have a role to play here- good or bad. Because the kid itself is in denial mode. We are talking of a situation in which the kid is in acceptance mode and the parents are in a denial mode on the same stuff. Afterwards, some people may also comment “bachche ke liye kuch bhi nahi laye, wo kya fruits khaate hain (the guests didn’t get anything for our kids; do kids like fruits) ?” 🙂  Moreover, many people can’t afford fruits nowadays- this, as I am considering all classes in our society. The option of fruits is a healthy suggestion though. But without chocolates, there can be no melting mazaa (fun) ! 🙂

A similar situation happens when you present sweets and discover someone is diabetic or extremely calorie-conscious !! Guests usually arrive with something namkeen (salty snacks) in addition, if they know beforehand about the diabetic condition. Irrespective of the namkeen, the sweets can always be refrigerated to be eaten moderately or tasted and offered to other visitors. How does it matter as long as the generosity of guests serves the purpose of the host for whom they have after all cared this way !!

However, such giving away of “presented” gifts, whether or not to refrain from it, should not be immediate or outright. I remember that I had once been to a friend’s kid’s birthday party. Since I had a busy day and could not go to any mall to buy anything special, I opted for a big multi-variety chocolate product of a leading brand that I luckily found in a bakery on my way. I was already late for the party and on reaching, I found that there were several games going on. For one of these, three prizes were enthusiastically declared by the gorgeous hostess. When it was over, I was surprised to observe, unintended though, that the first prize given was nonchalantly drawn from the heap of gifts by her. And unfortunately it was ‘my chocolate gift’, which now appeared as if it was a mere trash among the other items that were rather big and colourfully wrapped in sparkling papers. I thought to myself, what a meaningless Namaste welcomed us !! Such parties always have games and a good hostess must not overlook the arrangement of prizes or return-gifts. Some time back, I and another friend happened to discuss a similar topic. He was of the opinion that some hosts do it that way not because they are indifferent to the guests or gifts but because that’s an economical way of hosting the party to the fullest extent ! 😦

The other callous ways of some hosts are when the item becomes sort of a flying-disc or football or lies simply unattended even after you have left the place. If you have been very sincere and keen about the gift while purchasing or if its an expensive one, then while leaving the doorstep of the host, even a faint glimpse of it will literally bleed your heart… “hai Ram, bekaar mein uthaake layee main (Oh God, got this for no reason)… /kyuu laya main isko idhar (why did I get it here at all)… ?!?”  Too late, boss… 🙂

Whether it is chocolates, cookies, dry-fruits, fruits, sweets, namkeen, a dress or colour pencils- the point is on knowing and also teaching the child how to say a polite ‘no’ and never to hurt the guest’s sentiments; it is immaterial what the guest presents as long as it suits the occasion ! As parents, we should not be over-protective or egoistic; rather we should educate children to respect the society as a whole. Such aspects, in the long run, will definitely help the budding generation to understand the older ones and to care for them, no matter what their rank or status is.

So folks, isn’t it better and decent on part of all parents to teach the child with a smile rather something like “say- thank you Aunty /Uncle b-u-t… we will relish it later… /I will have it when I grow up a bit… /I would be able to enjoy it after I am through my tooth or digestion issues…” ? And then actually show the kid to store it in a refrigerator to be either eaten later or offered to someone else. If the gift is a non-edible type, then also a similar step can be taught. For example, a dress whose colour you don’t like or which is under-size for the kid, can be either exchanged at the shop with approval of the guest or in case that is not possible, donated to someone needy. Till then, it should be properly kept in the wardrobe. That way, the kid also learns how not to waste things or how to bring under-utilized stuff to better usage.

It may seem trivial to us, the so-called grown-ups. But these things can have a big implication on the EQ of children as they gradually learn life’s ways and then mature into adults one fine day ! Why expect their sense and sensibilities to bloom over-night ?!!? Let’s nurture it right from now on, whether it is a small or a big thing…..

What do you suggest, aamjunta… ?

Those Two Rupees…

Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.

Garrison Keillor

“Babu, will you please give me two rupees more than your usual rickshaw-bhadda (fare)?”

The poor rickshaw-puller innocently asked me on my way to Sheltar Chak from Barabati Bali Yatra (one of the traditional carnivals of Odisha) Maidan.

Before I could say anything, he added, “I’m just requesting, don’t give if you don’t approve it”

I retorted back with irritation. “But, you had agreed for six rupees as the bhadda, why two rupees more?”

He was mum for some time and then said, “I’m falling short of  two rupees”.

From what?”, I questioned him again threateningly…

I’m falling short of two rupees to buy a Milk Dabba (can) for my 6-month old baby. I’ve collected thirty-eight rupees only from my entire day’s rickshaw- pulling, and the Milk Dabba costs forty rupees”.

I tried to open my mouth to say something. Before I could say anything, he stopped the rickshaw, looked back, saw my face and said, “no problem, I just requested you, if you don’t want.. don’t give, will wait for some more time and by God’s grace, I hope I will be able to earn two rupees more”.

Then he started paddling towards my home. After a couple of minutes, he murmured to himself (addressed to his kid), “By the time I collect two rupees more, shops will be closed, and you (his kid) will have to sleep again in hunger tonight”.

It was 11 P.M. at night in the month of November, quite late for the eastern part of India. He was pulling me in his cycle-rickshaw to my brother’s place in Cuttack. I was in my 12th standard at that time, studying at Ravenshaw College. That evening, I got late watching music and dance numbers in the famous Habib Melody. No one agreed to go for a fare of six rupees; all the rickshaw-walas (pullers) were charging ten to twelve rupees. I was bit surprised when this rickshaw-wala had agreed for six rupees after a moment’s thought. May be he was a bit calculative at that time and thought of losing the chance to earn four to six rupees more, just to get that Milk Dabba home in time. Even though he fell short of two rupees, he did not lose faith on his profession.

It is a 10-15 minute journey by rickshaw from Barabati Stadium to Sheltar Chak. In the entire conversation, I was silent for most of the time, thinking about him, his 6-month old baby, me, my friends and the society in general. I was not that matured at that time to understand everything. During Bali Yatra, I found some people throwing money on anything and buying trinkets indiscriminately. But the same people would have gone to any extent to bargain with a poor rickshaw-wala. I too had spent a lot from my pocket-money on eating and watching melodies and operas. Whereas the rickshaw-wala was struggling to save forty rupees by a whole day’s toil, in order to feed his small kid (forget about himself and his other family members).

The value of two rupees for him was the value of his kid’s life, whereas it had no meaning at all for some other people. Such is the denomination of money- something which has no value for someone might be a whole life for somebody else.

Those two rupees ….. aamjunta think about it.

“Mumbai Blues”- Aamjunta’s Aankhon-dekhi

With Food Security Bill pending in Parliament and debates over the implementation of it in real-life, I remembered an old story… This was there and now, it has perhaps become worse in most parts of India…

Life of an "Aamjunta"

It was almost quarter to eleven on a regular working day…

I had a tough day at lab and hostel trying to juggle with balancing my time and thesis writing. Additionally, summer seems to take toll on one’s energy level. That evening I got so irritable, stressed and exhausted that was unable to utter a single word. The demand and supply chain of the thesis writing was not matching. Demand was very high resulting in high pressure on the quality, quantity and the pace of my output. Anyway, I decided to skip dinner, had some biscuits instead in lab itself. Suddenly, my exasperation with the process made me think seriously of taking a break and I decided to go to either lake side or some where else and to sit there for some time by myself. I decided that I will not seek company and so did not ask…

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Chit Funds or Cheat Funds – the Recent Saga of India’s Investors

The recent Chit Fund fiasco in West Bengal has not only pushed the panic button for the Indian Investors, but also opened the Pandora’s box of our corrupt system and the state of awareness of the aamjunta. This is a case in which all the three parties are to be blamed equally – the Investors, the System or the Government and the investment Agencies. Though the issue of cheating and fraud came to light because of Saradha fiasco in West Bengal, Odisha is not far behind in any sense. More than 85 companies are operating in Odisha with a turnover of roughly Rs. 20,000 crore, and there are more than 100 Chit Fund companies (mostly Ponzi Schemes) operating in West Bengal alone with a turnover of roughly Rs. 75,000 crore.

With CB-CID investigations, the list and the amount of fraud and cheating is bound to increase in both the states. Interestingly, some of the Schemes /Companies are old, operating in multiple states, run by well known politicians or their relatives, with a huge capital investment. Coming to Investors – most of them are poor rural people, unaware of the Ponzi Schemes, and are lured mostly by the young unemployed Agents. On the contrary and surprisingly, a good percentage of the Investors are also well-educated, well-aware about the recent happenings or uncertainties. They too could not resist the temptation of becoming rich or richer over-night… and lost their money in the process. In many places, there are numerous reports of suicides both by the Agents and the Investors.

The Chit Fund empire is so complex and so big that it has forced the Government to consider scrapping the Chit Fund Act of 1962 in entirety. Though the pressure is mounting on the Government to order a CBI inquiry of the entire process, in my opinion, CBI inquiry may not be useful as the CBI’s reputation is also at stake in the wake of recent developments; some of their own Officers have been accused and sent to CBI custody for allegedly taking a bribe from a businessman regarding settlement of a land dispute case. In fact, one of these Officers was heading the Coalgate scam probe !

Moreover, why do we have the “reactive” mentality to each and every problem ? Can’t we adapt the “proactive” mentality ? Let’s check where exactly the problem is ? Is there any remedy for these in future ?

As pointed out before, there are three broad parties associated in any kind of investment. They are:

1. The Investment Agency

As per the law of the land, the investment Agencies are supposed to be operating under RBI’s guidelines and State /Centre’s special Acts or Amendments. But in most of the cases, the Agencies are not even registered to offer the Schemes, which they simply roll out in the market. Apart from this, most of the Agencies are either owned by a family or a group of relatives or politicians. Sometimes the companies are created to transform the black money into white, without paying any heed to national economy or security. The investment Agencies select their Directors in such a way, that it becomes easy for them to hide the crucial facts to the people; most of the time the Directors of such Agencies are none other than their drivers, cooks, house-maids, and the like, even without their knowledge !

While India is struggling with unemployment, getting Agents at a low salary is not difficult. Hiring Agents is also tricky; first enrol them as Investors and then lure them with perks, AC train-tickets, gifts and sometimes air-tickets for holiday trips to work as Agents set with achieving a certain amount of “target” i.e., number of Investors and Investment.

I remember, some of my friends who were hired by a similar Agency in 2009 were taken to Malaysia and Singapore (with their family) for a free holiday trip. Not just that; some Agents were gifted with Maruti-800 cars by their Chairman !! Tempting ! Seeing them  make good money in a short span of time, other Investors get attracted and deposit their savings with them, without casting any doubt.

In the initial days, the Agents never fail giving back the monthly interest to the Investors; the payments are always in time and sometimes, even in advance. The one in advance is mostly to give an impression (false) to the Investors that their business has been doing extremely well or performing above expectations ! Surprisingly, the interest rates are almost 24 – 36% per annum; whereas the Post Offices, Life Insurance Policies, and other well-known deposit Schemes give interests not more than 8-10% per annum.  The greed of easy money and becoming rich / richer overnight are the prime factors for both the category of Investors.

Other than giving direct interests to the Investors, companies like Hi-tech in Odisha and Rose Valley in West Bengal later started providing lands/plots in the prime localities of Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Kolkata, etc., based on small monthly instalments. The Schemes are so attractive and the Agents are so adept in opening heart-to-heart conversations with the Investors, that no one ever has an iota of doubt while investing. And that too, even in obtaining a plot in the capital cities at a cheaper rate. Surprisingly, in the last raid on Hi-tech in December-2012, it was found that in Bhagya Nagar (outskirts in the city of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha) alone, Hi-tech had promised to give plots of 484 hectares while they actually owned only 4 hectares of land. They are not the only ones doing such business in the market !!

Other well-known companies like Rich Mind, Saradha, Artha Tatwa, Seashore, Safex Infra, Ashore, and many others – almost 200+ odd Agencies have been active in the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Their main target is always the border districts of Odisha, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. As it happened in Saradha’s case of quick closure and disappearance, most of the other companies also simply shut down their entire operation over-night and disappear with the entire money, leaving behind many Investors and Agents on the cross-roads to awfully suffer at various personal levels, to bear public wrath, face legal charges, police harassment, etc.

2. The Investors

It is obvious that the high rate of interests in the range of 24-36% per annum offered by the Agencies are tempting to invest in such Schemes. In addition, more than 95% of the Investors deposit their savings on the face value of the Agents working with those Companies, without checking a single document. ‘You know he is like my cousin… he has ensured the amount and promised me by the name of God that his Company is genuine, and they have their local branch here in my town, where my niece is a clerk. Where will they go ? We will get the money without any problem, and everybody is investing… so what is the big thing here to check ?’ – is the usual reaction, if you ask the Investors at the time of making their investments, whether they have checked the credentials of the Company or the Agent !

No one checks the credentials even though all the documents can be apparently verified by a couple of mouse-clicks in this age of Internet. What surprises more is the mode of transaction ! Most of the times, the entire transaction is by cash only, without any proper receipts or deposit certificates. As long as the Investors get their returns, no one bothers (including Media and the Regulator bodies) to check the validity of the Schemes, the mode of incomes, the mode of operations, etc. Rather, Investors bring in more Investors, hoping that the company will flourish and will give more and more returns, gifts, free tours to Singapore or Switzerland, etc.

Only when the problem starts and Investors complain, the Media becomes active with their ‘24/7 breaking news‘, demands of CBI investigation starts with public strikes, dharnas, attempts of suicides, etc. With such an ignorance, greed and attitude, do you think any fool-proof solution can at all be provided to the Investors ? I doubt…

3. The Regulators

India of course has many Rules, Articles, legal Sections, Court rulings in place to handle these kind of problems. However, the implementation of such Rules is the key. As per the Government, Chit Funds are a traditional business, strongly regulated by the State Governments and Central Government, Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). If that is so, then why have so many issues cropped up, whether out of the blue or not ? There are definitely many disorganised, unregulated Companies operating right under the nose of the Regulator bodies. They mostly operate Ponzi Schemes or Chain Investment Schemes, and take deposits promising unrealistic rates of return- double return in 2.5 years, prime land or flat in a posh locality at a cheap rate.

As per an RBI study, Co-operative banks are more suitable and bankable for the poor. If that is so, tailor made Schemes should be implemented in the rural areas under the supervision of RBI, not the Ponzi Schemes. There should be a blanket ban on Schemes promising unrealistic returns. This can be done by the Regulators, and the Investors should inform the Regulators without any delay or fear, when they are approached with Ponzi Schemes or the like.

The other important point RBI, SEBI and other Institutions of the State and Centre should consider is the amount of moveable and immoveable property of the Companies operating in rural areas. If these Companies are merely collecting money and promising lands/plots or flats on the Investment, then they should have enough assets to honour those promises. Government should ensure that this provision is satisfied at all the times. But that does not happen, and most of the claims made by Saradha, Seashore, Ashore, Hi-tech, Artha Tatwa, and many others are simply a sham without any real assets. They just create an illusion, which the finance watch-dogs should have sensed in time. And now, the poor aamjunta (Investors and Agents) is suffering and repenting to the core !

The most surprising post-reaction came from West Bengal on Saradha fiasco when the CM wanted to levy more tax on Cigarettes and distribute the extra money thus raised, among the Saradha Investors. I do not observe any logic in it at all… Instead of curbing the cheat Chit Funds / Ponzi Schemes and forcing all the associated Companies to return the money to the Investors, if the authority takes a short-cut perhaps for sake of retaining or reinforcing vote-banks, then no doubt aamjunta will again suffer eventually. Vote politics does not work all the time. If Investors money is compensated in this way, then in crude terms it just means- someone (a duped Investor) is going to be paid from his own pockets and other’s also who are not involved in any way !!!!

Aamjunta…what do you say ? Planning to invest ? I strongly suggest- say no to Chit Funds unless they are properly regulated through transparent policies. In general, regarding any Scheme, be very careful and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.

Jai Hind.

Being Social or active in Social Media…..

Are you there in FB?

Ya I am there, but not active 😦 ..

Oh! you are missing the big picture there, come over, will talk….

and she cut the phone…

Disgusting…. was the obvious reaction from this side…

This was the conversation between two ladies in their 40s which I over-heard last week while I was in a shopping complex in Bangalore.

This incident reminded me of a similar story that happened with me some years back. At that time it was Orkut, and now it is FB or Facebook. The bottom line of story is the same, only the characters and the modalities are different. I am sure many of my readers and fellow aamjuntas must have faced something similar or the other.

Now a days most of us are active in social media sites like Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and so many. Adding new albums, searching old and new friends, updating status, sending messages, sharing links, and chatting over Facebook is a common practice.

With affordable Internet over mobile phones and broadband connections, nearly 80-90% users visit the social media sites in general. It is observed that the average time we spend on the Internet in general, and social media in particular is much more than the time we spend with our family and some time even more than we work !!

Moreover, most of the time we are busy in investigating or searching about others’ activity and reactions to some comment, photo update, status update, etc.,  than really bothering about our own work. Interestingly, we hardly find time or zeal to meet a friend, to do our daily exercise and to even sleep…. Sometimes it makes us so busy that mothers forget feeding their babies, students lack in time to study, office-goers forget to respond to a job schedule and some even ended up with depression and hyper-tension.

Quite surprisingly, there is also a rise in thefts, murders, rapes, harassments, etc., in cities where actual social life is almost negligible due to various factors. We put all our informations including email-ids, photos, telephone numbers, address, and present whereabouts for our friends… and that also becomes available for the anti-social elements ! This definitely compromises our security and well-being resulting in murders, thefts, rapes, blackmailing, harassments and so on…. horrific regular news headings in national dailies and in TV.

By saying all these things, I am not asking the aamjunta to stop browsing or stop visiting social media sites. It is necessary to be social and one cannot discount the importance of social media in this age. However, we need to understand the difference between being Social and active in Social Media.

Definitely the social media has some positive and negative aspects, and as the so called sab-janta users, we should evaluate critically about this, such that we can make some thing positive out of it.

Coming to a general view of social media – it has the characteristics to potentially give “voice to all”, immediate outreach, literally “24X7 – Engagement” and offers a unique opportunity of connection among the users. It has the potential to reach new and old friends across the world and to make the world smaller and smaller; a feel-good factor for the social animal – to talk/chat, to share, to learn and to showcase. 🙂 …

Coming out from the individualistic mode, social media has the potential to provide an opportunity for the Government agencies to engage with all their stakeholders including the citizens in real time and to make policies citizen-centric. Like Government agencies, Private enterprise houses /business organizations also engage social media in marketing their products/services (e.g. using the number of “Likes” to know their target audience), and NGOs/Charitable organizations use social media to educate people about their schemes such that they can reach a wider audience. Many positive aspects though…

However, there is a growing concern by the Government agencies, business organization, ethnic groups and parents on the excess use of social media. Remember that it has “viral” ability for potentially exponential spread of information by word of mouth and interlinking of the various social media platforms. It has both positive and negative impact though – the rising awareness of anti-corruption movement in India and the recent revolutions in Gulf against the dictators /rulers are some of the positive examples. Along with these, one should not forget the horrors of August-2012 in India – Twitter and Facebook messages along with bulk SMS and MMS triggering a social division and hate between North-East vs. West and South of India – in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad…

Unless the use of social media is controlled i.e. either self-controlled or monitored by an Authority, I am sure, the evil force of social media will overpower the rest. There must be a sense of responsibility and maturity that we need to exhibit while publishing any information in any such social networking sites. Wake-up calls have been notified by Government agencies (recently Govt. of India has banned Maoisit literature on Facebook), business organizations and Judiciary; in India, in Gulf and in many other parts of the world.

These days, police is keeping an eye on anti-social elements and their day-to-day activities, companies regularly check the credentials of their employees and new joiners, parents check their ward’s activities, many who are nuptial -hopefuls check most of the details of the users concerned, and many more… As reported today, Facebook also plans to call up and verify in case it suspects a user profile.

Though this kind of monitoring approach will restrict our privacy and free speech to some extent, it is of course required for a greater cause, which is subject to debate and judicial review. When there is an absolute need to check the spread of any noxious “viral” information and to maintain or restore peace and normalcy, then I certainly see a merit behind this. It is evident in most of the cases.

Aamjunta… just think over it.

Are you just social or active in this kind of social media ?

You are the best judge to think, to act, to react and to answer this crucial concern…

 

Give me 10 Votes, I’ll give you a Bike!

Jai Hind!

While watching the live telecast of our 63rd Republic Day celebration from Delhi, the background music of क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा, खुशी के गीत गाये जाये जिंदगी है क़ौम की, तू क़ौम पे लुटाये जा (Qadam Qadam baṛāē jā, khushi kē geet gāē jā… yē zīndagi haiñ qâum kī, tū qâum pē lūtāē jā) made me nostalgic and for some time, brought the mighty feeling of a soldier  of the Indian National Army (INA).  On a personal request from Netaji, Ram Singh Thakur composed this  song for the Indian National Army. Way back in 1942, when Ram Singh Takhur composed this extremely patriotic song, he never would have thought that this will make him eternal.

While marching for a free India, Netaji declared his motto “Give me blood, I will give you freedom“. That attracted many Indians to not simply participate in the freedom struggle but even sacrifice their lives for the honor of their motherland. Gone are those days….. India is a democratic republic celebrating its 63rd Republic Day today.

Over the years, many things have changed, so also our “leaders” and we “the people”. Not that all the changes are negative, there are of course many positive ones that have shaped the country. Still, I believe that many more things could have uplifted our status as a welfare state. Today, what bothers most Indians like me is “Corruption”! With the logjam in Parliament and politics over Lokpal Bill, a “corruption-free India” may not be possible in the near future.

Even if a strong Lokpal Bill is passed, corruption is no way going to die in a single day. This is because it has spread to the root of our system, our existence and our blood.  Except a few people, I would say most of us are corrupt and involved in favoritism in some way or the other. Very often, we do not have an option if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact.

Corruption during the election reaches its peak. Political parties, irrespective of their national or regional strength are involved in various forms of corruption. In most of the cases, corruption is also closely linked to crime and underworld activities. The power of MWMW (Money, Wine, Muscle power and Women) takes the centre stage. MWMW is becoming the general norm and eligibility criteria for party candidates.

Black money, country made liquors and drugs are being poured into the game from different sources. Even though the Election Commission is very strict and has put many officials as observers, there are several eye-opening cases that come to light every day. Huge amount of cash has been recovered en route to the poll-bound states. Drugs and country liquors are becoming a strong weapon to woe the voters. Recent raids in Punjab and UP led to the discovery of huge amount of drugs and liquors.

With corruption largely being a moral issue, law enforcement agencies have always found it hard to root it out through either force or preventive surveillance. Moreover, sometimes the observers and the law enforcement agents are also corrupt. But the worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a meagre cash or a bottle of wine or drugs, then whom can we blame! Neither the Election Commission, nor the Lokpal Bill can bring any solution for this.

For an example, in the recently conducted Municipal elections in Maharashtra, money took the centre stage to buy votes. Many political parties had bribed the voters a meagre sum of Rs 5,000/- per vote. Irrespective of the rich or poor, literate or illiterate, educated or  uneducated, people across the society were involved in this kind of dishonest activities. House maids, vegetable vendors, daily workers, factory workers, auto walas, school teachers, and many others including polling officials went for holidaying or picnics on election black-money. New bikes without registration were kept in petrol pumps; one could take a bike free-of-cost, just on the condition of arranging 10 votes from his/her family and/or friends. The new motto now being “Give me 10 votes, I will give you a bike” !!!!

The actual election process and the common man’s attitude is very pathetic. As long as we do not cure ourselves of this shameful attitude, no legal process or authority can prevent unethical practices like bribery, intimidation and  misuse of office and power. These huge malpractices combined with casteism, communalism and regionalism are going to ruin the election system and the fundamental structure of Indian democracy. It is going to let India’s face down as a world leader in practising true democracy and being its ambassador.

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… This is time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of MWMW but based on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morale and right knowledge. We need to do some thing unique, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!!

Jai Hind!

Humanity at the Cost of Safety and Life?

In the hot summer if some one comes to your door step and asks for some drinking water, then what will you do?

You will give water and serve! Right!, “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, That is the usual manab dharm or to say humanity.

Hold on…

Let me narrate some of the incidents first, then you can answer for yourself.

Recently, a young couple, very well-dressed, were selling papad and some house-hold things in various parts of Bhubaneswar. They visited door to door, went to some one’s house at about 12.30 pm on a working day of an early summer. They went to some one’s house and pressed the calling bell. On hearing the bell, the lady of the house came to her door to check who is there and inquired from the couple what is the matter. Like many people, she also did not show any interest in buying those products. She was a newly married lady, well dressed with a nice saree and gold ornaments. She was about to close her door, the saleswoman requested her to give some drinking water. And as a matter of humanity or manab dharm, the house-owner lady called the sales-lady to her verandah and went home for water. She did not know what eventuality was following her. The sales couple followed her, bolted the front gate without anyone’s knowledge. They simply went to the kitchen and put the lady of the house on gun-point. It was too late for the lady of the house to understand what was happening. She could not do any thing; just gave them all her ornaments, cash and other valuables. In no time her house was looted by a couple who posed as marketing agents or sells person and that too exploit the hot summer. Bringing drinking water for them on a hot summer become a nightmare for her.

This is not one isolated incident, rather one of many such frauds, loots and cheating happening in various parts of our country. There are reports, that couples book train tickets (AC/Non-AC) and travel all along from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar or from Delhi to Puri or from Delhi to Patna or from Delhi to Howrah…; on long distance trains. They just gel with their co-passengers and make sure that no one doubts their behaviour at any point of time. They talk, eat, discuss and even share many things of their life, family and various other issues. They not only exchange their residence addresses (false address) they even share their bogus telephone numbers. They pose as responsible individuals and become friendly with their co-passengers in no time.  But friendship with them becomes a costly affair for many people in that carriage. They use some chemicals or medicines and make sure that their co-passengers get deep sleep on the 2nd night (long distance trains such as Konark Express, Purusottam Express, Howrah Mail etc., usually takes 36+ hours). This helps them to loot their new-friends. They simply vanish from the train after taking some valuables, bags and belongings of their co-passengers in  the night.  No one will have even any doubt, even if one sees them alighting from the train with bags and baggage. They ensure that they get down one or two station before their last stop and choose their prey with maximum care.

Sometime it is also observed that these couples aim very high, do not loot their prey on the train. Rather, they get down decently in their chosen stop. But afterwards, they start communicating with their new friends/co-passengers. These criminals invite them for vacation parties, and visit them frequently at their homes. In a month or two through them, they create a new bond with many other families. And on one fine day, they fool everyone by winning their trust, loot them as the 1st couple did on the hot summer or in  different innovative methods.

So…

Aamjunta, now tell me…  what is your answer,  give water or not?

After going through some recent reports on News Papers and TV, one will seriously think whether to give water or not. One should seriously think his/her safety first and then manab dharm or humanity…”Atithi Devo Bhava” . Many such incidents are happening in an alarming rate in the city. Unless, we the aamjunta keep an eye on such kind of couples and activities, we ourselves will be in problem. Who knows, who is their next pray. Be very careful aamjunta. Though it is right that “all our friends were strangers“, we need to be very careful wile dealing with strangers, be it in train or market. But, that does not mean that we will misbehave them or show our arrogance. Treat them with care, but at the same time keep an eye on their activities.

Note: I personally still believe that we should follow manab dharm, but with care. Belief should be with reason and facts, not blind. And I still want to practice “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, but with due care.

Satyameva Jayate

 

Aamjunta Quotes

Here are some ” ” by Aamjunta. Hope you all enjoy them 🙂

“Divergence is the convergence at some unknown point; may be at infinity or may be at some thing different from our imagination” – aamjunta

“Agreeing to Disagree is also Agreeing” – aamjunta

“Marriage and PhD have one similarity – Commitment, even with differences” – aamjunta

“There is always a cat and mouse game between the speed of the life and the speed-breakers; but at the end of the day, no one wins and no one loses, memories just remain as the by-product of the game” – aamjunta

“All my friends were strangers” – aamjunta

“Mistakes and Perfection are like life and death; once you reach the state of perfection, you are dead.” – aamjunta

“Let Complexity be used as a Parameter for System Design, not Human Design.” – aamjunta

“The difference between clock-wise and anti-clockwise motion is like the difference between the future and the past; but the similarity is that they cannot be altered” – ammjunta

“Hmm, Ego… Remember, it starts with a Big “E” and let’s us “Go” in the wrong direction” – aamjunta

“What is right and what is wrong? It is just a perception that changes across the table” – aamjunta

“Life is not digital, it is analogue only. But, one should avoid analogue (fuzzy) decisions in life”. – aamjunta

Beer bar, Liquor Shop and Aamjunta

Are yaar, chalo… yahan so jate hain,
Haan, achhi jagah hai… kyon hostel jayenge? yahan hi so jaate hain..

This was the post job treat conversation between two students. They fell from their cycle on their way to hostel from the main gate, after taking a heavy dinner and nice cock-tail in a reputed beer bar. Interestingly, we were also in the same job treat and were on our way walking to hostel too. When we saw them lying flat on the road, we could not believe our eyes. But, what to do? We put them into an auto-rickshaw and brought them to hostel. Before bringing them back, we picked and kept their cycle (badly damaged) near a tree.

This is just one among many incidents, which can be observed in our every-day life. Some times, the drunk-policeman on the road, or some time the drunk workers or rickshaw-wallah on the road, or some time the drunk officer in the office. It is observed everywhere, irrespective of place and culture.

A friend of mine went for a high profile international research workshop. He is a non-drinker and a vegetarian. Some of his course-mates who were members of faculty in different universities, teased him that he is not an “intellectual” because he doesn’t share a drink. The friend replied them in return that he doesn’t mind people drinking in front of him, even though he doesn’t drink himself. He added what had “intellectualism” to do with drinking or not drinking. The other group replied that an intellectual breaks stereotypes and societal norms by drinking. In fact, we get cool ideas and inspiration after a drink. Moreover, you may not gain entry into high profile circles if you do not share a drink — you would not be called an intellectual.

My friend was listening carefully and smiled a bit, listening to their statement. After a pause, he replied, “so an intellectual is a radical who deviates from societal norms and establishes himself as a revolutionary?” Everyone nodded. He then continued, “by drinking an intellectual gets entry into certain exclusive circles? also breaks norms“? People looked at him intently.

He continued, “precisely that is the reason why I don’t drink. Not for religious or political causes. I don’t drink because I want to break this new norm that has been established by intellectual community. By breaking tradition through drinking you are also creating new tradition of drinking. I refuse to be a part of any. My intellectualism (if that is what it means) is not to follow any tradition, and I refuse to follow ‘the intellectual tradition’. If getting drunk defines intellectualism, then I refuse to be called an intellectual.”

In an another incident, I could not believe my eyes, when I saw people making fun of a drunk bank officer in a reputed nationalized bank. Some of the customers were getting irritated and some were enjoying the free entertainment, where his colleagues were standing helpless. Finally, the branch manager had to intervene, and the officer was cordoned-off to some room in the bank. What an embarrassing scene!

If you follow newspapers or TV channels regularly, you can definitely mark/find regular news on drunken-driving, drunken-beating (wife/parents or both), feeding month’s salary (currency notes) in drunk state to Bulls/Cow or rapes/killing under the influence of heavy drinking. These kind of incidents are of course not new to us. It happens in our society, mostly in cities (villages are not far-off though). Drinking or serving drinks in parties/treats (irrespective of high/low profile parties) is not new. In fact, it is considered to be a status symbol in our society.

Beer-bars/dance bars (including ladies bars) are mushrooming, both in metros and in other cities. If the bars are just serving liquor or dance, then the harm to the society is not much. However, that does not happen in real life. Beer-bars/dance bars are becoming the hubs of all anti-social activities, starting from terrorist activities to eve-teasing, hooliganism to drug peddling, under-world activities to supari killing activities and also to violent moral policing. Does that serve the society in a healthy manner? I doubt!

Writing incidents about cities is nether sufficient nor complete to discuss these issues. Now a days, one can find many liquor shops in small cities and even in Panchayat Headquarters. You can find all brands (including deshi and videshi) of liquors there. Not only liquors, one can find other brands of Ganja/Charas there. Some of these shops are licensed while some are not. As long as they are paying haftas to the local leaders/gundas and Police, no one can stop them from doing their business. They prosper, even if they spend a lot on bribing various organizations/individuals.

On a different note. Last week, I was in Puri Swargadvara (literally Heaven’s Gate) to attend a funeral there. There is a liquor shop adjacent to the cremation ground “Swarga Dwar“. The proximity of the liquor shop to the funeral grounds was so close that one could smell the fumes of human cremation while one drank. Every one coming to the cremation ground asked one question, what is the “Foreign Liquor Shop” doing here? I too could not understand how come the shop keeper got the license there? Mostly I was thinking, “who is buying here”? at this locality? near the cremation ground!” Suddenly, two college girls (hardly in their early 20s) got down from a cycle rickshaw, went to the shop and bought 4 bottles of different brand. In no time they just vanished. After some time, couple of people came there, bought some bottles of wines and started making lewd comments on the ladies attending the funeral. I am still wondering, whether allowing to open the shop at that place is appropriate or not. It is definitely a subject for larger debate

If we (many of us, including the Govt.) understand the bad-effects of these kind of shops/bars or activities, then why do we allow these shops/bars to mushroom? This is a major problem in the south Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Trivendrum, etc., where one can find liquor shops in every 20/30 meters… and that too most of the times open 24/7. Why? Is it because, the Govt. gets huge tax or revenue? or is it because these shop keepers or bar owners are influential or do we really need them? Many of us drink, some are occasional and some are regular. Some can afford, whereas many cannot; resulting in regular disturbances, fights, suicides, killings, rapes, eve teasing and stealing, etc. For some of us it is a status symbol, for some of us it is a fight between life and death, for some of us it might be a medicine…

And for the aamjunta …. let aamjunta decides what is good and what is bad; we all are independent in thinking, life style and expressing our views 🙂

Note: The incidents described are inspired from real-life stories. Neither I support drinking, nor I object. But, I am strongly against the ill-effects of drinking.

Truth – a Rare Commodity

Recently I shifted from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar. For me, shifting to Bhubaneswar was not only a shift involving cities; it was also a shift from my hostel life to a realistic family life, a paradigm shift in thinking and looking at the world. It is a shifting from an ideal place to a practical place. I did not know that the realities of the practical world were so scary. Anyway, thought of penning some of my experiences through this post.

The incidents I’ve been experiencing here at Bhubaneswar are unique and eye opening in many ways. Some of these experiences which I’m going through are the repetitions of my earlier experiences in Delhi and Chennai. Though, the experiences are very personal, but are common with many of us. I’m sure you must have experienced some thing or the other in your life or will be experiencing in future.

Internet Connection

Living without an Internet connection at home was the toughest part of my life. I decided to get an Internet connection to my place —  inquired with other friends those are having Internet connections at their home, here at Bhubaneswar. I was advised by most of them to take BSNL’s broadband connection. Without delay, I booked a BSNL’s unlimited Broadband connection. I paid the advance amount and submitted all the forms to the designated officer in time. I was told by the Officer that I should get the connection in a couple of days. But that did not happen.

When I inquired after a week, I was told by the officer in-charge that Internet connection will be provided to my place in a day’s time. I took his assurance seriously and called all my friends and relatives to share this piece of good news. But, his assurance did not materialize. After a day or two, when I met the same officer again, I was told that every thing is Ok now and I should get the connection by the end of the day. I was little thrilled this time, but that too was short-lived.

The end of the day is yet to come and I’m yet to get a connection after submitting the form and paying the Internet rent some twenty days before.

I complained again with the SDO, BSNL, I was again given the same false assurance. Interestingly, they themselves keep on telling me that “it will be connected today, tomorrow and so on”. False assurance is a part and parcel of their services. No one told me the truth and reason behind the delay.

House Rent

The difficulties in getting a house on rent in a small or big city have its own unique stories. Especially, getting a house on rent for a bachelor is a tough problem. The experience I am sharing with you is an addition to the list of those stories.

It was 7.20am, Friday, 24th July, 2009. I, my brother and my sister-in-law went to deposit advance for the new rented house for me, which my sister-in-law had booked on 23rd July evening. We were excited, thrilled and quite relaxed.  On our arrival, we were told that some one else had given the advance last night after my sister-in-law left and had already taken the house on rent. We felt really bad. Even, we had some unnecessary arguments and discussions in our house for the reason for the delay. Even though the house owner told us that we were late in coming to take possession of the house, I was not convinced fully. I had a doubt, as he was fumbling while talking to us.  In the evening, I was told by some one else that the house has still not been given on rent. The house owner lied to us in the morning.  He had become greedy and wanted more money for his house. Moreover, he wanted a Govt. Officer and a family man, not an employee of a private firm and a bachelor as his tenant. I could not understand his philosophy. If that was in his mind, he could have told us the truth, or else he could have given us some other appropriate reason. His lie (that we were late) unnecessarily sparked an argument and created an unpleasant scenario in our house. I do not understand one thing — “is  truth such a costly affair”?

The Travel Agent

Since I did not have the Internet connection, I could not book one on-line train ticket for my urgent travel. The booking counters were too far from my place. Therefore, I approached a Travel Agent to book a train ticket for me. I gave him the advance money and gave all the details to him. After taking the money and the details, he assured me for the ticket. He even went to the extent and asked me to meet him near the platform directly to collect the ticket and board the train. I was excited and made all my arrangements for the travel.

Got ready for the journey,  called the agent one hour before the train starts to know the status of the ticket.  He again assured me about the ticket. As per his suggestion, I reached the station 20 minutes before. I was waiting there for the ticket.  He again assured me about the ticket over phone. But, he never turned up. Moreover, he did not pick my calls afterward. The train left the platform as scheduled and I came back home with anger and frustration.  Two hours after the train had left, he called me and said —  “Sir, your ticket is now ready, and you can travel tomorrow. We did not get the ticket for today’s train, we are sorry for that, but we have booked your ticket for tomorrow’s train”.

Initially I did not believe him, but had no other option left. On my further inquiry he gave me the berth/coach number. This time, I thought he is telling the truth and re-planned the travel. Next day again I called him before I left for the train. He asked me to reach the coach and collect the ticket there from his person. I was waiting there with hope. But the person did not come. When I went near the coach to verify the details which he gave me last night, I could not believe my eyes. That berth was booked on someone else’ s name. In addition, he had sold the ticket to some other person instead of giving me that ticket. Fortunately, the person who bought the ticket was one of my acquaintances. On my casual enquiry, he told me that he got the ticket after paying some Rs. 400/- extra. I could not believe this, the trick, the unprofessionalism and the unethical practices. Immediately I called the agent and asked him not to book any more ticket for me and asked him to return my money. He was keeping on telling me, sorry sir, aap ka ticket kaal wali train me kar diya gaya (we have booked your ticket for tomorrow’s train), aap kaal jaiye, wo galti ho gaya…blah blah… and was not ready to accept his  deeds. What a shame! What kind of ethics  are we into?

I booked my ticket after standing in the queue for 3 hours and promised not to approach a travel agent hence forth.

Centre for Excellence and Excellent Facility

Some days back I visited a college after I saw an advertisement in a national daily. In fact, there were several advertisements by the same college in the local TV channels too. As per the advertisement, they were claiming that they have excellent facilities for research, they have best faculties and they have strong collaborations with many foreign universities. I was excited, when I came to know about all these things in the advertisement. I decided to visit them. But, I regretted when I reached there. Regretted, because, I had lost 6 hours and some Rs 400/- to visit that college. Interestingly, they did not have any facilities for research, neither they had buildings, nor they had infrastructures. They did not have a single trained faculty. What they were claiming on quality faculty was completely false. The names they were showing are all well established faculties in USA and have never been to that place. They have a dial-up connection for Internet and their library is even smaller than my private collection. They were just fooling  people through their advertisements. I got irritated in the beginning. On a casual interaction with the trustees, I pointed out the lacunae of their claims. I thought they will take my comments seriously. Unfortunately, they smiled at me, and said, “That was an advertisement, to attract students and their parents, the list of faculties you saw in the college web-site are for the AICTE and for our future students, not for you. We are not alone in this business. Almost all  are doing the same.”

What to say? Did not have any more words.

Is the 63rd Independence year still not enough to teach us to mature in terms of our work ethics, professionalism and culture? What development are we talking of without ethics at the grass-root level? Interestingly, in “India” aamjunta is also immune to these cheats and doesnot even react.There are many more such incidents, happens with me and with you aamjuta. Everyday we see these kinds of false assurances, unethical advertisements and promises.   Don’t take those seriously.  Stick to the truth and practice truth. Else, truth, which is becoming a rare commodity, will be extinct one day.

Aamjunta – Satyameva Jayate.

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