Memoirs of Indian Dhabas

Period: 1970s-1990s.


Travelling in a car or jeep on Bhubaneshwar-Mayurbhanj-Kolkata NH during the rainy season, lunch or dinner at an original Dhaba was a wonderful treat then; especially, the home-bound journeys after completion of an enterprise.

Sitting on the blue /green /yellow wooden benches or charpoys under halogen or oil lamp lit thatched roofs, the whole family would chat and relish the mouth-watering, steaming-hot dishes on big steel thaalis or freshly cut, green banana leaves :

typical Dhaba meals, various Kebabs, Tandoori Roti, Daal Tadka, Paneer Tikka, Gobi Manchurian, Rajma Masala, Tandoori Murg, Egg Bhurji, Chingri Malaikari (Prawns-in-Coconut Milk gravy), Mutton Kasa, Murg Makhani, Lassi, etc.


(Oh God, help me… I am so much drooling !!) 🙂

While watching the promising rains, the shrines of several Faiths beside meandering rivers, the green fields swaying in the drizzles, the farmers working in a row wearing their jute hats, the local vendors selling colourful wares, the movie posters glued onto poles, variegated art themes painted on the walls of the Dhabas, the twinkling mini-bulbs strung in pretty designs…



And the decorative trucks that sometimes squeak-braked on slippery roads and had boldly labelled all over its robust frame, either wishful or funny or spiritual messages in different Indian languages- awaaz karo, burey nazar waale tera mnuh kaala, bye bye dost, abaar dekha hobe, jaldi baata chadda, ikkada nuvu, nenu miru chudaleru, surakhiata rahina, ram-allah ek hain, sai ram-sai shyam-sai bhagvaan, jai hanuman, hum tum bhai bhai, hum se duur raho, meri himmat teri kismat, badda bhai tej chalega naraz mat hona chhotu, etc. 🙂


Amidst the cat and kittens mewing, and the puppy wagging its tail hard – all, for a bone ! 🙂

Grand-parents or uncles would sometimes lend their ears to an interesting tale or two of the then Chhotus (the young, resourceful and jolly Helps at the Dhabas) . Down the line, a re-narration of it to the children (us) meant so much of revelation of life’s unknown joys and sorrows…

Gradually, the meals would end with a flavoured Paan, that was always claimed to be the famous Banarasi brand :-). And then the remaining journey would begin against the background of quite a setting Sun, with the music of a Bollywood number as selected by the high-spirited Driver 🙂 of the unfailing white Ambassador or the bouncy red Gypsy (vehicle models).


On some trips, neither the windscreen wipers stopped nor did the music until we halted at a roadside gumti (small stall), usually under a banyan or mango tree, for a “special Chaa /Chaaha” (Tea) or to buy farm-fresh vegetables.


And if we happened to meet close friends travelling on the same route, it would transform to a great merry-making. At times, even seats in the vehicles also had to be exchanged since the heart-to-heart conversations never paused and the game of cards never wrapped up… 🙂

Once we reached the gates, the faithful Watchman would briskly unlock the doors and the House-Keeping staff at the bungalow would cordially greet us. Combined with a warm shower, all the tiredness of the journey seemed to fade away into the veil of the night and next morning, we would be freshened as the shiny drops of rain trickling down the velvety leaves.

Those were such utterly charmful days…

A Home-made Recipe of Cereals and Nuts

Since ages, we know that many cereals-and-nuts based food items are prepared in Indian villages and towns, and some are carried in containers for months together by native pilgrims.

Here’s one such recipe slightly modified (I would rather say upgraded) by my diligent mother-in-law, especially with the aim to control sugar-levels and check obesity. During her stays in the village, it also grants her good space and time from preparing a routine breakfast when she has to rather hurry for a special occasion of Pooja during the morning hours. 🙂

This recipe is designed to be easily stored and carried even during long-distance journeys. Having learnt the art from her, I now definitely prepare this food-pack for my husband on his tours abroad because it makes life easy for a hard-core vegetarian like him ! And of course, sometimes I manage to find a bearer to send these packs for both our families who prefer to reside at our respective native places, near the realm of Nature.

Here now, I bring to you this blissful recipe…


For sake of convenience, I have referred the measure of cups. You can scale up the required quantity in the same proportion of these ingredients or adjust as you like it.

1.  Oats (replacing rice grains or puffed-rice or flattened-rice) – 2 cups
2.  Broken Wheat – 1 cup
3.  Soya Granules – 1 cup
4.  Cornflakes (normal variety) – as preferred
5.  Almonds – as preferred
6.  Raisins – as preferred
7.  Aniseed – as preferred
8.  Cardamom – as preferred
9.  Cloves – as preferred
10. Black Pepper – as preferred
11. Salt – a pinch


1. Take a deep non-stick pan; it should allow you enough room to stir properly. Dry-roast the Oats, Broken Wheat, Soya Granules and Almonds separately in the pan over low-heat. It must be adequately roasted (brownish) and emit the ‘dry-roasting’ flavour. Stir each ingredient continuously during this step so that all the grains or Almonds get a uniform heat and are not charred.

2. Allow the three dry-roasted cereals and Almonds to cool.

3. This step is attached only with the Wheat. Take small amounts of the roasted quantity and grind it to a slightly powdery texture such that it blends well when it is served with hot Milk or Water. This part of processing will require some further efforts –  each time you will need to extract the desired form from the grinder by using a hand-sieve, put back the coarse part in the grinder, add some more fresh Broken Wheat and then repeat the process. You need to do this till you obtain a consistent texture for all of this dry-roasted Wheat. At the end, you shall get the 1-2 tbsp coarse Wheat grains left; you may store it for making Wheat Porridge later on.

4. Mix this hand-sieved slightly powdery Wheat part with all the remaining ingredients. Aniseed (slightly fried or raw), Cardamom, Cloves and Black Pepper may be mixed as is or coarsely crushed. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture.

Its done.

Store it in an air-tight container. You can roughly estimate the expiry date of the whole mixture as the expiry date of its constituent ingredient that expires the earliest ! (So you should choose the ingredients such that they all have nearly the same expiry date.) Once you get it, do label the date on the container.


Whenever you desire to eat, take hot Water or Milk in a bowl and mix the required amount of the mixture in it. Depending on your health conditions, you may have it simply that way or further season it with Fruits, dried-Dates, Sugar, Honey, Syrup, Jaggery, Sugar-free tablets, Ragi or Oats sugar-free biscuits, etc.

My father likes it as a snack with typical Indian Tea; so he sprinkles some crunchy salt items (like Haldiram‘s) in the mixture. 🙂

Aamjunta, do try this healthy recipe and let us know your feedback.

The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Special Category Status of Indian States – Recent Developments

This is a topic on and off the Indian political radar, now particularly as the General Elections are scheduled in the summer of 2014.

Currently, India has 11 ‘special category’ status states. They are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It is usually given to states which have distinct features like international boundaries, hilly terrains, special environmental issues, different socio-economic patterns and where infrastructural investments or public services are very difficult to be implemented. And most of these states bear a large tribal or economically backward population.

The country’s apex decision making body National Development Council headed by the Prime Minister and all the Chief Ministers and Union Cabinet Ministers on board, is the competent authority to grant ‘special category’ status to a state based on a set of criteria as per the Gadgil formula. This formula was evolved in 1969 by Dr. D. R. Gadgil, the social scientist and first critic of the Indian Planning Commission. Since then, the formula has been applied, modified and re-applied because of various reasons (statistical or changing social indicators, political, financial, etc.) and in various ways.

The states which enjoy the ‘special category’ status are given 90 per cent grant as assistance for externally aided projects. For the general category states, there is usually no grant and resources flow to states as back-to-back loans.

In March-2013, Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had remarked “Whoever empathises with and helps backward states will come to power in Delhi“. In May-2013, the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that a high-level sub-committee would be constituted under the then Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India, Raghuram Rajan (now the Governor of Reserve Bank of India) in order to determine the criteria of backwardness of a state. Further, Mr. Chidambaram added “… going by whatever information that I have, Bihar will certainly qualify under the new criteria”. Assuming that the Minister rightfully pre-possessed some good data about Centre’s likely financial assistance, tax-waivers and performance-linked-incentives, I believe it were apt if the statement was made by him with certainty but only after the criteria of backwardness was re-defined. Otherwise, the statement still leaves behind a gap that may rather mean that the criteria be re-set so as to accommodate Bihar in the ‘special category’ status !

Anyhow, this gesture by the Congress-led UPA Government was interpreted as a sign of wooing Mr. Nitish Kumar away from his alliance with the Opposition party, BJP and gaining his party, the JD(U)’s support. From the aamjunta, there was hardly any amount of noticeable discussion on this deal just focussing on Bihar’s genuine needs.

In August-2013, the expert committee under Mr. Raghuram Rajan identified 10 parameters for a new Composite Development Index for the allocation of Central funds to backward states. The new index considers the rating of states on the basis of their distance from the national average on parameters including poverty rate, consumption, education, health, female literacy, urbanization, household amenities, connectivity, financial inclusion and share of SCs/STs (Scheduled Castes /Scheduled Tribes) in total population. Some states like Bihar have also insisted on the inclusion of per capita energy consumption as a measure of development. Overall, if this new index rates Bihar as a backward state, then it will definitely do the same for Odisha and few other states as well.

It has been reported that ‘while Bihar was given Rs 12,500 crore as part of a special development plan, Odisha’s eight Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) districts, more backward than many of Bihar’s districts, should have received an allocation in the same proportion’. As the discussions and rallies were being held by various groups seeking the ‘special category’ status for Odisha, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia cited the state’s stable finances and “sound indicators of fiscal deficit, outstanding liabilities and interest payments” as reasons for non-consideration !!

Being born and brought up in Odisha, I can vouch that while the state is rich in many natural resources and abounds in several industrial potentialities, it is economically backward due to meagre or non-sustained patronage from New Delhi. Odisha dramatically boosts the national treasury through trade in various minerals and industries namely coal, iron-ore, bauxite, manganese, power, steel, railways, shipping, commercial ports, fishery, agriculture, art, craft and tourism. One of the most significant DRDOs of the country – testing of missiles, is based in this state only.

There are at least 32 primitive tribal groups (the state has 22.8% tribal population, higher than the 8.6% national average) and according to the Planning Commission, about 155 lakh people in the state are suffering from acute poverty. The literacy rate is low and infant mortality rate high. Health and sanitation issues have just started getting mobilized towards a better future. Only then, would come the next arduous task of strengthening the education sector.

It is a fact that Odisha does not have an international border but some analysts are of the opinion that the 480 km coastal line can be treated as a substitute. This gets pronounced considering massive environmental factors like the Paradip cyclone, 1999 and the recent Phailin cyclone, 2013 hitting the state from across the vast Bay of Bengal, the waters of which are known to whirl some of the most dreadful tropical storms and cyclones ! This coastal line, if not guarded properly, is also vulnerable to illegal trades and anti-social activities, including infiltration.

Though the present BJD government led by Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Pattnaik has taken good measures towards developing some areas of the state, much of the state funds are spent either in administration or repayment of huge Central loans; therefore, it is not adequate in helping all the economically affected people and developing remote areas. Inadequate solutions and non-uniform development of a region, both are largely detrimental to the inclusive concept of growth. A sustained development model, as also envisaged by world-bodies, can gradually come into the picture only at a later stage.

The demand for ‘special category’ status for Odisha was first raised in 1979, but successive governments at the Centre have not paid heed. On one occasion, Mr. Naveen Patnaik has led a 30-member delegation comprising Odisha ministers, BJD MPs and MLAs to President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. They have submitted a memorandum and one crore signatures collected from the state voicing their concerns and demands. But any noticeable step is yet to be taken by the Central government.

Last week, the state of Seemandhra (earlier part of high-ranked Andhra Pradesh) has been granted ‘special category’ status by the Centre, as quickly as it was curved out. Whereas states like Odisha and Bihar, whose demands have been far more justifiable and long-standing, still continue to be ignored. These type of callous decisions quite seem to be linked to political bias, appeasement tactics and ploys for vote-banks. Ultimately, the citizens suffer ! One better ranked region steadily rises up the development ladder; whereas other regions, in actual needs, may still continue to falter, under-perform and remain almost stagnant for years. This undoubtedly leads to  undesirable issues of inter-state migration or over-populated urban areas where people from low-ranked states flock in search of employment and social upliftment !! Thus, it is negatively cumulative in effect.

So, when is any Central government going to think cogently and channelize the available resources in a proper direction for the long-neglected states ? In fact, not only should it provide the necessary financial grants to economically backward states but also assist them with proper and timely guidance through various advisory bodies or committees working successfully in various parts of the country. This shall expedite development in these low-ranked states and be one of the ways to compensate faster for all the years of neglected work. No Central Government should ever make the blunder of political discrimination (for vote-banks, rivalry, etc.) among states because that will create a huge social mess in the long run !

Aamjunta – What do you say ?

Similar article by aamjunta – Odisha Assam mein hai na!

Better Late than Never

It was 4.25 pm, 19th December 2008. I alighted from a Kalyan bound local train at the Kanjurmarg station and went to the newspaper shop at the platform and bought a magazine. In the meanwhile the next train towards Kalyan came and stopped at the platform. As usual, I was contemplating of jumping on the track to cross the railway line (am just one among many aamjunta who think of taking a short-cut) after the train leaves in stead of taking the flyover. Was just waiting for this train to leave after which would have taken the short-cut. I was also a bit absent minded and was doing multiple things at a time as usual– calling someone over phone, fidgeting with my magazine and gazing at the waiting train at the platform.

A moment later I heard a huge shriek and a loud commotion. Before could realize anything or take note of the circumstance, saw a person’s lower half of the body including his legs getting pulled into the track by the huge, monstrous iron wheels of the running train! This extraordinary scene was going on just around twenty feet away from where I was standing. Without a seconds delay I ran with whatever force could gather and pulled out that person with all my might. Many people had gathered around to watch the scene by that time. Fortunately, he was saved but a bit injured. However, he was frightened beyond comprehension and so was I.

People came running to us and tried to console him. Some patted him on his back and some thanked his stars to have protected him. He was so shaken that was shivering from head to toe. I supported him physically to the nearest platform bench and took a bottle of water out of my bag. I never usually carry a water bottle; it was rare that day to have one with me. Interestingly, I had not even opened that bottle yet. The gentleman took the bottle gratefully, drank some water from it and washed his face.

He was probably in his early fifties, short in height and slight of build. He said that he lives in Thane and is a teacher in a school in Powai. He travels back home usually by the train which just left and which he was trying to board. Even though he was not in a hurry and the train was not that crowded, he tried to catch the running train, and that had already started and picked up speed. His calculation was wrong, lost control and balance and fell down to be almost pulled into the tracks. It was only a matter of few seconds between life and death….

That was an accident and unwittingly suicidal. He could have avoided that incident with a little more restraint. Anyway, sometimes this happens with many of us. Without realizing the consequences we take some wrong steps either to board running trains, buses or cross roads or drive fast and every time look for some short-cut. Everyone wants to go fast, reach fast and achieve fast – fast, fast, fast. But, fast should not mean that we are so fast that it becomes fatal. I was drawing my own lessons from the incident that I will never try to cross the tracks just to save a few minutes.

The gentleman after being a little stable thanked me profusely and said in Hindi koi jivan lene mein tulla hua hai aur koi bachane mein. Na mein usko pehchanta hoon na mein isko jaanta hoon” (“someone is bent upon taking lives and someone is dedicated to save lives. I do not know either of them”). His statement reminded me of the terror-attacks – some had come to kill us and some died in the wake to save us.

Anyway, that is called life and death, beyond our calculation and beyond any short-cuts.

Aamjunta take care of yourselves…Better late than never!

On Everest alpinists and the Sherpas’ recent scuffle

I have been reading some news and interviews of famous alpinists who were involved in the recent scuffle with Sherpas while climbing Mt.Everest. The focus is on the ‘Sherpa-climber social contract’ (given the commercialization of Mt.Everest) and the ‘culture of the Sherpas’.

Reporters say that the climbers’ reasons to step on this greatest Himalayan expedition are manifold: escaping the commotion of daily routine, finding fun, getting a sense of personal achievement, understanding spirituality, accepting Nature’s challenge or even merely wanting a ‘bullet point on their resumes’. And undoubtedly, the climbers can very well afford to foot their bills. But the Sherpas’ only motivation to leave their families behind and take such huge risks numerous times in the climbing season is: to earn a livelihood ! The Sherpas whose generations have been born and brought up along one of the world’s harshest mountainous terrain definitely know the topography and the weather best. Moreover, there is the religious or cultural factor which, whether big or small, ought to be respected. Over the years, the expeditionists and the Sherpas have developed a mutual understanding, a synergy to work their way out to the once seemingly insurmountable summit. It is a multi-dimensional relation between spirituality, resourcefulness, guts, grit and technology. So, it is something beyond just ‘manpower for the sahibs, money for the Sherpas‘.

In the recent episode, the scuffle was related to an incident of rope-fixing. First of all, the fixation of rope (route) to trek the mountain or reach the summit is in itself a dangerous or intensely stressful job. This is usually done by the Sherpas as per commercial rules of mountaineering in Nepal. With regard to their extremely hard-earned job and culture, in my opinion, I believe NO ultra-modern technology or climbers’ experiences should interfere when they are doing this particular task and/or when any help is NOT solicited. Secondly, all climbers and teams even of Sherpas must ideally abide by the instructions of the “Leader” as the situation demands. This must be done unquestionably at that moment. An interference (including a passive example of not abiding) may be justified only when there is an imminent danger- either side ! Speaking on professional grounds, any interference or non co-operation whether made wilfully or non-chalantly, can easily distract their attention, thus endangering lives both of the Sherpas fixing the ropes as well as of those who are about to climb along it !!

Therefore, irrespective of the expertise and number of expeditions led by an alpinist, it is definitely wise to respect the job and customs of Sherpas, especially at that altitude where so much co-ordination and co-operation is required. By such observation, one’s mountaineering skills do not get undermined. Let only professionalism and good cheer prevail, whether to maintain discipline or vis-a-vis religious beliefs of the Sherpas. After all, the Sherpas are there to guide, help, provide resources and warn or protect mountain climbers against possible natural disasters in such a treacherous region. Technology, yet does/may not predict everything or each time ! Mt.Everest is their pride based on both social and technical reasons… Without foreigners, Sherpas m-a-y find a different work tomorrow (as many have already opted as doctors, airline pilots, scientists, other professionals) but surely without the Sherpas, no one can climb Mt.Everest with the same wonderful charm.

What do you say, aamjunta ?

Open Letter to Aamjunta

My name is Kurian Varughese. I am an IT professional – working for TCS in Bangalore (Whitefield). I reside at Munekolala ( Green Garden Layout – close to Kundanahalli Gate).

I was on my way to board a BMTC volvo bus on April 2nd-at 7:40am when my cell phone – Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (costing Rs 38,500) was stolen while I was boarding the bus. As soon as I got into the bus I requested the conductor to stop and check if my phone is around. I dialled my number from a passengers phone and it was ringing. Someone picked up the phone and when I told them that I will come to where they are standing and pick up the phone. That person said OK and immediately cut the call – and also switched it off. I tried recalling several times but the phone was switched off.

I feel it is a professional racket operating in this area – as when I went to report this incident at the Whitefield Police Station – they said that it is not the first time that such a thing has been reported. They also did not allow me to register an FIR saying that the side of the road from where i boarded the bus it comes under the purview of HAL Police Station. When I went to the Vodafone Store next to Graphite India junction – they said that on April 2nd – they had received more than 6 such requests for duplicate SIM card.

When I went to HAL police station – they also did not allow me to register an FIR – instead asked me to change the wording of my complaint letter – from stolen – to lost mobile phone. The police officer gave an acknowledgement receipt – but NO FIR. He said that this acknowledgement should be enough.

In the complaint letter – I have stated the IMEI number 354666056537152 and also my SIM number 9886839373 – The police officer made me change the content of the letter – from saying that the phone is stolen – to the phone is lost. I believe this is because he did not want me to file an FIR.

He gave an acknowledgement slip and when I was about to leave – he asked if I was leaving just like that? I knew that he wanted a bribe – I had to pay him Rs 300.

I feel it is not right and that I don’t have to pay any money to get my complaint filed and to request for an FIR.

I seek your help to bring justice and to help track down my phone using the IMEI number that i shared.

It is very disturbing to know that so many such instances are taking place and nothing is being done about it by the Police. Look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

We the People

Oh my God, it is 4.30 am, have to wake up and get ready. Anyhow, I have to catch the Bus at Kalpana Square at 5.30 am, then only I can come back by 9.00 am or at max 10.00 am.

These are some of the thoughts, my mind was debating with, when I woke up to my body clock on an ordinary Sunday morning. Of course, I could manage to get ready by 5.15 am. Wearing a white Kurta,  a pair of Trousers and a pair or Sandals, I hurriedly started. Being at the eastern part of India, and that too in summer, the sky was almost clear by 5.00 am. So, did not have any other problem. Roads were bit busy with morning walks and exercises. Good to see people are bit health conscious and the number is increasing day by day (could guess from my previous experiences). Not only people, animals like stray dogs, cows were also enjoying their morning in groups 🙂

Anyway, I was walking through the roads, but was not in a mood to waste time in walking as I was getting late for my main trip. Looking for an auto-rickshaw, in a mood to reserve that (in Bhubaneswar, one can get share auto as well as reserved auto). Though I still do not have good experiences with reserved auto walas in Bhubaneswar, I was looking for that. In-fact, got hold of some one; but decided not to go with him as his charges were almost double than the usual rates, charging Rs. 50/- for a usual price of Rs. 20-25/-. May be he was in a mood to exploit the morning time and the customer or may be he was not in a mood to go. Anyway, decided not to take that and continued walking. Thank God, I got a shared auto and reached Kalpana Square at a price of Rs. 5/-.

By the time I reached Kalpana Square, it was 5.30 am. Place was bit crowded, looks like there were no Buses for the last 30 minutes or so. Over-heard some one talking that most of the Buses are reserved for marriages on that day, not sure though! After a waiting of 30 minutes, saw a mini-bus coming. It was a bit crowded (over crowded for some 🙂 ) at that time. Was in a dilemma, whether to take that Bus or not. When I looked at the Conductor of that Bus with anticipation, he simply told me, “upar chhadh jao…“, what? I asked him… He explained me that there is no seat, not even any place to stand in the bus, so, if you want to go, then go and sit on the roof top of the Bus, where usually luggage and other things were kept. I could not imagine….. I did not venture, but 5/6 people in-fact went up and sat there. What a pity! Is this kind of travelling secure? If not, then are we crazy? When I told those people not to sit there, they simply laughed at me and said.. “chalta hai”. I seriously object to this kind of chalta hai attitude. People should not be allowed to travel like this. It is un-safe. Remember… “Better late than Never”.

No one other than me objected, not even the police man standing there.

Somehow, I managed to get another crowded bus and reached Puri by 7.30 am. The conductor of that Bus was an interesting person. No reactions to people’s anger, shout and galis… Just pushing more and more passangers to the bus, like throwing Goats or Sheeps in to a truck. No other way! Have to suffer like this, if some one wants to go by public travel, in an Aamjunta way. I wonder, are we not responsible for this kind of problem? The population growth is alarming! So also the rise in living standard. But what about the basic infrastructure? Are we adding to it in proportionate! No, it is not. Then!….

After reaching Puri, as usual, I took a cycle rickshaw from the Bus Stand to the Jagannath Temple. I prefer cycle rickshaw at Puri; though in general advocate machine with a humanitarian view. In Puri, I find it more traditional and still a need of many. Anyway, after keeping my sandals and mobile phone at the “Shoe Stand” I started walking towards the temple. Special security guards were there, but they were busy gossiping with each other, no one even asked me whether I have kept my mobile phone out side or not, forget about checking for explosives and other such things. The security checking is very casual there. In such scenario, both the devotees and the security system should cooperate. In-fact, the devotes should demand. They have to remember, that ultimately it is their security, which can be paralyzed by the miscreants!

But, what made me more worried is the way the police was acting inside the temple. They are just powerless in the temple, either busy with talking to the Pujakas or enforcing line where it is not required or sending their own people in the line whenever they want. After all they only can break all rules and all lines. Moreover, when I was on the line for a ticket (for a special darshan) inside the temple, I could sense that some are jointly looting people with some Pujakas. When a gentle man objected, one of them shouted, “tum bengali log… talking always about lines and rules“. I was stunned! What kind of statement is this? Are we approaching for a regionalism in temples also? Fortunately, at least 6/7 people (most of them were Odias and couple of them were Tamils) objected to that statement and reacted jointly. I too protested to that statement. Anyway, some times the Aamjunta wins, and finally the police man and the Pujaka left that place. The unity in diversity is still there! Thats the great about India 🙂

While I was on the line, I was approached by some touts/agents, who were having tickets with them and were selling at a double price. There business was open secreat. Injustice, corruption at the place of worship and at the place of justic!. What a shame! One will wonder, it is not only at the temples, it is at some darghas and at other religious places also. Religion does not have any relation to this kind of practices.

I had nice time inside the temple. During the darshan, the Pujaka denied to give a tulsi leaf, unless I give him at least Rs. 20/-. I did not say any thing, not in a mood to give him any thing other than what was justified, just took some tulsi leaves from brass plate he was keeping there and left. While leaving, told him… “that was not yours, that was lords’ 🙂” with a smile.

After the Darshan, I went to give some donations to the temple trust. Though, there were people who have already donated on that day, I could not see the volume in proportion to the number of devotees coming to the temple. I still believe, we the people can do slightly better in this regard, to donate voluntarily for the development of public places, be it a religious place or a tourist place. But, some time duplicate slips and touts on the way spoil the mood of the person interested to donate and some times it gets diverted to wrong hands.

Spent some time on Bada-danda (that is the wide road in front of the temple where we celebrate Rath Yatra every year). Bought couple of small items from the road-side vendors. Had nice time with them. However, what worried me is the public cleanness and civic sense…. One can say not a single person thinks about it, just throws any thing any where. Spitting at common places is very common. So also is smoking. What kind of life style and attitude do we have? Do we need some one to enforce civic sense? In-fact there is a mechanism to enforce this, but, as usual…. like us, they too have a chalta hai attitude.

Return journey to the Bus Stand from the temple was again through a cycle rickshaw. On the way, I got down from the rickshaw to buy some special seasonal fruits. I asked the vendor to give good quality half kilo fruits, did not bargain with him at all. I had a belief that at the city of Jagannath, these vendors are honest. I was wrong, he gave the worst quality fruits instead and cheated me. What kind of impression one will carry then? I should have checked the fruits before weighing. One should not blindly believe 😦 However, I am wondering, still feel that there are many good people around and are concerned about their customers. I am true to some extent, as there were some other shops, where I could sense the honesty to the core.

The bus journey from Puri to Bhubaneswar was a bit different. Before bording the Bus, the conductor assured me, “will start in 7 minutes”; and yes, it started, but did not move an inch for an hour….. he was just trying to get more and more passengers only. When I asked him that you told me to start in 7 minutes, he smiled and said.. yes sir, we have started before the 7 minutes deadline. How to react? This is very common. Moreover, he did not say that it will start the journey in 7 minutes :). Very clever 🙂 No time sense, be that their own or others’. Finally it started and I reached home almost at 12.00 noon, late by 2 hours or more than my planned time.

Over-all, the trip was very good and memorable.

However, I wonder whether we the people, the Aamjunta like you and me are doing our part for the society? Do we act with responsibility? Aamjunta think about it. Let us make a strong, honest “we the people“, not a weak and corrupted one.

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.


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


Glimpses of India – from the Eyes of an Aamjunta

Boarding the Train

It was almost 2.00 pm, I started journey home from my room. As usual this time also I forgot to carry one of my bags. Forgetting things in the last moment is becoming a usual habit in me. Something or the other … I forget to carry at the last moment 😦 , no matter who accompanies me and how long or short the journey is. Have faced many problems due to this forgetfulness. I sincerely hoped if I could manage this trip without that bag. Luckily, I did not forget to carry my last minute shopping item.

It was getting late for a Local train journey to Dadar and so decided to call for a taxi. I am privileged to own the tel. no of “Vijay taxi wala”. He reached dot on time and was waiting downstairs. I was carrying my laptop with me. In the main-gate (of IIT Bombay), the security guard was supposed to stop any vehicle and ask whether any one is carrying any electronic item as per the security rules. But that did not happen here (that was not the first time also). No one asked me and no one stopped my taxi. Even though I was ready with my gate pass, I was expecting the security guard to follow the minimum security measures. But no one bothered to inquiry. They hardly ask any one carrying any thing; just mute spectators in most of the cases. But, at times certainly harass people to show their power and to score a point. Unarmed, unprepared and indifferent security force of IIT Bombay 😦

Anyway, managed to reach Dadar before time. Konark Express, Train No. 1019, my train and home for the next 37 hours was scheduled at 3.10 pm from CST. But, I decided to board the train from Dadar at 3.25 pm to save some time. Vijay could manage to drop me within 35 minutes as there was hardly any traffic at that time (quite unusual in Mumbai). I entered Dadar Station through Platform No. 6. I was expecting huge police presence in the station after the incident of 26/11 in Mumbai. Yes, traces of police presence were there, but could not find their preparedness and alertness.

My ticket was in RAC and therefore I had to check before boarding whether the ticket was confirmed. Asked the police officer sitting at the enquiry counter to guide me to the place where boarding charts are put. After asking him 3 times, he answered my query with a sign language and pointed his finger towards the notice board in Platform No. 5. I was relieved to see my name in the confirmed tickets list. Tough to travel by RAC for 37 hours without a sleeper berth. Anyway, was lucky this time. My serial number was the last in confirmation, though it was the last berth of the coach. I just thanked my starts and made some telephone calls to friends and relatives to inform them that my ticket was confirmed. Train was on time and I boarded the train.

Train Journey – A Mini-India

My berth number was B3-64. Already two people were sitting in 63/64 by the time I reached there. Both of them were claiming that they have 63 – RAC! Interestingly, some one else came in and too claimed that his seat no is 63. Three persons for the same seat!! 🙂 Could not believe. With the help of the PNR number verification from a BSNL Mobile, they could resolve the seat problem. Two of them had RAC, and the other person was having W/L ticket only. The wait-listed person could not believe how come his seat had not got confirmed, when he had already booked his tickets 25days ago. This gentleman was W/L number 1 whereas the other gentleman was W/L 36! The other gentleman could manage to confirm his ticket through some VIP quota, even though he bought the ticket at the last minute, leaving the other guy with W/L-1. Looks like aamjunta suffers every where, no one listens.

By the time the seat confusion got resolved, TT had verified our e-tickets and the train had reached Kalyan. A new drama was unfolding related to ticket buying and selling. Seat no. 59/B-3 was still vacant. The lady who booked the ticket did not show up. Every one was eying that seat. In principle that seat should go to the person with the lowest RAC. But, I wondered … will the TT allot that seat without taking a single pie? The person seating in B3-63 with RAC started buttering the TT and literally begged for berth no. 59. He did not hesitate to bribe the TT too, opened his wallet and gave two one hundred notes to him. And the TT… thanked his stars, took those with a smile …. his first income of the day. I thought when we are talking and gossiping against corruption and corrupt practices, we forget to include ourselves in the list of culprits. Both bribers and bribe takers are equally responsible.

In the mean while our train had reached Pune, I was dozing off in the upper berth. With a big suitcase, a young girl in her late twenties entered our compartment. Pushed her suitcase under the seat, tried to occupy the seat no. 59, which was already assigned to some one else. She could not believe that her seat was allocated to some one else 🙂 . She started arguing with the TT and the commuter. After realizing her mistake (booking from one station (CST) and boarding from a far-off station (Pune)) she became distraught and composed, but had to finally accept. She requested the TT at least to allow her to board the train and to share the seat with the other gentleman who was occupying seat no. 63 in RAC. She could manage to convince the person and shared the seat.

In the mean time a couple of plain cloth police men came and inquired with many of us and checked our luggages. May be the bombings in the trains and other places in India are the reasons for this checking. But, I did not find a single police man afterwards, in the next 30 hours of my journey. What kind of security measure then? Couple of my co-passengers (including ladies) were software engineers working in Pune. To spend their boring train journey, they were ready with many things, at least some 10 different type of snacks, all the meals of train’s catering and most interestingly they had enough bettle (paan) leafs and all masalas (jurda, kimam, katha, supari.. etc.). Each of them are experts in making the bettle pack and in eating those. Amazing scenes. There was another co-passenger who had a RAC ticket and started narrating his links and connections with big politicians of Mumbai and his lunch/dinner parties with the IPS/IAS officers and the ministers in Mumbai. He did not leave a single stone unturned to boast of his greatness. I did not understand one thing, if he had all the connections then how come he could not manage to get a confirmed seat? May be Laluji ki raj me kuchh gadbad hai 🙂

Home Sweet Home

Train journey was cool, though a bit boring. I reached Bhubaneswar on time – at 4.35 am. My brother was there to receive me. Once I reached there, I found myself at home. The care and concern of my brother, home made food of my bhabhi and the love of my sweet nephew — what else I wanted? The Bhubaneswar which I had carried in my memory and that which I was seeing were completely different. Nowadays, it has grown like any other city in India. But, on the flip side as an outsider in my own homeland, I could witness rash drive of young (kids some times) students and unemployed mass, the effect of liquor on our society, eve-teasing, showiness and artificial smiles of relatives and friends. Tough to accept 😦 I stayed for a day at Bhubaneswar, visited couple of my relatives and friends in the evening, did a little bit shopping for my nephew and niece. I was meeting them after a gap of 18 months, longest gap so far. I knew my parents were eagerly waiting for me in my village…. I got at least 15 calls on that day with only one question: “when are you coming?” “Come at that time, do not bring this and that”… etc., and etc…

Once I reached home (village), I felt like the king of that place 🙂 . Very happy… I started showing all the photos of my last China visit, and was telling the stories of my success/failure, life, future to my parents. Suddenly I realized that I forgot to bring the Umbrella which I carried for my father. I left that in the bus, forgot completely…I felt very very bad. The umbrella was an amazing and unique piece, many people were interested to take that… but, I was adamant that it was meant for my father…. I tried my best to follow the bus, enquired with the driver through some of my relatives, but could not trace it. Felt very low as I was too much attached to the umbrella and carried a lot of dreams to present it with love to my father.

Small Incidents of Big India

I stayed hardly for 4 days at home. These four days I was completely cut off from the rest of the world. There were important calls which I was expecting on my MTNL roaming cell. But alas… MTNL and BSNL had problems, my roaming phone was half of the time struggling to find and register itself with BSNL. More than 90% of the time, its signal was down, and the rest 10%, frequent call droppings, one sided voice, bad signal quality …. I was pissed off with their services. How come these so called basic service providers (largest telecom. operators in India) do not maintain the basic quality in their services? Nobody was listening to my complaints, they were not even accepting their fault. In fact, even now after a month of my coming back from home the service and signal is extremely poor. Other users also are facing similar problems. Had it been in USA or other European countries, the operators would have been sued for service failure. I had to struggle a lot to call my friends in Mumbai for updates.

While at village, I came across with some interesting facts. My father was narrating to me about the Rs 2/- per Kg rice scheme introduced by Orissa Govt to help the needy. Initially when I heard about this I was thrilled and was very happy that the Govt is helping the poor; the common man. But my happiness was short lived. Looks like Rs 2/- per Kg rice is the biggest problem at this moment. Most of the people who are availing the scheme are becoming very lazy. Many of them are not working for more that 4/5 days in a month. Reason, a day’s earning is sufficient for their livelihood of a month.. 50 kg of rice (Rs 100/- is the daily wages) and the other 2/3 days’ work is sufficient for the rest. More than 70% people are not working, not ploughing their land even… why to spend time and money, when they have free food at their door step? The question that came to my mind… is that Rs 2/- per Kg rice scheme for the benefit of the country? Are we doing justice to the tax payers’ money? Why is the govt playing with the country’s future? For vote shake? For power? Election is around, and many parties are committing Rs 2/- or Rs 3/- per Kg rice. My frustration became serious, when I came to know the names of BPL (Bellow Poverty Line) card holders… many rich people of that area are having BPL cards, they get those rice in Rs 2/- per Kg and sell that in Rs 20/- Kg in the market. Pathetic attitude.

During my short stay, I visited couple of Govt. and Private schools, couple of Engineering colleges. What I saw there and what I experienced was pathetic. The condition of the education system and commercialization of basic services in many parts of Orissa (in India too) is something which is of serious concern. Engineering education is a big business there. In the name of charity, people just do business and exploit. They also spend huge amount for bribing the authorities (be it state education board or national education board) to get the accreditations. The common man suffers everywhere… their land is being sold at a cheap price to these institutes, their kids are not getting quality education, they pay heavy price as donations and fees for education, and they do not get their full salary. No one is interested to send their wards to Govt. run schools. Every one is interested in English medium schools. But the English medium schools charge heavily as fees and donations, make interviews of the parents and the kids . My nephew was asked for his Class I admission : Name two Chief Ministers in India who were married in the same day?. Neither the Govt rulings nor the court directives stop them from blatant commercialization. Not only that the quality of teachers they have are very poor. Many of them are under paid too. With this kind of education, where do we see our future? I could not visualize…

Corruption, attitude problem, politics, castism… everything is corroding this country and the common man. Unless the common man does some thing and realizes that he/she has to be aware and do things to help himself/herself who else can save? It is late, but not too late. Still there is time to shape the country, to guide the youth and to channelize the taxpayers’ money.

Aamjunta it is your turn now.

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