Like most Indian cities, Pune has crumbled quite rapidly over the past decade and most citizens are convinced that things can only get worse. So thought I would write about a positive development in the Deccan Gymkhana area in Pune. About a project that highlights how things can change if citizens decide to ‘be the change’ and about how citizens are enjoying the benefits of returning prime city real estate to mother nature.
Right from childhood, stories that had their foundation in magic and ‘chamatkars’ always appealed to me. I must have watched 10s of combinations of stories like – Ramu’s son is ill and no doctor is able to cure him; Ramu goes to a godman who whips up a magical powder; Ramu applies the powder on his son’s forehead and the kid is magically cured. As a child, I remember being in awe of the godman and thinking, “Wow! This man is amazing!”. Friends readily contributed their own stories of how the godman was indeed magical.
On our way back from a beautiful village on the Konkan coast, me and my wife got talking about why Indians are abandoning the vast countryside and moving to ever so cramped and inhospitable cities. We have long toyed with the idea of moving out of the city but never have actually done much in the matter. So we decided to list the things in the city that mattered to us. We rated them on a scale of 1 to 10 and found that only a few made it over 5. Basic amenities like electricity and water got a 10 on 10, while business amenities like banking, transportation and Internet connectivity got an 8. Schools, hospitals and security got 7. Social life and recreation facilities got a 6. Surprisingly the hotels, restaurants, multiplexes and shopping malls that take up so much of our attention in the city barely made it on our charts.
A commonly used spell in the Harry Potter books is “Stupefy”. When a wizard says the incantation, a jet of red light flies out of the tip of the magic wand and if it hits the target, the recipient gets stunned and knocked out of his senses. I am unsure of the date and time when it happened but sometime early in this century, I am sure that not “Stupefy” but a “Stupidify” spell was fired through TV screens across India. The spell dulled the senses of all who were hit and since then all those stupidified have been running on minimal grey cell usage. One of the obvious effects of the Stupidify spell is a complete failure at keeping ones brains switched on while in front of a TV screen. I believe that even I am regularly under the influence of the spell. So in this brief interval when I do not feel all that stupidified, I am writing to let the world know of this sinister spell.
A new Pepsi ad has coined the phrase ‘Youngistan’ by combining Young & Hindustan. The actor in the ad claims to be an alien from the planet Youngistan. However is Youngistan really a planet in outer space or is India and Youngistan one and the same? I say this as I can’t help but note that India is being totally customized for the young, rich and the healthy. I certainly don’t have anything against the Youngistanization of society. The young definitely should enjoy the prosperity and the growing disposable incomes of new India, but not by steadily ignoring other segments of society.
I get into arguments at billing counters so frequently these days that I wonder if it has subconsciously become one of my favourite pastimes. I have a fairly wide range of causes for these disputes. However the most common cause is that of the cashier gobbling my hard earned paise. The amusing and strange part of the story is that I seem to be losing these arguments with alarming regularity.
The events normally go something like this – I buy goods worth Rs. 99.25 and the cashier announces Rs. 100 as the payable amount. I ask him why he could not even show the courtesy to tell me that he was charging 75 paise extra. The reply is “Ok, Pay 99”. I tell him that it is not about the 75 paise but about business ethics. I next complain to the store manager who barely listens to me before ordering his staff “Take one rupee less from Sir!”
After extensive research at Oak Labs, we believe we have discovered the secret of success in politics. It revolves around the simple concept of “Us vs Them”. The key to getting a mass following, winning elections and being a popular leader lies in the ability of the politician to clearly define an “Us vs Them” pattern.So throughout history and in all walks of life, the successful politician always has a clear understanding of who ‘Us’ is and who ‘Them’ are. It is the ability of the politician to convey this understanding that decides how successful he or she is. Here are some examples of Us vs Them. Rulers vs Natives, White vs Black, Democracy vs Dictators, Indian Cricket vs Aussie Cricket, Locals vs Migrants, Secular vs Communal, Believers in a Faith vs Non-believers, Underdeveloped vs Developed Countries and so on.
“World Spitathon Champs”
Indians might have the strongest lungs on the planet. Not because of any genetic reasons but because of the exercise that they make their lungs undergo by firing spit missiles every couple of minutes. Across the country we have great exponents of this art, hard at work on every street. While walking, driving, through cars, buses and every other vehicle you will find spit missiles fired with great dexterity and regularity. Although the best performances come from tobacco consumers, even those who are not, often put in scintillating performances.