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.
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!”
“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.
The chiefs of the 3 armed forces were recently exempted from security checks at airports. In the build up to this decision, you got quotes like “It is a shame that India cannot accord a small privilege for those who guard the country”. Since anything related to the forces always gets linked to patriotism and national pride, so naturally references to the same were made from all corners. Finally the government gave in and extended the privilege of exemptions from security checks. The minister added that it was “absolutely appropriate” that the people who defended the country’s borders should not go through the security check exercise. So ended the matter. The VIP list for exemptions got a little longer for another service. “No big deal. All’s well that ends well. Right?”
Not really. The basic premise for this or any VIP privilege is that a certain person’s time or pride is more important than that of ordinary citizens like you and me. This goes completely against my understanding of democracy and people’s rule. VIP privileges for a chosen few cannot be a part of a democracy. It’s understandable if a dictator is a VIP, but in democratic India, no minister, politician, military officer or even the Prime Minister can be a VIP. He is just another citizen of India chosen to lead and not to rule. Privileges to bypass the queue is just one aspect of the mammoth VIP baggage that the nation carries. In a supposed equitable society, the time and pride of my cook, driver, my boss or the Prime Minister of India should have the same value, at least on paper. There cannot be a government sanction for discrimination.
Post the T20 world cup, Dhoni is said to be making crores more and every other cricketer is making lakhs more. Good for them and best wishes to them. However something that isn’t good for us, is how our tax money was blown by every government in the country during the post world cup money distribution ceremonies. I have nothing against good old Ajit Agarkar or the promising Rohit Sharma, but I think it was not right of the State government to dole out 20 lakhs of tax payer’s money.
Everyday we read stories about protests in the country where buses are burnt, trains are stopped, public and private property is damaged and so on. However one often feels that the creators of these protests do not get due credit for their work. The government releases figures about the property damages in rupees. However these figures don’t quite convey the true impact that a protest had on the nation. How useful would it be if earthquakes were reported not in a Richter scale but just in terms of the monetary loss of property? Only when someone tells you the Richter scale reading of the quake, do you truly feel the power of the quake. Considering India’s need for a scale for protests, the researchers at Oak Labs have devised the ingenious “OakTyre” scale for measuring the impact of social unrests.
The basic unit of measurement in the OakTyre scale is a “Tyre”. Like we measure distances in meters, we measure protests in Tyres. So the measuring scale goes as follows
For several years I have been planning to use the Right To Information (RTI) to get information and facts on things that bother me in the city. I read up on the subject, talked with friends, blogged about it, but never managed to take the most important step, that of using the right and asking for information. I even explored every possibility in which I could get information without having to visit the Pune Corporation office. Unfortunately that’s not possible. If you want information you have to work hard for it.
So I picked a Saturday when I did not have much else planned. Picked some RTI form samples from the net and filled up three forms asking for information from the PMC. The first form asked information about footpaths / pavements in Pune. The second about parking provisions that commercial buildings need to make as per corporation rules and the third asking for information about the PMC’s e-governance initiatives. I will write details of the information I sought and the response I got, when I do get the information. For the time being I will stick to the submitting the form part. A friend of mine who has been complaining for years about the stray pig menace in Shivteerth Nagar, Kothrud accompanied me hoping to submit his complaint to the relevant department and to finally rid his locality of the pigs.
(Cont…Click here for the entire article). Published as part of my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald