14 October 2008

Mera Bharat Mahaan

I am extremely patriotic. Indeed, I was never tempted to stay back in the US(paradise for most Indians) even when we were making good money and had ample opportunity. I was so happy the day we decided that we would return to our homeland and make our life among fellow patriots. Friends and family inquired concernedly how we were adjusting to life in India and I always replied blissfully that I couldn't be more content. I still have no regrets.

But some incidences really make one think whether India can be a better place. Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) are being held currently in my city - Pune. This was declared almost 4 years ago. A stadium had to be built at a suitable location, accomodation had to be planned for participants and visitors, roads had to be widened and traffic controlled for the event. The city municipal corporation had ample notice and adequate time to prepare the city to host the games.

My home happens to be on a road that would be the access road to the stadium. It suddenly dawned on powers-that-be early this year that this road has to be widened and concretized to be able to hold the ensuing traffic during CYG. The road widening work started just a couple of months ago, that too smack in the middle of the monsoon season. The entire road was dug up; all protuding structures were removed to provide space for widening the roads. A lot of people and commercial businesses were inconvenienced due to this. In most areas, the JCB (demolition machines) severed the phone as well as electricity cables in their sheer frenzy to meet the October deadline. At other places, the water pipes got cracked and entire societies had to make do with little or no water for days. Traffic situation was a mess as roads were closed and no detours had been planned. People could not go to office or schools when the road widening team put concrete slabs in front of their gates and forgot to build ramps for their vehicles to reach them! Any kind of communciation or advance notice of such inconveniences were thought to be superfluous and therefore done without.

An existing hostel near the stadium was evacuated at short notice to make way for a hotel for CYG guests. The hostel members were left high and dry to fend for themselves. The stadium itself was being worked upon till the last day, which left people wondering if it would be ready in time for CYG. In fact, people had given up hope that this entire mess could be sorted out before the Games. Rumors were rife that CYG would have to be postponed.

And then came the final blow. It was decided that the road-work would be completed, albeit with a few shortcuts, in time for CYG. Parts of the road would be tarred, parts to be filled with interlocking tiles. Everything would be revisited AFTER the CYG. This is the ominous threat still hanging over our heads. To have to live through the nightmare of roads being dug up again is enough to send Indians skeltering back to US. Whatever happened to careful planning, proper budgeting and quality work? It seems like the common man, the diligent tax-payer is the victim of all such reforms.

Someone asked me recently - "Would you like to be a volunteer for CYG?" I said "Are you kidding, I am a victim of CYG!"

By the way, did I tell you we got slapped with a fat bill for our telephone which has been dead for the last month? Mera Bharat Mahaan!

Hobbies - a wise investment

I was speaking to my aunt yesterday. She is going through what is called an "empty nest syndrome". Her only child has flown the nest in pursuit of higher studies and she and her husband are on their own. While my uncle is keeping himself busy in his work and other activities (read watching TV...and watching TV!), my aunt is at a loose end as to what to do with her time. Her entire routine has gone haywire, she feels listless and has nothing to look forward to. She is fond of gardening, but being on the 4th floor, there's only so much gardening one can do.

I know of many such women who don't know what to do with their time once their children leave home. Actually, many men go through it after retirement too. My own father has gone through this. My advice to everyone has always been to pursue a forgotten hobby or cultivate a new one. However, most people tend to stop pursuing hobbies while earning their bread or looking after kids. They get so preoccupied in building their life around others, that they forget to live for themselves.

Cultivating a hobby is like investing in your future( post retirement) occupation. Sometimes, it can really lead to a lucrative occupation - meaning you can make money out of it too. Love, marraige, family, children all require a lot of investment in terms of time and effort and leave room for little else. However, like all investments, it is wise to start as early as possible so that the fruits during retirement are that much sweeter.

Reading and writing are my passions and I have never suffered from loneliness due to the same. Books are ones' most faithful friends. No matter what your age is, you can always find an interesting book, magazine, newspaper etc. to keep you company. Although, some elders use books as sleep-inducing agents since sleep is elusive as age advances!

Not only for planning your retirement, hobbies or some alternate occupations provide an escape from the daily grind. They offer solace when life has dealt you a particularly vicious blow and are a safety valve to maintaining your balance.

07 October 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur

Saw the movie recently. Directed by Shyam Benegal, the movie does have substance though not a whole lot of style. The characters are life-like and do justice to their roles. However, the artsy treatment of the movie may not ensure box-office success. The pace could have been crisper and more in with the times.

The plot of the movie is really thought-provoking. The protagonist is a letter-writer in a village full of illiterates. The story is about how he gets involved in, and influences, other peoples' private lives through writing "emotionally". Being a conduit of passing news to and fro puts him in difficult situations many times. However, he soon learns to do justice to his role and at the same time leave an impact on some lives and thereby elevates his profession from an hitherto BA graduate failure to that of a dignified author.

It set me thinking how small rumors get started in real life just because the person who is passing on a piece of news adds his/her own language or flavor to it thus rendering it quite different from its original form. So many misunderstandings and confusion result from this. If everyone refrains from adding their own emotion or interpretation to things that do not concern them, then life would be so much easier ...and dull!

06 October 2008


"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." - Erma Bombeck

The above quote was brought home forcefully to me recently. For a long weekend this time, instead of an exotic outing, we chose to spend it with several members of the family whom we had never been able to spend time with on account of our busy schedules. It turned out to be one of the best, and surprisingly relaxing, vacations we had had in a long time.

Family is a strange thing...we speak of it as a single, immutable unit. But in fact, it is composed of several different individuals who themselves are constantly undergoing changes due to age, experience and circumstances. This in turn affects their equation with others, and results in changes in loyalties and mellowing of prejudices. Our visit turned out to be an ice-breaker with some members. I guess when you cook and eat together, share bathrooms, laugh or cry together, see each other first thing in the morning with your guards down, it forges a bond between you. This need not be a blood tie, but is born of intimacy and shared experiences. Our immediate family is the first such unit we learn to be intimate with and no matter how much distance or time has elapsed since we drifted apart, we can effortlessly slip back into the same comfortable equation as before.

The down side is that such intimacy can also open our eyes to the imperfection of members who we have hitherto hero-worshipped. Most interestingly though, having known of how other family members face life’s various challenges teaches one the most important lesson in life – that life is essentially unfair.

But one thing is clear – no matter how wealthy, successful or important one is, one does need a family to share things with, to provide emotional support, or a reality check, and most importantly, a sense of belonging.

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