Archive for February, 2009

Recession? Not in Kolkata, at least!

Posted: February 26, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Did someone say ‘recession’? Check out this story that appeared in The Telegraph… and try not to laugh too hard if you’re at work!!! Just the tonic for a disheartened soul in these trying times.


Some of my friends requsted that I use paras….so here it goes again

Went to Vaishali after a long break. I’m pretty sure that if the management of this eatery on Fergusson College Road in Pune, ever gave out ‘frequent visitor’ discounts, they would go broke, because half of Pune city would be queuing up for it! There’s so much you can say about a place you’ve grown up in and, which in turn has grown on you. I don’t know how life would have been without it, but in the last forty years that I have spent in Pune, so much has changed, but Vaishali has remained that constant factor.

Maybe, in the last decade, visits to the place haven’t been that frequent (read daily!), due to work and familial commitments, but one never misses an opportunity to visit the old haunt (like this Saturday to meet an old colleague after nearly a decade) and meeting my old friend Lingo (real name Lingappa, but who knew or cared?) to all you ! Back then we did a few things in Vaishali that even kids of today would baulk at doing in a public place! Ask the old-timers why the proprietors cut down the branches of a tree that hung over one corner of the restaurant. There’s an interesting nugget behind it, but I’m not telling!

Way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vaishali was always thought of as a college hangout. But that changed one Sunday morning. Imagine our surprise when in walked Pune’s First Family – the entire Kirloskar clan right from the grand old man himself to the youngest – and tucked into the fare! I believe from that day onwards Vaishali gained instant respectability! We were also quite cool, one day, about the fact that on the next table was sitting a certain Smita Patil with friends! I don’t think anyone of us even wanted to scramble out of our seats and rush to her for an autograph! Most uncool!! There were times when we’d eaten there and were either too broke to pay or fell short of money. And the friendly waiters allowed us to leave after we promised that we would pay up the next day. It was a promise cast in stone! We never reneged on that.

I can happily say that whenever I’ve been there lately, I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table. The marvellous thing about Vaishali is that, although down the years it has changed its prices, look and ambience; it has managed to retain its charm and free spirit. There are a lot of things that money can’t buy – the feeling of being in Vaish is one of them. And here even Mastercard doesn’t work!

What’s wrong with the Punekars?

Posted: February 17, 2009 in Pune, Punekar

What’s wrong with the Punekars? I’ve lived in Pune since 1968 and have seen it change from a sleepy, small town to a bustling, truly cosmopolitan city. And unlike a lot of old timers who crib about the city losing its identity etc etc. I think Pune is a city which has a little of everything, which is a lot better than the metros, where everything is in excess! But I’ve seen a perceptible change in the behaviour and attitudes of present day Punekars these past few years — for the worse – be it an issue with traffic, an irritating neighbour or even Valentine’s Day! Don’t ask me why, because it even has me wondering. In today’s Pune, neighbours are at each other’s throats and come to blows either because the lift door is left open or someone accidentally drops some rubbish on the staircase. Anywhere you go, whether on the road, or in a restaurant, or even in a housing colony, people prefer to talk with their fists than with their mouths. I am not saying that this wasn’t there earlier, but nowadays you see it happening a lot more. And age is no bar.
Look at the way someone reacts just because his vehicle gets a scratch, even when it is his fault. The first thing someone does is to reach in through the front seat window and slap the driver. Talking isn’t the solution anymore. There’s an impatience bordering on rudeness which you see today, that wasn’t there earlier. Very often that rudeness spills over into aggression. Earlier, I, like a lot of others, thought, that ‘outsiders’ were the cause of the problems, but then I realized that it wasn’t them because they usually behaved themselves for fear of being targeted. It’s us. Take, for instance the completely juvenile idea of Valentine’s Day — I’ve seen it being celebrated for years in the city. It was never a big deal and done more for the fun of it. If no one else, it at least had the flower sellers smiling! But never have I seen so much hate on display, these the past few years, to stop such a meaningless event. By making so much noise, these so called moralists have given Valentine’s Day the importance it doesn’t deserve. But reasoning with some loonies might just give you a broken head, if not a broken heart!
An assistant RTO inspector once told me that one could get another 50,000 cops to police the streets, but nothing would change unless the people themselves wanted to change. He wondered how these same people (referring to the Citizens of Pune), follow every traffic rule when they drive in Mumbai! Soon after I returned to Pune a few years back from Lucknow, where I spent four years, I was on my way to work when an auto-rickshaw driver, in a hurry, cut across in front of my car in peak hour traffic. I angrily stuck my hand out of the window to demand where he was headed. When he saw my UP-32 registration, he said menacingly in Marathi “Tikde parat pathvu ka? (Should I send you back there?)” He was quite taken aback when I said to him, also in Marathi “Tula ani tujha baba na, doghana hee, mee tikade pathveen (I can send both, you and your father there).” He was shocked to find that someone from UP could speak Marathi! But think for one second if I had really been from outside Pune and there had been an altercation….
I am just wondering what’s got into the people of Pune! And for a city that prided itself for its culture and ethos, it’s time to introspect

I’ve been reading with interest the response by some media personalities to the pink chaddi campaign – 25,000+ members at last count. And these aren’t like those fake sms’ you send out to some dumb reality show when you do mass voting for someone! According to Sagarika Ghose, “the battle for freedom and the battle for progress must be a sensible and a rational one; it can’t be a trivial battle where we fling coloured underwear at maniacs.” She believes it is an ‘undignified’ way to protest. So which is the dignified way to deal with “maniacs”? Methinks the lady has missed the woods for the trees. Tell us Ms, Ghose, which among the following would you say are the dignified ways: 1. File a police complaint 2. File a Public Interest Litigation? 3. Try to reason with Mr Muthalik and his ilk 4. Visit the Ram Sene office and tell them to mind their own business. 5. Complain to the local MP /MLA. I am sure we can find a whole lot more absurd ways to do it the ‘dignified’ way. Times change and ways to deal with problems change along with it. Self respecting, law abiding citizens have tried all the dignified ways mentioned above to protest but they’ve usually come up against that brick wall behind which these goons take refuge. And what happened when those goons were sent to jail. They walked free within 24 hours. Who posted bail for them? At least, the victims didn’t retaliate with a gun. Not yet anyway, because I think most people are running out of patience when it comes to dealing with second-rate punks masquerading as moral police. Ghose talks about the Nehruvian way of dealing with such incidents. Yes, one would have tried that too, but I don’t think it would have helped much if the victims went on a hunger strike outside the Vidhana Souda! This way is a lot more dignified than where some kid is pulled out of a bus and roughed up because he happened to be a Muslim or some women are molested in a pub, or couples get their faces blackened because they happen to be sitting in a garden. Here nobody gets hurt and the message gets across. And lest we forget, this is the country which sent three of its most popular leaders to a most violent death — and they too spoke of peace and non violence. The sooner we stop these mobs from taking over our lives, the better. This is not Afghanistan or Pakistan and we definitely don’t want a homegrown saffronized Taliban here. The late Rajiv Gandhi once told a heckler in the US that “people who talk of Khalistan should remember that Ranjit Singh’s capital was Lahore.” Get the message, guys?

Going pink on Valentine’s Day

Posted: February 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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As far as ideas go this has to be the most outrageous and funny idea, I’ve ever heard of. Check out this group on Facebook (The Pink Chaddi Campaign) with 7763 members and growing rapidly, which also has a blog called Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose, and Forward Women. On Valentine’s Day they want everyone to visit a pub and raise a toast to the Ram Sena and also donate a pink chaddi, to be presented to members of the same outfit! It’s Gandhigiri at its pinkest!! But it also shows that all right thinking people everywhere are getting pissed off with the moral police for telling them how to lead their lives. If nothing else, the group’s rapidly increasing numbers are proof of that. What the hell, no one has the right to tell me or my family what we should or should not do with our money or time. And more importantly, we don’t need a lecture on culture or morals from people of questionable morals. About time, politicians of assorted political orientations, and their sidekicks, were told to take a hike. I’ll raise a toast of orange juice, if nothing else, to the pink chaddi campaign on February 14! Cheers!!!

At the mandi

Posted: February 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

It must rank among the most shameful displays of money power at at time when lakhs of Indians are either jobless or are going to be. Yes, yes, I know I’m being a wet blanket, but it made me sick to see some of the captains of industry uppping their price and starlets preening away to the mews channels as they bought and sold players! These same titans talk about tough times ahead and layoffs in their business empires, but if you watched the news channels yesterday, you know what these guys do with the money they save after either laying off his staff or slashing the salaries of his pilots by 80k! Would be interesting to know how many employees were laid off from the companies owned by the people who were there at the Indian Premier League “mandi” yesterday? So here’s the calculation $13590000 @ Rs 50/ per dollar = Rs 660,881,714.52 . In simple mathematics it’s just Rs 66 crores. To the credit of these worthies they only spent half of it. Adam Gilchrist said he felt like a ‘cow’ after last year’s auction. I think he was being dignified. I have another word, two actually, for that, but…

Did any of you hear Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss on the news channels yesterday? Did he make you laugh? Well, he didn’t make me laugh, he just made me mad. And I guess it shows here… Responding to the CNN-IBN anchor’s query on how a citizen had to move court to force AIIMS to act, the minister smirked his way through some utter gibberish, about how everyone was entitled to proper medical care and how no hospital could deny anyone…blah, blah, blah. It almost looked like he was reading from a teleprompter. I think Mr Ramadoss lives in lu lu land. Otherwise he would have known, like us poor mortals do, that anywhere in this country hospitals make their own rules when it comes to admitting patients — unless, of course, it happens to be someone with influence or political clout. Oh, and he insisted that this was an isolated case. Even as he was spouting his crap, the same channel showed another citizen saying that AIIMS had refused to operate on someone because the family had not paid the hospital fees. And here too another suited-booted joker spouted exactly the same lines. I wonder if it’s written into their contracts! I thought I’d do my own little research on the web and look what I found. India has 20 million diabetics (and this is an old report…40 per cent of the world’s malnourished children live in India…There are over 2.5 million AIDS cases in India Of the patients who are on dialysis… 69 to 71% die on dialysis or stop treatment (due to financial reasons), the majority within the first three months of initiation of dialysis, and only 17 to 23% patients end up having a kidney transplant because of the costs involvd. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and I could go on and on. So, Mr Ramadoss, would do better to enforce legislation that give people affordable healthcare and penalise hospitals which don’t, instead of wasting public money enacting laws that very few bother to follow. Let me quote a personal example. My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease a few years back and during the last stage (which I did not know then) of her life, I asked some neurosurgeons at the biggest hospital (again government-run in Lucknow, where I lived then), about medication that could slow the deterioration process. I was advised to give her medication that would cost around Rs 10,000 a month. I went for a second opinion and I was surprised to hear the doctor say that the illness was in the last stage, that she didn’t have much time left and the prescribed medication wouldn’t do ANYTHING for her health. I then consulted a third doctor and he told me exactly the same thing. They were both right, because my mother passed away a few months later. It speaks volumes of the ethics of some members of the medical fraternity. Back to the present, just yesterday as I was driving home, a hand came out of a car belonging to a government official (it had one of those beacons) and flicked away a ciggy. Will the good doctor (and I’m not referring to the one who heads our government) give us some decent health care, and not these dumb ‘public service’ campaigns who no one really gives a damn about