Archive for March, 2010

Getting emotional….

Posted: March 28, 2010 in students

Sometimes things that people do can make you very emotional. No, I’m not referring to the mastery of Sachin Tendulkar as he raced to his first one-day double hundred or the below-par performance of SRK’s Knight Riders! On Wednesday last (March 24) I went to the under-grad campus of SIMC for some work and one of my students, Monica Banerjee, asked me if I had seen the graffiti that the students had prepared.

She took me along to the 6th Floor of the institute where she showed me some graffiti. Every second poster had some very nice things said about me. And I’m not being sarcastic. The comments were flattering and extremely complimentary. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other situations one finds oneself in every other day, where people only wait to pick faults at anything and everything you do.

When I mentioned this to a student of the PG batch, the reply I got was “18-year-olds are a lot more affectionate than robotic, scheming, politicking 23 year olds!”

Now that’s not entirely true. A lot of the 23-year-olds also ask me when I am going to take their lectures again and I tell them I have no clue. But there are those 23-year-olds who believe that indulging in politics with their faculty and emerging unscathed is a victory, little realising that they are painting themselves into a corner.

The other side to this, is another incident that really made me wonder why we even care to help people. Some months ago I got a call from a guy (M) who was desperately seeking help for his daughter who is a budding sportsperson. He pleaded and cajoled me to think about helping his little girl and after a lot of doubts and misgivings I agreed to help her. I called a friend who is among the who’s who in his area of expertise and he agreed to take up her case.

So last night when I got a call from M and he threatened me for not doing enough for his little girl, I was shocked! His take was that since the person who I had spoken to had not yet done something for his daughter, he was going to make sure that I suffered! Yup, that’s right, he said he would ensure that I would be bumped off soon because, according to his convoluted mind I had ruined his daughter’s career. I am at a loss to understand how I, was in any way, responsible for his daughter’s career, when I had not even met her till date or wanted to meet him. It was obvious he was drunk and I am assuming by morning the booze came down and so did his bravado.

I feel sorry for the girl because I know she is genuinely talented. Her father wont accept it, but the people who I have spoken to and who have seen this kid perform, have said she is superbly talented. But for her old man’s behaviour with the people who mattered in the sport, she would have made a name for herself in her chosen discipline. So anyway, last night after having listened to all the threats and warnings of dire consequences, I really wondered whether it was worth helping anyone. You don’t expect anything in return, but you surely don’t expect to be threatened. Whoever coined that phrase “a friend in need…is no friend of mine” sure knew what he was talking about.


My former colleague and good friend, Candice, now a marketing manager at Vodacom in far away Dar es Salam, believes I should rename my blog “Mohan Sinha ko Gussa kyo aata hain!”

I shouldn’t be ranting and getting mad, she feels. There should be self-expression. She thinks I should be writing on Aloo tikki! I guess, that’s self-expression for her! I thought I expressed myself in a pretty lucid manner sometimes, a little too lucidly for my comfort and that of others around me! Ok Candice, this one’s for you!! No ranting, just some good-natured and light-hearted ‘self-expression’ about a few things!

A colleague told me (I am assuming, in jest), that I should not pen any posts criticizing the US government or the Americans. The reason, she explained, was that someone in the US Government might be trawling the web looking for anti-American sentiments by people from these parts and they might file my blog post away for future reference. So when I go to the US embassy for a visa, they might pull out my post, wave it in my face and accuse me of giving the US the middle finger! In other words I would never be allowed to board a plane for New York or wherever.

My take is, since US Immigration has already issued me with a multiple-entry business visa, which doesn’t look like it is EVER going to be put to any use, except to wipe my nose, I have no such worries! And if the Americans ever ask me why I said all those nice things about them, I am just going to say “BOO!” Hopefully, the US Marine who stands at the entrance of the Embassy on Warden Road in Mumbai would only have me evicted and not arrested for showing them my middle-finger.

On their previous visa application form they even had a question (thankfully removed later), which asked the applicant if he/she had ever indulged in terrorist activities against the US or intended to! So now you know how all the 9/11 hijackers got into the US. They lied through their gold capped teeth. So they learnt it from the masters of the game – the Americans themselves. Look at the way they’ve been lying about Headley, from the time they supposedly “arrested” him. Even a mentally challenged person knows by now that Headley is an American stooge and to allow some other country to interrogate him would be hara-kiri.

Which brings me to the Greeks….Remember this line? “Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts.”. Every time some American official lands up at our door with news and tidings from the ‘Great One” I can’t get over the apprehension that they have some nasty surprises hidden up their sleeve. A few weeks ago one US official told India that they would be given access to Headley. Then a couple of days ago another official did a 180-degree turn! And at the same time we hear that the Americans are talking to the Pakistanis about a civilian nuclear deal.

They are even chatting up General Kiyani, who, to the Americans and the rest of the world, is the man holding the reins in Pakistan. This also makes it more than obvious, that the elected government there is nothing but a sham, and survives because it pleases the Pakistan Army establishment to tell the world that it is a ‘democracy’. The fact that the Americans are speaking specially with Kiyani is proof of his importance in the scheme of things.

God knows where Obama gets his moments of inspiration from. Right now, even a lot Americans don’t seem to be too enthused by their President. I hope for the sake of the sub-continent at least, He knows what he is up to. And I mean Him as in The Almighty. A lot of people believe that right now if a nuclear-armed Pakistan would pass into the hands of the Taliban, it would resemble a monkey with a loaded gun in its hands. You never really know how and who they’ll use it against. So where the Americans got this idea from to give civilian nuclear power is baffling. This is as crazy as the good Taliban and bad Taliban justification by the Americans! I wonder what happened to that, considering the fact that Pakistanis are experiencing a bomb blast a day.

So why do the Americans play these games and why do successive Indian governments fall for it? That’s a question only the Indian government can answer. But my take is, it bodes well for both the US government and its industries to keep the hysteria alive. The American weapons industry can continue to do roaring business with both governments, which is already in an advanced state of paranoia, while the US keeps up the pretence of brokering peace between the two warring neighbours.

We know the Pakistanis are never up to any good, so we are always wary of them. But we tend to trust the Americans and usually get taken for a ride. That is why I distrust them more than I do the Pakistanis. And that’s why I compare the Americans to the Greeks!

I lived and worked in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh from 2001 to 2005, where I saw three governments in power, one of the BJP under Rajnath Singh, then the BSP under Mayawati and the third of the SP under Mulayam Singh Yadav. My colleagues cautioned me to use a PRESS sticker on my vehicle or I could get robbed of my vehicle in broad daylight and no one would raise a finger to help me. I thought they were joking.

I realised the joke was on me, when on my first day at Hindustan Times, in Lucknow, sometime in November 2001, I was sitting at my desk reading the newspapers, when a headline caught my eye: “Amarmani Tripathi declared absconder”

Amarmani Tripathi is a politician-cum-criminal currently serving a jail term for the murder of a poetess. He knew the fine art of surviving in politics. He simply switched parties during every election! In 2001, he was a minister in the BJP Government and when he fell foul with CM Rajnath Singh, the cases against him were reopened and he was declared an absconder.

So there I was staring at the headline in front of me, and as I looked up from the newspaper, I saw a man dressed in all white approaching my cubicle, followed by a couple of armed policemen, who were obviously his security personnel. As the man swaggered past me, he smiled and I too gave a polite smile. I looked at him and then again at the picture in the newspaper. It was “absconder Amarmani Tripathi” and for someone who was allegedly running from the law, he seemed totally unfazed. He went to the Hindi Hindustan editorial department to meet the editor. When I told some of my colleagues about this, they had a hearty laugh. For them, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. For me, however, it was an eye-opener.

A few months later, I read a report that said a man could not prove in an UP court that he was alive even as he stood there in flesh and blood because his relatives had declared him dead to usurp his property. I was told by a reporter, who was also a lawyer, that he could declare me dead or prove that my car was stolen! I believed him.

A few days after that Mukhtar Ansari, a dreaded mafia don, who was serving time in jail, was supposedly brought for a medical check-up to a local hospital. I say supposedly because I remember how my reporter Manish Chandra Pandey, rushed in excitedly to tell me that Ansari was strolling through Hazratganj, Lucknow’s shopping district, exchanging pleasantries with shopkeepers and then proceeding to his flat where he held a ‘durbar’! Policemen who were supposedly guarding him were strolling along behind him, quite unconcerned by the stir the don’s walkabout was creating. The next day when the pictures appeared in all the newspapers the government defended the inaction by the cops and packed Ansari off to Tihar!

Then, on another occasion, when a very powerful business tycoon’s son was getting married, one of the reporters told me how goons from a political party walked into the showroom and drove away with new cars, as the staff stood by silently. If you value your life you keep your mouth shut. And also, how an entire housing society was asked to vacate because it overlooked the home of a business tycoon, who was celebrating the marriage of his children. They claimed it was “security” but no one reported these stories because you don’t report such stuff if you value your advertising revenue!

For a State that wallows in crime, poverty, communal violence and crooked politicians, nothing that happens there surprises me anymore. But, on Monday, even I, like a million others who must have watched the news, was totally aghast at the manner in which UP Chief Minister Mayawati was garlanded with 1000 rupee notes and was photographed posing under it for posterity. In this show of opulence, what I find surprising is not that people can go to such absurd lengths to pamper a politician, who doesn’t care a fig for the people she lords over, but the fact that not a single government at the Centre, in all these years, has had the guts to pull her up for looting the state and accumulating cash, properties and diamonds.

It’s not the first time that the lady has been given this ‘honour’, so why no one in government really bothers to ask her what she’s done with all that cash, tells us a lot about the crooks (and that’s putting it mildly) who masquerade as honest politicians to enact legislation to curb black money, and then keep stashing their’s away in banks abroad! And when such announcements come from the mouth of a respected and supposedly honest prime minister, it makes one wonder. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that year after year it’s the honest taxpayer who gets screwed (there really is no other word) and silently bears the burden while the scumbags in their dhotis or safari suits get a free run. Otherwise, can you tell me, how politicians like Mayawati and Laloo have survived for so long?

For example, everyone knows that Mayawati’s assets jumped by Rs 500 crore in five years. We heard reports during the last election that the CBI was going to question her on how this miracle had happened. But it never went beyond the ‘heard’ stage. She was also an accused in the Taj Corridor scam, where she allegedly sold off large tracts of land behind the monument to private parties for the construction of commercial complexes! Heard anything about that from the CBI lately? All these cases are in the news only during an election or when MPs are required to vote during a no-confidence vote. Then these cases are used to force them to fall in line with the government’s line of thinking.

During my stint in Lucknow, I also watched a CD which showed a powerful politician of an equally well-known party, bluntly tell ticket hopefuls that they needed to deposit a specified amount of cash “towards a personal fund” if they wanted tickets for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections! The politician is seen explaining that since these hopefuls would anyway, recover this “loss” once they were elected, there was no reason why they should not pay this amount! The CD did the rounds of all the newspaper offices, but nothing came out of it because no newspaper owner wanted to incur the wrath of this vengeful politician. They were more interested in securing government contracts and keeping their factories running smoothly.

Do women need to be reminded on a particular day every year, that they are stronger than men? I don’t need some silly ‘Day’ to tell me that women are a damn sight smarter and stronger than men – except when they are on a two-wheeler or behind the wheel of a car! Then they’re positively scary! And this is not my opinion alone but also of some women I know! Not that the men in Pune are any better, but this post isn’t about them.

Sorry, but all these absurd ‘Days’ that some international bodies dig up and make a lot of noise over is really a lot of hot air. Look at Monday, for example – International Women’s Day. I haven’t understood why they celebrate this as some sort of international event. What purpose does it serve? It’s not like a birthday or an anniversary.

It’s for the same reason that I dislike Valentine’s Day, Father’s day, Mother’s Day etc etc. and all the damn days some smart greeting card manufacturer drums up every year so he and his ilk could do some business, or some international body can blow up somebody else’s money. With the Internet and the ubiquitous mobile phone ruling the roost, greetings card manufacturers must be going out of business. So what else can they do except launch some idiotic day?

And, now, if that’s not enough, all the men (and a sprinkling of women) in Parliament want a legislation that will give 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha. Some men are pushing for the Women’s Reservations Bill while others which include women, are refusing to do so. Even on that point they don’t agree. Bit of a farce isn’t it?

And they are calling it some great event that needs to be commemorated ever year, even if it means the government has to drag the MPs, kicking and screaming to pass a legislation that most of them are dead against, for whatever reasons. Look at what happened in the Rajya Sabha on Monday and Tuesday. Even the members on the treasury benches, who aren’t even elected, were engaging in pitched battles. How did it matter to them?

And the chatterati is raging against the dhotiwallahs for flinging papers at the Vice President. What do they expect – they are dealing with scumbags not some page 3 socialites being asked about the pay disparity between their maids. Most of the politicians probably don’t even know what they are protesting against! (“Kaa ho, tablewa naa tod na hain. Ee konchi badi baat hain!”).

Secondly, can the Act guarantee that the quality of women who enter Parliament will not be the likes of Phoolan Devi or Rabri Devi? Sorry ladies, if and when this Bill becomes an Act, you’ll just have become part of a larger ‘caste’ system, where just like the other prevalent categories you too will become one. So a deserving woman candidate will lose out to some illiterate angootha chhaap with dubious connections to the top. And that, according to this government is how politics in this country should be and will be conducted in the future.

I remember what a colleague, who was an OBC, remarked bitterly after the Mandal Commission report was implemented. “I feel like the animal which gets branded. I am going to carry the mark for the rest of my life.”

A Kiran crash….a war hero remembered

Posted: March 4, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

When I heard about the crash of the Kiran aircraft at a Naval show in Hyderabad yesterday, I remembered an incident that occurred just after the Indo-Pak war in 1971. I met a man, who for a lot of us kids was our first war hero. Only we didn’t know how big a hero. That sunk in only over three decades later!

Flt. Lt. Deepak Yadav, probably, never even noticed us, because we were at the age where one is usually thought of as a brat and he had just returned home from the war in 1971 where he did the country proud. The sense of reflected glory came only because he was married to a schoolmate’s elder sister! The friend’s name was Chetan Dave and we stayed in the same colony, and studied in the same school, though he was s senior of mine. At that time, we did not really understand the importance of what Yadav (who was promoted to Squadron Leader later), had done.

We used to stay at the Hindustan Antibiotics colony in Pimpri. So when Flt. Lt. Yadav, came back from the 1971 Indo-Pak war the Gujaratis in the colony felicitated him, because he had married one of their own! At the function organized on a friend’s terrace we heard him describing how he had taken to the skies in a battle to support the Indian Army on the ground. He told everyone about how he had destroyed tanks of the Pakistani Army. He also spoke about how his plane had been hit during a sortie but he had managed to fly the plane back safely. The name Longewala was then just a name to all of us and forgotten soon after that evening.

Five years later, I heard that Yadav, now a Sqn. Ldr. had lost his life while test flying a Kiran aircraft in Bangalore. The friend who gave me this news also told about how Yadav had survived a crash during an earlier test flight. His wife Jayshree was sitting with friends who had come to break the news of his death when he walked in much to the relief and delight of his family and friends.

The second time too everyone hoped for such a miracle, but this time the aircraft nosedived to earth and they could only retrieve his watch strap. I don’t know how much of the last bit is factual, but this was told to me by someone who was close to the family, so I am assuming it’s true.

Even after J.P. Dutta made the name Longewala famous in the film Border, there was no connection to Yadav. It was only years later when I read on the Internet, about the pilots who flew sorties at Longewala, that I came across the name Flt. Lt. Deepak Yadav. Only then did the name strike a bell. After i read about it, I sat back, stunned. The guy was a real WAR HERO!! My respect for him went up ten-fold along with the thrill of having seeing him in the flesh, even if he had not noticed us!

Here’s something on Yadav that I discovered on the Internet that should prove I am not just telling a tall tale: “On 28 Sep 76, Sqn Ldr Deepak Yadav along with Flt Lt Ramesh Chandra Ghidiyal, were test flying a Kiran trainer to examine a specific problem area which he himself had discovered. During the course of the Air test, the aircraft suffered structural failure and crashed killing both the pilots. Sqn Ldr Deepak Yadav, who had earlier in the 71 War had flown over 20 sorties, lost his life to the cause of test flying.”

Some do, some don't…I don't have to….

Posted: March 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

There are two issues that were making the rounds the past week. The first one had to do with me, or at least something I had done – or not done. The second had nothing to do with me directly, but it’s something that’s been troubling a lot of my students.

In the first case, some of my students have been asking me why I don’t like the newspaper published by some of the students of the senior batch. I want to state, unequivocally, that I have nothing against the effort by the students. I think its remarkable the way they publish the newspaper in the middle of class tests, projects and everything else. I like the content and the writing style of these kids. All of them have written some excellent features for the news website launched by the students and I hope they will continue do so, if and when they have the time.

If I have my reservations, it’s for the liberty they have taken to use their bylines to ‘report’ from places they aren’t in. Should a reporter write his or her copy datelined Washington, Mumbai or New Delhi when he or she is writing the copy from his or her desk in Pune? Where I cut my teeth in journalism (and I never had the advantage that these kids had of learning at a media school), I was always told by my seniors that it was unethical to do such kind of ‘misreporting’.

And as a faculty who now talks to students about the pitfalls of these kinds of unethical and unhealthy practices, if I don’t object, it would mean I agree with them. It would also mean that I am teaching them this. I made my views quite clear on the subject to them when they showed me the first issue after it was published, but they still went ahead. And I have no problem with that either. This is a free world and they can write or do what they want. In today’s Internet age, you can have parental supervision over what you want your kids to view on the Internet, but the kids can still bend the rules, if they want to.

So, just like they have the right to do what they want, I too have the right to disagree on precisely the same grounds. To use a line my dear departed mother was always fond of… “Everyone has the right to make a mess of his or her life. When people get up in the morning and see their face in the mirror and like what they see, who am I to object? Just don’t expect me to like it.”

The second issue, doesn’t concern me, at least directly. It’s got to do with unruly kids who are giving the rest a bad name.

Sometime in the early 1990s, when I was working with the Herald in Pune, an elderly gentleman walked into the office. When I saw him approaching my desk , I got up and as he reached me, I promptly pulled up chair, wished him and waited for him to be seated before I sat myself down. Some of my colleagues watched in amusement, because most journalists never get up and do anything for anyone except their boss – some not even then.

One of them commented that I was behaving like I was in front of my School Principal. They were surprised to hear from me that the elderly gentleman WAS the Principal of the school I had studied in, but they still couldn’t stomach the fact that I had stood up the minute I saw him approaching and didn’t sit down until I was told to. Was I being subservient? Some of my colleagues commented that school was school and they didn’t see the need to show so much respect to their teachers.

I was reminded of this the other day when some of my students were talking to me about keeping unruly students in check. They were telling me that some of the more ‘undisciplined’ students were giving the whole class a bad name and were requesting me and a few other faculty to act.

My argument was that they were not 10-year-olds that they needed to be disciplined. At 22 or 23 they were adults who were supposed to understand their responsibilities. I didn’t think they wanted to be treated like children and if they wanted to do something about it, it was really up to them to act against the bad apples. It’s an age-old issue. The truth is, because we don’t want to take the responsibility we are happy and relieved to leave the disciplining to someone else.

I remember telling an HoD to act against a junior, but he was terrified by the prospect of calling the junior and reprimanding him. The first time I told him he refused. I left it at that. My take was that it was his department and he had to work with them, so it was up to him to take whatever action he thought fit. The mistakes kept happening and he would not pull up the junior, till one evening I bluntly asked him to hand over all his responsibilities to his immediate junior! That did it! He called the junior and ticked him off for the errors.

I remember asking him, “Now that wasn’t so hard was it?” The guy actually began enjoying it after that! Suddenly people began seeing a new, assertive HoD and everyone listened to him. My take is quite simple, either you be a friend or a boss or be a fine mix of both.

When I asked some of the students as to how many of them wished their faculty, there was a general shaking of heads! So I guess it starts from there, or maybe earlier, doesn’t it? Not all them are that way. Most of them are good kids who will at least nod and smile as they walk past. I guess it also has a lot to do with their present environment. It’s difficult to stay focussed every hour when you are burdened with tests, assignments, projects, overbearing parents & faculty, parties, night-outs, boyfriends, girlfriends, heartbreaks…the issues are endless! But it still doesn’t hurt to smile!