Archive for May, 2011


It’s for the second time in three years that I’ve actually got tired of being on Facebook. Like my late boss and Editor S.D. Wagh used to say, “If I see another newspaper, I am going to throw up.” I’ve begun to feel that way too. Reading the status updates, some thought-provoking, others funny and a lot of others just inane, was all in day’s work. I was okay with that. Some of the one-liners were really creative, pithy and acerbic and deserved a pat.

But I was really tired of being spammed with Osama videos and all kinds of silly links that wasn’t going to open in fifty years – if I ever lived that long. I mean one video a day is fine but 20 links one after another? Or someone spamming me with a stupid link about “Hey look what the girl did…” I have no interest in what any girl did or what her dad did to her.

What’s worse is some of my students who think they are being smart by carpet bombing unsuspecting Facebookers like me with some product, and copying the whole world or someone else tagging me in some video due to which I suddenly get fifty replies, I have no interest in reading something that starts with “cool dude” and ends at “saxxy f*****g shit maan”. That’s the extent of the vocabulary. I have no problems with some of my more enterprising students sending me their work for me to read or pictures to see.I am guilty of not having had the inclination to see them all because of the way I’ve been feeling. One of them sent me stories he had written that I haven’t had the energy to open.

Then there are those whose sms’ I read on MY FB page – “Pick up the phone asshole”. Wouldn’t it be easier to sms the ‘asshole’ at the same number, instead of letting me and others know, that someone so desperately wants to speak to someone else? There are also some downright crude messages by some (who I had mistaken for) very refined kids I meet up in college, to their friends and acquaintances. Frankly, they disappoint me.

So, I don’t know what your opinion is, but to me Facebook is beginning to resemble a large community toilet which is used by people with verbal diarrhoea who outnumber genuine networkers and friends, for whom it is a platform to renew ties. The fact that I can’t go beyond this line, proves how desperately I need a break from all the crap I’ve been hit with. And since I am too polite to kick people out of my page, I shall remove myself.

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The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a cruel joke perpetrated on the visitors in the name of environmental and wildlife preservation. We went there last Saturday, and were shocked by the complete apathy of the authorities towards showcasing whatever wildlife is in there. Apart from the fact that we managed to spot one white tiger in the open, a lion sleeping behind a bush, and a few deer, we didn’t spot anything else and nor were the officials there too interested in showing us.

They have one enclosure for the white tiger and another for a lion, which visitors are taken past in a riot-control bus. The bus stops for a few minutes, during which time, visitors are told to take pictures through grills. You can well imagine what kind of pictures one can take through a grill in two minutes! Then we are abruptly driven out of there. End of safari in a priceless 20 minutes. The point is, if the humans are kept away from the animals by a fence, and if there is more wildlife to admire, why not have open 4WD or Canters to take visitors around for a longer time, and charge more? What stops the authorities from making the whole experience more enjoyable?

This was like a trip to the neighbourhood grocer to buy provisions! To me it looks more like a 9-to-5 job, where the workers seem more intent in getting the job done than showing any really enthusiasm for it. In a place like this, only those workers who love animals should be sent – not those who consider this an endurance test. The people at SGNP should learn from their counterparts at Ranthambore and Gir on how to arrange a safari.

At both these places one travelled in open jeeps or Canters, and got the opportunity, not just to view the animals at close range but also photograph and videograph them. In Gir, we were so close to the lionesses and their cubs, that we could almost touch them. By now we all know that animals attack only in self-defence, and that was obvious at both these wildlife sanctuaries because we were up, close and personal with the magnificent beasts and they looked at with a kind of disdain, that humans reserve for their fellow beings. We paid Rs 500 per head at both places for a three-hour safari, but were warned that there was absolutely no guarantee that we would be able to see either tigers or lions. The point is, real nature lovers, who love to see animals in their natural habitat would not have a problem paying more. And if they didn’t spot any, they wouldn’t mind, because they understood that there was no guarantee of that.

The guards spent hours tracking pugmarks and droppings to track the animals so we could get a glimpse of the elusive tigers and lions. Spotting deer and peacocks were quite common but to spot the ‘dadas’ of the jungle lolling around was the icing on the cake. They gave us the real jungle experience. At one point as we waited for lionesses to show up from somewhere, they were sitting right behind our Gypsy in some thick foliage. They emerged with their cubs only when they realised that we meant no harm.

At Ranthambore, I remember a tourist, sitting in the Canter with us, saying that it was the first time in 13 attempts that he had spotted a tiger – and that too just 15 metres away. The next day he made another trip to see the magnificent animal with us, because he thought we were lucky for him! He spotted one again, although from quite a distance! The guy thought he had been blessed and thanked us repeatedly! There are countless others like him who love the environment and the wild, and would have no regrets if after two hours in the SGNP they spotted a few deer and maybe an odd lion – or none at all. For them it’s the experience that matters and not the cost.

All credit to the government for not succumbing to the powerful builders lobby and maintaining such a wonderful ‘natural’ habitat in the midst of a concrete jungle called Mumbai. Whether the SGNP has more than the odd lion and tiger and if so, would the government be interested in popularising, is something for them to decide. While our safaris may not be comparable to the ones in Africa, can the authorities at SGNP at least ensure we don’t leave the place feeling cheated?


How technology has changed our lives! We remember birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other such dates, mostly because we see them mentioned on social networking sites that we frequent. If we don’t see them we probably won’t remember. But there was a time when we functioned better without technology.

Around twenty years ago, I was one of those who sent out greeting cards to people on every Diwali, Christmas and New Year. I had watched my mom and aunt do that year after year almost like it was a ritual. When I grew up, I too carried forward that tradition. I would send out cards irrespective of whether I received even a thank you. There would be some who would call and thank, but most didn’t bother. I really didn’t mind that, because I believed it was the thought that mattered.

Sometime in the mid 1990s – think it was 1995 – I decided not to send New Year and X’mas cards to anyone. I wanted to see how many people would remember that I hadn’t. Exactly three did! And those three called up to ask why. Since that year I stopped sending out greetings cards! Now in spite of the Internet, which makes life so much easier, I still don’t send out greetings because I believe that it is all so meaningless. I make an exception with birthdays. Of course, now with Facebook, we know the birthdays of half the world – at least those in our small world! So simple isn’t it, to type out those half a dozen words? There have been times, however, when some of the people haven’t bothered to respond. I guess, advances in technology notwithstanding, human behaviour will remain irrational!

Since I joined Facebook a few years ago I have steadily built up my friend’s list that comprise family, friends and students. I would invariably be greeted online on my birthday. Sometime, last year I decided to remove the mention of my birth date (March 29) from Facebook. I wanted to see how many people remembered. This time on my birthday I went to the college for a lecture and about half a dozen students wished me! The rest had no clue. Two of them I remember distinctly, because over the heads in the melee after a class they mouthed the words ‘happy Birthday’ to me. It’s nice of them to have remembered. A couple of childhood friends and a friend from Chandigarh, also sent me their wishes, but by and large no one knew. Let me be very honest, I wouldn’t remember birthdays unless I saw them mentioned on Facebook, so I didn’t expect anyone to remember mine. That’s how dependent we’ve become on technology!

However, this evening, technology took another strange twist. I suddenly thought of a journalist and friend I hadn’t seen on Facebook for a while. I read his tweets and his status updates regularly. He and I had gotten to know each other a little some years ago, when I was looking for a foothold in journalism and he was looking for a job out of Kolkata, and if possible in Pune. He was also looking for someone to proofread his book. I offered to go through it. I don’t know what happened to the book, but I dissuaded him from coming to Pune because there was nothing here for someone as senior. I didn’t know of his reasons then for taking such a step. I learnt about them sometime in November last year when we were chatting on Facebook.

In December and then in January I was caught up with my new job and we lost touch. This evening, I suddenly wondered where he was and searched for him on Facebook. I couldn’t find his page. Then something made me type out his name on google and the first link that popped up was a piece about him on a news portal that said, he had passed away following a cardiac arrest on January 22.