Archive for September, 2012

I’ve spent a restless and disturbed 24 hours ever since I heard about the five-year-old Shubh Rawal being kidnapped and killed in Pune by 19-year-old Parminder Singh, for ransom, all because he thought he could buy a motorcycle from the ransom, which he aspired for. Sometimes I think television and films have really messed with our heads and our lives. I watch one of the Hindi serials on crime, which dramatises supposedly true incidents. You have to be demented to commit those crimes and think you could get away with it.

When we were discussing this in office, the editor commented about a sociologist who said it was an aspirational thing and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Which may be true to some extent, but whatever may be the sociological reasons being put forward for such crimes, to kill a five-year-old is the worst kind of crime one can commit – as bad as raping a minor or infant girl, or beating an infant senseless.

One is not talking about murders by adults, gangland killings, domestic violence or dowry-related cases, but crimes against infants and children who really have no way of even knowing what they are being subjected to and why, and more importantly, no way of fighting back. Just imagining a five-year-old being throttled is gruesome enough, so one can’t even think what the tot must have gone through even as his life ebbed away.

It’s a pity that in India we still send people to jail after they commit such crimes, since we don’t have a firing squad, child rapists and killers, should be hanged or locked up in solitary confinement and the key thrown away instead of a term in jail, from where they will walk free in 14 years. Yes, I know that homily about giving a criminal the opportunity to reform. Please, tell that to parents who lose their children to such mindless acts.

Then there are people like auto-rickshaw driver Umer Shaikh, who still believes that doing good to people is what he was sent here for.

The other day I heard about Shaikh at the office. He noticed a laptop and some property documents that had been left behind by a passenger in his auto-rickshaw. He could, quite easily, have walked away with the laptop. Instead, he went to the cops to hand in all the stuff. By a quirk of fate, the passenger also landed up at the same police station to report the loss and was delighted and very relieved to get his stuff back.

When we reported the story, the passenger thought the auto-rickshaw driver deserved more than just a thank you and wanted to gift the driver something. We called both, the passenger and the auto rickshaw driver to the Sakal Times office, where the grateful passenger handed over a little something to Shaikh. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered such a tale and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

When he was asked about the incident, the auto-rickshaw driver said, “even if I find a pen in my three-wheeler I start wondering who the owner could be and want to return it.” In today’s day and age, that there are still people like this around is heartwarming.

And then, I heard an absurd story about ‘aspirations’ among the rich! About how a city restaurateur found his brand new laptop missing from a table in the restaurant soon after he had bought it! Since he had CCTVs cameras installed everywhere he saw the person who had stolen it – a very well-to-do woman, and a frequent visitor to his restaurant! He called her up and told her that she had been caught stealing his laptop on the CCTVs cameras and that the cops had been informed. She promptly disconnected the phone, but after that her husband made some two dozen calls to the restaurateur!

I wonder if that’s a sociological or a psychological issue concerning the haves and the have nots? I wonder what this very affluent woman was ‘aspiring’ for!


I’m hopping mad at a few things I’ve been reading about recently…
Cancelling rock music shows, performances by people like Lucky Ali or even raiding parties at farm houses is the most idiotic reaction by the Pune Police I’ve seen, since I was an eighteen year old. Are we sliding back into the silly ages?

According to some it’s the parents who are upset that their children attend these shows and get drunk or inhale banned substances. Firstly, a lot of parents should take a good look at themselves in the mirror and think back to the time they were in teens. Secondly, if parents can’t develop that trust with their children then they have only themselves to blame. And because they can’t rein in their kids they push it on the policemen?

I’m pretty sure many parents sneaked around as kids, doing things they now don’t want their kids to do. Have we forgotten those long drives with girl friend(s) or that surreptitious ciggy in the public garden after sunset or as we got older, bringing friends home to party when the folks were out? That is not to say parents should turn a blind eye to what their children do. But running to the cops is hardly the solution!

So to feign helplessness and run to the police is the worst thing parents could do to alienate themselves from their children. And for the police to take up cudgels on behalf of parents, it must mean they really have nothing better to do. At least this is what I read in the case of the police raiding the kiddie party hosted in some farmhouse in the city. Why did the parents give permission to their children to attend such a party, in the first place? And now politicians jump into the fray telling teenagers to stop partying.

Why don’t the police do what they are supposed to do – stop bomb blasts, murders, rapes and other crimes, instead of playing nursemaid to unfit parents? Pune hasn’t exactly been a model city this last decade and the cops are largely responsible for that decline.

Not all children think living away from their parents means brushing their teeth with Old Monk every morning and using a spoon for purposes other than stirring a tea cup, in the evenings. I know a lot of responsible students who understand the fact that parents are paying so much for their education because it would help them make a better life. If some youngsters don’t understand that, then it’s for the parents to find a way out.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the report that said that police officials would be meeting college principals and headmasters to discuss the growing phenomenon of young students “seeking entertainment that did not augur well with their age”! Pray, how do college principals keep a check on a student once he or she leaves the college premises?

Then we have the case of the cops stopping rock shows, because young people do things they shouldn’t be doing. Why not just evict those who are under the influence of booze and drugs? I’m sure there must be enough people at such concerts who come to listen to the music and chill. Why spoil their fun? It’s time the police officials learn to to do their jobs in the manner they should instead of these absurd knee-jerk reactions because a handful of brats make a nuisance of themselves. And what’s the guarantee that there are no oddballs getting drunk or stoned at a performance of Ustad Zakir Hussain or Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma or Shobha Gurtu or Shubha Mudgal?

Sometime in 1984, I went for an out-of-the-world music performance in Mumbai’s Cooperage ground. Everyone was seated, there was no dancing or anyone going crazy, and I could smell smoke of a different kind blowing in the wind. It was pretty obvious the smell wasn’t of just tobacco but no one bothered the next guy. There were teenagers mingling with adults and everyone was loving the music from the quartet who had the audience eating out of their hand. No one misbehaved, no one was thrown out and everyone was having a good time. Guess who was playing – Ustad Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin, Vikku Vinayakram and L Shankar aka Shakti.

Dimag ki batti band…

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Shopping
Tags: , ,

Last evening we drove down to this mall in Koregaon Park. We’d never been there before so we thought of checking it out. The parking was large and spacious, but I noticed there weren’t too many cars there even though it was a Sunday. So far so good, I thought, to myself. As we were being frisked by security, apart from the usual, mobile, keys and wallet, I also had an unopened packet of Mentos and an empty packet of chewing gum in my shirt pocket. The security guards didn’t seem to have a problem with the contents so I didn’t think twice about it.

Once in, I looked around and realised there weren’t too many people there, even for a Sunday, which was good, but there were also not too many places to shop around either. After 15 minutes of browsing around and not finding anything interesting we headed for the basement which housed the provisions store, which seemed the only place worth stepping into.

We bought some foot mats, a set of six beer mugs and the usual knickknacks. As we were waiting at the checkout counter to pay, my son ran up with a packet of Mentos and I told him to put it back as I already had one with me.

Here’s where I admit, in hindsight, that I made an error of judgement. It didn’t strike me that one was not supposed to either carry eatables in or eat in the mall, I opened the packet and handed out the Mentos to my son, niece and brother-in-law. The next thing I saw was a security guard walking up and telling me in Hindi, “Sir, you have taken this off the shelf, please pay for it at the counter.”

I politely told him I had not taken it off any of the shelves, but had it in my pocket when I came in. I also told him that my son had brought a packet of Mentos from somewhere and I had told him to return it to the shelf since I already had this one in my possession.

He should have accepted my answer or asked me to hand over the packet to scan to confirm whether I was telling the truth. I would have been okay with that since he was justified in asking for the packet to confirm my story. Another few seconds and I would probably have apologised for eating in the mall, and made him see reason. But then, he said something that he shouldn’t have and probably thought since he was in a uniform he could get away with it.

“I saw you taking it from there,” he said pointing to one of the counters where the mints and chewing gum lay.

That’s when I lost it. Heck, I hadn’t even gone towards the counter leave alone pick up something from somewhere, and wasn’t going to take it quietly. I told him I had been in the queue for the past few minutes. But, since he kept insisting that I had taken it from the counter I walked up to the counter and showed him the carton of Mentos which was full. My son had thankfully picked up the Mentos from some other counter.

The guard realised he had goofed, but tried to bluster his way through by insisting that he had seen me taking it and then demanded that I run it through the scanner. I promptly handed over the opened packet to him and told him that if it didn’t match with stuff they had there, then he better be prepared for the consequences.

He realised where this was heading and walked away quietly. I was tempted to call the guy back and humiliate him in front of his managers, but left it since he could have got into trouble and then I was at fault, in a way, for consuming an eatable.

While I understand that these guys have a difficult task keeping an eye on kleptomaniacs and shoplifters, he should have also realised what he was accusing a customer of doing, especially since one, I hadn’t done it, and two, he had not seen me doing it. Moreover, it wasn’t like the place was bursting at the seams. There couldn’t have been more then a 30-odd customers in the various checkout counters there.