Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poxing out the Pox...

After days of feeling under the weather, I was forced to take a day off last Tuesday.

I visited the doctor and he confirmed that it was not the worst - no malaria and no H1N1. He suggested it was a mild viral influenza.

But then, the next morning, I developed quite a few hideous boils and rashes on my face, back and my chest. Something inside told me they were not the normal boils that I usually get with fever. They were bigger, redder and painful. Something inside me said it was chicken pox. Wikipedia confirmed my fears.

The next port of call was the doctor, early in the morning. He confirmed the worst - it was chicken pox. The doctor gave me a terse warning - to stay confined indoors, no contact with outsiders, complete rest and no bathing!

Yuck, no bathing?

Yes, no bathing.

I was advised to stay put at home till the last boil dries up, as during the drying up process, the infection can spread to others. That could take up to 2 weeks.

I was prescribed an antiviral and a tablet to curb itching.

Since that day I have been isolated in a room. No moving around, just lying in bed. If that sounds awfully boring, it isn't because the drugs that I have been prescribed make me sleep the whole day.

And when I sleep, which is like 16 hours of the day, I dream of being in the South Pacific, perhaps an isolated lagoon in Fiji or Tahiti, which is where I really want to be, someday, but when I wonder?

Or I dream of good yummy food, things like chicken, not the pox-kinds, but the feathered, two-legged kinds.

And when I am awake, I look out of the window to see the pigeons gallivanting around in balcony with some kind of serious purpose, the kind that you would find at office hours in the morning Churchgate, when the trains from the suburbs start rolling in. I try to check out my office emails on the Blackberry or the laptop, when my eyelids permit me, or listen to a bit of FM - Keisha was on air yesterday!

The good part was there were no restrictions placed on diet. I can, I can have anything that I want to, but low-mild in oil and spice content.

That has got poor Neeti into nursing action. Every morning I am woken up with a warm cup of milk with an assorted array of fruit neatly, attractively arranged on a plate - I guess attractiveness of food does build up an appetite. Then it's breakfast time, with eggs and bread or upma, poha with tea, our style.

The cook played truant on two evenings. So Neeti took the pain of getting vegetables from the market and cooking up a lovely baingan bhartha, which had an amazingly delicate smoky flavour, that I will always remember, The next day Neeti's menu featured a crisp Murthal-type aloo paratha with a dash of butter and a lot of cold curd, that's the way I love them!

That's Neeti way of nursing me back to health, or rather pampering and spoiling me to the hilt! I wonder how many kilos she's made me gain! But, in sickness it's the loving care besides the medicines that do the magic.

Every morning and evening, I get calls from home to lift up my spirits and with terse directives to listen to the diktats of "Dr. Neeti" of no television and complete rest, at all costs.

But it is really difficult to stay out of action for such a long time. There is quite a bit of work getting piled up in office. I am missing the crazed action, the rush, the conference calls, besides the tea-time discussions and the crazy drive to office. I never missed driving my Kingliner (that's what I call my riviera red Wagon R!!!) so much, before.

The boils are still there, drying up - till then I am instructed to stay put by all means. It will be sometime before I can be back in action, in full form. And I am raring to do that.

Till then I am trying to pox out the chicken pox at the earliest, after all its no tandoori chicken!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Rediscovery of India

63 years old or 63 years young?
I would prefer to imagine that young is the word.
It is afterall, that youthful, zesty energy, the lust for life that defines my beautiful country, India. And young is the way it will be, for 63 years is merely the blink of an eye, in the shifting sands of time, millenia after millenia.
India, on the face of it, is undoubtedly chaotic. It is much like a bowl of spaghetti with innumerable strands of contradictions intertwined and messy enough to un-entangle.
But it is the tangy, fiery, spicy, bright red sauce that holds the strands of spaghetti together. That's true for India. The vibrant raw energy is what holds us together, despite the embedded and inherent contradictions.
But then there are those doomsday pundits, who cry to be heard, predicting that the worst is yet to come. They talk of Kashmir, of the Naxalites, of the Commonwealth Games fiascoes, of the decrepit state of urban India, of the great socio-economic divide.
True, these are problems, but they are not insurmountable.
We can tackle all this, the way we had tackled the really BIG issues that so bothered us very much, in 1947, in the hungry 1960s, turmoil filled 1970s, lacklustre 1980s and the economic disaster that struck us in 1990-91.
But to ensure that we, as a nation, handle all this, we need to need to rediscover ourselves, our potential, our capabilities, recognise our great demographic dividend that is almost bursting open. We need to revel in the contradictions and we will.
Metaphorically speaking, just as AR Rahman wrote "जय हो जय हो. आजा आजा जींद शामियाने के तले, आजा जरिवाले नीले आसमान के तले. जय हो." in his song, Jai Ho, we are, practically, standing under a star filled sky with innumerable opportunities, hopes and possibilities.

We need to rediscover our ourselves as a nation, that should be the agenda for each of us as wake up into the glorious morning, which happens to be our incredible nation's Independence Day, our Independence Day!
Let's all rediscover ourselves, our nation and rejoice in the liberty of a free India!!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spare Us This Tyranny....

I sometimes wonder how this megapolis survives.

The systems don't work. There is no plan for growth, let alone a vision for the future. The citizens are least cared for, forget convenience or anything of that sort.

Take for instance the recent diktat by the authorities on the domicile of autorickshaw and taxi drivers. All drivers are now required to prove that they are domiciled citizens of the city for over 15 years for autorickshaw or taxi permits to be issued to them.

The result has been disastrous. Overnight, the number of taxis and autorickshaws plying on the roads has dwindled. The ones that do selectively take passengers with impunity while the cops look the other way.

I had been hearing such horror stories for the past few months from my colleagues. One of them pulled a few of these drivers to the police station at Bandra-Kurla Complex, but little happened. She then even wrote to Priya Dutt, the local Member of Parliament.

But can lawmakers ever be expected to anything of substance ever?

I was at the receiving end myself yesterday evening and today morning.

Since my car had gone in for some repairs, I was forced to rely on public transport yesterday. It took me 45 minutes in the rain to get an autorickshaw to get me from Bandra-Kurla Complex to Lokhandwala. The autorickshaw drivers just don't bother to even stop and hear out where the commuter wants to go. If at all they do, they would immediately speed off as though they had seen a ghost.

Today, I had gone to Godrej Nature's Basket to stock up on groceries for the coming week. I again had a tough time getting an autorickshaw back home. One particular driver, in an autorickshaw with MH 02 RA 2800 as its registration number followed the usual antics. I threaten to report the matter to the cops. He said "No problem, please do. It's not my autorickshaw afterall!"

Now that is the point. There appears to be an artificial scarcity of autorickshaws created in the city. The cops allegedly take protection money from the drivers to look the other way, while the drivers go all out to loot the commuters - overcharge (Bombay autorickshaw drivers who used to run by the meter now quote a fare, like Delhi or Chennai), tamper meters and refuse short distance passengers. And all this happens under the patronage of local politicians who own or finance the autorickshaws.

I sometimes wonders when would this tyranny end.......... But the city does survive, limp on despite the tyranny......

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't Bark Up the Wrong Tree....this time

Why is common sense so uncommon?

The answer to that will always remain elusive.

For me, common sense dictates that in view of the prevailing geopolitical situation in the Af-Pak region, Iran ought to play a larger role in stabilising the region, so does India, so does Russia.

And logically so, for Iran is very different from the fanatical Islamic world. It does remain a democracy with some (or a lot of) semblance of order, notwithstanding, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political coups and frequent rants against the West.

I had suggested about the West normalising its equations with Iran in my blog titled Iran and Peace In Asia, way back in April 2009.

The time for such a normalisation could not be more appropriate than today.

Russia, Iran and India, being in the proximity of Afghanistan have a geopolitical interest in that country that country that serves as a logical counterbalance to Pakistan's destabilising machinations in Afghanistan.

None of these three countries would like to see fanaticism seeping out of Pakistan at any cost. If it did intensify, going forward, these three countries have a lot to be worried about.

In a scenario where the United States and NATO were to pull out, the three regional forces can lend some semblance of stability to Afghanistan.

But as always, the United States and the West are barking up the wrong tree, by canoodling with the rogues in Pakistan, including the Army Chief, Ashfaq Kayani and the ISI Chief, Shuja Pasha. And this could have potentially disastrous results for the West in the next few years.

It is high time the United States woke up!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Freakish 2611

Today I read a news report on the proposal for India's first emergency call number, on the lines of 911 in the United States.

The system promises to integrate all services - fire, police and medical - all into one. It is said it would operate on the principles of artificial intelligence to search and locate the distress caller!

Ambitious it is. Futuristic, it sounds.

The United States had the 911 emergency service. The country then faced the horrific 9/11 incident.

India had a horrific 26/11 and we now want "2611" as the emergency call number.

That is far too freakish to digest....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grandma's Hands

Today's Breakfree on 107.1 FM had an interesting story narrated by RJ Vinod Advani.

As Vinod narrated the story, I could not help but miss my grandma, Ammi's presence. Whatever she gave us, whether they were words of wisdom, her comforting presence or her beatific smile, will always be treasured memories. She will keep looking at us, from the hands of God!

Here goes the story:

Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench.
She didn't move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands. When I sat down beside her she didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was okay.
Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was okay. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled.
"Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking," she said in a clear voice strong.
"I didn't mean to disturb you, grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were okay," I explained to her.
"Have you ever looked at your hands," she asked. "I mean really looked at your hands?"
I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.
Grandma smiled and related this story: "Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shrivelled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.
"They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war.
"They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse.
"They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand."They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.
"These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side.
"I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandma's hands and led her home.
When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband I think of grandma.
I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

We Deserve Shit....

A few days back I received an interesting text message which said something relevant for our times.
It said "Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason...."
Shit is the commonality.
We get shit simply because we take it lying down.
The numerous fiascoes of UPA II are symptomatic of our attitude.
Our outrage over their inaction is short lived, we accept and we tolerate.
So we deserve what we get! Shit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Will India Inc. follow the Octopus example?

Convenience is the name of their business model.
That's what Octopus payment systems is all about. Their punchline "Making Everyday Life Easier" says it all!
Octopus prepaid cards can be used to pay for your commute throughout the territory of Hong Kong. You can use the stored value Octopus cards for travel on the MTR train system, on trams and on buses. McDonald's, supermarket chains like Wellcome and some pharmaceutical outlets also accept payments though Octopus.
But recently, Octopus was rocked by a scandal. There were allegations that data on 2 million Octopus users had been leaked out to their to business partners.
This proved lethal for the CEO of Octopus Holdings, Prudence Chan, who was forced to quit.
But in India, it's a very different scenario. There is scant respect for customer's privacy, even with the respected names.
Everyone would have received calls from telemarketers offering credit cards or time share holidays or unit linked insurance plans or anything under the sun.
Data finds its way into cubby hole offices in Bombay's Ballard Estate and Delhi's Nehru Place from banks and telecom operators.
The data is systematically sorted. And you can buy CDs of data for say HNI people, people having deposits over Rs. 50 lakhs, those owning Honda Citys, etc.
And the tragedy is that the much talked of Do Not Call (DNC) registry does not work.
For me the worst offender is Standard Chartered Bank. Even though I am registered with the DNC registry, I get calls every two weeks offering me a free card or a personal loan.
All my colleagues get similar calls.
I wonder if Mr. Swaroop will quit for excessive calling?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Are the Berries Bitter?

Berries are sweet, so are the Blackberries!The Blackberry has been around in India since 2004 and they have evolved into ubiquitous business tools - let's call that democratisation of technology.

In 2008, India first raised security concerns on the encryption technology used by Research In Motion (RIM), Blackberry's manufacturer.

The concern was on whether security agencies would be able to monitor communication on Blackberries, which is encrypted and routed through Blackberry servers in Canada and the United Kingdom, making monitoring ineffective.

Somehow, RIM squeezed itself out of the tight spot it found itself in.

Then the 26/11 attacks happened in Bombay. It was reported that the Pakistani attackers used Thuraya satellite phones alongwith Blackberries.

While our sleuths tracked down the sat phone communication, it appears they achieved little success with Blackberries. Again, the same concerns have been raised by the security agencies.Just as India was cracking down on RIM, it was reported that RIM maintains servers within the United States, to allay homeland security concerns. China too allowed Blackberries in only after a server was installed in Beijing.

Now the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are cracking down on RIM. Prudish Pakistan too wanted to block blasphemous content on Blackberries!!!

Some Indians have been voicing concerns on the intrusion into privacy, on sleuths snooping on private communications. But these are same very people who cry hoarse when a 26/11 happens.

We, in India, have a choice - do we allow unhindered privacy (which could have the unintended consequence of aiding terror) or we give up a bit of our liberty in the interest of national security.

I would happily accept the second option, for Blackberries can be bitter if there is another 26/11.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Clouds, clouds, clouds..... for me clouds are metaphors of pure and beautiful hopes floating around, waiting to be discovered.

The beginning of the Cloudscapes series shows clouds set behind buildings or reflected from glass.

Enjoy..... and have a great August ahead!!!!

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