Bahadur The Braveheart

Bahadur has been with us for decades. No fuss, no nuances—he is no Jeeves, but our Man-Friday for sure.

Assisting the families of three brothers on three floors and managing no man’s lands, Bahadur is everyone’s favourite punching-bag. Not as stoic as Buddha, he takes it from all with equanimity—allowing just the right twitch to his left eyebrow.

He manages the garbage, grounds, and the grimaces. He drives us nuts, but doesn’t bolt; and produces the priceless screw n screwdriver just in time to overcome many a mini crises. Like feudals, we shout n clap “koi hai”, and Bahadur emerges from the shadows like the ghost who walks.

He has mastered the survival stratagems—he ducks, reflects, and deflects the blame-balls with aplomb. He has stood the tests of time, our idiosyncrasies, and bewildering behavior.

Time and trials have taught him when to take us for granted, and to play one against the other. His subterfuge is not subtle. Unsophisticated—unlike the city-born and bred—he  is often caught. But haven’t his small sins and cunning little leeways—albeit harmless—resulted from our own selfishness?

He has lived more of his life with our family than his own. He has played with our infants, seen children become adults, and witnessed young grow old—while his own hair has thinned, and temples turned grey. If ever he had dreamt, he had merged them into ours long ago.

We mess with him when he is around, and miss him when he is not. Like the “unhappily married for long”, we wouldn’t leave each other…Till death do us part. Caught between “Goodbye” and “I love you”, we retire to a corner and hum the mutual dilemma:

“Can’t live with or without you” (U2);

and

”Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin…Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahin” (Aandhi)

Bahadur

A Tale of Two Sisters

Puja in pink and Maya in red—are sisters. Puja joined us a few months back to look after Maa. Soon after, Maya—younger of the two—came to help my brother in household affairs.

From the bits and pieces that are thrown at me by Maa, I learnt—their father doesn’t earn anything, is a drunkard, and drowns in alcohol every last penny these sisters bring home. Puja and Maya are two among the six sisters—born in quick succession. The youngest is six, and the oldest—Puja—is 22. Their mother lives the nightmare created by her husband day and night.

I never ask them anything, lest i dent their dignity.

From what little I have observed, both are neat in their methods and manners. They are cheerful while working, at peace when resting, and carry themselves well. They don’t complain, but are straight forward.

Puja and Maya hug or have arms on each other’s shoulders whenever they meet. Naughty Maya has an attitude. Puja acts the elder sister.

When I returned from the office today, both had an earpiece each in their ears from the same mobile cord—talking to their mother. They accepted my request for their pic with grace, Maya managing to remain still for the shot.

These two sisters and the other four don’t know what the future holds for them. I don’t know about the other four, but Puja and Maya live each day as it comes.

Puja maintains a Diary…Perhaps writing what remains unsaid. Maya doesn’t…Perhaps she is weaving a fairy tale.

Puja & Maya

Driving Thoughts: Humans Evolving or Devolving?

Every morning while driving to my office, I traverse a long stretch of the city’s high-street. The lovely white flowers on the road’s median sway and dance in the breeze, the little branches bend and reach out—to  touch n embrace. They uplift my mood. I ignore the merciless Sun scorching my face, and whistle to the tune of “Una paloma blanca…” playing on the car radio.

The next moment my eyes travel to the median below and encounter miles of disgusting spit. My senses are so offended, I silence the singer and the whistler. 

Disturbing thoughts cloud my mind.

Humans damage what humans build. We kill our creations, murder our heritage, and ravage our civilization.

Humans also destroy nature. We ruin our rivers, cut our forests, spoil the air we breathe, and pollute the water we drink. We systematically deface and disfigure the beauty.

We take the life out of life.

And for every havoc, every calamity that we wreak on ourselves—we blame God or Government.

Are we evolving or devolving?

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We Are Strange

We act one way with the people of equal or higher social standing, and another way with the less fortunate ones.

We fight for and snatch the restaurant bill of thousands to have the privilege of paying it. We also fight with the rickshaw puller or a vegetable vendor over a Rupee.

Humans are strange. The overfed overfeed the overfed and underfeed the underfed. But at times, those who have less, give more.

Humans have double standards, Nature one. Nature only gives, never takes.

Nature doesn’t discriminate. It invites all to eat, drink, take, see, explore, enjoy—all that it has.

Nature teaches, but we never learn.

Nature has failed to change the human nature.

Pic: joshua earle-unsplash IMG_20200908_201545

Show-Offs: The Show Spoilers

The urge to show off in the status-sick overpowers their sense of right and wrong. It kills their decency, if any. It turns them into hypocrites and makes them practice double standards.

These showoffs consider themselves as God’s gift to the humanity. Their thoughts begin and end with themselves. Selfish to their very core—they don’t bother what is just, fair, and right.

Uninvited and self-appointed, they sit in judgment over everything and pronounce their ridiculous verdicts.

Under the constant spell of status-anxiety, they brag about their status symbols—such as money, houses, cars, bodyguards, and foreign holidays. They don’t miss any opportunity to flaunt their contacts with the high and the mighty.

To buttress their pomp and show, they shamelessly usurp public property, appropriate shared facilities, and monopolise common resources. To achieve this, they shout you down or justify it with words false and means foul.

They yell, abuse, and threaten to show their power and status. Yet, when the time comes, they put their tail between the legs and are the first to disappear. Mean and meaningless, they have no might. They throw their weight around, but have no spine.

Intoxicated by the false and the frivolous, the fakes forever seek admiration from others coz they lack self-worth. They live a life of lies, make believe, and grandiose illusions.

Such people put you off like the stench of a rotten carcass—You want to run away from.

What do you think?

Image: Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

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A Professor And A Gentleman

When I met Prof. Indu Mohan Das again in October 2021, and later wrote about him, I couldn’t  imagine he will leave us so soon. With heavy heart, I share below what I had written:

Prof. Indu Mohan Das has decency written all over him. Dignified and gentle, goodness reflects in his eyes and sits light on his shoulders.

Our association goes back to the 1980s when he was a Professor in the Physics Deptt., Gauhati University, and headed University Science & Instrumentation Center. We—at ‘Systems & Appliances’—were taking pioneering baby steps to introduce technology driven solutions from companies such as Wipro, Philips, and Tata in the region.

One winter morning, attired in a blue blazer and wearing a salesman’s hat, I knocked at his office door. This was my first meeting with Prof. Das, and after giving him product specifications, I requested him for a Purchase-Order with full advance payment—what cheek. He looked at me, smiled, and asked: “full advance?” I met his eyes and replied: “yes, full advance”. He signed the Order with a twinkle in his eyes. Business concluded, we sipped tea and talked of this and that. He said how good my tie looked; I returned the compliment about his moustache.

Remarkable this encounter was—he trusted the unknowns—me and my firm, at considerable risk. I doubted the University system to pay us on time; he didn’t doubt our intention. I realised he trusted me—a novice and much junior—because he himself is a man of integrity. We moved heaven and hell to deliver and install the ordered equipment in record time—we had to—to honour his trust in us.

With time, our professional relationship developed into mutual respect and friendship. I shifted to Bangalore. Prof. Das went on to become Dean, Science at the University and retired.

Over the years, the warmth of our friendship remains intact, the understanding never waned. I have been meeting him during some of my Guwahati visits. Yesterday I met him again. His adult son is wheelchair bound since childhood, and now he himself suffers from Parkinson’s—yet his spirit soars undiminished. Oh… How delighted he was to have me in his home. We joked and laughed, reminiscing about old times and old timers. He offered me a ‘Sandesh’—his affection so delicious, I had to have another one.

Elegant in looks, thoughts, and action—rare are men such as Indu Mohan Das.

Shadows Image: unsplash

Citizens—Pls. Awaken; Authorities—Pls. Enforce

As we throw caution to the wind, masks n sanitisers to the bin, wash our hands off washing, and distance ourselves from keeping the distance—Covid mutates, multiplies, mocks, and murders.

And we are in senseless slumber—even as the sinister shuns the shadows, sits on our shoulder, and stings—sensing our stupidity.

images: pixabay

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Beauty With An Ugly Underbelly—

Has Guwahati Become A Spit-City?

Anxious and cautious—I tread Guwahati streets and footpaths as if performing breakdance—but   fail to avoid landmines of grey grease, purple phlegm, and many-splendoured spit. I salute the artistes from the “Salivadorian School”—who paint the city in myriad hues and shades with their spit and sputum. 

Perhaps no other city has embraced spitting the way we have! Whether Guwahati has become a Spit-Hati, a Spit-City, a Spittoon? The contrast is incongruous—a city so beautiful, yet so filthy—a beauty rendered with an ugly underbelly.

Prime Minister Sri Modi mentioned this national pass-time in Mann Ki Baat. So rampant is the spitting obsession in Guwahati that the Chief Minister Sri Himanta Biswa Sarma, while inaugurating the new flyover, appealed to the citizens not to spoil it with spit. Some shameless people lost no time in creating ugly spit-patterns on the flyover and its artistic paintings.

Why blame? Besides pandering to our artistic cravings, spit comes in handy to manage the mundane—licking stamps, counting currency, and turning pages. Damn the hygiene, kill the aesthetics, murder the environment.

The poor spit while walking, the rich spit out from fancy cars. We are spot on when we spit, and spoilt for choices—pavements, parks, pillars, posts, or pits. Apathetic and immune, it is perfectly normal to spit and be spitted upon. Nonchalant, we take spit in our stride—literally and metaphorically—and carry it home. Hats off to our stoicism, we cope up with the outpourings from the sundry orifices with equanimity. We let out a peculiarly sheepish laugh to salute the free spirit of the fellow spitting on us from the bus window.

Why Spitting Must Stop

But it is no laughing matter. Public spitting is disgusting, dirty, and dangerous. It offends our senses, spoils our surroundings, and spreads disease. Spitting pollutes natural ecosystems of air, water, and land—degrading environment.

It affects aesthetics, turns off tourists, and shows state and its people in poor light. Spitting depletes the already scarce time, money, and medical resources. It is reported that Indian Railways spends Rs. 1,200 crores and oceanful of water every year to remove the spit stains from the tracks, platforms, and coaches.

Health Hazard

Spitting is a huge health hazard. It spreads Covid. It also spreads TB, hepatitis, viral meningitis, cytomegalovirus, etc. Researchers say that the spit droplets containing Corona virus can spread to a radius up to 27 feet. The pathogens remain in the air as well as on surfaces for several hours. 

We are a country of 140 crore people. Even if we take that 50% of the people spit in public—it is 70 crore people spreading dread and disease—daily. It’s mind boggling. 

Psychology Of Spitting

Many people believe saliva is a harmful waste and they must throw it out as soon as the body produces it. People also spit out of sheer habit, even unconsciously. According to WHO advisory, chewing smokeless tobacco (khaini, zarda, gutka, paan and paan masala with tobacco) and areca nut (supari) increase saliva production and enhance the urge to spit repeatedly.

Spitting—especially on the face—is an extraordinary instrument for expressing disgust, disrespect, contempt, anger, and hatred. The spitters also use it to show their superiority, power, and masculinity. 

Superstitions And Spoil Sports

Greeks practised ‘Ritual Spitting’ and ‘Spitting Thrice’ to ward off evil spirits. The Masai tribals of Kenya spit in their hands before shaking hands with others to show respect. Till recent past, the kings, the queens, the rich, and the famous in India, Europe, and US—used exquisite spittoons to deposit their royal spit. Westerners are quite sporting about spitting, and engage in spitting competitions such as ‘cherry pit spitting’ in Michigan, ‘cricket spitting’ at Purdue University in Indiana, and ‘olive pit spitting’ in Israel. 

In India, many mothers spray spit on children uttering ‘thoo thoo’ to protect them from ‘buri nazar’ (evil spirits). The rural folks spit on minor wounds for healing. People in the Hindi heartland use many imaginative idioms and metaphors such as ‘thookta hun tum pe’ (I have nothing but contempt for you), ‘thook kar chatna’ (to go back on one’s words), and ‘thook bilona’ (to speak too much).

The Laws

Covid came in handy for the government of India to enforce the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It made spitting in public places punishable with a fine or imprisonment or both. Spitting in public places is also an offence under the Guwahati Municipal Corporation Act, 1971. Guwahati Municipal Corporation(GMC) has recently announced a cash award for reporting public spitting, and requested citizen’s participation in keeping the city clean. It can do much more.

The Spit Free Street

Making laws is not enough. We need effective enforcement and monitoring. Installing CCTVs and deploying flying squads will help in catching the culprits. Government must be strict in imposing ban on sale and consumption of gutka, paan masala, tobacco, etc.

Curbing spitting habit requires change in public attitudes, behavior, and choices. Persuasive tactics, rather than coercion and control through stringent laws and blanket bans, will yield better results. Spitting can be tackled if a mass awareness campaign—akin to a crusade—is launched and sustained till it is wiped out. This must become the city and state priority. 

Covid has given an opportunity to put this problem on radar, and to bring an end to it. It is now or never. Speaking only about masks, hand wash, and maintaining distance—and not cautioning about spitting—is like closing three windows but leaving the fourth open for the evil to enter.

We can teach spitting etiquettes through grassroot campaigns and participation of citizens. “No Spitting” signposts will warn people. Advertisements on auto-rickshaws, taxis, and buses will create a buzz. Social media campaigns will have a wide reach and awaken netizens. When ‘Swatch Bharat Mission’ was launched, children taught the elders to not to litter—these kids can do wonders in the war against spitting. 

People listen to religious, community, and political leaders for right or wrong reasons—their words will have the required impact. Artists, sports persons, film stars, teachers, press, and the medical fraternity can lend tremendous support.

The awareness campaigns have to target both—those who spit, and those who don’t. Involving non-spitters is the most effective ant-spit strategy. Imagine 70 crore non-spitters persuading 70 crore spitters—each one stopping one. 

Our City Our Character

I write this because I love my city, and wonder—can we ever hope to remove the perpetual spots which stain our life, time, and place? And I write with screaming sarcasm, hoping to awaken citizens from their stupor. Can we all spit on spit—so we don’t have to exclaim ‘Oh shit, spit’—at every step.

We can continue to split over spit, or be in splits over it; drown in spituphoria, or rise in spitcstacy. But think—people’s habits define a city’s character, and what is a city—if not its people.

I recently visited my hometown Guwahati. The rampant spitting was so much in face, I had to spit out my disgust, ‘dos’, and ‘don’ts’. “G Plus” carried my sentiments in the published article below:

G Plus Spitting Article Image

Do Nice People Finish Last?

Do nice people finish last?

It seems so. Being good, fair, and decent to others—we end up being bad, unfair, and indecent to ourselves. If we are good, people take us for granted—they push, pull, and impose. It works at a subliminal level and expresses itself in overt and covert commands and controls.

At home, at work, in public places, or in social situations, nice people suffer. You don’t break the cinema ques and traffic rules, but others do—you end up not getting the ticket and getting stuck in a jam. We offer a seat to the elderly, but others usurp ours.

Does it cost us anything to be socially sensitive, nuanced, and not embarrass people—can’t we avoid laughing or looking deep into their eyes when they commit a faux pas?

This raises questions about the civility of the people from an ancient civilization—about our character and ethos.

This brings us to another question—what happens to the rare breed of nice people surrounded by the unthoughtful, unconcerned, uncooperative majority?

We often see that goodness doesn’t pay. But life is not all about transactions. Call it courtesy or one’s methods and manners—it’s the innate decency in one’s character. What counts is the way we think, behave, and live when no one is looking. It’s the difference between being pseudo-nice on social media vs being nice in real life—when there is none to send us ‘likes’. The choices we make affect the choices of others.

Nice guys, at times, finish last… Still, it’s nice to be nice.

Pic: How light n lit up I felt when i met someone nice yesterday

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Story of Our Stories

“I am me”—I shout from the rooftops. But am I? Since everyone claims to be himself, I am no different.

Somebody, everybody, or nobody—we are all storytellers. We tell stories about others and about ourselves. And we colour those stories, we paint pictures—as we want or imagine. Whereas we can’t twist others’ stories beyond a point, we have a field day with our own.

The narcissist in me loves myself. I repeatedly tell myself and others about myself. And I put chosen stories within my story—to showcase what I wish to. This creates ‘me’ I want to see and to be seen. This imaginary ‘me’ takes over the real me, my life, times, and relationships.

Layer upon layer, we weave fantasies to display an identity that is phoney and false—at least in parts. We select or discard the realities, the essentials, and the history which have shaped us. Our subjective interpretations and biases change our person, persona, and personality.

We become the stories we keep repeating about ourselves to ourselves and to others. How we project ourselves in our stories could be very different from what we are. It’s easy to convince and deceive ourselves that the situations and people have forced us to be what we are not.  

Becoming crafty while crafting our stories, we plant prejudices and embed distortions. We ask our stories to tell us what we wish to hear. As we believe in the make believe, we become what we pretend. So we make the stories or stories make us? These stories coax, cajole and compel us to think, believe, and act in the way we portray our characters in these stories. 

At times we make stories of others our own. We become other people—living a vicarious life of sham and show. As Oscar Wilde wrote: ‘’Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.’’

How do we overcome illusions and delusions? How do we quit living in paradoxes and frameworks of fakery? We can begin by telling our genuine story to ourselves. Telling others is optional, for others sense our truth sooner or later. To twist Huxley’s words—there are things said and things unsaid, and in between are the doors of perception. The world knows the story of our stories.

Image: ClipcartKey

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