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October 20, 2012

The Unforgetteble Nine Nights !!

Every year, as the Nine Nights festival of Navaratri passes me by , I am filled with a deep sense of regret of not being able to do as much Garba, in my youth, as I would have loved to. It was only 20 years later, I realized ,there were so many friends, who would have loved me to join them for Garba. But those days , without phones or Internet, if you lost touch with someone, only DIVINE INTERVENTION could make you meet again. 
Unlike running, Garba / Raas is a team event, you need a group to join in. For a teenager, growing up in Baroda, not having a group to go along for Garba during Navaratri could rank as the most distressing experience, it certainly was for me.  My predicament was quite unique, having enrolled in a Polytechnic (read boys diploma college) after 10th Std, I had the best of friends life could offer, ( Gaurang, Sajid, Bingo, Farhad, Nikunj) but when it came to Garba, they were mostly hopeless !  
Also once you were part of a group, unlike girls, who got free entry to all garba grounds, boys still had another hurdle to cross, they required an expensive "entry pass " to do Garba, at the most visited garba grounds -  Aarkee or United Way !! In the meanwhile, my challenges only compounded further, age 19, year 1995, I moved to Ahmedabad , to work for Voltas.

However my elder brother, Santosh, who has a very flamboyant, outgoing personality, had a large group of friends, and he was gracious & kind , to allow me to join them for doing garba. And whatever  interesting memories I have of Navaratri are of those few years- 1996-98 !
Those 9 Nights  ---  Travelling everyday in the evening 5 pm MEMU train from Ahmedabad to Baroda.  Reaching home to eat, rest and later get ready. Usually everyone arrived at the Garba ground by 11:00 pm , those days there were no restrictions on the timings and it was not unusual for folks to do Garba till wee hours of the morning, literally till the first light of dawn.  After doing Garba till around 4:30 am, Santosh used to drop me directly at the railway station , I used to take the 5 am MEMU train back to Ahmedabad still dressed in my traditional attire. I still vividly remember, how  co-passengers used to  allow me extra room to sleep, in an otherwise crowded compartment, as it was evident from my attire that I had been doing Garba all night.
In 1999 I relocated to Bangalore and since then could never visit Baroda during Navaratri.  
However this blog is not about the past, it is to look forward,  with the amount of energy & drive , I have been blessed with, I will certainly do Garba to my Heart's delight , ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS !!   
(as they say --- picture abhi baki hey, mere dost)

We the 'MIDDLE CLASS' !!

We the MIDDLE CLASS and I love being identified with this class. However always struggled to offer an comprehensive definition of Middle class - a paragraph from the article by David Brooks in NY Times beautifully summarizes what it means to be Middle class. Another one by the same author articulates the idea further
"To be middle class is to have money to spend on non-necessities. But it also involves a shift in values. Middle-class parents have fewer kids but spend more time and money cultivating each one. They often adopt the bourgeois values — emphasizing industry, prudence, ambition, neatness, order, moderation and continual self-improvement. They teach their children to lead different lives from their own, and as Karl Marx was among the first to observe, unleash a relentless spirit of improvement and openness that alters every ancient institution."
"19th century whn Ralph Waldo Emerson & other lesser lights offered audiences recipes for self-improvement, man and woman of character, they said, must possess a well-furnished mind. You may be a salesman or a farmer or a housewife, but you have a responsibility to be familiar with the best that has been thought and said.To be respectable, it is necessary to spend your leisure time sampling the great masterworks of culture. To fight off the grubby materialism of American culture, it is necessary to be conversant in philosophy, theology and the great political events of the wider world."

Though the entire article may not be of much interest to everyone here is the link to the full article:

October 17, 2012

(Humorous) Tales from the Corrupt !!

A short humurous take on the former Telecom Minister, A Raja, who is at the center of multi million dollar 2G scam. After being charged by the CBI , A Rada declared that he will fully cooperate with CBI team to prove himself Innocent .. this is HOW !!!
A Raja saying 'he will fully cooperate with the CBI probe to prove himself innocent" led the CBI sleuths & assembled press thru the back door of his ancestorial home to the servant quarters. Further climbing down the flight of stairs, they reached a poorly-lit cellar. On the darker end was an old rusty Godrej closet, pushing that aside, Raja revealed an entrance to a secret passageway. At the end of the passageway ,there was what looked like a state-of-the-art voice & finger-print recognition enabled security access system. Once the system authenticated Raja's voice and finger-print,a metallic door slid open and they walked into a small steel capsule- 10 ft by 10 ft in size.

Once everyone had entered, Raja pressed some buttons on a console panel inside the chamber, the door closed shut and the capsule descended approximately 50 feet. When it came to a complete halt, Raja yelled "Khulja sim sim ( in Tamil offcourse) and the doors automatically slid open. By now the CBI team was over-excited, each calculating the approximate bonus they would earn on being able to trace the tainted money. Raja led them out of the capsule into a very well kept clandestine chamber lined with scores of cabinets. Like kids in a candy store, the CBI officers jumped over each other to reach & open the cabinets, but soon their joy turned to sorrow when shockingly they found all cabinets empty.

Raja addressing the CBI " Don't you think if I had any black money I would have hidden it here, the fact that all the cabinets are empty, proves I am innocent"

October 14, 2012

Traveller's Note --- Strange Land !

Traveller on returning from a trip exploring India,wrote in his journal.

" India is a GREAT civilization from antiquity yet People of this country have remarkably maintained their close relationship with Nature, especially men. To this day, they still follow the custom of marking their boundaries, like the BIG -CATS in the wild, by peeing wherever they like with abandon. Infact as enterprising as the people of this GREAT country are, they have evolved this custom further .. some of the men have strange powers by which they spit some red-venom on every conceivable space to warn others to keep away. India is an truly an ancient land, yet they are still very close to God , cause they build temples everywhere., even is communities where children run naked because their parents cannot afford to clothe them. India is indeed a strange land .. where people Pray in the temples but Pee in the open. I was forewarned that India is civilization in contradiction, but nothing quite prepared me for the sight of a man defecating in the open next to railway tracks while talking to someone on his cell phone.

At the end of my journey I came back enlightened, why they call it  'INCREDIBLE INDIA' " !!!

Note - I write this not to mock anyone but to lament the sad state of affairs of our truly magnificient country. Once it was widely believed that education and economic growth will automatically address this ill. But tragically many Indian men seem to defy all logic and embarrasement.

The Legendary Ghosts of Reading - And my encounter with it !

The Legendary Ghosts of Reading -- and my encounter with it ( a real life story that every Penskite, who ever travelled to city of  Reading in Pennsylvania will relate to)
By summer of 2005, there was already a large group on our floor, who had returned from Reading,PA after participating in one of the numerous process transitions, happening at that time. But they did not just bring back process maps and sop's, they brought back something else -- tales of eerie experiences, spooky encounters and from their tales were born the Legendary Ghosts of Reading !!
It was roughly around 8:30 pm on 30th May 2005, as I unpacked and prepared to go to bed on my very first night on American soil at 19 Wyoming drive at City of Reading, PA. Umesh with whom I was sharing the duplex 2 bedroom apartment ,was still at work. And I was still experiencing the Adrenaline rush of having travelled to US for the first time in my life.
Unlike the houses in the Indian subcontinent, which are made up of concrete, most American houses are made of plasterboard and wood. It lends them to create noises that most Indians wont be familiar with. Especially creaking sound of the wood boards, when someone walks or the howling sound as the wind blows through the window. It takes time to get used to such noises and for our mind to cancel them out.
So I kept one of the lampshades in the room switched on, just in case !!
I began to drift off in sleep, but all of a sudden, the flush in the bathroom went off !! -- whoosshh !!  My pulse shot up, so did my heart beat and I become wide awake. I was alone in the house, so who was operating the flush. Usually after any such encounter, our mind if first frozen with fear , later as it thaws, it starts finding a logical explanation for that encounter. Probably Umesh was back from work, so I called out his name, while still seating on my bed, no response !! My mind tried desperately to come with any probable explanation for the flush operating on its own, that too, exactly at an hour, when I was about to fall asleep, while I was all alone in the apartment ,on my
very first night in US !! Nothing
After the flush emptied the tank, the ball valve opened letting the water gush in, to fill up the tank --- trrrrrrrrrr , but again whooossshh , the flush went off !! And it kept repeating. I don't know for how long , I sat on my bed, frozen, finding no logical explanation for this phenomenon, all the Ghosts stories of Reading that I had overheard back in India , paid me a complimentary visit.  I held a Sai Baba frame close to my chest and summed up enough courage to confront the toilet flushing Ghost !! 
With my heart pounding thru my chest, I pushed open the bathroom door, but there was no one inside. Again the flush went off on its own. At least this Ghost is invisible, is what I thought !!  With sweaty palms, I opened the cover of the flush tank, there was certainly nothing out of the ordinary inside, but flush kept operating on its own.
Another few minutes went by before my mind calmed down enough to think clearly , the flush in all probability was malfunctioning. Why it decided to malfunction exactly at that appointed hour as it did, remains a mystery  till date. By now my fear had given way to anger on the flush tank to have screwed up my sleep. I took a shampoo bottle and jammed it inside the flush tank, below the ball-valve lever, so disabling the mechanism.  Thankfully my jugad worked , the flush went silent, after an harrowing ordeal lasting over an hour, I finally felt asleep. 
And probably the Ghost of Reading went off to some other apartment, to terrify another unsuspecting individual.