Something About Everything

There is a story to be told!

Tag: India

Homecoming

It took me more than 2.5 years, but come home I did. Finally! And it feels awesome! :)

I have been in California’s bay area for a while now, have a lot of friends there, and that feels almost like home too- the almost here, is important. Pune stirs in me something very raw, familiar and comfortable- feels like home. US has been great so far and I have had great experiences, but at the end of the day, with the visa and all, you are Uncle Sam’s guests, and every once in a while, you are reminded of it.

So what have I been upto?

After my masters, I landed a job in San Jose at a startup. Having interned there before, everything seemed familiar, and I pounced on the opportunity. By the time I was back in early 2012 though, things had begun to change. For one, the startup had been around for roughly 4 years already, and had had a couple of rounds of funding. Buoyed by their initial success, the company ramped up the number of employees- mainly sales and marketing people, since engineering was deemed to have sufficient folks. After the first couple of quarters of the product release though, sales were scarce, and the company did not get any market traction. The product itself wasn’t bad at all- it was just ahead of its time, and the market had not been correctly sized up by the powers that be. Things unraveled fast. VC (venture capitalist) culture is a bitch, and there are no second chances. By the end of the year, 1/3rd people were fired- mostly sales and marketing. The company tried a last ditch attempt at selling itself and having a respectful exit. The founders nearly pleaded with the employees to stay put for the acquisition to happen. And stay put I did. Yada yada yada.. acquisition didn’t go through- and I found myself a sitting duck, with all offers I had before declined optimistically by yours truly. :)

Thankfully one of the companies remade their offer- and my visa status was maintained. The new employer is a multinational Asian behemoth, selling some of the hottest consumer products in market today. Its top level management is completely Asian- and as such the work culture is- ahem, rigorous. My only hope is- I joined in at the wrong time, just when there was a impending product release, and the recent work hours were an exception rather than a rule. I don’t mean to complain, but my new boss is inexperienced, neurotic, forgetful and cracks his shit under pressure. As one team mate put it when we were bitching about work during lunch- he is like a 16 year old insecure girl (no offense to all the 16 year old girls :)). I really hope things change for the better.

On a personal front, things are going well. My family is in good health. The grandparents have become quite old now- and they were one of the reasons I was desperate to come home for a visit. Staying away from home makes you realize how important your family is. I am single, so.. Hello ladies- and how are you doing today? ;)

This trip is quite short, and I have done my best to meet all friends and family. Hopefully I will get to come home for a longer time within the next year. Till then, adios amigos. I leave Friday. Meanwhile I will try and write here more often from US. Promise! :)

Happy Republic Day

A nice video to convey the sentiments

Right to Education- a different perspective

Every once in a while, the Indian government comes out with a gem of a law. Last time, it was the Right to Information (RTI) which finally enabled the man on the street to figure out what exactly goes behind those closed bureaucratic doors.

Yesterday, i.e. 1st April 2010, another landmark bill was passed in the Indian parliament- the Right to Education Act.

For those of you who aren’t clear about what exactly the act entails, let me explain- amongst other things, it makes 25% reservation for the underprivileged compulsory in all schools- including private schools, whether aided/ non-aided. Excellent idea that, on first thought. Of course, the fees will be waved off/nominal for these kids. And already, the private-schools bodies have started protesting against the bill, approaching the Supreme Court to get it revoked. The bill ensures that these private schools cannot find loop holes to get around it. They can’t segregate the poor kids from the rich kids. No discrimination, no separate morning school for the rich kid, and afternoon one for the poor kid or anything.

As I said, great initiative.
Only, I had a strange thought as I was having dinner in front of the TV yesterday. You remember the time when you were in school, and your friend got a nice shiny new toy?? Or a fancy compass-box ? These days however, with the ‘upgradation’ of kids in schools, the ‘compass boxes’ are replaced by ipods and other expensive stuff. You know, in my school, I think they allow 5th grade kids to have cell phones. Getting back to the point- so you remember going back home and telling your mom that you want a similar shiny toy too? And then throwing a tantrum/ sulking  when folks at home refused to entertain you?

So what happens, when the poor kids start going to ordinarily-rich-kids-schools? Will they always have a complex of being poorer, and not having all that stuff that 75% of their classmates have? Imagine- my mom washes dishes and sweeps the floor at your mom’s place. I’ll feel very nice about it, will I? Will the poor kid’s parents even want their kids to attend school at such places? The more I think about this, and the more I find a recipe for disaster cooking up in my head.

I’ve been working with an NGO (Akanksha) for the past few months, and have interacted with some slum kids closely. As my friend had pointed out once, the underprivileged kids are exposed to some pretty nasty things at an early age- things, that well-to-do people don’t expose their children to. So you have here a confluence of two different kinds of little minds- one, which has had real world bad experience, and other, which has had the internet world super-exposure. And grade one, these kids are not going to have the maturity to learn from each other/ celebrate the differences sort of thing. Its going to be a stark contrast. Fullstop.

What are your views on this? Drop in a comment.

Khakhi’s Plight

Place: Kalina, Mumbai
Time: 08.00 hrs
Occasion: Job Placement
Jobs Available: 3,250
People Applying: 30,300

Many of the prospective employees standing in the line are graduates- LLB’s, BSC’s. Some even postgraduates. “What job are they applying for?” you might ask.

Its a job that starts at 5-6 a.m. Then it continues for 12 hours. Sometimes 14. There is officially no lunch break. No tea break. After 25+ years of service, you get payed Rs. 14,000/month. Rs. 10 are cut from your salary, each month for your children’s education. If you are not seen at the job-site for even 20 mins, the supervisor, who makes random checks marks you absent. There’s a way out of that though. You can pay him Rs. 100 and get him to mark you present. You are given Rs. 99 only as allowance for stitching the company’s trousers . Pants, which cost Rs. 350.

Wondering what sort of a job that is, are you?

Company: Indian Police Force
Job openings: Constable

On 8th March, at the above venue, a stampede took place when the gates were opened, and the job applicants jumped over the barricades and the gates. 1 dead, 11 injured. Normal story, huh? Why are these people so eager to get the job? A job that guarantees nearly zero job satisfaction? Is it because of the respect they get from people? Is it because they want to serve their country? Or is it because of the bribes they can collect?

A plumb posting in the police force cost anything like 1 lakh for the constabulary to 10 lakhs for inspectors and sub-inspectors. Plumb, meaning a posting where you can collect maximum bribes. Like an area with lots of illegal establishments (dance bars, liquor dens, ‘massage’ parlors) or a traffic cop posting at a busy chowk. Think khaki. Think corrupt policemen.

But the point is, can we really blame the ‘mama’ on the road for collecting bribes? Can you realistically expect a guy, with Rs. 14000 as his salary, to support a wife and 2-3 kids? Can he even afford a house? Frankly speaking, I think he has every right to collect bribes. Did you know, that the policemen aren’t even provided bullet-proof vests free of cost? They have to buy vests costing anything like Rs 50,000 on their own. Mostly on the streets and always surrounded by vehicles, traffic policemen are exposed to smoke, dust, noise, making them top candidates for pollution-related ailments. The Indian Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has recommended 800 policemen for 10,000 people. The actual figure is 125 cops for 1,00,000 citizens. Cops are often accused of being ruthless and rude. You must’ve seen the video clippings of police brutality on the news channels. Even though they need to be trained in behavioral skills, their attitude stems from the stress they encounter.

Police reform has only seen knee jerk reactions, mostly crisis related. Think 26/11 and the mad scamper by the government to equip cops in Mumbai with better weapons. With a overall lack of will to overhaul the system from the political, bureaucratic and legal fraternity, the day when India will have copybook cops wont come anywhere in the near future.

The Diwali that was..

So its Diwali. This post should probably have been up 2 days back, when Diwali started, but anyway. For starters- I’m finding this Diwali pretty much drab. Nothing much to do, except EATING sweets, and procrastinating about when to start off with STUDYING for the practical :P

But it wasn’t always like this. When I think of Diwali, the first image that comes to my mind is of my grandfather- Daddy, as everyone in the house calls him. As a kid, it used to be somewhat of a ritual- going with Daddy to the shop nearby to buy the all important firecracker gun, or the phatakyachi banduk as it is called in Marathi. Which Daddy used to buy with his trademark statement, “Look Sunny, the gun has been bought,” as if to put the act of buying the gun on stone and call upon the shopkeeper to bear witness. He even used to lend me his bottle of ‘Soldier Oil’, for keeping the gun in a working condition. :) This used to be like a week before the actual start of the festival…

And then my friends and I used to go all over the place, running behind each other with our guns going thak  thak thak. Sounds silly, does it? But it used to be real fun. Then just 2-3 days before Dhantrayodashi, the first day of Diwali, I used to drag Daddy along to buy me firecrackers – Sutali bomb, Chimni bomb, Panpatti, Lavangi- you name it, and I’ve burst it. So during the four days of Diwali, all the neighborhood kids used to gather on the street in the evening, pool up stuff and burst loads of firecrackers. At night, we used to set off rockets from my terrace, my place being one of the tallest.  Sometimes my grandmother, Aaji used to join in. Always the daredevil, her specialty was  to take a incense stick in one hand, a Lavangi Maal (firecrackers on a string) in another, and then she used to light it up and throw the Lavangi far off.

Ah- I’m getting nostalgic now. Life’s so serious these days. I mean, you can’t even think of such a simple thing as bursting firecrackers without thinking of the pollution it causes in the same breath. And then as a adult you have all these issues- professional, personal and what not, to worry about.

Sometimes, I wish I were a kid….

Ganesh Atharvashirsha

Hey there…

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi; the first day of Ganesh Festival. Ganpati- the elephant God, needs no introduction. I shall try to explain to you the Ganpati Atharvashirsha. Shri Ganpati Atharvashirsha was written by Atharva Rishi, who is said to have had Ganpati Darshan. It is a late Upanishad, which celebrates Ganesha as the embodiment of the entire Brahman, or the universe. As it is originally in Sanskrit, and most people reading my blog can’t read Sanskrit, I shall be typing the words in English.

|| Shri Ganeshaya Namaha ||
Om bhadramkarne bishnunayama devaha
Bhadram pashyemak-shyabhirya jatrah
Sthirai rangai stuvasa stanumbihi
Vyashema devahitam yadayuh
Svastina indro vruddhashravah
Svastina pusha vishvavedaha
Svastinastakshyo arishta nemih
Svastino brihaspatir-dadhatu
Om shanti shanti shantihi |

Atha Ganesh Atharvashirsham vyakhya syamaha ||

Om Namste Ganpataye
Tvameva Pratyaksham Tatvamasi
Tvamev Kevalam Kartasi
Tvamev Kevalam Dhartasi
Tvamev Kevlam Hartasi
Tvamev Sarvam Khalvidam Bramhasi
Tvam Sakshadatmasi Nityam ||1||

Hritam Vachmi
Satyam Vachmi || 2 ||

Ava tvam Mam
Ava Vaktaram
Ava Shrotaram
Ava Dataram
Ava Dhataram
Avanuchanamava Shishyam
Ava Paschatat
Ava Purastat
Avo Uttaratat
Ava Dakshinatat
Ava Chordhvatat
Ava Dharatat
Sarvatomam Pahi Pahi Samantat || 3 ||

Tvam Vangmayastvam Chinmaya
Tvam Anandmayastvam Bramhamaya
Tvam Sachitananda Dvitiyosi
Tvam Pratyaksham Bramhasi
Tvam Jynanmayo Vijyanamayosi || 4 ||

Sarvam Jagadidam Tatvo Jayate
Sarvam Jagadidam Tatvastishtati
Sarvam Jagadidam Tvay Layameshyati
Sarvam Jagadidam Tvayi Pratyeti
Tvam Bhumi Rapo Nalo Nilo Nabha
Tvam Chatvarim Vak Padani || 5 ||

Tvam Gunatraya Atitaha
Tvam Dehatraya Atitaha
Tvam Kalatraya Atitaha
Tvam Muladharastitiyosi Nityam
Tvam Shaktitrayaat akaha
Tvam Yogino Dhayayanti Nityam
Tvam Bramhastvan, Vishnustvam,
Rudrastvam, Indrastvam Agnistvam,
Vayustvam, Suryastvam, Chandramastvam,
Bramhabhur Bhuvasvorom || 6 ||

Ganadim Purvamuccharaya Varnadim Tadanantaram
Anusvaaara Parataraha
Ardhendu Lasitam
Taaaren Hruddam
Etatva Manusva Rupam
Gakarah Purva Rupam
Akaro Madhyama Rupam
Anusvaras Chantya Rupam
Binduruttara Rupam
Nadah Sandhanam
Saishitaa Sandihi
Saisha Ganeshvidhya
Ganak Rishi;
Nichrud Gayatri chandah
Ganpatir devata
Om ‘GANG’ Ganpataye Namah || 7 ||

Ek Dantaya Vid Mahe
Vakratundaya Dhimahi
Tanno Danti Prachodayat || 8 ||

Ek Dantam Chatur Hastam
Pashmam Kusha Dharinam
Radanch Vardam Hastair
Bhibhraanum mushaka-dhvajam
Raktam Lambodaram Shoorpakarnakam
Rakta Vasasamam
Rakta Gandhanu Liptangam
Rakta Pushpaihi supujitam
Bhaktanu Kampinam Devam
Jagat Kaaarana machutam
Avir Bhutamcha Shrustyado,
Prakrute Purushatparam
Evam Dhayayati Yo Nityam,
Sa Yogi Yoginam Varah || 9 ||

Namo Vrat Pataye, Namo Ganapataye
Namah Pramatha patye,
Namste astulambodaraya Ekdantaaya
Vighna Nashine Shiv Sutaya
Shri Varad Murtiye Namah || 10 ||

Let us hear only good with our ears,
See only good with our eyes,
And with the help of these senses,
Spend our whole life serving you;
Lord Indra is our protector,
Lord Pusha (Sun) is our benefactor,
May Garuda be auspicious for us,
And may Devguru grant us success,
Let there be peace everywhere

Now I shall utter the Ganesh Atharvashirshya

Ganesha, the Lord of the Devaganas,
You are the first form of the Bramhatatva to arise
You have alone created this entire universe
You alone can sustain this universe
You alone can destroy this universe
You are the all conquering supreme Lord
Indeed, you are the “ATMA” || 1 ||

I take oath upon the three worlds,
That I speak only the Truth

Protect me
Protect the one who describes you
Protect all who hear about you
Protect the giver of this knowledge
Protect the one who receives it
Protect me & my disciples
Protect me from the obstacles
From the east
From the west,
From the north
From the south
Protect me from above & below
Protect me from all directions

You are the constituent of speech
You are Joy & Immortal Consciousness
You are Truth, Mind & Bliss, incomparable
You are none other than divinity
You are knowledge of all types || 4 ||

All the Universes manifest due to you
All the Universes are sustained by you
All the Universes get destroyed in you
All the Universes gets merged into you
You are Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Sky
You are the 4 types of speech & the root source of sound || 5 ||

You are beyond the 3 gunas;
Beyond the 3 bodies;
Beyond the 3 times
Beyond the 3 states of being
You always reside in the “Muladhara” Chakra
You are the trinity of Power
Sages always Meditate for you
You are the Creator, Sustainer, Destroyer,
The Lord of the 3 worlds, Fire, Air, Sun,
Moon, You are all inclusive & all Pervading

Atharva Rishi then gives us the sacred
Ganesh Vidya. The Letter “GA” is to be enunciated, followed by “NA”. This one word Mantra is then given power by saying “OM”. Knowledge in those days was transmitted orally, so to make it simpler, Atharva Rishi presents a simpler form : “GA” is the first part, “Na” is the middle one and “UM” with a ‘bindu’ is at the end. It is said that this Mantra if pronounced properly,
has the power of revealing Lord Ganesh. The sage who receives the Mantra is Ganaka & the Master is “NICHRUD GAYATRI”. The deity is Ganapati. Om ‘GANG’ Ganapati. ” My salutation to you.”

Pray to the single Tusked Lord,
with a bent Trunk
May He grant knowledge to us || 8 ||

The Lord with 1 tusk and 4 hands ;
Upper right hand carrying a binding rope;
Upper left hand holding goad;
Lower left one carrying a broken tusk
The lower right one to bless us,
The mouse on his banner is also his vehicle.
He is blood red in colour; Pot-Bellied;
He has elephant ears & wears red robes
He is smeared with red sandalwood
And is decorated with red flowers
He is eternally blessing his devotees
And has been existing before the Cosmos
He is beyond “PRAKRITI” & “PURUSHA”
One who prays to him, is a Supreme Yogi

Salutations to you Lord of all Deities, Ganas & all beings, the Pot-Bellied one with one tusk who destroys all obstacles, son of Shiva, the divine Lord who grants boons, we bow to you, taking your name ||10||

This is the Atharvashirsha. Actually, the above one is not complete, and the complete ‘Sartha’ Atharvashirsha goes on to describe why you should recite the mantra in the first place. Anyway, you can listen to it here or download it from here.

Have a happy and a safe Ganesh festival, cheers !

The Watch

Hey there…not posted for a while. Can’t say I was too busy, coz I wasn’t. Just didn’t feel like posting. :-)

Some months back, my parents had been to Singapore. With my shopping list. That long thing included ‘a digital watch’ in it. Well, when I say a watch- I mean something sober, unnoticeable but elegant, maybe with a leather or canvas belt…know what I mean ? Simple but chick. The watch

But that description was lost on my mom. What she got for me was a HUGE thingy. As big as a wrist watch can get. When I saw It for the first time, I was like, “Oh my God ! I’m supposed to wear this thing on the wrist ???? ” But well, I didn’t say so to mom. Just kept shut. As they say, If you got nothing good to say, don’t say nothing.

But I never wore it…after a month or so, everyone noticed that. Then one day, we were having one of those ” You always wear the same things and leave half your clothes unused” arguments, and it just came out. ” Yeah, you get me watches as big as a wall clock, and expect me to put that on my wrist ! “

A week back, I had a change of heart. Well – I just got bored of the watch I usually wear. So I started putting on the Singapore thing. Last Friday was my first day as a volunteer at Akanksha. Akanksha is a NGO that works with slum kids. It mainly provides English education to these kids. In Pune, they’ve got some 24 centers, where they bring the kids from their homes, and for 2.5 hours a day, teach them English with some innovative activities. You can check more about Akanksha here.

Anyway, back to my watch. So it being my first day, I really didn’t know what to expect. The center was basically a sufficiently large room, filled with a bunch of 40 odd noisy kids, right from the ages of 6-14. I was assigned to the youngest group. Its a gratifying feeling, you know – real tiny, sweet 7 year olds sitting on the floor, raising their hands and asking you things like, ” Bhaiyya, what is your full name ? What is your favorite fruit ? Dish? ”  After the initial introductions, one ‘didi’ ( another volunteer ) told me to sit amongst the kids.

Now there was this tiny chap- Babu sitting right next to me. Once I was done with asking him his name, the first thing he noticed was the watch- yeah, the Singapore one. And then he was totally captivated. After he finished putting on  the backlight five times, I said to him, ” Babu, pay attention to what Didi is teaching. I’ll show you the watch at 4.30.” To no avail. He was totally distracted, and kept asking me questions about it. Who got it for you ? How much does it cost. Finally I took off the watch, and kept it in my bag. Told Babu that I’d show it to him at 4.30, provided he answered all questions right ( they were being taught names of insects- pictures,words match-the-following).

Time just flew by, and at 4.30, Babu came to me, ” Ata dakhwana bhaiyya ghadyal” ( Now show me the watch). I took it from my bag, and let him wear it. Which he did, bottom side up. Kept on turning his head to read the time. Smiled at me. ” Bhaiyya, I’ll give it to you next Friday.” I smiled back. Thought he was joking. But by the time I put on my shoes, Babu was gone ! Well, I wasn’t really worried about my watch. But didn’t want him to get in trouble with his dad or something. So I told the senior most ‘didi’ about it. Babu stayed just 2 houses far, so we went to his place. Thankfully, he was just outside, showing the watch off to his friends. “Bhaiyya has given it to me till next Friday” I heard him say. I went upto him and smiled, ” Can I have it back now, please ? “. He grinned and gave it back.

You know, its got me thinking these last two days. There’s this thing- this watch- that I’ve treated with disdain, coz I didn’t like it. But it meant so much to someone else…Babu, the small kid, who I hope, will one day, have a watch of his own like that. You never realize how privileged you are, till you some across someone who doesn’t have the things you do. It is then that you feel a bit ashamed – of wanting new things all the time, despite having loads of things that you never use.

I knew joining Akanksha was going to be a eye-opener in many ways. But so fast and so soon, I didn’t expect.

The Rapist Monster

WARNING:

This post, by its very nature, is sensitive and reader discretion is advised. If you are below the age of 16, please leave.

  • Mumbai: Popular Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja was arrested by the Mumbai police late on Sunday night on the charge of raping his domestic help.
  • Shimla: A 18-year-old British girl was allegedly raped in a cab by two youth near Palampur town of Himachal Pradesh.

Well, need I say anything more? The incidents above are only 3-4 days old. I’m not even going into the rape cases that have been reported over the past 10 days in the Indian media. It’ll probably be enough fill up the whole blog by itself.

Rape – It has over the years has become one of the most heinous crime in a civilized society. Of all the cases reported, there are figures which say that every 26 minutes, a women becomes target in our country. And if you include the unreported cases then I feel that the number will run in seconds, not minutes.

There is something wrong in the way society, and I regret to say, males, look at a rape. Rapists generally have the male sympathy. If female is picked up and raped, the natural tendency in male psychology is to find out loopholes in the case. Normal male queries, even by so-called intellectuals, are as to why did she walked in that ungodly hour or what was she doing at that wrong place. The general tendency is to question the chastity of the victim. The so-called intellectuals who pose such queries by implication admit that if woman walks during ungodly hour or found in a ‘wrong place’ ( read pubs) , anybody is within his rights to rape her.

What should the punishment for a rapist be ?

Under section 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) , two types of punishment are chalked out for rapists. The minimum punishment for rape is 7 years rigorous imprisonment, or it may extend to 10 years or for life. There has often been a debate as to whether capital punishment should be given for rapists. But every time this comes up for actual discussion, all the pseudo-human rights activist raise their hackles.

“I’m against capital punishment because violence can not be met with violence,” said eminent actress-turned-director Aparna Sen.

Do these people realize what a rape could mean to a victim, and what a rape and brutal killing could mean to the victim’s parents? Are those who say that violence can not be met with violence, trying to hold the scepter of the Mahatama, icon of non-violence, at the cost of innocent lives ?

In my personal view, a rape is worst than a murder. While a murderer destroys the physical frame of the victim, a rapist degrades and defiles the soul of a helpless female. The victim’s fright, the sense of betrayal, and the nature of her injuries caused more prolonged physical and mental suffering than, say, a sudden killing by an unseen assassin. Many suggest life imprisonment for a rapist, believing that after serving a life term, that individual would feel remorseful of his sin and might lead the life of a good human being after release. True, I agree he might! But what if he doesn’t?  What if tomorrow, he turns up to meet the victim ?

I think that today, the Indian society has reached a point where the existing laws against rape are woefully inadequate, not to mention archaic and lenient. It is time for the law makers to formulate more stringent laws. The laws today have so many loopholes that it is very easy for the rapist to walk free. The sentence of punishment ranges from one to ten years. If the accused is influential, he may even expiate by paying huge amounts of money and get exculpated.
The time has come to give death penalty for the crime of rape to the conscienceless criminals. If death sentence is given to such convicts, so as to deter the rest, then there is no doubt that the graph of rape cases will come down considerably. If such step is not taken then the victim of every rape will not be a woman, but humanity.

The Indian and his Spit…

We Indians love to part with our bodily fluids, don’t we ? And saliva is no exception. Everyone spits all the time – men, women ; even kids. Seriously, there is no respite from spit. Don’t really get what they are trying to do. Is there some grass root mandatory irrigation project I did not know about or what ?

I was traveling to Mumbai the other day via the express-way. When we got to the toll-naka ( the quintessential toll collection center), i was astonished to see the road painted all red with paan- spit. So much so, that there was even a sign put up at the toll – booth – ” Do Not Spit Here “. Not that it was of much help …

“Please spit below the sign”- Image courtesy of Rohit Nair No use...

Really, there is no wrong place or time for Indians to spit. If they are at the bus stand, they will spit at the stand while they are waiting, on the steps of the bus while boarding, and through the window on the road while riding. The auto-rickshaw-wallah will slow down while spitting, the taxi driver will poke out his head and spit in the air, the truck driver won’t even look while spitting. Seems like there is some big spitting marathon going on in the country and everyone’s in.

And don’t get me wrong…the roads are filled with enough supplies to ensure that there is enough to spit. In fact, paan (betel leaves) and tobacco were probably introduced for this purpose. The true believer of the natural spit movement uses tobacco; the more artistic one who believes in the colorful resurgence of India, picks up paan – it gives a rich red color to the spit and creates an indelible impression of art. And India is filled with it.

For that matter, even the signs prohibiting spitting are as colorful as the spit on them. Sample this

DO  NOT  SPIT  INDISCRIMINATELY

Trying to rack my brains as to what exactly that is supposed to mean. Does it mean as its OK to spit as long as you miss the face of the man walking by? Yeah, its all right to spit in public places, so long as you don’t spit on public.

You know – I was wondering. Why doesn’t India approach the International Olympic Committee with a proposal to introduce  a new sport – the Spitathlon. Since most Indians practice the sport, it is sure to get huge viewership. Millions in sponsor money will flow in, particularly from the tobacco companies. Imagine the world champ “M S Sponi” on TV all day in ads for Spiti-lola mineral water.

Considering the cultural advantage we enjoy, at least in the initial years the world Spitathlon champs will be Indians. The Chinese would probably soon create super spitters who will beat us silly, but for a short period we can bask in the glory of being world champs.

Some contemplation…

Beady black eyes…sparkling white teeth…an impish grin…skin like dark ebony;

face streaked with tears shed before…mucus running down the nose…dry hair…eyes dimmed, their shine robbed...by hunger.

The kid looked at me and grimaced, moving his hand from mouth to stomach, in that unmistakable Indian action of eating food- clearly saying , ” I’m hungry. Give me something to eat .”  And here i was, tucking into a plate of delicious cheese-bhel outside my college. My guilt-ridden hand reached upto my pocket, and took out a crumpled Rs. 10 note. I gave it to him. I wish i could capture the happiness that leaped into his eyes, but that’s how life is – you never have a camera during the best of the moments.

The kid hurried back, lest i ask for the money back.  Then one of my friends sitting on an adjoining table shouted at me, ” Yeah man,its because of people like you like these people beg, and India is so full of beggars.” My initial reaction was to tick him off- but i didn’t say anything. But it really got me thinking. Was that true ? Do people beg because we encourage them ?A beggar child...

I’d think not. First, no one can control what he is born as. A kid born to a beggar has as much control over it as you had if you were born with less brain,short or tall, dark or fair. What does a 4 year old understand about life ?  All he understands is going to sleep empty stomach- or rather, doing something that’ll help avoid that. Just for one night, anyway. The struggle begins afresh the other day. What did i lose when i gave him 10 rupees ? Virtually nothing. Will i go hungry today ? Nope. By God’s grace, i have enough…enough that even if a give 10 rupees an hour throughout the day, i’ll still have enough on me to go and have a comfortable meal in a decent restaurant.But what did he gain ? Probably a vada-pav . Will that fill his stomach ? Probably not. But i’m certain it’ll go a long way into doing so.

Is begging a choice people make ? I tend to disregard what they showed in the movie ‘Traffic Signal’. Maybe beggars have unions. Maybe they organize everything. But it still is a wretched way to earn a living. A hungry kid is still that- a hungry kid. Actually, what we fail in providing, as a society, is- opportunity. An opportunity to escape the cycle of hand-to-mouth existence. And then we blame these people for begging ? Dirtying our streets ? Spoiling the reputation of our country in the west ? We criticize ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ because it shows stark  reality, one which we’d rather choose to be blind about. Excuse me ? There’s something majorly wrong with the Indian  psyche. We look down upon those who are poorer than us, and treat them as dirt soiling our beautiful country. Why ? Just because we have more money ?

I digress, but lemme state my views about child labor. The Indian government makes rules which declare  all these as hazardous jobs. After going through that list, try listing me 5 jobs you’ve seen kids doing, which are not listed here. Couldn’t find any ? Thought so. My take is- if the government cannot provide these kids with the minimum amount of money required for not only their sustenance, but also that of their families, then it doesn’t have any right to take away their jobs. I mean, you might as well say, ” No kid, don’t do that, its bad for your health. Stay hungry and die instead. “

Anyway, coming back to the point. Related to the incident i mentioned before, i’m facing somewhat of a moral dilemma. Flashback 3 months back – i’m at it again, tucking into a kathi-roll i think ( well , despite how this is beginning to sound- i am NOT a hog :-) ). Another kid, another  Rs. 10 note. But then, something funny happened. I quipped to my friend, ” One for DC .” [Well, to clarify that- DC= Digital Communication ; an oral i had , in which for some reasons, i got the examiner's goat, and he verbally screwed me..literally, and i was really scared if i would pass or not ! ]  …and we both laughed on that. But then i had this strange thought- was i being selfish?  Did i give  that money because i wanted some brownie points in my Karma-kitty or what ?  Don’t they always say -when you want to help someone, do so without expecting anything back ? To be frank, i’m still pretty much confused about that. Even today, when i give something to a beggar, i can’t help but think, ” Whatever i am doing is good and it is being counted somewhere.” I’d really like people to comment on this , and would really like to know your views. Does what i think matter ? Or is it just the end result that counts ? The kid got money, and it helped him in some way or the other.

Well…as for the DC oral, i passed, with pretty decent marks. And well, as much as i would like to say that it happened because i am great and smart and all that…the truth is, it was probably only because of my Karma.

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