Monday, June 11, 2018

An Encounter With The Airtel 4G Girl

It started unlike the recent Airtel ads have started”

The camera first focused on the Airtel 4G girl as she produced an incandescent smile, brighter than the Ujala supreme safedi on white shirts.

" Yes this is me”, she assured me, as if I didn’t know that she was her. “You must try and test before opting for Airtel", she insisted, with an expression signifying that she is bothered about my poor mobile network.

"I have tried, tested, disliked, abhorred, got mentally stressed, pledged to never use Airtel and only after that stuck to Airtel", I said without a hiatus.

Happy to hear my estranged association with Airtel, she smiled leaned back and smiled again    "So 3G or 4G?"

"Parle G", I said

"No no no", she corrected me, " your network? 3g or 4G?".

I pretended to manoeuvre something out of my pocket below the table, and when it came out it was Nokia 3310. Having listlessly kept the phone in between us, I said  “Check for yourself".

She might have sensed that this is not going the way as the script demanded. In all her previous encounter with people, things were well planned and rehearsed. She had to convince already convinced people that even though they must be using Jio or Vodafone, all they had to say was Airtel is the best. She had to act as a medium of exchange between the alleged Airtel followers and the Airtel kafirs, say a few good words in the end to sum up the conversation. But this was different. Here, unfortunately she met an irritated government employee, who had just lost his 120 rupees in frequent call drops. 120 Rupees meant 120 rupees to him and the lady Airtel had to bear my grunt for the losses.

The camera roll was on and it was her turn to speak. Looking at my prehistoric key pad phone on the table she thought ‘hell, who uses Nokia these days’ and comported herself to say “Wow, you are still using Nokia these days”

“Yes”, I smiled, “I have a penchant for antiques”

“You sure? it supports internet connections?”, she was dismayed.

“The phone does but not the SIM”

“Which SIM “


“NO! wait… wait… wait…”, she stopped me in between and tried to steer the conversation away to a point from where she could finally get to prove the worthiness of the brand that sponsors her.

"What about UCLA?", as a hint she gleefully dropped the name of UCLA, the alleged what they call the-global-speed-tester. Like zillions of Hindustanis I had never heard of anything like this before the advent of recent Airtel advertisements.

"Why? what happened to UCLA?", I sounded double concerned.

"UCLA dear, the-global-speed-tester. You must say that, it is part of all our advertisement. We are here to make it a household name", she whispered as she hid her anger behind her smiles.

"Madam, ask me anything about Upla aur Upma and I am ready. While Upma is every household breakfast,  Upla from cow dung is our indigenous household fuel. People like me still see the number of lines on top of my mobile screen to check whether the network is available or not", I confided.

“But that is so ancient way to check your speed”, the disgust on her face was clearly visible and all she did was smile.

“There is the other way too”

“What?”, she leaned forward on the table to listen to the ultimate truth ever spoken before her.

“ The speed of the buffering wheel on youtube, ting tang tiding!. Simple”, I smiled.

“Holy GSM”, She felled back on her chair aghast, “ God Save this Man, this phone plays youtube for you?” and covered her face disbelievingly.

“Madam this is Nokia taitteess dus,  baap of all smart phones”, I had a boisterous laugh, the one bollywood villains had after having their sinister ploy unfold before their eyes.

Lady Airtel turned tired, she asked for a glass of water, drank it till the last drop, looked at me and asked “Why? Why you are doing this? When you can go home happily watching Jio TV after just few good words about my sponsors”

I stared at the empty glass then looked in her eyes and said, “Vengeance madam, vengeance”

I went on a discourse of my association with Airtel “It was because of you that I took Airtel. Few years back every hoarding and billboard, which now are flooded with Oppo and Vivo, had your innocent picture. You were up against all the mobile network service providers with your Airtel challenge. Like many Indians, I simply believed in you and switched to Airtel. After few months of usage I realized the blunder I had done by choosing the network meant initially for bourgeoisie families. Being a proletariat, subscribing to Airtel is like being a pauper boyfriend to an affluent girl. Both are difficult to maintain. Moreover, when in need both the network and the girlfriend are difficult to find. Utterly irritated, I looked out for only two things. Ask me what”

She was absorbed in my monologue and was also pleased to know how I remembered her first advertisement. For the first time the most assertive girl of Indian advertisement seemed to hear more from me. She asked, “What?”.

“Your network and you”, I spluttered in one go.

Expecting a similar reply, she was not taken aback. Instead she found an opportunity to end the directionless conversation. She turned towards the camera confidently, smiled pleasantly as she always does and said “tabhi to kehti hoon, sab kuch try karo fir sahi chuno!”. And off she went to baptize another Jio subscriber into airtel.

 Thank you for reading

Monday, April 2, 2018

Got A Sunday?Yawn & Protect It

When I see the seven days of a week, I see them not as days but as seven immature school kids. Kids sitting inside the classroom of life. Every week, I enter as a class teacher into that classroom and deal with all seven individually. My 5 notorious children, Monday to Friday, like to herd near the back benches, create noise and make my presence utterly uncomfortable. While the other two innocent studious kids, Saturday and Sunday, take my notes down peacefully at the front. The fearful five always create nuisance, with Monday leading the pack. In the name of daily routine they try to make my life miserable. When I crave for pin drop silence, they drop bombs. When I try to set them in order, they become innovatively chaotic. My two studious children dislike them. They are obedient, peaceful, sincere and always eager to listen to me. It is in tranquillity of Sat and Sun that I seek solace after losing my sanity on Mon, Tue,Wed,Thu and Fri. They are the only reason that I could face the other five. As a class teacher I need to cater to the demands of all seven. But, I consider it a bigger responsibility to guard two of my peaceful pupil, Sat and Sun, from the bad company of miscreant five.

But that was up to a few years ago. Because, a few years ago, I started losing my hold on Saturday. I ignored signs when on few occasions Sat behaved like one of them, totally chaotic and restive. It was wooed away by the false sincerity of work pressure and fun of the mischievous five. The imaginary urgency to manage my work on each day of a week secretly encroached my much adored Saturday. And somewhere in the middle of journey, due to the hectic nature of work and the din surrounding my life, Saturday fell behind.

So lately, in my life I have started guarding my Sundays. The loss of , what could have been a peaceful Saturday to the heckle and bully of group of  weekdays made me overprotective of my Sunday. I started having this impulse to protect my Sundays from outside world. I treasure my personal space on a Sunday and more or less treasure it alone. I wish no one calls me on a Sunday, no one tells me what to do, no one bothers me. At least , for one complete day in a week, I wish I don’t exist the way I exist. A bit similar to this inspiring man below ;).

The only day when I become one with myself is on Sunday. This day defines me and I define the course of this day. I may treat myself a feast or I may famish. I may spend the day reading a book or I may pass it aimlessly observing traffic from my balcony. On Sundays, I plan to be as out of routine as possible. An out of routine lazy schedule gives a sense of ownership over this day to me. The morning is prolonged till afternoon with regular interval of tea. Lunch seldom sees me on time and dinner includes a distasteful dish prepared on my own.  I try not to pick any phone calls. If I do, that is only after swearing a mouthful of curse to the caller and gaining the right tone in time to say, “ Hey hi! What a wonderful surprise, Kaisa hai bhai?”. The airplane mode on smartphone comes a little handy while I wander in my city of thoughts. Actually, I keep a secret desire to live a day out from the lyrics of the song, Dil dhoondata hai fir wohi fursat k raat din and that desire comes alive on every Sunday.

Even as a child I waited desperately for Sundays. With no phone calls to attend, no whatsapp forwards, no facebook updates and no urgency of work and little care for future, Sunday brought the cheerful spirit of life at hand. The morning started a little late than normal weekdays. Mummy never needed to scroll through hundred channels on youtube to prepare a delicious meal. She did that beautifully out of her own experience. Television which was restricted to limited hours for kids on weekdays was left all at our whims. Back then, no one told us what to do. Neither had we cared about the next day’s schedule. Evening started a little earlier when we came out to play. Back then, a match of cricket or kabaddi or just an ideal talk with neighbourhood friends brought more pleasure than watching an online viral video. At night the whole family huddled around television to jointly savour any movie bestowed on us by erstwhile Doordarshan. Back then, Sunday meant an actual carefree holiday.

It may sound like being nostalgic or brooding over the past, but Sundays count among many other things that I miss from my childhood. In today’s overburdened busy life keeping myself reserved on Sunday is a way to connect to my past and to myself. These days, we are struggling to keep pace with streaming fast life, mindlessly consuming bombarding information, competing to prove our worth in ever demanding professions and actually disconnecting to connect online in virtual world. We are clueless and trapped in chambers which echoes everyone else's opinion except our own. An intermittent period of deafening silence and luxurious leisure to really know ourselves is all what we need. I want Sunday to be that period of mine.The stay-active-stay-fast schedule has crept over all of us. It has taken away the immense joy in sitting idly. There is no crime in being lazy for a day. In fact ,there is pleasure in staying afloat in our thoughts with no purpose at all. There is real pleasure in a lazy Sunday. Try it for yourself. :)

Thank you for reading

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

An open Letter To My Wife On Valentine's Day

My dear,

wifey-as you like to be called,wife-as I prefer and since I have been using your Jio network for past one year-my dear wi-fi.

You will be proud to know that your favourite actor,Sushant Singh Rajput in the movie MS Dhoni, and me both have one thing in common. We don’t believe in Valentine day-phalentine day. So far in my life the only day I have wished to any girl is a Happy Rakshabandhan. Never have I experienced the underlying feelings and hidden emotions behind this day. After  meeting all those pretty girls when  finally I met you, believe me the only thought I had was regret. I mean, regret of not having  met you before.

Devoid of any experience in the matters of Cupid, I am equally excited and embarrassed, bubbling with immense pleasure and confusion, leading to a khichdi of emotion, to wish you a happy Valentine’s day.

My love, this will be our first Valentine day celebration together. Promise me that you will always remember this one forever so that we may never have to celebrate another.
Since the advent of February, I have seen a certain restlessness in you. I have seen your eyes gleam during TV advertisements of products as cheap as Cadbury dairy milk to Tanishq jewellery. The gleam in your eyes told my heart that I should have never recharged Tata Sky for this month. But the mistake is done and my options are none, other than to put my best smile forward and pretend that this valentine’s day is really special.

Darling, I respect your feelings and also your early morning bed teas that you've diligently served ever since our marriage. I also know that you never expect a gift from me and love me truly. We both understand that with time love never weakens, it only alters its shape. Recently for no good reason it has altered into shape of  dipping sugar level and warmth in your tea. As a gesture of  love and  proposal to extend our MOU over morning tea for another year, I present to you this lovely gift enclosed with this letter. Dear, don’t consider this just a valentine's day gift. This is more than that from my side to you. This is also your marriage anniversary gift which surprisingly happens to be only after a few days.  

Darling, I am elated to have you in my life. Your presence has doubled my happiness and expenditure in equal measure. Oh dear, my love for you increases every month unlike the dearness allowance in my salary.  You will  be glad to know that I have invested all my love and affection and past one year savings into this gift. I am sure, sweetheart, you will readily appreciate my love and my loan EMI henceforth and would cut upon your monthly expenditures for few months.

I understand, my wife, that apart from social obligations that you have so wonderfully fulfilled, you also have a social network obligation, which you manage  through your facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp status. Your friends will definitely ask about your first Valentine’s day post marriage. They will engage you into a terrific status war on Whatsapp. You must not shy away from resorting to any lie about our celebration. You should update our edited pics over and again on facebook and instagram provided you don’t tag me into them.

As for my plans for this day, hold your breath. Now release it. Repeat it for few seconds till you attain calmness. Now standstill and look deep into my eyes. You will see a medium size Pizza and two stuffed garlic breads, your favourite all from Dominos. Yupee!!

Wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.
Your’s truly

Note: No women's rights were violated while writing this post.

Thankyou for reading

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Mere Odd-Even Ayenge- Karan Arjun Revisited

*Also on*

It’s an action-packed story. No, it is a thriller. Alright, let us not be partial, it is an action-packed suspense oriented melodramatic emotional thriller.

This is not an ordinary punar-janam script. It is the Baap of all of them.

It goes like:

Once upon a time in the urban fartlands of Dilligarh there lived a rustic and dreadful Thakur. Thakur Durgandh Singh. Durgandh? Because his presence created an atmosphere of durgandh-read toxic gases- in the village. The two sons of Thakur, Nitrate Singh and Sulphate Singh, had intoxicated the atmosphere of the village by setting up many industries, construction units and crop burning that emitted noxious gases. Particulate and construction dust lingered now on the otherwise clean air of Dilligarh. People were afraid of their presence. Where other villagers moved in cart or bicycle, Thakur and his crony family, sister BEHENzene and mother  AMMAnia vroomed past on dusty roads in their  motor vehicle. The naive villagers did never object to the noxious gases their vehicle emitted and consoled themselves with just covering their nose with a torn piece of cloth. Whoever raised his or her  voice against Thakur khandaan polluting habits were meted a capital punishment of forever living in toilet-less slum. The ignominy and horror of openly defecating in a field ensured that no one ever attempted a dissent. The tyranny of Thakur khandan abjectly left the villagers to meekly surrender and suffer in an atmosphere of above permissible limits of DurgandhBehenzene, AMMAnia, Nitrate and Sulphate. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Happy Chinese Diwali Sir

“No, I will not buy any Chinese lights this Diwali”, said the Additional District magistrate (ADM)  suavely, as he signed papers brought to him by his aged office babu.

The babu nodded in affirmative. But the affirmation was not loud enough , so saaheb looked straight into the eyes of babu and repeated “NO CHINESE ITEMS!! I say”.

The automatic response system of babu was triggered, “Sir,sir, sir,sir” . Every inch of his body shook in affirmation. ADM saaheb was fond of repeated ‘sir’ in a row and the babu just gave him enough.

“Very well sir, I will shortly arrange to send 100 diyas  and 50 candles to your home . No Chinese items sir”, babu grinned. The last line pleased the officer more than the combination of 150 diyas and candle.

Himanshu, a man aged around 30 but a young boy by Provincial civil services examination standards, observed the ADM saaheb and his Babu. Having completed his training schedule  he  had reported for joining as Sub Divisional Magistrate. Thus he displayed all the more interest in the ADM saaheb’s administrative manners.

“Guptaji, a diwali without Dipak is as bad as  India without Vikas”, the officer laughed a self congratulatory laugh at his self manifested  bureaucratic joke. Devoid of any other option Himanshu too chuckled in unison.

Soon ADM saaheb put up a brooding face, leaned back in his chair, straightened his leg beneath a massive wooden table, rested his hand on side arms and looked purposefully into the eyes of babu. The Babu was unfazed by such tectonic shifts in his officer’s composure. He knew that in those purposeful gaze of his saaheb there lies no purpose. Only he will  soon be exposed to words more foreign than French, all originating from his officer’s mouth. His 33 years of experience had taught him that Saahebs suffer from  verbal diarrhea which is often spilled out as moronic monologue in form of essays. Essays, they once could not complete in PCS written examination due to paucity of time and inherent word limit.

ADM saaheb started with a misplaced discourse on  Mao revolution in China to flaunt his knowledge in history , then switched to Doklam issue to proclaim his understanding of current affairs, then tuned to give a philosophical discourse on reason behind boycott of Chinese lights and support of local earthen diyas to brandish his mastery in Philosophy. In the end as a mark of patriotic feeling and deep understanding of geography he also lauded the Army Jawans especially in Siachen.  Expecting a standing ovation, he turned towards Himanshu, who by now had adapted to the administrative atmospheric conditions and  knew just what to do.  “Sir,sir, sir,sir”, he nodded.  

In any casual discourse a bureaucrat feels hollow until he/she drops a name of a poet or a writer and mouths a few stanzas of poem or a quote that establishes his/her interest in literature too. So ADM saaheb  pitched in a name of a hindi poet Gopal Das Neeraj and few stanza of his poem that he claimed he remembers from his class 8th hindi book and not from any recent facebook post:

Diye se mitega na man ka andhera,
Dhara ko uthao, gagan ko bujhao.
Bahut baar aayi yeh Diwali,
Magar tam jahan tha wahin khada hai.

Himanshu gestured in a way to resemble that he want to clap but has only restrained his jubilation in respect of his senior. In a more dignified and bureaucratic way he settled for a smile and remarked, “Sir,Sir,Sir,Sir”  . 
Sensing the explosion of a boring jam session between the two officers and with a satisfaction of a sprinter in relay race who has just handed the baton to another , the babu  left the room in quick hurry.
ADM saaheb had discovered  a keen disciple in Himanshu and now expected inquisitiveness  in the young officer. Himanshu did not let him down.

“But sir these days  even the earthen diyas are also Chinese made”, he tried to look worried.

“Arey nahi??”, ADM saaheb was amused,  as if he was presented with a secret report on Chinese invasion and wanted more of it.

“Yes sir”, Himanshu sensed the eagerness and said “ even our native gods available in market Ganesh-Lakshmi  are Chinese made. Their eyes have shrunken to the Chinese proportions sir”

“WHAT?”, ADM saaheb was struck with a thunder bolt. The revelation of Chinese intrusion into  the Indian culture punctured his nationalistic arousal.

“Now I see”, he said in bemusement “why  Radha and Krishna  look like twins in that glittering idol I brought from Mathura. Both look so chinese..ehh” .

A mobile ringtone interrupted his chain of thought. ADM saaheb laid his hand on Xiaomi  Redmi Note 4 mobile  he recently brought from flipkart big billion day sale.

“Home Ministry, you see dear”, he smiled meekly to Himanshu as he answered his wife’s call.
The voice from the other side echoed into the suddenly created vaccum in the chamber.

“Bring those multi coloured LED lights when you come back.  Diwali is three days away, I can’t keep  supplementing oil and wick in your earthen lamps. And dear! I have bought a designer Ganesh-Lakshmi  idol this time. They are so beautiful; you will love the eyes they have. ”

ADM saaheb submissively kept the phone back on table, turned towards Himanshu and passed a sheepish smile, “ Home Ministry dear, you see!.”

Himanshu smiled back and concluded, " Happy Chinese Diwali sir".

Thankyou for reading

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rain Rain Go Away, Don't Come Another Day

Have you read the nursery rhyme which goes like:
Rain Rain Go Away Come Again Another day, Little Johnny wants to play.

This rhyme always makes me wonder why does Johnny wants the rain to go away? What game is he involved in that he can't play now in the rain. How selfish of him to be bothered about his game and not the rain's as it tries to play along with the thirsty earth. Why can't he play an indoor game and let the rain play outside?. "Come again another day?" Johnny! are you nuts? What are the chances that on an another day you will not be annoyed by rain again. Oh Johnny! don’t throw tantrums and give us a break. Please you boy let the rain just rain.

How can someone not like rain. What if Johnny was not Johnny? What if he was a native Indian Jassi or Hari? Or say our own street lad Hariya who jumps and waddles in any knee deep water overflowing from a drain just after the first showers. I could have bet a thousand tomatoes, when the price of tomatoes were Rs 120/Kg, on any Indian lad for liking showers.

Few years back after every hot summer day I prayed for rain. When it rained I prayed for more. When it didn't rain for many days I was saddened by the poor state of farmers as reported in newspapers. At the sight of dark rain clouds my eyes welled up with joy, my heart leapt like a frog. As my face felt the gush of cool winds  preceding the showers, I was reminded of 'Kaali megha, kalli Megha, Baadal to barsao' song from the movie Lagaan. I have bicycled in rain, floated paper boats in water streams adjacent to paved roads, I have splashed and jumped in puddles. Few years back I loved rain and loathed Johnny.

But not now. Now I hate any sign of rain and appreciate Johnny's concern. No one has a right to interfere with a child's play and an adult's peace not even rain. Not even when it rains only on few days in an entire monsoon season.

Rain and me stopped being on talking terms since the day I officially joined as a Railway engineer in Kanpur. One of the busiest railway yard on the busiest route of Indian Railway, Kanpur was the symbolic blue eyed boy of Allahabad division. So much so that even a little congestion in train traffic due to any minor technical failure sent the blue eyed boy into tantrums. When Kanpur irked, Allahabad ouched. In no time all concerned officials would reach railway station to pamper Kanpur.

Once the not so benevolent rain god was benevolent over Kanpur. After months of sweltering  summer rain was a welcome affair for all. So was it for me. But the intensity of benevolence was so heavy that within hours an entire yard of Kanpur station was submerged in water. Track circuits were down, Signals failed, tracks were inundated and trains were literally cruising in water. As more rain poured all platform lines cried for help. Help meant pumping out the water. Pumping out the water was possible but arranging a pump at 02:00 A.M was not. Moreover, the final outlet of yard was into a municipal drain which itself was flooded.  Everyone tried his/her best including making several phone calls and updating every possible railway organism about the situation (we are perfect in it). The series of phone calls went through the night. When rain stopped and water receded at its own pace it was wide daylight. I was tormented by the experience and wished not so heavy rain again. The bitterness in my relationship with rain shifted levels as I and my colleagues spent several sleepless nights attending failures at station.

The work profile and work place has changed for me now. But my equation with rain has only soured thereafter. In my story rain has become that wicked villain that never lets the hero to relax in peace. If it rains we have to rush to a remote location just to ensure the smooth running of trains over an under construction bridge.
A minor water leakage over platform shed is not dangerous at all unless it starts making round as a lethal image in whatsapp groups.
Questions are raised over our ability, we are reminded about our accountability till we feel guilty and then in one such rainy day someone fixes the responsibility. The erstwhile culprit Rain goes clean as always.

So when an entire country wishes an early arrival of monsoon, I wish it never arrives. In newspaper reports of monsoon forecast I inadvertently look out for El-Nino. When it rains normal people think of hot tea and pakodas while we railwaymen think of water in yards, bridges, leaky roofs, breaches, caution in speed of trains etc.
Rain has become an imaginary thief breaking into my empty house as we are away on a vacation. Mere sight of rain clouds sends shivers down my body as if someone is threatening me with a "Duguna Lagaan Lagega" consequence.

As I try to grab and write my thoughts, a close friend of mine is all set for his pre-wedding engagement. A forecast of high intensity rainfall is also beaming across news channels. My mind is split into two: one half planning to be alongside my friend on his ring ceremony. The other half is worried about rain and the 24 hour vigil near newly constructed bridges over tracks. After much deliberation, mental confusion and my wife's persuasion I firmly rekindled the faith in the unreliability of meteorological department and am all set to attend the ceremony. Thus how I was reminded of that old nursery rhyme:

Rain Rain bloody go away,
And don't show your face on any other day.

Thankyou for reading.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Travel: Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary- Bird's Paradise

Keoladeo Ghana National park or the better known Bharatpur Bird sanctuary is as good a heaven for birds as it is for birdwatchers.  Thanks to almost no rainfall this season both were missing from this spectacular natures abode as we planned an almost sudden trip to Bharatpur.

On Friday night we looked around for places in an around Aligarh for a much needed weekend break. Just before we fell for Delhi (yuk again!!) Google baba enlightened us with a 110km far sanctuary. It was non-other than  Bharatpur , the one  we all might have marked as red dot in school geography Atlas book. By 8 am next morning  me and my spouse hit the road and by 11 am we were in Bharatpur.  We checked in a government guest house and allowed our lethargic body to compensate for a lesser morning sleep.

Bharatpur is a small district in Rajasthan and shares border with Mathura and Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It is well connected by road and rail networks. Nearest airports  are in Delhi and Jaipur, both roughly  180 km away by road and is accessible within 3 to 4 hrs of road journey.  From Agra it takes around 1.5 hr via a four laned highway and from Mathura around 40 minutes via a two lane highway . It is also part of the itinerary on the much acclaimed Indian Railways Palace on Wheels (

The official  website of Rajasthan Tourism ( boasts  numerous sites to visit in and around Bharatpur. But trust me none of them can compete with the aura of the National Park. I would rather suggest not to waste time in other average locations labeled as tourist spots and better spend as much time as possible inside the national park.
In our case we googled several such locations on our way to Bharatpur. So on Saturday afternoon we headed for Lohagarh fort. It was beautiful, but only in google images. The actual fort was dilapidated and  was crying for restoration. Well built concrete houses plagued the inside of fortress and it never matched either to our expectations nor to the website descriptions. A museum was under renovation or may be under construction. The guard at the gate was polite enough to inform us about its closure even before we stepped out of the vehicle. Thus, we were also denied the selfie-moment with the museum.

Having suffered two blows to our plan in two successive steps we abandoned other alleged tourist spots and headed for the place Bharatpur is known for- the bird sanctuary.
It was 3 pm when we arrived at the entrance of the national park. A long straight road surrounded on either side by vast open green field and trees welcomed us. We knew we are at the right place.

The sanctuary or Keoladeo Ghana national park is 6 km away from railway station and has several hotels ranging from high to low budget near to the main entrance. It is a vast stretch (appx 29 sqkm)of man made wet land, a world heritage site and literally Mecca for bird watchers. Our guide informed us that it receives an average daily  footfall of 4000 visitors during winters i.e from November to February. Although winter is the peak season for migratory birds and so for tourists but the beauty of this national park can be relished throughout the year.

The park is opened from sunrise to sunset. Per person ticket charges is Rs 75 for Indian Nationals. It is advisable for first time visitors to hire a guide for few hours and then roam around at will. Guide charges are Rs 150 per hour. Hiring time starts from the time printed on entrance ticket and half an hour is charged as a complete hour. Or you can hire a hand-pull Rickshaw without a guide for Rs 100 per hour. The best way to explore the wilderness is on rented bicycles @ 40 per/day.

So did we and never regretted a minute spent inside the park riding our way through. As sun played
 hide and seek with cloud we pedaled at a brisk pace on a narrow paved road. As far as our sight could reach the land was covered in a green blanket. We sat near a watchtower for over an hour and  breathed  silence of the nature. The atmosphere was a perfect tranquilizer from the mundane din of cities. One could not resist feeling as if lying in the lap of mother nature.

At one place several  Jamun trees (Indian blackberry) are lined up on both sides along the road. After parking  our bicycles I tried justifying  the extraordinarily priced DSLR camera with below ordinary shots. As I explored the wilderness my spouse explored Jamun trees. While the market rate of Jamun was Rs 100/kg we enjoyed the deliciously tasty Jamuns for free.

Our guide never missed a chance to impress us with his knowledge of english names of birds. Pelicans, cranes, wild ducks, bee-eaters, warblers and what not-he churned out several names as we moved on.  May be that was his warm up before the tourist season. One could easily spot Nil gai, monkeys, Reindeer , jackal as well.

The sanctuary is named after an ancient Shiva temple ‘Keoladeo’ located  at the end of the straight paved road. The temple is appx. 6 km from the entrance so to and fro ride is around 12 kms. In between there are several nature trails ( unpaved natural paths) which may take you further  deep into the sanctuary. If you go by a bicycle such trails are highly recommended.  A government run canteen is present near the entrance and one near the temple. And if you are lucky the canteen might be open as well. So don’t expect any eateries inside rather carry in your food and water and do carry out empty wrappers and bottles. Few hotels deliver packed lunch inside the park for which it is better to talk to your guide or the hotel you have stayed in.

Keoladeo Shiv Temple

As is customary in all temples that are labeled ‘praachin’(ancient), the priest assured us that all our wishes will come true here. I made none, my spouse made a dozen and the priest  stood in anticipation. Not for our wishes to come true but for our wallets to come out. We made some offerings which if not impressed Lord Shiva then it definitely impressed the priest. At the end of the tour we all were happy – me, my spouse, the priest and Keoladeo.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Laal Batti Syndrome


We Indians are not very specific in what we choose. In many ways our choices are not ‘our’ choices. Like Darwin’s Homo sapiens our choices alter shapes in conformity to the external factors. We seek the inner self only as a matter of spiritual theory but when it comes to choosing a career we look around for inspiration.

So on one day a child aspires to become an Army Jawan after watching the movie ‘Major Saab’. On the other day he finds in him a cricketer in making as he launches into the television for a mundane IPL match. The same child stuck in a traffic jam when sees a flashing red beacon make its way through, realises how he always yearned to serve the nation through bureaucracy.

The blitzkrieg surrounding the 3Bs-Bollywood,BCCI and Bureaucracy vie for a space in transitory young ambitions . Thanks to the Govt recent complete ban on the use of beacons, except emergency services, bureaucracy might further slide down the list of career choices.(pun intended).

During my growing up years in Bihar of 90s, a convoy of Ambassador cars bearing red beacons engulfed the surrounding not only with  flashing red light but also enthused a sense of aura and inspiration.  The roads revealed an empty space as the red flash pounded on it. The motion of every other being was arrested as if  time stood still for everyone except the convoy.  People awed  and envied the spectacle in equal measure. Far in the corner of the street a firm hand of a father would clasp the soft shoulders of his son prodding him to capture the moment in his dreamy eyes. The image of the fleeting red flash would sparkle a flame in the ice cold vision of the son. The old father would stoop down to his ear and whisper, “This my dear son, this should be your future”.

Back in 90s of Bihar a child was literally initiated into bureaucratisation under such glares of  flashing red-beacons. So much so that she/he suffered from a Laal-Batti syndrome in which any flashing red light from an aeroplane in the sky at night to an ambulance on the road aroused the similar passion and pride.

Before the advent of globalization and before the nimble mind of a child was  bombarded with multitude of career choices , every child in a middle class family was taught to respect the ‘I’. To a spiritually inclined mind ‘I’ would mean to respect the ‘self’. But in the Bihar of 90s SANSKAR channel was yet to be and Baba Ramdev was yet to unleash his yoga skills. So for a middle class family ‘I’ meant a two step process to nirvana- first IIT and then IAS. In pursuit of these one may not attain nirvana but one did certainly remember his Nana.

The favourite pastime of my uncle and aunt was to ask, “beta bade ho kar kya karoge?”. I was clueless about my next day plan so the term ‘bade ho kar’ seemed infinity to me. To rest the case for once and all I would vaguely answer, “I want to sit in a Laal Batti car”. I didn’t know what they understood out of it but their  faith in my educational abilities and mine in their mental inabilities certainly made them imagine me as a government driver.

Although, Lal-batti were also associated with ministers but that did not espoused as much as reverence as that of a District Magistrate or any designated government officer. Probably because there are no such examination like Indian Ministerial Services to qualify, so all  aspirational stories ended their fate at the gates of Public service commissions.

Soon as the competition grew stronger and the career options widened anything under the sun and sandwiched between  ‘Indian’ and ‘Services’ found its acceptance among  anxious parents. As long as alphabets were concerned, in the world of careers, ‘I’ and ‘S’ had attained eternal glory. It was regarded that ‘I’ and ‘S’ would solely bring home the daughter/son in a Lal-Batti .  So we saw a rise in number of professions which could draw equal applause from society and a Lal-Batti car in garage- ITS,IRS,IRPS,IRTS,IES,IOFS,IP&TS, I-what-not- S. Such services disguised as elite government job came to the rescue of aspirants. Services the name of which could not be taken in a single breath, services which revealed no clue about the nature of work. Services which were only buyable in the hope of a Laal -Batti car.

Over the years this Laal-Batti had become a symbol of awe and inspiration for several aspirants spending their best of youth in coaching institutes of Delhi to Hyderabad. A symbol of power, privilege and responsibility for the officer designate. And a symbol of fear and subjugation for an ordinary man. The Laal-batti became synonymous to the VIP culture we became so much accustomed  to. Having seen its prime it is appropriate that it must depart. And when it does it will be missed by its seekers. RIP-Dear Laal Batti.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

de-Merits of Drinking

Drinking and socialising are synonymous. Socialising quotient in an individual is more when people are drunk  than when they are allegedly under complete control of mind. So much so that you can intentionally slap a drunk friend and still get a “tu mera bhai hai” in return. Or demand a 100 rupee note and be prepared to get heaven in return “tujhpe jannat qurbaan bhai”. It is a different matter that their socialisation (unlike M.N Srinivas’s sanskritisation) is limited to people who are equally drunk and so there is no class upliftment. To those who are not drunk it is still socialisation with an added ‘anti’ as prefix.

Had it not been the moral support of alcohol hundreds of young adults, ditched by girls who change their boyfriend as eagerly as their dress, would become the loitering Devdas like the pet dogs around NewDelhi’s Connaught Place  market. It is then the booze that uplifts the moral of depressed soul to escape the promise of love and die together to find new promise of hate and forget her. With melting ice cubes in glass, melts his attachments and vengeance related to Paaro. The glass of whisky becomes a symbol of love and hate, of trust and betrayal. Holding it high in hand he invokes the Kishore Kumar inside him to sing  “Ye jo mohabbat hai ye unka hai kaam...!”.  

It is scientifically proven that the joy of drinking is more after a sudden heartbreak. These heartbreaks transform to eureka moments after few drinks when the sleeping creative beast is set large to take toll through facebook and whatsapp status updates.  By the time the bottle rescues itself from the drunkards all misgivings are laid to rest and focus shifts  to the new prospective Chandramukhis in the college. Thus, happy ending to Devdas.
Emotions travel faster than light in an inebriated atmosphere. It takes a nanosecond for a smile to turn into a sarcasm and sarcasm into mouthful of abuses. Sound energy of abuse and laughter transforms to potential energy of kicks and slaps establishing the law of conservation of energy. If you ever happen to land under such a situation it is better to pretend as drunken and concentrate on chakhna and masala peanuts. Lest you might become the target for energy dissipation for being an unequal among equals.
Such locations are where one can hold an audition of India’s Got talent. An aroma of alcohol and a hanging cigarette smoke unleash the hidden talent of an otherwise dull character. Jagjit singhs and Ghulam Alis perform incessantly till a Pankaj Udhas takes over. A singer , a poet, a philosopher, an economist, a political pundit  born and die with every new peg. The one who never held a broom properly in his hand  declares himself as a guitarist. Someone insists in reciting urdu shayaris by Harivansh Rai Bachhan while other passionately outpours Shakespearean sonnets in English that too without attending Rapidex English speaking course.

 Undisclosed relationships forged over a few cans of beer and sealed silently in elite whisky bottles are more stronger than the ‘in a relationship’ status updated on facebook timeline. The fb relationships might last upto few ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ or a fortunate one might live to see a few ’shares’ too, but the bond of beer lasts till your memory lasts. One may forget the name of the first teacher who  taught to hold a pencil but never the name of an acquaintance who taught to hold a beer can. “Yaar usne hi peena sikhaya”, a friend told me as tears swelled up in his eyes as he recollected his days of nurture and  enlightened me about the goodness of drinking.  And since ‘peena’ and ‘jeena’ rhymes in a go so he went on to extend the monologue to  “aur usne hi jeena sikhaya”.
Drinking is a great equaliser of masses. The poor forgets his poverty and the rich forgets his pride. A single whisky bottle, 4 glasses and a common cigarette puff can cut across caste,creed, age and religion and establish harmony more than any festival or politician’s speech. Even a hundred vedic mantras can’t energise the atmosphere more than mere clinking of glasses and resounding ‘Cheers!’. Summing it all in a quartet from legendary poem Madhushala by Sh. Harivansh Rai Bachhan:
बजी न मंदिर में घड़ियाली, चढ़ी न प्रतिमा पर माला,
बैठा अपने भवन मुअज्ज़िन देकर मस्जिद में ताला,
लुटे ख़जाने नरपितयों के गिरीं गढ़ों की दीवारें,
रहें मुबारक पीनेवाले, खुली रहे यह मधुशाला। 

Ps: No liquor was consumed while writing this post. An advice from my side please don't drink and write. or was it drive??Whatever. Given an option to Drink and write or Drink and drive, I'll prefer only drink. And if you insist on two acts i'll write and drive .No drinks. Because I watch movies and in movies they warn ' Alcohol is injurious to health'. I joined my left and right hand as a link on 20th in solidarity to liquor ban in Bihar.All because I am a tee-totaller. If you don't believe then I'll tell that soon in another boring combination of 700 words or so. 

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