Thursday, September 27, 2012


Some disturbing trends proliferating in society catch your attention and you can’t help mulling over them. My observation in two states in the span of a few months has convinced me that a particular malaise is widespread and a telling symptom of the moral collapse of the youth of our country. How our youth is increasingly being misguided into a self destructive mode, is a point worth pondering! There seems to be a complete erosion of values which guided all of us in the past.

The case in point is the increasing inclination towards irresponsible drinking habits amongst our young population. A few days back we were on our daily walking regime in the park, when I saw some littered stuff near a bench. On closure inspection, it became evident that some people had a drinking session in the safe twilight hour. There were plastic tumblers, left over of snacks and small liquor bottles scattered there. On enquiry it was revealed by the residents who have their residences around, that some boys invaded the peace at night, guzzled alcohol and  were forced to leave by some brave hearts with a warning.
However such elements roam freely, indulge in questionable behaviour and pose a danger to the peace loving citizens. These are the ones who violate laws, snatch chains, commit day light robberies, and take part in kidnapping to make easy money. They indulge in drunken driving, cause accidents and take innocent lives. One can imagine the fate of their families suffering in silence. But can they absolve themselves of the blame? There are many such worrying examples reported in the press day in and day out.
A similar scenario, confronted me in Himachal Pradesh. One day, while enjoying a morning walk on Nahan road, we saw card board cases of branded liquor bottles, eatables and glasses thrown indiscriminately by the side of the newly constructed parapets. At many places empty bottles and food stuff containers are seen littered on the road itself. What impressions are created in the vulnerable minds of children, who pass by such scenes on their way to school? Once I saw stray dogs licking left out liquor in the abandoned glasses
The disillusioned youth take recourse to wrong choices and naively think that such actions make them trendy, in sync with the fickle world of movies. Most of the movies are harbingers of negative aspirations among the youth. They try to relate themselves to the larger than life images shown on celluloid and get a jolt, when these acts land them into trouble and public censure. For example drinking, sex and nudity are integrated in the screen play for its own sake, to titillate the youth who constitutes the large chunk of film goers.
Drinking has become a fashion these days even among highly educated and respectable families. There is always a danger of social drinking leading to alcoholism which has ruined many families. Murders, rapes, suicides and other forms of violence under the influence of liquor are daily occurrences these days. Women and Children are the worst victims of such episodes.
Since the excise duty on alcoholic drinks is high and also Governments earn huge amounts as revenue in the auctioning process of liquor joints, the ruinous effects of drinking are sidelined for the sake of taxes which get generated to fill the empty state coffers. Mushrooming of vends selling this stuff is evident every where, when you drive through the highways.
The easy availability of alcohol without any checks emboldens our youth, too young to gauge the consequences of their dangerous forays. A few months back(as reported in the newspaper) a couple of school girls, accompanied by boys, skipped their tuition classes and went in for experimenting with drinking and were found vomiting in a park by the police. In ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and ‘Rock Star’ the heroines drink liquor neat and I’m sure, that was the inspiration for these girls to copy the act. These poor girls didn’t know perhaps that it was part of acting, at the most with coke filled bottles. One can imagine the stigma and lifelong mental scars which the girls and their families will have to suffer in a society which slanders rather than supports.
Many parents in their pursuit of glitzy possessions remain oblivious of the activities of their wards thinking that they’ve discharged their duty if they stuff their children’s pockets with moolah. Such an attitude of indifference and neglect results in the undoing of the children. Avoidable tragedies happen and the families are doomed for the rest of their lives.
Here are a few suggestions:
Parents must monitor their wards' lives to the extent possible. They should be weaned away from excessive use of addictive phone applications and virtual cyber world, which isolates them from the real world resulting in psychosomatic problems, which can wreak their lives.
Parents’ and teachers should always keep the communication channels open with the children and teens, creating a comfort zone where they can discuss their problems with them freely.
A provision of counselling for all kids should be there in the school curriculum, where such habits take birth.
The teachers must encourage children to frequent libraries and help them choose good motivational books.
Taking part in sports should be compulsory for youngsters to canalize their energies in healthy pursuits
T.V. viewing should be monitored and time limit put in place.
Rich parents in place of spoiling their kids with expensive gifts should take interest in their lives and imbibe in them the spirit of giving to the less fortunate.
Vocational education for teaching employable skills should be introduced from lower levels to ward off frustrations. All children are not made for higher education.
Elders should lead by example rather than by precept.
The Police must take stringent action against violators of law and judiciary must ensure speedy justice with deterrent sentence.
Members of civil society should not look the other way when they see teens indulging in unlawful acts. Concerted efforts by all sections of society are needed to steer the youth towards the right path.
Pl. share your views in the comments section.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Vehngi of the vendor looked like the
one in this historic painting.
It is true, but hard to understand why value of money has eroded so exponentially since the last decade. Perhaps it is all due to unbridled inflation in our country, fuelled by faulty economic policies and the scourge of widespread corruption.
There were days in the long gone past, when hundred rupees’d buy provisions for the family and one paisa had some value. Let me take you back to nineteen fifties when I was a little girl and had a friend who had many siblings and her mother was perpetually in some stage of pregnancy. (My later deductions). But financially they were sound as the father of my friend had a well paying job. You won’t believe, but on the outer wall of their house was written in bold numbers Rs.500/-Tankhah (salary) for public consumption. I read it whenever I visited the house but never gave it a thought beyond the mere numbers. One day I overheard my mother and a neighbour referring casually about this aspect. Rupees five hundred was a large sum of money in those good old days and thus was publicized perhaps to proclaim the family’s exclusive status. People were tolerant then and accepted it anyways. So much for this amusing idiosyncrasy!
Traversing the past through the memory lane, here is a sneak view of the spending power of a paisa then.
It was about that time that I joined primary school and my mom used to give me a taka (a two paisa coin) as pocket money in the morning (some days) before I went to school. It was like possessing a fortune. I soon graduated to one anna after throwing tantrums. Some children just got one paisa, but that didn't dent their joy. This was enough to buy a handful of groundnuts and gachak (jaggery mixed with nuts).There was sufficient choice though. The vendor used to have triangular shaped paper bags to give the stuff in. In the last period before recess, we experienced over active taste buds, in anticipation of the mouthwatering goodies to be consumed. As soon as the bell chimed, the jubilant youngsters’d run to the vendor, encircling his wares and creating a din, wanting to be the first to be served. The poor man joyfully attended to everyone and even gave the jhunga (small amount free) to every child, who’d scamper away victoriously The nuts tasted swell and sometimes few shells were munched along with the nuts to prolong the finishing point. The simple fare was a favourite of all and each day the desire to enjoy the stuff in no way lessened. The law of diminishing utility was irrelevant then. The kind vendor had a special place in the hearts of children, as his wares provided untold joy.
His silhouette is still outlined in the reservoir of my childhood memories. On digging deep, I spy a swarthy, middle aged, lanky figure, attired in grimy whites- a loosely tied turban, a full sleeved shirt and a large sheet of cloth tied to his waist which covered three fourth of his legs and bared sharply boned dark ankles and thin forelegs. On his feet were shoes made of cheap, partially treated, brown leather by a village cobbler. He balanced a wooden bar (vehngi) on his sinewy shoulders, carrying his wares in, two large, round, flat bottomed, short brimmed baskets made of bamboo.They were threaded securely at three places each at the bottom with sturdy ropes and tied through a hole to the edges of the wooden bar, suspending it down to waist length. I can recollect his receding figure moving jauntily away and the pleasure of doing good business palpable in his steps. He charmed the little ones with his heart of gold.
A little later in time, while coming home with friends after school hours, during hot summers, we ‘d converge around a hand cart selling barf da gola (grated ice formed into round shape, around a stick and saturated with multi-coloured sweetened water). We were transported onto seventh heaven of pleasure as we sucked and licked the iced magic. We were picture of innocence and naivety and free like birds. The only thing which mattered was the simple joys in the company of friends.


The denomination of Indian currency before decimalization in 1961:*

One rupee = 16 annas / 64 paise / 192 pies

Atthannee = 8 annas / 32 paise

Chawanee = 4 annas / 16 paise

Dawannee = 2 annas / 8 paise

Anna = 4 paise

Taka = 2 paise

Paisa = 1/64 rupee

Dhela = ½ paisa

Pie/ Dhamri = 1/3 paisa

*Our Arithmetic sums in school had a lot of inter-conversion of various denominations.

Image courtesy:
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Friday, September 14, 2012


I was jittery about coming home from the hills after four months of stay there. Though in between we had a whirlwind visit to Patiala, managed food from outside or ate sandwiches, but kept our eyes closed to the dusty interiors. I knew about the tsunami of work, I’ll have to undertake when finally we came back. Hence my paranoia.
My fears weren’t without reason. The first look, after arrival at the neglected house warned me about my fate in the next few days. We opened the doors to the residues of monsoon smells in all the rooms and decided our priorities there and then. My house didn’t look like a home but lifeless and dull, where every nook and corner stared in the face for tender care. To transform it back to a home, certainly required patience and vigour and we donned the role of management gurus to accomplish the task in record time. The first choice was to expend our energies right away to make the bedroom livable and the food court operational. Yes, you heard it right. Readying kitchen to enable cooking to satisfy the hunger pangs, in order to go through the mammoth cleaning spree, became the foremost priority.
Accordingly I embarked on the jumbo task of changing the unruly, dusty and colourless look of the kitchen into an inviting one. The kitchen obviously missed the aroma of variety of dishes and its all important status in the domestic hierarchy. But first thing first. Scrubbed the shelves clean, washed the pots and pans, cleaned the refrigerator and shoved the water bottles in it as the RO system was made functional immediately on arrival. Replenished the fridge with eatables which we got on the way, knowing that once back in the house we’ll be unable to go anywhere for a couple of days. The demands on our energy reservoir, built painstakingly by long walks in the hills mounted, but there was no choice.
This done I moved towards the bedroom, before it started throwing tantrums against cruel indifference. The beds got dusted and attired with crisp bed sheets from the cupboard (I manage to keep many extra pairs).Other pieces of furniture also got their due care. Soon I sprawled on the bed exhausted due to heat and humidity and cajoled dear hubby to prepare some tea to fuel the sagging spirits.
Dear friends, it is damn difficult to manage your household tasks, if you love your independence and personal space and disallow any intrusion like the irritating disturbance of a full time help. So making do with a part time one is the other alternative. I’ve chosen the second option. Besides reliability in the tribe is suspect these days.
Homes are extremely demanding entities. When you desert them frequently, they are difficult to bring round. Now look at my Study, which showed plain disapproval of my neglect and had to be pampered and reassured tactfully. The dismayed look of my personal library was enough to make me feel guilty, leaving it thus in the sizzling heat, behind closed doors, while I enjoyed the cool environs of the hills. My Cambridge Dictionary sat listless on the computer table, pouting childishly, expecting appeasement. Graciously all grudges’ve been attended to and friendliness is restored. Laptop is installed, BSNL is working and AC is helping me to take to writing, I was sorely missing being knee deep in chores.
A pet beta noire of mine is the presence of queasy lizards, whose obnoxious side is evident when you come home after a gap. Their droppings lay scattered on the kitchen shelves and in the bath rooms. How they scare you, when you shake the curtains and one of them lands on you making you jump and scream! How fast they multiply! I’m sure to encounter their broken egg shells when I decide to have a look in my lower kitchen cabinets filled with surplus stuff. No spray works on them. My Internet research failed to offer any solutions. Apart from kitchen and bathrooms, their preferred hideout is behind the sofa cushions. Out they jump suddenly when you remove the sheets, which you cover the sofas with, before winding up the house. I wonder what they survive on, these hateful creatures.
However, normalcy is slowly and steadily returning. My pantry has been replenished with groceries and condiments. SAMSUNG washer took care of the piles of laundry and the house is regaining the features of a comfortable, secure and buzzing home. The resettling process is like running a marathon.
I’m done with the inside of the house. Outside the lawns look unwieldy. There are more weeds than grass. That was expected of our gardener who follows the maxim, “I will play when the mistress is away”. Potted plants show utter neglect and it’ll be sometime before the plants will be back in shape again. The experience though undergone many times, remains a challenge each time.
I’m falling into a healthy routine necessary to pursue my interests. Our morning walk is on, though the sticky weather is a deterrent still.
Friends, I think, life is more a labyrinth of compromises than free existential choices. One can’t luxuriate in the cool serenity of the hills in summer, without paying for it in the plains.

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Monday, September 10, 2012


I’m not an aficionado of watching T.V., but I do have opinions. The last serial, I watched, long back, was ‘Jassi Jaisa Koi Nahin’ and enjoyed the few earlier episodes where Jassi, an awkward, bespectacled , small town girl, was trying to have a foothold in the fashion house where she worked as an apprentice and bore the insults of her coworkers regarding her simple and gawky looks. She obviously was a misfit in a place where there was so much of affectation, backbiting and one-upmanship. Her portrayal elicited sympathy and many middle class girls must have related to her. But as the popularity chart showed upward swing, the serial lost the vision of purpose and dragged it ad nauseum, killing the concept. That was the culmination of my date with soap operas. The ones played these days, with their gaping eyed mannequins as men and women, enacting irritatingly banal plots, are hardly watchable, to say the least.
TV debates I do sit for, mostly on two English channels, not out of necessity but out of habit. Sometimes the scenario is so unpleasant that switching to some other channel remains the only option. However, my watching decision is panelists specific. I admire Swapan Dasgupta for his in depth analysis of the political scenario, concisely and effectively sans malice and he really enlightens the viewer. He’s charm and equanimity and his arguments are never off the mark. There are some who usurp the maximum amount of time and go on and on breathlessly uttering half truths and thereby derailing the issue and the poor viewer loses the context of the argument. How discerning the viewer has to be, to pick the truth from the hype and muddle of wordplay which many participants indulge in?
But I enjoy the women power in such debates in the persons of Madhu kishwar founder of Manushi, Simriti Irani, Kirran Kher for their spunk in taking on those who distort and twist facts to confuse the issue debated. Another lady whom I admire for her manners and poise is Nirmala Sitaraman. She puts her point of view forcefully but never provokes as some others do. I also like to listen to Shobhaa De for her no holds barred approach on national issues though I don’t agree with her all the time. I’m staunch fan of Kiran Bedi for her sincerity in espousing and promoting national causes.
I love to sit through dance reality shows where one can see so much talent, innovative dancing and the desire to excel on the part of participants. It is heartening to know that generation X is all set to go places in whatever field they choose. They try to live their dreams which is inspiring. The one I am hooked to these days is ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja' on ‘Colours’, particularly because of Madhuri Dixit being one of the judges. She herself is an accomplished dancer and a fine actress to boot, along with beauty and glamour.. Her comments actually educate about the nuances of the art form and its fusion with the projected theme of the act.
But I feel embarrassed about a participant who is a stand up comedian (Bharti ) but ostensibly is included in the show for providing cheap entertainment which sucks. Her obesity is made a butt of some unpalatable jokes. Trashy scripted antics in fact, dilute the quality of the show. I’d wish there is more of dance and less of acrobatics in the name of dance. I don’t know why they have left out Indian dance forms which are so entrancing, graceful and expressive.
Another annual show which showcases treasure trove of talent is the recently concluded music extravaganza “Indian Idol” on Sony. I’d like the organizers to consider top three contestants in some winning category e.g. winner of the title, first runner up and second runner up to encourage the gifted youngsters who were equally brilliant in required styles of singing
Watching movies on television is no priority at all. Long drawn, utterly boring sequences, larger than life characters, contrived and predictable situations, poor story line, buffoonery in the name of comedy, overdose of sexual innuendos and feelings of déjà vu repel viewing. So the filmmakers add the ubiquitous item numbers to attract the front benchers.
However, the likes of pure romance as  ‘Jab we Met’ are entertaining.Chilling social realities taken up in Gangajal, Apharan and Sarkar were outstanding in their portrayal of the abysmal low of the underbelly of the system.
Some old classics always enthrall and leave impact. Who can forget Mughal e azam,Ganga Jamuna, Amarpali, Pakeeza, Kagaj Ke Phool and many more for their cinematic excellence?
Television is a tremendously powerful medium of communication. Let it not be used for misinformation or for achieving vested interests.

images: courtesy Google

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