Friday, November 23, 2012


Our country's open belly is no less pernicious than its sordid underbelly which has a proven record of being dangerous and sinister. I am not talking about some mysterious bogey, but something which has been clearly recognized as a single most important cause of various epidemics and overall unhygienic surroundings, which has marred the beauty of our hills, towns, cities and villages, and yet it has been sidelined as if it does not exist. Yes, I am referring to the long standing, unheeded, serious issue of ever rising mounds of garbage seen everywhere in India without exception.
We have copied successfully so much from the west, yet incorporating even elementary garbage disposal techniques, on which depends the health of multitudes of Indians, have not been attempted committedly. The scourge, however, has stared us in the face all along. It won’t be gainsaying to say in the prevailing circumstances, that the whole country has turned more or less into a mammoth garbage dump.
The other day a TV channel covered the deplorable state of affairs in Bangalore, our IT hub, where heaps of stinking litter in residential areas has made the life of citizens unbearable. Even in other cities, the accumulation of garbage has reached alarming proportions. The pity is that there are no systematic plans put in place to tackle the curse.
A few days back I traveled by train from Patiala to Amritsar and back. It was appalling to see tons of garbage strewn along the tracks by the public residing in nearby colonies. The filth on the tracks has remained an unresolved issue for ever. Apart from govt. inaction,, there is gross lack of responsibility and discipline on the part of the milling population of our country.
The hospitals are reported to dispose off their waste outside their premises where rag pickers retrieve used syringes etc. which can go into wrong hands with fatal consequences. Need I mention, the swarms of flies and mosquitoes which thrive on these dumps and spread infections among people who pass by them? Imagine the burden of treating avoidable sicknesses on our already inadequate health services. When’ll there be some sort of accountability for these unethical practices, which are rampant in our country?
The industry effluents and shanty towns which have mushroomed on the banks of rivers have polluted our major rivers and left them unfit for human use and for the survival of under water organisms. Our sacred river Ganga is unrecognizable. Our recklessness and thoughtlessness has slighted its pious status.
While going from Patiala to Solan,  the one thing which greets the visitors on the way, is hordes of stray cattle, stray dogs and armies of monkeys, feeding on the littered waste on the roadsides. The scenario apart from being disgusting poses a grave danger to moving vehicles. Another eyesore on hills is mountain flanks being targeted as refuse disposal sites by all and sundry. One can imagine the loss to the tourism industry by this malady which tarnishes the image of a country.
Domestic refuse thrown haphazardly by people living in areas in close proximity to airports is a cause for concern. It was reported the other day in the newspaper that a stray dog was sighted on the tarmac of an airport in Punjab. Obviously he must have strayed there after feeding at a nearby waste dump.
Public awareness is a must. Educating the general public about their duties towards society and creating awareness about the ill effects of littering of the household trash are steps in the right direction.
There are far reaching consequences of this so far neglected crisis.The question arises, why is there this deep rooted apathy towards the deplorable state of affairs? Waste management requires serious mulling over.
The ambiguity- why the administrators at the highest level are shy of adopting measures which governments in the west and some European countries have adopted to solve this menace permanently? Why can’t we implement technically sound systems for perfect disposal of the waste materials, which are generated in tons with the changing mores of our society?
It is a solvable problem. But, what is required is the commitment and will on the part of authorities. The half hearted approaches so far have yielded no practicable solutions.

Your comments are welcome.

Images: courtesy Internet

Saturday, November 17, 2012


For the last about one month, I am witnessing a conspicuous change in the weather and can’t help marveling at nature’s timed commitments. Just by the middle of September we were freed from the tentacles of belated monsoon rains and withstood suffocating humidity and dampness all around. Then we had hardly had our fill of the pleasures of the improved weather conditions, when another natural phenomenon of falling leaves caught our attention.
Already deciduous trees in the park and beyond my boundary wall are busy shedding leaves. On a slightly windy day, sometimes when I look out of the window, the spectacle of melodic breeze dislodging droves of dry leaves down onto the ground, confirms the arrival of autumn in a big way. Fallen foliage and leaves are already spreading themselves in a thick sheet of rustling presence on the ground. The look of autumn here is dull and unruly with insipid looking brown and green leaves strewn around. The poor gardeners are having tough time in raking the sea of fallen leaves into piles before proper disposal.

It is said that in Kashmir the fallen leaves of chinar trees look delightful and saffron fields are a feast for the eyes during autumn.
In the US this season is aptly called the fall and I recall the breath taking beauty of autumn on both sides of the road, while driving from New York to Philadelphia with our daughter. The resplendent golden yellow, red and orange hued foliage shimmered in the sun giving an impression of a scene out of this world.
In Punjabi the nomenclature for this season is ‘Pat jharh’; Pat means leaves and jharh means shedding. In our part of the country, the season drags itself and continues to hold sway up to severe winter in January. In fact autumn and winter don’t have clear-cut boundaries and tend to over lap.
Autumn ushers in some nip in the air. Sweaters are out and mornings and evenings are pleasantly chilly. Fresh vegetables are available in abundance. Carrots, radishes, spinach, turnips and mustard greens are winter boons and are in great demand. The cooking buffs have a gala time fixing innovative dishes
Poets have eulogized this season in their muse. John Keats calls it the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and has elevated it to great heights (Ode to Autumn) and compares its beauty with that of spring.

‘ Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,---'….

Some poets strike a melancholic mood and juxtapose the advent of wintry autumn with that of the aging human body which gets deprived of sharpness of vision, hearing, taste buds, reflexes and muscle power just like the bared trees.
Autumn has its own distinct personality in the cycle of seasons and its mild sunny days are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated.

What do you think of autumn, friends?  
Google images.

Monday, November 12, 2012



Wishing my blog friends a safe and joyous Diwali or Deepawali. It is one festival which signifies fun, fervour and no holds barred festivities.  Diwali is called the king of festivals and is celebrated throughout India as a festival of lights. With the beginning of Navratras Festive spirit takes hold of people, which reaches its crowning glory on Diwali.
Preparations for celebrating this auspicious occasion have been going on for a long time. People get their houses painted and scrupulously cleaned before Diwali and decorate them with bright and shimmering coloured artifacts, eye catching rangoli designs and by hanging new age paper lanterns. Commercial establishments are decked up to receive customers. Special discounts and gifts are announced by automobile companies and electronic goods stores to attract more buyers. In the real estate business also freebies are advertised to raise sales. Even banks exhort the investors to purchase specially minted gold coins as it is considered auspicious to buy gold.
People cook fancy dishes and prepare traditional cuisine in honour of the festival. Men women and children IN THEIR FESTIVE best make a beeline for visiting bazaars and sweet shops. One can’t imagine Diwali without kuch meetha ho jae clamour. Various varieties of designer chocolates have become a craze with youngsters this Diwali.
Though warm bonding and spirit of camaraderie is missing in relationships these days, but people still visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts.
There is palpable dampness in the buying spree because of inflation, but the mood still is upbeat. Forgetting all worries people join in the fun and frolic unreservedly. Pomp, glitter and lot of fanfare mark the celebrations.
Householders hang multi coloured electric bulb strings on their parapets, around trees and bushes. Earthen lamps filled with mustard oil and cotton wicks represent the traditional way of lighting. In the evenings people go to gurudwaras and temples with offerings of sweets and dry fruits. They pay their obeisance and light candles in their precincts.
Special prayers are conducted at homes to propitiate the goddess of wealth to visit the family and bless them with prosperity
At night crackers are burst and rockets with special shimmers are propelled upwards to the amusement of young and old.
Let us take a pledge this Diwali to desist from bursting bombs, loud crackers which pollute the atmosphere with dangerous chemicals and raise noise levels which can cause hearing loss. Let us act responsibly for the welfare of all.

Golden temple image: courtesy National Geographic
2nd image: courtesy Google

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Whereas the years on my life calendar are getting shorter, my intuitive reflections keep unfolding new truths, newer realizations. Funny isn’t it? At my age I should have learnt by now, whatever there was to learn in this life. But surprisingly my sense and sensibility are acquiring sharper edges and finding fresh insights into unexplored psychic depths. In between I’m testing the utmost of my patience with my own self and the world.

On a personal level, exigencies of life situations predominate. Who knows what casual utterance here and there may cause fissures in the life’s apple cart? There is always a danger of being misunderstood. “Why take risk my dear”, I say to myself. Perhaps I have realized that silence is golden and saves one from much devastation. But then you are type cast as stupid. Bundles of contradictions. There is no safe escape.
How lucky our politicians are in this regard.  First they spew poison with well thought out strategic statements against their opponents and when it achieves the desired effect they buy back their ethics by saying they have been misquoted. Why can’t one do that in one’s own small world, where words have to be measured? Relationships are like unknotting endless riddles and being sweetly compromising. On the flip side being analytical robs you of hope.
On another level in a family set up, your freedom is disgraced the moment you stick to your contention. Your near perfect choices are taken as poor seconds at best, though taken up later on the strength of merit. You have ideas, even some wisdom and sufficient sensibility, but you are timid, lose confidence, capitulate too soon. Under the givens, the ready to snap peace around you, only stands smart foot falls and no vibrant participation.
I feel a woman always wears a shroud of boundaries. She is always being tested. Never a finale, where she is defined and that is it. She must know the perceived reality being the unreality. Of course her vulnerabilities are beyond her. Can a woman trudge the sullied paths all alone? Nah. she will be mutilated by the walking sharks, trampled upon with derision, laughed at, mocked at. Even an amazon would die many a time for mere survival. And we talk of flying like a bird, safe, free and tweeting and singing soulful melodies!
My disjointed thoughts are like the layers of the subconscious which is made up of infinite images securely resting till there is a drag, a tugging which boils over in this monologue fashion on paper. It just happens by chance, without any plan. A woman’s position is grist for unlimited discourses.
Life’s rainbows are transitory however dark menacing clouds and hopeless scenarios abound. Why is life a ‘general drama of pain’? More so for women. The eternal Eve can’t escape the pain and blame. Women love intensely, and foolishly start expecting love in return. When will women come of age? Don’t they know that men are from Mars and women from Venus? The humanity within us is gullible. Let’s admit we need men. Women’s equality remains a distant dream. 

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


While confined to bed with a bout of sinusitis, out of nowhere this cameo of a life got formed in my mind. May be there is a link between bodily unease and peculiar memories.
Once there was a young woman, blue eyed, tall, statuesque and rosy complexioned.Was married into a well off landowning family. Had three beautiful and gracious daughters and a son.  Daughters she married off in due course of time. Her son joined the armed forces. He was a stalwart of a man. Apple of parents’ eyes and nurtured by dear sisters.  The proposal for his marriage came through an acquaintance. Family trusted him. They were not allowed to see the girl. (In those days it was like that.) The girl actually turned out to be below average in a family of comely ladies. Discreetly no words were spoken. Life continued to be lived.
The young woman became the old woman and then a widow. A ruin of a great castle. Her spirits still soared. Was active in the community. Showed no helplessness.Cooked her meals. Struggle of living continued. Was happy in her den.
Then the son retired and along with his wife came to live with her. Daily spats between the two women ensued.The son sealed his lips. The younger one often used such hurtful words, “When’d this old hag die?” The old woman pretended not to listen. She’d weathered many a storm in her life and thought this too would pass.
But she’d not bargained for this.
One day the son came down the stairs and went straight to his mother,( something unusual) sat by her and broke the news icily, “She is dead.” The old woman was too stunned to say anything but her bleary eyes were filled with tears.
Image courtesy: Internet

Friday, November 2, 2012


There is always a trigger point, which prompts me to reflect on a societal concern, having grave undercurrents. This one happened as a chance encounter with two young workers; I engaged to renovate my kitchen. My interaction with the duo dragged me to an unknown, sordid world of disease, sickness and chronic addictions to tobacco consumption in one form or the other. This caused a major perception upheaval inside me. I was alarmed at my ignorance about the reality of millions of Indians belonging to poorer sections of society, and about whose life I have not given much thought. The converse revealed the magnitude of the scourge, being the bearer of unsung fatalities amongst our country’s large population.

Piteously we consider ourselves safe in our cocooned existence, wearing rose tinted glasses as if nothing’d happen to disturb our comfort zones. I, dear friends am not going to give any statistics to prove my point. That is not my purpose. Just wish to remind ourselves that all along we’d been ignoring the tell tale signs, like colored spittle stains on walls, stairs and bathrooms at public places where we sort of close our eyes, because it is so disgusting. We pass by cautiously and don’t give it a second thought in our hectic pace of life.Whereas this bane keeps proliferating under our very eyes amidst marginalized sections of society.
Enlightened people like us can’t shovel it behind our backs and breathe easily. We all know our state machinery has been woefully lax in monitoring the progress of time bound schemes earmarked for the upliftment of the deprived multitudes. It becomes incumbent on community members and non government organizations to be proactive in finding ways and means to contain this wretchedness, otherwise millions will die a premature death from various diseases, including some type of cancers, lung infections and other communicable diseases. Just reflect how many they’d infect before dying untimely deaths? Unfortunately our public health system is in shambles and totally ill equipped to fight this widely spreading curse and even rich (all agog with money and materials) won’t be able to shelter themselves from the consequences of its spread. These people are part of our life now. They build our houses, tend our gardens and do odd jobs for us. Their wives clean our houses and help us in many ways. Through them we get an insight into their miseries.
This lethal graph of unchecked tobacco use in our country in smoking cigarettes and biris and the consumption of chewing tobacco in pan masalas, gutkas and other products are freely available in village kiosks, slums and elsewhere. The health risks faced by ignorant, uneducated, skilled and unskilled labor force earning low wages are enormous. The addiction to these intoxicants is growing alarmingly as this conversation brings out.
One of the two persons fixing our kitchen demanded tea soon after he started work. I’d noticed by then that he was chewing something and even went out to spit. After every hour or so he’d retrieve a tiny pouch from his pocket and rub the contents on the palm of his hand and put it between his gums and cheek.It was revolting to say the least but I couldn’t shunt them half way through the work. So nauseating the scenario was that I could not help questioning him about his addiction. He had no qualms about admitting that he is an inveterate addict and consumes about a dozen tiny packs daily.When I reminded him about the dangers to his health ,he as a matter of factly blurted out that he can only expect to live a few years more with his chronic usage. He went on to disclose that most of them who had come to Punjab from other states to better their earning prospects consume as much. This is not an isolated case, construction workers; agriculture workers all have fallen prey to this deadly habit.
The vice is the result of an apathetic, corrupt and inept body politic and total indifference of the rest of us to the mounting social evils around us. When even the world community is realizing the importance of cooperation in tackling hunger, terrorism and other burning issues, how can we sit smugly brushing aside the seriousness of the malady threatening all of us?

Here is an appraisal of the situation as I understand it along with some suggestions worth mulling over.
1. The foremost need is to create awareness by educating the masses about the health hazards of the consumption of the stuff. Instilling love of life as against fatalistic tendencies should be part of the rehabilitation efforts.
2. The functionaries at the grassroots level need to be instructed and empowered to start awareness campaigns.
3. Poverty elimination by enabling lower strata of society to learn skills to be better employed and be able to improve living standards.
To impress upon the marginalized people to be more committed to their work, thereby enhancing their worth in the employment market.
4. Unchecked population increase is putting so much pressure on the limited resources and no amount of growth will be sufficient to feed our burgeoning numbers.
To restore the credibility of population control measures. The utter neglect of poor patients post family planning operations in sponsored medical camps scare people away. There is no post operative care worth the name. Many get infected and sometimes reportedly die unattended.
5. To ensure that the money meant for poverty alleviation schemes is not siphoned off in transit and reach the economically poor for whom it is meant.
6. Educating the women who can spearhead the campaigns against this malaise because they’re the worst suffers also.
7. To make our doctors and other professionals more responsive and proactive in containing the spread of the virus.
8. More de-addiction centers with staff specially trained to be compassionate and gentle and ultimately rehabilitate affected persons to lead healthy normal lives.

This surely is a serious situation and needs to be looked into forthwith at administrative levels.

PL. comment