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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More Reasons Why You Should Give Up Smoking!

It’s not always necessary to go into the oft-repeated health hazards while trying to convince you to give up smoking. There are numerous equally hazardous and compelling reasons to inspire you kick the dirty habit.

Pictures Grotesque: The very pack you pay money to buy contains horrendous pictures on its surface with a lot of gore thrown liberally in. Beholding the bloody insides of your body on the outside you must feel nausea surging inside you making you crawl away from the filtered pieces within. Recently the pictures have become still more gut-wrenching.

Prohibited Areas: If you happen to visit a smoking prohibited area and feel the urge you must prepare for the worst. The habit is considered to be so dirty that you will be directed to the garbage dump behind the toilets to do your act by some understanding inmates you choose to ask for guidance. The stink you so ardently desire to put into your system will be totally overpowered by the all-pervasive stink available freely around.

Trains and Railway Platforms: If you want to enjoy a long train journey in India you better kick the habit first. Else the ‘toilet’ syndrome of this dirty habit will make you feel like a rat. You cannot definitely do it in your compartment or in the passages or even in the platforms. Only place left will be the toilets. If you want to degrade yourself, enter one and satiate your incorrigible urge you may still find railway guards waiting to charge you a huge fine when you come out.

Public Places: To do your act in a public place you will have to acquire the acumen of a perfect thief. You look surreptitiously around trying to spot a location away from the public onlookers and alert yourself for any lurking danger. And of course, there are dangers like landmines. After somehow accomplishing your feat you stub out the butt under your feet and suddenly find municipal workers appearing out of nowhere to charge you with a huge fine.
Hotels, Malls and Multiplexes: You are likely to be on the run endlessly finding a spot to do your act when you visit a hotel or a mall or a multiplex. In unfortunate cases you will never find one and in less fortunate cases you will be summarily directed by the rude attendants to a special room. Once you enter the claustrophobic unkempt mess and confusion inside will not only drive your urge out instantly but also drive you physically out.

At Home: You may feel your home sweet home will be the final place of solace where you can do it anytime and in gay abandon. You are insanely wrong, my dear dirty friend. If your wife is of the aggressive kind she may chase you around with a broom and if your wife is a bovine variety she may feign into a fit of instant and unstoppable coughing looking helplessly at you the moment you start your act. If you have children too you are likely to be thrown out of your home sweet home. You may still go to your balcony to have it nice and cozy, but the stares and glares from balconies opposite will be enough to push you inside.

Add to these ‘dirty’ reasons the health hazards too. Finally you will have an overpowering urge to stub out your urge completely and for good. Amen!

(This piece is written from the point of view of an Indian male. Fortunately, female smokers are still a relatively rare species in India.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rio Olympics 2016 And Four Indian Women!

The Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, August 6-21,2016, have come to a grand close today. We have no space here to cover all those terrific achievers from across the world. Therefore we will concentrate only on India, although it has been a disappointing tale. As usual, India sent the largest ever contingent to participate in various sports disciplines, but for eleven long days the country fumed and fretted for an elusive medal which was made worse by some negative vibes, comments and hiccups. However, four magnificent ladies from a largely patriarchal society came to the fore and the focus of concentrated attention giving the countrymen a rare opportunity to feel proud of them. 

In Badminton expectations were mostly from Saina Nehwal, but she failed not even through to midway in the competition. And came PV Sindhu, not at all in contention for a medal, and fought like a tigress competing with players much much higher in world ranking. She set the ball of euphoria rolling by entering the quarter finals of women's singles event and then stormed into the semis. In that memorably aggressive match she defeated world no. 6 and ensured a silver medal by entering the finals. For a change, cricket fever was replaced by Badminton excitement as whole of India watched that marvellously fought final. Sindhu did everything possible to justify the country's slogan 'go for gold', but finally was outmanoeuvred by some killer smashes by world no.1 Carolina Marin from Spain. PV Sindhu won the Silver medal and made Indians proud and celebrating. 

In wrestling focus was mostly on Narsingh Yadav who, unfortunately, got a four-year ban from the WADA on the day he was to open his campaign, and on Yogeshwar Dutt in 65kg freestyle who even failed to qualify on the last day of the Olympics. Meanwhile, coming from nowhere Indian woman Sakshi Malik in women's 58kg freestyle wrestling won the country's first Rio medal by winning the Bronze in the play-off. Medal hopes for India erupted after this wonderful moment and Indian girls commanded absolute attention. 

Two other magnificent ladies captured the fascination of the country not by winning medals, but by making revelations what Indian women are capable of performing if given the right kind of respect and facilities. 

Dipa Karmakar from the North Eastern state of Tripura represented India in Artistic Gymnastics for the first time ever and came agonisingly close to winning at least a Bronze.  She finished fourth in the finals by the narrowest of margins and enthralled the country by doing the extremely dangerous Vault of Death. She became a celebrity and rightfully so. 

Aditi Ashok did what was least expected even by the most optimistic. In the highly west-dominated sport of Golf she almost did it to the finals, but on the day that mattered most she could not go on and slid to 31st position. She too brought to the fore the fact what Indian women can do in disciplines that were not given enough thought by the sports mandarins of India. 

These four ladies, of course apart from few other promising ones, saved the blushes for India in Rio. A Gold medal has been eluding India since the Beijing Olympics of 2008 while in London Olympics 2012 India did send the largest ever contingent and won the largest ever haul of six medals, but without a Gold. And sticking with the largest ever contingent to Rio India fare poorly with just two medals. In men's Hockey in Rio India did very well initially, but could not keep the momentum going, only sort of satisfied with the fact that they defeated the ultimate Gold medal winner Argentina. In Tennis too all hopes were belied. There is not much to write home about other fields of action in Rio as far as India is concerned. 

Sports infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities still lack miserably in India and miles to go before the country of more than a billion could realistically hope for better performances in the world games. Our four ladies give the Sports authority enough food for thought for the future.  And of course, the Power of Indian Women can never be underestimated after the Rio experience. Time for the right thinking people of this country to get clear of all prejudices, bias and gender discrimination. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Home Sweet Home!

He loves to be at home, almost deliriously. Home... sweet home! Some place where you follow the same delicious routine- everyday, day after day. His mother and sisters hovering around him, giving him mouth-watering meals at the appropriate hours-so religiously maintained! Precious moments at every step of the homely existence, sometimes with his father butting in at the most inappropriate ones! And then... the compulsory evening hours before the television set with family, and a lot of nonsense yet fun. This is heaven, he justifies. Nothing can possibly ever make him think of leaving it!

Of course, he reasons, he is no longer a burden on his father's measly monthly income. Now, he too has a job-a fairly good job considering the fact that he can carry it on royally residing at home. What's more-he is contributing to the monthly budget in good measure and as a result of that he is getting even more attention from his mother and more pampering from his beloved sisters, he's almost sure about that! Yes, he had got several other job offers outside his city, but rejected all in an immaculate cost-benefit analysis that he often indulged in. He will get more salary no doubt, but most of that will go to renting flats, cooking for his own sake, transport costs for homecoming and going and other related costs. Therefore, he is ready to give up that extra income in favour of staying at his heaven.

Sometimes he gets bored too, as is natural. The delicious routine becomes a drag if he decides to think of his apparently purposeless existence. But then he reasons even more vehemently. Why-there is lot of purpose in his life, helping his ageing father, giving solid support to his mother, finding ways and means of marrying off his sisters and so on. Besides, home sweet home always has its never-ending store of pleasures. He can lounge out in the portico sofa by the window with a book or have noisy games of cards, ludo, carom, checkers and the lot with family or can join the guests who come almost every day for gossip or can go for a movie.

His heavenly existence was continuing in full bloom till one fateful day. In fact, for many others it would have been a momentous day of great joy and promise. However, for him it was a D-day. He had to take the decision of his life-a choice between his heaven and a future that he did not put much weight on.

He got an unexpected promotion and transfer to a big city. Maybe thanks to his heavenly roots he had been very good in his office job, and just when the employers wanted to reward him for his efforts all hell broke loose for him. He shared this news with his mother and sisters in a very casual manner, not telling about the exact pay package, but only mentioning the additional unnecessary costs. However, one of his sisters got elated at the prospect of traveling to the mega-city and staying in her brother's home. He looked askance at her.

He is more careful breaking the news to his father. He tries to convince him that this promotion does in no way mean a quick climb-up in the hierarchy; rather he'd wait a little longer and get the promotion at his hometown. Or he'd approach some influential person for a settlement where his dad could also help. And the unnecessary expenses that will come inevitably, his cost-benefit analysis in full flow. He is almost sure that his dad is convinced. Any doting father would want his only son near and around only. However, his father's next action was not at all expected. His father just walked out of home.

It was only half an hour later, but the suspense made it seem much longer. His father comes in with huge packets on his hands. His father calls upon his mother and places all the packets on the dining table. One by one he opens-sweets, cakes, salty delights and all. He just ushers in a big celebration. His heavenly son just looks on.

"Congratulations, my boy! I was really worried about you and your ways. But you proved to be damn good in work, and the way your company is rewarding you is just terrific. Okay... you've gorged on home food and comforts for quite long. Enough of your logic and arguments! Now you get a start on your own. And don't bother about me. Next time I'm coming to have comforts in your home!"

He tries to look pleadingly at his mother. But she is busy, and merrily setting the table. He must celebrate now.

(First Published on Ezinearticles )

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Politician And A Pugilist!

The spectre of being powerlessness scares him stiff. He has been winning the elections in that little state of the Indian republic last four consecutive times and has been a minister on different occasions enjoying immense bouts of power. Thanks to his power he has made millions of bucks and properties across the state. He has created pockets of influence at every level of government and administration. And, he thinks fondly, the luxuries and comforts associated with power and position are just too lucrative. How could he even think of foregoing all that?

Not possible at all, but this election was different. The opposition brought in the issue of corruption and campaigned vigorously asking people to end the long period of misrule. The fools, he growls to himself, they fell for it…as if the new rulers would usher in an era of historic honesty! Why, anybody who becomes a people’s representative must first ensure his/her life-long safety and security—resorting to all means of doing it, he muses furiously. He is a seasoned politician, so he knows. Of course, this time he sensed the clamour for change and prepared accordingly.

Everything possible under the sun was done. He arranged huge quantities of money to be distributed to the voters—fools, he insists—of his constituency. However, he was unlucky on one occasion; his truckload of money was seized by the police. Somehow he managed to cover it up, although not before a lot of negative publicity. Then he tried his best to play on the religious sentiments of the people. What do the experts call it…polarisation…huh? Yes, he thought he polarised very effectively; but something odd happened in the last days of campaign neutralising all his gains. Somehow the fools saw through the fa├žade…and stood united! And then the fools voted in unprecedented numbers on the polling day…for what…well, for change, they said. Those were ominous portents for the ruling party and he started fearing a state of powerlessness. And since then, he has been traumatised by an image…the image of a pugilist. He is not sure why, his conscience never being a good guide.

Reports are coming in after the second round of counting. He is trailing by several thousands. This may change after two more rounds, he assures himself with lot of optimism. He is sitting at his official residence with family and few of his followers. He decided against going to the party office. If it’s bound to be humiliation…let it not be in public, he reasons.

He tries on focus on that disturbing image—a pugilist alright, but the face is not clear. He cheated on others and resorted to unfair means at every stage of his life—right from his school days. His father was an influential party worker and a help in all his dealings. Maybe by inheritance he was always the leader type and controlled student and school matters often amounting to intimidation or even fisticuffs. At college he always managed to rig the elections in his favour and siphon off a major part of the union money to his pockets. He copied profusely and freely in all the examinations he appeared for. There were so many mates in school and college days he eventually lost track of. Now one face is trying hard to intrude his vision repeatedly. Is this the real identity of the pugilist?

There was a simple village boy in his junior college days. The simpleton devoted a lot of time to bodybuilding. ‘Yes’, he remembers now, ‘the boy deserved a place in the college team, but had to be a fee for the favour. Despite my repeated warnings he failed to oblige, so I rid him out of the team’. Memory is flowing now. ‘Then, there was that eve teasing incident in the campus… Oh my God, the hard, cruel punch he landed on my face! …How could I ever forget that?’ He got the boy out of the hostel through his influence. After a few years he heard that the boy struggled very hard, went to a different college and finally found a place in the district boxing team. That was the last he knew of the pugilist.

The spectre is becoming real now. There is a collective heavy sigh of total despondency from his followers. Reports are coming in after the fourth round of counting. He is trailing his nearest rival by about a hundred thousand votes. His fate is sealed; there can be no comeback now. Suddenly he finds himself in the boxing ring. The pugilist is charging at him, lifts him up in the air, the strong arms circle him around victoriously and throws him out of the ring… 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Feline Favour!

The city is expanding since decades with population and concrete congestion increasing all the time, but it still goes to sleep early, relatively speaking. City going to sleep early means you don’t get the facilities at night—like shops and markets, public buses and more importantly the omnipresent cycle rickshaws. We did not mean it to be, but we got late that evening at a relative’s place. To add to our woes, the eldest boy of the house had to go out on an errand, obviously taking the car with him. Any possibility of getting a lift was thus ruled out. My tension was genuine because my septuagenarian mother was with me and to make her walk nearly a mile was never a bright idea.

We took the small lane leading up to the main road and started walking hoping to get some transport on the way. Auto-rickshaws, even a rare sight at daytime, were not passing by at all. A few cycle rickshaws going towards the main road had passengers and the ones coming in towards us from the main road were empty. We started hailing them, but to no avail. They were all returning home after a hard day’s work and a steaming hot dinner was the only thing in their mind. We could hardly blame them.

The lane is long and winding, and even after hitting the main road we will have to walk another half a mile. The weather was also cloudy and a drizzle could start any time. We were getting desperate.

Halfway up the lane we sighted another empty cycle rickshaw coming towards us. Hoping against hope we called out to him quite at a distance. He continued to paddle hardly bothering even to respond. We almost gave up trying to come to terms with our situation.

And then providence intervened! A cat suddenly darted out of somewhere and ran across the lane. The cat crossed the lane—both ours and his! I was very quick to take advantage.

“Hey brother!” I called out to the rickshaw puller who suddenly pulled up midstream. “Now you’ll have to retrace your steps and take us home!”
The rickshawallah looked around uncertainly. Opposite we waited expectantly. After a few suspenseful moments he blurted out, “You’ll have to give me double fare or I take few steps backward and go home.”
“That’s not fair. The cat crossed your path and you should not continue same way as if nothing has happened.” I shamefully tried to pump up his superstition.

After a little more exchange of words we settled for a reasonable fare to both parties. He turned his rickshaw around towards the main road and we set off merrily thanking our cat luck.

Now then, a cat crossing our way in fact benefited all of us. We got a transport home and the rickshawallah got a last-minute client and a few extra bucks. The feline entity caused us luck rather than causing what is superstitiously believed. Cheers!

(First Published on Ezinearticles.)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Donation Box Collector!

The film producer had an urgent chat with his wife just before breakfast. The maid noticed it and claimed the credit for the breaking part of that piece of news. However, to the disappointment of many she did not have a clue as to what transpired between them. 

They had breakfast together and immediately thereafter the film producer zoomed out in his car. He went straight to his office and his event manager was waiting for him, summoned urgently for a meeting.

Without beating around the bush the film producer aired his idea.
“You see, in these times of natural disasters it is incumbent upon us, the supposedly rich people you know (grins affably), to come out and help the affected people. Of course, in our humble way…as is possible. What do you think?”
“That’s a good idea. It scores points both on our humanitarian approach and some publicity for us too,” the event manager was taken aback at this sudden turn of events, but seeing his boss’s enthusiasm he managed to articulate that much.
“Thanks. I’m determined now. We will cover all three districts on the west and our supplies should reach all the relief camps there. Now, go for some strong wooden boxes…you see…my concern is security and that the collected money should never go to wrong people. Ok? ...Get cracking now! Tomorrow is Sunday and it would fit our purpose just fine. Please rope in all the celebrities available and arrange for at least three vehicles. We must cover all roads and lanes of the city…”

The campaign went off next day as planned. Sources revealed that it was a tremendous collection. People liked the idea and donated generously, only insisting that the money should reach the victims directly.

By evening all the donation boxes were transferred to the main office vehicle and other cars were asked to pack up after dropping the celebrities in respective homes. When the office vehicle came in through the gate the film producer was waiting in the courtyard with his manager. The event manager assisted the driver to unload the sealed boxes on the ground. Then he shouted for the spot boys to take those to the office room.
“Hold it…hold it! As I told you security is my prime concern. So I’d never allow these to be left in office for the whole night. I’ll take personal responsibility,” the producer broke out hoarsely.

The boxes were immediately loaded into the producer’s personal car. He made quick plans with his manager for the morning and left for home as night was falling. The event manager looked on for a moment as if trying to find some answers to some perplexing questions.

Morning was very hectic. Travel plans were made for the next two days. The film producer and his wife would visit every venue selected for giving relief materials. The cost of their travel, food and accommodation must be adjusted from the collected money. A few news channels and journalists ought to be invited for the campaign and accompanying cost of entertaining them must also be adjusted against the donated money. After meeting all expenses the remaining amount must not reach the victims in hard cash—blankets or other apparels to be procured from the wholesalers (the producer insists on the common variety and with discounts) and some quantities of cereals (coarse type—insists producer) to be purchased again in wholesale markets. There should be as many bundles as venues. By about 1.30 pm everything was in place. The producer, as usual, did not offer lunch to any of his staff and left hurriedly for home.

The event manager preferred to sit on in the office and ordered lunch for him and his assistants. Now his face was stern and there was some trace of anger there. He started talking to himself, ‘Okay, you have been in the red for quite some time, but still why stoop so low…listening to your wife on business…being so petty and cheap! Yes, I should have refused right away…but that time I was not sure. Anyway, if somebody asks I’d definitely air my doubts.” As disclosed later to his close friends the event manager could have sworn that the donation boxes were much heavier on that evening when brought to office.

Morale of the story: If you doubt a lack of transparency in any donation campaign, at least insist on ‘transparent’ donation boxes to start with!  

(Article First Published in
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