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Monday, May 30, 2011

Honesty is Only a Personal Feeling!

If you are honest it's only by exception, because corruption is now the overpowering rule! That you are honest is only a personal feeling, that you are proud of the fact at your heart, 'Oh! I'm honest! I'll always be honest! I may suffer all my life, but I'll live with my head held high!' Yes, that's the only thing you'll achieve being honest apart from undergoing all the stresses, dismay, tension, shame and anger involved in the honesty paradigm!

If you are offered a bribe in your own office the honest you will definitely and indignantly decline it. But the fact is bound to remain forever with you only. Because, you won't be able to share it with anyone in your office for the simple fact that you are never sure who is how much in it! You are only likely to antagonize the system and the system will retaliate by making you a scapegoat. You cannot even take it to the top, because at the top level corruption combines with power making it lethal and ominously harmful.

Of course, a movement against corruption must be hailed as most welcome praying pitifully that it becomes a revolution. But ultimately power mongering may emerge within the committee fighting corruption. Power equations start building up between committee members and the most powerful ones get things done their way even if it means conniving with the vested interests of corruption. So you cannot help but doubting the final outcome which is bound to make you suffer more.

Therefore, the best policy is to enjoy your honesty in your innermost soul and be immensely proud of it. For the honest you self-respect is a prized possession without which you cease to exist. Why not then be honest and enjoy! Anybody dares rob you of this! Only you can decide.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nostalgia: Indian Railway Canteens and Meals!

Today I just happened to read a news item regarding a Mumbai railway canteen which is serving only biscuits and samosas due to policy decisions. And, suddenly all the nostalgia came surging back to me!

Call it fate or coincidence, in the late eighties and early nineties I used to miss the connecting trains on my journeys from Mumbai to Guwahati almost always getting stranded at Howrah. But during my nights at the second class waiting room floors I used to have sound sleep, Because, I always had the sumptuous thali (rice plate) at the Howrah railway cafeteria. All the varieties were there--vegetarian, fish curry plate, egg curry plate or the chicken thali. The food was homely, innocent and always tasty. To make matters ecstatic, I was ravenously hungry on all the occasions!

Not only at Howrah, all of the railway canteens anywhere in India appealed to my gastronomic mind hugely. They looked so welcoming and appetizing. It was a comfort zone, almost a home where you can barge in with all your luggage, relax and have a wholesome homely tasty meal. The service was good too. Even now I long for them. Get nostalgic about them. I have been missing them for a long long time and hope the delights are there still.

Maybe the nostalgia has a lot to do with my basic characteristics. While on long train journey I used to be very healthy and hungry. So I always enjoyed the food offered in the trains--particularly the rice plates for lunch and supper. I used to wait impatiently for them to arrive at my seat and had them immediately. When Ragini was around with me things were little tricky! She was my opposite, almost loathing the thalis. She used to just peck on it and so normally only one thali had to be ordered for the two of us. And so, with the warm attractive thali in front of me, I had to wait for her to make up her mind to finally have it or even I had to woo her telling how exciting the items looked and that it was always justice to eat while the food was still warm! You see, though my urge was overpowering, I was not so selfish to start devouring before my wife joined me!

Are you getting ready for the Indian Railway Thali or are you just plain bored?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fish Doctor!

Well, are you intrigued seeing the fish? Fish is almost a staple diet in Assam, but don't worry, I am not going to promote eating fish! This comes in a hilarious context only. And the context is anyway Assam!

We finally arrived in Guwahati on 6th May afternoon thanks to Air India! For my ten days the trip had been really hectic. Just everything was done and accomplished. Attended from funerals to weddings involving travel, Ragini had two one-hour interview programs on different news channels-the second one being on the day I left, Ragini also had hugely appreciated concert of devotional music at the beautiful premises of Balaji Mandir (Temple) and I managed to meet my best friends and also spent valuable time with an eminent poet-writer of Assam. So, then, I thought of celebrating Assam with a good joke about 'fish'!

In certain areas of Assam fishermen are very smart and sharp. They believe that they are giving a most wanted service and they want to be respected and trusted for their quality 'fish'! Once in a famous market a discerning customer walks in looking for the freshest fish. He approached a seller taking a look at his varied presentation and focused on a rohu fish. He asked, 'Hi, is this fresh?' 'No worry, a fresh catch!' But still, the discerning customer wanted to be sure and fingered the fish pressing it feeling the 'freshness'! He was a little doubtful.

'It seems to be a little soft. Are you sure it's okay?'

The seller turned around and announced loudly, 'Hey friends! Please welcome the fish doctor! Bring all your fish over here for a free examination and expert diagnosis!'

The customer wished he could vanish at that very instant!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Air India: My Story

We were scheduled to leave for our hometown Guwahati on 4th May, 2011. It was my homecoming after more than year and of course some events and programs of Ragini fixed earlier. As I had very limited leave and events were fixed we could not afford to either cancel of postpone our trip. We booked or rather had to book with Air India (AI) long back because I , curse my decision, took the leave travel concession (LTC) offered by the Government of India every two years. With 8 days left for the journey the AI strike of greedy pilots began, but I never thought it would go on till then.

When the strike seemed to be endless I got a little tense because if it continued and our flight got cancelled in the last minute I would not be able to book due to LTC compulsions and exorbitant private airlines prices. So I started taking advice from knowing people, sought permission to no avail and finally on 2nd May decided to book refundable tickets on private airlines for safety. Meantime I kept on inquiring AI helpline and every time I was assured that our particular flight was running normally.

On 3rd May I again rang up AI helpline and the executive told me, ‘Don’t worry! Your flight is on!’ Even then I persisted asking if  it was hundred percent confirmed. The executive assured me again and even told me the terminal for departure. I believed them, curse my decision once more, and cancelled my private tickets paying a hefty cancellation fee per passenger. Then around midnight when we were ready packing up and about to go for a short nap before catching the flight at 6.10am I got a call from AI. The lady executive calling from a number somewhere in the north region informed me that our flight was cancelled apologizing and assuring full refund without charges!

I rang up AI helpline and shouted at them for misinforming me all the way. The executive on duty at that time told me that they get updates for flights continuously and admitted that the I should’ve been informed about that. Now I knew that every employee in AI is his/her own boss and they are bestowed with absolute power to tell passengers whatever they felt like. The AI website is also devoid of any useful information. So passengers are harassed as a rule, made to pay through their nose and I was subjected to the same treatment as I was hopelessly left alone to rebook my journey with avoidable expenditures increasing all the time.

A note about the booking syndrome too. Forced by LTC rules we had to go physically to the AI counter at Nariman Point where the domestic reservation counter looked worse than a railway one and the atmosphere was palpably unfriendly and frightening. Half of the booking counters were empty and it took hours for our token finally get a call. The domineering lady Booker took the basic details from me, went on tick-tucking on her computer and did not even bother to inform me which flight we were booked into—forget giving my choice and options.

I was horrified to witness that for one journey-Mumbai to Guwahati- and two passengers, four separate tickets were made! Per passenger and for Mumbai to Kolkata and Kolkata to Guwahati segments. In all my flight booking history I always got one ticket for one journey irrespective of number of passengers! Combined with my return journey I had a complete ticket file of 8 pages with an assortment of PNRs, ticket numbers and amounts! While canceling all these on wee hours of 4th May the harrowed helpline executive having to cancel each ticket separately and charging refund fee for each ticket separately expressed his opinion all the while,’ There shouldn’t have been so many tickets!’ Maybe more money is generated misusing the LTC rules finally giving an inflated bill to the government.

LTC must be delinked from Air India immediately so that hapless government employees could travel in comfort. For me personally, I have decided to avoid AI for the rest of my life even if it means foregoing my LTC entitlements. Isn’t this corruption too making wasteful expenditures to avail of a particular facility?

Air India should no longer be patronized by the Government of India. It should be left on its own either to survive or perish forever. Only professionalism must be respected and no emotions or sentiments or patriotic feelings must be associated with this degenerated giant.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Obama Eliminates Osama! & Air India Circus!

Today, the 2nd of May 2011, is a historic day in the global war against terrorism. And the war hero is President Obama. There are celebrations all around USA singing the praise of Prez Obama who said justice done to the 9/11 victims. Justifiably and significantly so.

Osama Bin Laden, the greatest terrorist evil of the millennium had been found in Pakistan and killed by Navy Seals in brutal precision keeping the Pak government spectators..or not even that. Because nobody could even witness what happened.

If the greatest terrorist could hide in Pakistan what about scores of others about whose whereabouts the Pak government always acted ignorant. There are too many questions, too many suspicions involving both Pak and American authorities. And for India, this is both good news and frightening. Because many of the terrorists targeting India including the 26/11 Mumbai attack perpetrators are now proved to be in Pak's safe custody and till Prez Obama exterminates them all the threats will continue to haunt India. Let the war against the biggest evil of modern times continue till the last one is felled.

There are laws now forbidding mobile Circus groups to keep animals in captivity. But Air India is keeping real human beings captive for a week now. The self styled 'crusading' pilots are extremely adamant defying even the orders of the High Court. In fact, as usual, they want more money; but they give it an anti-corruption tag. Well, prove your integrity sans the hapless passengers held to ransom. To make matters worse, the Air India management too had proved to be useless even in managing their own employees apart from taking the national airlines apart over the decades. Yes, it's inefficient and corrupt. But the fight against it has to be fought with the cooperation of the 'passenger' people and not by victimizing them.

Among the victims the worst affected ones are the Government of India officers who have to travel by Air India by compulsion in all their tours and govt funded travel. Even if their Air India flight is cancelled the poor fellows still cannot opt for a private flight. If they do so, it will be at their own expenses! Extreme parental care leads to spoilt brats!

The Air India Circus is raging to full houses!

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