Saturday, June 16, 2007

Paattiyamma for President!!

The race for the post of the President of India is certainly hotting up. Those of us who watched the news channels on Thursday night or read the newspapers yesterday would have been surprised to find a Pattiyamma (“Grandma”) staring back at us!! Yes, this Pattiyamma is the official candidate of the ruling coalition at the Centre – Smt. Pratibha Patil (Shekhawat)! The Shekhawat angle has apparently been introduced to please the Rajasthanis as the other likely candidate is the Vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat! Either way there would be a Shekhawat as President seems to be the idea. You can read the news about her nomination here and here. My first reaction on seeing her was that she would make a nice Paatti and certainly wouldn’t be my choice for President. Before all of you get your daggers out and call me an MCP, let me clarify that I have no issues with a woman becoming a President and on the contrary, I’d be the first person to welcome it. But when we get down to specifics, I can’t think of this lady except as a Paatti and certainly not as a President.

Infact, the ruling coalition seems to be banking heavily on the “first woman President” tag to see its nominee through. First woman President or not, the fact remains that many of the parties constituting the present ruling coalition have been the ones vehemently opposing the introduction of 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures. So, this is not going to change anything and it’s just yet another gimmick of our netas.

But honestly, how many of us have heard of this lady before this week?? I came to know that she was the Governor of Rajasthan only after she issued some statements couple of weeks back when there was a confrontation between the Rajasthan Government and the Gujjars. To her credit though is the fact that she has been with the Congress party throughout and hasn’t changed to the colours of any other party to suit her priorities. In this era of horse-trading and floor crossing, that is certainly a plus. But still, this doesn’t qualify her, in my opinion, to become President of India. Is it unreasonable to expect, that the President must be a person whom we have atleast heard a little about??

The comment left by one reader on NDTV that we would be having our first “rashtra-patni” sums it up quite well! I would say we would be having our first “rashtra-paatti” :-)

Monday, June 04, 2007


Yes, that’s what most people, who were forced to buy helmets and use them in Madras, seem to think they are. Those of you who are not living here should know that the state government made it compulsory for all those travelling by two-wheelers (bike-riders as well as those on pillion) to wear helmets from 1st June. While the state government had been dragging the issue for years, its hand was forced by the Madras High Court which passed strict orders directing the government to implement the rule. A couple of writ petitions were also filed by some good samaritans before the High Court in the fag end of May as a last ditch effort to prevent implementation of the rule, but the Court refused to budge. Expectedly there was a mad rush to buy helmets on 31st May and those selling them, literally made hay while the sun shone.

As 1st June dawned, there was literally a sea of helmets on Mount Road, a scene which I hadn’t seen before. The police were also present in strength in quite a few roads implementing the rule with gusto and slapping a fine of Rs.100 on anyone found without a helmet! However, as the day progressed their attitude seemed to ease up a bit and they let off people with a stern warning and advice to wear a helmet in future.

It was quite evident that a majority of the two-wheeler riding population wasn’t happy with the new rule as there was quite a bit of cribbing. It must be noted that yours truly, for once, did not crib, having been used to wearing helmets for the past several years!! Nevertheless, one could understand their feelings considering the fact that we have such pleasant sunny weather throughout the year. Evidently, a lot of people did not stop with cribbing and had also pleaded with the Chief Minister to consider not enforcing the rule strictly! After considering such pleas, the Chief Minister in his birthday-eve message said that wearing helmets as per the Court order should be treated only as a necessity to safeguard lives and that its enforcement, in no way, should cause hindrance to the public! The people certainly took the message in the “right” spirit and there was a marked reduction in the number of helmets seen on the roads from Sunday!! The police also seem to have taken the hint and clarified today that it was optional for women and children riding pillion to wear helmets!

But if one looks at it carefully, most people concerned with the rule are happy about the turn of events. The state government, by implementing the rule, has duly complied with the court order. The people, though they were set back by a few hundred rupees for purchasing the helmet, are happy as they know that the rule wouldn’t be enforced strictly and they can continue going out not wearing helmets. The police are also happy as this would give them the option of turning a blind eye or enforcing the rule, as and when it pleases them. Certainly opens up yet another revenue stream for them! As for the helmet vendors, they are the most happy as they were the biggest beneficiaries as they’ve sold the helmets, whether people wear them anymore or not. Last but not the least, we come to the Court. They must be happy, shouldn’t they? After all, the rule was certainly implemented by the state government and what more could one expect from a people’s government?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Breaking rules and breaking news!

Being quite vetti (jobless) at home, I have a lot of time now to watch TV [should not be construed to mean that I do it all the time :-)]. Switching on the TV day before in the afternoon, I found most of the Indian news channels uniformly showing one particular news item as ‘Breaking News’. The news in question was Lalu Prasad Yadav’s in-laws travelling ticketless in a train in Bihar! The news by itself didn’t come as a big surprise to me as Mr.Yadav has been running Bihar as his own fiefdom throughout the time he or his wife has been in power. So, his in-laws travelling ticketless while he is the railway minister in a First A/C coupe isn’t big news at all. That being the case, I was wondering if this particular news item warranted being hyped up as breaking news across all channels. Come on, haven’t we got any other news worth reporting – news, which is really “news” and not just hype?

Now, look at it from the point of view of the in-laws of Mr.Yadav. Hundreds or even thousands travel ticketless day in and day out. In fact, you and I could also have done it at some point in our lives :-) Its just their misfortune that they got caught and they also happen to be related to the railway minister. And in Bihar, I am told that people having reserved tickets usually find someone else occupying their seat. So, is it such a grave offence warranting reporters scurrying to a small town in Bihar to “cover” the news?

Apparently there’s a huge change in the way news is reported these days especially by the visual media. The sad trend seems to be to sensationalise everything and anchors/reporters seem to believe in being ruthless and holding a trial by the media and passing judgement. News seems to be analysed from the point of view of TRPs rather than their actual newsworthiness. Sad state of affairs in my opinion…..

When I picked up The Hindu yesterday morning I was half expecting the incident of the ticketless travel to be in the headlines. Mercifully, they didn’t seem to think it headline news and relegated to a small column in one of the middle pages. I guess they still believe in reporting news rather than selling hype!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An evening at CCD!

An evening at CCD (Cafe Coffee Day for the uninitiated!) yesterday turned rather interesting than expected! Being as jobless as I am, I was driving around the city on my bike and taking in the sun, when I had the sudden brainwave to meet a couple of friends at CCD in Ispahani Centre. For the sake of brevity we shall refer to them as A and N.

We were comfortably seated in the couches when the menu cards, one pink and the other maroon, were made available to us. Soon it was time for us to order and N began by asking for Iced Caramel in the maroon card, but the waiter (don’t know if its appropriate to call them waiters!) pointed out that he can only give her a Caribbean Caramel on the pink card! The only difference between the two was the price, the one N wanted was priced at Rs.45 and the one he offered to get was priced at Rs.75!! N tried pointing out that both drinks were the same and how there could be any differential pricing but the waiter stood his ground and said he could only get the higher priced one. Not wanting to shell out a higher price, N grudgingly had to settle for a less palatable drink :-)

In the meanwhile A, who had been studiously going over the menu card(s), came up with her order – a samosa and a chocolate crumble! Hearing this, both N and I tried convincing A about the inadvisability of ordering samosa in a place like CCD but in vain. In due course, the samosa arrived, infact there were two on the plate and A began eating one. N who was looking rather wistfully at the other samosa decided to have it herself and that’s when the trouble began. After a couple of bites, N began making a close examination of the contents of the samosa and came to the conclusion that the samosa was burnt! A careful comparison with the other samosa (a small sample of which was made available by A) proved that she was infact right and the samosa was, indeed, burnt!

Having concluded thus, N then called for the waiter and brought the matter to his notice. And the immediate response she got from him, left us all rather stunned for a moment! “We don’t make the samosas ma’am, we get them from outside”, was his reply! But N was not one to be cowed down by such replies and argued that whether they made the samosas or got them from outside, they can’t sell burnt samosas to customers. A chipped in by showing her samosa and pointed out the difference in colour between the stuffings in the two samosas to prove the point. The waiter who had become quite jittery by then took the samosa back with him for an inspection by his higher authorities. After prolonged discussions with his colleagues he came back with the samosa and his verdict, that the samosa was not burnt! This led to more arguments from A and N but he once again stood his ground and pointed out that it was peas stuffing and its appearance is as it should be! However, he couldn’t come up with any satisfactory answer when we pointed out that the stuffing in A’s samosa didn’t look the same. He suggested that the stuffing in A’s samosa was aloo and hence looked different! N then came up with the brilliant suggestion that he should get her an aloo stuffed samosa as well, which left him quite baffled! In the end, however, N got no replacement for the burnt samosa which left her rather miffed and rightfully too.

Feeling rather shortchanged by the attitude of the waiter, A and N decided to vent their anger through a feedback form! The waiter attending to our table was quite helpful in pointing out that the feedback form was available along with the bill, thus subtly hinting that the bill was, as yet, unpaid! A promptly filled up the same and pointed out the “defects” in the samosa that was served and the general attitude of the staff. N, in the meanwhile, decided that she should add her five paisa worth in the feedback and asked for another feedback form. Apparently this was the first time that two feedback forms were requested by people in the same table and the staff seemed to be quite ill equipped to deal with such an emergency!! Hectic parleys seemed to be happening between them regarding the same with no solution in sight! Frantic waving of hands by the three of us and polite “excuse mes” to passing waiters didn’t produce the required form either and at one point of time, no waiter was willing to look anywhere in the direction of our table! After a lapse of almost 10 minutes, the feedback form was finally furnished and N had quite a bit to write on that rather small piece of paper. Having done that we decided that it was time for us to leave, which view, the staff in CCD seemed to endorse as well. On our way out, we passed an elderly gentleman looking rather intently at the samosas and puffs on display and said a silent prayer for him :-)

P.S: The whole episode was quite amusing when you look at it as a spectator, as I was :-)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Margazhi maasam, Kolams and Kutcheris...

Margazhi maasam (or the month of Margazhi under the tamil calendar) began about a couple of weeks back. Margazhi is considered quite holy and temples generally register brisk attendance during this month! Margazhi evokes a lot of childhood memories in me especially of getting up very early in the mornings and having a bath, reciting Thiruppavai and going to the nearby temple of Lord Venkateshwara (or Perumal Kovil, as one called it). While getting up early and reciting Thiruppavai weren’t things which I did out of choice, I did goto the Perumal Kovil rather willingly. Before you jump to the conclusion that I am very religious, let me clarify that my motives in going to the temple were entirely ulterior. I hardly remember having paid any visit to the Lord and praying before Him during such visits, the purpose of my visit being solely the prasadam which was on offer, hot pongal, sundal and the like :-) Of course, things have changed a lot over the years. I don’t even remember when was the last time I recited Thiruppavai or went to the Perumal Kovil for prasadam. However, there is a raging war going on at home these days between my dad and me, as he seems hell bent on brushing up my Thiruppavai proficiency!! Promptly at 5.45 every morning he’s been playing a Thiruppavai cassette at very loud volume so that the whole neighbourhood seems to wake up to the divine compositions! As of now, we are still negotiating as to what is the optimum volume at which one can play music so early in the mornings!

Margazhi also means kolams and people seem to kind of get into a frenzy about them during this month. Those of you who have known me here would know that I don’t take kindly to kolams and that they evoke strong feelings in me. And as if to add insult to injury, some neighbourhood newspapers have even announced Kolam drawing contests!! Hence I have strictly resolved not to venture early in the mornings on my bike atleast till 7AM during this month. However, much to my dismay, I now find that a lot of young girls and women who are interested in exhibiting their artistic bent of mind through kolams are quite lazy and don’t seem interested in getting up early in the mornings (which is standard procedure laid down in the manuals!) for drawing the kolams. Instead I find that they draw these kolams late at night around 10 – 11 PM before going to bed. This leads to a situation where I’m now at serious risk of getting ambushed on my way back from work!!! Don’t you think that is quite unfair to me? ;-)

Margazhi also means the Kutcheri (music concert) season in Madras, which is quite unique to the city! The city abounds in Sabhas which vie with one another to catch the patronage of the rasikas. The Kutcheri season also enables the Maamis to display their kanjeevarams, benares silks and the like!! Nothing like flaunting your newest Pattu podavai with a superior look in your face! The Kutcheri season also sees the mushrooming of canteens outside the sabhas and more often than not, the crowd in these canteens is much more than the crowd inside for the kutcheri!! Nevertheless, the season definitely whets the appetite of the connoisseurs of classical music! While I endeavour to catch a few kutcheris every year without much success, the score has been much better this year. Though I missed the first week of the season because of that plague called work, I did manage to catch three kutcheris so far during the second week! It is quite a different world at these kutcheris with long winding alapanais and thani avarthanams interspersed with “sabash” and ‘baley” from the performers as well as the audience!! Though tons and tons of newsprint have been used up this year in reporting the kutcheri season, it is quite sad to see that the audience interest is definitely on the wane. While the big names do bring in the crowds, the concerts of lesser known artistes hardly see any attendance apart from the office bearers of the concerned sabha and family members of the artistes! I sincerely suggest that a lot of people who waste their time drawing kolams and generally being a nuisance to the public, can spend their time in attending such concerts and enhancing their musical knowledge :-)

Being the last post of mine for this year, I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!! I shall be back to torture you all with more of this crap in the coming year :-)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Of jersey cows and free colour TVs!

An article in The Hindu entitled “Till the cows come home” caught my attention today. The article explains how the decision to give jersey cows to poor farmers in Vidharba is causing more harm than good to the beneficiaries. Apparently both the State and Central Governments have hit upon this novel idea of giving “relief” to poor farmers in this drought hit region which has seen a huge number of suicides! It appears novelty alone was the criteria in mooting such a relief package. The fact that these farmers are already starving and may not have the money to feed and maintain these animals seems to have been lost on the officialdom! The sheer reality as one woman points out is that the cow eats more than everyone in her family together!! Just shows how short-sighted our beloved Netas can be when it comes to “serving” the people!!

Another issue which has been on my mind is our Chief Minister’s free colour television scheme. While I must admit that I did make fun of this election promise as another gimmick, our CM has certainly proved me wrong. Being the cynic and critic that I am, I still can’t admit that this was entirely done with the welfare of the people at heart. After all, we do know that the undisputed No. 1 TV channel in tamil is owned and controlled by our CM’s kin. All other channels vie only for the second spot. And it certainly won’t do any harm to the No. 1 channel if every household has a colour TV, would it? What more, it has such a huge viewership that the demand for the channel is, as students of economics would put it, inelastic! And it comes as no surprise that the channel has decided to become a “pay” channel from December!! So, is the decision to give free TVs a welfare measure or is it a very clever decision to boost a family business?? Your guess is as good as mine ;-)

P.S: I know there isn’t any relation between the distribution of cows to poor farmers and the distribution of free TVs. But while the article on the cows made me sad and angry, the issue of free TVs has an indirect impact on me due to the fact that I have to shell out 12 bucks more on my cable TV bills from next month! Now, ain’t that unfair? ;-)

P.P.S: I admit this is a rather ordinary post even by my standards. Those of you who don't like it may kindly say so by leaving a comment. And those of you who do like the post may also leave a comment! Come on, I'm quite desperate to hear from you all :-)

Friday, September 29, 2006

An exciting day at Kumbakonam!

A trip to Kumbakonam yesterday turned out rather eventful! The trip was for the purpose of attending the Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) of a century old institution which was being managed by our clients. Since some trouble was expected from a rival group of shareholders (supported by the ruling party), we were requested to be present, just in case. As it turned out, our presence or absence made no difference!

While a colleague and I disembarked from the train at 7.30am hoping to receive a ceremonial welcome, we were whisked away rather unceremoniously straight to our client’s office! Though we were a bit miffed at this treatment, the reasons for the same justified it in full.

It appears that the rival group had gate crashed the registered office of the company and the venue of the AGM in the heart of Kumbakonam at 5am and taken over both places! About 1500 men belonging to the ruling party, most of whom were drunk and armed, had taken residence at the meeting hall! The registered office premises was also sealed by them! Further, the Chief General Manager of the Company had also been abducted from his residence at 2am and taken to an unknown location! All this was done with the active connivance and support of the local police. Obviously, owing allegiance to the ruling party does seem to have its perks!!

While the AGM was scheduled to commence at 10am, by 6am our clients were certain that they would be voted out of office as they were not so daft to go to the meeting hall and get lynched. And so they found themselves illegally thrown out of office by a brutal show of muscle power!

Though I did have an intuition before we left for Kumbakonam that both of us would get beaten up if we attended the meeting, I never thought that things would turn out as they did! After a quick breakfast and shower, we sat down to draft a civil suit to be filed urgently before the district munsif court on the same day. That the typist whose services were made available to us kept typing “injection” for “injunction” every time did not make things any easier!

If we thought that this was enough excitement for the day, we were sadly mistaken. While we were on our way to have lunch we had to pass very close to the registered office of the company and we spotted quite a few hooligans patrolling the streets in the vicinity even then!! We retraced our route and skirted around the place eventually. More events unfolded in true filmi style as the local vakil we had engaged to represent our clients suddenly developed a mysterious illness and declined to appear for us. Few more vakils who were approached by us also politely refused to represent us. In the end we had to bring a vakil from Thanjavur to appear for us!

By the time all this was over, it was evening and we were quite exhausted and getting back home safely was the only concern in our minds. We both heaved a sigh as the Rockfort Express left the Kumbakonam railway station at 7.30pm! Quite enough for one day…….

P.S: The events of the day came in quite handy for me to break my long hiatus from blogging! I am off on a vacation for a week and hope to see all your comments when I get back :-)