Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kochi City - Heaven or Hell ??

Kochi no more seems to be the City an ordinary man can afford. Each and every thing that is made available in the markets of Kochi are priced so high that it is beyond logical reason. Having had the privilege of knowing more rapidly developing cities in other South Indian states and living in one of them for a while before returning to the Metro of Kerala, this city sure has gone to dogs when it comes to providing the amenities of day to day life. Clothes, essential commodities, items of low repeatable use, but of fashionable value have all been priced ridiculously high in this city advertised by most tour operators of Kerala to be the most happening place in God’s Own Country. I fail to understand one thing – Whose greed are we, the ordinary citizen on the street, satisfying? Why are most things which sell for half or even one-third the price in other larger cities of India being sold at double or triple the price value they are worth? Even then, you get a quality which is far lower than you would get in malls of other metros which sell similar stuff.

Lately I had an opportunity to visit two of the most well-known malls in the city. The first thing that I was welcomed with was a column in beautifully scripted Malayalam that told me to pay up Rs.100/- as a parking fee, which would be refunded inside the mall. The mall authorities have taken the pains to justify their outrageous demand on another banner that sported a 10-point justification as why they should collect the money. I remembered the fashionable malls of Visakhapatnam which offered much better choice to their costumers that included well-educated men, women and children than both Kochi’s elite malls taken together had on offer. Yet those malls never ever charged a single pie as parking fees. Parking is as tricky a proposition there as much as it is here. Browsing around in the elite malls of MG Road for something that fit my bill and at the same time made an appeal to my mind, I wasted six precious hours of my valuable Sunday in the lifeless interiors of the widely advertised arcades. The shop floor assistant clad in carefully crafted uniform saree seemed to mockingly say: “Do you know where you are standing? Do you think you deserve to shop here? “ Disgusted with the attitude of the floor assistant, who was more interested in me picking up something which need not matter to me at all, I finally had to pick up some make-believe stuff to get my parking fees back as promised at the entry point. I regretted how foolish I was to move out of my previous work place and return to my home state with lots of stars in my eyes. It was a bitter realization that all that glitters is not gold. This city seems to have changed forever. Money is the only thing that seems to bring a smile to the people here. There is no humanitarian touch whatsoever. Even if a shopkeeper has seen you for the umpteenth time, he would be as tight lipped and straight faced as he was the first time one did business with him. And this they say is ‘God’s Own Country’. Dear God! Are you listening??

The way this city and the people have changed, made me compare Kochi with Vizag, the fastest developing city on the east coast where I stayed for four years before returning to Kochi. That city is developing at such a feverish pace that many national and international companies are vying for a place to open shop in its beautiful locales. The amount of money that is in circulation in that city is far far higher than any Kochiite can imagine. There are filthy rich businessmen who own lands as much and more as the size of two or three districts of Kerala and also the ordinary casual labourer who is more respectable about his profession than the union-led monster labourers of Kerala. The rich never show off their riches except for the posh cars they drive around and the poor never bother to conceal their penury. They seem to be equally happy and surprisingly, their youngsters seem to be quite disciplined and humble – incomparable to the wards of similar parents of Kerala. All through my four years of stay in that city, not a single day’s work was affected by something called a ‘bandh’ or a ‘hartal’ which has become a routine affair in the daily life of each Keralite. The VMC busted many buildings and land owned by the rich and the powerful to make way for top-class roads and avenues inside the city prior to the President’s Fleet Review that the city hosted with pride in 2006. Private buses are unheard of in that city which lives on the regular schedule of city buses run by the APSRTC. I never saw a bus that was grossly untidy and unkempt among the city buses. The long distance buses are far more luxurious and less cheaper than the ones our very own KSRTC flouts around with pride. All routes are numbered and it has been like that for a very long time. People, though far less educated – I mean here the ordinary lot – than the extra geniuses of Kerala, show much discipline and social amity on public transports and public places.

The traffic sense of the average Gulte youngster is atrocious but much balanced when compared to the murderous monster drivers of the Red Killer buses of Kochi. But I must confess that the auto drivers in all cities are a common breed. I wonder whether they undergo organized cross-training sessions!! They behave the same everywhere. The smarter you are with them, the better they behave with you. But, unlike in God’s Own Kochi, no auto driver was heard of taking his passengers on a joy ride before dropping them off at the location which was actually only a few hundred meters ahead of the hiring spot. Ladies and children can safely walk on the roads even past midnight in Vizag city without fear of mugging and rape. All this would seem unbelievable when you would recollect that the city is pretty much close to the highly active Agency area which teems with Naxalites. The city boasts of huge as well as small Spencer’s outlets, Magna shopping plazas, the cheap and best choice called Big Bazaar all co-existing cosily with the city’s very own small grocery shops which are patronized by the public that also shop at the big names. I never saw any small time shopkeeper shut shop because of the large number of hi-tech shopping malls that came up in that city in a very short span of two years. There are places near the beach where people could safely spend the whole night without any thug daring to touch them. There is a beautifully maintained Submarine museum right on the beach – the only one in India and probably in the whole of Asia. People have ample places to just sit and while away a holiday afternoon in the cosy locales of VUDA park, Kailasagiri, RK Beach, MGM Park or just stroll along the aesthetically maintained beach side walkways. The only comparable site in Kochi is the cozy walkways along the residential accommodation of Port Trust Captains on Wellington Island, which now-a-days have many barricades in between.

Coming to daily life : Vegetables and groceries are one of the cheapest I have ever seen. Cheaper even than Bombay, Delhi and Goa. The reason, the farm produce is first distributed to feed Andhra before it is allocated for sale outside the State. Clothes – although branded clothes come at the same price tag as is elsewhere, there are equally good materials manufactured and marketed by small industries in and around Vizag which excel in quality but compete less in terms of pricing. These allow the normal man to choose from a wide variety. I experimented many times by picking up sarees for my good lady from Vizag and then comparing the price of the same item in the elite malls of Kochi through my friends. The difference was mind-boggling. There is at least a difference of 50% on all fashionable clothing stuff that is sold in more organized malls of Vizag and their far cousins of Kochi. Vizag turned out to be cheaper buy always and in every aspect. Coming to education : I would have an army of parents lined up behind me to say ‘Aye Aye’ when I make the statement that school education in Vizag is a far better bet than that of Kochi or anywhere else in Kerala. The statistics itself is proof. Take the number of toppers in ITT-JEE and All India Medical and Engineering Entrance tests that +2 students appear for every year. Take the results of the Civil Services Mains and Interviews that select the best administrators of the country. Most of them are from Andhra. The need to study hard and excel is driven into the brains of children across financial classes very early in their childhood. The teachers excel in their profession, so do the students. The fees are high, of course. But one can afford to pay a higher fee for his or her child’s education when he or she need not pay exorbitantly high prices for filling up their stomachs each day or to provide a roof over their head. Vizag has the cheapest rates of house rents in most of South India.

All this doesn’t mean that the politicians and administrators are the first cousins of the legendary upright kings of our famous epics. They hog quite a bit of taxpayers money in the name of development. But, then, they are able to showcase development and bring them to the benefit of the masses. As long as the common man is taken care of, there are no cribs. The government agencies do their best to make life in the city as comfortable as possible for the citizens. No protest marches or 'dharnas' are required to achieve this aim. They seem to be counting them as part of the crowd even when they were eating a chunk of bread behind their backs. The few upright souls in the political and administrative fibre were able to move the machinery with their single-minded and unflinching efforts. That probably is the success of Vizag. There is much to emulate. But are our white cotton dhoti-clad revolutionaries and babus listening ??

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is Nalini's Repentence Genuine ?

It was a day just like any other pre-exam night for a student preparing for his University exams. I had just finished for the night and was preparing to go to sleep when I heard a faint chorus that appeared to be that usual night time 'jaatha' the politically active working men of my neighbourhood used to take out at regular intervals in the darkness of the power-cut ridden nights. This used to be their way of showcasing their allegiance to their political beliefs of the time after they get home from their work places. The subject matters of these nocturnal 'jaathas' were aimed to 'sensitise' the neighbourhood of the 'deeds' or 'misdeeds' of the Ruling or the Opposition fronts.

Tonight as the chorus drew close, I easily recognised the familiar voices of neighbourhood men shouting out slogans which, I noticed, was some way different from the usual aggressive tone. I casually glanced at the wall clock and saw that the time was just past midnight. The date had just rolled over to 22 May . The time was unusual for such a demonstration. I decided to listen intently to the far cries which now obviously had a tone of grief - it appeared the leader of the 'jaatha' was struggling to fight back tears as he shouted the slogans. Then it slowly dawned on me as I deciphered word after broken word that flowed clear through the stillness of the night - They were announcing the unbelievable fact of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. I couldn't believe my ears. Barely a week before had Rajiv Gandhi visited our City and made his typical speech punctuated with the familiar '.. Desh ke kone kone mein .. ' and '.. Bhaiyon or Behno ..' statements, which was attended by a multitude of men, women and children from across party lines. Across the borders of our property, I could see lights popping up from households that were waking up in the middle of the night to hear the news. Shaking, I tip-toed to the bedroom of my parents and woke them up and told the news. I remember tuning the radio to the BBC to get a confirmation on the horrifying news. The major part of that night, my family spent discussing the ghastly act wondering who could have have had the guts to go to such lengths as to take out leaders of a country through such inhuman acts.

The rest is history. The gory images of the dead that flashed in the newspapers and on the screens, the images of Jayanthi Natarajan weeping like a school kid, the images of the photographs that were developed from the camera that was recovered from the site of the assassination, the stories that filled up tonnes of newsprint, the mysterious delay in taking Commando action to catch the suspects alive in a colony at Bangalore a few weeks later, the photographs of the bodies of the suspected masterminds of the assassination that were published in the newspapers - all flow into my memory like a fresh monsoon stream gushing down the green hills of Wynad.

I never had any particular affinity to any political party ever in my days in school as well as college, and I am proud that I am able to carry on without any, even today. However, I believed, that there was something in Rajiv Gandhi which most other politicians of our country lacked in those days and are still lacking. He had some kind of fire in him that could carry the crowd along. He was bold enough to take stern action in Sri Lanka as well as in Maldives. He had an international appeal which no other minister or PM of the governments of our immediate past and of the present could ever think of. He definitely had a vision, though highly debatable for a vibrant future for India, for which he had the guts to put in practice. Later on, when I started reading about the political setup of our nation I came to know of the cock-eyed advisors he kept, which undoubtedly made him fall from power, never to return and in a way spell the end of the much debated dynastic politics.

Over one-and-a-half decades later, today we have news that the last and only active link to the case - Nalini - who is in prison with a commuted life sentence, is repentant about the whole ghastly act she aided and abetted fully aware of what the ultimate aim was, of her husband (lover) and his friends. I sincerely believe that this is a ploy coming out of the brains of a highly intelligent, highly motivated and adequately trained agent as a prelude to larger plan of action, the first step of which is to break free from prison and from the hands of the Indian people. If one can see, this woman has had her way out in each and every thing that she wanted ever since she was caught on suspicion and later sent to jail on a death warrant. These include the marriage that she performed with her lover and one of the prime accused in the case, the baby that she delivered, the studies that she pursued and now, her ultimate goal is to break free from the soft hands of the Indian public and for that she has started a different kind of drama in which she knows - and she has already intelligently roped in flamboyant Indian media too - the need for garnering the emotions and support of the women of the Indian nation; a ploy that is bound to fetch her far-reaching results; the ultimate being to convince the unyielding men through their wives, girlfriends, daughters and even mistresses to take the decision to set her free.

Having had opportunity to tour the interiors of Tamil Nadu and more intensely, the sensitive neighbourhoods of Rameshwaram and Nagapattinam, I have had occasions in which I could interact directly with the local population on issues related to essential survival. I can tell with confidence that each and every fisher-man's hut along the sea coast that borders the BoB and the SE Arabian Sea on the Tamil Nadu coast is totally aware of what is going on in the background, which always remain opaque to our eyes. They know very well what is going to happen and when. It is we, who do not have direct access to them, who have to depend upon the powerful Indian media of today to hear and see what the media wants you to see and know. One must remember that the media is not always honest. Gone are the days when the good old Doordarshan and Aakashvani were tuned into by the nation to seek reliable information on issues of National Security and of National importance. They still remain so in perfectly judging what amount of news need to be telecast or broadcast and when. Unfortunately, there is no proper guidance to harness the power they actually wield, in an intelligent manner. The development of the privately owned news channels have eclipsed the existence of the good old friends. These new comers are into the business of money making and do not owe much of social responsibility. They talk too much about social responsibility as it needs to be kept that way as a USP for their own survival in today's fast world. The ordinary Indian would have to brand himself as the most foolish and idiotic of all species on earth if he or she is ready to believe that an educated, intelligent and sharp woman like Nalini did not know what was happening behind her back or in front of her. Her eyes tell it all, if not her words.

Jails are designed to psychologically crush a criminal by their high walls, dark cells and strict regimen supplemented in adequate measure by physical torture meted out to the more dreaded ones. However, experienced jailors would admit that it is the apparently dumb, but actually smart, scheming and intelligent criminals that give them the hardest of all times. Even the ruthless British jailors of the mother of all jails - the Cellular Jail at Port Blair - were brought to their knees by them. The very fact that Nalini could complete degree after degree sitting beneath the 'protection' that the jail walls provided unmindful of the scathe and disgust she generated for herself outside the walls and most of all commendably overcoming the overwhelming psychological pressure that the physical environment inside the jail is bound to affect an ordinary woman, speak for itself in support of my premise in this direction. Only a disciplined and psychologically trained professional can out bear such mental pressure. But here, we see a quasi-mastermind planning to walk free and most of our 'Proud and Independent' media supporting her intention in more ways than one. There are discussions, panel discussions and video conferences complete with news breaks, coffee breaks and ad breaks that are aired by the 'professional newsmen' to kill time and gain cheap popularity among the people of India on an issue that ought not be discussed in public at such regular intervals. Each time these channels show the deftly chosen pictures; their editors, production floor managers and high profile reporters and news readers - superbly educated and fashionably intelligent as they may seem - are knowingly or unknowingly becoming part of a cunning game plan that been fabricated and has been put into action by some nasty rat who resides inside or outside our own ship : that is our homeland - India.

It is high time we take cognizance of this multi-factored game that is being played on us as a nation. I saw in disbelief the reports of the visit of Mrs. Priyanka Vadra, the daughter of the slain leader to the quasi-mastermind behind the killing of her father. The reason for the visit and what transpired between the visitor and the visited is best known to them both and God above. I would not like to dwell upon this any further. I just wondered, and many of my friends also wondered with me, if the families of those policemen and the poor, ordinary villagers who were blasted into pieces along with Rajiv Gandhi would ever forgive Nalini and her comrades - both dead and alive - in any of their re-births, let alone now? Has anyone ever thought of the numerous officers and men of our Armed Forces who have given up their lives in Sri Lanka fighting her like-minded brethren a long time ago? Here we are, facing shameless, droning, lip-sticked, fashionably bespectacled faces of the media babbling away at us and proudly announcing the progress of the carefully scripted game that cursed woman is playing deftly on each one of our minds. She should have been buried long back.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On Crow's Pad - Can our Roads be Better in the Reasonable Future?

The last couple of days I opened my eyes a little more wider so as to take in a wider picture of this menace of potholed roads and the maddenning traffic problems of Kochi. With no efforts by the local governing bodies in sight, I was making a mental note of the roads that were the worst hit as I was driving around in the city. My exploits are limited to the southern end of the city. May be someone staying and commuting elsewhere in the city would like to give his account of the situation on ground.

The road that hits me hard - more than me my car and bike - on a daily basis is the one that leads us out to Thevara Jn. from Panampilly Nagar south end. This is where now-a-days I am learning the tricks they probably might teach only in a course for aspiring tight rope walkers. Only here, my medium is the network of pocket roads that provides me an easy route clear of the railway tracks to my workplace next to Thevara.

Over the past one week, thanks to the late - Latheef of the season(monsoons), this road has become a treacherous combination of loose gravel, a collection of pools of muddy water (enviable only by boys the age of my son) and dotted with patches of black which remind you about the road that once existed around. While during the day, it is possible to estimate the likely centre of the potholes (their diameter usually changes from morning to evening) so that I can navigate my vehicle somewhat smartly so as to clear their merciless depths; nights and rainy days requires my guardian angel sitting as my pillion or navigator to guide me into the right moment to flick the handle left or right so as to deftly manouvre with the minimum chance of a fall into the demonic series of pits the road has been reduced to. In this perilous drive, if a smart cookie comes opposite, in an equally smart fancy car or bike, then I' damned. It then becomes a fight for survival. I - provided I'm thinking clearly and of course, thanks to my guardian angel - instinctively move my vehicle to a vantage position so that most portion of the road that is safe is on my side to be used as I might feel. If not, I stand to get bullied to the edge of the road by the smarter cookie where I find myself to be the odd one out among uniformed students, men and women on foot who invariably give me that typical Mallu-brand contorted Angry-Young-Man look as if I'm a marinated seer fish in the ready-use tray of 'Sea Grill' ready to be fried and eaten up.

I soon reset my memory out of the busy mental recalculation of the hefty power bill I had been handed out promptly in the morning by my 'Home Minister' and some how crawl clear of the smar cookies on to what is left of the road, to continue my journey to my workplace to earn my daily bread. A stretch of road that should normally take not more than four to five minutes to travel eats up 15 precious minutes of the morning and just as I had thought I had broken free, there I am standing either behind or in front of the Red Monsters of Kochi's streets. In Delhi they were dubbed as the 'Red-lined Killers' for the top score they achieved year after year in killing innocent passengers and two wheeler drivers on the roads of Delhi. I struggle to keep my cool as the Killer bully honks away to glory as if he is carrying a hundred wounded soldiers to the city's best hospitals, with the only mission to save their lives. It seems the Red Monster has purchased the Title Deeds for the roads himself when he stops right at the centre of the road to pick up and drop passangers. I wish I had some of the amazing gadgetry of Power Rangers that my son frequently talks about to make the Killer Bully and his Red Monster vanish from the face of the earth. The long line crawls ahead and I manage to re-position myself out of sight and earshot of the Red Monster. By the time I'm at my work bench, I'm tired, exhausted and disgusted. On many days I end up cursing the day I decided to agree to come back and work in Kochi.

I thank my stars for the technology hasn't come yet when they could make our vehicles speak, or my car or bike would have screamed abuses at me for taking them out on such filthy, unkempt 'roads'. It may not be too long before my mechanic would become a family friend for the rest of my life as a token of a not so good a memory to cherish of Kochi. Wah! True Communism - no better way to bring ordinary men closer to each other!! Long Live Red Salute!! Laloo Yadav would have been a better bet, though he might decide to take away my car at gun point for his grand son's first day at school!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crow's Pad - The Traffic Problem in Kochi City

Kochi as I had left it half a decade ago was one city which was brimming with confidence to take on the fresh challenges of the future. Many a man I had met on the sidelines of the city in 2003 was vocal on the Technopark that was shaping up at Kakkanad, the Container Terminal that was about to materialise at the Port and was eager to be part of the discussions that were doing the rounds in the print as well as visual media about a Single Buoy Mooring that was to be moored off the coast for downloading crude oil from large ships. They were enthusiastic about the way the city was coming up and were even heard comparing the future of the city to that of intricately planned port cities of the Persian Gulf. Some folks were even heard taking names of famous port cities of the West in comparison to Kochi. They were politically correct in voicing their enthusiasm and stating the employment opportunities that such scale of development would usher in into a city which at that time had one of the highest concentrations of educated, but unemployed youth. Soon, I heard from the skies that a concept called 'Smart City' has taken shape in the minds of the ruling leaders that would bring Kochi into the world's eye as a nodal point for large scale business ventures with a mammoth investment base derived from external as well as internal sources. I felt proud myself as a NRK having had a very emotional attachment to the city, though not born and brought up here.

Interestingly, no one ever talked about the city's capacity to take in the human population that would invariably flow into the city in the years to come as and when each of these mega projects would develop into fruition. Perhaps the men of those days were more interested in taking these big names and flouting them well rather than do an in-depth analysis of the after-effects of development. It made me wonder why nobody was even thinking about this fact given the peculiar nature of the land in this place.

Those (2003) were also the days when four wheeler prices were dipping and the ordinary government employee was realising that his dream of a car for his family could very well materialise; if only he could tighten his belts and those of his kids' and wife's as well a bit more than the day before. This he did honestly and not only in Kochi, but elsewhere in India too, the small car population increased manifold. The good old cycle of the 'meenkaaran' gave way to cheap mopeds - M-80 of the Hamara Bajaj family - which were a hit in my college days with roaming romeos. By then the roaming romeos had 'graduated' to 100cc bikes and carried on to become executives in well-paying jobs which gave them the opportunity to own dream cars with more-than-required power and size. While the neo-rich were fiddling with their ideas of being Rich and Powerful, there came a generation which was born into the economical freedom bestowed upon us by none other than the then FM and now PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh - a generation that had neither seen want in their adolescent days nor seen financial prudence being exercised in their families. This generation is what we see now as adults that have just taken on the the most ordinary jobs to the most paying jobs for starters in today's job market. The result - we have on our roads today, bullies as bus drivers and smart, intelligent, tech-savvy, no-nonsense, non-accommodative, mean, selfish, well-fed and well-clothed adult brats zipping past in powerful, oversize cars and bikes not knowing that something called Rules of the Road (ROR) ever existed in civilised life.

As I return to Kochi, I see that the empowered lot of youngsters as I have mentioned above have the rules cut out for themselves when it comes to driving on the roads. For them, Kochi is the rosy picture they have drawn for themselves; a city that, by their yardstick measures, up to any other metro in India or abroad. They seem to tread on clouds not wanting to realise the real state of affairs on ground. One heartening fact I could notice is that the local Police has been able to effectively enforce the wearing of helmets on two wheeler drivers and the clipping of seat belts for the four wheeler drivers. On many occasions I have observed the faithful men in Khakis tirelessly controlling the traffic flow - sometimes fingering the traffic lights to make way for a bottle neck to ease itself and sometimes barking orders to reckless drivers and trying to put them back on track to ensure that the show goes on on the roads. Barring rain or sun, these poor souls give their energy they have acquired just like you and me - may be harder than both of us - for the sake of a city that has forgotten civic sense, at least on the roads. Today, in a city that has apparently developed to the benefit a chosen few, the roads are a nightmare to drive. Day-by-day, the number and the depths of the pot holes are increasing. Accidents - mostly involving two-wheelers - are on the rise. As I ponder over the question that may have occurred to many of you too as to where this City is heading to with regard to civic sense in civil life, invariably a requirement to examine the role that a taxpayer expects his governors to play in meting out good governance to him in return to the tax he pays to the State, comes to the fore.

The state of affairs of today in the City of Kochi points the finger to the think tank of the Local governance agencies who are undoubtedly the nodal point and the primary link in the maintenance and development of Kochi. The primary responsibility of town planning, road traffic management, sewage treatment and regulation of civic discipline rests with them. This means a core group consisting of the Kochi Corporation, the Local headquarters of the Police, the local headquarters of the Transport Department and the local headquarters of the Public Works Department are the nodal work centres with the KSEB, BSNL, KWA, Private Telecom Companies, Institutions, Residents' Associations, Travellers' Associations and the like forming a sort of supporting network that assists in the proper execution of executive orders. The core group, I believe, is directly answerable and accountable to the public of the city of Kochi for the hapless state of roads in the city.

It is alarming to note that the men and women that sit at the very echelons of power in the city have failed to take note of the swelling numbers of vehicles in the city as well as the swelling population, whose needs naturally rise exponentially. It is apparent that no amount of thought has gone into the cultivated brains of these men and women in power who form the ruling roost of the city which also includes the well-read and highly educated high-ranking bureaucratic officers managing the show at their apportioned offices. None of them seems to have thought of plans for the long term as well as the short term to solve the problem of traffic overload. Few of the actions that could have been taken well before were to find out ways and means to widen the roads in the city; boldly acquire, if required, prime land at the cost of the State whose coffers are filled up with public money accountable only to the public; bulldoze properties of unyielding opposers of development regardless of the direct and indirect power they may be wielding. The officers and elected representatives in their respective offices have a direct responsibility to the public of the city in providing them with the freedom of movement, which fortunately until now has not been amended by any Court of Law of the Country nor has it been adversely affected by amendments in Constitution.

It is heart-rending to see men and women who have been appointed in higher offices - be they elected members of the public or be they appointed officers of the State - travelling by the same pot-holed roads in cosy chauffeur-driven cars financed and maintained by the taxpayer's money completely oblivious of the fact that each time they jump into a pot hole or screech their cars to a halt to avoid a potentially dangerous pitfall, they are failing the very public they feel they are serving. I have at many traffic intersections, when I've been flagged down to an unexpected halt by my brothers in Khakis to make way for a vehicle escorted around and flying the tricolour, wondered if these live objects of power realise even once that the public considers such people in their heart of hearts as a liability to the society rather than an Individual to be regarded with awe. In all probability each time their car jumps a pothole, he or she might be cursing the junior most PWD engineer or the unpaid worker who, technically owes direct responsibility for the state of the roads. I am forced to think - are these babus not human beings themselves? Once out of their office, are they not just like any other citizen of the country? Do they ever think that their bounden responsibility is not at clearing a heap of files each day and feeling satisfied at the end of the day that their red or green- inked remarks on the left hand side noting have been used effectively to sort out interpersonal rivalry and interdepartmental ego clashes? Do they ever try to sort out minor hiccups that might be causing a delay in executing emergency repairs to roads over a cup of tea between officers? Do they ever take time out of their daily official routine to walk down a road and see for themselves what is wrong and how the wrong thing is affecting a load of souls? Does a junior officer who is the man in the field given the opportunity to air his assessment of situations on ground? Is he given a chance to project a plan of action that could be executed on ground? Are his problems that he faces on ground adequately solved? Is such a person's comments given any cognizance? Has our governance system fallen to such abysmal depths that inter-departmental officer-to-officer dialogue over the table is completely non-existent? Or is it that such opportunities are only used to empty glasses of brandy and whisky down the oesophagus and discuss the next cozy posting that is available to be targeted? Is our system being eaten away by the very own blessings that economic reforms have brought in to make life better for everyone?

I leave the thoughts open for now. We shall continue this 'Debate' soon..

The Source Pad for the Crow

Having contemplated a method of airing my views on contemporary issues that affect day to day life, I hit upon this idea that was floated by one of my most trusted friends about this new thing called blogging. At first, it sounded weird to me - flogging, logging et al were familiar words learnt at school and practised in profession ; but this one was a bit too tough to understand. When it finally sunk into the grey cells with a certain rebellious face, it became clear that yes, this one can make quite a difference in the minds and lives of those geeks who now-a-days find it easier to get glued on to the new generation add-on essential that is the computer and its big nanny - the Internet. When days are passing by with each day reducing the number of heads that remain half covered in the mornings in the once-favourite cellulose product called the News paper, the Internet has come as a wise substitute for just about anything save for the natural and irreplaceable needs of the human being.

Life, no doubt is the biggest teacher. There are many things that they teach in school, some of it each one of us imbibe and employ at a later date to earn a living; some we keep in our hearts to make a wish and to dream about, some others we use to make a few of our dreams come true, but most of what is taught in school remains under wraps in some unknown corner of our brains, until it is activated by some passing thought or some act by someone whom we see or interact regularly with and then we get that peculiar voice that pops out of nowhere and tells you from inside - "Gosh! I've heard about it somewhere, sometime and it seems very familiar to me" or "I know this problem, have seen it before being solved" and so on. Sometimes these thoughts and prop-ups in the brain makes you think on certain issues - sometimes related to something you would have observed at home, office or when you were travelling or sometimes not related at all to anything that you would be doing on a day - to - day basis or would have observed anyway - and then you feel that you need to do something to get back your long forgotten faculties and act as a socially responsible civilized person. In the harrowing grind of our day-to-day lives, each one of us would, I'm sure, have come across many such instances as I have just described; and in almost all cases, each one of us would have decided - "H'mm, I must do something. Not now, but definitely at a later date; when I have enough time in my hands to think about it". The stream of thoughts would disappear softly as much as it appeared and and get buried in the chores of the day, little knowing that that time would never come when we would have the 'Enough Time' which we always wanted to finish off a million things we would by then have accumulated.

Much a similar thought had come to my mind many a time and more than once I shared it with my friends. It was then that I started thinking of letting my thoughts out on paper. I realised it hard that paperwork had to rest for the rest of my life as it turned out to be just impossible to pick up a pen and start writing. I envied my sister on this - she had (and still has) a flair for the metallic pin that would bring forth beautiful scripts on whichever surface she could move it on. The thoughts were shelved until now when I finally decided to take some time out for myself and let out my thoughts over contemporary issues that affect us. I felt that if I bottled up my thoughts and never let them out, there might come a day when I would regret having not done as much when I had my faculties in shape and I could do so. I wouldn't have forgiven myself that time, if it has to come. I also felt that it would be foolish to waste out my time by just thinking that I would do what I wanted and end up not doing it any day. Then came I and sat down in front of my PC, plugged into the Net and went straight down to catch hold of this interesting facility they've invented and put up for just the thing I was looking at. As I start up my pad I must confess I am a bit apprehensive : of whether I would be talking sense ? Would it matter at all to some one somewhere who might some day read what I might be keying in? Would I be technically and primarily correct in my views? I wouldn't know if such thoughts occur to all who indulge in blogging; but certainly it had occurred to me ever since I decided that I should go for it. Nonetheless, I am going ahead as a bold soldier - true to the traditions that I've been taught at the place I got trained : to do what I feel is correct and to talk honestly.

An immediate cause that I can relate to as to the triggering of thoughts that brought me to this place is the few remarks that came out in the popular daily : the Indian Express a few days ago in Kochi about the nasty problem the city is facing as regards the traffic on the streets. Having travelled quite a bit around the country and having observed the way various cities of our country handle such tricky issues, I thought I should share my observations on the subject. Having said so much, I must start off the debate - as I'm sure many would come back to me with their views on the subject - on the city's traffic blocks.