An unexpected trip to Bihar

When the training schedules were getting declared, this was perhaps the destination I thought I would get for my training. When I got the nomination for my training, the first question I asked myself, why only me for this place? am I that unlucky? While other colleagues got training in cities like Bangalore, Goa etc. I thought I was a tad unlucky to be nominated at Patna in Bihar.  I like to travel, explore places, so there is always a to visit list in the back of my mind. Patna, or for that matter being, the entire state of Bihar, never even touched my thoughts, let alone, contemplating a visit there.

But, since the training was mandatory, I had no option, but to pack my bags and move on. Comfort always plays a vital role in my itinerary. I prefer to travel at ease.  Unfortunately, the direct flights between Mumbai and Patna were booked and I do not like the break journey. So, I bought a costly ticket of a premium express railway.  All was fine on the train journey, though it was tiresome and boring.

My dislike for the destination was reinforced by a scuffle that broke down with the ticket checker and the passengers from Bihar.  Now, the rule mandates that the ticket checker can check the identity card of all the passengers. The passengers somehow invented a new rule that only one identity card from the group would suffice. One passenger from that group went a step further and said that they should have slapped the ticket checker. The ticket checker was not far away and he overheard this and once again a scuffle broke out.  Welcome to Bihar, was all I and some of my non-Bihari co-travelers could have uttered them.

The train reached good 2.30 hrs late and it was around 1 am in the night. The image of Bihar is that of an underdeveloped lawless state. Every colleague of mine had warned me to be extra careful while traveling to Bihar. So, when I reached Patna Station in the eerie hours, I was a bit anxious too.

To my surprise, Patna station was as crowded, colorful and lively as any Indian station. There were ample lights and the scene outside was alike. There were scores of taxis, auto rickshaws, tongas were vying for customers that alighted from that late night express. The hotel where I had received my booking was six kilometers away, so by mental calculations, I had arrived at a fair fare that I should shell. With some hard bargaining, I got a vehicle to reach the hotel.

The hotel, the stay, the training etc was good. The training institute went an extra mile to ensure our comfort, which was commendable. After study hours, we traveled extensively to many parts of Patna, to explore the Bihar, we interacted with local people a lot. What we came to know and realized first hand was that the image of Bihar or a Bihari is not correctly represented in other parts of the country. The person coming from Bihar is looked down upon as backward.  What we realized was that the state and its people were as good as we find in other parts of our country. Yes, we did travel only a small part of Bihar, its capital, which could not represent the whole state. But, still, the people were courteous, amenable and atleast less aggressive or arrogant as we find in other parts of North India, especially, Delhi or Uttar Pradesh. This was a refreshing example. This was more so refreshing, because, when I set for Bihar, almost all my colleagues and friends, and even from that part of the country warned me to be extra careful while traveling to Bihar. In the late hours of the night, we would take a leisurely stroll outside our hotel, but, not a moment, we did feel unsafe or insure. Picture this with the experience in Uttar Pradesh, last year, the scene was less comfortable, to say the least. Yes, there is scant progress to be seen in Bihar. Almost non-existent industrial infrastructure, the cityscape too does not instill any kind of excitement.

What we, later on, understood during our interactions was that the lowest ebb of the society, who have no source of income, cultivable land etc, who live in abject poverty and hopelessness migrate to other parts of the country, especially, Maharashtra or Gujrat.  They have but no option, but, to compromise and litter out of helplessness, then it becomes a habit, thereby spoiling the name of the entire province, which is quite unjust in the first place.

My trip to Bihar changed my perspective about the state to say the least. Signing out for now. 



Peer Pressure

This story is not at all funny, in fact, it makes you think, think about the kind of pressures the kids of this generation undergo. The pressures that did not exist in our carefree childhood days. Sometimes, I feel that at forty, I have already grown too much for my age.

I work as an honorary member in our housing society management team for the last eleven years. The society, as a part of security initiative, on the directions of local police installed Close Circuit Camera (CCTV), to double ensure watertight security around 12 cameras are installed, that tracks a person’s entry from the main gate till the moment he reaches the particular apartment.

Being IT savvy, I have been entrusted the responsibility of looking after the entire setup of this CCTV network. It was not such a boring job after all to watch some hilarious clips. Members of the society for all and sundry reasons started seeking footage to search for any and every item that was lost, even inside their houses. Obviously, we did never entertain such stupid requests.

That day, last month,  as I reached my workplace, I received a phone call, firstly from my wife and then from the society secretary and reported a theft, reportedly by a kid from our own society.  They required security footage, I told them we would meet in the evening to check the footage.

That evening at seven as we assembled before the security monitors to check the footage, the doubting Thomases were proved correct. The boy whom everybody doubted was the culprit. He was seen donning a raincoat upping his hood and entering into that particular wing of the society. After exactly ten minutes, the boy could be seen running away. All he could grab was a 100 rupee note.

The family in whose house this theft took place witnessed it. The boy and his family were also called. The boy was a small 14-year-old teen. He was unapologetic in the beginning and was showing all traits of a trained criminal. He did not accede to the fact that he did the theft, as nowhere in the clip, it was conclusively seen that the boy entered the house. The more the committee members and the parents of the boy pressurized the kid, the more did he turn stubborn. I then held the hand of the kid and pampered and cajoled him a bit. Sadly I could relate with the boy, as back home, my son is just a year elder to this boy. I told him to accept whether he had done any mistake and we would request the family to settle the matter then and there itself. Getting a bit firm, I told him that if he did not tell the truth and entire truth, the matter will go in the hands of the police and then no one can help him. This carrot and stick policy worked and he slowly started accepting and said I entered the room and took just 100 Rs. note. The parents of the boy were feeling ashamed of their kids’ activities and the mother sobbed pitifully. 

I felt very sad and down as I came back home. It was not a matter of reported theft of Rs.100/-. It was the need that was created amongst kids. When we were kids, a 10 rupee note was like a jackpot for us, we kids never saw a Rs.100/- note with us as pocket money. 

Nowadays, in schools and in colleges, a trend has set amongst kids to throw parties on any and every stupid cause. The kids from affluent homes with liberal parents are the one who lavishly spends money on such parties. The kids with not so affluent conditions or with strict parents find it difficult to return favors of friends. Someday their turn comes to throw a party and the kids have no money to spend, to save embarrassment, they either borrow money from parents giving false excuses or not all, but some, like the kid in this story end up stealing firstly from their own house and then from any and every source.

Somehow, I feel that the parents of this generation are the real ones to blame.  Most of the parents today, born in late 70’s or early 80’s were from middle class or lower middle-class upbringings, during the pre-liberalized era when there were no luxuries around. In a sentimental bid to let our kids enjoy the luxuries, which we could not during our childhood days, we pamper our kids beyond a certain extent, resulting in scenes like I mentioned in this story. We have cushioned our kids, we have soft gloved them, prevented them from all kind of insecurities. Somehow, we have made our kids handicapped because of this. Today’s kids do not know how to face precarious situations, because they have never faced them. No, I don’t mean that we must expose our kids but must sensitize them for sure.

As for the boy is concerned, he roams around even today as nothing has happened. Totally unapologetic.

Mystery of Death of Shivaji Maharaj

This man deserved more than he has received. He left us some three centuries ago, but, even today, his relevance has not diminished. In fact, in this uncertain times, when we are struggling on our western and northern frontiers and even internally, his relevance has increased manifold.  I am talking about the great Maratha ruler of the sixteenth century Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.  His name has been only been used by all political parties for their very narrow political objectives. We failed desperately, as Late Shri Ninadji Bedekar, famous Historian used to say, to take Shivaji Maharaj on International fora. The military ruler was at par or fared even better than Alexander (the great ?), Napoleon or others. After three centuries we have now found a rock patch on an island to construct a ‘huge’ memorial. The irony is that around 380 forts of Swaraj are lying in state of abject neglect and apathy.  (read my related  article here)

Back to the main topic, since childhood, I myself and many like me, have grown up with the fed in thought process that Shivaji Maharaj died a natural death because of knee and joint pain because of excessive horse riding. 

Of late, a new debate is taking place, by neo historians and history enthusiasts, claiming that in fact, Shivaji Maharaj was poisoned to death by his ministers who grew more ambitious.  I have been a keen reader on the topic of Shivaji Maharaj who was my childhood hero, since, standard fourth, when the entire history book used to be dedicated to this great ruler. Unfortunately, the entire history of 50 years of the strife of this great hero does not find even 5 pages today. More stress is given for European, American history and revolutions. What kind of generation are we trying to raise? A generation which appreciates western history and abhors and disrespects our local history?

I have read many books and articles on this noble king, subscribed to various youtube channels to get as much as information. During all this research, I found that the history of Shivaji Maharaj is not properly documented, as one finds exactly opposite viewpoints, with supporting documentary evidence of that period.  For example, Late Shri Ninad ji Bedekar claimed that the battle of Pavinkhind never took place, a skirmish took place at the base of Vishalgad where Baji Prabhu Deshpande was martyred. Shiv Shahir Shri Babasaheb Purandare in his oratory masterpiece Shiv Charitra, on the other hand, presents the tale which is now a folklore, the battle of Pavankhind. 

The death of Shivaji Maharaj too is mired with uncertainty. I happened to watch a video on youtube (link) by Maratha History Channel, which with the help of documentary evidence claims that Shivaji Maharaj died a natural death at the age of 50. On the other hand, Professor Namdev Jadhav (link), who is a historian and a great orator with the help of some old documents (Bakhar) claims that Shivaji Maharaj was poisoned to death. This leaves the history enthusiast like me more confused.

The death of Shivaji Maharaj and reasons behind it is crucial, as a caste-based shade is now given even to his death, for narrow political gains. Let’s leave them aside. The reason of finding the exact reason of Shivaji Maharaj death is of prime importance because of the fact that had the king been poisoned, the act might have done an irreparable damage to the entire history of this subcontinent. Because had Shivaji Maharaj stayed for 15-20 years more, he had the gut, the gumption and the capacity to conquer the Mughal empire, which was on decline anyways.  One must not forget the fact that only after the Britishers defeated the Peshwas and hoisted their Union Jack on Shaniwarwada, they could establish an unblemished empire which looted our nation and bifurcated it when the loot was over.

I strongly believe that a unified effort by historians, supported by Government and its agencies must be made to properly research and reach at a consensus so that actual history must be easily accessible to everyone and especially to the younger generations who nowadays find all that is Indian as outdated and out of fashion. Hence I strongly believe that the Mystery of Death of Shivaji Maharaj must be resolved at the earnest.



The 2.30 Bus..

Some memories get etched up in your memories forever. They become part of our being. For a sensitive person like me, sometimes even an insignificant thing becomes a permanently marked memory. It may sound idiotic in today’s practical world.
Spending vacations were not in fashion in the eighties when we grew up. The term vacation simply meant that one travels to his or her native place. People would look with awe and wonder when one traveled to places like Shirdi or other places of pilgrimage.  Today the scene has changed totally.
Our vacation like many others, those days only meant that we were packed up and sent to our native place in Konkan, the coastal belt of Maharashtra, well endowed with nature and natural beauty. But then, the journey was not easy as it is today. The only accessible mode of travel for a common man was the State Transport red buses which are even today called as ST buses. Traveling by Private Luxury buses were not the luxury that our parents could afford them. 
The entire trip was a sort of adventure if anyone of my generation remembers. The reservation counter would start booking one month earlier and exact dates were to be accordingly planned. A day before the date of reservation, my dad would go to Parel ST Depot and wait in the long queue, so that he gets an opportunity to book the ticket the next morning when the counters opened at 08.00 am. Almost every time my dad would come like a winner waving those prized tickets which he booked after a struggling wait for around 10-12 hours. Computerized reservation was not a known term then.
As the date of journey neared, the excitement used to increase. The packing of clothes, sweets, and dresses for our extended families in the native places would make it sure that we had to carry large baggage. The metal trunk, which I still have kept with me as my prized possession of those good old days used to become very heavy.  
The bus would arrive at the stand in the Parel Depot at around 2.15 pm and there used to be another fight to enter inside. Although the entire bus used to for reserved ticket holders the fight never ceased. Then there was always a nightmarish experience to locate a Coolie to load the bag on top of the bus. Every time at least one fight used to take place with co-passengers over seats, luggage etc.
Exactly at around 2.30 pm, the bus used to chug out. Traveling by window seat was and still continues to be my favorite activity.  The Mumbai in the eighties was not as crowded as it is today. The city used to end somewhere after Vashi. The first stop those days, from where we used to assume that we have really started our journey was Panvel. Panvel used to sound so far away those days. The bus ride was never a joyous one, but, what can a person do when he has no other option?
The bus would halt for dinner break at Indapur. The canteen there was a shabby place and was always crowded. I used to feel nausea and would sometimes vomit during bus travels, due to which I would intake very less food.
The very unique and very innovative thing was that exactly at the same time, a bus would depart from my native place daily and they both met at the same time at Chiplun Bus Depot, which also indicated that we have reached halfway to our destination. Sometimes, when the driver of one bus drove fast, the passengers would have to wait for the other bus. The uniqueness was that the drivers would change and the driver that drove the bus from Mumbai to Chiplun would drive the bus that came from my native place to Mumbai. The other driver would do the same and drive the Bus that came from Mumbai to my native place.
Tired will be a very weak word to describe the entire journey. However, as a child, I used to enjoy every bit of it. 
After the vacation when we left our native place the village folks, my cousins would gather at the Bus stand to see us off. Their teary moist eyes meant a lot then, those tears were true. However, as the world around us changed, everything has changed, selfishness has engulfed all relationships. Gone are those days of true closeness. There is an air of formality in the relations now. My relatives and cousins are no different. Whenever economics rules over emotions, emotions are lame losers.
The Konkan Railway changed the entire scenario. Travel has eased, people have progressed, commercialization is taking place at a very mad pace. I happened to be near the bus stand at around 2 pm expecting the jamboree of people to see off their near and dear ones. But, there was an air of silence, apart from few stray dogs and a couple of people who had lost it shared the empty bus stand. I asked the person accompanying me what happened to the 2.30 bus. Pat came the reply, they have stopped the bus service as people have stopped plying due to easier mode i.e. railways.
I felt bad, the change was good, I tried to convince myself, the journey has now become relatively easier. But, the bus had contributed a handful of memories in my life, that won’t fade away so easily.

The adorable foreigner

I had my share of interactions with the foreigners on a couple of occasions, those were not for such a long period or the tone of the interactions was more of a formal kind. The closest interaction for a longer duration of time was with one Israeli diplomat. We had met in some seminar and he was stuck up with his laptop. His presentation was scheduled up and his laptop failed to respond. Someone suggested him to take my help, I don’t know what exactly I did, but the laptop started, the desktop screen opened, with that his face brightened. He breathed a sigh of relief. The desktop wallpaper was of a beach of Goa, so I casually asked him whether he clicked that beautiful picture himself in Goa. The diplomat asked how I recognized the photo, I said, I belonged to that part of the world. The person instantly felt a strong connection with me, he said Goa is my second home, as his wife belonged there. He intently inquired many a thing about me, the place where I belonged etc. He gave his visiting card to me and promised to stay in touch. After that, we exchanged a few emails. Our busy lives ensured that the connect ended there.

Some days ago, I received an email from a P.hd scholar from the Netherlands. He was studying the effect of Self Help Groups and Women Empowerment activities in developing economies. He was one Mr.Robin.  He wanted to meet our team for the interactions. We invited him for the same. We agreed.

So, on that weekend a well built European came calling, what I liked about the western people was that they are not so very conscious about their mannerism. They don’t carry a mask with them, they are very expressive and very informal. We had some formal discussions with him, we gave him a presentation and he began his talks. Slowly we started opening up and began informal chats. He chatted on various topics and we proposed him to join us the very next day for the trip to  Pune, where we had some event.  Instantly, he said, “why not, sure”. We decided to assemble at the same place next day at 7 am.

The next day, the gentleman was there are at sharp 7 am. We assembled as per our sense of Indian Standard Time. Our trip started at around 8 am. And then as the journey began our talks began, we talked and shared quite a few stories and anecdotes. Robin now was an entirely different person, he was very jovial, he was around 28 years old, but, still maintained that impish looks in his mannerism. He was very talkative and had a very expressive face, one moment before he would make the sad face the other moment his face would brighten up. We are much more poker-faced in that respect.

He had a very good understanding of this big mix called India. He had been to this country seven times before and had traveled extensively. His inquisitive nature ensures that he is more well informed about quite a lot of things.  He is open to newer ideas and carries a very idealistic view of everything.

As the day progressed, we had thrown off the boundaries and inhibitions and were like close friends. He asked my colleagues’ many Marathi words. He wanted to know how to say “Are you mad?” in Marathi. My friend told him “veda ahes ka?”. The guy recited it and intermittently asked anybody “veda ahes ka?” It was a funny moment for us.

As the event began, Mr.Robin, the researcher started making mental notes, suddenly, he started clicking pictures. We gave him five minutes to speak.  The assembled crowd enjoyed the interaction. Later, he interacted with many participants and asked him many questions. The man was highly impressed by all this.

The day ended quickly and as we returned late in the evening. We were tired and worn out, but, the inquisitive Robin would not stop asking many a story. My friend suddenly asked him to tell a ghost story from his country. And, didn’t we really enjoy it? Mr.Robin was truly a genuine storyteller.

People do carry very wrong conceptions about foreigners, they look different, they behave differently, but, that is perhaps because they are less hypocrites than we are. They behave as they are, which we don’t do.

We will be in touch with Mr.Robin and will be relishing every bit of his stories in coming days as he will be in India for the next seven months or so.

What was that ???

I would urge reader of this article to post their take on what was that after all!!

Life was never as hectic as it has become, of late. It was my own creation, I keep reminding myself time and again. Weekends used to be so lazy and relaxed that sometimes I used to feel somewhat bored during weekends, with almost no work in hand. And now, weekends are even busier than weekdays.  

I had to visit Pune for a very important event last week. Some strange chain of events started taking place, looking back  I am now able to link it and find that it was not happenings in seclusion, but, rather a chain of events. I was feeling very drowsy and tired the entire week and given that I had to go to Pune on Saturday added to my pressure all the more. I had to do some urgent work on my laptop, some presentation I had to prepare and suddenly my laptop screen started playing tantrums. The laptop was working fine and was just 1 year old, that day all of a sudden the screen got distorted. Later it was discovered that the led screen had to be replaced. Somehow, using all my IT experience over the years, I managed to squeeze out the data from the laptop.  I thought it was one-off incident.  Then that very evening, when I was preparing for the visit I dropped my phone in the wash basin and it just won’t work. It was 11.00 pm in the evening and I was supposed to leave my house at 6.30 am the next morning. The phone contained all the contacts, messages, whatsaapp and other sources of communication, I had to call so many people the next day and this mess happened. Again, I had lost one more screen that very day. Somehow I manage to squeeze in the sim card on my other phone to connect with my friends.

I was half nervous the other morning, given the strange things that had happened. I worried about the event for which I was going to Pune. Thankfully, it went very well. That night I dreamt something unusual.  I vividly remember the dream even now. I saw all my relatives near a dead body, who was draped in white cloth and head covered. On the head, i could see blood stains which meant it was the accidental death. I woke up at around 2 am in the morning after that dream, badly shaken, I drank water and went off to bed. Strangely, again at around 5 am in the morning, I saw exactly the same dream. The same situation. I could not sleep after that.  One could surmise this as an act of a tired brain. What followed after that was even stranger. I received phone call early in the morning. The other side, my sister called me up and she was half crying. Very weirdly, she too had seen the same dream. But, she saw me dead in the dream, accidental death it was.  I was now shaken to find three identical dreams.

What was that after all? My friend suggested that I could have talked about something similar with my sister. But, we had not talked for about a month on any topic.  In the midst of all these things, out of nowhere, my left knee got severe pain, It went away after a couple of days, just as it came. suddenly.

The loss of things, followed by such dreams made me a little bit edgy. I consulted my friend, who gave an even more scary conclusion. My friend said that maybe the dream tried to forewarn you of something impending calamity, since, you could not see the dead person, a person very close to you saw the same dream with your face to forewarn you. Maybe, the loss of screens of mobile and laptop was an indicator of this impending calamity. As we in many parts of India believe that many times a broken glass indicates something bad. Maybe the positive energy ensured that I came out unscratched.

Whatever may be the reason behind these things, the sudden breaking of glasses of laptop and mobile, my sudden knee injury, the dreams all happened in such quick succession that one would always give alternate thinking a benefit of the doubt. Somehow, I survived to share this tale with all of you, my friends.