Saturday, December 31, 2005

Au revoir 2005

Turning points are always moments for reflection.
Change of calendar year is one such moment.
Time to look back at the hits and misses.
But effort should always be to look ahead.
As Peter Drucker said:
"Follow effective action with
Quite reflection.
From the quite reflection
Will come more effective action."
Live in the present.
Learn from the past.
Look to the future.
May there be less of hatred, anger and violence.
May there be lots of happiness and fun.
Wish you all a New Year 2006
That will see you realise your dreams, and
Bring in lots of Happiness and Success.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Attack on IISc Bangalore

So, the much-feared terrorist attack in Bangalore has happened. Mercifully, only one life was lost. But the bigger tragedy is that we had to have this happen (inspite of intelligence reports, and media follow-ups) for our government, and IISc itself, to realise that the terror threat is real indeed.

Interestingly, IISc director Balram refused to comment when asked whether his institution had learnt lessons after the security breach during Chinese PM Wen Jiabao's visit to the IISc in April. In March newspapers had front paged a story on how Lashkar was targeting Bangalore.

Nothing happens to VIPs. It's always only the innocents who suffer.

One refrain was: "We will learn only if such a thing happens." It's a very sad commentary on our administration. IISc was very much on the Lashkar radar (newspapers had spoken of it.), though sadly like always only IT companies were in the focus.

But terrorists are no fools. It didn't need our CM, Dharam Singh, to say today morning that yesterday's attack was a planned one. Terrorists obviously knew that Bangalore doesn't care for anything beyond IT firms. (In some respects not even IT firms.) IISc was an easy target. It's one of the dozen of so national premier institutions in Bangalore.

Only three days back all newspapers reported on page one the news of three terrorists being arrested and how Bangalore was among the cities they planned to attack. Now it needs to be found out whether yesterday's attack could have been much worse, had the arrests not been made.

M G Road, Brigade Road and malls are packed with people especially in evenings. Foolproof security in open places is virtually impossible. But at least specific targets need to be made more secure. Bangalore is not used to such things. But better late than never. We need to change.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Srirangam-Thanjavur diary

One of the most striking features of south India, is the large number of temples. They open to a visitor the vast artistic heritage of our country. Some of the prominent temples are the ones at Kancheepuram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur and Madurai.
The one in Srirangam is a huge one, in fact I am told that this temple which is spread over 150 acres is the only one in the country with seven enclosures: symbolic of the seven elements that make up the human body. Interestingly, the main entrance to the temple faces the south, which is exceptional since normally it should face east. Of course, there is a complicated local legend that accounts for it.
We were here on 21st. The architecture is simply breathtaking, especially considering the fact that building science hadn't evolved to the extent it is today.
We then moved to Thanjavur, one of the most prominent temple towns of India. Because of lack of time, we had to do a hurried tour. Brihadeeswarar Temple or the Big Temple is one of the four temples in the region. It's so vast it takes about three to four hours to go around the whole area. The temple is within a huge fort, and the gopuram is about 200 feet tall. The octagonal shikaram, I am told, rests on a single granite stone that weighs 81 tons. There are lots of inscriptions, and Bharata Natayam dance postures.
We went to the Maratha Darbar Hall, Royal Museum, Maharaja Serfoji Memorial Hall and residence of S Babaji Rajah Bhonsale Chattrapathy, senior prince of Thanjavur. We went to cooperative handicraft emporium, where there were excellent artefacts.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Nagapattinam diary 2

J Radhakrishnan, collector extraordinaire
When you think of reconstruction of tsunami-ravaged Nagapattinam, the name that comes uppermost in mind is that District Collector J Radhakrishnan, an IAS officer of sterling qualities. He smashes all myths about a bureaucrat being subservient to politicians. He has been instrumental in the rebuilding of Nagapattinam.
After the tragedy struck, relief flooded in. As the head of the district administration, he put in place a completely transparent coordination network among the NGOs. He survived the usual allegations of religious bias, conversions etc, with calmness and firmness. He has been described as the "people's collector" and is perhaps the most well-known person in this district.
When we journalists shot question after question, sought details of each and everything, sought facts and figures, Radhakrishnan was cool, composed and patient; and most importantly extremely polite. Rarely you get to meet such public servants. One interaction, and he leaves an indelible feel-good impression on you.
May he be blessed, and may he have lots of energy to continue the great work he has been doing.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nagapattinam diary 1

I was back at Nagapattinam on Tuesday, 20th. Last year in January I had been there. This district -- which accounted for 6,065 tsunami deaths, with 3,378 in the town alone -- was the worst hit in India.
But as I travelled around the place, I just couldn't believe this was the very same place I had been to last year. So much has changed. As collector J Radhakrishnan said the district was lucky to get plenty of relief material. And all that the government had to do was to coordinate the efforts of NGOs.
I attended a public function at which 375 families were handed over houses constructed by Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt under the guidance of IIT Madras engineers. The people got not just houses, but a fully integrated township spread across 11 acres -- complete with stormwater drains, roads, effluent treatment plant, children's play area, reading room. Wow! It's an incredible township, and Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt is the first NGO to complete such a township for the villagers.
Brahmachari Abhayamrita Chaitanya said that their aim is not just to build houses, but provide all the benefits to the villagers. The social activities of mutt must be seen to be believed. In fact, in the beginning I was quite sceptical. But no longer. When tsunami struck, the first thing the mutt did was to set up a number of kitchens. Their logic: you can survive without clothes, you can survive without a roof, but not without food.
For the function people were in such a festive mood. They turned out in their best clothes. Streets were all decorated. For the survivors of tsunami, in a way the tragedy was a blessing in disguise. Because the district is flush with funds and dedicated NGOs; besides, an able administration is doing a fantastic work of rebuilding broken homes.
It's sad that a place had to pay such a heavy price for development.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Twists and turns in life

Life is often compared to a long journey, like a long, long ride in a car. There are twists and turns; upslopes and downslopes; terrains, rugged and smooth. We take them all in our stride. We halt for a break, and resume the journey.
Sometimes I feel we all get too bogged down with these twists and turns, without realising that the journey goes on.
What matters is not the different turns that our life takes, but what comes out of that new turn the life has taken.
Life may not turn out the way we want, but we can always make the best of the way life turns out.
Am I right?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Rape, murder of IT professional in Bangalore -- Lessons

Yesterday the news spread like wild fire through phone networks, emails and TV channels. And, a shocked Bangalore -- from CEOs to some semiliterate cab drivers -- had only one subject to discuss -- the rape and murder of a newly-wed young software professional, Prathibha, by her cab driver, Shivakumar, after she was picked up for work at 2 am.

Coincidentally, tragically, on Dec 13, the day Prathibha was murdered, I wrote on sexual harassment, and why such incidents take place, and what can be done.

IT employees of Bangalore have been soft targets for some time. It started with snatching of mobile phones, cash, jewellery etc. And, now the worst has happened.

Prathibha had a cellphone (considered by many girls as an important safety device), she used to call up her husband, Pavan, before leaving office and after reaching office. When Pavan didn't hear from her, how on earth would he imagine that the worst had happened? Do we now always suspect the worst when someone doesn't pick up the cellphone? See the level of panic in this hi-tech world!

Prathibha did allow herself to get into a cab whose driver wasn't the regular one. In fact, the cab itself was a "fake pickup cab"; meaning, her regular cab with the regular driver was actually on its way. Two colleagues of hers, Archana and Latha, were lured in the same manner into the fake cab, before Prathibha was contacted. Archana was already sitting in the regular cab. Latha refused to get into the alternative cab. It was Pratibha's fate that she had to walk into this stranger's cab.

I am sure hundreds of men and women would have got into cabs which might have been arranged as the regular one wasn't available. There must also have been umpteen cases of new drivers ferrying employees. Do we now suspect that there will be something wrong, next time such a thing happens?

Every misfortune, every tragedy, however regrettable, is an opportunity to learn a few lessons.
  • Never go along with a stranger, especially at night: This point looks like the weakest link in Prathibha's case. Women employees who are picked up and dropped should be accompanied by someone (either a male colleague or a security staffer) whom she knows very well and she is willing to trust.
  • Be cautious. It's a bad world out there -- not everyone, but one is enough to mess it up. They say discretion is the better part of valour. Strange driver, strange timing, strange call "from the office"... even if there is a thin element of doubt, trust your instincts, play safe. Confirm the genuineness of the call or the person with whom you are going. In case of doubt, stay put where it is safe. May be you will be late to office, may be you will lose a day's pay for logging in late, may be you will be accused of being timid and lacking in confidence, may be you will be sacked. Even all of them put together is better than getting raped and killed.
  • Never panic. Because, then you lose your power of cool judgement, and probably make blunders.
Around May-June this year, when a number of IT professionals were being waylaid and robbed, a chain mail was doing the rounds. It contained a number of safety precautions to be taken to avoid being robbed or attacked. Of course it never spoke about the possibility to your "replacement cab driver" being a rapist and murderer, though it did say: "And for all the women, don't you ever travel alone in night, if it's really necessary... take the help of your friends or family (males)." I fished out the mail from my archives and in the interest of all, I am reproducing it below. Probably we all in our own ways -- wiser with each unfortunate event -- make improvisations to the points given below.

"What we can do to take precautions?
  • Call your home or friends or your boss if you are returning late at night.
  • Always travel in the main roads which are brightly lit.
  • Never ever give drops to strangers at night.
  • Don't stop/park your vehicle in deserted/dark roads.
  • Tell your family to get back to home before 9 pm.
  • Don't pull over your vehicle for a smoke or tea. Most of the small shops who sell cigarette, ghutka, tea in the night are surrounded by drunkards and thieves.
  • If you are travelling on a deserted road and if you spot a group of men at the end of the road, then stop your vehicle and take a different road.
  • Don't wear gold chain, ring etc especially if you know that you are returning home late in night.
  • Never underestimate anyone... in a recent murder of one Bhupati Kumar in Rammurthy Nagar by a group of 4 people, which included a 15-year-old boy!
  • Don't send you family (women) or friends (women) alone either in city taxi or auto. And for all the women, don't you ever travel alone in night, if it's really necessary... take the help of your friends or family (males).
  • Police will not give a FIR for the chain snatching and mobile+cash robbery. Police won't help you for these incidents. So, always be very very careful and always protect yourself. Please educate your family/ friends.
What to do in case of attacks?
  • Don't resist the robbers, try to save your life in the first place. You can purchase a new mobile, not your life.
  • Don't get in to any talks with them.
  • Most of the times the robbers threaten you with a knife... try to be calm.
What to do after attack?
  • Generally the victims of the robbery will lose the confidence and feel-good factor. Try to distract their minds in to some useful activities like hitting gym, yoga, gardening, playing with pets, etc.
  • Spend most of the time with family and friends.
  • Never get into depressions ( specially women).
  • Try to get the courage and confidence to fight against evil.
  • If possible take 2/3 days off from your work and go to some other city or place.
  • Crime, armed robbery, theft, burglary, murder, kidnapping, rape, acid attack are like AIDS. There is no cure for it. So, we have to be always smart enough to protect ourselves and our dependents."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The glass of water

The following anecdote came to my email inbox as a forwarded mail. It's one of those inspirational ones that do the rounds on the web.

A professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, "How much do you think this glass weighs?"
"50gms... 100gms... 125gms..." the students answered.

"I really don't know unless I weigh it," said the professor. Now let me ask you another question: "What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?"
"Nothing," one student said.
"Ok, what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?" the professor asked.
"Your arm would begin to ache," said one of the students.
"You're right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?"
"Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress and paralysis and would have to go to hospital for sure!" ventured another student.
"Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?" asked the professor.
"No," the students said.
"Then what caused the arm ache and the muscle stress?" the students were quite puzzled.
"Put the glass down!" said one of the students.
"Exactly!" said the professor. "Life's problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head and they seem okay. Think of them for a long time and it becomes a problem you can't carry. You are stressed out, and paralysed.
It's important to think of the challenges (problems) in your life, but even more important than that is "to put them down".

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sexual harassment

This posting stems out of Ranjit's December 9 posting on eve-teasing, sexual harassment and other perverted deviant behaviours. Giving links to some victims' traumatising experiences, he says, "Such men (who indulge in sexual harassment) deserve to be castrated - without anaesthesia, and with a numb saw - slowly, with the intent to inflict maximum damage."
He says girls should react more and more rather than succumb meekly; and "most of all, we - the men who condemn so easily - ought to express our outrage more publicly".
During my college days in Kerala, guys who travelled by the government road transport's (KSRTC's) crowded "college buses" used to brag about how they got to disgusting proximity to girls' upper torso, and rubbed their excited members on girls' bodies.  (Unlike private buses, women are at the rear of the government buses near the door. So, at peak hours men and women get huddled together.) And, scared girls never did anything, leave alone scream, which was conveniently misunderstood as compliance.
Screaming by victims, raising voice, beating up the guy or even castrating him are immediate solutions in the short term. To carry on from where Ranjit has left, I think we need to look beyond and see why guys do this. Remember all guys don't indulge in this disgustingly perverted act.
Some who indulge are absolute criminals and they need to be treated as such, and they require very little consideration. But a large majority who do it are otherwise decent guys. And, it is with these guys we have to make a distinction, and seek the rationale behind their actions.
From what I have learnt, such assaults are acute behavioural problems stemming out of bad childhood, poor upbringing, wrong ideas imbibed during early and mid-adolescence etc. Often the culprits are their own parents or other immediate peer influences. When adequate emotional care isn't given to children when they really need it, the deficiency surfaces later in life in ways like such deviant behaviour. Such sexual behaviour is only one among many other relationship problems that surface in early youth and mid-life.
As I said earlier, screaming or jailing the deviant guy is only a short-term solution. Other such deviant guys who hear about this are -- yes -- deterred in one way, but worse, they are totally confused as to what they should do. (Like that guy in the train -- who groped the girl who was sleeping in the lower berth -- said: 'I couldn't control myself.' The point to be looked into is if other guys could control, why couldn't he?)
Like the emancipation of the suppressed sections of society (women included), the solution is a long-term one. One is to send the guys to counselling centres, try to get at the root of their deviant tendencies,  and resolve it. Better still is to prevent boys from growing up into such guys. And, much of the onus lies on none other than parents. Many parents make the mistake of taking the boys for granted. "O, he is a boy.." sort of attitude. They need as much care and love as girls are given.
Respect and appreciation from elders within the house is a rarity for children. Parents go to great lengths to praise their children in front of others; but not privately in order to boost the child's very self-confidence. Some boys (and even girls) are sharply cut off when they talk about girls/boys or even about sex. Instead they must be at least heard patiently; if not commented upon in a sensible manner.
Finding out reasons for deviant behaviour is not in anyway condoning the act. Crime has to be punished; but punishment is only that, and not a solution for the problem. Instead of stopping at punishment, some effort should be made to address the root cause. Or else, the problem will never go away, and we will just end up screaming and screaming; and jailing and jailing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Violence over bad road

Yesterday's incident on Kanakapura Road in South East Bangalore where a protest by residents over bad state of roads is a pointer to how things can deteriorate. People were fed up with lack of any improvement in the state of roads and angry that politicians' promises of betterment have remained just that.
Ironically, it happened on the very day Bill Gates was in the city expounding the immense potential of Information Technology, and our shameless Dharam Singh and Deve Gowda pleading with Gates for more help in improving the rural sector. (What is Singh and Gowda doing with all the help that is already coming in, not just from Gates but many others too?)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Working vs non-working parents

Yesterday I happened to watch on TV an all-woman discussion programme. I missed the initial part, but the topic seemed to be "Difficulties of Bringing up Children".
I heard one woman say: "When mothers work, the children are deprived of love. Often the father is always in the office. Imagine if the mother is also always in her office! The role the mother plays for her child is unique and she fails in that if she works. Children are definitely at a disadvantage when their mothers work...."
There was near unanimity among the 15 or so women in the group, since there was no counterargument; except from one.
This is what she said: "Even if both parents work, they can definitely find time to be with their children. Cases of fathers almost always missing from home because of work are exceptions rather than the rule. In most cases working parents are able to make some arrangement by which children are looked after well...
"... What is important is not the amount of time but the quality of time that is spent with kids. If children of working parents are cared for in the proper manner, then such kids, turn out to be far more independent, mature, and better developed in an all-round sense, than kids who are constantly propped up by parents, especially by their mothers."
This lady also countered the earlier speaker saying the role of not just the mother is unique, but that of the father too is unique. A perpetually missing father is as bad as a perpetually missing mother, she said. A very crucial point often underestimated, well stated by that woman.
Sadly the importance of what this lady said was completely lost in a very poorly compered programme, and among the majority of women who didn't seem to have a full understanding of what parenting is all about.
Let me add a couple of points. It's often considered that money is the one criterion which drives mothers in India to work. A rich man's wife would rather prefer to be at home. It could be true. But to say that, is totally unfair and insulting. Not just mothers, even fathers shouldn't just be working for money. There's a world which no amount of money can buy.
Leave aside money. Mothers work also to keep their intellect alive and occupied. A working woman is often much better acquainted with the ways of the world than a mother who doesn't know what it means to commute to office and back, and work under a Boss.
Also, working parents, who fruitfully manage their time and resources are a source of inspiration for their children.
A good set of parents are able to mutually come to an understanding on how they can divide their working and home hours among themselves and with their children. This is not some sort of Utopian situation; but I know a parents who are able to strike this magic balance quite well. And, it shows in them and their children.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Science demystified

I am back after a break. But, meanwhile, I have been reading this fascinating non-fiction: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The book was kindly lent to me by my friend: Shripriya.
The introduction to the book begins thus:
Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn't easy. I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realise.
And, he explains why I need to be congratulated.
... for you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and curiously obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialised and particular that it has never been tried before... For the next many years... these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence.
Bryson demystifies the world around us -- from our immediate surroundings at home or office, to the distant cosmos. But to enjoy the book, you need to have at least a passing interest in science.
One thing Bryson helped me discover was...
... atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting -- fleeting indeed. Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours.
This 6 and a half lakh hours, is equal to what is considered around "75 long years"!
The book has a number of interesting information about well-known scientists of yesteryear. Besides Newton and Einstein, references to names like: Michelson, Morely, Dalton, Doppler, Hubble, Rutherford, J J Thomson, Heisenberg, Mendeleyev, Kelvin etc took my memories back to school and college (B Sc Chemistry) days.
One reference to Max Planck was very touching:
Planck was often unlucky in life. His beloved first wife died early in 1909 and the younger of his two sons was killed in the First World War. He also had twin daughters whom he adored. One died giving birth. The surviving twin went on to look after the baby and fell in love with her sister's husband. They married and two years later she died in childbirth. In 1944, when Planck was 85, an Allied bomb fell on his house and he lost everything -- papers, diaries, a lifetime of accumulations. The following year his surviving son was caught in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and executed.
There are other interesting references. Newton often couldn't get up from the cot, because, after waking up, he used to be struck by a wave of ideas; and he used to just sit there weighed down by these thoughts!
John Scott, father of J B S Haldane, was famous for his absent-mindedness. Once his wife sent him upstairs to change for a dinner party. But, he failed to return. And, he was found asleep on his bed. On being woken up, he said, he found himself disrobing and assumed it was bedtime!
Truly interesting book.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A life lost without a fight

All the joy with which I returned from the 7 pm show of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Tuesday evaporated when I switched on the TV. The 10 pm news programme was nearing the end and the anchor quoted a Reuter despatch to say that the Indian worker in Afghanistan, M R Kutty, abducted on Saturday by Taliban terrorists, had been killed. The channel ran footage of Kutty's wife weeping inconsolably, hugging her child. It was an extremely disturbing sight. The rejoinder that neither the governments of India nor Afghanistan had any confirmation was no solace, for rarely have such claims been proved wrong.
And, indeed the claim was right. On Wednesday, his beheaded body was found on roadside.
In December 2002, two Indians were kidnapped. At that time the governments at the highest levels got involved, the official machinery moved much faster to establish contact with the abductors and the captives were released after 19 days. This time, nothing of that sort was in evidence. It appeared just no one was bothered. Delhi administration was too preoccupied with Bihar election.
Delhi not being bothered about one distraught family in far-away Kerala isn't so surprising, but couldn't Kerala be bothered about its native? Its government was so shamefully dormant, made no attempt to take an initiative to save Kutty. Officials were more bothered about diplomatic proprieties and niceties, saying that since Kutty worked for a central government organisation and since he was posted abroad it was the duty of the Centre to resolve the issue. So much for the value of life and work.
Kutty's death was unlike any other. He risked his life by being in the place where he was. He was there not to push any ideology. He was there to earn a living, to support his family. He was a worker, but unlike any of us, chose to serve the nation (he worked for a central government organisation) in a very dangerous place.
Yet it is a pity that his employers (the government) showed no interest in the crisis. Journalists in Delhi had to contact the Indian high commission in Kabul to get details of the worker, so much cut off and indifferent were the people at the ministry of external affairs in Delhi. India should have taken the threat seriously, given that in August two British workers had been killed. There was no attempt made to contact the abductors.
Now what is the status of other workers of the Border Roads Organisation in Afghanistan? What security do they have? How unsafe are they? Are their lives also so cheap like Kutty's and ready to be gifted away to terrorists.
Terrorism is like any other crime in our society. What makes it news is its gigantic proportion and devastating reach and impact. Terrorism has always been there, and will continue to be there in one form or the other. Even countries like the US, which have a national policy not to negotiate with terrorists, have well-structured backroom channels to deal with the menace. Recently, I read somewhere how Indian private companies, mainly IT companies, have tied up with global insurance agents, to deal with terrorists, if and when a need arises, so that their employees are never harmed.
Like in a war, you never want the enemy to get the upper hand. You don't want them to walk away victorious. Nothing should be done to give the impression that terrorism has won. Contacting terrorists doesn't mean giving into them. It's a method of engaging them.
Kutty was like a soldier on our borders. Life of workers like him is in the line of fire. Such workers are national heroes. Often their lives are lost, a sacrifice to uphold a larger good, a higher moral principle, a national interest. But what hurts greater than the loss of life is the way it was lost -- without making any attempt to hold on to it.
Kutty's life was lost without a fight.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Child missing from home

Quite ironically this had to happen a day after my previous posting on Nov 14, observed in India as Children's Day, when children are the focus of attention. My posting that day was on how elders need to radically change their ways of dealing with children.
The next day, Nov 15, at night around 9 I got a call from a friend saying her 13 year old son was missing from home. Children running away from home -- this is something that is at the back of every parent's mind, but you don't think it can happen until it does. Shocked, I just mumbled, "Did you check out everywhere...?"
Sobbing, the mother said, "I did. He is no where. Around 7.45, I had just asked him to kneel down as a punishment, since he hadn't studied what I had asked him to study. I flunked the book at him, and went to the kitchen seething in anger. After a few minutes when I returned to his room, he wasn't there. On his notebook he had scribbled: I am gone forever..."  
Since the boy is known to us, I hoped he might come to our house, or he might call up from somewhere, when he would realise that he had ventured into something that he couldn't pull off. With hope, I stayed home, rather than join their neighbours in the search. The fear was not that the boy wouldn't return before long, but what if, some criminals on seeing a vulnerable boy walking the street at night kidnaps him... It was too scary even to think... 
Around 10, a neighbour saw the boy apparently returning to the house, but on seeing the crowd, ran away. This gave everyone the hope that the boy was around the neighbourhood and hadn't gone far away.
The search continued. And, finally around 1 am the boy was found... curled up because of the intense cold, partially asleep... sitting on the floor of a nearby place of worship...
Relief all around. But it had sent shockwaves among his classmates and parents too.
A child (or for that matter anyone) would never take such a drastic step, unless he/she is under tremendous emotional stress. Obviously this boy was under lot of stress. Like many middleclass children, this boy too had lots of comforts at home. But that's not what mattered to him. It's what he missed.
The parents admitted to me that they used to beat the boy and shout at him. Their only complaint was the boy wasn't studying and was academics was on a downslide.
This is one problem that all parents face. How to keep their pre-teen and teenaged children under check. "You stop them, you are damned; you let them you are damned" -- that's situation they face. They are their wit's end not knowing how to react as highly enthusiastic, bubbly, confident, cheerful children are into everything... except studies.
The emotional trauma many children silently endure -- mainly because of lack of proper attention from their own parents -- is a reality which is not well recognised. The danger that lurks behind is enormous. If you are a parent (especially of a teenaged child), please do go through the points below. They are well-documented facts evolved by experts after intense study on modern child psychology. If you are not a parent, or you are not directly affected by this topic, please forward this to anyone you think will be interested.
1. Treat teenagers with respect. Don't insult them. Don't keep pointing out their mistakes, and never in front of others.
2. Don't compare them with other children. Each child is different and they are endowed with different abilities. Some may be slow learners, some may be fast. Some may be good at arts, some may be good at maths. Some may learn better by seeing, some may learn better by hearing. Every child has to be tackled in a unique manner, in a way that brings the best out of them.
3. Never beat pre-teen kids and teenagers. It's violent and demoralising.
4. Never nag children with commands and advices. If you think that a particular point has been made many times in the past (but not heed to) just repeat it once and leave it. Try to explain calmly without raising the voice why your child should listen to what you are saying. It works better when the kid is in the mood to listen.
5. Expose children to inspirational personalities. It works very quietly and at a subconscious level, and has a long-term impact.
6. Treat friendship with peers especially with those of opposite sex as quite normal. Never sound alarmist, though you need to keep a check, without seeming to do so. Never make fun of their boyfriends or girlfriends. What is a joke to a parent, could very well be an insult to the teenager. Be very cautious.
7. Explain matter of sex, if and when they crop up, in a matter of fact manner. Never instil the idea of "bad" or "guilt" with issues concerning sex. Tell them it is a physical activity like breathing, or an emotional feeling happiness, but they need to grow up to understand it fully. And, more importantly never say: "You won't understand" Instead assure them "You will understand as you grow up." There is enormous difference between the two.
8. Never harp too much on studies and marks. It irritates kids, and they lose whatever little interest they may have. If you see the marks dipping, try to find out why it is going down, rather than tell them: "study, study, study..." and punish them for not studying.
8. If you detect some marked deviant behaviour -- like disinterest in studies, arrogance, unruliness, lack of regard for what you are saying etc... treat it as a symptom of something wrong somewhere, rather than as a disease. Closely examine the child's activities, without making it obvious. Do an introspection and check if as a parent you aren't yourself committing a mistake somewhere.
10. Keep communication channels open with the child. Let him/her never be inhibited when interacting with parents.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Thought for Elders on Children's Day

Jawaharlal Nehru was not just the first Prime Minister of India and an erudite, socialist, Anglophile politician; but also had a great fan following among children, much like the current President Abdul Kalam. And, for that reason, his birth anniversary is celebrated in India as Children's Day.
It's a day when children are willingly let into a world where normally the writ of adults run. Thus, in schools and colleges, children swap places with teachers, they sit along side professional radio jockeys and go live on air, they hold centrestage in mock legislature and court proceedings. In short, for one single day, the elders willingly lend their ears, let the kids speak, let them be what they are, or what they want to be.
Most children have whale of a time on Children's Day. They do on other days too; until the fetters fall on their gay abandon; until they are structured subliminally to conform to societal stereotypes -- by, who else, elders. Children's Day, should have its share of heightened level of activities for them, but it's also a day for adults to ponder over their role in shaping children's future. How much of a good role model are we -- more importantly the celebrities and public personalities -- to the children?
Children are easily characterised as "tomorrow's citizens", "the future of the country", etc. But how much of time and effort are we investing in them? More often than not they are taken for granted. "O, they will grow up," is one ubiquitous adult remark about children. Of course, they will, as long as they get something to eat when they are hungry.
Children who are lucky to have the three basic needs -- to be fed, to be clothed and to be housed -- fulfilled, miss two equally important things: 1) caring for their emotional well-being, and 2) plenty of inspiration and role models.
The mind of a child in today's fast-changing world is hardly understood, most importantly by their own parents. Very few children -- blessed though they may be in all basic necessities, comforts and even luxury -- have a rocksolid foundation of good ideals and values in their very own homes. It is on this foundation, the child, when he grows up, falls upon when he is faced with crises, to draw, not just comfort, but resilience to spring back to life. Not surprising, many seemingly well-qualified elders stumble, wobble, collapse and rot away in times of crisis.
Role models, how many we have? And sadly today we have to ask, how genuine are they. For, there have been far too many instances of well-placed personalities and celebrities -- inspirational figures one day but -- stripped off their aura and plummeting to doom -- the next day. With crooks and criminals, in their original garb and also in disguise, abounding in multitudes, for a child to be inspired is a serendipitous chance.
This day belongs to adults to as much as to children. A day for the elders to stop and ponder, while kids make merry.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

K R Narayanan -- India's scholar President

Very rarely India has seen persons of scholarly pursuit occupying the office of the President. K R Narayanan -- arguably only the second person of such eminence, after S Radhakrishnan, to occupy the high constitutional position -- passed away yesterday in Delhi after battling lung and renal problems.

The Indian President is much like the Queen of England, only that in India the occupants are elected. President is the Head of the State, while the Prime Minister is the Head of the Government. The President has little executive power. Using his moral authority, he can only counsel the government, which is formed out of lawmakers who are elected directly by the people once in five years.

Funnily, the government needs the stamp of the President for almost all important decisions, even legislations approved by a majority vote. This peculiar role of the President has been many times misused by the ruling party to ram through -- mostly executive -- decisions without even giving a pretence of weightage to the wiser counsel of the President. And, this has given rise to even demands that the post be abolished.

But, the constitution has the provision for a President for very valid reasons. It's an entirely different issue that the executive hasn't often deemed fit to consider the views of the Head of the State.

It works like this. Being a democracy, in India, majority rules. For example, if the executive feels that the death penalty should be abolished, and majority of lawmakers concur with that, well then that's it. It's abolished. After such a law has been approved by the House of the People (Lok Sabha), it needs the stamp, approval of the President for it become a full-fledged law.

Thus it's one man's wisdom against a collective decision. This is a very essential check -- even in a democracy -- since what's right and wrong is also subjective and could vary. Even though 500 odd lawmakers represent a billion Indians, the crucial decision is, after all, that of 250+. And, it could very well be, if not wrong, at least not appropriate, or may need some tempering. Especially when highly political decisions are taken.

In the above example, if the public opinion is that death penalty shouldn't be abolished, and the independent media (which India is very fortunate to have) reflect this view, then the President (irrespective of whether he himself is in favour or not) has the responsibility to halt this law on its track and counsel the government to rethink on the legislation, probably modify it.

It's here the wisdom the President comes in. It's not that one man's decision is more dependable than that of 250+. What a President should actually contribute is an academic and scholarly input into a subject that is being put to a mere test of numbers. (Incidentally, in India the collective decision of elected lawmakers is also brought into scrutiny by the independent media.) And, of course finally, the voice of the majority will prevail. But the issue is: has it considered any inputs, if any, of the President.

There was a time, when the office of the President was mostly used as a tool for political expediency. It touched a nadir during the time of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister. Political parties that nominate candidates for presidential poll, have tended to pick malleable personalities rather than those with scholarly pursuits. Also, very rarely there has been healthy exchange of ideas between the legislature and the executive on side and the Head of State on the other.

Fortunately, there have been signs of change. And, Narayanan shone like a beacon. He was one intellect who made his views known, and didn't meekly surrender to majority decisions. Many times he has counselled the government on executive decisions, even -- defying tradition -- summoned ministers and bureaucrats for clarifications. He has forced the majority to stop, and ponder over their decisions. While many Presidents have been just rubber-stamps, Narayanan just did what he was supposed to do, and was often unfairly called an activist President.

The fact that Narayanan is the first President who belonged to the class of society (Dalits or untouchables) who were once -- as a matter of institutionalised social policy -- widely shunned and discriminated against is not important. Of course, he did capitalise on the constitutional provision of positive discrimination (reservation for socially marginalized people -- Narayanan was one such, because of his caste). But, that's precisely what he was supposed to do. But matters much more is the fact that his erudition and scholarship vindicated the positions of eminence he graced.

Narayanan was succeed in 2002 by an equally eminent person as the President -- Abdul Kalam, a rocket scientist, who pioneered India's space and missile technology. Again like Narayanan, Kalam also worked hard his way up. Again, like Narayanan, he has infused life and dynamism to Presidency in his own way. Kalam's term expires in 2007.

Narayanan will always be looked upon as an ideal, who refused to bow down to adversity and who blended sound intellect with purposeful social practice to make India a still better place on Earth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Natwar Shame

So, finally Natwar Singh is gone, but only partially, as India's foreign minister -- he remains as a minister without portfolio. More than a week after The Hindu broke the story about his name and that of the ruling party, the Congress, figuring in the report of Paul Volcker, who was asked by the United Nations to go into the scandal surrounding the allegations of bribery in UN's food-for-oil project for Iraq.
There is a saying to the effect that in politics the best confirmation is the denial. The more vehemently someone denies, the deeper he is in the mess. Or so that's the premise. And, ever since the news broke, Singh has been protesting his innocence louder and louder.
In politics it is often what's perceived that matters. Because, politics is more about popularity than anything else. You may not be guilty but if people perceive that you are, then you are as good as guilty. It's a price a politician pays for being in the game. We have heard of numerous scandals in India and abroad. To be fair to those whose names have figured, many of them may not been involved at all. And, there may not be any way to prove conclusively that the person was directly involved in the scandal.
Smart guys know that on such occasions it pays to take a few steps back rather than stand one's ground and scream. Since the dirt has been splashed and it has fallen on you (may be just because you happened to be around), the immediate concern should be to get out of the way so that more dirt doesn't fall on you. It's a pity that Natwar Singh, a career diplomat-turned politician, couldn't get it right but messed it up.
India's foreign minister selling oil is not the crime. He is said to have paid (indirectly through a front man) bribes to get Iraqi oil sold at international rates in contravention of the guidelines for oil-for-food programme. (UN rates for oil were much lower than the international rates.) May be he could argue that it was a political choice so that people of Iraq (who were suffering from the West's sanctions) could be benefited because of more money flowing in. The excuse of charity for committing a crime, neither sounds nor looks good, and worse, when the Foreign Minister of a country does that. Even though I have my sympathies for Iraqis, if my country's foreign minister did what is said to have done, I am ashamed.
Natwar Singh, who has a left-of-centre stand in international politics, was one of the diplomats who was roped into politics by Rajiv Gandhi. He is one person whose thoughts on international diplomacy I have been closely following, and I have been impressed by most of his views, especially on how international geopolitics must evolve post-Cold War.
How graceful it would have been if he had stepped down the very day the scandal broke. All his protestations of innocence would have had a much different meaning then. As it is said, "Power corrupts, and corrupts absolutely". How true!

Monday, November 7, 2005

Paris and Ahmedabad

As Paris burned, uncontrolled for the 10th day yesterday, my memories went back to the riots that broke out in Ahmedabad when I was there from 1990 to 96. That was a tumultuous period in the history of modern India. Though there were pathbreaking political, economic and social changes, what would be remembered most is the Babri Masjid demolition, which triggered nation-wide communal riots. 
Ahmedabad -- the commercial capital of the state where the famed apostle of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, was born -- had become a festering ground for rabid, radical, reactionary religious ideologies. To be tolerant was like being unworthy of existence; and every year there were at least half a dozen riots, big or small. For me getting curfew passes -- so that I could get to my newspaper office and back -- driving through deserted streets dotted with gun-wielding policemen, and listening to high-handedness of the administration and sufferings of people had become a routine exercise.
The way the Paris riots broke out reminded me of the way many of Ahmedabad riots broke out. Two children running frantically into a neighbourhood locality was enough to leave some 10 people dead by the end of the day. The fact that the children were probably running after a cricket ball wouldn't have been noticed. From nowhere a stone would have broken the glass panes of a house, in no time shops would have pulled down shutters, people run helter-skelter, probably some innocent stabbed, some car set afire.... another round of madness would have been let loose. 
Before police could have arrived at the spot, the incident (no one would know for sure what it actually was), ominously catalysed by rumours, would have spread to neighbouring localities and other communally sensitive areas.
Paris riots is an explosion of pent-up tension in the social fabric, similar to bouts of violence India sees. India is worse in many ways, as we have to grapple with multiple issues of complex divergence.
Such incidents are also a reminder that there's no land of absolute equality, liberty and justice. Affluence, glitter and glamour also hide an underlying strata of society, struggling for ever to establish its dignity and worth. It's just a question of where do you belong.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

How Pak prevails over US

Nearly 73,000 people died in the October 8 earthquake that hit Pak-Kashmir. But terrorism that springs from there is not just alive but retains all its ferocious potency. The Oct 29 triple blasts in Delhi and the Srinagar blast yesterday are ample proof of that. The quiet hope Indians had that the quake would have been a divine retribution has been belied, tragically.
Once when India blamed Pakistan, it used to be seen as some sort of a perverted paranoia of blame game. Post 9/11, the world is convinced about Pakistan being a crucible of terror groups, working not just against India but against the world.
When you think deeply, you can't but trace it all to Musharraf, very sweet sounding though he is. The only time you feel that the media-savvy general is really interested in dismantling the terror network is when says so. And, he has been saying so for years. Thanks to his excellent communication skills, part of the world still believes that he is genuinely trying to turn off the terror tap -- scores of attacks and hundreds of deaths notwithstanding.
The goody-goody image combines very well with a bargaining chip that the general wields quite effectively. It's the self-portrayal of him being the best guarantee against the nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. "Don't play with me too much. If you harm me, if I am gone, then the nuclear weapons will be in the hands of the terrorists," that's his implicit message to anyone who tries to tell him what to do and what not.
This has worked superbly against the US administration. That's Musharraf's victory, and a defeat for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc, which they have failed to notice. And, when the most powerful nation has been won over, what hope do the rest have?

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Diwali thoughts

The unfortunate few
It was downright depressing to see the photo in the newspapers today of a young boy with his right eye plastered. All of five years, Harshith has been operated upon for an injury he sustained while watching crackers being set off as part of Diwali celebrations. He is not alone. Some 40 cases of accidents have been reported in the last two days of revelry in Bangalore. Most of them in the age group of 10 to 20. Every city would have had similar cases.
We all had fun, setting off crackers and sparklers for Diwali. But accidents are accidents, all said and done. Brushing them off with a casual remark: "O, such things do happen" -- is not just being insensitive but cruel as well. We should learn lessons. Those accidents could definitely have been prevented, had someone been a little more careful. On such a festive occasion, those who were grievously injured didn't deserve it at all.
The noise
I don't like the loud crackers. I have never in my life burst one such myself. I have watched people setting them off. I could never make out what made them so happy. I wonder how such a piercing noise can ever be so enjoyable. Even if people enjoyed those ear-splitting bursts, I think they should have spared a thought for the little children, elders and the sick. It was an issue of moderation with a concern for others, not just the pleasure for oneself.
Spirit of Delhi
It was amazing the way people of Delhi got on to their feet after being shattered by the triple explosion on Saturday. Terrorists wanted to totally disrupt the Diwali celebrations. But the shops opened and people flocked back the very next day. By doing so, we didn't wipe off terrorism from the face of the earth. But it was a little act of resilience that would, in an incremental manner, make those acts of savagery meaningless. Scenes of diyas lit in memory of the departed had a touch of poignancy. It's not a battle that we have to win, but a larger war, that too a far too complicated one.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

2nd term blues of US Presidents

The second term of US Presidents have been controversial. Right now, George Bush is in the thick of it. Earlier, we had Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky. Then Ronald Reagan was embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal. NTY has a very interesting article on these second-term controversies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bangalore drowned

Today's rain was the worst Bangalore saw during the last many decades. The city registered a record rainfall of 52.5 cm up to 2 pm today for October surpassing the five-decade old high of 52.2 cm as several layouts, including posh ones, in southern parts of the city where several IT firms are located, were marooned.

Rain was one factor. But we can't ignore the contribution of lack of quality roads and drains. Most of the flooding was not because of the rain, but because of blocked drains and overflowing of ill-maintained lakes. We are not lacking in ideas. We have world-class technocrats (but not politicians, who play a crucial role in a democracy like India). But sadly, at times of crises like today's, we find that ideas have remained just that.

Heavy rain and flooding of cities is not new to Bangalore or India. Every city in the world faces the problem. But I am sure in an advanced society, people won't be cribbing about bad politicians and poor basic amenities, like we do here. The US and Europe faces heavy flooding every year, but the governments there fail-safe institutionalised disaster-management systems. When it fails like it did in New Orleans it becomes world news. New Orleans is not the norm, it was an exception. But here right from prediction of bad weather to getting down to doing something about it is pathetic, and worse, it is the norm.

Our weakest link is the delivery mechanism at the implementation stage. There is an acute lack of commitment and accountability, compounded by high-level of corruption. We have debates about debates. Bangalore really needs to be shaken up, and people have to get to their jobs on hand.

Friday, October 21, 2005

World Press Freedom Index 2005

It is tragic that Guardian's Iraq reporter Rory Carrol was abducted (and later released after 32 hours in a darkened room with handcuffs) around the same time Reporters Without Borders released the World Press Freedom Index 2005. Hats off to journalists, like Rory, who work under very dangerous conditions especially braving the threats of the state machinery.

The report says "North Korea once again comes bottom of the index. It is closely followed in the 167-country list by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), which are other “black holes” for news where the privately-owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist.

"At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established.

"Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources."

India is ranked 106 -- very surprising. The probable reason: news on radio is still under complete government control. The FM which was unshackled from government control just a few years back, still have no right to broadcast news.

This may look very strange when there are so many 24 hour private TV news channels. But government knows radio has a far greater reach than TV. Private radio news channels, when allowed, have every chance of becoming very popular in a country like India, which is not only politically vibrant but also has high levels of current awareness. It is easier to open a radio station than a TV station, and probably the government is fighting shy of a scenario where villages too will slip out of government's propoganda radar, like cities already have.

Except during the period of Emergency (1975 to 77) media in India has not come under any government control. The media, barring radio, even now is not at all under any government control as far as content goes. Probably the survey has taken into account the government control and licensing that is restricting the growth of the media.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Saddam on trial

Saddam Hussein's trial has begun in Baghdad, and quite obviously he has pleaded not guilty.

There are no two opinions as to how cruel Saddam was. He selfishly squandered the resources of his country, totally disregarding his people's welfare. Nemesis has caught up with him.

But that's not the end of the story. The US is still very much in the picture, and their credentials vis-a-vis Saddam are unfortunately not above board.

Saddam must be tried by a sovereign Iraq, an Iraq that has evolved democratically to have an independent judiciary. But when will that happen? Will the US be patient for that? It will be sad if Saddam is summarily tried and executed in no time. No one will gain anything out of it, except perhaps Bush's ego getting a boost.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lenin to meet Putin in Kerala's Moscow!

On October 22, Putin will wait for Gorbachev and Stalin at the railway station in Changanassery, a small town in south Kerala, to take a rickety old village bus all the way to Moscow. Krushchev wants to join them with Svetlana but only if friend Brezhnev manages to get confirmed rail tickets for all of them. These are all real people with real names. The will head for second meeting of Malayalis with Russian names at Moscow, near Changanassery in Kerala. A interesting news item by my friend Rajeev PI in Indian Express.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Kashmir quake, a week after

It's a week since the earthquake shattered Kashmir -- the Pak-controlled part taking brunt of it. As this article in Slate "One earthquake, two countries" says: "... natural disasters are also always political. In the case of the South Asian earthquake, it took only a day or two for the disaster to lay bare the political fault lines of the troubled region. Now, as the death toll balloons toward 30,000, and rescuers struggle to get tents and blankets and high-energy biscuits to victims in remote areas, politicians in Delhi, Islamabad, and Washington pick at their own sores."

The temblor also showed so tragically what a waste it is to spend millions a day to maintain this border -- that too a farcical one, for what is seen in the map is not what is on the ground! Indian soldiers cross over the Line of Control (that is the border on the ground, not on the map!) unarmed and help the Pakistani soldiers.

Good. But, such efforts too should also have a ludicrous element attached to it -- someone says Indian troops also helped rebuild Pak bunkers! I wonder who could have made that claim -- it can't be a Pakistani (how can he admit that he let the enemy come in to build his bunker), nor it can be an Indian (how can he admit that he went across to the enemy to build his bunker).

Tragedies can be a catalyst to thawing of frosty relations. But nothing of that is evident here.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Kashmirs united

There is a theory which says Nature wreaks havoc with an intent. Debatable. But if that is so, then yesterday's earthquake seemed to say a lot. It hit the divided Kashmir, and perhaps one way of uniting people. What a way to tell the bickering politicians: if you can't get the people together, I know how to! And how tragically. The toll is more than 18,000. 

Friday, October 7, 2005

One hell of a ride and...

Yesterday night was a day when my scooter (or I?) was in love with Bangalore's famous potholes. I could sense an inexplicable force of bonding between the ubiquitous craters and the wheels of my scooter...
so much so that I cruised through most of them on my way home. I am okay. Till now. But what about my scooter.... I dread going back to the mechanic. You will know why, if you read my previous posting.
After that cruise by night through Bangalore's landmarks, I was so relieved to reach my home. But when I stretched my hand to switch off the scooter, my heart almost stopped. I felt like sinking.
The key is missing. There is no key on my scooter. It is lost. Where's it? Without it how did I start this? It was there, but where is it now? Gone. Where? Fallen down? How? So rough was the ride it must have come off and fallen somewhere on the road. Gosh! How do I switch this damn thing off? What all keys I had in that ring. Break all those locks now? If someone gets that key, he will steal my scooter, break into everything that I had locked up. I knew this will happen when I pushed one key after the other into that same ring. I can't even search for it now. My brother-in-law had said if I have to put so many keys into that same ring, make sure it is well secured, like hook it to the handle of the scooter or something. He was so right. Everything is gone. What the hell do I do now?
I was still on the scooter. Not knowing what to do, with my hand on my chin, staring down into that spot where the ring of keys should have been, cursing myself and trying to find a way out this mess.
Suddenly I saw something next to my right foot. There it is. I couldn't believe this. The key had come off, fallen, and it was just there (on the floor of the vehicle) and didn't slide down to the ground from the scooter? What luck this is? I thanked the Almighty, and everyone who have been kind and generous!!! What a way to remind me, to be grateful. One key in a ring of many keys.... lost... and found.
One thing is sure, my next trip to the mechanic. I will prefer that any day to losing the keys.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Your time vs Their time

Three days back, 11 am:
I give my scooter for -- not servicing but -- carrying out a few checks. The mechanic agrees and tells me that I can come back the same evening. But I tell him, since I won't be able to come out of office, I will come the next morning. He says fine, and says I needn't even call up.

Two days back, 11 am:
Even though the mechanic told me that I could just walk in and pick up my scooter, I think I should call up. I am told that the scooter will be ready only in the evening. Once again I tell them that I will be able to pick up the scooter only the next morning.

One day back, 11 am:
I call up the service centre. A very apologetic voice tells me that since there is a shortage of mechanics, they will be able to deliver the scooter only in the evening. Since I can very well understand what shortage of staff means, I tell them to keep it ready and that I will pick it up the next morning.

The current day, 11 am:
After three days of waiting, I am quite hopeful that the scooter is ready, and in a tone of eager anticipation, I pose the rhetoric question: Hope I can come and pick up the scooter. But the receptionist (or whoever) is double apologetic, tells me that a little more remains to completed and that the scooter will definitely be ready by evening. I tell her that the scooter was given three days back. But she says that the staff position is very bad and pleads with me to bear with them. Once again she tell me that I can pick it up in the evening.

By now I have run out of my huge reserve of patience. Instead of waiting for the evening or the next morning, I rush to the service centre. I have known this mechanic for some three to four years. So, it is with more disappointment rather than anger that I confront him. He trots out excuses, which are all very obvious lies.

"Sir when do you have to go to office?"

In the afternoon. "Sir, just wait for half an hour. Please be seated. We are really sorry sir."

I tell him I have to call on a friend nearby. So, I will be back in half an hour or 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes I am back. He tells me to wait. I wait and wait and wait. Another hour goes by. In between I keep expressing my impatience, disappointment, resentment, frustration... Finally the scooter appears.

"Sir, everything is fine. But I couldn't change the shock absorber."

But that was one of the main problems. "Sir we need to get that from outside since the shock absorber for your scooter is of a different kind. Sir, many of my mechanics are not well, some have gone to their home town. Sir, I am going through a really bad time.... Sir, just bring the vehicle tomorrow. I will do it in half an hour...

If he can't do this in three days, how will he do it in half an hour the next day? He has only apologies and assurances.

The lessons I learnt:

How this mechanic could deliver the scooter in three hours flat (after I landed up there) when he couldn't do that in three full days was an all-time educative experience. They say "share your knowledge with others". So here I go:

Lesson 1:
Everyone (other than you) has all of sorts problems and limitations. If they can't stick to their word, keep their promises, and deliver you what's due, then it's your problem, not theirs.

Lesson 2:
Your one minute = 'n' minutes for others. There is no way of figuring out this equation. There is something wrong with you, if you find that 'n' is less than one minute. Rarely you will find that 'n' is equal to one and most often it will be more than one. Behavioural patterns have defied logic and wisdom. We learn from experience the value of 'n'. Modern management gurus call it "experiential learning".

Lesson 3:
It's never enough to know just what you mean. Also learn to understand what others mean. When they say today, it is tomorrow. If they say two days, they actually mean four days. If they say this week, they mean next week.

Lesson 4:
You must have heard spiritual and management gurus saying: Never wait for others to act, you must always make the first move. Be proactive. How true they are! Remind others about their work. If not they think you are ignoring them. Since all people, except you, have lots problems, they can't remember what has been promised to you. Without making it so obvious, bug them, pester them. But don't harass them, because your aim is to get the best out of them.

Lesson 5:
Never lose cool. Going by the "law of diminishing returns" it makes no sense: you lose energy and don't gain anything. Just understand that this is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be. If you have any doubts, check Newton's First Law, the law of inertia.