Thursday, September 26, 2019


Image courtesy: Cliparts Zone
I am quite absent-minded. More often than not, I forget something -- keys, pen, wallet, or specs -- when I leave my house; and I have to invariably go back in to get it.

I have also applied the shaving cream on the toothbrush, only to sense a strange burning taste of the 'toothpaste'!

The biggest fear I have while travelling is whether I have boarded the wrong bus or the wrong train, even though I have boarded it only after seeing the display board.

In the case of flights, the biggest reassurance that I am at the right boarding gate and entering the right aircraft are display boards, the announcements, and the multiple checks by the airline and security staff.

There have been two occasions, once while travelling by bus and another while travelling by metro train, when my absent-mindedness played havoc.

INDORE, 1989

The first one happened long ago, 30 years ago, when I got a new job and moved from Bhopal to Indore. I was a bachelor then, and all my belongings could be packed in three boxes.

As I boarded the Bhopal-Indore bus, the boxes were kept in the luggage compartment at the rear of the vehicle.

When ​the bus reached Indore, I alighted at a stop near my house, which was two stops before the Indore bus terminus, the final destination of the bus.

I moved to the rear of the bus, picked up my luggage, and headed home in an autorickshaw.

Within a couple of minutes, I realised that out of the three boxes, I had taken only two of them. And the bus had already moved.

My first thoughts were as to what was in that box. It had all the important documents, like the original certificates of my school and college examinations, and also my two-in-one radio-cum-cassette recorder.

I immediately told the autorickshaw driver to go to the bus terminus, since I had forgotten to take one of my bags from the bus. He was a very nice man, and he said not to worry.

My concern was whether, by the time I reached the bus terminus, the bus would be there, or it would have moved elsewhere. Also whether someone would have walked away with my box.

When I reached the terminus, I saw that the bus was right there, and some pieces of luggage were still being taken out of the compartment.

I told the autorickshaw driver to wait for a while, while my eyes roamed all over the place looking for my box. I was so relieved to see it was indeed there as if waiting for me to pick it up.

I told the conductor that I had forgotten the box when I had got out of the bus at the earlier stop. He told me that he had kept the box aside because there was no claimant for it.

I was extremely happy and relieved that I got it back.


​There was another similar incident. This was five years ago at the New Delhi Airport Metro Station. I had gone to Delhi to witness the Republic Day parade: the first time I was going to witness the colourful ceremonial celebration of the anniversary of India becoming a republic on January 26, 1950. 

I reached Delhi by flight from Bengaluru. After exiting the airport, I took a shuttle bus to the airport metro station.

After clearing the security check, I reached the platform and kept my suitcase and the backpack on the platform as I waited for the train.

When the metro arrived, I took my baggage and boarded. About 5 minutes later, I got a strange feeling that something was amiss.

I realised that I had taken only the suitcase, and had left the backpack on the platform. The only expensive item in it was the laptop. But that was valuable enough. The other things were my shoes, socks and toiletries.

The other passengers understood my predicament and asked me what had happened. They suggested that I alight at the next station and contact customer care.

Meanwhile, since the train was running underground, the mobile signal was feeble and I had trouble calling my friend, who would have been waiting for me at the destination station. Somehow, I managed to call him, tell him what had happened and that I would be delayed.

I got down at the next station and went to the customer care section, where an executive asked me the colour of the backpack and some identification marks.

They checked with their counterparts at the airport metro station, who said nothing had been brought to their notice. I began to give up hope, thinking it would have been picked up by someone.

I was ready to resume my journey to my friend's house and gave my mobile number to the customer care executive telling him to give me a call if ever they got the bag back.

Just when I was about to leave the station, ​​the executive received a call from the airport metro station saying that they had indeed found a black backpack abandoned on the platform.

I was relieved but my fear was that quite probably the laptop would have been taken away by someone leaving just the bag behind. Hoping against hope, I took a train back to the airport metro station.

As I walked towards the area on the platform where I had left the bag, I was happy to see that it was exactly at the same spot where I had left it.

But what surprised me was that there was a group of policemen holding some appliances and equipment with them, near the backpack.

It didn't take long for me to realise that the next day was the Republic Day parade (a very high-security event in the nation's capital), and that explained why the policemen, probably with bomb-detecting devices, had checked my backpack.

Just when I reached there, the policemen took the bag and asked me if I was the owner. I said I was, and sheepishly I told them that in a hurry, I had left the bag behind.

They asked me to follow them and took me to a room, which looked like a place where they kept all the lost and found items.

The policemen emptied all the contents of the bag and thoroughly examined them. After convincing themselves that there wasn't anything dangerous in it, told me to enter my name, address and mobile number in a register. I then put everything back in.

One of the policemen also told me to be calm and not to be stressed. He said people forget things because they are stressed out and that their brain doesn't work properly.

I thanked them all, for everything, including that gem of advice; and once again began my journey from the Delhi Airport Metro Station to my friend's house.

My friend told me, no one will ever pick up anything that is left unattended, especially if it's in crowded places like a railway station. Instead, they would alert the police. So, you will always get back what you forgot and left behind.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Breaking free of mindset

Image courtesy: Clipart zone
Our lives follow a routine largely determined by mindset, is it not? Not quite sure if "habit" is a synonym, but mindset is a set of beliefs or thoughts that guide the way behave. A pattern that has become habitual.

We have preconceived notions not only about ourselves but also about different people, objects, places, issues, events etc around us. These notions decide how we react to them. Owing to our mindset, we behave in a predictable or stereotypical manner.

Since I work late, up to around 1 am, I wake up only by 8 or sometimes even 9. And I found it extremely difficult to go out for a walk or a jog or do some exercises after 9 am because for me, 9 am was sort of an "outer limit". After 9 am means it was "too late". The result was I began to miss my workouts on many days.

I realised that this 9 am fixation is largely an issue of my mindset. Why not go out for a walk or a jog, even if it's past 9 am?

So I went against my mindset, and irrespective of what time I woke up, I decided to go out for a short workout. I shifted the goal post, as it were, and I made myself free till about 11 am before I freshen up and get into some reading or writing or some such stuff.

It's working! And working well!

There are plenty of other examples in our daily lives. If need be, for a good cause, we must be flexible enough to change our mindset, make a course correction, and follow a different path. It might work, it might not. We can always improve upon it.

It's all in the mind, after all.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Kudos, Isro scientists!

Fifteen minutes of anxiety-filled moments late last night.

Those were the 15 moments when scientists of Isro, the Indian Space Research Organisation, would make complex manoeuvres from their earth station in Bengaluru to guide Vikram, the unmanned, robotic lander, into making a soft landing on the south pole of the moon around 1.50 am -- a feat no one had achieved so far.

Three of my colleagues and I were glued to the live transmission.

1.35 am. Vikram began its descend and the scientists were reducing the speed progressively, in order to enable the soft landing of Vikram, the lander, on the moon.

Close to 1.50 am, everything seemed to be going perfectly well, just about a couple of minutes or so for the touchdown. Fingers crossed.


But then as moments passed, the cheerful faces of scientists in the mission control room seemed to be filled with anxiety. There was silence, and an announcement came on the air that we were awaiting further updates.

We saw the chairman of Isro K Sivan walking up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who was at the tracking station in Bengaluru to witness the event). Moments later Modi got up and left the room after telling Sivam something and patting him on the back.

We got to hear that the communication from the lander had snapped. Many feared that either the lander had crashlanded because the speed of the descent couldn't be reduced to the required level or Vikram had landed but we hadn't got to know about it since the communication was off. 

Around 2.15 am, Sivan made an official announcement that the communication got snapped when the lander was 2.1 km from the surface of the moon and all the data are being analysed.

No one had yet said that the lander had crashed. But that was what it looked like.


Nevertheless, this was a mission that nearly succeeded. Only three nations -- the US, Russia and China -- have so far managed to land an unmanned craft on the moon. And that too after many failed attempts. The success rate of such efforts has been just around 40%.

No nation had landed a craft on the south pole, an area where scientists believe has minerals and water.

Yet, the fact that Indian scientists made this attempt and managed to get the lander as close to the moon as 2.1 km is indeed a great achievement.

The entire capsule called Chandrayaan 2 -- orbiter, the lander and the rover -- was launched on July 22.  On August 14, it left the Earth's orbit, and it entered the moon's orbit on August 20.

Meanwhile, the orbiter is still going around the moon and the payloads on it are working well.


The Prime Minister was all praise for the scientists when he returned to the command centre this morning and spoke to them for nearly half an hour. "This was an experiment, and we make progress with experiments. We are with you," he said.

We will know in the coming days as to what exactly happened and why the lander couldn't make the soft landing as planned.

To say that failure is the stepping stone to success sounds a bit cliched. But that's a fact. No one has ever succeeded in doing, especially very complex tasks, without a few failures. And space is a complex and challenging area. Everything is remotely controlled.

Space explorations and the success of the scientific community the world over is what has given us many comforts -- from modern communication technologies to our ability to understand the climate patterns, helping us understand our earth better.