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Archive for the ‘Delhi diary’ Category

I heard this on the air today in an FM channel. The news item struck for its shock value. These days sports shops seem to be doing a brisk business in selling hockey sticks. While you might conjure in your mind about a revival of the game of hockey, on probe by the sports shop owner it was discovered that 70% of buyers don’t play or would be playing hockey in the future… they intend keeping the hockey stick in their car. With road rage cases already touching alarming figures in Delhi, such unregulated sale of hockey sticks would only exacerbate the already grim scenario that prevail in the Capital …

Of late my son has been taking a tuition on Mathematics from Jain Sir in our neighborhood. One fine day, my wife and I decided to meet the gentleman to inquire about our son’s progress …
Mr. Jain is wheel-chair bound. He is popular among the kids who take tuition from him. He loves kids immensely and advised us from rebuking and being too critical of our child. He recommended a monthly meeting with us for updates …
He has a doting wife who efficiently runs the household with a smile on her face. In his younger days, Mr. Jain grew up like a normal child doing all activities that a child is usually associated with without any difficulty. However, when he was in his twenties, doctor informed him about a rare medical condition that he was afflicted with and predicted that he would be wheel-chair bound in a couple of years. It happened exactly the way the physician had forecasted.
Since then more than two decades have elapsed. Mr. Jain didn’t let adversity pull him down. He started tutoring kids and have built a formidable reputation for himself. I didn’t detect any streak of negativity in him. Not once did he complain about how hard life must have been for him all these years. His close knit extended family of brothers and sisters visit him regularly.
I was reminded of the Tapan Sinha directed Bengali film WHEEL CHAIR based on a true story about a wheel chair bound doctor (played by veteran actor Soumitro Chattopadhyay) who fought relentlessly to bring joy in the lives of his poor patients and building and maintaining a nursing home for their recovery.
Kudos to such brave-hearts of setting inspiring examples of how to take life’s challenges unwaveringly …






Sainik Colony Progressive Group (SCPG) organizes an event in our colony on every Republic day. This year, too, they had lined up a long list of activities AND items to instill some degree of pride in one’s nation and to create fellow feelings among the residents of the colony.
Patriotic songs were played, flautists and drummers also showed their skills. A highlight was the QUIZ session in which questions were thrown to an open house. This was truly informative as the questions asked tested our essential knowledge about our republic. “Who was the first Param Veer Chakra awardee?” (Captain Somnath Sharma), “At which place is our currency printed?” (Nasik), “How many fundamental duties are mentioned for a citizen in our constitution?” (11), “How many volumes comprises our Indian constitution?” (24), “Who is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha? (Vice President) were some of the questions posed and the ones who answered correctly were duly rewarded.
There were other events too – Musical chair for the ladies, and normal and lemon races for different age groups. My son earned a bronze medal in the race in the (10-12) age group.
A small girl in Indian tri color swayed to the beats of the popular Bollywood song “Chitiya kaliya be …”. Prizes were given out with appreciative words and finally everyone went home with a food packet (sweets and snacks) in hand. All in all an earnest effort by members of SCPG.

The restriction to be imposed on vehicles plying on Delhi roads is
welcome. Alarming situations demand strict enforcement of harsh
measures. But I feel the odd-even number ban is not going to yield
much results. The affluent who travel alone in their cars and clog
the Delhi roads usually have multiple cars at their disposal and
this would hardly put a stop in their contribution towards
greenhouse gases. While the hoi-polloi who travel in shared cabs and
chartered buses would be greatly inconvenienced. The Govt. should
instead put a bar on minimum number of persons to be seated in a
vehicle to be eligible to ply on the roads, and encourage public transport through extension of metro, greater number of buses and auto rickshaws…

Get Hit

Spray it all around


The danger lurks

In every corner

Children are susceptible

Like the rest

Pre-emption is a missing word

In the dictionary

Each year

Delhi and its neighborhood

Becomes the breeding ground

Allows playing

To sting during the day

As figures soar

The Politicians play the blame game

While touts make a killing

Of Papaya leaves and goats milk

The writing is on the wall

The National Capital manifest the symptoms

And its consequential effects

Unfailing since last few years

Haven’t succeeded

To keep the menace at bay

And hapless citizens

Suffer the nightmare silently

A few among them wouldn’t live

To see the next sunrise …

The other day one of my wife’s close friend quizzed her – “So, which cars do you guys have these days?” I find such questions to be insensitive, as cruel as asking someone how much money he makes in his job. Increasingly, people are jettisoning such old age niceties and have no qualms about asking even a stranger “So, what’s your salary, Mister?” Some of my non ambitious traits when it comes to possessing gizmos and materialistic stuff seemed to have rubbed off on my spouse as well and she told her friend that she was happy with the small car that we owned and have no intention of going for an upgrade just immediately….

Ironies are however a fact of life. Our child loves these mean machines on the road, the very ones that are spewing toxicity in the air making Delhi (we live close by) the MOST POLLUTED CITY IN THE WORLD. The air in the National Capital Region is unsafe for children and adults alike, and recent scientific studies are harping on the fact that being exposed to such airborne pollutants for a decade can cause irreversible damages to body organs like lungs and kidneys. The  other day I read in TIMES OF INDIA that the Delhi correspondent of the New York Times have decided to permanently shift base from our National capital after a three year sojourn because his child is increasingly manifesting symptoms of ailments that has grave consequences. 

Such issues don’t bother our political leaders. They’re more fixated on their legal wrangling as to who should call the shots when governance of the Capital is concerned – whether it’s through the elected AAP or the Lieutenant Governor (a nominee of the Centre) and their bickering fill up pages in the dailies and the media.

On a positive note, The Govt. recently has woken up to the need of public health safety and we witnessed a massive crackdown on Nestle’s Maggi which was found to contain dangerous levels of lead in it. This spring hope that though it is late, The Govt. might yet take strong steps to ameliorate the air in the Capital – restrict the sale of vehicles beyond an acceptable number, enforce stringent fuel emission norms, promote eco-friendly cars etcetera.

I have been living for about a decade now in the NCR. Auto Expos are a regular feature here and the one in Greater Noida last year created almost a stampede like situation and many people were disappointed being denied entry into the exhibition arena owing to over crowding. Such is the craze for cars in these parts… one of the favorite topics of discussion almost always veer around cars. Most of them are really up-to-date when it comes to make, cost, efficiency and other technical details relating to new cars that are populating the roads of Delhi at a frightening pace. On last count, Delhi had in excess of 86 lac vehicles on its road. What possibly is not being realized is that they’re opening a death trap for their offspring and GenNext …

I too am faced with a big challenge. My eleven year old son can rattle off names like Lamborghini and Chevrolet and have the prices of Mercedes and Jaguars, & Skodas and Audis and their numerous models at his fingertips, which if you were to ask me would definitely elicit a blank. The excitement that overtakes him when he spots a Jaguar on the road (he informs me it costs 99 lacs, is that true?) would outshine the joy of a devotee on finding his/her Supreme. How do I kill that excitement of my child whose only ambition in life is to become an Automobile engineer, and design better versions (whatever that means) of Porches and Lamborghinis some day?   




We had decided on the visit a few days back. The recent passage of my father into the unknown had left a tremendous void in our lives. We decided to strike off a few things this year. Like we didn’t celebrate our child’s birthday – though still quite a child, he showed remarkable maturity and didn’t exhibit any displeasure at the cancellation. I can feel that he had received one of the biggest blows of his life when he saw his beloved Grandpa pass off before his own eyes. They shared such a deep bonding…

My wife and I decided that, in the memory of my departed father and her parents, we would visit an old-age Home, and contribute in a small way within our means. We found out about one such place, a cosy nook carefully tucked away in the villages, not too far off from our Faridabad home. In fact, a colleague of my wife, Mr. Sandeep, often visits the place with his family, and he offered to take us there. We made the visit recently on a National holiday which also coincided with the Pujas, a time when the world was in a celebratory mood.  We were in mourning for a year and could have nothing to do with the Pujas, so to say. And yet there was this yearning to make it more meaningful without treading on customs and traditions…..There was after all no embargo on prayers, and we thought, here was our chance to reach out to those for whom not too many people cared.

We—and by that I mean—the two families reached Anadi Seva Prakalp, a nondescript building hidden among bricks and construction material. There was some renovation work going on.  The Manager was out of town, and one Mr. Naresh was filling in for him. He was friendly and warm, suggesting we take a tour of the goushala that houses a dozen cows. It supplies milk to the various sectors and probably generates some income. The Home had a rustic charm what with a large courtyard at the entrance and some creepers and plants at the fringes. The elderly were happy to see us, though there was a sense of resignation in their eyes. They were living on other’s largess, a fact which made them grateful for they had, after all, a shelter to call their own —or at least a home away from home. But it had also dealt a blow to their dignity, as they talked, at first hesitantly, and later with emotion, about neglect—of their families and kins who had chosen to look the other way– of a world that was uncaring and unkind.

Mr. Sandeep started chatting with one of the inmates. He was a man who had moved in just 4-5 days back, and was clearly the most sensitive of the lot, the emotions still raw. He had lost his wife and children in incidents untold; he was now alone—literally so, forced to fend for himself, as his surviving brothers and kin made him feel like an outsider in their midst. They were all doing well for themselves and many lived in our colony, but the man unfortunately had nowhere to go. He lamented about the erosion of human values, and that he was unwilling to lower his dignity for the sake of ‘two rotis,’ which is all that he needed to sustain himself.

I was thinking of taking some pictures, but my wife shot down the idea. She said that it would be an intrusion into their privacy. Besides, they were not exhibits to be displayed to the rest of the world.  And I agreed…

The Anadi Vridh Seva Sadan is a CSR initiative of Engineers India Ltd., a well known Engineering consultancy firm operating out of New Delhi. My mother got chatty with an elderly Bengali lady, who had been living there for the past year and a half, along with her dependent daughter. She informed us that a few of her relatives, like her brother and his family, were living in Faridabad. She told us that living in the Seva Sadan was free for the inmates – she was otherwise very happy except that she missed the Bengali meals at times.

Though we met just three or four of the inmates this time around, there were around 20 -25 who lived there. There were suggestions of going upstairs and looking at the room of the inmates, but we felt that too would be crossing the lines of decency on our first visit out there.

We also met a lady of Burmese origin who was living there with her husband. She told us the family moved to India during World War II.  She was engaged in cleaning and sweeping the place. She has a brother who lived in Shillong and we struck an instant chord when we told her that Shillong was also the place where we belong.

Then there was Mr. Shamlal, who has been living there for the past four years. He had been working for many years in a factory in Faridabad, and when his work life ended, he moved in at the Home. He has been a bachelor all his life with no ‘baggage’ of the past, not even surviving relations. When asked, he said that he watched TV programs in the evenings – mostly spiritual stuff, like the serials of ‘Mahadev’ etc., but once in a while, he also took in a movie and quite enjoyed watching Amitabh Bachchan on the screen…a fact he divulged with school boyish charm.

Soon, it was time to go, and we said our goodbyes, not sure if we could commit a date when we would be back.  BY the time we boarded our cars, we saw they had come out and were standing at the gates….They were not our friends or even our family, and yet, within a span of a couple of hours or not even that—our lives had become intertwined, like as though they were close, a bond that had developed, because we seemed to be their link–to the world outside, a world they had lost and left behind….We made up our minds to visit them all over again, and make up in some small measure, for the apathy that had become symptomatic of the world at large.


A few months back, I was posed a query by my son who was then studying in class III in a well known school in NCR. He showed me a notice from his school which said that from Class IV students will have to take a third language paper. There were five languages to choose from – French, Russian, Sanskrit, and Japanese & German. The student had to choose one among the given choices of languages.

As a Bengali living in the National Capital Region, the first two languages for my son obviously is English & Hindi. Neither is his mother tongue. And now he will have to grapple with a third (foreign) language in his own country. Across the world, educationist opines that a child learns the best in his/her mother tongue. But strangely I find that we’re digging the graves for our own languages.

When I discussed this issue with my brother-in-law, he narrated me an inspiring incident. He told me recently he met a Punjabi gentleman in a New Delhi shop reading a book in Bengali. On further probing, the Punjabi gentleman, who was the owner of the shop, revealed that during his youth he had read Devdas in Hindi. He was so impressed by the novels of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay that he wanted to learn Bengali and read the novel in the original language.  After his retirement, he took Bengali lessons for six months, and can read Bengali novels on his own now. In fact, quite a lot of his spare time is spent devouring Bengali classics.

Frankly, I have nothing against the foreign languages, one of which my son would eventually have to take up (Sanskrit didn’t appeal because it is difficult to get coaching), but I don’t see any logic in burdening a Class IV student with an alien language. I think it would have been easier for such young minds to learn Indian languages like Punjabi or Gujrati, Malayalam or Assamese, in case mother language can’t be taught owing to adequate number of students opting for, or the unavailability of language teachers. As for the famed languages like French, Russian or Japanese, such languages can be taught at graduate level professional courses such as Management, Engineering or Medicine in keeping with the requirements arising out of a need to integrate working environments globally…   

“Good Night, Ma’am.”

The greetings come unfailingly from him whenever someone alights from his car during the evenings, and they change as per the timings of the day. I really like it the courtesies that he maintains with everyone who avails of his services. For fate didn’t allow him to complete his schooling, which I was to discover one day when he opened up before me, and told me that the passing away of his father put the responsibility on him to start earning for the family.

His day starts early. After the essentials, he leaves home to pick up the passengers who commute by his vehicle to their workplaces. He reaches my home around 7 in the morning, after travelling a distance of about 20 kms from his home. The others are picked up from diverse points in quick succession.

During the period of acquaintance, I have found him to be perfect about timings, a trait I find sorely missing from most of my countrymen, even among the educated lot. Usually we all reach our places of work by 9 am. Thereafter, he does sundry jobs during the day, and in the evenings picks us up, and leaves us at our homes. He usually reaches his home around 9 in the evening, sometimes a little earlier and on other occasions a little late, in keeping with the unpredictable traffic on the roads of the Capital.

“I bought this EECO with a bank loan. I pay EMI regularly, and in about a year and a half, when my entire EMI will be paid, I will be slightly less burdened financially and able to provide better for my family,” he told me once.

I have been availing off his services for more than a year now. During this phase, he has truly lessened my hurdle of regular big commute, and allowed me to do some reading during the journey and appreciate nature and surroundings in its full glory.

He has to face a lot of hardship on a daily basis. Cops on the road are ever eager to fine for flouting even the slightest rule. He often relays his personal extortion incident to his fellow cabbie colleagues on the same routes so that they escape the long arms of the police.

Of late, his car has been giving quite a few problems, and he had to shell out a good amount to repair the glitches. I was really taken aback with his reply when I was pointing him about the expenses he had to bear recently. Said he “For over a year, I had to spend nothing for the cab, which kept me earning smoothly, helping me with my sustenance. I do not mind spending a few bucks to get it in order. After all, I make my living through it.” I felt the kinship was quite similar with the vehicle driver protagonist of the Subodh Ghosh story AJANTRIK for his ramshackle vehicle, and which was made into a fine film by Ritwik Ghatak, the difference being his car is relatively in a good condition.

He is a father of two small boys, the elder about five years old and the younger just a few months. He says that his sons often doesn’t get to see him during the week – he sets off early from home before they rise from their sleep, and returns after they had fallen asleep in the evenings. Only on Sundays do they get to spend time with him, and he often indulges his kids.

His business seems to be growing. He is getting requests from more and more faculties to ferry them to their workplaces. He is contemplating to buy a 15 seat second hand vehicle to cope with the surging demands. Does he plan to sell off the vehicle which he cares for so lovingly, or would he be able to arrange a loan for the purchase? I don’t know …

What I do know is that he has ambition and drive, struggling on a daily basis and working presently towards his dream for a better life….


I usually return home between 7 pm and 8pm in the evening. On quite a few occasions, I met Mr. Srivastava on the way back, who usually gives me a lift in his car. We have a small conversation on such meetings. Mr. Srivastava is my neighbor, and works as an executive in M Auto at their Manesar plant.

The M Auto Plant in Gurgaon was in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. On one occasion, I asked Mr. Srivastava “So what really happened on that fateful day? How is the situation at work nowadays?”

The agitating workers beat up an Executive badly after he had shouted at one of them. These workers, who had been on strike for quite some time, seeking regularization and better wages really went wild on that day, and even thrashed a Japanese executive badly. As a consequence, the Management had shut down the plant.”

“Quite a few arrests have been made and the suspects have been put behind bars. Things are gradually returning to normal, but the plant hasn’t re-opened as yet. A lot of the local political bigwigs are trying to help find a solution, and request the Management to re-start their operations in Gurgaon. The Manesar plant is fully functional though.”

A couple of months had passed since that meeting. The M Plant wasn’t much in the news during the period. One evening, I was returning home in a cab. The driver said “Sir, I will put you in a different cab tomorrow. I have to go to the funeral of one of my relatives who passed away today.”

In a chatty mood, I began asking him the details, and he had this to say “My sister’s mother-in-law has passed away. She died due to a shock. Her son has been in jail for the past two months, and she loved him dearly. She couldn’t bear the injustice that has befallen on her son.”

I asked “why do you call this an injustice?”

“Jija-ji (Brother-in-law) has been working in M Plant for the past five years. When he was offered the job, he was on a probationary period of three years. After that, the employers had promised that they would regularize his services. But they went back on their words. There are many others like my Jija-ji. They are made to work for meager salaries, without any service benefits. Even the strike which they resorted to was quite peaceful, till a particular Executive behaved very badly on a particular day, and all latent anger of the workers came to the fore, and hell broke loose. I went in search of Jija-ji that evening. Police had already taken him. I sighted a young Japanese Executive who was badly beaten up lying there, and it was truly frightening.”
strike 2
When I reached home that day, I felt bad for the violence and loss of lives that had taken place in the aftermath of the incident, and wondered whether the power of dialogue between stakeholders couldn’t have avoided such things happening at workplaces.   

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  • Subhajit Ghosh: Have been reading that he had 'left' leanings in some articles recently..
  • mystic wanderer: Well put. It's difficult to imagine the sacrifices of our freedom fighters. But can Netaji Subhash Ch. Bose be called a leftist? Nationalist perhaps
  • Subhajit Ghosh: Your wish has been granted, and look how! Even NDA possibly didn't dream of this huge victory. Let's hope they deliver, and take the nation forward.