Saturday, November 23, 2019

Why this Kolaveri Di?

"A developed country is not where the poor have cars, but where the rich people take public transport."

Cognizant of the fact that this quote has its origins in a statement made by the Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, an upper middle-class economy, I picked this up from one of the local newspaper articles during my visit to Singapore a few years back. It somehow got stuck in my memory. And now, when I have just spent some time in Hong Kong, my ruminations are humming - "Why this Kolaveri Di?" Incidentally, this song was released and became famous around the time I was frequently traveling to Trinidad & Tobago, more of Trinidad & Tobago, more of a high income developing country, but at the same time contributing equally to this train of thoughts.

No, it is not only about rich people using public transport. It is about the whole attitude. The attitude of behaving oneself on the road. The emotion of being responsible, being disciplined. It is about respecting the coexistence of other human beings around you when you are on the road. It is about courtesy. Not that there are no traffic violations in developed or high income developing countries. It is about the frequency with which you observe such things on the road, and end up making comparisons. Comparisons become more pertinent in case of places like Hong Kong because you experience the same number of heads around, similar population density, similar narrow streets, lack of space to walk, people in a hurry ... so many similarities, but far better when it comes to the experience on the streets. For the sake of this post, let's not bring in the incomparables like the per capita income, literacy, negligible number of two-wheelers and so on.

Overtaking from wrong side, sneaking in after taking the other side of the lane to overtake, obstructing the free-left lane when you want to go straight and unnecessary honking are so common-place in our homeland that your hands itch to take control of the vehicle when the cab-driver in other countries does not do-the-obvious. Icing-on-the-cake are the instances below where your stomach really grumbles, the head shouts out aloud and asks you to get down from the car to whack the offender mercilessly, and make you a proud member of the road-rage-bully club.
    First and foremost are the Ambulance-Obstructionists. These are the nincompoops who do not turn and see which direction is the sound of the siren coming from, who can not care to check whether they are in the ambulance's way and who do not try to figure out if they can do anything to make way for the ambulance. They are ensconced in their own little world, with the ear plugs helping them to remain cut off from such worldly pursuits. A blessing in disguise for them are the traffic cops who will not bother about doing anything to expedite the movement of the poor soul, who, perhaps fighting for life, is still wondering why the ambulance has not taken a wrong side of the road to reach the destination faster. And the entire drama becomes more ridiculous when a select group of good citizens start honking in an unsuccessful attempt to attract the traffic cop's attention and coax him to act, and end up getting stared at because they have disturbed somebody's reverie. Salt on the wound is when you see the same breed shamelessly taking advantage of the ambulance's trail once it has somehow made its way.
      Then come the Snakes-and-Escorts. These are those two-wheeler riders, and some times the big brothers, who, at a traffic signal, find it insulting to stop for it to turn green. Wherever they see some space, or scope of maneuver, they will squeeze in, slithering in a serpentine motion, putting the rear view mirrors and bumpers of the good boys at risk, gifting a scratch here and awarding a dent there, triumphantly making their way through the patient morons, to see the black-and-white flag to be waived at the end of the race. These snakes have close country cousins in the escorts, who, hunting in pairs or groups, go too close to and on both sides of a patiently moving four-wheeler, just to ensure their prey is not targeted by anyone else. You'd feel tears flow down your eyes, the tongue itching to tell them not to give you so much respect, and keep it reserved only for those squadrons you see flying in the skies during the Republic Day parade. Their friendliness becomes all the more profound when the lane width is slightly more than that of the bigger beast they are escorting, and they take it upon themselves to save us from the representatives of our next category, the Right-of-Way Atheists.

      There is a fraternity of non-believers who have utter disrespect for the concept of right-of-way. They only believe in Darwin's Theory. Be it the nonchalant interrupter from the side lane who joins the big lane traffic without waiting for as much as the way given by the other motorists, or our friend coming out of the apartment joining the street traffic straight away without bothering that is is creating chaos. These atheists indeed have a religion with a single motto - Drive to deprive. This reminds me of an  observation in Trinidad and Tobago, where the vehicle getting a shoo in used to blow the horn almost in a silent acknowledgement, just about sufficient to let the other person know about it. Back home, the horn, much louder and longer in duration, is usually blown by the big lane guy, in utter frustration, because the jolly good fellow was just caught by surprise at the audacity of the intruder. However, not every time is the intruder at fault. Think about times when you wait endlessly on the side lanes, seeking permission to join in, and are not allowed because the bully has the right-of-way!

      Last but not the least are the Thankless-Opportunists. These are the champions of shamefulness, and for a change not exactly on the wheels. These are the people who are not obstructed, who are in fact given the right-of-way by certain souls of a fast diminishing breed called Patient-and-Courteous-Drivers. In absence of this breed, it will take the opportunists an eternity to cross the road, or join the traffic, or merge. Thanklessness comes from the fact that there is no acknowledgement to the permission that has been given, risking incessant honks from the innumerable nincompoops behind, some times risking the inflow of some flowery language. A smile helps, but it is more of a smirk, making fun of the courtesy. What is outrageous is the key-chain or the sharp nails, hopefully unknowingly, making their way on the bonnet, or for that matter the far end of the hand craft, kissing your tail light, as if giving you a certificate of appreciation. To top it all, sitting right there at the pinnacle, are the pedestrians, who chose to cross the road, red signal or green, seemingly oblivious of the traffic as if it is the motorists' problem to avoid hitting them, thereby leaving the foot-over-bridge, just a few meters away, questioning its existence.

      And when you experience all this on your way back from a full day in office, kolaveri is inevitable. Isn't it?

      Saturday, May 18, 2019

      Of tolerance and inclusion

      A book I was recently reading made a reference to the following lines said my Swami Vivekanand in his famous Chicago speech around 125 years ago ...

      I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

      I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

      Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”

      The more I think about these lines, the more I feel disappointed with where we have wandered. Has the trigger for these thoughts seen any change in last 125 years? Has the society evolved beyond the "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism" or is still clutching these tightly, ever closer to the heart? Have we lost more advancement because of their continued existence?

      Saturday, May 11, 2019

      Respect the invisible labels

      Received this as one of the forwards ...

      "A car ahead was moving like a turtle and not giving me way in spite of my continuous honking! I was on the brink of losing my cool when I noticed the small ticker on the car's rear - "Physically challenged; please be patient."

      And that changed everything! I immediately went calm and slowed down. In fact, I got a little protective of the car and the driver. I reached work a few minutes late, but it was OK.

      And then it stuck me. Would I have been patient if there was no sticker? Why do we need a sticker to be patient with people? Will we be more patient and kind with others if people had labels pasted on their foreheads? Labels like - "Lost my job", "Fighting cancer", "Going through a bad divorce", "Suffering emotional abuse", and more like these.

      Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. The least we can do is be patient and kind. Let us respect the invisible labels."

      And the ruminations started, reminding me of an acquaintance. While everything else was going fine ... exchange of messages, going for dinner together, husband behaving in the same old bohemian self, wife behaving like the same old submissive self. However, we gradually observed that the lady started behaving weird ... limited communication, no customary messages and a long list of never-before's. The one-sided no-communication gradually turned into a cold war. A lot of insinuations and guess work followed. And one fine day we came to know the couple is on the verge of splitting. We were blind to this label.

      A perfect example of you noticing a set of labels which were completely over-shadowing the real labels. When and how do we find out which are the real labels?

      For those blessed souls who do not have any of these labels, or not a big one but a few small ones, what does it take to realize the essence of what is said above? While everybody thinks of his / her label as bigger than that of the other person, who gets to decide which label is the biggest? Isn't it best to give everyone else a benefit of doubt, and move on?

      Sunday, December 30, 2018

      No attitude tops gratitude

      The year that was new not that long back is going to be old soon. Too very fast this one was ... clichéd, but yes, it just flew. A lot happened through the year though ... memories (so many of them), family time (or lack of it), holidays (too few of those), business travel (too much of it), career progression (never ending chase), house warming (too hot to handle), house shifting (phew), school change (bigger phew), long drives (can do better), new friendships (and new lessons), prioritization (a lot of it), re-prioritization (a bigger lot of it) - the year had it all. At the end of it all, what mattered is a set of realizations ...

      ... that ultimately what matters is your family, friends and dear ones ... those who really care for you ... the experiences that you would cherish ... those little (and large) adjustments you make

      ... that there is no end to any of this ... there will always be more money to be earned, more promotions to yearn for, more material pleasures, more of everything - you can never have enough

      ... and finally, that no attitude tops gratitude ... be thankful for everything that you have, and perhaps for so many things that you don't have ... you know not what those missing possessions entail

      Sunday, May 7, 2017

      History, mystery and chemistry

      An interesting chemistry, is made by history and mystery
      Happy are those, who constructively "react" to this chemistry

      Success and prosperity are the by products of this reaction
      Acceptance of this helps unravel the marvels, and gets you satisfaction

      Many mysteries of present day actions, can be fathomed instantly
      If the catalysts of past life's chemistry are studied oh-so intently

      Mommy dear always tells, that when in conflict, look at the other's perspective
      Tunnel vision doesn't help, trick is to be inclusive and interactive

      Two perspectives may be completely opposite, each valid in different ways
      Depends on the context and the history, and the game life plays

      It is the experiences in one's life, that define one's behavior
      Patience shown towards one's own is always a relationship savior

      Equal contribution is not necessary to make relations successful
      Don't 2 H's react with just 1 O to make H2O, that is so useful?

      It may not be because the single O needs more to get satisfied
      Just that the H's have the intent to give more to get tied

      So is the case with certain relationships, someone gives more, and someone less
      For the betterment of everyone around, why not do more to impress?

      If investment in a certain relationship, is the only expectation of someone you love
      Being steady and compromising in it, is an elixir and a direction to the treasure trove

      If the true intent is for a relationship to work,
      Come rain, water or sunshine, pick carefully when to smirk

      Relationships inert to this phenomenon, would fail to sizzle
      Newton's third law of motion is not, in every situation, ideal

      While practicality makes perfect catalyst in general equations
      Emotions do play a bigger role, in certain critical relations

      If you can't acknowledge someone's trials and tribulations
      You will have a limited capability to evaluate his life's realizations

      For, you laugh at someone's history, and ridicule the resultant chemistry
      Reaction becoming explosive, would no longer remain a mystery