17 December 2012

How the Indian press reports the death of 6 soldiers in the Siachen Glacier

Six soldiers are dead and one is missing in the Siachen Glacier. A lonely death in the highest battlefield of the world.
Unfortunately they do not find place in the Indian newspapers' front pages. On its front page, The Times of India today (17Dec2012) reports the death of a businessman while attempting to board a train. May his soul rest in peace. The death of the valorous finds a terse mention deep inside the pages of  TOI. May the valiants' souls rest in peace.
Do we really care for our soldiers? Do we even know what they are going through during their lonely vigil in the Siachen Glacier.
What a shame this is.

15 May 2012

25 years hence celebrating today's youth

The following blog in HBR will set most of us thinking:


Here are some statistics from the Indian Government's census report:

(a) Those in the age bracket of 25-44 years are 27.6 percent of the Indian population. The absolute number is 284008819.

(b) Those in the age bracket of 45-64 years are 13.5 percent of the Indian population. The absolute number is 139166661.

Here in India - as elsewhere - we celebrate youth. The Indian population profile is young and energetic and is raring to go.

But think of 25 years hence. Folks part of that magic figure of 284 million (28.4 crores) will turn 50 plus. There will be many a gray among their shiny black. Currently, the middle-aged 13.5 percent are struggling to keep their jobs or get new jobs. And the struggle gets tougher with each passing day. Every company wants young hands and nimble feet. No one wants a 45 plus. What will happen to the 284 million, 25 years hence? (I don't talk in percentages because percentages will change given the projected population growth of 2.1%) Think of the old in Greece who barely existing now. Their savings have eroded and their pensions do not even cover minimum wages. Our current young population could well end up like the elderly Greeks of today. Unless...

Unless we build enough structures where 50 plus can work and prosper. We have to create structures that enable 50 plus people to work in an enabling, creative and constructive environment. Structures have to be built where they are of use to the society. Structures where the 50 plus is a genuine contributor and not a burden or is considered deadwood.

Just as the young are citizens of the world, the middle aged and the old too deserve a right to livelihood and a life of dignity.

Unfortunately, getting old is a one way ticket and this journey happens to everyone. We all eventually reach there. In fact, there is enough research to suggest that those born after 2000 have a good chance to survive 100 years on this earth. It's better that we recognise this truth and start giving space to the current middle aged and the old. That way, once we reach there, there will be others who will give us space.

04 May 2012

Mocking the male gender

Today there were two separate articles in the press / TV channel where the male gender has been needlessly needled. Both the TV channel and the e-paper have immense reputation and prestige.
I was wondering whether this is a coincidence or whether the mocking of the male species is becoming more and more virulent. By all indications the latter seems to be nearer the truth.
This really is gender discrimination in reverse.

Here are the snippets from the articles:

The following thumbnail came up in today's (04 May 2012) BBC's e-edition:

Do Indian or British male players look like this? Decide for yourself.

The following is the title of an article in New York Times e-paper.

Man hole lid theft is on the rise

This is absurd. Who would want to steal a man's innerwear? This is really the limit of insinuation and innuendo

Here is the link to that article:

Man hole Lid Theft Is On the Rise


10 April 2012

Heed the cry of the teacher

The unfortunate death of young teachers in Chennai and Sonepat got lukewarm response in the electronic and the print media. Understandable. In today's context teachers are expendable commodity and they cannot garner TRPs for the electronic media. We saw anchors getting reactions from self-styled psychologists and Principals. I didn't hear the voice of any ordinary teacher in all the TV programmes that I saw.
The psychologists, as expected, pontificated how we need to change our mindset, how we should be more sensitive towards a high school goer's emotinal needs. The Principals told us how the students, the teachers and the parents are all stakeholders in the fight against violence in school. In other words we need to boil the oceans to save a few good teachers.
I saw not a tear shed for the families of the unfortunate teachers.
Can we start with little things, though?
1. Make it mandatory for schools to insure teachers against intimidation, coercion and bodily harm. We must make sure that the teachers do not have to pay for this insurance.
2. Security arrangements during exam time, correction time and results declaration time.
3. A responsive helpline for teachers.
4. Make parents also accountable for any intimidation or bodily harm done to the teacher by the students.

Are we aware how intimidated a teacher feels when she walks into a class of 12th standard? Each one of the students tower over her by at least one to two feet. It is no use saying that a teacher should be able to control and bring discipline into the students. Teachers are teachers and not drill sergeants. Days of such homilies and platitudes are gone. They went out of the window when we started adopting the Western way of teaching. The gun culture of the Western schools are all before us and yet we want to emulate such soulless culture. We reap what we sow. Smartboard type of education will only produce googlesque students. Who was Mahatma Gandhi? Let's google and find out in our ipads.

The 4 points that I wrote above are immediate steps. The other steps are about dignity for the teacher:
1. A minimum standard of work station in classrooms and staff rooms for the teachers. Although most teachers today are women, we know that most schools do not even have toilets for female teachers. Today it is fashionable to remove tables and chairs meant for teachers from classrooms. Our great educationists will tell us that somehow a teacher teaches better if she keeps standing throughout her 8 hours in school.
2. Medical benefits for teachers. We know that most teachers are women. All medical cover for pregnancies must be borne by the school.
3. The management of the school must be made accountable for any mishap or untoward happening in the school. The management are the people who make the mega bucks but the wrath of the parents and students are faced only by defenceless teachers.
4. Teachers' children must be given free education in the school that he/she teaches. This should not be left to the whims and fancies of the school management.
5. The hours a teacher spends doing corrections/marking test papers outside of school must be compensated. Somehow we feel that a teacher does not deserve any free time while at home.

Heed the cry of the teacher before it is too late. Heed the cry before we have many 5 Star air conditioned schools but no teachers. Just for fun find out how many of us want to become teachers of our own volition. No one wants to become a teacher yet we want great teachers in our schools. Respect teachers only then will you find great and good teachers. A teacher by the name Dr Radhakrishnan became the Indian President. When will the time come when we have a Prime Minister who was an ex school teacher?

13 March 2012

Rear view mirror

You were fast receding,
Slipping out from my view
I tried to slow down
To keep you in my rear view mirror
But the drivers behind me
Were driving me crazy
With their honking,
And Coercion:
Step on it Or 
Exit the fast lane, they said
I stepped on it
But kept looking
At the rear view mirror
Trying to straddle two worlds:
One ahead of the windshield
The other that tiny speck
In the rear view mirror.
But you had already vanished
From the scene
And I looked ahead
No longer irresolute.

01 February 2012

The Bullet Stops Here

Unlike the buck, you cannot pass the bullet.
If you are a hard rock
At best you can ricochet the bullet off you.
Somewhere it will land
Among your brethren
Albeit with lesser ferocity
But it will still hurt.
If you are not a hard rock
And if you are a naive soul without helmet or kevlar
And only in olive greens
You will take it in like the cold high altitude rations
And paint your olive greens red.
Let it therefore be written on the wall behind my chief's chair
It matters not what day I was born,
For the bullet stops here.

23 January 2012

The Matter of Honour

Not my intention to spread vitriol and venom through this blog. But an article in the Bangalore Mirror today really got my goat.
We have been hearing about the Indian Army Chief's age saga and along with that we have been hearing various interpretations of honour (in the Indian Army, if you will). Today the connotation of honour fell to its nadir. The writer said that honour is a funny word. The poor guys out there in the frontline must be getting tickled to death by the funny word honour. Are they missing the humour in the word honour?
I know, I know. Our learned friends will tell us that saying honour is a funny word is only a manner of speaking. To them I'd say let's change that manner then, for most in the frontline don't understand this nuance of language.
There are more funny words in the dictionary than honour: piles for example is one.
Piles is what armchair journalists eventually get.
The writer talks about Samuel Johnson's definition of honour in his 1775 dictionary. He tells us how carefully Samuel weighed the meaning of honour before putting it down in writing. Much before Samuel wrote his definition of honour, Shakespeare told us all about honourable men. Brutus was one, others could well be armchair journalists.

22 January 2012

Phool versus fool

Other day, with an eye on a good afterlife, as I was sipping lime and soda, and others, without caring much about afterlife, were sipping soda and wine, Jassi told us about a nuance in the Hindi language. He said to us there is no such sound as ph in Hindi; it is pph instead. Impressed with his knowledge on phonemes, we asked him to give us an example.
This was his sage reply: It is not phool in Hindi, it is pphool instead.
Not satisfied with his example I asked him this dumb question: Here is a Ghalib's sublime couplet:

Umar bhar Ghalib yahi bhool karta raha
dhool chehre pe thi aur aina saaf karta raha...

(I did not know the meaning of this couplet so Arun helped us understand:

All my life I (Ghalib) kept repeating the same error,
Dirt was on my face and I kept dusting the mirror....)

So, was Ghalib 'Dhool ka phool'? Or was he 'Dhool ka pphool'? Or was he 'Dhool ka fool'?

Jassi did not reply but gave me an enigmatic smile-of the type 'Lord forgive him for he knows not what he says'.

After returning to NTP (Normal Temperature and Pressure) the following morning, having being full of spirits the previous evening, Jassi said to me: What a ridiculous question to ask!

18 January 2012

Don't tell me that a medal only counts if it is posthumous.

Don't tell me that a medal only counts
If it is posthumous.
Do not tell me that an injury counts
Only if you step on a mine or stop a bullet
For there are far more scars that I have inherited
There are far more injuries that I have taken in
Just going about doing my mundane job.
I stared out from my sentry post
And I have cried in the whiteout,
in my snow blindness,
into the howling, chilling winds.
And no one heard.
I cried into my stale khichhdi
I could not make out my tears
From the incessant rain that dripped into my khichhdi
from my porous raincape
As I opened a road for a convoy to pass.
Day in and day out,
from 1 AM to the following evening
Just stale khichhdi and a lurking IED for company.
Just going about my mundane job.
My injuries are in my mind, of my mind.
The injuries have made crevices within me
when I went into wars I didn't understand.
I am not as clever as you.
I cannot ratioanlise.
I do not understand this thing about a greater good.
But believe me I inherited unseen injuries
Going about doing my mundane job.
I am not posthumous and I am alive.
And I believe the medal that you pinned on my chest
For just being there, does count.

09 January 2012

The Sodexo imbroglio: One more reason why we should not allow FDI into retail

Sodexo coupons, to the extent of Rs 1300/- per month, are wholly tax deductible under the present income tax laws of India. One presents the coupons in the retail stores and gets food items of one’s choice in exchange.
Starting 01Jan2012, Spencer and Foodworld (and other retail stores) have refused to honour the Sodexo coupons. Their argument is that the accounting and administration of the Sodexo coupons is eating into their profit margins. With very thin margins they are forced to take this step.
The champions of FDI in retail have been shouting from the rooftops that the investment in huge mega stores will hugely benefit the consumer, will increase her choices. I think investment into FDI retail is nothing about consumers and it is all about profits. If a small measure like offering Sodexo coupons upsets their applecart I wonder how arrogantly they will dictate terms to consumers when the kirana shops (or mom and pop stores, if you will) disappear from the scene. I have no doubt that they will be totally impervious to the concern of the consumers. As always, the Walmarts of the world will be driven only by profits.
Let us throw this bogey of consumer happiness owing to mega retail store outside the window.


I have wondered the logic of giving exemption of income tax in exchange of Sodexo coupons. Why would we want to do that? Why not give across the board exemption to the extent of Rs 15,600/- (12 X1300) per annum to all salaried persons? Think about it. If your company does not offer you Sodexo coupons in exchange of an equal amount in salary you do not get the income tax exemption. On the other hand everyone does need to buy food items, doesn’t one? So why should folks working in companies that offer Sodexo coupons get unfairly benefited? Also, why should a company pay service charge and service tax on a wholly avoidable and contrived service (Supply of Sodexo coupons in this case)? In the whole process only companies like Sodexo  (and partly the government) get benefited.

I say totally do away with Sodexo coupons and instead give across the board similar income tax exemption to all employees.

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