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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