Posted in world cup FIFA 2022 doha

Crowd Management & India.

Last weekend of mine was kinda out-of-the-world with the live concert of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sunidhi Chouhan here in Doha. The venue was Lusail stadium, the largest one where the World cup FIFA 2022 is to be held this November-December. So that was a double dhamaka again for me: to look up the grand stadium closeup and to listen to my favourite musical sensations. Needless to say, the event drew thousands and thousands of excited fans, 80% of who were naturally Indians and the rest were perhaps a mix of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Nepalis. It looked the entire subcontinent had turned up at Lusail for the show. The evening saw us taking the metro that was unusually overcrowded for that time of the day. Lusail is closed to vehicular traffic because of the ensuing world cup football matches, so metro became obvious choice with everyone. Right in the metro station I could see the crowds thronging and without saying I knew everyone was headed only in one direction: Lusail. For the first time, in my life I watched and attended an event so huge, huge, mammoth in my living memory in Qatar that saw thousands of residents queue up and gather at a single site. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But I thought I must get used to the idea. This was a sample. More is yet to come with the world cup commending on November 19th. From the metro, we walked to the stadium in Lusail where there were already lines roped off. The entry to the stadium was through different gates from the nearest vantage point as per your seat number. We had started at least two hours earlier from home. We joined a circuitous queue that took us through security protocols and FIFA event app/ticket checking before we were let into the stadium. Omg, what an architectural marvel is the stadium. I clicked (as expected!) numerous pix and selfies both in and outside the stadium and shot some videos of the musical nite as well. The Bollywood music was befitting gala opening to be organized in the stadium where the screens went up perhaps for the first time. I have never been to a football stadium before and I was more interested about the lightings, the seatings, the rows of seats, the walking corridors, the roof (that was partially open, to be closed fully in event of weather change like rain in a moment’s notice). I could see the hundreds and hundreds of fans in beeline reaching their assigned seats. There was a light snack available in the corridor. The musical was a grand success. Once the screens came down, we were back on our way to the metro station on foot. While we had walked almost 2 km to get into the stadium, we walked over 4 km to reach the metro after the concert got over by 10 pm. It took us one hour or more to wind through the maze of queues and reach the metro rail finally. The crowds had swelled the long and endless lines seemed but kept moving forward all the while in an orderly fashion. But I was really impressed by the way things were handled by Qatar. I am used to crowds in India. But here in this part of the world, this kind of gathering of crowds is something unheard of and unseen. The discipline of the masses bowled me over. And the organization and the methodology were simply impressive. Foolproof security and ID checks at various levels initially had gone very neat. I liked the way the crowds were allowed in batches to the metro station after the show to avoid stampedes. After all, we have just had a stampeding tragedy news coming in from South Korea. Whether it came to security checks or crowd management or the metro rail efficiency, Qatar proved the best in my opinion. I am giving the state the credit because I know, they are new to this unlike us in India. It takes enormous and skilled manpower, patience, meticulous planning, training, dryruns and diligence to manage this so well and keep things flowing smoothly. The execution part is vital. The evening proved that the little peninsula nation is so well run and capable. I became very proud of Qatar where I enjoy residency status. It was a moving experience for me. But why should I be surprised. I have seen how the country fared during the gulf crises a few years back. Overnight the milk and the groceries ran out in the supermarkets but the government imported 4000 jersey cows from Australia in matter of days and started the dairy farm right away in the middle of the desert, milking the cattle in aircon environments. In no time, the groceries and provisions reached the tiny country by sea and none of us ever suffered or lacked for anything. I have to make mention that, the difference in costs was NEVER PASSED ON to us residents. This is such a dear and sensitive thing to do, you know: not passing on the extra burden to the public most of who were expats. For that one gesture I shall remain eternally grateful to Qatar. We continued to live safely and securely the normal life and we never footed extra penny. Through the crisis, there was never a loose canon shot by way of careless talks by officials concerned as they stoically maintained the fragile peace which was their motive. Those in power remained extremely responsible. Hats off Qatar. There is a lesson here for all of us. I do lose my cool so easily and I take out my ire on all and sundry if I have to! Its that easy to provoke me and each trigger sends me trailing further backward. That tight self control and wisdom we saw in Qatar was rare and precious. That maturity is rare. Qatar proved to me once again at Lusail why this tiny dot of nation is respected worldwide and is doing so very well. The unprecedented or perhaps expected crowds were handled professionally without the history or advantage of experience, late that evening by the volunteers who deserve a pat on their backs.

Those like Saudi are used to hosting nations and millions of visitors for Haj like events.

To those who are not well informed on crowd management, even India is a great lesson. In every mandir/temple we have queues. Hindu temple festivals draw crowds in hundreds of thousands. In Tirumala Tirupathi, everyday darshan headcount could be anywhere between 60000 to 120000 devotees. So I am used to chugging it out in serpentine queues for hours. Every single Hindu pilgrimage place round the year records millions of footfalls. After all India hosts Kumbhamela, the largest congregation of human race on planet Earth every 12 years from very ancient times. Even the pandemic did not prove to be a dampener to the Kumbh attendees from across the world. To close the festival eventfree, without the scourge of an epidemic and without or bare minimal casualty is a tremendous feat. Kumbh is not a single day event. It goes on for 12 days. I have always thought that crowd management in India needs applause. Unlike the systematic crowd management that I witnessed in Doha last week, India’s masses cannot be controlled so easily. Our masses are semi literate or totally illiterate which makes matters worse. It takes a lot of voluntary discipline to make any rallying event a grand success in my country. There is the official presence and security network no doubt – by way of para military and police forces apart from health facilities and travel arrangements and lodgings, yet the mammoth crowd managements that is so regular in India is unseen in any other part of the world. Kumbh is on for millennia – from time immemorial.

There are ways to control crowds within limited spaces which is why we have ‘paid darshan’ in temples. Okay, it may not be exactly ethical but sometimes screenings such as these are absolutely necessary to filter masses and regulate crowds. Mob violence is very easy to spark in a nation as diverse and volatile and socially sensitive like India. I felt better to notice that a similar crowd management is practised in the Vatican to regulate crowds with charges introduced at every stage including to the tour of the cupola. The methods devised may always not be desirable but the results are worth sharing.

I did mingle in the crowds at the Disneyland in Florida in the US.

Crowd management is an important lesson in governance. Mostly the third world countries are good at it in my opinion! May be this has got to do with the masses having the practice of queuing up for rations and awaiting their turn with patience! Whatever. In case of India, the queueing, the waiting, the stalling is happening for years, centuries now. Unless there is this inbuilt discipline in the masses, this is just not realizable. Remember the crowds in our trains and buses. The mobs in our festivities. Through all that chaos, something still seems to be working!

When a flight lands, we Indians always would want to disembark first, throwing patience and discipline to wind. Whereas you can see those from the first world nations rooted to their seats waiting for the rest of the air passengers to ease out. I always would wonder why should we Indians be so impatient. But the airplane is a very negligent sample really that cannot be projected on a huge population of one billion plus on a vast subcontinent like ours. I would rather, the inflight psychology is kind of standard deviation or variation to our general crowd management statistical history. Which is why stampedes are more common in more civilized parts of the world than ours. A little more numbers, these foreigners start feeling claustrophobic losing their mind. It doesn’t take much for them to panic and start the pandemonium ending in a typical disaster. Its almost as if such a tragedy would be waiting to strike.

Of the wide range of immunities we Indians develop, survival in crowds is priceless. We are so used to bodies pressed to bodies, sweating, with our hot breaths on each other’s nostrils that not even the pandemic could ravage us the way it did across the globe. We were warned of a catastrophe but we got out lightly barring for a few episodes during the second wave which took a terrible among the world countries.

Posted in Political

A Hindu Rashtra Where Every Citizen Is Equal

World can do with a single Hindu nation, no doubt. After all there are dozens of Islamic and Christian nations and even a Jewish one. There are Buddhist countries. It is of course sad that Nepal which was the only Hindu realm in the world has gone communist. India, where the world’s most ancient faith – the one and only unorganized religion the universe has ever had – has every right to proclaim Herself a Hindu Rashtra. India is the cradle of human civilization. Hindu dharma was born here and began flourishing right in our soil. Hindus are not warriors by race and have no significant history of invading others or enforcing their culture by sword as it has happened with the Abrahamic fold. India will be doing the world a favour by promoting soft power that is Hindu philosophy. We are not seeking a Hindu nation in Africa or America or Australia or Arabia or Europe. We are seeking a Hindu nation right here in India that we did not even seek during 1947 partition.

With strict enforcement of certain fundamentals of course, India can be Hindu desh by constitution. NO SPECIAL RIGHTS OR PRIVILEGES TO HINDUS ON BASIS OF BIRTH OR CONVERSION. EVERY INDIAN CITIZEN MUST BE ON EQUAL FOOTING BE HIM/HER A HINDU OR CHRISTIAN OR SIKH OR MUSLIM. The soul of India is eternally Hindu, no doubt about that. Even so, there are some disturbing posts in social media such as this one:

However I wouldn’t go by the vote count. After all, this is just limited to the world of Twitterati. Like exit polls that hardly predict exact election results, this post can be nothing more than the standard deviation, the variation we inevitably sample from a whole lot. Hopefully. This is a dangerous trend. It makes me wonder whether even aspiring for a Hindu rashtra is dangerous business. I guess it is unfair to expect India to stay neutral and secular when our minorities will stay opposed to family planning citing religious reasons, will refuse to come under the umbrella of one single common statute for all Indians irrespective of faith, etc. So when you expect to be governed as per your faith, it gives rest of Indians a sense of insecurity. Widespread missionary activity sponsored by foreign church and propagated by local evangelists is another reason why Hindus want to go for a constitutionally Hindu nation. In which case I would still want every Indian citizen to enjoy equal fundamental rights.

FREEWILL CANNOT BE THE PREROGATIVE OF ONLY THE SECULAR AND DEMOCRATIC STATES. FREEWILL MUST PREVAIL UNIVERSAL INCLUDING AND ESPECIALLY IN THE ISLAMIC BLOCK WHERE CONVERSION MAFIA MUST BE GRANTED A LICENCE TO PREACH AND PROPAGATE OTHERS WAYS OF LIFE. UNLESS AND UNTIL THAT CAN HAPPEN, THERE IS NO POINT IN SERMONIZING ON EQUALITY AND UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. India and America and Europe allow and practise such a freewill. When reciprocation is denied, expect the curtailment of freewill in some pockets. Why cannot there be a Hindu banking in Pakistan or Saudi for instance if we have to have Islamic banking in India.

As a Hindu nation,

  • India can deem christian conversion mafia illegal and punishable by law.
  • Enforce strict family planning for muslims
  • Maintain Hindu majority 80: 20 versus others/non-Hindus. India’s democracy is dependent on India’s demography. Now that is the golden rule.
  • Remove the word ‘secular’ from our constitution in the first place. It was after all inserted by ex PM Indira Gandhi in 1976
  • Stringent action against any Hindu who may provoke/assault non Hindus safeguarding minority rights and restoring in them a sense of security.
  • No special concession for Hindus. All citizens to enjoy equal fundamental rights.
  • Unfavourable support to Hindus will prove to be counter productive. It will dilute our quality and promote mediocrity and substandard. If Hindus have to survive, we have to cultivate a competitive spirit. The moment you eye concessions, your edge is gone. Meritorious must win. Even in our neighbouring country sometimes they let the best brains to prevail irrespective of their religious orientation.

Some of us have our children living in foreign countries. I wouldn’t rule a backlash!

Secular democracies are like joint bank accounts from who anyone and everyone can draw out indiscriminately. India is a classic case. But Islamic nations are private accounts and fixed deposits that none can touch. Tell me then why we must have joint accounts in that case. Why can’t the Hindu account become a fixed deposit, recurring deposit, private account locked for years, with zero withdrawal option! Just a thought to illustrate, what is expected unfairly of secular nations like India.

India can continue to remain a secular democracy when all Islamic nations in the world also constitutionally become secular democracies with their royalties suspended. Now that is fair game.

Posted in Political

India can do without those damaging loose cannon shots

When our Indian politicians and bureaucrats decide to shoot their big mouths off target, nobody can shut their nonsense and filth up. So damaging were the recent off-the-mark remarks that have sparked a fury in the Middle-east undermining India-GCC bonhomie that took years or perhaps decades to foster. So much so that our late external minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj could quote from Sanskrit at the OPEC meet where Pakistan was kept at bay. Foundation stone for Hindu temples in the Emirates were laid by ruling Arabs. Just imagine the clout India has been enjoying in the epicenter of Islamic fraternity. Millions of Indian citizens are gainfully employed in the gulf nations repatriating valuable foreign exchange over years. Indians own business enterprises, Indians run hospitals to supermarkets. Indians are successful entrepreneurs. Indians are doctors and engineers to shopkeepers and teachers. Indians are SAP professionals. Indians are bankers. Indian community is far better placed among the whole lot of expats – some 100+ nationalities, who constitute the workforce in various capacities in GCC countries. Indians enjoy unparalleled prestige and respect in the Arab world that took years and Himalayan efforts to earn. And a majority of Indians making a living in Islamic nations are HINDUS. India’s traumatic history has left some scars no doubt but we are now invested in mutually beneficial economic and productive activities in the Middle East, that has offset many a bad memory kept alive only thanks to our textbooks. In today’s context especially when world economy is sluggish and employers are cutting corners giving pink slip to long serving staff without batting their eyelids, GCC nations are doing a great job employing not just Indians but blue and white collar workers of every race, hue and faith without a discrimination.

We expat Indian Hindus feel safest and securest living in Arab countries over living in crime-ridden India. We are respected, treated fair and well provided with. We enjoy world class medical and other amenities for FREE. The Arab governments take good care of us. For most of us NRIs, it is the inevitability of returning to India for good someday that seems like a nightmare.

Exactly what is the contribution to Indian economy from the Silicon valley NRIs in the US. From the Patels of hotel chains. It is always the expats employed in Arab countries who fill India’s coffers with foreign currencies and gold bullion. It is the NRIs from middle east who drive the stock markets and real estates up with their substantial investments. Who is buying the gold bonds, debentures, retirement plans and insurances the way the expats from gulf nations do. Suppose the NRIs in the gulf nations are to be displaced, can India find suitable placement for every single one of them returning home. Its not just economics, employment in gulf also guarantees India longtime peace and spares India from civil-war like grave economic situations. The harsh truth is that, the core industry of India still cannot absorb the quantum of fresh graduates Indian universities are churning out year after year. Where will all these young men and women fit in. Partly Indian government’s headache finds a panacea in job markets open for Indian citizens in gulf countries. Unlike the US, UK, Australia and Canada who want only the creamiest Indians leading to braindrain in India, the gulf countries provide scope of better and fruitful engagement for our middle level grads and even factory and site workers. To absorb and train a healthy chunk of the core industry workers produced by India is the greatest service the GCC countries render to India. Once upon a time, it were the Keralites who comprised the maximum percentage of Indian expat community in the gulf countries. Now, there is representation from every corner of India in gulf nations. Representation found a new meaning, I mused, when I struck up a conversation with Bhutan women in a shopping mall in Qatar. There are the blue collar workers employed as site workers, chauffeurs, cooks, shop assistants, nursing staff etc., who may be otherwise jobless in India plunging the nation into misery and chaos.

Will Nupur Sharma or whichever loudmouth find jobs for millions of Indians gainfully employed in GCC countries, in India. What is the need to upset the applecart? Highly irresponsible. Years of diplomacy and political correctness and goodwill have finally come to a naught thanks to such an insensitive ignoramus. The cost of this hostility will be borne by the labour class and working class Indians working in GCC countries. Every single loose canon shot by careless Indian politicians damages the political goodwill hard-earned by the Indian diaspora over years. It only takes a moment of sheer callousness and thoughtlessness to destroy such a precious relationship that India has been traditionally enjoying with Arab countries. Our media guys are bastards. Jealous outright. They would rather see the NRIs suffer because these guys are now sweating it out in our tv studios. They will do anything to inflict damages. Then there are the TRP ratings for sensationalizing non-issues. India never took sides when the GCC countries were divided over Qatar. Top brass in India as well as GCC nations are aware of the significance of the strong ties enjoyed by both sides. It is time for Modi government to shut some loudmouths tight. India has been a great ally to Arab countries walking the tightrope, never missing a foot. Hopefully this matter dies quietly the soonest. India can do without these debilitating controversies. This is no good.

Is this a local Indian issue: May be. Media still has to play a responsible role. Sometimes the architects of riots are none but the Indian media. The ones who must be booked are the anchors who did the lead and the producers behind the stories.

Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: 83

Wow what an emotional picture that was. Had me in tears in many places. 80s kid!

Ranveer Singh lived the skipper’s role. But I was blown over by the appearance of the real hero in the stands in the match with Zimbabwe when the captain’s knock of 175 not out won India the berth into the finals. Impossible match, world record that never got recorded to posterity. Grateful to have it reconstructed or whatever in silver screen. Felt as if we were watching the match.

KAPIL DEV NIKHANJ: Let me tell you here, you were and are always our No.1 cricketer, not only because you won us our first ever world cup and you were a fine all rounder, but more because you played passionate cricket, and you played for India and not for personal glory. That sets you apart from selfish Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar who I could never come to like. After seeing you today, I feel like reviving my cricket interest. I saw the same streak of selfless passion and fire in M S Dhoni only, after you.

Excellent cast. Tamil actor Jeeva played Krishnamachari Srikkanth. Cheeka of course will always be our local hero. Very balanced picture where the power of captaincy is subtly portrayed without egos getting hurt. Interspersed with humour frame to frame, the picture makes an engrossing watch. While we Indians are today global CEOs, Brits I believe are now increasingly on welfare! But that doesn’t make me happy. Respect everyone that’s all.

I think we truly played gentleman cricket then. I have always loved Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Jimmy Amarnath, Kirmani, Vengsarkar, Srikkanth, Kapil and not to leave out Maninder Singh. They lent a grace and charm to the game, correct me if I am wrong. Never cared for technicality of Gavaskar or Tendulkar for that matter. The spirit of the game mattered more.

Lords and Melbourne are not only the cricket players’ dreams, but also the dreams of a billion Indians. No, not yet set my foot in both stadia but I have in our Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk, Chennai 😀 We are members of the T N C A club but believe me the club is good only for eating bajji and bonda with lousy chutney. They never give us any tickets. We aren’t asking for free stuff.

Underestimation of India and Indians in UK is not unusual. Don’t worry fellow Indians, we left them behind way back. We are far ahead of them even if they would like to show our slums in the BBC and not our Mars mission. As Kapil says, we have to give them reply in action. David Firth chewing on his words was good direction.

Recalled so many names that’re almost forgotten, like rival cricket teams. Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Geoff Dujon, Ian Botham, Malcom Marshall omg, Holding and others.

The finance crunch in the Indian cricket in the 80s I have read about. Raj Singh Dungapur reportedly bailed the team out. From here, started the ruthless, mindless commercialization of Indian cricket and the sport has since not been the same. Somehow I wish we could recreate the 80s magic. Cash strapped but oozing with passion and potential.

All cricket players in the team are well represented and the picture is not most importantly Kapil-centric which is great.

One noticeable omission however was the match with Pakistan. A handshake of Kapil and Imran is all we have. Why? If the picture is lengthy, then a practice match could have been edited. There were two matches with West Indies apart from the final, one with England, and two with Australia, one with Zimbabwe. When the director could accommodate so much, why not the one with Pakistan with Imran Khan. We are talking about a key cricket playing nation. What is the world cup or cricket without them whether we like them or not. Imran was still a cricket player and captain of his team, not a politician. Or did he raise any objection. In that case it is understandable.

I literally relived the 1983 match. My mother used to be a huge, huge fan of Kapil Dev. Kapil is one of the connecting dots for me with my mother.

Not many houses in our street had tv back then. So every single house with b & w EC tv or Solidaire tv was bursting at seams with friends and family. I remember vaguely the fire crackers going up in my street. Yah, enjoyed the match along with my Mylaporean childhood friends who are still my best buddies. We always watched cricket matches together mostly in my house. 1986 Sharjah cup omg!

We are the 80s kids – i mean the 80s teens – the matchless. What we shared in the 80s, how we lived is something nobody else can fathom. We held a precious innocence and we were happy for no reason. This is what keeps us going today.

With IPL commercialization of Indian cricket, I slowly started losing interest in the game. I do watch the T20 world cup matches though. Otherwise have stopped totally. But 83 has stirred the dying embers of interest in cricket in me. May be I should start watching cricket again. I am not even sure of the whole team now. First time in last couple of years, I can’t recall the whole team.

Cricket may have been religion in India but other sports are also catching up in recent times. India has been doing well in Badminton, Tennis, Chess, Hockey etc., but it is true cricket continues to rake in the moolah, so naturally bags the best sponsors.

Must watch!

Posted in Mylapore Musings

Sandy beach and soaring flight.

Its eons since we have lounged on sandy beach. We do go to the souqs but today, got to unwind on Wakra souq beach. No thenga manga pattani sundal here. Only the absolute stillness. The beauty of the arab countries is their elusive silence without the street ruckus that is common in India or elsewhere. We just sat back by the backwaters wherefrom some mounds of salt pans showed belly up. I saw flights leave and flights home in. One flight was losing altitude steadily in the same spot. No I don’t think this one was landing. I guess, this is one of the crossover flights to yet another gulf airport flying through the airspace. As a frequent air traveler I always pay specific attention when flights lose height in one spot or climb up gradually in the same spot or arch their wing, tilt up and take a turn. I don’t have to watch out through my cabin window. I just know how it feels like. I guess I know every sensation that is carried with every single motion of an aircraft. In silence, I unwound my legs in the sand with my hands pushed back behind me watching the spectacular show of the planes every few minutes.. A couple of camels rested afar. Children were playing noiselessly in the distance. Even the sidewalk cafes with their guests dining on club chairs on cobblestoned paths stood quiet. This kind of silence is golden, something again unthinkable in India. The unpolluted clean environs can do something to your heart that it may want to sing. To savour such an unspoilt moment, I have to get out of Chennai city limits, to ECR.

Beach sands and airplanes brought once more memories of growing up in Mylapore. Our house was the tallest in the street when I was in the primary school. I guess I have blogged on this, but we always went to bed after a darshan of Kapali temple tower from our kitchen window and Kesava Perumal temple tower (near Chitrakulam) from the balcony. We enjoyed this special privilege until my mom’s time – that is 1982. Buildings that later came up robbed us of our glorious daily darshan on dawn.

Our terrace on second floor carried with it loads of awesome memories.

From here, I have watched once the Kapaleeshwara temple Kumbabishegam with binoculars. Even the temple Car could be seen moving – it so happens that we are having the Panguni festival now. Two spires vied with each other for our views in the open ‘mottaimadi.’ One was of course Kapali temple tower, 1 km afar. The other magnificent one at a distance was the Santhome church steeple itself.

The crowning glory would be the rotating lighthouse beam that would pass through our terrace – at a distance of over 3 km at least, every few minutes. This light would be visible only when it would be completely dark. For me, the act of catching the light beam on my arm or face for a micro fraction of a second from the light house was like winning a gold medal in Olympics. I and my friends used to count the number of times we could catch the light beam that would pass within a moment like mirage before you knew it.

How many flights we used to count. Rare sightings were the jet. Kok kok paalaadai every single evening. Walk to the Santhome beach almost every single day in summer vacations. (Mornings were always reserved for Kapali & His Missus). The beach was still accessible with radio playing from the small circular structure situated in the middle of the sands.

Slowpaced life with all its goodness. I miss that kind of heaven terribly now. The small happiness of Panneer soda and Rose milk from Kalathi kadai. Mottaimadi. Everything.

Did I ever dream that some day in future I would be flying in and out so much. And I am the CEO of my Home Corporation hahaha!

Once upon a time in my life, I looked up at the airplane wide-eyed. Now flights tire me.

I am stepping back to take a close look at the little girl who would try to catch as many light beams as possible within her outstretched palms. It must have felt like ‘oru koodai sunlight oru koodai moonlight’ totally!

Posted in Socio-Cultural

The Nightingale Calls It A Day

My school days went with the Vividh Bharathi timings. 7.30 in the morning meant ‘Sangeeth Saritha’ by which time my mother would already have left for Mylapore tank to board the PTC bus to her school. In fact walking her up, my father would have returned home by the time the olden goldies based on Hindustani raags would start blaring from All India Radio. A half an hour of Rang Birangi or something would follow, essentially Hindi oldies but tuned to Hindustani mostly. 8.30 would be the time I would leave for school, and when my father would leave for his office.

Afternoons on holidays would always be with ‘Man chahe geet’ between 1 and 2. Would never miss that precious one hour for anything. Evenings there was ‘Chaya geet’ between 5 and 6 that I would miss mostly. However there were times I would take the transistor to my terrace and let it play my fave hindi songs. Bed time or dinner, if I would have finished studying and if awake, ‘Aap ki farmaish’ between 8.30 and 9.30 would be allowed. Rest of the hours, our radio would be mostly tuned into Sri Lankan Tamil broadcast.

I have to say, my parents and grandparents shared my love for hindi oldies. Or probably I acquired my taste for Hindi from my family. My mother loved Rafi and Lata as much as she loved Tamil filmi. In fact she was one step ahead of her peers, being a huge fan of Runa Leila and Nazia and Zohen Hasan towards her last days. May be the year was 1981.

Memories of watching hindi flicks with my family stay afresh in my memory. From Bobby and Sholay to Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, we left nothing screened in good old Madras. Sholay I and my sister watched with my mother and chithi before my cousins were born, at old Satyam theatre.

Although in India we get exposed to a variety of music including authentic ‘agmark’ classical to Bollywood and regional to folksy, I have always felt that the Hindi music is by far exceptional. Or at least it used to be. It had a soothing effect on our soul. Tamil typical classical and Sangam, i have found to be not that very relaxing. You need to be alert to listen to Tamil. Not so with Hindi which is much more mellow and soft on your ears. Aesthetically probably Hindi language has an edge as it’s kind of culmination of cultures.

Rafi s’ab, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar were the quintessential trio who brought in so much of popular hindi music and happiness to our lives among others. It may be only filmi ghana yet it mattered. Even today their romances remain timeless classics. I am listening to them some 50-60 years later. Lata in particular has sung some desh-bhakth songs as well. There have been criticisms against her for blocking younger talent and those from the south like Vani Jayaram, but after listening to her voice in ‘Valaiyosai’ in Tamil, a duet with SPB, I concluded that Lata was indeed the uncrowned queen of playback singing in India. Others were leagues behind her. I don’t deny today we have Alka Yagniks to Shreya Ghoshals who are good and special in their own ways. Yet Lataji is a legend, a saga. I wouldn’t say we would miss Mangeshkar as we already have the younger lot trying to fit in in her shoes. What I would say is, it feels like a grand old tree uprooting and giving away, that’s all. The shade where we rested and had taken for granted, will be there no more.

Posted in Economic

The LIC Privatization

If LIC is on peril on privatization, then so are private pension funds in India such as HDFC, ICICI, Max, etc. And what about the private banking institutions. I was a bank employee myself and I worked for a private bank that was held by seven private and public sector banks with no retail investor. Now the bank is taken over by the parent public bank. I can recall the sentiment of fear and anxiety when private banks came into existence in India in a big way starting from the turn of the millennia. Indeed there was some ground for the public apprehension: one such a private bank, the Global Trust Bank, did go under. But there are others who have outperformed over economic forecasts from right their inception, the chief among them being HDFC and ICICI and UTI (Axis). These banks also have entered the insurance industry and stock markets and mutual funds. Should these banks fail, it means the end of India as a nation: that is how big these private institutions have grown into and spread wings (branches) pan India with roots well entrenched in strong fundamentals in the country as we have had the Indian public stand eyewitness to their taking babysteps from day one to expand into impressive institutions with global reckoning. So much so that it is private banks such as Axis, ICICI and HDFC that are most efficient today than the nationalized ones who are mostly queued up for mergers as they show heavy balance of the Non Performing Assets (NPA) accumulated over years. The private banks have been harbingers of modernization and computerization, taking technology to grassroots level quicker than public banks. Their banking service is considered benchmark today in entire banking industry. They dispense more cash with an impressive network of ATMs which is a proof to their liquidity, and their processing and disposal of loans etc., is much faster. When it comes to cards issue, they are par excellence with international validity that cannot be matched by nationalized banks. Indian citizens now prefer equally if not more the private banks, and this is by no means any exaggeration. In other words, the private banks of India today have metamorphosed into pioneer financial institutions of the country within very short span of time.

In life insurance and pension industry as well, we have participation of PNB Paribas tied up with SBI, HDFC, ICICI, Axis tied up with Max, etc., that have come out with credible results and performance. Not all are unit based funds. Mutual funds as well stock markets too see a healthy participation from the private banking sector over the government owned financial institutions.

India’s has been a mixed economy with both the government and private entrepreneurs working in tandem to cater to public demands. This is how our national economy has been operating since the dawn of our independence. Before Indira Gandhi nationalized the private sector banks in the year 1969, the Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank etc., were privately founded and managed by efficient hands turning out profits. In fact, the May Bank of Malaysia was founded by Tamil Chettiars which was nationalized at a later date by the Malaysian govt. The May Bank was the first ever banking institution founded in Malaysian history that is the pride of every single Malaysian Indian. This underscores the participation of the private sector that cannot be written off. Even today conservative private sector banks such as Karur Vysya Bank, etc., are rated best among the industry.

The private banks and insurance industry have been forerunners of some wonderful products (financial) over public financial institutions. Their interest earnings are far better. Their schemes are very flexible and their apps/platforms for trading etc., are user friendly. As for general insurance such as automobile and (foreign) travel insurances, the private insurance companies have a huge presence and may have overtaken the nationalized ones already. You only have to take govt insurance and private insurance for your two different cars and make a claim to discover which is fast and best and more reliable. In the health insurance industry as well, we have private health insurance companies leading from the forefront. The Star Insurance and Apollo collect the bulk of premiums over national health insurance companies.

That brings us to health industry. Who among us is willing to go to Omandurar govt hospital or Kilpauk or Stanley. The private health industry cater to all segments as per our budget: from five star hospitals such as MIOT to the neighbourhood polyclinic with specialists visiting on appointment.

Even in air travel, who is getting the general janata fly from one corner of the country to the other cheap and fast? Only the private airlines such as the Indigo. What stopped the government from founding more economic airlines to service the masses? When a private entrepreneur can operate a budget airline adhering to air safety protocol at profit, why cannot the government. What was the condition of Air India all these years. The former national carrier will be turning a new leaf shortly with the takeover by Tata.

If everything has to be nationalized, we must first down the shutters of some private political tv channels founded with ill-gotten money violating FERA regulations as it has been alleged. We shall have actual PEACE and NO VIOLENCE in this country.

Indians today prefer to enroll their wards in private or deemed (autonomous) institutions over established public universities is it not? Except for the first tier of IIT/IIM/AIIMS and the second tier such as NIIT/JIPMER etc., who among us would want our children attend government colleges. Will those who raise voice against privatization send their children Presidency College and Arts College. Or to Corporation schools or Government schools. I am proudly the product of a government aided State board school. Understandably, the private institutions have better lab facilities these days and employ the best brains for faculty over government universities.

In rural India, it is the private buses that come to the rescue of our masses living in far flung villages with no bus routes. The public transport such as railway may still be miles away.

How many of us have BSNL broadband at home. Why should we go for Airtel or Hathway or ACT. How many of us use BSNL network for mobile operator. How many among us use Vodofone or Airtel.

I am not for Reliance at all, yet I miss the Reliance petrol stations for their superior service and washroom facilities. No IOC or BP or HP outlet in India can match the Reliance standards. Highway travelers will agree with me.

Finally, today it is the private industry Information Technology (IT) that generates and employs a major chunk of our fresh graduates. The word to note is: EMPLOYMENT GENERATION. This is now done best by the private sector be it in manufacturing industry or what you call core industry or financial or tertiary sector. This is also one industry where foreign participation is enormous, that it can hurt us if anything goes wrong ‘on site.’ Public institutions simply do not have in them such a mammoth capacity to absorb skilled labour or they have been systematically weakened over decades by the preceding Congress govt that today they have degenerated into skeleton institutions and nothing more.

Note: Most of private industry have sizeable foreign participation already. Pharma for one thing. Startups such as Swiggy are possible only thanks to foreign investments. We live in an interdependent world: not in an insulated and isolated bubble just by ourselves. How many of us have modular kitchen installed without a foreign collaborated unit. How about our air-conditioner units. Automobiles. Refrigerators. Mobile phones. Even our furniture. TVs and PCs/Laptops/IPads. Dove soaps. Garnier shampoos. Loreal cosmetics. And we talk about nationalistic policies.

How about leaving Hindu temples to Hindus now. Will the DMK government give back our temples to Hindus. Or will they equally take over the churches and mosques, audit them, staff them and use their funds as it has been happening with Hindu temples? All Hindu temples across India have to be given back to their devotees for management. Indian government and state governments have been SHAMELESSLY using Hindu temple money to meet their own selfish ends. If Hindu temples have to be in govt care, then all churches and mosques must be similarly taken over and their financial positions gazetted along with details of Hindu temple fundings. I challenge our governments to do it or hand over Hindu temples to Hindus.

Private Industry such as the Tatas, the Birlas, TVS, Ashok Leyland etc., are hallmark manufacturers of India who have gone on to acquire foreign assets. What was the first Indian company to get listed at NASDAQ in our history? INFOSYS. Who have global imprint today employing millions around the world.

I have not gone into the financial analysis of LIC with relevant statistics for my write-up. My logic lies in weighing the pros and cons. We have encouraging precedents and we are hopeful that LIC will follow a similar path to privatization and healthy zooming profits in future. If this boat is to sink, remember India must go under, God forbid! To empty talkers who have no patience or inclination or facts and figures, ignorance is truly a bliss!

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Until now i have not googled LIC privatization. I am adding a few lines from googling hereunder:

LIC going public is fine but the foreign participation must be capped to 49% maximum with controls resting with Indian hands on disinvestment. LIC has been conservative institution in Indian history. The public reaction on privatization is understandable and must be addressed. Foreigners holding stake upto 75% may carry risk component that can rock the ship. Let PM Modi not forget Lehman Brothers. As financial institutions grow, their expansion beyond boundaries cannot be helped. Joint ventures have to become public listed corporations, etc. Key industries with security concerns such as the Defence, Space etc., and mass facilities such as major rail routes need not have to go in for privatization. However luxury private trains are permissible and are already on operation such as ‘the palace on wheels.’ Along with star rated hospitals, the public health centers (PHCs) need to be expanded for the general public. The private and public industry can co-exist in mixed Indian economy servicing to different segments of our population.

PS: I am no financial pundit or qualified expert to speak on this. Just a housewife’s cue 😀

Posted in Extras

Hand me my thorthu not the bathrobe!

Inspired to write this 😀

We in India mostly prefer cotton towels not the fluffy turkish towels given our tropical climate. The turkish towels do not absorb moisture and are heavy but they probably keep you warm after a shower.

The southern state of Kerala, also neighbouring one to my home state Tamil Nadu is famous for its ‘Thorthu’ or handwoven cotton towels that are richly absorbent. Kerala is a monsoon country. Entire India is known for seasonal rains but Kerala is too very popular even with foreign tourists who visit the state especially for its monsoon season (although in last two years the monsoons have wrecked havoc in the state triggering landslides and flooding). Tamil Nadu too has its share of woven white towels from Cooptex, Erotex and such handloom boards, yet the Kerala quality is unbeatable!

I have dozens of these thin weaves at home. I got a couple for my American daughter-in-law when she lived in India and asked her not to use a hairdryer but this towel. First hesitant, later on seeing its absorbent quality and quick drying nature with 100% cotton thread weave, she fell in love with this textile. I packed her over half a dozen when she left for US, urgently asking my Mallu friend to courier thorthus to me even in Covid conditions! When I visited US recently I had taken a few with me and my daughter wanted them. I have few more in Chennai. I must remember to courier her more when I visit India next. And I have to order online another batch straight from Kerala again!

Why do we need bathrobes or fluffy towels when we have our desi thorthu. It has to be experienced to be believed! And we can have a dozen and more to use at ease. Finally they come cheapest – from Rs. 60 for smallest size to max Rs.200 or 300 for those with widest dimensions. That is from under US$1 to 5 maximum.

So now I have decided to make our local thorthu world famous! For women, it can be as good as wraparound or sarong after our time in pool. A thorthu can be quite long and wide enough to go around us and cover our entire torso. For men too it can hang nicely on waist. So easy to maintain. For new born babies and young children who you want to wipe clean of moisture for fear of catching cold, nothing like thorthu to come to your aid. Especially for wrapping your head after a shower. There is hardly any work left for the hairdryer to do after you dry your hair with thorthu. You can rinse thorthu in the washbasin, as simple as that. Takes under an hour to dry in open air or just over an arm chair in our living! Space saving as well. You can stack two dozens in little space! Easy to pack and carry like hankie. Pristine white.

Economic and functionally best thorthu! Most authentic original Indian produce are this but then who wants anything ours? They all go for synthetic and toxic China stuff only 😦

Posted in Environment

Lounging Space

As we take our daily walk in the parks of Doha, I am sorely reminded of how I am missing even this small privilege in my hometown Chennai.

Even today if we are to scrutinize the old blueprints/location maps of vintage landholdings/real estate properties of our metropolis, we can find that, there were many, many identified lung spaces situated right in the heart of our good old Madras that could have been converted to parks. We could have had these beautiful landscapes and walking and cycling tracks had not the public places earmarked for community utility landed in private hands during successive corrupt Dravidian regimes. Not even the reserve forest areas have been spared, violating laid down norms. Illegal encroachments get legal sanction with periodic regularization: that is Tamil Nadu.

Today if we see the skyrocketing of real estate prices in Chennai, it is not without a reason. Those middle-class families born and brought up in the city for generations cannot afford to live in the heart of the city thanks to our corrupt politicians. A 3 bhk apartment with car park in city limits costs in crores that most of us cannot afford. Only those old families who owned houses prior to the 1970s in Madras are now proud houseowners in the heart of the city. Of course there is the new rich always who have been able to afford expensive homes. A small percentage of the upwardly mobile can realize their dreams. But by and large, the middle class sections of our society have been pushed to the peripheral suburbs, that Chennai has seen multiple revisions of the Outer Ring Road in last 20 years. The next revision may peg the road at Kanchipuram. Not a joke.

City is sprawling in all three directions no doubt but there is also this sense of hopelessness in the old time Madrasis that they may not ever afford a modest home within the city limits. I have known so many many Mylaporeans who had to settle for properties 40 or 60 km afar as the city became unaffordable to them.

Only the IT guys and the NRIs and business community apart from settu (!) and bhai (!) and (both of whom are notorious for unaccountable money, the second especially for hawala) can ever buy homes now in Chennai. Believe me, had those of us few lucky not inherited anything from our parents, we would be holed up against our will somewhere in Perambakkam or Medavakkam today who knows! Seriously!

Agreed the OMR and ECR and the new business districts of the city. City center is shifting and it is no more our Anna Salai. But if you check the working population in the IT industry, you may find that a vast majority of them are floating population who do not know old Madras like you and me.

Violations in ECR and OMR are rampant, with handing down of ‘wet areas’ to IT parks in silver platter.

What about the landed estates doled out to engineering colleges and medical colleges that mushroomed during MGR and KK period.

Parks have been specifically lost to the denizens denying us a breathing space to unwind, except for our crowded beaches. Even the beaches seem to have lost their charm. How beautiful were once the Santhome beach and the Marina (Gandhi) beach. Santhome was our regular.

With very few parks left from the pre-independence era, we have had one or two even from this minimum taken over for development activities. Glaring examples are the Thiru Vi Ka Park of Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park in Egmore that have turned out to be Metro Rail stations. Initially there was a promise of restoration of green cover although it remained a mystery how a underground metro rail station can be fitted out with a park anywhere. Now there is not a single word to this benefit and covid times have made things worse.

Googled on this and was pleasantly surprised to discover hundreds of parks listed in Chennai Metropolitan city limits! Few do survive against all odds. Wouldn’t want to talk here about the optimally utilized Nageshwara Park in Myalpore or the Panagal Park in T. Nagar. Or the Anna Nagar Tower park. These are the much needed respite to the locals. Memories of going to Nageshwara park with my father and feeding the deer and rabbits there still stays fresh in my memory. Adyar with its concentration of parks can be called the garden of Chennai.

There is one small park even in Harrington road. Most of the surviving parks in Chennai are as small as this one. There are quite a few like this even in Anna Nagar every kilometer. These are hardly parks, still even this small space is smartly utilized for walking and other health purposes by our citizens.

Thiru vi ka park and the corporation ground opposite it used to be hotcakes. Next to them is a swimming pool. They are of immense utility for the residents of the area. With the Thiru vi ka park closed, the corporation ground is seeing excess crowds that it is not able to handle.

The Eco Park in Chetpet and the Semmozhi Poonga in Cathedral road are like small solaces compared to what has been stolen from the general public.

Good that our temples have tanks in front of them. Congested Mylapore has some breathable air thanks to the three temple tanks situated in the thickly populated area. For this reason, even our temples have saved some precious space for our public. This is how now I view our temples now. When I see 100 acre temples like Thiruvannamalai, Tanjore etc., my first thought is, ‘Appa, they can’t plot out this area for real estate!’

To what pitiable condition have the Dravidian governments reduced us public.

There is a lean patch called park even in Haddows road. I realize that even a few mercifully saved square meters of public land is now touted as park by our city corporation.

I wish there are more parks opening up.

How about parks on reclaimed land from sea.

Mumbai is mostly on reclaimed land from sea.

Here in Doha, the Museum park where we go for regular walk is on reclaimed land.

But I understand that what we have is a bay here that has backwaters whereas Chennai has roughest seas. We are a port city.

Project technically may not be feasible.

Besides, this may be one very expensive investment that the government may not prioritize.

How about hanging parks with a walk way.

I am aware, the damage done by successive govts with making a piecemeal of our public places and doling them out to corrupt politicians, cannot be reversed now for practical reasons.

But Chennai can still have some breathing space. If we lack it, we can create one why not.

I am for hanging gardens on over-bridges with lookout platforms, and also for parks on reclaimed lands two hundred percent. If land reclamation is not ideal, we can still go for overhead parks. This is truly my dream and vision for Chennai.

There can be a park all the way from Besant Nagar to Chepauk zigzagging our skyline why not.

There can be a park overhead from Mogappair to Thiruvanmiyur.

When we could do elevated and subterranean metro rail sections at the same time, why cannot overhead parks be feasible in five to ten years. Just a thought. What revenue is our metro rail generating presently. How many years to break even. How many years did it take the MRTS to break even if at all it has managed that! So why not an elevated park crisscrossing our city skies?

Ambitious. Expensive. But NOT frivolous! Instead of promise of freebies for elections, how about our political parties promising something like this for the general public.

Chennai badly needs some decent breathing space. Lung space.

When I cross over a red tarmac road in a park here in Doha during my evening walk, on climbing a manmade incline (imagine a greeny green acre plus park with an artificial mound on flat desert surface, now that’s what I would call patriotism and love for nature), to the other side of the road, I station myself at the summit for a while. My heart longs for this kind of scenic view of my hometown Chennai from such an elegant elevated nature park.

Make such a park pay for itself like toll. Charge robustly or introduce membership. This way initially atleast we can keep off miscreants. Gradually the general public can have access to such parks. Vandalism not be tolerated at any cost. Post security and maintain the park shipshape. After all there is no shortage of manpower in India. Disallow most importantly, liquor in the skywalk park which already exists in my dream!

This is truly my dream project for Chennai.

India sadly lacks visionaries who can think ahead by a hundred or two hundred years. Chennai with the Dravidian muck are a hopeless lot. It may be too much on our part to expect them to come up from something grand and utilitarian like this.

An elevated green park can change the way we live in our city. This can change our lifestyle. This can change our thinking process. Chennai will become even more endearing!

And I realize i am daydreaming. Such a beautiful thought would not even cross a dirty stupid Tamil politician’s mind. My heart sinks.

Posted in Economic

The Immeasurable Knowledge & Acumen Loss In Covid Times…

As thousands of lives get lost in this horrifying second wave of Corona pandemic, it may probably sound improper if we mention loss of knowledge and knowhow accumulation herewith. .

I am thinking of the higher secondary school students who have never been in the Physics lab, Chemistry lab, Botany lab or Zoology lab. I am talking about Engineering students who have not touched a lathe/machinery or nut-bolt in the Mechanical lab, not held a test tube or conical flask in their hands in the Chemical lab, not been on industrial tours or construction sites, not bisected a frog or reptile. I am concerned of the medical/ dental/ veterinary students who may be missing their autonomy classes vital to mastering physiology, their OP ward hands-on experience that can hone their diagnosis skills, semester examinations and of course the crucial internships that may initiate them as serving physicians in their chosen medical profession… What a tremendous loss to humanity! Can we even quantify this knowledge and expertise loss across India! Very unlucky batches, those that are caught in-between.

Many wonder aloud about school kids studying at home. I have no problem with that as my son had homeschooled under me in Malaysia upto standard two. The only issue may be fitting into classrooms when it is time for the children to go back to schools. The younger ones can adapt very fast to changing scenarios unlike us adults. The one problem I do foresee is the toilet training. This requires disciplining from early years controlling bladder from kinder garten. A second one could be relating to the morning routines and time-keeping/punctuality apart from eating habits, keeping hygiene and grooming neat. But none of this is unmanageable.

There are mentions of severe neck pain and even rare cases of vertigo in young children and teenagers who are learning from home online without attending schools in last 1.5 years. These are the ones glued to their mobile phone and computers for hours with incorrect posture that can injure their spine. This is an area that we must focus on apart from the mental health of the children who are denied their outdoor playing time and extra-curricular activities that may require physical attendance. Vitamin D from direct sunlight which is essential for bone growth is denied to growing kids. Last but not the least is the human touch to holistic education which is absent with the teachers staying home and schools closed. Online classes may hardly replace the classroom teacher parked in front of the blackboard.

Vocational courses have born the brunt of the covid 19 lockdowns that shut practical classes to their students. These include semi-skilled professions like plumbing, electricals, electronics, carpentry, air conditioning etc.

Fortunate are the school and university students in commerce stream who are least affected by the covid 19 effect on their education.

The computer students seem to be faring okay given the conditions after the accounting ones and arts & literature graduates.

Campus interviews have not been happening, and if they do happen fail to materialize into concrete appointments for fresh graduates. Those who wish to pursue higher education are left in the quandary unable to decide as job prospects grow dim. Even if this can be a temporary phase in our lives, covid impact will stay with us for a long time to come.

Medical and engineering aspirants in present times can seriously contemplate taking a break after finishing school until situation gets normal in an year or two. In my personal opinion this will be a better and thoughtful choice over missing valuable classes.

How to make best of the circumstances is what the academic institutions must focus on. Will it be possible to open up science and tech labs to staggered batches of students.

The years 2020 and 2021 need to be written off from the Biodata and CV of all those pursuing higher secondary school education, undergrad and postgrad courses in universities. Employers need to relax their prerequisites such as job experience when it comes to recruitments.

The restless teenagers need to be handled with care. They are at the threshold of their adulthood and they must not be allowed to lose their hope. It is important to engage them fruitfully in alternate activities and keep up their spirits.

Let us cheer our younger generation and not allow them to wither before they bloom. Looking forward to a bright and cheeful future!