मी, एक वाचक – भाग १

नमस्कार मंडळी,

मातृभाषा, मराठीत, मी लिहित असलेला हा पहिलाच लेख. अनेक वर्षात मराठी लेखनाशी संपर्क तुटल्यामुळे काही शुद्धलेखनाच्या चुका होण्याची दाट शक्यता आहे. तरी सुजाण वाचकांनी अपराध पोटात न घालता यथोचित अगदी प्रसंगी कडक टीका करावी! ;)

विलेपार्ले या ‘राज्याविषयी’ मला खूप आपुलकी आहे; खूप म्हणजे पु.लं.पेक्षाही काकणभर जास्तच! पण ‘विलेपार्ले’ हा एक स्वतंत्र विषय असल्यामुळे, इथे फक्त, विलेपार्ल्यातील ग्रंथालयांचा उल्लेख मी करणार आहे. टिळक मंदीर, मुंबई मराठी ग्रंथसंग्रहालय आणि जीवन विकास केंद्र या ग्रंथालयांचा मी प्रदीर्घ काळ सदस्य होतो. सध्या माझी आई, महिलासंघ ग्रंथसंग्रहालयाची सदस्या आहे, त्यामुळे मराठीशी नाळ पूर्णपणे तुटली नाही आहे. यात वेळोवेळी, माझ्या पालकांनी, मला मन:पूत खरेदी करू दिलेल्या पुस्तकांची भरच पडली आहे. मी अगदी ‘असमाधानी’ वाचक आहे. ‘हविषाकृष्णवर्तमेव उपभोगे न शम्यते’ अर्थात ‘अग्निमधे कितीही आहुती दिली तरी तो शांत न होता वाढतच जातो’ या न्यायाने माझ्यातला वाचक जगतो.

माझ्या वाचक जीवनाची सुरुवात ‘कोल्होबाने खाल्ला अकलेचा कांदा’ वगैरे सारख्या मोठा टाईप असलेल्या मराठी पुस्तकांनी झाली. आज आठवायचा प्रयत्न केला तर या कोणत्याही पुस्तकांच्या लेखकांची नावं मला आठवत नाहीत. त्या काळी साठ पैसे ते दोन रुपये किमतीला मिळणाऱ्या या पुस्तकांतली दोन चार पुस्तकंच माझ्याकडे उरली आहेत. पण या पुस्तकांनी मला स्वप्नांचे पंख दिले; माझ्यातली कल्पकता जागवली; उत्कन्ठेशी माझा परिचय करून दिला; एका अशा विश्वात मला नेऊन सोडलं की जिथे मी कधीच एकटा पडत नाही. आधाशासारखी ही पुस्तकं मी वाचायचो. या पुस्तकांच्या मुखपृष्ठांनी, माझ्या मनात, राक्षस, पऱ्या, राजपुत्र, राजकन्या आणि अशा काही जादुई कल्पनांना मूर्त स्वरूप दिलं आणि ते असं काही मनावर ठसून आहे की आज जगभरातील उत्तमोत्तम कार्टून्स (‘व्यंगचित्र’ हा मराठी शब्द अपुरा असल्यामुळे!) बघूनही ते पुसलं जात नाही.

नंतर माझ्या पुस्तकविश्वात एक प्रभंजन आलं, ‘किशोर’ नावाचं. ज्येष्ठ साहित्यिक वि.वा. शिरवाडकरांचे धाकटे बंधू वसंत शिरवाडकर यांनी संपादित केलेलं एक अलौकिक मासिक! प्रत्येक कर्तुत्व आणि सम्यक यश आर्थिक मापदंडाने मोजण्याचा हा जो कालखंड आहे त्यात शिरवाडकरांसारखी लोकं निर्माण होतचं नाहीत. आजच्या आणि येणाऱ्या पिढ्यांची ही न भरून निघणारी हानी आहे. ‘किशोर’ मासिकाने जगभरातील उत्तमोत्तम साहित्य मुलांना उपलब्ध करून दिलं. त्यात शिरवाडकर स्वत: एक सदर लिहायचे, ‘असे हे विलक्षण जग’ नावाचे. त्यात ह्या विचित्र विश्वाशी माझा पहिला परिचय झाला. आजच्या मुलांना आवडणारे डायनोसोर मला तिथेच पहिल्यांदा भेटले. लक्षात घेण्यासारखी गोष्ट ही की शिरवाडकर स्वत: ‘दिनासूर’ या शब्दाचे जनक आहेत. याच सुमारास मला फा. फे. भेटला, चवथीत असताना. सर्वश्रेष्ठ बालसाहित्यिक भा. रा. भागवतांचा हा मानसपुत्र. त्याच्या बावीस भागांमधून माझा परिचय ‘साहस’ या प्रकाराशी झाला. माझ्या वयाच्या विशीत जेव्हा मी पहिल्यांदा फुरसुंगिला गेलो तेव्हा भाई फेणे इथेच कुठेतरी रहात असतील तर बनेश उर्फ फास्टर फेणेला भेटून येऊ या का असा विचार मनात येऊन गेला. जसा थोडा मोठा झालो तसा भ. रां.चा दुसरा मानसपुत्र नंदू नवाथे भेटून आनंद देऊन गेला. कालातीत अशा जुल्स व्हर्न या लेखकाशी गाठ घालून देणारे भा. रा.च! कॅप्टन निमो, रोव्हर, जगाची फेरी ऐंशी दिवसात पूर्ण करणारा फिलिअस फॉग, बेन झूफ, हेक्टर सर्वादक आणि अशी कित्येक मन्डळी हॉलीवूडच्या कित्येक वर्ष आधी मला भेटली याचा मला कुठेतरी अभिमान वाटतो. या पुस्तकांच्या मदतीने मी पृथ्वीच्या पोटात, समुद्राच्या तळाशी आणि धुमकेतूच्या शेपटावर बसून फिरून आलो. पुढच्या अनेक विश्वरूप दर्शनांसाठी मला दिव्यदृष्टी दिली ती या पुस्तकमित्रांनीच! नाथमाधवांची ‘वीरधवल’ आणि गो. ना. दातारांची ‘इंद्रभुवनगुहा’ मला मोहवून गेली ती Harry Potter आणि Lord of the Rings आयुष्यात यायच्या अनेको वर्षे आधी!

अजरामर अशा किशोर कालखंडानंतर मी आणि माझ्या वाचनाने कुमारवयात पदार्पण केलं. इथे मी वाचनातला पौष्टिक आहारही घेतला आणि टपरीवरचे पदार्थही चाखले. सुहास शिरवळकर हा माझ्या त्या युगातला माझा देव. दारा बुलंद, मंदार पटवर्धन, अमर विश्वास आणि फिरोज ईराणी ह्या नावांनी मनात आयुष्यभरासाठी घर केलं. माझ्यातल्या उमलत्या तरुणाला आत्मविश्वास दिला तो या लोकांनी. माझ्या वाचक जीवनातला हा भाग सगळ्यात रोमहर्षक होता. या भागात मी पुस्तकं वाचली नाहीत तर माझ्या आईच्या भाषेत सांगायचं झालं तर ‘खाल्ली’. शिकारकथांनी प्रेरित होऊन मी जिम कॉर्बेटचा मित्र झालो; वन्य जीवांच्या भीतीयुक्त आकर्षणातून, हातात साधा चाबूकही न घेता दहा पंधरा वाघ सिंहांचे खेळ घेणाऱ्या, दामू धोत्रे बरोबर पिंजऱ्यात जाउन आलो; पु.ल. या अवलियाच्या भक्तगणांमध्ये आजीवन हजेरी लागली ती याच वयात, कविता पाठ्यपुस्तकाबाहेरही असतात आणि बाहेरील जास्त चांगल्या असतात हा शोधही याच वयातला, व. पु. काळे जरा डोक्यावरून गेले आणि उंची वाढल्यानंतरच डोक्यात शिरले, ह. ना. आपटे वाचायचे साहस आता पुन्हा झेपेल का नाही माहित नाही पण तेव्हा झेपवले; अश्लील साहित्याने कानशीलं तापवली तो काळही हाच होता; वाचनाने जणू माझ्यावर मोहिनीमंत्र घातला होता.

जसं जसं वय वाढत गेलं तशा जाणीवेच्या कक्षा रुंदावत गेल्या. वाचनाची आवड लक्षात घेऊन पुस्तकं भेट देणारे आणि सुचवणारे भेटायला लागले. जास्त जाणीवपूर्वक वाचायला लागलो. मला आठवतं आहे की मी ठरवून एक एक लेखक संपवायचो. पार्ल्याच्या ‘मुंबई मराठी ग्रंथसंग्रहालयाच्या’ ग्रंथपालांचा मी आजीवन ऋणी आहे. व.पु., पु.ल., सु.शि. होतेच पण त्यांच्या जोडीला गो.नी. दांडेकरांनी ओघवत्या संवादात्मक शैलीशी गाठ घालून दिली; श्री. ना. पेंडसेंचे ‘तुंबाडचे खोत’ दोन हजार शंभर पानं, चारशे वर्षे आणि मनाचा एक कोपरा भरून उरले, ‘रथचक्र’, ‘गारंबीचा बापू’ हडबडवून टाकून गेले; जयवंत दळवींची, मनाचे काळे कोपरे प्रकाशून टाकणारी कथा, आक्रसवून गेली; जी. ए. कुलकर्णी आजपातूर कळलेच नाहीत; अरविंद गोखलेंच्या कथाही बऱ्या वाटल्या पण मनात घुसल्या नाहीत, यशवंत रांजणकर, द.पां. खांबेटे या लोकांनी जगभरातल्या अनवट न उकलेल्या रहस्यांशी भेट घडवली, कुमुदिनी रांगणेकरांनी Romantic Comedy दिली, रत्नाकर मतकरी आणि नारायण धारपांनी खूप घाबरवलं; जयंत नारळीकर, निरंजन घाटे मराठीत लिहिते झाले नसते तर Science Fiction म्हणजे काय रे भाऊ अशीच अवस्था राहिली असती; वीणा गवाणकरांना पदपथावर J. W. Carver चं चरित्र मिळालं नसतं तर मराठी भाषेत उत्तम चरित्र लिहिणार्यांची यादी अपूर्ण राहिली असती; निरनिराळ्या दिवाळी अंकांशिवाय, जसं की नवल, आवाज, अक्षर, किस्त्रीम, जत्रा आणि इतर असंख्य, दिवाळी ही दिवाळी वाटली नसती.

मराठीत असं वाचन केल्यानंतर माझा मोर्चा मी इंग्रजी भाषेकडे वळवला. या भाषेतील वाचन, प्रामुख्याने, जो काही पास होण्यापुरता अभ्यास केला त्यानिमित्ताने किंवा शिकवण्यासाठी शिकण्याच्या निमित्तानेच झाले होते. आजही या भाषेतील वाचन कादंबरी या साहित्य प्रकारापुरतेच मर्यादित आहे. पण Robin Cook च्या वैद्यकीय थरारकथा, John Grisham च्या कायदे कथा आणि Dan Brown च्या चमत्कृतीपूर्ण कथा यांचा आवर्जून उल्लेख करावासा वाटतो. Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling) आणि Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) हेही वाचनात डोकावत आहेत.

माझा इंग्रजी वाचनाचा प्रवास स्वयंप्रेरणेने चालू आहे. पण मराठी वाचन मात्र जवळ जवळ बंद पडले आहे. वयामुळे असेल कदाचित पण नवीन लेखकांशी म्हणावं तशी मैत्री जुळत नाही. कोणीतरी कुठलं तरी पुस्तक सुचवतं आणि मग मी ते वाचतो, यातूनच ‘नर्मदे हर’ सारखी अनवट पुस्तकं मिळून जातात आणि जाणीवेला नेणीवेच्या प्रांतात घेऊन जातात.

आता संकल्प आहे की ‘इंग्रजी अभिजात साहित्य वाचायचं’. पण विशीतला जोश आता कुठेतरी कमी झाला आहे आणि संसारी झाल्यामुळे मिळणाऱ्या वेळामधे खूपच घट झाली आहे. पण लवकरच आयुष्यातल्या बऱ्याचश्या गरजा भागतील आणि मी पुन्हा एकदा पुस्तकं खायला लागेन याची मला अगदी नक्की खात्री आहे! तोपर्यंत शांतता!

(कविता आणि लेख हे दोन महत्वाचे वाङ्ग्मयप्रकार या भागात अस्पर्श राहिले आहेत, याचा अर्थ असा नाही कि ते माझ्या वाचनात आलेच नाहीत पण त्यांच्याविषयी पुढच्या भागात!)

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Turning Forty

I am almost there! I am turning forty, in few days. And I am wondering, why Alibaba had forty thieves in his story!!! I guess number forty has been on the minds of people for ages. Even God had some plans for mother earth, when he created ‘Roaring Forties’, strong and gusty westerly winds, found in southern hemisphere, between latitudes 40 and 50 degrees. ;)

I am introspecting; and suddenly I realize that I am seriously introspecting. It’s not that I haven’t done that before in life, but I am doing it way more seriously this time. I also actively did some things on the eve of forty, which I would not have done otherwise. Some of them are funny and I kept telling myself that I am doing them in jest or for the sake of doing them; but honestly I am pretty serious about them. I got myself medically checked up. I am still little sad about that extra LDL cholesterol count, even if it is marginally high; I plotted a pessimistic excel sheet of my probable income till I turn sixty; I calculated what age my kids would be when I’ll be sixty and whether they would start earning by then or turn out like their lazy dad. ;) I have already started eating right…..ya ya ya….not totally…but the guilt that I get after eating garbage is tad more than what I would have felt ten years ago. I have started taking my exercise seriously. I have decided to stop coloring my hair……or whatever memory of hair left on my head ;)

The original carefree…..rather careless….me…is getting affected by number 40.

I started browsing about the topic and my God, there are oodles of opinions available on Internet, about turning forty. Turning forty is far different than turning anything below forty. Obviously, it has to be, that’s the reason why I am writing a blog about it ;) Actually turning 39 is way too close to turning 40, but still it is very different. It’s as different as being in your thirties and getting in to your forties. In your tens you are ‘oblivious’; in your twenties you are’ invincible’; in your thirties you are ‘still young’ and now that forty is so close, the word that I can think of is ‘vulnerable’…. I find myself to be most vulnerable because of the ‘work-in-progress’ nature of life. I am on my way to destination but still not there. I am definitely not old but am definitely not young either.

Today, I received a message on whatsapp, which talked about slowing down and smelling the flowers on the way etc.; and I realized that the friend who posted it is turning forty too ;) I also had a discussion with another friend about ‘understanding people’ where she made a reference to ‘young generation’. All this made me aware that I don’t belong to young generation anymore. I am not sad about it but just blatantly getting aware of it. Being in teaching profession, I am part of varied groups, on various social media. I am also a rare fortunate, on this planet, to be in touch with my childhood friends as well as my school friends. The messages that I receive on younger groups are all about living vigorously and vulgar jokes; and the kind of messages that I receive from group members of my age are, at least, ‘forty’ percent, about life lessons and philosophical. :)

I am not complaining. I have lived my youth to fullest.

And I wouldn’t have written above two statements, if I weren’t turning forty…..ha ha ha ha ….!!!

So what actually turning forty means? It means that I need to be careful….careful about what I do, about what I eat, about what I talk, about where I talk, about how I talk, about my mother’s health, about my health, about retirement plans, about financial health of my family, about getting adequately insured, about ‘slowing down’, about not going for that lunge while playing as it might break some bone and bones are difficult to connect effectively at this age, about riding slow, about driving slow, about increasing my understanding, about not getting wild in anger as it may increase my ‘blood pressure’…… in short, about being who I am not.

It’s a change, which every generation endures. You are neither affected by health, to be really careful about it nor actually inclined to do so. It’s a cusp of two ages….an age of ignorance, learning, foolishness and an age of wisdom, serenity, sanity…..!

Like any change, this one disturbs the equilibrium of your life….rather the way you live. It is slowly seeping in, syncing in. It will have its share of turbulence. There shall be repercussions…. psychological …physical ….. social…!

Then there shall be peace. Peace with the aging, peace with the social implications. There shall be a sincere attempt made from my side to wipe off the word ‘vulnerable’ and extend the phase of being ‘still young’ ;)

And I am sure after a few days while playing my daily badminton…..I’ll say ‘fuck it’ and go for that lunge again and will tell myself confidently …… I’ll do it forever because I am timeless!!!

But my dear friends, I am turning forty and I seriously don’t hate it!  :)

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Violation…..

Violation…..

[Warning: When I had travelled abroad, I was in a process to board a British Airways flight. The BA ground staff girl started talking to me. The first sentence she uttered was – “Sir, I am now going to ask you a series of questions pertaining to what’s in your cabin and check-in luggage and pertaining to other safety concerns. Please note that you are not allowed to joke about it as it may lead to your arrest.” I became alert and like an earnest school boy, I answered all her questions straight.

Now that I have your attention, I would humbly say that if you consider violation of a woman or her rights, may it be in the form of sexual rape or oppression of any kind, is not a serious issue, please read no further. Please do not joke about it; if you do, you won’t get arrested but consider yourself stuck at very premature stage of intellectual development!]

I read news of rape, practically every single day, in the news. I am baffled. I have been reading newspaper for the past twenty odd years. Have the incidents of rape increased in the society or the reporting of the same has increased! We will never know. We Indians are bad record keepers and ‘why bother at all’ is the attitude! In the past and to some extent even today, it is believed that the woman who gets raped must have invited the rape. I started reading about the subject. What must be prompting a man to perpetrate this crime? During my short research, I stumbled upon this article in New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/10/science/new-studies-map-the-mind-of-the-rapist.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm )

I believe that the article was published in 1991. What I read in this article was not what I expected about the mentality of a rapist. I always thought that most of the rapists hate women or are angry at them. But ‘anger’ was found to be a driver for rape, only in case of, measly 11% rapists. Also very surprisingly, the anger was not against women in general or against the specific victim but it was found to be anger against the society at large. 32% were found to be falling in the ‘vindictive’ category, where the purpose of physical rape was to humiliate and degrade the victim. Also, almost quarter of the lot at 23% were found to be ‘opportunists’. These were the men who never had anger or intention to rape but when opportunity presented itself, they just exploited it and raped. The remaining percentage was occupied by rapists, who were true sadists, taking pleasure out of agony and misery of the victim; the rapists, who had an insatiable urge to stay in control at any cost and the most dangerous ones, according to me, who had a fantasy that they can win a woman with physical force.

In the past, in one of my earlier blogs, I have expressed my resentment for movie ‘Ranzanaa’. There are many movies which depict ‘pehle takraar, baad me pyaar’ (First resentment and then love!) May be true in few real life cases but it can’t be a cardinal rule of winning a girl’s heart. Half-wits will always keep on believing that if a girl is rebutting the advances, she is actually in love and hiding it under the garb of pseudo-anger. Unfortunately, our Hindi filmdom will also keep fuelling this stupidity.

Much has been said about what should be the punishment for rape. Suggestions range from physical, chemical castration to capital punishment. The question that bothers me is why we are not doing anything to sensitize men about this issue. Every movie theater is playing National Anthem to increase patriotism. There are also anti-tobacco campaigns everywhere. I do not see any conscious effort on any front for sensitizing youth/men.

It is not that rapes are happening only in countries with suppressed sexuality, they are happening in every part of the world; rape just happens. No research so far has any conclusive evidence as to why rape takes place.

Rape is a crime. A rapist can be punished under prevalent laws. The neglected aspect about violation of women’s rights is mental violation. I will call it as a ‘Psychological Rape’. Every woman, at some or the other stage of life, suffers from this. Since the very young age, a girl is told that she is different than the boys. I have seen most affluent of the homes, unwilling to give at par status to daughters of their blood with their male siblings. The justifications provided in such cases are sometimes more appalling than the act of discrimination itself. Everyone around a girl, harps of her wellbeing. As if, that girl is inherently incapable of deciding what is good for her. Girls are generally not allowed to make mistakes. They are grossly not allowed to make mistakes in any kind of relationships. Larger part of India still has control over thoughts of a woman. This ‘Psychological Rape’ is going on rampantly all around us. No law can be framed to tackle this rape. We collectively need to change the mindset to stop this.

I feel that if your mind gets right kind of nurturing, you can grow up to be a sensitive person. I ask you my dear readers – how can we start sensitizing men in our beloved country?

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The stark naked truth …..

The other day, I was driving a car to my workplace. I stay very close to my work place and usually take under ten minutes to reach. This very fact causes me delay, several times, as I don’t see any need to leave any buffer time for any unforeseen event. So, as usual, I was running little late and hence was driving a bit faster. A very small patch of my tiny journey, passes through a slum, where not so blessed dwell. However delayed I might be, I drive dead slow in this particular patch. There are several unattended goats, hens and human kids that run amok in this patch. I was really careful and watching the front left corner of my car carefully, to avoid crushing anything or anyone. Just then, I saw a little child walking carefree on the side of this road. He was about three years old; barely two feet & some inches from the ground and stark naked. Not a thread on his body. It was even slightly drizzling. The child was definitely carefree and wasn’t a bit careless. I drove really slow, as this entity intrigued me no end. He was walking at the side of the road and had sixth sense about the traffic better than zillion adults. He was never stepping in the main traffic flow and was actually giving way to people, dogs, goats, hens and vehicles. He seemed to be in a state of bliss. A sort of contagious bliss! On the way, he saw a goat sitting on the road. He walked towards the goat and gave a tight slap on the back of the goat. The poor, startled goat got up and freed the space for traffic.

It all happened in few seconds, maybe, ten or so. I parked the car and that stark naked child stayed in my mind. In fact, he is intoxicating me ever since. He was so carefree, oblivious to the surroundings, whelmed in self. I finished my lecture in some sort of a trance – that child walking by the side of my thoughts as I spoke in the class.

I am severally a materialistic person. I am not going to preach about earning less and reducing your needs. I live good life and I thoroughly believe in enjoying life to the fullest. I am not taking any position here. I just enjoyed the carefree element in that child, just too much to ignore. I recall a story which was told to me by my friend.

Pune has a place called as Raman Baag. It is named after a wise man, Raman Maharshi. The story is about Raman Maharshi. Once, Raman Maharshi finished his spiritual discourse and was having his dinner. He was served peas’ rice. He was eating intently. A rich man sat beside him and started talking out his troubles. He was complaining about the mistakes he made and how he is suffering in business and how he is dead worried about the future. He sought Raman Maharshi’s advice. Raman Maharshi was appearing almost deaf, as if he was not listening to the man at all. He did not nod nor did he even glance at the man. Without raising his head or even looking at that man, he uttered the words of advice – “Peas and Rice!” and Maharshi went quiet and kept eating. The man was baffled. He did not dare ask the explanation, as Maharshi was engulfed in eating and was looking totally lost in his peas’ rice. The man came out and narrated the incident to one of the disciples of Maharshi and requested for an explanation. The disciple explained that Maharshi has advised him to live in utter presence. Brooding over the past or worrying about the future was the reason for his worries. The man was enlightened.

The child, I saw, was living in utter present.

How many of us can really live in utter present without repenting, rejoicing the past or worrying about the future. I keep trying hard. I am a big failure when it comes to living in utter present but I have not given up. I don’t want it to come artificially to me. It should naturally become part of me.  The people, the events, all around me, sometimes succeed in bogging me down but every time I make sure to bounce back.

I am waiting for the moment, when that stark naked child in me takes me over forever and I start advising people – “Peas and Rice”!!! J

So long!!!

I’ll be back!!!

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Civic Sense (… probably part 1 as I might write sequel/s! :) )

Welcome friends, to yet another piece of gibberish that concocts in my mind and you loving people care to read! We all were students. If not for anything else, we at least studied for exams. Remember, we had a subject called ‘Civics’ in our syllabi. Mostly, it was a part of our primary school syllabi. What I remember from that subject is that you should look on both the sides of the road for oncoming traffic before crossing the road; and you should always cross the road on the Zebra crossing. I also vaguely remember that at some point of time it also explained Indian political hierarchy, like who elects whom and what is the number of office bearers, in various political offices. Barring that I don’t remember a thing from the entire syllabus of that subject. I probably studied it for 10 marks in a 100 marks ‘Social Studies’ paper comprised of ‘History, Geography and Civics’.

Here I am, allegedly, all grown up and an observant soul of my degrading surroundings. It seems the entire society around me has forgotten about the subject in the curriculum. The very essence of civic behavior, which is self-restraint, self-control and rule abiding nature, has largely disappeared from the society. I drop my son off to school, every single day of the week. I drive him to school in our car. I feel amused and sad, at the same time, looking at the behavior of many other car owners. Since the traffic gets clogged, 15 minutes before school time, I drop my son half an hour before, to avoid stupendous stupidity of highly educated affluent buffoons. I have no qualms in proclaiming that I am a decent driver. I abide by all the rules (well…..at least all those, which ensure that I am no nuisance to fellow drivers and patrons in general). Most car owners feel that it is only their child, who is going to school and it is their commendable victory to occupy the space exactly opposite the gate of the school. Believe me, I see people parking and leaving their car parked till they drop their child inside the premises of the school. The next person arrives with a bigger car and what he sees…..someone has already occupied the coveted parking spot, opposite of the gate. His ego is hurt. Why the hell his child should take pains of walking 100 feet, when he has such an expensive car. So he chooses to park exactly behind this car. The moronic series continues. Then arrives a school bus, carrying twenty five odd kids. Now this driver has no place to halt his vehicle because of these highly educated intelligent parents. School bus halts almost in the middle of the road. Kids are scared, bus attendant is scared, bus driver is praying that a local transport bus shouldn’t arrive behind him. One of the buffoons arrives and tries to take his car out of the mess, he himself is responsible for. He starts honking incessantly and starts abusing the school bus driver for second row parking. This gets even more foolish with cars with paid drivers. Their bosses instruct them to stay put till they drop their kids off and come back. The drivers, for the fear of losing job, obstinately hold their ground against anything and anyone. The chaos continues.

Many a times I yell at these guys. Most parents must be thinking I am mad……and oh yes…..how correct they are this time…..I am not only mad……I am fucking revving mad. Why is it difficult for these morons to understand that they can park their cars at places which won’t obstruct traffic? How come, the people who care so much for their kids, are so unbothered about kids arriving in a school bus? How come they are unbothered about the people riding in a local transport bus, which gets delayed because of them? Questions….questions….questions…..!

Scene 2: Someone I know, who grew up and educated in Mumbai, has settled abroad. When this acquaintance of mine arrived in Mumbai for a short while, we met for dinner. We dined at a South Mumbai joint. After the dinner we were driving towards suburbs, which is quiet a distance. On the way back we picked up ice cream cups. After finishing the ice cream he simply threw the cup outside window from a running car. I was appalled. Incidentally, this person is settled in the cleanest place in the world. I almost had a verbal brawl with this person. He was justifying that as it is Mumbai is so unclean, how the hell one ice cream cup is going to be excess. I finally gave up explaining as things got really bitter. A classic case of someone who has forgotten civics!

Scene 3: Pune is my home town. I travel to Pune on many weekends. First ever ‘Express Way’ of India is built between Mumbai and Pune. Merely to drive to and fro on this road, car owners need to shell out more than three hundred rupees. It is my personal observation that the amount of garbage coming out of any car window is directly proportionate with the price of the car. I see people driving brands like BMW, Mercedes Benz throw empty cartons of chips, empty bottles of soft drinks etc. on the road. I pray for them for they don’t know what they are doing!

People spitting on the road …… seats not offered to old, pregnant ladies …… kids hanging at the door in local trains and no one taking them inside …… people littering in storm water drains & clogging them ….. people wrong parking their vehicles and bribing the attendants …… people yelling into their mobile phones in public …… travelling in public transport with excess luggage …… driving, riding in no entry lanes ….. Littering on the road …… Jaywalking (crossing the road or walking on the road recklessly….. Believe me Jaywalking is an offense as per traffic rules in India …. One such rule, which is never ever enforced as this rule is against reckless pedestrians and pedestrians are poor people and poor people can never do anything wrong!) …. Travelling without a valid ticket …… if someone is waiting for an auto, taxi; standing ahead of that person and catching auto, taxi before and not offering him a ride …… not giving side on the road for overtaking …. Driving in the wrong lane……………

The list can go on and on. What has happened to us! What’s going wrong? I feel subject ‘Civics’ should be taught right from nursery to graduation level. This shall enable people to remember to be responsible citizens.

This is the only way every one shall remember forever that their empty cup of ice cream is littering my HOME and it is NOT DONE!

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Friendship…..yaari….dosti….aur kya!

Hello all! I am back and how! J Friends and friendship is something close to my heart! All my life, I have been accused of being partial towards my friends and yes, I am guilty!

There hardly is any relationship, which matches friendship. The beauty of friendship lies in the amazing sense of equality. Friends are always equal. They are just friends. They are not intimidated by each other’s professional persona and nor should they. Now that I am writing this I vividly recall so many friends at so many junctures of life. Some are still in touch, many are not. Some were so close at that moment in time that just a phone call to them, after a decade seems like I had spoken to them yesterday. I feel friendship is like learning to ride a bicycle or learning to swim; once you know it, you never forget it!

There’s a subhashit (words of wisdom) in Sanskrut (Sanskrit)

 यथा  काष्ठं च काष्ठं च समेयातां महोदधौ | 

समेत्य च व्यपेयातां तद्वत भूत समागमः ||

Meaning, the way wooden logs thrown in a stream (literally Sea!) come close and eventually may depart, similarly, people in our lives come close and depart. It’s so true in case of friends. Remember your best pal in K.G., is that friend still your best friend? Chances are that he is not! Has he become less of a friend! Definitely not! Your lives just came together for that period in time and then you both moved on. Then, there are school mates, college mates, hobby class mates and yes in Mumbai you have local train mates tooJ. Friends move on in life, professionally. Friendship remains! Friend is someone who will defend you no matter what. It is never about your action, it is always about you.

When you think of it…..there is soooo much to remember…… the mischiefs in the school…. forgetting homework…. Forgetting notebooks….. getting punished with friends…… still laughing it off, while standing on the bench……. First day in college…… the new set of friends….. the introduction to love and vices (are they different…..??) bunking the classes together…. The movies ….. the beaches…. The outings…. The overnight picnics…… the aspirations….. falling in love….. rising in love….. riding a bike….. driving a car….. the unconditional support of friends…. Growing up…. Choosing a career…. Growing professionally….. getting introduced to hypocrisy, professionalism…. now there is only conditional support…… sitting alone at the top…… no one telling you the truth….. you are lost….. you don’t remember who you are…… a phone call…… and such a profane guy on the other side of the phone…… the fog in the head is getting cleared….. that someone knows ‘you’….just ‘you’….. not Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., CA or anyone….just plain ‘you’and you know the bugger too well too….. he is a ‘friend’….. nothing more and nothing less …. A ‘friend’….. you remember….. you recall who ‘you’ are and what ‘you’ want to do….. you simply wish to connect….. and you do that exactly…. You reclaim your life …. You take timeout from your busy schedule …… you lose some business ….. you set off the loss with happiness ….. you say ‘fuck it!’ and escape to ‘reality’….. from the surreal world of material success ….. you escape to reality where people know you….. and ah what a feeling…… friends….. yaari …… dosti ….. aur kya!!! What’s this world without ample friendship in it!

Happy friendship day to you…..why today….because every day is a friendship day! ;)

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Television, Technology … Depleting Humanity… (Where the books have gone!)

I want to say several things today and that’s the precise reason, why the title is looking so weird. I consider myself to be a lucky person, as I am born and grown up in pre-cable T.V. era. Life was beautiful! There was only one channel on television. Even that channel had a starting time and shutting time. I don’t recall exactly but it used to start in the evening and used to shut around ten in the night. The programmes were interesting, watchable and enjoyable with the whole family. All kids used to be on the play ground, in the evenings. May it be rain, may it be a hot summer day or may it be a winter day (yes, there used to be some winter in Mumbai, which has disappeared completely), kids used to play in any case. I learnt to play several outdoor sports before I got my first electronic gaming console. It used to be wonderful. Then, I vividly remember, there was a revolution in T.V. channels know as ‘Second Channel’. Mumbai T.V. Centre at Worli started broadcasting one more channel in the radius of forty kilometers from the T.V. tower. There are more fun facts. The televisions required giant sized antenna to be fitted on the terraces. Terraces were full of those antennae and they really used to be major hurdle in kite flying. A crow, a pigeon or heavy rains were sufficient reasons for disrupted or bad reception of the channels (just the two) on the television. Imagine, for several weeks the channels did not have any name. There was no onscreen logo for any of those channels. There was something called as Video Player (VCR or VCP) which was adorning the living room of a lucky few. Two types of libraries were flourishing, book libraries and the video cassette libraries. Many kids of my age used to enjoy reading. I was fortunate to have many friends who suggested me good books and I returned the favor. Because of books, we all can proudly proclaim that we weren’t and aren’t T.V. addicts. Books increased our canvass way …… way beyond iMax. We could see the picture directly on the sky. We learned to visualize. Many of us did not even have the land line telephone connection but we never missed an appointment. Friends knew whereabouts of friends and parents knew the whereabouts of kids. The rich and the poor both walked or bicycled to schools. The pride was in preserving things and not flaunting the new ones every now and then. Technology was yet emerging.

Post 1991, the scenario drastically changed. Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV network entered the households. No one had ever seen or heard of private channels. There was a tirade of channels on the television. Life became complicated. In late nineties, Internet made its way in the affluent households. In quick succession, mobile networks emerged in early 2000s. There is information revolution in past twenty years in India. People have started socializing on websites. Friends have lost capacity to communicate in person. People have learnt to dwell in the cyber world. Human interaction is touching its newest low, every passing day. Every household has more number of mobile phones than the people residing in it. Two television sets per household is perceived to be a necessity. There are unfathomable avenues to entertain one and irony is – every subsequent generation is even more bored than the prior one. Every meal is coordinated with T.V. serials. Slowly but steadily, we are building a pseudo world around us. We trust no one, we believe no one, we worship no one! We are getting very…..very lonely amongst 3,000 friends. We share a joke with 200 on mobile but sadly, we laugh alone.

I remember, when I never had a land line phone or a mobile phone, I used to get up, get ready and go to a friend’s place to call him out. There were ‘addas’ (joints), where friends used to meet and have a hearty laugh together. I know few places around my home, where dozens of youth used to assemble to have human interaction and have a good time together. Today most of the joints have closed the shop and the few running , don a ghostly look. The laughter and the joy, which was once spread there could not salvage them.

The young and the restless are devoid of ideals and idols. Life has become superficial. No one is telling them that happiness comes from within and not from outside. Everyone is busy getting bored. Multiple choices prides you options and also gives you a feeling that you have chosen the wrong option. How much is going to be enough? How long shall we run as there is no destination and neither are we enjoying the run!

The only way out is to cleanse our thoughts….

because

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”

- Swami Vivekanand

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