Sunday, March 19, 2017

Borim Mountain Run 2017

Sidhdhanath Parvat - Borim Ponda is about 10 kms from my house. I have been living so close to that hill, supposed to be the second tallest in Goa, but had never climbed it.  I had made an attempt about twenty years back, along with my children who were about eight and twelve years then. There was a road till the base of the hill and from there you just had to find the path going to the top and climb up. The hill probably is laterite and there were stretches of loose soil and gravel. I had to watch my step and also ensure the safety of the children. To top it, I had selected a summer afternoon for the adventure! We went half way and gave up. I had been planning to go there again but never did.

So, when I heard of the 15 km Borim Mountain Run I was tempted and since I had recently completed a 10km run with out difficulty, decided to give it a try. From the starting point to the top of the hill is 7.5kms and based on my previous experience I thought that I should be able at least to walk to the top of the hill and come down. Then I could always call some one and request for a pick up.

The route was very pleasant but tough. The first three kilometers were supposed to be level ground but I only found some small stretches of level road in the undulating terrain. Fourth onwards it is a steep climb. But as it happened I took exactly an hour to reach the top and returned in fifty five minutes. So, I put up a post to pat my own back and give an opportunity for others to do the same!

One of the easy stretches. Clean and pleasant countryside. 

Halfway mark. So far so good.

A small stretch of about 300 meters was bad

People come from afar to punish their legs - what fun!

I did reach the top and it was a great feeling. 

Blowing my trumpet

With of our group members. 

Another very nice stretch

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mookam Karoti Vaachaalam.........

You are said to be having ‘green fingers’ if the plants cared by you thrive and give you a good yield. If that is so, my fingers are certainly red. As red as the tomatoes that never appeared on my tomato plants. Most of the plants that I planted around my house have grown reluctantly, given out some flowers and fruits  grudgingly and have withered away with relief at the slightest excuse. The only exception is the chikoo tree which has been hale and healthy (touch wood) till date and is producing enough to sustain a variety of living beings.  The fruit bat, many birds, squirrels and ants to name a few.  And it has also satisfied the greedy humans around.

One of the unfortunate plants that came under the care of my red fingers is the Jasmine plant. It is a good variety of Jasmine said to be having seven layers of petals and it was planted eight years back. It has produced, on an average, about two flowers a year. I have tried trimming it from time to time as suggested by someone and shifting it as suggested by someone else. I have poured all sorts of manure available at our local co operative store from Neem cakes to fishmeal and even bird shit. But no results. I read somewhere that plants thrive well if you sing to them and I sang while watering them everyday inviting my neighbour’s ire. The plant expressed its displeasure by shedding the few remaining leaves. I thought of uprooting it and putting some other plant in its place but presently I did not have anything with me. So I cut the plant close to the ground and left just a few dry sticks sticking out of mud.

A file picture of my jasmine plant
One of my young friends who was going out of Ponda gave me a flowering tree, which she said is a ‘Bonsai’. Since I did not want to let it die in peace, I decided to repot it with fresh mud and manure. I found a pot, dug up some mud and mixed it with whatever manure was available in the store at that time and placed it in. I poured the remaining manure which was supposed to be bone meal and was stinking like hell, around other plants and some of it was offered to the Jasmine sticks also. More as a sort of last rites. A minor miracle occurred! Within two weeks the plant bloomed like never before and this morning I counted eight flowers and more than a dozen buds in the healthy plant! I was very excited and tried to explain the miracle to all available ears. None seemed to be interested. Since I wanted some outlet, I put it here.

The 'Bonsai' plant presented by my friend

The Jasmine in an unusual blooming mood

My cousine is presently visiting me. He is quite fond of me. I knew that he would not refuse to hear my Jasmine tale and recited the tale.  

He is seventy eight years now. He was fit as a fiddle and had a very healthy and active lifestyle till he was seventy. Then he was afflicted by the two so called lifestyle diseases Diabetes and Hypertension both of which should not have come anywhere close to him. But they did and they thrived. For the next eight years both his blood pressure and sugar levels remained much above normal in spite of the strongest medicines and insulin injections.

To top it, he developed some trouble with his back. It started as a mild pain which soon turned  severe. Along with this he developed some sort of weakness in the back which severely restricted his movements in general, and walking in particular. The fellow who used to walk briskly about eight kilometers everyday could not stand for more than five minutes and was reduced to shuffling along inside his compound wall sitting down every now and then to rest and then restart. It was a pitiable sight . As usual various specialists were consulted, tablets were swallowed, injections were pricked, balms, oils and lotions were rubbed in, and a physiotherapist worked on him. No results. We felt very sad looking at him but he took it philosophically. “It is his wish. So be it" he said.  

Few months back he had a severe and long bout of diarrhoea and also developed ulcers in the mouth which would just not go away. He could hardly eat anything and whatever he ate never nourished him. We had almost given him up for gone. But he did recover from his latest affliction and  the next time his sugar was checked during the routine check up it turned out to be absolutely normal! When it remained normal for the next two months he was taken out of insulin as well as other medications. Soon afterwards he regained some strength and he found that he could walk all round his apartment building without resting! The subsequent recovery was just short of a miracle. 

This morning he walked ten rounds of our six hundred meter walking track without trouble.

He was sitting and enjoying his morning coffee with sugar when I told him about my Jasmine and he said

“Mookam Karoti Vaachaalam
Pangum Langhayate Girim
Yatkripa Tamaham Vande
Paramaananda Maadhavam .  

(I salute Madhava, the source of supreme bliss.
His grace can make the dumb an eloquent orator
and the lame,  jump over a mountain!)

If he could make me walk, He can certainly make your Jasmine bloom!"


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Open Spaces, Once More - A Senior Citizen's Trek!

I travel quite often from Goa to Bengaluru by train. The train, which leaves Goa at night, usually reaches a stretch between two stations, Davanagere and Birur  by sunrise. It  would be running north to south and if you look out of the window to the east, you would see a long stretch of green fields beginning almost next to  the railway track, running up to the hills at a distance. Many a times I have seen one particular hill with a small white temple at the top and the sky just turning red beyond it. It is an enchanting sight. I have always felt an urge to just get off the train and start walking towards the hills, but have been forced to contain the urge and sit tight to reach Bengaluru.

During my last visit to Bengaluru I happened to mention this to a cousine of mine, who I knew was as crazy as I am about the open spaces and he said “Why contain the urge? Let us go there during your next visit"!. Since I was to visit Bengaluru again shortly, we fixed a date and he promised to keep himself free that day.

During my recent trip to Bengaluru, we started looking at the logistics of our madness, and we found that the place I had in mind was about two hundred and fifty kilometers from Bengaluru. Not easy to carry it off in a day. Since both of us were mentally prepared for a trek, we looked for places closer to Bengaluru and found a place called “Sidhdhara betta” ('Betta' is kannada for a hill) near Tumkur, at a distance of about ninety kilometers.

We decided to start early the next morning and drive towards “Sidhdhara betta” but to keep our options open to stop wherever we felt like and start walking in whichever direction we found appealing. He got his car checked while I purchased some provisions and we set off the next morning at six from Bengaluru in the direction of “Sidhdhara betta”.

We had passed Tumkur and had travelled some distance in the direction of Sidhdhara Betta when we reached a small village called Doddavaadi and found a hill close to the stretch of road we were in. There was a tree next to the road providing ample shade and we decided to park the car in the shade and climb the hill. We had to go through some agricultural fields to reach the hill and were hesitating to trespass a private land when we found an old man coming towards us. We asked him if we could go through the fields and climb the hill. He looked at us as if we were nuts and asked "what do you want to climb that hill for?".

“Oh just like that." We said "For fun”. His looks said 'there are all sorts in this world', but he actually said "please yourselves” and pointed vaguely towards the fields “that way”.  

Obviously not many people went there to climb the hill and no one from the village did it just for pleasure! May be people used to go there years back to collect firewood but with cooking gas and power available in the village, nobody went to there anymore.

 We reached the base of the hill in about fifteen minutes and started our climb. We had to find our own way looking closely at the ground for the hint of a path. We had to avoid obstacles like ditches, boulders and overgrown shrubbery but we could move in the general direction of the summit. The weather was not hot yet and we were in the shade of the hill itself. Going up was not easy but it was most enjoyable! 

I have gone on many treks. Except for the one to Virdi falls in Goa, almost all of them have been reasonably well known places and the path leading to them have been invariably littered with discarded plastic waste. Here, we had found a place which was not a known picnic/trekking destination, nothing spectacular around, no temple at the top, no man made path and no facilities available. No one went there for anything. It was too difficult a walk just to go there to dump garbage and hence the place was entirely garbage and litter free! It was a pleasure just on that one account!

I will stop my narration here and allow the pictures to tell the rest.

Walking next to the green field to reach the base of the hill

Beginning the climb hoping that the path we were making  lead to the top. 
In a sort of clearing about one third up the hill. Took time to sip some water, look around and enjoy the serenity and the scene. Can see the fields that we had crossed, the coconut grove and the hills of the 'Devaraayanadurga' Range.
Since we were climbing the western face of the hill, we were in the shadow of the hill itself and it was pleasant. By now, we had found that the climb was not as easy as it looked and we broke out two stout bamboo sticks to act as an aid for climbing as well as clearing the overgrown bramble in our path.
The picture gives a general idea of the terrain we were in. Here, my cousine took some time off to contemplate ( though a bit too late) whether it was a sensible pass time for two new senior citizens! Since all we have had till then were only a few pricks and scratches and no broken bones, we decided to proceed higher. 
When we were halfway up the hill the sun  appeared at the top 

We had thought (with out any logic, just with hope)  that the climb further up would be easier but it turned out to be worse. With huge boulders impossible for us to climb over and narrow passages difficult to pass through. But we were lucky not to have had the pleasure of meeting a  nursing bear or a leopard, supposed to be normal residents of the hill (as we learnt after coming down) on the other side of the boulder!
We are at the top! But for one last boulder. Since we wanted our legs attached to our bodies for climbing down, we decided to let the boulder win and were happy taking pictures, resting and refreshing ourselves. 
If you look closely, in the center you will find the road where our car was parked and the Devaraayana durga hill in the back ground. The white spot seen on top, we assume, is the Sri Narasimhaswamy temple.

 A panoramic view of the area. It is a hilly terrain and we could count about twenty peaks around us.  
Climbing down was uneventful except for the fact that we had missed our path entirely but reached down safely about a hundred meters away from where we had started. It was a pleasure to find this 'Step well' with clear, cool water next to the fields.
The village 'tea shop' which sells tea and petrol, (in different containers. fortunately!) provided  a cup of much needed hot, sweet tea and a few instant friends. 
We were lucky to have befriended few village folks since my senior citizen cousine (so as to prove his senior citizenhood) had forgotten to switch off the head lights of the car at day break  and the battery had drained out. Our friends gladly gave a hand to push start the car and we were on our way to Sidhdhara betta, after a three and a half hours detour.

The sun was directly above and in front of us when we started climbing "Sidhdharabetta", the uneven steps making the climb troublrsome. 
Sidhdharabetta is quite steep and takes about an hour to climb, if climbed with out taking a break. There is a shrine of some saint or a small temple of a deity at the top and also a pond (as we heard, we did not see them). Hundreds of people visit the hill as a pilgrimage and hence it has small shacks next to the steps selling water, bottled drinks, flowers, puffed rice etc etc and the inevitable share of garbage lining the steps. It was not a pleasure to climb the hill and we decided to return after climbing about two thirds of the hill.  

The scene from the top most point we reached 

The hill is home to hundreds of monkeys - experts in snatching things from the climbers. This monkey took away our water bottle and had a nice drink sitting comfortably in the fork of the tree!

There are quite a few shops and small eateries at the base of the hills which is a part of a village and we were on our way back after eating our packed lunch and another cup of tea.

 Relics of another era. An arrangement made by the roadside, using stone slabs, for people to rest their head loads and  rest themselves.

 A lake next to the road which made us take another detour. Apart from some migratory birds, possibly Storks, we could spot a Cormorant, a Curlew, many Parrots, a Kingfisher and a very beautiful white Paradise fly catcher in the surroundings. Sadly none of them flew into our camera frame. 

 It must have been five in the evening when we headed homewards.

 One last stop for a well earned coffee break and we were on the Tumkur - Bengaluru highway.

 The sun was just about to go down at the horizon when we reached Bengaluru. A beautiful end for a wonderful day.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Election Business! Money Should Keep Rolling!

Election time is business time. Probably the only time when our politicians ( those who are ruling us at the time, I understand, have bigger purses)  open the purse strings full and don’t care about the out flow.

All the house maids in our area request for an early let off from their chores so that they can join the campaigning teams. During the fifteen days campaigning time they get to make anywhere between eight to ten thousands which is two or three times their monthly wages. They are paid  Rs 500 per day and they are expected to follow the campaigning team leaders wherever they go.  

They are with the teams all day. But are detached from the election process! I just tried to talk to one such recruit who escorted a patient to the clinic - taking some time off from campaigning.

“So, where are you going today?”

“Don’t know. Wherever they take us”

“Which party are you campaigning for?”

“Don’t know. I think it is ‘Jhadoo’. Must be Parrikar”

“Who is the candidate?”

“I think Ravi naik”

(For those new have no idea of Goa elections - ‘Parrikar’ refers to our Present defence minister, BJP.   Jhadoo refers to AAP and Ravi Naik is the congress candidate)

The experienced ones get themselves enlisted directly at the campaign office and get the full five hundred. The more experienced ones become ‘recruiters’. They recruit those who are not aware of the election business, send them ‘campaigning’, collect Rs 500 on their behalf, pay the new recruits three or four hundred based on the gullibility of the recruit and pocket the rest. They get a handsome profit.

Taking advantage of the chaos involved and the inability of the ‘higher ups’ to make head counts or maintain records, the enterprising recruiters may recruit ten but give a list of fifteen, thereby getting themselves paid for non existing ‘volunteers’.  So, they get profits both at the cost of higher ups and lower downs.

Sometimes  the cash is not paid every day but whatever due, is paid after three or four days. Again since no proper records are maintained some of the recruits get paid for days on which they had not been present for campaigning! An unexpected bonus for recruits. But some of them are so honest and innocent, they go and return the money when they realise that they have been paid more!

This is the election business at the lowest level. The transactions and earnings get multiplied as one reaches higher levels in the pyramid of election business.

Time for everyone to dip into and help themselves from the candidate’s pocket! It is a sellers market. The candidates want the votes and are prepared to pay any premium. They also ignore the robbery.

The lucky ones who get elected, become our rulers, rob all those who robbed them during the elections and also those who didn’t and replenish the coffers. You don’t know when the need arises!

They say money should keep rolling! Yes, it does, gathers mass and waits to start rolling again after five years!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

 ದಂತ ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆ ಹಾಗೂ ಸ್ಮಶಾನ  ವೈರಾಗ್ಯ

ಹಲ್ಲು ನೋವೆಂದು ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆಗೆ ಬಂದಿದ್ದ ಮನುಷ್ಯನಿಗೆ ಅರಿವಳಿಕೆಗಯ  ಇಂಜಕ್ಷನ್ ಚುಚ್ಚಿ ನನ್ನ ಕೆಲಸಕ್ಕೆ ಅನುವಾಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ನೋವು ನಿಂತ ಕೂಡಲೇ ಆತನ ಭಯನಿವಾರಣೆಯಾಗಿ ಮಾತು ಪ್ರಾರಂಭವಾಯಿತು.

"ಅಬ್ಬಾ ಮೂರುದಿನ ನೋವುಸಹಿಸಿ ಸಹಿಸಿ ಸಾಕಾಯಿತು ಡಾಕ್ಟ್ರೇ. ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಈ ತಾಪತ್ರಯಬೇಡ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಹಲ್ಲುಗಳನ್ನೂ ಸರಿಮಾಡಿಬಿಡಿ. ಮತ್ಯಾವುದಾದರೂ ಹಲ್ಲು ಹುಳುಕಾಗಿದೆಯೇ ? "

"ಇನ್ನೂ ಐದಾರುಹಲ್ಲು ಹಾಳಾಗಿವೆ. ಈಗಲೇ ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆಮಾಡಿದರೆ ಮುಂದೆ ತೊಂದರೆಯಾಗದು "

"ಏನು ? ಐದಾರೆ ?" ಆತ ಹೌಹಾರಿದ .

"ಹೌದು. ಹುಡುಕಿದರೆ ಇನ್ನೂ ಒಂದೆರಡು ಸಿಕ್ಕಾವು "

"ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಸರಿಮಾಡಿಬಿಡಿ ಡಾಕ್ಟ್ರೇ . ಅದೇನೇನು ಮಾಡಬೇಕೋ ಮಾಡಿಬಿಡಿ "

"ಒಂದು ದಿನದಲ್ಲಿ ಆಗುವ ಕೆಲಸವಲ್ಲ, ಸುಮಾರುಬಾರಿ ಬರಬೇಕಾಗಬಹುದು "

"ಸರಿ ಬರುತ್ತೇನೆ ಬಿಡಿ. ನನಗೆ ಈಗಲೇ ಎಲ್ಲಕ್ಕೂ ಅಪ್ಪಾಯಿಂಟ್ಮೆಂಟ್ ಕೊಟ್ಟುಬಿಡಿ. ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಸರಿಯಾಗಿಬಿಡಲಿ."

"ಮತ್ತು ಫೀ ಸಹ ಸಾಕಷ್ಟಾಗಬಹುದು "

"ಅಂದರೆ "

"ಬಹುಶಃ ಹತ್ತು ಹದಿನೈದು ಸಾವಿರ "

"ಹಣ ಎಷ್ಟಾದರೂ ಚಿಂತೆಯಿಲ್ಲ . ಎಲ್ಲ ಸರಿಯಾದರೆ ಸಾಕು . ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಈ ತೊಂದರೆ ಬೇಡ."

"ಆಯಿತು. ಇಂದಿನ ಕೆಲಸಮುಗಿಯಲಿ"

"ಮತ್ತೆ ಉಳಿದಹಲ್ಲುಗಳನ್ನೆಲ್ಲಾ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಕ್ಲೀನ್ ಮಾಡಿಬಿಡಿ ಡಾಕ್ಟ್ರೇ. ಅದಕ್ಕೂ ಅಪಾಯಿಂಟ್ಮೆಂಟ್ ಕೊಟ್ಬಿಡಿ "


"ಹಾಗೆ ಈ ಎರಡುಹಲ್ಲು ಕಿತ್ತಿದ್ದು ಖಾಲಿ ಜಾಗ ಇದೆಯಲ್ಲಾ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಹಲ್ಲು ಕಟ್ಟಲಾಗುತ್ತದೆಯೇ  ?"


"ಹಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ ಅದನ್ನೂ ಮಾಡಿಬಿಡಿ "

ನನಗೆ ಈ ಮಾತುಕತೆ ಹೊಸದೇನಲ್ಲ. ಹತ್ತರಲ್ಲಿ ಎಂಟುಜನ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಹಲ್ಲುನೋವಿನ ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆಗೆಂದು ಬಂದವರು ಮತ್ತೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಸರಿಮಾಡಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಇರಾದೆ ತೋರಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಹಲ್ಲು ನೋವಿನ ಭಾದೆ ಕಡಿಮೆಯೇನಲ್ಲ. ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಬೇಡವೆನ್ನಿಸುವುದು  ಸಹಜವೇ.

ನಾನು ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆ ಮುಗಿಸಿದೆ. ಆತ ಮೇಲೆದ್ದ .

"ಈಗಲೇ ಉಳಿದ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆಗೂ ಅಪ್ಪಾಯಿಂಟ್ಮೆಂಟ್  ಕೊಟ್ಬಿಡಿ ಡಾಕ್ಟ್ರೇ "

"ಸರಿ ನಾಡಿದ್ದು ಸಂಜೆ ಐದಕ್ಕೆ ಬನ್ನಿ . ಉಳಿದ ಕೆಲಸ ಶುರುಮಾಡೋಣ "

ಈ ಮಾತುಕತೆಯಾಗಿ ಆರುತಿಂಗಳಾಯಿತು. ಮನುಷ್ಯ ಪತ್ತೆಯಿಲ್ಲ. ಇನ್ನೆರಡು ವರ್ಷದನಂತರ ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಹಲ್ಲು ಬಾಧೆಯಾದಾಗ ಬಂದೇಬರುತ್ತಾನೆ ಆತ. ಮತ್ತೆ ಇದೇ ಸಂಭಾಷಣೆ. ಮೊದಲೇ ಹೇಳಿದಂತೆ ನನಗೆ ಇದು ಹೊಸದಲ್ಲ. ನಾನು ಈ ಕೆಲಸ ಶುರುಮಾಡಿ ನಲವತ್ತು ವರುಷ ಆಗುತ್ತಾ ಬಂತು. ಈ ಮಾತುಕತೆ ನೂರಾರು ಜನರೊಡನೆ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಅದು ನಮ್ಮ ಡೆಂಟಲ್ ಛೇರಿನ ಪ್ರಭಾವ !"

ಸ್ಮಶಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಂಭಂದಿಯೋ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತನದೋ ದಹನಕ್ಕೆಂದು ಹೋದ ಮನುಷ್ಯನಿಗೆ ಜೀವದ ಅಂತ್ಯ ಕಂಡಂತೆ  "ಈ ಜೀವನ  ಇಷ್ಟೆಯೇ " ಅನಿಸುತ್ತದಂತೆ.  ತನ್ನ  ಅಹಂ, ಆಸೆ, ಕಾಮ, ಕ್ರೋಧಗಳನ್ನೆಲಾ ತೊರೆದು, ಅಷ್ಟೇ ಏಕೆ, ಈ ಜೀವನ ದಿಂದಲೇ ಮುಕ್ತನಾಗಬೇಕೆಂಬ ವೈರಾಗ್ಯ ಕಾಣಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತದಂತೆ. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ "ಸ್ಮಶಾನ ವೈರಾಗ್ಯ "ವೆನ್ನುತ್ತಾರಂತೆ. ಮರಣ ಕಾರ್ಯ ಮುಗಿಸಿ ಹೊರಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದಂತೆ ವೈರಾಗ್ಯ ತಲೆಯಿಂದ ಹೊರಹೊಕ್ಕು ಎಲ್ಲ ಮನುಷ್ಯಗುಣಗಳು (ಅವಗುಣಗಳು) ಮತ್ತೆ ತುಂಬಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತವಂತೆ. ನಾಯಿಬಾಲ ಡೊಂಕೇ!

ಹಲ್ಲುಗಳನ್ನೆಲ್ಲಾ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಸರಿಪಡಿಸಿಕೊಂಡುಬಿಡಬೇಕೆಂಬ ಆಶಯ  ಸ್ಮಶಾನ ವೈರಾಗ್ಯದಂತೆಯೇ  !

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sorry I did not Deposit My money Earlier.

My dear Government,
Read your latest warning in today’s paper.  If I remember right ( I am getting old and can’t remember things these days) you told us that we can deposit our old currency into our own accounts any time, any amount, any number of times, till 30th Dec. Please forgive me for I did not know that you were joking. I took it seriously.  I thought I will go over to the bank at my convenience and deposit whatever I had with me. What I have with me is honestly earned and tax paid money and I saw our hon  PM saying through large hoardings at all petrol pumps “honest people do not fear”. Again I did not know it was just the joke of the year. I took him seriously too. I did not deposit my old notes earlier because I really thought that you and our PM really meant whatever you had said. Only now I understand that you are making statements on day to day basis and you really do not mean what you say.
I was also confused by the Hon Supreme court which directed you to allow the use of old currency for basic needs as you have not been able to provide enough new currency.  I agree that I have been foolish in thinking that getting rid of pain falls under the category of basic needs and I have also accepted some old currency whenever my patients pleaded inability to pay me in new currency.
Now kindly accept these eighteen notes and please let me know if you want me to close down my clinic till you make up your mind about this demonetisation business which I do not understand. I am only a dentist and not an economist. But from my experience as a dentist with over forty years experience, I really know what is your problem. You have bitten more than you can chew. If you want to chew up things further please get in touch with me. I offer my services free.

Your faithfully,
an old dentist

Friday, December 2, 2016

Swachcha Bharat Abhiyaan And Arthik Swachchata (economic cleanliness?)

Soon after he took over, our Hon PM announced “Swachcha Bharat Abhiyaan”, the Clean India Initiative. He took a broom, swept a street in Delhi and everybody else who matter, followed suit. We liked the slogan, we liked the action and we loved the image of a clean India. No more heaps of garbage at street corners, no more empty bottles, chips packets and plastic bags littering our streets and no more pan stains and urine smell on the compound walls. How nice! He designated cleanliness ambassadors - Navaratnas -  who were supposed to oversee the action and report to him. Sounded serious.

After two years I realize, sadly, that nothing has changed. None of the Navaratna’s are shining. My street corner garbage heap is as it was. In fact it has grown bigger and another one has started taking shape nearby. I don’t see any change in the attitude of my co citizens. Nobody carries a reusable bag to the market. The ban on plastic bags, imposed by local bodies is as effective as the ban on Ghutka.  Laughable at the most. I hear that lakhs of toilets have been constructed spending crores of rupees to eradicate open defecation, but continue to see the migrant labourers in my city heading towards the bushes in the semi darkness every morning, during my walk.

People who have faith in the initiative tell me to wait. It has just begun they say. “You will see the results at the end of five years”.

I have been a part of a social group working towards cleaning up our city. We have been working for the past four years. We started even before our PM announced Swachcha Bharat. I was very happy when he made the announcement but disillusionment is creeping in. I feel that our PM did not gauge the magnitude of the problem, announced his ‘Abhiyaan’ and started with a slogan and a broom. I am not an expert in the field but my common sense says that our country can not be made clean if our attitude is not changed and the quantum of trash generated is not reduced.

And as I know, no effort is being made in that direction. Nor, for that matter, any serious effort in anything.

In a function recently I heard one of the speakers say “after the ‘swachchata abhiyaan’ to clean up our country our PM has started ‘Aarthik swachchata’ (economic cleanup) and we will soon see that black money is eliminated from our country”.  

My pessimistic and cynical mind finds an uncanny resemblance between both the programmes. Looking at the way the situation following the demonetisation announcement is being handled, I feel here again we have a case of misjudgement. Misjudgement of the magnitude of the problem, magnitude of the effect of demonetisation, magnitude of the preparedness that was needed, magnitude of our ability to launder the cash and corner the new currency and so on and so forth.

Many economists say that we may end up reducing the black money by 5-10%. People who are generous in their thoughts say “So be it. It is something. Nobody else dared to do even that much.” I am not as generous. Our politicians have trained my mind to look at all their actions with suspicion.

In a recent online survey on demonetisation I had three choices. 1. Good idea - well executed 2. Good idea - badly executed 3. Bad idea - badly executed. I am not an expert in economics and can’t say with confidence if it is a good idea or a bad idea. But I can confidently say that it is badly executed. I sincerely hope that it does not turn out to be a bad idea too.