Friday, April 11, 2014

Election commission Of India.

Went early to vote this morning as I did not relish the idea of waiting for half an hour in the hot sun to vote for some undeserving fellow. All of them are undeserving but I have to vote for the best of the worst. I did. 

I had reached there by fifteen minutes past seven hoping to be amongst the first few but there were already about twenty five people in the queue. People smarter than me. I stood in the line mentally preparing to be there for at least forty five minutes (Based on my past experience). Pleasant surprise. I did not have to wait for more than fifteen minutes. The line moved very fast, I was done in no time and I came back wondering at the orderly conduct of polling and the efficiency of Election Commission of India.

I had been following the exchanges between the ECI and the West Bengal chief minister for the past few days and had noted the audacious statement of the CM, WB. It was gratifying to read that she had to bow down to the ECI and follow orders.

We hardly have any institutions in our country worth being proud of. I feel ECI is one. A big LIKE from me for our Election commission. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reaction to CM's statement 25.03.2014

BJP workers will get priority for government schemes, Says CM. (head line) Navhind Times 25.03.2014

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has assured party workers that they will be the first to get benefits of government schemes and later on others will be considered without any discrimination. (!!!) (report)

I read the sentence twice to make sure that I am reading it right. I had not read it wrong. Now, either the CM was wrong, or got his wording wrong or the press got it wrong. I hope that it is one of the later two. Because if our CM really meant what he said, he will lose what little respect I still have towards him and BJP will be out of consideration in my voting priorities.

If he means what he said, then it translates to “if you want to be a beneficiary of government schemes then enroll with BJP and be a party worker.”  And after this glaringly discriminatory statement he ridiculously goes on to say “later on others will be considered without any discrimination”.

Every time I see some such statements from our politicians I feel that this is the lowest our politicians can stoop but they always excel themselves and manage to stoop lower than the lowest.

I read till the end hoping to see a disclaimer in small print stating “I have made this statement just to appease the party workers and do not really mean it” but unfortunately there was none.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Company Of Books.

'The Suitable Boy' joined the Bhagavadgita and the dictionary on my table for eight months. 

‘The Suitable Boy’  By Vikram Seth. 1350 pages.  5,91,552 words. Started - 10th June 2013, Completed -7th Feb 2014. (My reading. Not Seth’s writing. I believe he took ten years to write it.) I had borrowed the book from our public library and renewed it eight times during the eight months I took to read it. The longest for a book borrowed from the library. I enjoyed every moment of my reading the book and as months rolled by, I was feeling sad looking at the reducing number of pages on the right. Just as one of the reviews said.  Most of my reading is done in the clinic, while waiting for patients, between patients or when people miss appointments. Anyone missing an appointment is usually an irritation but during the time I was reading ‘The Suitable Boy’, I was looking forward to people missing appointments! I remember my niece Shruti having written about the novel in one of her posts.( I do not remember the details but she had analysed it well, appreciated it very much and had strongly recommended it.  I do the same.  

As mentioned above, most of my reading is done in the clinic but I also read during the brief periods between lunch/dinner and nap/sleep.  I usually keep two books. One on my table in the clinic and the other near the swing on which I spend the transition period between the dining table and the bed.  After eating, I read till I feel sleepy. The book slipping from my hands is the indication that it is time to shift to the bedroom.  My wife notices that, pokes me in the side to wake me up  and sends me to bed. Usually it does not take more than ten minutes for this to happen and very often I do not remember what I had read during this period. I end up reading the same parts again and again. Since it was taking very long to finish ‘The suitable boy', I attempted to read it in the clinic as well as on the swing. But the book was very heavy to hold and there was the danger of internal injury if it slipped from my hands and fell on my stomach. So I gave up the idea and it remained on my table for eight months.

'The Week,' best for the weak handed and weak minded.

There are two other books which have stayed there much longer. One is The Bhagavadgita which is doing its fourth year and the other is the dictionary which is almost always there. My association with the Bhagavadgita started when I was in primary school. (Maruti Vidyaalaya, Wilson Garden, Bangalore). Every Friday, the last period, 4.15 PM – 5PM, was meant for mass recital of the Gita. Almost all of us had the first two chapters by heart. Competitions were held and I had even won a prize for reciting ‘The qualities of Sthitapragnya’ (The stable minded).  A stainless steel Tea Spoon! (I keep mentioning it whenever the topic of Bhagavdgita comes up - like Bertie Wooster, who had won some prize in scriptures or some such thing when he was a child).

The qualities of the ‘Sthithapragnya’ (Verses 54 to 72 - Second Chapter - Saankhyayoga) were also part of our morning prayers when I was in National High School. All of us had a ‘Pocket volume’ of the Gita and my copy went into the possession of my father after I finished the school. He had read it end to end, could quote freely from it and had filled the margins of the book entirely with his comments. I never bothered to see what he had written then but would give anything to get that copy and see his comments now. But it has vanished. I have none of my father’s qualities or capabilities but I have kept the Bhagavadgita on my table hoping to read, understand and practice its teachings one day. I expect my genes and my long standing association with the Bhagavadgita to help me out! Whether I read it or not, the very presence of the book on my table seems to have helped my image a lot  and it certainly is worth retaining on the table! 

The dictionary (Pocket oxford dictionary) is not ornamental and I open it every now and then while reading. I get the meaning, continue my reading and forget the word again. There were a lot of words new to me (Ineluctable, Apostasy, Traipse, Crenellations, Quatrain, to mention a few) in ‘The Suitable Boy’. Initially I studiously went through the dictionary whenever I found a new word but since I spent more time reading the dictionary (and many words were absent even in my dictionary) than the novel, I stopped looking for the words if I could vaguely make out what they meant, going by the context. I also need the dictionary while writing since my language is not up to mark. I have to double check to make sure that I am writing what I mean. Shortly I will have to replace the volume that I have on my table as its pages are getting detached one by one. The date of purchase says that I bought it thirty years back. I had paid thirty five rupees then and I think that I have got back every paisa.

The much used dictionary - on top.
There are two more books hidden between the patient cards and X ray films. These books were given to me  by a well meaning friend (to read and return - but he made the mistake of saying that I may keep them as long as I want them) more than a year back. ‘The Lost Art Of Healing’ by the Nobel Prize winning cardiologist Bernard Lown,( Renowned cardiologist, won the Nobel peace prize for his work against nuclear weapons) and ‘Ignited Minds’ By APJ Abdul Kalam.

‘The Lost Art Of Healing’ is a wonderful book. It is a very good read for anyone and I feel it is a must for everyone in health care. Here are some quotes from the preface, which when associated with the title will give an idea what Dr Lown has to say.

 “doctors no longer minister to a distinctive person but concern themselves with fragmented, malfunctioning biological parts. The distressed human being is frequently absent from the transaction.”
“technology has become a sufficient substitute for talking with a patient”
“a doctor who takes a careful history reaches a correct diagnosis in 70% of the cases. This is far more efficient than all the currently available tests and technologies.”
“medicine is the science of uncertainty, the art of probability”
 I intend reading it again. My friend anyway has said that I may keep the book as long as I want it.

 I have read parts of ‘Ignited Minds’. I have lot of regards for its author and his views but the book has not impressed me much. But I intend finishing it.    

For repetitive reading (books that I have read half a dozen times or more) I have DVG, Kailasam, G P Rajaratnam, Beechi, (all of them kannada authors) PGW, James Herriot, Laura Ingalls and Gerald Durrel. These are my all time favourites, whom I do not mind reading another half a dozen times.

I started writing about the Suitable Boy which impressed me a lot (the size deters me from attempting to read it again) and I have reached here. I have no idea how to proceed. I think I should stop.

“A man is known by the company he keeps” goes the popular saying. If a man is known by the company of the books he keeps  I may expect to exhibit a much better version of myself than what I actually am!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Footwear To Walk With

I had to deposit a cheque in the bank. I stopped in front of the bank but there was no space to park my scooter. I had to go ahead, park the scooter and walk back. My wife said that she would wait near the scooter. I dropped the cheque in the drop box, returned and kicked the starter. “Wait a minute” said my wife “We are right in front of BATA. Let me go in and see if I find something suitable.”

BATA always attracts her. I should have been careful while parking.

“You have at least two dozen pairs at home. Do you really need another?”
“Don’t exaggerate. I certainly do not have more than fifteen. And I can’t use them for walking”
“Can’t use them for walking? What do you use them for?”
“I mean when I go for a walk. All of them are either rain wear, casuals or to be used for occasions. I had only one pair which I was using for my walk and it is torn.”
“Go have a look. I will wait here.”
“Instead of standing here why can’t you come in and help me choose something?” 

I followed her dutifully into the shop.

After going around the shelves labelled  ‘50% discount’ and finding all of them in size ten I joined my wife in the ladies section.

“What are you actually looking for?”
“I told you that I need something comfortable which I can use for walking.”

I went through the shelves and after examining several pairs, I picked out one and handed it to her. “This looks good for me.”
“Looks Ok. But the sole is very hard. I can’t use these for long walks.”

I picked another pair making sure that the sole was soft. She turned it around in her hands. “This does not have a toe ring. I am not at all comfortable with one without a toe ring.”

These two conditions eliminated a major part of the stock. After searching some more I found a pair having soft soles and toe rings.

“How can you call this a lady’s foot wear? It looks so masculine. I said that I want something which suits ME.”
“But this was in ladies section, right here.”
“These shop fellows have no sense. At least you should have.”
“Why don’t you buy a pair of shoes? I think the choice is better there.”
“I have shoes. I am looking for something which I can use as casual wear as well as for a walk. Say, when I go to the temple and then continue for a walk or visit someone and then go on for a walk.”

It was quite complicated but I persevered and managed to find one more pair.

“Can anybody like this pattern? We have been married for thirty years. I do not know when you will understand me. This is  horrible and it is not at all delicate.”

I tried my luck with yet another pair and got “You do not know the difference between delicate and flimsy. This is flimsy, looks like it is made of spaghetti and it won’t last more than two weeks.”

I gave up.

I went round the shop, looked at everything that I would never buy and returned after twenty minutes. She had found a pair. She felt the sole, tugged at the straps, turned it around, examined it minutely, tried it on and asked for a smaller size. Luckily they had a smaller one. She carried the box to the counter to be billed. The fellow manning the counter read the label and was about to type it on his computer when she said “please wait”. She took out the selected pair, looked at them again and asked “Do you have brown in this?”

The fellow must have accepted defeat but before that I was out of the shop and had started the scooter, ready to run. She followed me and sat on the pillion.

“Could you not wait for me? Walking out like that leaving me alone there. You are so impatient. I do not know why I ask you to come with me. Whenever you accompany me I come back empty handed. Now don’t look at me like that. You will sprain your neck. (I had turned my neck trying to look her in the eye) Let us go home.”

And we returned home.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gandhigiri Works!

I had finished my morning chores and had settled down with the news paper.  My wife went out to get flowers for her ‘pooja’ (worship). I had just managed to gloss over the Kejriwal item on the front page (a permanent fixture nowadays) and was proceeding towards the exchanges between Rahul and Modi (another permanent fixture) when she returned, flashing her eyes

 “Not a single flower in the plant and you are sitting here reading your paper”.
“What do I do if there are no flowers? I can only water the plants, pour manure and hope they will oblige. I can’t force them to give out flowers.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. You know what I mean. There were at least half a dozen flower buds last evening and not even one flower now. People are robbing everything and you do nothing. Throw that paper away and do something.”

I folded the paper making it difficult for her to snatch it and asked “Half a dozen buds? Where were they?”
“Where???  On the plant. Where else?”
“I mean which part of the plant? Ours or theirs?”

See the bud on the branch flowing out of the compound? - It is their's
All the plants which are in front of our house have two parts. The flowers that are on the branches facing the road are ‘theirs’. The pious flower thieves, who are dependent up on the flowers in other’s gardens for their morning worship. They are available to them on ‘first come first served’ basis. Those on the branches facing the house are ours. The owners. I am Ok with that arrangement. I was a freelancer myself once and understand the temptation.

“I am telling you that your neighbor does not care where the flowers are.  He even comes into the compound to search and takes everything away. You just can’t keep quiet. You have to tell him to leave our flowers alone.”

Now she was focusing on the point.  Her complaint was about my immediate neighbor who has enough plants in his own compound but comes out every morning to get the small white flowers from the roadside plant right next to my house. I believe they are a must for his rituals. Having come out, he also claims some of our flowers and offers them to his gods to enhance the results. My wife was not aware of this. One day when I returned early from my swimming I saw two hibiscus in his bowl and made the mistake of mentioning it to her. Now he is the first suspect for every missing flower.  She wants me to tell him that he is a thief and warn him not to lay his hands on our flowers.

Type of carnation, called 'nandi Battalu' in kannada, must for my neighbour;s worship
It is not easy for me to do that. You see we are neighbours and have cordial relations. He invites us for their annual Satyanarayana pooja and the females in his family - wives of the three brothers and their three daughters, six in all - make up the major chunk of invitees for my wife’s Gauri pooja.  And I have not seen him actually plucking my flowers – though we know it to be a fact.  

“Let it be” I tried to placate my wife.  “He takes the flowers and places them on the idols that he worships and so do you. You know that nothing misses the god’s eyes. (Here I tried to tell her Kanakadasa’s story - eating a banana when no one is seeing- but she was in no mood to listen) He knows that they are your flowers. You will get the credit.”
 “Don’t teach me philosophy. I can do it better than you. I want flowers for my pooja and that is it. If you do not have the face to claim your property so be it. Go to the market every morning and buy flowers for my pooja.”

I went down and saw the plant. It was true. We have three hibiscus plants in pour compound and the two next to the compound, facing the road, were totally bereft of flowers. Not just my wife but the sun birds would also be very much disappointed.

Large pink hibiscus - Sun bird's favourite

A pair of sunbirds come early evening everyday looking for nectar and insects. Though they are partial to the large pink hibiscus, they do fly around the other hibiscus plants, poke their beaks into the flowers and try their luck. When there are no flowers they just fly around the plants and go away disappointed. I may get flowers from the market for my wife but what about the birds? I had to do something.  But accosting my neighbor and telling him to his face not to take our flowers was quite embarrassing for me. I was wondering what to do when I remembered Munnabhai’s ‘Gandhigiri’.

The next Sunday (Holiday for our swimming pool) instead of going for my long walk I just took a short stroll and returned early. I was pottering around in the back yard till I heard my neighbour’s gate opening. He has a huge metal gate which slides on metal wheels making a lot of noise. I came into his view when he had just finished the road side plant and was walking towards our hibiscus. He saw me and stopped in his tracks abruptly. But he recovered fast and asked me casually,

My neighbour's gate
“Good morning doctor. No swimming today?”

“The pool is closed. I finished my walk early. Got enough flowers? I think it is already time for your ‘pooja’. I hear your bell ringing (the hand held sacred bell used in worship)and your reciting the ‘mantras’ (sacred verses) everyday and it goes on for a long time. I think you need a lot of flowers. You may take flowers from these plants too” I plucked two flowers from the plant and offered them to him “Just leave a few for us. We are not so particular about our rituals.”

He came forward to accept the flowers but responded with “No no no. I have enough flowers in my compound. I come for these small white ones which are a must for the worship. I do not need your flowers. Thank you.” He went back hurriedly pulling his gate in place.

All my flowers have been safe since then and my wife very generously leaves out a few  everyday for the birds.  

Gandhigiri works!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mango Mood

Mango trees around my house are in full bloom. If all the flowers translate into fruits, there should be a bumper mango crop. I do not get any fruits from the trees that I see but if that is the trend and if there is a bountiful crop this season, mango prices should come within my reach. That is the wishful hope.

Prices of the most favoured variety of mangoes in Goa, the ‘Mankurad,’ usually start at an atrocious two thousand rupees a dozen and as more and more fruits trickle or pour in, (depending on the harvest) the price comes down and settles between Rs 300-600, depending on the size and quality. (The best quality is totally fibre free, wonderfully flavoured, cuts like butter and has a very small seed/pit. Real delight!)

At the very beginning of the season, the hawkers usually have just a dozen or two with them and treat their ware like gold. What surprises me is that there are always people who buy at that price! I am curious to find out who buys them and have tried to witness an actual transaction by standing at a vantage point close to the sellers without being obvious about it, but have failed. My curiosity has only resulted in getting an irritated “I do not know why it takes you so long to bring a kilo of onions from the market” from my wife.  Sometimes I am sent to the market twice in a morning with a near  apologetic “Oh, I am sorry, I totally forgot about coconut and I just cannot manage without one” and I take the opportunity to look up on the golden ‘mankurads’ once again. Since I do not see any in front of the hawker who had been offering them at two thousand, I conclude that they were sold. By circumstantial evidence.

I have attempted to confirm the real selling price by bargaining with the hawkers but have only managed to get a disdainful look in response.  My father in law says that he once received a comment "ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮುಖ ನೋಡಿದ್ರೆ ನೀವು ಹಣ್ಣು ತೊಗೊಳೋ ಹಾಗೆ ಕಾಣಲ್ಲ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ, ಸುಮ್ನೆ ಯಾಕೆ ಕೇಳ್ತಿರೀ " from a street hawker in Bangalore. (You don't look like you can afford to buy these fruits. Why do you ask?)  No one has actually said that to my face here but my wife says, dressed in my market attire of half pants, faded T shirt and a faded cap on top of an even more faded face and carrying a cloth bag (not faded - because it has been stitched using the cloth which till recently was the seat in an armchair, now turned inside out) I look like a vagabond not good even for two hundred rupees and it is a surprise that I get any looks from the vendors at all!

So, if a bumper crop brings down mango prices this season, to, say vagabond levels, I may be noticed as a customer in the market too!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Free Service Taketh away - Free Check Up Giveth.

I had taken my car for the ‘second free servicing’. (Six months from date of purchase or five thousand kilometers  - whichever is earlier)
“It has done more than five thousand kilometers sir” the service engineer said, “we will do the servicing and I suggest that you get wheel rotation, balancing and alignment done”.
“That’s fine.” I said.
“But wheel alignment and balancing are not part of free service sir. It will be six hundred rupees.”
He proceeded to check the vehicle.
“The silencer coating has not been done sir. Better to do it now. The nuts and bolts rust very fast and no point doing the coating after that.”
“OK, do it”
He lifted the bonnet.
“Lot of dust on the engine sir. Shall we do the engine coating also? It will reduce dust collection and makes it easy to clean”
“What will be the cost?”
“Silencer and engine coating together would be one thousand five hundred sir”
I had to say yes.
Then he opened the door.
“Sir, don’t you want to put seat covers?”
“No” I said. “It is quite ok as it is. It looks and feels fine.”
“But look here sir.” He showed me a corner of the seat. “See, something has rubbed here and the fibres are sticking out. If there is a tear, you will have to replace the whole seat”
I had not thought about that. Our car boot is not big and sometimes we keep luggage on the back seat. There is a possibility of damage.
“What is the cost of the covers?”
“You please check with the accessories section sir. There is a discount available. But it is better that we put the seat covers”
 I went to the accessories section and selected a set of covers which cost three thousand five hundred after ‘discount’.

The car was delivered in the evening after the second ‘free’ servicing along with a bill for five thousand rupees.

To boost their sales, Colgate Palmolive organises a ‘Free Dental Check up Month’ every year and I had enlisted as a participating dentist. During the later years I opted out of it but I think the company has not ‘delisted’ me. As a result, I received a call from a gentleman who wanted a ‘free’ check up. I did not want to disappoint him and asked him to come.

I directed him to the chair.
“What will be the fee doctor?”
“There will be no fee. This is a ‘free dental check up.”
“I have no trouble as such doctor. I just want to make sure that things are OK.”
I examined his teeth. “You have a good set of teeth. But there is a bit of tartar on some of them and it is better you get it cleaned. It is not urgent and you may get it done whenever and where ever you wish.”
“Can you please do it now doctor?  I am expecting a call from my employers abroad and may have to leave the country any time.”

I did the cleaning. During cleaning he experienced a bit of sensitivity in one of his grinders and I found a depression on the tooth. It was not decay. The tooth was worn out. I told him so.
“Can it be filled doctor?”
“There is no need for a filling there. Just make sure that you do not rub very hard on that tooth when you brush. And always use a soft brush. It may have to be filled if it gets deeper.”
“Please fill it if you can, doctor. Sometimes I find food getting stuck there.”
I did the filling.
“My wife says that sometimes I grind my teeth at night. Is that all right?”
“Well, if you have that habit the tooth wears out faster. The filling may not last long even. You may use a night guard to protect your teeth.”
“What is this night guard?”
“It is an appliance made out of soft plastic which fits and covers all your teeth. You put it on your teeth when you go to bed and remove it in the morning. It will prevent damage to your teeth even if you grind them sometime at night.”
“Where is it available doctor?”
“It will not be available in the shops. It is not ready made. I can get it done for you if you want.”
“Can it be done in a day or two? I may have to leave the moment I get the call.”
I said that I can and prepared the moulds of his teeth then and there. I told him that I will call him as soon as the night guard is ready and that he can come and collect it.”

He left after the ‘free dental check up’ paying me about five thousand rupees in all.

Model of Patient's teeth at the bottom. 'Night Guard' (meaning easy money) at the top.

Lord taketh away but the lord giveth too.

Rather, Free service taketh away but Free check up giveth.