Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some More Action - Hope we do not go too fast and end up losing steam!

In my last post I mentioned that we intend meeting people who matter, inform them about our work and involve them in the process. We learnt that our MP from south Goa, Sri Narendra Sawaikar, was in town and met him. He was appreciative of our efforts, eager to provide help and offered to  join us in our next programme. He sounded keen to dirty his hands ( in the literal sense) and since he was available today, we fixed this morning 6 am to clean up another eyesore. I do not intend giving you a overdose of garbage and hence have kept it short and posted just a few pictures. 
Again, work began early in the morning and our MP was punctual. I was happy to note that he was not there just for the photo-op. He meant what he said, spent a full two and a half hours, did considerable amount of work, dirtied his hands and seemed happy that he joined us. He is the one in the center, bent down.  
This is a place where people throw their garbage packed in plastic carry bags and the Panchayat arranges to set fire to the littered garbage when it feels like. The trash mixed with the melted plastic was not easy to clear and required spades and shovels. 

We raised enough dust. Hope it was noticed.

An adjacent construction site which needs to be filled up, comes handy. 

The spot was in front of the sports complex and some of the walkers and  players were waylaid and pulled in to lend a hand.
Requested the next door fire station to give the finishing touch with a spray of water and they obliged. 

Where is yours truly? Since there were enough hands, I evaded work
and busied myself with the camera. Just my shadow was enough to get things done!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Swachcha Bharat Abhiyan and POP - The Clean India Initiative

About two weeks back I posted a few pictures in this blog labeled ‘Ponda scenes on a winter morning’. One of them was the temple of goddess ‘Sateri’ near my house, decked up for the annual ‘Jatra’.  Thousands of people visited the temple seeking goddess Sateri’s blessings. Dozens of temporary stalls selling  this and that but mainly eatables, had come up and the devotees gorged themselves on ‘Khaje’ (a traditional Jatra sweet made with gram flour and jaggery - in the form of pencil thick sticks), laddoos, ‘bhaji’, gobi manchurian (Bombay special Manchurian, Lucknow special Manchurian and Agra special Manchurian - to name a few) and ice cream.

The Jatra concluded. Temple committee was happy that they held a successful jatra (and got some money for the temple). Devotees were happy that they got special blessings from the goddess (along with special Manchurian). Stall owners were happy that the devotees blessed them with business. All of them left after a week, leaving behind heaps of trash for people like me to feast our eyes upon during our morning walks. I usually avoid going there during Jatra time and when I went for a walk after the jatra, I felt like crying. I am sure that goddess Sateri would have cried too - had she seen the trash around her temple. But she had been locked up after the Jatra and she remained inside safe.

This was nothing new. I witness this every year. The trash remains there for months, some of the degradable materials rot and other things (plastic trash)spread themselves all over and get washed into the neighbouring ‘nullah’ during rains. The place appears clean for a few months and then it is the time for the next Jatra. Life goes on amidst trash. Both ours and the goddess’s.

This time I decided that I will do something about it. I managed to trace a member of the temple committee and asked him what the committee is going to do about the trash? 
“We have nothing to do. We have arranged to clean inside the temple and the surroundings is the job of the Village Panchayat. They have given license for the stalls and collected the fee.”  
I met the Sarpanch of the Curti panchayat.
 “At the time of giving license we instruct the stall owners that they should keep the area clean. If they don’t follow our instructions what can we do? We have no manpower to clean all that trash. Actually the temple committee should take care of cleanliness”. 
  I suggested to the committee that if some of them could volunteer and come forward to clean up the area, I would join them with my friends. He said that he would talk to others. The next evening I called him up. “Doctor, you can go ahead and clean up. We have no objection!”. (No objection!- the cheek!)
I decided to put the matter for discussion before our group “People Of Ponda.”

This ‘People Of Ponda’, POP for short, is a body of like minded citizens of Ponda who want their city to be a better living place and who are willing to do something about it. (my son calls it the ‘Kachara committee’).   We meet once a week to plan and try to do our best to achieve our objective. After an enthusiastic and lively discussion that evening, our group decided that,

1. We will clean up the surroundings of the Sateri temple, ourselves and inform the temple committee and the Panchayat about it and urge them to see that a clean Jatra is held in future. (We hoped that if these two bodies have any sense of shame they would take notice.)

2. We will meet the committee members of other temples around Ponda city and the respective Panchayats where the annual Jatras are due, inform them about the Sateri experience and urge them to take initiatives to see that the Jatra does not end up turning the temple surroundings into  garbage dumps.

3. We will inform the ‘directorate of panchayats’ about this and request the director to use his office to make the Panchayats do what they are expected to do.

3. We will Write to /meet the Governor of Goa who happens to be the state coordinator for the ‘Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan’ and inform her that unless the bodies like these ‘Temple committee’ and the ‘Panchayat’ are woken up, our PM’s ‘Swachcha Bharat’ campaign is only going to be in his speeches, on the TV screens and News papers.

The following are the pictures of members of POP putting the first stage of their thoughts into action. We plan to follow it up as planned. I can’t assure that we would do it, but if the enthusiasm of our group during the first stage is any indication, we certainly would. I very much appreciate the Swachcha Bharat (Clean India - in the literal sense) initiative of our PM. Nice to see a PM who could say "pehle shouchalay - Baadme devaalay". I only hope that this initiative does not end up just as a slogan like everything else. This post is to urge all those who have had the patience to read this to leave aside sceptisism and do what they can, however little/inconsequential it may seem.  Who knows? 'Swachch Bharat' may work after all! Even if it doesn't, at least you will feel nice about what you did - just like we did on this Wednesday morning.

Trash around the temple - tip of the iceberg

and by the road side 
More trash by the road side 

Cleaning begins early in the morning in semidarkness  

It was real work. Not just posing with the 'jhaadu' on clean roads like our celebrities

I could even enthuse my son, for whom the morning was still three hours away.

Roadside halfway through

Cleared of trash

Area around the temple - as it should be.

Our group POP - and evidence of a work well done! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


My son has identified some thirty different birds which show themselves around our house. Some, like the common Crow, Pigeon, Bulbul, Robin, Koel, Koucal, Sun bird and the kingfisher are fairly common and we see/hear them every day. Some are seen occasionally (Green barbet, Minivet, Horn bill) and some rarely (Oriole, Coppersmith, Parakeet, Hoopoe, Owl).  The whistling thrush is heard every morning this time of the year but never seen.

Almost all the commonly seen birds have already got into my camera, often devoid of a feather, beak or feet and then have settled in this blog. The Kingfisher, however, had escaped. I see the bird on the power line (its favourite perch) almost every day when I come out for a walk, but whenever I have the camera in hand, the bird is not on the line. And since I am always at a lower level, there has been no chance of getting the full bird.

The other day I saw the Kingfisher on top of the house when I was returning from the walk and it remained in place till I got into the house and then came onto the balcony with the camera. Camera in hand I tried to climb up the ladder very slowly, without making any noise, for a closer look and a chance for a picture. I think my back brushed against the ladder. I did not hear anything. But the bird looked down (may be with annoyance) and the next second it was gone. Looked like it did not want to have anything to do with us humans after the disrepute brought to its name by one of our fellow humans. This is all I got to show for my effort and photography skills.

This afternoon I finished my siesta and casually looked out of the window and saw the kingfisher sitting on the power line directly across me, its head, neck, feathers, beak and even the eyes in view. Since I was looking out of the window and had the window grills to support my hands, got some fairly good pictures with full zoom. It sat there for a long time turning this way and that and in general posing for the picture.

When I went to the balcony in the evening the KF was again in sight, this time on the tree, its colours in contrast to the dark green back ground. Again it waited till I got the camera out and clicked a few pictures.

Add caption
May be it understood that this human is different and posed for the photos providing me with a chance to get my best bird photograph till date.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

DharmasankaTa In Dentistry

 I do not know if there is an equivalent in English for the Kannada word ‘DharmasankaTa’. It is difficult to explain the meaning of the word. It is a sort of dilemma. May be an ‘Ethical dilemma’. I am not sure.  It is actually a situation you find yourself in. You are required or compelled to do something or act in a particular way. While it is not wrong doing it, it is not exactly right/moral/ethical either. You experience ‘SankaTa’(suffering?) because what you are required to do may not exactly be ‘Dharma’. Pricks your conscience, so to say.  I do not know if I am talking sense but this is the best I can do to explain ‘DharamasankaTa’, assuming that I have understood the term in the first place.

I found myself  in DharmasankaTa recently. In my practice. Nothing serious, just concerning a decision whether or not to squeeze out my fee from one of my patients.

Dhaku Gaonkar came to the clinic holding a broken denture in hand. He said that I had made the denture about a year back or may be two years at the most, and it broke.

 “It was very good. Was fitting very well and I could eat everything with it. It was just about a year old and it broke. Do dentures break like that?”

Usually they don’t. I asked him if he tried to bite something very hard? (Some people get carried away with their new found ability to chew up things and end up with a broken denture).
He looked a bit sheepish. “I was washing it after dinner when it slipped and fell down. Before I could pick it up, my wife stepped on it.”

So, I was off the hook. Relieved, I went over his record. I have the bad habit of writing down everything that I do for my patients in a card and preserving it. (Why I call it a bad habit - I will explain some other time)  Going over his record, I found that his had been a particularly troublesome case and that I had to put in considerable efforts to overcome the difficulties and prepare a set of dentures for him. He had mentioned about some financial difficulties and had requested me to allow him to pay my fee in installments. I had not only agreed to his request but had also charged much less than usual. I had paid for the services of a specialist and the lab, from my pocket. He had paid a little more than a quarter of my fees and had taken the dentures. That was ten years ago and he had never come back!

I was annoyed but one cannot openly express annoyance (shout at a patient I mean) in the clinic. I expressed my displeasure at what he had done and he gave the usual explanations and vague reasons for the lapse on his part. “I did come to pay your fees but your clinic was closed” and “someone in the family fell ill and had to be taken to Bombay for treatment” etc etc.  I have heard these umpteen number of times in my profession and am used to my door being closed, somebody being ill, a lady being pregnant and a student having exams for years together. 

Anyway, his broken denture had brought him back to my clinic. Having got used to his dentures over a decade he was unable to eat anything without them. It had to be repaired or new dentures made. A god given chance to recover my fees. That was my first thought.  But  when I saw the fellow sitting in front of me, forlorn, holding his broken dentures in his hand, I realised that it was not going to be easy.

He was employed in mining, some small job, and with the mines closed down, even that had gone. He was old and weak. And with his dentures broken, not able to eat properly. He knew that he had cheated me and that I was not kind towards him but now, he had to seek help from me again. He was in a pitiable condition. I could force him to pay my fee but he being in that condition and the dentures now broken - making  whatever service I had rendered meaningless - was it right on my part doing so?  

At the same time, I could not forego the fee for a service for which I had not only put in considerable efforts but had actually spent quite an amount from my pocket. I run a practice, not a charity establishment. What the fellow had done was in fact cheating. He had used the dentures and had obtained all the pleasure out of my work for ten years.  And he had not paid me in spite of the concessions given to him.  I should actually demand my fee with interest.

Should I or should I not? That was my ‘DharmasankaTa’.

After a bit of thought I decided up on a compromise. I decided to forego a major part of what he owed me, charge him just a little more than what I had actually spent from my pocket, and repair his denture free.

Bad for the business but good for the conscience. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ponda Scenes On A Winter Morning

The notice said “Members and RCC trainees of Ponda Swimming Pool are hereby noted that there is leaks in filter pipe and filtering is stopped.”  This was our swimming pool management telling us that they are NOT closing the pool but you better not use it.

So, I went for a walk. In fact the winter mornings are better for walking than swimming. It has just started getting cold and it is very pleasant to walk along the empty road while the world around seems to pull the dense fog around it tight and sleep a bit longer. I feel the fog makes the usual scenes look better and I get carried away.

As the sunrise is late and the early sun is not very bright I hoped to get a picture of the rising sun and carried the camera. While the sun was not as co operative as I  expected him to be, I got about half a dozen other things which I felt look good. Here they are.

This tree, covered by fog, is the point at which I turn back during my walk. I somehow like it a lot. I might have posted a picture of this earlier. But this scene, I feel,is always worth another look. 

Preparations are on for the annual ‘Jatra’ (temple festival) of the Sateri temple which is on my walking route. The colourful ‘pandal’ erected for the purpose and decorated with lights makes a good subject for my camera 

 The close up of the entrance of the temple festooned with bunches of Coconuts, areca nuts, plantains and pumpkins. The temple is ready for the festivals but the devotees are yet make an appearance.
The cemetery opposite the church - freshly whitewashed for the recently held ‘all souls day’, provides a contrast to the colourful Sateri temple. The souls have had their time and are resting again peacefully.
 The mango tree next to the cemetery.  Full of fresh green leaves looking happy and healthy again provides a contrast to the white of the cemetery wall.

The sun is too dull and I wait patiently for him to rise a bit more and  get a bit brighter. Just then he is partly covered by a cloud and when he reappears he is too bright. My camera either captures  nothing or just bright streaks. Noted the correct time of the sun coming between the branches yesterday and spent half an hour waiting for the right moment today. Not very satisfactory but the best we (me and my camera) could do. I am done with the sun. No more sun pictures.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Passport - New Experience

My passport was due to expire and I wanted to get a new one. To get a new passport I had to visit the passport office. By past experience I knew that the Panaji passport office is a nightmare. The nightmare usually went like this.

You enter the passport office after managing to shoo away the touts hovering around the entrance and you find yourself in a hall with three or four counters. None of them have any sign boards on them but each one has a line of about twenty people in front of it. You ask few people standing in the queue why they are there and each one gives you a different reason. You try to go near the window of the counter and find out if that is the line you are required to join. The window is placed too high and if you are of my height you have to jump up and call for attention. You make a few attempts. The fellow inside the counter ignores you and the fellow outside, waiting for his work to be done, is annoyed with you. You give up, randomly select one of the three lines and wait. After about an hour you reach the window. You stand on your toes  (which is very inconvenient) and tell the man that you are there to get a new passport and he directs you to the next line to obtain your forms.

You stand in the next line and inch forward till you have only two people in front of you. Then the clock on the wall strikes one and it is lunch break. You stand in front of the closed counter and spend the lunch break hungry, cursing the passport, passport office and everything else that comes to your mind. The counter opens at quarter past two, fifteen minutes late. You get your form at three and go home.

You follow the printed instructions to a dot and fill your form, attach photo copies of the all the documents mentioned, paste your photograph at three places, staple additional copies, and go back to the passport office with your form. Your luck is with you and you select the right line at first attempt. After an hour in the line you stand on your toes again and push your form in. The person, without even touching your papers, asks you to put them is a file, tie them with a tag and bring them back. Fortunately for you the file and the tag are available in the office itself for sale and you fulfill the requirement. But you have lost your place in the queue and start at the back again. 

You reach the counter after another hour and push your form in confidently because you have followed the instructions perfectly. “Attach copy of ration card, paste another photograph at the back of the form, get all the copies signed by a gazetted officer and enclose a self addressed stamped envelope” is what you hear. You tell the fellow that those instructions were not printed on the form and that it clearly said that the copies only have to be self attested.  “That is why I am telling you now. Complete the form and bring it” comes the reply. You feel like throwing the bunch on his face and going home but you can’t do that. You follow all his instructions, go back another day, stand in many more lines for verification, payment of fees, submission, so on and so forth, tolerate and overcome all the hurdles thrown at you from various counters (all the time fighting other enraged and impatient people who try to butt in and complete their work) and heave a deep sigh of relief when you are done.

Since I remembered this experience vividly I was very much wary of another visit to the passport office. But you can’t just evade the issue. If your passport expired you have to get a new one. I gingerly stepped into the office, now renamed ‘Passport Seva Kendra’- PSK for short.  A security guard at the door stopped me. I told him that I was there for a new passport. “Go to the second floor” he showed me the stairs. Went up and found myself in an air conditioned hall having a counter boldly labeled “ENQUIRIES” and  two people in front of it. I joined the line and was face to face with the fellow manning the counter in three minutes flat. “Fill the form online, pay the fee through credit card or net banking, take a printout of the receipt and bring it along with your old passport on the date shown on the receipt. Are there any changes?” I said that my address has changed. “Then attach a copy of your voter card or any other proof of address and bring the originals for verification”.

Filled the form online, paid the fee through net banking and printed the receipt. It said - Appointment 12.15 PM, Date 30.10.2014. Reporting time 12.00. I was at the PSK at 11.45. This time I was prepared.  My bag contained, apart from the print out and copies of the required documents in a file, everything from my birth certificate to the relieving order I had received on my retirement. And since the instructions clearly said ‘Do not attach photographs, photograph will be taken at the PSK’ I carried four photographs, glue and stapler. The guard at the door looked at my print out and asked me to sit in the waiting area and wait for my turn. Since my appointment was at 12.15, I had carried my lunch which I intended eating at 1 PM and a book which would last at least 2-3 hours. I settled in a corner and opened the book.

I had not even reached the third line when I heard the announcement “Everyone with 12.00 noon reporting time please proceed to the second floor”. On the second floor there was just one lady in front of the ‘pre verification’ counter and I was the second. Pre verification took all of two minutes and I was directed to collect a token from the token counter situated next to the PV counter. I entered the next room carrying my token which was numbered N71 and gave it to the person manning the door. He looked at the token and said “Go to processing counter B5”.

B5 had a pleasant mannered girl who took my photograph and finger prints. She  gave me a print out of the application that I had filled on line and asked me to check the details again.  Then she put the form along with other documents in a file, punched it with a punch (usually they keep a rusted nail for the purpose ) tied it with a tag, handed it to me and asked me to wait in the waiting area for my turn for verification.  In less than five minutes the big screen in the waiting area beeped and flashed ‘N71 - counter C3’. Another courteous man in Counter C3, the verification counter, verified the papers and I was back in the waiting area in no time.  After ten minutes the screen again flashed ‘N71 - APO 1’. Assistant passport officer -1 took less than a minute to cancel my old passport, put his seal, hand me an acknowledgement and say “Exit please”. 

At the exit I was given a feedback form in which I ticked ‘Excellent’ in front of all the coloumns without reading them, exited highly excited, drove home and ate my cold packed lunch with pleasure.

I had heard about such services in other countries from my friends and relatives and I used to feel very very inferior thinking about our establishments. The pleasant experience at the PSK Panaji made me feel proud of our government establishments for once and I decided to record it. I do not know who is behind this and how they could bring about the change. Anyway, I congratulate them and wish the rest of our country functioned like the PSK!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Betal Tekdi and Chorla Ghat

I usually sleep early and get up early in the morning. Sometimes as early as 4 am. Well, nothing wrong in that. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ goes the saying. But I believe some researchers have shown that people who sleep late and rise later are wiser and wealthier and the early risers are fit for nothing. There was no need for them to take the trouble of doing research. They could have just taken a look at me and come to that conclusion.

What I wanted to say was that this habit of mine is troublesome when I visit someone for an overnight stay. If the household contains one or two unfortunate ones like me who can’t sleep long, it is fine. The family will be used to the disturbances created by the early risers. If it is a family of late risers I am in trouble. I will be wide awake at four and to stay in the bed would be a torture. If I get out of the bed I am bound to switch lights on, make some noise or the other and be a nuisance to those fortunate ones who would be enjoying their beauty sleep. I can get out of the house for an early walk but it involves requesting the lady of the house for permission to enter her bedroom and take the front door keys from under her pillow. 

When I visit my brother in Pune, I am fine. He is an early riser too and usually joins me for a walk. I visited them recently and we went  to ‘Betal tekdi’ near his house early the next morning.  Betal tekdi, called so because of the presence of a small shrine of ‘Betal maharaj’ at the top, is a hill range extending from  Kothrud to Chatushringi in Pune.  It is a lovely place and I had been there earlier. This time I carried my camera and got some pictures. I was intending to go there the next morning also and explore the other side of the hill but it started raining. We dropped the idea.

It was raining when we left Pune and it rained the whole day. The effect of some depression in Arabian sea.  We drove through the rain all the way back to Goa. But the clouds cleared up for sometime just as we were descending the Chorla Ghat between Belgaum and Goa, and the view from the top of the ghat was breathtaking. Both the sets of pictures are here.

The view of 'Betal Tekdi' as we started the climb  - from  behind the Loyola High school, Pashan Road. 

The path runs through a wooded stretch, very pleasant early in the morning.

The sun appears behind the shrubbery as we reach the top.

The plateau at the top

A view of the city of Pune - as seen from the tekdi.

Another wooded stretch on the way down

My sister in law lights some lamps and flower pots to celebrate Diwali 

The clouds  hug a section of the Sahyadri - one may easily mistake the look for the waves of the Arabian sea breaking on a hill slope.

If one can extend the imagination, one may even imagine the Himalayas

Clouds part to allow the camera to capture small stretches of tilled land in Sattari taluka.

Such a wonderful sight. Feel sad to think that we are bent up on destroying it

The final shot before Iam back in the car. 

But not before capturing these way side flowers enjoying the unexpected shower.