Saturday, February 10, 2018

Going Digital - Being 'Cashless'

It is little more than a year ago, that our PM decided to cleanse our economy by shock treatment and converted our cash to ‘Raddi’. He urged us to go cashless (There was no need to urge. We were totally, helplessly ‘cashless’ anyway!) or digital or whatnot and help build a better India. I don’t understand the connection between ‘cashless’ and ‘better India’ but there are many things in this world that I don’t understand. Since I want a better India I am trying my best to go cashless and use plastic money. I haven’t been very successful in that. I think that’s why I haven’t noticed a better India yet.  

Almost all my patients who have had the misfortune to step into my clinic and grudgingly convert ‘their’ hard earned money into ‘my’ hard earned money, prefer to grudge in cash. So, I accept cash, paper currency - which are usually kept folded together (multiple folds in a miniature purse, if the patient is a female) and are carefully separated using licked fingers, counted and handed over. I straighten them out, fumigate them in a formaldehyde chamber (to counter the licked finger effect) and transfer them to my purse.

Since the vendors of my daily requirement of pav, milk, vegetables, fruits etc etc and my other service providers like the barber, dhobhi, helpers in my clinic and also our domestic helpers accept only cash, there is no chance of ‘cashless’ transaction anywhere. ‘My’ hard earned cash now becomes ‘their’ hard earned cash, and it continues its journey in cash form. So, I have no reason to enter an ATM kiosk or proffer a Debit card anywhere but since my bank has given me a ATM/Debit card, I carry it in my purse along with the picture of our family deity. The card does not do anything other than increasing the bulk of my purse. I hear some banks are offering to print the picture of our choice on the ATM cards. If my bank can print the picture of ‘Nanjundeshwara’ on my card, I can have a two in one card and a slimmer purse!

Since I would like to keep up with the times and since our PM has said using plastic money gives us a better India, I intend using my card and have been trying to master its use.
My recent trip to Chennai, I thought, was an opportunity. I always carry cash when I travel. I hate to get stuck with a piece of plastic money, which suddenly decides not to perform its duties. That is bad anywhere but more so in a place away from home. People who live their lives by flashing plastic cards everywhere have been telling me that I worry unduly and need to change my mindset. This time I decided to change my mind set. I carried very little cash, just enough for the taxi and a cup of coffee at the airport. (You may say that amount is not ‘very little’ at all, but let it be)

My sister and brother in law live in Chennai and I stayed there for three days enjoying a unusually pleasant weather and free classical music concerts. I started my learning process of using my debit card with the Ola auto and persisted using it for the Uber taxi, Tiffin/Coffee at the concert canteen, tender coconut on the footpath and gobi manchurian and ice cream on the beach. It was duly rejected everywhere by the vendors and provided an opportunity for my B - In - law to take out his cash and express his generosity.

My return ticket was booked for the afternoon flight, 4.40 to be precise, and I was dropped at the airport at three in the afternoon. I hate people who arrive late, push aside others waiting patiently in a queue in front of the check in counters or the security gate and rush forward shouting that they have a flight about to take off. My curses follow them. So, I always plan to reach the airport well in advance. The smart CISF guard saw my boarding pass, looked at my identity card and looked at my face. Fine. Normal procedure. Then he looked at the boarding pass again and consulted his colleague - my heart started beating faster. He came back to me and said “saab, yeh aaj subah ka flight tha” (sir, this boarding pass was for this morning’s flight) I looked at the boarding pass and immediately realised my blunder. While doing my booking in a hurry to grab the lowest fare available, I had booked the 4.40 am flight and had arrived at the airport hoping to catch the non existent 4.40 pm flight!

“Aap Indigo ka counter me puchiye agar kuch ho sakta to” (“please enquire at Indigo counter if they can do something”) The CISF man was very kind but I knew that the ground staff at the Indigo counter would not be kind towards my stupidity. I called my BIL who had come to drop me, explained the situation and asked him to remain at the airport till further instructions. (If I couldn’t reach Goa, I had to ensure that I had a comfortable passage back home at least!) I ran to the Indigo counter and asked the girl there if  there was any possibility of finding a flight to Goa? She said that I could take the 16.00 flight to Bangalore and the connecting flight to Goa at 21.20. She said that would make me poorer by Rs 5126 but I would reach Goa alright.

It was 15.05 or 3.05 PM, 55 minutes left for the flight. Counters close 45 minutes before the flight. I had to hurry and I had no cash. Now was the time to use my plastic money! The auto rikshaw driver or the Tender coconut vendor may not accept my debit card but Indigo would certainly do.

“Can I pay with my debit card?”.  
“Sure sir”.
“Will I be able to catch the flight? There is hardly any time left”.
“Of course sir, I will check you in right away”.

I handed her the card. She entered the numbers and handed me the portable machine to enter my PIN. I did and hoped it was correct. Five seconds, ten, fifteen. The machine remained silent.

“There is something wrong with the connection sir. Transaction is not going through. Can you please pay cash?”
“But I don’t have cash. Is there no other way?” I was panicky.
“Sorry sir. I can’t do anything. But sir, you may get cash from the ATM machine here”

Using a ATM is always a challenge to me. Right from the correct insertion of the card, entering the correct PIN, answering its questions and waiting with a fast beating heart till my cash and the card are spat out the machine puts my physical and mental faculties to a tough test. In the mental state I was in, I doubted my ability to coax the ATM machine to part with its cash. But I had to make an attempt at least.

“Where is the ATM?”
“Near the entrance gate number two sir” (That was just about half a kilometer!)
“Is there any later flight to Goa?”
“Yes sir. 5pm. Via Bombay. You will reach Goa at 7am tomorrow”
Thank god there was some alternative.
“And the fare?”
“Twelve thousand eight hundred sir.”

I knew that was NOT an alternative. Seven minutes left for the check in counters to close for the 4 PM flight. I left my suitcase in front of the counter and ran to the ATM. Fortunately there was no line in front of the ATM. As I was about to rush in a small hand written note stuck to the corner of the glass panel caught my eyes. “ATM out of order”. I was jinxed, as far as plastic money was concerned.

My brain did not know what to do and allowed my limbs to do what they want. They decided to run back to the Indigo counter. I don’t know for what purpose. But as I reached the counter I found my brother in law standing next to my suitcase

“I knew that you were booked by Indigo. So I decided to put the car in the parking lot and came here. I have to pay 100 rs for parking but it is ok” He said. There was no time or need for any civility.
“You have cash with you” I asked eagerly
“Five thousand”

Oh what a relief! I don’t know why he was carrying that cash. There was no need to know as long as he was prepared to part with it!  My ATM/ Debit card may ditch me but god almighty (in the form of my BIL, presently) would not!

I snatched the notes from his hand, snatched the boarding pass from the girl’s hand and ran towards the boarding gate 7, shouting “excuse me I have a flight in half an hour” and pushing aside decent people standing patiently in a line -  with a cloud of curses following me.

I think I will stick to cash. I can wait a little longer for better India!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Politically Correct Course of Pranayama

A Pranayama course was going on in our sports ground.  About a hundred people were sitting cross legged on the ground in the semi darkness, shivering slightly in the early morning chill. I was walking along the walking track next to the ground and could hear over the loud speaker, the trainer talking. He was talking about the benefits of Pranayama, pausing every two to three minutes to demonstrate ‘Kapalbhati’. (trademark owned by Patanjali)  That is the usual pattern. I have attended these courses and know how it goes. It is somewhat like this. 

talk….talk….talk….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….talk….talk….talk….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….ugh….blah….blah….blah….ugh….ugh….ugh…. ugh….ugh….ugh….   If you haven’t attended any Patanjali pranayama course till now, do attend one. It is fun.

According to Baba Ramdev,  “Kapalbhati”  is the sure shot remedy for any and every ailment known to mankind. It is also a sure shot remedy for ailments which are yet to be known!

If you have high blood pressure, it reduces it. If you have low blood pressure it increases it. If you have loose motions it stops it. If you have constipation it starts the process required. If you are over weight it reduces your weight, if you are under weight it increases your weight. Sugar, cholesterol etc etc are child’s play to kapalbhati. So on and so forth.  

The trainer tells these ‘facts’ in a very appealing way, explains the technique of ‘kapalbhati’ and demonstrates it.  The desciples try to follow and learn.  (Actually it does not matter whether they learn or not as about 90% of the people who attend the course do not care to practice it later!) They are given a few minutes to practice and the talk starts again. This process goes on for an hour and the day’s session ends.

Whenever anyone speaks about Yoga, Pranayama, Ayurveda etc etc it is customary to exalt the virtues of these practices, which were said to have been (by default!) part of our daily life in the good old days, and decry everything supposedly ‘modern’. As I completed the third round the trainer started on these lines.

“In the good old days people used to eat what was grown locally and we were healthy. Now we eat everything brought from out side, full of fertilisers and pesticides and we are always ill” 

“In the good old days we used home remedies and local herbs to cure our illness. Now we run to a doctor for every minor ailment and swallow chemicals.”

“In the good old days we did our house work like sweeping, washing, drawing water etc etc and we remained fit. Now we have machines or employ others to do them and lose out on the benefits of such work.”

At this stage he got carried away with the good old days - modern days comparison and said,

“In the good old days we cooked and ate inside the house and went to toilet out side the house. Now, we eat out side and go to toilet inside the house”

Just as he said the last word he realized that he was talking against the ‘Open defecation free India’ initiative of our beloved PM, a political blunder from the point of view of his organization and tried his best to cover it

“Of course one has to use a toilet inside the house but one should stop eating fast foods and other stuff cooked out side which are harmful to health!”

I could visualize Baba Ramdev nodding his head in approval!

Note : Before the practitioners/followers of Yoga, Pranayaama, Kapalbhati and Baba allow their sentiments to get hurt, I would like to state that I am a staunch supporter/practitioner  of Yoga and Kapalbhati.  I have been practicing yoga for fifty years and have reached the stage of three hundred Kapalbhati a day. (It is just an ignorable side fact that I also take one tablet of Atorec 10 mg everyday to keep my cholesterol in check!)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Genes Do Matter

My wife has a reasonably good ( I may call it large, but I will not do so as I do not intend hurting sentiments)  collection of hand bags. All of them carefully picked after painstakingly going through innumerable such pieces displayed in windows, arranged on shelves, hung on hooks, stacked on foot paths etc etc in Goa, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Michigan. And (it has been drilled into my head repeatedly) there is a purpose behind every single procurement. Few of them might also have been picked up because they were on a discount, which is a very very sound reason to buy a bag.

They occupy the top two shelves in her wardrobe and tend to fall over my head whenever I open the door. And open that door, I have to. Because somehow a missing cap, belt or a jacket of mine have been found to have reached there even though they do not have any right or business. Also, some of the things commonly used by the whole family, like the scissors, nail cutter, needle and thread and safety pins etc are usually found in the lower shelves of the same wardrobe.

The following are the utterances she is used to hearing whenever me or my son open that wardrobe.

"Oh God, why do you need so many bags? keep half a dozen if you must, and throw the remaining  out"

"What is this nonsense? If you keep filling the house with bags, shortly we will have to look for another house to live"

"Bags seem to be the major investment in our family"

"You complain that there is no place for the clothes. Why don't you dump this junk in the loft?"

After experiencing the result of my careless utterances, I have tried to control the natural urge and say something good about the bags but have not been able to bring out anything better than "oh" and "ah".

Last week our niece visited us. She inadvertently opened the wardrobe and had a shower of bags. I was reading the news paper in the next room. The following are the excited remarks that I heard.

"Oh, aunty!  what a collection! I want to see everyone of them in detail!

"How cute!!! where did you get this?"

"What a pretty colour! It goes so well with your blue saree!"

"Beautiful! You can never make out it has so many compartments!"

"So elegant! But you need to wear a Mysore Silk saree with this."

"You can either hold this in your hand or hang it on your shoulder. So very convenient when you go shopping."

"Ah, you got this from US. Say that! You just can't find such things here."

Needless to say that auntie and niece spent a very enjoyable hour and a half going through the entire junk. I am sorry. Entire collection.

It needs a female gene to understand a female gene!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Repaid Kindness.

Fruits form a major part of my diet. More the merrier. If there is nothing else, at least a banana is compulsory in my breakfast and dinner. My father was known for his partiality towards fruits. He would walk barefoot but would be extravagant while buying fruits. He always bought the best. Like all 60+ people I make the statement “these days I have not even seen fruits of such a quality as those which my father used to bring when we were children” and I mean it. May be the affinity is in the genes.

When we shifted to this place, where we have little bit of space around the house, I planted few fruit bearing trees. I watered and manured them, pruned them, protected them from cattle and in general took care of them. Now they have grown up and are yielding. Every morning I spend a few minutes searching for fruits hidden among the leaves. I do get some, now and then. Sri Krishna in his Bhagavadgeeta says “ma phaleshu kadachana - You are not entitled to the fruits of your labour”, meaning, don’t expect any fruits from your labour. He probably never planted trees. He was a cowherd. If you have planted a tree, you can’t help searching for fruits. As I understand, he meant "ma phaleshu kadachana" in a broader spiritual sense and I accept that his advice is sound. I try to adhere to it in other facets of life, but ignore it while looking for fruits in the tree.

Some of the trees which have given me satisfactory returns are the Chikoo, Guava, Plantains and Coconut. The chikoo is now a full grown tree and is the best of the lot. In fact I just got quite a few last week. I have purchased a contraption for plucking the ones that are beyond reach. It is being put into good use and I am able to lay my hands on what was earlier the confirmed share of fruit bats and birds.

Papaya is one fruit which is liked by everyone at home but I have not been able to grow it successfully. I did plant some but it is impossible to protect them from monkeys. Monkeys love papaya and they don’t  wait for the fruits. They just tear away the tender leaves and twigs and eat them. My plants never had a chance to grow. One or two of them escaped the monkey’s attention but still had a stunted growth and  grudgingly gave out some fruits little bigger than a lemon. I was disappointed. We don’t get good variety of papayas in the market these days. All that we get are the ones which I have  shown here.

They look diseased and are tasteless. They never ripen well. A part of the fruit is still unripe when the other side is already starting to rot. And depending on your luck you may find  one among the ten really worth eating. I buy them as there is no alternative. Good papayas are not available in the market even if you are ready to pay a price for them.

A man came to the clinic few days back complaining of a terrible toothache and begging me to remove the offending tooth. Since it was not possible to remove the tooth then and there, I advised him to take some medications and  comeback after a few days. He enquired about my fee but did not appear to be strong enough to bear the load of my fees as well as the cost of medicines. So, I waived my fees off. You may consider it a kindness if you so wish.

I saw him standing in front of my house early in the morning two days later when I returned from my walk. I told him that he is too early for his extraction and asked him to come a little later.  He said that he has no pain at all and did not want the tooth removed. He handed me a plastic bag and left in a hurry. I was overjoyed to find in the bag among half a dozen plantains, a nice plump papaya with a blemishless yellowish orange skin, fully ripe and just right to be cut. It contained a thick, creamy and sweet pulp and it was years since we had got such a tasty fruit. It made our morning breakfast and my day! I have saved to seeds to make another attempt at growing papayas.

I had mentioned about my kindness towards the man. I consider my kindness repaid many times over!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

IFFI 2017 - A grouchy old man's wrong notes.

During my visit to Panaji yesterday, I saw the frantic preparations going on around our capital, Panaji, for the 48th IFFI.  Panaji roads were having a hurried hot mixing, some hurried construction work to ‘beautify’ the city  and other arrangements to successfully host the Film Festival. Shah rukh Khan came, Smriti Irani came, Sridevi came and a glamorous opening ceremony was held at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium. We are spending crores of rupees to showcase our small state as a place to keep in mind, when the question of holding big festivals comes up. A proud moment for all citizens like you and me.

Overwhelmed with the greatness of our state which has hosted more than a dozen IFFIs, I wrote the above lines. Then I thought for a moment. Thought for another moment. Yet another moment. But no. I did not know the purpose of holding an international film festival! Have you any idea? Don’t tell me you are as ignorant as me. I thought my friends are much better. You see, a man is known by the company he keeps and I don’t want the company I keep to be as bad as I am!  Anyway, since there was no one knowledgeable around to answer my question, I went to the greatest guru of all. The guru with a big G. He/she said  - I quote - “the festival aims at providing a common platform for the cinemas of the world to project the excellence of the film art; contributing to the understanding and appreciation of film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world”

Now look at me. The excellence of the film art has been projected forty eight times since I was twelve years old, fourteen of them just a stone throw away from me, (with lots of noise, fanfare and of course, expenditure) and I have never noticed it! Nor have I any understanding of the film cultures in the context of social and cultural ethos of the countries around the world, in spite of my government trying to educate me by bringing those films close to me by spending crores! And I never saw any increase in friendship and cooperation between me and other distant inhabitants of this world!  I am a real frog in the well if ever there was one.

I hope, you my friends, are better than me and have absorbed all the above knowledge and if yes, please explain to me, in simple words, what you have seen and learnt.

As far as I am concerned, a movie or a film is produced by a producer to make some money. A director directs it to make his money. An actor acts in it to make his (lots, as I hear) money. The movie is distributed by a distributor and is projected in a theater by people who are interested in raking up their share of money. I, when I have nothing else to do and have money to spare, (and  lose my mind because of that) pay through my nose, go, see, whistle, laugh and cry and come back thinking that the money was well spent and that I have been entertained well. Me, who paid and all those who earned, are quits.

If someone ( like the above mentioned movie connected fellows) intends achieving all the above mentioned blah blah blah goals and have a happy time for a week in the bargain, they are welcome to spend their money and have a good time. Why should I pay for their education and an opportunity for our politicians to pose with the filmy glitz?

If I did not learn something in forty eight years even after my government putting in its best efforts, I am not going to learn it. It is high time my government stopped spending my money to make me understand and appreciate “film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world” .