Pati, Patni aur Woe

When i was in school i remember reading a short story called “Mr. Know All” by Somerset Maugham. It was an interesting story and i remember i even proposed that when Kanchanda wanted the twitterrati to propose a good short story. But that must have been in 2012 or so when the twitter was a different world. Twitter allowed 140 characters and was not divided into just two – the LW & Rw and each one constantly at the others’ throat.

Mr. Know all (Kaleda) was a story about a character who was irritatingly knowledgeable and was keen to flaunt it. If this reminds you of those “Right wing” on twitter I would think half my job is done. His room mate suffered him silently but was happy to see him meet his match when Kaleda got into a verbal duet with with a poor middle class passenger Mr. Ramsay.

But before that I will extract a passage from the story to explain to you how obnoxious Mr. Kaleda can be:

It was impossible to snub him. It never occurred to him that he was not wanted. He was certain that you were as glad to see him as he was to see you. In your own house you might have kicked him downstairs and slammed the door in his face without the suspicion dawning on him that he was not a welcome visitor. He was a good mixer, and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. He managed the sweeps, conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, got up quoit and golf matches, organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was certainly the best hated man in the ship. We called him Mr. Know-All, even to his face. He took it as a compliment.

It this description reminds you of the many characters on twitter who call themselves proud hindu, right of center you are truly my long lost twin. But one day Mr. Kaleda meets his nemesis Mr. Ramsay during dinner. The topic drifts towards pearls and Mr. Kaleda as usual showed off his knowledge. But today  was not his day.  Ramsay challenged him to find the cost of the pearls his wife was wearing. Kaleda said 15,000 Pounds but some might even pay 30,000 pounds for it. Ramsay challenged him saying it cost just 18 pounds. The wager was 100 pounds.

But suddenly Kaleda accepted defeat and paid of his wager. The narrator his room mate was later surprised to see a 100 pound mysteriously appearing under the door of their room with a thank you note from who else but Mrs. Ramsay the unfaithful wife.

If the two timing wife reminds you of the left libs and the gullible husband the equally gullible public, who am i to question your wisdom.

The story in original can be read here. 

Actually the story nicely sums up the current political scenario. Congress the unfaithful wife (Patni), BJP the Mr. Know All (Woe) who doesn’t want to rock the boat too much and the voters the gullible husband (Pati).



Desh Badal Raha Hai?

Recently I had to get Import Export Code (IEC) for two private investment companies that I handle. Long back, if I recall correctly I had applied for IEC in late 90’s. It used to be a small process but I was then working out of an industrial town 100 Kms away from Madras and with very dicey communications.

The one challenge used to be to get a letter from Bank, which again was 30 Kms away. After locating the latest version of the form and the draft letter and after negotiating with the bank, we would ultimately get the letter. It was a small ordeal just to register.

Now with internet connectivity and the e-governance model in place for some time things have improved considerably. The form is available online. But the server of DGFT (Chennai?) turned out to be extremely slow. Most cumbersome procedures like bank letter has been dispensed with. Scanned copy of a cancelled cheque, only rider (necessary) being that the cheque has to have the name of the account holder pre-printed can be uploaded.

But the real challenge was the digital signature. While we routinely affix digital signatures for MCA and Income Tax purposes, we took nearly a week to solve the intricacies of DGFT site. The problem was the server was using an out-dated version of windows and equally out-dated version of Java. Then the next challenge. After a two day gap I kept verifying the site but it just said that the form had not been uploaded. Fortunately my office is just opposite the Chennai DGFT and I could visit them once daily. But after a week I became frustrated. More than 2 weeks had gone since I started the process.

Out of sheer desperation I tweeted to MoS Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman very late on a Friday evening. There was no response to my tweet. But surprisingly, on Sunday evening I received a tweet from DGFT, Delhi with request to send details to them by mail. I did so on Sunday evening itself. Monday was a holiday on account of Ganesh Chaturthi. Conditioned to Government departments working slow, I checked the site only on Wednesday. To my pleasant surprise the forms had been cleared on Tuesday. Unfortunately, in one case I had given different bank accounts in different places in case of one company and the form was rejected for that company.

My ordeal started again. I had to struggle for more than 10 days now to affix the digital signature. Having crossed that barrier, I was overwhelmed by what I thought would be the bigger barrier. But to my most pleasant surprise, the next day morning I received an email confirmation that the form had been accepted and IEC generated. My next worry was that the IEC had to be updated with DGFT Delhi and the Customs portal. But again by evening both had happened.

I could see a visible transformation in a matter of a month in the way things were handled. It is easy to blame the Government for every minor fault. And certainly things could be better. But what we need to realise is that Government consists of people like you and me. They cannot be better than us.

We need to improve as a society, as a nation.

I realise that there is a leadership in place that will reciprocate it.

Mera desh badal raha hai!

PS: Thanks to Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman and few others who made this possible

To Err is Human, to Forgive…..

The title is a poor translation of the original thirukural I had in mind. The one that i

  • இன்னா செய்தாரை ஒறுத்தல் அவர் நாண நன்னயம் செய்து விடல் (திருக்குறள்)

A rough translation would be “Make a wrong doer feel shy, by doing him a favour.”

This is what many would advice us. Most books on human nature would parrot that.

But not the Hindu Scriptures. If I remember right this story is from the Mahabarata.

A King had a parrot which was a dear friend to him. In time the king had a son and so did the parrot. Though the younger ones too were friends, they were obviously immature considering their age. One day the King’s son in a playful mood kills the Parrotchick. The elder parrot seeing the dead bird, in a moment of anger, pecks at the eyes of the prince making him blind. The King when he comes to know all the turn of events apologises to the parrot and tells it – now that you have had your revenge, we should start our relationship fresh forgetting the past.

The parrot replied – while I appreciate your large heartedness, I would like to leave the palace. The King taken back begged the parrot saying but we both have been good to each other and you have had your revenge. The Bird replied – Human Nature is such it cannot be even. Later when you see your son blinded, you might lose your maturity and give way to anger. All said and done, I have harmed your son and it is bound to hurt you at some point in future.

The parrot left the palace despite the sincere pleadings from the king.

Why I relate this story to the Kural is because of this – It is fine to say “To forgive is divine.” But in real life what happens is both the initial transgressor and the person who magnanimously forgives would carry the burden with them. It would always weigh on each other’s minds later.

I am not saying that we should not forgive others for their errors but just that we should be wary of the effect this would have on the future relationship. It is an Hobson’s choice in reality.

Men and Ideas that changed my Life – Trust but Verify

Science tells us we tend to superimpose our believes into our memories – that we remember things that happened say when we were 4 but the truth is that later talks about them get super imposed into our memory. I have no way of verifying that but implicitly trust it as it makes sense.

One of my earliest friends with whom I am still in touch – thanks to his efforts – is Shankar Venkatraman. Don’t know if he would like being named. We studied together in school but went to different colleges. I did my CA and he went to IIM-A and we both landed up in Bombay around the same time 1992.

1992 was the worst year for Bombay. First very late rains. Started only in End July. Then the Babri Riots and later the bomb blasts in 1993. There were many romors that used to float around. Very nasty and at times fatal too.

One of such rumours was the death of Morarji Desai. I remember telling that to Shankar and he was furious that I was spreading such rumours. That is one conversation I remember nearly 23 years later.

It has become an habit with me to verify from independent sources any news. One reason I hardly trust wikipedia.

It is not just about news but also about work in office by a colleague or say what your wife / son does. Trust them to do it right but also verify.

A word of caution – Verifying sometimes could be like walking on knife’s edge. It can get people to think that you do not trust them. And if they get caught when you verify – remember to give them an honourable exit out of the tricky situation

Men and Ideas that changed my Life – Honourable Exit

When I did my Articles (Practical training for CA) I worked in a firm that was run by 2 brothers. The eldest was technically much more knowledgeable and competent but the younger was more humane.

I practically did all my work with the elder and it has helped me to this date. It has been 23 years since I completed the training but I can relate every positive aspect of my ability to those 3 short years I worked there.

But it is about the younger brother with whom I had very little interaction that I want to write about – his favourite term “give others an honourable exit”. Something I keep telling my colleagues in different words. We generally have an habit of pushing people to a corner in arguments. If only we had the ability to give our “opponents” the space to wriggle out and agree with us without offending their egos.

The past week I must have repeated this a few times, like I have done it many more times over my career to my Juniors – If i am wrong, I say, 2 + 2 is 5, don’t tell me immediately “You fool, 2 + 2 is 4”. Give me some time, the say, “Sir, May be when you studied 2 + 2 was 5, but with inflation now it has come down to 4”.

Jokes apart, what I mean is when a team member with whom you are working makes a mistake, the immediate reaction is to point it out. But this hurts his ego. He waits for an opportunity to get back. But on the other hand if this is gently broken, he would gladly accept his mistake and move on.

If this is true for smaller things, imagine how relevant it would be for major things. It is this attitude of mutual accommodation that creates “Win – Win” situations when major entities seemingly like cheese and chalk coming together and pulling off a successful partnership.

Preamble to a controversy

Recently I was reminded of a person who used to work as a telephone operator in a large factory. Those were the days of manual exchanges and the factory had around 10,000 employees. So naturally the telephone operator had to filter lots of calls and also be brusque with most users. So soon he was called Executive Director – Telephones. The post of Executive Director was the highest post in the factory.

I used to say this as an apocryphal tale – a disgruntled office boy called as Executive Director – Office Services. His job profile does not change. That people treat him like dirt doesn’t change. Not many even remember his name. Or if they remember, call him by name. But his hurt feelings can be assuaged by a simple name change – from Office boy to Executive Director – Office Services.

This has nothing to do with changing India from a sovereign democratic republic to a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.

Kashmiri Pandits, Vidyasagar & the Great Men of Media

It has been months since I have written a blog post but this article of Swaminathan S Aiyar provoked me to do it.

A tale of two ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

The article is assumed to be about the cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. Even as the title suggests there is a counter balancing view. Cleansing of muslims from Jammu. To quote from the article –

Today, Jammu is a Hindu-majority area. But in 1947, it had a Muslim majority. The communal riots of 1947 fell most heavily on Jammu’s Muslims; lakhs fled into what became Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. That turned Jammu’s Muslim majority into a Hindu majority. In sheer scale, this far exceeded the ethnic cleansing of Pandits five decades later.

A lay reader would assume that are no muslims today in Jammu. The truth is it is 65% Hindus, 31% Muslims. Muslims have not been cleansed. And Pakistan occupied Kashmir is not all Kashmir. It also includes parts of Jammu. And 1947 was not a normal period. If one has to raise 1947 as cleansing of Jammu, one would also have to simultaneously discuss what happened in Punjab, Bengal and Sindh. To both Hindus & Muslims. In both East & West Punjab / Bengal.

But those were tougher times. Partition and its aftermath.

But what happened in 1989 / 1990 to Kashmiri Pandits were during ordinary times. There were no retaliation unlike in Jammu of 1947 when to use the (allegedly) BJP excuse – Action & Reaction or the more well documented Congress excuse – when a big tree falls.

But in all this what did the Kashmiri Pandits do? The Jammu Hindus are Dogras & the Kashmiri Pandits always felt closer to Kashmiri Muslims than the Jammu Dogras. Something the Kashmiri Muslims or their apologists in media never bothered to acknowledge. The Kashmiriyat is only for TV Debates and has hardly been practiced on the ground.

But what does all these have to do with Vidyasagar?

An incident from his life explains the reaction of Media perfectly. He had gone to his village once and whenever he went to his village he used to give away all his earnings to the suffering villagers. A band of robbers thought if he gave away so much money how much he should have? So they decided to rob him that night. Vidyasagar seeing the large number of bandits took his parents & brothers and vanished leaving behind whatever little he had.

When he came back to Calcutta, the Deputy Governor Hon. Haliday called him & chided him for his cowardice in fleeing. To quote his reply:

Your Honour may now accuse me of cowardice. But supposing, I had faced the numerous armed robbers single-handed, I was sure to lose my life. In that case, your honour would have been the first to say, what a fool Vidyasagar was to meet rashly so many robbers and sacrifice his life for the sake of trifles. Now that I have saved my life and have been able to appear before you, your honour calls me a coward. From this it is clear, that it is no easy thing to please you, great men.

   The Media currently has its most golden period. It consists of only such great men.