Last Thursday I completed my maiden driving visit to Pune. As a new driver, I was really looking forward for a long drive and the drive to Pune was just about the right distance for me. 180 kms from home. Not too short and not too far. I decided to leave early on Thursday morning as I didn’t want to get stuck in the famous Mumbai traffic. I left my house around 7:15am while it was raining cats and dogs outside. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drive in the rains but the challenge seemed too irresistible for me and I decided to get going. Since it was raining very heavily, the traffic was really slow on the highway and it took me almost an hour just to get to the Airoli bridge. Thankfully the rains stopped after reaching Airoli and the conditions got better for driving. Soon I was cruising along the Mumbai – Pune Expressway. After driving for 30 mins on the expressway, I got a feeling that I am going to fall asleep. I guess it was due to the fact that I had gotten up early and also that there was no company other than the music playing. Thankfully I was nearby the rest area and decided to park at the rest area and get some coffee and water before deciding to get going again. Fresh again, I was excited to drive along the Lonavala ghats and was able to drive along the ghats without any issues. The rest of the journey was equally uneventful and I was able to reach Pune around 12pm. Ideally, I should have reached there by 11:30am, but then I took the Dehu Road exit and was looking for a UPS store and hence was going quite slow on the highway.
I left Pune Friday night and realized a problem which I had not faced before. Almost everyone in Pune drives with their headlights on high beam. That means that lights from the vehicle coming from the opposite direction, is right in your eyes and temporarily blinding you. I have seen many drivers in Mumbai also driving on the high beam, but and large, they are a selective few only. Here, the two wheelers and the four wheelers were all driving on high beams and it was really difficult to drive. I wanted to understand the reason as to why they would be driving like this. But then I realized it is the same city which protested against the law for wearing helmets. I guess a lot of it boils down to lack of awareness as far as driving is concerned. I was having trouble reaching the expressway as a lot of oncoming vehicles were driving on high beam. I had to flash my lights quite a few times before they would lower their lights and make driving easier. In this matter, I found the trucks to be most friendly. They usually drive on low beams and if they are driving on high beam and if they see you driving on low beam, they immediately lower their lights and thus allowing easier travel for both the drivers. I guess Pune traffic police really need to crack down on this menace. When I was in Chandigarh last month, driving on high beam was a punishable offence. May be they should do something like this in Pune also.
After reaching the Mumbai – Pune expressway during my return leg of the journey, driving in the night was considerably easy and I was manage to complete the trip quite safely. The only time when I felt a little nervous was while getting down the ghats, there are a couple of blind curves along which I felt driving was a bit difficult. Other than that, I had a good trip and I really enjoyed driving. Hopefully next time, I will have some company while going for a long distance drive.
Today I had been to Vodafone Gallery in Kandivali to get my mobile number transferred from Corporate plan to Individual plan. I reached there around noon, was given a token and then asked to wait until they announced mu number. While I was waiting for my number, I observed them calling numbers in sequential order and all,of a sudden they announced a couple of numbers randomly. So I went and asked them why are we calling numbers randomly and they said these numbers have been allocated to senior citizens. There was a senior citizen standing next to me and he said how come my number hasn’t been called. So the store manager (Kunal) says you didn’t ask for it. I was very surprised with this response as the man was clearly a senior citizen. However, the store manager arranged for his number to be called out next.
Finally, my number was called out and I was assigned a customer service executive called Devika. I told her I need to transfer my number and told her I have all the required documents. I was told that I can no longer use the existing plan and would have to choose a new plan. I was given a list of all the plans and I chose a plan which I wanted. After selecting the plan, she goes and speaks with someone and then says that the plan is no longer available. I was surprised with the same and I asked why is it on your list of plans? She didn’t say much but said that they are no longer offering that plan. She then offered me a plan with basic rental of Rs. 129. After explaining the plan details, I agreed to the plan and asked her to go,ahead and confirm the same. She goes to her superior and then comes back says that she was confused and this plan is also not available. So I asked her patiently, give me a plan which is available. We finally agreed on a lan with a monthly rental of Rs. 99/ month. I was also given an option of adding 2 numbers for a fixed monthly rental of Rs. 98/ month. I agree to the same. While signing the form, I see an offer to add 3 numbers in a group and calls to those numbers was free and only for Rs. 49/ month. I told her that this add on makes more sense and it is less expensive than the earlier add on of Rs. 98/ month. After finalizing everything, she takes the form to her superior for a final check and then comes back and says, I need to pay Rs. 15/ month for a promotion.
On hearing this, I simply lost my cool. At that point, another executive named, Chandan, came,over and started explaining why the additional promotional fee. I told him I am no longer interested in getting the number changed and told him the entire experience has been bad for me. I have been with Vodafone since 2006 and this is the worst experience that I have ever had. After all this, they decide to waive off the promotional fee and we agreed on the plan. The entire experience was completely bad. I spent approx. 2 hours just to get a new sim card.
Today me and my colleagues were having a very interesting conversation in the cafeteria. The topic was “How have we become like this”? Considering the fact that we got independence in the year 1947 and since then how as a society we have become more and more corrupt. We compared the corruption levels in India to other countries and realized that we are probably worst of the lot and were left wondering where did we go wrong? Is corruption so imbibed in us that we will never change? Or have we started to see some change in the society? During the conversation, we tried to identify the beginnings of India being corrupt. We agreed that we were corrupt since the time India was ruled by many kingdoms. During those times, there were constant fights between two kingdoms with one wanting to establish supremacy over the other and obtain the resources of the other kingdom. During those times, allies would have been paid fees to fight and thus quite a lot of money would be exchanged. Some of it would be exchanged to return a favor, some to get certain work done etc. We felt this how corruption got its roots in India. Greed – was the root cause of corruption.
There is corruption in all the countries, but not to the extent that we have in India. The reason we felt was lack of implementation of laws. While we have laws, we do not have the will to implement the law, thus allowing people to get away with corruption. Once people stop fearing the law, it becomes a way of life and that’s what we are seeing today. Every one from the top to bottom goes scot free even though they would have broken a thousand laws or would be involved in scams worth billions of rupees. In developed countries, people don’t get away. Law is applied equally and hence everyone fears committing a crime or being corrupt. We don’t have equality in our laws and thus we end up creating more problems rather than solving them.
While there are always a few people who are fighting for the right thing, people in general need to awake and move towards changing their behavior. Even a person accepting a bribe is successful when someone pays him. If we don’t pay, chances are people won’t ask. I believe if we have the strength to apply laws with equality and speed up the judiciary process, we should be able to move towards a better society.
It is September and since last one week, the 10 day Ganesh festival is on in Mumbai and rest of the country. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Lalbaugcha Raja in Parel. Lalbaugcha Raja is one of Mumbai’s most famous Ganapati’s and attracts hordes of people every day while the festival is on. I It is believed that this Idol of Lord Ganesha is Navsacha Ganpati (which means the fulfiller of all wishes) and hence over 1.5 million people visit this Ganesh Pandal daily during the 10 day Ganesh festival. Soon Lalbaugcha Raja may become a place of pilgrimage. My tryst with visiting Lalbaugcha Raja started 3 years back when I decided to go and visit, since I had heard a lot of people visit the pandal and because it is so famous. Since then I have been going there every year. The entire madness around the place attracts me. There are so many people just waiting to get a glimpse of the Lord. There is always a mad rush to visit. For the past years, I used to visit early in the morning in the anticipation of fewer people, but was proven wrong. So this year, I decided to visit around midnight. As soon as I crossed Curry Road bridge, I was amazed to see throngs of people just walking towards Lalbaugcha Raja. I have never seen so many people gathered in this part of the town during this time of the night. It seemed that all the people from Mumbai were there. In this I decided to call up my friend Prakash and asked him to come along with me. Luckily Prakash knew one of the volunteers who manage crowds and we could enter the VIP lane, which was sparsely populated and managed to pray silently for some time. This isn’t the case when you are standing in the other two lines. You get jostled, pushed etc, which hardly allows any chance of a silent, peaceful prayer. The entire experience this year was just too good and couldn’t have been possible if my friend didn’t know a volunteer there.
Last Sunday we, me and 5 of my friends, decided to go to trekking to Asherigad fort. The fort is atleast 800 years old and was rebuilt by Portuguese when they had captured the fort. In 1737, Peshwa won this fort during his campaign of the Konkan and in 1818 this fort came under the British rule. We had two places in mind before commencing the trek – Gorakshgard or Asherigad. Since some people had already done Gorakshgard, we decided to go to Asherigad. Asherigad is approx. 80 kms from Mumbai. Since there were 6 of us, we decided to take a car and a bike. Since the monsoons are almost over, I wanted to take the bike out for a long ride and decided to take my bike. We started the journey at around 745am in the morning and reached the base village (Khodkona) at 10:15am after having a healthy breakfast. Since this was our first time trekking here, we decided to hire a local guide who would take us to the top. I read quite a few blogs which mentioned that there are signs showing direction to the top and back all along the route, I was only able to see few very signs.
The trek begins from the village and the first 30-40 mins are relatively easy as the ground is flat and ascend is not steep. But as we started walking deeper and deeper through the forest, we were practically climbing on the rocks and going up. We reached a spot which was the most difficult part of the entire trek as the climb there is nearly 90 degrees. There is a ladder upon which we had to climb. However, we had still had to lift our entire bodies to reach climb the rock as the ladder covered only 80% of the climb for that rock. Post passing the only major hurdle so far, we covered the rest of the climb relatively easily. The entire uphill climb lasted for almost 3 hours and by the time we got there we were dead tired and had exhausted our supplies of drinking water. Luckily, there is a fresh water lake on the top, where the water is very cold and clean. We filled our water bottles there and decided to rest by the lake for a few minutes.
The path downhill was challenging but relatively easy as we knew the route by now. We were able to reach the base village in 2 hours 20 minutes. We were fortunate as it didn’t rain else it would have been a very difficult trek and a lot of broken bones. Overall it was a good trek and I enjoyed every bit of it.
As most of the people are aware, in the last few weeks the Indian Rupee has lost almost 20% of its value when compared with the US dollar and other currencies the world over. I am not writing this post to discuss on that. We already have those discussions everyday with a whole lot of expert panels on TV and news papers. I am writing this from the perspective of what India should have been. I went to the US for my undergraduate studies, worked for a period of 8-10 months after my graduation and due to visa expiring, could not continue my stay over there. I kept working for the same organization while in India and on the same project. During those times, I believe I had a choice to return back to the US. But I chose not to, because I believed in the promise of India. I felt things were changing for the better, things were improving, the country was moving towards modernization. Poverty was reducing, income was rising across all sectors. The standard of living across the length and breadth of the country was changing for the better. I felt the government of India was finally doing the right things and which was in the interest of the nation. India was a country on the rise and I wanted to ride the wave and be a part of the change. I was 24 then.
But after 7 years of staying here, I have realized the more things change, more they remain the same. There is still widespread corruption amongst all walks in life. The government still indulges in vote bank politics. They still do not have the strength or the capability to take tough decisions – decisions which would address the problems that the country is currently facing. We still pass reforms which are motivated only to get votes. From a security perspective, things are moving from bad to worst. Every time my wife leaves work late at night, I am worried for her security. Common man still faces difficulty in filing complaints. They are being made from one police station to another on the pretext of ‘right jurisdiction’. Politicians shunting out honest officers, people who are willing to make a change to remote areas. We are still not able to respond to any terrorist activity in the country. We are not able to defend ourselves from constant intrusions from Pakistan and China. Economically, we are the worst performing currency in Asia. Job markets are drying, manufacturing sector is almost dead or stagnant. Nothing is being done to revive the same. Red tape prevents setting up of new industries, and now with the Land Act, it is going to be even more difficult. The list goes on and on.
I am 31 now and I realize that the India which I had hoped for, was an illusion and that illusion has faded away.