I got my first bike Yamaha R15 in Nov 2010. I had booked the bike, even before I knew how to ride it. I actually learned how to ride a bike using my new R15. The bike was cynosure of all the eyes, strange and familiar. While riding the bike in the society complex, the eyes of the small children would light up when they saw the bike. The same could also be said about the strangers checking the bike out while I was riding out on the streets or on the highway. In all these years, this bike had been my constant travel companion – be it commute to work, driving to South Mumbai, doing road trips to Pune, Lonavala etc. and in all these years it has never given me a chance to complain. I loved the way it would take on the road and everytime I was riding it, I felt I was in safe hands. I am sure the bike felt it too. However, that association ended yesterday. I had recently booked a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 and I got news a couple of days back that my bike has been allotted and should be available in a couple of weeks. The plan had always been to sell off R15 and use that money to pay the down payment for the new bike. However, as the time to sell the bike kept getting nearer, I was in two minds – whether to keep the bike or sell it. I could have kept the bike and done some modifications etc and kept using it. However, I knew I would not able to use the bike fully as I would mostly be doing more work commute on the new bike. I didn’t want the bike to lay waste in the building garage, hence yesterday on getting a reasonable offer, I decided to sell it off. While taking the bike to the new owner, I realised that this was going to be my last ride on this bike and wasn’t feeling too good about it. As I looked at the bike for the last time, all the memories of our association flashed right by my eyes and brought tears. No one likes parting away with things that they love. The same was true for me. It was my first bike and shall always remain.
Getting used to a new technology can sometimes be a very challenging task. We are used to operating our phones in our own unique manner and if we have been using the same handset for a very long time, getting used to a new handset can be quite a challenge. We encountered this challenge yesterday, when we upgraded my wife’s phone from Nokia to Samsung Grand 2. My wife is one of the very few people who does not like using qwerty keyboard and prefers a 4×3 keyboard. The new phone does not have the option of 4×3 keyboard, while there may be some apps available to address this issue, but most of such apps do send out data to their servers and she is not comfortable sharing that information. We went to the Samsung store today and asked them if we could return the phone. They told us that while they can buy it back, we would only get 75% of what we originally paid. So what do we do? In India – nothing. If this was US or UK, the clear answer would have been to return the phone and get the phone which gives you the required feature. The return policy in US for electronic items is very clear – the items can be returned within 30 days of buying, of course, the items need to be working condition. This not only allows the user to test the product and determine if he is comfortable using the product and all features work as expected. One thing to definitely keep in mind though is the markets in the US/ UK are much more matured and the process of dealing with returns is also well defined. However, in India there is no such return policy and once you have purchased an electronic item, there is no way for you to return it unless the product stops working within the guarantee period – and there is no guarantee that the item would be replaced.
There is clearly a need to introduce some sort of the return policy in India too – however, the probability of the policy getting misused is very high and thus companies have been avoiding it. But until those policies do come into existence, consumers like my wife are stuck with products which we are not comfortable using.
The last 10 days have been extremely hectic for me work wise and there has been absolutely no chance for me to blog. I have been heavily involved in the planning activity for 2014 for my organization and thus have been extremely tied up. However, the activity is now over and thus I am back. Hopefully I should be able to continue with my project and be able to cover up for the days that have been missed out.
Last weekend, me and wife, visited the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. The Kala Ghoda festival takes place once a year during Feb 1st week and is considered to be one of the premier art festivals in India. The sub-festivals feature the visual arts, dance, music, theatre, cinema, literature, lectures, seminars and workshops, heritage walks, special events for children, and a vibrant street festival. While my wife has been visiting this festival since quite a few years, I have only started attending since last couple of years. The festival lasts for 10 days and every time we plan to attend the festival early but end up attending only on the last or second last day when the crowd is at its peak. This year also it was no different. We attended on the second last day and being Saturday, the place was full of people. My purpose of attending the festival was to take pictures of the arts installation which are put up. I did manage to take a few pictures but considering the number of people who were attending, it was really difficult to get clean pictures. Also this year, I found the number of installations to be less as compared to the previous years. However, the number of stalls selling “art” stuff had increased. There were a lot of stalls who were selling clothes, shoes, accessories, and home decor making me wonder if it was really an arts festival or some shopping festival. Normally we spend considerable time going through the descriptions of the installations and visiting the different stalls. However, this year looking at the number of people, we kept our visit to just 4 hours. The overall experience wasn’t that great for me because of the sheer number of people. Being from Mumbai, I am used to crowds but this was just way too much for me. Probably next year, we will visit the festival early enough or probably on a weekday to enjoy to the fullest.
The general elections are just around the corner and with it the offers for freebies have started flowing from the political parties. The other day I was watching TV and saw an advertisement paid by the Indian National Congress on legalizing slums under some scheme (I don’t remember the name). I was looking at the advertisement and realized that this is the very reason hard working middle class parents want their children to settle abroad. The whole idea of legalizing something which is illegal in the first place is just atrocious. Not only have these people been living on illegally occupied place and instead of penalizing them, the government, which in most cases is hand-in-glove when these slums come up, is now awarding this behaviour by making those slums legal. By making them legal, those slums can be demolished and the dwellers can be rehabilitated in proper apartments/ houses all at not cost to the dwellers, all at the expense of the middle class income tax payers.
When I look at such schemes, what bothers me is the most is what wrong have common people like me done? Here, I am trying to buy an apartment since last one year and have not been able to buy it due to high costs and government is doling out freebies to the people who have illegally occupied the land in the first place. I think I should have just got some shanty in some slum and wait for it to be legalized to get my own apartment – that too at free of cost. It just makes middle class people, who are trying to earn their daily living in a honest manner, look like fools.
What I would also like to say is that, I am not against government helping the people moving up the social ladder. But what I am against is government turning a blind eye to such illegal activities in the first place and then legalizing it. No political party is willing to take hard steps. It just makes me wonder if there is any hope for middle class people in this country.
A couple of days back, Raj Thackeray – a politician, announced that people should no longer pay toll on the highways and if need me resort to violence. To carry out his diktat, his party members/ supporters started vandalizing toll booths across Maharashtra. I read about it in the newspapers and didn’t really think about it much, forgetting the fact that I use the Western Express highway to travel to work everyday and there are two toll booths that fall along my route to work. The next day while driving I encountered bumper to bumper traffic atleast a 1.5kms before the toll booth. I was thinking that the reason for such traffic could be an accident on the highway. However, on reaching closer to the toll booth, I saw a lot of people from his political party stopping cars and speaking with passengers. I was fearing the worst – that they might vandalize the car. On reaching my car, they requested me to not pay toll. I continued to move ahead and found the toll booth heavily guarded by the police. I was wondering how will someone avoid paying the toll with such heavy police presence. The entire ruckus cost me an extra 45 mins to reach work.
I wonder what do political parties achieve by such populist measures. As per Raj Thackeray, the companies should provide better amenities for the toll tax charged. I, in principle, agree to what he says and means. But I also would blame the government who agreed to the current agreement with the contractor. If the agreement does not mention anything about better amenities, then the contractor is not obliged to do anything. Incidentally, the agreement was signed by Shiva Sena, BJP combined (Raj Thackeray was earlier part of Shiva Sena). There is also other argument floating around which says that since the project cost is recovered, toll should not be collected. To makers of such argument, I just have a simple argument to offer – the contractor is in the business to make money and earn profits. No company is going to invest in India if politicians start putting perceived thresholds on profit. Currently we have a wave of populist measures which the governments are announcing, from AAP in Delhi to NCP Cong in Maharashtra. If you look at it, all subsidies are generally paid by the government and how does the government get money – from you and me. So indirectly the tax paying people end up footing the bill and at the same time increasing the debt. I wonder when will we have governments who really understand the need of the hour and stop implementing populist reforms just for votes.
Last Sunday, me and Geeta, were invited to the Asmita School at Jogeshwari by a friend who was the chief guest for the flag hoisting ceremony on the occasion of the Republic Day. Apparently our common friend, along with his family and friends, has decided to help the school out in whatever possible manner. Asmita School supports education of kids who are from “not well to do” families. The parents of these children are normally daily wage earners and most of them are not educated at all. Asmita School provides education in Marathi and English medium to these children. We had an opportunity to meet some of the special educators who work with these children to enable them to realize their full and true potential. Most of them worked on a part-time basis and have been associated with various other schools. They have been bringing all their knowledge and experience to help the kids out at this school, which is great. We also got to visit the Balwadi, where kids from nursery to Sr. Kg, are being taught. To reach Balwadi, we walked through the slum which was behind the school. I was amazed to see the talent some of these children have. A couple of children recited shlokas in Sanskrit, while some others spoke in English, Hindi and Marathi about the Republican Day. The children also performed Koli Dance and another Goan dance while we were there. The teachers in this school teach in both Marathi and English so that the child can get admission into any other school if his/ her parents so desire.
I found the work done by the charity organization to be really good. Looking at schools, facilities etc. I felt they were doing a really good job in making these children ready for a good future. I shudder to think that if we didn’t have NGO’s such as these, so many children would have either been begging on the streets or would have taken a life of crime or would have probably become daily wage earners like their parents with no real scope of future. While the NGO is doing its bit to help, I must also appreciate the parents of these kids who are sending them to school to get educated and move ahead in life. Overall, it was a very unique and humbling experience.
Last night after finishing work, I was driving back home listening to music, windows rolled down, enjoying the empty roads. I had just crossed the National Park flyover and there was a stretch of road where there were no street lights. I saw a small crowd gathered around a rickshaw on the left side of the road, but I was in the right lane didnt really care much when all of a sudden a man with suitcase who was crossing the highway came in front of the car and this wasnt even an intersection. The time to react for me very less and I hit the brakes right away and car swerved and skidded and I avoided hitting that person. I was in complete daze for the next few moments trying to understand what had just happened. At the same time, I realized I was shaking head to toe in sheer panic. Since all this happened so quickly, I was already near the Magathane flyover when I decided to stop the car for a few minutes to calm myself down.
I just started thinking what would have happened if I had hit that person. He would have probably died or atleast would have been in the hospital for a very long time and I could have been arrested by the police for reckless driving or involuntary manslaughter, even though it wasn’t my fault. The problem in India is anytime you have hit a person, and even though you are not fault, you are assumed guilty. Why? Just because you were driving the car and the “poor” man was just trying to cross the road. Even though there is a pedestrian bridges and subway built at various points on highway, people still choose to cross the road. Just a few meters ahead of the spot where this event happened, there was a footover bridge which was built so that people can safely cross. However, the man chose to cross the road. Still the police would have held me responsible saying I was speeding, or driving recklessly or in worst case scenario would say I was driving drunk.
The problem with us is that we dont tend to obey rules and I dont why. The same person who has been breaking all the traffic rules in India will obey all the rules whenever he/ she goes abroad. The part of the problem is that rules cant be implemented in India looking at number of people vs. the number of traffic policemen we have. Plus our cops are paid poorly so bribing them usually ensures that people get away with any type of traffic violation. Anyways, I am just venting right now on what could have happened etc. I am just hoping that the person who was crossing today realizes that he is very fortunate to be alive today and hopefully does not repeat the same thing again.
Yesterday, I participated in Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in the half marathon category. I have been running the half marathon for the last 5 years and this was the first time when I was running without any practice. I started to practice sometime around Oct/ Nov for this year’s marathon but because of scheduling conflicts I was not able to prepare for it all. I started running around 5:30 am in the morning; but then there would be sometimes I would reach home from work around 4 am and sometimes around 6 am and would be like super exhausted and just didn’t feel like going for a run(mainly because I would be tired and just felt like hitting the bed).
So I reached the race start point on time at 6 am and was hoped for the best. I did get to see John Abraham (who is the event ambassador for SCMM) and started running hoping that I would be able to complete the race. I was targeting to complete by 2 hours 45 mins and I decided to join the 2 hour 45 mins bus. I kept following the group for 6 kms before the lack of practice caught up with me and I started walking. After walking for a couple of kms, I started to run again however by this time my lack of practice had really started to hurt my legs. I was cramping up and was in some pain. At around 12 kms mark, I stopped running altogether and decided to walk to the finish line no matter how long it took. In between I met Prem, my old colleague and we talked together for a few kms before he took to finish the race.
Post this experience, I am not sure if I am going to participate in any further marathons unless I am able to practice regularly.
PS: A shoutout to all Mumbaikars for coming out to support the runners. It is really amazing to see so many people out on the streets cheering the runners and offering them with biscuits, water, bananas, and in some cases jalebis!! You guys are awesome!!!
This is in continuation to my earlier post on the same topic, which can be found here. I believe I have been deeply impacted by the above saying and I try and follow this as much as I can. The meaning of the saying is simple – help someone who is facing a problem today and tomorrow, may be someone will help you when you are facing a problem. I believe that if we each one of us follows this, world could be a better place to live in. About couple of months ago while I was returning from work, I saw a stranded police officer along with a couple of luggage bags on the GB road asking for a lift to Mira Rd police station. It was around 3:30am in the morning and at this time public transport on this road is very rarely available. I was in two minds when I saw the cop asking for a ride. I was wondering is he really a cop or is he some thief who is disguised as a cop and looking to fleece people. Considering the time of the night and bags on the road, I was kind of leaning more towards the former – i.e. a cop looking for a ride. There was only one way to find out. So I stopped the car and asked him to get in.
Once inside, he thanked me profusely and told me he was waiting for more than 30 mins until I offered him a ride. He told me he was travelling from Nasik and had been transferred to Mira Rd. We started chatting and I realized that he is also just a normal person like the rest of us and who happens to work in a very stressful environment. We keep cursing them, getting angry at the law and order situation etc. But at the end of the day, he is just as human as we are. It was a good 20-25 min discussion, where we discussed about our families. He told me about his kids who are studying and how it was difficult for him to make ends meet. I wanted to ask him, if he takes bribes etc. but then decided to keep my mouth shut. The best part of travelling with him was that I didnt have to pay any toll fees :). We reached his destination and once again he thanked me and told me he is going to be posted in Mira Rd for a couple of years. I wished him all the best and continued onward to home.
A few weeks after that incident, I had trouble with my bike and was helped out by a stranger in the middle of the night equating the karma. The above incidents have kind of reinforced my belief in Today you.. Tomorrow me.