Monday, July 31, 2017

The Practical Guide to Vaishno Devi, India

It is surprising to read the number of blogs written on the Vaishno Devi trip yet none truly explores it from the practical (and I must state, commercial) aspect. Everyone talks about how to reach, where to start, how long it takes, how beautiful it is, how tiring it gets and so on. But what will surprise you the most is how alarmingly under-explained all these posts are.

For example, you do know that helicopter is one of the means to reach the shrine and also that you will have to book it at least two months in advance, but did you know that the service does not ply for most of the monsoon and your flight may be cancelled at the last moment without prior intimation and no alternative provided?

So all those who are planning a trip with their parents who may not be able to walk for that long, just hang in there. Make sure you read this practical guide and make an informed decision.

This is a narrative of my own experience of July 2017. It may or may not coincide with your experience so any difference of opinion will be much appreciated, and my own is expected to be respected.

We were 7 people, four elderly very close to their sixties and three relatively younger ones (including me) in the late twenties. So we decided that the three of us would walk while our parents would take the helicopter rides to and fro. This is what we planned and what eventually happened:

1. The booking - We planned a four day trip hoping to cover Vaishno Devi (Katra), Shiv Khori (2 hrs from Katra) and Patni top (4 hrs from Katra). Our dates had to be planned based on availability of helicopter for the adults as they are usually fully booked at least for the next 45 days. So we planned in mid June and made the booking for July end. This fixed our dates and we proceeded to book return flights from Delhi to Jammu. The accomodation for Katra was booked via OYO Rooms and Shiv Khori did not require accomodation since it would be a day trip only. The accomodation for patnitop was delayed in hope for a good deal on hotels (since this was an off season there) at a later date.

Our itenerary was supposed to be like this:

Day 1 - Fly from Delhi to Jammu. Reach Jammu at 0900 hours and take an SUV cab to Shiv khori. Do the darshan there and head toward Katra. Spend the night in Katra

Day 2 - Full day for Vaishno Devi darshan. The kids (three of us) would start walking at 0700 hours to meet the parents at the top (assuming it would take us 5 hours to reach) The helicopter ride for adults was scheduled at noon and would return at 1500 hours. We all would do the Darshan together and have lunch at the top, then we three would walk back while the parents would take the helicopter back. Ideally we would reach 4-5 hours after our parents reached.

Day 3 - Check out from Katra at 1100 hours and leave for Patni top. Do paragliding in Sanasar (as per tripadvisor's things-to-do-in-Patnitop) and spend the night there

Day 4 - Check at 0900 hours and leave for Jammu to catch the 1600 hours flight to Delhi.

This is how it panned out:

A week before the trip - News of terror attacks in a place called Anantnag, which is only two hours from Patnitop. Since patnitop is on the Jammu-Kashmir highway, we decided to give it a miss. Also, we learnt that paragliding has not been happening there for over a year now. So we decided to cut short the trip by one day and booked the 3rd AC coach of Jammu Rajdhani that starts at 1900 hours from Jammu and reaches New delhi next morning at 0500 hours. Luckily we got confirmed reservation there even though we booked only a week in advance. The return flights werr not cancelled yet.

Day 1 - Flight to Jammu was smooth. However, it was largely empty because of the low volume of passengers due to fear and panic in the region. On arrival we planned an Innova from Jammu airport to Shiv Khori and then to Katra. However, the prepaid rate at the airport was 6500/- so we dialled a couple of contacts and were able to book an outside cab for 4000/-

But for this we had to walk for a half a kilometre because the outside cab could not collect us from the airport. So much for saving a couple of grands.

It took us 4 hours to reach Shiv Khori including an hour's stoppage for Lunch. We had to collect a free ticket to enter and everyone had to do it individually because they take a picture of all the devotees to keep a head count so I could not collect the ticket for my parents. The ticket counter was literally next to a stable where you could get ponies to ride to the top. The area was literally full of horse shit. It is expected that way too because it is not a popular destination and is in a remote village, so absolute hygiene is not a big concern there for the government. 

The route to the Shiv Khori cave is a 4 km steep slope from the starting point and we chose to walk (I had runkeeper on throughout). It was  really daunting for my parents who took 2 hours either way with ample stoppages in between. When you reach the top you have two options, either stand in the queue for a couple of hours or pay the darshan-brokers 150/- to take you through the VIP entry directly to the cave. Darshan-brokers (a name I invented)  are the bees that will stick to you as soon as you reach the top and will remain stuck till you are there and not done the darshan. They will keep pestering you for VIP darshans and will ask for 150/- bucks. So we succumbed to their nagging and decided to go for the VIP entry and paid 150/- to one of the darshan-brokers to save 2 hours of waiting time.

Inside there is a small cave with rocks shaped unevenly representing various dieties in the form of 'Pindys' that were pointed out to by our broker. An atheist may think its a gimmick, but as religious as we people are, we bowed our heads to each one of them and hopefully did receive the divine blessings of them all. 

The broker also pointed out two passages in the cave, one that leads to Amarnath and the other to - wait for it -heaven! I was truly impressed by how close I had gotten to heaven's entrance. I asked one of the pandits how long it would take to reach Amarnath via this cave route (it is 500kms from there by road) in response to which I was snapped at

"Only lord Shankara could take the cave route millions of years ago"

Not even worth trying then, I thought.

Our journey back to Katra was uneventful and we checked in late at night to the hotel. I asked the reception about next day's trip to Vaishno Devi shrine and got three useful pieces of information

1. We could get the yatra parchi from the hotel itself. Though what we wanted really was the VIP darshan parchi which would enable us to skip the queue again but the hotel people couldn't provide it. The helicopter people already had a VIP darshan Parchi with them that was given free with the helicopter ticket, so we used one of our contacts to arrange it for the three of us as well.

2. The hotel provided a free shuttle to and from Banganga, the starting point of the trek.

3. The helicopters may not operate in lieu of the bad weather. This could be a big blow to our plans because the three of us had to leave 4 hours early in order to catch up with the adults on time but if the helicopters didnt operate then the adults would have to take the normal route which meant we would have to wait for at least 4-5 hours for them at the top. 

So we decided to wait till the morning to take the call on weather.

Day 2 - To our relief, the sky was sunny and we were relieved that the helicopter would operate as usual and our original plan would execute as planned. So we left at 0800 hours, got a ride till Banganga and surprisingly took only 2 hours to reach the mid point

The mid point is Ardh Kwari (or Ardh Kumari) and that is where the strenuous walk ends. The road ahead is a piece of cake (read less inclined). As soon as we reached Ardh Kwari we contacted our parents to see if they are at the helipad yet and that was when we got the first shock of our life

The helicopters were not plying BECAUSE it was sunny down here. Sunny sky at Banganga would mean a lot of fog at the top (some science shit that actually turned out to be true) so all the flights that day were cancelled. This led to the existential crisis - "how will the parents make it to the top?"

They then had the following options to choose from -

1. Walk - A clear no. They could barely make it 3 kms to shiv Khori a day earlier so 14 km one way was out of option.

2. Take a battery operated rikshaw - But they operated only from Ardh Kwari till the shrine and back so there still had to reach ardh kwari by one of the means.

3. Take a human Palki (4 people lifting the person via a seat on their shoulders) - This is what they decided and that was when we got the second shock of our life.

The Shrine Board approved rates were 4500/- per head to and fro but no one was willing to go for that rate. The minimum amount they quoted was 6500/-. When we complained to the Shrine Board's complaint number painted all along the route they hardly seemed interested and we realised they must be working in tandem with these people. 

So spending 26000 on four people was out of question for us, again.

3. Take ponies to Ardh Kwari and Battery operated Rickshaw from there - This is what they did eventually and paid 500/- per head till Ardh Kwari for the ponies. 

On reaching Ardh kwari, they realised that there was a huge unorganised queue for the battery cabs (we three had already reached the top by then). What they now had to do was push their way up till the booking counter and get the tickets.

The ticket counter closes at 1100 hours and reopens at 1330 hours, and you cannot book it in advance for anyone.

That was when we got the third shock of our life.

The battery rickshaw drivers were openly accepting bribes and letting people in without tickets, only they had to pay 200/- extra, a killer deal to save 45 minutes of hustle.

Meanwhile, while the three of us were at Ardh Kwari earlier, we decided to visit the Garbjoon cave there since we now had to wait for a couple of hours for our parents. 

But we got to know that booking for that is also done in advance and at least 3 hours of waiting is required. So we decided to skip it. The following day, however, we came to know that we could have taken a back door entry there as well through the darshan-brokers. So much for our ignorance.

 Finally we all did manage to do the darshan together, albeit 3 hours behind schedule. 

Then came the next big question - " How do the parents get down?"

The battery rickshaw would start again at 1900 hours so we would have to wait for a couple of hours for the ticket counter to open. We decided against it.

Ponies were out of equation since numerous blogs had stated that downhill ride on a pony puts immense pressure on lower back.

We were left with only two choices now - either walk or take the palki. So our mothers decided to take the palki (we were two families) and after over thirty minutes of bargaining, we settled at 3750/- per head for the way down. The fathers did not want to spend that much so decided to walk, much to our surprise since they were not physically fit to make it.

But they did, though it took them seven hours and a couple of strained backs to make it back to the hotel. 

We kids would have volunteered to walk for them had there been an option, but sadly they had to do it themselves. We will forever grateful to Vaishno Devi for giving them strength to do it. My father had had a slipped disc a year ago and avoiding a repeat injury was my major concern. 

The shrine board has done nothing to manage the various operators who are openly looting the devotees who are helpless and at their mercy.

The return flight from Delhi to Jammu cost us 3500/- per head, the helicopter return ticket was only 2100/- per head, but this one way journey for 14km cost us 7500/- 

What is saddening is that despite so many rules being laid out for everything, little is done to keep them in check. 

Day 3 - Pretty uneventful tour of Jammu taken only to while away time till the evening train back to Delhi

Our return flight tickets from Jammu remained unused. We did not even bother cancelling them because the cancellation charger were more than the ticket prices themselves.

To sum it all I would recommend the following to whoever is planning a similar trip:

1. Have a good amount of 'Jugaad' for getting accomodation at Bhawan and VIP Yatra parchi. There is no other way you can have it.

2. Have a pocket full of currency notes for the darshan-brokers, battery cabbies, pony operators and palki operators. Money saves time and health.

3. Think again who have elderly parents who may not be able to walk for long. Else depend entirely on Maa Vaishno Devi's divine Shakti for strength.

As I stated earlier, this was my personal experience and may or may not coincide with yours, so respect and accept it.

Happy Journey
Jai Mata Di!

Monday, October 10, 2016

What drives the world?

For years I have asked myself this question. What is that one thing that makes you everything? Is that a good body? Is that the perfect job? The hottest girl? or the best friends?

For years I have tried to achieve all that. A good body. Why? To get the hottest girl. But then I saw that guy who had a ripped six pack as was still every bit of the loner as I am.

Then I thought of getting super rich. But I saw that guy who drove around a discovery but was still laughed at by everyone behind his back.

Then I felt proud of the fact that I have the best friends in the world. But then I realised so does everyone else.

So what is it that makes you you?

This brings me to another debate. What is that one weapon that kills everything? This one is easy to answer. Fear. Fear of waking up till late to not disturb the next morning. Fear of saying something that would upset your dad. Fear of doing something that might not be acceptable in the society. Fear of being 'you' to not be judged by others. Fear to carry the big dreams you saw as a child.

This fear suppresses that one thing that drives the world. And that is confidence. The tail of the coin where the head is fear.

What is it that Jack Black has despite having a bulging tummy? He does not need a six pack to woo girls. He has confidence. What we do not understand is that no matter how late we sleep at night, if we really are looking forward to the next day, we definitely will not screw it up. What we do not understand is that if we do not fear rejection, we will win the battle.

What we do not understand is that it is the fear that makes the other person over power you in an argument. Say it with confidence, and you will already have half the battle won. Do not fear a no. Because the weight of a hundred nos is still less than one yes.

Lead a life where you do not have to wait for the weekend to come. Be proud of what you are. Follow your instinct confidently. If you do that, you will realise that even though you lost, but that loss didn't feel bad at all. You would be proud of that loss. Because that is just one of the hundred weightless nos.

Wait for the yes. Always keep the coin tail up. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dilli Waale

I have always wondered what is so peculiar about us Delhiites that makes us so different from others. Our accent, for one, is different. But that is definitely not the defining criteria. Any place we go in India, one question keeps on popping at us time and again - "Bhaiya, delhi se ho?" And that is not even a question. It is more of a statement. Earlier I used to be astonished on the recognition since to me most north Indians would look like us only. But then I realized its not the accent or the looks, but the way we carry ourselves.

Delhiites have this, referred to as in local lingo, Chaud, that keeps oozing out of us at all times. We do not settle for anything that even meekly tarnishes our respect for ourselselves. As proud as we are, we take almost everything offensively. Most of the things boil down to our izzat, and 'tera bhai kisi se kam nai' is our way of life.

But then this is true for only the true Delhiites, which now we hardly see. Most of the people living are are from neighboring states and have culminated their fashion into ours. Should you care to separate the few that have their roots lying deep in Delhi, you'll realize they are all the same.

And so the following are some of the qualities you will find only in us:

1. We have to win. Baat izzat pe aajati hai.  So if you are playing Dumb charades with a mixed group and even if the other team consists of your elders or bosses, you would not hesitate in mocking them.

2. We cannot let anyone else overtake us on road. Baat izzat pe aajati hai. So what if you are driving a Swift and the car that just flew by was a BMW, you just have to beat him and then sport that curly lip smile.

3. We will seldom take the initiative to correct a fight. It was not my fault. Why should I talk first? He should realize he was wrong. Bhaad me jaaye sala.

4. We create an arrogant first impression. Why? Because we think we are superior to all others. Why? We don't know. But we are.

5. We have this intolerable urge to show off. Well, it may be less than a few neighboring states, but then we don't sit back either. We are cool, you know.

6. We may hate hard rock and death metal, but if there is a gig in town you will find us there headbanging.

Only if you have stayed away from Delhi for a while will you realize what people all over India think of us. We may be good at heart, make the best of friends or have the maximum amount of fun, but all this counts for nothing if we do not create a good first impression. Because that is usually the last impression.

Mostly true. Isn't it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The changing face of every society

Once there was an old-young man called Culture. He often sat under a tree in his garden and ponder over the decisions he had made in life. Years and years of experience had transformed him into a new being.

He had the curse of living forever.

Centuries ago, he fell in love with a beautiful young woman called Society. Her mesmerising charm shook culture by its roots and it wasn't long before they were bound by the shackles of love. Together, they gave birth to three babies. The eldest son was named Liberty, who grew up to be a spoiled brat. He was pampered a lot by Society that made him arrogant, mean and selfish. 

A few years later came the twins; an innocent boy named Sacrifice and a beautiful little girl called Adjustment. Right from their childhood, Sacrifice and Adjustment were very close to each other because they had so much in common, as was usual with twins all over.

However, they hated their elder brother Liberty.

Liberty was never really liked by anyone in town and it was because of him that Sacrifice and Adjustment were hated too by everyone. And it was because of this that they were not too fond of Society either, They felt that it was because of Society that Culture had not paid much attention towards cultivating Liberty. Liberty would always get what he wanted and it was often because of him that the twins suffered, as they belonged to the same family.

One day they both made a plan to end this suffering. They asked for help from their good friend Attitude, a foreigner. Attitude agreed to help them bring Liberty back on line. He decided to imbibe some sense into Culture and thought of a plan, where his main motive would be to reduce Society's influence on Culture so that Culture could tighten his grip on Liberty and not let him misuse the power he had. Attitude arrived at their place accompanied by a friend, a lady story teller of breathtaking beauty. Her name was Modernisation

Culture, having the power of living forever, had not grown old a bit all these years. Society, on the other hand, had started showing signs of ageing, Her face had wrinkled and a streaks of white hair had become prominent. When Modernisation first met Culture, she got him slightly perturbed with her magnetic charm. Being the storyteller she was, she narrated tales of the land she was from. Attitude helped her add spice to the tales and inspire Culture with awe. 

The tale of Modernisation in the west had left Culture completely surprised. He had never heard such stories before. Soon enough, Modernisation started influencing Culture and his focus started drifting away from Society. Society, thus, grew jealous of Modernisation as she felt that it was because of Modernisation that Culture had lost interest in her. 

Such was the influence now that Culture had totally immersed in Modernisation and would agree to whatever she said. In one of her stories, she told him how Liberty was affecting Adjustment and Sacrifice's happiness. He realised his mistake and pledged to correct things from thereon. Culture, being the head of the family, took away all the powers he had given to Liberty. This enraged Liberty like anything and he left his father forever. Society, who had always favoured Liberty since beginning, left him too.

Since that day Society has always been against the Modernised Culture.

Modernisation too left Culture soon to go to another land where she would find more such Cultures to influence. Thus the poor old man, still young in looks, was only left with Adjustment and Sacrifice by his side. But the twins were happy now.

And today Culture is sitting under the same tree wondering what went wrong. Why did Society leave him? Should he not have corrected Liberty and brought peace to his own children? Should he not have listened to Modernisation

Little does he know that all this was inevitable. Every few years he will meet a new Society. And every generation will give rise to a new Modernisation that will influence him against her.

This is the changing face of every society.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What if what you think is right, is wrong?

Clause 1: There is a law that the country makes. It is bound by rights. These rights are defined. If someone tries to take them away, you can court the law.

Clause 2: There a law that society makes. It is bound by emotions. And there are no rights, jut to-do lists. They make no sense. And you have to follow them, for no reason.

Case 1: A twenty three year old girl is sitting at home, idly. She can’t go to work because her father thinks she should not. She is obese and her father almost hates her for that. She cannot go out for holidays with her friends because her father does not want her to. Marriage at will is out of question. Now even though all fundamental rights in the first clause are violated, she cannot court the law because clause 2 overrides and overrules everything else.

Sub-Case 1: Given the current situation she is in, she chooses to fight for her rights. That is, revolting against the first social environment (family) she is in. She decides to leave the house, have a job, have freedom, lead a life where she can take her own decisions and have freedom to marry whoever she wants to. Now she is happy because she is doing things that make her happy. But the extended social environment decides to make an interruption. Friends and family of the family will disregard her actions and criticize her for being ‘selfish’. Given the fact that her father almost sacrificed his life and that her mother had been through worse, she should have behaved like a sacrificing Indian girl and obeyed whatever her parents had kept in store for her because even though none of it makes her happy and actually makes sense, it is somehow still the best decision for her.

Sub-Case 2: Given the current situation she is in, she chooses to stay quiet and try to be an adjusting girl. So she doesn’t go to work, and has no money of hers to spend. Every morning she wakes up at eight and wonders what to do the whole day. So she starts watching television because she likes to. Moments later she is scolded for not helping her mother with the household chores because that is what ‘Indian girls’ are supposed to do. At night she is scolded by her father for not losing enough weight that day. Next day she is made to get pictures clicked for matrimonial service, because her family has decided it is the right time for her to get married. Then she gets married off in a family that has a replicated environment, because marriages cannot be inter castes, as supposedly there is ‘little understanding’ between people from different castes.

We live in a world where life’s aim is to please others. Society largely dominates your life. If not, it dominates the lives of those who dominate your life. There is no free will. Personal satisfaction and societal acceptance are two mutually exclusive contracts; you may choose to accept only either of them.

Sub-Case 3: Given the current situation she is in, the girl choses to take the middle path and tries to create a pleasant environment for everybody. So she decides to ask her father if she could work from home. Father accepts the proposal and says she could work for him. Take all the money she thinks she would get from a job, from him. Thus, still lead the life under Sub-Case 2 but with the assumption of having freedom and individuality.

No wonder ‘Hell’ flashes on her phone when there is a call from home.

Now, a brief background of the father: Since he was born thirty years before her, he had a totally different upbringing. Girls were assumed to do the household chores. Men were supposed to fetch bread, and women cook it. Life was simple. Father would know who is the ideal match for their children and would fix the partner for them. It made sense, because there was no social networking. There was no social media or communication network. Their entire life was revolving around two families, their own and their in-laws’. That is why selecting the right ones was extremely critical. Since their fathers had played pivotal roles in selecting the brides, they ‘had’ to do the same for their children. Life was hard the father lived in a single room apartment. In the last thirty years, he had sacrificed everything for his family. So putting the daughter in question to a nice school had to be a tough choice. Now the money was good, yet it was earned by saving rupee after rupee; saving on clothes, food, holidays and fun. With better income, he sent his children to better colleges and universities, where they could get better education.

Now that has offered so much, sacrificed so much for his children, isn’t it only fair that he is not ripped off the joy of selecting the right groom for her daughter?

So where is the mismatch? What has gone wrong? I think the answer to the above question is that the two sides of a coin can never meet. They will for ever and ever be standing back-to-back, until one side decides to melt.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Which side are we really on?

It was 12pm in the afternoon, I was driving to my father's place when I saw the campaign on the back of a rickshaw that said 'Vote for Aam Admi party'. I had always been a proud follower, though never participated, of anti-corruption campaigns and thought better of Arvind Kejriwal and the mission he was fighting for. One man, who, by what his supporters say, has sacrificed all he had to fight against the corrupt government, now trying to help the society by taking its place. His deeds are all over the media, but still there are many who consider him a fool. These are the people who have contacts in either of the two big parties, and know how they could leverage on these contacts to benefit themselves in times of need. I personally have never been too fond of using contacts for anything, so I always thought that the poor lad has been right in what he was doing. Soon enough the autorickshaw that I was following turned right, and so did my thoughts.

When I reached my father's office he gave me a small errand to do. It was the court's notice for my father to appear in person that evening apparently for having crossed the stopping line at a red light an year ago. He passed on the responsibility to me, and I gladly took it.

I wondered what had possibly taken so much time to make the notice to reach us an year after we committed the fault. In one year I couldn't even recall having gone to that particular road mentioned on the notice. Then I thought of the number of people who cross the stop line at a red light. Frankly, I couldn't even think of a single red light in the city where vehicles stayed behind the line at red lights. So I guessed our car must either have stood on the middle of the road for the traffic police to have noticed, or maybe, our vehicle number was just a lucky guess.

 I called up a friend of mine whose father was associated with the police to ask him how the procedure works. Whether I can serve the charges on behalf of my father or not? How much time would it take for the whole thing to get over and questions like that. He asked for five minutes and when he called back after that time, said that his father was a regular visitor to the supreme court and that two of his friends were advocates so in case anything goes wrong, he was there to help me out. I said no issues its just a five hundred rupee challan and that I only wanted to know how things would go. He said that if i were lucky then there would be so-called dalals  sitting outside the court who would do the setting for me. I, instead, thought of meeting the magistrate in person and thought of all the reasons that I would present for appearing in stead of my father as the notice clearly said -

From : The Judge (evening court)
'You are hereby requested to appear in person at 5 pm.........'

So these were direct orders from the judge and could not have been faltered. Once again I thought of my friend saying that judges, if left to themselves, do not even consider the president of the country anything in front of their power. When I reached the court a couple of well-dressed officials stopped me well before the reporting room and one of them took me to a side of the room and asked me to show the challan. I promptly did that. He then sounded all secretive and promised me he could waive off the fine if I pay him five hundred instead of the six hundred that was charged. I asked him who was he and why would he do that. He asked my if mine was a personal or a commercial car. I told him that mine was personal and though I still can't figure out how that answer was related to his next move, but he instantly reduced the amount to four hundred. I took out my wallet and found only two hundred and eight rupees in noted of ten, fifty and hundred. He took them without even counting and asked me to stand besides the door of the room where the magistrate was sitting. I glimpsed inside and saw a female judge, probably in her early thirties, handling the proceedings. At that time I made a mental note of what I would say to the lady in charge. I thought of telling her, in case anything goes wrong, that the person outside pretended to be the fine collector and not in my dreams I would imagine an imposer right outside the court room. Then I thought I would say that the reason why my father didn't come was that I instead was driving the car on that day and had crossed the line because an ambulance was on its way and I had to give it space.

After two minutes of standing there I got anxious and signalled at the person who assured me of handling everything. Once again he came all secretly to me and asked me to shut up. For once, I thought of taking that money back from him but stayed calm. But as he  had instructed, the judge called my father's name within two minutes and I went in revising all the answers I would present. To my utter surprise, the judge herself gave me the register where my father's name was written and asked my sign there. When I did I was told, by her again, that my fine was waived off and that I should leave. Startled as I was, I left that room and turned my head to see that dalal deep in conversation with another man. Apparently the reason why he had asked me if mine was a personal or a commercial challan was to gauge how to negotiate the bribe with me. I felt stupid for having given even two hundred and eighty rupees to him as officially, my fine was waived off and none of the amount I gave would be going to the government's treasury.

The first thing I did on getting out was call my friend and  say,

' Dude, even the judge was bikau (for sale), she waved off my fine without even listening to me.'

To this he replied,

'Be glad that you are in India my friend.'

Now I wonder why that dalal was so secretive about his identity when even the judge knew he was there doing all that. I was glad I saved some precious time and three hundred and twenty rupees. I thought I was just being paranoid about the whole thing when all it took was ten minutes for the whole thing to get over.

On my way back, I saw the same ad I had seen earlier, this time on a different autorickshaw. But this time my thoughts were different. I was asking to myself.

" Do we really want corruption to end? Which side are we really on?"

PS : I know this is an everyday phenomenon, and there was no need for me to exaggerate the whole story, but essentially I wanted to point out levels to which this corruption has been entangled in the system. What I ask of you is sit back and ask yourself how many of such incidents have you been a part of. Bribing the traffic police is just one of the many. Imagine if all the money in the country was actually reported then how much money the government would have. And if that be the case how drastically reduced the taxes would be, which means a common shop keeper would not have to go for falsely reporting the sales to save taxes, because he would essentially earn the same amount by reporting everything. But we all do that, because we don't have the power to think beyond the moment. This is a thick vicious circle, which has each and every citizen of the country inside it. No matter how much we sit back and criticize, we ourselves cannot live without the corrupt demon that resides in each one of us.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mind Over Matter

Well, Like always, I'm going to start off with a couple of different things, and I hope you feel them blending in the end. First of all, we all talk talk about technology all the time. We know its pervasive, there is no denying that fact. And social media has, of late, been under a lot of cynical sarcasm. Fear of missing out, or FOMO as they call it, has made many a victim. People just love to brag about what they are doing and where they are, so much so that everyone is desperately trying to make people understand how perfect their world is.  Every other photo on instagram is nearly as beautiful as the other one, and why it wouldn't it be? Plainly for the reason that no one would want to show their less impressive side to the world. Everything in one's life should be awe-inspiring. Every second status or post on facebook is intended to be liked at least by the whole of one's friend list. I would call it a bubble which is slowly getting bigger and bigger and its not long before it bursts, just like that of a gum, with tiny shreds falling off in every random direction so you wouldn't even get time to realize it just happened. But this is not what we are discussing here. What I mean is, with social media having entangled all of us so much, is it really that hard to make better use of it?

Having talked about social media, let me move on to social gatherings. If you are as sane as I am, you, like most others love hanging out with friends. Whether it's a party, a movie or a simple lunch at a restaurant. Have you ever realized that the same things if you do alone or probably with different company then the whole experience changes? A movie would seem boring if seen with family and it might be the best flick you ever watched if you are with friends. What makes having fun with friends fun? If we try to break that down, its the amalgamation of the experience and your personal interaction with the people around you. The combination of both these makes memorable moments, isn't it?

I am sure we all have laughed, cried, giggled on remembering the time we spent with people. These are moments that come back to us in the exact shape. But coming to think of it, actually what makes us react to these memories is that sub consciously something good or bad had happened at that time. We may not remember the exact dialogues instantly, but a certain feeling, happy or sad, is definitely attached to that outing. People like me who are so socially involved are often homesick whenever they are kept alone. Because we are so used to having company around us all the time that spending time alone becomes difficult. Imagine you are watching a movie alone at a theatre, or dining alone at a restaurant. What do you do while waiting for the order? What do you know while chewing every bite? What do you do when your jaw muscles are not accustomed to being relaxed?

I guess this is where we can get the first part of this post in to play. Now if we have agreed that all memories are related sub-consciously to the moments spent with people, it would mean that physical presence would not be as important if you have had the opportunity of having similar interaction. What I mean is that if you are dining alone in a restaurant and feel the need to be with a group of people who you prefer dining out with, you can simply take out your phone and create a whatsapp group and chat with those friends all while you are having that food, and trust me the experience would not be much different from the one you would have had while actually them sitting in front of you. Because after a couple of days, what remains is the memory, the physical presence is anyways washed away after the meal is over. And believe you me, you can easily convince your mind that those people were actually present and it will have to listen to you.

Isn't technology then absolutely wonderful?