Monday, December 5, 2016

Cashing onto Gold!

So the Finance Minister at a function last week commented that with the kind of
population India has there are bound to be queues.
And I have been patiently waiting for the chaos and queues to get shorter at the banks before venturing to deposit and exchange my savings in Rs 1000 and 500 notes.
Each day brings a new rule, revised deadlines to use old notes, advisory on which old notes can be used where, exchange limit reduction to no exchange allowed. This roller-coaster ride of keeping abreast with new announcements further created an inertia till the next fear that may be Dec 30 deadline could also be rolled back.
So was it prudent to wait patiently for the queue to get shorter and not add to the ensuing chaos - have I not turned out to be the loser by choosing not to stand in 4 hr long queues and giving other more needy people the chance to manage their monies?
While the general public has lauded this path-breaking effort to remove the black money from the economy in one sweep, my only question to government and central bank is how will they ensure in the future that no black money gets accumulated?  How to have faith in the system when one hears about crores of money being found in raids in new notes? When one hears stories of suitcases and sacks full of money being exchanged by bank managers from the back gates while common man patiently waits for money at the official doors of the branches.
While this move pushes the cash-dominated population to open bank accounts, help takes the country one step forward towards cashless economy, we still need to be able to withdraw monies as and when required - and this remains a challenge even almost a month after the mega announcement. ATMs still do not have cash, even when it is replinished it gets over in less than 15 mins. Banks are still struggling to arrange for cash and in spite of salaries being credited there is still no money in physical wallets. 
The most hard-pressed are the low income strata who saved only in form of cash at home, they get salaries in cash - and then see it wipe out overnight with no monies to buy even food. And in these circumstances one hears instances where businessmen have paid salaries and advances in old currency to their workers thereby converting black into white. 
And while the country is still coming to terms with dealing with lesser cash to meet day-to-day expenses, there comes a Gold regulation - a married woman to only have 500 gms of gold and an unmarried one allowed only 250 gms. And how does government propose to implement this with people who have bought hordes of gold by black money? And how to weed out genuine legally acquired gold by savings with common man vs gold acquired through bribes and other under-hand means?
Or this good intention measure also would result in poor execution with common man facing the pain while the rich and corrupt continuing to sit on their hordes?

Thursday, December 1, 2016


In the last few months I have had to say Goodbye to two homes I have ever lived in my life time.
One was a home I was brought to after I was born, my parents got that official accommodation from Banaras Hindu University just a few months before I was born. That's the garden of the home where I learnt walking, learnt to climb stairs, saw the world go by from the window upstairs. That's the home where we celebrated successes of family or shared grief over loss of dear ones or a bad news. That's the home that saw me step out for the very 1st job and that's the home I said Goodbye this last weekend for forever.
In between a short life and a rented accommodation in Mumbai happened which could never become a home.
And then moving to Delhi albeit in another rented accommodation where I spent a dozen odd years - it was also meant to be a short stay which lingered on and on. A place that saw me grow professionally with a few troughs in between. It was a place where I learnt about me, realise my real worth, helped me develop and define my interests and in turn, made me what I am. A place that slowly became a second home away from home.
Saying goodbye is never easy, and ultimately the chaos of winding up and closing the houses ensured that there was no time to get sentimental. The buzz of activity overshadowed the process of feeling the emotions.
And it is time to make another house a new home. Make new memories while carrying the old ones with me in my heart as they continue to define me!

Sunday, October 2, 2016


One or the other channels on television always show the Richard Attenborough's iconic film Gandhi on 2nd October. Every time I watch the film, I discover a new nuance - sometimes a quote, other times cinematography in the scene of a film or a new story.

There is a scene at the railway station at Champaran village when Gandhi alights from the train. As the British officer watched the huge gathering from the top of a roof and made way towards him to enquire about him and his visit, his subordinate tried to make way for him through the crowd. One could hear statements like "raasta do", "saheb ke liye raasta chodo" in both language versions, and 70 years later, the practice still continues for its rulers - politicians, police officers, or any other person in the chair of any office or city or state or nation that he or she is commanding - Something and many other such practices that is quintessential Indian treatment for VIPs or probably we learnt this from Britishers.

On the birthday of Gandhi as well as of an another true Gandhian Lal Bahadur Shastri, while the TV channels were celebrating Swachh Bharat - another dire need of this country, it is also important to reacquaint all of us with the Gandhian principles - some of which still remain relevant today.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Freedom @ 70

It is that time of the year when every second car has a tricolour fluttering; social media sports either people dressed up in tricolour or changing their display pic to flag pnemonics. It is the time when websites, newspapers rehash the old pics, list of patriotic songs and obviously Nehru's speech of "tryst with destiny". Powerful and goose-bumpy it was, the core of the speech "responsibility" towards "people of India" remains forgotten by their representatives. While people proudly stand up for the national anthem, the respect towards the flag and anthem seems to be diminishing. Why - those very flags after the eventful day are seen lying on the roads tattered or in the garbage dumps - when till a decade back, the common man had no right to hoist a flag.  The responsibility to know the flag code of india is equally important as is the right to proudly hoist, display the tricolour. And every political party is in a race to own the kindred spirit and valiance of forgotten freedom fighters.

In the 69 years of Independence, while the nation has progressed towards 21st century, the core of the country probably still remains rooted in the erstwhile centuries. The abject poverty, access to clean drinking water, healthy food and clean houses with sanitation services, right to education still remains a dream. We see people living below the flyovers, on sides of the road - cooking in the steam of pollution emanating from our vehicles. When we travel by the train into the heartland, we pass by houses clothed in darkness as we go to sleep and looking for a place for morning ablutions as we wake up.

We see rage and hatred on the roads, in the families and on social media. We read about the threat and injustice to women in newspapers as they go on living their lives. While we gained freedom from Britain, we became slaves to corruption, greed and intolerance.

We want our houses to be clean but not our roads and localities. We want to be heard but not hear. We want the right to criticise but not to take responsibility. We want to be wealthy but not others around us. We want to be treated kindly but not treat others kindly. We want the right to follow our faith, but question other religions. 

The preamble to Indian Constitution succinctly states the rights of people of India - justice, liberty, equality and fraternity - the very tenets for which war of Indian Independence was fought. And today, this remains a textbook reading, good to talk about but not to practice.

I love the following lines by Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

It is this dream and pledge that still remains to be fulfilled, and till then we truly cannot celebrate our Independence or freedom! I am proud to be Indian, but cannot call myself a proud Indian today!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lost childhood

This monsoon season, while we have been spending more time on roads and traffic signals, it is unavoidable to observe life streaming about you. One sees people on motorcycles and bicycles going about on their work while trying to keep themselves dry, people in petrol-diesel guzzlers oblivious to rains while listening to loud electro-techno music blaring from their speakers. And then there are some who are engrossed in their own world of business or social media.

One also observes a small minority of hawkers peddling their wares at traffic signals - pirated books, cloth to clean your house or car, chargers for all kinds of phones, flowers and balloons. And come Independence Day or Republic Day, it's the tricolour in various sizes and forms that take the place of pride.

Then there is a knock, and you see a small child through the rain splattered window of AC cooled climes, completely soaked and bare feet requesting you to buy something from him so that he can buy food. Colourful balloons, roses or other flowers depending upon the season, sometimes books - the very things which are part of childhood to experience and not to sell. Sometimes, at certain intersections it is children showcasing their gymnast skills with goofily painted faces in their feeble attempt to entertain - all the while earning for their families.

You feel pity - it is so different from the childhood we all take granted for. In so many decades since Independence, with the Right to Education Act in place, it is disgusting that the a percentage of next generation lives on road trying to earn their living when they should be in schools and educating themselves for a better future.

Who is responsible for creating a better world for them?  The common man who lives in his own halo and vacuum of working for a still better life than these not-so-fortunate. The governments of state and centre elected who are apathetic to the life outside their own coterie of friends, colleagues and families. Or a small population of do-gooders who with their own monies or charity of friends, corporates and other NGOs trying to make a difference to the lives of such children.

Last evening, as I came out of a shop in the nearby market, I was beseeched by two small children - in bare feet and tattered clothes selling cheap pens. While I had no need for additional pens, I just couldn't walk past them to the comfort of home while they were on the road still selling to be able to buy food. I bought pens from both of them and passed them onto kids of hired help - from one child to another!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sounds of Summer

Sitting in the last vestiges of
my childhood winter garden
Sound of coo-woo reverberates around.

The cry of koel
Reminds not only of Summers
But also of examination season
Of School and then College.

Of anxiety and trepidation
Sometimes panic,
That mind may go blank.

Was it fear of failure
Or of moving up one step
on the ladder of Life?
That unexplainable feeling...
When I look back today.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Summer Song

The all too brief spell of Spring
After the not too cold Winter,
Gives way to the heat of Summers.

The dying flowers of winter
And the Shalmali
Spread their last burst of colours.

The brightening sunshine
And the golden yellow of Amaltas
The flaming red-orange of Gulmohar
Herald the way to Summers.