Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You only see what your eyes want to see

Like any other day I was both mentally and physically exhausted as I reached the busy traffic area on my way back home in the evening. The slight breeze through the window swept through my sweaty wet hair cooling off the daily tautness. I was happy to catch the window seat in my office bus. The heavy traffic ahead of me promised fifteen to thirty minute delay.
I could have slept for some more time in the bus but the constant honks from all sides were disturbing. I do not understand why few people honk in traffic in urban areas. They seem to be so impatient. I guess this is what city life does to a human being. Somewhere deep within, I too was feeling frustrated and impatient looking at the ocean of traffic around me.
In this mayhem of thoughts, my eyes caught sight of three young boys selling earthen pots and masks. The bright and colorful masks resembling demons with tongue out are usually hung on top corner of the house. I had asked my granny why we do so when she had asked my father to get one for our house. She told me it keeps the evil spirits away. I was not convinced. The mask looks so evil and scary. The thought of spoiling the look of our newly built house by hanging the mask bothered me. My father understood my worry and explained the reason behind hanging the masks.
People have a tendency to see whatever is bright and colorful. We all love to see the flowers and love to see the rainbow mainly because they are colorful. Colour boosts brain performance and receptivity. So all major advertisements and banners are either in red or blue, and so are these masks. When we hang this on top of our home, people tend to look at the mask rather than the house and so it is believed to save the house from evil sights. I agreed to his explanation to some extent but I felt we always only see what our eyes want to see.
The three boys who were selling this mask were around 5 to 7 years of age. They were shabby and wore torn clothes. I guess their parents asked them to take care of the store for a while in the evening. There was hardly any customer since the time our bus stood there in the traffic. I could hear them talk about the number of matchbox covers they had. Probably they use them for some kind of a game.
All of a sudden, there came a pulsar bike with three high school boys. They were around 12-15 years of age. They parked the bike right in front of the colorful masks and got down. They were equally shabby with mud all over the body. The three young boys at the store gazed at the folks from the bike without a wink. The three boys from the bike moved a bit further and to my dismay, they lit the cigarette and started smoking. The three boys from the store continued to watch the boys smoke and I could see the admiration in their eyes. The boys from the bike finished smoking and drove the pulsar in a small muddy side road.
"When will we be like them?" one of the boys asked others. "Forget the bike, I doubt we even ever get to smoke" said the other. "If we could sell at least one mask today, we can try smoking with the money" he continued with glowing eyes.
I felt pity for their state of mind. There were so many cars in front of them and there was our bus full of techies’ right in front of their store. There were people in their Benz, there were people with iPhone and Blackberry and there were people in suits. None of them caught the kids’ attention, but the ragamuffins could catch their attention within no time. The young boys only saw what their eyes wanted to see.

River Mouth

On a warm summer morning, I woke up with a light giddiness in my head. The clock strike made me realize that it was already seven and time for my morning walk. My five year old granddaughter Diya came running and asked me if we can go for a walk. My eyes searched for her twin sister Divya. "Where is Divya?" I asked Diya. "She is sleeping grandpa" she said pulling my hands.
I walked to their room and woke up Divya. She got up reluctantly and changed her dress and then we went for a walk.
On the way Divya's dress got stuck in the thorn bush and started crying. I saw that her dress was badly stuck in the bunch of thorns. The thorns were stuck on both the sides making me difficult to remove them. I thought it is easier undress her and then take the thorns off from the dress. I managed to undress her with few scratches and started taking her dress back from the thorns carefully. After few minutes of struggle I could take the dress off the thorns. In the meanwhile, my Granddaughters were playing near the river side. They were in their own world, unaware of my struggle with the thorns.
I have lots of memories associated with this river. This place is a mouth of the river where river meets the sea. The river looked very different today. The dark blue water and swift breeze had a mystic power to soothe anyone on the shore. The shallow water with shining pebbles and soft mushrooms on the swamp made the place more pleasing. I was able to see a little island at a far distance, the sight of which is not a pleasant one for me.
It was around 45 or 50 years ago, when I was around 20 years. We were 7 siblings. My father had a coconut farm and we had a small house, mainly constructed in wood. The doors, ceilings, windows were all of teak wood, the most expensive one. All our neighbors and relatives envied but that made my parents proud. My mom spent most time cleaning and wiping the house. They loved it more when my elder sisterĂ¢€™s kids came home during their vacation.
They sent me to a local school bearing all the cost with the little money they earned. House and the coconut farm were the only property. The river was our home and the sea fish was our staple food. Things were fine until one day we heard the heart breaking announcement in the radio on a rainy day. The Arabian Sea level was raising and the forecast announced the coastal neighbours to evacuate the place in three months.
It rains cats and dogs in the rainy season in western coast of India. My parents were clueless. Tears started rolling from my mother's eyes. The fear of losing the only property earned in their life time ate them up. Only thing we could do was to get all the coconuts from the tree to a safe place which can earn us some bread for time being. My father planned to get all the costly wood in the house and other stuff shifted to my elder sister's place which was around 50 km from this place. The thought of losing the beloved house was very painful to all of us and especially my mother. But we had to act quickly. We had very less time. We did not sleep that night.
Transportation was a major problem. All people from this region were migrating. To shift all the stuff as planned we would need a minimum of 2 months. Cutting down the coconut was a major problem. There were no folks available to get this done. Everyone was busy re-locating. We sent a telegram to my sister and brother in law to come immediately and take our younger siblings with them. I and my father worked day and night to cut the coconut. My brother in law took few workers with him from his town, who helped us dismantle our house.
Two weeks passed and few houses close to the mouth of the river collapsed due to loose foundation. Nights were more horrible. The sea water would rise from below and pull the nearby coconut trees upside down. People mourned everywhere. Our farm and house was not very far from the sea. Within another week, trees from our farm started turning upside down. We were not even half done in shifting the coconuts and it seemed like we had hardly a week to relocate.
My parents were in a dilemma whether to transfer the coconuts first or the costly wood. We had only one truck and transferring coconuts were easier than the wood. Though the wood had all sentiments attached we had to concentrate shifting the coconuts. Water slowly surrounded our entire place. My father asked my mother to leave to my sister's place.
My father predicted to have 5 more days in hand to shift the rest of the stuff. He planned to cut as much coconut as possible on the first day and send it uphill on second and third day. And on fourth and fifth day, he thought of transferring the costly wood from the dismantled house. We worked day and night in the heavy rain. We were satisfied with the amount of work we could do on the second day. But the rescue squad which arrived there on the third day forced all of us to leave the place immediately. There were cries all over the place. We had to leave the place with whatever little wood we could carry. A day after or two, we heard that the entire area was submerged in the sea.
Coming years were even tougher. We had no place to live and very less money to survive. Though things changed after ten years, the horrendous experience had everlasting effect on my parents. Now after 50 years or so, the place is slowly rising amidst the water and has formed an island, pulling out all those old painful memories.
"Grandpa! See what we got for you" my two little angels came running to me. "It is an old coin Grandpa. It was buried in the sand." I took the one ana from their little hand and looked at the far island of painful reminiscence.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wandering Thoughts

Statutory Warning: I always wonder why warnings are always written in small fonts. For a change, I am keeping it bigger. Please read at your own risk. This is an exact replica of thoughts flow in subconscious mind and may induce sleep. Have patience. Happy reading.

I never thought travelling 80 km to and fro in Bangalore traffic everyday could be fun. I always pitied Bangaloreans and dithered to move to Bangalore. But destiny, like the million people here, made Bangalore my home.

Initial days when I started travelling in my company bus, I was amazed to see everyone around me dozing hard. They slept in the dusk and they slept in the dawn. Half way to my company is the downtown and the rest half it passes through a wonderful dreamland. But people slept no matter where they were.

First week, I was busy reading the shop boards, signals, sign boards etc trying to get a route map from my home to office. Next few weeks I scanned through the underpasses, metro constructions, the expressway structure etc to get an idea of the growing city. And next couple of weeks I was… errr… yea… dozing.

Sleeping in the bus indeed is my motivation to go to work. Hard to believe, but true. Since my childhood, my father kept telling that waking up before sun would bring me luck. I did that throughout my academia. When I joined my first company, I felt I have gathered enough luck to support rest of my life and started getting up late. But somewhere deep in my heart I was always guilty about it. Now here in Bangalore I have no other option than to gain more luck. I guess even the sun is now jealous about me waking up before him every day without fail. And the secret behind that is..well.. my bus routine. I get up at 5:45 am, rush, get ready and I am in bus at 6:45 am sleeping.

I love reading nonfiction. I am a book addict. But I had lost the touch for few months. I happened to visit library once looking for a reference book for my part time MBA. And just like an alcoholic losing his way back out in beer factory, I was stuck there. Rather than searching my reference book, I started peeping through the nonfiction section. I spent hours there looking at the enormous quantity of books which I wanted to read. I forgot why I was there and issued two nonfiction books that I could not tolerate lying idle in the library racks. Since then my bus routine turned into my study table.

I feel dizzy if I read on a moving bus. So I hold the book in my hand and eagerly wait for traffic signals. I am not sure if it is Murphy’s Law, these days traffic signals are not as long as it used to be during the days when I used to doze. However, I manage to read at least 10-15 pages even on a non-traffic day.

Since past few weeks, I am reading some really amazing books. They were all so inspiring that they are making me think and ponder and are not allowing me to sleep. Today morning, I carried the book "Fooled by randomness", a 300 page book along with my diary and few other books. I got into the bus, found a seat for myself and kept the bag on my lap. The bag was heavy – pretty heavy. "It is the book", I thought – "I need to remove it". I removed the book from my bag and put it on top of the bag. I felt better. Now don’t ask me how that would reduce weight since both the bag and book are still on the lap. You will get an answer when you carry an interesting book and keep the bag on your lap.

The bus travelled in slow pace, but there were no signs of getting stuck in the signals. I wanted to read the book. But I did not want to do it while the bus was moving. That will take away the charm of reading. With no option, I looked outside. I saw the roads being dug for metro work. I saw garbage dumps on the road. I saw few residential areas with no maintenance. There were large beautiful trees with all dirt and trash below. If they were clean it would have been a heaven. I closed my eyes for a while and visualized the clean city. Wow!! True this place can be a heaven.

I opened my eyes only to see the dirt all over. Frustration was paving its way out of me. Why can’t our government take some strict action for cleaning up the whole mess all around the city? They are busy fighting for seats and not even bothered to clean their own mess, forget about the country. Negativity!! aaah!! We always drill down the problems only to blame the government. Don’t we?

"Be the change you are looking for" – I had read it several times in last couple of weeks. I felt it was so true. But now I feel it is an utter crap. It is just another reason to keep quiet and "learn to live" with the odds and stop cribbing. Oh Yeah!! If it is not that, then what is it? Does it mean I should go around and clean the crap all by myself? Yes? No? What is it then?

Well. Let me take a deep breath and assume I am going to clean the crap for the time being. How will I do it? First, I do not want to touch them in my bear hands. I will apply sanitizers first. I will wear plastic disposable gloves. I think I will put those plastic back to recycle along with other non-degradable stuff I clean. I will buy a navy blue gown (is that a gown that shop floor workers in chemical industries wear? Ok something similar), buy boots, a face mask and a hair cover. I will cover myself toe to head to ensure I don’t get any infection while cleaning the mess. It will cost me some bucks but I can afford it for the fact that I am going to do some noble work.

But it is very unrealistic of me cleaning the whole mess all by myself. I need some helping hands. There are lots of unemployed folks who may be interested to join the hands provided I pay them wage. I need to take care of their health too. So I should get some good amount of gloves, gowns, boots, and sanitizers. Oh hold on. Why I would spend something from my pocket, when I myself am earning a few bucks to meet my ends. So, financial support is a showstopper.

Wait. I have completed Non-Profit Organization Management course. I have Harper University certificate with me. Then why not open a Non-Profit Organization to support this noble cause? Sounds like a good idea. All I need to start this organization is, hmm.. a name. I will name this Organization as "Clean City Movement". People start calling it "CC move". Now how cool is that. Ok. Let me not concentrate on trivial things like naming the organization.

How to get this work? Probably, we need to advertise. (Oh it is so nice to see the transition from ‘I’ to ‘we’ already.) Let a group of 10-25 houses, who would like to see their areas clean and healthy form a "Clean City Community". Short form will be ‘CCC’ or ’triple C’ or ‘C cube’. This is cool. The houses in a community should preferably be located in a single street. It is advisable to get consent from each of the house owners. Also, we may have to build some rules like, even if any one of the house in a street or area do not consent to the CC move, team will not take up the project, mainly because we do not want to spend time convincing someone on the need of cleanliness. Or moreover we do not want to create controversies and create a fight over it which our people are very good at. Yes, this is exactly what it is.

We will provide a presentation in various area of Bangalore on how CC move works to build a healthier and happier environment. It will be a PowerPoint presentation and of course I will prepare the presentation. I love doing that. We will collect monthly maintenance amount from each approved CCC. Amount will be evaluated based on the type of area, kind of garbage etc. We will try to keep the amount to an affordable limit. But we may still not be able to meet the edges considering the amount of crap we have around. We need help from big hands. Probably, I will write a letter to Chief Minister, Prime Minister, and President. Again back to government and politics huh? No. Better to approach Big Bees of the society who would like to donate for some noble cause.

Well now that involves lot of money and accounting. I need to have a separate accounting department. I need genuine, trustworthy and loyal workers. I will do a personal interview and gauge them. To maintain records, I need to have a reliable system; I definitely want to reduce the paperwork. If there is a web site, that will be real great. But I do not want to spend money on software. Let me call for projects from engineering students. Let it be a competition. I will have good reward for the team that comes up with a working model.

Aah! That reminds me my engineering project. I enjoyed every bit of it. I was such a good programmer. Was?? I am. Even today. I wanted to brush up the skills by building a re-usable impact analysis tool for my project. I think I can do it today or probably this month.

Sqeeeeeeezzzzzeeeee!!! The bus stopped in the campus and my fellow colleagues woke up from their morning nap and rushed to get down. I too got down thinking about the tool I am planning to build, leaving the clean city in the dream world.