Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Indian Rail Yatra

Yes. Some of us do take the train to destinations that cannot be accessed by air and would be too tedious by road. I've always been intrigued by Indian Railways and the 'system'. This time I thought I'd click a few pictures on the station...

Ever seen a platform so empty?

The wordly belongings of an Army Personnel

Wordly belongings of this young boy's family

Waiting for Godot

Dry Murmura Chaat: Maharashtra Speciality

What a contrast!!! Pune's premier hotel Le Meridian: 5 star comfort faces the city's Railway Station

Drinking water? God forbid!!

A Locked toilet benefits who you said????

From Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh, platforms and stations look alike. Seen one, then you've seen them all. The Railways should be lauded for this model of replication across the country!!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Its a matter of trust

"How hard it is, sometimes, to trust the evidence of one's senses! How reluctantly the mind consents to reality."
Norman Douglas

When I used to open the door for courier guys I was cautious. Having read too many incidents in newspapers of how criminals pose as courier delivery guys to enter into homes and loot, rape, murder the residents. The targets are women who most often than not are alone at home in the afternoons.

Yet, sometimes, as long as it happens to be a newspaper story, after a period of time one tends to forget them. Laxity increases and the danger though omnipresent does not surface until a new story appears in newspapers.

Newspaper stories seem too far away...like it happened to ‘them’; can’t happen to ‘us’.

A few months ago, we heard about a woman who was murdered in her own apartment in Mumbai by a man who posed as a courier boy and was hand-in-glove with the servant of the house (who as almost all cases show, was recently hired). The lady in question happened to be the mother of the man who runs the company my husband used to work for.

That was the closest the horror of such a tragedy ever got to us. We were alert for a few days but are back to our lax days again.

However, the point I am trying to make out of this post is the complete lack of faith one human has in another. We cannot trust anybody. The milkman because he could mixing urea in the milk, the rickshaw driver who always asks more than he deserves as a matter of right, your maid because she may be stealing from right under your nose, your boss because he may be jeopardising your next promotion behind your back, your doctor who may be charging you an exorbitant consultancy and so on and so forth...and of course, your courier guy as well.

Our lack of trust is ingrained so deep that when I am flagged by a traffic cop (especially when I haven’t violated a traffic rule) I am certain that his intention is to take a bribe. It may not be the case every time. And yet, I mentally condition myself to take him on, if he proposes that I pay him an amount without issuing a proper challan/receipt.

So imagine my surprise when the courier guy (yep...had to be him; he triggered this post) handed the envelope to me this afternoon and said, “Madam, I have a request.” For a second I contemplated closing the door chain first and talking to him through it (what if he was making conversation with me to buy time?) But I did not, and said, “Hmm?” He said, “I need Rs 30 because my vehicle has got punctured.”

Now this is the critical part. Principally I would not mind helping a person in need. But this young man was wearing a handkerchief that covered half his face (I know Pune is a polluted city and all, but he should have taken it off while talking to me at least??!!!)How was I to trust him?

And yet, I did. I closed the door momentarily, fetched my wallet and gave him the money. He promised that he would return it in a few days because, “I keep coming to the building often.”

Now I am wondering, should I be glad that he wants to return the money...or should I be scared that he may be back and that’s not a good sign? Or should I have just refused to give him the money in the first place???

Didn’t I just say that it’s getting more and more difficult for one human to trust one another?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Join the tribe!

When I began my career as a journalist, I'd often heard people tell me that they had a very bad impression of scribes, what with the lack of social accountability hitting media across the board (I mean print, online and television) and sensationalism gaining in coverage space, albeit less than glossy advertisements.

People would say, "Oh you're a journalist! वो तो खाऊ पियू लोग होते हैं !" (They're interested in eating and drinking only)....elaborating further, "कहीं भी बुला लो उन्हें, सीधे snacks के काउंटर पे पहुँच जाते हैं !" (Call them to cover an event and you will find them on the snack counter for sure.)

One fellow went to the extent of saying that I had a rather easy job. "What do you have to do? Come to an event, eat and drink and take the Press Release back to print the news!!!!!"

Sometimes I would be aghast at the accusations. Sometimes I would just smile and be glad that I didn't fall in that category. I never bothered offering anyone an explanation because I did notice most scribes doing what I'd heard...eating and drinking at events, at times snoozing at events too, comfortable in the knowledge that the Press Release will have all relevant details.

But..these words affected me. I would always be careful to decline coffee or tea, or the samosas or sandwiches at events. I would eat before I left home and would make it a point to keep a pack of chips handy if I missed a meal. Refusing the beverage or the snack, I would beam inwardly at my self control.

Until today!

I went out to cover an event today at 230pm. Ideally I should have had lunch before I left, but I'd had a late breakfast and wasn't keen on lunch. Dashed out of the door and went to the venue.

By 430pm I was ravenous. I was on the third floor of a building and could not possibly go down to look for a pack of biscuits or chips. Then, the meeting broke and snacks were served. Sandwiches and coffee.

Needless to say, I was the only one who gorged on two sandwiches! Even as I dipped the sandwich into ketchup, it struck me like a bolt from blue... The reason why scribes are always seen snacking during events, is because the poor souls are on the field from morning to late nights and do not have the time for a decent meal!

Today, I joined my tribe and have officially begun behaving like the scribe I aim to be!!!