Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Zoo at Ibaadat! And the very funny beings!

No commentary needed! A Picture is indeed worth a thousand words!

Enjoy my Animal Kingdom!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Long distance friends!!!

had remarked to her that in the era of most things digital, she still has a beautiful handwriting.

One thing led to another, and then I receive this packet in the Mail.

Guess, what my dear, supremely talented friend - Gwen McCauley, sent me!!!

It gives a whole new meaning to 'You've Got Mail.'

Thank you, a million times Gwen! 

You bring happiness!

Friday, November 10, 2017


There is so much healing power in the Sun and its soothing rays.

They can bring succour to a sad soul. They can cheer up the bleakest of spaces - in the physical environment or in our minds.

The health benefits of Sun are deep and many.

And from the aesthetics point of view, no greater mood photography than the one naturally lit by the Sun.

Summer Sun
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes 
Through empty heaven with repose; 
And in the blue and glowing days 
More thick than rain he showers his rays. 

Though closer still the blinds we pull 
To keep the shady parlour cool, 
Yet he will find a chink or two 
To slip his golden fingers through. 

The dusty attic spider-clad 
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad; 
And through the broken edge of tiles 
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles. 

Meantime his golden face around 
He bares to all the garden ground, 
And sheds a warm and glittering look 
Among the ivy's inmost nook. 

Above the hills, along the blue, 
Round the bright air with footing true, 
To please the child, to paint the rose, 
The gardener of the World, he goes. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The typically Indian, “Hey you, Waiter!” Syndrome!

I have been part of the Hospitality Industry for almost two decades now and have seen a zillion patterns of behaviour emerge out of a large smorgasbord of people on both sides of the fence – service providers and service seekers.

The set of service providers – chauffeurs, valets, housekeeping attendants, waiters, bell hops, baggage attendants and so on – have always been in a ready to serve stance with a smile plastered on their face. 

While in the West or even Far East and Far South-east down to Australia and New Zealand, the service providers can afford to be chummy, joke back and forth with us, be somewhat casual, address us as Love or Darling and feel not too less of an equal to us; in India we are still stuck with the Raj mentality.

The Goras were ousted about 70 years back but they left behind Brown sahibs and their nakhra-rich Memsahibs. The caste and class consciousness is such an ingrained trait in our collective DNA that guides our behaviour when we come in contact with those we think our above or below us. We seem to, still, abide by the Corporate unspoken / unwritten rule of ‘kissing the backside of the person above us on the corporate ladder and kick the one below.’

When we, as Indians specifically, demand service we are just not content with the excellence in the product we are about to enjoy. We also expect the service provider to kowtow, bend over some more and do that little ‘Yes Sir, yes Sir, three bags full’ dance around us.

This is how a scene plays out in a Restaurant most of the time. We will get our frame upright, cock up and slant our face a bit in order to get that condescending pose we have perfected, reach deep down to bring out our most effective baritone, click two fingers and boom in a loud voice, “Hey you, Waiter.” 

At which point the liveried man in white will give a double bow, bob is head a bit, smile a forced smile and rush to our table to offer us the Service. We will let him stand for as much time as we take to mull over the menu or discuss silly choices with our friends at the table. All along, the Waiter, with one hand behind him and the other raised half way horizontally for the napkin to hang from, will wait patiently and as subserviently as he can. Each time this ludicrous scene takes me back to Downtown Abbey.

We all in India (particularly in the North though people in other regions can be as much accused of this grossness) do not think of service providers as people with dignity engaged in various professions. To us, all service providers – from guards to delivery chaps, from housekeepers to gardeners, from restaurant stewards to those in airlines, from telemarketers to drivers – are our personal servants. And they ought to be treated with disdain and superciliousness. We opine that they should be kept in their place which is far, far beneath us.

In the recent Indigo Staff and Passenger Scuffle case, the Airline Staff had erred big time. In fact it is scary and disturbing to see that employees of a known brand would stoop to such levels. Good that the severely errant staffers are being strongly warned and kicked out of their jobs and now will find it difficult to find a new job with their faces so recognizable. A big lesson presents itself for a whole lot of people out there. Customer is King or Queen and it is hugely wrong, unprofessional and unethical to behave in such a manner with a Customer.

But what about the other side? Yes, the one from where the Customer dishes out unpalatable, many a time difficult to bear and smile back to, abominable behaviour. As customers we cannot go about abusing staff and sundry people and throw our obnoxious attitude around. Apparently, the Indigo Flyer had abused the staff to begin with.

While we cannot condone how the Airline Staffers have misbehaved in the worst imaginable way possible, we need to look within ourselves too. As white-collared, educated, affluent people of privilege, we cannot walk around assuming that we are above others and rule those who serve us.

Rajiv Katyal, the customer, as most news reports are telling us, was uppity and abusive. Even in the Viral video, he is seen saying "Tu apna kaam kar" when being asked to move. It seems he took affront at being told to move by the Staff and even during the struggle, he punches and uses colourful language to get the misbehaving, boorish men off him.

As for the Staff members, yes they were clearly in the wrong. It was not their home ground, they were in Uniform, on duty and representing a Brand and themselves as Brand Ambassadors. When you are in the Service Industry you do not get down to fisticuffs even when abused. But these were young, hot-blooded, criminal intent men who should not have been hired in the first place.

Still, as people more privileged and educated, we must know how to behave with others, especially those much beneath on the societal rung to us.

Himmat Anand, the founder of Tree of Life chain of hotels, conveyed a strong point in his half-jestful post where he says, “While finally boarding my flight just now, after a delay of 2 hours, I thought I'll also say "Fuck Off" and see what happens. I decided against it, because Apnee izaat apnea haath mein hoti hai.” (It is in our own hands how we command respect from others).

Nikhil Taneja, a Creative Producer with Yash Raj Films, made an extremely pertinent point, “Regarding the #Indigo incident: I don't know both sides of the story and I completely condemn any violence for any reason. Having said that, I will use this occasion to talk about one thing that gets to me: our behaviour with customer support staff in India.”

A few years back, our next door neighbour caught a maid picking leaves from the Curry leaf plant opposite their house. The two ladies of the house came down heavily on the Maid, calling her a thief and hurling abuses at her, using B**** and its Hindi alternative several times in their tirade. The Maid retaliated using as colourful expletives on them, raising her pitch to match theirs. Most people around, from the same social strata as the neighbours, tsk-tsked and rued about the degradation in this serving class of people and lamented how they had learnt to talk and answer back. 

For the Sahib class, it seems, it is okay to ride roughshod and play the part of lord and masters. But if the ‘lower’ strata stands up for their right or respect or dignity then they really have done extremely wrong in our eyes.

We in India are really the doyens of Double Standards. What’s good for us and is allowed to us is never so for the minions we employ or get service from. 

About six months ago, our Gardener came to us one late evening with his face hung low. Upon inquiring he told us that he had been thrown out of the Colony because an RWA Member had reported against him. “What did you do,” I asked him. He said he was asked to carry out a task by that lady member who was in charge of the gardeners. Radhey Shyam, the Mali, refused saying that he would not be able to do it. She lost her cool and rebuked him. He answered back, to which she seethed with rage and said, “I’ll beat you with my shoe.” (Ek joota marungi). The fellow was aghast and turned rude in order to salvage whatever self-respect he could. The Lady reported him to the President, breaking into tears midway. The Association collectively decided on who the villain and who the victim here was. As expected of a one-sided white-collar Jury, the Mali was given another verbal lashing and thrown out of the job. When he approached us, we intervened and conveyed to the RWA that we vouched for his work, honesty and character. The President relented but only after making the gardener apologize again and give in writing that he would never misbehave regardless of the provocation. 

For the gardener survival came much before dignity, so he played along in our lop-sided game of justice and got to keep his job. While we were grateful to the RWA for listening to us but we had a heavy heart; once again we had let our class bias rule over our logic, reasoning and wisdom. Why do we feel that we are more righteous than those below us? Why do we empathize with our own kind with so much ease? Why are we not balanced in our approach? Why must we hasten to accuse the people standing on the lower rungs?

Why are we alright with being rude and obnoxious with those who provide us service, mistakenly thinking that they are born to serve us? But, should the same treatment be meted out to us, even if in the tiniest of measures, then all hell breaks loose and we demand respect, command submissiveness and force out apologies.  

Swapan Seth, the owner of Advertising Agency Equus, says it well, “We are, as a bunch, rather rude with service providers: hotels, restaurants, airlines, banks, Telco companies. But they are human. And sometimes they too lose it.”

Rajiv Katyal, the Indigo Flyer, apparently told the Airline staff to “Fuck off” a few times, besides using a few more cuss words. While, the Airline is losing corporate partnership and the staffers being terminated, I would also like to know how is Katyal being pulled up for being abrasive and abusive. I hope his father or mother or wife have given him one tight slap too and taught him basic conduct and manners and propriety of behaviour.
Many people debating the issue on the Social Media are saying what’s the big deal about shouting FO! We, as English-speaking elite use it as a casual slang all the time.

Perhaps, it would be, then, okay if a service provider turned back and said to us, “You fuck off, Sir”; aided with a smile and appended with that all important suffix, “Sir.”


Picture courtesy - Google Images

Monday, November 06, 2017

The time I was the Ass on the Horse Track!

Growing up in the 70s and 80s of Clement Town, the British era Cantonment in Dehradun, was fun. It was enriching too, in so many different ways. The more I look back, the more I marvel at how wondrous a place Clement Town and Doon were in those days.

There was always so much to do by way of extracurricular, academic and cultural pursuits. On most days after School, I would ride my bicycle to the Golden Keys Club, 15 minutes away from our house, for a game of Table Tennis. Around the year end, we would have Jam Sessions at the Club with a whole lot of dancing, music and merrymaking.

On alternate days I was coaxed by a very pushy Mother and cajoled by as stubborn a friend, who was a local Diving champion, to pull out my costume and ride to the Army Swimming Pool or the one at IMA, the Indian Military Academy. I hated those evenings. I hated getting into my costume, even though Ma tried to lure me into the activity with pretty looking two-pieces in Burgundy and Scarlet. 

I was sorely put off by the shower we had to take before getting into the Pool and I was always irritated with the IMA instructor who would coach me on how to stay afloat. Though I loved to see my friend dive from the highest board, I kept cooking creative excuses to get away from the ordeal of swimming.   

On the other hand, I loved cycling. My cycle (and later my Hero moped in the more grown up years) was my ticket to freedom. I would cycle to our old Barrack Bungalow where we lived during my father’s posting. Just across the Bungalow was and still is Dakota, the military aircraft that had crash landed here during the ’71 War and had been installed in the same spot as a piece of war memorabilia. 

So I would cycle to Dakota, climb into its womb and play a game of hide and seek, then I would cruise down to Kala Ground, where the Army Parade took place and pedal beyond to Parry’s Estate to a friend’s place for the most enchanting snack time. The friend’s mother baked lovely cakes – chocolate, vanilla, plum and made the most heavenly mint-cucumber tea sandwiches that we washed down with squash.

I would cycle on the clean Cantonment road, ring the door bells of sundry houses and scram for life before getting caught by the irate occupants, just as the Famous Five would do in all those Enid Blyton books that I devoured. 

I would cycle down the slope, pedal free, to the edge of the Cantt. before it hit the boundary of adjoining villages and gather wild flowers in my basket. I would cycle along the Lake or little brooks close to our house, take a pit stop to catch my breath,  throw tiny white pebbles into the clear water and look out for little marine life, a tadpole here, a small fish there or a frog croaking away on the sidelines.

But the single most favourite activity that was right after my heart was Horse Riding. I begged my mother, till the cows came home, to visit the Adjutant Officer and seek a membership for me at the GOC’s Stable. I promised her good grades and better behaviour if she got me inducted into the Riding Club. And she did. From that moment, my love affair with the spectacularly well-bred studs started.

A habitual night owl, from my earliest memory, I began waking up at the strike of dawn, jump out of bed at the unearthly hour of five AM, get ready and speed away to the General Officer Commanding’s immaculately kept Stable.

On the first day itself I was smitten with Raja, the Steed assigned to me. Our first riding lessons entailed getting to know ‘our’ horse better. So, for the first few months, before I got to mount and sit atop Raja, I had to brush his mane each morning, groom him a bit and feed him chana and jaggery. 

Gradually, we started developing a connection. He would not grunt, give a sharp shake to his head and step away from me anymore. I would like to think that he began to enjoy meeting me each morning as much as I looked forward to seeing him rest of the time. Every day, I waited to get on Raja and ride to my heart’s content just as we saw in the movies. But that was not to be. I had to hold my horses patiently for my instructor’s orders before I set my foot on the stirrup.

Then followed lessons on how to climb the horse! We had to bear in mind what foot went into the stirrup first, how the other leg had to make a half circle to cross over, how one had to hold the saddle and give oneself a fillip to park ourselves on the horse, how we needed to be careful as not to cause any injury to the side of the horse with our shoe or his stirrup or any other way. And very importantly, how we had to be mindful about not getting too close to the rear, lest we were kicked in our jaws!

One fine morning, I rode my cycle to the Stable, greeted the instructor, went to Raja and was told smilingly that I could from now on sit in the Saddle. My joy knew no bounds; I was ecstatic, unable to hold the excitement that had built up over months. For days that followed, we learned to walk the horse, guide him left or right or stop him with the reins, we picked up how to do the trot and then canter. Finally, we were ready to ride!

I guess, I was not always this smart, as I think of myself to be now. For; one day, I wore my Mother’s heirloom, gold watch for riding. Why, you ask me in exasperation, right?? Exactly! I don’t know, other than the fact that I was stupid and made an ass of myself.

During my canter round, a link came loose and it was by the third Chukker that I realized that my wrist wore no watch! My mother’s gold watch!! Gifted to her by my Grandfather as a piece of ancestral jewellery! I could have died that day. No, I should have died and not be answerable to my mother.

As I alighted from Raja with the heaviest of heart, the set of Jawans – we called them all Bhaiya – got to work quietly, diligently, purposefully. Here’s the thing about our Army men – any cadre, any rank, any regiment. You give them a task, from picking out a needle from a haystack – like in my case - to saving lives; they do it with so much passion and sincerity that the outcome is more often than not positive.

A batch of five to six jawans placed themselves alongside and began ‘combing’ the tracks for the watch. I stood by the side of Raja shooting up a million prayers to all my favourite Gods, with unceasing tears rolling down my cheeks. After half an hour of the ‘search operation,’ we had our Eureka moment, as one of the Bhaiyas got up with the slender watch in his hand, a piece of yellow metal that he had managed to dredge out of the bed of amber sand and finest of straw.

A hard lesson was learned that day – of keeping one’s wit about oneself, of trying to be less stupid, of duty and diligence, of gratitude, of pride in our Forces.

I still must learn to gallop, show jump and go cross-country! Perhaps in this lifetime itself!


Picture courtesy - My family Album and Google Images

Note - In the last picture my Mother (on right) is seen wearing that gold watch.  

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Didi, kaisa hai aap?

For the last two years, over two seasons, Mir Baksh, I think his name is, has been coming and knocking at Ibaadat's Gate.

He calls me Didi - elder sister - in that unmistakable Kashmiri 'lehzaa' (accent).

The first time he dropped in, he told me his brother had sold to me a few years back on a couple of occasions. He could be right.

Both times I have been buying the Pashminas from him - some out of need, many just out of greed. Some to earn him a "Boni" - the first earning of the day or to help him make just that little more cash before he returns to his 'mulk.'

Many times he offers me good discounts, other times I am not sure how much he has swindled me.

But each time he has gone back with a smile and left one on my face, like that of a Cheshire cat that just licked a bowlful of cream.

I hope his lot begins to thrive again. I wish his land and his people peace!

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Friday, November 03, 2017

Getting one's priorities right!

I was in a dialogue with a prolific and successful writer friend recently and she mentioned that she logs in 1000 words every single day of the year, weekends and festival days included. I found that to be highly motivating.

Of late, I have not been too disciplined and write in a sporadic manner. 

There are days, I would have written an incisive piece of business writing, one poem and clocked in a few hundred words into one or the other manuscripts I am sitting on. 

Those are good days!

Then there are days when all I can boast of is sundry posts on Facebook. 

Ugh! Excuse me, while I step out and hang my head in shame before coming back to complete this post.

So this afternoon, without opening the time-gobbling Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn and without even starting my Hotmail, I sat down to write.

Here's my report card - 1283 words in less than an hour and a half with at least FIVE physical interruptions.

What do you have to say about that?

Time to pull up my socks and stay inspired!

Picture courtesy - Google Images