The need and the greed of money

26 11 2016

Through the last few weeks that have suddenly usurped daily life and made us all do the tango, I spent time in wondering what causes the need and the greed of money. What makes you and me try to save something extra for the future, what makes us find ways to hide what we earn, and what prevents us from being dutiful citizens and from paying our taxes.What prevents us from being a good neighbour, from being a good friend to those in need, and from helping those who are not as fortunate as we are.

Time immemorial tells us how leaders have survived on the concept of collection of taxes or dues from the people in the country or region. History has taught us that in the early days taxes were taken between 1/10 to 1/5 of the land produce. When money came into circulation, taxes were developed. Largely history also tells us how the taxes were used to promote the needs of the ruler, the king, the emperor, the religious lords and other such leaders. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer. Yet as the rich has power, they could often control the masses through ruthless leadership. Few instances in History also tell us how people revolted – the French revolution rings a clear bell from our middle school history books.

Lets move to the modern day world. Taxes are synonymous with leadership of countries, barring a few countries which have based their incomes on the natural resources that command a premium. So where do our taxes go? Evidently in the developed nations, the basic needs of education, medical care, security, university education and unemployment are the key factors that people see their money going to. The tertiary services that are also covered by taxes include indirect services such as national protection, research and development, and of course, paying people to manage all these services. So paying taxes should be a good thing!

Lets do the maths! If we pay even Rs. 50,000 a year towards taxes we should get benefits of free education for 2 children worth about Rs 4 lakhs a year, free medical support which could be worth anywhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 10 lakhs, University education worth at least 20 to 30 lakhs, security and unemployment dole if we lose our incomes, and eventually a retirement pension until we die.

But what we do get in reality in a country like India? We the aspiring middle class pay for quality education for our children as we cant bear to send our children to government education facilities which are sub standard, pay for medical expenses to private hospitals because we cant afford to wait in queues or be thrown like cattle into overcrowded public wards with horrific hygene, and pay for inflation which increases the cost of food from anywhere to 100% overnight. If we lose our jobs, we dont get any dole from the government, and for our retirement we have to fund our own resources to make sure we have sufficiently enough to manage when we are jobless for anywhere between 10 to 30 years of the remaining life thats left within us. This is despite the fact that we pay our taxes!

Lets look at other countries then. Most middle class people in countries of Europe, Australia, the UK, Canada and the US get free education until class 12, and subsidized education at university. In many of the European countries university is free. Medical services are covered by insurance in some countries while some countries give free or subsidized (quality) medical facilities. Inflation doesnt exist. What cost $2 10 years ago, is still $ 2 now ! Besides all the factors of financial life, there are yet more factors that improve and exhort the quality of life they live – well maintained nature and open spaces, public parks and public houses, entertainment, etc. People generally are motivated to feel good about their environment, their financial stability, and the support of their government to make life so much better and easier. Yes, there are challenges too. They have to pay their taxes, follow the law!

So why do we Indians then feel the need and the greed for money? why do we often want to dream of the west? The writing is on the wall – we have to fund our lives and our survival despite the so called development in our country, and the ‘ability’ of our governments to claim that we are one of the fastest growing nations. Ironically the government makes sure it feeds its vote banks with just barely enough to ensure their votes, sadly we the tax payers are at the receiving end of the stick. Neither benefits, neither support systems and yet we feed the majority of the government needs by all the taxes that surround us. Why then wont we think of how to save money or prevent paying taxes? why wont the common middle class find ways to keep what they have earned through rightful means, to themselves? When the government gives you nothing in return, the first instinctive reaction is to find ways to support yourself in a world of insecurities.

I dont agree with tax evasion. I started working 20 years ago, and I was so proud to pay my first tax way back then. A paltry Rs 2000 or so, but it was a chunk of my income. Today I continue to pay my taxes, 30% of what I earn goes to the government. I get some rebates for my child’s education and for some paltry savings. But is that enough to plan for my retirement and the future of my family and my children in a country where there is no stability of finances, politics and security?

I can only hope to believe that my grand children in about 40 years may have a better life when our society has transformed, when our government is not saddled with people who have no vision, and are surviving with one foot in the grave, when governments are accountable to us – the people. I can only hope my grand children will see a country where we have no greed because our government ensures quality of life and services for all.

Until then, greed will continue. the need to hide genuinely earned money will continue. Society will continue to rot, and the governments will come and go, and make no changes to the quality of life that surrounds us. Development status of a nation is not something that can be measured by GDP or economic standards of the income of big corporates and 1% of the super rich, but by the quality of life quotient of the 99% of the masses.


9/11 India

10 11 2016

10th November 2016. Its past mid day. Day 2 of the 9/11 of India. I’ve visited as many banks as I could this morning, and was frightened by the crowds and decided to wait it out another few days before I would venture back to exchange my money. We can survive because we’ve got our stock of groceries and we can still manage to find some odd small currency to buy our daily necessities. The inconvenience exists. But then look at the larger picture for the country – if our armed forces can spend life in such inhospitable regions, surely we can manage a few days with some difficulties which we are blowing out of proportion! We were so proud of the surgical strikes our men in uniform did in the most difficult conditions, but now that we have a little inconvenience, we are squirming in our chairs.

Kudos to the man who thought of this idea! Very impressive. I salute the man who envisioned this, or atleast had the guts to tell our Prime Minister about it. And credit to our Prime Minister who took it seriously and actually had the guts to put in into action! Congratulations to all those who are responsible!

Lets look at the macro picture for the future.

1. Will people go back to old ways? I’m skeptical. I for one would think twice before accepting a larger currency note in the future. I would desist from keeping more than a few hundred rupees at home. I would slowly but surely move towards the digital revolution – my dear CEOs of the I-companies – your day is made by customers like us! You will have millions of new customers within the next few days, weeks and months, and that will surely signify patterns of change in the way people have been doing business or carry out their daily chores. The two day’s full page advertisement of Paytm is proof enough of how excited they are, that they dont mind investing lakhs or crores on those advertisements! They will make it back ten fold or hundred fold! Yes, the digital age is here!
2. Will people horde money? good question! I think most people will be suspicious about doing it. There will be a lack of trust and dependency on the democracy. An autocractic decision has shaken the core of the country and who knows when it might be done again. People will think twice before storing wealth in worthless currency. However, it may give rise to a new form of hording – time will tell what that will be. You can change currency but you may not always be able to change habits and behaviors that easily. On the positive side, ideally the Government should change currencies every few years in a country like India. No one will want to horde money anymore!
3. Will this impact terrorism and the fake money business? Tough to say. As we watch sinister movie plots and see how evil and intelligent the dark side is, lets be honest – they do invest their brains and come out with the best solutions for all the wrong reasons. So a temporary set back for them. they need new plates, probably new machines, and viola..give them a few months and they’ll be back in business. After all there is no shortage of money for terrorists. They are funded by Governments, not individuals like you and me.
4. will it bring people into the tax paying bracket? yes, that is the million dollar question and I believe it will have an impact of some sort. Lets study the population – 1.3 billion people. Children – 450 million. Adults – 850 million. People below poverty line and living on the streets, in villages and below tax limits (genuinely) – about 40 to 50% – lets average it out to about 400 million people living in poverty or within basic means. Leaves us with about 450 million people who may be possible tax payers. Sadly, only 3 percent of India pays taxes, or about 40 million people. What happens to the rest of the 400 or so odd millions who find ways to avoid taxes? This might bring them in. Sometimes you have to take very stern steps to bring in the defaulters – this step has to be the more drastic step ever taken so far! While i’m not a supporter of this Government for ideological reasons, I admit that using this measure brought to them by a man from Pune, is by far the best step taken in the last few decades and has the ability to change our financial future. I believe if even 300 million people are brought into the tax bracket and honestly pay their taxes, we will quickly move into a much faster growth and economy which can surpass many nations and reach the levels of the developed nations. We will be able to provide so many benefits for the people in need, the poor, the sick, the hungry, the orphans, the disabled. We can improve our communications, our roads, our infrastructure. We wont need World bank loans, and NGOs wont need to beg with foreign donors for supporting their cause.

Lets look at the micro picture for a moment too.
1. Safdarjung hospital children’s cancer ward – parents come from poor families from far away places. Children are being treated. Your government has offered that you can buy medicines for 3 days from government hospitals, but what about food? where will the family get food? They come from villages with whatever cash they could gather, and now they are helpless. They have to sleep on the road, and may not get food for a few days. They have no identification so they cannot change their money to new currency. What can they do now?
2. Labor on the streets survive on a day to day basis. Your carpenter comes for about Rs 500 to Rs 600 a day, your construction labor comes between Rs 400 to Rs 600 a day. The last two days no one is hiring them because no one can pay them. In turn, they cannot buy food. Fortunately the Bhuddh vihar temple in Jangpura gives a place to sleep and subsidized food, but for how long? With people having only Rs 2000 a day from an ATM, will they take the risk of doing any repairs and construction work now? I have to get some work done too, but I dont have money to do it now. Can i afford to risk my precious currency on getting repairs done, rather than saving it for food for my family? But lets go back to the people on the labor market. What is their outcome? How long can they survive? Their daily lives depend on this.
3. Rickshaw pullers need you to make their money, but we dont have money to hire them. We are all walking where possible, or using our cars. We can still pay for our fuel by our credit cards or with the balance of Rs. 500/Rs 1000 notes until tomorrow, but the rickshaw wallahs dont have 3 days to do anything. Suddenly they too cannot afford food. Fortunately water is still free from some places and taps.
4. Your coolies at the railway station depend on your tips to carry your luggage, but now you dont have change to pay the coolie. What will happen to that man who probably isnt going to get his meal either.
5. Your basic traveler who has come to another city for a job, or for education, medical emergency, a court case, etc, and while looking for a place to stay finds out that the cash he or she is carrying is no longer valid. they have no credit card..what will they do? will you open your house to give them room? Will you offer them food or even water?

My dear Government. I salute your decision, but in haste you have forgotten the 40% of India that lives below the poverty level – you have forgotten more than 400 million people who are struggling and will continue to struggle into the future as they are illiterate, have no identification, and have no means to getting them as well. You have forgotten landless laborers, tribals and people living on the brink of survival. What will happen to them? Ironically the taxes that we can now raise from this momentous step could be used to help them, provided they survive long enough to be supported! Many of my friends and people I know have praised this wonderful step..and I do too. However, I ask you, how many of you have thought about helping a poor person on the streets today, who may not get food or work for the next few days or weeks. None of you will reach out. You are oblivious of these facts.

Mr. Prime Minister, Kudos again, for such a drastic step. But I would have recommended a few emergency steps as well. Have free food for the poor available for the next few days. Open up government hotels for free boarding for at least a few days or a week for the basic traveler who may be stranded. One should make provisions for everyone and carefully think of how people will survive. Theory is beautiful in books, but practical life is harsh in reality. And as for your advisor – i’m sure has no idea how a poor man lives, eats, or survives.

Finally Mr. Prime Minister, if we want to go the digital way, by all means I support you. But get your team of so many million government officers to immediately start assisting the people to get into banking, to get their basic identification documents, and to get into the digital age. We are not the US of A or Europe, where our people are sufficiently skilled, educated and knowledgeable enough to deal with such a huge change.

My Country! My Country!

1 11 2016
I am a Patriot
I am a Nationalist
I am a born Hindu
This message sprung up on my facebook page yesterday and with my basic knowledge of English I perceived it’s connotation – I am a Patriot, and a Nationalist, only because I am a Hindu. Now My English has never been great. I’ve studied English only upto my Masters degree, and spoken it as my first language right from the age of 3 , but then again, I’m sure there will be many who will correct me with a more ‘correct’ version of what it signifies.
As I read this message, written on a big banner by a leader of the ruling BJP party a few things came to my mind.
Growing up, I remember children asking me what my caste was…i wasnt aware of it so I asked my father. He told me we had no caste. We were Christians. So promptly the next day I told my friends I was a Christian by caste! It didnt go down well; no one knew what caste that was, and amongst a group of 60 + kids, I was the only one from this caste! Years went by; I grew up. I forgot all about my ‘caste’ and my religious background. I called myself an Indian first. I still do. Today after 40 years, I am now forcibly reminded that I’m a Christian and therefore questioned about my patriotism and Nationalism. For those who are religiously and politically ‘intolerant’ let me tell you, faith has nothing to do with politics. Faith is a very personal matter; a connection of your soul with the Almighty. A connection that teaches you about what is right to do for humanity and to the world. A connection that feeds your soul with positive energy and positive thoughts. A connection that reminds you how to live and participate in society. A connection that makes you share happiness and joy with everyone around you. Faith is not about your country and your patriotism. Faith is not about human leaders that lead your country. Faith is not about being unfaithful to your country and your people. I am reminded about a small verse from the Bible which basically reads – give unto Ceasar what belongs to him. Faith promotes us to be good citizens, to abide by the law, to promote our country, ,and to promote patriotism and nationalism.
Many nations are going through a state of turmoil. Most of these ironically are nations where religion has reached a fascist state and where religion is intermingled with politics. It is true that we are all sentimental and emotional about our ‘Gods’ and our beliefs. It doesnt make it better when politicians use that emotional attachment of faith to pit people against each other. The 19th century Germany is a perfect example of how a narcisstic person became fascist and killed millions of Jews. The world swore never to see that day again…but who realized that fascisism in religion would grow to a point it would encompass politics once again. Being proud of one’s faith would only make sense if that faith truly existed to remove the human barriers, uplifted people and brought positive change for everyone despite their situation in life. Unfortunately politicians have realized that a country like India cannot be motivated by issues of poverty because of its large scale impact, its lack of real education (i dont refer to literacy because thats hogwash), economic deprivation, social outcastedness, and many other inhuman situations and behaviors – therefore the trump card that politicians are now using is faith and religion to push their agenda to come to power. Emotional issues of faith seemingly become more important when people are suffering, because faith is what keeps people moving especially where people are troubled. Therefore promoting faith through politics seems only logical for some political leaders to rise in power. Sadly what most people over look is once in power, religion has no value to such people. Money and power overtakes all other issues.
I’ve spent considerable amount of time in and out of Europe for more than 15 years. A homogenous society primarily surrounded either by Christians or Aethists, today for the first time in many years they are also under threat of religious fascism. However, what makes them different from us is that religion has no place in politics (at least for now). There is greater equality of human beings – with most people within a similar economic strata and none differentiated based on their faith.
Some one mentioned on my post – there is nothing wrong being proud of your religion..who’s stopping you from putting up a similar banner and elaborating your faith. I disagree for two reasons. One, this post was put up by a political party which is supposed to uphold the rights of people and the development of the country. Religion should never have any place in politics. That is a dangerous trend. Now if that person was to put up his or her own banner, I wouldnt be perplexed at all. Go ahead if that makes you happy and gives you satisfaction. However, If i were to put up a banner it would probably have read – “I am a Christian by faith, and I too am equally proud of my country, therefore I am a patriot!” It reads funny though..where does God fit into the picture of my country? It still doesnt make sense to me. Do we need to quantify our faith with our patriotism? There is no link at all! its like saying, I eat vegetarian food so therefore I’m a staunch patriot! Rather wierd if you ask me. Two – what is the need to quantify and evaluate one’s religion against one’s patriotism? Isnt it more obvious that such banners are put up only by political parties to gain mileage and to create a new wave of disharmony? Isnt it true that there are media giants working 24×7 to create that impact and and the psychological image within the country? why is it only political messages that are coming up blatantly and not from ordinary people like us?
My last point for today – dont promote disection of society on the basis of who and what you believe in. Faith is a very personal matter. There are equally many people who have left faith and are aethists. There are people who are gay, who have different ideologies and behaviors in life. I fail to understand the difference between one another..we are human, we have the same blood, we have the same flesh, and yet we are keen to destroy one another in the name of a God. How ironic and how sad. What makes it worse is when people support such ideologies of fascism.
Live long my country – I am and always will be an Indian!

A memory called Kosi Valley Retreat at Simkholi!

26 06 2015

DSCN2893The summers of the North are murderous! You get roasted to the core, while you try to survive despite all the odds…every year, every summer; the cycle never changes! Let me tell you, living here in Delhi may have many other benefits, but the rather warm summers and extremely cold winters are not one of them!

So while the summer rages on, people like us look for rescue missions that can take us away for a moment of respite. Some head south, some head even north’er! The average Delhite has a few choices on 20150624_093240his finger tips – the hill ‘stations’ of Nainital, Mussourie, Shimla or Manali. They turn those beautiful little sleepy towns, into one hell of a mela – they carelessly abuse the beauty around them, and gorge day long – either on food or on shopping! Of course, it helps the locals to make a quick buck!

However, there are some folks like us, who cant stand living in another reflection of my so called city – Delhi. Its just about enough trying to survive with 20 20150624_072555million inhabitants who cant care less if you breathe or you die! Folks like us look for off beat locations that could just about revive the spirits of our lives for just a moment of life!

Fortunately google can still be helpful with a twist. All you need to do is put in the right words and presto – you have some quaint answers that the average city folk doesn’t bother to look for! My search brought me to a strange place, in a strange location – Kosi Valley 20150623_174339Retreat in a place called Simkholi. Never heard of the place before all my life! But hey, whats life without new words! Looking further, I decided to take the plunge – give it a shot to spend a few days in this unknown hinterland. The bookings flew like the breeze – in less than 24 hours Soumya confirmed our booking and told us we were all set to go! What she failed to do was, to tell us what to expect! A retreat ? A Hotel? A nightmare?

For those who love to drive – a bit of a tip! Driving out of Ranikhet you have a few options – option 1, drive via the lovely golf course of Ranikhet, via Kosi and finally onto the location. Option 2 – drive out of Ranikhet and take the left fork that immediately moves downhill. A most beautiful and invigorating drive! Option 3 – drive until Majhkali and drive straight into a narrow road going down hill (avoiding a right turn which is the main road to Kosi). Guess which road we took?? the 3rd naturally! A bloody nightmare 20150623_115737which took us through extremely narrow and broken road which we found out after 1 hour – it was under construction! Not another single vehicle in sight! As a driver I was furious – why was I driving on this road, and worse, why was I not warned about it. I had a bone to pick with the Manager of Kosi Valley Retreat the moment I reached!

On the plus side, the drive was serene – the mountains, the forests, the nightmare..all put together was a crazy experience! We drove for over 2 hours covering about 60 kms to finally reach our destination. I was pissed. period.

Driving into our ‘no options hotel’ we arrived and were greeted by a young man probably in his early 30s. Shivraj offered us some drinks of revival that kept me quiet! His demeanor made me quickly forget my practiced lines that I was going to give him – for not directing us through that harrowing experience!

20150623_120117KVR – Kosi Valley Retreat as I will call it, was hard to decipher at first. I stayed with Shivraj while my family surveyed the property. I was afraid my rather stern and strict wife was going to throw a fit quite soon. Ironically I heard her shout out from somewhere – hey Jim..the room is great! Phew, what a sigh of relief i took! The last thing i needed from a drive like that, was to be reprimanded for my choice and decision! I had passed the first test!

Hungry as hell we chose a lunch that Shivraj recommended – and we ate like pigs!

As I regained my composure, I spent some time talking with Shivraj, what can we do in the middle of nowhere? Is this a retreat or what? He laughed – relax sir, you’ll love the next few days here I assure you! I looked at him with desperate eyes, and a look of mistrust. What could he offer me here in the middle of nowhere? Now let me remind you, I’m a bloody city bloke 20150623_081830now; though I’ve spend a few years growing up in the Uttrakhand hills studying at Sherwood College so living in nature was as old as my age. What would he
offer to make our stay interesting?

Tired, we took a nap – I was exhausted and needed to re-energize. The kids chose to watch a movie. Lazying in our rooms was fine that afternoon. Refreshed we met Shivraj in the evening and asked him for the next course of action.

20150623_080032Now for those who haven’t seen this retreat, its a quaint property nestled in the midst of a valley between the mountains and the river and vast lands of paddy fields. A stone walled 2 floor building with 4 bedrooms on the first floor, and a dining and reception on the ground. The rest of the property has a lovely garden area, about 8 tents, a toilet block for those adventurous to stay in the tents, and a small man made pond right in the centre. On the right is the 20150623_080010highway leading up to Kausani 18 kilometres away, and just on its right is the river Kosi – roaring and flowing ! Take a walk on the highway and about 100 metres away you find a small local store selling basic groceries, and doubling up as a mini kitchen serving some food and some lovely masala tea for Rs. 15 a cup! Now look left of the property, and you see small hills, a few hundred metres high – but the perfect spot to be in – between the hills and the valley, and the 20150623_072429river! Picturesque you ask – use your imagination – and its ten times more beautiful! God truly created the world with all its beauty, and this is proof of it!

But I’m divulging from the topic – Shivraj offered the kids (and us two), the opportunity to experience catching fish! Now I’ve done some angling, but the rest of us had only seen fish in the market being sold, dead as doornail! Here was something that no one had ever experienced! Shivraj brought out a few local made fishing rods, some ‘atta’ as bait, and got to work. Each kid was handed a rod, while Shivraj showed how its done. In a jiffy Shivraj pulled out his first fish – whoa! The kids couldn’t believe it! They were hooked ‘line and sinker’ to this new sport! The next two hours, until sun down, was spent fishing for the elusive fish that never turned up. We had hoped for a pompret fish to turn up so the fish eaters could have a feast. Luck was not on our side. But the effort was not wasted. The kids were determined!

20150623_071144Shivraj quietly discussed with me the dinner options and we decided chicken was the way to go. I also asked him to find some beer; sadly my brand of a lager wasn’t available. Vinod took over from Shivraj helping the kids fish, while Shivraj and I discussed what we could do the next day. A trek in the area – 2 kilometers through rough terrain was the first suggestion that Shivraj had for me. A trek? Could we do that? and would it be a walk that we would enjoy? The next option was to go to the river Kosi and try our hand at some real fishing! hmm…Shivraj was throwing the bait, and I was biting!

My younger kid had brought her guitar so we gather around while she sang and few snappy numbers while she played her guitar. The evening was fun!

Dinner being done and well eaten by us hungry folks, it was time to hit the sack.

20150623_0707045:30 am next morning Shivraj got us tea to wake us up. This was perfect! In an hour our troop was ready, in some way, standing at the reception. Shivraj, was ready. The trek was ahead of us. The next 2 hours was nothing short of exhilarating. The lonesome trek through the wild forest, the gurgling streams, the rock faced walls that Shivraj made us climb was nothing short of a nerve racking experience for all of us novices. Fortunately my experience as a child in the hills helped immensely and Shivraj refused to help me across rough terrain! After an hour of a crazy trek and 1 kilometre of walking, Shivraj offered us tea from his backpack! Wow….! After a short break on a small green patch and a few of us being attacked by leeches, we moved on..crossed another small brook, to finally begin our ascend of the last hill! Reaching the top was like achieving a dream – we could look down and see the beautiful valley, and our retreat way down below.

20150623_0705078.30 am – we are back. hungry as hell again! We have a super hearty meal, my nephew quickly gobbles up 4 boiled eggs! Yep..we had done something all of us have never done before in our lives! Experienced the beauty, the challenge and the adventure of nature.

11 am – lazying after breakfast followed by showers, we’re ready for the next expectation – fishing in the river Kosi! The kids were excited and so were we. Vinod was deputed to take care of us. So we headed off and reached the river. Vinod found us the perfect spot and we settled down 4 fishing rods, and 5 of us. The fish nibbled and took our baits for the next 2 hours, but didn’t hook up with us! Sad, we returned dejected from not catching a fish; but excited – we had experienced real fishing in a real river! Shivraj joined us there, and helped us through the river crossing. Another first experience! yeup.. you guessed it right – 1 pm and we were hungry and tired!

20150622_201908Lunch and a nice nap was all we needed before Shivraj suggested – another round of fishing in the pond? why not! We were game..and we were addicted to this newly discovered sport! All gunho, we gathered and waited patiently for fish to bite! My nephew drew in 3 fishes in 2 hours! He was totally exhilarated having achieved this!

Dinner was vegetarian. Did I mentioned – it was Tuesday, no meat products available in the neighbourhood, and Shivraj brings in fresh food everyday! No worries – We would manage just fine. No 20150622_134121problem! It has begun to rain, so we sat indoors this evening ; Shivraj had managed to find my lager, my younger daughter had managed to learn a new number on the guitar! Perfect evening with the sound of rain, the sound of the acoustic guitar and the sound of some lovely voices singing! What more could one ask for! The evening done, we hit the sack for the last time at KVR.

Next morning it was time to leave and after a hearty breakfast, we bid farewell to this obscenely beautiful and invigorating place. This time Shivraj directed us on the right path – through Someshwar onto Ranikhet. We drove through beautiful valley lands, surrounded by paddy field in the mountain valleys!

My last thoughts before I close.

1. I wont want city folks to come here and destroy this beautiful retreat if they dont know how to respect it! KVR keep it this way and keep it pristine!
2. The team of Shivraj, Vinod and Pankaj (did i not mention that he is the cook?) is just perfect. The food was home cooked and oh so delicious! Pankaj even belted out some local cuisine which we just loved! He is a great cook!
3. KVR – I’ll be back. Even though it takes me almost 12 hours of driving its worth the drive! I’m going to be back to unwind, enjoy the company of Shivraj, Vinod and enjoy the tasty meals of Pankaj; and our kids are going to love trekking and fishing again!

The valleys, the mountains, the rivers, the land,
bless us in more ways that one!
Experience the beauty of nature; feel it with your hands,
This retreat will surely make you feel some.
Take this journey if your heart desires,
but promise to leave home your fancy attires!
Cross your path with nature, and you will forget
the pains of daily living, and all its tests.

Kudos KVR – you literally rock in the midst of this beautiful valley!

Will my country bring new hope?

23 06 2013

Its almost the end of June, the weather is sultry; the rains are playing hide and seek, but the sun is fierce and burning with a vengeance. We live on the roof top apartment, and that doesn’t make life much easier, as we bear the brunt of the heat. To makes things worse, the Electricity company seems shy to constantly provide adequate power – last night we fought mosquitoes and the heat, until 4:30 am, when the company decided, they would do the honor of bringing light back into our lives. Summer woes never end!

However, this morning I come with a different thought that may extend from a sleepless night. What is my charter of needs in my country? what do I, as a citizen expect?

The woes of traveling to other countries is a very painful experience; especially when you have to come back to your hometown where you suffer from heat strokes, power outages, water woes, traffic snarls, pot holed roads, irritated people, and a non responsive government! Maybe I would be better off being a rural boy having never crossed the seven seas, to experience what other countries and their governments have been quick and determined to provide..good services to their people!

India completes more than 60 years of freedom. The cry began for basic necessities; food, water and power…60+ years later, the cry continues to remain the same…though population seems to be the only thing that has grown manifold! Our government feeds us bits and pieces of everything, but ensures we don’t get everything in one go. It seems to reflect that we are at the mercy of a government that works to feed stray dogs, and in turn, they should be grateful for what little they get. We are such stray dogs in our own country.

Will this situation ever change?

This morning as I read the papers, I was astonished that the Gujarat CM has offered to help restore the holy temple of Kedarnath. Impressive. So now our government is going to use the tax payers money to fulfill their vote banks, by appeasing religious sentiments. It is a laugh. I am all for development, and indeed our historical places and religious centres demand lots of love and care, but should our politicians play with our religious emotions? and are we not suckers to fall for such rhetoric?

I go back to the time of the early 1990s. A certain gentleman decided to take our a big journey through our country – appeasing the religious sentiments of fulfilling their need for a temple. Millions would probably have been spent for such an extravaganza..and don’t worry, he got what he wanted..almost a 100 seats in Parliament.

We are a strange nation – we crib and live without water, power, basic facilities, but take religion, and we react vehemently. of course, such fires are stoked well by politicians who ensure that people who live without basic needs, are fueled to fight religious wars.

This week i was evaluating the Delhi government’s developments –

Increase in tax for Air conditioners!!! Did you know that even today, according to the government, owning an A/c makes you a rich man living in luxury? So what if you’re a middle income person trying hard to find some quality of life..the government will suck your blood even more. I wonder what would ever happen to our politicians if they had to survive on their own income without power, air conditioning…would that still be a luxury for them? for now, we fools are paying for their power, their lifestyles, their super cooled homes!

Increase in property tax! Wow, that is impressive..last year I paid about 52,000 for my property..quietly that was increased and this week i paid close to 1 lakh!! And what happens with the tax? The MCD has a huge gigantic building where they live and prosper with our money, but there is no significant change in our quality of life. We’re still beggars, not choosers.

Sigh..elections are back in 2014..but will anything change? will someone bring real hope for us and our country? will the government stop screwing the middle class who is fighting tooth and nail to survive in a highly inflating economy? Will the government improve our services or will the middle class be totally ignored for want of votes from the people who are paid to vote!

God bless my country!

All about friends and people!

18 01 2013

Its been eons since my last write up and i wonder why i’m doing it again; considering the last time i wrote was for some inconspicious reason. In the last few months i’ve lost my desire to write, and i imagine, the quality has dropped drastically too. This was bound to happen – stop using a pen and move to a keypad, and you’ll lose the experience of holding one in your hand! Which i suppose should mean, a lack of pen would be a lack of writer’s skills 🙂 Suffice it to say, this is all nonsense but atleast i can use it as an excuse for now.

I’ve decided to touch on a funny topic – friends and people. Funny indeed because its more ironic, as probably the whole world talks, writes and rotates life around it. Nonetheless, i’m only trying to re-invent the wheel; to understand what it means to me and to people whom i know.

When i finished school, peers and friends meant recognition! it was great – some people finally wanted to be with you and join in your horrendous jokes that were in all probability made, to impress them anyway. Some friends moved on; the jokes were too thin and bleak. Others with less mental abilities stayed on – it proved, birds of the same feather flocked together. But with time they moved out too. Eventually we had to start surviving in the world – friends had little for each other. We might have spoken occasionally over the phone but finding the time to meet was rare. We were engrossed in finding our feet, getting a job and making our first steps into the financial arena, and sadly one where we become slaves to it all.

Its been 20 years since then, and friends have changed again. Those very friends who i lost touch with, are now coming back into my life! Wow, look at that chap..wasnt he the real bum we detested and made fun of? Look at him now – Vice President of a large corporation! Suddenly our different level of geeks, superboys and romeos have all changed! Family, kids, and probably a wife or a husband too! Decent looking folks with respectable jobs. Who could have imagined that 20 years ago?

However, with time we’ve also evolved with new people we’ve met on the path. I’ve crossed quite a few, some stayed on to become buddies; others stayed to create very emotional moments and then disappeared with the breeze that brought them along; leaving beautiful memories for my scrapbook of life.

Every person added to the impression of friends and people. I’ve learnt new things about friendship in different ways.

Through thick and thin, pain and sorrow, I still meet new people; still love making friends. I often ask myself what am i still looking for? I’ve got tons of friends, people I know; acquaintances. What is my search about? Is it about love and the romance that seem to be elusive and existing just in my thoughts or the beautiful poetry of lovers? Is it about a friend who could be as special as a soul mate? It is about just someone with whom I can let my hair down, party and have a great time with?

I have no ‘needs’ to say. Technically everything i wanted has been fulfilled. Life through all its strange moments has given me the various flavors of life. I admit there is still so much more I’ve not known but I dont know if I am in a position to fulfil that need.

People and friends, I’m grateful that you came into my life. You bring something special and unique; your individuality which no one can imitate, continues to enrich my soul. You are a part of the beautiful flavors of life that make life worth living. My Quest in life is not yet over, but you make it all worthwhile. Will you be a trusting friend whom I can share these moments with, or will you be a part of people who might choose to use my friendship as a weapon against me – adding yet another flavor of life?

Writers around us!

1 08 2011

P.G. Wodehouse has a beautiful way of writing that reaches into your mind, stirs it up with some salt and pepper, and tickles your funny bone. The addiction of reading, of being amused and above all, of being transported in your mind to the imaginary world of his stories, is awesome!

I have always tried to figure out how he does it; in plain simple English that too! There is just a style that flows, that edges your mind to enter that world of imagination. Sadly when i read many other writers, i’m perplexed by the complexity of words they weave – to impress people of their writing skills no doubt!
However, what really amuses me was the many blogs I’ve read primarily on rediffblogs. I shudder at times when I remember some of them. They were species perfect for a scientific journal or for dissecting on a bio lab table, but definitely not for entertaining or catching a readers’ attention. But again, knowing our education system and the desire to impress upon the reader, our writers weave a web that seems to get so entangled, i half wonder if they can finally decipher what they wanted to say in the first place:)  Suffice it to say, they should be awarded the Nobel Prize for evolving a new dimension of language complication! Nonetheless, it proves a point – and as i remember the movie 3 idiots – our ultimate desire is to be surrounded by complexities and challenges, instead of simpler ways of finding solutions! If things can be fixed easily – its not worth the challenge isnt it :))
I read “A night at the call Centre” by a very well known writer. I was disappointed. In fact his introduction caught more of my attention then the rest of the story.
On the other hand, I had the privilege to read a book called “Sepia Leaves” By Mr. Amandeep Sandhu. What quality and what finesse. What a flow of words! That book touched my heart and i not only could sense each part of what the author said, but at the same time, read in awe, the quality of his language and expression.  I look forward to more books by Mr. Sandhu, and i hope he will weave something different this time. Aman soon became a very good friend of mine and we live across the street – while i can never reach his quality of writing, i can definitely reach his place for sharing a beer and a laugh!
We might never find a P.G. yet again! However, thats my personal view and choice. Jeeves & Wooster – a pair that uplifts my soul at the most difficult hour! But we can definitely look forward to great reading from some fantastic writers. And if any of you reading this want to play with your pen (or in today’s world) the keyboard, please warn me in advance if you’re going to become a latin dictionary!
Have a great week ahead!