Friday, December 13, 2013

Life is a Breeze-r...so please don't Ration my Jamaican Passion!


Jamaican Passion,
Is part of my ration!
And let me clarify,
Why...

Lime is fine, 
But not sublime, 
And to compare it with my JP,
Is an outright crime!

Cranberry is cool, 
But don't be a fool, 
No berry can beat, 
JP is a treat.

You can have your Orange
But for me...I'll scavenge, 
The stores for my ration, 
My Jamaican Passion!

Blackberry Crush
May give you a rush, 
Feel free, 
But leave me alone 
With my JP!

So you like Island Pineapple?
But I'd rather grapple, 
And sell to my nation, 
My beloved Jamaican Passion.

The fact of the matter,
The only reason, 
I like to drink, 
(And that's no cause for treason...) 
Is you actually can't beat,
The Jamaican Passion

[This is my ode to www.breezerindia.com and the Jamaican Passion...I am loving it ;)]

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Modern Healthcare - Extending the Reach


Somewhere, overshadowed by the traditional cynicism of West Bengal and it's governance, someone is doing something right.  Somehow, in the great Trinamool vs CPM battle, doctors have started reaching their respective Out Patient Departments (OPDs)! They are reaching on time, staying the full time and providing medicines free of cost to those category of people who need it the most. What is more amazing, Government Dispensaries are being cleaned more than once a day...and cleaned well! 

So how did it happen? And more importantly what happened?

Some bureaucrat, (yes, some of them actually know their jobs and when left alone to do it, produce wonders) managed to put in place a system where the doctors and medics were only paid if they reached their place of work. They had to go there and send an SMS from their mobiles in which some app had been loaded which proved their location which was uploaded onto a terminal on the Health Secretary's office from where he could monitor them. 

Cool? Now this is real Modern Healthcare - not just about cutting edge technology, but taking technology to where it matters the most - to the masses. Hence, high quality and high-penetration medical care which is simple, implementable and affordable thanks to health insurance, is the key. 

Apollo Hospitals have been Touching Lives since 1983. Their cutting edge facilities have changed the way people perceive medicine. Initiatives such as Apollo Reach , the Aragonda Re 1/per day insurance scheme and the Saving a Child's Heart Initiative (SACHi) are as path breaking as technological innovations and probably have more impact in keeping with the CSR aims of the group. 

This post is for the Apollo Hospitals 'How Modern Healthcare touches lives?' contest in conjunction with Indiblogger






Hair and Their and Every Where!

'The Hair is always straighter on the Other Girl's Head',
I said, 
to my wife, 
my better half, 
now my bitter half,
discreetly suppressing my laff 

Bitter about her tresses,
Always caused distresses. 
Those lovely curls,
These girls, 
Think they look good only when they wear the other's mane
What a pain. 


Straight hair is a dream...
'Here try this cream', 
I absent mindedly hand her a bottle - 
What a scream!
And she moves in to throttle
And hurls the plastic moisturizer bottle,
At me, who else. 

I google and I surf, 
Uneasy on my turf, 
When the maroon line, 
Seems to define the mood, 
It says,
I say, 'Oh Good'!

I tell her 'Biwi, Ruko
Aa gayi hain Yuko'
The Sunsilk Mehmaan, 
From Japaan. 
She looks at me quizzically, 
I explain logically. 

'Just wait
Lot of big bigg words, 
But it probably works,'

Excited she is, 
With her new find, 
Suddenly I have graduated from Zero, 
To Hero.

She tries it. 
Slowly it starts, 
The frizziness departs,
Shiny and soft, 
The curls unfurl, 
In two weeks flat.

It works!!!
Not for me though, 
I would prefer my girl, 
With her original curls.

But no problem,
You see,
This too shall pass, 
Curls are class,
And soon, for the next season's girls, 
Yamashita ji will be back with Sunsilk Perfect Curlz!!!

This post is a part of the Indiblogger contest Sunsilk Perfect Straight.


Friday, April 19, 2013




In India we drive on the left side of the road while in other countries people drive on the right side of the road. If one has been shuttling between such countries often and need to self-drive, this can be a potential source of danger.

Colonel Asim had returned home to Bangladesh after a year in the UN Mission in Congo. He purchased a new car immediately on return and while driving it home from the show room, he banged it up. Reason; he had turned right at a roundabout (as in Congo) while here in Bangladesh he should have turned left.

Here are a few tips to overcome the problem.

The Problems
The problems start as we approach the car itself. Take a scenario where you were in India and have moved to a country which has vehicles driven on the right side of the road. Having just returned to Congo from India, I found myself approaching the passenger side (right) of the car before realising my mistake and coming around to the left side of the left hand drive car.

Once inside, the chaos continues. You turn to the right to put on the seat belt and then having reached for the seat belt buckle, you realise that it is on the left side, check yourself and turn left and hook up. You then reach for the window handle when what you wanted to do was reach for the gear knob to check the vehicle was in neutral. Having corrected yourself and having confirmed that the vehicle is in neutral you proceed to start the car. 

The only place common in both the versions is the general location of the ignition keyhole. Having started, you again reach for the window handle on the right and then curse and reach for the gear lever to the right, engage and march off. You would off course have switched on the wipers to indicate which direction you were turning!

On the road the confusion is increased manifold as now added to the problem of the controls inside the car you also have to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

This starts as early as you get out of the drive way and align the car to the road. As you leave the driveway a simple decision as in which direction to look first, can make a difference. In India, drivers and pedestrians alike, look right first and then left, that is if they look at all! This is based on the simple logic that since the vehicles are driven on the left of the road, they will approach your car from the right. Hence we look right first and then we look left to check the oncoming traffic. This takes a moment to understand since it is more of a habit, an instinct, than the outcome of a conscious decision. 

Try it when crossing a street. You will find yourself looking right since that is the direction from which you will first encounter traffic. After you have crossed that carriage way of the road you will then face the traffic coming from the opposite direction. This is the most difficult instinct to overcome. Moving to a country where you face traffic driving on the right side of the road you need to look left not right first.  

This is also the time you need to ‘think’ whether to align the car to the left of the road or the right. Having aligned the car (correctly) one then proceeds to drive along with the flow of the traffic. However it is at cross roads, without another car ahead of you, that the confusion returns. In case there is a car leading you, then it is easy as all you do is follow the leader, but when you are at a cross road alone, then you have to follow the thought process of having to consciously ‘remember’ which country you are in and which side to stick to, overcome your instinct to correct your self. This can take a few crucial fractions of a second longer than normal which could make the difference. It also affects your confidence in driving.
                                                                                                               
Overtaking is also from the opposite side. Another alien sensation with you expecting the driver you have overtaken to start shouting at you for having over taken him from the ‘wrong’ direction.

So what can one do about it?

·         Slow down. Go slow on the first drive. Start early and concentrate on the basics. Drive deliberately. Get into the car and take a pause. Take a deep breath and then with out reaching for the seat belt first, tell yourself that the seat belt is to the right (or left as the case maybe), and then reach for it. Similarly for the other actions.

·         Have someone else drive the first day. While this may not be feasible for the many, it could be a way to blend into the traffic rules of the place safely.

·         Be safety conscious. Talk to yourself as you drive. ‘Keep to the right (or left), keep to the right’ and so on. Stay focused on the drive and do not be distracted by the FM or the music. Ask someone else to talk to you. Have your wife, son or some other passenger keep reminding you to ‘turn right at the circle’.

·         Keep the hand on the gear lever. This prevents you from searching for the gear lever with the ‘wrong’ hand.

·         Follow the leader. Most of the confusion arises where we have to make a choice, e.g. at an intersection or where we are leading the ‘pack’. Here it is a good idea to allow some other cars to overtake and follow them. Seeing the car ahead turn in the direction you want lets you identify the ‘path’ and stick to the correct side.

·      Overtake carefully. And only when absolutely confident.

·      Changing vehicles. Another source of potential danger is when shifting from smaller light vehicles to larger heavy vehicles. The turning radius has changed, the Centre of Gravity has shifted and the vehicle responds differently whereas either unconsciously or forgetfully the driver is still trying to drive it like he used to. Larger vehicles need time to stop and due to the heavy weight cause more damage on impact for the same speed. Remind yourself that there is a difference especially in the turning radius and hence the turns need to be wider so as not to scrape the sides.


It takes three to four ‘driving’ days to overcome the instinct to follow the rules of the previous location. This time depends on the duration of the stay in the previous location, with a longer stay taking a longer time to return to the new location and also on which format you originally learnt to drive.

Finally, use common sense. Stick to the basics. Drive slowly till you gain your confidence in driving in the new location.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Travelling with a Dog by Train

Wife, son & daughter (Posto!)

I recently (8/9 July 11) travelled from Kolkata to New Delhi with my year and a half old Boxer bitch, 'Posto' on the 12273 Howrah - New Delhi Duronto train. This post is to provide the details of the journey to all dog lovers who can then plan their own trips with dogs. 

One of the reasons why there is so much of confusion when it comes to carriage of dogs by trains is that there is very little information from the side of the Indian Railways. The website language is sketchy and bureaucratic and does not answer all questions that come to mind. I hope this post might answer some of the questions.

Indian Railways permits dogs to be carried in two ways. The rules are spelt out here (scroll down completely). One option is to put the dog in the dog box in the brake van (BTW: In the official site it is spelt break and brake in the same sentence!) of the train. The second way is to keep the dog with the owner provided the owner has confirmed berths in the First Class AC compartment. The second has some major considerations which I will cover subsequently. I chose this option with marginal success. 

In the brake-van

The brake-van is a portion of the luggage compartment which if usually found at one end of the train. The brake-van is the place where the guard sits and from the door of which he waves his green or red flag. At the corner of the brake-van is the dog-box. This is a horribly dark, musty and stinky enclosure with only one door with hardly any ventilation...a torture for any dog. Use this option only if all else fails.

Putting a dog here means that at each and every station you have to rush to the brake-van, open the dog box and take the dog out for it's constitutional and also to feed it and the put it back all the while keeping in mind that you also have to get back to your compartment. In the Duronto train, the brake-van was right next to the AC First Class. To put the dog in the brake-van, you do not have to have a AC First Class ticket, a confirmed ticket in any class with do...I am not so sure about unconfirmed tickets.

To take the dog in the break-van, bring the dog to the railway station early. Depending on the station and the familiarity of the station staff with the procedures, the dog might need to be weighed. The rules state that the dog needs to be booked like a piece of luggage and the flat weight for a dog being taken on the brake-van is 30kgs.  So at the station, you go to the Parcel/Luggage Booking Office and take a form, fill up the bare minimum basic details including your mobile number and the booking clerk does the rest. Once he enters the details the totally computerised system generates a number which me scrawls on the form you filled and then tells you to go to the payment window. You go to the window WITH your ticket and hand-over both the form and ticket. He now enters the system generated number scribbled on your form and it tells you what to pay. You pay the amount and then you are given a white stiff card on which is scrawled the train no, the system generated number, origin station, destination station and the comment 'dog in dog-box', wt 30 kgs and the signature of the booking clerk. You are also given a white thread (like a pajama 'nara') with which you are supposed to tie this white stiff card to the collar of the dog!

Then they say please go to the brake-van with the dog and wait and our man will meet you there. Note, at this stage they have not given you a 'bilti'...the most important receipt. This will be given to you when you hand over the dog to the guard at the origin station and you will need to show it to the guard at the destination station. Remember the guards change and the guard you handed over the dog to, will not be the one handing back the dog to you...hence the need for proper documentation. In case you do not have a bilti, you could be checked on the way out from the destination railway station and fined for carrying a dog without paying the luggage rate.   

Along with the owner in AC First Class

Now coming on to the procedure to carry a dog along with the owner in the AC First Class. The first prerequisite is that the owner must have confirmed berths.  

Now comes the first major ghundi...the owner must have either two or four seats booked...three or one will not suffice under the normal conditions! I discovered this during this trip. The reason for this is that when you go to the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter, they enter the details into the computer and the system rejects the entry in case you have one or three berths. I suppose the reason is that if you have one or three tickets, the opinion of the other passengers comes into play and you could be asked to remove the dog to the brake-van. This could also be a simple software glitch! So have either two berths or four. In case three passengers have to travel, one will have to have a ticket on a separate PNR Number.  Related with this is the risk of not getting a two-berth coupe despite having two confirmed berths. You could land up with two berths in a four berth coupe! 

Herein lies the second major ghundi...how to get a two berth coupe? The answer lies in writing a letter to the Assistant Commercial Manager - Passenger Reservations and requesting for a two-berth or four-berth coupe as the case may be. Generally the request is met. In Kolkata, the ACM Passenger Reservations sits at Railway Reservation Office at New Koilaghat Building, 14 Strand Road, Kolkata. Basically anywhere, the Chief Commercial Manager would oversee the reservations and the power to allot coupes would be delegated to an ACM responsible for reservations.

The third ghundi...is that I could not pay the luggage fare for travelling with the dog in AC First Class until the chart was prepared which basically means till about two hours or less, before the train departed! I suppose this is the practice.  This is probably because in the case of AC First Class, the seats are not allocated at the time of booking...all your ticket says is that the seats are confirmed, numbers are allotted at the time of preparation of charts. Thus the software is not aware of the seating configuration and hence rejects the dog.  So while at the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter I was frantically sending SMSes to 139 to find out the seat numbers, while keeping an eye on the time to ensure that I had enough time to reach the train from the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter. This is probably since the system

In my case, I had three passengers travelling on the same ticket which included my five year old son, my wife and myself. Since we were all on one ticket, the system refused to accept the dog. All this after I had visited ACM Reservations and had got the letter endorsed in green ink by the extremely busy officer and deposited the letter in a certain hole-in-the-wall letter box (with all misgivings). So in my case, I had a two berth coupe and one berth in a four-berth coupe, and yet due to the software issue, I could not book the dog with me. So as a last resort I booked her onto the dog-box without actually putting her in the brake-van...I kept her with me in the two berth coupe. The TTE tried to use the situation to his advantage but my approach was that 'Look, take the full fine if you have to and I will get it refunded from the Railways since I have not committed any crime...if the software has an issue then I cannot be blamed'.  They realised that I was not going to grease their palms and let it go at that. Add to it, though I did not have the bilti, I did have that white card to be tied around her neck...proof enough that I did book her into the brake van. 

The Expenses

Just to give you an idea of the costs: luggage rates are mentioned in a book called the TTE Companion found with all TTEs and are based on distance. The distance from Kolkata to New Delhi is 1446km and can be found printed on the top of your tickets under the K.M. (kilometers) column. I had to pay Rs 135/- for carrying the dog in the brake van (though I actually did not carry the dog in the brake van). In case I carried the dog with myself in the AC First Class, then the charge was approx Rs 435/-. All fines are six times the basic charge...thus if I had not bothered to pay the luggage charge, I would have had to pay about Rs 2500/-...which would still have been cheaper than sending the dog by air and also the dog would go comfortably.

Points to remember

  • Rajdhani Trains do not have a dog box as far as I know. 
  • In places like Kolkata, do play the sentimental angle for a favourable action by the railway staff...it is amazing where all you find dog lovers. 
  • Bengalis are generally sentimental and if you can convince them that your wife, son, daughter or mother-in-law will have a stroke/heart attack/diarrhea if the dog is not with then in the coupe, you have won half the battle.
  • It is virtually impossible for one person to win this battle along...so get someone to help out...if all else fails, just jump into the train with the dog and pay the fine later. Keep the dog with you as far as possible. Avoid the dog-box.
  • Incidentally, I happened to look at the drop down menu for carriage of dogs in the software. The three options were dog in brake-van, dog with owner in AC First Class & Seeing Eye dog with blind passenger!!! I was impressed.  
Hope this helps. All the best and safe journey!

Posto being her adorable self, on the Duronto

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Re-discovering Mangalyam (from the movie Saathiya)

'Mangalyam' is a song from the movie Saathiya, starring Rani Mukherji and Vivek Oberoi. It is essentially the pop track  'O Humdum Suniyo Re' and is sung by Kaykay, Shaan, Kunal and Pravin Mani.

So why does it feature in my blog? I dunno, just love the tune and the lyrics. While searching for the video i came across the meaning of the Sanskrit chant posted by a user called mohnish0999. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the translation, it does feel nice and appropriate. 

video

|| Mangalyam tantunanena 
mama jeevana hetuna: 
kanthe badhnami subhage 
twam jeeva sarada satam ||

This is a sacred thread.
 This is essential for my long life. 
I tie this around your neck O maiden
 having many auspicious attributes.
 May you live happily 
for a hundred years with me.

Hope you liked this.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Real Beauty: The Third Dimension



Whaddya know! This is now a prize-winning entry at the
 Dove & Yahoo! Real Beauty Contest organised by Indiblogger.  (One of the only two winning entries by men!) 

Beauty is a three-dimensional word. Now I know of many women who would give a wry smile when I add the third dimension to beauty, however I am not referring to figurative  literal aspects, strictly literal figurative (pun intended)! But seriously, beauty is actually multi-dimensional. 

What beauty is definitely not, is some perfectly anorexic model peeking out of some perfect magazine wearing some perfect make-up, photographed by some perfect glamour photographer coaxing you to buy an absolutely perfect fairness cream to end up looking like her, as many a girl would believe.


No. Beauty is much more than that. 

This is a man's view on Real Beauty - and what it takes to be one. And for those who would have the best of both, you could always visit Yahoo! Real Beauty.


Basics. First and foremost a Real Beauty has to be a good human being. It is as simple as that. Herein lies the essence of beauty in a person - an essential attribute for a Real Beauty. She should be a balanced person and have a healthy mix of all attributes. She is not perfect mind you; perfection is for the glossies; but she is real. Human, humane, proud and humble at the same time. Sounds like a bundle of contradictions? Look again - around you, inside you and you are likely to find her. 


Elegance. Elegance is not the domain of the rich and the well heeled. Nor the well endowed. Elegance is how you carry yourself. It is the charm that you exude. The enthusiasm that you share, with others, with yourself...with someone. Elegance is another way of looking at grace. Elegance endures...and adds to Real Beauty. 


Attitude. There is nothing negative about having an attitude. Attitude is about independence. It is about having a view and not being scared about it. It is believing in oneself and having confidence in ones beliefs. Just because you have an attitude, it is not necessary to show it...but when challenged, you can display it gracefully and firmly. That is attitude. A Real Beauty is a Woman of Substance...a woman who has the attitude but does not feel the need to display it just because she has it. 


Universality. A Real Beauty exists independent of nation, state, borders, caste, creed, class or whatever other divisive lines mankind can think of. She can be found in slums, in palaces, in Switzerland or Surat, in her eighties or in her teens. Just look around...


Tenacity. Life is not a bed of roses - unfortunately, even for the Real Beauties! It is in adversity that real beauty shines through. Life is all about tragedy, grief, difficult times...which happens to everyone. A Real Beauty is tenacious. She fights through every battle for whatever she believes in. She wins some and walks home with her head held high. She loses some and walks home with her head held high. Irrespective. 


Youthfulness. Youthfulness is a function of mind...not age. Of attitude. Not altitude. It is of being a grandmother to a teenage hormone-charged girl. It is having the ability to appreciate the follies of her youth knowing fully well that she is hurtling down the alley of romantic doom with her eyes wide shut. And being there for her when the inevitable happens. Of wiping her tears. And then letting her onto some secrets of her life...with a twinkle in her eyes. Youthfulness is being young at heart even at the twilight of life. Real Beauty is not a factor of age...because 'Age is Just Another Number'


That folks is my take on Real B-E-A-U-T-Y. 


...my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:
Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,
Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues.

Love's Labours Lost, 1588

This post is in response to the Dove 'What does real beauty mean to you?' contest on Indiblogger. To know more on this do visit Yahoo!Real Beauty. If you liked my writing, you can comment below. 


Dove Real Beauty on Yahoo! India

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Anjan Dutta, Peter Sarstedt and An Old Romantic Song (in two languages!)

The pleasure of listening to an old song is unparalleled. When the song is re-created in another language as sweet as Bengali, the pleasure is redoubled.  

This song by Peter Sarstedt, a Delhi born Anglo-Indian singer is called 'Where do you go to my lovely?'  It is about a girl, Marie-Claire who lives in Paris and reaches the upper echelons of society. Apparently Marie-Claire is modeled on Sophia Loren who was abandoned by her father and grew up in 'the backstreets of Naples'. However some other versions suggest that the lady in question was a girl that Sarstedt fell for in Vienna in 1965 who died in a hotel fire.  The version uploaded below is with the lyrics. For a video of the song, scroll down to the bottom of the page. 


video


Anjan Dutta is one of my favourite contemporary Bengali singers. His songs appeal to me probably because I identify myself with the places, people and sentiments that he croons about. His song 'Mala' is a not an exact translation of the song 'Where do you go to my lovely?', but a sort of recreation in Bengali with a similar theme. What really appeals is the way he has used the Kolkata setting, flavours and emotions to bring alive the song in exactly the same way (some say better) as Sarstedt did in the French landscape.

video

 For those who would like to see the actual video of Peter Sarstedt, here it is. 


video

Enjoy the songs folks! And do send in your views on these songs.