Patriotic Tourism

China is fast opening up as a credible alternative. Finally.

Not that I have any issue with Pakistan, despite political antagonism between the two states. I believe they have a similar set of ordinary, toiling, striving, dreaming, hoping human beings as any other place in the world, trying to make life comfortable for themselves and for their near and dear ones, living under the yoke of a successive set of incompetent, egotistic rulers with hidden agendas.

Of course, why any right minded Indian would want to go to Pakistan remains an issue. Similar topography. Similar looking people. Similar food habits. And they even speak the same language. So much so that when they play cricket, the Hindi-based messaging system that both Indian and Pakistan players deploy so effectively against other teams, becomes futile. Were it not for the  histrionics necessitated by the need to prove patriotism, a cricket game between the two would be a quiet one.

But, like it or not, so far Pakistan has been the only option for Indians. For travel. Or, to be more specific, for being threatened with forced travel. In other words, deportation. Not by authorities. But by that responsible and informed, self-appointed judge, the common man. The needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man.

And if you are not one who agrees with him, the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man, that is where you must go. Pakistan.

Over seventy years since independence from the British, and still only Pakistan as a deportation option? In this period India has sent satellites into space, beaten Australia in Test cricket on their home ground and moved on from being a socialist state to a free market economy. But Pakistan. Still only Pakistan for deportation. Have you no shame? Or imagination? Or sense of responsibility? Have you not heard of market expansion? Or abundance of choices a free market provides? What will the world say? Though in times of no travel as enforced by the Covid-19 epidemic, travelling anywhere, even Pakistan, might sound like a refreshing change, it is apparent that the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man has shamelessly neglected his duties.

And it is not that opportunities haven’t presented themselves.

Where were you when North Korea apparently made several attempts to assassinate South Korean leaders? Or when the Rangoon bombing happened? Or when tunnels were found under the DMZ? Or when they announced their first nuclear weapons test? Or when the South Korean warship Cheonan was sunk? Or, even as recently as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur airport?

Even though they never directly or indirectly threatened the sovereignty of India, could you not have at least threatened to deport anyone to North Korea?

Where were you when this country became a point of contention during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Yes, Cuba. Where exactly were you when Cuba was suspected of being involved in a broad range of military activities, from Guinea-Bissau to Syria to Laos, to Sierra Leone to Cape Verde to Mozambique and many other places?

Even though they never directly or indirectly threatened the sovereignty of India, could you not have at least threatened to deport anyone to Cuba?

Or, when a western power initiates military activity in any part of the world to promote peace?

How much nicer, civil, developed, would it be to say, “As you have not forwarded any random unverified forwards proclaiming the bravery of India’s soldiers which will likely be contradicted by other accounts tomorrow, you have been found guilty of being unpatriotic and will be summarily deported. Please pick your choice of deportation destination out of North Korea, Cuba, USA, France, Venezuela and Pakistan and call our Contact Centre for further instructions.” Is it not better than blandly saying, “Go to Pakistan?”

In keeping with the developed world, perhaps throw in a group discount. One unpatriotic Indian will be deported free with every five. And some Amazon vouchers.

Finally, and thankfully, a credible option has emerged in the form of China.

After the Doklam standoff a few months back, the engagement between the Chinese and Indian troops in Galwan valley in Eastern Ladakh continues to be a see-saw battle. Even though the physical engagement ended several days back, the tables continue to turn every few minutes with the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man contributing newer and more creative accounts of bravery of the Indian troops and treachery of the Chinese, while the unpatriotic keep asking the government for specifics of the engagement.

Things have come to such a pass that even Shri Vipin Rawat, Chief of Defense Staff of India, has had to modify his game plan because of the threat posed by China. If needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man is to be believed, instead of working with the troops and their officers, he is honing his writing and social media skills to ensure that India emerges victorious. As a start, he, seemingly, has penned ten sentences about the Indian Army and is now in the process of making them viral through various means. The pen is mightier than the sword. This will certainly catch the enemies off guard.

We salute you sir. Actually, in all fairness, we salute the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man, the great warrior of the social media world.

I, and many others like me, have been in the cross-hairs of the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man. Because I pay taxes, and try to do so honestly. Because I maintain cleanliness. Do not litter. Even before the present Prime Minister announced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) in 2014. I ask questions.

For the needing to publicly demonstrate patriotism common man, who had no way of knowing that cleanliness and hygiene were desirable behavioural traits since the Prime Minister had not revealed it earlier, and has been tirelessly extolling the PM’s vision in introducing this revolutionary concept that nobody else could have thought of, this surely amounts to treason. Following before 2014 the vision revealed by the leader only in 2014? Am I mocking the vision of the leader? Asking questions? Let us not even go there.

Now I go and shoot myself in the foot again by not forwarding unverified messages extolling the bravery of soldiers. What was I thinking?

China, here I come.

Inch By Inch

1. “Look hard at the darkness and you will start noticing rays of light.”

— Judith Marlow

2. “You cannot control your thoughts, but you can control the actions they result in.”

— Iain Bradshaw

3. “Yesterday shines a light onto our tomorrow.”

— Leslie D’Souza

4. “Positive thoughts are their own reward. There is nothing you cannot achieve with positive thoughts.”

— Sook Yi Ng

5. “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, lest I look at the pessimistic side and get consumed by it, never to come out.”

— Alyssa Amin

6. “Positive thinking will show you the path. Negative thinking will show you the obstructions on the path.”

— Roger Johnson

7. “Pessimism leads to pessimism, optimism to optimism.”

— Swami Charitranand

8. “If you make positive choices, the environment around you will respond and make your future choices easier, more natural, and more enjoyable.”

— Lee Chopra Bravinsky

9. “Positive thinking is more than just thinking. It is a way of life. Indeed, it is the only way of life. We have not been put on this planet to wallow in the misery of our negative thoughts. We are here to be positive, as being positive not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better.”

— Haruto Nagoya

Inspirational? Motivational?

What is wrong with Ankur? No satire? No sarcasm? No highlighting any absurdity? Has the 45 degree Celsius (113 F) heat in Gurgaon got to him?

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If you are one who looks closely at motivational quotes, you might find that none of the quotes bear any resemblance to anything said in reality ever and offered as motivational quotes. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care, even assuming there was a way of finding out? But, let me not over-reach. Let me add, ‘…and not seen by me.’ Who knows, motivational quotes of these exact words, words that I just conjured up by some mixing and matching and imagining, might be on offer as, well, motivational quotes.

Will the motivational quoters take me to the cleaners for playing with their words? Motivational quoters who? The attribution is to names made up by me on the spot, and  adding a sprinkling of names from around the world to give a global look and feel. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care? But again, it is entirely possible that there may be real people answering to these exact names, sitting with their lawyers at this very moment, waiting for someone to make up a name exactly like theirs and slapping that someone with a legal notice.

Hopefully, the combination of the exact motivational quote and the exact name will be too much of a coincidence for me to worry about.

There is a Nike ad doing the rounds these days with people, perhaps close lookers at motivational quotes, gushing over it. This ad has footage of famous athletes in slow motion, set to the beat of music. Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and several other American athletes who I could not recognise. The message, “You are never too far down to get up again,” or some similar words.

There was an ‘inspirational’ Coke ad that I received a few days back. With rave reviews from many people, perhaps close lookers at motivational messages.

Seriously, are these two different from millions of other ‘motivational’ messages and advertisements developed by millions of businesses constantly looking for ways to gain mind and wallet share of their target customers? Of course, they are, different. The athletes are different. The background score is different. The narrator is different. The wordings are different. So what if there is some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, some nice sounding words in a deep voice saying something that translates to, “Hey you consumer, you idiot. Let me mess with your emotions, get you to associate my brand with ‘positive’ feelings, and help you make me rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

You and I could write those words. And put together that footage. Someone like you and I has perhaps done it for these businesses. Don’t believe me? Check out the ‘motivational’ quotes earlier in the post written by me. I am sure any of us can conjure them up. But I assume many people would rather a consumer than a producer be. Watch a promotional video of a fast food or garment business that has some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, and an audio in a deep voice belting out an inane truism that they would never have known otherwise, like “You can do what you want to do,” rather than making the effort to do what they want to do.

And then, there is Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino.

During my corporate life many years back, it was inevitable that one participated in events known by various names like Workshop/ Training programme/ Outbound training/ Seminar/ Offsite, etc. There were many objectives for these events which I will not go into here, but one common theme running through each was that, as an outcome of the event, all participants should be able to make more money for the organisation that employed them and probably paid for their participation. And the methodology for training them to do so was also disarmingly simple. Showing an ‘inspirational’ clip from a Hollywood movie with Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino. Asking his team to “Claw inch by inch, play by play” in Any Given Sunday, or telling the jury “And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage!” in Scent of a Woman.

And we would spend the rest of the evening talking about how that video clip changed our life, which would change back to its pre-event shape the moment we hit the workplace.

Don’t we get it that it is a setup? We could have made anything happen. It was all in the hands of the makers of the movie. Al Pacino could have sacked his team and took on the opposition single handedly. And won. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of belief in oneself, no matter what the odds. He could have changed three players at the last minute and still won. And we would have cheered and said that it was such a great case study for future generations for ‘decision making under adversity.’ He could have debated with a referee on a technicality and held up the game for an hour to enable a key player recover from a bout of dizziness. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of negotiation skills. All to be shown as ‘inspirational’ videos at the next Workshop.

What is it that keeps driving people to consuming these ‘motivational’ quotes? Looking constantly for external motivation? Acting as super-spreaders and spraying these messages liberally amongst their near and dear ones, even not so near and not so dear ones? Is it an unwillingness to face up to what we may consider to be the unfairness and hard facts of our life? Lack of self-respect? Trying to get someone else, anyone, to solve their problems?

I am not an expert. In fact, I am pretty much out of my comfort zone here. I am not questioning the likes and dislikes of others. If reading motivational quotes and watching motivational videos is what sails your boat, who am I to complain?

In fact, if it is so good, why don’t we just get all the business corporations and all governments to stop doing whatever they claim they are doing, and just keep churning out motivational videos and messages all the time and the world will be a better place. Right?

What I am saying is that it does not sail mine.

The question is – Did it (the producing and consuming of the motivational) message make the world a better place?

 

Our Books, My Stories

My stories made it to two books that have been published recently. Both are collections of stories contributed by different people, and related to their own life and experiences.

What is common between the contributors in the two books and in each book? They are all alumni of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), the coveted institution of higher learning dedicated to business education.

In “A Chapter Out of My Life,” the contributors are drawn from different IIMs, from different cohorts in different years.

In “Reflections,” they are all a part of the same cohort, the batch of 1987, who spent the same two years at the IIM in Ahmedabad.

What is common between the two books? I believe I am the only author contributing to both.

Over to the books then. If you do read them, please try to leave a ‘Review’ on either Goodreads or Amazon or any place online you are comfortable with.

1. A Chapter Out Of My Life: Gems from the lives of ordinary people

A Chapter

This has been published by Salil Agrawal, a senior by a few years from IIM Ahmedabad and the founder president of IIMAGES which is a society of the alumni of IIMs. He has been instrumental in creating the ‘network’ impact of the IIM alumni and hence, in many ways, the most suitable person for putting together a book of this nature. The contributors have been drawn from different IIMs, from different cohorts in different years.

In Salil’s words:

“There are extraordinary people and then there are ordinary people. People like you and me. People who are accomplished in their own way and who have had interesting lives. But they are not extraordinary, they are not celebrities. Their stories do not get published even though they are very inspirational.

This book brings to you stories from the lives of nineteen such wonderful people. All of them are alumni of Indian Institutes of Management. They write about an experience from their life that made a difference to them.

These stories will be very useful for younger readers – management grads in the first few years of their career, students of management, those aspiring to do an MBA and also those planning to join the corporate world in the near future.”

Kindle edition on Amazon India (Rs. 49- with proceeds to charity): https://bit.ly/sllbk1

Kindle edition on Amazon US ($0.65): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087XBMWBL

Paperback anywhere: still to be released

2. Reflections: Life Reloaded. Class of ‘87

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This has been published by Sanjeev Kotnala, a classmate at IIM Ahmedabad, from the 1985-87 batch that graduated in 1987. The contributors are all classmates of ours. People who spent the same two years of their life in the hallowed precincts of IIM Ahmedabad, pursuing an MBA programme, amid the iconic exposed brick architecture of Louis Kahn.

Sanjeev is the founder of INTRADIA World and a Marketing and Branding professional devoted to enhancing potential and capabilities of clients’ team. He runs 2-day workshops on Ideation and Innovation and is a certified NLP practitioner and an ICF accredited life, Mid-life transition and Master Spirit Coach.

In Sanjeev’s words:

“Eighteen Authors, from CLASS OF 1987, IIM Ahmedabad, share more than 28 real impact stories from professional and personal life. These are small, compelling incidents that challenged their thinking, making an impact in their lives.

Read their ‘aapbeethi’ (self-experiences) as they transparently open up to allow you a behavioristic peek into their lives.

Yes, you can question their Approach and Learning, or maybe you could end up questioning your approach to life. Who knows, which incident here mirror’s your life and touches a chord? Why wait for Self Experience when others’ experience can help guide your approach.

What you gain from these stories presented in five sections; ‘Business’, ‘People’, ‘Encounter’, ‘Life’, and ‘Institute’, is all up to you. Happy reading.”

Kindle edition on Amazon India (Rs. 199-): https://amzn.to/2RsA3Ln

Paperback on Amazon India (currently out of print): https://amzn.to/36qDYg3

 

EconoMix

People are no longer buying things they don’t need. And that is apparently bad news for the world.

I have always been awed, and perplexed, by the working of the great Economic brains of the world. How they always seem to know what will happen after it has happened. And how, mostly either through a Rate Cut, or Rate Increase, they can solve the most internecine problems plaguing our world.

But how does it work? In order to not further tax the already busy brains of the Economists who are probably working out how they already knew about the impact of the Corona pandemic, and to decide whether it should be a Rate Cut this time or a Rate Increase, I decided to work it out for myself.

Let us take the example of the travel industry, one of the industries often cited as an example of being deeply impacted. As we are not travelling, they must be going through a torrid time. Airlines and hotels must be losing money because travellers, the people who would be paying them for their services, are not paying them. In short, because travellers are not coughing up money, airlines and hotels are getting poorer.

If they are getting poorer because travellers are not spending money, then travellers, who are not spending the money they would normally have, much be getting richer.

Makes sense?

Some of these travellers getting richer could be the people who run small businesses. Like restaurants. In Japan.

But people who run small businesses like restaurants are losing money because they have to shut down, and customers cannot come to them and buy their services. In other words, they are getting poorer.

If they are becoming poorer because customers are not coming and buying their services, then the customers who would have come to them must be getting richer because they are not spending that money.

Some of these customers getting richer could be makers of protective face masks. In Kenya.

Makers of protective masks are making money because there is huge demand for these masks. They just cannot make them fast enough. Hence, they are getting richer.

People buying these masks are becoming poorer as they now have to pay for an item that was not budgeted in their original scheme of things.

Some of these people becoming poorer could be employees of a software company. In Mexico.

On account of uncertain business outlook, the software company that employs them has offered a choice of retrenchment or pay cuts to employees. Hence employees are becoming poorer still.

If there are fewer employees and they are being paid lesser, and are becoming poorer as a result, then the employer, because it is spending less money, must be getting richer.

At the same time, the software company getting richer is seeing its carefully built business crumbling. The investment in creating a sales pipeline seems to be wasted as clients are unwilling to place new orders and even cancelling existing ones. If orders are not coming through and existing ones are being cancelled, it will gradually become poorer.

As clients of this software company are not paying money for new orders and saving money on placed orders, they must be getting richer.

Some of these clients getting richer could be mid-size garment manufacturing units. In India.

Mid-size, or any size, garment manufacturing units are seeing a steep decline in orders and are losing money because of that. Not only are they not getting orders, they have to keep paying salaries which is what the government has mandated. As is the business of governments in free markets to do. Mandate. Hence, they are becoming poorer twice as fast.

If they are becoming poorer because customers are not placing fresh orders and buying their garments, then the customers who are not placing fresh orders must be getting richer because they are not spending that money.

Some of these clients cancelling orders and getting richer could be retail clothing stores in Europe.

Retail clothing stores are losing money because footfalls have totally dried up on account of the lockdown and people are restricting purchases to essential items. Hence clothing stores are getting poorer.

Customers who are restricting purchases to essential items are paying lesser for clothing items and hence getting richer by saving money they would otherwise have spent on clothing.

Some of these customers getting richer could be people working for online platforms that facilitate video meetings and interaction over the Internet. In Canada.

They have been offered overtime pay and bonuses because their employer’s business is booming. Hence they are getting richer still.

Their employers, the businesses that own and run these online platforms, must be getting poorer as they are paying more to employees than was budgeted.

Online platforms that facilitate video interaction over the Internet getting poorer are experiencing a surge in demand and cannot seem to be expanding fast enough to keep up with it. Their revenues have seen a spike and they are getting richer.

People buying these services are becoming poorer as they now have to pay for an item that was not budgeted in their original scheme of things.

Some of these people getting poorer could be farmers growing food for the teeming millions. In Brazil.

Farmers are continuing to grow and sell food as people need to eat. They are neither getting richer nor poorer as people continue to buy food and eat. If anything, they could be getting marginally richer as the focus on buying and consuming food is now much higher than just a few weeks back.

People buying and consuming food would be getting neither richer nor poorer as they continue to buy and consume food like they have always done. If anything, they could be getting marginally richer as the more expensive eating-out options are not available at the moment. Not only that, they could experience an unforeseen improvement in health as the home-made food being consumed these days might be healthier.

Some of these customers getting neither richer nor poorer could be employees of a large corporation that operates an airline. Because there is no demand for travel, the airline has sacked a large number of staff. Without jobs, these staff members are getting poorer.

The airline that employs them must be getting richer as it no longer is paying what it had expected to pay in the form of salaries.

But we already learnt at the start that the airline is getting poorer because nobody is travelling and their capacity lies unutilised.

Clear? As mud? Or, using an Indianism, ‘as a jalebi?’

Are we getting richer and poorer at the same time? Or, are we getting neither richer nor poorer at the same time?

And I haven’t even begun to decide whether it will be a Rate Cut or a Rate Increase this time.

I think I better leave it to the Economists.

But all is not lost. At least I have been able to establish that, like the oceans of the world, we are all connected. You wouldn’t have known that, would you?

Going Viral

It was Gol-Maal on Saturday. The original Hindi comedy about imagined twins, of early eighties vintage, with Amol Palekar in the lead.

On Sunday it was Article 15, about the reality of equality versus the utopian hope enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Yesterday it was Highwaymen, a tepid, predictable period film with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson tracking down Bonnie and Clyde.

Today’s movie is still to be decided. I expect a lot of decisions regarding movies will need to be taken over the next few days.

No football on TV. No cricket. No tennis. No nothing. At least nothing live.

A lot of people clapped at 5 PM on Sunday, as asked by the PM, as a token of appreciation for the medical people, working with integrity and at great personal risk, in these troubled times. I did not. Tokenism is not for me. I appreciate medical people at all times. Don’t need to clap at 5 PM to show my appreciation. I also appreciate the armed forces. Despite random people insisting we need to show appreciation for the armed forces, and that one would be unpatriotic if one did not forward a random WhatsApp message supporting them. And the police force. And the cleaners. And all sincere, honest, hard-working people trying to make a difference to the world we live in.

The people who did not clap are likely to be name-called by the people who did. Like unpatriotic. And asked to migrate to a neighbouring country. In my humble opinion, that is the nature of herd mentality. But, to be fair, the people who clapped are also likely to be name-called by the people who did not clap. Like sheeple.

One got to see pictures of many leaders, business leaders especially, clapping as asked by the PM. On LinkedIn. On Twitter. What good is clapping at the request of the PM unless you can get someone to take a picture and post it in places where there is some possibility that the PM or his minders will notice. Along with a patriotic, motivational message. In other words, a message that appreciates the PM’s vision and leadership. My neighbours who clapped are fools. I don’t think they took any pictures when they were clapping. Nor did they put up patriotic, motivational messages on LinkedIn and Twitter. I wonder how the PM, or the CM, or even the DM (District Magistrate) will know they clapped. But I will leave them to solve their problems. I have to focus on mine.

In my defence, I was misled. Or unled. How was I to know that the request from the PM to make sound at 5pm had a “very hidden scientific message” that I saw only too late. “Sound waves if created all over the country at a fixed common time will surely disrupt the travel of virus & repel them not to enter our vicinity. This is the reason why sound & noise is made at the dawn & sunset in the temples, in the old Churches in olden times and the holy Aazaan by the Muslims. Without the sunlight the virus & bacteria and all evil Spirits become more active. Hence this stand to create an aura of sound waves to shoo away all the negative forces entering and to save our country and the whole world.”  What would I not do to shoo away negative forces. Or weaken and starve evil spirits, and virus and bacteria, with sunlight. Since it was a scientific message, it had to be hidden. And since it was hidden, I could not see it.

As if that wasn’t responsibility enough for the spread of the Covid-19 virus, I also broke the chain. The one that required an uninterrupted chain of 10000008 people chanting the Mrityumjayamantra to be formed. If you must know, even people in Canada are chanting Mrityumjayamantra. Maybe one or two people, maybe in an entirely different context, but people in Canada nevertheless, which the person sending out this missive certainly would have known. And hence so must you.

When all this is over, and mankind looks back on this chapter in our evolution, and our struggle with Covid-19, I think I will be held responsible. Not only no clapping, but breaking the chain too. What was I thinking? I wonder if there will be second, or, in this case, third, chances.

By now we know that it affects the Chinese but not the French or Germans. We know it affects people living in hot climates but not those living in cold ones. We also know that It affects children and young adults but not the elderly. And it affects white-skinned people but not dark-skinned ones. Also, it affects people living in the Northern hemisphere only, and that too people speaking Spanish but not those who speak Mandarin or Russian. Most importantly, it affects the poor but not the rich. More specific to the Indian context, it impacts Jats and Rajputs, but not Kayasths and Brahmins.

Of course, we know nothing of the sort. If we do know something, it is that Covid-19 does not discriminate by nationality, language, religion, caste, or any other difference that humans like to highlight from time to time as a justification to maim and kill others for. If ever there was a doubt that human beings are a common race, hopefully the spread of Covid-19 dispels it.

This too, then, shall pass, is my belief. Of course, there will be Hell to pay. The old order will changeth, yielding place to the new. Some ways of life will undergo a drastic change. Many industries will be severely impacted. As will some sincere, honest, hard-working people, for no personal fault of theirs.

It seems President Trump was right. About the environment. We make too much of a fuss about it. Let us go about our assigned task of messing with it while we can. After all, nature will eventually reclaim its spaces, as people seem to be saying with Covid-19. Witness the once again beautiful sunsets across the Arabian Sea, or the once more breathable air in Delhi. Perhaps we have not crossed the point of no return. Yet.

It seems we had forgotten what it meant to go viral the old fashioned way…

Queueing Theory

“As an important person, I am entitled to be ahead of the hoi polloi and cannot be bothered about niceties like queues and waiting-for-your-turn. Hence, I did not bother to reach here in time, knowing I could take advantage of the apathy of the common people and their diffidence in taking a principled stand, even for their own benefit. I can play the ‘victim’ card, or bulldoze the off person who dares to object, to get ahead.”

He had actually said, “My flight is about to take off. May I please go ahead of you?”

I had cleared the queue to enter the terminal building, and the queue to drop my checked in bag, for my flight to Bangalore in the morning, the previous Sunday, and had entered the third and last queue, for the Security Check, before I got in to the queue to show my boarding card to the airline staff at the gate, followed by the queue to enter the bus that took us to the aircraft, followed by the queue to enter the aircraft, when he had uttered these words.

And he had almost edged past me completely, assuming, I assume, that all was good, and that I should be grateful for the privilege he was according me, of letting him pass, when I had made my move and blocked his path. “Please come in queue. My flight is also about to take off,” I had said firmly.

Clearly not used to such a response, the gentleman appeared lost at first, but quickly composed himself and said, matter-of-factly, “But I will miss my flight.” Apparently, it was my problem that he was going to miss his flight.

“If you are in a hurry, please ask the airline staff to help you speed up the process.” I was in the mood to be logical and reasonable. I also looked around to others in the queue, hoping they would support my logical stance. But they were engaged in other important tasks to save the world, peering into their mobile phones.

“But the airline staff said they cannot help me with the security process,” he said, agony of that slight writ large on his face.

“So it becomes my responsibility to flirt with the possibility of getting delayed myself and letting you go through?” I responded, bringing all my years of experience writing satire to bear upon that single statement, hoping to shame him to the point of withering away, while appealing to the baser instincts of others, as, by this time, the sight of two adults engaged in a quarrel of sorts had ensured that a small crowd had gathered around us, leaving their places in the queue. It was a relief to know that watching a spectacle live is still more important than saving the world on a mobile screen.

“What time is your flight?” someone asked the other gentleman.

“7.45,” he responded.

“What time is your flight?” the same person asked me.

“7.50,” I responded, holding up my boarding card.

“So let him go through then. His flight is before yours, is it not?”

The others joined in the chorus. I wilted under this onslaught. He quickly stepped past me flashing a smile of victory that said, “Take that you idiot.” As many others had left their positions in the queue, he was able to quickly get through to the Security Check station.

Failure to learn fast has never been one of my weaknesses. Though chastened, almost three seconds later, when the next person came up who was late for the flight he had to catch that was almost at the same time as mine, and made his move with, “My flight is about to take off. May I please go ahead of you?” I was ready. I shook his hand, wished him a pleasant flight, and requested the person ahead of me in the queue, to let him pass.

As I kept flagging people past me in the queue, and as people who were late for the flight they had to catch that was almost at the same time as mine, kept making their move with, “My flight is about to take off. May I please go ahead of you?” my mind wandered off to those happy days at the Well Known Institute of Management in Western India (WIMWI), and to Professor Tripathi’s class on Production and Operations Management, over thirty years back. “Single queue multiple server,” I was hearing him say, “is the most efficient form of queueing, that optimises wait time for the customer and idle time for the server.”

But man keeps pushing the envelope. New discoveries are being made every day. Little would Professor Tripathi have known, that even before he retired from WIMWI, there would be an even more efficient way of queueing; of people showing up late and cutting the queue.

Soon, the only two people standing behind me were two greying ladies, who looked like they were foreigners. I looked at them pityingly. It was clear they did not have the benefit of good education. Of modern theories of queueing. They may have good communication skills, good interpersonal skills, respect for people, but theories of queueing? With such a gap in their knowledge, how could they hope to get ahead? At least in queues in India.

As I continued to be the last but two in the queue, having moved barely a few inches from the time I had entered, I realised that I will miss my flight if I did not clear security in the next five minutes. Being a quick learner, as I have perhaps mentioned earlier, I stepped on the accelerator, alternating between playing the ‘victim’ card and bulldozing my way through the few uneducated souls who dared to object, scythed through the queue, and reached the Security Check point. I had a flight to catch, after all.

Not to be left behind in demonstrating their speed of learning, the Delhi airport authorities decided to resolve the issue of delays in the Security Check queue by creating a separate fast track queue for important persons, entitled to be ahead of the hoi polloi, who cannot be bothered about niceties like queues and waiting-for-your-turn, who do not bother to reach in time, knowing they can take advantage of the apathy of the common people and their diffidence in taking a principled stand, even for their own benefit, by playing the ‘victim’ card, or bulldozing the off person who dares to object.

It is remarkable what can be achieved with a little effort, some imagination and a lot of resolve. In as short a period of time as a week. The Security Check queue presented a transformed look yesterday, which, again, was a Sunday. The regular queue was clear as a crisp February day in Gurgaon. One could see miles out to the security personnel swatting flies as they waited for the next passenger to show up.

Meanwhile, all passengers stood in the fast track queue, along with everyone else who was flying out from Delhi at that time, beneficiaries of Delhi airport authorities alacrity in implementing a solution, continuously moving ahead of others in the queue, even as the others kept moving ahead of them.

 

Sign Language

“But then, when will I cut them?”

I had forgotten it was my responsibility to ensure he was able to. Cut them. Blame it on old age.

The question had been asked by the young man sitting next to me and, in all likelihood, triggered by my saying, “this is not the place to be cutting your nails,” after my initial “perhaps you should be doing this at home,” had apparently gone unheard.

The trigger for my statements, in turn, had been the act of this young man casually taking out a shiny nail-cutter, spreading a newspaper on his lap, and starting to carefully chip away at his nails, taking care, as a responsible adult, to not leave any vestige of the activity in the surrounding area. Inside a train on the Delhi metro network, that I now take every day to get to my place of work. And back.

And, after the second statement, since there could not have been any doubt who I was speaking to, as there was nobody else cutting his nails in that coach, or in any other coach is my guess, he had left the nail on the middle finger, perhaps as a fitting hint, half-cut, and looked at me and asked the question. Crossly if my interpretation of his look is reliable.

Then he had looked away, perhaps not noticing my discomfiture as I did not have an answer to his question, and allowing me the luxury of a sigh of relief. But then he had looked right back at me and asked, “Where does it say?”

“Where does it say what” I asked right back, now composed.

“That I cannot cut my nails here?” He had not wasted time. When he had looked away from me, he had quickly scanned the coach to check if I had any basis for my unreasonable demand. Of requesting him to not cut his nails.

I was the deer in the headlights now. I sheepishly looked around, desperately searching for some sign of a sign behind which I might have hidden. I need not have. The young man had done his homework. There was a sign prohibiting sitting on the floor. There was a sign prohibiting smoking in the coach. There was a sign prohibiting eating and drinking. But nothing prohibiting the innocuous act of cutting nails. One’s own.

But he was a reasonable young man. He saw my discomfort and offered me a lifeline. “Has the Prime Minister asked the people to stop cutting nails inside coaches of the Delhi metro in any of his ‘Mann ki Baat’ episodes?”

The nation knows that the Prime Minister had asked countrymen to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. How else could we have known that we ought to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. I recalled, with some guilt, that even from the ramparts of the Red Fort, from where the Independence Day address is delivered, the Prime Minister had so far made no mention of not cutting nails inside coaches of the Delhi metro. How could anyone be expected to know that cutting nails is not be done in the coach of a train on the Delhi metro rail network.

As soon as the train stopped at the next station, I got off, though my destination had not arrived. I was unable to face the young man.

I should have known better. Walking down the platform I was reminded of my interaction, just two days back, with another youngster. This youngster eating in the coach. Did I already say there were signs prohibiting eating and drinking inside the coach? This young lady was eating right under the sign when I pointed this out to her, earning the response, along with a ‘puppy dog eyes,’ expression to go with it, “So when will I have breakfast?” I had looked away, shame-faced, at not thinking about such obvious issues. I may not have been her parent, and she might have been physically a full-grown, independent adult, but clearly I had not thought about when she would have breakfast.

And had continued eating her aloo parathas and pickle which the entire coach knew was of mango, seasoned in mustard oil.

The entire coach now also knew of this old chap who was poking his nose in other people’s affairs. “Can’t you get a mobile phone for yourself?” was the unsaid chorus. “Then you can join us and be brave and nationalistic and patriotic and send out forwards here and there on your mobile, when a criminal incident, usually a murder or rape, catches everyone’s attention and gets reported in the media. But following simple to understand, day-to-day rules in public life? Where do you think you are? Canada? Singapore? In fact, if we discourage breaking simple to understand, day-to-day rules in public life, it might well stifle out more serious crimes that have the potential of catching attention and allowing us the opportunity to be brave and nationalistic and patriotic and sending out forwards here and there on our mobiles. Whose side are you on?”

And that had not been an isolated incident either. A day earlier, I had pointed out the sign to another young man seated next to me and about to bite into his carefully packed sandwiches, to which he had, again with a ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression to match, had pleaded, “I am feeling very hungry.” But, this young man had packed his breakfast and kept it back in his bag. He must be a loser.

I had walked up the stairs and reached the ground level of the station. My mind was made up. I was going to see the station in-charge and request him to put up fresh signs inside train coaches so that decorum is maintained. ‘Do not shave in this coach,’ ‘Do not wash clothes inside this coach,’ ‘All cooking activity inside this coach is prohibited,’ in addition to ‘Do not cut nails inside this coach’ were some I had on my mind. And, of course, ‘Do not rape inside this coach,’ and ‘Murder is not permitted in any part of this coach.’ That would teach them, I hoped.

And that is not all. I would also request him to take away the existing signs like ‘Eating and drinking is not permitted inside this coach,’ since they are not followed in any case.

More pleasant rides on the Delhi metro await us.

Timeless

Dear Karvy,

Thank you so much for responding to my email without reading it.

Your assurance in your email of 20th November, in response to my email of 19th November enquiring about the status of issuance of my shares of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) lying in a Suspense account, that the issue (I suppose no pun was intended) will get addressed in twenty days, gives me great comfort, as you took over six months to pay me the missing dividend on other shares of the same company.

Had you read the enclosed exchanges, you would have realised that in your email dated 6th November, which was in response to my email dated 5th November, which was a follow-up of my email of 24th October as no response had been received, you had told me that “Please note that the credit of shares are under process. It takes 15 days time.” I now see that if you had read the mail trail, you would have denied yourselves the pleasure of giving me assurance of resolution in a random timeframe of twenty days. You may have even felt compelled to apologise for your inability to meet the timeline committed earlier and giving a new, random timeline for resolution. I apologise for initially feeling angry about your arbitrary and inexplicable response. I was wrong. I am the customer, after all, and need to keep my emotions, and expectations, in check.

It is, of course, another matter, that in your email of 6th November, you never specified the starting point of the “15 days time.” Would it start from 19th October, 2019, which, as I had also mentioned in my email of 24th October, was the date the required documents had been delivered to your office, or would it start from, say, 18th April, 2062?

If my math serves me right, if I send you a reminder every month, and you increase the resolution time frame on each such occasion by five days, my resolution timeframe will increase by sixty days every year.

Staying with the math, suppose I live for another 50 years, at the time of my death, the issue will only be 3000 days, or roughly 8 years, away from resolution.

Signing off in my customary manner, “Kindly confirm once the needful has been done.”

Warm regards.

Buy Buy

Hello, am I talking to Mr. Mithal?

Yes, you are. Who is this?

Good morning sir. I am calling from Country Bank. The Medical Insurance Policy issued by Regional Insurance Company of India (RICI), that you have purchased through your Country Bank Credit Card, is coming up for renewal next month.

Yes, I am aware. I did receive the renewal notice.

Sir, the policy will be automatically renewed on its due date. Please ensure you have sufficient credit available on your Card so that the premium debit can go through.

Sure. I will.

Sir, as I can see on your account, you and your wife are covered to the maximum limit allowed. However, your children are only covered for half the maximum permissible limit.

Yes, I am aware.

Sir, in today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure.

Thank you. I am touched by your concern for my security.

Sir, we at Country Bank would like to suggest that you increase the coverage for your children as well to the maximum permissible limit.

Thank you. As the recommendation arises out of your concern for my well-being, should I assume that there is no increase in premium for the suggested increase in coverage?

Sorry sir. It is not like that. There will be a nominal premium increase for the increased cover. Shall I go ahead and tell you the revised premium for the enhanced cover?

No, thank you. There is no need at this point.

Fine sir. I understand you don’t wish to know the revised premium. Shall I then go ahead and process the enhanced cover?

No. I don’t need it.

Sir, we understand you are a busy person and do not wish to get involved in procedures and administration. We have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the enhanced cover for your children?

No. I think I have already told you.

Sir, at Country Bank, we respect your time and decisions. We have recently introduced a Life Insurance Policy that also provides cover for Permanent Disability. In today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure. Would you like me to go ahead and issue this policy for you, sir?

No, thank you. There is no need.

Sir, we have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself to buy a new policy. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the new policy?

No, thank you. No need. Actually, hold on a minute!

Yes sir! Yes sir! I am so glad to hear that sir!

That reminds me. I want to remove my older son from the Medical Policy.

Stunned silence.

But why, sir? I strongly suggest you increase the cover for your elder son.

No. Please cancel cover for my older son.

Sorry sir. For cancellation you will have to visit the bank.

But why? I thought you said you were an authorised representative of the bank and could take instructions on this phone call, which is recorded.

Sorry sir. I cannot take these instructions. We are authorised representatives only for selling to customers. For all other cases, we are a vendor.

So, how do I cancel?

For that, sir, you will have to visit the bank.

OK. Can you help me with the nearest location I can go to for this purpose?

Sure sir. I believe you are located in Gurgaon.

Yes.

Sir, as I can see from the system, the only centre of the bank that handles cancellations globally is located in Alba Mons.

Nice name. Is that the name of the building? Can you tell me the full address please?

Right sir. It is located on 40.4 North latitude and 109.6 West longitude and is in the Tharsis region.

Tharsis? What on Earth are you talking about?

Mars.

Stunned silence.

It is located on Mars, sir.

Stunned silence.

I hope I have been able to help you, sir.

Stunned silence.

Meanwhile, If you are interested in buying theatre tickets, or cricket gear, or a yacht, or anything at all, please do give us a call. As authorised representatives of Country Bank, we will be able to do it for you instantly, on this recorded line.

Hello, sir. Are you there sir?

Sir, as there has been no response from your side for thirty seconds, I am authorised to disconnect this call. We wish you a pleasant journey to Alba Mons. Buy buy!