Stay Blessed

As if the goodness thrust upon us by leaders of various types was not enough. We now have goodness coming at us from family and friends as well. You could have too much of a good thing.

It could be in the form of:

“Smile more than you cry

Give more than you take

And love more than you hate.”

OR

“Don’t overthink things

Don’t stress about what might not happen

Just chill out.”

That make you go HOW.

Smile more than you cry;” great idea, but please explain how.

…love more than you hate;” what a great piece of advice, but can you please elaborate and tell me how.

Don’t overthink things;” you are the best, please help me understand how.

A bit like the popular cook-book that publishes a recipe for cooking “delicious hare meat” but forgets the crucial first line, which is, “First catch your hare.”

Did it not strike our benefactors that they should also have provided an instruction manual? To answer the crucial HOW.

It could be in the form of:

“That being who neither runs away from disagreeable karma (unpleasent work, which causes bondage to itself or its fruits) nor gets attached to agreeable karma (pleasant work, duties), without any doubt such pure Satvik being is intelligent & true renunciater. As none of the human can renounce, entirely & completely, all the karmas, one who doesn’t gets attached to the karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, is the true renunciater.”

OR

“Beings who dont get free from attachment & desire of fruits from Karma, get good, bad or mixed fruit of their karma after their death (in terms of how & where they r born in next life). The one who doesn’t attaches himself with karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, doesn’t face any fruit of it (as enlightened ones move out of circle of life n death).”

That make you go WOW. How come I did not receive this advice earlier (even discounting for the spelling and grammar issues)?

…one who doesn’t gets attached to the karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, is the true renunciater.” You know I have been dying to become a true renunciater, no pun intended (on “dying”).

Beings who dont get free from attachment & desire of fruits from Karma, get good, bad or mixed fruit of their karma;” so it seems there is a choice of fruit available, please tell me where I need to click to indicate my choice?

Anyone can see that the advice dished out is so unique that nobody in his right mind would ever even dream of it on his own. Let’s be honest, without these messages, would you have guessed that you ought to “smile more than you cry?” Or even “don’t overthink things?” And it talks directly to that part of us that has been waiting for it eagerly from the time we were born, like becoming a  “renunciater” when we die.

Yes, we are talking about the greatest tool for peace, goodwill and harmony invented by mankind, Jan Koum and Brian Acton to be specific; the Group messenger on WhatsApp, the Wonder App, as christened by my friend N V S Sastry, and the favourite tool pf people who bombard unsuspecting, inveterate do-badders with these messages of love and goodness.

For years I have been bombarded with these messages, I believe they are called “inspirational”, on WhatsApp Groups, and for years I have been ignoring them.

It is not difficult to understand why I have not become a “true renunciater” or I don’t “smile more than cry”.

Suspicious as I have been of these messages, I have to reluctantly admit that they have been an invaluable source of strength for me in the most trying of times. Like at work, where they have helped me consume the tedium of office life by pretending to secretly read messages and responding, thereby appearing to be busy to others. They have also helped me in rapidly consuming my phone memory and equally rapidly upgrade to a phone with a memory, and cost, several times larger. And, above all else, by randomly forwarding messages that very few recipients will read, I suspect I have become a far more popular member of society. As has I believe everyone I know. Everyone has become more popular in equal measure.

And the do-gooders continue to boldly go where no WhatsApp Group message blind forwarder has been before.

They now blindly forward Good Morning messages. With the picture of a flower too.

Not any flower, but a rose. Not to me but to the whole group. Not to one but many many groups. And mind you, yesterday, it was yellow roses. And tulips a day prior.

They blindly forward videos of spiritual gurus, many of whom will probably later end up behind bars on account of sexual misconduct, on these groups.

Even inspirational quotes from unknown people, people who may have never existed.

All to reinforce the HOW and WOW effect.

In order to atone for past sins (some of them) and become a “true renunciater”, which I could not earlier, and to “smile more than cry” which, again, I could not earlier, I have started reading these forwards.

The first one I read was “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Almost immediately thereafter, the phone beeped again and came “Dreams don’t work unless you do” into another group.

Can someone please explain if I should dream or I should work.

The next one said “If someone points out your mistake, be happy that at least someone is interested in your perfection and success”, immediately followed by “Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution.”

Can someone please confirm that someone who points out your mistakes is a positive person.

Then came “The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows.” I swear even my wife does not know the Password to access my bank account. I am waiting for the success that is about to envelop me in its fold.

I was afraid these messages might stop after the Madras High Court recently foolishly ruled that forwarding a message tantamounts to deemed ownership of content and the person forwarding can be held accountable for spreading slander and misinformation if that be the case.

I spent many a sleepless night with my mobile clutched tightly to my chest. Each blindly forwarded message in every group being reason for me to eagerly lap it as if it would be the last.

But I had reckoned without the tenacity of the forwarders. They took as much notice of the forwarded message announcing the Madras Hight Court ruling as they have been doing of other messages they have been forwarding.

Needless to say, the goodness continues unabated.

I am nominating WhatsApp Group messages for the Nobel Peace Prize with an honourable mention for everyone who has blindly forwarded such messages to foster goodwill, peace and harmony in the world.

Like the ending of many of the blindly forwarded messages, “Stay Blessed!”

How?

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Season of Surprise

‘Tis the season to be merry?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But ‘tis certainly looking like the season to be surprised.

Once again.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has set the ball rolling by predicting that large parts of the country will reel under temperatures higher than normal and that the seasonal average temperature is set to be higher than normal by over 1 degree Celsius.

We are surprised.

After years of rapid development, with millions of fossil fuel burning cars added to the roads, agricultural and forest lands being consumed to build wider and wider roads in an effort to get those cars moving and so that the common man feels like he is living anywhere but in India, building shiny new energy-guzzling highrises, putting many water bodies out of the misery of their daily struggle for survival, transporting food and water from greater and greater distances, we are surprised.

We are surprised that this is happening again. Because it had happened just last year in the summer, which was one of the hottest recorded in recent memory. And the previous year in the summer. And the previous year again.

Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, it is recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

It is a surprise that summer is coming back at all. With its many surprises.

We will be surprised to see peak load requirement going up in the summer as more and more people switch on their air-conditioners.

We will be surprised to experience frequent failures in the grid-supplied power as the grid buckles under peak-load demand.

We will be surprised when residential societies as well as commercial developments switch on their diesel-powered generation sets and produce their own power to offset the grid failures. We will also be surprised that noxious fumes emitted by these generators will add to the pollution woes of the city.

We will be surprised when, despite uncontrolled drawing of ground water for industrial and other uses, the water table plunges further.

We were expecting November-like bracing conditions to prevail through most of May and June, but looks like IMD had other ideas. If putting out realistic and reasonable facts and figures is all it can do, does a rapidly developing nation like ours really need an IMD? But that is for our political leaders to answer. Let us enjoy the beauty of life while we can. With its ability to throw up surprises every day and every minute.

Summer will be followed by monsoon. Yet another surprise. Seriously, did anyone know about this?

Come monsoon and we will be surprised to realise that water can flow from higher to lower level of ground. And that constructing in its path without adequate assessment of capacity will lead to impeding the flow of water and cause water-logging.

We will be surprised to know that open ground absorbs rainwater much faster than land that has been constructed over. As a corollary, we will be surprised to realise that slower absorption of rainwater leads to a slower recharging of groundwater resources.

We will be surprised to know that that poor quality material used in building of roads leads to the surface being washed away leaving gaping holes for traffic to navigate. We will be equally surprised to understand that gaping holes in the road surface and water-logging on roads leaves only narrow usable channels for traffic on otherwise wide roads, which leads to massive traffic jams with people leaving office at 6 PM reaching home 15 km away at 5 AM the next morning.

We will be surprised to realise that rainfall does not have a mechanism through which it can stay away from areas prone to water-logging and poor drainage.

We will be surprised to know that random dumping of waste and stagnant water is a toxic combination that leads to breeding of mosquitoes, among other vectors, that leads to the spread of malaria, chikangunya, dengue and other diseases. As a corollary, we are even more surprised to learn that preventing collection of stagnant water and keeping our surroundings clean can prevent vector-borne diseases to a great degree.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year during the monsoon. And the previous year in the monsoon. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

The beauty of life. Knowledge and learning at every step. The faster one is able to forget past learnings, the more one will keep learning. As long as one is open-minded. And not repeatedly asking “why is this not fixed?” or “who is responsible for this mess?”

And if that is not enough of surprises, winter, which just about got over, will come back. Did you know that?

We will be surprised that the cold winter air, with all noxious fumes and other pollutants emitted into it, will hang low and not get dissipated as easily as in the non-winter months, when it blows the pollutants away to unsuspecting people in other geographies.

We will be surprised that respiratory issues will abound in the winter months and that the masks people wear are not a natural adaptation of the human species to environmental stimuli.

We will be surprised that the days are short and nights long.

We will be surprised that it gets cold.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year in the winter. And the previous year in the winter. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

And then, surprise of surprises, maybe even a shock, summer will be back. Who could have predicted that?

 

Living Dangerously

I opened the door leading out with trepidation. I did not know what to expect. It was not a situation I, or, for that matter, any other modern human, had been in, ever before.

I breathed in. Tentatively at first. Half expecting the atmospheric oxygen to have turned to chlorine, burning up the trachea even before the passage was traversed. And a painful death. Fists clenched and eyes shut, I braced for the burning sensation.

“Are you feeling OK?”, a passer-by enquired solicitously.

I could hear. I was alive. The air had not turned to noxious fumes while I had started that fateful journey almost an hour back. I gulped mouthfuls of air greedily.

I did not see the speaker as I was looking down. Even if I was looking up I would not have seen the speaker as my eyes were shut. But I managed a weak smile.

I was in the open now. I looked up, still cautiously, to see the setting sun, which was higher when I had gone inside. Evidently, the Earth had not stopped rotating during that hour.

I have never jumped into the cage of a tiger. With the tiger present. Or without.

I have never dived down to the Marianna Trench, stripped down to my shorts, just holding my breath.

I have never cartwheeled down Mt. Everest. Or Kanchenjunga and K2 for that matter.

I don’t know if others have, but I have not.

It is not that my life has been a series of predictable, boring events, bereft of those magical moments of human endeavour, flirting with danger and excitement, that give meaning to life. I have been brave, when the need for being brave has arisen.

‘Twas me who, once upon a time, in college, had answered “Present sir” on behalf of a classmate missing from an Accounting class.

‘Twas me again, chipping in from a point just off the green from where I could just as easily, and with better results, have putted.

I get goose pimples just thinking about these incidents and look forward to the time when I will recount stories of these extreme adventures to my grandchildren, with a fire crackling in the background.

It is the daring and adventurous spirit of motivated individuals that has made the human story that much richer. Individuals who sailed the deepest oceans, climbed the highest mountains, trekked through the densest jungles, with scarcely a thought for personal safety. In short, boldly went where no man had been before.

Mankind has often found itself at a crossroads, where selfless sacrifice and the daring spirit have lit up the way for future generations.

Another such crossroads had been reached by mankind.

Unanswered questions had been gathering. Dust. The thought that mankind might never know, had been disturbing me no end.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Not one to be cowed down in the face of danger, as readers would have realized by now, I made the ultimate sacrifice. So that future generations do not have to live in the dark. So that the human story can continue.

Throwing caution to the winds, I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym for resuming my losing battle with creeping unfitness. For an hour.

Yes. You read that right. I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym. For an hour.

To seek an answer to the question that had been disturbing humanity ever since the invention of mobilephones, and one that no human had dared to seek an answer to, “What disaster would befall humanity if I stopped peering into the mobilephone for a short while?”

As soon as I shut the locker door…Silence…More silence.

Imagine images, perhaps blurred, moving in circles in slow motion and incoherent sounds emanating from them. As happens at a momentous turn of events in real life, as we know from Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Like when Harry Potter went looking for the Horcruxes. Like when Ram unleashed the arrow that eventually felled Raavan.

By now we all know that I survived the ordeal. But only I know how long that hour was. Everywhere I turned, there was a caring human tightly clutching his mobile to ensure that atmospheric oxygen does not turn to chlorine; or one looking at his mobile screen every three seconds to ensure the Earth does not stop rotating; and yet another continuously talking on it to prevent an alien invasion. I felt like a total misfit there. I was surrounded by accusing eyes inside the gym. Right under the myriad signs pasted on the walls that said “Do not use mobiles inside the gym”.  

The effort, the moments of self-doubt, the hours of indecision, have taken their toll on me. My nerves are shattered. I don’t know how many more posts I can write.

How will posterity judge me? I hope as a person who made the ultimate sacrifice. Of staying away from his mobilephone for an hour to seek answers to questions important for mankind and light up the way for future generations. And not as one who put mankind in danger because of his cavalier attitude. After all, anything could have happened in that hour.

At least I will have another story to tell my grand-children. I stayed away from my mobile for an hour. Do you think they will believe me?

Before signing off, a note of caution for readers, who would do well to understand that the acts of bravery described in the article were performed by experts. Or, at least people claiming to be experts. Any attempt to perform them unsupervised could lead to grievous injury and harm.

Moreover, in order that mankind is not put to any more undue risks, people should ensure that the following guidelines are religiously adhered to: 

  • Do not, ever, attempt to walk across a busy road without being glued to a mobile screen.
  • Do not, ever, go without your, or anyone else’s, mobile, to the gym where signs of “Do not use a mobile” are plastered on the walls around you.
  • If your mobile does not ring noisily inside the cinema hall, make sure you let other viewers feel safe by making a call every few minutes and talking loudly so that they know you are “on the watch for mankind”.
  • Drive a car only when you have text messages to type on your mobile. Even better, drive a two-wheeler while typing text messages.

Is a little bit of individual sacrifice for the greater good of mankind too much to ask for?

Face to Face

ECS (name changed), one of India’s largest IT companies, probably the largest, engineered a coup of sorts a few years back when they setup a female-only BPO unit in a country in the Middle East, well known for its treatment of women.

They engineered another coup when they got the Indian PM, during his recent visit to the country, to visit this Centre.

As we all know, conditions and regulations in a host country need to be respected. Even if you are the PM of a big nation. The Indian PM, full marks to him, has never been known to be non-accommodating, especially where uninterrupted oil supplies are at stake.

Though it was a secretive visit, with no coverage in the media, for obvious reasons, some photos of the PM’s visit to the centre seem to be emerging.  We bring these images to the readers of darkofficehumour for their reading and watching pleasure.

Remember, you saw them here first.

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons, the majority owner of ECS

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons (name changed), the holding company of ECS

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

The PM in the crowd

The PM somewhere in the crowd

 

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

 

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organisation

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organization. These people are quick learners!

Posing with the PM. Looks like an amateur photographer!

Posing with the PM at the end of the visit. Looks like an amateur photographer!

 

These images underscore the importance of this visit. From the expressions on the faces of the participants it is clear that historical changes are afoot.

Remember, you saw it here first!

Traitors

“Hold your horses woman. You will have us exiled before we can say Singapore. Or Equator. Or any three syllable word for that matter. Or even two. And our patriotism questioned to boot.”

My wife was complaining about the short but harsh winter in Delhi and wondering how nice it would be to be in an equatorial climate like that of Singapore at this time.

I looked around furtively to make sure we were not within earshot of anyone. In a country of 1.3 billion, it can be a task. Even inside your own house.

“Do you think our great leaders think about foreign climes when faced with harsh weather, whether it is the winter of Delhi, monsoon of Mumbai or summer, again of Delhi? Do you think Dr. Ambedkar, the founding father, and mother (I added as an afterthought lest a zealous, nameless, self-appointed guardian of something or the other label me something or the other) of the Indian Constitution, was never faced with harsh weather in his life? Do you think he dreamt of sunny equatorial climes?” I confidently added, knowing fully well that she would have no idea what our great leaders thought but did not express. Neither did I for that matter, not being one of the omniscient, zealous, nameless, self-appointed guardians of something or the other who somehow always know exactly what a great leader of the past, dead long since, thought and meant, even though he, or she, is not known to have ever shared that particular thought.

I was on a roll. Seasoned husbands would understand the rarity of the moment when one gets to pontificate to the better half. I was not about to let go.

“Be gone!

Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,

Pray to the gods to intermit the plague

That needs must light on this ingratitude.”

I would have assailed her with Shakespeare’s lines but discretion got the better of valour, knowing that she was adept at assailing me with many other lines, from Shakespeare to Sachs. I continued with a more sedate “Then what right have you to think? Do you want a bounty on your cheek, with some unit, publicly chided and privately rewarded, of a political party, offering a reward to anyone who slaps you, as has been done for Aamir Khan? Or do you want another political party to book our tickets to a neighbouring country, as, again, has been done for Aamir Khan?”

She kept quiet. Even though the last idea would have sounded tempting, considering our free travel, while looking busy and important, has stopped ever since I stopped working for large corporations.

It could be because the Sheena Bora murder case trial is playing out in the media. It can be a challenge when two issues of national importance occupy your mind.

The second, of course, is the case of Aamir Khan, Bollywood superstar, who, during an interview, when asked about the issue of rising intolerance in India, stated, frankly and honestly it seems, that his wife Kiran Rao had suggested moving out of the country fearing for their children under the conditions the country currently is in.

As it is a matter of national importance, and being everyone’s business to decide what Aamir Khan and family should and should not feel, and say, this comment was not taken lightly by many who targeted the actor for spreading fear instead of thinking about his influential status before speaking. Their unambiguous message to him was, “India is a tolerant country, and you better apologise for what you said. Or else….”

We have always known that wives can get you into trouble.

Anupam Kher, a popular Bollywood actor, took it upon himself to lambast Aamir Khan for his views on intolerance and called him unpatriotic, giving rise to the Kher law of inanity:

Expression of intolerance = Intolerance

Intolerance = Being unpatriotic

Hence, Expression of intolerance = Being unpatriotic

He is understood to be on course for a Nobel Prize.

Kher has been followed by many other actors, supporting one view or the other.

The teeming millions, already on the bandwagon of giving opinions when none are required, are freely taking sides. Some are criticising Aamir. Some are defending him. Some are doing both. And some are doing sometimes one and sometimes the other. Their self-belief is so strong, their courage of conviction so remarkable, that they follow whichever wind is blowing at the moment.

Now, I have never been blamed for being lucid and clear in my thought processes. But this controversy has left me even more thoroughly befuddled.

Is Aamir Khan expressing his views an expression of intolerance? Of what he perceives to be a rising tide of bigoted right-wing views.

Or is that tolerance? Of the national fabric by expressing concerns in a public forum, like a concerned citizen.

Is Anupam Kher lambasting Aamir Khan’s views an expression of intolerance? Of another person’s point of view.

Or is that tolerance? Because he is being intolerant of someone he perceives as being intolerant of the tolerant national fabric.

If the teeming millions criticise Anupam Kher, are they being intolerant? Of the views expressed by another countryman.

Or are they being tolerant? By being intolerant of the intolerance demonstrated by him on the statement of Aamir Khan.

If they support Anupam Kher, are they being intolerant? By being tolerant of the intolerance demonstrated by him on the statement of Aamir Khan.

Or are they being tolerant? By being tolerant of the intolerance demonstrated by him on the perceived intolerance of another to a tolerant national fabric.

Clear?

Meanwhile, as the debate rages on, our world is coming crumbling down around us. Pillars of society, both individuals and institutions, are turning out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. We have been surrounded by traitors all this while, as is now becoming clear.

Big, public banks, for instance.

A well-known Indian businessman has accused banks of being intolerant. According to him banks have become intolerant of loans not being paid back. This is not the country our founding fathers, and mothers, wanted to create, he has lamented.

The well-known Indian businessman, for instance.

He is thinking of moving overseas to a more tolerant society. Is he so intolerant of the intolerance of banks?

The Indian diaspora, for instance.

They were intolerant of the lack of opportunity and overbearing politicians and chose to make a life elsewhere. It now transpires that the Prime Minister has been wooing an unpatriotic group ever since his party assumed office at the Centre a year and a half back. The PM is in a state of shock. His record-breaking accumulation of air-miles is at risk.

Youngsters trying to bring in change through their efforts, for instance.

Why do they need to bring in change? Are they intolerant of the suffering and misery they see around them?

The government, for instance.

It keeps talking about its intolerance of corruption and black money. Have we voted in the most unpatriotic government ever?

What about Mahatma Gandhi?

Was he intolerant of the opportunity in India, going to South Africa to practice law? What does that make him? What about his intolerance of the British rule?

Of course, many others are chipping in.

Taslima Nasreen, noted Bangladeshi writer, says Aamir Khan should be glad he is living in India and not Pakistan or Bangladesh, which are far less tolerant. Yes, we know. India has a great soccer team because it is ranked above Timor-Leste and Bhutan. And it only narrowly lost to Turkmenistan in the World Cup qualifiers.

“Whatever be the case, don’t be a traitor. Stop thinking. Start obeying”, I concluded, taking advantage of my wife’s silence.

Cities of Joy

Even before an official announcement was made, a fight has already erupted between the contenders.

The recent announcement that a hundred “smart” cities will be created across the country has set the dovecotes aflutter. As political announcements without substance usually do.

The project has a high chance of success as nobody seems to have asked for it and nobody knows what it really means. The genius of the scheme can be judged from the mere fact that it did not promise to create seventy three “smart” cities. It also did not promise to create one hundred and sixteen “smart” cities. It has set out to create exactly one hundred “smart” cities. It is a clear sign that it is based neither on need, nor on any research or study.

The Medieval-era mystic, saint and poet Amir Khusro is said to have written about Kashmir, “Agar Firdaus bar rui zamin ast, u hamin ast, u hamin ast, u hamin ast” translated to, “If there be a Heaven on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”. If he were alive today, he may well have waxed forth, “if there be a project destined to succeed on Earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”, in chaste Farsi (Persian) of course, the language he preferred for his verse.

It reinforces the courage of political leaders in taking the difficult decisions they have taken in the past, braving ridicule and protest. Of repeatedly permitting slums and shanties to mushroom in all major cities, right under their collective noses, as they looked the other way. Of permitting millions of people to live without basic amenities like water, electricity and sanitation while charging them taxes. Of regularising these colonies each time an election was around the corner, for the next unauthorised colony to start rising immediately thereafter. Had these difficult decisions not been taken, the dream of creating a hundred “smart” cities would have remained just that, a dream.

It reinforces the vibrancy of our democracy by sending out an unambiguous message to people to exercise their right to vote. If they don’t vote, how will they elect such governments that make such promises?

Political leadership of the country, cutting across party and ideology lines, stands together as one in telling people that they, the political leadership, have no time to waste on creating a fair and transparent environment where people get just reward for efforts; where there is rule of law that facilitates organic growth; and where cities develop in a manner desired and dreamt of by people who live in it. They will continue to bow to the demands placed on them by our democratic traditions, and reward the faithful by bestowing political largesse, drawn from them as taxes, back to them, periodically, in order that they can feel beholden.

As the criteria for selection has not been specified, there is rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country. There is even more rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country because what is meant by a “smart” city has also not been specified.

There is excited “chai pe charcha” (discussion over tea) all around on the subject. Will my “smart” city look like Bangalore? Can we really all but destroy a once pristine environment in one generation? Is it even possible to do it again? Or will my “smart” city be like Gurgaon? Can we really build another modern, planned city right from scratch in twenty years, and still ensure that the water table plunges, electricity is in short supply, parking cannot be found for love or money, and there are bars and restaurants at every nook and corner, as every “smart” city must have.

And there is still more rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country as people will now not have to take responsibility for the development of their cities. Apart from their municipal authorities, they will now also have the central government to blame. What more can citizens of “unsmart” cities ask for?

The deal has been made that much sweeter by the government insisting on replacing the current municipal officialdom with a professional municipal cadre.

Really? Could one ever have guessed that there was a professional municipal cadre, straining at the leash, waiting to be let loose on “smart” cities, to solve all their problems, that has been kept hidden away in the corridors of bureaucracy, while the current officialdom gnaws away at the bulwark of functional cities? A cadre, despite being drawn from the same source, trained in the same manner, and responsible to the same set of self-seeking superiors, that would behave in an entirely different manner. And, of course, this cadre can be let loose only on the “smart” cities.

Since ours is a rich culture which prohibits corrupting foreign influences, especially when it threatens us and our agendas, we have to invite Singapore, Toulouse and Tel Aviv to set-up these “smart” cities for us. In addition, an American organisation which has the word “Philanthropies” in its name has been roped in to identify the cities.

Major builders are salivating at the prospects the “smart” city project presents to their ilk. Efficient public transport, abundant power and water, clean environment, a technology backbone for all services may still be debated as to them being rightful constituents of “smart” cities, but the presence of grotesque looking glass and concrete buildings with inadequate parking and zero accessibility in a “smart” city, alongwith elevated and tunnelled roads to ease the traffic woes created by the lack of planning, no person in his right mind would question.

With this achievement, of the announcement, under their belt, the political leadership is already looking ahead to the next project. A senior leader, in a moment of weakness, revealed that to a close confidante. On seeing the quizzical look in the eyes of the listener, the leader clarified, “You see Delhi. It was expected that pollution levels will come down once metro is introduced. Also, transport woes will ease. But, has there been any change? What does one do now? One cannot rest on one’s laurels. That would be cheating the public who has reposed their trust in us and put us in this position. If we don’t keep showing them a brighter future that will never be attained, how will we ever repay our debt to them?”

“Hence, we are preparing to launch the ‘smarter’ city project soon”, he revealed.

The erstwhile “smart” cities, meanwhile, continue their inexorable march towards becoming “smarting” cities.

The fight between contenders continues to intensify. It is not clear if cities fighting for inclusion are “smarter” or the ones fighting for exclusion are.

 

Sign Post

The last post, Did I read that sign “write”?, was a copy/paste from an email I received from my friend Jagatjit Singh. It seems to have uncovered hidden wounds and brought back painful memories. People have voluntarily come forward and shared their own traumatic experiences which I have collected together and shared in this post.

From my friend Suprio Sengupta:
Actual roadsign I saw in Mauritius – Humped Passenger Crossing Ahead.

From another friend Satya Dayanand:
Saw one pic somewhere of a bar in Mauritius if I remember right with the sign: Notice: This bar is presently not open because it is closed- Manager. Could not find fault with the logic even when sober…

(Author’s Note: If you have a yen for such signs, Mauritius should be your destination)

From blogging friend Dilip Naidu:
Here’s one from the golf course: A golfer who says he never cheats is also a liar!

From friend Jagatjit Singh, from whose email, which I referred to earlier, I omitted this one:
Here’s another one from a golf course…
1.BACK STRAIGHT, KNEES BENT
2..FEET SHOULDER WIDTH APART.
3.FORM A LOOSE GRIP
4.KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!
5.STAY OUT OF THE WATER.
6. TRY NOT TO HIT ANYONE.
7.IF YOU ARE TAKING TOO LONG,
LET OTHERS GO AHEAD OF YOU
8.DON’T STAND DIRECTLY
IN FRONT OF OTHERS.
9.QUIET PLEASE…WHILE OTHERS
ARE PREPARING.
10.DON’T TAKE EXTRA STROKES.
WELL DONE.. NOW, FLUSH THE URINAL,
GO OUTSIDE, AND TEE OFF.

(Author’s note: The person who put-up the above sign was perhaps confused between “Tee off” and “Pee off”)

From Carl D’Agostino, one of my earliest blogging friends:
1.The Association Minister unveiled the church’s new fund raising campaign slogan last Sunday: “I upped my pledge – up yours”
2.Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
3 The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
4. Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5 PM- prayer and medication to follow.
5. This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and become prepared to sin.
6. Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help.
7. For those of you that have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
8. Miss Charlene Mason sang “I Will Not Pass this Way Again” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
9. A bean supper will be held in the church hall on Tuesday. Music will follow.
10. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
11. The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
12. Bring you old cast off items for the church who will deliver them to the shelter. Bring your husbands too.
13. At the evening service tonight the topic is “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to the choir practice.
14. Low self esteem support group will meet Thursday at 6:30 PM. Please use the back door.

And lastly, a couple from my own memory. I confess that I did not actually see these signs. I read about them somewhere and, like a painful memory, they have stayed hidden in the dark corners of the subconscious:
1. At a hotel in Tokyo, sometime in the seventies – All the water in this hotel has been personally passed by the Manager.
2. Outside a doctor’s clinic in a street of Rome – Doctor for women and other diseases.

If you are still troubled by more such memories and recollections, share away in the Comments section at the bottom, and exorcise your demons…