A Question Of Class…

The Day Our Class Was Rocked!

That day the entire class witnessed a number of arguments: in groups of twos, threes and even more, everyone was arguing.

What set this off was an unusual departure by our teacher. That day he started teaching in English! Normally, this was not the practice. Though the higher classes were supposed to be English medium yet the accepted medium of instruction was Hindi.

The entire class was simply mystified, and more than the subject he was teaching, what kept us engaged was why the hell he was speaking in English! Most of the class students belonged to the middle class families and had a workable knowledge of English; but there were many who came from very poor families and were not good in English. However, by the time they will complete their Senior Secondary they would have picked up enough English to be able to clear qualifying examinations for various jobs. And that was enough!

Certainly, the reaction of entire class was not lost on the teacher because after that he never used English to deliver his lectures.

Do You Dream in English?

The English earns us our bread and butter — while Hindi, or any other mother tongue, is used to express ourselves with our closed ones.

There are some privileged few, who are fluent in English, those who have studied from Convent schools, or whose parents converse with them in English. They can easily and fluently express themselves in English. Maybe, they also think in English. And, what about dreams? Do they also dream in English?

As far as the spoken language is concerned there are clearly two classes of people in our society – English speaking and non-English speaking. The first one is superior, the other one is inferior. The first one has Class, the other one has not. The fist one is privileged, the other one is under privileged, no backward describes it more aptly. The latter one is also known as desi, or native.Though the former class is also native but they are not desi. Got the difference? In the desi circles, the other class is known as angrez (literally meaning English) or angrez ki aulad (progeny of angrez). The desi circle is generally in awe of the angrez one, and the angrez ones generally look down upon the desi’s.

After all this is life and this is not a perfect world and we have to live with this inequality.

For the English speaking class merely the act of speaking in that language is a hallmark of their superiority. In one single instance it proves that they are sharp, wise, intelligent, witty and successful. Or going to be successful. They move in another world – they listen to Rock, heavy metal and American country music, while our desi brothers listen to Hindi film songs, bhojpuri folk or Punjabi folk. The angrez class also listens to Hindi, but only when enjoying the Gazals of Jagjit Singh and Mehdi Hasan, which only accentuates their class. The desi class also listens to these gazal singers, but they always fall short of being the class. Their fate is sealed.

That’s how it is, whether you like it or not.

Who brought about this situation? Maybe Macaulay, maybe Nehru, we can blame anyone for this but this situation has come to pass and here we are stuck with this. On one side is the angrez class and on the other is the desi class.

When, after completing our Senior Secondary, we entered College the class was broadly divided in two groups; you get it — angrez’s and desi’s! They may be further subdivided in sub groups, but you get the idea: at macro level there were only two real ‘classes’.

The Coming of Age of Desi’s

I am talking about my own student days – the 80’s. But I observe that these class differences still persist. The desi ones have increased in numbers and they have emulated many habits of the angrez’s – they eat pizzas, they watch English movies, they also have girl friends – but the difference persists. Generally, boyfriends and girl friends belong to the same class, and the two classes maintain their distances. It is only a rare one who can effortlessly mingle with both the groups.

How far this division can be rationalised, and how this division helps one group in being successful in life at the cost of the other; how this creates a false sense of superiority in one class and a lifelong sense of inferiority in the other? – this is for the society to decide.

However, dear readers I will love to see your observations and experiences in the comments section.

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Technically Not Possible – 3

In The Mess

There was the usual bonhomie that you normally expect in the staff mess; a hum of chatter, Hi’s, Bi’s and clatter of the cutlery.

Malhotra and Jatinder were having their lunch.

Jatinder was telling him about the great divide. ‘Sir, our IT people know that they working for a company whose core business has to do with farming. Not IT, in short. So, when someone talks with you he or she understands that you can easily lose your way in the jargon. That is the first trick that these experts normally play when they are not in a mood to do something, or when they are confronted with something that they do not understand.’

‘I half suspected this. Profession wise we – they and us – are walking on two different planes.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Jatinder noted that he was being included in the they – which was the proper approach. ‘Sometimes there is this attitude that the IT person thinks that he is an expert in a knowledge based field – and hence is walking on a higher altitude – than you and me, since we are concerned with such mundane things as seeds, soil, water and digging!’

‘So, they are the intellectuals and we the hands-on types, eh?’

‘Yes.’ Jatinder said taking in one spoonful of dal makhani. The guy cooks really well, he thought, the only trouble was now he will start feeling sleepy!

‘Don’t they want to show something, something to write home about?’

‘We do have ’em. But they are very few. They do not stick around for long. They get out of here and go on to join good IT companies. They do not like to remain stuck in some non-IT place like this. After all, we are farming people at the end of the day: It lowers their market value.’

‘So we are stuck with the half hearted types.’

‘Yes.’

‘Better ones always give their best, whether they like some place or not; whether they are adequately paid or under-paid. It is in their blood.’

‘Hum…’

‘But we lose them very fast!’

Malhotra knew Jatinder very well; he was a man of passion. When he took up some job, then it was not a job for him, it became passion. He had that perception that only very few have, those who are completely in tune with what they are doing.

Jatinder continued, ‘What I have found is that slowly this place has acquired a character. What can be loosely called laziness; or you may call it comfort – most of the technical staff is very comfortable.’

‘Comfort with the job that they doing?’

‘No, Sir. They are comfortable with what they are doing and the way they are doing it. Because,’ here Jatinder took a deep breath and the sadness was all over his face. ‘Because, Sir, they are doing what they want to do it and they do it the way they want to do. I think you get my point.’

When Malhotra looked up Jatinder looking quizzically into his eyes.

‘I think I understand what you want to say.’ Malhotra said remembering ‘technically not possible’ dialogue he had with Sankar.

They kept on with their lunch, the sense of helplessness and anger only somewhat alleviated by the taste of dal makhani and the aromatic basmati rice.

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Technically Not Possible – 2

Revolution to Evolution 

When Sankar left the room Malhotra sat there staring in the blank — the image of the rocket still disturbing his mind.

‘Surely, this is possible,’ he mumbled to himself. He grabbed the intercom and asked Jatinder to come over for a tea.

Jatinder was the man the Boss had advised him to fall back upon in case he needed any advice. ‘He is a common sense man,’ Boss had said, ‘and full of ideas. Call him anytime you get stuck somewhere; he has got the mind to pull you out of any rut that you ever find yourself in!’

Just after five minutes Malhotra discovered what a sage advise his Boss had given. Over a cup of tea he heard Jatinder saying things which were echoing his innermost thoughts.

This place sure has got a problem!

When Jatinder left the room he did so with a specific brief: how to pull out the place from a pensioners’ mindset and get the people to use their brains. He himself had found it quite amazing that people had stopped using their brains in a domain considered to be nerds’ bastion.

Jatinder came from a village lying deep in the interiors of Punjab. It was not a very backward area, as, say, you will find in, say, Rajasthan, or Andhra. Punjab’s terrain is covered with a maze of canals, so even though there was not much prosperity in his village, there was no poverty either.

His parents desired their son to evolve out of the fields and become a man of prosperity which they had been unable to create out of their small field. After completing his graduation from Patiala he started his career as a salesman selling pumps to the farmers.

Soon his imagination was captured by the computer revolution that was taking hold of not only the country but the entire world. Then he got an opportunity to work in the IT Section of his company in Ludhiana.

From Ludhiana to Delhi at the IT office of a big company manufacturing farm equipment was just a matter of evolution, and he had enjoyed every step of his way on this journey.

Just like in Army here too he found a great divide – IT vs. non-IT – on the lines of Army vs. civilian! Having worked on both sides of the great divide he became the company’s man for all seasons. He was always brimming with new ideas.

‘A farmer’s mind is always fertile,’ he often said with a wink.

He had been watching computer revolution sweeping the world around him – he had an intuition he was being witness to a true change: the kind of change that had the potential to take mankind to the next stage of evolution. The bulky tubes gave way to lean chips; sloppy Cobol gave way to smart C: there were so many layers to this revolution that his mind boggled at the sight of a computer.

At that time computers were so big that they filled entire halls. Their blinking diodes gave an inkling of the power that was working behind those bland panels. They had to stand in rows to be able to get the ticket to get their slot of one hour in the Computer Center of the University. And then they punched cards like mad on those punching machines – the pounding sound of the keys was to him like white noise from the outer space!

When he joined the computer center of his first company they were working on PC XT’s which slowly gave way to PC AT’s. By the time he switched job and joined the other company people had started working on the PC 286 – it was the name of the chip which was being celebrated like a celebrity; the magazines were full of the genius of this new wonder kid.

Then came 386, the super chip! He still remembered the excitement that filled the entire computer center when he brought the first piece of this super PC to his office. People came to have a look at this wonder. They touched it and felt it like it was from another planet.

‘You know, the power within this small machine is more than that of that big machine occupying that room!’ they told each other pointing towards a mini computer that needed a room all for itself.

But like other celebrities, the age of this one also was very short – soon it gave way to 486 and then very rapidly to the Pentium series.

The rest is history!

In the meantime – as the gamut of activities covered by computers kept on expanding from servers to networks, to graphics to media and what not – it became more fashionable to call this new Industry as IT Industry rather than the Computer Industry. It made more sense too.

With this, Jatinder too, who had started out as a computer expert, evolved into an IT professional.

 

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Technically Not Possible – 1

The Call

Malhotra just stopped short of pulling his hair out. They were already thinning anyway. The Time!

He had arrived here just a few days back. Last month, when he came to know that he was being posted to the IT Division of his company he was very excited. His creative juices had started flowing at the prospect of getting a chance to do something innovative and constructive.

Though he was not an IT professional he understood the way IT had touched people’s life across all spheres by bringing about fundamental changes in the way we work or play or entertain or even look at the world. With IT at your command only imagination was the limit!

He was excited that he will be proud of many innovations that he would have helped bring about by the time he leaves this Division.

But, everybody did not share his enthusiasm, as he came to realize soon after his joining at the Division. Not only that the environment lacked zest and energy — quite surprising given that fact that the Division was staffed mostly by a younger lot – just out of the College – but it had a laid back quality which suited more a Retirees’ Club home than the youth filled IT wing!

Or was it that times had Changed? Only future will tell…

The incident that had agitated him now was an interaction with the IT expert, Sankar. He had swept aside all his ideas by one single line, ‘This is technically not possible, Sir!’

‘But how could it be? This is such a simple task?’

‘Maybe it looks simple on the face of it, but with the advent of new technology, this is not possible to do, Sir!’

What infuriated him more than anything else was the nonchalant way with which the statement was spoken rather than the prospect of disappointing his Boss who had assigned him some task, for which Malhotra had called Sankar.

He stopped the surge of anger rising in him, and keeping his voice as soft as he could, asked Sankar to go back to his seat and carry on with his work.

Last night Malhotra received a call from the CMD of the company. He was dozing off after having taken the dinner while he was supposedly watching the TV. But he did not know when the tiredness overtook his senses and he drifted off to a world lying somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, where the characters from the TV soap were hopelessly mixed up with real life situations.

‘This is a call from the CMD Sir’, his wife Saroja was telling him, all the while making gestures with her hands asking him to wake up quickly.

Only half comprehending what Saroja had just said he caught hold of his mobile and mumbled, ‘Yes Sir, Good Night…Good Evening, Sir!’

‘Ah, I can see that age is finally catching up with you!’, Boss said in half jest, ‘Already feeling sleepy? Where is that Malhotra who was fresh like a peer even at eleven 0′ clock in the evening!’

Malhotra noted how the word ‘evening’ had been used jokingly. By now the sleep was completely gone from his eyes. He peeped at the watch. It was quarter past nine.

‘Malhotra, I was just chatting with Mathur, you remember the guy who is heading our Frankfurt office? He wants access to our central database. Over the ‘net. So that they could take some critical decisions in real time. OK?’

‘Yes, Sir, I am getting it’, said Malhotra though it took him a few seconds to mentally revise the terms that were still new to him – access, database, real time. But he was getting used to them.

‘Malhotra, I think he makes sense. It will help grow our business. Fast decision making is extremely important these day, as you know.’

‘Yes, Sir!’

‘So,’ Boss said on the other end of the line, ‘See to it that we are able to provide him what he wants. I will wait for a call from you to know how much time it will take. Shouldn’t take much, I think. Considering that now we are able to send a rocket that is visiting each and every planet of the Solar system, eh? Quite unthinkable a few years back! OK, Malhotra, think over it. Good Night!’

‘Good Night, Sir.’

With a soft click the line went blank.

The sleep was now completely gone from Malhotra’s eyes, and he was deep in thought. Then he noticed Saroja who was looking at him with questioning eyes as if asking, ‘Is everything fine?’

‘Yes, yes’, he indicated with a reassuring nod.

Then he added a reminder in his mobile to talk with Sankar the next day. He could not help but not forget the allusion to the planet hopping rocket.

 

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Smile: Little Action That Creates Happiness

I understood the power of a smile one day, when I was out strolling, my tiny toddler son in my arms. He was peeking behind me, when this happened.

I live in a neighborhood where people are generally interested in each others’ affairs, and when they meet you they want to hear latest updates. The last time that they met you might be as late as today morning or as early as one hour back!

‘Pokey!’, you may say; particularly if you are coming from a stiff upper lip, formal kind of environment. Well, it depends which side you are on.

I am quite sure, if you can drop your guard juts a bit, and can convince yourself that your life’s secrets are not that damn earth shaking, say as that of CIA or Mossad, then you will find lots of active listeners here, tons of advice and dozens of shoulders to cry on!

Slowly, you will become part of the ‘gang’, will have all the latest updates up your sleeves; but, most important, you will find yourself to be part of this large family.

So, when I heard a ‘Hello’ from behind my back, coming from someone I did not recognize, I was not surprised.

I stopped. The elderly gentleman, who happened to say this salutation with an energetic voice came from my behind and started shaking hands with my son, saying, ‘Son, you made my day. You have given me such a sunny smile!’

The gentleman then took him in his arms, said a few sweet words, handed him back to me, said bye to both of us and strolled on, a happy smile on his face!

My son was still giving a toothless cheerful smile, this time looking at me, happy with the conversation!

Unknowingly to him, he had just created a new smile in the world!

This small incident opened my eyes towards the power of a smile. I started observing that I tend to like people who smile at me when I meet them, rather than those who don’t. I am happier in the company of those who keep a pleasant, smiling expression on their faces, as compared to those who are always grave or neutral.

 

Starting a ‘Happiness Movement’

 

From then on I have made it a point to always smile when I meet some one, and always maintain a pleasant expression while I am with some one; even when I am having an earnest discussion on a contentious topic, on which I differ with the other person.

My purpose of sharing my experience with you is that I want to encourage you to start smiling more and more, and thereby start a ‘happiness revolution’. Do this as your contribution towards making this world a better and happier place to live in.

Every drop…err…smile counts!

There are many compelling reasons for you to want to smile more and more, some of which I have described below –

Smile Makes You Feel Good

 

When you are happy you smile. But the reverse is also true. Your emotions and facial and physical expressions cannot go against each other. If you keep on smiling for some time, your mood will change.

Try to smile when you are angry, or sad: you will notice that your anger, or sadness, gets reduced a little bit, making you feel better.

 

Smile Is Contagious

 

Have you ever noticed that when some one smiles at you, you smile back? This is almost spontaneous. That’s how my son was able to create a new smile in this world!

Why not start a chain reaction of smiles? Your smile will have a multiplying effect. The more you smile at others the more it spreads.

Let it go viral! This ripple affect is going to make the world a happier place! This happiness will come back to you some time in future: what you give away comes back to you!

Smile Costs Less

 

I am not talking about money, but the physical effort involved in smiling.

Smile requires less effort than a frown. You make use of 11 muscles when you smile; while there are 1 muscles collaborating in your frown!

So, if you have a choice between the two – smile!

 

Smile Is Anti-aging!

 

You always knew that when you smile you look younger and more attractive.

Now, the findings of studies conducted by research scientists at Max Planck Institute, Berlin have added another bonus to smiling!

Their experiments demonstrated that the age of ‘happy faces’ was under estimated by observers; while the actual age of neutral faces could be easily guessed. Women were found to be looking three years younger than their physical age.

You just found another reason to smile!

 

Smile Is Good For Health

 

A research conducted by Loma Linda Research Institute has finally proved what was always suspected – that laughter indeed lowers stress hormones and boosts the immune system. It also increases the neutral killer cells, whose function it is to fight with tumor and virus cells.

Doctors also believe that people who laugh more have less changes of being inflicted by the heart disease.

 

Smile To Make It A Better World!

 

So, when you smile at others, and start a chain reaction, you are actually doing a huge service for the humanity: you are spreading good health, you are multiplying happiness and you are making the world younger!

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‘What Do You Do While Commuting?’

Commuting to workplace is a daily chore. And unavoidable. Previously it used to be buses, now metro railway. With the change in the mode of travel has come certain changes in habits.

Travelling in buses was not a very pleasant experience. The dust, noise, heat, wind – there were so many botherations you had to put up with. But what could I do? I had to reach the workplace; and travelling by bus was certainly preferable than travelling on my own two wheeler – the only mode of travel I had at the time! Travelling on my scooter would have meant all the above plus the stress of negotiating the wild and unruly traffic of Delhi! On any given day – I would have liked to avoid that tension.

In Delhi, driving a scooter always gave me jitters – it was as if I was negotiating through a play of life and death! It always amazes me how Delhiites risk their lives driving so rashly!

It was not so back in Jhansi, where I purchased my scooter – the first vehicle that I purchased. The traffic was less – unruly but negotiable. On some roads I enjoyed riding my two-wheeler – pulling the hand accelerator all the way back – riding on an almost empty road, feeling the air on my face, hearing it fly past my helmet with a whoosh!

I had just learnt driving; my inexperience gave those drives an extra thrill – the ride became riskier than it would have been for an expert driver: the seat seemed to be too high, speed too fast, curves too tight, speed too fast!…I remember a ride that I really enjoyed, albeit mixed with stirrings of trepidation. I took my wife from Jhansi to Orchha, the temple town. I had not yet become an expert driver, we were newly married, I was not so sure about the route to the temple town, and I was concerned about the safety on that road – all these factors made me a little jittery, which was reflected in the speed with which I completed that ride — a little more than my normal-speed-on-the-highway…I was pleased to learn later on that she thoroughly enjoyed that trip, including the ride to-and-fro. I still have extremely beautiful and memorable photographs of that visit!

When I came back to Delhi after completing my tenure in Jhansi, I tried to take my scooter to my office presuming that I will get used to the roads of Delhi as I had got used to the roads of Jhansi. But it was a qualitative change: the traffic was unbelievably unruly and fast, a free for all — I just couldn’t accept the idea that every day I was risking my life to commute to my office – the ride to and back from office was horrifying! I made up my mind after a few days against commuting on the scooter and took to buses – chartered buses, as they were called, being buses exclusively run for office people under a sort of pooling system.

During the initial days, it was a novel and exciting experience. Away from the noise and hustle of the public transport buses, safely ensconced in the cozy environment consisting of similar people, who were also polite and well behaved – what was that if not the icing on the cake? Every trip exuded the flavor of a homecoming!

Some of my initial experiences in these buses made me quite emotional! For example, once when I was travelling with my wife a person started distributing prasad of Tuesday. Suddenly we felt as if we were the part of a family: it was almost as if we were well looked after and taken care of!

Another experience of those initial days makes me feel proud to this day and made my workout chores in Jhansi worth all the hard work that I put into them!

During my initial tryst with these buses, I was going to my office in a chartered Bus. I was standing, with my hand firmly holding the bar overhead. I used to be very proud of my grip, and was quite certain that nobody could disengage it; but I was not aware that it was going to be tested that day! The bus was moving with fairly high speed, not that anybody was unhappy with the fact, all of us being in a mood to reach workplace as early as possible! Suddenly the bus driver applied brakes, and a shockwave went within the bus from front to the rear. Everyone was jolted wherever he or she was standing; with many passengers falling over each other.

I, with my firm grip, was not moved much, physically I mean. But there was a plump lady standing next to me. She got hold of my free arm, yet she fell down the stairs of the bus, still holding me in her panic. However, I did not lose my grip, she got hold of herself, and by dragging herself up the stairs with the help of my arm, she again got back to her feet…and thanked me! Later on I heard her telling one of her friends that she was saved due to my grip, since she weighed more than 80 kilos in weight!

Did I feel proud!

Travelling has always been an exciting activity for me – even if it is a simple commute to my workplace! The changing scene outside the window always catches my imagination and sets my mind on fire.

An activity that gels well with travelling is reading a book. I have finished so many books while travelling – mostly while commuting to and from work.

An interesting place to observe people, and how they pass the commuting time is inside the Mumbai’s Metro trains – the old ones! The variety that I observed there is simply marvellous. Besides the most obvious activity – sleeping! – that people indulge in there is another one that seems to occupy man’s fancy- playing cards. Generally the office bag is converted into a makeshift table – no mater whether you are standing or sitting – ways can be devised to keep the bag steady – on somebody’s lap, on two arms from two participants in the game. The owners of the arms will keep on changing, to share the burden – but the game must go on!

Then you find bhajan tolis, groups of people singing religious songs – in various languages.

While commuting in Mumbai locals of yore I began wondering the kind of skills that can be woken up in you by the mere act of commuting. Some commuters have become experts in judging the names of the local stations by their smells, and others by their sounds! The sensory skills are really important for survival, and surviving the local commute in Mumbai’s locals was a skill that had to be learnt over a period of time.

But that is a separate subject…more on it some other time!

 

 

 

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Are Indians fool, or, Have Indian Intellectuals Lost Touch With The Ground?

The above heading says all that I wish to convey..and yes, definitely I am referring to yesterday’s thumping majority achieved by Narendra Modi panning across the length and breadth of India.

But the Indian intellectual class – the left leaning, entrenched class, that controls the entire academia and press – thinks otherwise. Going by their utterances, such a victory by Modi forbodes ill for the country, reflects the bad judgment of Indians, and the triumph of majoritarianism over the rational and secular mindset.

It is true that a common man does not get invited to panel discussions, does not has his views published in Newspapers, does not have books published in his name. It is the intellectual class, which does all that. Our common sense gets us to think that these thinkers will become the guiding lights of the junta, and help the nation think clearly and rationally.

But, it is such a sorry state of affairs in India that the class which is supposed to proffer guidance, itself looks so muddled and dishonest in its thinking, that one is forced to think – ‘Which vested interests are they protecting?’, ‘Are they getting paid for voicing such opinions!’, ‘Are they trying to manipulate the public opinion in one direction?’

In a sort of proverbial slip of tongue, one of them almost spills the beans –

“For years, English media, including Outlook, has criticised him. So our jobs would be in peril if he becomes PM.”
— Vinod Mehta

My, my – is this a fear or a confession?

For more interesting quips and tidbits, click here, some of their utterances will leave you stupefied!

 

 

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