General ravings, Potshots

Joyous Dog on the Street with a Thousand Lamp-Posts

O gentle and patient reader, do forgive my two-month-long maun vrat: I’ve been as busy as a Delhi dog on Janpath, the street with a thousand lamp-posts.

We’ll come back to lamp-posts soon.

This hasty scribble is inspired by a sensationally headlined article in today’s Economic Times: here it is.

Fervid Covid Reportage

The headline drew my attention because it suggests that Covid vaccines are dangerous (to put it mildly); and because on the 19th of March I had gone and got my first vaccination.

After reading this article and performing various clinical self-checks to ensure – with some lingering doubts, I admit – that I am still among the living, I applied some fairly straightforward Class 4-level mathematics to examine the veracity and sanity of the article’s argument, using Covid-related statistics available in public domain: for instance, here.

Here are my findings:

  • From the start of India’s vaccination campaign on January 16th up to March 16th 2021, a total of 34,811,861 vaccinations had been administered. As of March 16th, according to the ET article, a total of 89 people had died from ‘adverse events following immunization’ (AEFI).
  • From March 16th to March 29th, another 26,064,874 vaccinations had been administered. During this two-week period and as of March 29th, according to the ET article, another 91 people had died from AEFI.

It is terribly sad that 180 people should have died from AEFI after taking the Covid vaccination.

Yet, it is important to look at these mind-numbing numbers in perspective.

If 89 people died out of 34,811,861 vaccinations, that translates to one death from every 391000 vaccinations given. To put it another way: the chances of my dying from AEFI post-vaccination during the period Jan 16-March 16 were 0.0002%.

If 91 people died out of 26,064,874 vaccinations, that translates to one death from every 286,427 vaccinations given. The chances of my dying from AEFI post-vaccination during this period March 16-March 29 were 0.0003%.

By the Nine Sacred Whiskers of the Holy Bandicoot, what this means is that the chances of my dying from AEFI because I took my Covid vaccine on 19th March have increased from 0.0002% to 0.0003%. That’s a whopping big jump of 0.0001%.

An increased chance of my dying, of one in a million!!

What is Government of India doing in the matter?

Why have nationwide agitations not been launched on this issue?

A gentle chewing noise distracts me from the screen. It is the Resident Gecko, sprawled on the wall and nibbling contentedly on a small fly. “A pedestrian analysis,” it murmurs. “Why don’t you compare your mortality statistics with the number of pedestrian deaths on Delhi roads each year?” It swallows the fly and disappears behind the curtain.

I follow my colleague’s advice. It turns out that 678 pedestrians lost their lives on Delhi roads in 2019 – the latest data available.

Imagine that: 678 unfortunate pedestrian deaths in a population of 19,000,000. That’s…wait a minute…one pedestrian death among every 28,023 people living in Delhi.

Which means…the chances of my dying from being run over by an SUV, a road roller or even a camel are higher than 0.003%; that’s thirty-in-a-million chance of dying.

That’s nearly 10 times higher than the chances of my dying from AEFI.

So, I think I will go get my second vaccination as scheduled on April 29th. Of course, I’ll try hard not to get run over on the way to the vaccination centre.

As for the ET article, I can only apply Andrew Lang’s observation: “it uses statistics the way a drunkard uses lamp-posts: for support, not illumination.”

Be merry, be well.

General ravings, Potshots

Municipal Kosher

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has provoked this beef.

A few days ago, the MCD ordered that all meat-vendors and all restaurants in the Capital must forthwith declare whether the meats they serve come from animals that have been slaughtered by halal or jhatka.

Why is the MCD so concerned about our diet?

Well, the MCD says that this rule is important because for religious reasons, Hindus and Sikhs are not supposed to eat halal meat but eat only jhatka meat; whereas for religious reasons Muslims are not supposed to eat jhatka meat but eat only halal meat.

The execrable sketch below—created from elements I’ve stolen from the usual (quoted) sources and embellished to suit the context—expresses my views on this subject of paramount municipal importance and notional nutritional significance.

[Thanks to: wwww.vecteezy.com (hen); drawingtutorials101.com (buffalo; depositphotos.com (pig); kindpng.com (goat)]

As diet—especially anything that is said or written about things like beef or pork or halal or jhatka or non-veg or veg—is also an area of paramount national sensitivity, and I don’t wish anyone to take offence at this cartoon and chase me through the streets with long sharp weapons with intent to deprive me of my sacred, albeit ageing, secular organs (whether by jhatka or halal or both), I hereby hastily and solemnly swear and declare as follows:

  • That I have eaten, eat and shall eat anything at all that is served with affection and love.
  • That I have enthusiastically and of my own free will been non-vegetarian since the age of four, when my dear lifelong friend and sister Ranjana (then five) fed me on regular basis with an assortment of beetles, bugs, ants, and miscellaneous fauna painstakingly gathered from our garden in Shillong (they were quite tasty, I recall…though I’m not sure whether they were halal’ed or jhatka’ed).
  • That I have cooked, do cook, and will cook food— vegetarian mainly but also non-vegetarian—for my own survival and for friends (who have so far survived my cooking)
  • That I make utmost efforts to be gentle, humane and cause minimal pain when I cut, chop, break, crack open, peel, or otherwise assassinate the raw materials – be they cabbages or coconuts, eggs or eggplants.  
  • That I count, among the greatest honours I’ve received in life, the privilege to hold the halal knife on the occasion of Bakr Id, when a lamb was sacrificed at the home of my dear lifelong friend and brother Nisar (the ceremony was profound; the lamb was delicious). 
  • That I still do believe and hold true the principle that my vegetarian parents taught me as a child—that what a person chooses to eat or not eat is entirely his or her personal business, just as what religion a person believes in or does not believe in is entirely his or her personal business.

In conclusion, may I offer the following haiku to the Officialdom of the MCD:

Free thy Municipal brains

From rank abattoir strayings…

‘Stead, clean the choked drains!

Musings, Potshots, Remembering

Harvesting Human Riots?

This one is especially for my dear, tolerant and genuinely Communist friends  – who I believe are as different from today’s ‘Left Liberals’ as Indrajit Gupta was from Lavrentiy Beria

I’ve been filled with a sense of foreboding since yesterday, December 10th.   Filled with memories of January – February 2020.

On 31st January, 2020, after two  months’ mixed feelings and foreboding about the nature and direction of the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh and elsewhere, after two months’ of being buffeted and thoroughly addled by conflicting high-decibel media messages all purporting to present truth, I took a train down to Shaheen Bagh to see  and judge for myself what was going on there. I spent half a day wandering around in Shaheen Bagh and its neighbourhood.  I was appalled and disgusted at what I saw and learned from that visit; I wrote that the so-called anti-CAA protest in Shaheen Bagh was in fact a brilliantly conceived Pilot Project for Mass Murder, a plot to spark off countrywide Hindu-Muslim riots.  I also pointed out who I believed were the primary organizers of this diabolic Project: assorted self-proclaimed Left-oriented riffraff, including university students’ unions, rabble-rousing university faculty, and their obedient faculty-challenged followers.

I was also convinced, and wrote so, that besides the Left, every other political formation in India—including the ruling BJP —supported the Pilot Project for Mass Murder in Shaheen Bagh, overtly or covertly.

Because, with the Ayodhya–Babri Masjid case resolved once and for all thanks to the Supreme Court of India, all politicians and their hangers-on, Left and Right and Communal and Casteist, were desperate to find a lasting inflammable issue that could keep the fires of communal division burning between Hindu and Muslim, to be conveniently fanned at will in future election campaigns.

And what better long-lived inflammable issue than a good old-fashioned communal riot?

It didn’t take long after my visit for the Pilot Project to be implemented.

Communal riots began on 23rd February in Delhi and raged for the next five days. Officially, 53 people were killed.  

The organizational skills of the street-smart Left had proved their mettle yet again.

Of course, there’s no evidence that the Left were behind it all.  There never is.

For the simple, time-tested reason, that when the forest fire finally dies after raging for days, no one really cares about or looks for the little matchstick that started it in the first place.

No one really cares or looks…especially when all political parties and their captive media houses have benefited from the fire.

And so, 53 murders and nine months later, there are still hundreds of families in grief and pain in Delhi…and so one is responsible.

I declare without shame that even in my horror at the carnage, I was relieved the toll in the riots was ‘only’ 53 and not 530, or 53,000.  

Because, gentle reader, I do believe that that was what the politicians would have liked: to see thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed, lakhs displaced.

Especially, the politicians of the Left and the Congress.

Because, for these two formations, BJP leader Narendra Modi’s greatest crime is that under his watch as Prime Minister since 2014, there has not been a single major riot comparable to the great riots of yore: Gujarat 2002,  Bombay 1992-93 (oh…no one talks about that anymore, because the murderous Muslim-hating Shiv Sena is today Secular), Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Meerut 1989, Bhagalpur 1989, Delhi 1984 …and so on ad nauseum back to Partition 1947.  

For Modi’s rule to be without riots goes against the Left—Congress Narrative, you see. 

According to the Left–Congress Narrative, the advent of Modi Sarkar should have heralded the murder of Muslims and other minorities on a scale that would make Comrade Stalin appear to be Mother Teresa.

By the Grace of Allah and Krishna and Marx large-scale communal rioting hasn’t happened yet…despite the best efforts of gau rakshaks, Shri Ram Sene and other fanatical Hindu groups.

But the fear-mongers of the Left and Congress haven’t stopped trying.  They just love their Narrative about Modi.

So much so, they will alter Reality to suit their Narrative; they will use Fear, and its dread sibling-twins Hatred and Rage, to push innocent people to the brink of unreason.

And that’s why again I am troubled and filled with foreboding.

I fear that where they failed in pitting Hindus against Muslims, the Left Liberals now seek opportunity in pitting Farmers against Government.

It’s the 11th of December. It’s three days since the Bharat Bandh that was called by Congress, CPI(M), and affiliated political riffraff on December 8th to express their ‘solidarity’ with the farmers of Punjab and Haryana who are camping peacefully on the borders of Delhi and seeking repeal of the recently passed laws that they believe will threaten their (farmers’) interests and livelihoods.

I’ve been filled with admiration for the farmers and their collectives, for stoutly refusing to allow any political parties or political voices to hijack their own peaceful movement.

I was filled with joy on 10th December: because the Bharat Bandh had arrived and departed like an autumn cloud, with much noise but no rain; with much Opposition chest-thumping but without any major violence or loss of life.

But today, December 11th, I see the unholy Left groups gathered alongside farmers belonging to the Left-backed Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) at Tikri, on Delhi’s borders.

I see the same people and hear the same voices that whipped up paranoia and anger over CAA among the bewildered Muslims of Shaheen Bagh during prime-time hours. They wave posters of their heroes—among them well-known Gandhians such as Sharjeel Islam, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira—and demand their release from jail where they currently await trial for planning or instigating large-scale social discord including riots.  

Photo: courtesy The Wire; https://thewire.in/rights/farmer-protests-arrested-activists-academics

Asked what their heroes or indeed they themselves have to do with the farmers’ movement, the Left supporters declare that they are simply observing ‘Human Rights Day’.

I wonder: do the Comrades actually mean ‘Human Riots Day’?

To them I say – foolishly and wistfully hoping they might listen to counsel from a 64-year-old fossil who hath seen much death, much pain:

Anarchy’s Romance rebounds as Terror, tears reason asunder

Hymns of Peace will not then calm thee to slumber

Beware, Truth’s Bell will not rouse thee, from pretended sleep

Deceit’s Seed thou soweth; a Violent Harvest shalt thou reap

.

General ravings, Musings, Remembering

WTF should I WFE when I can WFH?

A ramble in 23 disconnected parts

One of the major impacts of the Coronavirus Era is that a whole lot of people are now working from home (WFH). 

I realize, with considerable delight, that WFH is what I’ve been doing since 1993.

That was when, after just about 13 years as a lowly and descending-ever-lower State Bank officer, I awoke one day to the realization that, judging by my precipitous career graph and the learned and corrosive opinions of several influential senior management functionaries, I was both unlikely and unfit to become even the part-time trainee-assistant to a certain peon who had been placed under suspension at the bank’s Thalayolaparambu branch for interesting-sounding offences such as  ‘moral turpitude’ (I was informed by usually unreliable sources that the peon later rose to be the chief vigilance manager of the bank).

It was an epiphany of sorts. I suddenly became aware that all that I’d ever wanted to do since the age of six was to work as  engine-driver or coal-shoveller in the Indian Railways—preferably on the wonderful WP/M Class 4-6-2 Canadian steam engines that hauled express and mail trains.

Or, as Plan B, I wanted to be a writer. 

And so, to resounding cries of joy from the senior bank management functionaries and other colleagues, I quit my memorably erratic and obscure career in the world of banking and finance in September 1992 to begin a new and even more erratic and obscure career as a writer—my dreams to join Indian Railways having, alas, been derailed because I had no engineering or coal-shovelling qualifications, and in any case by the early 1990s almost all the coal-fired steam engines had been phased out.

And so, O Patient and Worthy Reader, here I’ve been ever since then—WFH, scribbling and clacking away with pen and keyboard respectively, often disrespectfully, and sometimes retrospectively on almost every subject under the sun and a fair number of objects well beyond the sun too.

The Coronavirus Era is indeed terrible. Yet,  I’m happy that millions of others can at last discover the joys and benefits of WFH, even in these viroid paranoid times when people can’t sit together in persona to waste pleasant and unproductive hours in meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences, but are forced instead to sit in separatum (or alag alag, beleg beleg or taniya taniya) in their own respective abodes and waste even more pleasant and unproductive hours Zooming and MS Teaming and Webexing their angst at not being able to sit together  in persona to waste time. 

I just love WFH. I believe WFH is infinitely better than WFE (working from elsewhere).  

Join me in a few whoops of ‘WTF should I WFE when I can WFH’!   

Of course, I realize that WFH has been quite different for me than it is for most other people today, in two fundamental ways:

1.  I chose to WFH; a virus didn’t make that choice for me.  

2.  I’m doing something totally different while WFH (writing) from what I was doing before WFH (being a banker); whereas a lot of people WFH today are doing the same things that they were doing before WFH.

So, I’m fully aware there’s no comparing my WFH with your WFH. Still, I dare say there are a few wonderful joys of WFH that all we WFH-ers share.  Like:

  • Avoiding the drudgery and tedium of spending hours driving or otherwise commuting scores of kilometres to and from work—in uncomfortably close proximity with thousands of co-commuters of assorted aggressiveness, aromas, and angularities.
  • Doing the same amount of work – or often, much more work – from the comfort of home, where you can take breaks for tea and coffee  and snacks and a stroll and a quick goof-off or even nap as often and for as long as you like.
  • Learning new or long-forgotten skills – like listening to bird-calls, sharing comfortable silence with a friend, chuckling to oneself, reading, reflecting, simply being. 
  • Breathing deeply – even if only through a mask – for scientists claim to have found increasing traces in the air of the rare element oxygen (alas, that blissful state has long since been obscured in Delhi by vehicular and political smog). 

WFH gives me the chance to work flexible hours. I can better manage my time, and so create time in which to do more of what I like to do, as well as explore doing all kinds of new things I always wanted to do but couldn’t or didn’t because of lame reasons like “Got to get up early” or “I’m too tired” or “Where’s the time for that?”

And it’s funny, but even though I’ve been WFH for over two decades, I’ve got more work done since March 2020—during the Coronavirus Era— than I have during the same period in earlier years. 

By ‘work’ here, I mean writing stuff about clean, energy efficient technologies, which I do for a research institute that has – much to my pleasant surprise – retained me as a consultant for over 25 years.

Could my improved productivity be some weird synergistic effect of WFH and Covid-19?  

Many a night these past six months have I tossed and turned sleeplessly while exploring this idea; twice have I fallen right off the bed and into deep sleep. But still I have no answer.

Enough to say that besides posting a dozen blogs since March, I’ve also started to write about seventeen much longer pieces about far more serious things as well. Things like:

  • The rapid spread of Left Liberal ideologies among red ant colonies in the National Capital Region
  • Violent conflicts over power stealing and parking rights among members of Resident Welfare Associations and Cooperative Housing Societies in Delhi, and their striking parallels with violent conflicts among members of Lok Sabha, state assemblies, and media houses over power broking and barking rights
  • An interim report on my ongoing psycho-sociocultural study (tentative title: ‘Growing Influence of News-Reader Squirrels on Main-Scream Indian Media: is Democracy Safe?’ ), which focuses on the behavioural characteristics of squirrels that perch at great heights on trees and buildings and chirrup the day’s news loudly and aggressively with threatening tosses of their heads and tails—mannerisms that have been adopted with great success by leading TV news channel hosts such as Navika Kumar of Times Now and Arnab Goswami of Republic TV.
  • The urgent need for government to seize the opportunity provided by social distancing norms in offices and public places and public transport systems, and implement a National Awareness Mission for EBOLA-PS (Eradicating Body Odour and Like Aromas in Public Spaces)

I’ve also read more books these past eight months than I read during the five year period 2014–2019. These come to mind:

  • The Greatest Show on Earth—the evidence for evolution [Richard Dawkins]
  • Amusing ourselves to death—Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business [Neil Postman]
  • Bridge of Clay [Markus Zusak]
  • Biology of belief [Bruce Lipton]
  • Permanent record [Edward Snowden]
  • Last chance to see [Douglas Adams & Mark Carwardine]

Oh, I’ve also been reading—rather, re-reading with renewed enjoymenta few books that I’d first read in the 1970s and 1980s: like Opus [Isaac Asimov], A History of England [G M Trevelyan], Tribal folktales of Assam [S N Barkataki],  and The Deadly Element [Lennard Bickel].  Oh, and a P G Wodehouse anthology or two, too, in between.

And then, I’ve taken some guitar lessons. From Fender, the US guitar makers, who in April 2020 offered three months’ online lessons for free to people across the world, just to cheer us up during the pandemic!  So I registered at once, and hauled out and dusted off the old guitar, and logged in about 37 lessons.  I’m not sure how much I’ve learned, but I’ve certainly unlearned a whole lot of wrong ways of playing guitar that I’d taught myself 50 years or more ago. And then, while I was still practicing to transit smoothly from G to C, suddenly it was October, and I realized that my three months’ free lessons had long expired and I’d been taking lessons for nearly three months without paying one paisa or cent to Fender.  So I checked with Fender, and learned that they’d quietly and generously extended my free online lessons by four months.

 Just like that. 

That little thing that Fender did meant so much to me.  The memory still brings a warm glow. As do the  countless such little acts of generosity, insaaniyat, kindness and selflessness that millions and millions of people have done and are doing for others, for complete strangers around them and across the world, without fuss and without making a big noise about it and without expecting anything at all in return, least of all publicity.   It restores hope and courage, strengthens faith: that even amidst the roiling clouds of violence and war and hatred and selfishness and cold cynicism that seem to be engulfing the world and filling the minds and hearts of young ones with hopelessness and apathy and numb terror, the essential ‘goodness’ of people will surely endure, shine forth, evaporate the clouds as the warm light of dawn disperses night.  

More on that anon…

In conclusion, O patient Reader, here’s something else that I’ve tried during WFH in the Corona Era: writing a diary.

In junior school, in class 3 or 4, an enthusiastic teacher gifted each of us a diary and asked us to write down something in it daily – thoughts, poems, a paragraph, a line – and read aloud from it after a week or two. Each day’s effort was to be addressed to ‘Dear Diary’. Alas, driven insane by our inane and incoherent ramblings, our teacher soon abandoned the entire project and my diary became a rough book duly filled with doodles and scribbles. But Demented Desire for Dear Diary has blazed on in the heart for over five decades, like a young love remembered.

And so I found a battered old notebook and wrote ‘Diary’ on the cover, and scribbled my first diary post. Here it is, typed verbatim from the original scrawl:

Dear Dairy,

How are you? I am fine.

It’s now just after 23.00. I’ll keep it simple and try to summarize what I did today.

  • Woke at 05:45.  Popped in daily thyroxine goli, dozed off again.
  • Re-woke at 06:20 with rush of energy from thyroxine and smarting elbow from mosquito bite.
  • 06:25–06:50.  Brush-wash routine; brewed pot of tea with ginger shavings, quaffed large mug-full.
  • 07:00–08:00.  Yoga on terrace.
  • 08:00–08:30. Pottered around terrace and balcony, getting some ultraviolet; watered plants on balcony, gave sunbirds a shower, chittered mild colloquial Malayalee insults at squirrel which chittered chaste Gilayree insults back at me in a distinct Haryanvee accent.  
  • 08:30–09:15. Ate a few walnuts and a couple of raisins. Brewed coffee, drank a cup. Shaved. Showered.
  • 09:15–09:40. Made and ate breakfast—a toasted cheese-chilli sandwich, carbonized to nano-scale at the edges, with a fried tomato. Quaffed shot of coffee.  Cooked up lunch (tomato peppery rasam; chaalu sabzi from one small leftover brinjal, one carrot, one potato, segment of lauki; confirmed plenty of rice leftover).   Washed dishes.
  • 09:50–10:15. Settled down at desktop. Read headlines on People’s Daily, The Quint, Indian Express, Times of India. Posted comment on The Quint, knowing full well it might disappear without trace (it did). 
  • 10.15–13:15. Worked at desktop.  In between, took tea and biscuit break, and goofed off to:
  • read blog-post by colleague-writer
  • play one game of chess with computer-jee, which I won in 18 minutes, hitting ‘undo’ only once after making colossal blunder on move 14 (record now: 51% wins and 10% draws at Level 7…haw, preen preen). 

13:15–13:30. Stared at emails, phone messages, small wolf-spider on wall. Processed, replied to and archived/deleted all but the spider, which scuttled off in hot pursuit of energetic ant. (When reports last came in, ant was leading by several spider-stride lengths).

13.40–14.20. Lunch. Aimless one-kilometre stroll around terrace and balcony.

14.25–1715. Back to work at desktop and later at writing desk. 

17.15–18.00. Coffee. Guitar lessons, a bit of practice.

18.00–1840. Walked 4.8 km. The circuit, repeated nine times:  downstairs bedroom – drawing room – kitchen – back to drawing room – up the stairs – { [terrace –  upstairs bedroom – balcony] × 3 } –  down the stairs – drawing room – kitchen – back to drawing room – bedroom.

18.50–19.15. Relaxed on terrace; watched sunset with assorted fauna.  Ate apple.

19.30–20.45. Drummed on clay pots, doumbek, chairs and tables; played kartaals.  Listened to music.  Long chat with brother Bala. Roasted up some murmura with hing-kari patta- peanuts;  ate a kinnam-full.  Sipped mug of chai. Fixed dinner : four geographic chapattis (two shaped like Australia), masur dal.

20.45–21.15. Watched TV: Wion, CNN, Rajya Sabha, Republic TV.  Yelled encouragement at Arnab Goswami as he launched a spirited argument with himself and lost it.

21:15–21:40. Showered. Dined. Washed, dried and put away dishes.

21.45–23.00. Read about 12 pages of book. “Amusing ourselves to death”.  Now scribbling this.

23:00 – Now a little sleepy. Tomorrow I plan to wake early and fnm with rjo3pvm ssokwmd bfs

[Incomprehensible hereafter]  

This diary post is dated Saturday April 11th 2020.

It is my first diary post since 1965.  Alas, it’s also the last.

WFH is wonderful, but in some ways WFH is no different from WFE— a never-ending battle against procrastination.

Jai Hind, Happy WFH-ing, Happy Deepavali.

Musings, Potshots

Ayodhya: a child’s view

Now that the Special CBI Court in Lucknow has exonerated all the accused BJP and VHP leaders of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement from any charges of ‘criminal conspiracy’ in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, We the Wee Wee and Pee Pee People of India may heave collective sighs of relief that the 28-year-old case is over and pray silently and fervently for peaceful times to come.

Alas, we may also rest assured that with this verdict, our wretched politicians and their media-marketing chelas of every hue – saffron, green, white and red  – will only redouble their efforts to fatten themselves and their vote banks by fanning the fires of Hindu and Muslim religious fanaticism, so that the atmosphere remains charged with political lightning, TV anchor thunder, social media storms and affiliated atmospherics till the next Lok Sabha elections are held in 2024.

‘Tis an appropriate time to reflect on how everything seems to change but nothing really does; and conversely and perversely, how everything seems the same but nothing is unchanged. 

So, my dear and long-suffering Reader, here is an article I wrote for the Indian Express back in 2005, on how the infantile religious kooks among us might yet learn a lesson or three about true faith from infants.   

Child’s play

[Indian Express, January 13th 2005: http://archive.indianexpress.com/oldStory/62556/]

Watch a toddler at play with building blocks. She picks up a red block and places it on a yellow one. After deep thought, she selects a green block and sets it down next to the yellow one. Frowning in concentration, with an occasional gurgle of contentment, she continues to build her little edifice of blocks in this way. At length she is satisfied and leans back to admire her creation, a magnificent three-storied edifice.

And then… she brings her little clenched fist down upon it. The structure disintegrates even as she claps her hands and squeals in delight before gathering the blocks again to build another edifice.

The toddler’s just taught us a valuable lesson. That we must not get too attached to human-made things like shrines.

 Sure, it’s fun to build a pretty shrine. Every stone and brick, every cut of the chisel and stroke of the paint-brush, expresses our passionate faith in a loving, all-powerful Protector of the Universe. But when we build our shrine we must remember that its truly enduring value lies only in the very act of its creation.

The blocks and rafters with which our shrine is made will not endure, nor will the sculpture and ornaments that adorn it, nor even the icons we place within it. In time, all these things will crumble even as we, the creators of the shrine, must die. After we are gone, after our shrine has crumbled to dust, the only thing that will endure is the love and inspiration that drove us to build it in the first place.

Does this mean it’s perfectly alright to start tearing down religious monuments all over the place and building others on them?

Of course not.

All it means is that we must not suffer from the delusion that a flesh-and-blood Protector dwells within our shrine, or that She/He is destroyed when our shrine is destroyed!

That One, from whom all creatures and all creation have sprung forth, surely cannot be confined by the walls of any shrine, however magnificent it might be. Or by the codes and rites of any one religion, or by human-made borders.

That One dwells within every speck of life and matter in this Universe.

It’s hard for us adults to see this. But it’s child’s play for kids!

Maybe that’s why the toddler shrieks in delight and claps her hands as she destroys her building-block shrine with a single blow.

I am Creator, Sustainer… and Destroyer!” is what she says. “I create because it’s so much fun… and I break because only by breaking can I make again!”

Maybe all our priests and sants and mullahs should learn from the wisdom of the world’s toddlers.

General ravings

Of a Chinese Egg Poacher & Big Brother

Bala is mad.  He has gifted me an Egg Poacher.

Don’t get me wrong.  Bala’s gifts have always been wonderful and welcome— if extremely original and unusual at times— during the 64 years we’ve voyaged together round the Sun on this planet-sized spaceship.  Bala’s my friend and brother, elder to me by two-and-a-half years.  From as far back as I can remember, Bala’s regarded me as a special uniquely challenged  child who needs kindness, patient mentoring, discreet supervision and occasional interventions.

Hence, his thoughtful gifts, aimed at improving the quality of my life.

I hope to provide more details on Bala and life in my forthcoming book ‘The Brothers Cannabinol’ (any resemblance in the title to a certain book by one Fyodor Dostoevsky is completely intentional), whose synopsis is even now fermenting in cerebral vats before it is distilled, refined and sent for summary rejection by leading international publishing houses.

“No!” I yelled, when Bala called to tell me of the Egg Poacher’s impending arrival via Jeff Bezos’ gargantuan river of merchandise. “I don’t want an Egg Poacher. I don’t need an Egg Poacher. I don’t even like poached eggs.  I prefer omelets or boiled eggs…”

“Exactly,” he interrupted cheerfully. “This Egg Poacher boils eggs too… and does much more besides. In fact, poultry farmers from Guangzhou to Guwahati report  that their hens are clucking in joy and laying twice as many eggs when shown Instagram photos of this fine device. You’ll love it!”

The Egg Poacher arrived two days ago. Clearly, it has been manufactured in the People’s Republic of China; for, extreme care has been taken not to provide trivial and useless information such as the manufacturers’ name and address, date and place of manufacture, and so on. However, it conforms to the Chinese Executive Standard GB-4706 and its ‘Operating Instruction’ leaflet contains a ‘Circuit Schematic’ – both of which are a complete mystery to me (photos below).

Staring at the box, it strikes me that the name ‘Egg Poacher’ translates to Anda Chor (egg thief) in Hindi if you interpret it in a certain way. ..and Anda Chor is such an appropriate name for a Chinese device, at a time when the People’s Liberation Army of People’s Republic of China is trying to poach great chunks of Indian territory from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh…  

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I really like Chinese-made products, as I have since schooldays in Shillong in the late 1960s when we walked down to the sidewalk vendors in Police Bazaar and stared longingly at sleek-bodied, sharp-nibbed, exquisitely-smooth Chinese-made Wing Sung fountain pens which, at nine rupees each, were way beyond our lean resources. The only affordable option most of us had then was to buy the desi Sulekha pens, which were as fat-barrelled as Congressmen, leaked like the Defence Ministry,  and had broad and scratchy nibs that dropped off at the slightest excuse like a flasher’s dhoti or delegates at the UN General Assembly.  

But I digress. Behold: the Chinese Egg Poacher!


And now that I have studied the box and its contents thoroughly and conducted a trial run of the Egg Poacher, I must admit that Bala was right: I love it! Not only because it boils eggs most beautifully; but because its box and its leaflet of instructions have dispelled four months of coronavirus-induced gloom in less time than it takes to … well… boil an egg.  I’ll allow the photos to speak for themselves.  

Inspiring quote (perhaps it is Comrade Xi Jingpeng’s?). It is repeated 11 times on the box and in the instruction leaflet.
Have fan in the DIY…particularly the Egg Custard
Alexipharmic nipples?!
I’ll fill in my warranty card as soon as I know who cares about it
Steaming the eggs
Fan DIY breakfast

Afterthought: Maybe Alexa would know what alexipharmic nipples are? Will someone ask? The term seems to have faded from public mammary…er…memory…

General ravings, Potshots

A ‘Pilot’ Proposal: “Vishaal Ghudashaal” Luxury Resort for MLAs

Dear Reader,

I present below the complete text of a weird yet strangely interesting ‘Pilot’ project proposal for bank finance from India Bulls & Ghotala Bank; I found it in an envelope lying near Reserve Bank of India on Parliament Street, New Delhi.

I’m not sure whether to take it seriously or notand I can’t seem to locate this India Bulls & Ghotala Bank either. What do you think I should do?

Application for Small Business Loan—Sole Proprietorship

A. Personal Profile

1. Name of the applicant

MADHUSUDAN  NIGONI  PERIALINGAM

2. Residential address

Same as my business address (see 8 below)

3. Sex

Heterosexual; 2 to 3 times a week

4. Whether applicant belongs to SC/ST/EBC/OBC?

[Attach copy of Caste Certificate as applicable]

Not sure. However, I can arrange to submit any number of SC/ST/EBC/OBC certificate(s) as required by Bank

5. Technical qualifications

  • 2018-19. Double Diploma in ‘Creative Accounting Practices’ and ‘Advanced Fabrication Techniques’ from Diamond Institute of Business & Fabrication Technology, an affiliate of Nirav Modi Global University, Antwerp.  [Address: D.I.B.F.T. Delhi Campus, Room no. 163, 4th floor, next to A-1 Photo Studio, Laxminagar, New Delhi – 110092]
  • 2016. Discharge-cum-Good-Conduct Certificate issued by Superintendent, Tihar Central Jail,  Delhi on Authority of 3rd Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi
  •  1977. Certificate of Lifelong Unemployability issued by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), New Delhi

6. Line of Activity/Business

HOSPITALITY SECTOR.

7. Experience

I have over 41 years’ experience in Hospitality Sector, as Certified and/or Institutionalized Inmate as well as Visiting Fellow in various public and private Mental Hospitals.

8.  Business Address

Same as my residential address (see 2 above). 

B. Project Outline

(Explain the gist of your project and how and why it is technically feasible and financially viable; detailed documents, excel-sheets, charts etc. may be annexed as required)

The proposed Project is a new venture in a hitherto-untapped realm of Hospitality Sector that promises assured, highly attractive financial returns on investment at minimal risk, while also serving public good by supporting welfare of elected People’s Representatives and strengthening Democracy in India.

AIM

The project involves setting up and managing a Dedicated Luxury Resort for MLAs that will offer secluded, secure and supremely salubrious accommodation for MLAs from across the country who are being targeted and/or lured to defect to other political parties.  

RATIONALE

1. Backdrop

The last few decades of India’s political history has witnessed an interesting phenomenon. In the wake of almost every state assembly election, the newly elected Members of the concerned Legislative Assemblies (i.e. MLAs) are frantically herded together by their respective party leaders and transferred swiftly to Hotels and Resorts (often located very far away), where the MLAs can be strictly monitored and prevented and/or protected from defecting to some other political parties.  A few examples:

  • Currently (August 2020), several score Congress MLAs in Rajasthan are suffering untold agonies in a 5-star Hotel in Jaipur where they have already been corralled for over two weeks.
  • Karnataka, clear leader among all states, has seen its MLAs whisked off to resorts across India in 1983, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2019.
  • In 2016, Uttarakhand MLAs were herded and flown into a resort in Jaipur
  • In 2019, MLAs from Maharashtra were relocated to a resort in Jaipur.  In 2002, the Maharashtra MLAs were spirited away to hotels in Bengaluru.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh too are energetic players in the MLA-Hide-and-Seek game.

2. The Need & Opportunity

While the process of herding and physically transporting the MLAs has matured into a smooth and well-oiled machine (especially with the induction by all parties of fleets of private jet aircraft at public expense), it is very difficult to find enough rooms for all MLAs in any single Resort or Hotel. Usually, the MLAs have to rub shoulders (and occasionally, other limbs and appendages) with tourists and other kinds of aam aadmi riffraff in these 5–star establishments. This poses a grave security risk for all concerned, especially the concerned political party’s future. Also, the available Hotels and Resorts usually do not provide adequate security infrastructure for MLAs against snooping sting-seeking journalists, spies from rival parties and so forth.  These and other factors cause great distress and hardship to the herded MLAs and their party Minders, as well as great financial distress and biological stress to senior party leaders. The overall effect is detrimental to Indian Democracy as envisaged by our Forefathers and Foremothers.

Clearly, there is a huge need as well as opportunity for setting up a dedicated luxury resort exclusively for MLAs in each and every state in India, where the MLAs can be provided with all the comfort and resources— physical, psychical, and moral—that they might need during such times of crisis.

PROPOSAL

The applicant proposes to set up a Dedicated Resort for MLAs in the National Capital Region of Delhi. The Resort, tentatively named “Vishaal Ghudashaal” (English: “Magnificent Horse-Stable” to convey a sense of stability as well as the pleasant atmosphere of horse-trading) will have a capacity to accommodate up to 84 MLAs at a time. It will provide 7-star facilities to its illustrious guests even while ensuring that a Z++ -level security ring prevents any unseemly, uninvited or untoward surveillance or intrusions by reporters, photographers and other outsiders that might disturb the tranquility of the guests.

The Resort is proposed to be set up as a ‘Pilot Venture‘ (inspired by recent events in Rajasthan following the exit of Shri Sachin Pilot, MLA, from the Congress party).  In the long term, it is hoped that this Project can be scaled up to establish similar Resorts in other locations across the country.

Financial viability

[Detailed analyses attached at Annexures 1–18]

  • Occupancy level of the Resort is critical to the financial viability of the Project. Here, the occupancy prospects are extremely encouraging, with as many as 10 states going to assembly polls between 2020–2023 to elect 1260 MLAs, a large proportion of whom are likely to seek refuge in the proposed Resort.
Current Assembly lapses inStateNo. of MLA seats
2020 DecemberBihar243
2021 MarchAssam126
2021 MarchJ & K  87
2021 MayKerala140
2022 MarchGoa  40
2022 MarchManipur  60
2022 DecemberGujarat182
2022 DecemberHimachal Pradesh  68
2023 MayKarnataka224
2023 DecemberChhattisgarh  90
Total1260
State Assembly elections due between 2020-2023
  • Historical data and reports show that a Resort-bound MLA typically receives an incentive of Rs 10–20 crores for remaining loyal to his/her parent party or for switching loyalty to another party [e.g. see this report. This provides an assurance as to the liquidity of the guest-MLAs and their respective political parties, and thereby strengthens and assures the financial viability of the Project. [Thus, even at 50% occupancy in the proposed 84-room Resort for a few weeks at a time, the increased liquid assets of the 42 guests would be in the range of Rs 420–840 crores—please see Annexure 9(c)].
  • The Project requires a capital investment of Rs 875 crores towards construction, finishing and commissioning of the Resort, including ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ infrastructure creation. To meet this amount, the applicant will contribute Rs 87 crores (10%), and seeks a term loan of Rs 788 crores (90%). The applicant will bring to bear his considerable expertise and experience in the Hospitality business to ensure the success of the venture.
  • The Resort is expected to be completed and launched within 36 months of release of the Term Loan. 
  •  The entire Term Loan of Rs 788 crores, along with interest, is projected to be repaid in full within a maximum of 12 months of launching the Resort.
  • The Term Loan may be viewed as a ‘Revolving Fund’ that will mirror the ‘Revolving Door’ dynamics of MLA defections, and enable the financing of more such Resorts in the long term on a sustainable basis. 

Credit facilities required

PurposeAmountRepayment
Setting up and running one 84-room high-security Luxury Resort in NCR Region, to accommodate  MLAs with high defection potential from all political parties across IndiaTerm Loan of Rs 788 crores  Within 12 months of commissioning the Luxury Resort
Working Capital Cash Credit of Rs 30 croresOn demand

I/We certify that all information furnished by me/us is true; that I/We have no existing borrowing arrangements with IB&G Bank; that no legal action is currently being taken against me/us ; that I/We shall furnish all other information that may be required by you in connection with my/our application, that this may also be exchanged by you with any agency you may deem fit; and that you, your representatives, or any other agency as authorized by you, may, at any time, inspect/verify our assets, books of accounts, etc., in our factory and business premises.

Date: 28th July 2020  

Place:  Delhi