Friday, December 2, 2011

Mama's boy and insensitive husband?

More often than not, I have seen many women frown upon their husbands/boyfriends being very insensitive, in terms of remembering birthdays, getting cues, pampering their wives or non-cooperation in shopping etc. Also, I have heard many women complain of how their male partners are obsessed with listening to their moms and it terribly interferes in their love life.

I have, thus, been compelled to probe deeper into such complaints from women and find out why there is a common discomfort among women about their spouses being insensitive as husbands and also being mama's boys. Many women think that it is the mom who 'pollutes' the son's mind and instigates him to listen less to the wife and more to the mom. This assumption needs deeper analysis. 

I haven't conducted and in-depth field study to come at any conclusions and hence the explanations I am putting forth may appear conjectural and prone to disapproval. Nonetheless, I can boast of having a sizeable and equally distributed sample set of male and female friends who willingly share their "such" experiences with me. Also, I share a substantial amount of comfort with mothers (most of my close friends would agree !!) and so have also been exposed to how mothers feel about their sons and and their daughter-in-laws. Thus, based on my limited yet qualitatively deep understanding, I present here my take on the problem of mama's boys and insensitive husbands.

First of all, I must refute the assumption held by many women that men, in general, are not very sensitive to emotions. On my interactions with various men (many of whom would qualify for being tough and macho) and my own experiences, I can say that men are as sensitive or insensitive as women. Just like all women are not equally beautiful, not all men are equally rough (read 'tough'). 

Most men do cry and most men cry only for women or because of women. In almost 7 out of 10 incidents when men have cried, the reason has been some or the other woman. In cases where a man hurts another man, the response is more violent and does not culminate into crying. Although the frequency of crying is definitely far lesser in men than women, but the intensity of pain felt by men, when they cry, is far deeper. The average time to get back to normalcy after a crying 'session' is far too longer for men than women. While women can console themselves quickly and within hours of crying may resort back to normal activities, men find it very difficult to get over a crying issue and it takes them too long to come out of the depressing feeling. If we consider 'crying' as being an indicator of being sensitive, men are as sensitive as women. (QED !!!)

Coming to the particular cases of sensitive sons and sensitive husbands/lovers. Men can be mapped on a scale of sensitivity (say from 0 to 10), from being totally insensitive (Level 0 - like the villainous rapists of Hindi movies) to being overly sensitive ( Level 10 - like the heroes of Karan Johar movies). Most men would fall in between, more in the manner of a Gaussian distribution. Men also have a uniform level of sensitivity towards all women. This is a trait very different from women. Let me explain how. 

A woman who is highly sensitive to say, flowers and gets 'touched' by the gesture of a man gifting him flowers, would react differently to different men giving her flowers. She would judge the gesture of a man by a myriad other factors rather than just one 'sensitive' gesture. While a wife may like his husband whistling to her from the other room, she would get fiercely angry if some passerby whistles at her.

Men are far more uni-dimensional.  If a man does not like flowers or cards (most men don't), it wouldn't matter which woman sends him flowers. Similarly, if a man is a voracious eater (most men are), he would fall for any woman who feeds him well. (So sons of great cook mom expect a great cook wife and discriminate wife from mom based on cooking skills!!) Thus, though men can be placed on different levels of sensitivity towards women, such sensitivity would be similar for all women on that criteria.

Having established the uni-dimensional approach of men in being sensitive to different aspects (including emotional aspects), I come down to explaining the problem of mama's boys. Most men who are ridiculed (or even mentioned) as mama's boys are the ones who are placed high on the scale of sensitivity. Such men appreciate good food, love, care, look for comfort when in pain and reciprocate love shown to them. As children, these men, thus, become very close to their mothers. Following their uni-dimensional instinct, they show the same behavior towards their spouses and expect the same warmth from their wives. By the very nature of the relationships, wives cannot afford to be so unconditional and forgiving as mothers are and expect  a lot from their husbands. The sensitive men thus find it easier with their moms and wife may feel that the man is being insensitive to her because of being a mama's boy.

The other set of men who are placed low on sensitivity scale, are neither very close to their mothers nor close to their spouses. In fact, they would also be probably not very close with their sisters. This set of men are highly chauvinist, enforce a lot of rules of behavior on the women of their families. They are thus, in design, insensitive to their wives. But then, they are not mama's boy either.

Thus, mama's boys are the ones who are more passionate lovers, who care a lot for their wives and also expect a lot of emotional comfort from them. It is the manly and 'not-a-mama's boy' who is to be more insensitive and cold to the wives emotional needs. Thus, women who think their husbands are mama's boys should feel blessed. They have the material available for passionate lovers and sensitive husbands. All they need to do is shower more love on their men than the mothers do. You can win such men only by giving more love and not for asking more. 

Therefore, do not blame the mother-in-laws for being snatching your husband away, and mom-in-laws should  also not accuse their daughter-in-laws for stealing away their sons. It is only that the men in such cases are the sensitive ones and hence they would attempt to be loving to both the mom and the wife. So live with it ladies, that's how it is.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ek dhakka aur do...

जानता हूँ, थक गए हो
इस समय की  मार से
जानता हूँ, क्षत-विक्षत हो
अरि के असि की धार से

घाव मत देखो अभी
बस वार पर ही ज़ोर दो
हिल गई है नींव दुख की
एक धक्का और दो

                                          आज तक लड़ते रहे तुम
                                          शस्त्र मत छोड़ो अभी 
                                          रक्त बहने दो धरा पर
                                          साँस न तोड़ो अभी

                                          टूटती हो साँस 'गर तो
                                          आस की एक डोर दो
                                          हिल गई है नींव दुख की
                                          एक धक्का और दो

विजय हो या वीरगति हो
ख्याति मिल कर ही रहे
आखिरी दम तक लड़ा वो
अखिल जग ये ही कहे 

पीर का पर्वत खडा जो
इक बार फिर झकझोर दो
हिल गई है नींव दुख की 
एक धक्का और दो.

(यह कविता  मैने रामधारी सिंह 'दिनकर' की कविता "मंज़िल दूर नहीं" से प्रेरित होकर लिखी है)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ek Adhpaka Sa Sapna

एक अधपका सा सपना 

एक अधपका सा सपना है ये 
स्वाद आता भी है और नहीं भी 

मेहनत का सारा अनाज तो उबला है
पर किस्मत का नमक थोड़ा हल्का है
लगन की आँच शायद मध्यम थी
या फिर जोश के मसाले की कमी है

गले के नीचे न उतरे, ऐसा भी नहीं है
पर उँगलियाँ चाट लूँ, ऐसा भी नहीं
क्या इसी अधपके सपने से पेट भर लूँ ?
या फिर से चढ़ाऊं हाँडी उम्मीदों की ?

एक बार फिर मेहनत का अनाज उबले
कटें कुछ अच्छे बुरे दिनों की सब्ज़ियाँ
आँच तेज़ हो लगन की इस बार
और मसाले जोश से भी जोशीले

ज़रा सी मेहर हो ऊपर वाले की
पड़ जाए किस्मत का नमक, अगर सही
फिर से पका लूँ उस सपने को
इस अधपके सपने में तो वो स्वाद नहीं

एक अधपका सा सपना है ये
स्वाद आता भी है, और नहीं भी

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MY Civil Services Interview 2010 (Held on 13th April 2011)

I wrote down my interview on 13th April itself, hours after my interview. But couldn't dare to post it before the results. Having qualified now with Rank 292, am posting my interview script here. As and when the interview marks come, I shall also post the marks I was awarded for this interview.

(Marks arrived on 17th May 2011. I have been awarded 213 out of 300 for the following interview)


Chandra Mohan Thakur

Academic Qualifications       :        B.Tech (Mech engg), IIT  Kanpur, 2006
    Executive Gen. Mgmt. Prog, IIM Bangalore 2007
Job Experience                    :        Areas Sales and Customer Manager, HUL (July 2006 – Present)
Optionals                             :        Sociology and Public Administration
Home City/State                  :        Bokaro, Jharkhand
Hobbies                               :        1. Member, Shiksha Sopan, NGO in Rural Education
    2. Scouting for local delicacies
    3. Reading Non-fiction books
Date of Interview                 :        13-04-2011 Forenoon Session
Interview Board Chairman   :        Lt. Gen. Nirbhay Sharma

(After doing the formalities with the documents etc, I was told that I would be the first one in my group to be interviewed. I told myself that it is good that the board would be fresh in morning and I would get sufficient attention. I asked the official when we would know about the board. He said, “Only when the first person is called. So when you go, then the others will know which board is it”. Well, that meant I would have no chance to react or plan according to the board. So I decided not to think about the board. At about 10 am, an official came and called my name and asked me to accompany him. Midway, I asked him which board was it. He said Nirbhay Sharma. “What!!! “, I screamed in my head. “Lieutenant General Nirbhay Sharma. God knows what he would ask me.” I hadn’t read much about him but thought that being an army man he would be tough and would expect me to be tough as well.

Sitting outside the boardroom, I asked the peon if there was a lady member. He said there was one. I started rehearsing in my mind. “Good Morning Ma’am, Good Morning Sirs”.

By 10:05 am, I was called in. As I walked in, I saw only 4 men and a vacant chair for the lady. I quickly swallowed the rehearsed “Good Morning Ma’am” and said Good Morning Sir. Thinking that I should have said ‘Sirs’, I once again said, “Good Morning Sirs”. Nirbhay Sharma gave a smile and asked me to take seat.

I thanked him and took my seat.)

Nirbhay Sharma (looking into my form): So, Chandra Mohan, I see your bio data is quite loaded. You have IIT, then IIM Bangalore, NCC. Hmm… Now the only thing missing is Civil Services. Huh?

(I grinned, said nothing)

So, you are working as well.

CMT: Yes sir, in Hindustan Unilever as an Areas Sales and Customer Manager.

NS:  You have been working for about four and a half years now? Hmm…

CMT: Yes sir.

(He continues…)So you scout for local delicacies (one of my mentioned hobbies)

CMT: Yes Sir. My job involves a lot of travel and so whenever I go to a place I look for some famous local street food by asking the retailers about it.

NS: and then you have a good helping of it? (grins)

CMT: (blushingly) yes sir.

NS: So, you are a foodie!!

CMT: Yes sir, I am. (Everyone Laughs).

(He asks the first member, a male, to ask questions.)

M1: Chandra Mohan, today is a Restricted Holiday. Do you know on what basis is a restricted holiday decided?

(First of all, I didn’t know if today was a holiday at all, neither did I know anything about a restricted holiday. But it was my first question to be answered. I had to say something)

CMT: Sir, I am not very sure about it, but I think Gazetted Holidays are the ones which are mandatory for all organizations while Restricted Holidays are probably optional. I am not very sure, sir.

M1: Actually, these are State specific. Well, on what basis are they decided?

(I thought, “Dude, I just said I don’t know, why are you asking again?”)

CMT: Sir, I am not aware about it.

M1: Still, tomorrow you will join the government, how will you decide on Restricted Holidays.

(I had to say something now)

CMT: Sir, I would look at the local cultural factors, the religious sentiments of the region and local festivals etc. and decide accordingly..

M1: Ok. How many type of New Years are celebrated in India?

(“Are you obsessed with holidays??” I thought)

CMT: Sir there is one Christian Calendar whose New Year falls on 1st of January (Yeah yeah… as if it was news)

M1: Is it really a “Christian” Calendar?

CMT: Sir, technically it is called the Gregorian Calendar. Then there is Vikram Samvat which is followed by Hindus and whose New Year falls on the first day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra. There is also an Islamic Calendar whose new year I am not aware of and there is the Shaka Calendar whose new year too, I don’t know.

M1: What is the basis of these calendars?

CMT: Sir, they are dependent on different histories belonging to different religions.

M1: No no… I mean are they on lunar basis or solar basis?

CMT: Sir, the Gregorian Calendar is on the solar basis while the Vikram Samvat is on the lunar basis. I am not aware about the other calendars.

M1: When does a new year begin in a lunar calendar?

CMT: Sir, the new year begins from the first day of Shukla Paksha that is, just the day after Amavasya when the new moon makes appearance. The Months actually begin just after Poornima, but New year is celebrated on the 16th day of the first month as shukla paksha signifies new light coming in life

M1: If you see any government calendar, you would notice that there is one official Indian Calendar. What calendar is it?

(The lady member walks in. I pause and wish her good morning. She smiles and sits back.)

CMT: Sir, Pardon me. I missed your question.

M1: I was asking which is the government’s calendar and on what basis is the government’s calendar made? You must have seen the government holidays mentioned on the calendars.

CMT: Sir, I think it is the Shaka calendar but about the basis, I haven’t read much. I do not know.

M1: Fine (Points to the second member, another male)

M2: Chandra Mohan, You were just talking about the New Years (Was I?Dude, it was he who started it. Come on!!) So which New year falls tomorrow?

CMT: Sorry Sir, I am not aware about it.

M2: It is the Tamil New Year.

CMT: Ok Sir. (As if I cared!!!)

M2: Whose birthday is it tomorrow? (Oh Man!! That’s it. I am done with calendars. I had no clue one has to be so thorough on dates. I am screwed big time)

CMT: Sorry Sir. I can’t remember.

M2: Ambedkar’s. (He gave me the look as if I was the most stupid man he had ever seen who doesn’t even remember birthdays. I guess most men have such trouble remembering birthdays, don’t they? L)

CMT: Oh. Yes Sir.

M2: Actually it is a nice coincidence that Tamil New Year and Ambedkar’s birthday falls on the same day. 
Actually it is something like blah blah balh… the way it is for  Sankranti etc.. blah blah blah…

CMT: Yes Sir. (Phew !!!)

M2: So, what is the significance of today in Tamil Nadu? (That’s it. Hands up)

CMT: Sorry Sir. No idea.

M2: What do you know about Tamil Nadu.

CMT: Sir, that it is one of the most developed states of the country….

Nirbhay Sharma: Chandra Mohan!

CMT: Yes Sir

NS: There’s a glass of water kept in front of you. Why don’t you drink some water? Do not get tensed.

CMT: (trying hard to smile) No sir. It’s okay.

NS: No no. Have a sip. Water is a very good thing. It shall help you.

(I pick up the glass and felt like gulping it totally but just took a sip and kept it back)

NS: Now tell us what is happening in Tamil Nadu today which is very important?

CMT: Sir, the elections are taking place?

NS: See, the water helps.

CMT: Yes Sir, it does (Everyone smiles, including me.)

M2: Well, Chandra Mohan, when I was young, while studying Indian Economy we only studied about agricultural economy. But today it is not like that. There is no attention on agriculture and it has lost its share in GDP also. It has also affected the social setup of agricultural families. What do you think?

CMT: Sir, I think that Industrialization and growth of services sector is important for a country’s development. And with development, the share of agriculture in GDP is bound to reduce. But that does not mean that agriculture is becoming less important. It only means that today, agriculture is no longer such a wholesome occupation which can sustain entire families. While twenty years ago, entire family could earn handsomely just by agriculture and they did not need any formal education to make money, it isn’t so today. It is required that members of agricultural family venture into industrial and services sector also and thus the direct dependence of population on agriculture should reduce.

M2: But what would happen to food security? Agriculture is so important for food.

CMT: Sir, the government is very much aware of the problem of food security and necessary attention on agriculture in this regard is being given.

M2: But don’t you think, that despite having self sufficiency in food production, the issue of food security is still so much in debate. Why?

CMT: Sir, the problem in food security is not so much of production, but about distribution, storage, pilferage (M2 starts nodding his head affirmatively, still I continue) of purchasing power and empowerment.

M2: You seem to have travelled much. How do you see the different social settings today?

(I didn’t understand his question well. Still I began)

CMT: Sir I have mostly travelled in Northern India only.

M2: No problem.

CMT: Sir, should I contrast, say Punjab and Haryana, according to their social setups?

M2: No no. I am asking what impacts do you observe of globalization on the Indian Society?

CMT: Well, Sir, Under the influence of globalization, the Indian society is becoming more receptive to modern and western values like democracy, equality, individual freedom etc.

M2: Oh ho!! You are talking about polity and governance. I am asking about impact on society.

CMT: Sir, in society as well, the youth is challenging the caste system and do not go by caste even while marrying. Also, due to expansion of internet, youth is interacting with people across borders and imbibing newer modern values. Yet some of the Indian values are still kept intact for example, the value of respecting elders.

M2: What effect does globalization have on family?

CMT: Sir, industrialization had already brought nuclear families into urban society. Globalization has added to that trend. Also, a growing number of live-in relationships have also been coming up and people are becoming quite comfortable about it. The judiciary also treats it as permissible kind of family system. (An affirmative nod again J)

(M2 passes on to M3, the sole lady member)

M3: I am sorry I am late. Actually I come from Greater Noida, so I guess it is expected. I might have missed on some interesting part of the initial discussion. (I smiled and thought, “no problem lady you came in right when I was being butchered for the numerous calendars we have, you didn’t miss any fun, trust me”) So, I see you have mention about your work in Rural Education

CMT: Yes ma’am, in an NGO called Shiksha Sopan.

M3: Yes. And also you are working in an MNC in sales and marketing. First I would like to ask you about the NGO, Shiksha Sopan. I hope it hasn’t been asked already. And then I would come to the marketing part. First about Shiksha Sopan.

CMT: Ma’am. It is an NGO which was started in 2001 by some IIT Students and Prof. H. C. Verma. I joined it in 2002. It has three goals, Shiksha, Sanskar and Svavalamban, that is, education, character building and self-dependence. Presently we have a fully operational school where we teach till class 8. We also have three evening centres where we supplement the education of students of regular schools. We also have a Gahan Adhyayan Kendra especially focused on children of class 10th and 12th where we target the board exams specifically. In addition to that, we also have a fully functional Science Lab, where the children perform experiments in Physics and Chemistry. These children, whose parents are mostly agricultural labourers and rickshaw-pullers are today quite comfortable with these experiments and also go for science exhibitions. (on the science lab part, she seemed visibly impressed) When I was at IIT, ma’am, I worked as a teacher in Shiksha Sopan for four years. After joining my job, my role has mostly been confined to providing financial assistance and seeking funding for our programmes.

M3: Ok. You are working in marketing sector. So do you work on some specific products?

CMT: Yes ma’am. I look after cosmetics and premium care products like Lakme, Pond’s, Dove etc.

M3: Ok. So you would have heard about the FDI in retail. What’s your take on it?

Ma’am. There are apprehensions regarding the plan of introducing FDI in retail among the unorganized retail sector of India. As the present Indian retail sector is highly unorganized, so the small grocers and mom-and-pop stores are quite apprehensive about the entry of the big foreign retail players. But I think, ma’am, their apprehensions are not well founded. I have noticed that even after the entry of the indigenous organized retailers like the Future’s Group’s Big Bazaar and Reliance etc, these small grocers were quite apprehensive. But only few shops got affected which did not adapt according to changing times.
Most of the stores changed themselves to self service format and with their personalized relations with the customers and the facility of home delivery and credit, they have survived the coming up of the big retailers. So, they are now aware of the challenges they would be posed with entry of foreign retailers and they would be more prepared for it. (She nodded in agreement)

I think it is a ripe time when indigenous organized retail has been around for a substantial amount of time, that foreign retailers should be let into the Indian market. If there are apprehensions, may be we shouldn’t do it at a go but gradually let the foreign retailers enter the market.

M3: What are the present FDI guidelines in retail?

CMT: Ma’am, in case of wholesale, I think 100% FDI is allowed. That is how Wal Mart has come up with its Best Price shops. In terms of retail, I think 26% or 49% FDI is allowed, I don’t remember exactly, ma’am. And so Wal Mart has come up with a Joint Venture in form of Easy Day Stores. Also, ma’am, in case of Single Brand Retail there is 100% FDI and that is how Nike and Reebok have come up in India. The debate presently is about introducing 100% FDI in multi-brand retail.

M3: Hmm… You were mentioning about brands like Nike and Reebok. Don’t you think that in the name of Brand Equity, these products are overpriced and with their entry into rural markets, they would have an adverse effect on the not-so-well section of the society.

CMT:  Ma’am. I don’t agree on that.  I think the big companies are aware of the challenges of the rural sector. In fact, to take an example from my present company, our Dove Shampoo has a great brand appeal. But when we venture into the rural markets we offer the same brand equity in form of low priced sachets. This does not hit the rural consumer’s pocket very badly. Ma’am, with the penetration of media in the villages, the awareness about brands is already there and hence aspirations to experience those brands exist. If the brands deliver what they promise, then I think the rural people can also access these brands in a manner that they get an experience and it doesn’t affect their pocket also. (She seemed quite convinced)

M3: Ok. One of your hobbies is reading Non-fiction books (smiles. I smile back too). And you are in marketing. So have you read the book “Blah-blah-blah” by “Mr. So and So” (I had neither heard of them earlier nor could I hear them now). It is about marketing.

CMT: No ma’am. I haven’t heard about this book. (I felt like saying that I don’t read marketing books and giving her a list of books I read, but I found it unnecessary and so stopped at that)

M3: Yeah. Actually it’s a 1960 book, so you might not have read it. It is quite a nice book about advertising. Never Mind. (She passes on to M4, a male)
M4: (with a big smile) So, Mr. Thakur!! You seem to have a good education and you are working in a reputed company. Why do you want to come to the government?

CMT: (I smiled first and then said) Sir, the idea of joining the government came during one of the CSR Projects that I was working on behalf of HUL. It was Project Bhavishya in Maharashtra where I was posted for a month and we were to help the government in improving supply chain efficiencies in ICDS and PDS. During that one month stay, I travelled to the tribal villages of Nasik and saw what interventions the government was making in those places. I was quite surprised to see the Nasik CDPO very charged up and excited about his job. In one of our conversations I asked him, “why are you so excited about your job. After all it is just a job where you get a salary which is quite less than what I get.” Sir, he answered back brilliantly saying, “What you do in HUL changes the way people look and feel about themselves, but what I do changes the way children in my district grow up. If I work well, then children of my district will grow healthier”. I was quite amazed at his conviction and the satisfaction he drew from the job. (By now I thought, they would give me a standing ovation but they had a pretty blank look on their face.)

Also, as a part of the project we were sent to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu where ICDS works quite well and I visited a tribal village where the excellent electricity supply and tap water facilities in all homes amazed me. I realized the potential that governments had to intervene in the social life of people and I decided I want to be part of it.  Also sir, When I read about Herzberg’s theory I realized that salary etc are only hygiene factors and it is actually the nature of the job…. (I was cut short here L)

M4: But don’t you think that people first join MNCs and then they just want to shift to the government?

CMT:  (my voice got a little firm here and I sounded offended) Sir, I did not join this company because it was an MNC or an Indian company. I wasn’t very comfortable working with machines and I wanted to be in a profession where I had to work with people. That is why I chose marketing. I am now choosing government because I think the interactions with people would be much more here. Sir I had grown up in Bihar in a time when I thought that governments don’t function. So I had plans to join the corporate sector. It was my experience in CSR that gave me the hope that governments can and do deliver well and I wanted to be a part of it.

M4: Hmm… (Gives a big smile again) But you are a science student and you have chosen Sociology and Public Administration as your optional. Don’t you think it is a bit “strange”?

CMT: (I had a bigger smile this time) Sir, In fact it is the science part which is strange in my bio data. I did not have much interest in science subjects but as parents wanted me to go to IIT so I landed up there. I did not perform too well in the Mechanical Engineering papers and it was at IIT that I first got exposed to sociology. I did three courses in Sociology and scored good grades in them and found the subject quite relevant to the happenings around me.

M4: (with a sarcastic smile) Then why did you go to IIT?

CMT: Sir because my parents told me to.

M4: And you didn’t have a choice, right? (said laughingly)

CMT: Yes Sir, at that age I didn’t have a strong conviction to decide my career on my own so I just followed what my parents said. (Everyone smiles )

M4: Also, I hear about a lot of suicides at IIT, especially IIT Kanpur. Why do you think they happen so much? It is so disturbing to know about them.

CMT: Yes sir, there are quite a few cases of suicides and it’s quite sad. In fact, in my four years of stay at IIT, I had witnessed eight suicides and all of them were because of academic reasons. I think the students who come to IITK are mostly school toppers throughout their life and are the blue-eyed boys of their teachers and parents and so they have high expectations of themselves. But at IIT, everyone is a school topper and in a relative grading scenario, some students are bound to be at the bottom. Some students aren’t able to take that downfall so easily and contemplate suicide.

M4: Is that all? Is nothing done about it?

CMT: No sir, at IITK, there is a Counseling Service which functions to ease out the stress in students’ life. A group of six first year students are assigned a second year student as their student guide who also guides them through their initial academic challenges. I was also a part of that Counseling service. Also we have a psychiatrist to counsel the students. I think the students need to understand that one grade up or down wouldn’t have such a huge impact on life. In fact, sir, once I too had scored very poorly in a subject and feared that I might get an F. I went to the professor. Dr. A.K. Mallik to ask him if I had passed the course or not. He told me very nicely that do not worry about one grade in one course because 15 years down the line it wouldn’t matter what grades you got in what subjects. Life is a learning journey and you will need to constantly perform in it.

M4: Ok. (Passes on back to Nirbhay Sharma)

NS: (after a small pause) Chandra Mohan, you were talking about brands some while ago. Have you noticed how fairness and white skin is such a craze in our society and how companies are exploiting this craze. There is this ad in which Shahrukh khan ridicules a wrestler because he uses a girl’s fairness cream and then he is shown using a lipstick also. Don’t you think such ads are quite demeaning? (I had not seen this ad, but I could guess that it is about Emami Fair and Handsome). Also in another ad, a shop girl gives contraceptives in place of change (He was referring to the Lava mobile ad, which I had seen, and also liked). Don’t you think that the morality is being ignored in such advertisements? Or do you think that it is okay in marketing to have such ads and it is just a reflection of the social change?

CMT: (I took a deliberate pause here and thought for some while) Sir, to some extent these ads do reflect the changes that are happening in our society. But I do agree that at times companies go a little overboard in an attempt to be creative and ignore the moral standards. But I wouldn’t place both the ads you cited in the same category.

NS: So which ad do you think is acceptable and which one is not?

CMT: Sir, I think the ad in which the shop girl gives contraceptives is acceptable as it shows that the youth is becoming more comfortable in dealing with contraceptives which is a good sign for the society. (He was pleased and smiled affirmatively)

NS: And why do you find the other ad unacceptable?

CMT: Sir, in the other ad, there is no social significance of such a campaign and it is just an attempt to malign the existing fairness brand (and with a grin I said) which is our brand, sir.

NS: So is that why you don’t like that ad because it maligns your brand?

CMT: No sir, I disapprove of it because of the genuine reason that it is a show of dirty competition. Also, not that our company is always on the right side. At times, we also go a little overboard in criticizing our competitors in our ads and when sued for such ads, we have to withdraw those ads.

NS: But that would happen only when the court gives the final verdict, right? By then many people would have already seen the ad.

CMT: No sir. As soon as a petition is filed against an ad, we have to stop airing it till the matter is subjudice. In fact, one of our Axe ads was challenged for being vulgar and we had to stop airing the ad. After the judgement, we had to show the ad after cutting the objectionable sections.

NS: Hmmm… you have heard about Wikileaks. What do you think? Such kind of journalism, I don’t know what will you call it cable journalism or whatever, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

CMT: Sir, While I respect the fact that Wikileaks states its intent to bring in more transparency in governance, I also feel that their focus seems tilted towards sensationalizing the issues more. In the recent  publications in the Hindu also, while the initial few articles did get some attention the later articles were merely sensationalized ones and not many people reacted.

NS: Give an example of such an article.

CMT: Sir, for example the article about Mr. Arun Jaitley’s comment on hindutva. Not many people found that it was such a crucial leak and an unnecessary noise was created around it. Also, Sir, I feel that in matters of diplomacy the national interest is paramount and if that requires some amount of secrecy, it is justified. Exposing such details which could jeopardize national security and national economies are not a healthy sign in journalism.

NS: So do you think such people should be held for creating so much trouble and should be jailed. You are about to join the government. How would you tackle these people? They are creating such ruckus.

CMT: Sir, But I also think that in India we are moving from secrecy being the rule to transparency being the rule and so we should react accordingly.

NS: But is it only an Indian phenomenon?

CMT: No sir, it is a global phenomenon.

NS: So how have the other countries reacted to it?

CMT: Sir, US has reacted very strongly against it. Cases have been framed against Jullian Assange and other charges have also been put on him in other nations. Also the military official who leaked the cables has been arrested and is being prosecuted presently.

NS: So what should we do with that official? He claims that he leaked the cables for the greater cause of humanity and he was helping cleanse the system. What do you think?

CMT: Sir, I think once he had pledged his allegiance to the army and the nation he should have stood by it. If he had strong difference of opinions, he should have probably quit the army and became a part of the civil society to raise voice against the system.

NS: So what should we do with Jullian Assange?

CMT: Sir, if he has violated some specific laws, he can be questioned in court and prosecuted as well.

NS: And what should we do with Mr. N. Ram of the Hindu? He is the one who went ahead and signed a deal with them. This way anybody would go and sign a deal and start creating havoc!!

CMT: (now I got a bit cautious and didn’t want to take too tough a stand) Sir, I think it is also a time for the government to do some introspection on the way it functions and acknowledge that the present system is more prone to openness and we need to be extra cautious.

NS: (quite displeased at this moral lecture) So we should handle our diplomacy being cautious, do you think it can be done that way?

CMT: Sir, earlier even district offices worked with secrecy but with coming up of RTI, they have changed their working style accordingly. In diplomacy too, I think it can be done although the national interests should always be paramount.

NS: Ok Chandra Mohan. That is all. Thank you.

CMT: (a little stunned with the sudden closure) Thank you sir.

(While walking out of the room I looked back again to gauge their expressions. NS had a blank look and was constantly staring me as I walked out. While closing the door, I said thank you again. He did not reply. It was 10:45 am when I came out of the room.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A moment comes... that comes rarely in history...

Oh man!!! I can't believe that India just won the Cricket World Cup, that I danced on the roads, that we shouted on top of our voice, that I saw people riding atop their cars, that people lifted a police inspector on their shoulders and forced him to shake a leg. Somebody pinch me and tell me it's not a dream. Twenty eight long years it has taken for us to witness the moment and the wait was worth it.

When I was barely 6-7 months old, Kapil Dev's men lifted the World Cup beating West Indies. I have grown up listening to the same story again and again. My father, who is a bigger cricket fan than I would ever become, vividly remembers the radio on which he listened the entire commentary (TV was quite a luxury those days), the 'lungi' he was wearing that day, how i kept peeing my pants throughout the match and how Kapil and Amarnath surprised all Indians. Ever since then, India has come close to winning a world cup, sometime till quarter finals, sometimes till semi-finals and sometime finals. But we would lose midway every time. And every time Papa would say "aaj agar Amarnath aur Kapil Dev jaise log hote team mein na toh....." (only if we still had Kapil and Amarnath in today's team). I kept growing up seeing Kapil replaced by Azhar, then by Ganguly and then by Dhoni with several smaller stints of other captains.

Every four years I would feel that this is the time we would repeat 1983 and I would say to Papa, "we still have players as good as Kapil and Amarnath." We missed it when I was in Class 6, then we missed it again when I passed Class 10th. Even in my 2nd year of college we missed it. And so did we miss in my first year at job. This world cup I told Papa that it is high time we either win World Cup or I should quit watching this game forever. Papa won't giving up watching either ways. When India beat Australia in qaurter finals, Papa commented that he has got the 1983 vibes. I didn't trust him. We had reached till finals and lost earlier and I didn't want a heart break again. On the semi final day, Papa couldn't watch much of the game as electricity went out suddenly. I kept calling him and giving him updates. When we beat Pakistan, he was the first who rang me up to congratulate.

Yesterday, we beat Sri Lanka in a heart throbbing game. I have turned 28 four months ago. My father has greyed all his hair. He has waited for this moment for long and I have grown up only to see this day. For years, we shall remember this day. I would narrate to my kids how we won the world cup. Yes, there won't be any radio commentaries to remember, but there would be live streaming and to talk about. There is no 'lungi' I wore but I'll remember those Adidas shorts. There are two things that would remain same in the two memories. One the innumerable times I peed (this time not in my pants, of course) and two, the way the Indian captain again led his team to Victory. This is a moment.. a moment that comes rarely in history when you remember what you were wearing, what did you eat, how was the weather and also how many times you visited the bathroom. It is a moment I'll remember for life. Papa still has those newspaper cuttings of Kapil lifting the Cup, I will have this blog as a memoir. Times have changed but the stupidity of enjoying cricket stays and we really do not want to shun this stupidity.

We are world champions again.. and this moment shall remain etched in history, for ever. I would also tell my kids someday "Aaj agar Dhoni aur Sachin hote na toh..."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My top ten food choices

Out of my hobby of 'Scouting for local delicacies', from among a list of about 70 items (based on first recall), here is the list of my top ten favourite dishes at various places in India. My ratings (out of 10) are shown in [ ]

  1. Jalebi-dahi at MT, IITK (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh) [9.2]
  2. Poori-aloo sabzi-suji halwa breakfast at Haveli (Jallandhar, Punjab) [9.2]
  3. Vada Pao at any local train station (Mumbai, Maharashtra) [9.1]
  4. Kebabs at the floating shikara restaurants in Dal Lake (Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir) [9.1]
  5. Murthal ke Parathe at Gulshan da Dhaba (Murthal, Haryana) [9.0]
  6. Rajasthani Thali at Chokhi Dhaani (Jaipur, Rajasthan) [8.9]
  7. Mutton Curry with Appam at some restaurant (can't recall name) (Kochi, Kerela) [8.9]
  8. Kadha Prasad (rich suji halwa) at Golden Temple (Amritsar, Punjab) [8.9]
  9. Desi chicken at some local dhaba enroute Patni Top (Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir) [8.9]
  10. Aloo Paratha with dahi at Gyan da Dhaba (Ludhiana, Punjab) [8.9]
In addition to these ten items there are other 60 also in the list which I have rated on my personal liking. Am feeling the urge to mention at least the next ten in the list as well.

    11.  Kheer/Phirni at Bhrawan da Dhaba (Amritsar, Punjab) [8.8]
    12.  Dal ke pakode at Lakhanpur Border (Jammu-Pathankot highway, Punjab-J&K) [8.7]
    13.  Kulche at the roadside shop opposite Hotel Mohan International (Amritsar, Punjab) [8.7
    14.  Kebabs at The Kebab Factory, Park Plaza (Gurgaon, Haryana) [8.6]
    15.  Bedami poori with aloo ki sabzi at a street corner shop opposite 11/22, Old Rajendra Nagar (New       
           Delhi) [8.5]
    16. Mutton Yakhni at some restaurant, name not recalled (Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir) [8.5]
    17. Masala Dosa and Filter Coffee at Coffee House, Ram Mandir (Bokaro, Jharkhand) [8.5]
    18. Chikoo Shake at Popular Juice Corner, Old Rajendra Nagar (New Delhi) [8.4]
    19. Gupchup at Sector-5 Hatiya (Bokaro, Jharkhand) [8.4]
    20. Dal Chawal Butter Mix at Hall 4 Canteen, IITK (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh) [8.3]

In the entire list, there are some more common entries like the Kesar da Dhaba of Amritsar, Roshan di Kulfi of Karol Bagh, the Art of Spices (Chicken roll) in Old Rajendra Nagar, the Litti Chokha of Sector 4 Bokaro and many more. They, however, do not top my list. The ratings are completely personal and hardly scientific. 

If I was to choose a "dream menu" I would definitely choose from the items mentioned above. The scouting, will, nevertheless continue and any more local delicacies tasted shall find an entry into my list if they deserve it. 
I shall enjoy eating in the meantime... :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

about "Biharis" and other such 'abused' people

(Note: Some part of this post can be socially offensive to certain communities. I apologize for the same. The specific names of communities have been used only to provide examples and I do not approve of their usage as abuses, neither do I condone their practice as such.)

In some of my earlier posts, I have expressed my dismay and agony at 'bihari' being used as an 'abuse' (i.e., to swear at people) in some parts of India, especially Delhi. The agony had more to do with me being a bihari who has lived in Delhi/Gurgaon for about three years now. Recently, however, I have begun to think about the issue more impersonally.

It has left me wondering why is it that only particular communities get such pejorative connotations attached to them. Moreover, does the entire community feel 'equally' humiliated when sworn at or is it only some members of the community who feel that humiliation? To answer several such queries, I have been interacting with several biharis who have lived in Delhi, Mumbai or other places and asked them how do they feel about it. The obvious choice of such interactions is friends and family. They, obviously, echoed my feelings of disgust and wanted 'something concrete' to be done about it. As for what are the reasons for such abuses, most people blamed politicians for it while some blamed the chauvinistic attitude of the Delhiites or the Mumbaikars. I was quick to conclude that 'biharis' are being unnecessarily abused and looked down in the metropolitans of the country.

My conclusions were contested when I interacted with some 'other' biharis. These were mostly the rickshaw-pullers, the chai-wallahs, the gurads outside the ATM's, the paper-wallahs etc. Most of these had stayed in places like Delhi (or Mumbai) for more than a decade and some also for more than a generation. When I ask them about "bihari" or "bhaiyaa" being used as an abuse, they don't seem to be as enraged as me or my friends. They mostly resign to the fate of being abused, by whatsoever name, responding that earning their bread is more critical to them than making an issue out of such 'redundant' matters.

Trying to analyze the two varied set of responses, I am tempted to look at their social background as a source of their responses. The first set of people who are quite enraged at being sworn at are mostly Brahmins, Rajputs, Bhumihars, Kayasthas and Banias. Only very few belonged to a lower caste. The second group (rickshaw-wallahs et al) were mostly the Scheduled Castes, or 'Harijans' as they mostly referred themselves and  Muslims (who are mostly low caste converts in Bihar). Educationally, the first group was quite well to do and were mostly in these metropolitans for either higher education or jobs that resulted from them. The second group, instead, mostly migrated as manual labourers and constituted of illiterate or lowly educated people. This tempted me to ask a question - "Do the affluent feel more humiliated? And if so, why?"

To understand further, I look at other examples. I am reminded of my hometown Bokaro, presently in Jharkhand. It is mostly inhabited by Bihari migrants, who came down to work in India's largest steel plant. The local tribals of Jharkhand also share the space with them. Biharis, however, do not find themselves as abused as they do in Delhi, for instance. Rather, it is the local tribals who get abused by the biharis. As a result of the setting up of the steel plant, the tribals were displaced from their original forest dwellings and resettled in the outskirts of the Steel City. They were also promised jobs in the plant as compensation. They are, therefore, technically referred as 'Locally Displaced' people. Over time, though, the term and mostly its abbreviation LD has become synonymous with tribals and is one of the most common abuses one would hear in Bokaro. A dress which is out of place or a persons with very dark skin colour are generally ridiculed as LD, as they resemble the local tribals.

When I reach my parents' native place, Bhagalpur, which lies in present Bihar, I observe other abuses. 'Chamar' and 'Dom' are commonly used abuses for unlcean or untidy people. These are actually caste names for cobblers and basket-makers, respectively. Chuhar and Junglee are also similar abuses. Chuhar is a tribe of Santhal pargana (close to Bhagalpur region) and junglee is a general term used for forest dwelling tribals. 

When I meet some of my friends who have stayed in the UK or the USA, they tell me how 'Paki' is an abuse there, referring to Pakistanis, in particular and South Asians, in general. Niggers (or Negros), similarly was an abuse in USA for the African Americans. In most of north India, similarly, people from North eastern states who have Mongoloid origins are ridiculed by the name 'Chinki', probably referring to their similarity in appearance with Chinese, with whom Indians share a strange kind of hostility. In much of UP and Bihar, even 'Kattu' is used as an abuse, which has its origin as a ridicule to Muslims of the region, for their circumcision of the foreskin in males. Mohemedan or Miyan in itself is also used as an abuse in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, there are swearing in the name of Sikhs, mostly aimed  at their attire and their typical turban. In Mumbai, similarly, 'Ghati' is an abuse, connoting low status, taking its origin from the people who lived in the Western Ghats, who old time Mumbai residents found non-urbane.

Not all abuses are rooted in specific communities. Some of them are also general. Junglee, as already pointed out, is an abuse to all forest dwellers. 'Ganwaar' similary is an abuse meaning someone who comes from a village (and hence, unclean, uncivilized etc). 'Jahil' similarly is an abuse for illiterates, in general. 

Therefore, racial abuses generally trace their origin from communities which are placed low in the social, political or economic hierarchy in a particular region. When a large section of people from a particular community are abundant in a place, mostly staying at the lowest level of the hierarchy, their community name becomes an abuse. Biharis, mostly the manual workers, maid servants, rickshaw-wallahs are placed low in hierarchy in Delhi and thus their community name becomes an abuse. These same rickshaw-wallahs when in their homeland Bihar were abused by the names of Chamar, Dom, Chuhar, Malechchha (meaning unclean, actually a term for untouchables) etc. In the cities of Jharkhand (Bokaro, for example), most of the manual workers are tribals and not biharis. So bihari is not abused there, but the tribals are (LD, junglee etc). The community placed in the lowest rank has been historically much exposed to such exploitation for generations and it does not complain any further. It either resigns to its fate or else finds justification in such an exploitation. (Marx's concept of 'false class consciousness' can explain this further).

Examples show that when such an abuse has become part and parcel of a group's language, it is the upper cream of the 'abused' community which also has to face the brunt. The sense of humiliation germinates in this upper cream, which is generally well educated and well accomplished, but of the lowly origin. Indians were called 'coolies' in South Africa because most Indians who went there worked as coolies in the mines. It is only when a First Class Attorney of an upper caste Gujrati Bania family landed in South Africa and was thrown out of a train for being a 'coolie' that the sense of humiliation germinated. That well educated 'coolie', Mahatma Gandhi, as he is known today, sowed the seeds of a mass movement. Similary, Dr. Ambedkar, a PhD from London School of Economics, when was ridiculed as a 'Mahar' (a low caste), felt the humiliation and devoted his life to the cause of upliftment of the the low castes. Educated African Americans, similarly led the Civil rights movements in USA.

Thus, to blame Delhiites for being chauvinist in calling us biharis, is only part of the picture. We bihari too call people as 'Chamars' and Junglees and Kattu. No changes in the abusive status of bihari is possible unless the educated upper caste biharis themselves do away with abusing entire communities just because they have been traditionally placed in lower ranks in social hierarchy. If one wishes to see that Bihari is no longer an abuse in Delhi or Mumbai, the need is not to fight the residents of Delhi and Mumbai, but the need is to uplift the conditions of the rural, low caste and illiterate biharis who have no choice but to exchange their manual labour and their dignity in lieu of bread and water. Otherwise, till the time, Chamar is an abuse in Bhagalpur and LD is an abuse in Bokaro, Bihari will remain an abuse in Delhi.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

ढूँढ रहा हूँ...

बैठा हूँ बर्फ की  चादर पर
और ढूंढ रहा हूँ शीतलता
लहरों पर हूँ सवार, फिर क्यूँ
दीखती नहीं कोई चंचलता ?

                    पेड़ों कि छाया के नीचे
                    क्यों धूप जलाती है मुझको ?
                    सूखे रेतों के टीलों पर
                    वारि क्यों गलाती है मुझको ?
                    जब ध्यानमग्न हो बैठा हूँ
                    तो क्यों है ऐसी आकुलता?
                    बैठा हूँ .....

रातें मुझको बहकाती हैं
करती नयनों में उजियारा
और डरता हूँ दोपहरों से
जो फैला देती अंधियारा
जब स्वच्छ दीखता है जल, तो
फिर कहाँ है उसकी निर्मलता?
बैठा हूँ....

                    माली बगिया में ढूंढ रहा
                    फूलों कि खोयी सुरभि को
                    ढूँढता यज्ञ वेदी उठकर
                    अपने अन्दर कि अग्नि को
                    और ढूंढ रहा मैं शक्ति को
                    जो हर ले मेरी दुर्बलता
                    बैठा हूँ ....

Saturday, January 22, 2011


हाथ पकड़ो जो मेरा तुम ...

हाथ पकड़ो जो मेरा तुम तो कोई साथ मिले
पास हो तेरा जो एहसास तो कोई आस मिले

हम तो बस यूँ ही जिए जा रहे जाने कब से
ढूंढते मायने ज़िन्दगी के न जाने कब से
तुम जो मिल जाओ तो तलाश को मिले मंजिल
पा के तुमको मेरी साँसों को नयी साँस मिले
हाथ पकड़ो जो मेरा तुम...

खो गया भीड़ में मेरा अकेला मन देखो
रुख हवा का उड़ा देगा मेरा आँगन देखो
तुम ही बन जाओ मेरे आँगन की नयी रौनक
रोशनी पा के मेरे रूह को आराम मिले
हाथ पकड़ो जो मेरा तुम...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gandhi : Naked Ambition

Jad Adams has put in all the research in this book and both primary and secondary sources have been used to write this biography of Gandhi. This is not the first book on Gandhi and most of the readers would be already aware of the life story of Gandhi which has been written too often. To ensure that readers find the book interesting, Adams has emphasized more on the contradictions in Gandhi's life, which can make for an interesting read.

I must caution, however, that devout fans and followers of Gandhi might find this book insulting. Adams has deliberately avoided using the prefix 'Mahatma' or even the suffix 'ji', both of which are customary in Indian writings. He has given equal space to both the personal and the political life of the man, and has also gone in the details of the clothes Gandhi wore, the food he ate and the women he slept with (or did not sleep with). The focus is mostly on highlighting the contradictions of a spiritual man and a leader of the masses with a chauvinist husband and a cruel father. Various other contradictions have also been pointed out.

The claim of the author is to be "objective" about the person he is writing, but a closer study would easily depict how Adams cannot shed his Anglo-centric attitude in glorifying everything that is Western and ridiculing everything that is Indian. He somehow overemphasizes on the influence of Christianity and Gandhi's European friends but wishfully ignores the various Indian philosophies and Indian personalities that also had an impact on Gandhi. Adams' over-emphasis is more conspicuous in detailing the various 'brahmacharya' experiments, the crash diets and the disastrous family life. In all these depictions, a slight tinge of criticism keeps getting transformed into ridicule, though the British English tries to conceal it through flowery words.

Overall, the book can be said to be interesting and would mostly attract readers who find Gandhi's criticism fascinating. But as an objective book and an academic analysis of Gandhi's life, the book fails on various accounts. When compared with all other biographies (including the autobiography), this book is one of the most colored by the author's ethnocentrism. It could be an interesting read but must be supplemented by more objective biographies of Gandhi to get a complete picture.

CMT's Book Rating 3/5