Monday, April 14, 2014

Aam Aadmi Stories

Picked up the image from somewhere on the Web. I know not whom to credit but the legendary R. K. Laxman

Last Friday, in Yeshwantpur Railway Station, I encountered two instances of the abysmal moral standards of the common man. Here are the accounts:

Pay and Use Toilet

Like in many other Pay-and-Use Toilets in the city, this had no board stating how much we should pay for using it. I am sure that this disappearance is by no means incidental or an act of God. The attendant, sitting and reading the newspaper, said without even looking at me, three rupees. I knew he was overcharging, but gave the money nevertheless, thinking I would save my energy to fight corruption at some other occasion. However, I lost my patience when I found no water in the tap. I informed him about it. He said, 'Yes, probably the tap's not working. Why don't you take water from the bathroom.' I asked him why he wasn't sure if the tap was working or not. And how was it appropriate of him to expect me to take water from bathroom. Wasn't it his responsibility to get the tap repaired?

I continued bombarding him with lecture: 'One, you are overcharging. You are getting your salary, and are also pocketing this money which should go to the government. Two, you are sitting here and reading the newspaper. Even if you are looting the public, at least you should carry out your responsibility properly, shouldn't you?'

To this he retorted, 'OK. You come and sit here.' To which, I told him that I have another place where I sit, and there each penny I earn has my sweat on it.

 My little son was with me. And I can't bear the discomfort he feels on seeing this other side of me, to which mostly he and his Mom are occasional witnesses. So, I left, fuming and frustrated. My 3 rupees donated at the alter of Aam Aadmi's corruption!

Parking Lot

When I was entering the parking lot in the morning, I had noticed that the parking ticket didn't mention the amount, and had foreseen trouble.

While leaving, I asked the attendant how much. He said 20. I said, it's 10. He said 20. I said, I don't think so, show me where it is written. Suddenly, the person forgot Hindi, and started off in Kannada. This time I was better prepared, and already in fury due to my above experience. So, I said, half-Hindi, half-Kannada. 'Why is it not written anywhere. It used to be 10 rupees earlier. Why should I give you 20?' and kept repeating this mechanically without raising my voice or visibly losing my cool. In the end, the guy gave up and said in the very Kannada villain/hero style, 'E! Hog ri!' with a rude wave of his hand. I left after giving him 10 rupees.


Just an Outlier. Out of the above two incidents, I lost money in one, and saved in another. But in both, I know well enough that things would proceed just the way they had before my being there. I could fight corruption in neither case, and felt equally frustrated in both the occasions. If you protest against an act of corruption, the corrupt service-person will fight you, intimidate you. He'll do everything in his means to defeat you, to break your stand. But his most effective weapon is to ignore you, to let you have your way this one time. Because, as things stand today, a customer demanding honest service is merely an irritant, an anomaly, an outlier in a statistical distribution for him. An outlier hardly changes the overall distribution which anyway is heavily biased toward hopeless resignation that we all have submitted to through years of defeat and subjugation. It costs them nothing to let you go if you are merely one outlying point against a million points which have meekly and hopelessly fallen in line.

Power to Aam Aadmi. I have asked this question earlier. I ask it again. What excites us so much about the Aam Aadmi getting the power to rule? Do we really think that this Aam Aadmi and our politicians are two different creatures? They are both products of their respective circumstances, and fundamentally behave in an identical manner: opportunistically.

Vote for AAP. Am I asking you not to vote for AAP? No! I still feel they are a viable alternative to an already devastated governance. We don't lose anything by bringing them in.

I also feel that one of the most valuable contributions of AAP to the Indian society has been to bring in a wave of hope in the middle class in particular. Though, some of their moves have disillusioned people, and have surely marred their chances as a political party, the waking-up effect they have had on us is for real and undeniable. I anticipate that this year, a distinctly larger portion of Indian population will exercise their voting rights. Not all, or even most, of these additional votes will go to AAP. But whoever people may vote for, they will. That, more than anything else, is a fundamental change, and a ray of hope for all of us. I would give a part of the credit for this to AAP.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Meditation for a 5-Year Old

I think Vigyan is no different than other kids of his age in that he is the most distracted when he's studying. All our attempts in coaxing and forcing him to concentrate beyond a few minutes have met with little success so far. This morning, when in the middle of his task of writing अ and आ some number of times, the tigers and elephants and penguins and robots and demons in his head all started their show in full glory.

So, I tried a new trick today. Told him, 'Look! Your mind is playing tricks on you. Whenever you want to concentrate, it will tell you, "Let's think about the tiger." When it does that, don't listen to it. Tell it, "No, no! I am going to do my work."'

Vigyan -- surprisingly -- was receptive. The idea of his brain breaking into two pieces, each with its own identity, was probably very satisfying to his imaginativeness. So, he seems to liked the idea. Said, 'OK.'

And then every 2 seconds, he went: 'Nono nono nono ...'

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Stand-by Students

During My Lecture

What's common between the students and computer Screens?

When your computer screen goes into a standby, it comes back up on the first mouse click.

When you are in the middle of a particularly wordy part of your lecture, revelling inside at the beauty of the strings of words you are spinning out, the class in front of you quietly slips into a standby mode. the faces go dead, the eyes turn glassy. And I am sure a very colourful screensaver program comes up on their mind's screen.

And when you end your discourse with the simplest of questions, you realise that your words would as well have been spent on empty desks and benches and the classroom walls. It takes the entire class a while to realise that a question has been asked and that they are supposed to respond. You see a phenomenon very similar to your laptop screen coming alive when you click your mouse after a gap of inactivity: they fidget, the faces become alive, the eyes look startled.

However, one thing that these students do which a laptop would never do when coming back from stand-by is to ask: 'Excuse me Sir! Could you repeat the question (mouse-click)?'