Sunday, 31 December 2017

Gain'Full' - 2017!

Hemantha Kalam - 44 “Gain’Full’ – 2017”

In about an hour, the Christian year 2017 will be coming to an end and 2018 would be starting. So I was toying with a few ideas to write a blog which, for quite a long time, I haven’t written, as this year had been quiet eventful for me. I had suffered more losses this year than in any year after I started opening up to this world.

However, I have always been accused of being a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ as, by an innate gift, I can smell trouble before it can start and warn the consequences resulting in my being branded as a negative thinking and negative spreading man. So, for a change, I thought I shall write this blog of mine, only gainfully. My attempt is as below.

The whole of the year;

I ‘Gained’ at least an average of 200 ‘Good Morning’ messages every day on my ‘WhatsApp’ though I had to lose both my storage space on the mobile and at least one to two hours every day to remove these messages. Another ‘Gain say’ from this exercise is that I started receiving the ‘Good Morning’ messages mostly from people who never cared a tuppence for me in the normal day-to-day life. I also gained some messages from rank strangers.

I notice that Dr. Batra’s ‘Gained’ entry into my privacy, through at least two text messages on SMS, at an average, every week and sometimes days, assuring to take care of my balding head, while I was totally at a loss as to how I can let them know that I have not been bald in the first place and presently whatever balding is happening, most of it is due to my pulling hair in finding ways to prevent messages from Dr. Batra. I have to say that barring serious legal action, there does not appear to be a way around, as they seem to be ‘gainfully’ shameless in their efforts and the onslaught continues unabated. It is as if that Dr. Batra’s has decided to make the whole country bald first, before starting on whatever their treatment is all about.

I was ‘Gaining’ at least 3 calls every day from HDFC Bank and one from AXIS Bank offering me Credit Cards, Insurance and Personal Loans, and they were at a loss to deal with me as I have reached an age where they can offer me none. Yet, these banks have been ‘Gainfully’ employing someone or the other to keep calling me because they have my mobile number on their roster and all of us are at a loss to find a solution as to how to get rid of each other.

I also ‘Gain’ from intruding but tantalising Escort Service messages, which I am embarrassingly at a loss to find ways in hiding from the knowledge of my wife and more importantly from my growing daughters.

I 'Gain' at least a dozen calls offering me attractive offers on club memberships, appeals for supporting ailing patients, adopted children, blood donations and what not, leaving me many a time at a loss and distraught for genuinely being helpless.  

I see the continuous 'Gaining' of such calls and messages on a daily basis, in volleys, as I am continuously at a loss to know as to how these promo-senders and promo-callers are able to attack me despite my mobile phone number being listed under 'DO NOT DISTURB'.

I continue ‘Gaining’ any amount of moral tidbits and videos out of which, honestly, not more than 1% are interesting and the rest of all only result in loss of time in viewing, saving and erasing. While saving some of them to my desktop I surely 'Gain' the videos but lose space on the hard disk of my desk top computer. As a professional consultant who charges his clients by the hour, I am really at a loss to find out from whom I can ‘gain’ this losing time and the resultant loss in income.

On a daily basis I 'Gain' as a double whammy when posters send me messages separately and also post the same messages in groups too. I am at a loss to find ways of conveying to them and convincing them that they are making fools of themselves and myself in the bargain when I give no consent for that.

(As a result, I have for the past one week decided not to forward any messages on WhatsApp except to my immediate family members. Now I have to see if any outsiders 'Gain' entry to this elite club of 'my immediate family members')

I have ‘Gained’ considerable amount of head-ache in filing my monthly GST returns while losing at least 3-4 productive days in a month answering queries as to why I am spending, on whom and what I am spending my hard earned money upon (mind you I am in a democratic country) and whether the receiving parties are also registered under GST and if not why GST payable by them should not be covered by me etc., etc.

I have ‘Gained’ a short-term teaching assignment while I had to actually lose an opportunity to present my findings, in a paper I helped write on the ‘Small Scale Farmers in the Lower Mekong Region Countries’, at a World Bank forum, at that Mecca of all Indian Dreamers - Washington DC of the US of A. Yes, No less!

I have ‘Gained’ a couple of minor consultancies this year while I had to lose at least four important and major consultancies.

I have 'Gained' visiting two new countries, but lost opportunities to visit a couple of old ones that I had to visit for ‘gainful’ employment.

I have to confess that due to this, I have ‘Gained’ more free time though lost a good amount of possible income.

Recently, on a visit to Jaipur on business, I was forced to ‘gain’ the knowledge, with a considerable amount of loss of face, that Hindi could not have been my mother tongue or first or second or even third language, in school.

I have ‘Gained’ demand for a residential plot that I own and wanted to sell, but the prices fell thanks to the demonetisation last year and the fear of transparency in land dealings and tightening of various regulations, leading to losses from the expected ‘gains’.

I earnestly looked out to ‘Gain’ a good tenant for my apartment but still am at a loss to clinch a deal.

I continue ‘Gaining’ bondage with my 13 year old car (In fact, recently when the petrol lid cap door became rusted and fell off, I had to hold it by bonding with a double tape) as I am at a loss to find the wherewithal to buy a decent new car.

Talking about cars, I ‘Gained’ money and some intriguing experiences, by using the Ola and Uber cabs, especially the pool / share facilities, though I did have to lose considerable time in going around the city in circles, yet 'gaining' on learning of some hitherto unknown places that evaded and eluded me in all these years of my stay in Chennai and other places in India that I frequent.

I have ‘Gained’ wonderful memories to be retained of, as I have lost my father’s cousins ‘P. L. Narayana’ and ‘Ganduri Rajasurya’ (passed away today), my dear friends ‘C. Ravindranath’ (s/o the famous Telugu film actor late Nagabhushanam and my class mate since kindergarten) ‘G. Shashibhushan’, ‘Bandit Sisoukda’ - guys who helped me immensely, my favourite film actors, Vinod Khanna and Shashi Kapoor during the year.

This also has been a year where I have been blessed to ‘Gain’ an opportunity to serve my ailing father in his last days, only to lose him in the battle finally. This left me and others in our family tearful, yet ‘gainful’ to cherish the void and absence with his wonderful memories and the courage that he bestowed upon me by his way of upbringing, for continuing this life without his physical presence.

I notice that I am also ‘Gaining’ on my years and steadily losing my good health and that it augurs well to write a “positive blog” like this one before I am totally written off as a total loss or a negative person, forever. J

Now my dear friends and readers, please do tell me; has the year not been “Gain’Full’ – 2017”? At least, for me?

Yeah? Well, folks, what say you? Do let me know, please! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian),

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hemantha Kalam-43 "Vijayawada Wizardry"

I hail from the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh and within the district, while Machilipatnam has been the district Head Quarters or the capital, it is Vijayawada which has been more famous.

Though my parents ‘migrated’ to Madras, now Chennai of Tamil Nadu, some 6 decades ago, I have been visiting Vijayawada on and off, for meeting relatives or on business work and so on. My initial visits, in my earlier childhood, are not much worth mentioning excepting for some good personal memories.

However, in the past few years, I am awe struck every time I visit Vijayawada. Last week I was in Vijayawada for a day, to fulfill the obsequies of my recently deceased beloved father and noticed some interesting developments of Vijayawada. The roads are so good and clean that they are comparable to those in many developed countries. However, that the population cramming continues to happen is due to the national phenomenon. But thankfully, some of the old traditional remnants of Vijayawada like the small lanes which are tight even for a motor-cycle to pass through, like this one in Durgapuram, continue to exist.

A lane in Durgapuram, where even a motor-cycle needs to go in carefully.

In the afternoon, when my cousin took us out for lunch, I was in for more discoveries.

We went to a restaurant called ‘Sree Ramayya Mess, Caterers & Idly’ which looked to me like an out-patient (OP) ward in a hospital. My cousin reassured me that despite the looks of the restaurant, the taste of the food is great and can easily be the best in the town. The idly part of the name is apparently because throughout the day and night while the facility is open, idly is available there, he added.

     

 Sree Ramayya Mess, Caterers & Idly

The waiting hall in the restaurant with clear indications of prices of meals 

There are rooms with indications of prices for meals that start with Rs.100 for a simple meal to a Rs.200 for a gorgeous meal that includes rotis, a bottle of mineral water, sweets, curd and paan and what not. Once you choose which meal you wish to have or can afford, you go into that hall and appropriately offered meals would be served accordingly. No question of wasting time in checking any menu etc. The whole thing was working on factory precision. We chose the simple meal hall and after tasting the food, I had to doubt the taste of my cousin; as excepting the Gherkin Chutney, which was unusual and I liked it  a lot, nothing else was out of the world and not even earthly.

Then in the evening, we were going to the airport and the road to the airport was quite green and impressive. There is no comparison to the airport that I saw in November 2015 and what I saw now in July 2017. Though it is still petite, the airport is more slick and savvy.

 Vijayawada Airport in November, 2015
 

    Departure Foyer of Vijayawada Airport in November, 2015 

Departure foyer of Vijayawada Airport as found in July 2017

But what impressed me was the business savvy of a coffee kiosk within the departure foyer of the Vijayawada airport. After a few minutes of waiting in the chairs of the foyer, this girl with a genial smile on her face approached each and every waiting person and asked whether they would like to have coffee or tea or flavoured milk or even varieties of soups. We came early to the airport and to kill some time we had ordered for coffee. Within a few minutes, piping hot coffee was served at our seats. The taste and hygiene was fine and I found the price to be quite reasonable too.  

An hour or so later, we found our flight being delayed by a couple of hours and found ourselves ordering a cup of soup each with the same girl. Again good and piping hot soup was served.

I was clearly intrigued and so sauntered to the kiosk to inquire on what prompted them to offer this service. There I met Mr. Manne Venkata Lakshmoji, whose brain child was this proactive idea. He said that instead of waiting for the customers to come to his kiosk, lugging their luggage, by offering them the services at the convenience of not leaving their place or luggage, he ensures more business by enticing with both quality and convenience. Not only that; when he approaches the customers, they have only one choice - his offerings. But if the customers get up and walk, they may be distracted by other attractions and eventually get more choices from the other kiosks as well and thus there will be competition and business loss.

 Coffee Hub and its crew!
 

  Mr. Manne Venkata Lakshmoji, who owns the hub and the idea of taking service to the waiting people in the airport

I have been flying since mid-1980s and in several countries too. But what I experienced in the Vijayawada airport has been unique and pioneering. I am yet to come across this type of service, in any of the airports that I have visited so far.

Once we checked in and went inside the airport, after security checks, we found Hotel Fortune Murali Park was also offering snacks in a similar mode – served at our seats.

Presently in the outer foyer, Mr. Manne seems to be holding the fort but it would only be a matter of time when competition catches up and he would need to think, inventively, again.

But till that time, let us congratulate Mr. Manne for his pioneering work and wish him good luck!

Well, folks, what say you? Do let me know, please! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian),

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Share, Share and Save!

I am retired, but then I work for my living - with a difference! After working for over four decades at the disposal of time, I now have the luxury of working on my time. For my local outings, I drive my own car, but once the cab aggregators Ola and Uber downed their prices on cab rates, I am more inclined to be chauffeured than drive myself.

So on 14th April, 2017, the Tamil New Year day, I was on my way to Chennai City Centre and my business there was at 6.00 pm. Weary of parking issues on a holiday, I had requested for a ‘Shared-Cab’ at about 4.30 pm with ample time to spare and buffer any traffic issues. The mobile alert said that my cab is due in about five minutes. I locked my apartment and sauntered down to the gate to board the cab which arrived after a minute of my reaching the gate. It was already occupied by an elderly lady and lightly made up, buxom, girl in her early 20s or so.

I occupied my seat and the cab started on its trip. I noticed that the girl in the back seat was speaking to some person over her mobile phone and that she did not make any efforts of  keeping her voice low or concealing the contents of her conversation or her emotions. About a mile later, the elderly lady dropped off and only the two of us passengers and the cab driver continued on.

Now the girl’s conversation, started taking interesting turns with vivid description of how she was drunk the previous day and how she went on a sandwich job with two guys and how she enjoyed it. From her conversation, which we could not help from overhearing, it appeared that she is a supporting actress in south Indian films (earlier they were referred to as ‘extras’) and she is living a carefree life. She was criticizing the personal mannerisms of some well-known film stars and was giggling while narrating. The conversation that continued was erotic at the maximum and exciting at the minimum. I was not sure for whose benefit this conversation was taking place. Is this a new way of enticing and soliciting? Looks like, I have to learn some new tricks in packaging and marketing field.

Now, believe me, this conversation kept on non-stop for at least next 40 minutes till she got down, ostensibly to visit a ‘client’, at MRC Nagar (such an upmarket and posh area of Chennai, that after all my years of work, I doubt whether I would be able to even hire an apartment, let alone own one).    

After she got off, I had requested the cab driver to let all the window glasses down to allow the ‘energy’ created by her to be diluted by fresh air and asked him how could he drive with concentration while listening to such ‘lively life stories’. He said that comparing to what he experiences regularly what we have seen or heard is nothing. He said that it has become quite common to see, nowadays, especially during the night drives, girls, with or without escorts, being drunk or pretending-to-be-drunk, being scantily dressed or sometimes losing their clothes or sometime wearing clothes in the cab in a hurry and all sorts of rot happening in the back seats.

If despite such ‘attractions’ er distractions, the Chennai drivers are able to be heads above shoulders in cab related crimes, when compared with several other cities in the country, I have to salute their self-restraint and discipline. Apparently knowingly or unknowingly they follow a regional political party of Tamilnadu’s tenet ‘Kadamai’ (Duty), ‘Kanniyam’ (Integrity) and ‘Kattupaadu’ (Discipline)!

If all the drivers across the country are as self-restrained as the Chennai cab drivers, perhaps Ms. Kalyani Prasher would not have found material for her article ‘Sharing is Daring’ (9th May, 2017, The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/sharing-is-daring/article18414471.ece), that has inspired this blog of mine now.

I was introduced to sharing a paid local conveyance in Kolkata in 1999 when I used to commute in shared auto-rickshaws (Tuk-Tuks in several countries) where from Tangra Crossing to Park Circus, I just needed to pay Rs.5/= There is no bargaining or any hassle with the driver or with the co-passengers. These autos used to travel from one point to another and always in the designated tracks only, like blinkered horses.

Later, the introduction of cheap priced car vans found ‘shared-autos’ of a different variety, across many cities in the country, which also have eased the burden of costs as well as the vagaries of travelling in a public transport. However, the greed of many of these shared-auto drivers saw that passengers were being packed like sardines on some busy routes, and that was when the ‘air-conditioned comfort’ of proper cabs by the aggregators stepped in.

I have to say that the term ‘air-conditioned comfort’ is a deceptive description and not applicable to all cabs, as many of the cabs plying on Chennai roads are vehicles made out by a highly respected and visible, century old traditional business house of India, but which have the most inefficient air-conditioners fitted on to the cabs. In summer it is ‘mid-day’s nightmare’ to be cooped up in such cars where even the AC kept at maximum hardly provides relief. Assuming that the cabs are not maintained well, the pity is that even new cars introduced into the trade hardly perform and provide any succour in the sweltering heat. Every time I see that I am drawing this model of the cab, I cringe, but can’t do much as I can be penalised for cancelling a cab and even if I do so, there is no guarantee that the next car could be of a different model. I wish that the aggregators would find a way of giving a choice of model of cars also, apart from the present Micro, Mini, Sedan, Prime and SUV, so that the passengers can choose a comfort suitable to their pocket.

Occasionally there are also some irritating factors, but thankfully not regularly, in hiring cabs from the aggregators. One of the aggregators seems to have tinkered with the Mobile App that nowadays the share-cabs need not necessarily pick passengers in the line of a particular route but can take detours upto 4-5 kms radius and sometimes, back and forth too. And then there are those drivers who wish to listen to atrocious and loud music which is an excuse for music – maybe I am getting old and out of fashion and that the youth prefer such incomprehensible, irritating sounds and noise as music. The new generation seems to have given an entire new definition to melody. And then you have drivers who keep their own private conversations on the mobile phone while driving

Except a rare driver who is irritated with himself, his passengers and his profession, that he takes it out on the roads by irresponsible honking and driving, most of the drivers are nice, polite and do their job well. Over hundreds of rides so far, I think I gave adverse ratings to only two or three drivers.

There are graduate drivers. I have been driven by engineering students who drive cabs part-time (talk of dignity of labour) to augment income for their studies and expenses and then there are also fully graduated engineers who could speak reasonably good English and who always refuse a tip. There are cab owners running small fleets, but who have attached their cars to the aggregators, who also drive to understand the pulse of the trade and the passengers’ new thinking.

In general, I like sharing a cab and shall continue to do so till the services are offered. But I have this lurking feeling that like ‘everything shall pass’ this mania of sharing-a-cab or even the cab aggregation may see a dip in the business soon due to two reasons.

If innovation is one, the other is the stress these drives are creating on the drivers and their lives. I am not a psychologist or a physician, but as an experienced person I can say that no driver can take the chaotic city traffic conditions for long and certainly more than two years. Sooner or later they would realise that driving from Kanyakumari to Kashmir could be easier and less strenuous.

This could create a dearth for experienced and city knowing drivers. As it is, many of the drivers in this business are migrating from the neighbouring districts and several of them know neither the city routes nor they are well-versed with the GPS maps provided by the Mobile Apps and in any case the GPS maps themselves are not updated with the latest traffic changes in the city.

Yet, I continue to like the facility and when I am in a hurry, I request a separate cab for myself but when I have time to be splurged, I go for a shared-cab all the way and try to enjoy the trip thoroughly. It works out cheaper, provides entertainment, gives me an opportunity to network and establish new profitable relations and most importantly affords me a view of Chennai that I have not or could not see so far. I am also sure that for writers such trips down the city roads would provide immense story ideas.

But most importantly, when more and more people start sharing the cabs and do not take their own vehicles they are helping the city de-choke, give out more parking space, reduce carbon emissions, save the environment, save personal stress and save money too.
  
So, if you are at the disposal of the time, request your own cab! But if time is at your disposal, Share a cab, Share experiences and Save the environment. It will be quite interesting. Trust me, I can swear by it. All you would need is positive inclination!

Well, folks, what do you think? Do let me know, please! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian),

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Saturday, 18 February 2017

4 Decades of 'Disrespect'?

I normally strive to stay away from controversies, any of them, even if remotely possible. But this time around, I thought I shall share my two cents of thoughts on this.

On the 30th November, 2016, the Supreme Court of India has ordered that all cinema halls in the country shall screen and play the national anthem before the start of the cinema and all members of the audience shall stand in respect during the playing of the national anthem. As is expected of the ‘Independent and Free’ country, there have been several reactions, for and against, from the people.

I have been witnessing quite some debates, reading news articles on the ‘after effects’ of the order on screening and playing the national anthem in cinema halls before the screening of the actual film / movie, and was just passing on.

But, yesterday, ‘What price peace in a movie hall’ a feature by former colleague dear Vaishna Roy, in The Hindu dated 18th February, 2017 (http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/what-price-peace-in-a-movie-hall/article17320772.ece?homepage=true) urged me to say my piece and be done with it (hopefully?)! J

Well, there are several questions to start with.

When should the National Anthem be played, where and why?
Should one stand up when the national anthem is being played and why?
Will that be a measure of patriotism?
If somebody cannot stand up because of physical issues, how will the ‘voluntary moral police’ know of that?  

And blah…blah…blah….

Now to answer the above questions, in my humble opinion (IMHO), national anthems can be played before or after any gathering of people in the country, with maybe an exception to individual obituary related programmes. Respecting the national symbols and the anthem, again IMHO, is not to be an anathema. And how long is it going to take? The official duration of the Indian National Anthem is 52 seconds. Can’t those, who are able to, afford to stand up for those 52 seconds in respect of a country - your own country? To me, experience proved that they can’t, and to the chagrin many won’t (but then more about it will follow). Well, such standing up may not be counted as patriotism, but certainly be as a respect.

‘Why should we be forced to do this? We go to films for watching the film. This order forces us and we are tensed when forced’ a response of one cine-goer. Now one tends to ask; are we not watching lengthy commercials before and during the cinema, however repetitive or irritating and jarring to the ear that they maybe and are? Aren’t we? In fact ‘WE’ are paying for their thrusting their products and services (paid again, mind you) on ‘US’!

‘Nationalism doesn’t mean standing up for the national anthem, it means standing up for the country, for what’s right. So encourage that’ (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/30/indian-court-orders-cinemas-to-play-national-anthem-before-films)!

Agreed! And as cinema halls do attract huge gatherings (well, depending on the marketing of the cinemas being screened at the time), would cinema halls not be a better place to re-start that? 

Now, why the words re-start?

If I remember right, all cinema halls in the country used to screen the Tricolour (of course, in those days in Black and White) and play the national anthem since 1962 after the Indo-China war ‘after’ the screening of the film / movie was over to inculcate nationalism and patriotism too perhaps. But I used to see, without a let up, the audience rushing, no, actually clambering and scrambling, out of the cinemas, sometimes even sacrificing the viewing of a most thrilling climax; just because they felt it a chore - to stand up in silence - for 52 seconds.

Having been brought up with quite a bit of nationalist values, this running away in the end of the screening was both annoying and disgusting to me. Annoying because those rushing out were disturbing those few who wanted to remain and disgusting because of the value they were attaching or rather not attaching to the National Flag and the Anthem. As a proud NCC alumni cadet (http://hemantha-kalam.blogspot.in/2014/05/hemantha-kalam-21-clipped-wings-shining.html), and following the national anthem and symbols with reverence, this blatant running away from cinema halls was more deplorable

Sometime around 1975 the compulsory screening and playing of the national flag and the anthem respectively in the cinema halls was rescinded. Forty one years later the practice is being re-promulgated. So does this mean that for about 41 years, the citizens, that too the cinema-goers were disrespecting the flag and the national anthem? No, not exactly!

But again IMHO, if a government wants to inculcate national values and nationalism, in the growing generation and enhance in the existing generations, is it bad or wrong? You give a choice and people do not practice. When people do not learn and practice, there could be a danger of such values mis-interpreted or slowly fade away leaving a country of people with hardly any nationalistic values.

In fact, I can say that today, such a situation has already set in. If one listens to carefully, one realises that many people do not sing the anthem with the proper pronunciation or punctuation. I have heard many a time people inter changing the words ‘Utkala’ and ‘ucchala’ and most people sing ‘jalasidaranga’ than ‘jaladhi taranga’

So, rather than just make the standing for the national anthem compulsory, I feel the government should really concentrate on making the people realise the true meaning of the anthem and the importance attached to it and this should start in schools; and not at the child level, but at the teachers’ level. I can swear that most teachers do not understand the meaning of the importance of the national anthem themselves. This probably can ease several misconceptions among different sections of the people too.

Some of the objections are due to the language which cannot be properly uttered by some people using other and different languages. Maybe, if the anthem was just a musical theme, devoid of any words, this question might not have arisen but now that there has been an agreement on this anthem, at one point of time, let us learn this properly and practice and respect.

Let the people understand what nationalism is and what nationalistic values are. In our case, maybe there is an urgency to even develop federalist values, in the cause of welfare and sharing resources among all states.       

Well, folks, what do you think?

Do let me know, please! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Hemantha Kalam - 40 'Power Slaves'

For us people living in Chennai, the months of November-December 2016 have proven how much of power slaves we have become.

Well, when I talk about “Power” Slaves, please do not conclude that I am talking in the same breath as we do about a “Power” nap or a “Power” lunch etc.

Please also do not conclude that I am writing of those politicians who used to prostrate before their party leader and after the sudden demise of that leader subverted to the one ostensibly next in line. No sir, I am not talking of that too as it is none of my business to have anything about why a politician does and what and when and how?

What I am talking about is precise and definite.

I am talking of the times when we have now become slaves to “ATMs”; slaves to “Apps”; Slaves to “Internet”; and slaves to…………

When the demonetisation of Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 currency notes in the country was announced on the 8th of November, 2016, and reprieve was given for a few days to exchange the existing notes or deposit the same in bank accounts, I was actually checking the ‘power’ of my daughter’s eyesight at an ophthalmologist’s place. By the time I was through with that and I came to know of the announcement and thought of depositing whatever notes I had in the house, before they could become ‘power’less, I found unprecedented crowds and queues – some “ruly” and many unruly – in front of those Any Time Money (Automated Teller Machines are the right words though) Machines which would accept deposits. There was no need to suffer such queues if one is going to deposit the same in bank accounts. Yet there it was and there they were.

More than two months hence, the queues still are there in front of the ATMs – this time to withdraw their own money which is coming out in trickles; that is if the ATMs have the money loaded into. We spend so much of time every day in front of ATMS that we have almost become slaves to them.

December arrived with the news of the sudden demise of our beloved Chief Minister, with much confusion and uncertainty. For days, people became slaves of those two new powers called the ‘Facebook’ and ‘WhatsApp’. So much news was bandied on these two media platforms that collectively must have put AP, PTI and Reuters down by a few notches in news gathering and collating.

And Chennai has been hit by “Vardah” the Cyclone / Hurricane / Typhoon - call what you may as is convenient to you – on the 12th December. The entire city and the suburbs were shaken and swayed perilously by winds gusting with a velocity and speed of over 150 kmph that I do not remember to have witnessed in the past few decades. In the wake of its few hours of fury (3-4 hours really) it left the entire city ‘Power’less of electricity.

As almost a third of the trees and thus most of the city’s greenery were ravaged; the trees took the electric poles and cables with them – snarling and snapping them; smashing the power transformers in every which way. No ‘power’ for light, fans and air-conditioning. No power for electric stoves, water filters – And yes, no power for the mobiles and computers and no power for the internet connectivity.

Now at the ATMs it is a double whammy – no power so no money too and no money so no power! Now interpret this! J

With nothing much to do, people started ‘talking’ to other members in the family. They started talking to their favourite Gods for deliverance from ‘Vardah’ only to be ‘enslaved’ by the ‘Power” as soon as possible, if not immediately.

Could not see many ‘Uber’ or ‘Ola’ cabs on the roads for more than three days after ‘Vardah’, as mobile connectivity was hurt and so did the App connectivity. As I wrote in my earlier blog, when it came to hiring cabs through aggregators, the rules of the game are different. The cab aggregators stopped taking in calls for requesting cabs as they work now only through apps. Now it hurts the aggregators, the cab owners and the drivers and the passengers too! There now is a need for cabs that can be flagged down anyplace! Yes, Auto rickshaws are available and can be flagged down but unlike the aggregators who accept payment through e-wallets, many of these auto rickshaw people are yet to be ensnared er enslaved by such technology!

So, effectively during this period of ‘Power’ crisis, though most of the ‘slaves’ of this power were suddenly liberated physically for a couple of days, mentally they were badly ravaged. They all were like suffering from the Stockholm syndrome. You have been used to the kidnapper so much that you started empathising with him. In this case, the kidnapper who has enslaved us is what we have created.

Now you would be recognising the ‘power’ about which I am talking so far.

Yes, Technology!

But sadly, the technology that has been powered by human mind and electric power has started ruling the humans and enslaved them.

About a half century ago, when I was a kid, I used to read those comics of ‘Flash Gordon’ (First Comic strip Created in 1934) and ‘Magnus-the Robot Fighter’ (first Comic Strip Created in 1963) and used to wonder whether such things would really happen, at all! Now I know. Yes, now I am seeing them happen, in my own life time.

What I would not give to meet people like ‘Jules Verne’ and those who created Flash Gordon (Alex Raymond) and Magnus (Russ Manning) for their futuristic vision of technology, so that I can felicitate them for their futuristic thoughts of how humans could become slaves of their own creativity and their own ‘Power’?  

Well, folks, what do you think? Please, do let me know! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Hemantha Kalam - 39 Reluctant 'Rani' - Enigmatic 'End'

Circa 1962!

One day (or rather night), my father came home from work and asked my mother to wake me early the next morning and make me up for going ‘out’. Having been a slow starter and coupled with a little laissez faire attitude I was not keen on any such excursions early in the morning sacrificing my lovely sleep (the only luxury I indulge in - till date). Mortally afraid of having to incur my father’s wrath, I went to bed early but worrying late into the night about what is in store for me, the next day. I was all of about 6 plus years of age at that time.

Next day morning I was woken and made up when Chettiar, my father’s office driver arrived in the metallic green Landmaster car and picked me and my dad. The car moved on picking up a few more boys and girls and finally reached its destination for the day – the garden in the Chettinad Palace that is located in the present MRC Nagar of Chennai.

When we were asked to alight, I found that there were reflectors, cameras, lights ranging from ‘Baby’ to ‘Brute’ capacities and rails for moving the huge camera (Must be a Mitchell as I wonder whether Arriflex made its entry by that time) all around. I could see Vindan Maama (uncle), the cinematographer, being busy behind the camera, and Uncle Shanker, my father’s boss with a file, under his arm.

A variety of activities were going on around and all people known to me were engaged in some work or other to be bothered about a runt of a boy – that’s me. For me, the location was strange and so were the other kids. A couple of kids invited me to play with them but I could not join them without taking permission from my father and my father who was assisting Uncle Shanker, was very busy. Since childhood I was a loner and even today, with all my international exposure, I am a loner, despite being in a crowd and get on famously well when I am alone.

In about half an hour’s time, the camera turned towards the huge tree under which the kids were asked to stay and surrounded by the reflectors and lights. Uncle Shanker came and announced in his booming voice that they are shooting a shot of kids playing hide and seek under the tree and we have to tease a girl who is to be blindfolded. I was given a rubber squirrel which would make a tweeting sound when squeezed. I am to keep squeezing it and taunt the girl in the blindfold by calling to her as ‘Rani’, ‘Rani’ and drawing her attention to the directions we are in; yet to fool her when she goes in that direction.

Then I understood that they were shooting a film and that it was the debut for me in ‘film acting’ so to say. The scene was being shot among friends who, as per the story, would eventually grow to become the Hero and Heroine around whom the film revolves.

But try as they may, the film crew couldn’t make me taunt the blindfolded girl who was quite tall and I was terrified to even go near her, forget about calling her. After wasting precious time and quite a bit of film, my task was given to somebody else. My father was clearly annoyed at that time, but a couple of days ago when I was mentioning about this anecdote, he was heartily laughing and reminded me that all I did was keep rubbing my buns and pulling up my knickers.

After the day, we all returned home and I forgot what happened. A few years (maybe a couple of years) or so later, the film was released in Rajakumari theatre in Chennai and being a bit of a narcissist that I am, I watched at least two shows of it every day of the week it ran for. Apart from my father and his brother, the only other person known to me who watched this film is my classmate Mr. Madhu Babu who bought the ticket and saw only because his friend ‘acted’ in it. Both of us are still in touch with each other and keep meeting once a way.

Due to indifferent fund flows and paucity of adequate funds, the picture took more than a couple of years in the making and finally when it was released to the audience sometime during 1964-65, it ran for hardly one week with scant audience as it was an experiment of a movie. It was an Indian film made in English language and the cast were all new.

While the hero of the film was an emerging actor called J. V. Ramana Murthy (brother of the famous and well respected film actor J. V. Somayajulu), the heroine was a young girl of 14-15 years of age called Jayalalitha (no, at this point of time the additional ‘a’ in her name was not there; it came much later), daughter of a well-known film actress called Sandhya. The heroine, at the time of acting in the movie, was apparently still studying in Church Park convent and was chosen primarily for her prowess in English language.

Uncle Shanker is better known as Shanker V. Giri (Late) son of HE V. V. Giri (Late) the fourth President of India. Uncle Shanker Giri himself became a MP in Madhya Pradesh contesting on behalf of the Congress Party. Before entering into politics he had some small business interests but his passion was into film making. He had a story and was convinced that story would make waves. He had his own movie company under the banner of SYGA Movies (combination of first alphabets of the names of himself, his wife and sons made SYGA) and ventured into not only producing but also directing the film.

My father donned several roles while serving Late Shanker Giri. For his business under the proprietorship called SYGA Corporation, he was the Manager of the firm. For SYGA Movies he was the Associate Director doubling as Production Manager as well. When Uncle Shanker Giri became the MP, my father became his PA and also the PA of HE V. V. Giri, in Chennai (incognito in the government records though and interestingly till date my father never visited Delhi).

So as an Associate Director for SYGA Movies, my father became instrumental in getting Ms. Jayalalitha’s screen and voice tests to check her suitability for the film, because contrary to many people’s, especially the Tamil Nadu’s people’s belief, this English film was her debut film paving way into the film industry.

While the film progressed and the ‘rushes’ were being run in AVM studios, it so happened that one day when Late C. V. Sridhar, the famous and popular director of Tamil and Hindi films under his banner Chitralaya Films, was in AVM studios, he casually peeped into the moviola (editing machine) in the editing room, to see a south Indian actress speaking good English dialogues. Intrigued, he inquired as to what was happening and came to know that an Indian film is being made in the English language, with several new faces of actors and actresses.

Apparently he approved her acting and dialogue delivery ability that he booked her for his next Tamil film called ‘Vennira Aadai’ (white coloured cloth) worn by widows in India. As production costs were not an issue for him Late Sridhar could complete and release the Tamil film earlier than the English film and thus people believe that ‘Vennira Aadai’ is Jayalalitha’s first film. Recently when I narrated this to dear Sanjay, Late Sridhar’s son, he was surprised and said that he never knew this nor did he hear this from his father.     

The story of the English film goes something like this. The hero as a boy is a hyper tense boy and to add, he also falls from a tree getting injured in the brain, in his young age. As he grows, he does carry with him a baggage of complexes and allows them to spill over into his life and affecting his married life and his wife ‘Rani’(meaning queen) who also is a classmate of his and who grew along with him. After undergoing quite a turbulent married life, ‘Rani’ delivers a child and dies in child birth, leaving the child and if I remember well a letter expressing her care, for the hero, who more often spurned it. I am not sure whether one has to take the letter or the newly born child as the ‘Epistle’ which is the name of this English film.

Thus, it is the English film ‘Epistle’ that happens to be the debut film for Jayalalitha and also a small guy who is now writing this blog. Paradoxically while in her first film the character depicted by her dies leaving a widower and in her next film her character becomes a widow.

Despite being in the same film and my father being instrumental in her first film, I never, not once, met Jayalalitha the actress or Hon. Jayalalithaa the chief minister of Tamil Nadu that she evolved into. Even my father never attempted to meet her when she was climbing up in positions nor curried any favours and remained to be simple and inconspicuous, as is wont of him.

Excepting the fact that her first film was ‘Epistle’ which was known to us, whatever further information we knew of her was hearsay or from the media. We now understand that the lady who ruled the state as a ‘queen’ (Rani) was in fact quite reluctant to enter films or even politics and was always interested in reading and gaining more and more knowledge.

That after ruling her political party and the state with full control as ‘Amma’ (Mother), she fell ill and was hospitalised for over 2 ½ months and suddenly passed away making people wonder as to what exactly went wrong with her health and what really led to her demise. It’s about a month now since her demise and still nobody knows much more than what has been announced, excepting for the fact that she is no more with us.

It was so saddening to see a lady who was fondly called ‘Amma’ by her admirers and an ‘Iron Lady’ by both her admirers and detractors and who was accused of amassing wealth beyond her known means, left this world taking nothing with her but leaving a legacy of determination which certainly can be emulated. That a person who could wield such power when alive, had to die so seemingly helpless was ironical!

May her soul be blessed and may she rest in peace!         

Respectfully to the departed, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Friday, 2 September 2016

Hemantha Kalam - 38 'Virtually' Dead - Really 'Alive'

Well, I am one of those who do not hesitate in taking pride of being a technical noob and saying so! This belligerence emanates probably from the reason that I am born and brought up in times of almost ‘nil-technology’ (well, so to say in today’s parlance) and was happier. Most importantly, I survived to write this now.

So I was one of those who have been very reluctant to have a hand phone (call it cellular or mobile phone too, if you wish) and am always looking for an opportunity to get rid of one; soon as I hang up my boots for good and done for!

I have been quite happy with the simple instruments that I have been using but my first daughter, who is a sort of a gadget freak, felt that I do not possess an instrument befitting my professional stature (whatever it is). So there was this one time when I had to reluctantly go in for quite an advanced model (for that time) of Nokia, shelling out a small fortune and after using it for over 6 years it died naturally. By the time it died, I did not know functions other than storing my contact details, making and receiving calls, sending and receiving Short Messaging Texts (SMS) and filing them in folders and an occasional clicking of a photograph. I was given to understand that that machine had some infinite functions, but till the end of its life, I was as ignorant of them as I was - before having it.

Then I got my Nokia Asha 200 model and I was quite happy with it. But soon all hell broke loose in the form of ‘Apps’ – an app for this and an app for that. Still I was untouched by them. But then as I do consultancy work for my daily bread, I needed to work with my client, represented by a very young gentleman who swears by technology – even in his deepest slumber. He was virtually nagging me to go in for a more advanced system! Apart from interacting officially, this interaction became a part of our daily communications.

And when it came to hiring cabs through aggregators the rules of the game changed. Slowly one after the other, the cab aggregators stopped taking in calls for requesting cabs and started asking to download the apps and hire the cabs. Now my poor Nokia Asha 200 was not apparently meant for those myriad useless apps and so it did not support any or hardly any apps.

Every month there were times when I needed to hire a cab and I had to depend on somebody, mostly my wife, who is technologically more advanced and sophisticated than me, for booking my cabs for me. Though she always obliged me for this chore, without a protest, apparently it was becoming more and more of an inconvenience for her. So she and my daughters conspired and got me an Android phone! The purchase was ‘on-line’ - again using technology!

One fine afternoon, the ‘damned’ thing was delivered to me and I changed my sim into it and first thing my wife made me do is downloading the apps for the cab aggregators and the ‘WhatsApp’!

My wife’s circle is larger than mine and many of them are in ‘phoren’ countries or visit ‘phoren’ countries from India, as they have a son there or a daughter here and so on. Most of these people inevitably land up in the US of A, as many Indians seem to have made the US of A, an ultimate and must attainable destination in their life. I do not know what is in store for me as I am having children of marriage age and it is anybody’s guess where they will land up!

Well, coming back to the point, since the time difference could be as much as 10.30 hours between India and the west coast of US of A, some of these visiting characters will wake up in the morning and after having a sumptuous breakfast and sending their children to offices, would hardly have any work. They fill their time by systematically forwarding the ‘sermons’ and general gossip on ‘WhatsApp’ as if it is a vow and must be fulfilled on the pain of some deprivation. Now the problem is that the receiving time in India would be bedtime, due to the time difference. There have been any number of times I felt like telling all those characters to ‘shut up’ the ‘WhatsApp’ as it disturbed my sleep and the worst thing was the alert sound of a message. The signature sound of the ‘WhatsApp’ alert can really be irritating; to say the least. How I loathe that sound, bah!

If you are connected to some groups and members of each group are connected to members in other groups, the network shortens and the same message is forwarded some 6-8 times within a few minutes, among all groups – and many a time you will be receiving the same message or ‘share’ or ‘forward’ from so many groups that you are connected to or a member in.

On one hand it drains your battery cell and you need to keep on charging the system and on the other hand you need to constantly remove the received messages to free storage space. And then the answer came in the form of power banks which was another expense.

And what are you getting, for all this trouble taken? You are getting messages which you hardly have any use for, and in any case, most of them are ‘sermons’ which nobody follows but expects the others to believe that they do follow. Wastage of time, wastage of electricity and wastage of money! The only thing I enjoy are some good photographs and jokes through these ‘shares’ and ‘forwards’ and once in a way, some worthwhile information / news – Period!

Coming back to my mobile, it worked well for some time and then I had to upgrade to a 4 G micro-SIM! The moment I put it in, the mobile phone spewed it out and refused to read the SIM card. I took the system to a couple of service centres and nobody could diagnose the problem. Having bought the system ‘on-line’ and being a ‘technical noob’ I could not find an authorised centre. I also had lost the purchase invoice for the same.

Over a period of time, I got fed up and started using it only in my house where it got connected to the Wi-Fi internet, even without a SIM and thought that’s fine! But my dear wife could not allow good money to go waste and after skimming on the internet, latched on to the call centre and traced out three authorised centres in our city. One centre told me clearly that they will look only after the warranty period is completed and the service will cost money. In the other place, it took me a couple of days’ efforts even to connect on the phone and finally when I landed up at the service centre physically, they demanded the invoice which I did not have. However, one guy in the centre was pally and gave me the toll free number of the ‘On-line’ service provider and also added that till the time I provide the invoice my phone will not be attended to.

I was very skeptical in making the toll free call as I have been continuously bitten by the useless and faceless service many of the bankers offer in our country. But surprisingly this faceless girl was of immense help and sent me a copy of the invoice literally in less than a minute over my e-mail which I had forwarded to the service centre.

The service centre took a couple of more days to diagnose and finally declared that the “mother” (board) of my mobile is dead and they needed at least a fortnight to get the mother (board) replaced.

Let me tell you something. That fortnight had been heavenly for me.

When I got my mobile back after service, I was forced to again install several apps including ‘WhatsApp’ more for professional reasons and I noted that within about half an hour of installation, some 155 MB stuff has been downloaded comprising of some 3,000 messages from about 8 active groups (needless to emphasise that almost 90 MB of it has been sheer repetition). It took me some 3 days to go through the messages and to delete them – the pictures, the sermons and many useless videos.

And let me assure you that less than 0.5% of that stuff was relevant and there were hardly any business related information for all the trouble taken.

But worst – not a single inquiry, not a single wonderment as to why I was suddenly off the air! For all that mattered, I was ‘virtually’ dead for all the connections I had! Yes, there were a couple of murmurs, later when I resurfaced, that I was missed; but it was just that low key!

So ladies and gentlemen, for those 15 days maybe I was dead ‘virtually’ but I was so ‘alive’ really - in a true sense! No sermons, no useless sharing and sheer bliss!

I know I am day dreaming that people of my country will use mobile phones only for emergencies, as they were intended for – but, like hell, I can only dream!          

Well, folks, what do you think? Please, do let me know! Yes, I am still on ‘WhatsApp’ for whatever it is worth!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India