For The 90’s Kids

Pratyush was getting very irritated sitting at the Bank’s reception with his father for over an hour. He had finished reading the 3 months old India Today cover-to-cover and had observed the people, mostly of older generation coming in for such trivial issue such as updating their passbook or withdrawing cash which can be done at home or any ATM. His irritation was now solely aimed at his father and he blurted out, “I told you so many times to learn on-line banking, but you are so adamant.”

“What will be good in learning internet banking?” His father asked.

“You could have easily done this job sitting at home… what more, you can actually buy things sitting at home through on-line shopping apps. But you won’t go for such easy method… you will waste valuable time sitting here.” Pratyush continued.

“Okay, I understand that if I could use online banking, I would not have to step out from home.”

“Yes, precisely, we need not have wasted the last one hour sitting here.”

Ashish, the doting father of Pratyush said something that stunned Pratyush and silenced him…

“What do you achieve by saving so much time? You (people) are always glued to your smartphones or the laptop… have you in last one year called on your aunt who stays about a kilometer away or Indro uncle across the street who had a bad fall last week and is bed ridden? I have always given priority to human relations and regularly checked on all my uncles and aunts even if it was just a 15 minutes visit. What is the point of saving time if we cannot share it with our loved ones?”

The people standing nearby were attentive to what the old man was saying as was Pratyush…

Ashish continued, “Since the time we entered the bank I have four of my friends and exchanged pleasantries… you know, I hardly ever leave my room let alone the house so whenever I can, it brings immense joy to meet up with people known and unknown. At my age, I have ample time but hardly any company. The online apps whether banking or shopping will provide the service/product at my door step but not the warmth of human company that I miss so badly.

You remember, couple of years ago I was hospitalized… the pharmacist from whom I buy my medicine was the guy visiting me at the hospital, looking after my needs. The modern apps probably would send a customary email or message wishing speedy recovery sans any real emotion but can they really understand the pain of loneliness of a retired old man?

Few weeks back your mother fell down during morning walk in the park, who do you think picked her up and brought her back to home? It’s not your internet banking or the online shopping apps…they may know her account number or house address but not her personally, especially when she’s just human lying on the ground. The guys who helped her back on feet and brought her home are the ones with whom we interact everyday…in the park, in the market…

If everything becomes online, people will miss-out on human touch… Today, the apartments have made us “apart” instead of bringing us together… we get to know of passing away of our neighbor because of the stench of rotting body!! Is this humanity? In my childhood, there used to be one or two television in the entire neighborhood… we enjoyed the weekly Chitrahaar and Hindi Cinema watching it together. Today, each household has multiple television sets and gadgets that keep the individual cooped up in their rooms… sitting across the table, the youngsters converse through messaging apps instead of talking to each other… where are we headed to?

You see that bank teller as the guy who disburses cash or the shop salesman as just a salesman but miss out the human behind the façade of the job they are doing… I see them as a fellow human, read their stories in their eyes, understand their unsaid words, in short can empathize with them… it somehow binds us as a humanity. Your online apps can provide the service but can never replace this bonding of humans.”

“Is technology bad for humanity?” Pratyush asked.

“No, technology is not bad at all. In fact it is boon for the humanity in this time of pandemic and lockdown. Millions of students and professionals are using the “Zoom” to further their studies and work. It is great but we must not get addicted to the devices…it is perhaps equal to or worse than drug addiction. Both alienate us from our family, the loved ones and make us zombies!! We must aware of this… We must encourage use of technology while developing relations with fellow humans and not vice-versa… we must not become slave of technology!!

These days, waking up, the first thing a person do is to check his device (mobile or laptop) instead of greeting his/her family members…this trend is dangerous for mankind…

However, I must acknowledge that apps like Facebook have connected many of us who have lost touch years ago for various reasons. Today, I am able to interact with my long lost classmates because of apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc.

Few months ago, Asha Bhonsle the singer had posted a picture of her at a concert with caption “I am surrounded by people but completely disconnected because each one of them are busy with their handheld devices.”

I may be wrong or perhaps right, I think you guys are more familiar with the Brand Logo than the people behind them. By all means use and take full advantage of the technology but also put aside your devices to interact and share the joys of your loved ones.” Ashish stopped to take a deep breath.

The Bank Manager, Debabrata called out “Ashish da”

Suddenly, Pratyush could see that a human bonding with another human instead of a Customer interacting with the Bank Manager… he had tried to teach online transactions to his father but the Dad taught him human relation in just a few minutes.

The Lockdown

The Covid19 lockdown has entered the phase 5 with more relaxation than restrictions, so I thought of penning (or keying?) down my experience and not-so-serious-thoughts…

We all knew by the beginning of March that India will go for a lockdown in some form or the other, though I must confess that neither I nor my friends thought a complete lockdown of the whole country as big as India is possible!! Then, on the 20th March the Prime Minister addressed the nation at his favourite time slot of 8:00 PM and urged the citizens not only to follow a self imposed one day lockdown on Sunday 22nd March but to come out to their balconies/ rooftops/ doorsteps to clank the bell in solidarity with the doctors, nurses, policemen et al who are at the forefront in fighting the pandemic. There were doubting Thomas’ who thought it will be a utter failure as Indians known for indiscipline specially in adhering to govt directives (traffic violation is a glaring example). However, surprisingly, people stayed home on a Sunday… came out on their balconies and rooftops to clank the bells, blow conch shells and sing songs like Vande Mataram and Saare Jahan Se Acchha Hindustan Hamara. The only sore point was the sporadic incidence of over enthusiastic people coming out on the streets to do a parade of sort.

I had predicted to my family and friends on Sunday itself that the 14 hour self imposed lockdown is the precursor to the longer version. I thought like others that it will happen from the following week but Prime Minister believes in surprising the citizens with such announcements (e.g. Demonetization) and called for a nationwide complete lockdown of 21 days starting 25th March 00:00 hours once again at his favourite time slot of 8:00 PM giving no time to the people to buy and board up for the long haul.

Anyways I am not here to look and point out the flaws in the decision making of the govt. though in hindsight it seems that there should have been a time gap of 7-10 days to allow not just the migrant labourer but a large number of people who got stuck at distant places because of the suddenness of the lockdown, to go back to their homes.

The RWA of the Residential Complex where we stay in Hyderabad had banned entry of all e-commerce deliveries, the maids and drivers from the beginning of March itself. Now they imposed ban on people moving out as well with exception to essential services, medical emergencies and pet walking. The last one was a great relief for me and Rolf who being a high pedigree dog refuses to poop inside the complex and necessarily walks quite a distance away from it to find a secluded place to do the job.

As I had anticipated, the lockdown measures were like the Chinese Whispers… the messages or instructions announced by the higher authorities got twisted or did not percolate down to the last man guarding the gate/ barricade. The first such experience was when on 25th March I took Rolf out for morning walk, one of the guard of our complex came and asked me to turn back as walking is not allowed. Luckily for me, I had the detailed guideline issued by the Covid19 Team and therefore I told him that pet walking is definitely allowed as an exception. He was not convinced and complained to his supervisor who met me at the main gate to stop me from going out. I showed him the guidelines and told him in clear terms that I will be going out twice a day (morning & evening) and he is free to complain to whomsoever he wishes. I also gave him details of my apartment. I did not face any further resistance which may be because the guards including the supervisors were suitably made aware of the guidelines. In later days I came across many instances of highhandedness of the beat police at the road barricades because of lack of clarity in communication, as narrated by friends who being in essential services had to traverse every day.

We as individuals living inside a gated community were more or less insulated from the happenings outside. The welfare association had arranged vendors for fruits, vegetables, eggs and chicken to deliver twice a week besides the community store that opened through the day to cater to the demands of the residents. In addition to the above they tied up with Apollo Pharmacy to deliver medicines and during the subsequent phases of lockdown they arranged for bakery and other sweet-n-savory items as well. So, in reality, we were better off in the lockdown with everything available to us in the convenience of the residential complex.

However, the situation was not so good for people staying in non-gated community residential apartments, for they faced huge inconvenience in the initial days even for the essential items including medicines. My son living alone in Bengaluru (his flat mate left as the lockdown started) faced issues with getting medicines as well as vegetables and chicken. For few days he literally survived on dal-chawal, Maggi noodles and oats. His medicine requirement was arranged by my wife through her friends in Bengaluru. However, the whole experience made him self sufficient in managing the household while working from home. His only complaint was that he did not get time to stock up on beers!!

There are many positive outcomes from this lockdown as well… I sharpened my culinary skills through cooking up many traditional dishes giving them my personal twists. I mastered the art of making Bengali Aamer Mishti Aachar (Sweet Mango Pickle Bengali style). Tried my hands (successfully) in making Bedmi Puri-Aloo and other vegetarian delicacies that were liked by my (veggie) wife!!

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However, the most positive outcome of the lockdown is getting over my addiction of Chetana Churan (the combination of Rajnigandha and Zafrani patti No.120). The addiction happened 3 decades back when for a very short period I had taken up field sales position where the sales reps would be having this concoction in between the sales call and/or after every cup of tea/ meal. 8-10 hours in the market negotiating with the shopkeeper not just on the number of items to stock but the discount and other schemes was really frustrating and this concoction worked out to be a great healer, even better than cigarettes which I had given up in one shot a few years earlier. I have tried to bunk it earlier too but the easy availability and the job stress would invariably dilute my resolve. When the lockdown happened, I had stock to last me for a week or 10 days at best. I prepared myself mentally to accept the inevitable and slowly started reducing the intake quantity as well as frequency. So, finally when the last bit was consumed, I simply threw the container that was part of my life for many years. It is not that I did not feel the talab for it but resisted the urge with my legendary “Will Power” or resolve. Another point that acted in favour of giving it up is the source of procurement…. I wasn’t too convinced about the hygiene of the shop or its owner(s). It is now over 2 months without the Chetana Churan and I am convinced that the addiction is finally over.

Animal Instinct is something you need to experience to fully understand. During the morning walks with Rolf, he used walk close to 2 km wandering through the lanes as if he owned them. The street dogs would bark at us initially but the snobbery of Rolf made them realize it was futile. A few of them would come to me for petting wagging their tails but a mere look from Rolf would chase them away. However, a couple of days into the lockdown, suddenly Rolf would go out of the complex barely few hundred meters, do his job and turn back for home immediately. Initially I was worried that he wasn’t keeping well but the dogs have a god gifted strategy to tell their hooman parents if they are unwell… they stop eating. However, in this case, his appetite was strong and there was nothing in his movement to suggest otherwise. He was due for vaccination as well as de-worming April and May respectively, so I waited for the relaxation of rules to take him to the vet which finally happened in the first week of May. The Vet also said that it could be psychological… the absence of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic may have psyched him because health wise he is doing well for his age.

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The day I took Rolf to the Vet, I also visited the dog grooming parlor – Scoopy Scrub to give him a much needed bath and a hair trimming. It was a hot, humid day and I realized it was very taxing on him but once done, he actually felt nice and relieved. The usual bounce was back in his stride…

As I write this, we are inching closer to the Unlockdown 1.0 wherein the places of worship, malls and most other shops will open for business. The Govt as well as Private Offices will function at 100% capacity and the RWA’s are advised to open their gates for the maids, drivers and other workers. When the lockdown happened, the country had only 500 confirmed cases of Covid19 and now when it is being rescinded, the numbers are at staggering 200000+!!!

It’s a catch22 situation, if the lockdown continues; there will be serious repercussions on the economy which as it is has taken quite a beating; on the other hand, the opening up of the lockdown poses serious health issues for all as even to this day, the Covid19 virus remains a mystery… how and what circumstances it spreads is still baffling the medical community.

Interestingly, many of the tech companies have already decided to allow its employees to WFH till end of the year 2020. In my wife’s organization, a poll was taken amongst the employees and overwhelmingly people have voted for WFH statuesque. Those who can afford to work from home are likely to continue with self imposed lockdown. The most affected sectors will be the travel and hospitality, the automotives, the retail business as people would only be interested in spending on the essentials and postpone their holiday plans, new vehicle purchase or go for the trendy clothes and accessories. Another sector to get affected will be the unorganized retail sector where the main issue with consumer will be state of hygiene of the vendor.

We have covered almost half of 2020 wherein the country has faced the pandemic of Covid19, the fury of Amphan cyclone, the earthquakes in Delhi and the cyclone Nisarga is making landfall on the western coast of the country. What next… the monsoon havoc… the flooding of the plains???

I wish I am in the midst of a long nightmare and when I wake up tomorrow all these are gone and A NEW DAWN BECKONS US…

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Covid19: Fight Back

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China, Iran and then France…

I am in self quarantine in South of Paris, once a happening place with hundreds of eateries and revelers that lighted up not just the streets but life as well. But all that is past. Today, I am locked up in my apartment. It’s been one week now, I haven’t even ventured on to my balcony which is now sporting an inch layer of dust. I am watching the streets from behind the glass window of my bedroom. The street, one of the main throughways of Paris which at all times is full of not just cars and motorcycles but bicycles and pedestrians jostling for space. Where the vehicles used to screech to a halt paving way for the pedestrian and cross traffic to pass as the signals turned red from amber, today is completely deserted. I am trying to see trace of any life form but alas not a single soul on the streets since morning. The shops are all closed. Just across the road is the railway station which was always a hustle bustle of the crowd on the move is now deserted.

There are a few men and women walking by with their faces covered in mask and they too are not acknowledging the existence of the fellow walker, something unthinkable on the streets of Paris. Then there are few vehicles, either ambulance or Police cars probably carrying the very ill to the nearest hospitals. In short the canvas is like a disaster movie from Hollywood. Till last week the guy who was working hard to save his/her job, the love of his/her love and/or planning for the summer vacation, today they are just busy saving their lives.

The French Govt has declared wartime emergency. Only the daily essential time stores and pharmacies are open. Anyone venturing out is required to fill up govt specified forms stating clearly the intended visit to the pharmacy or to the daily needs stores. There are policemen checking the documents and if answers are not satisfactory, the person can be fined Euro 135 or put behind bars for 6 months.

In the morning only two passengers alighted from a taxi, mother and her teenage son; both covered in face mask but their eyes depicted ghostly fear. They must be inhabitants of our building which is now sans the concierge at the entrance. Some of the apartments have been vacated but no one has come forward to lock them up or sanitize.

The neighboring state of Italy is in dire situation, everyday people are dying exponentially. There is extreme pressure on the administration to bury the dead and at the same time provide medical treatment to the critically ill. In Iran, they have dug up mass grave to bury the dead. Till the time, this deadly virus was confined to Wuhan province in China, sitting in the confines of our homes in Europe, India; we have only provided the lip service by expressing our sympathies. Now, in just over a months’ time, the deadly virus has reached at our very own doorsteps. It has infected the people, the air and the surfaces that we touch, all without our reckoning. The Europe today stands devastated.

Well I am not into fear mongering but trying to alert you all. Let us not spread misinformation through Facebook or WhatsApp but the bare facts and ways to combat the virus scientifically. Let us not repeat the mistakes of Italy or Iran or France. We in India still have time to overcome the threat posed by the Corona Virus. We have precisely TWO WEEKS in hand to defeat this monster and banish it forever. Let us resolve to postpone all non essential purchases and activities for next two weeks. Let us not venture out even to the Nukkad ke Dukan to buy errands. Let us not meet friends and relatives for next two weeks, there’s a telephone that can confirm the well beings of our friends and relations. Let us stay put in the confines of home and enjoy this forced holiday. For once, let us enjoy the solitude of our homes, may be we have to let go of three/ five course meals, let us be satisfied with only Dal-Roti for next two weeks. If we sacrifice this two weeks, probably the virus will meet its end or else there’s no guarantee that you won’t get infected sitting at your office or home.

Let’s just follow three things in the next two weeks…

  1. Let us stay put in our homes. No going out even for smallest of the reasons. No going out to meet friends or brothers or sisters and also not let anyone come enter your homes. It is total isolation from the outside world. Have simplistic food these days, it will not only be easy on your digestive system but perhaps can help you lose those extra kilos. Biriyanis and Kebabs can wait for another day. And you can always stay connected through electronic media.
  2. Let us maintain personal hygiene through a regimen of washing our hands at least once every hour. Sanitize our hands if we touch any suspected surface. Let go of the habit of touching your face, nose or any exposed body part.
  3. Get out of the mindset of “What can I do alone?” Yes you can do hell of a lot for your loved ones just by following the above and inspiring others to do too. You may be young, you may be strong and feel that the virus can’t harm you but remember back home there are your parents, your children who are highly vulnerable to this virus. Keep in mind that the older people with chronic history of high BP, Asthma, Heart Condition or Diabetic are likely to be fatally affected by this monstrous Covid19. Let you be not the cause of their discomfort or illness or even death.

Out of the above three points, the most important one is self quarantine. The question is how long? Well, if you can stay indoors in the coming two weeks then that is all it would be otherwise who knows how it will take to get rid of this Covid19.

Therefore, let’s show the world that through strong resolve and willpower India can win over this virus in the coming TWO WEEKS.

JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.

Inspired by Shri Sourav Mukherjee…