Dec 14, 2010

For a cause

I am sure most of you would have come across the now popular ‘Akshaya pathra’ program from ISKCON which helps the state governments across the country to feed India’s future through Mid-day meal scheme. A friend of mine had shared the below video sometime back.

It clearly shows how mid-day meal scheme actually helps in reducing the school drop outs, in fact, makes students go to school for more than one reason! With a phenomenal growth rate in population, the total number of mouths to feed is mind-boggling and despite the fact that governments are the primary sponsors of such social programs, NGO’s help is almost essential in successful execution of those.
What amazes me about the Akshaya pathra is use of technology in such a massive scale to prepare hot sambhar rice and the attention to details without being overwhelmed by the scale! Consistently, 6 days a week!
Madhu pandit dasa refers to adding grated coconut in sambhar, as an example for attention to details. How true that is! Coconut, sure is an important yet more of a ‘good to have’ ingredient’. Clearly spending resources on adding a ‘good to have’ ingredient in over 820 thousand plates of sambhar rice is a huge task which can be easily discarded from the entire process. The foundation thinks otherwise.
” Kids free lunch should not only be free, but also tasty”. Speaks volumes on the sincerity towards this daily task
I am more than convinced to do my bit for this cause. As a first step, I am writing this to post on, which has come together with the Akshaya pathra foundation to promote their cause
(Each valid post helps feeding 50 children!)

You can choose to go the next step in the below link! :)

Nov 5, 2010

In Hindi, 145= Ek Chaar panch!

“Oh you know Hindi!, That’s surprising” . Now that is not surprising.

With a typical South Indian (Madrasi is it?) demeanor that I have, the fact that my north Indian colleagues are surprised at my Hindi ‘skills’, is not surprising.

“Oh I passed out of Kendriya Vidyalaya you Know…We studied even Social studies in hindi…So yea.. I can handle hindi!’ Would be my typical response, a tad proud that I got them incorrect in a certain way!

But then, I know for myself on how much of Hindi I can ‘Really’ handle! .Quite clearly, the only Hindi exposure, if I can say, has been academic and I don’t remember having the need of interacting with people around me in Hindi on a regular basis. All that changed when I moved to the northern part of India a few months back. It is not that, Hindi knowledge, rather, the lack of it, is detrimental if you are looking at living in the North. But then, the realization dawns pretty soon.

I end up talking to people around me in hindi almost always! And that’s where I start discovering that what is spoken in this part of the country is way different from the Kendriya vidyalaya’s Course-A Hindi Syllabus (Both Swathi, the poetry book and Parag ,the prose textbook!) .

There are certain things which just cannot be accomplished by Course-A hindi lessons that were taught in school; like bargaining with the Auto driver. You are supposed to sound upset with the rates they quote, argue for the best rate, all in an accent/slang that would convince the driver to reduce the rates. Needless to say most often I fail miserably J. With my textbook diction, I end up entertaining the driver through my failed attempts at bargaining. So I always have one standard line to say

“Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz (X-20) dekhe jaata hoon main!” where X= amount quoted by the Auto driver!

(Hey brother, I pay (X-20) everyday for the same route)

Now, I don’t even know if that’s a correct statement technically! Nevertheless, It seems to work!

If Accent/Slang is one challenge, recalling the numbers in hindi is quite a handful as well!

As clich├ęd as it may sound, it is unquestionably true that my first lesson on numbers in hindi, up to 13 atleast, I owe to the legendary ‘Ek dho theen’ song,. And for me, the Kendriya vidyalaya course A hindi took that count to 50 (Pachas you see!). Thanks to my Primary Hindi teacher’s life threat on me for failing to memorize numbers in Hindi up to 50.

Despite taking up the tough part of ‘ 50 to 100 : hindi version’ in secondary school, I don’t seem to recall them quick enough to use in conversations.

Coming back to the Auto chap, the (X-20) that I quote usually, is a number above 50. So, when he quotes X, I take some time to process it. Step one of which is to subtract 20 from it and arrive at my ‘response to the quote’. The second step requires me to translate the same in hindi and confidently throw it back at the auto driver. Now, the challenge here is, I have to do it rapidly in order to stay in the bargaining game. After a few initial bloopers, I got hold of the numbers, atleast the ones on the regular routes.

And then, I encounter this auto chap who reminded me that I was not quite into Hindi numbers yet! The conversation goes something like this

Me: Sector 126 chaloge?

(Me:Can you take me to sector 126?)

Auto chap:Chalenge sir…

(Auto chap: yes sir,we can.)

Me:Kitna loge?

(Me:How much would you quote?)

I wanted to know his quote (X),so that I can proceed with further steps.Usually the X is Rs.90 or Rs.100, in which case my response would almost always ”Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz satthar (70) dekhe jaata hoon main!” This guy was plain honest!

Auto Chap: saath rupaya sir

(Auto chap:Rs.60 sir)

I heard it correctly, but I had already assumed it would be either 90 or 100!. So I go with my usual response

Me: Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz satthar dekhe jaata hoon main!

(Me: Hey Brother, I pay Rs.70 everyday for the same route)

Auto chap: Kya? Kitna bola aapne?

(Auto chap: What?How much did you say?)

And then I realize the mistake!! He actually quoted 60 and I offered 70! Now, regaining whatever senses I lost, I responded!

Me: Kitna Bola aapne?

(Me:How much did YOU say?)

I could have easily told saath (60) when he asked me and sealed the deal, but chose to hear it from him. He did quote 60 again and was hoping I would make the same mistake. Thankfully, I didn’t

From such unintelligent encounters with auto drivers to situations where I had to breakdown a 3 digit number in hindi, digit by digit (eg: 145 is equal to ‘Ek sow painthalees’ is also equal to ‘ek chaar paanch’ :D), it is hilarious in a way.

It also reminds me that it takes more than a Kendriya vidyalaya course A to claim comfort on hindi conversational skills!

Sep 20, 2010

Snack it up!

Long meetings/Working sessions/Workshops/Day long brainstorming- All essentially meant the same. The 'Participants' would take turns to rattle out all the management jargons they have picked, along with their synonyms as well as those verbose phrases which usually have better one word equivalents that would serve the purpose. And of course, the workshop hall would have swanky furnishings, the projectors,digital boards, flip charts to write down the synonyms/phrases that can be reused, the speaker phones to accommodate the 'synonym generators' who could not make it to the session 'in person'.  

However, the part that I like the most (may be i don't have a choice!) are the tea breaks and lunch breaks along with those 'munch as u speak' snacks!

For one,it supplies all the energy in the world to sustain through the day long whatever.Oh well, do we need a reason to love food?! Sure I don't! Despite this, I am always caught up in two minds when the snacks are placed right in front of me. Obviously I get distracted by those plates of biscuits and chips. However, the actual dilemma is - Should I be the one to open it and set the ball errr..biscuits rolling? 

Usually, I have this feeling of 'all eyes in the room on you' when I reach out to open the pack. Perhaps its the fear of failure! What if the pack wouldn't open? What if the biscuits would break into pieces on its way from the plate to my mouth?! Even worse, what if I spill the glass of water which is dangerously close to both my neighbours and the biscuits?!!  And I end up waiting for the rest of the world to take a chance!

It was all the other way on that day! For starters, the day long workshop made a lot of sense! and I had to miss the lunch that was organized, blame it on the strategically set up meeting during the lunch break....Phew....Utlization management it seems!

Empty stomach didn't help me a bit to keep myself focussed on the discussions which unusually made sense that day! Was it coz I was hungry or was it one of those days!? I didn't have a clue. All I knew was I wanted food. Right away!  As I made up my mind to quit the session halfway through and head straight to the food court, the pantry guy made an entry with plates of stuff! I was relieved only to be reminded of the self imposed 'No first strike' policy. As expected, the pantry guy placed one foil wrapped plate full of 'good day' biscuits right in front of me. I waited for him to exit the room.

Now, should I wait for some one to open, the chances of which seemed very bleak as everyone seemed focussed on what was being talked about. I started getting restless! I looked around all the faces. No one damn cared about those biscuit plates! Sure the lunch would have been fantastic and filling!

I had to make a choice! Either I storm out of the room and head to the food court,that being my original plan Or shed all inhibitions and tear apart the wrap around the biscuit plates and salvage my hunger. And that I did! and in the process realized that I did it pretty smoothly with minimal disturbance to the rest of the world! The first biscuit got rid of my hunger as well as my fears of being the first one to open the snacks plate. I carried on the confidence, munched a couple of more biscuits and yeah I didn't notice if I was being noticed by others! I went to on to offer a couple of biscuits to my neighbours as well! 

Adversities brings the best in you,I was told. Sure it did That day!

Sep 12, 2010

Simply Complex!

I am not a 'taller than six and a half foot' giant that I should complain about people/things around me being short/small. However, a six footer does face most of those,especially if there is a 'discrepancy'  in the torso to limbs ratio.

Sleeper berths in Indian railways are ideal for those who fit into the boundaries of the berth. Once you cross one of those, more often than not, you are in for action!

It can be anything from those unknown Co-passengers on the walkway, touching your feet with their heads to weird 'S' shapes on the berth while sleeping. My friend describes the 'S' shape dilemma here. Given an option, I always prefer upper berth where a protruding feet is not a problem for the walkway passengers. Indian railways don't give an option every time you travel, do they?!!

My amma and I were traveling back to madras in train after a good 4 day vacation at friend's and this time I had to deal with the 'Side Upper' berth which actually gives an isolated feel and hence minimal disturbance to other passengers in the bay. However, they are a bit shorter than the other berths (or i feel that way!). I try negating the length by choosing a diagonal position which works most of the time(Refer Pic 1!). 

                                    Picture 1: Top View of the Sleeper berth (And that is me!)

My amma though had other plans. She chose to make my problems a bit more complex by giving me two hand baggage to be kept besides me as they had 'valuable' contents. Keeping them under the seats would be risky! Apparently!

So now, My problem statement was simple. Sleep on a berth that would not fit me in and also safeguard the 'valuable' contents! I was trying to stay awake by sitting on the berth, leaning on one of the baggage and holding the other on the inner side of the berth like in Picture 2

Picture 2: Side view of the Berth (Chose the side view so that the baggage positions can be clearly shown. Again, Thats me!)

Obviously,I knew that was not the way I can sleep a whole night.I was just delaying my sleep as I could not come up with any solution,so to say!

An 'S' shape facing outwards would create two slots on the inner side where the two bags can be placed. This is how it looked

Picture 3: Back to top View of the berth to show the 'S' shape. Though I have shown the bags to fit into the slot, they actually didn't! 

However, the baggages wouldn't fit into those slots (Damn! will enything ever fit In!!??) More than that, IT WAS painful to be in that position for more than 30 mins! 

Whatever it was, One thing was pretty clear that I was not going to get a comfortable sleep that night.So I had to settle down for a less painful option. One that will ensure the safety of those bags and accommodate me on the berth...well almost accommodate me! And the solution looked something like this

Picture 4: Side view of the berth. I was in that position for 5 Hours with my eyes closed and trying to sleep! 

The inclination on the bag helped in reducing the body length to be accommodated in the berth by a few inches. Owing to a poor torso to limbs proportion, it wasn't a major reduction! So I had to take the diagonal position as well! This position was not comforting, but less painful. One which I could take for 5 hours and not more than that! 

And It was 6 in the morning. I stepped down from my berth and found my mom awake. She asked 2 questions

"Good morning! Did u sleep well last night? And are the bags safe??"  

She wished me Good morning! So I chose not to talk the details of it, just smiled and  said "Yes"!!

Jul 6, 2010

I didn't have an Answer!

We all have been there. Quite a few times we have had questions thrown at us, which either don’t have an answer or have more than one. Most often though we choose not to answer some of those! A better alternative we end up choosing is a smile followed by an appropriate pause. A smile which is neither too long to make you look like a fool nor too short to mock at the other person!

Few of those ‘smile’ moments I had last week

A colleague at office to me: “It took really long for me to move back to delhi.I was finding it tough to manage in HCL Chennai for the last 2 years.Language problems, no proper north Indian food you know….I think there is a conspiracy behind all this for which Shiv Nadar is responsible. He is deliberately moving North Indian people to Chennai and people from Chennai to places like Noida. That clearly explains why you are here! “

( Trust me!..He was damn serious about his observation and …..I chose not to answer…..errr….Chose to smile…Phew…Of all the things in the world, Shiv Nadar handed over the reins to Roshni Nadar,ONLY to get into this ‘Conspiracy’ thing full time!...huh…..)

My little 3 year old niece to me:" I think I am not going to talk to you the next time you visit me. You are so grown up and I always see you in half pants. I think Grown ups are supposed to be only in full pants and you are one of them! We will talk further when you are in full pants"

(Boy! I didn’t see that coming….and didn’t have an answer!)

At hindsight though, I guess those questions were better unanswered, for one, it would have dragged the conversation to no logical conclusion and perhaps would have diluted the ‘surprise/silly/fun’ part of those questions.

The best part is it gives you a reason to smile! Helps people who just cant stop smiling! I have quite a few friends in that category!! (ahh well....I am in that category too..)