Monday, August 29, 2011


Haldia area is by now, welknown as an area where an industrial complex, served by a port, is coming up. Various organizations are now working in the area towards the fulfillment of this scheme. Co-ordination among them is therefore a must, if haphazard growth is to be avoided.

A master plan for Haldia has already been prepared. It has now to be translated into factories, roads, houses, shops and so on. It is here that a co-ordinated effort is called for. Each agency has its own problems. There are, however, many problems which are common to all or to many agencies. An individual agency can noy tackle these problems, by itself. While these problems will be described in detail subsequently,an attempt has been made to list some of them below :-

1. Lack of communications whether it is by rail, road or river or it is postal,telegraphic, telephonic or wireless. Presemt facilities could, at best, be termed as primitive.

2. Lack of construction materials and consequent high cost of projects.

3. Obstructions put by persons whose lands and houses are to be acquired.

4. Lack of entrepreneurs. Here is a paradox. Plenty of opportunities coupled with plenty of unemployment. Yet there are no entrepreneurs. This vicious circle has to be broken.

5. Need to get popular local support for the successful completion of the Haldia complex. Sudden intrusion of city folk in a rural area is apt to give the locals, a feeling of 'Colonization', with consequent feelings of alienation,jealousy and indifference, if not outright hatred.

6. Need to put up common urban facilities such as schools, hospitals,stadium, university, dairy, shopping centres, hotels, restaurants etc., so as to avoid duplication of the same by every agency.

It is perhaps with a view to achieve these aims that the West Bengal government has constituted the Haldia Development Board. To me, it appears, at first sight, to be a doubtful proposition. Such boards are known to assemble for their meetings and eatings and very often turn out to be mere debating societies. A quotation from the Greek Historian Thucydides, that was a favourite with the late President Kennedy and which is relevant here, refers to Peloponesian policy making bodies. It says " Each member of such bodies presses its own ends....which generally results in no action at all.....they devote more time to the pursuance of their own purposes than to the consideration of general welfare.....each supposes that no harm will come of his own neglect.......that it is the business of another to do this or that......and so on. As each separately entertains the same illusion, the common cause imperceptibly decays "

It is quite possible that each agency represented in the Haldia DevelopmentBoard may pursue its own narrow interests. each one may take shelter for its own defects behind the failure of another agency to do the task allotted to it. At worst, some agencies may even collaborate in non-fulfillment of their tasks by mutual blaming which they had agreed upon in advance.

Some might consider thse fears to be unfounded and hypothetical. Such things have, however happened in the past and are likely to be repeated till such time as responsible behaviour that goes hand in hand with democracy, gets firmly rooted in all of us.

What then, is the solution ? Should an overall body like a holding company or a development Authority vested with powers to co-ordinate the activities of various agencies be constituted ? No ! Such bodies would only put an additional obstacle in the path of whatever little or unco-ordinated steps that the various agencies might be taking. Such a body would want to vet every scheme that any pursue with consequent red tape in the jungle of which, the objective itself would get lost or delayed beyond use.

The answer lies in finding a man of adequate stature and vision to be able to carry out the objectives. Find such a man and build the complex around him. He would, I am sure, like to make Haldia his home.Do not fetter him with administrative responsibilities. Give him instead sufficient wire pulling abilities to see that each agency works towards the goal. "Management By Objectives" is getting to be a much used cliche. Therein however lies hope for the people tired of hair-splitting over methods and procedures. Alas ! The one man who could fill the bill is no more. I mean the late B.B.Ghosh.

By the way, the Haldia Development Board held its first meeting in Calcutta recently. Was it in answer to an artcle published in an earlier issue of this journal with the title " Is Haldia being built in Calcutta ? "

When ! Oh when ! will our neo-feudals get out of their Calcutta based mentality ? They do not seem to like getting out of it the Gandhian way. Perhaps they prefer being moved out the Mao way ! It should be remenbered however thatin today's circumstances, the "Mantra" of Mahatma or Mao is " Back to the villages ". Let us change ourselves in time, before time changes us.

The Haldia Development Board is now a fait accompli. It desrves a fair trial. Well, let us wait and see. In the meantime, it would only be fair for the Haldia Development to know that Haldians are watching them.


( This article was written in early 1970s )

Public Sector projects are usually locatedin undeveloped areas as one of the social aims of the public sector is to ensure balanced development of the entire country. This, indeed, throws up a lot of problems for the construction people.

Very often, the construction team finds the site, a good 80K.M. from the nearest railhead, the road communication consisting of only a fair weather road and little availability of basic construction materials. These are not the only handicaps that the construction people may face. Only a rudimentary postal service may exist. Telegraphs and Telephones, if present, may only function at the pace of life in the tranquil rural surroundings. Banks may be unheard of, shopping done only in weekly bazaars and good milk, contrary the belief of its surfeit in rural ares, simply not to be seen.

Thes problems are not new. Every project has faced them. Our own Haldia is no different from others, though we are rather unfortunate in this respect. The nearest railhead is at Mecheda, a distance of about 65 K.M. from Haldia. a new branch line of the S.E. Railway from Panskura to Durgachak has been laid but has not become operational. The Durgachak-Haldia section has yet to be completed. A National Highway is under construction but it has not been completed.

At present, there is a road from Panskura to Haldia which is not very suitable for heavy traffic. There is no regular river transport coming to Haldia itself. Though Calcutta is only about 60 K.M. away as the crow flies, the road distance is about 130 K.M. The railway distance would also be about the same. A short cut is possible by coming to Diamond Harbour, cross the river by ferry to Kukrahati and continuing the journey by road from Kukrahati to Haldia. In this way, the distance could be shortened to about 75K.M. This short cut is however suitable for passenger traffic only and that too in good weather.

Electricity has now come to haldia, but till very recentlythe nearest electrified place was Tamluk about 50 K.M. away. The State Bank has recently opened a branch but deals only in deposits. No credit facilities are yet available. There is not a single hardware shop in Haldia though one would imagine it to be the first thing to come up in a place where more than Rs. 200 crores are to be spent on construction.

For skilled labour, for cement, for asbestos sheets, for gravel, for timber, for sal ballies, for bamboo matting, even for nails or screws, there is no availability in Haldia itself. There is a tendency therefore, for each and every contractor, not to speak of the various project authorities, to run to Calcutta for arranging the supplies. Each man arranges his own transport and for want of a return trip load from Haldia,the transport companies charge from Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 per trip. Since almost everyone has family or relatives or friends in Calcutta, the tendency of depending on Calcutta gets a further boost.

To say that Haldia is being built in Calcutta would not be very wrong. Calcutta is no doubt, like a mother to Haldia, but if the child is to grow up, it is necessary to cut the placenta as early as possible.If Haldia is to be an alternative to Calcutta, it must learn to stand on its own legs.

All the facilities mentioned above, have to be set up here to form a proper infrastructure. We, of the Haldia Refinery Project, have established here, family and all., in Haldia and our roots have started going into the soil. The mental attachment to Calcutta in respect of the contractors and other agencies, has however, yet to be broken.

For this purpose, it is necessary to establish all the required facilities here. If an army marches on its stomache, a project marches on the availability of four 'M's i.e. men, materials, machines and money at its doorstep. It is the duty of all Haldians to make this availability, a fact, not only to quicken the p[ace but also to cut down the costs of construction.

How can this be achieved ? Demarcate areas for timber yards, cement godowns, hardware stores, steel yards, for shops of daily necessities and so on. Advertise for parties to set up these facilities. Allow a proper wholesalers' market to develop. Create conditions by which no one has to run to Calcutta except the specialised ahencies dealing in supplies.

Let the bank give credit facility to the contractors and other bentrepreneurs. Arrange ferrying of trucks and buses between Diamond Harbour and a point opposite on the Haldia coast I could cite a few more things that could and need to be done. The first and the major obstacle, however, is that all concerned with Haldia, have yet to become Haldians at heart. Once that mental block is cleared, the rest would be much easier to arrange.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


( This article was written after the December 1971 war for Haldia Refinery News, our company's house journal. it is now being posted on my blog )

With the victory of Bangladesh, we in India, too have witnessed the dawn of a national resurgence. Political stability, the firm establishment of democracy and a balancing phenomenon after the turbulence of the past five years, have buoyed up our spirits. As a nation, we have now come to the doorstep of self-reliance. We have our own place - and a fairly important one in the region. More and better things are bound to follow.

Democracy does not merely mean free and fair elections. Democracy also means opportunity for each and everyone and a system of checks and balances that does not allow any single section of the people, a permanent dominance over others. In a nation, there are not merely regional or communal groups. There are others such as the peasantry, the working class, the white collar workers, the bureaucracy, the military, the press, the trading class, the industrialists, the politicians, the professionals such as doctors, lawyers etc,, the intelligencia such as the educationists, the the artists, the authors, the students and so on. Each of these groups has its own interests and its own lobby. A mature democracy is one in which all these groups are evenly balanced and tend to speak with one voice and act in concert , when the overall national interests are involved, however divided, they may be or may appear to be, otherwise.

Thanks to the far sighted leadership of the early years, we have today most of the ingredients of a stable and mature democratic nation. The early years saw first the politicians' dominance as opposed to that of the bureaucracy. the neglect of the military was corrected after the Chinese invasion. The exploitation of the peasants by the landlord class was sought to be corrected by the enaction of land reform laws and of the working class by the labour laws. The press became bolder, the intelligencia free to think, the artists free to create and the professionals free to practise.

It is in the nature of things that repressed sections of society, when given the opportunity, would act more strongly than is warranted, just as a loaded spring on release, jumps up. The past five years' turbulence was a fairly good symptom of this phenomenon. The very fact that such a turbulence could occur is a sign of freedom and democracy. It is however in achieving a balance after such a turbulence that a nation shows its mettle as a matured nation.

We are now in the process of acheving that balance. We have, however, a long way to go. We have to raise the standard of living of the people, a thing more easily said than done. Equitable distrubution of the nation's wealth is a must. But the wealth has to be created first. National wealth does not mean gold or silver or currency notes. It means more production of goods and services - food, clothing, housing, the necessities, the comforts and eventhe luxuries.

If we want to create national wealth, productivity is of the utmost importance, economical production, an imperative. Side by side equitable distribution of the wealth being created, must go on, for, without equitable distribution, creation of wealth itself is impeded beyond a certain stage. On the other hand, distribution before adequate creation of wealth also stops further generation of wealth.

Just as exploitation of the labour by the employers must be prevented, the exploitation of the rest of the nation by the labour must be resisted, Labour, partiocularly, the urban labour, forms only one section of the nation as a whole and a minority section at that. They are, in fact, much better placed as compared to the the vast number of peasants, not to speak of the landless agricultural workers. The nation can not be held to ransom by any of the sections that make it, labour included. Productivity must be increased and only the economic gains of incresed productivity shared. The effort in the days after independence was to rouse the depressed sections of the societyy towards their rights. Now that this has been done, it is time to make them aware of their responsibilities as well.

There is now more important than ever, the need to restore the confidence of the masses in the "establishment". There is at present, a crisis of confidence. By our words and deeds, we have to restore the confidence. For this, first of all, it is necessary to do what we actually say, we shall do and to promise only that , which we are capable of doing. This sounds very simple but for a people with a long tradition of hypocrisy, it is not so easy to acheve. We have, however, got to achieve it. Now or never.

Secondly, we have to get rid of the evils bureaucracy, bossism and subjectivity. The people have a feeling that when one approaches a bureaucrat, one has to keep on giving endless petitions, bend on one's knees as a supplicant and perhaps grease a few palms before one can obtain, even the smallest of one's rights as a taxpayer. Let us not get into the question of the extent to which, this feeling is correct. Let us not, however, deal with the public in a bureaucratic manner, in however small a sphere i n which we deal with the public. We should not forget that they are our paying customers.

Next comes bossism. This is an evil that is one of the worst characteristics of the of the bygone feudal and princely era. It unfortunately persists. A strong man builds up a coterie of people around himm, most of them, self-seekers or the timid who bask in the security afforded by the despotic boss. This coterie has only to sing the praises of the boss and attend his basic and even petty interestss. In return, they are allowed to serve their own interests. For the boss, there is no reason, no logic. His only reason is, "Because I say so". The I is always in the capital.

For a leader in any walk of life, power is essential if he is to carry out the aims for which he stands. With him, power is a means. With the typical 'boss' however, power is a nend. He takes pride in his 'decisiveness'. This decisiveness is however based on steamrollering of any oppositionto his views. Bossism is the very negation of democracy and it must be rooted out not only in politics in all walks of life. Let us not permit bossism any more anywhere.

Subjectivity is another evil of the emotionally immature people. They tend to judge everything by their own standards. They simply can not imagine that some people could be unlike themselves or that certain situations can be tackled in ways other than what they are used to. If we are to go ahead, objectivity as taught by the Gita, is a must.

In this phenomenon of national resurgence, we have a definite role to play. The elimonation of the evils mentioned above, in our own sphere and a responsible democratic behaviour would be our contribution to the national resurgence.


NOTE :- This article was written over 35 years back. It is for the readers to opine whether it is workable, especially in today's cicumstances.

During the twenties, thirties and forties, Mahatma Gandhi prepared the human infrastructure in the country for taking over the rule when independence came. During the fifties and sixties, Nehru prepared the physical industrial infrastructure and induced a scientific temper in his countrymen who till then had been an obscurantist lot. Unfortunately, the industrial culture was not developed simultaneously, with its concommitant industrial infrastructure.

The fabian socialism with its heavy dependence on materialistic outlook created the condition of rising expectations as against limited resources and limited capabilities. The latter half of the sixties therefore saw an upheaval in the country which is continuing.

While not discarding socialism, we have to look at the rewards system in a slightly different angle. The rewards to a person are to be seen in the light of total happiness to a person. A man with a lot of money but with no job satisfaction or an unhappy family or sex life or with uncongenial social surroundings is not likely to be a happy man. A minister with a lot of pomp and prestige may, in a democracy, have only nominal power and freedom of movement. He just can not saunter out like an ordinary citizen in the evening to buy himself a paan (betel leaf). The glamorous film stars need able bodied escorts to take them around. They hardly have any privacy.

This is not to suggest that film stars or the ministers are an unhappy lot. May be their condition suits their temperaments. What we have to find therefore the temperament of each person engaged in any field and give rewards to him/her in such a manner as to increase his/ger total happiness rather than harping on monetary rewards alone. This is not to suggest that monetary rewards do not count or that money is not important. It only means that the marginal utility of money as a reward decreases after a stage and other factors become more important to a person. Once the role of money is devalued, it should be possible to lay the foundation of an egalitarian society.

Both communism and capitalism are trying to reach the goal of an egalitarian society. Communism is getting more liberal and the old fears of infiltration of other ideas or cultures are going away as witnessed by the introduction of the fiat car or the Pepsi Cola into the Soviet Union. On the other hand, moreand more statism is being resorted to in the free market economy countries as witnessed by the recent disclosure about C.I.A. operations within U.S.A. itself.

India and other similar uncommitted countries have an excellent opportunity of taking directly to plutocracy or anarchy as suggested by Marx. Skipping the intermediate steps of a two party democracy or a single party democracy professing socialism, we can take the road of plutocracy straight away After all, pursuit of happiness is the professed goal of the U.S. A.'s constitution. How much happiness has been achieved by them despite their wealth ? Communism has changed the face of Russia in material terms. Why then did Solzhenitsyn leave the country ? Something is obviously lacking there too.

Every system creates its own vested interests and very often, the original purpose of creating the system is lost sight of in pandering to the vested interests. it is extremely difficult to crush these vested interests. It can be done either by a continuing revolution as advocated by Mao-tse-tung or by so cleverly manipulating these vested interests that they destry each other. Another alternative is to create new vested interests which could help in furthering the original aims. In developing countries, where the scope for everyone exists on account of lack of saturation, this last alternative appears to be feasible.

It is important however to have a self regulating machinery which would oversee the whole process. It should ensure that the aims are not lost sight of and that the pawns do not become masters. This machinery should consist of faceless people who are at the top in various fields. They would constitute the ruling establishment. These persons, apart from having specialised knowledge and experience, should also have a general picture of other fields as well. It goes without saying that total happiness should be ensured for them.

Of course, these persons, even without help from others, would be capable of becoming totally happy. To the others, the rewards would be to a lesser degree. Persons who do this are found to become useless in the worldly sense and have to undergo considerable suffering at the hands of the society. They are therefore forced to become thinkers. Some of their work could be taken over by computers.

The rewards system would be in accordance with our Varnashram. Shudras had more physical work. They were comparatively speaking, recent converts to the human form from the animal one. They led more or less a physical life. Vaishyas produced greater wealth and enjoyed a greater part of it than others. Kshatriyas protected the people and to rouse the protective feeling in them, their ego was massaged. Brahmins, teachers and upholders of Dharma, led a spartan, meditative life, doing only as much physical work as necessary to provide a diversion and balance their exertions by physical exercise. Research and development work was done by them. Today's perception of the Brahmin is one of a conservative and outdatedness, which is largely true. The original Brahmin was a continuously evolving being.

I know that hackles will be raised when I say that our rewards should be based on an Indian model such as the Varnashram rather than an impoted model. The major difference in the old and new Varnashram will be that Varna will not depend on birth. It will depend on temperament - aptitude. Left to themselves, people will migrate to professions that they enjoy. The society's job is to create enough opportunities rather than the rationing culture fotered nowadays.

There is nothing better than our own indigenous ideology. What went wrong was that we harped too much on the rituals rather than the spirit and pandered too much to the vested interests created by the system. In the process, substance was forgotten. As a result, the baby had to be thrown out with the bathwater. Let us not repeat this mistake in every system that we create.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Futurology is a dangerous science. One who tries to study it, becomes a very unhappy person unless the society around, supports him. It appears that there is a belief that the more unhappy you make a man, the more the knowledge you get out of him. this is a false belief. After all, the future that he studies is not going to come all of a sudden. So if he studies it gradually, heavens are not going to fall, at least not immediately.

Unhappiness comes to him because of the "ARDHADAGDHA" (literally meaning half-burnt) people who pass on their own unhappy thoughts to him by the thought transmission process. These half-burnt people seek to create a communication gap because of their foolish notions. When such elements succeed, it is the start of the collapse of a civilization, as the really wise are unable to communicate their thoughts to the panic striken half-burnt people.

The really wise are those eho have lost their vitality through dissipation and have become wise after onset of inability to do anything. Their advice is not credible in view of their past. The other set of really wise are the young who simply act without being communicative. Often, they do not know why they are doing what they are doing. Then, there are those who pretend. Thinking themselves to be wiser, they try to fool others. The really wise are those who ignore all such people who take things at face value without reading too much into them.

It is through a maze of all such people that a futurologist has to pass. Finall, he comes to the conclusion that an ignorant stone age man came to. Live your life today, why bother about tomorrow ? In other words, the world will go on, with just a few changes here and there. If you get dark thoughts, it only means that you are getting older. If you want to regenerate yourself, think and act young. That is the only remedy. Leave futurology strictly alone. Take care of yourself and the future will take care of itself.

Some people want a return to the jungle life in the mistaken belief that they would have a better time. This is a mistake yhat has been made in the past by others. Where would they find themselves then ? In the zoo or in a circus where they are at the ring master's beck and call ? When brute power can not be opposed, the weak become intelligent and resort to trickery. Nature has its own way of administering justice and it does so ruthlessly albeit after giving a long rope to the power drunk.

In precisely the same way, when the once weak, become powerful, they too, for a time, behave exactly like those they loathed earlier. There is a scramble for power amongst them. Then either they have a hierarchical democracy or the so called peoples' democracy i.e. Communism. All sudden changes have their impacts which are never very savoury. This does not apply to politics alone for that is only one part of society. When either form of democracy takes over, a person or two or even a group of people isolate themselves from the mainstream (far from the madding crowd as it were) and start thinking independently rather than in the herd mental;ity way. They also slowly begin to gather strength. The society , in course of time, actually helps them to do it. According to the Kalakrama (cyclical nature of nature), the society needs a change, demolish the vested interests that inevitably crop up who resist the change. In this process, the power drunk themselves, consciously or unconsciously, work for their own downfall.

A mature system is one that persists with whatever it has in vogue making only such changes as are absolutely necessary and that too when its hand is forced. The maturity lies in making adaptations, modifications in a timely manner to suit the purpose for which the system is built. However when a drastic change is required, it does not stick to the outmoded system. Crisis situations require crisis solutions. As soon as the crisis is over, the system prevailing hitherto is automatically reverted to.

The important thing is to ponder over the energy problem. Energy comes from fossilized animals or fossilized vegetation. As this fossilization takes place over a very large span of time, it is necessary to leave sufficient space for them i.e. for forests. As this is not possible due to increased population, it is necessary to control population.

Of course, the oceans are there to provide at first the fossilized fuels and then hydrogen for fuel purposes. Once you start using up the oceans, the world topography would change as in the past. Mountains would come up where oceans existed and viceversa. The world would go on. There is no need to worry about energy resources. Failing everything, the Sun is always there. Difficulties would be faced by man during transition but it is futile to worry about them and make our present life miserable. prophets of doom have been active for the past 2000 years but that doom has yet to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The other day, during a discussion with my tee-aged son, I quoted an example from the ' Mahabharat ' to drive home a point. " It's all right, but that is all mythology " , he rebutted. Well, I was floored. I remembered a similar discussion that I had with my father in my younger days. I too had used the same argument and had floored him. A poetic justice.

But then, this set me to thinking. How could I explain to him ? Well, here goes an effort. It has been established now that the human brain is a complex electronic computer-cum-control room besides being a few other things. There is an electronic circuitry in the brain that helps us to see, hear, smell and so on.

A television set at helps it to catch a program from waves emitted by a television transmitter. How did the circuit in the human brain come to be formed ? We do not know as yet for certain. But we know for certain how the television circuit was evolved. Now, is it impossible to imagine that human brain can have the same circuit as the television in addition to the present circuit ? After all, by the same evolution by which the present circuit was evolved, the additional circuit could also be evolved. What would then happen is that a human being can switch on his own brain's T.V. set and witness a program being beamed.

It is this quality that Sanjay of the Mahabharat is said to have had. Perhaps, another person at the site of the battle had transmitter ability. This myth is a possible scientifically acceptable or at least understandable matter. Similarly, other myths may be explained in other ways if one gives thought to them. The probable reason why such qualities were lost is that miuse was made of them. Besides, nature has shown a better way, the present way.

Now that we have televisions, it is not necessary to have such a circuit in the brain. However when such prevalent gadgets are not available, the creatures on earth may, possibly possess the properties of such gadgets. Now-a-days only what is scientifically accepted is considered to be truth. Do we however pause to think that there is a fourth dimension - Time ? What is true today, may not be true tomorrow. When was it proved that the Earth moves round the Sun ? Long time ago. Have we been reviewing this ? may be, at a particular time in the evolution process, the reverse takes place. The Sun gives us energy today. May be, when it is exhausted some billion years hence, do the rest of the planets return the energy ?

We can check this by sending up rockets powered by solar batteries at intervals of time. So long as the rockets get burnt out, the Sun has excess energy. When it is able to land, the reverse has taken place. If so, that is the time when the dark ages descend. That perhaps explains Pralaya or the Deluge. During such ages, if a cave man tells his son that there used to be gadgets like Televisions, Aeroplanes, Space rockets and so on, he would smirk and say, " Oh ! Dad ! That is all Science ". May be such things happen at any one time in only parts of the earth but there may be a time when the entire planet is engulfed.

We should not, therefore, reject mythology as utterly outmoded and incorrect. That is not to plead for obscurantism either. All that I would say is that the present is important. Past and future, though not to be neglected, are less important. nothing is useless. What is animate today may be inanimate tomorrow and vice versa. Everything is useful. Evolution, change is the order of nature and those who aid this process, benefit in the long run. That is why it is important to create. If nature destroys it, we have rebuild. If Pralaya was to come, is it any reason not to build ? Construction is the job of the animate. It is for nature to destroy so that the inanimate get a chance to be recycled into the animate. Man can also aid in this process destroying obsolete things and building new things.

Importance given to certain persons and certain activities at a particular time is only for that time and that place, it being the need of the hour. They should not bother about the past or the future. They should enjoy whatever is available at any given time, not sparing any efforts to make themselves happy.

Call it religion, call it science, call it nature study, or even call it even Marxism. They are all the same. They all change. They all evolve. In the ultimate analysis, a philosopher is either a fool or a student or a senile. Wise men act regardless of the past or the future.


All of us are aware of the three dimensions viz. length, breadth and height. It has now been accepted that there is a fourth dimension which is Time. According to me, the fifth dimension is the energy level. A good balance of energy in various parts of the earth, whether in the active form such as heat, light, electricity, wind etc. or potential form such as trees, coal, petroleum or uranium etc., ensures that no sudden changes would occur. This is also a known fact as witnessed in phenomena such as earthquake, eruption of volcanoes etc. A detailed study of the extent of energy imbalance causing cataclysms, their complete mathematical analysis etc. is still to be done.

The sixth dimension would be planetary positions. The gravitational pull, interactions between planets, significant events on any particular planet affect events on the earth. Astrology is a rudimentary science in this direction. It takes into account planetary positions but does not take into account significant events on each of the planets which could affect its movement or trigger similar or other events on other planets. The reason why many astrological predictions go wrong is that they are based on empirical observations rather than any detailed analysis. A thorough and detailed scientific study has yet to be done. Why a particular prediction went wrong is never done. Monitors placed on various planets could give us more accurate account of events taking place on them.

The seventh dimension is the solar activity. Storms and flares in the Sun can affect events on the earth. At present, observation of these is done from the earth alone which means from one particular direction only. This has to be by monitoring stations placed on the various planets as well. Even then, this would still be only a remote sensing arrangement which means that time gap would affectt judgementt, A way has yet to be found by which solar activity can be monitored from the Sun itself. Perhaps such monitors already exist in the form of meteors but then, these were detached long back from their parent bodies.

The eighth dimension would be equipment of the human brain with getting automatic knowledge about such activities without using any monitoring devices. One problem in this matter is the time gap involved. The ninth dimension would be the ability to act in accordance wiyh the requirements of that particular time on the basis of thr information available. But the most important and the tenth dimension is to remain totally unaffected by thes phenomena and to carry on life, enjoying it fully, without any fears or apprehensions, without caring for life or death. This means strong will power, so strong that it makes the person very soft.


" Men get naughty at four zero forty " is a line that I have recited times without number, while conducting the Tombola. The truth behind this saying was however realized by me when travelling by the Rajdhani Express recently. When one travels by this elite train's air conditioned chair car, it is unusual for one to look at the scenery outside. The windows are fixed type and can not be opened. The window glasses are translucent and in any case, the blinds are drawn. One is therefore inclined to concentrate on the scenery inside.

Opposite to me sat a lady who was much too serene for my mood of the moment. It appeared that she had made peace with herself. God bless her. A man sitting behind her had a " Teach yourself Spanish " book. A few moments of chit-chat with him on the subject exhausted all my stock of conversation on the subject of Latin Languages. Discussion on Cricket with a few young and not so ma young men, perusal of a journal, exchange of a few inane remarks on the weather and the like and I was left to my own devices.

It was then that I noticed this adolescent girl Marilyn Monroeing her way to the toilet. What struck me about her was the fact that she was well rounded in all directions and had a gyratory motion. Adumpling of tender meat. I mentally named her Miss Dumpling. i was anxious to make her acquaitance. My inhibitions about being a family man prevented me from following my natural instincts, which except from a freudian angle, were entirely honourable. I was trying to kill my instincts therefore. Fortunately, an opportunity presented itself.

Miss Dumpling, a younger boy accompanying her and a couple of young men started playing cards. After a while, I sauntered over that side even though the game was over. On that first trip, my courage failed. On the next however, I asked her younger brother, for that is what the younger boy accompanying her was. The question was rhetoric, for I knew that he had. By that natural instinct with which the female of the species is endowed, she understood that the question was addressed to her. It was she who replied in the affirmative. I lingered. She sensed my wish and also my inhibition.

" Would you like to play ? ", she asked.

" Yes, what games do you play ? "

" Rummy "

Rummy would have been too slow a game for me at the given time. i offered to teach her a new game, whose name is variously given as graduates or eights or five cards. I call it blow for blow. The fun of the game lies in playing a similar card as the other person till at an opportune moment, you trip him up after having roused his expectations. a management game. Or rather a political game.

The same group except a young Sardarji who had till then been her beau for the journey, gathered to play. Sardarji was perhaps feeling jilted. Can't blame him. Might have felt the same way, had I been in his place. A South Indian young chap, a rival to the Sardarji, was wiser. He joined in. Probably thought my age would bar me. He was partly right, for Miss Dumpling called me uncle. He was largely wrong however for she picked on me as her chosen enemy. All the penalty cartds were given to me only. That is ironically, the way of showing her preference.

After a while, she excused herself to make herhair, she said. Wanted to make herself presentable. I took it as a compliment. she took just the right amount of time to make her absence felt. Came back with a hair do which made her look even more rounded. Would have made a good model for Leonardo da Vinci.

She rejoined the game. It seemed that she had decided to like me even more than before, during her reflection in the toilet. she wreaked even more vengence on me.

" Here you are, uncle " she would say venomously as she gave me the penalty cards. I would retaliate with samples like,

" Take this Miss Dumpling ( Yes to her face ).

" Two lovely cards for my Rajdhani niece "

" A gift from a doting uncle "

" Come on, Tai "

" Well, well Akka Raje " ( She was a Maharashtrian )

" Just you wait, my dear Eliza ".... ( A touch of Prof. Higgins )

.......and so on. The game was exhilirating and I was feeling younger than ever. Ayurvedic, Unani, or Allopathic systems have not yet invented a better aprodiasic or rejuvenator than the forbidden fruit.

Good old New Delhi came. My spirits werte buoyant. On the platform, I wished to bid her a fond farewell. She averted her eyes however. Her proper looking parents were with her. I understood. She was mod in the train. Had to be a good girl in front of her parents. Two faces of Eve ! Why blame her ? I am myself like that.

A hippie at heart, I am a square by force of habit. My hippie seilm hero, " Good bye, Miss Dumpling, phir kabhi milenge ". Just then, I saw my wife. The gay mood persisted nevertheless. I ran, swept her in a torrid embrace. She was delighted. Poor wives ! If they knew the mental mischief, husbands get into, in their absence !

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The queue was long and winding one. I was worrying whether I would ever get a ticket. Funny, how little things make you fret. Just when I had resigned myself to a long wait, the bus company's employees had a change of heart. They opened one more window for issuing tickets. alf the queue, the more alert half, defected. This brightened my chances of getting a ticket. I was happy. it takes as little to make you happy as it takes to make you fret.

I now started to pay attention to people in my queue. There was this bearded chap with flowing locks and terrylene Kurta-Pyjama of saffron colour. Wondered if his faith in God and interest in sex were as little or as much as mine. All the same, some in the queue seemed to venerate him.

Then, there was a family who like some celebrated political families had a representative in each camp. Father in my queue and mother in the other. Son was on the look out for the opening of the third window of the 'Trinetra' booking office of the bus company.In the meanwhile, he was shuttling between parents, giving the latest odds on the mother's making it to the father and vice versa.

Soon, I got on to the ticket window and then on the bus. The driver and the conductor arrived and the bus started. Hardly had it moved a few yards when it was stopped by a chivalrous passenger. A couple of ladies ran and caught hold of the bus. The younger one helped the bulk of the older one into the bus and then herself climbed in. The chivalry of the bus-stopping chivalrous passenger did not extend beyond stopping of the bus. He did not offer his seat. The ladies therefore stood. At the next stop, a seat near mine fell vacant and mama mia spread herself onto it.

I started observing the younger female who was standing close by. Large dark glasses covered her eyes but a sidelong glance revealed her foolishness. Such beautiful eyes ! Why did she need to hide them ? As if sensing my thought, she removed the darkies and put them in her compact. A stunning profile. A shapely burgeoning bosom that was almost an affront to my masculinity. My hands itched in revenge.

Instinct told her of my interest in her. She turned herself and all her charms towards me. Perhaps took me to be a fall guy. She gave me a concentrated look of male ego boosting admiration which would have encouraged a lessr male to scale the peaks of Himalayas just for her sake. However, all that she wanted was for me to offer her my seat. I returned her compliment by giving her my best feminine vanity boosting look, keeping the eyes rivetted at the proper places, making her feel like a Helen of Troy. No seat however. I was just not in a chivalrous mood, you see. She did not 'Touche'. She simply moved ahead, obviously in search of a more likely quarry. Wise girl ! I was sorry for her though and for the cessation of an interesting battle of the sexes that could have continued for some more time, to mutual benefit.

Before boredom could take hold of me, at the next stop, a coy little woman entered. She was shrinking her body from non-existing males around her. By this time, the passenger next to me had alighted and she compressed herself into a half seat out of the full seat next to mine. She had very delicate features and was dressed in even more delicate clothes. One feels afraid even to breathe hard in such company for fear of blowing the flmsy thing off.

For a while, I was carried away into shrinking in my seat. Soon however, my instincts took over. Such women always bring out the hunter in a male just as a veiled woman brings out a Peeping Tom in a man. I was remimded of an incident in my childhood.

It was a colonial type, split level bunglow that we lived in. My mother was very fond of good crockery. My father, with that air of an England-returned Brown Sahib, had bought a set of champagne glasses to please her. There seemed to be no other reason for that purchase, since the only use that we made of them was for eating ice cream, when grandma was away. Champagne, of course, was unthinkable in an orthodox household. These glasses were extremely delicate with artistic etching on them. Touching them was strictly forbidden. They used to be stored on the topmost shelf of the crockery case adorning our dining room.

One sunday afternoon, the rest of the family was enjoying a siesta and the servants had retired to their quarters. I was at a loose end. While passing through the dining room, my eyes fell on those champagne glasses. All my pent up desire sprang up to take full advantage of the opportunity. I leaned a dining chair agaist the crockery case, put a stool on it, climbed up and took one champagne glass. With great fury, I crushed it. Blood came out of my hand but I had a great sensual pleasure.

A similar urge arose in me in the bus. I do not know if the champagne glass relished what I did to it but I was sure, however, that this dainty dish, would, after an initial cry of anguish, hugely enjoy a similar crushing experience. And savour the memory ever after. Alas ! at forty and above, one gets content with only mental hunting. One is apt therefore, to leave shrinking females, however tantalizing they may be, to shrink in their corners instead of giving them what they are sub-consciously asking for !

The passengers standing in the aisle had alighted by this time. Now I got a clear view of a couple of manes belonging to foreigners. I was a little curious to know why they were riding this Janta bus. These two females however did not wear the standard hippy undress. They were sitting most unobtrusively and passively in a way similar to the way most of our peasants and Adiwasis do when travelling by any modern conveyance.

About one stop from the terminus, these people started getting down. I was shocked to see that one of them, whom I had taken for a female, was flat chested with a delicate beardless face from which an occasional hair peeped out. I strained my eyes and peered closely at 'her'. The see through shirt told the story. It was a boy or at least not a girl. If 'it' was a boy, it had a very high f.q. (feminine quotient). If a girl, it had a very high m.q. (masculinity quotient).

While I was wondering about them and mulling over various theories on what had brought them together, the conductor rudely shook me. The terminus had arrived and the bus was empty except for me. I marshalled my tired limbs garbed by an invigorated mind to my destination.


NOTE :- This was written nearly 40 years back. The amounts mentioned in it are out dated. The principle of the advantage in building your own house at the beginning of your career rather than towards the end however still holds true, notwithstanding the builder-government nexus in raising the cost of your shelter.

A friend of mine once asked me whether he should build a flat in a multi-storeyed building in a metropolitan city. It was a three bed-roomed flat priced at Rs. 50,000/- only. After some calculations, I told him that he should immediately buy the flat as he was losing Rs.750/- per month by not buying it. I can see that you are not believing this statement. My friend too did not. At least till he saw my calculations. So here goes............

For a flat of Rs. 50,000/- you need to make a down payment of Rs. 16,667/- . For the balance, Rs.33,333/- , either the Life Insurance Corporation or the State Housing Finance Corporation would give you a loan.

You would have to pay approximately Rs. 290/- per month towards repayment of the loan for a period of 20 years. In addition to that, you would have to pay a house tax to the Municipal Corporation, the rate for which varies from place to place. For the purpose of this calculation, it is taken to be Rs. 60/- per month. You would also have to spend on an average about Rs. 30/- per month towards maintainance of the flat. Thus, you would be spending about Rs. 290+60+30=Rs.380/- per month.

As against this, you would get about Rs. 500/- per month as rent. If you are staying in the flat that you now own, you would be saving the same amount that you would have paid as rent, had you been living in a rented accommodation. So you are already getting Rs.500-380=Rs.120/- per month or Rs. 1440/- per year even when the loan is being repaid. This works out out to a return of about 8.6 % per year on the amount of Rs.16,667/- initially invested by you. One can not deny that this is a fairly good rate of interest.

The loan would be repaid within 20 years and thereafter the net return that you would get is about Rs. 500-60-30= Rs.410/- per month or Rs. 410x12=Rs. 4920/- per year. This is without considering any increase in the rent during the period of 20 years. The return after 20 years, thus works out to be 29.5 % per year on the amount of Rs. 16,667/- initially invested by you. Not bad ! eh !

However, this return is not the crux of the issue. The main point is that you would have to pay about Rs. 200,000/- for the same flat after 20 years, since the cost of land as well as cost of construction would have gone up 4 times judging from past experience as well as the current rate of rise in price index. Apart from this, you would get a house farther away from the centre of the city as the city would have expanded hugely in the span of 20 years.

Thus, by buying now, when you are still earning, you get a house for Rs. 16,667/- for which you would pay Rs. 200,000/- after 20 years. So you have saved Rs. 200,000-16,667=Rs. 183,333/- over a period of 20 years. This would work out to Rs. 9000 per year approximately or Rs. 750/- per month. You are surprised. Aren't you ? well, work it out for yourself, if you still do not believe me.

So, gentlemen, book a flat this month and stop losing money at the rate of Rs. 750/- per month !

P.S.:- If I had told you that by building a house, you would help solve the nation's housing problem or that you would help in holding the price line or that every generation must build a house for the succeeding one, you might have taken me for a politician in power. Hence, I have put this to you in terms of hard chips. If you do pay heed to my advice, you would also be doing these things apart from preventing the loss of your money.

P.P.S.:- Don't tell me, charity begins at home........ I have already built one. While the data was still valid !


There was a letter to the Editor on the above article delineating the usual objection that comes up almost reactively rather than reflectively whenever a new idea is mooted, which is reproduced below.



While Mr. Desai should be congratulated for writing an excellent article ( SAVE Rs. 750 P.M. - May 1971 issue ) , a point may be raised against the profitability of the proposed investment.
In calculating the monthly expenses after buying the flat, he has not considered the so called "Opportunity Cost". Here the appropriate opportunity cost would be at least the interest that could have been drawn on Rs. 16,666.67 from Govt./Bank securities at the rate of say seven and a half per cent and the income tax ( minimum 11 % ) that could have been avoided on this. Unlike the income from the flat, the interest on Govt. securities would be tax free ( within limits ).
On calculation, this comes to Rs. 1250 and Rs. 140 per year i.e. Rs. 116 per month. So the actual monthly cost adds upto 290+60+30+116= Rs. 496 per month and the immediate advantage of such an investment is negligible. The balance sheet, of course, changes after 20 years , when the investor will possess valuable flat ( Rs. 2,00,000 ?) instead of securities worth Rs. 16,666.67, should he choose this alternative. Moreover, I feel, for such investment calculations, one should not overlook the time value of money.
S. Ray Chaudhari
A.E. Barauni

This letter was replied to as follows:-

Dear Editor,

I was happy to read Shri ray Chaudhari's letter in the June issue for one reason. It is better to be contradicted than to be ignored ! Pardon me, if I am unable to reply with as much jargon as used by him. I am one of the simple types who term AQUA PURA as water.

The "opportunity cost" that Shri Ray Chaudhari talks about is an euphimism for comparative return on the capital. As for income tax, is it not avoidable ? My calculations may not have taken these into account , but I have also not taken into account the increased rent that may accrue with the passage of time. In my opinion, the omission of 'opportunitycost' and income tax is more than balanced by this increased rent.

To illustrate, the flat which carried a rent of Rs. 350 p.m. in Delhi till 1967 was leased to me on Rs. 400 p.m. and in 1970 when I left it, the next tenant paid Rs. 500 p.m. Let me cite another case, this time of a smaller town. The ground floor portion of a house that I know, fetched a rent of Rs. 80 p.m. in 1957. Today it fetches Rs. 200 p.m. The rental value of the balance two floors occupied by the owner was Rs. 120 p.m. in 1957 and is Rs. 300 p.m. today. The house was purchased for Rs. 26000 in 1957 whereas some time back, a sum of Rs. 65000 was offered for it. By the way, the title of the house being in the name of a lady who has no other income, there is no payment of income tax involved.

These are, of course only two instances but it is not difficult to find many more such examples. The point is that neither investment nor the income from Government securities or similar investments appreciate in value. In the case of a house, both do. Actually in terms of purchasing power, the value of the return as well as the investment in Government securities depreciates.

Then, there is, what my scientifically minded friend would like to call as a " purpose cost". The working man, for whom this article was written, has as his highest ambition, the ownership of a house on retirement. In my article, I had tried to advise him how he can fulfill this ambition while in service and save some money in the bargain. Text book advice on investment is meant for industrialists, businessmen and others of their ilk.

- R.N.Desai

This was originally published in my public sector company's house journal. Some doubting Thomases had raised objections which were effectively rebutted. Many of my colleagues took my advice seriously and built houses or bought flats. They are all happy today. Some of the doubters took 10 years to understand and paid a much higher price at that time. In course of time, the company itself started giving house loans to employees. Many other companies followed suit. Some of them use house loans partly as an employee retaining strategy. The down side is that a builder lobby has sprung up which corners land and tries to raise costs with or without help from corrupt bureaucrats/politicians. Despite their machinations, the concept outlined here still holds true. The housing boom across Indian cities and towns testifies to it. A lot of jobs in the construction industry as well as in the financial institutions have been created. The difference between highly intelligent but not so sagacious people and those with a moderate intelligence but some earthy wisdom is perhaps the difference between negativity and positivity.


Mr. Mistry was our class teacher in the IXth class in a moffusil town. An old widower with no issues, he was good as a teacher. He knew his facts and had a fairly good delivery. He spoke slowly, in measured terms. Even though his accent was colloquial, his language was pretty good.

Being an old man, he was apt to ignore the boys' pranks. He rarely punished anyone. Once I was caught spinning a top in the class. The only punishment that he gave me was to ask me to sit on the girls' bench. This was a punishment that was not unpleasant to me even at that age.

A classfellow known to the entire world as Jatiya was respectfully addressed as Jatashankar (His real name) by Mistry Sir. Jatiya, apart from being the class monitor was also Aide-de-Camp to the teacher. He helped the old man in household chores. True to the Guru-Chela tradition, Jatiya was always prepared to do any bidding from Mistry Sir, be it cooking a meal, doing shopping or even massaging the Guru's feet.

It was therefore natural for us to make fun of Jatiya. Inwardly however, we feared him. Inspite of his pre-occupation with the teacher's household work, Jatiya was a fairly good student. Those of us who were competing for the first rank in the class were certain that none but Jatiya would get the coveted first rank. The teacher can not but help being partial.

The results were declared and partiality was indeed shown, though not of the kind expected. I was declared first, my close friend and rival Prabhakar, second and so on. Jatiya's name did not appear anywhere. He had actually failed !

In the evening, I ran into Jatiya. while sympathising with him, I expressed my surprise at his failure. Had he enquired from Mistry Sir about it ? Jatiya was reticent at first but finally gave me the gist of the teacher's explanation. The teacher' words were :-

" Jatashankar ! I expected you to understand but it appears that you have not grasped the meaning of your result. All knowledge comes out of committing sins. The more sins you commit, the more knowledge you get. Having known this, how can I sentence you, my dear boy, to commit more sins for gathering knowledge ? "

Ever since, whenever a colleague is superseded, I tell him to treat his bosses as
so many Mistry Sirs and shrug off the event.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


As boys, Dilip and I lived in a small Railway colony consisting of about 15 bunglows, a dispensary and a club-house. Dilip had a lot of books in his house. We read them together. We were both dreamers. We were named " Late Latifs " by Dilip's father as we were always late for any occasion.

Explorers were a rage with us. We fancied that we could find some hitherto undiscovered substance that would revolutionise the world. As a first step, we dug up the club-house ground and found to our great pleasure white lumps that could write like chalk. We called the place our chalk mine. we paid no heed to the club-boy who maintained that our findings were in fact, the leavings of the white-wasing gang that had white washed the club building a couple of years back. We discounted this fact as we felt that such disclaimers were faced by all big explorers at start before the world accepted their greatness. We had made a big start and that was the most important thing.

As often happens, our respective fathers were transferred out and we almost lost track of each other. While I drifted into Civil Engineering, Dilip became a geologist. For his Ph.D., he chose the Rajasthan desert as his field of operation. While he was doing field work, his guide, an old Professor of Geology decided to visit him. To receive him, Dilip broke camp early in the morning but found to his dismay that the bi-weekly bus that passed by his camp had left the Late Latif alone. Fortunately, a ship of the desert was passing by. He hailed it. After due negotiations with the camel driver in regard to the hire charges to and fro the nearest railway station, he mounted the camel.

The camel driver taught him how to sit on the camel with his legs tightly clasped to the camel's side and to sway synchronously with the camel's swaying. It was an exhilirating ride at first but soon he was aching all over. He realized the wisdom of the camel driver's advice as to the correct posture after trying various permutations and combinations in this regard. Soon they reached the railway station.

The train arrived. The old professor duly alighted. After an exchange of pleasantries, he enquired of Dilip as the arrangements for reaching the camp. Dilip told him somewhat proudly of his camel ride and gave out tha he wanted the professor to have the same priviledge.

The old man at once launched into a discourse on the geology of Mount Fujiyama. Dilip was a little disconcerted as Fujiyama had nothing to do with the thesis he was working on. Out of politeness, he kept quiet. When the discourse was over, the professor begged off saying that he had an upset stomache. he therefore re-boarded the train he had alighted from and left.

Dilip came out of the railway station to find the camel driver having his lunch. After telling him to follow him and catch up. Dilip started walking. while walking, he was wondering as to the significance of Mount Fujiyama in his work. He could not find any geological resemblance between Rajasthan deserts and the Mount Fujiyama however hard he tried. Slowly his mind wandered into other aspects of Mount Fujiyama such as the Japanese folk tales he had read about this legendary mountain.

He remembered a saying about Fuji. It seems there are two kinds of fools in this world. The first kind is one that has never climbed Mount Fujiyama even once. The second kind of fool is the one who have done so more than once ! Wise men climb the mount only once. Perhaps the old professor Dilip surmised, had ridden a desrt camel once already.

When the camel driver finally caught up with Dilip, he paid the latter his fare and politely refused the ride back to the camp. The camel driver laughed and said, " You are indeed a wise man ".

Certain follies, be it marriage, be it climbing Mount Fujiyama or be it a desert camel ride - they are committed only once. The young geologist had matured.

While walking in the desert, he suddenly found the desert talking to him. It told him of the caravans that had passed through it, the caravans that had perished, the ocean that had once existed there and so on. Slowly, he found that other minearals also talked to himm. He found that like humans, stones could be liars, they could be mixed up kids, they could be tantalizing beauties and they could be ugly murderers.

When he started studying gems, he found in them, a very fascinating world. The world of kings, emperors, rich men, their women, their slaves, their lives and times. The gems had their own grandiose visions, their own desires to dominate and motivate their fellow beings while themselves remaining comfortable.

Recently, I met Dilip after a lapse of thirty years. " Why did I not pursue our common childhood dream of becoming an explorer ? ", Dilip enquired. " Well, like climbing Fuji or riding a camel, may be, a wise man, in his cycle of births and re-births, becomes so only once ! ' was my repartee.


Jolly Jack was a confirmed bachelor or so it seemed till, much to the surprise of his friends - married or otherwise happy - he suddenly announced his marriage. And then he just vanished ! His bachelor cronies were sunk in sorrow. We, marrieds, however, sat smugly in the knowledge that the moon does disappear from the sky for a few days only to reappear again in due course.

So did he, one fine morning. Only unlike the smoothly gliding moon, he just burst in.

"Well ! Well ! so nice to see you after such a long............

" Save it ! I am in no mood for pleasantries ", he cut in.

" Well, then what is the problem ? Why do you look like a nightmare ? I thought, you would be wallowing in wedded bliss ".

" Blast that bliss. Marriage is nothing but problems. you know how it is. For a few days after the event, it is all honey and milk but then it wears you down a bit. And then the nagging starts ".

" Go on, you are proceeding strctly along the normal channels of married life ", I encouraged.

" I therefore decided to do something about it. As a first step towards that end, I purchased a marriage manual...........

" A marriage manual " ?

" Yes, one has to make concessions and make changes in one's usual ways, you know ", was the pathetic explanation of that once cocky bachelor. Continuing, he said, " The manual says,in such circumstances to keep on reassuring the missus that one still loves her and to keep up the pretence of still wooing her ".

" Yes, so it says. Then where did you falter ?

" Well, last night there was a full moon and sitting out on tweet nothings to herhe lawn, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the time. So I took her in my arms and started murmuring sweet nothings to her. I did alright for some time but suddenly she slapped me and ran into the house, slamming the door shut on poor pursuing me. For heaven's sake, i don't know what i did wrong, Johnnie my dear friend, be a pal and tell me. Would you ? "

Elated at this sudden elevation to the advisory capacity, i assumed the proper amount of seriousness and probed, " What were you doing at the aforesaid moment ? "

" Well, I told you what I was doing "

"Repeat it " He repeated.

" But what exactly were you saying ? "

" Well, what does one say at such moments ? You are as sweet as honey, smooth, silky, - and all that rot ".

" Well that does not provide any clue. try and remember more ".

"Oh ! You are my darling, my own darling, you have hair like spaghetti, the figure of a Miss World, a face like the moon.....

: Ah ! There you are, my dear Watson ! One should not say to a girl any more that she is moon - faced ".

" Why ?"

" Haven't you seen the recently published photographs of Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon's surface ?

There are craters and craters all over the moon".

" A - a - h ! I dig it. You know, behind that male-up, she still has evidence of her childhood small pox. Yes ! It all comes back to me. she did mutter something about my going and getting another girl who was not pock-marked !

" That makes it all the worse ".

" Yes, indeed ! But what to do now /"

" Use your science, my dear boy ! Divide the size of the average crater by the size of the moon. Compare that ratio with the ratio of the skin pore size to the size of her face'.

" It compares ".

" Well, then tell her that when you mentioned the moon, you had her skin pores in mind vis - a - vis the moon craters and not the pock marks. If that does not hold water, just tell her that in any case, your lover's eyes could never notice any blemish in his beloved's face ".

" That's it " ! he said and burst out with the same violent rush as he had burst in. the detective - advisor in me beamed on his vanishing posterior.

Monday, August 22, 2011


My association with women, it appears, dates back to my birth, nay, even before that. Except for a short period of girl hating in my boyhood, i have, like it or not always been thrown togetherwith the female of the species. it was therefore no surprise to me when the Haldia Refinery Ladies' Club were given a flat directly below mine for their Monday meetings and eatings.

The day before, begins with some of the ladies going out to help their friend whose turn it is to feed the fraternity. The conclave is to help the hostess in cooking. On the D-Day, dressing up starts as soon as the hubbies have hurried to office after lunch. Why the ladies dress to kill when there is no prey about is something i have not been able to understand.

The husbands are enjoined to remember what day it is and to return home early. Evening tea is served almost on the doorstep to the men on their return. After a few hurried movements to and fro the bedroom, the kitchen ,the bathroom and so on (during which you are only conscious of the swishing of the Sari), with a loving smile, the lady departs leaving the children to the gentle (!) care of the gent.

The subsequent happenings in the L.C. have been matter of great conjecture and curiosity among the men of the Haldia Refinery Township. Being one of the curiouser chaps, I decided to take advantage of my vantage position. The problem was how ? I might have been a Pipng Tom (refers to my stint with the Pipelines Division of Indian Oil) but am certainly not a Peeping Tom. The only way left was to glue the ear to the floor and get an audio version of the events, the visual one having been ruled out.

Here is the intelligence report. At least a part of it.

A booming voice :- " Can you imagine ? My husband had........
A whining voice :- " Just when I was
A honeyed voice :- " Oh ! s..o n..i..c..e to see you dear Mrs.......
The whining voice :- " spoiled his pants and then.........
The booming voice :- " late. He knew very well that.......
The whining voice :- "I had to change his pants and.......
A grave voice :- " Yes, I was in KOlkata..........
A babyish voice :- " No. My husband is a good boy. He always......
The honeyed voice :- ' And how is dear Mita ? She is s..u..c..h a s..w..e..e...t.....
The babyish voice :- " Comes early on Mondays and then......
The grave voice :- " Mita's school has started. She is quite......
The booming voice :- " And here comes Her Highness Mrs. Lall, late as usual........

By this time, friends, I lost my patience and unglued the ear. Making sense out of these intermingling voices was a bit hard on the nerves. Lighting up a cigarette, I put my feet up the centre table. After all, every day is not Monday.So why not relax ? Switched on the Radio. poor thing could not compete in volume or variety. Switched it off. The voices still buzzed in my ears.

All of a sudden, there was no sound at all. The silence was so overpowering, i could almost hear it. i was frightened. Had anything untoward happened ? I am always scared of silent sirens. Slowly, I got down the stairs and sheepishly walked past the L.C. door, casting just a wee bit of a glance in the direction of the ladies and I had my answer to the puzzle. God has designed the mouth for fulfilling only one purpose at a time. It can either speak or eat !

Outside, I came across droves of children accompanied by forlorn looking fathers sauntering on the road. some of the enterprising children managed to need the mummy when she was masticating. they were rewarded over mummy's protestations by the hostess with the repast going round. the Community Centre was crowded with cackling children. no peace there either. Didn't know there were so many children in the colone. the Red Triangle chaps seem to have been sleeping.

So, back to Home..sweet..Home. Only it was lacking in one essential ingredient. The voices, babyish,honeyed,booming,grave,and whining, the giggles, the A..a..hs, tch..tchs..., the screams of delight and so on filtered into my flat.

Realization dawned on me as to why the Mahatma observed silence on Mondays. The Ashram must have had a Ladies' Club !


As I was waiting in the P.M.'s office, there was a flutter. My heartbeats reached bursting point when in strode a red faced, bespectacled young man of 82. I knew I should get up but just could not. As if understanding my predicament, he said, " Keep sitting young man ". I suddenly felt very old. Slowly, his vigour started to infect me and I came to my normal spirits.

" You say, you are a journalist, is it ?
" Well, actually I am a civil engineer but I have come to take your interview for our company's house journal ".
" Now look here young man, either you are a journalist or you are not. In the latter case, I have no time for you ".
" Well, here I am a journalist ".

He seemed to chafe at the word "here" but let it pass with a gesture of looking at the watch.

" We have given you press people all the freedom you want. I don't understand why you want to confine yourself to this room even for a few minutes. Why don't you indulge like the rest of your colleagues in free flights of fancy ? "
" Actually, Sir, as I am working for the public sector undertaking, I am already used to working within certain confines. I came here to discuss Prohibition with you "
" Aren't my views welknown ? What is there to discuss ?
" Well, it would seem that you have a pathological hatred for liquor "
" I don't know what you mean. I have no bias against anything in accordance with the teaching of the Gita ".
" Sir, Prohibition has been tried in other developed countries and it has not succeeded ".
" Is that any reason why it should not succeed here ? "
" No, but the point is that human nature is the same everywhere and what fails in one place is very likely to fail in another place also ".
" You are talking in terms of only three dimensions. You seem to forget that there is a fourth dimension called time. What fails in one place at one time may succeed at the same place at another time. So, why should a policy that failed in the early part of this century in one place, fail in the latter part of this century in another place ? "
" You have a point there, sir, but then there are other dimensions such as the energy levels on the earth, the planetary positions, solar flares and so on ".
" This is the trouble with you chaps. You go on cluttering up your mind with all sorts of fancy things. I tell you, you people are unable to stand my guts because you drink liquor whereas I drink urine ", he started authoritatively.

Continuing in the same vein, " Now I shall tell you why I hate liquor. In terms of value, liquor is very low. Urine is higher in terms of value. Water is still higher and air is the highest. By imbibing liquor, your mind and body degenerate to a lower level. Your body elements have to work to upgrade the liquor in you qualitatively. With liquor in you, you are only slightly higher than an animal ".

' Sir, you said sometime back that the fourth dimension is important. Is it not possible that what you say may not be true at the present juncture " ?

" No ! You see I am able to stride faster than you, can work longer hours than you and can silence you in an argument. All this would not be possible if I were not right at this moment. Truth alone gives strength ".

" You mean to say that nature has chosen you to be its representative for India and what you say is right for Indians ? "

" I would not put it that way. Nature guides everybody and those who follow nature, find their path easily. I happen to be the Prime Minister and I am strictly guided by nature. Nature guided me to the Prime ministership and in the conduct of state policies. I, therefore, am of the opinion that prohibition is right for India at the given time ".

" One last question Sir,. Is it true that the spirit, if you will excuse my using the word, of Aurangzeb has entered you ? "

Laughingly he said, " Why don't you say I am Aurangzeb in person ? "

On this happy note, I ended the interview. While coming out, I felt that there was something in what the man was saying but taking the totality of the universe and the time in its infinity, into account, something seemed to be lacking. Shall we allow the fourth dimension in nature to teach us all including Shri Morarji Desai, the truth in the matter ?


Soma was a farm labourer who fell in love with his master's daughter. Unlike in Hindi films, there was no hitch and he married her. In fact, his story is so unlike hindi film stories that I am tempted to narrate it as a story. For men like Soma are these days found in stories alone.

After marriage, he did not consider it fit to continue his job with his father-in-law. He therefore moved to a nearby town. He found a job with the Railways. As was the practice in those days, he was chosen to be attached to an officer of the Railways to do the latter's household work. Being directly attached to the boss was considered to be a prestigious position. When my father was posted to that town, Soma began to work for us. It was a spacious bunglow with a large compound. The bunglow had servants' quarters in which Soma lived with his family. He had a son and a daughter by the time we moved to that bunglow. His aged father too lived with him.

Soma's duties included all the household chores such as cleaning utensils, washing clothes and sweeping and mopping the floors. We were a large family. Apart from my parents and grandparents, we were six siblings. As was the practice in those days, one or two cousins too lived with for their schooling. In addition to the duties outlined earlier, one of his duties was to walk with us to the school which was a good 5 K.M.s away and non-availability of any public transport. Apart from all these, Soma's love for farming and gardening impelled him to look after our garden. We grew our own vegetables, fruits and flowers. There was one more servant to share his burden. His wife also lent him a hand.

One sunday in a month saw Soma turn into a barber. He dressed the hair of all the male members of his family. Twice a week, he shaved his father's beard apart from attending to his own on a daily basis. Twice a year, Soma would turn into a tailor and stitch clothes for his entire family with the help of a sewing machine borrowed from my mother. He believed in complete self reliance and practised it in toto.

The way he started training his son Vitthal was remarkable. Vitthal used to come to school along with us. As soon as Vitthal mastered the three 'R's to Soma's satisfaction, he was taken off from the school. He would have come to the secondary stage, had he continued. the boy was hardly ten years old. We all protested but Soma did not flinch. According to him, he did not want his son to become a softie with a lot of gas in his head.

Vitthal was first apprenticed to Soma's brother-in-law who hawked newspapers at the Railway station. On our way to school, Soma would explain to us his logic. The boy, he said, must first learn to speak boldly to strangers and learn how to deal with public. He must also learn to handle money and keep accounts. As the amount involved on a daily basis was not large after the departure ofa train, loss if any, would not amount to much. In the time interval between one train and the next, he would read the newspaper and keep himself abreast of what happened in the world around him. Once he formed a habit of reading the newspaper, for the rest of his life, he would remain uptodate with the latest information.

Vitthal picked up and did his job so well that his uncle-cum-boss gradually started leaving all work to Vitthal. Hardly a year had passed and Soma took Vitthal off that job. His employer protested vehemantly, even offered a share in the business but Soma stuck to his guns.

Next, Soma apprenticed Vitthal to a tailor, a barber, a mason, a carpenter and so on. He would explain to us that the boy should become deft with his hands and be able to look after his and his family's requirements himself. He can then choose any of the trades that he had picked up as his profession. He would never lack for work as he would be an asset to any employer. If he chose, he could even be an entrepreneur himself. The concept of multi-trade was taught to me by Soma. Vitthal, I realized, would never join a trade union as he would never have grievances. If something did not suit him, he could easily switch over.

Soma's wife became pregnant and Soma acted as the midwife without any fuss. We knew of the child birth only because Vitthal did not go to work that day and took care of his younger siblings. On being pressed, Vitthal gave out the story. Even such an event did not make much difference to his routine work He merely adjusted his timings. Later, he explained to us how he learnt the work of a midwife. For the birth of his first child, a midwife was hired on the condition that Soma would remain present during delivery and learn all about it. During the second child's birth, the midwife was hired not for the actual delivery but for monitoring Soma's performance. For the third delivery, he did not need any help.

The only incident that I remember in connection with Soma that had some excitement was when Soma's wife complained to him that a neighbour's servant had insulted her. Soma flew into a rage and ran after the offender. We were afraid Soma would have taken some weapon along, but no ! Soma had just gone off like that. After a chase, Soma caught hold of the man by his hair, shook him, slapped him on both cheeks and told him how to behave with women. When Soma came back, he was his usual self and without a moment's delay, continued with what he was doing earlier.

It is now nearly half a century since I set my eyes on Soma. This is a belated tribute to you, Soma, the unusual man ! I am sure, you would have been happy wherever you have been, since you know how to be happy by yourself. No Gurus or psychiatrists for you !


When Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, there was peace and tranquility everywhere. The asp could not stand this and whispered something to Eve. She tempted Adam with an apple and as if that was not enough, donned a fig leaf in a strategic location. Eve thus became the first manager. the term 'manager' is apt for nothing ages more than a woman.

Then came Abel and Cain. Cain slew Abel for fear that he would inherit only half the earth. Thus when a lack is felt, a manager springs up. Insecurity is an important causative factor in a person's need to dominate his fellow beings. Just as it is very difficult to be idle for a long time or to sit consciously without thinking, it is very difficult not to dominate, not to manage.

The urge to manage is a "Rajasi Guna". Though not a "Tamasi guna", it is not a "Satvik Guna" either. One can not be saintly so long as one has a compulsive need to manage others. One who has this urge is basically a weaker person than his fellow beings. You do not envy managers, you merely sympathise with them.Love good managers as you love good women. Do not hate bad managers as it does not behove a man to hate woman.

The extent to which we wish tomanage others, bears a fair co-relation to the extent of feminity in a person. No man is all masculine barring the mythical Arjuna.

Now, the point is how not to manage ? Management schools take two years to teach people how to manage even though the motivation to do so is present in most weak men. i shall tell you how not to manage. Like all habits, trying to kick the habit can cause repressions. Do not therefore try suddenly not to manage. The best way to cure yourself of this habit is to manage fully to your heart's content till you reach the highest position on the earth if not the universe. Fear of being dominated by others will take you higher and higher.

Once you have reached your level of incompetence, you would rise no further. You might have become the Chairman of a company but you would chafe under the glare of president of a bigger and mightier multinational company.

Once you have managed everything, the downgrade would start. However hard you try, you may not succeed. If you have been the President of the United Nations, you might have to be satisfied with merely the Presidency of a country.

On the contrary, if you try to avoid managing even what comes to your lot, you would find yourself a harassed man. If you do nothing, you may find yourself managing a lot more than you did when you were active.

a realization would then dawn on you that happiness in totality is the same for everyone. You would then do whatever comes to your lot with happiness and all that Gita or for that matter, any religious scripture preaches, would come naturally to you to practise.You would enjoy managing those to be managed by you and enjoy being managed by those who can not help managing yoYou might well ask me if I am not trying to manage the managers by writing this. The answer is yes and no. Yes, to those who however hard I try, are not going to believe me. No, to those who would believe me, when I say that I wrote this primarily for my enjoyment. If you too enjoy it, I would have reason to respect you !


Preety, our daughter is a spastic. I might enlighten all those of you who do not know what a spastic or a patient of Cerebral Palsy is.

A spastic is an individual who is fully developed mentally. In some respects, they are perhaps even more developed than average human beings.The word spastic owes its origin to the word 'spasm' or jerky movement. Muscular co-ordination is lacking in spastics. Their movements are jerky and quite often they can not make the smooth normal movements of their feet or hands or for that matter any of their limbs including the tongue.

Our brain has many departments. Some control our vision, some smell, some memory and so on. There is one that controls the co-ordination of voluntary muscles. We have voluntary muscles and involuntary muscles. Involuntary muscles are those, for example that come into play when we instictively withdraw our handswhen we accidentally touch a hot object. Voluntary muscles are those that we use consciously for carrying out some task. The centre of the brain that co-ordinates our voluntary muscles i.e. the one that makes the limbs to do what we want them to do is the one that is affected in the spastics. It does not work properly. As per present knowledge, when this function is paralysed due to one or more of any number of reasons, the person becomes a spastic.

My guess is that they either belong to a different species than the ones from which the present day human beings evolved. It is also possible that they are humans belonging to a different time scale, something on the lines of extra-terrestrial (ET) beings. We may call them extra-chronological (EC) beings.

Whatever it be, Preety is a spastic. She can not stand up, walk, sit up properly, eat or dress by herself. She can not even speak. Communication with her is by gestures or by asking questions whether this is what she means. By shaking her head she indicates yes or no. We have to find out what she wants by the reductio ad absurdum method!

She is either in bed or in a wheel chair all the time. She is fond of current Hindi film music, likes to listen to the radio or watch TV. Her reactions to films shown on TV are quite normal for a girl of her age. She likes the company of girls of her age, is extremely fond of her brothers and makes no bones about being partial to our elder son.

Whenever anything is misplaced in the house, we only ask her and as she observes everyone in the house, she is able to tell us where the misplaced article is. When a particular maternal aunt of mine visits us, she immediately instructs her mother to bring tea and Paan. Similarly, when my paternal aunt visits us, she is never allowed to go without partaking of a meal. The reason is that the aunt like her own self is a daughter of the family and traditions must be observed. She recognizes the steps of my elder brother on the staircase and makes a sound reserved only for him.

We can not scold anyone younger than her as it is her prerogative. the hierarchy must be maintained. If we intervene in any quarrel between her and her brothers, even if we take her side, she turns against us. she makes use of all the tricks at her command to see that her brothers study.

She remembers the birthdays of everyone in the family and begins planning the guest list, the menu and so on much in advance. The birthday boy or girl as the case may be must be kept out of all the planning as the celebration and the birthday gift must be a surprise. The gift has to be handed over by none other than herself.

Her sense of timing is very good as if a watch is implanted in her brain. She asks us to switch on the radio or the TV for her favourite programs without looking at the clock and is always right when she says that it is time for a particular program.

Previously she tried to manage the entire household whether it was cooking or looking after the guests. gradually, it has come down and now she tries to manage only those activities that are relevant to her. her every action tells us that she has perhaps been a manager in a previous form or birth.

Sometimes I wonder if our present day managers or leaders in any walk of life or for that matter our politicians would become spastics in some future birth. Think over. Similarities are many.

In reality, she is like a piece of modern abstract art. Only the painter knows what it is and that too at the time of painting it. In her case, God, our maker alone knows or knew while making her. It surely is not common to be a common man.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Fleece white as snow, shaggy wet haired, early teens, she stood among a group of four girls at the bus stand. The condition of their hair being similar to ours, I presumed that they too were returning from the swimming pool. What attracted to me was voice. A languid, bored voice, she managed to impart that quality to her tone even when talking animatedly.

I broke the ice and introduced ourselves - my wife and myself. They in turn, did likewise. " We are Chaturvedis from Rajasthan, pure brahmins ", she said in amplification of her surname. I told her that I too belonged to the most impure among humans, the pure brahmin breed known as Nagars fro further south - west.

The bus arrived and we got in. we had standing room only. I sensed a pair of eyes boring through my back. Instinctively, I looked back and met them. For a fleeting moment, heat radiated through the air gap between us and all was normal again.

Thereafter we met daily. Each time, I would give her a different name. Naomi, Manyeta, Natasha, Water Nymph, Bathing Beauty ...... and so on. Every time, except for a slight ripple, she would maintain her cool. Sometimes, I would tease her or pay handsome compliments. " Tell me Namita, how many boys have told you that you are a lovely girl ? " I asked her once. In a brief moment of weakness, she shook her mane, rolled her lips and said " Quite a few ".

" Good for them, otherwise i would have had a very poor opinion for Delhi boys ", I countered. By then she was cool again. ever smiling and though otherwise lithe and active, inherently she is more like a lioness who treats even the king of the jungle with a bored indulgence.

I once asked her to race with me in the pool. Like a typical female, she let me win. When diving together, I would point out her any flaws in her style as they appeared to me In response, she however, always praised mine even if she had not even watched my dive. Her attitude was that of a lioness encouraging a not too strong cub.

Namita, the bored lioness, has yet to graduate to being a playful dolphin. When she does, she would, I am sure, be a joy for the Gods themselves !


3 year old Roopa is an imaginative child. Often she would be lost in her web of imagination and then sometimes she would suddenly speak out her thoughts, without any preface. To a bystander, not used to her ways, she was an enigma.

Lying in bed and looking out through the window, one moonlit night, she suddenly said, " Look Papa ! Look at the 'C', I mean See-A-Tee Cat " Her father, lying next to her and in the process of trying to lull her into sleep looked but failed to find any feline presence. Where a normal father would have shrugged it off as a senseless patter of a child not yet feeling sleepy, Roopa's father did a little mental sleuthing. He discovered that moon, the only object visible from the window that night, was indeed in the shape of the third letter of the alphabet 'C'. It was the third night of the brighter fortnight that day. When he connected this with the third page of Roopa's K.G. class English Primer, he understood the significance and felt himself humbled since no poet before Roopa had ever connected moon with the cat.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The other day, we had been to the Agri expo 1977 fair. In one of the pavillions, some khadi clad V.I.P.s accompanied by the usual paraphernelia of chamchas and cops in uniform, walked in.

Since the faces were not quite well known locally, the question on the lips of all V.O.P.s like us was, ' Who are these people ? " As if sensing this, a small boy spoke out rather loudly, " Must have done something really bad ! Look at all those policemen following them everywhere !

FOOTNOTE :- Was he making a prophecy of the era of Anna Hazare when that became the common perception of the common man ?

Or was he making a statement of fact that we were then, not aware of ?

I donot know.


I had just shifted to a retreat that I had built with many dreams. Some of those cherished dreams have not come true and some have gone awry due to change in circumstances. Nevertheless, a certain peace even if of the numb kind had descended on me when the encounter with the gang of four took place. No ! It was not the dreaded Chinese gang of four. Then, what was it ? Wait ! You will soon find out.

Evening of a holiday. I am sitting in the drawing room with its weather beaten, transfer seasoned, out of date furniture. My teen age sons keep me company to compensate for the loss of one whom I had dearly loved. Suddenly, Santosh our eighteen years old son got up and strode up to the door. He was welcoming some visitors. The curious smile on his face indicated that the visitors were unusual. His repeated welcoming gestures and monotones whetted my curiosity. I was however totally unprepared for the attack when it came.

The gang of four trooped in. Shy, hesitant smiles on their faces. Ajay, Amit, Pramod and Jenu. I welcome them forgetting the churning stomache that tormented me. Introductions follow. Ajay and Amit turn out to be twins. They are all trilingual - products of the trilingual formula and aged about five years.

Jenu and Pramod in turns occupy my lap while the twins stand. I talk to them in all the three languages but they talk to me in only one - the language in which they talk to their parents and such other backward people.

I start my standard ploys. I offer to play Antakshari but they plead innocence of all versified stuff. No ! Not even nursery rhymes. This despite the fact that only that afternoon, I had heard one of them singing a song from one of the latest Hindi films.

" Alright, Let's play the guessing game ". They nod agreement. They must think of a person whom I know and must answer questions only in either the affirmative or the negative and I would tell them who was the person they had thought of. They do so in turns and after a few questions, I tell them who the person was, with the air of a Houdini.

Then, I think of a person and ask them to pose questions to me. Suddenly they are all dumb. " Would you be able to tell me without asking questions ? " I prod them. In answer they all troop out. A short while later, I hear screams of delight that attract my attention. They come from the house opposite, abode of not a single member of the gang but that of a newly acquired teen age friend of my sons - the person I had thought of. Not only that . He was right there with them. This was the gang's way of telling me that they could read minds, a much higher form of communication than mere speech.
Next day, on my return from work, I am greeted by them in a language other than the one that they resrve for their parents. I still do not know whether they consider me more backward or more forward. In reply, I merely fondle their heads. If I speak, I am afraid of being labelled as backward while I am still being sized up.

Children, particularly nuclear age children, do not take long to size up people. i am dying to know the verdict that this gang of four passes on me. And I hope that I will be able to understand it in the form in which it is passed.

Stop Press :- The verdict has just come as this is being written. Jenu, the only female member of the gang has come to watch our TV and is lovingly snuggled in my lap ! I seem to have passed muster. Hallelujah !


Rati was born in England of Indian parents. When she was about five years old, her parents returned along with her to India. Soon, a brother was born. Having been born and brought up in England, she was " English " whereas her brother who was born in India was an Indian.

As if the contrast between England and an Indian city was not enough, her father got a job on the construction site of a public sector unit in one of the most backward areas. Bewilderment of Rati in this place was complete.

Rati had however not forgotten the manners and social graces learnt by her in one of the smaller towns of England. She could be depended upon to stir out of the house in only the most proper dress for the purpose of the outing, all neatly ironed and starched. When meeting someone on the road, instead of sheepishly smiling like other Indian children, she would boldly greet an adult with a " Good Morning or Evening, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss so and so ".

If you were to call on her parents, she would answer the doorbell, greet you properly, a pleasant surprise written all over her face. She would usher you in the sitting room and after making you comfortable, inform her parents of your arrival. Then, like a good child, she would withdraw, leaving the grown - ups to their grown - up talk. Among us construction people in that small settlement, Rati was indeed a wonder, an example quoted by some mothers of what a good child should be.

Rati's little brother was however her despair. He was inclined to be merry, to be talking louder than in whispers and to be wearing ill-matched clothes. If she was not wary, Ravi would sneak out wearing only his slippers. Why ! She had once seen him playing barefooted. And horror of horrors ! Ravi had once openly and unashamedly expressed a desire to swim in a pond that the villagers used for bathing, and washing clothes as well as utensils.

Ravi was indeed a great burden for Rati's frail shoulders. Whenever and wherever possible, she attended to his attire, his manners and so on. But the moment her back was turned, Ravi lapsed into a behaviour that Rati had started thinking of as his " Indianness ". The more she tried to cure him of it, the more he lapsed into it. The strain on her mind was beginning to tell.

It was during this period that I went to Rati's house on some business. Her father was away but was expected back soon. I was therefore having a chat with Rati's mother in the meantime. Rati could be seen reading a book in the adjoining room.

Just then, Ravi barged in her room as was his wont, clothes splattered with mud, hair disheveled and a wild look of joy on his face. He shouted " Look ! Didi ! what I have brought for you ! Rati looked and found a small garland of wild flowers for Rati's hair.

For once in her ten years of existence, she forgot to notice her brother's untidy appearance, his abominable manners and even omitted to scold him. Instead, she broke one of her own rules. She walked into the drawing room, garland in hand and said excitedly, " Mother ! Look ! What Ravi has made for me !

No sooner she said it, she realized that an outsider was present. She was about to apologise and withdraw but the look of total approval on both the adult faces changed her mind. When I pulled her towards me, she came unresistingly and sat on my lap as naturally as the rest of the children in that small settlement did, her pyjamas notwithstanding. Ravi's genuine affection had after all overcome her inhibitions.

She was later to realize that one's behaviour corresponded to one's development on a number of planes, apart from time and environment. Behaviour natural to youself can never be considered as boorish except by boors or half-baked copycat people. Social graces that come from within and are a part of one's personality are what count. Acquired manners like gilded ornaments can last only as long as the gilt takes to wear off. The only way to be happy and to go up is to be true to yourself and the world would eventually be true to you.

By now, Rati is a big girl. Call her Indian, call her English, no matter what !