Society

Of cows and independence day!

The little miss, as is her wont these days, has been shooting me a heap of questions. There is not a thing that passes the attention of her senses that just passes by without a question popping up. Be it an earthworm, a snail, a ridiculous honk from an autorickshaw, the neighbour’s loud movie screening, the sartorial choices of her mom (& dad ) etc etc. You get the drift right?

Me and the missus have had to work overtime to ensure that we engage with each of her questions and give her answers. Most of the time she ends with a ‘whatever’ look. Especially when I attempt to answer. The missus fares better.

The ‘whatever’ look is what I remember my physics teacher reserving for me, in school.   She would ask a question and her eyes would droop so much that they would be waiting to roll down her cheek if I was late by another moment. Her shoulders would drop and a smug smile would lurk at the corner of her lip. Her whole body language would seem to be so much waiting in expectation of a ridiculously inept answer. I guess I met her expectations every single time. I would dread those classes.

It is kind of dreadful to think that the little miss reminds me of that time. The only difference now is that the little miss forgets the inept answer in a jiffy and moves on to some easier stuff at the wave of a hand. Like, ‘Can I go touch that cat Appa?’ Or even, ‘can we go say hello to the rain drop appa’? Now, these are like lifebuoys to someone in a cesspool. We survive with her kindness and love.

She has been excited about the Independence Day for over a week now.

“Appa, when are you buying me a gift?”

“A gift? But why?”

“It is India’s birthday appa!”

I realised that thats how Independence day has been positioned in her mind.  Gandhi, Nehru and the freedom struggle can come much later.  For now, if there are some festoons, cake, pizzas and a gift to boot, all is well. Fortunately, the gifts that she has demanded haven’t yet gotten to meaningless stuff that pops a hole in the pocket. A national flag was all that was desired this time around and was dutifully bought too.

So today, on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, after the flag hoisting ceremony in the apartment complex where we live in,  came another string of questions.

“If we hoist a flag for India’s birthday, why didn’t you hoist one for my birthday?”

Patient explaining ensued.  Of India having a flag and it being a country and that individuals don’t have a flag etc. Inept answers, I can guess. With drooping shoulders she proclaimed, ‘Appa, once we go home, I am going to draw my flag. You have to hoist it for my birthday”.

I demurred in agreement. “My flag will have a cow and a cat in it Appa”.

“A COW?” I spluttered.   The nation would want to know now.  An involuntary muttering of ‘Holy Cow’ under my breath reached her sharp ear.

“Not holy cow Appa”, she said. “Just one nice cow”.

Silence ensued. And then with a momentary pause she asked, ‘what is a holy cow Appa’? I didn’t know where to start. Or end, for that matter. And then, she threw me a lifeline. Actually two.

“If you don’t like the cow, let’s just have the cat in the flag Appa. It is easy to draw the cat “.  A huge sigh of relief clung to the air as Lata Mangeshkar ruled the Independence Day sound waves of the apartment complex.

And then she said, “Can we go to the play area and slide Appa?”.  She was on her way to the play area and shouted out a changed plan.  “I have been on the slide for sometime Appa. Today can you push me higher on the swing?”

“Of course”, I said. “Of course”

 

A worthy delivery!

There are many jobs that don’t get the attention they deserve. Or maybe a disproportionately minute attention. Often dismissive.  While several may come to your mind, sometimes starting with your own job, may I please request a temporary focus on the job of a newspaper delivery chap!



Watching him at work on the road is an exercise in joy!   And if you are half as clumsy and absent minded a bloke as me, the seamless efficiency that is a default expectation on this job can cause you to want the world to cave in and take you along with all that goes inside.  That’s the degree of shame that is distinctly possible. 

The permutations on the job are insane.  

First of all, there are a heap of brands of newspapers. And ofcourse two tonnes of supplements to each one of them. If you thought that’s the end of it all, well, then comes the language question. Especially so, if you stay in a big city like Mumbai which plays home to every conceivable inhabitant on planet earth. And his mother tongue. And his newspaper in his mother tongue too.  Ok. That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight!

Well just as you are applying work up some math around the multitude of brands and the plentiful languages that are there, add neighbourhoods and neighbours. Neighbourhoods can be confusing. Should we say, ‘daunting’ to a rookie newspaper vendor.  Numbers, crosses, streets and of course sometimes complete with idiots residing in them.  

Plus of course neighbourhoods come packed with their assortment of watchmen, auto and taxi drivers half asleep in their places of work. In the wee hours of the morning. Waking up with a start. Rattled. Irritated and ready to pull out a AK-47. For a moment.  Thank God for the gun laws. For whatever they are worth. 

In a minute the old familiar visage of the newspaper vendor, and the rattle of the mudguard that’s hanging loose from the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, makes them get to wave weak smile and an assortment of curses loosely translating to ‘useless fellow’, before dozing off. Perhaps to relive dreams where they are romancing a beauty queen laced with riches!  

If the chaps outside the neighbourhoods weren’t enough trouble, the folks inside can sure finish you off. For instance, there is a good friend who buys a different assortment of newspapers on different days of the week.  Either business must be real bad or customers delight taken too seriously for such crazy demands getting met.  A grand plan to save some ‘60 odd rupees’, he had said. Like it was an amount to pull India out of financial trouble! 

Now, now, hear me out. Imagine you are a newspaper vendor. You have to have the ability to sort out what newspapers people have asked for(and if you include that friend like mine, you also have to remember which day of the week the morning leads you to), slot it accordingly and carry it with you on the bicycle. 

You pedal around like a champ, pull out the most relevant sets of newspapers and toss it with an arch to ensure it lands at the right doorstep at the right time. If you are a few minutes late the very real prospect of facing a customer with disheveled hair and dried drool from yesterday night plentifully populating his cheek, awaits you!  Worse, he could casually ask why you couldn’t do a better job. Which is when you would want to throw the bicycle and all the newspapers in there, at him. 

Ofcourse, we haven’t broached on aspects that could become seminal topics by themselves. Like the pet dogs in homes that would want to scare the wings out every passing fly. Leave alone a small chap in a bicycle with some paper that in the later course of the day are used to parcel dog poop to the dustbin! 

To pedal that distance is enough of an ask for three quarters of people of the world to opt out.  And finally if ever you would sit back and read the crap that gets into newspapers these days, wont you wonder whatever your multi tasking was worth! 

The next time you see the newspaper chap whizzing, say something. A hello. A good morning. Whatever. He may yet not deliver better news for you. It may not even prompt him fix the rattle of his broken mud guard.  

Perhaps, just perhaps, it would help him get by with a smile!   

Whats with the dabba business ?!?

At a business conference, the other day,  a question was posed. ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

The simplest of human desires can translate into the tallest of a business propositions.  Isnt it true to every single discipline of life?

The desire for travel from point A to point B has spewed horses, horse carriages, cars, bigger cars and these days has even sent Curiosity across to Mars!  From the desire to cloth oneself to having a roof overhead, to showing love to the cat on the corner right upto inventing robots with a soul, new industries have sprung with a frequency of a 3rd grade scam exposed by a fourth grade TV channel ! 

Each industry providing for suits, boots, countless strategies, long meetings arranged in an amiable ambiance with appropriate snacks, and consultants adding ‘value!  Being part of the circus doesn’t mean the clown cant have a good laugh at the circus ! And regular readers know me too well! 

Well, well, well,  such stuff makes the world go around. Doesn’t it. 

The Dabbawallahs of Mumbai have been written about no end.   There is enough material about them like this and this , that you can use to fill a full MBA course, heaping hapless students with hoary details and hoards of questions. 


Their offering is simple. They get you YOUR home cooked food. On time. And port your lunch box home, while you can walk with a free hand. For a small fee..  That’s the business model.  Its done to scale though. 

[Wikipedia says : In 2002, Forbes Magazine found its reliability to be that of a six sigma standard. More than 175,000 to 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, they make less than one mistake in every 6 million deliveries, despite most of the delivery staff being illiterate]

How simpler can it get? To think that ‘eating a hot, fresh, home cooked meal everyday at work’ can generate a unique business opportunity and stand for the ingenuity of a city is remarkable isn’t it ! 

Not to mention the methods that they have deployed and the fame has followed. Consider the acclaim!  6 Sigma ratings. Invitation by royalty. Mentions by management gurus. Film makers and the rest. Thankfully, the Dabbwallahs themselves haven’t let any of this affect them. To this day, home cooked lunch gets to Mumbai’s office goer on time. Every day.

Much has been packed into boxes about their unique methodology that they deploy to do this. With a simple system of marking and a assortment of handcarts, bicycles, innovative hand / head carts  and a legion of men can be spotted on any active day, walking the streets with a colourful range of lunch boxes. 

And coming back to the meeting where my rambling started.  It was one of these conferences where  the natty suits amble about with a sense of importance.  The gentleman paused and asked with a certain sense of certainty that only accompanied me when I knew what question will be asked the next day in the Physics exam : ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

Timeliness. A tenacity of surviving Mumbai traffic everyday. The ability to memorise so many addresses. Dedication. Passion. Customer service.  And all other stuff that would exemplify a consultant’s vocabulary was spoken with charm, elegance and an equanimity. As though they were squeezed out of the same toothpaste!  

By then I was already operating on the fringes of my mental capabilities to process pedantic stuff. 

Come on, I thought. To carry an array of lunch boxes knowing fully well that a mouth watering spectrum that could arouse every conceivable taste bud was within arms reach, yet to go and deliver it to people in opaque buildings and omnipresent business houses !?! 

Now that if that is not tough, what is !?! 

Time Travel @ 50 KMPh

The roads of India keep telling you stories. Stories that are tall. Not tall stories.  Small items, objects and articles, that would not merit a cursory second glance from an average citizen anywhere else in the world, are put to such use, that arching eyebrows of designers and makers of such stuff can stay permanently bent with that arch!
 
To many regular readers this would fall a familiar repetitive rapture of this blog. But hey, what the heck. What is to be celebrated, must be. Wouldn’t you agree ?  There is a world out there that is examining the omissions and commissions of everybody else.  The government. The President. The peons. The cricketer. The blogger. The neighbour.  The antics of the ant getting another loud rant is commonplace.
 
Every one of them has been examined. Some with magnifying glasses, others with telescopes and all with all with a ubiquitous megaphone! Lets halt right there. 
 
 
 
 
And lets talk of the moped !
 
 
In an earlier generation, if you had the good fortune of riding one, let alone owning one,  you would go after Wikipedia with a toilet broom for such a derogatory description. 
 
The moped to boys in school, back then, was freedom personified. You didn’t require a driving license. Your school was still not sure if they wanted to call it a bicycle or a motorbike.  And you had power between your adolescent legs. I mean..you know what I mean. So what, if it was only 50 horse power? 
 
Ofcourse, we will not venture into describing some eager beavers sticking ‘BMW’ stickers and logos on to such agile spacecrafts. BTW, Spacecrafts is a legit name. It was a world bereft of social media and mobile camera phones and BMW never got to know this.  A ton of German drones would have come after us with micro millimeter precision, if only they saw BMW plastered with pride on the broken silencer !
 “Low powered motorcycle” is an achingly insane and insensitive way of telling the truth.  A lame truth.
 
You had to climb on to the pedal and give it half the yank of a full circle for the engine to kick into life.  For the next several minutes life would be in an in exhilarating fast lane at speeds that would climb all the way to 50 KMPh at full throttle.
 
Such memories.
 
As you grow older you tend to outgrow these machines. The loose adolescent skin gets some muscle beneath. Yet the memories stay. 
 
The mopeds have themselves morphed into becoming important lifelines for several segments of the population.
 
Like the mom & pop stores and their ‘delivery boys’.  A moped with its strategic space in the front of the seat, is just what the doctor ordered for carrying  bags of rice and a paraphernalia of goods that can feed a family for times to come. Or so it would seem.
 
But for some silly nostalgic blokes like me, these are spacecrafts of sorts. That transport you to wonder years that never fail to to elicit an escaping sigh. Every time you think of them. 

Speechless in speed

There he was. Unmindful of the sweltering Sun and the svelte women walking by.  Staring into the sky and doing nothing but that. But doing that significantly well. A picture of poise and presence. 

“What will it take for us to do that ?”, I asked. 

“Retirement” she replied. 

I gasped. “Retirement ?!!?”

She was quiet. I figured she was thinking about it.  She added “perhaps in the middle of a long holiday. In  a place where the phones dont work. Not when the holiday starts. Not when its all set to end. But somewhere in the middle”. 

She sighed.  “But you know, long holidays are a privilege of a few”. 

City lifestyles with the comforts of instant coffee, instant photographs, instant ( & incessant) texting, instant delivery, immediate needs, first impressions, instant makeovers all provided by cash spewed from an ‘Any Time Money’ machine or credit cards that work with a swipe, has held sway over us from second to second. One thing to tend to after another! 

Thoughts piled on. 

The universal shortage of empathy, the short shift that kindness and harmony are getting in the spirit of ‘anything goes’ as long as it is ‘super quick’, ‘super fast’, ‘delivered at the door step’ at a ‘decent price’.  

I cleared my throat. Mildly aware that the topic had me started and I was like a heavy monsoon cloud waiting to pour! I

Which is when she said : “I have been thinking of a quick holiday myself”.  The emphasis on the ‘quick’ couldnt be missed.  

The speech which was all set to march like an army on fire, went straight back into the barracks.  

Pretty quickly. I must say.  

head-weight


When the humdrum of big city life gets the bloated ego to balloon (in addition to the body that is), it is travel to small cities and experiencing a life that is lived at a different rhythm that swings the pendulum back.

Semi-urban India offers a diverse array of uniquely simple folks who go about their lives with so much of ease, quiet and sense of ‘get-on-with-it. Infact that is part of how life is lived normally !

Ofcourse, readers could be more familiar with that life. These scenes have appeared ever so many times in our movies and even more so in discussions on ‘rural empowerment’, ofcourse, set in five star hotels.

In the corporate humdrum dominated city life, sticking-neck-out-plying-of-wares is more of an exercise with an eye on the annual increment and what the ‘boss’ thinks. ( I didn’t intend generalizing, and am sure you the reader can point to several people (including yourself) who are very different. Yet, I guess, the world that I describe is the world that I often see) !

When viewed in a hurry, it is only natural for people to relate to these scenes with the superficiality of what the picture seems to hold and not explore the depths of the story that is pregnant within.

Think about this. When you don’t have a degree to back you up or a set of ‘Key Result Areas’ to confine yourself to while being expected to support the family, provide for the future of children with whatever you have, I guess, you carry a different load in your head. We all will.

Yet! To have no choice but to look forward to everyday. To walk more than 20 KMs with a 10 KG weight on the head. To do this day in day out. Shouting out to customers. Arguing with middlemen, bus conductors and sometimes fellow bus passengers, these folks are such an inspiration to life. These folks are human. And anyone of us could have been them !



Urban settings and offices, call them ‘unskilled labour’. ‘Daily Wages’ is their compensation structure. A twang laden educated air engulfs our collective view of such ‘labour’. An educated air that is devoid of basic understanding and respect that one human being could accord another.

And so, I sat there in a bus stop. As ‘small’ farmers, merchants and their wives got down from buses, struck deals with middlemen and sold their wares, in an almost rural setting. There were others who loaded and unloaded and moved about with purpose. Looking at me with curiosity, if at all. They had a job to do Perhaps families to feed, livestock to rear and children to raise.

They balanced the loads on their heads, carried some more in extended arms, hips and parts of the human body which strangely transformed to grooves for holding such stock.

Not for a moment seeking attention, pity or even any physical help. They were proud people going about their daily routines.

I don’t know for how long I sat there. Doing nothing but soaking it all in. Every image registered in the mind. The slow rhythms of life in a small town can be supremely captivating superlatively preparatory for life elsewhere. Especially when the urge to stand and stare rules.

As old women hauled weights that seemed far in excess of the frail frames, I realized that my struggle was not really the most supreme. Infact, some of it appeared rather small. If you are reading this post, we ( you and I ) are perhaps part of a blessed minority. A minority that can read, write, has basic needs taken care of, can access the web and have the capacity for thinking and thought.

Its about time our education and our capacity to think, alters our understanding of weights on other peoples heads. Even as we stick our necks out to reach to a new height at work, may we have it in us to see these weights with new eyes.

May we spread a smile. Perhaps a friendly wave. Even more, a full-throated greeting to the man and woman on the street who have no options but to just ‘get-on-with-it’! Above all this, may we travel and see the ‘exotic’ness of sights that we miss seeing with the heart!

May we all make it large !

An endangered class

We were sitting next to each other in a meeting. May I request you to picture a corporate meeting in a fancy hotel. Fattening food. Fumbling thoughts. Supposedly full minds. The conversations can be about the Sun. And the moon. Sometimes beyond too.


It is in one of those breaks, that I notice the pen in his pocket. Being a big sucker for fountain pens, I am curious. But before that, let me state the commonly known and do a super quick tracing back of the history of pens.

Many moons ago there was an era when the fountain pens beat the wind out of the humble quill to become the default writing instrument. What the humble quill upstaged to become the preferred writing instrument, is a matter of conjecture to me. I would request some education from readers.

In the name of ‘progress’ and such else came the ball point pen. A no mess ‘use and throw’ pen, which incidentally was banned in school for a large part of our growing up years. Ofcourse, no one threw away the pen. For that matter, in that time, no one threw away anything until they had put it to atleast five and a half different uses long after the main use that it was bought for was done. Which is a sidestory that we will sidestep for now.

For most parts of my growing years if I pictured one grand battle over which the world would come to an end, it was the battle between the Fountain Pens and the Ball point pens. Quite obviously, I was on the side of the ball point pens. The reasoning was simple : All teachers used fountain pens. And ball point pens were banned for students!

Many of you would empathise when I say, that I took to ball point pens with a relentless vengeance, when I took to working. So I thought the ball point pens had won that grand battle.

Little did I think that there would soon come a time when writing per se was at risk of being obliterated by the keyboard. And just as the keyboard was rising a flag of victory over what appeared to be a new frontier, tablets and touch screen is stretching it even further. How long the ‘touch screen’ would last is left to anybodys guess. Or a lazy swipe of the index finger.

Ah, pardon the detour. Getting back to the tea break, discarding propriety or whatever, I ask the gentleman, if I could see his pen. A trifle surprised, he hands it over. And says, ‘my dad gifted me this pen when I cleared my 8th standard exam’.

‘Eigth standard ?’

After some pronounced flexing of the non-existant math muscle in the brain, I figured that was 32 years back!

It was a Parker. It carried with it the distinct smell of several years of leaving imprints on notebooks, exam papers and many papers of significance. Not to forget empty artistic doodles in conferences perhaps.

Ofcourse, within it resided some fresh blue ink, that distinctly held the smell of school. Quite obviously opening the floodgates of my memory and grand vision of that time, that the world would come to war over the mighty pen.

I wonder how many kids of the present day world would grow to romance the fine art of writing with a fountain pen. Which is when the missus points out that writing in itself is at risk.

Which is true. Romantic lover letters, I am told, have been replaced by abbreviated text. ‘Yours in ever lasting love’ or something to that effect has become ‘Lv’ in the text message driven writing of the modern times.

Thank You has become TanQ or TY ! ‘Congratulations’ has become ‘Congo’. Happy Birthday is better written as ‘HBD’. Even the ‘Many many happy returns’ is elaborately written as ‘MMHR’ !

Will cursive writing still be taught in school or will using the index finger to lazily swipe on a glazed surface become the new and only norm?

I am not sure if it will happen anytime soon. Until then, lets celebrate the likes of the gentleman who preserves and writes with a pen that’s 32 years old. Just because a father gave it to him. For sailing through class eight !

Such folks are at a different class. An endangered class.

walk on

Somewhere in Dec-Jan evey year, devotees of Lord Murugan ( a.k.a Karthikeya ) will walk to his abode in Palani and several other places in Tamil Nadu.

Although that sounds like a sleepy airy walk in the park, it isn’t so. It actually translates to several days of walking 30 odd kilometers daily.

It is the annual pilgrimage. Walking with their bare feet carousing the tar of hot roads, on which see some reinforced steel radials with hot speeds, more often than not. They walk. Carrying their belongings and all else that they would require on the journey atop their heads or slung across their shoulders

Unmindful of approaching traffic that could consist of whizzing buses or wheezing bullet carts, they walk. They are easy to spot. Dressed in a radiant yellow or an ensemble of green, roads in rural TN close to the foothills of Palani see them walk on.


I am told that they walk early in the morning. And late in the evening. Together making for almost 30 KM every day. They chant the holy name of Lord Karthikeya. And walk on.

The same happens in Maharashtra chanting the name of Sai Baba.

In Kerela they walk in the name of Lord Aiyappa.

The Amarnath Yatra up in the Himalayas.

And so we walk in the name of every God that we call out to. Mother Mary. Allah. Krishna. Shiva. Buddha. Mahavir. And ofcourse, Karthikeya. All over the country. And around the world too.

We walk many many miles over many many days. In penance. In celebration. In thanks or asking for something dear. I presume all the time that the mind is active while the legs plough on will provide for some reflection and reordering of thoughts. As well.

And so we walk on. For many miles over many days. In a strange quest for discovering love. Compassion. Peace. And well being.

Incase you cant imagine doing this with this level of an intensity, here is a suggestion. The battery of good Lords will agree, we have traversed an almost similar distance when we walk half way down the street and smile at our neighbour, help someone, do our duties with diligence and spread some cheer.

Walk on people. Walk with hope. Walk with joy. Walk with belief that life can and will be better for all of us.

By the way, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. All doctors. Walk on.

Life has to go on !


This is Peddar Road. A road on which I frequent more for running than for anything else. Once a week, and this road and its incline is a nemesis of sorts for inept runners like me. A Sunday morning on this road, looks like this.

On weekdays, this road holds more wheels than legs. Definitely more expensive wheels than most districts of Mumbai. Quite naturally, there are innumerable number of hours that you could be forced to spend stuck in a signal. Not knowing what else to do, but for twiddling your thumb and swearing at how ineffective our governments are and how fundamentally vacuous our democracy is.

The government has been proposing a construction of a flyover. Eminent residents living the area have resisted this. For a number of reasons that must be patently obvious to them, but cant seem to make sense to the rest of Mumbai, let alone the rest of the word.

So we see a logjam. Everyday, cars pile up. Inconceivable number of motorists hurl the choicest of abuses. Ofcourse, I don’t know for sure. But given the propensity of several motorists to heap abuse for anything starting from following traffic lights when no one is around, this is more than just probable.

Now its become a political issue. With parties taking a stance for or against. No one wants to give an inch. Life goes on.

——-



Somewhere in rural Maharashtra. One of the roadside stalls had this to offer. Now, red guava is a personal favourite. Naturally, the foot came off the accelerator and the car came to an instantaneous magical halt.

Drooling with vivid pictures in the mind of red guavas, we went in and chose a few guavas.

Only to find just a while later, just as the teeth were sinking into what looked like one heck of a luscious red guava, that it wasn’t red inside after all.

The vendor, without bating an eyelid, informs that the ‘red’ in the ‘red gauvas’ kept on display were ‘painted’ guavas. The only guavas he had were all white !

I am livid. I ask him if he is right in doing this. He shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Life has to go on sir’!

——-



Theres this store in the corner. Which sells short eats through a window. It was a village sometime back. Now, it’s a well respected suburb of big city Mumbai. In the neighborhood tall buildings scrape clouds. Cars zip in and out of the building and life reeks of a certain ‘busy’ness.

Amidst all this hustle bustle, somehow, this store has survived.

The genial Maharastrian gentleman who runs this store, is usually very warm and receptive. So is he today. He smiles at me and asks ‘2 packs’ ? I smile and nod. Two packs of chewing gum get placed on a bottle.

There is no one today. So I chat up. What does he think of Foreign Direct Investment in Retail I ask. Filled with the usual city-dweller arrogance perhaps, half thinking the old man that he is, there isn’t going to be any answer. Leave alone, a cogent one.

‘Let them come sir’. He says. ‘

They can never be me. I can never be them. We all have our roles’.

With a pause and a smile he says, ‘Life has to go on’ !


Have a lovely week ahead people !

Time graduates !



While I was there, I attended a graduation. Attended one. The brother in law was getting an MBA with some kick-ass project scores and some serious study.

Well, ceremony in itself was nothing short of splendid. It started on the dot and ending on another dot. The speakers, the pageantry and pomp gave order a new coat of glitz. The commencement speaker spoke with some purpose, perhaps taking her role rather seriously. That translates to “it was a rather long speech”.

People with knowledge of Six Sigma or stuff of that order perhaps facilitated the arranging of chairs. Students were at the best of behavior that had me wonder if they had been told that they better be at the best of behavior ‘or else’.

Three and a half pats, was all that I could give myself later. Beyond which it became a trifle laborious. For my hunch was right after all. Wikipedia says : “At the high school level, this allows academic administrators to withhold diplomas from students who are unruly during the ceremony”.





I know. I know. You are the ‘bullet train quick’ type who is quick to spot “but this is for high school”. Well, allow for some exaggeration. Will you ? Please adjust.

An overbearing black sea of gowns with borders of red / blue / yellow, well complimented by hoods, painting a rich tapestry of straight angles above the head. Ofcourse, you couldn’t miss the lovely garlands that adorned necks that seemed to have stuck out quite a bit to get this far !

Something that will definitely not miss the ear is the hoots and cheers from families. Families that seemed to have turned out in droves to cheer the graduating student, sometimes mirroring a mini product launch campaign, as names of individual students were called out. Much to my baffling, which you will empathise with, as you read on.



Overall, this was one heck of a ceremony. Something to remember.

Flip a page.

There are graduations. And there are graduations.

The only graduation that I attended was at the end of the MBA. Once. Just once in life. That was many years back. If you are expecting a deluge of memories to inundate this post, well, no. Sometimes you are spared.

The strongest memory, however, of that ceremony was the distinct smell that rented robe brought along. My family was represented by one person : me. I don’t recall of any of my classmates turning up. They had already immersed themselves in newly found jobs in an emerging economy. Better ( or worse) still, no one bothered to find how the ceremony went.

I have no recollections of the speech. Goes even further, don’t even know who was the speaker. I have racked my brains and re-jigged my memory with no results to show, except perhaps five and a half strands of hair that the floor bears as evidence.

Ofcourse, those were days where a facebook update to let the world know that you have just had a glass of water, wasn’t exactly possible. So no trail remains. Digital or otherwise. Net net, nothing remains as evidence, which is disproportionately epochal to what the degree has brought me in life!

Looking back, it occurs that that those were the ages when you just wanted to get on with it. There was no celebration of ceremony. We had a future to make. A life to live and a livelihood to create.

Modern day urban Indian schools are now towing the US line. Ah, I forget. In the US, graduations galore. Everything from swimming classes to kindergarten have graduations. Unfortunately, I never could make it to any of those, but yet, have heard truck loads of stories of them.

Back here in India, many a school has graduation ceremonies. With robes and all that. When parents invite me and the missus, to a party to celebrate their son or daughter graduating from Kindergarten, we turn out in our best. The moment in time, when the kid graduates from mellifluous ‘child blabber’ to saying in impeccable English : “This school sucks”, is indeed a moment to savour.

While I am quite neutral on the graduation for kids. But then forcing them to wearing academic gowns and caps and such else doesn’t get better than the league of fancy dress. Both for me and the kids. But it is a wonderful revenue stream for the school and perhaps a good photo op for the parents.

I am reasonably sure that your suspicions of me being one heck of an old world twit have been proven beyond doubt. Perhaps. But then, I am someone, for whom the only meaningful recollections of a graduation are of a postman.

Yes. A postman, who brought a Post Card, during the height of every summer. The only word printed there : ‘Promoted’. That announced graduation to the next class.

Even as the card was entering the safe confines of a steel almirah, courtesy my dotting mother, I would be gone. To face the sun, and try to beat down the beads of sweat on the forehead. Cricket. Tennis. Or simply, attempting to stone the next odd shaped tamarind fruit. No robe. No gown. No ceremony.

Times. They change.

Perhaps, Time graduates !