India Today: After Hurriyat snub, Centre to crack down on separatists, withdraw security cover

India Today: After Hurriyat snub, Centre to crack down on separatists, withdraw security cover.

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Ability redefined

Chitra Iyer

The doorbell rang. No, not again. This modern gadget can be a bit of a nuisance, sometimes.

I was in the bathroom. Must be some useless caller. I ignored it. It buzzed again. The visitor was persistent.

“Who is it?” I shouted from the bathroom.

“Courier,” came the answer.

“From where?” I queried.

“From the bank…cheque book,” I thought I heard.

Ok, I remembered, I had applied for a new cheque book at my bank. Now this was important. “Alright, wait a few minutes… I am coming,” I shouted back.

I quickly finished my bath, hurriedly got into my clothes and answered the door. It was from a bank alright, but a credit statement related to a card I was not using anymore. Still I got couriered statements of regularly.

This made me furious. “Where is the cheque book?” I almost shrieked.

“What cheque book?”

“You said cheque book.”

“I said bank…your credit card statement.”

“I don’t want this statement. I don’t use this card anymore. Anyway, why didn’t you just shove the letter under the door? It was not that important a document…only a credit card statement, for God’s sake, not a cheque book,” I banged the door on him.

This sort of thing happens all the time. One would be really, really busy and running late, the doorbell would go ding-dong and it would be a salesman selling door to door something one would never use all one’s life or a service provider offering free services for a gadget one doesn’t even own.

Then, there would be these glorified beggars with a receipt booklet of some obscure organisation asking for charity, just taking a chance. Or some sadhus going on a pilgrimage. All able-bodied people, begging on some pretext or the other.

The doorbell buzzed again. Murmuring, I approached the door. There he was, a young man in his early twenties. He smiled. “Didi, I have come from the school for the handicapped,” he said very slowly in a highly slurred speech.

Oh no, not again, someone’s come begging for charity. Sorry, I was about to say.

“Didi, I have come to sell some products we make at our school, would you like to buy some?”

“What do you have?” I asked almost disinterestedly.

“Oh, things like perfumed candles, incense sticks, greeting cards,” he said as he eagerly shoved some of the cards into my face. They were very beautiful, the cards with flowers, landscapes and smiling human faces adorning them.

I bought some gladly. The cards had a heart-warming message at the back — self-help, not charity is our motto.

“Thank you, didi,” he went away but not without leaving a smile on my face.

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Constant change

           V.K. Kapoor

In life, skyline keeps on changing. The chaotic tumble of progress, the simultaneity of events and an unemotional network of computers, censors and signals have accelerated the pace of change. Life has become an open port perpetually on the boil with no steam vents.

Every age has an aura, an atmosphere, a vibration that is characteristic and unmistakable. Presently anxiety is the murmur of times, and discontent is the medium of the age. Smooth as a snake, change can be seen from real life to reel life.

Corruption has gained acceptability. Acceptability is the first step to respectability. Money has become an effective lubricant of the political and administrative machinery. Recently an old farmer-friend came to see me. He told me that he had come for some work. He was all praise for the bureaucrat who had accepted bribe in his office. He told me that the bureaucrat was a man of principles, frankness and straight-forward conduct. He had told him that instead of Diwali gifts, he should pay him cash. “Khandani aadmi hai” (He comes of a good stock).

People who should have been in Tihar Jail have reached the chambers of governance. Most of the politicians have been “thana-level” operators. An MLA, who was the chairman of a corporation, misbehaved with his lady PA. There was a lot of furore. I knew him and asked him about the incident. He said, “Eh taan facility hai” (This a facility with the job).

Power vendors and influence peddlers have an effective presence in the corridors of power. Pimps and touts can be seen in the company of bureaucrats and ministers. They make easily available, easy glow damsels who are in a perpetual state of tumescence. They cultivate influential people with their husky bedside manners. These princesses are used for striking big deals. Some of the ministers and bureaucrats are shrines of sin. The corridors of power resonate with the cooing of psycophants. Some of them not only lick but slurp also and feel happy when their slurp is heard. The strong coating of Indian inhibitions has been replaced by perversion, prurience and pornography. Cellphones, booze and high infidelity are the symbols of new age.

Visible change can be seen in reel life. There is thirst for trivia. What a Meena Kumari or a Madhubala could convey through a glance is now pointedly brought home to the audience by reference to “Choli ke peechey kya hai”. Begum Akhtar’s “Mohabbat teray naam pe rona aya” has been replaced by “Anarkali disco chali”. “Badnam Munnis” and “Jawan Sheelas” dominate the silver screen. Our erotomania has taken us to eroticism. Now nothing is erotic. Love requires decency, silence and privacy. It is as if Mona Lisa has revealed the secret of her smile.

Traditional values of civility, decorum and restraint have disappeared. There is a smell of sorrow, smudged rages and dead brain cells. Life has become an archive of unhappiness and catacomb of darkness. Memories of old straight-forward days and decent people remain fresh. The songs are over, but the melody lingers.           

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Grammar Viruses

Raji P Srivastav

The peer learning that occurs on school campuses can take the credit for grammar viruses that incubate, thrive, flourish and mutate into more lethal strains with time. Children seem to pick these up from spores in the air and bring the germs home in spite of parental admonitions to speak correct English. “Mummy, the bus came,” from the lips of a pre-schooler is excusable because it conveys accurately the status of the bus– that it has arrived. But it is odd to hear from a child not so young: “How much toffees will come in Rs 10?” Toffees coming? How have they arrived, and from where? What is alive in school will get into college, which is officially the stage to announce to the world that you have arrived: no homework, or uniform, and often, no class, unless one is very unlucky. Adolescent nirvana: the advent of canteen as the hub of all socialisation. Classrooms are incidental to the great college experience. There is nobody to edit one’s bloomers, no one to say what is wrong or better, because to write and speak as you like it is hip. There are a hundred ways of spelling Ma’am: Mam, M’am, Ma’m, mam’, Maam, Madm, M’’’am, Mm’e, and even Mmmmam—no matter that only one is correct. Since variety is the spice of life, we love devising new variants of the spellings.

In my days (agreed, it was a very long time ago), teachers could smell bad spellings or wrong usage from miles. The words we would misspell consistently were “embarrassed”, “vacuum”, “balloon”, and “woollen”, if you did not count “onomatopoeia” or “diarrhoea” (because these were of foreign origin). Beyond these minefields, we wrote straightforward English with reasonable accuracy. We knew where to put inverted commas and what to do with vernacular words—you italicised them. If we made a mistake, we apologised shame-facedly and went back to the dictionary to check. Placing the tricky apostrophe correctly within “Its” brought with it a triumphant adrenalin rush. Dictionaries back then were neither reference books in huge libraries with miles of occupied shelves nor miniature prayer booklets that you could slip into the pockets of your jeans. It was a real book, which you carried in your school bag because you needed to consult it when in spelling dilemma or vocabulary crisis. To my liberated young friends, who believe in reinventing the starchy rules of grammar and think spellings are personal to the user, I only want to ask: “How much Saridon will come in Rs 10? My head pains badly after reading your lingo.” Better still, I can join you by saying: “Jus lurve your style—its 2 gud!”

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My childhood coterie

Rachna Singh

I’M sure we all look back upon our childhood with pleasure and reminisce about the magical times. My childhood also had all the magic of an Alice in wonderland.

My first memory as a child is of helping my father apply ointment to the broken wing of a dove and feed her medicine and rice. I can still feel the thrill of satisfaction when the dove soared into the sky with her mended wing. I can still remember the overwhelming joy when the dove kept coming back to our house every day as if to express her gratitude for our help.

After this episode everyone in the vicinity, be it the milkman or the dhobi or the vegetable vendor, brought birds with broken legs or wings to our house for recovery. So at times we had a mélange of parrots, sparrows, blackbirds, doves in the house squawking, twittering or cooing for attention.

As I grew up, depending upon the local animal populace, my motley crowd kept changing its profile. Sometimes it was made up of squirrels, kittens and guinea pigs whom I guarded fiercely against predators. At other times it constituted caterpillars that I would bring home just for the pleasure of seeing them miraculously transform into beautiful butterflies.

Once I was lucky to have a tank full of turtles in the backyard. At another time a white rabbit strayed into our garden. It had been ravaged by a jackal and trembled with fear at the slightest noise. But slowly it recovered and we became inseparable like Mary and her little lamb.

Perhaps the dearest member of my animal coterie was a Neelgai. There was a forest fire in the area we stayed in and the ‘jawans’ rescued a Neelgai calf from the fire. The poor grief-stricken motherless calf gave up eating and drinking. Upon me fell the onerous task of cajoling the calf to drink milk from a bottle.

I would patiently pet the neelgai and feed it milk every day before going to school. A strong bond developed between us but there was grief ahead as the fully recovered calf had to be sent back to her own habitat. I missed her but my dad would drive me down the forested area once in a while and the fully grown neelgai would leave her herd and stand in the path of the jeep as if to greet us.

These childhood friends were not like the spruced up pedigreed pets of today but they made my life magical with their raw spontaneity. My animal coterie is lost in the mists of time but even after several decades brings a happy smile to my face.

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Sporting spirit

Ashok Kumar Yadav

There was an echo of roaring applause in the Tilly’s hills around The Lawrence School, Sanawar, when my son surrendered his well-earned 10 points despite having replied a question correctly in the Kirloskar All-India Business Quiz Contest held recently. Pitamber did it after the rival Vivek High School team raised a hullabaloo.

Not only the participating teams but also the chief guest, Valson Thampu, principal, St Stephen’s College, joined the chorale to appreciate the rare gesture of a budding Sanawarian, who refused to wear a stained victory on his sleeve, despite the quiz master having ruled in his favour.

This edition of the annual quiz is regarded prestigious among elite public schools of the country. Finding a berth even in the school team is a matter of pride. My son chewed more than 15,000 quiz bites to cement his place in the contingent.

It so transpired that the runnersup, Vivek High, bowled a googly in the clinching round by appealing against an answer, which was disallowed. But the objector would not relent. In a display of fair play, as epitomised by Francis Bacon in his essay `Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature’, Pitamber stunned everybody by surrendering the points, knowing well that it would level the score. Eventually, there was a nail-biting tie which the host team, nevertheless, sailed through to win the laurels.

It reminds me of a show of sportsmanship by Indian cricketing deity Sachin Tendulkar, who usually leaves the crease immediately once he knows he is out, without waiting for the umpire’s signal. No wonder, Pitamber idolises Sachin. South Africa’s Jacques Kallis also demonstrated such spirit twice during the World Cup 2011. Rahul Dravid and Adam Gilchrist have also earned kudos for their fairness on the field.

During the India-England Test series earlier this year, though India lost its crown, the defeat did not make the team poorer anyhow. On the third day of the second Test, England’s Eoin Morgan hit the last ball before tea and ran three runs.
Thinking it had gone to the boundary, he left for the pavilion. Meanwhile, the ball was returned to the wicketkeeper, who removed the bails and Ian Bell was declared run out.

Although Dhoni refused to budge initial y, the appeal was withdrawn subsequently.
When Bell emerged to resume, there was a standing ovation for the Indians. Dhoni won the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award 2011 for upholding the highest traditions of the game.

Pitamber is just half their age. However, the way he championed the Gandhian principle of purity of means justifying the ends makes us feel proud. Are you listening, Ricky Ponting?

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People of cheer

Vivek Atray

THERE are some human beings who never fail to uplift the mood. Others never fail to dampen it. People of cheer are rare commodities, but they light up the lives of hundreds around them.

In a world that is increasingly tense and stressed, a person of cheer is like manna from heaven. He stands out in a crowd. His smile enlivens proceedings, warms the heart and soothes frayed nerves. He’s the one who lends a helping hand to an old lady; and he’s the one who smiles at the shop attendant (even if the latter is not a pretty girl, but a grumpy old man!)

When a scenario is grim and hopeless, such gems are even more invaluable. On the battlefront, for instance, in the face of adversity unparalleled, he who can generate a few chuckles with his banter is akin to a breath of fresh air.

Some bring cheer by dint of being inherently funny; others by way of effort. Whether in films or in real life, the ability to actually plant the seeds of mirth in the hearts of others is no mean feat.

Rajesh Khanna’s character in the timeless classic, Anand, was a memorable harbinger of happiness. He would never sit still and he would never stop his chatter, even while knowing that his days were numbered. He brought many a smile to our lips as we watched him in action and many a tear to our eyes when it was time for him to go.

Thus the need for us earthlings to recognise and even fete those who cheer us up! Not only those who professionally bring out the laughter instinct in us, but also those who do it intuitively and without practice. These people have extra happy genes inside them for sure. They need to be analysed, dissected and discussed in order to discern the qualities that they possess deep within.

At a recent meeting of a discussion circle, one lady complained that she hadn’t found the time to laugh in the last 10 days. Thankfully, the fact that the session was on ‘humour in real life’ enabled her to laugh enough to last her the rest of the year!

There are of course those who try to be very serious but still happen to be the cause of amusements. Some teachers are among them. The more they frown in anger at their class, the more they succeed in generating sniggers and even guffaws.

One look at the prophets of doom who abound in society these days, and we can be sure that had it not been for the champions of cheer, the world would have collapsed long ago. When the day of reckoning comes, and when it is really time to be counted, these ‘cheer-leaders’ will surely lead humanity towards eternal joy.

The rest of us will merely applaud them, smile broadly and follow on.

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