Mission Better Drivers (in India)

Driving in the narrow chaotic roads of Kolkata, there are many situations each day where I get the urge to get off the car and beat the hell out of some drivers. Fortunately, the urge is only for a split second and I continue driving on after a shake of head / a few choice words. My top picks with those situations, and proposed solutions to them:

The "horny" driver: Get a meter attached to the horn and make it mandatory. After a specified amount of honking, measured in minutes, the owner of the car has to purchase additional minutes.

The lane changer: Without indicators in rush traffic that is! Get the surveillance cameras in use, and make it mandatory for the drivers to attend driving lessons. Special classes on lane driving can also be arranged which repeats and reinforces the same concept to the point of death by boredom. Much like the 300 lines of "I will not cause pandemonium in class" that I had to write in std 7.

The line crosser: Same as the lane changer. Particularly annoying, since some of them think that's the right thing to do! On a fine Sunday morning, when the roads were empty, I stopped at a signal. A taxi came in a few seconds later, in a very cool way stopped right before the zebra crossing, and signaled me to come ahead - as if I had done a mistake!!! Fines are apparently not deterring these guys, so, why not ask for their time in terms of attending classes?

The Valentino Rossi: Bikers and their fascination of crossing cars (from both sides) and coming in front of the car! Some with helmets, some with two passengers! In some areas of Kolkata, almost all without helmet and most with one or two passengers, all without helmet! Stop them, thrash them, burn their bikes - I can't think of any other solution!

*Deep breath*
*Peace out*

The last of the ...

It's been more than four months since the evening a pop up came through the Times of India app on my mobile, informing me that all old 500 and 1000 rupees currency notes are banned. The next couple of days were enough to convert the notes that I had. We could also take out enough cash from Banks / ATMs to suffice our upcoming family travel planned just four days later. During the travel, I did not even try to take out cash, but did not face any crunch whatsoever. The biggest challenge proved to be December, when the ATMs and Banks had limits / long queues / lacked cash to disburse.

Now, all this while, I had an apprehension that I might have kept a note or two somewhere stashed as a rainy day fund - well, not really a raining rainy day, but one of those days when you have ordered for food and you don't have enough cash and feeling too lazy to go out. This is something I keep in all my wallets / passport holders / card holders. Imagine my state of mind when just yesterday, while searching for a passport sized photograph, peeped out a bright and crisp 1000 rupee note!

Wonder if I should go to RBI and get it changed before 31st March 2017 or just keep it as a souvenir.

Happy International Women's Day

I am not a big fan of celebrating these "days"... Mother's Day, Father's Day, Brother's Day... these are relationships which should not need a special day a year to celebrate and rather be celebrated every day. Similarly, on a similar note, Women should not need a "Women's Day" to celebrate in an ideal world.

Having said that, it is not an ideal world, and though we have progressed a lot in terms of gender equality and rights, there is still a lot of progress to be made. So here's to all the wonderful ladies out there, following your dreams, breaking the so called glass barrier, making the world a better place to live in, achieving success.

Here's also to all the struggling ladies, working hard to make ends meet, fighting to earn respect and dignity, and staying strong even after hurdles after hurdles - because this celebration is of you, and to a better future where you don't have to struggle so much, you don't have to think about safety every time you step out, and you get to choose what to wear and what to do

The Che(s) closer home

Every now and then, I come across the rebel minded, wearing t-shirts with the famous photograph of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I am not sure if the popularity of Che is due to his legendary motorcycle journey (and the book), or is it because of his contribution to the revolution in Cuba. In any case, the fascination of the young with Che even today forces me to think if we tend to forget legends closer home and look for inspiration elsewhere?

I am no expert on this subject but I am listing down a few names I have come across who lead extraordinary lives not too dissimilar to Che's. Some of them, I am sure, you were not aware of!

Sarat Chandra Das (1849 - 1917): This dude was both an explorer and a scholar. He explored Tibet extensively sometimes posing as a Lama, and documented his journeys and the culture of Tibet in his books from late 1800s. He spied for the British and fed them with information on the region. He also published the first Tibetan-English dictionary. If you interested to read more, I have his book "Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet" which I can lend.

Manabendra Nath Roy (1887 - 1954): Trivia question: where was the first Communist Party established outside Russia? Mexico. Who established this? This guy! He plotted armed revolution against the British, escaped from India, and while the British were hunting for him, he managed to travel sometimes with false passport and as stowaway aboard a ship across the world and finally reached USA. After establishing the Communist Party in Mexico, he was invited to Moscow, where he met Lenin and Stalin. On his return to India after 16 years abroad with so many accomplishments, he was immediately arrested and jailed without a proper trial.

Lt. Col. Suresh Biswas (1861 - 1905): Spurred by adventure, he traveled to Britain and worked several jobs including as an animal trainer in a circus. He traveled to Brazil and enlisted in the army there - was later promoted as a Captain in the Brazilian army. His name is referred in one of Satyajit Ray's fiction - "Chinnomastar Abhishap".

I am not mentioning the already well documented extra-ordinary life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on purpose. I am sure there are plenty more who should have been glorified more. I hope we find them and their work and celebrate them as well.