It can happen… just dream on

Hari Krishan Chaudhary

I wake up and go down the elevator from my eighth-floor flat and see cars lined up and parked in perfect symmetry, leaving enough space so that doors do not bang into the other while opening. Taking out my vehicle with ease, I drive into the road. The morning traffic is sparse. Some morning walkers with dogs on leash are carrying poop bags to use when needed.

The spic-and-span road opens into a highway. A car in front of mine is displaying on the rear windscreen ‘Car sharers inside’. It is packed to capacity with office-goers. I stop at a traffic light. The cop standing unobtrusively smiles, but his eagle eye watches people using the zebra crossing. A visually challenged man is helped to cross the road. Strangely, the cop does not have a challan book in his hand.

A beggar taps on my car window. Two cops come and take him away into a waiting Gypsy. Other beggars vanish into a side street. I reach a shopping mall. Parking charges are nominal, and as I come out of my car, a lift man is waiting for me to get in and take me to the floor I desire.

I go to a movie theatre. People are leisurely entering the hall and taking their seats. Light music is in the air. No blaring trailers of the forthcoming shows. As everyone is seated, the film starts without making you go through ads of dangers of tobacco with a dissected cancerous face staring at you.

The shops are inviting. The salesmen do not inquisitively watch you and throw at you questions about your requirements. They let you quietly see the wares and window shop till you zero in on your picks. I fill my trolley and as I am billed, my goods are neatly packed and placed to be carted away to my car.

The roads are strangely silent, as if all horns have broken down. The air is clean and healthy. The local buses have passengers comfortably seated. The bus shelters have passengers sitting in rows, who rise when the bus arrives, in a perfect queue. There are more buses than cars on the roads. An ambulance overtakes me. Its lights are blinking. Vehicles give way to let it pass quickly, saving precious time for somebody inside.

A cavalcade of cars escort a VIP but no horns are blaring. No gun-toting policemen stare at you oppressively. Instead, the cars slow down and seamlessly move with the traffic. I drive effortlessly listening to Chitra Singh’s ‘Humko dushman ki nigahon se na dekha kije’.

A popular DJ announces on the FM that there are no traffic jams anywhere in the city, as if it is a routine announcement. Drive at your pleasure and not at your risk, she says in her sonorous voice.

I don’t want to pinch myself out of this dream sequence as I drive back home leisurely.

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Nabhaites proud of their ‘Moti’

Preet Amol Singh

It was a shocking news for me when I received a WhatsApp message from a friend on June 6 regarding the missing AN-32 in which our school friend and batchmate, Mohit Kumar Garg, was on board. As I was in Nepal for a conference and had limited access to the Internet, all hopes were shattered when it was confirmed that the aircraft went missing on June 3.

I still carried hope that he and his teammates would be rescued by the IAF, but that was not to be.

Mohit was a dear friend, classmate and bench-mate for six years. What a fine gentleman he was! Always cheerful. Hardly have I seen any pictures of him without a smile. Mohit joined PPS Nabha in class V. The school was inaugurated by Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of India, in 1961. Mohit was studious and an obedient student. We used to call him by his nickname, Moti. ‘Moti’ means a precious gem. We Nabhaites can proudly say he was our real and priceless diamond.

I remember he used to be an extra-ordinary student and would score full marks in mathematics, and for this reason, he would volunteer to keep the scoreboard during inter-house competitions. Being a mediocre student, especially in maths, physics and chemistry, I used to enjoy the opportunity of copying the answers from his sheet!

I was frequently in touch with him on WhatsApp and Facebook. We used to exchange a lot of messages and crack jokes at each other. Even after joining the Air Force after clearing his NDA examination, he remained in contact with most of his schoolmates.

He had a very supporting and down-to-earth personality. We all friends of PPS Nabha had our last get-together at his wedding in Patiala. I remember that beautiful evening, recollecting funny memories of our school days, and last but not least, the beaming smile on his face. I still cannot believe that it was meant to be our last meeting.

We all know that life in the defence forces is tough, but also the most satisfying for a soldier. It is said that the only thing that is permanent is change. It is apt for the forces. Soldiers are never to be made to feel comfortable at one place, and hence, they are shifted frequently from place to place every two-three years. He also had his fair share of a tough life.

All I can say is that my dear friend, your loss cannot be fulfilled but in the time of grief and sorrow, we stand by your family firmly.

I dedicate to him these beautiful lines of Jiddu Krishnamurti for a friendship that never ends: ‘Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.’

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What made Karnad such a hit


SERENDIPITY in the truest sense — that is what I experienced when I had a chance encounter with the legendary film and literary icon Girish Karnad at the Jaipur Literary Festival about five years back. Between two book review sessions, I saw a sizeable gathering of people congregate near a tea service point, where, even though Karnad was present, he was not sipping tea. His fans were drawn to him like bees to a hive.

The topic under discussion was history-inspired plots around which Karnad’s films were woven. Someone asked whether the roles given to him by directors were to his liking and they blended with his mental makeup. ‘An actor should always ensure that his character’s personality is deeply superimposed on his psyche. I have been lucky to take on roles, where I have suitably pitched into the total fabric of the script and screenplay,’ he responded.

I wanted Karnad to educate me about Utsav, a film directed by him and produced by Shashi Kapoor in 1984. Its plot was inspired from the second-century play Mrichakatika by Sudraka. My specific question was whether such movies with old themes would resonate with modern audiences. ‘History charts out the roadmap for human development. To what period do movies such as Cecil Demille-directed Ten Commandments and William Wyler-directed Ben-Hur pertain to?’ he replied, adding, ‘these movies will still be sought after many generations hence.’

Karnad was an amalgam of streaks of philosophy, literature, histrionics and culture and these were visibly demonstrated in his Kannada films like Samskara (his acting and screen-writing initiating venture) — a baptism by fire. Tabba Liyu Neenade Mague was a Karnad-BV Kamath co-direction. It had Naseeruddin Shah in pivotal roles. His Bollywood films such as Nishaant, Manthan, Swami and Pukar also underscored these traits. In 2012 he played the role of a RAW head in Ek Tha Tiger.

Not that a gifted person like Karnad would be deemed getting an added lustre by Awards — much sought after by lesser mortals — this enigmatic personality was bestowed with the Jnanpith Award in 1998, and also the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan among myriad others. His canvas had paint strokes of luminaries such as Ebrahim Alkazi and Alyque Padamsee.

His 81 years of life had their highs and lows. However, he maintained perfect equanimity through the rough and smooth of life. The murders of Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi made him lose faith in the purported genuine cohesiveness of India, his most cherished desire of what India needs to be.

Those like me who have had the good fortune of interacting with him are lucky, to say the least. RIP great Karnad!

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A dry well of painful memories

Swarna Rani

Days of relentless struggle for nights of ceaseless work but all in vain. One more innocent life is lost! The untimely and unfortunate death of Fatehveer, the victim of a borewell tragedy, jolted me and painfully pushed me back to my own childhood memory. We were living in a small village of Punjab. I was barely seven. We had a small well, which had run dry, in a secluded part of the house. We children were instructed not to go near the well as our parents feared that we might fall into it while playing.

Forbidden fruit is always sweet and children try to do all those activities against which they have been cautioned by their worldly wise parents.

During our play hours, we would furtively go near the well and peep into it. Several times, my grandmother would catch us red-handed and complain to my mother. Those days, parents firmly believed that if you spare the rod, you would, indeed, spoil the child. (No child counsellors were there to explain about the detrimental impact of corporal punishment on children.) My mother would cane us to her heart’s content over our act of disobedience.

Grandmother had her own way of dissuading us from that perilous pastime pleasure of ours. She would weave mythical tales about the well, which we immediately believed. Her version was that once upon a time a girl lived there and while playing near the well, fell into it and died. Now, the evil spirit of that dead child had made the well her permanent abode.

But no tricks worked. One evening when all family members were going out for some social ceremony, I made an excuse of being sick and stayed back alone at home. In their absence, I wanted to meet the spirit of the child. I looked inside the well, but found nothing. I stood erect on its boundary wall. Thereon, I do not remember vividly how I fell into the well. When I gained consciousness, I found myself in a hospital bed with multiple injuries and a broken leg in plaster. It took me several months to recover and be fully able to walk back to normal life.

Unlike the governments of today, my father had immediately learnt a lesson and got the well filled with bricks and cement, once for all.

Today, after 80 years of that incident I can fully feel the pain of the little child, Fatehveer, and his parents, too. It is not an isolated case. Many children have fallen prey to such tragedies in the past, but all were not lucky like me. And the worst part is that no heads among the authorities roll. My commiserations to the bereaved family.

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The whirring music of AN-32s

Brig Suresh Chander (retd)

THE AN-32 crash has evoked massive reaction from service personnel for a variety of reasons. From immense resentment of not equating the loss of crew to the same status as service personnel killed in action to the seemingly tardy search operations. Perhaps the ceremonial status and monetary benefits will be the same now that the wreckage has been found and personnel are declared lost or hopefully traced. But the younger generation of serving officers and men are invariably in a hurry to pass judgment on every issue. In this case, however, there is a special connection. All of us who have served in the inhospitable Northeastern border terrain remember the whirring sound of aircraft and ‘heptrs’ (popular short form for helicopters) and the supplies, mail and newspapers that were dropped to the remotest posts — inaccessible even in the fairest of weather. These were the lifeline of marooned soldiers’ connection to the civilised world. The supplies were dropped in treacherous weather conditions prevailing over the difficult terrain.

I am reminded of our days when insurgency had started in Nagaland. The brave Jat battalion that I was commissioned into was moved to Lumami, 30-odd km ahead of Mokokchong. My company was positioned at Ratomi, a 10-hour gruelling march from the battalion HQ. This post was maintained by mules and air-drops. At night, we combed the jungles and nullahs for insurgents and twice a week during day accompanied mule columns to replenish our supplies. Once or twice a month the Dakota aircraft (DC-3) dropped fresh vegetables, meat on hoof and other essentials. That used to be party time, supplemented by a special issue of a tot of rum.

Thankfully, we could tune into Radio Ceylon and listen to music. Mercifully, battery-operated radios were available at Jorhat — priced more than a month’s pay of a young officer. The battery pack was also expensive but lasted six months or so.

But what has all this got to do with the AN -32 crash? It has. Life and conditions in the remotest isolated posts remain the same except for better television and telephonic connectivity. Now, with the availability of helicopters, personnel may also be picked up for proceeding on leave. Thus the sound of the aircraft like AN-32 and heptrs is the sound of music for most of us who have served for years on such posts.

Special empathy is reserved and displayed for the crew and their families, just as for a comrade lost in battlefield. That is why the clamour for a just and a fair deal for the families of the aircrew.

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Will miss Yuvi’s lazy elegance

Rakesh Chopra

I started following cricket with the 1983 World Cup. Because of his exploits with the bat and the ball, Mohinder Amarnath became my favourite cricketer. Once he retired in the late eighties, I did not admire any cricketer that much, not even the great Sachin Tendulkar.

But that changed in 2007. I was in the evening shift and the newsroom television was tuned in to the India-England match in the T20 World Cup. Southpaw Yuvraj Singh’s pyrotechnics was on display as he hit Stuart Broad to all parts of the Kingsmead in Durban.

Since his international debut in 2000, I had followed his progress but didn’t think much of it. But then, hitting a quality fast bowler for six sixes in an over was something out of the ordinary. I immediately signed into the Yuvraj fan club. From then on, his success would make me happy. I would love the commentators saying that few other batsmen in international cricket hit the ball so cleanly.

In 2011 the World Cup returned to India and Yuvraj was in his element, both with the bat and the ball. By then, I had moved on to another newspaper and we would keep a track of our team’s progress. Most of my journalist colleagues knew my love for the Punjab cricketer and would congratulate me whenever he did well. For his exceptional showing in the tournament Yuvraj was declared the Man of the Tournament and my colleagues declared me the ‘Fan of the Tournament’.

Yuvraj was successful in the shorter version of the game but was in and out of the Test team as there were limited opportunities with the team packed with stalwarts. That he is a true fighter came to the fore when he battled cancer just after the World Cup and emerged a winner.

In an international career spanning 17 years he tasted ample success. He is perhaps the only Indian cricketer to have the coveted World Cup, T20 World Cup, Under-19 World Cup and the IPL trophies in his cabinet.

It pained me to see him struggle in the twilight of his career. The 2018 IPL didn’t go well for him. This year, too, he did not cash in on the limited opportunities the Mumbai Indians gave him. The writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of time before he decided to bid adieu to his international career.

And when an emotional Yuvraj called it a day at a press conference in Mumbai, I had mixed feelings. I was happy that he no more had to face the prospect of a failure with an advancing age. He had nothing more to prove to anyone.

Thank you, Yuvi, for all the entertainment. I was a touch sad, too, as we will miss the by-now-so-familiar swagger and the lazy elegance.

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Imprisoned by social media

Subir Roy

WE were on a holiday in Chennai and the pleasant evening had brought many of us to the tables spread out on the lawn. I noticed a nearby couple. They appeared to be at peace with each other but through an hour or more, did not exchange a word. They were both tapping away at their respective cellphones!

I realised then that a social revolution was on and soon determined to keep as far away as possible from the world of social media. Otherwise my life would change from the way I had crafted it till then. Hence I am missing from Twitter, WhatsApp or what have you. It has become routine now for my friends and acquaintances to consider me a pain.

I often miss out on notices of committee meetings of our housing complex’s residents’ welfare association as only a separate SMS or email will reach me. As for friends organising dos, they have simply taken to passing on the information to my wife.

Why this contrariness on my part? I want none of the following. Simply looking at and deleting all that is posted or forwarded will take up too much time. Then, there is the choice which has to be explicitly made. A person who I want to steer clear of will come to know that he/she has been excluded from my preferred circle. Why make this obvious? Finally, joining in will spell the death of privacy. Nameless legions will be able to know my most personal details, no matter how trivial, from innumerable databases. I got a foretaste of it from my email account. Suddenly, I get a reminder that I am scheduled to board a flight later in the day. I ask silently: who told you… why are you snooping on me?

Recently my resolve was broken. Doing a story on a small well-meaning citizens’ group, I was told in response to my several questions: ‘You will find all that on our Facebook page. So I joined and forgot all about it.’ But Facebook didn’t. I soon started to get ‘notifications’: would I consider so and so as a friend? I deleted them promptly but they kept coming. I was amazed how precisely they knew who I knew? The eavesdropping on my personal life was mindboggling.

I decided to get out, But realised that it was easy to join but almost impossible for a social media ignoramus like me to leave. Eventually, I thought I was about to succeed but was stumped by the prompt asking for my password, which I did not remember. I tried to use ‘forgot password’ but no luck.

So there I am still, imprisoned by Facebook. So much of unsolicited email that comes has a provision upfront ‘unsubscribe’. Why is Facebook different? Will they pay me damages for my loss of time and privacy?

This went on until I was stumped by a notification that suggested I include as a friend, guess who — my wife! Flummoxed, I went on to see what she had posted and among all the stuff were some loveliest and most treasured family photographs. There were our children when they were still little and a photograph of me and my wife at our daughter’s wedding. What I can’t get over is why these have to be on virtual public display.

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