The Time Keeper

Mahavir Jagdev

Mahavir-JagdevAt two years of age, my grandfather lost his father and his mother died when he was nine years old. His two elder sisters were married into well off families. Yet they did not agree to pay his school fees of five rupees per annum. He could not study beyond class five. The young boy was adopted by a village carpenter who trained him. At eighteen years of age he was a skilled carpenter. To his good luck, the First World War started. There was a great demand for skilled manpower. He joined the railways. But, his quest for knowledge remained unsatiated and he pursued his interest in promoting education to the under privileged.

He married and settled in Amritsar as a factory manager. My mother was their only child. When she went away to Delhi to study medicine, the house became lonely. He adopted a small orphan boy Gurcharan. The young boy was very intelligent and dedicated. Once, grandfather gave him twenty five paisa to spend at the village fair. When Gurcharan came back from the fair in the evening, he had fifty paisa. On enquiring he replied, “Papa ji, I bought five pencils for twenty fine paisa and sold only four of them for twenty five paisa. I was saving one pencil on every sale. By the evening I had doubled the money you gave me”. There is saying in Hindi, “Honhar birwah ke chikne, chkne paat“. He had sharp business acumen even at this young age. My grandfather realized, “Yeh lambi race ka ghora hai” (a long distance runner). He wanted him to study and join government service. Gurcharan studied till class ten and stayed with my grandfather, and then one day he just vanished without informing. He did not return, nor did he contact again.

Cut to 1965: I had come to visit Ludhiana with my grandfather. While walking in the market we heard someone calling “Papa ji, Papa ji”. There was a man in his thirties who came and protracted before my grandfather. He hugged my grandfather and started to cry. “Papa ji, you have not recognized me? I am your long lost Charna”. He took us to his shop, the signboard on his shop read “Waqt- kal kisne dekha” (Time- who has seen tomorrow). It was a big show room selling watches and clocks. He filled in with his life story since the time he left the house; he had become a successful businessman. He said “Papa ji, I am sorry that I did not inform you before leaving. You would have never let me go. I know you wanted me to study and join the government service, but I always wanted to do business”. We were at his shop for an hour and as we got up to leave, he presented a watch to my grandfather saying, “Papa ji, I owe this to you for all you did for me”. Papa ji thanked him for the gift and holding the watch said “Charna, you want to return the time I spent on you”. Gurcharan felt sheepish and apologized. Then my grandfather told him, “If you want to return me the time I spent on you, then you must invest it in educating another boy”. Returning the watch, my grandfather took that promise from him, as we walked out of his shop.

Walking back to the bus stand, his hands on my nimble shoulders my grandfather said, “Did you notice the clocks in the shop. The second’s needle goes in very fast circles. It rotates sixty times before the minute needle moves a step. The minute’s needle in turn rotates sixty times before the hour needle moves a step. The second’s needle operates fastest but covers the least time. Zindagi mein lambi race ka ghora ban na (In life, be a long distance runner).

These small lessons learnt with my grandfather left an indelible impression on my mind since childhood. The gift should be what the others need, not what you want to discard.

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Of seat belts and airbags

H. Kishie Singh


Wherever airbags are housed in a vehicle, the word SRS can be seen printed on the cover. It stands for supplementary restraining system. This shows that it is not a standalone life-saving device.

Seat belts are an ingenious invention that has saved millions of lives around the world. No two opinions about that. The debate is about airbags and that is thanks to my friend Major A.P., who opened up a Pandora’s Box.

Question: Do airbags work if the seat belt is not fastened?

Answer: Yes they work! But…

It is the ‘but’ that is the Pandora’s Box.

Wherever these airbags are housed, SRS is printed on the cover. SRS stands for supplementary restraining system, meaning that it is not a standalone life saving device. So, the manufacturer has warned you and washed his hands of all responsibility in case you do something foolish like driving around in a car equipped with airbags and seat belts unfastened. In that case, it would be rarest of the rare case where the airbag could kill rather than save a life.

The airbag is controlled by multiple sensors like impact sensor, pressure sensor, brake pressure sensor and more. A small child’s weight may not activate the pressure sensor making the airbag inoperative.

There is no electronic connection between the seat belt and airbag. Having said that, the statement is an oxymoron. There is a connection between seat belts and airbags. The airbag protects your chest, face and head. The seat belt across the torso and shoulder keeps you sitting upright and prevents body movement in case of a crash.

Here is an example: You are travelling at 100 kmph without seat belts. The car has a crash, sudden deceleration and stops. Your body will continue to travel at 100 kmph. You will hit the airbag at that speed. The airbag could be deploying at about the same speed. The outcome could be lethal. The seat belt will prevent this.

In case of a crash, the driver, without the seat belt, will hit the steering, dash board or windscreen almost instantly. The time between crash detection and complete deployment of airbag is 15 milliseconds. Slower than instantly! The front seat occupants will be a mangled mess by the time the airbag deploys. On the other hand, the seat belt, a passive safety device is at work all the time.

The airbag, an active safety device, is not always a standalone safety device. Remember SRS?

‘Supplementary’ is the key word.

Now, how does an airbag work?

The instant a vehicle crashes, strategically placed sensors, alert and arm the airbag. An igniter fires inside the metal case holding the propellant tablets. A small explosion takes place and fills the airbag with nitrogen. The airbag opens up, provides protection and immediately collapses.

Sounds simple? Almost.

The explosive material is Sodium Azide mixed with Ammonium Nitrate. There is a problem with Ammonium Nitrate. After prolonged exposure to heat and humidity, it can become unstable. Pellets disintegrate into powder. When the unstable compound explodes, it does so with much greater force than required, shattering the metal case and spraying shrapnel into the passenger cabin!

Japanese company Takata Corp, the world’s largest airbag manufacturer, has faced this problem. Over 2.9 million cars with Takata airbags have been recalled globally.

In India, the Toyota Altis has been recalled to rectify passenger side airbag. And earlier this week, Toyota recalled 23,157 Corollas in India over airbag issue.

Happy Motoring!

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Working over 8 hrs a day raises stroke risk by 33%

Kounteya Sinha

LONDON: It’s now official -working over 8 hours a day increases the risk of stroke by 33%.
Scientists have for the first time quantified the number of hours of work that could cause serious harm. Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a 33% greater risk of stroke and a more modest (13%) increased risk of developing coronary heart disease compared with working a standard 35 to 40 hour week. The largest study till date on the issue, involving over 6,00,000 individuals will be published in The Lancet on Thursday.

It clearly shows that the longer people worked, the higher their chances of a stroke. In the study , data from 25 studies involving 6,03,838 men and women from Europe, USA and Australia were looked into, with each of them studied for nearly nine years.

The study was carried out by Mika Kivimaki, professor of epidemiology at University College London.

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Virtual lives feed into personal

Ratna Raman

Something has happened to the grammar of conversations. Most living species ‘converse’ with each other through sounds. Humans alone can convert sounds into symbols. Once humans communicated through speech and writing. Currently, most literate persons live in the word of virtual reality, ‘Whatsapp-ing’ and ‘Twitter-ing’ as much as they can.

Recent wars in virtual media display extreme levels of intolerance, ‘perverted’ (warped) mindsets and a total breakdown of decorum. Vituperative (bitterly abusive) grievances abound, offset by virulent (hostile) attacks. Paresh Rawal, provoked by a fake post, suggested that Arundhati Roy be tied to a jeep in Kashmir and face stone-pelters; for reasons best known to him. Subsequently, abusive remarks directed at both Roy and her supporters were defended as acceptable behaviour.
Speaking derisively or derogatorily is now equated with ‘calling a spade a spade’. ‘Waving spades around’ makes for violent metaphors and violence, the weapon of ‘perverts’,(twisted persons) is a throwback to a savage society. For the record, nobody seems to care.

The acrimony on public forums spills over into smaller private Whatsapp groups, consisting of family and friends, school alumni, professional doctors, accountants, university teachers, which are now rewriting ‘pedagogies’ (theoretical concepts) of communication.

Personal and public spaces can no longer be differentiated. Groups promising statutory information engage with great aplomb in exchanges ranging from picturised good mornings and festive greetings and shift seamlessly to offer birthday and condolences wishes.

Most Whatsapp groups delight in visual overkill. GIFs of flowers, rows of animals, landscapes and gods fill up the screen, draining batteries. In order to free phone memory, the thumb is turned into a detonator on the delete icon, slowly moving its user towards chronic ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’ (progressive, repetitive wrist stress injury).

The deluge of endless videos and jokes usually range from the banal and the ridiculous to the sexist and the obscene. These are instruments of vengeance unleashed by the gods of virtual reality and are recirculated several times within the same Whatsapp group. Nobody remembers postings or re-postings because ’emoticons’ and ‘selfies’ predominate. Clearly, only elephants need large memories since humans have chosen to fall back on ‘technological accessories.’

Conversations in family groups are now non-existent. Pictures are posted for the sole purpose of developing sleuthing skills within the group. If a posted picture is not responded to with appropriate emoticons within minutes of posting, tetchiness (irritability, from tetchy in Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet) comes into play.
Tantrums can be thrown on Whatsapp. Normally if something offends, conversations provide space for disagreement. Since there is minimum dialogue on Whatsapp, the trick is to remain unresponsive and provide scope for psychodrama (acting out of individual hysterias), thereby generating ‘storms in teacups’ (outrage over trivial issues).

Whatsapp functions like a humungous notice board where anyone can put up anything and then disclaim responsibility. Objections are sidelined through pleas that all offending posts are re-postings. ‘Culpability’ (blameworthiness) is to be directed towards the unknown authors.

Exchanges that encourage rumour-mongering, incite violence and prurient interests and are not cognisant of moral responsibility are manifestations of ‘perverse’ social behaviour. Maybe it is time to walk away from Whatapp groups and Twitter to reduce rampant levels of ‘perversity’ (unreasonableness) in day to day communication.

Could a phone call from a landline, a letter dropped in snail mail or an engaging conversation across the table slowly reverse the rapid erosion of human value?

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Lost & quickly regained

Sahil Khurmi


LAST summer, after finishing my LLB degree, I felt fire in my belly to shed my weight by 10 kg and achieve the milestone of 75 kg — appropriate for a 6-ft frame. Albeit an uphill task — I am averse to a gym — I decided to work hard on my fitness. Aware that our health is the raison d’etre of our life, I had still put it off for years. I was determined to change it.

Before getting into the active mode, I decided to make an action plan of all the good habits I wished to imbibe and religiously follow in the coming days to achieve my goal. The three things on my priority list were — a healthy, nutritious diet; intensive workout; and bidding adieu to junk food.

Instead of shooting the breeze, I decided to feel the breeze by running at Sukhna Lake, the heart of Chandigarh. It was tough, an arduous task, no doubt, to pacify my cravings for sweets and shun sugary treats. Saying no to sweets, which accompanied wedding cards, was a tough decision for a glutton like me. Following a strict vegetarian diet plan, I practised a rigorous routine of exercise and developed a knack of drinking a plethora of Adam’s ale! I would bathe in sweat while working out and simultaneously drink a lot of water to hydrate my body which helped me reduce my stubborn belly fat. I was on track.

Within a short span of two months, I achieved my milestone — shedding 10 kg. A new me was here. I pushed the boat out by showing off my abs on social media — Twitter, Blog, Whatsapp… everywhere, really. I was flooded with congratulatory messages; the icing on the cake. It felt good. I felt very light and confident about my body and enjoyed the attention I was receiving. Alas, who knew that my stardom would be so transient!

My judiciary examination was round the corner, forcing me to shift my focus from health to studies. The winter season did not make it any better. Sweat did not come easy in the teeth-chattering cold. As a result, sadly, over the next three months, I regained the 10 kg I had shed. The weighing scale, with a smirk perhaps, showed 85 kg!

So, it is back to square one. But I have resolved to turn a new leaf and welcome this summer with a toned body. Never say die, it is time to hit the gym once more.

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Grandchildren are always perfect!

Mahavir Jagdev

Mahavir-JagdevThe child is born happy, then we educate them and they keep on learning throughout their life how to be happy. Very seldom do they find an answer. I have a seven-year-old granddaughter named Raunaq in London. On a visit to Goa last year I had organised a local tour for her. I wanted to show her the two very old churches, but she was reluctant to undertake the six-hour round trip from the hotel in the sweltering heat of Goa summers and its humidity but was more interested in the Hawaiian pool party at the hotel in the afternoon. All the while I was trying to convince Raunaq that it was a life time opportunity to see the old churches as she might not be visiting Goa in the near future. Her clincher argument, which I could not counter, was, “Nana ji, I live in England. It is a Christian country. I can see much older churches which are much better maintained in London than in India. I did not come to India to see churches. I have already visited the Golden Temple which I was very much interested in seeing, though I had seen it on the television in London.” So it was the Hawaiian pool party she joined at the hotel and roped me in too. We had fun with water polo matches and tug of wars in the pool. She was happy.

Childhood is all of innocence, and should be left so. The child should be allowed to live in the make belief world of dreams. Yesterday, Raunaq lost a tooth and my wife asked her to keep the tooth under her pillow at night for the ‘tooth fairy’ to collect in lieu of a gift. Raunaq woke up in the morning and came to me saying, “Nanaji, the Tooth Fairy came into my room last night and took away my tooth and kept one hundred rupees under my pillow. She only comes while you are sleeping. She never came to me in London when I lost six teeth or else I would have got money in British pounds.” How innocent of her, yet smart logic. You are a grandparent when your children start behaving like you and your grandchildren start behaving like the perfect kids you always wanted. As a grandparent you realise that you won’t always be perfect. Neither will I be. Because nobody is perfect, and nobody deserves to be perfect. Nobody has it easy, everybody has issues. You will never know exactly what I’m going through and I will never know exactly what you’re going through. We are all fighting our own unique war.

Remember, our courage doesn’t always roar aloud. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering, “I will try again tomorrow.” So stand strong. Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out. It is not what you have, but what you do with what you have that matters in the end. The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing; growing happens when what you know changes how you live. You can’t change anything or make any sort of progress by sitting back and thinking about it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. The best time to start is now. If you feel like your ship is sinking, it might be a good time to throw out the stuff that’s been weighing it down. If you’re thinking at all about uncluttering your life and cleaning up your space, start with the things that are truly useless, like old regrets, shame, and anger. Let it go! You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading your previous one. And that is what the child has to learn. He or she should be taught to reason out with logic. As a parent one must not force one’s opinion on the child. Every child has to learn that the fire is hot. Opinions are like slices of bread. How so ever thin you slice them, there will always be two sides. And you will have to decide which side is buttered for you. Make sure you raise happy children and do not burden them with education and heavy school bags.

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Her time in the sun

Bhartendu Sood


YES, it is the perfect time to be a woman in India because, finally, she has got the world listening to what she is saying. A woman in our country was never as domineering as I see her now.

Case 1: Suspecting that her husband was cheating on her, a resident of Sangrur, Punjab, murdered him. If things had ended here, probably she would not have figured in this piece, but she displayed exceptional audacity of putting the body in the kitchen refrigerator and, who knows, she might have roasted it too if she had more time — nearly on a par with Sunil Sharma of the infamous Delhi tandoor case.

Case 2: Our domestic help is a young woman with a small daughter. She was, it seemed, the sole bread-winner of her family, as her ‘nikama’ husband would idle his time at home. One day, spotting an opportunity, he slipped out of the house with her hard-earned savings. After a month or so, when he had exhausted the last penny, he decided to return, only to find the police looking for him. His wife had lodged a police complaint! With nobody to bail him out, he is cooling his heels in jail.

Case 3: A youth in our friend circle was justifiably in seventh heaven, having found a highly accomplished woman as his life partner. After the wedding celebrations in a five-star hotel, foreign jaunts and expensive shopping were regular features. His family did not mind financing these, in the hope that the daughter-in-law, after the completion of her professional degree, would fill the empty coffers. But to their discomfort, she had other plans. Almost two years after their marriage, she shocked everyone by declaring, ‘I sense no compatibility with my husband and would like to seek a divorce.’

In a joint meeting before filing a petition for mutual divorce, the appointed mediator asked both parties to return expensive gifts they had given each other. The man’s family took no time in returning what he had received, but after taking these in her possession, the woman’s mother gently remarked, ‘She won’t return the gifts as these constitute ‘istri dhan’ which can’t be taken back!’

I use city bus for local transportation. Two seats are reserved for senior citizens, but most of the times, young girls are seated there. The conductor finds himself as helpless as I do in such sticky situations.

Probably now you may agree with me: it is the perfect time to be a woman in India. When I hear them saying still ‘more’ needs to be done, I am taken over by a feeling of trepidation — exactly what that ‘more’ would be!

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