Bend, but not to break

Col PS Sangha (Retd)

IN principles of flight, the two main forces are ‘lift’ and ‘drag’. You generate more lift by increasing the angle of attack, but the drag also increases. The solution is to find an ideal angle which gives you more lift and less drag. This is achieved during the cruise phase of flight when the aircraft flies straight and level.

‘Bending with the wind’ is a popular phrase in our country. It was used by a Supreme Court judge as advice to a serving Army Chief, implying that he should learn to live with the system. So, what is this bending with the wind? It is similar to the principles of flight in that you must find the angle of attack which provides minimum drag. If you stand up to the wind in a storm, it may knock you down, but if you bend and reduce the surface area presented to the wind, it will blow over you.

In reality, bending with the wind is the norm in our country. The poor are already bent over with poverty and the salaried class has to toe the line of its superiors to survive and progress. In the civil services hardly anyone will stand up to a politician, even if orders are unlawful. It is the standard operating procedure, as they call it. In the corporate sector, all companies run along similar lines. There are, however, many corporate groups that encourage an independent thought process. The major problem of bending, or not, is in the armed forces. Structurally, they are autocratic in nature. The orders of the senior must be obeyed in letter and spirit. While this is a necessity in times of war and counter-insurgency operations, it creates a dilemma at other times. During my 29-odd years in the Army, I came across situations wherein I was asked to do things against my way of thinking. If it was an order given across the unit/formation for implementation, I had to see what the others were doing. Many times, I voiced my concern to my superiors while others kept quiet, which mostly upset the senior officer. When I was commanding a unit, another CO asked me why I was not bending with the wind. He said he followed the principle of ‘Sarpanchan da kehna sir mathey par nala othey da othey’ (I bow my head to the orders of the village elders but the drain will flow as before). So, don’t say no, but don’t do it either. That is, of course, a safe way of bending. I told him that if I did not object to an order, I followed it. Even in the forces, if you don’t bend, you are likely to face rough weather.

Finally, it is a personal choice. You can fool others, but not yourself. For every unethical act, you let yourself and your outfit down. Most of us do it for the lure of career advancement or post-retirement benefits. If you choose not to, you have to be prepared for the rough weather. In the year 2000, I saw the aftermath of the cyclone in Odisha. The palm trees, which faced the storm head-on, had been permanently bent in the direction of the wind along with their branches.

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Then & now — a sea change

Brajesh Bhatia
then-now-a-sea-change

I WAS recently at the Indira Gandhi airport to catch an early morning flight to Frankfurt, watching hordes of people rushing to catch their respective flight. I had reached the departure gate early as I did not want my hosts in Delhi to remain awake late. The first thing that surprised me was the heavy traffic on my way to the airport. Most of the roads were full of cars going in all directions at midnight. I wondered where they all were rushing to at that hour. Since I was early at the airport, I began observing people to pass my time and counting the number of women wearing saris — only two women, out of hundreds, in a span of two hours! I concluded that Indian women had discarded wearing their national dress.

Since I was sitting near a coffee shop, I was tempted to buy a latte. It cost me Rs 201. No doubt, the coffee was excellent, but the price forced me to recall a scene some 75 years ago, when I was just a kid of eight.

During my school years, we used to visit our hometown Mathura during the two-month summer vacation, to get acquainted with our cousins. We would stay with my father’s elder brother. Every morning during our stay, he would give an anna to all children and we would rush to the halwai at the end of the street. Each of us would get three small jalebis and a kachori with potato curry as topping. It was more than enough for us to survive till lunch.

An anna was 1/16 part of a rupee, equivalent to six paise in today’s terms. The coinage was then Re 1, having 16 annas; each anna would have four paise and each paisa three pies. We could fill our stomach with just six paise. Now, a cup of coffee costs Rs 201, which would have provided substantial breakfast to 3,350 children 75 years ago. That is what we call progress!

I recall when India adopted the metric system, petrol used to cost 69 paise per litre and now it costs more than Rs 69 — prices have jumped almost 100 times. I wonder whether the income of people has increased in that proportion.

Now coming back to the other observation — sari-clad Indian women.

To my utter surprise, waiting in the lounge for senior travellers and persons with limited mobility at the Frankfurt airport, I came across six Indian women, all in their sixties, wearing saris!

My conclusion this time around was that the sari is still the dress chosen by seniors!

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Restoration of rights

Ratna Raman

Mind-Your-Language

A RESTAURANT is an eating house where a person can sit at a table and order a meal and pay for it. This is a restful experience for the harassed homemaker or the hard working adult. With French origins, ‘restaurer’ (19th century; provide food for) gives us the accepted English word restaurant, wherein food supplied has to be paid for.

Long before restaurants and hotels were in existence, ‘rest houses’ provided board and lodging to travellers and wayfarers, travelling once on work or on pilgrimage and subsequently for pleasure, especially in parts of Asia. Rest houses have now been replaced by guesthouses, which serve a similar purpose. ‘Restrooms’ are modern toilet conveniences, requiring much cleaning and maintenance, in public places and institutions.
The word ‘restore’ (Latin restaurere and French restorer) dates back to the 13th century with meanings such as ‘to repair’, ‘give back’, ‘build up again’ or ‘renew’. The Restoration Era in England refers to the re-establishment of monarchy in England, Scotland and Wales in 1660, with the coming of King Charles II to the throne. His court furthered the right of the English elite by providing them with political stability and prosperity, resulting in an increased literary and cultural expansiveness.

The restoration of the monarchy saw the revival of theatres that had been shut down by the Puritan government at the beginning of the 17th century. ‘Restoration comedy’ dealt with sexual intrigue and satirised the upper classes and is characterised by witty exchanges between its protagonists. The literature also paved the way for the emergence of Augustan literature, marked by the rise of prose-writing, the periodical essay, the novel and the heroic couplet, that provided glimpses into the lives of England’s privileged, lettered and prosperous classes.

Restorative (noun) usually refers to a medicine or a drink that restores health, energy or well-being. Restorative (adjective) relates to bringing something back to its original function or to restore health and well-being. Implicit in the word ‘restore’ is the warning ‘rest or’ there will be consequences, because rest in itself is essential to kick start the processes of repair and healing.

The word ‘restoration’ originating from ‘reinstating’ or ‘bringing something back to its original state’ is used often enough in the context of repair and maintenance of heritage buildings, monuments, older construction, works of art, sculptures, paintings, all of which require ‘refurbishing’ as a result of war, vandalism and wear and tear.

Restoration in contemporary times can no longer restrict itself to catering to elite privileges or exterior repair. In civil societies the world over, large numbers of impoverished, vulnerable and dispossessed people continue to exist outside the pale of societal privileges. It is imperative to restore and return the world denied to them over countless generations without much ado.

Restoring and reinstating the rights to countless freedoms, both tangible and intangible, requires serious commitment to the principles of justice and fairplay. Reprehensible acts and banal statements followed by a studied (deliberate) silence cannot restore our faith in the empty rhetoric of ‘good times to come’.

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India is what we make it

Kamaljeet K Sekhon Randhawa

LIVING away from India for over five years, I feel immense pleasure when white people say to me that they love India! Having travelled to 21 countries so far and met many people, I have never come across anyone who has anything negative to say; their eyes glitter when they speak about India. And these people are from all walks of life — from a plumber to a professor at King’s College, London. Yes, they like our chaotic country.

I, on the other hand, am extremely saddened and ashamed when I see Indians maligning our country after living abroad; bringing down our own people. Some Indians have brought up their children, sharing this view.

It is not a rule though. I met this guy who had studied at a top-notch university in London and was looking forward to visiting India as his parents had told him many good things about this diverse country. But some would visit any country, but not India, the country of their origin.

I often wonder what could be the reason. Is India really bad? Is there any country which doesn’t have a flaw? Is there a country where gruesome rapes, corruption, dishonesty, crime, poverty, nepotism doesn’t occur? The answer is no. Sometimes sitting at an airport or walking down a busy street in London or teaching at a university in Denmark or roaming around in Europe, while observing people, I often think how we all are the biggest representatives of our country. India is what we are! India is how we behave…India is what we convey; through our words, our actions, our kindness, our thinking.

A few days ago, I played golf for the first time and met an elderly white gentleman who was extremely helpful. He had stayed in India for three years and was all praise for it. This happens often with me. I feel surprised that many people of Indian origin don’t like going to India, can’t stay in India, or feel that Indian summer is too hot for them, Indian roads are not safe for them, Indian system is too corrupt for them. But here there are white people who have wonderful stories to tell, who are sending their children to study in India so they get a wider and richer experience. Why? It is not that their countries do not have flaws. It is just that they embrace what they have. Every country is beautiful when you stop looking for flaws. A country is nothing in itself; it is what people make it. Indians roads are dirty because people have the habit of littering. ‘India’, so to say, has nothing to do with it.

Let us not tell our children to stay away from India. Let them go, learn and experience India themselves!

No country is perfect. Love your country, not because it is great, but because it is your own.

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Quite off the mark

Mahesh Grover

Quite off the mark

I pored over my son’s report card while he stood before me, nervously wringing his hands trying to manage his discomfort and my frayed nerves, as he anxiously watched various shades of expressions raging across my face.

I was about to explode with anger, but the memories of yore came flooding back to me, when I stood similarly in front of my father, with my report card while he assuaged his frayed nerves by giving me a whack, singeing my cheek with its impact.

Being a modern-day pacifist parent, who believes in sparing the rod, I took a deep breath, counted to 10, peered over my specs and spoke tersely: ‘Look son, your marks in maths are of concern. If you want to succeed in life, pull up your socks. When I was in school, I never wilted in any subject,’ echoing words handed down from generation to generation in every Indian household, no matter whether the person uttering it has himself gone beyond high school or not. Just then, I happened to glance at my wife who, while maintaining a discreet presence in the room, was looking at me sceptically. ‘Oh really?’

‘Err! What do you mean, I was always a good student, though once in a while, I didn’t get marks as per my parents’ expectations but they always surpassed my own,’ I asserted.

I could understand her scepticism, for she is a maths wizard, as I discovered when she dealt with our house contractor. He and I were trying to settle accounts. While we struggled with the measuring tape and elementary maths, she was quick to conclude the dimensions and the amount to be paid, with the poor man looking as if a wall of bricks had fallen on him when he realised that the amount fell way short of his calculations.

I put on a brave face, now that my credibility had been questioned before my offspring, who looked at me strangely, quickly placing himself stoically next to the lady, his arms across his chest and an impertinent smirk on his face.

I had to prove them wrong. With my chin up, I went scurrying into the past treasures I had saved as a boy. After much rummaging, I found my old report cards and proudly confronted her with proof of my academic abilities. ‘There, see for yourself!’ I said as I stood before her seeking redemption of my honour, while she scanned the results of my labour with lips pursed, only to set aside the card disdainfully and say what comes naturally to a teacher, ‘It’s all right, but you could have done better.’

I felt the same sinking feeling engulf me, when my parents and teachers appraised my report.

Chastened, I quietly slunk into a corner of the room, to join my sulking son and there we sat empathising with each other, forging a bond which people sailing in the same boat normally develop.

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A long journey of discomfort

Vishavjeet Chaudhary

THE romance associated with trains is dateless. Humayun Kabir’s enduring and endearing ode to trains perhaps sums the timelessness of their charm and allure.

Recently, I was to travel from New Delhi to Chandigarh on the Shatabdi Express. Equipped with a book, I looked forward to the possibility of sitting quietly, immersed in a book, with spectacular green fields witnessing the train go by, only to be distracted by the occasional flock of peacocks, carelessly perched on trees. But providence had different plans.

Once the train started, two unrelated infants started throwing tantrums. This is tolerable, perhaps even cute. This was followed by the clanking of crockery as tea was served, and later when the trays were collected.

I finally reclined and started reading. Soon enough, the gentleman sitting next to me began talking on his phone. Thrice he said: Han Shatabdi mein hun, sunai nahin de raha. Great, I thought! My happiness was, however, shortlived. ‘Let me call you from the Internet,’ he said. Out came a dongle and a portable charger. His office was set. This was followed by a 45-minute conversation on how 600 T-shirts were to be exported to Korea.

The aforesaid children now had finished tea. Perhaps fuelled by sugar, they started howling again. Out came two more smartphones. As their parents looked on contently, the infants watched animated videos on the phones. Twinkle twinkle little stars… I had to hear it precisely 208 times. They finally got tired and went to sleep. Finally, I thought!

I had just read a page, a young girl and her friend sitting behind me began another phone call. After about 15 minutes, I could hear her say, ‘No, you hang up’, for another 15 minutes. One of them finally hung up.

I had almost given up on reading when there was peace. I started again, occasionally looking out of the window. Twenty minutes had barely passed, when a middle-aged gentleman took out his phone and started watching videos. All sorts of voices could be heard, from melancholic old numbers to Punjabi songs. This culminated in a speech that can only be described as provocative. Content with the knowledge that he had gained, he put his phone back and there was momentary silence.

I still had an hour of reading! I started reading again. I, of course, did not realise that another 600 shirts had to be shipped, this time to Colombo.

I put the book aside.

Technology has its many uses: knowledge is accessible, world has come closer, and travel is quicker. It has, however, robbed the charm of travel. I remember the very same journey, not many years ago, was one of great pondering, sightseeing and reflection.

This certainly is one area which technology has made less enjoyable. In some countries like Japan, there are silent cabins. Phones are not allowed. We are assured that trains are set to get faster. Perhaps technology is now catching up in other ways!

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Bit by bit, learning trade tricks

P Lal

bit-by-bit-learning-trade-tricks

BEWARE of the ‘Rs’ in the CBI,” cautioned a colleague as I joined the organisation on deputation. In spite of my insistence, he didn’t elaborate.

The first folder to land on my table was marked FR-1. As I read it, I found it delineated the result of investigation into a case handled by an officer. Unable to decipher what FR-1 meant, I sent for the officer who explained that the term stood for ‘final report, part-1’. The explanation left me somewhat confused, but I dismissed the officer and kept the FR-1 for further reading.

The next day, I received a file marked ‘FR-2’. It was a report prepared by a public prosecutor (PP) on an FR-1.

Face-to-face, the PP explained that there were deficiencies galore in the investigation which he had brought out in his FR-2 and which the investigating officer (IO) must attend to.

“But you are a public prosecutor. Aren’t you supposed to conduct cases in courts?”

“I do that, too, Sir. Besides, I prepare FRs-2,” he replied. “Aren’t prosecution and investigation separate as per the law? How are you involving yourself with investigation?” I expressed my doubts.

“Not so in the CBI, Sir. Moreover, I don’t investigate, I only advise,” he clarified, adding, “You would be writing my ACR, too.” The ACR needed no elaboration. The fear of annual confidential report is what keeps a subordinate on the right side of his boss! The PP was thus under the control of a police officer unlike in a state.

In quick succession followed files marked SFR-1, SFR-2, FIR and SIR. I could come to grips with FIR-first information report — a terminology I was familiar with. SFR-1 and SFR-2 also presented no insurmountable problem of comprehension, the same being supplementary final reports —part 1 and 2, prepared by the IO and the PP, respectively. What, however, bogged me down was the SIR, the source information report. The first one presented to me was on a public servant, delineating in some detail the properties amassed by him. The assets were alleged to be disproportionate to his known sources of income.

“Who is your source?” I asked the officer who had prepared the SIR. “Sir, there was an anonymous complaint which, on verification, yielded results, and hence I converted it into an SIR,” he confessed candidly.

“But aren’t anonymous complaints supposed to be filed straightaway?” “You are right, Sir, but here in the CBI, the verifiable ones are subject to verification and converted into SIRs if allegations are found to be true. Verified SIRs may result in FIRs,” he stated.

“But who would be the complainant in such an FIR?”

“The unnamed source, Sir,” he chuckled.

Confusion in me got more confounded! The multiplicity of ‘Rs’ had already befuddled my mind. However, with the passage of time, things smoothened out and I took to the tricks of the trade as naturally as fish to water!

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