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jaipur, rajasthan, India
retired Army Colonel

Sunday, December 11, 2011

psychology of work

I left Army seven years before my retirement for two reasons. First being love of golf and second my wife's blatant refusal to accompany me on any more postings. After small stints here and there,I finally  sat back at home. The famous question as work or not to work? keeps bothering me. I never felt the need to work and am quite happy with net surfing, golfing, gossiping around and bit of travelling. But, people around me and well wishers always insisted that one must work to remain occupied fruitfully and physically fit. It also ensures a daily routine and you remain in presentable getup or in military language "turn out". To be very frank I also felt some emptiness somewhere. So I kept moving in and out of jobs. When in job,I do not want to continue and when out of it, I want to join one.
Once over a cigarette I kept brooding over it and realised job assigns you a niche in the society and those who are jobless or retired lay in the outbox "in the e-mail jargon". That stems the psych to work and to remain in the loop. It is quite a churn in the stomach to stop being part of the main run. But it is even worse to work for hack of it as you still remain a squire peg in a round hole. I still ponder over it. should I quit my new job where I feel like the same peg?

Friday, October 14, 2011

MAUSAM

I like Pankaj Kapoor as few of the genius actors. 'Mausam' was long awaited and I literally struggled to finally watch the film on a DVD. After  a long time we had that intensity of emotion and drama on the screen which I thought will never come back. Some of the newer generation, I heard labeling it as a slow drag. I only feel sad as they are slowly getting bankrupt of romance and art. Those couples who vowed to live together against all odds of money, cast, creed and power are rare to see. what matters today is money, packages, BMWs, villas, brands,jets, yachts, designers,etc. where is a place for Indian Air Force Officer fighting for his country and mankind? he is not in a hot demand. Very few boys dream to fly fighter jets against what most of us did then.

A great film with a class apart. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mention-in-Dispatches.



It was Vth Term, June, 1978. The slip lying on the telephone table in C sqn read “Cdt RS Bhown to report to Adjt’s office in Drill Order, in Sudan Block at 1.30 PM today.” We were fatigued after the morning ‘End of Term’ drill+POP practice and were planning to hit bed when this bombshell exploded in my mind. YV, DPS Aujla, RK Yadav and many others came to express their sympathy. “But none of the Sahabs, Sergeants or ACA has caught me. My I slips, I card, Name Tabs were safe and intact” I moaned. Every one of us was straining our brains with great efforts to find the reason of such a dreadful call that too, in End of Term. Karsolia said “beta tu to gaya” any punishment would imply eating into the Term break. Some said such calls at this time of the term, generally are for relegation. My throat was getting drier and suddenly I swung into action to manage a pair of KDs and summoned Khandu, my orderly to fix a drill order for me. “Sab the boots and anklets are being waxed for the drill competition, should I polish Ammo boots?” He said with sincere concern. I got ready with OG anklets, Ammo Boots, stockings and guarder flashes as Hops tops were not worn in this combination. My friends saw me off with a long face and I left for Sudan Block with a lump in my throat.
In Sudan block I saw Crème’la 55 in shinning regulation-drill orders with torches flashing on their left breasts…Ajit Singh, Surender Singh Jhaj, Ajai Shukla, Karan Singh Rathore and many more  (my memory ditching me). Most of them asked me same question ‘What are you doing here?” and I kept on repeating sheepishly Adjt wishes to see me. They brushed me aside and continued with their chat. I stood hiding in a corner and worried about what lies in store for me.
Then, came Guman Singh, our Drill Sub Maj with a cane tightly pressed in his arm pit and white hackle soaring like a rooster. He spotted me and said “Mharashtra State ki lottery hai kisi ki bhi nikal sakti hai!” I could not understand a thing and asked him clearly. He said “I have recommended your name for ACA” and simultaneously asked the Crème’ la 55 to stand in a single file as per the order in the list he was carrying. I told him “sab yeh kya kiya? You have no idea what you have done.”
He thought because my drill and word of command being good, I was an ACA material.
Soon, came in Maj Rupi Brar the offg Adjt as Maj Harjit Singh was out on lve. He checked antecedents and inspected the turnout of all of us (I had joined the Crème’ by then). He got stuck confronting the last man in the file, it was me. “What is your overall order of merit?” he frowned. “Sir, 144th” I fumbled.  He gave those dirty looks to Guman Singh who straightened himself with a jerk and we knew the SM has done a big FU. But it was too late to rectify as the list lay already on DepCom’s table. “Now, you stay back for the interview” Maj Rupi Brar barked at me. As my turn came I marched into the DepCom’s office for the first and the last time in my life. Air Commodore Dogra was smiling in the chair and the Adjt stood on his left. Seeing me, Maj Brar stooped halfway to whisper in DepCom’s ear. “Sir, this boy has been called by mistake. We can send him back.” I could hear it distinctly despite its low pitch, and never felt so small and humiliated in my life till today. DepCom was generous to say “Don’t you worry; let me talk to him.” With great difficulty he pronounced my name and asked me two questions rather my views on A) manhandling of jrs by senior cadets and B) smoking to be allowed in 6th Term. I said yes to smoking and no to manhandling. He said “Thank you” and I, followed the word of command of Sub Maj shouting from outside the office. My perspiration was making the starched KDs stink by now but I was a relieved man; rather proud man to be mentioned in Despatches.
In C sqn by now a new star had born. I proudly, told all the mediocre course mates about me being in the run. Maj Satnam Singh ( Tahalka fame later), C sqn cdr thought of me at least worth a DCC as I was put up for ACA. My DivO, Capt Pramod Krishna, asked me to go to Goal Market and get myself photographed with the DCC’s tabs. I was already contemplating to take over 9th Div meanwhile.
Then fell another bombshell. I got Re-Test in English, as usual. This time my papers had gone well but Mr Raina was a cruel man. I was called up by the Sqn Cdr who said we do not want our appointments to be coming for a bloody Re-Test and set a bad example. I saluted, turned about and marched off. Joined the gang of OCs to the place I belonged. 

KASHMIR: A BONE OF CONTENTION

If, Kashmir is a bone then the dogs we know. Does 
this bone have any say? Practically… No.  Bones do not speak.  Lord Mountbatten advised Hari Singh rightly that he has no option of remaining independent. History has been very unkind to Kashmir and she has been ravaged by Afgans, Pathans, Sikhs and Dogras alike, in the past and now being bullied by India and Pakistan. The strategic location of Kashmir has been the cause and no son of the soil has risen to a level of exploiting its vantage. The result is its degradation into a bone of contention. The third dog in the fray is less visible but more dreadful.
A power vacuum in Kashmir will keep sucking-in the ambitious nations’ might and it cannot avoid being a battle ground. The one who controls Kashmir controls Asia. India has her five Life lines flowing through Kashmir and she has no option but to hang on there with all the resources under her command. If, the next war is going to be for water then we better keep our objectives well defined and a potent strategy to achieve/retain them.
The balance of power in South Asia has not yet been attained and continuous quest, for tilting it in one’s favour, is on amongst three nuclear powers of the region less Japan. A triangular cold war, with India confronting rest of the two is a reality, and it should be the single most factors driving our national strategy. Ignoring it even for a little while is suicidal.
Therefore, resolution of Kashmir, if any, will be a fall out of Balance of Power and stability in South Asia; currently it is neither in sight nor in womb.
A bone will remain bone and the dogs will remain dogs for times to come. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anna Bizarre

A beginning has been made. The movement against corruption in Indian society has sprouted from non other than an old Gandhian seed, Anna Hazare. People have amassed and rallying on streets behind him. Interestingly,the campaign is apolitical and powered by the middle class; its two major pillars of strength. The motivated forces have mobilised and are ready to create history but there is no goal, there is no strategy. what a waste of effort and emotion!!
Corruption is a disease and has to be fought inwardly at grass root level upwards. It will not vanish overnight. Lokpals will be same as any other controlling bodies and susceptible to corruption as any other Indian unless we have ET aliens. we know our judiciary and its integrity. Secondly, legislation is charter of Parliament and not of hunger strikers out side the House. Anna and his team imperatively have to earn a seat inside the house to bring in changes. Else, it remains as high pitched drama and media spree.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Aarakshan and Bhrashtachaar...contd.

I thought for a while, is corruption a mere act of immorality? or is there a deeper reason for it to exist? After a bit of google dig on its psychology, I got convinced that the once socially accepted this evil has spread like a contagious disease in India and has reached at an alarming level. Unless the society starts out casting corrupt people there will neither be a shame nor fear amongst them. Extralegal strength of society's rules is far more than any Lokpal.

Albert Einstein has simplified it by saying: "The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil but because the people who do nothing about it.

So, what we do about it...

We need a nation wide mass movement like Renaissance, Mao's Long March, or American Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr's to bring in a change.

Can Anna prove to be a leader of such a mettle? or we have to wait for some incarnation as per holy GEETA.

 "यदा  यदा  ही  धर्मस्य,  ग्लानिरवा  भवती  भारत, 

अभ्युथानम  अधर्मय्स्य , तदात्मानं  सृजामि  अहम् ". 



Saturday, August 6, 2011

Aarakshan and Bhrashtachaar...

I am fond of Amitabh Bachchan's blogs. He is, these days, canvassing for his latest movie 'Aarakshan'. The subject is very controversial and has always been pricking my mind as well. Unequal society like ours has never been a level playing field, including the present times. If, inadvertently a verse of knowledge was heard by a 'shudra' passing by, the brahamins would seal his ears with the molten lead whereas, poor guy would not even understand sanskritDronacharya got the thumb severed of Eklavya, a lesser human. Cruelty apart, imagine the belief in such a inhuman practice. Thousands of years of continuous oppression and remaining away from academics as well as knowledge, for sure must have brought into them a genetic degradation. It will require at least some good number of generations to be at par.

Now, it is their turn with reservation and others can thank God as it can neither be labeled as revengeful nor punitive. Generations, if enjoy the goodies of inheritance they cannot avoid to serve debts of their forefathers.

But, can a Nation afford to ignore talent and competence in this age of global survival and make way for not the best? Is it not counter productive both directly and indirectly? Answers to both are not simple and not to be found through a logic of commerce but to be understood as matter of priority between creating an equal society in long run or allowing faster but unequal socio-economic growth.
Yet, the exceptions will have to be made in allowing pure competence in our national defence and when dealing with human life.
 (bhrashtachaar .... next)
comment and keep adding value to this  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Indian Common Man...


I was sort of a Security Liaison Officer with South African Cricket Team and touring along with them during the ICC Championship in Nov’2006. We came to my home town Jaipur also, to play some matches. Every one known to me was expecting a VIP pass to see the match. There were people who could easily afford the ticket but getting a free pass is matter of status or clout you enjoy in who’s who of the city? Similar expectations arose for a free pass of VIP car park in a shopping Mall that I was Estate Manager of. It is not Rs 20.00 of parking but that extra attention and elevated social strata has been the root of the matter. I used to think that if anything is to be made free then it should be for the poorer lot who cannot afford to pay. In a cricket match, a VIP pavilion is flooded with city’s influential crème la society along with their in-laws, cousins and friends having five star F&B on the house. Next day they will express surprise to lesser humans" I didn't see you in the cricket match??" Every Indian tries to earn some influence to make his life proportionately important, comfortable and enviable. Some will jump the public queue; some will get away riding without helmet, driving without seat belt tied, use beacon red light and a siren in staff cars and likewise. These so called privileges are actually like a virus in a society. The feudals, and parochial royals in an unequal society like ours enjoyed being above law. Now every Indian relates to being “Not-a-Common Man” and tries to break rules, laws and regulations. It was not so in USA. There you take pride in being a law abider and body language of the Common Man is clear and shows a no non sense approach towards anyone who tries to be extra privileged.
Why such a psych in India?
Probably, a common man has no standing in our country. He runs from pillar to post. Even if you are critically ill, to get a timely medical attention some good contact in public hospital is imperative. A popular TV serial “Office-Office” is a good satire and Pankaj Kapoor has brilliantly essayed the role of Mussaddi Lal, a common man. I keep thinking why a voice of common man is not heard? Should we blame Manu for his creation of classes? or 1000 years of slavery? or shortage of resources vis-à-vis population? or a virus like corruption? May be all? But mind you the cumulative effect is back-breaking for that common man. What surprises the most is accepting the humiliation and not standing up against it. At best the common man gets into debts and pay bribes to get attention. I, feel anguished to see the mass mobilisation on issues of Religion, Moral Policing, Electioneering, Politicking, Godman’s Sermons, cow slaughter etc. but never a leader has mobilized people for the dignity of common man who is not a second grade citizen.
Empowering the common man is need of the hour but who will and how can ???

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Giving It a slip...

A stupid man jumps to suicide from the third floor in a shopping Mall and falls upon another man standing unaware in the atrium , talking business with his clients. Both survived. Isn't it quite weird and funny? Yes, But interestingly true. On 28 March 2009 at around 11.15 AM; the man who jumped was Ramgopal, the salesman in Reynold Shop and the one who took the brunt was yours truly, working as Estate Manager in the said Mall in Jaipur. I broke my spine and rest is history. Ramgopal had confided with me and I was aware of his stress and psych for past one month; but had never imagined or connected my role in his life or should I say death? People say, I saved him and God saved me. Actually, we both were lucky. He deserted the Govt hospital for the fear of Police and not been seen since then. I went through my injury, pain and agony, and now live with a manageable residual disability.
The first thought which struck to me on regaining consciousness was.... 'Boy! it would have been period'....But, I was back and alive to live another day. Had, I not been back I would have missed seeing the love and care bestowed upon me by my parents, Sunita-my wife, Rani-my sister, Bhaiya-Billu my brothers, Adhiraj & Yuvraj my sons, Satish my colleague at MGF, Col Badal a friend and the man who runs the SDM Hospital, Rajesh Arora, and the whole band of friends and relatives. I was flattered to see people valuing me to an unbelievable level. I am lucky to have been blessed with such a great family and strong clique of friends and relatives. The most rewarding was 18 JAT, a military unit where I served for 26 years, sending me a batman to help me in recuperating. His "Ram Ram Sab" was like a tonic and shot in the arm in those trying times of battling with the injury. What else you long for in life? I am lucky to have given 'It' a slip and lived to savor those, in a way, some best moments of my life.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Choice of a Leader?

Competence and an acquired leadership through ballot are as different from each other as peaches from eggs.But should they be so? I find no logical answer. A proven distinguished & unblemished record of managerial skills and leadership quality fails on the anvil of ballot. University polls are won not by an all rounder student who is good in academics, sports and extra curricular activities but by a hooligan. A corporate house runs and grow more efficiently than a cooperative society; not because the latter lacks resources but it runs on ballot. A private Golf Club would be miles ahead in quality than a public golf club; again for the same reason. Politicking takes precedence over the organisational interests and the result is obvious. What advantage the democratic system of functioning does then accrue? I think it is mental satisfaction of the members that they can throw out the incompetent and corrupt ones. But is it a reality? NO. Then why? I am not enlarging my gambit to the national level but at grass roots level why we fail to elect a candidate suitable for the chair, and rather vote for different reasons. It is easier said than done to blame it on voters. It is human psych to be on winning side,judgmental, jealous and sychophant and land up  favouring a leader to their own peril. That is the irony we suffer and do nothing about it.... 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indo-Pak Talks at Hyderabad House..


Hina Rabbani Khar alighted as an icon of style, fashion and glamour; largely succeeded in keeping the spot light away from the meaning less talks; and rightly so. Apart from students of Indo-Pak relations even the Page-3 readers followed the Hydrabad House meeting. An oversize work-bag from Hermes made a vanity statement and her carefully chosen wardrobe found mention in media coverage. I wonder if it is like any Bollywood movie which has an item number to keep it running. There is nothing India and Pak need to talk. They are in state of war and unless one of them is defeated or both get exhausted to give up the causes of their belligerency nothing will change. Sometimes, I think if there was no Kashmir, would India & Pakistan be friends? I doubt. They would have found some other reason to fight. It is in the psych and in the very genesis of two nations which were never there. Some problems get evolved into their resolution and any attempt outside the dimension of time only add to its complexity, results in waste of effort and may delay the said evolution.
The geopolitical problems are devoid of re-locating options and artificial borders are untenable as against natural. Redcliff, Durand and McMahon have been the mortals who fiddled with natural peninsular subcontinent. We are paying the price and continue to do so till it is paid up.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BASIC INSTINCTS


My father wonders as to why humans want to live even after they die? The concept of Atman as indestructible, in Hinduism, has its roots in this very eternal lust for life. What actually continues to live is your gene, the DNA in your progeny….your off springs. That is happening for millions of years and I am today what my ancestors were. Biologically, we are programmed with two fundamental aims: A) To survive and B) To procreate. Our basic instincts and psychology are driven from either of these two. The human brain has evolved to a very high level and it separates us from other living beings on this planet. The power of human brain is enormous and so are the possibilities of its misuse. Therefore, without a social order, humans would be in chaos. The social order is like an applied external force which would keep each human in state of in-equilibrium. We better understand it as discipline, law & order, norms, etiquettes, religion, culture, traditions and bla bla bla…. .Resistance to this force is obvious and desire to get back to the state of equilibrium is only natural. From time immemorial we have seen younger generation revolting against the older generation to further dilute the said external force. Today’s generation even rubbishes the institution of marriage. They want to live-in. Sex is not pre or post marital. It is only consensual. Slowly and slowly we tend to get into state of our equilibrium and that would imply chaos. Once again the new order will come and cycle will repeat itself.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My USA visit. ......Concluded.

Back Home
Trrnnnnn…………trrnnnnnnn!!!!!! Telephone was ringing and I was slowly coming out of the stupor. The clock showed 3.12 AM, Sunday morning, 10 July. I crawled in my comforters to pick up the hand set from its cradle. As I said “hello!!”, “मैंने तेरा कमरा संभाल लिया है” was Papa from the other end. I could not understand anything. Mummy then came on line to explain. He was admitted in the same room (107) of Santokba Durlabh ji Memorial Hospital where I spent those trying 4 weeks after my spinal injury on 28th March 2009. Papa had severe unstable angina. I was ejected out of my drowsiness and sat up. An open heart surgery in 1993, and angioplasty in 2009 was not a good history and I knew anything was possible. I rang up Ashu in Hydrabad and he reached Jaipur on Monday morning along with Shweta.
Sunita and I caught first available flight back to Delhi. The journey was long and whenever I fell into a nap the nightmares followed. We got first update from Vidushi as we landed at Abu Dhabi Airport which had wi-fi connectivity. Tri-vessel blockages were seen in his heart.  They implanted one stent on Monday, and two were more to follow once he is more stable after 48hrs. We landed in Delhi at 3.30 AM on Tuesday morning and after a quick wash at Kiran’s place drove to Jaipur. Sushil, Sunita’s brother was generous to give us a driver and we reached Hospital at 11.00AM. I met Papa in ICU and he looked very good. He said मुझे पूरा भरोसा था कि मैं ठीक हो जाऊँगा I respect his guts and confidence. I was much relieved man and then got into updating with Bhaiya, Rani, Gandhi, Harish, Mummy and Billu who came little later. On 14th July two more stents were implanted and Dr Sanjiv Gupta, the cardiac surgeon showed us the video film of the Cath-Lab procedure. The blood was seen gushing through venous graft as the blockages got opened. Later, I spoke to Col Badal Verma, my classmate, comrade-at-arms and friend who is practically handling 100% logistics of this hospital. We can never thank him enough for all the support he provides.
Papa is back home today at 12.35 PM and talking to Kan Singh ji who has come to look him up. Normal routine at Bahadurgarh, will resume soon. Last week had been stressful. Our family is our strength and we stand through a tide emotionally un-battered.
Not in the least, I wanted my USA trip to conclude in a manner that it has. “Man proposes and God disposes” proverb comes to mind. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 13 Independence Day


Independence Day:  Long time back there was a debate in the Indian media that we celebrate our Independence and Republic Days in a manner that is very colonial and feudal. Besides, costing an arm it lacks  people’s participation. The festivities get on the back burner and projection of state’s might is at the centre stage. I happened to be in USA on 4th July and witnessed their Independence Day. The Americans celebrate this occasion as a people’s festival. The families, friends, lovers and lass are out in the public parks having fun. Whole USA seems to be barbecuing and the evening is charged with scintillating fireworks, the two symbols of American Independence Day celebrations. I see lot of sense in making National Festivals more public.  Cricket and Kumbh Melas mobilize people in India to celebrate,a trait at least I am not proud of. An effort by PPP (public private partnership) to promote the idea of celebrating National Festivals with masses here in our country, will go long way in generating Indian-ness.
Yuvraj had taken us to Hoboken Water Front to see the Fireworks. To grab a vantage view point we had to go as early as 6.00 PM whereas, the start time was 9.20 PM. You can imagine the rush. The park was already full when we reached but we managed good place to plonk ourselves. As, the setting sun fell on the  glass-clad skyscrapers of Manhattan,  they glittered like gold and with their reflections in Hudson River made the whole scene quite picturesque. There were lot of amateur photographers with tripods taking shots as they  lumbered up for the final show. Yuvu tells me a good snap can fetch you as much as $1500.00. There were lots of private yachts and boats hanging around in the river to see the grand show. And lo! Here cruises in ‘Queen of Hearts’, a huge Ferry with a loud music and dancing crowd aboard its deck. These guys were waving fervently at us. Vidushi informed me it is $75.00 per person with dinner on board. "Too much” I mumbled. Yuvu and Vidushi got us ‘Shavarma’, a Lebanese dish, to eat. It was some sort of chapatti stuffed with roasted chicken and salad with sauce. I liked it a lot and shall repeat it on the first opportunity. I noticed small aeroplane carrying a trail reading as "Godless American Atheist Organisation". I believe they are influenced by communism and advocate wall between church and the state. There was a fly past by USAF and then by choppers of NYPD over the Hudson.
 As it grew darker, the whole sky line of NYC came alive with colourful lights and the Empire State Building with red, white and blue stood out brilliantly. The air patrol by NYPD was deployed and keeping a watch from the top. The yachts and boats switched on their red, blue, and white blinkers and with their reflections in water it looked like a discotheque at full swing. The whole arena was getting electrified and people charged up for the grand finale with all eyes up in the sky. 

Soon it was 9.20 PM, and first salvo got fired. “Sunita! I think even in Jaipur we have similar ones in weddings and Aatish baazi”. I said. A lady overheard our chat and intervened to say “I am from Bani Park, Jaipur”. We were pleasantly surprised and got into small talk with her. As the show picked up the quality and variety of Fireworks went up beyond any comparisons. It was a class par excellence.I felt small for my premature comment. The fireworks were courtesy 'Macys', the famous departmental store chain in USA. 
we were back home at 10.30 PM and wondering should we or should we not have dinner? The shaverma was quite filling yet not so filling. I opted for maggie.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg -12 "BIG APPLE".



“Big Apple’ is nick name for NYC, Papa”. Vidushi apprised me. Yuvu, not to lag behind butted in and chuckled “It is also called Gotham”. The context was Vidushi joining a voluntary service with ‘ Big Apple Greeter’, an NGO in Indian glossary. I googled it to further my knowledge and found most of the fruits with prefix ‘Big’ are names of some  city or the other country. Like Israel is ‘Big Orange’.

I was contriving to skip visiting Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building being a quotidian touristy stuff and also the tickets being very expensive. But, then Mr Dhameja said “बंधू जी अगर हरिद्वार आकर गंगा में दुबकी नहीं लगाई तो लोग क्या कहेंगे?” I immediately took the cue and set out for the two more bites of the Big Apple. 

Statue of Liberty 29th June at 2.30 PM, we were aboard ‘Miss New

Jersey’, our Ferry to Liberty Island. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the passengers were slowly settling down in their seats on the deck. The 

breeze being a little teaser, the flowing manes and fluttering skirts, made it difficult for young mothers to control their children running hither-tither. As, we cruised and traversed the Hudson Estuary Eastwards the silhouette of Lady Liberty, slowly started getting readable and was zooming like an image through a 

camera’s eye. I moved to the bridge and asked Sunita to follow me for a better view. I was marvelling the sculpture and recollecting history classes in school by Mr HS Hiran. Mention of it comes along French and American revolutions. Its 
enormous size radiates indomitable spirit of liberty and the American character. 
Made of thin copper sheets wrapped around a steel structure, the statue gets its natural green colour from the patina, a brilliant idea which has done away with an arduous task of regular painting. Emma Lazarus calls it ‘Mother of Exiles’ as it stood at the gateway of America taking under her wings all those expatriates who escaped the miseries of Europe. Then is this Liberty Bike, made from the artifacts of the statue. It is another fascinating art-work on the island. See the photo. Sunita and I had some fries with diet coke like locals, bought few souvenirs and returned home. We had not got the tickets of Light Rail validated on our way up, and hence could reuse them saving $4.50. Ignorance has been bliss.
 Thank God! We were not caught by the Fare Inspector.


Empire State Building: Even today you ask any person of my generation as to which is the tallest building, the answer in most cases would be Empire State Building. That is why I believe perceptions are important than facts. The reason is, this building ruled the numero uno slot for decades till overtaken by many around the world. What astonishes me is that this towering piece of skyscraper was constructed in 1931, the year my father born. And when you know the construction was completed in 19 months it makes you believe that America, what it is today, is for a special reason. At least, I see our Rambagh Golf Club house being under construction for the last three years and yet far from completion. Located on the 5th Avenue of 34th Street in Manhattan is well connected from Jersey City where we live. We took PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train from Grove Street to 33rd Street and walked up two blocks round the corner. There is no elbow space in the streets of Manhattan to see the building top from ground level; you may strain your neck as much as any acrobat. We had carried chips and coke from home to avoid buying expensive there. I was awestruck as got into the sparkling lobby. The crimson and black granite with diamond polishing has been collaged with golden porcelain tiles and glittering stainless steel. The whole interiors were breath taking. We took automatic elevators to 80th, then to 86th floor and could not resist catching the counter reading in my camera. The elevators were pretty fast and we only felt the ear drum pressure with a mild ache. Once on top the view was fantastic. Had it been for Jaipur I would have identified each and every road, street and alleys. But this was not my town. So we could identify only Jersey City and area around. The experience was good and valued more than $44.00 for us. Empire State Building was one of the instruments that pulled out America from great recession of 1929. It created 7 million man hours of work.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 11


“Saarikaa, my daughter, has two free passes to spare for Bronx Zoo. Would you like to come with us?” Mr Garg asked me on the phone. I immediately jumped at the offer. Yuvraj & Vidushi being away on White Water Rafting to Poconos in Leigh River, we could not have had a better way to spend Saturday and save $60.00 too. Mr & Mrs Garg are from Jaipur and met us a month back while doing grocery in Grove Street. “What is this Bronx?” I asked Sarika. She informed me that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island are five boroughs of NYC. I realised, except Staten Island we have been to all of these. At about 10.30 AM or so, we detrained at West Farm Square to walk up the Zoo, 2 minutes away. Apart from seeing some rare wild life we had a nice picnic with our packed lunch in a joyous green environment. Saarikaa, very conscientiously follows Buddhism and found time to give me a crahed discourse over a glass of Budweiser. “NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO” is the mantra that they chant to get wisdom and thus an ability to speak right words at right time, meet right people at right time and be at the right place at the right time. This would allow the chanters of the mantra to get rid of (–)ve karmas of money, health and relationships. The young lady spoke with an honest conviction in her eyes. I got quite impressed. She is a Business Analyst in Morgan & Stanley in Jersey City. Saturday was well spent.
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American News just does not talk of India. In fact, generally of no other country except where US Forces are deployed. I do not think a common citizen here is keen to know of world affairs. The issues discussed are more socio-economic than political. Neither, the ruling Govt is made to look like a nincompoop nor there is stream of sensational stories, scams and scandals. The news channels that way are quite drab and I prefer surfing net for e-papers. What I like about TV here are lot of Golf lessons and free movies on demand. I saw some old hits, John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, and Gregory Pack starrers. 
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Common  Americans are quite food-centric,  it seems. They eat and eat.  The abundance and varieties of foods and drinks in market is mind blowing and so are the eating joints. Obviously, obesity comes as no surprise. The blacks and Mexicans, in particular are obese to an alarming and obnoxious level and even scary. Yet, they are not shy of glutting steaks and guzzling Coke. In fact, even the pets have such variety of food that I feel sad for children in Somalia, Sudan and some other African countries, fighting starvation and malnutrition.       

Monday, June 20, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 10 US Open 2011


3.45 AM, the snooze went off...….I was wide awake, a little before that. A very long day lay ahead of us but the excitement of US Open final round was overbearing. Our journey envisaged multiple modes of transportation, one linked to the other like a chain. We required clockwork precision to execute it back to back. I am glad we did it to the perfection and at 1.15 PM, as planned we got into the Congressional Country Club, Bethseda, Md. Believe me; the aura was tremendous and breath-taking. “It looks like some big festival here!” Sunita exclaimed. She was so very right. The golfing fraternity had overwhelmed the grounds. Tiger or no Tiger, I am sure there could not have been a larger gallery. Men, women and children of all ages were sporting best of their bohemian gears…straw-hats; sun shades, Oakleys, full and half cargos, bright Ts and ladies were in some of the best summer casuals.  The beer was over flowing and fine catering laid out best of out-door cuisine on their Bill-of-Fare. An occasional whiff in the air would fill your nostrils with aroma of fine tobacco coming from an old fashioned, smoking cigars. I love both, the odour and the style. The Trophy Halls were set up for the guests to collect some very creatively designed stylish souvenirs of the Open. I bought few but not as many as I would have liked to. The dollar equation is very harsh.
 McIlroy was to Tee off at 3.20 PM and we knew he would be practicing at this hour. So, we straight went for the practice range where he and Yang were honing their Drivers. He looked like a school boy practicing as his father and the coach stood by him. Chinky got fascinated by the club cover, a soft toy, he had. The weather had suddenly warmed up and beer with its froth and chill looked very tempting. Yuvraj joined the queue to fetch some and I continued watching “The Man” and his power full swing observing the extended follow-through and copy book finish. Yang, on the other hand looked like a more seasoned pro with an improvised swing. We moved to Tee No 1 and saw Jacobson and Gariggus, Westwood and Day, Garcia and Kuchhar , McIlroy and Yang teeing off. It was not possible to be everywhere on the course and neither my health permitted me to run around. Luckily, American Express, one of the sponsors, had given us radio ear plugs free of cost which broadcasted the running commentary. That kept us well informed all along. Sunita and I settled down for the grand stand overlooking Hole No 15, while young Vidushi and Yuvraj went about chasing players.
The Open was being played on the Blue course, and the club has another one, called Gold. The terrain is hilly and engulfs natural water bodies strategically incorporated in to the course. Almost a century old, towering and magnificent Club House on a hillock, overlooks 10th and 18th Greens separated by a water line. The picturesque course is a Golf-dream for anyone; its membership is for almost 100 thousand dollars and waiting period is 8-9 years. The course is in its best shape and Greens are wearing Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua). At 4 mm cut they are lightning fast.
Watching any sport on TV is very edifying but unless there in the middle, you miss out totally the real touch and feel of the milieu. Your own arcs of sights are your own and not of the camera men. You see what you want to see and not what they show you. Also, you lend up seeing what you actually never wanted to see. We could hear more and see less of the prize distribution and closing ceremony. McIlroy won at 16 under par with 8 stroke lead.
The very long day ended at 4.00AM in the morning when we reached home dead tired and hit the bed straight. Mr Dhameja came to look me up in the morning and said “for you it looks like a pilgrimage.” I think that sums up.
( PS: no cameras/mobiles were permitted on the course so could not click any.)
  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 9




It is a very common sight in Jersy City, to see middle aged Indian parents, like us, doing groceries in the market places or taking walks in the evening along the Hudson River water front. They are here to see their prosperous children and feel great moments of satisfaction, gratification, pride and joy. Apart from being academically bright, these children are modern day Shravan Kumars. They understand the toilsome role played by their middle class parents in shaping up their future and wish to repay now. But, the American children are not so lucky. They neither have such devoted parents nor their Govt, like Indian, subsidise 
the Higher Education. That would explain why Indian and Chinese are wresting most of the jobs here.
 The American families are not as sacrosanct as Indian and people here are fiercely independent and private. Old people tend to live their last days on social-securities and reverse mortgages, regardless of their off springs. The complexities of family-inheritance impel charity to various organisations, rather passage to progeny. Young men and women opt for petty jobs to live an un-meddled life rather pursue higher education on loan and build a career.  President, Barak H Obama is right when he warns his country children to study. The complacency amongst the next generation of any affluent society or family is very natural and America is experiencing the same. Yet, construing the decline of American hegemony would be more than wrong. The myriads of strengths this nation has built over centuries will remain insurmountable and can easily afford few indolent generations to come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 8



(Lalli & Raju are sons and Nisha & Shweta are daughters-in-law of Mausi ji)   
                                      
When the fire alarm went off there was little anxiety but no              
panic. Though, Lalli had covered its sensor with a plastic carry bag, the smoke from Havan was enough to let it go. Thank God Fire Brigade did not get activated. We were at Sunita’s Mausi ji’s house in NYC, uptown for a weekend, and going through a pooja. As Estate Manager of   a Shopping Mall in Jaipur, I found shop keepers doing the same with dhoop & aggarbatti. Apart from the false alarm it would pollute the HVAC system as well. We should be sensible not to do these smoky affairs in an air conditioned enclosed spaces. But faith and logic do not go together.
Thereafter, it was feast of Poori, Chhole, Halwa, and Choorma for lunch. For a moment we thought that we are back in India. Mausi ji was very excited to have us over and didn’t want to stop feeding us. I over ate that afternoon.  Nisha and Lalli took us out for sightseeing in the evening and on Sunday afternoon to Jones Beach on Long Island. They were such a great company. Shweta insisted so much that we had to extend our stay by another day and enjoy her hospitality.
 Much against our comfort, we were loaded with the gifts and on Monday morning, Raju drove us back right up to our apartment. I am thankful to him for saving us from the precarious train journey. we will foster this new found relationship and cherish every moment of i.We visited the Rehabilitation Centre where Sunita’s Mausa ji is battling with life for the last 12 years. He suffered a brain stroke which cruelly left him neuroleptic. It was heartening to see the way American society 
looks after their old. We need to learn a lot from them. In fact the respect for human life that they have is laudable. On roads the motor cars wait for the walkers to cross, traffic comes to halt when a School Bus is collecting or disbursing children and juniors will offer seats to elders & ladies in the trains. The children and pets are protected by the law against all kind of violence, including punitive parents.
I, for the first time experienced the drive-in bank with Raju on our way back to Jersy City. You could do all your banking while sitting in the car with an amazing efficiency and speed. I observed that in USA it is the convenience of people which is paramount and the attitude of the providers is positive. They focus on “why Not?” rather “Why?” in India.That is what possibly, makes this country so strong and powerful.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 7


The summers have set in and Americans are out with their grills, tents, yachts and bikes. Children are up with their Tree Houses, hammocks, basket balls, base balls. The back yards are alive on weekends with barbeques, music, games, pets and portable water pools. I was part of this fun and frolic in back yards of Deepa jiji’s house in Aurora. In suburbs people have distinct style of living and these localities are designed keeping same in mind.
I observe with an astute interest that, practically there are no boundary walls around the houses in USA. It fascinates me a lot. Reasons apart, in India we could have provided free houses to so many poor people instead of making these walls. Come and think of it, these walls are really a colossal waste besides, that they keep people divided. Since, time immemorial a stigma has also been attached to these dividing walls in our society. And it is rightly so, I feel. Yet we need them to our own peril.
The absence of such walls gives a very delightful feeling about any township or residential locality here because of the openness it unfastens. It allows larger and unhindered back yards where one lawn can sprawls to the other, children can play around unabated, the pets can run and hop uninterrupted and neighbours may move across conveniently. The front lawns extend up to the road and houses look very approachable and open. The mail boxes stand smiling with their flaps up. All these synergise the environment to get friendly and cordial.
On the contrary in India first we raise 6’ of boundary walls, then fix broken glass bottles on the rim so that no one can even dream of trespassing. The richer you are, higher is the boundary wall and it gets to next level as security wall. The main gate is quite deterrence. It adds to claustrophobia if it is totally blind in consonance to the walls. The cluttering by these walls can certainly be avoided, if we are little civic in our culture.
I would be naïve to imagine such a concept being tried in India but the fact remains that it is because of silly, stupid and scrupulous reasons that we remain at such a loss. We, much to the contrary of a good society, unabashedly prove an old saying true i.e. “good neighbours will have good fence.”


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 6


Mr & Mrs Dhameja from Mumbai, like us, are also here to visit their son. We met in the gym and got friends. Yesterday, over a cup of tea in their apartment, we exchanged notes; especially on keeping one entertained. I showed Mr Dhameja how to use Youtube on his new I Pad and listen to his favourite old hindi film songs. We will also be taking them around local places so that they get acquainted. Not bad, after 55 days in USA we start guiding people.
         Actually, now the aura and awe of USA has slowly subsided. To be honest, this country was never strange to me. Books, Movies, Internet and geography taught by Mr MS Rautela in school had virtually created a picture which was quite akin to the real. Yet, in the beginning I was not so very comfortable here because of a thought that Indians are not welcomed here constantly pricked my esteem. This idea is not baseless and cannot be brushed aside so easily; but I needed different approach to deal with it. Yuvraj and Vidushi set this right for me. The younger lot seems to be quite forthright on this issue and give a damn. They argue “we are here legally and pay for everything as much as any American. We are here because they are not as good as we are. We are part of Free Economy and whose major promoter has been USA only.” I tend to agree with them and trying to realign my thoughts.
These 55 days have been quite eventful. We have been going out to a vinery, beaches, river sides, shopping malls, eating joints, visit some distant relatives around NY, Golfing and loafing around in the down town. Our visit to Alba vineyard nestled in beautiful Finesville village about 20 miles from here was a life time experience. We tasted 8 types of some fabulous wines and I am carrying one for Jaipur as a souvenir.
It is not a complaint but an itch. I have not been able to play as much golf as I would like to. Except for a round in Paramus and a range practice in Chelsea Piers, there has been no golf. Reasons are two. One, golf is damn expensive here and two, the courses are not easily accessible. I really miss golf and golfing buddies back home in Jaipur. Courtesy Face Book I keep in touch with them for amusement sake. I was earlier looking forward to watch US Open at Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington DC, but not now. Tiger Woods has pulled out of the tournament and it is a show without a hero. I wish we had not bought the tickets. Vidushi claims she wants to learn golf but bismillah kab hoga khuda jane. Golf has not been the best out here.


Another 55 days more to go. We do not know what is in store for us. No planning at all. But it adds to the thrill. We will watch as they unfold……

Friday, June 3, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 5


Meeting old NDA friends will remain very special part of my visit to USA. I doubt, Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten, the founders of this great institution ever visualised the intensity of camaraderie that was to germinate amongst its cadets in years to follow. After tens of years we meet as if the clock has not clicked. I was lucky to meet PP, Dhindsa, Brig BK Jain,  RK Gupta, Shokin, Pritam Sirur, Kishan Sirohi in this foreign land. On one of those weekends in last month, we drove down to visit Washington DC.  PP lives there in suburbs; Burke, Virginia. He organised a dinner for us and called others to make it an unforgettable reunion of ex NDAs. Despite, Mrs PP working that day and next early morning they were to drive to visit their children who are studying at VCU at Richmond, he laid out best of scotch and sumptuous dinner. While sipping our drinks we caught up on the lost years. PP and I were together in War College at Mhow in 1995 and had not met since then. Dhindsa narrated his journey from Indian Navy to “7 ELEVEN” chain of stores that he runs on franchise now. PP is placed at a senior level in the same organisation. It was pleasure meeting Brig BK Jain and his wife who is from Jaipur (my home town). He is a war veteran from elite 9 PARA (SF) and lost his leg during “Operation Pavan” as part of IPKF in Sri Lanka. Presently, he is posted as Defence Attache to USA and doing great. He was also an attraction with Yuvraj and Vidushi during those small talks in the beautiful backyard of PP’s house. It was so nice and gratifying evening that would remain with me for ever.
 (Post Script: We got so damn’ talking old NDA stuff that slipped up on taking photo graphs….never to be excused but I still say “sorry”) 




   Shokin Chauhan was on official visit to Bahamas and he could manage to fly down to New York. RK Gupta picked him up from JFK and braught straight to my place. We had cold beer and lunch with Brownstone Diners here in Jersy City. We were updated by Shokin and RK Gupta narrated his immigration story with a tragic death of his brother who was to anchor his initial stay here. NDA guys sail through fighting and he did so.
 And now, Neeraj Tandon is insisting for quite some time that I must visit Canada where he lives. I need Visa for the same. We decided to meet halfway at Niagara Falls. That is how NDA course mates 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 4



We are aboard Jetblue flight 910 from O’Hare to JFK and carrying along with us some very fond memories of our Chicago trip. I thought of writing my blog as everything is so fresh in my mind:

It was great knowing Navneet ji and rediscovering Deepa jiji during our stay with them at Chicago. They make much contended and a happy couple matured over vagaries of time like an old wine. To be honest, I was little hesitant in coming down because I had never met Navneet ji earlier and did not know much about him. It was sheer love and affection shown by Deepa jiji that eased all my inhibitions and we flew down from New York to join them for couple of days. She drove about 50 miles at late hours (11.00 PM) to pick us up from the 
airport. It spoke so much about her.


Our visit slowly unfolded like a dream vacation. It was spread over with casinos, best of scotch whiskies, barbeques and multi-cuisine food, music, shopping and sightseeing down town. We would sit in the lush green backyard enjoying the weather, sipping Glenlevit or Glenkinchie on the rocks, catching up on all those lost years and revisiting past to relive some happier and some difficult moments, sharing experiences of life and in between I will have a smoke, much to the distaste of Deepa jiji. We would talk about Bhown House, our ancestral haveli in Jaipur where hoards of children use to gather during summer vacations. The mouth-watering aroma of barbeque grilled by Navneet ji would fill the air and Ienya, the cute pet of family would hop around with music tied in her feet. After, dinner we chewed delicious Paan and Navneet ji played those soul ruffling old melodies of bygone era on his synthesiser and we were tapping and humming along. Mornings would see Navneet ji in kitchen making those crisp Dosas, omelettes and Deepa jiji making some yummy lemon and curd rice with sambhar and vada, and veg sandwiches. In the afternoons we would go to Casino or shopping. We also had a round of downtown and saw the beautiful Michigan Lake and its beaches. We enjoyed shish kababs and rice at Rishabh’s apartment in the downtown.


Deepa jiji and Navneet ji, both got very elderly and pampered us with so many gifts that we were declared over weight at the airline baggage counter. They are proud parents of two most eligible sons who are naturally so very handsome and adorable. The elder one, Nitin is orthodontist and practices in Dallas and the younger one, Rishab is a Director in Illinois University. They make a well knit family which has taken up all the modernity of USA but retained our Indian values.

I am running out of words and space to describe the hospitality, generosity, love and affection that Navneet ji and his family accorded us. We are indebted to them for ever.