Saturday, August 31, 2013

A story of love and lots of lust...

A recent conversation with someone made me realize that when we say two wheeler enthusiasts the usual images that come to mind are the big gangs including the big boys on the Enfield bullets but there exist a set of people who are hard core fanatics of their set of two wheels and constantly upgrade to the same model of TVS mopeds.

Do not get me wrong, I do not think that it is a bad vehicle; in fact it merits the same kind of crazy, inexplicable adulation given to a Bullet by its users who swear by it despite its many shortcomings that are called as its USPs. The TVS 50 in its many avatars put many people on to the road and was their first ever motorized personal transport vehicle. People in the villages still swear by it as do the delivery boys in many grocery shops in the cities.

I go back to my school days in St. Bede’s AIHS when TVS was something that excited most of us in high school. Those were the days of commuting to school by bus or cycle, days when the bus was painted green and called PTC and the fare for my trip was 50 paise. Since the journey was two stops and one stage in a crowded bus it was possible that a ticket could not be bought in time and so usually it was an iced lolly on the way home. Those were the days!

In those days the students of class XII started coming to school on “bikes”, the 60 cc variant of the TVS 50 called the TVS Champ and for all those coming by bus this was the ultimate drool worthy transport known. At that time motorbikes were the Bullets, Jawa / Yezdis ,the Ind Suzuki, Hero Hondas and the “hamara” Bajaj range of scooters. Dad had a Lamby an old beauty while those who preferred sleeker scooters had the Vijay Super. But by know you know for those not yet old enough to ride a two wheeler the next option was the TVS Champ which looked sleek, went faster than the 50 even if the top speed was around 50 kmph or so and came in many colours. These class XII students facing the pressure of multiple tuition classes got themselves their bikes and sent the rest of us in a lust trip.

Before I forget there was also one unique vehicle that did not require a license despite having an engine made by the same makers who made the Bullet, this was called a Mofa and if I remember right had a 30 cc engine, was ungeared and went abysmally slow and so even for us school kids it was an eyesore. We wanted speed we wanted the Champ. So many of us dreamed of owning one and many more were looking at excuses to persuade our parents that a Champ was required to do well in school. Sadly my attempts were not creative enough but I managed to move up from the PTC to a Hero Ranger MTB cycle.
Back then MTBs were the rage, remember the Street Cats with a very catchy jingle. We never realized that the M in the MTB was mountain terrain and unlike the roads of today the roads back then were better and safer and needed just the SLRs of BSA.

In the midst of all this Champ cravings, the Hero group unleashed a set of sporty mopeds called Hero Puch and in that series there was one model called a sport model and it set our pulses racing. Imagine alloy wheels, bikini fairing, sporty decals on a moped!!! The owner of this model was the new hero in our street and everyone queued up for a ride on this and suddenly the Champ seemed to be a commuter moped. Many days passed when I imagined myself on one of these racers one day as I pedalled to school.

Then class XII happened and our finances could not handle a Champ; we also relocated to Anna Nagar so it was the PTC bus that served me through school and then through college. College commuting was fun on the PTC bus and on the odd days I rode the Kinetic Honda (remember that) to college very furtively as I did not have a license. College was followed my MBA in Pondicherry where transport inside the huge campus was managed by cycles or any available two wheelers. Travel outside the campus was by bus. In the campus I remember encountering another Hero Puch, this time the commuter variant and a M80, the Bajaj equivalent of the TVS 50. Incidentally the owner of the M80 was uncharitably called the milk man due to the vehicle.

My two wheeler relationship started with a TVS product, not one from the 50 family but a 150cc model called the Fiero which was my first love for several years. Today after comprehensively destroying my back and having been warned off two wheelers by my physician I watch when others continue their love stories with their two wheeled crushes with a smile. When I see someone riding his third TVS XL vehicle, I understand that for some it is an enduring love story and love cannot be reasoned just experienced.
(Images courtesy - Google Images)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hey Auto II

I had posted on the Chennai Autos earlier. I am delighted that the Auto fare movement has succeeded at least as far as the new fares coming in. The enforcement will be a challenge as the drivers seem to have got used to doing nothing most of the time when not asking for 300% of the fare or thereabouts for every trip which they don’t seem to be keen to make anyway.

The question is why must the government fix fares? Going forward why the government must fix the fares of fuel, power and others? Each time the government gets into this, it gets into a political logjam and populism precedes common sense and we end up getting into a trap from which there seems to be no exit. The government does not fix the price of gold or real estate and there seems to be no respite for buyers of either but surprise, surprise no one complains. Water which will become another scare commodity shortly is under-valued and consequently priced at ridiculous levels. To put it into perspective 1 litre of purified water sold in a bottle is 12 rupees while an average household using a 1000 litre tank per day for a year pays 1 Re or so every day.

Water is just one instance there are many more. The government is getting into a tangle each time it does more than governance and ultimately there is no free lunch even if the freebies may give people a false sense of security, some one pays. Usually this someone is the friendly neighbourhood common man. Anyway coming back to the auto fares, I am eagerly awaiting the implementation and the eventual postponement of the deadline for meter resets. It does not appear practical, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief and watch. I am of the firm opinion that unless all the auto stands are scrapped, new fares will still become redundant as ever stand member will say “enga area ulla varadhey”.

One heartening fact about the entire auto saga was the relaxation of permit laws which ensured that the vice like grip on the permits by the money lenders reduced considerably and was a real attempt at correcting the demand supply gap. Sadly it did not achieve more than that as it worked in isolation as the new auto drivers ended up joining a stand and they got sucked into the system. Why I am very frustrated with the stand system is because I have two stands in front of my house and I have to pay double the fare to engage an auto from either and a passing auto willing to ply for lesser rate gets bullied away. Since every stand exists in full violation of all rules usually encroaching public property because of the political colours they flaunt, this also may not change.

Another glaring anomaly that will not be addressed is the Diesel autos that ply as share autos thereby denying genuine auto drivers their due. These vehicles are not just illegal but are a safety hazard as they pack in people like sardines in a can and throw all caution to the wind. They work as share autos, carry more passengers and they run on diesel and nobody seems to care.  There are many more challenges and despite all the positives one thing comes to mind no party will alienate their foot soldiers and captive vote banks so I wait and watch if this will be a new beginning.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We are happy if you understand what we say...

I came across a very funny post on Facebook about the craziness of the English language. English has united a great part of the world and ensures that you can communicate with some reasonable effect in many areas of the world. It is a flexible language where it has allowed itself to be modified, misused to suit the local sensibilities and every other day new local contributions are being added to the English lexicon.

English may have its advantages and personally I prefer the Queen’s English having grown up with it, I realize that the English language has one flaw. Well it may not be a flaw it may be that the culture does not permit it to be so. English is not a respectful language and you will notice the only hint of respect is when the Queen says “We are happy…”.  As with some of our Indian languages the first person plural is used to signify respect in the English language, with “We”, “our”, replacing the commoner’s I.

We are usually respectful people and so our language also ensures that people who merit respect get it like parents, teachers, elders, leaders etc. Again the use of the plural for the same is more common and it becomes a challenge when you translate to English and usually loses the effect. When we see an elderly relative: “Eppidi irrukeenga?” seems much better than “How are you?” and likewise for many other phrases. Hindi also has “Aap” which seems to be the normal way to speak. I suppose the use of such respectful phrases comes from the cultural background and the upbringing but to see it in action can be quite interesting as an incident comes to my mind.

During my MBA days the only co-educational course I studied the boy girl ratio was 3:1 and some girls were really boisterous but it was all in good spirit and there was a lot of good camaraderie during the course (some of us still have it). There was this girl, an engineer, the youngest in the family, two brothers before her, used to compete equally with her brothers so for her a fight with a boy was commonplace (not the fist fights). As with MBA courses fate intervened and a bulb shone for another class mate (like in the movie Mozhi)
 and the eventual happened. So after a long courtship the parents agreed to the match but nothing much had changed or so the rest of us thought. On the day of the engagement during the normal banter as it seemed like a family get together the girl was liberal with her usual “dai”, “da”, “erumai” etc when suddenly she turned and said “Ennanga…” for a moment there was a stunned silence when we realized that she was calling the guy, our class mate another “erumai” till some time ago. When the realization hit the girl seeing a few dropped jaws around her in true fashion she blushed beautifully. I am not sure if it was the tutelage of her mum, aunts and the whole entourage or if it was natural but it was simply beautiful.

My story is not very different, D may call me by name and sometimes other names also but before others it is never “avan” it is always “avanga” though the difference in age is not much and we knew each other for over a decade before marriage. At home English is freely used and in the workplace it is the official language but whenever we need to address someone respectfully we switch to Tamizh if the other person understands it. Today when we speak to our daughter in Tamizh it is usually in the second person plural, “inga vaanga”. Respect they say begets respect.

Sadly this facet of the language seems to have got lost in some dialects, at least one that is commonly used. I am not sure if the vocabulary if limited or it is omitted by the users but I have observed that respect seems to be absent in the use. It may be commonplace to the user but it is offensive to others but that is another post.

Images courtesy Google Images

Friday, August 23, 2013

I love me...

There are narcissists and there are narcissists. Oh! You do not know what narcissism is? Wiki to the rescue as always:- “Narcissism is a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe a person characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness.  

By now you would have understood your typical next door narcissist. Who for boring the ear of the daughter of someone in the family or even worse the coming of age of a daughter in the family makes a huge flex print and proclaims the event to the whole world with the accompanying mug shots of the narcissists who must delight to see themselves larger than life on the roads. Then there is the narcissist who desiring to celebrate the festival of the neighbourhood deity makes a huge board and ensures that he gets enough space on the board to relegate the deity to a corner. After all Gods do not need publicity so I suppose that is understandable.

The pride of place will definitely go to those who are in politics where sycophancy stokes narcissism or is it the other way around? Either way it ensures that the fires keep burning in the homes of those involved in the trade of making and displaying these boards. I really wonder if people actually like to see themselves staring back at them when they move around. At times these images can be very unflattering and even cause a few smiles and I often wonder at the implied message when I see one such board.

These days I have noticed a new breed of narcissists on the roads of Chennai, these people are always found on two wheelers. These people really delight in seeing themselves whenever possible and for this reason they usually have two vanity mirrors mounted on their vehicles. With typical Indian ingenuity these people turn the rear view mirrors towards themselves so that they have a clear view of themselves always. When they need to turn they can always look back so a redundant accessory on a vehicle is put to better use.

I sincerely hope that on a particularly bad face day one such guy will not scare himself when he sees the mirror while riding.

Images courtesy Google images

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Under the same sky...

When I heard the news I was angry that nearly 30 people died on the tracks. When I read the news articles my anger increased when I heard that they were trapped between two trains without any room to escape. I was furious when I learnt that the men, women and kids were in a death trap and they were in the trap by choice. What kinds of idiots share this same sky?

Promptly the enraged people burn the train, thrash the drivers and politicians jump into the fray asking for compensation and every other now expected reaction to a calamity which could have been easily avoided. What must be done to explain to people that walking on tracks is life threatening? The argument that literacy or lack of it may be a cause cannot hold water as every other day one literate idiot kills himself on the tracks in Chennai, usually the deceased will be going to or back from work.

Walking on rail tracks is a crime that is punishable but the punishment is a joke in itself like every other deterrent around. The fundamental question remains; is a life worth just the fine amount of 200 odd rupees? And the next question is must the state compensate these idiots? When the microfinance crisis erupted in the Andhra Pradesh (the united state), political contingencies and populism combined to announce a compensation of 5 lakhs to every borrower who committed suicide due to debt. This single act made some realize that they were worth more dead than alive…

Simple things - do not cross the tracks, do not walk on tracks with the mobile phone, do not stand on the steps of the running train, ignored every day and the anger is shown on the railways. The life line of the country that is struggling to stay afloat carrying people across the land at a fraction of the fare it will cost otherwise. Every day a greater number of people who seldom pay for the ride use the services of the railways and usually inconvenience many of the paying passengers. The papers report a 90 crore loss and this will get compounded by a compensation which will most likely be forced on the railways in view of the elections ahead.

Spare a thought for the driver(s). They usually do a thankless job and do long hours. A study of the suburban train drivers of Chennai had shown most of them to be overworked and carrying a host of illness that comes with stress. The probability of the long distance train drivers being different is remote. These drivers will have to carry the guilt of so many deaths to their grave and it may not be easy to forget this. Trains run on rails because they simply have the right of way and it is for this reason that traffic and people are stopped by barriers at level crossings wherever possible. Unmanned crossings are being gradually replaced by over bridges or being manned simply because there are many more idiots around. It is reported that the driver of the train going at 80kmph had applied the emergency brakes and ended up with so many causalities.  Imagine a few hundred tonnes of metal hurtling along at 80kmph being brought to a sudden stop, the possibility of the train jumping the tracks or hitting the other trains could have resulted in greater damage. The public thrashes the drivers and sets the train(s) on fire.

My sympathies are with the drivers. An unconfirmed report says that he was beaten to death. What kinds of idiots share this same sky?

Luke 23:34

Image Courtesy: Google Images

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Down nostalgia lane

The other day I realized when I was looking for an umbrella that there are no more fancy shops these days. I guess for the 90’s generation this may be as alien as the “goli soda” and the “pepsi cola” among others. But for those like me they were the one stop shop for everything.

What is a fancy shop? For those not aware these were the shops usually run by Muslim shopkeepers from Kerala who stocked and sold anything school kids may need from maps to junk jewellery and all in between. If there was a school requirement I would head to the nearby fancy store and the shop keeper usually never had no for any requirements that the school may come up with. If there was a social function that required a gift to be purchased again the friendly neighbourhood fancy store which also sold the wrapping paper for it along with greeting cards.

Landmark and Archies happened much later and probably led to the demise of these fancy stores. Today the swanky air-conditioned gift stores are a far cry from the humble dark fancy store (where only the shop keeper can unearth the things you need and so also reduced impulse shopping to an extent) and the surviving shops seem to be managing by expanding their product lines to include mobile recharges among others.

During a visit to my old area of Chennai 28 I was quite pleased and happy to see the then famous Kani Stores still surviving more than two decades with few changes to the outward appearance of the store. This shop sold most of what I wanted for a bigger range it usually meant a trip to Luz Corner where larger fancy stores with even more fancier names like “Millions & Millions”, “Crores & Crores” supplied all our needs. Our favourite at home was a store called India Stores which was another unending treasure trove of goodies. I am not sure how many of these are still around.

Anyway back to the present with the help of a friendly local I located a neighbourhood fancy store and found my umbrella. I left the place with a smile on my face. Life goes on...

Image courtesy Google Images

P.S. The image is of a fancy store that is up for sale. Pity.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Of movies, rods, spitting and more - 7 random things

Two movies dominated my timelines recently; one of course was Thalaiva and the other Chennai Express. One movie got derailed on the release date the other is making money by making fun of everyone and is stereotypically offensive to Tamizh speakers. Like it or hate it but I am secretly enjoying the fact that it  requires the Chennai magic to make a struggling super star succeed again and no, I am not talking about the real super star, in case you wonder.  Not sure if the same success would have come with say a Kolkota express, can it?

On the note it was shocking to hear that one fan committed suicide over the deferred release of Thalaiva. Like many other news bits, it may be the tip of the iceberg and what exactly led to the suicide may have been a host of other reasons, it is sad to hear these things and that someone will die for a movie tells you the way values have eroded and how much movies have captured the psyche of people today. The fact that movie stars have an assured retirement benefits in the political arena shows that our people are unable to split the reel from real life.

You wonder why people are suicidal. I am not talking about those morons who put their lives at risk on the road with their foolhardiness, I am talking about the school kid who unable to bear the scolding of his parent or a spurned lover or somebody who has been embarrassed by an acquaintance or an indebted farmer simply killing themselves. Is death the end? If man is a social animal why do they not understand that they are not living in isolation and by dying they are hurting more people than possibly when they were alive?

So how do you discipline children these days? You cannot scold them for some kids kill themselves, you cannot use the rod because you can be jailed for abuse. You cannot buy your way through because that becomes a bottomless pit and there is no way out. Today teachers are at their wits end because there are simply no tap on the knuckles with a ruler or the option of throwing a chalk piece at an errant student. They can be hauled up by the PTA or the child can simply lodge a complaint and the poor teacher can be counting the bars. Most teachers are parents too and it simply gets worse at home.

Forget using the rod on kids, sometimes you just feel like taking the rod and whacking the butts of some idiots you encounter every day. Nothing turns me off more than when an idiot ahead spits on the road before me or blows his nose on the road just ahead. It makes you wonder what rubbish goes into their mouths that they have to constantly empty it. The other day a boy in school uniform riding on the footboard of a MTC bus spat out what looked like gutka, considering that the product is banned and the sales of tobacco products is banned near educational institutions you wonder what else ends up in the hands of students.

Till the Metro becomes operational the lifeline of Chennai will be the MTC buses. Though I sympathize with the ridiculous levels of stress the drivers go through daily in our crazy roads I do not think that it is enough justification for them endangering the lives of those in the bus and those outside with their total disregard to traffic lights and rules. And the more you read about successful BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport Systems) models in different cities of the country you wish that at least on a few large roads we can have one here. With more air conditioned buses on a BRTS more cars can get off the road. And life can be a little easier for the drivers and the rest of us.

Lastly I am a big fan of the NHAI since some of my best drives have been on roads built and / or managed by the NHAI. It is very disheartening to hear that one NHAI project in the city is likely to be shelved due to the non-cooperation of the state government. The many pillars on the road stand mute testimony to the callous waste of public money. If diversion of a river is the reason then I would request someone from the government to visit the same river and study the course that has been changed by landfills and encroachments of hut dwellers who gradually have converted them to concrete dwellings. Surely there is another reason. It is painful to see that the tax I paid is staring back at me in dismay.

Images courtesy Google Images
Collage made by using

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Driving tales!

I find it amazing that we trust our lives in the hand of unknowns every day and we do not trust the ones known to us especially on the road.

How many journeys have we made when the driver of the bus either talks on the phone, drives rashly but we remain oblivious to it all, maybe sometimes we grimace but still let it go. Cut to when somebody we know takes the wheel and the same thing happens I am willing to bet that everyone in the vehicle with an opinion will not hold back his / her opinion. If this brought a smile to your face hold that smile, it improves your face value.

The point remains that in public we are willing to risk our lives for many reasons – maybe ridicule, maybe indifference, maybe faith in the Almighty, maybe we just slept through it all. How many of us are bold enough to go and tell the driver of a bus that he is endangering the lives of those inside and even outside the bus? Why is there a different yardstick for two vehicles driven by two persons one known and the other unknown?

I was reading an article in one of my favourite websites Cricinfo and one phrase remained with me, incidentally it is supposedly from the Simpsons series – “It’s the little things that make up life”.  Cartoons teach you some profound truths and that is one reason I never give up on them, but coming back to the issue why do we forego these little things even when our lives can be at peril. The jury is still out whether the train driver in Spain was on the phone before the crash and I am sure that many accidents here may have the cell phone as a cause. There are drivers who flout many a rule and we choose to ignore.  I wonder how many lives can be saved by a little initiative.

On the other hand why are we of so little faith when those who know and usually those who love us take the wheel? Why are we so hesitant of their intent that we cannot restrain ourselves from offering words of wisdom about everything including the weather?