Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

114. Value of Money

“Don’t ask what money can do? It can buy you Pizza and Coke.”

I read that line about a decade ago; I felt that it is telling only partial truth. The value of money is much more than these mundane things.

“What is the value of money?” is obviously a strange question. The value of money is clearly pointed on the note/coin/currency that we use. Even non school going kids can identity various coins and notes and know its capacity (and limits) to purchase things. What we do not generally understand is that the ‘Purchase Power’ changes from place to place. I am not talking about the changes happening due to currency – like when one visits Europe or US of A. There too the value changes have many socio-economic dimensions. But even within India the value of money changes.

I know, you don’t believe in this statement. Even I would not have believed in it had I not this experience!

When I first visited Chitrakut (to be more specific Karvi, the district place) I faced the problem of local travel to a great extent. Chitrakut being a religious place was always crowded. But in such cases, people travel in large groups. The Government Guest House where I was staying in; was about 15 kilometers away from my office, so traveling everyday was a must. Even with such a large number of visitors to the city, the public transport system did not exist then. People were left to the mercy of private transport. All the parties, the local administration, the local transporters and the people seemed to be satisfied with the arrangements – and all was peaceful. It was weird to call that ‘peaceful’ because every day I saw hundreds of people (all men) with their gun on their shoulders. The gunmen drinking cup of tea; the gunmen laughing loudly on joke; the gunmen consuming food together was a common scenario.

My colleagues were naturally concerned about my safety and security. One of them used to pick me up in the morning; and someone would drop me in the evening on their motorbike. But I was concerned that just to ‘take care of me’ people had to travel 30 kilometers extra – which I thought was a waste of their time and organizational money. And by that time, I was so frequently visiting the place, that I was no more a complete stranger to the local situation.

One option was to take a ‘six seater’ auto rickshaw. Of course, here ‘six seater’ is just a name given to that particular vehicle. Unless and until there were 15 passengers, the vehicle won’t start. Being part of crowd is one thing, but being part of crowd where people are drunk and smoke .. I was finding it difficult to travel. Being an only woman in the crowd worsened the matters many times. With all this, I had to take another 15 minutes walk or take a bicycle rickshaw to reach my office. That added not only cost but time too. Once I traveled the 15 kilometer distance by bicycle rickshaw – but it took such a long time and I was feeling guilty while looking at the tired face of the bicycle rickshaw man!

I was no doubt trying to figure out the best way to travel from the guest house to the office. One morning, one six seater rickshaw driver was waiting for passengers. I asked him, “How many passengers sit in the front?” He looked at me very strangely. He told, “Sit there, the front seat is empty now”. But I asked the same question again. Without much elaboration he answered “three” – meaning three passengers sit in the front row – at the side of the driver. Then he asked me where exactly I wanted to go. I replied. Then he started shouting “five rupees seat, five rupees seat” in search of more passengers.

I told the driver,” I will sit in the front portion. I will pay you for three passengers, don’t allow anyone else to occupy the front seat.” The driver was confused. Here the custom was - if a group traveled together, they would negotiate with the driver and get concession for one or two people. He did not understand why I was ready to pay for three persons when I was traveling alone! My calculations were indeed simple. By spending ten rupees extra, I was trying to gain some comfort, some convenience. However, in that area, to have extra ten rupees to spend, was a luxury. And to spend ten rupees extra was a sign of richness.

I was constantly trying to convince the driver about this arrangement and he was not convinced. He was just smiling and chose to ignore me. When the security person of the guest house saw that I was talking to the auto driver for a long time, he rushed in to find out the problem and to help me. He listened to my proposal seriously and told to the driver, “Madam is from Bombay.” That worked as a magic.

That was a scene which was watched by many for the next few years. A woman sitting alone in the front of a six seater rickshaw! After every two minutes, the rickshaw would stop to accommodate new passengers; people would rush to the front seat with joy as they saw only one lady sitting there; the driver used to shout – “go to the backside”; the passengers kept wondering why they are not allowed to sit in front and why the driver is taking his rickshaw empty! Then some passenger sitting in the back (in the crowd of another ten people) would whisper, “Madam is from Bombay” – as if that was the sufficient explanation! And it always proved to be a sufficient explanation. But still someone would add, “She is traveling alone, but paying for the other two seats too.” That was beyond anybody’s understanding. The wondered, they gossiped, they looked at me, and they thought various thoughts.

Then it became a routine. It was a win-win situation. It was convenient to me, because by just paying additional ten rupees, I was able to travel more comfortably – saving trouble of my colleagues to pick and drop me. The auto drivers had to wait less for two passengers. Initially they had apprehensions, but once they realized that I pay those ten additional rupees, they were enthusiastic to have me.

I was conscious that I was lucky that I had those ten extra rupees to spend. I never asked passengers to get down and go to the backside, if someone was already sitting in the front, I would not take that auto. But auto drivers knew my time of travel, so they themselves would ask passengers to make the front portion free. None of the passengers ever objected to it. Nobody said, “She might have money, so what?” No one told me to “travel by your own car” if you want so much luxury!

During the four and half year period, I visited Chitrakut area at least 25 times, and the local journey was made in this fashion – by paying for two more persons!

Actually I tried to purchase comfort of ten rupees, but in the process I realized that I was having ‘Power’ of ‘Ten Rupees’. It was not an unlimited power – it was limited, it was gross but it was also subtle! The power of money is not about what is indicated on the currency – it is always about what it can give you in comparison with others! When we earn money (and we always want more money), we are certainly aware of this subtle nature of power that money brings in. The urge to happiness is natural, is also the urge for power natural? I do not know.

Can we do away with the urge of power? Because what I have experienced (and you too might have experienced) is once we start comparing ourselves with others, the happiness and satisfaction wane. Money is no doubt needed for food, clothes, shelter, education, entertainment, health! But it is up to us to decide how much we want and if we can stop running after money, we may be less powerful... but in reality we become more powerful!

The value of money is much wider, subtler and deeper than it appears!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

113. Lost and …

I can never forget that announcement at Allahabad Station. It was constantly mentioning one term ‘Bhule Bhatke Shivir’ – ‘A temporary place for people who are lost’. It was the Kumbha Melaa time and my colleagues had interesting versions to tell me about this Bhule Bhatke Shivir. It was mainly for the people, mainly old people who were lost in the crowd. My colleagues told me that many people bring their old parents to visit Kumbha, tell them to wait at one spot in the name of fetching some food or water etc and they never return back. The old people wait for, hope for, they are not able to tell the exact name of their village, block, district etc. These old people are deliberately ‘lost’ by their younger ones and they never are ‘found’.

The term ‘Lost and Found’ was not new to me then. I have been a member of organizing team for many events – Rallies, Camps, Treks, Meetings, Functions, Surveys, Protest Marches, and Excursions etc. On each of these occasions, we needed a person to take care of ‘Lost and Found’ section. People can lose anything when they are in a crowd – from their young children to money purse, from their railway pass to identity card, from pen to pin… anything on the earth. (I am not counting psychological aspects of such loss here - loss of mind and loss of identity! They are dealt with in another world – the world of Gurus and Spirituality. I never had much to do with those kinds of places.) The ‘Lost and Found’ section according to me was always a place of amusement. It was a place of a drama in real life. It was a place where all emotions could be seen in its most intense form.

But I hardly ever got to be stationed at the ‘Lost and Found’ section. The responsibility was generally given to one of the elder persons in the group. We used to call this group ‘Retired but not Tired’. They had enthusiasm enough but not the physical energy to be on their toes all the time. So, the running here and there job was done by youngsters and the elders sat at the table. Now looking back I realize that we actually needed mature persons to handle the situation. Old people with experience of life probably can handle the situation better (I am not saying that all old people are mature and all youngsters are immature.) The joy of those who found what they had lot must have been a treat to watch. However not everybody is lucky to find back what is lost, and their despair one cannot watch objectively.

Each one of us has lost something which we never found back. After understanding the announcement at the Allahabad station, I was happy that I never had to take the responsibility of the ‘Lost and Found’ section. It is not that I cannot stand pain – I have seen a lot of it, it is not that I cannot live with disappointment – I have that too in life. But somehow to manage one’s own affair is easier than managing feeling, emotions, and life of others.

It is not easy when one goes through the experience, when it actually happens!

It is bit ironic; but I am more attached to places than persons! May be I can afford to be myself with places. With persons, one has to compromise sometimes; though luckily not all the times and not with all the persons I meet! And I have found managing my affair with places a little difficult than managing loss of connection with persons.

I remember one such moment.

I visited my college after a decade. I had spent five eventful years there. I was so attached to that place once – lot of friends, lot of dreams, lot of passion, lot of debate and discussions,.. so much was associated with that place. I went with expectation to recapture those moments. Suddenly I realized that I was alien to the place. The building was the same – with some modification, there was a crowd, but I stood alone there, without any connection with that place. I could have met some teachers, office clerks, and peons…. But I did not feel like meeting anyone of them. I understood that the college building has no place for me and it was better to withdraw from that!

And I can recall many more such places in my life. The loss of connection happens all the while.

People and Places come in life, become friend, become integral part of life, you share with them a lot of things and one fine morning you realize that the connection, the relationship is lost. Some connections die suddenly, some die a slow and painful death.

Reason? For no apparent reason.

There is an advantage in some things which are Lost and Never Found.

Because sometimes when you find those lost things again, you are disappointed. You do not have the same bliss and peace with those things again as once you used to have. Some things are actually better Lost forever than Found.

May be that is the reason I do not mourn losses – of places, of persons.

I create new connections, I nurture new relationships, and I re-invest in living with the same innocence, same trust, and same enthusiasm.

I have Lost myself so many times through the series of such happenings!

And I have Found myself again and again!

And to tell you the truth, I have changed so much in the process.

So, I, my life can be termed as “Lost and Never Found!”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

112. The Mystery

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 17; the seventeenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
“Dadu, speak out, don’t keep quiet,” Namita pleaded.

Dadu was Deepankar, Namita’s elder brother. She was three years younger to him, but Dadu and Namita were very close to each other, as if they were twins. They had no secrets from each other – till recently, Namita bitterly thought. Something was troubling Deepankar, and he was not sharing it with Namita.

Dadu did not speak. He just looked at his sister. Clearly he was in two minds. For a moment, Deepankar was ready to speak, however he controlled himself.

“Dadu, please…,” Namita was almost in tears. She was frightened by his stare. What must be troubling him, Namita could not think of. Deepankar had a very good job, was happy, had good friend circle, steady relationship with Ashwini – their proposed marriage was accepted by Deepanakr’s and Ashwini’s families very recently. Namita knew Deepankar had no addictions. What could be the problem? Namita stared back at her loving brother. Deepankar did not say anything and stormed out of the room.

“Now where has Deepu gone like that? Did you fight with him again? You are such a spoilt girl, you even make your simple brother angry…..,” that was certainly grandmother speaking. She loved Deepankar more and could never digest the fact that everyone loved Namita too, in spite of her being a girl.

“Oh! Grandma, nothing. He is in a hurry,” Namita tried to explain. Her cell phone rang at the right time and she could excuse herself.

‘What is the mystery?’ Namita kept on thinking.

That evening the family had a small conference. Everyone had noted that something was troubling their Deepu, and everyone was anxious to support him. Problem was; nobody knew what exactly the issue was and what kind of support Deepankar needed.

“Did you talk to him?” Papa asked Namita.

“For God’s sake, why don’t you directly speak to him? Man to Man talk might be better,” Ma as usual had different opinion than Father.

“Had he any fight with Ashwini, lately?” Ma added hopefully but taking precaution that she sounded anxious. She had never much liked the idea of Deepankar getting married to Ashwini. She had chosen one of her friend’s daughters for that role. But alas! There was nothing wrong in Ashwini too and hence she had to accept Deepankar’s choice.

“Not that I know off. In fact, here comes Ashwini, you can ask her,” added Namita bluntly knowing well her Ma’s destroyed wish.

Ashwini joined. She immediately understood what the conference was all about. She added fuel in the fire with right tone and right words. No, she did not know what Deepankar was worried about and he had been avoiding speaking to her on that subject. In fact, in the last two weeks Deepankar had not spent his usual Saturday evenings with Ashwini. She had come to ask Namita what was wrong with Deepankar.

Now that caused more trouble in that small conference.

“Is he losing his job?” Pa thought aloud.
“Pa, you forget that just ten days ago he told us that his office is sending him to some conference for Paper Presentation,” Namita was feeling hopeless with the discussion.

“Nobody believes in me. This year you did not worship Lord Ganesha properly, see the result. Our golden boy is suffering now….,” grandma’s direction was as expected. Whatever good happened in the family was due to God’s Grace according to her. Logically, whatever problems, troubles came, it was God’s punishment.

“Everything was done properly. Now, don’t you start that discussion again! You should understand that times have changed,” Pa was really angry with his mother. Right from childhood, he had to spend lot of time in worship and rituals. He hated that.

Grandma said, “I am worried about Deepu, nothing else.” Everybody kept quiet on that. Nobody knew how to break the silence.

That was done by Anil, Deepankar’s childhood friend. He entered whistling as usual and was happy to see all – especially Namita. “Where is your Prince Charming?” he teased Ashwini. With a frown he realized that the atmosphere was not cheery as usual. “Is everything alright?” he asked cautiously.

“Anil might know,” Pa said.
“What is it Uncle that you want to know?” Anil was now confused. He looked at Ashwini. He now feared that the news was of break up between Deepankar and Ashwini. He never had imagined that.

“Has Deepankar been smoking or drinking lately?” Namita’s father asked solemnly.

Anil was caught in two minds. He knew that the family did not know of Deepankar’s latest habits and new infatuations. A drink is necessary for socialization, but he was sure the old generation won’t appreciate this fact. He did not want to betray his friend. His silence made everyone uncomfortable. Sensing that, Anil hastily added, “Oh! Why do you think so?”

Father and Mother became more anxious with this evasive answer. A tear rolled down on Ashwini’s cheek. Namita sharply looked at him. There was a clear question in her eyes: “you too?” which Anil wanted not to notice. Grandmother said something which nobody could properly hear.

“Now, Anil, I am asking you a question. Instead of answering, you are questioning me back. How do you expect me to interpret your answer?” Father shot back.

“See Anil, Deepankar is neither eating properly, nor sleeping well and he is not speaking to any one of us. We are all worried. Do you know what is troubling him?” Ma added politely. She did not want to hurt her future son in law - though that idea was taking shape in her mind only very recently.

Anil was confused. Yes, he remembered that Deepankar had been very introvert during last fortnight. He was not seen on Orkut, not on Facebook. Anil recalled that there was not a single Twit from Deepankar in the last 10 days. He also remembered that the cows were not milked on Deepankar’s Farm and the Artichokes were weathered on his farm. Deepankar had not sent any SMS lately. It struck to Anil for the first time that something was indeed wrong with his dear friend. How can one live without virtual presence?

“Namita, bring Deepu’s bank passbook. I want to know,” Pa ordered.
“Oh! Papa, you can’t do this. This is not fair. Let us wait and talk to him. You can’t treat him like a kid or a culprit,” Namita cried.

Silence followed. Everyone had some idea but was ashamed to share the ghastly idea with others.

The Mystery was looming over the room and the minds of all those people, who loved Deepankar.

Deepankar was very happy. He could not wait for the elevator. He took two steps at a time and was surprised to see the home door open. He was still more surprised to see such a crowd in the hall. But he was happy to see them all at that moment. He wanted to share his joy with them.

“Hey, here is a surprise for all of you,” he shouted.

He did not notice that they all exchanged hurried looks.

“I got 150 votes and First Prize.” Deepankar laughed loudly and shook Anil physically with tremendous joy. He wanted to hug Ashwini, but suddenly realized that his parents were there and so controlled himself in time and captured the second option. He was so happy that any stranger even would do.

“What?” everybody screamed. That was followed by more confusing remarks.

“My Goodness!” Father remarked.
“Oh! It is only that…” Mother said.
“You are stupid,” Ashwini murmured.

“Oh! You know that for the last two months I am writing a blog. I participated in a competition my post was selected for the first award. 150 votes and First Award! Imagine the success! Hurrah.. You know what I wrote…” Deepankar was in high spirits. Without listening to any of those remarks, he continued.

Suddenly Deepankar realized that nobody was paying attention to him; everyone looked relieved rather than happy. He looked at Namita for explanation. She was controlling her laughter. Anil was grinning. Father looked at Namita and she started laughing loudly. Everybody joined.

Only Grandma seemed to be glad and touched him on his head. She said something about Lord Ganesha.

“Oh! This is my first award in Writing and they don’t even bother to congratulate me!” Deepankar sighed.

“What is this Mystery?” Deepankar asked himself. However he spoke loudly in his anxiety.

“Oh! Nothing…” everybody said unanimously.

“Come Dadu, write a blog post about this experience,” Namita said. Everybody laughed and disappeared in different directions. Even Ashwini went to kitchen with his mother, Anil and Namita went together ….

Leaving Deepankar alone; wondering about The Mystery of the laughter; of Ashwini and Mother joining hands; about Namita and Anil…

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Monday, November 22, 2010

111. Free Lunch

“There is no such thing as a Free Lunch” is a popular saying – which indicates that for everything apparently free, one has to pay a price – directly or indirectly. The term often appears in Economic Discussions – and has serious connotations than this post is trying to portray. The concept has Ecological as well as Scientific implications. Broadly speaking, I agree with this term – when it is seriously discussed.

However, I cannot help smiling whenever I read this phrase or hear someone casually referring to it.

Simply because: I have had hundreds of Free Lunches. I had them in the past; I still seem to have those coming to me and I guess they will come to me in future also.

I am of course not referring to my friends who often offer me “Free Lunch.” The moment I enter into their house, the first question they ask is, “when did you have your last food?”

The question is just rhetoric. Because even before I think ‘what would be the appropriate answer, ’they present me a plate full of food which is followed by tea/coffee/milk.. whatever they think I like. None of my friends have ever expected any return in the process. Even when they visit my home, most of them plan it in such a way that they bring major food. I have to arrange just for daal-chaawal and may be drinking water. I have many such “Free Lunches”.

What my friends in return want is: I should be happy.

Generally speaking we all do our duties appropriately: I mean they feed me and I remain happy. When one is well fed, one is happy.

Interestingly I meet lot of strangers, who have offered me “Free Lunch”.

Once I was traveling to Nagpur by Maharashtra Express. The train is ‘Express’ for namesake only as it takes more than 19 hours to reach Nagpur. I always thought it to be the worst train – but I found another worse one – worst than Maharashtra Express – that is Shalimar Express – a Mumbai Howrah train. But about it sometime later.

The train (Maharashtra Express) leaves Pune in the night at about 11.00. I had a hectic week ahead and I had just come out of another hectic week. Some work related things were becoming stressful than I could manage. I had not slept well for almost a week because I was reading an interesting book. Altogether I was tired. The train reaches Nagpur at 3.00 in the afternoon, it has no pantry car, and nothing interesting is available on the platform food stalls. I often skip eating during travels.

So, after the TT checked tickets at 11.30 in the night, I decided that I will sleep well and get up only at about 2.00 next afternoon.

So I slept. And I always sleep well.

I suddenly woke up because an elderly lady was lightly shaking me. I woke up with a start. The woman in her 60s, smiled at me. She was bit shy. “Are you not feeling well?” she asked. “Oh! I am perfectly alright,” I answered, still confused about what business she had with me. “Do you need any help? Is everything alright with you?” I asked, thinking that she needed some kind of help.

Then the woman was mischievously smiling. She said, “If you are alright, just wake up. It is already 12.00 in the afternoon and I am worried because you are still sleeping. Get fresh and come back.” I was astonished with the order. I am not used to taking orders – neither do I give orders. But anyway, I had enough sleep and thought it would be interesting to chat with this elderly woman.

The moment I was ready for a nice chat, she opened her Tiffin box, filled a paper plate with homemade food and offered me. She had two more plates – one for herself and one for her husband. I was surprised. She explained, “My daughter stays at Amaravati. She arranged to send fresh food at the platform.”

I was not comfortable with the idea of consuming food offered by strangers. I said, “Oh! Thanks and please go ahead. I am not hungry.”

On that Uncle laughed and laughed loudly which made me feel guilty. He said, “When traveling we feel more hungry. And you are younger than us; you are just like our daughter. How can we eat without you? Come, join us. You must be hungry now.”

I was touched by their simplicity. And I realized that I had my last food more than 24 hours ago. I was deadly hungry. I ate with relish. They enjoyed that scene. Uncle opened thermos and offered me a hot cup of coffee. That was ultimate luxury. I had another cup of coffee with pleasure.

Then we were properly introduced to each other – formal name, occupation etc. They invited me to visit their home at Nagpur. I accepted the invitation with a smile –knowing fully well that we may never meet again.

I can talk about at least fifty such experiences. The co-traveler, a man in his 30s; was feeding me all the way from Pune to Kanyakumari. We had interesting talk about Thiruvantantpuram, Pune, his kids, his parents, his wife, my job, my association with Kanyakumari and so on. An elderly couple: sharing homemade food with me at Hyderabad airport – we chatted about their son and grandchildren. It was their first flight, so we talked about flying experience.

So many such incidences! Sometimes I wonder that there is something written on my face that makes people (even strangers) to feed me with love and care.

In these cases, there is no prior bond, there is no expectation, there is no further relationship.. and still I am offered a “Free Lunch”. These are completely “Free” for me.

I am not sure about the social and environmental costs though!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

110. Wrong Choice

I am in a crowded market area. Like all cities, this city also has a parking problem. The area reserved for parking is never sufficient for the growing number of two wheelers and four wheelers. So, common people park wherever space is available and pray for luck. The Traffic Police van with its subcontracted young men in the vehicle moves on and picks up vehicles that are parked beyond the reserved area. I have hardly seen a traffic police in these vans.

A two wheeler is parked outside the marked area. This time a policeman is there and he orders the men in the vehicle to pick up the vehicle. He is marking the space by chalk – generally the name of the police station is written there by the police so that the vehicle owner knows where to go and pay the fine.

A woman rushes in. She has just missed it for few seconds. She pleads to the policeman. He says, “Sorry, I cannot help. Go to this place, pay the fine and get back your two wheeler.” He signals the van to move on. But those young guys choose to stay.

The woman, in her 30s is furious. She starts shouting. She complains about the lack of space for parking. Suddenly she realizes that the time is running out. She opens her purse. She takes a fifty rupee note and offers it to the policeman. It is clearly a bribe. The policeman refuses – maybe he is sincere or maybe there are many onlookers – I do not know. But the fact is that he refuses to accept that fifty rupee note. The woman insists, she pleads, she requests, she apologizes.

I can’t help taking part in the action. I politely say, “Madam, please don’t offer any bribe to him. As he is suggesting, go to that place, pay fine, get receipt and get your vehicle back. It is a matter of just 10 minutes.”

The policeman looks gratefully at me.

But the woman snubs me, “It is none of your business. Get away”. She screams at me.

Everybody around laughs at me. Even the men in the pickup vehicle laugh loudly. I feel insulted.

The loud laugh of the young men gives the woman a better idea.

She rushes to the pickup vehicle. Offers a fifty rupee note. There is some sort of negotiation. She adds two more ten rupee notes. The woman gets her two-wheeler back. She gives a triumphant look to the policeman. She turns towards me and gives me a wicked smile.

The policeman looks at me helplessly. I avoid him and turn back. I do not have the courage to share the wound of the policeman.

Another time. Another place. Another situation. Another set of people.

I am sitting in a conference hall. There are four LCD monitors for the presentation, more than three AC are running on, chairs are luxurious, everything is luxurious. There are more than 20 chairs in the conference room. But ours is a meeting of a very small group. We are just six people. The meeting is yet to start.

As is the custom, water, tea and biscuits are ordered to the office canteen. A man from canteen arrives and starts placing water bottles in front of every chair. I know that only six of us are expected for the meeting. I bring it to the notice of the concerned person.

He tells the canteen man, “We are only six. We do not need so many water bottles. Take away rest of those.”

“Sir, you seem to be new here,” the canteen man replies calmly. “This is the way things are done here. Drink as much water as you want and leave the rest to me to manage.” He smiles and moves on.

My colleague is helpless. He avoids looking at me. I avoid any eye contact with him. Both of us feel guilty. After few minutes when another colleague arrives, we feel relieved.

I know this is a clear case of corruption. For provision of six water bottles, a bill for 25 water bottles would be put forward and approved. Everybody will have his/her share in it.

However, I am helpless again. I can do nothing in this situation.


It always starts on a small scale.
Then we ignore it; sometimes due to sheer lack of pro-activeness; sometimes due to our helplessness.
It happens in our presence and we choose not to act.
We take it for granted that such small things are part of life.

When the issues of big scams come out – say 2G Spectrum, CWG, Satyam etc., we passionately discuss.
We strongly believe that the culprits should be punished.

But have we not made a wrong choice when the occasion demanded us to act? At least I have: time and again.
Similarly there would be many others who would make wrong choices and decisions even now.

The difference is never of scale.
The difference is of choice.

And I know I have not exercised my choice well when situation demanded.
I am guilty of making a wrong choice when circumstances challenged me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

109. Wishes

Sometimes I realize (fortunately) that I have strong likes and dislikes. I try not to express those, but they are somehow expressed frequently, though subtly.

For example, I don‘t like to do anything in bulk – I do it exclusively – whether writing a message or calling a person or spending time with someone. I treat every moment and every person as a special gift to me. I wish that everyone else has the same feeling about me. Alas! That is not the case. So, Deepavali time is bulk ‘wish SMS’ time. It scares me. I have written about it in an earlier post Wholesale , so won’t repeat myself.

During this Deepavalee, I just decided to enjoy ‘Wish messages’. I understand that these wishes are honest though most of them are ordinarily articulated and are sent in bulk. I received about ten standard messages – each message sent by a number of people – taking the cumulative messages to a ton. So many people remember me in good moments is a good sign. May be most people do not have time or courage to be original enough- and hence they forward what has been received. (I am doing the same here :-))

‘Wish You Happy Deepavalee’ was the most common message that I received. Some added ‘Good Wishes’ to that message.

However here are some special ones which I liked. May be you too would enjoy these.

One Acronym based message said:

This occasion gives You

D – Dhan (wealth)

I – Ishwarkrupa (God’s blessings)

P – Prasiddhi (Fame)

A – Aarogya (Health)

V – Vaibhav (again Wealth)

A – Aishwarya (again Wealth – though Dhan, Vaibhav and Aishwarya have deeper subtle meanings which are different – but let us not go into it now)

L – Lavanya (Beauty)

I – Ishwarsiddhi (attainment of God)? I am not sure of the translation

Another message was eco-friendly. It said:

“If you stop firing crackers, Show lighting on buildings by burning Oil Lamps; this Deepavalee will be definitely “HAPPY DEEPAVALEE”. This is demand of hour.. time.. era. Don’t waste our valuable resources. “

Third message was a reflective one. It said:

“One day our entire life might flash in front of our eyes. Make sure it is WORTH watching!”

Fourth message was on the same lines:

“May the outer illumination inspire us to search for light WITHIN.”

Fifth message was about happiness. It said:

“Like the fireworks sparkling in the sky, may your each day glow with joy and be bright with smiles.”

Sixth was a combo message: “A Happy, Peaceful, Safe, Joyful, Prosperous and Healthy Deepavalee”. ‘ALL in ONE’ kind of message – typically 21st Century message. We want everything instantly.

And the seventh was interesting: “Vaikunth se VISHNUJEE, Kailas se SHIVAJEE, Ayodhya se SHRIRAMJEE, Mathura se SHRIKRISHNJEE aur PRITHVI se swayam hum apko Deepavalee or Naye Saal kee hardik shubhakamanaye dete hai” (Lord Vishnu from Vaikuntha, Lord Shiva from Kailas, Lord Rama from Ayodhya, Lord Krishna from Mathura and from the Earth I wish you Happy Deepavalee and New Year.” (Now don’t ask here why Ayodhya and Mathura are not part of the Earth! You are not supposed to be logical when the intention is to make you smile!) I like this aspect of treating oneself equal to God. Why not?

I smiled at each of these messages. I thought over some of these messages. I never sent a message to anyone. Not even through email. I just called few friends, chatted with them, met some friends online – chatted with them.

Learning to accept wishes is essential element of growing with relevance. I think I moved a bit in this direction during this Deepavalee............ I am sure someone sitting in some corner must have wished me GROWTH along with happiness! Strong wishes always help us, push us forward: isn’t it?

Friday, October 29, 2010

108. Coward

Scene 1:

I am traveling with three colleagues – two men and one woman. On our way, we stop at a roadside hotel for tea and snacks. The hotel has more chairs in the open ground than inside. It is evening time. The interior of the hotel is not so good, so we prefer to sit outside in the open air. We are just wondering whether to eat anything or a cup of tea would do, bang comes a vehicle. It is black Scorpio, playing loud music. Four young men get out of the vehicle. They are chatting loudly. They pull the chairs and keep on talking – more of laughing in fact - loudly. The driver of their vehicle gets outside, leaving all four doors of the vehicle open. The music is still on – piercing everything around.

I don’t like loud music. I also don’t like insensitive people. But I do not hurry. I always believe in giving people time to settle and to understand the environment around. The music is disturbing everybody there. It is obvious from the looks people are giving to those four men. Our group is disgusted with the loudness of music. There is a hushed discussion on ‘how people do not have manners these days.’
I know there is no point discussing the issue amongst ourselves. The noise making guys do not know that we are disturbed by their music. Without conversing with them, how can we assume that they will understand what we want? Whether we want or not, dialogue is an essential part of the life. So, I get up. Knowing me well, my colleagues are aghast.

“Don’t go and say anything to them, they will not listen to you”, one of my elder colleagues almost orders me. “Let me go and request them whether they can bring down the volume of the music. No harm in requesting, at most they won’t pay any attention to me...” I try to convince my colleagues. By experience I know that if I approach people in non-aggressive manner, people generally accept the request.

“No, they don’t seem to be of the type whom you can request”, another colleague chips in.

“There are so many people around. Why you only have to go and talk to those people?” another colleague is irritated.

“Let me try at least. I don’t intend to pick up any fight with them. But I cannot sit with this loud music here…” why I am apologetic even when I am not wrong – I do not know.

“You will not talk to them. If they say something mischievous to you, I will not be able to control myself and there will be a fight”, my senior colleague reminds me again. They three make me sit on the chair. For the next half an hour we all sit there irritated, angry, frustrated. We do not enjoy our tea and our well deserved break.

Scene 2:

I am traveling from Mumbai to Ahmadabad. Until the train leaves Borivali station, there is never peace around. So, till then I compromise with the situation. After the train leaves Borivali station, everyone settles down with the luggage and silence spreads.

However today there is some noise. Some people have the habit of speaking loudly on their cell phones. May be, one of those is in the coach today. Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. Now I start getting irritated. I try to locate the source of noise. I am sitting in the 15th row and the sound is coming from the first row. I approach the first row and notice that two youngsters are watching a movie on their laptop with full sound on.
“Hello guys, the volume of the movie is really disturbing me. Could you tune it down please?” I ask politely. One man says ‘Sorry’ and immediately the noise vanishes.

When I come back to my seat, at least ten people sitting in the middle rows “Thank” me for my action. I just wonder why none of them could request those laptop guys.

Scene 3:

I am in a train again, with another colleague. A young man is sitting next to me. At one of the stations, vendors enter in the train. People purchase eatables and magazines and soft drinks. One of the passengers sitting in the next rows says something ugly to the vendor. The vendor must have so many such experiences, he just neglects that rough speaking man.

I do not know what exactly happened, but I suddenly find the next row guy abusing the young man sitting next to me. The language used by the man is horrible. He is threatening the young man. The young man is confused. He tries to argue with that abusive man. That adds fuel in the temper of that abusive man.

I look at the abusive man carefully. He is wearing fancy, costly clothes, expensive wristwatch and goggles. He seems to be educated and rich – we all are in an AC compartment. I am not sure what has provoked this man – but the language he is using is unacceptable, unacceptable in public space. I am going to try conversation with this abusive man. My colleague senses that and urges me: “Keep quiet. Don’t say anything.”

I am aware that it is night time and I how can I not know that I am a woman! But does it mean that I don’t take a stand when someone is abusing an innocent person – though I do not know that innocent person?

The abusive man is making loud phone calls. He is inviting his gang at a particular station and threatens the innocent young man again. The innocent young man is frightened now. He asks me whether shifting to the next coach would be better for him. We are talking in a low voice. I advise him to stay where he is – at least we know that he is innocent – the passengers in the next coach would not understand anything. An old man sitting in the back row is interested in our conversation. He apparently knows this abusive man. His advice to the innocent young man is: run away as fast as you can. Get away and catch another train if you can.

To me the back row man says: You please keep quiet. Don’t say anything to that abusive man.

In front of the whole crowd of frightened and confused passengers the innocent young man sneaks away. The abusive man is making another series of phone calls – describing the young man and ordering his friends to “look after the young man”.

For me, my inaction was scarier than people’s response.

Scene 4:

Delhi Metro. From 3rd October the first coach is reserved for women. Generally there are Metro persons guiding people at the platform. However, few men still find themselves in the women’s coach. Whenever I come across such men, I politely inform them to move to the next coach. Generally they accept and move on. And all the women who are sitting and standing around me say ‘Thanks” to me. But why they did not tell that man to move away?

Why am I such a coward? Especially when I am with someone? Many times I feel we are at our best when we are left to ourselves. When we are bound by the people around, we are supposed to please them, accept their beliefs and life values. This leads to many compromises, which makes us a different person altogether – forcing us to behave differently than our beliefs. So, better to be away from bondage.

We wait for someone else to take a lead – because our approach to most of the situation is that of confrontation. We assume that a fight will take place and hence we keep ourselves away from intervening. But many times you can resolve the situation by just having proper dialogue; you don’t have to be aggressive to make your point. You have to believe that the person in front of you does not know (rules, expectations, demands of the situation etc.), so make an effort to convey those.

If only I could just stop behaving like a coward, I would be able to learn more, grow more, enjoy more and live more happily.

Cowardice is the biggest barrier one has to cross to live like oneself – the greatest fulfillment one can have in this life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

107. Seed of Goodwill

I am waiting for him in front of a Mall (which he had told me) near a Metro station beyond Yamuna river in Delhi.
I am bit anxious. We had talked few times on the phone. He sounded like a person whom I can very well trust. But one never knows.
I am in unknown parts of the city, in not much familier city. It is evening time - the Sun has already disappeared beyond horizons. I have a plan to explore unknown areas with him. What if he is not a good person?

Sounds like a bollywoodish story? Too familier?
No, that is not the story. This is a different real life experience.

I meet G at the appointed time at the appointed place. He looks young but he is a family man - married and has kids. Within seconds I start walking with him. We move on to different areas. G is helping me to identify accommodation in Delhi. We move on from place to place - first in a cycle rikshaw and then walk. On the way we talk. He asks me questions about my job, my past, my hobbies, my plans. Without any hesitation I answer his questions. I too ask him about his work, his family, his hobbies. He answers those.

At the end of the house hunt, he is coming to see me off to the Metro station. I know that one of his colleagues is waiting at his office. I insist that I would go alone and he can spend time with his colleague. He invites me to his office. I go in. There is nobody except his friend. G asks his friend to bring in soft drink for us. We drink that cool liquid and chat.

I call S - to tell him that I am with G and possibly my search for accommodataion might end here.

Who is S?

I have met S only once. I was referred to him by D.

Who is D?

D; I met long back - sometime in 1996. We were part of a meeting and then he motivated me to write. Till then I was writing only scholarly articles but never about my thoughts, feelings and experiences. D was instrumental in drawing out that side of me. I wrote a series of articles for a newspaper that year - thanks to D. Incidently D was the editor of that newspaper!

Then I lost track of D. Recently when I started my Marathi blog, AbdaShabda, I posted some of the writing that was published in 1996. I rememberd D, wanted to say Thanks to him. One of our common friends connected us and we started communicating as if there was no gap.

A seed sown long back has given so many unexpected fruits to me.
I am sure it happens to all of us.
The seed of goodwill has such a long and ever expanding life! It brings surprises, it brings happiness, it brings so much joy .. and it produces many more seeds of goodwill.. that is the beauty of it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

106. Moment

Life seems to be a constant flow of moments.
Each moment is in a way independent, but collectively they make something called experience, memory.
The chain together shapes personalities, perspectives, attitudes, and the entity called life.

The moments are of despair, of pain, of joy, of happiness, of creativity of loneliness, of frustration, of passion, of detachment, of creativity, of what not.
They encompass so varied feelings and situations that it is difficult to provide an all satisfying definition or arrive at common understanding.

While living some moments, one feels that it is permanent, it will exist forever. One tries to hold on such moments. But they vanish. They disappear altogether. One cannot re-live those.

On the other hand, when one wants to forget some moments, they seem to haunt, they seem to highlight themselves. They seem to be there all the time, with more vigor every time one looks at them.

A moment has a very little life, and we give it longevity, by our choice.
A moment has a very little life, and we forget it immediately, by our choice.

The moment: when we make our choices.
The moment: when we decide how we are going to treat it.
The moment: when we detach ourselves from the past.
The moment: when we overcome pain and find ourselves a different person altogether.
The moment: when we forget and forgive.
The moment: when we do not expect anything from others.
The moment: when we cross the barriers and grow.
The moment: when we smile and move forward.

These independent moments weave together, make us and shape our life.
Like everything else around, life too is momentary.

Better to just have it. Fully, as far as it exists.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

105. Sejal’s World

I wish I could borrow Sejal’s innocence.
I wish, like Sejal I could trust all.
I wish, like Sejal I could see the hollowness of the ‘beware of’ announcements.
I wish, like Sejal I could instantly be connected with everyone around.

Alas! I know Sejal is not only that – not that I know her thoroughly. Sejal might have her fears and her worries. Sejal might have her moments of broken promises and lost trust. Sejal might have been ignored and dumped. I have lived enough to understand the ups and downs of human life. I know that every human being that we come across is a package – we cannot choose only what we like in him/her and throw away rest of it merrily. Life would have been too easy then. We have to accept people as they are – in the process live with what we do not want and do not like.
But is it the outcome of situation or of paradigm?

I can see the question coming from all of you.
Who is this Sejal I am referring to?

Frankly speaking, I do not know much about Sejal. I may never meet her again. However the impression she created on my mind will remain for a long time.

I was traveling from Patel Chowk to Hauz Khas by the prestigious and comfortable Metro. It is an enjoyable journey. Especially with a coach reserved for women makes it more comfortable even though I have to stand for 20 minutes.

At Central Secretariat Station a mother and a four year child climbed in. The child was screaming for something. The mother was looking at the child but clearly she was not listening. Her mind was somewhere else. She seemed to be in trouble. Generally children know it very well. Within seconds I realized that the child was seeking attention of the mother not for herself, but that was the strategy of the child to draw mother out of her troublesome feelings and thoughts. But the child was not getting much success and hence she was becoming more vocal.

Other women passengers instantly understood the predicament of the mother and the young child. They tried to help. Someone asked the child her name, she refused to answer. Some other woman asked the child where she was getting down, the child refused to answer. Someone asked the child whether she liked metro, the child refused to answer. The mother was standing stone faced, the child was screaming and everyone around was helpless.

Suddenly the mother spoke, “Listen, there is some announcement.”
The child was so happy that her mother spoke to her, and her face illuminated. She smiled, her eyes fully shining.

It was a coincidence that the announcer was saying, “Be aware of strangers, and don’t be friendly with them” – not exactly in these words but conveying the same meaning.

The child was excited. “Ma, where do strangers live? I want to see a stranger.”
That was very unusual demand and the mother looked helpless.
To help the mother, one woman said, “Look, I am a stranger”
Everyone around was relieved and looked thankfully to that woman for intervention.
The child gave a piercing look to that woman. She touched the right hand of that woman as if to asses whether she was real. Then the child announced the judgment: “You are aunty. You are not a stranger.”

We all were struck by the simple answer.
“But I do not know your name. You do not know my name. So, we are strangers,” the woman was quite determined and was not giving up easily.

The child felt rather insulted at this. “My name is Sejal, I am not a stranger. You are an aunty, you are not a stranger.”

Sejal looked around. She said, “She is an aunty, she is also an aunty, and there is another aunty and the one reading a book is also an aunty. Here are all aunties. No strangers.”

I wish I could be like Sejal when dealing with the world. I wish I could trust everyone around and I wish I could establish an instant relationship with everyone around.

I wish at least Sejal could do it even when she grows. Sejal has her own world, let her continue exploring the world in her own way.
Whether our system will allow that freedom to Sejal is the question.
Whether Sejal will be able to face the world alone is the question.
Whether Sejal would be happy is the question.

If Sejal can do that, even if she is alone in her world, that does not matter.
Let it be Sejal’s world.

Friday, October 1, 2010

104. Thank You!


In a way they are the most ordinary words.
They are used much more without the feelings - they are more of a formality.
For me, they are more artificial than natural.

But still they are ok, when one speaks them.
The smile that accompanies the words, conveyes the meaning deeply.
And if there is no such smile, one can easily take those words as a mere formality - a much more superficial expression to hide the real feelings - sometimes; not always!

It was just a decade ago, that I came across Computers - and mainly its three aspects - Word Document - for reports and proposals. Excel for project budgets and PowerPoint for presentations.

I liked computers. I loved the machine in fact. Got addicted to it to some extent. So, picked up it much faster than my age or intelligence normally would have permitted.

Once I came out of the addiction, I could notice the humours aspect of peopel associated with Computers.

For example, there are many Power Point Presentations with the last slide 'Thank You' written on it.
That is ok, if the presenter means it.
In the last five days, I have listened to 10 PPTs and each of them had 'Thank You" on their last slide.
But most of the times, almost always, I have noticed it that the presenter him/herself does not know that the last slide is 'Thank You' or 'Thanx' as is more fashionable these days!
The presenter goes on and on, clicks the next slide and suddenly realizes that it has nothing more to offer than 'Thanx' and then s/he says : "So, thanks."
It sounds as if the person is compelled to say those awfull words.

But why say it when you don't mean it?
Why pretend?
Why try to follow manners when you know that they are meaningless?
Why not plan what you want to say?
Why can't one speak, communicate without some such media like a slide?
Why can't it come right from the heart?
Why not not say that you don't want to say?

Why not be just yourself?
People may like you or not like you.. that is their choice.
Why our pleasure should depend upon others' choices?

Oops.. I am not going to say 'Thank You'" to you for reading this post.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

103. Missed Meeting

There are some persons whom you keep on meeting, whether you want or not. You get so used to it that you stop thinking about these people and these meetings.

There are others, whom you know, you will have to meet. You know you have no choice. So you try to keep it as short as possible. You rush through it.

Today was one of those days when I wanted to avoid meeting these two types of people. Not because I hate them, they are not worth that intense feeling, but they tend to draw you out of yourself. Today was one of those days when I wanted to be with myself. Now I am happy because I have been almost successful at not meeting any of them. This is sheer luck, nothing else.

On the other hand, there are others, whom you badly want to meet, but somehow do not meet when you need them most. You expect, you even try but somehow you cannot reach them. They either have become stranger to you or there is some kind of stress in your relationship with them. Sometimes people are simply busy; there is a distance which you cannot cover. Sometimes, the urge of meeting is not mutual. One end of the line is closed down without the other being aware of it.

There is yet another category. Some people you want to meet, but never meet. You go so near but miss meeting them. Not even a formal meeting. You like these people, you have a kind of dream of meeting them; you respect them and would take extra efforts to meet them. Mostly these people are public figures, famous people.

I once had a good opportunity to meet well known Marathi poet Kusumagraj. I adore his writing and meeting him was a life time chance.

Kusumagraj Pratishthan (Foundation) had declared a competitive examination focused on Marathi Literature. I generally keep away from competitions. But I respect and like (well, these two are not necessarily mutual feelings!) Kusumagraj so much that I thought responding to the appeal by the Foundation was the right step. If you love someone, you need to turn that into an action desired by that person. So I appeared for that examination. It was not a typical classroom examination but an open book examination. I studied different aspects of Marathi literature and enjoyed my study for months. Then within a stipulated period, the writing was to be submitted to the Foundation.

It was a coincidence that I won the first prize. I was invited to Nasik. The invitation letter said that Kusumagraj would be present for the prize distribution ceremony.

I was based in Pune then and was associated with an organization as a Full Time Activist. My colleagues from Nasik arranged organizational meeting on the same day. I was intelligent enough to understand that they had arranged it so that I could participate in the Foundation prize distribution ceremony. I was tempted to meet Kusumagraj and so I happily accepted to facilitate one day meeting.

When I reached the venue of the function, the Pratishthan people welcomed me. ‘When would I be able to meet Kusumagraj?” I asked eagerly- a bit like a child.

“Sorry, but he is not attending the function.” One of the office bearers of the Pratishthan informed me.

I was so disappointed that I lost the interest in the ceremony. I almost turned back but stopped not realizing what reason I should give for turning away from the function. I am a very transparent person and people generally can read my face easily – especially sensitive people. One of the Foundation volunteers fully understood my disappointment. He hastily added, “If you insist, we can arrange your meeting with him. But remember, for just couple of minutes because he is really not keeping well. He would not like to disappoint you like this because he has read your writing (the one that was submitted to Foundation) and he appreciated it so much.”

For a moment I was in a dilemma. Here was a chance to meet a Jnyanapeeth Award winner poet – a poet and writer whom I respected. But at the same time he was not well. He was not in a position to meet me; otherwise he would not have denied the meeting. If I insisted, he would meet me no doubt. But by troubling him in such a way, what was I going to get?

Did not his poetry and his writing always give me immense joy and happiness – whether I met him or not? Did not his words convey me what was to be conveyed? What was I going to say him when I meet? Saying ‘Thank you’ to such a great person was out of question. Except for satisfying my ego, I was not going to get anything by meeting him – when he did not want.

“It is alright. I do not want to trouble him when he is not well,” I said and attended the function till the end.

Some of my friends were very angry with me for not insisting meeting Kusumagraj. But I do not regret the decision. In its real sense, I do not miss meeting Kusumagraj. This is possible because my relationship with Kusumagraj is nurtured through his powerful words – both poetry and prose. The bridge is already functional – without personal interaction. Meeting him in person would certainly have been a memorable moment - but not meeting him never destroyed my deeper sense of his being part of my world.

Kusumagraj is always there when I want him, when I need him most.

We never met, but he has always been part of my life. I never miss him. That is such a luxury.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

102. Good Contacts

“Madam, why did you pay him five hundred rupees?”

It was almost 7.00 in the evening. Yesterday I had a hectic day – yesterday morning from 4.00 till 1.30 today morning. So, I was feeling bit tired– especially after a heavy lunch with three of my friends. I was relaxing. I was listening to one of my favorite pieces of classical music with eyes closed. And then suddenly this query is little surprising.

“Oh! Ashokjee, it was very late and your friend dropped me with great care. I am really thankful to you both”, I try to convince the speaker at the other end.

“Did he ask you for more money? Why did you pay? You should have paid only three hundred and fifty rupees. Next time, we will settle the accounts.” Ashokjee is not satisfied with my answer.

“No, Narayanjee did not ask for extra money. I paid by my choice. It was kind of you to arrange drop for me.” I try to explain. But Ashokjee is not satisfied. He insists, “Next time, we will settle the accounts.”

I have known Ashokjee just for a week – and I am using the word ‘known’ in a very broad sense. Only last Friday, I returned from a 10 day long travel (to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). When I came out at the Pre Paid Auto Booth at Pune airport, I realized that there were no auto rickshaws. Two flights had arrived at the airport at almost the same time and hence there was shortage of auto rickshaws – taxi service is not popular in Pune.

A man was standing near the booth. “Are you alone?” he asked. After I nodded, he asked “Is you baggage only this one?” I answered. Then he took my bag and took me to a rickshaw parked at a distance. Then I realized that he was not a police man but an auto rickshaw driver.

It takes about one hour to reach my home. On the way we talked. Actually Ashokjee talked and I listened. He is an office bearer of Rickshaw Drivers’ Union at the airport. He had stories to tell - of various customers, police, and other auto drivers. He had many experiences to share. I listened attentively and I enjoyed those experiences. Within minutes I realized that I was talking to a ‘good’ hearted man. We may have different occupations, but our attitude towards work matched and I felt that I was able to connect with him easily.

While dropping me at home, Ashokjee gave me his mobile number. He ensured that I store it in my cell phone. I did not want to hurt the feelings of the man: so entered the number. Somehow I forgot to delete it from my phone. I actually forgot about the whole experience.

Yesterday I went to Delhi for couple of meetings. I took 7.00 am flight to Delhi. Did my work whole day, which was more than satisfactory. My return flight to Pune was 20.50 Kingfisher flight.

Reaching to Delhi airport, it became clear that my flight to Pune was delayed. I opened laptop, connected internet and kept on working for couple of hours. At 9.00, it dawned upon me that the flight was still not announced. I realized that I would be reaching Pune after midnight. I realized that getting auto rickshaw in those hours would be most difficult.

I have good many friends whom I could call and ask me to pick up from the airport. But I did not want to disturb them without exploring other means. While checking one SMS, I suddenly saw the auto drivers’ number in the contact list. I decided to take a chance. I called him and asked whether he could drop me home after midnight.

Ashokjee confirmed. He told me, “As soon as you land, give me a call. By the time you come out of the lounge, I would be there.” I was happy with myself on this idea.

My plane landed at 12.20 early morning. I called Ashokjee. “Madam, sorry, I cannot come, but I have arranged an auto for you. When you reach Pre Paid Auto Booth, ask for Narayan. His vehicle number is 3893” explained Ashokjee. I was bit worried with this sudden change, but had no options.

When I inquired about Narayanjee outside, a tall man came forward. He asked me to wait and drove out his auto from the parking lot. On the way we talked. Again I listened and Narayanjee talked. This driver had waited for more than two hours for the arrival of my flight. He was staying at a distance of 12 kilometers from my place. He had waited because he respected Ashokjee. He felt that it was his responsibility to drop me home safely.

Honestly speaking, for a moment I was scared, especially while traveling during the lonely patch in Khadki area. Our mind can think of worst possibilities, and I thought so. I was not sure whether to travel alone in the midnight in the auto of an unknown driver was a wise decision. In the past I have come out of such situations without scratch, but that does not mean that I keep on testing my luck. I should have asked my friends to come and pick me up, or at most I should have waited at the airport till 5.00 in the morning. I was anxious, but I kept on talking.

After a few minutes of conversation I realized that I was once again lucky to meet another good man – dedicated, committed, simple, and honest. Why both Ashokjee and Narayanjee should feel obligation to ensure safe travel for me was beyond my understanding. I was touched by their act of taking care of me. They were treating me as an old friend (a family member would be a better word – suited to their personalities) and in the process they did not expect me to pay a penny more.

After reaching home, I paid five hundred rupees to Narayanjee. He hesitated. He did not accept. But I insisted. I told him to share some money with Ashokjee. For me the matter ended there. I know paying extra money was not equivalent to the value of my thankfulness towards both the men – but that much I could at least do.

And here is Ashokjee today evening, not ready to accept that extra money. He insists that he cannot take that extra money.

When everyone is running after money and those who have money are interested in exploiting others, here are two exceptional men. They honestly feel that they do not deserve hundred and fifty rupees – the extra amount I paid them voluntarily for their service. They want to return that money to me. Ashokjee calls me and tells me that values in life are more important than money.

There is no dearth of good people in this word. I have always been lucky to meet good people – and mind you, they come from all walks of life. Good people, committed people, honest people are there everywhere around. I speak to people with open mind, appreciate them and I build relationships. The credit goes fully to those simple people. I am proud that I know such men (and women). I am sure there are many more around me. Instead of focusing on bad people in life (there will be always a few!), it is better to remember good people.

If you ever want an auto at Pune airport, I suggest that you contact Ashokjee and have first hand experience of goodness. You will certainly enjoy the interaction.

I am not going to delete his number from my contact list. I need Good Contacts.