Back to Democracy !

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“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

Though I don’t agree completely with the above definition of Democracy in general but it appropriately defines the mood and expression of many people in India on the current state of democracy.

Democracy in its present form, for me, has become manifestation of immense  powers bestowed on parliamentarians and its negative effect on the interest of common citizens who are virtually forced to live a life with servile attitude. Its a sadistic story of poor implementation of contractile policies imbibed by our Constitution. Its an obscene and heartbreaking reflection of hypocritical attitude of political class who talk about patriotism, public service, sacrifice and equality in their every sentence they utter, but in reality most of them defy all social , moral and political rules and regulation with unmatched is a systematic discrimination supported by Constitution, legally.

These social contrasts are nothing but non-glamorous reflection of  ideological-hypocrisy of Indian political class legally backed by Constitution. The contrasts are so stark  that you feel angst more than excitement and can develop a dual personality. ‘Equality’  is considered a basic essence and central idea of any democratic system but our Constitution (which I justifiably disapprove of as the perfect text to follow and govern a country as big and diverse as India) is consistent in making sure that difference and distance between political/ruling class and general public increases as and when the time passes.

Who are called public/government servants in theory never exhibit the character and virtues of one in practical life. And fault is not theirs only. They are just reaping the benefits of  Monarchic Constitution. I am not an expert on the technical nitty-gritties of  the constitution least interested in the complexities of conflicting ideas which have become integral part of our Constitution through various “Constitutional” amendments. But anybody in logical frame of mind can see that this is not a proper system for welfare of people at large but only for a handful of already powerful and rich politicians, corporate, media persons, actors, and sport-stars.

We always believed as per constitution, “Democracy is the rule of people, by the people, for the people”. From no angle, the ruling system of India is for the people or by the people. In most practical sense it can be called-

‘Rule of some Powerful People/Parties, elected by weak and meek people who are either forced or influenced by power or money. 

More than the process or system of election or selection I am upset with the outcome. After this mammoth exercise of election some people, who are called MPs or MLAs, would take full control of the nation/state, drive  it and steer it to wherever they want, without being answerable to anyone but their political masters, for next five years.

My objection is mostly on two basic flaws in present system of democracy, one  is ‘Inequality’ and second is ‘answerability’. In my version of a true democratic country I would like to see PM and other so-called VIPs(what a hypocritical term in a democracy which is supposed to bring equality) be treated at par with normal citizens in all walks of life except when in their office. Imagine  home minister of India is going to office in a government car with a driver and just two guards where on traffic light we roll down our windows and can say a  ‘Hi’ to greet him. That is beautiful dream. Right? I always wonder what is the need for so much authority, power and security for constitutional posts like PM, Ministers and MPs? What fear do they have? And from whom? The same people who have elected them to power ?

And why should a person like Rahul Gandhi, like other sons of politicians, who doesn’t even hold any constitutional post, should eat into  the tax-money paid by people, for his security which cost 5.4 million INR annually to the treasury ? He is just an MP but the security he is given is above and beyond any cabinet minister or even PM. As a citizen I should have the right to inquire and decide towards which expense, tax paid by me is going to be utilized. I can’t see my tax-money being wasted for the security of an useless person. If he feels unsafe in this country, he should spend some of his money and kepp some private Guards.

There have been many incidences when because of the visit of these VVIPs, many patients had to sacrifice their life as security people didn’t let them go through the security-check and when they did it was too late. Why the hell hospitals are? To save patients or to welcome some power-thirsty politicians on an ego trip. A couple of times our PM was also involved in such cases in Chandigarh and Delhi. Is this fake security drama more important than the lives of patients? Does the life of a normal citizen cost less than the pride of PM, who is also a citizen and is elected by people only? This has to be stopped as soon as possible or it will be too late for democracy.

There are many question like this and I am trying to find answers unsuccessfully. I know I won’t get straight answers, so instead of expecting answers, I have decided to find solution of the basic problem. Once I find some of the solution, I would definitely try to put them in practice for the best of society. And that would change the destiny and direction of country. Till then we just have to put up with Democracy and Constitution.

‘Chaat’ in ‘Walmart’ !

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There is a ‘Chaat’ vendor here in Gr Noida.(‘Chaat’ is Hindi word for ‘assorted snacks’).He makes great Golgappas( ‘Puchaka’ in Bengali , ‘Pani-Puri’ in Marathi) , an Indian snack made up of wheat ,  which looks like a tennis ball , and is then filled up with mashed potato , peas and spicy water.

Yesterday , he was sad.I asked him.What happened”.He told me that “Authority people have ordered  him not to bring his stall and sell ‘Chaat’ or they will take away or destroy his stall.I asked , why ? “Because I don’t have the license to sell it” , he replied.License ? for selling snacks ? I was surprised.

Indian actors SRK and Anushka Sharma eating Golgappas in the movie 'Rab ne Bana di Jodi'

I would like to throw some light on the description of Gr Noida as a city which is unlike  any other typical Indian city.The infrastructure is new , stable and modern and surroundings are clean and green.It has biggest Golf-Course in Asia and has a brand new F-1 circuit to its disposal.It can be used as a model for integration of Industrial , Institutional and Residential areas in any city.It’s economy is dependent on Industry , Education , Real-Estate and its residents most of which are students and working class people.Though Infrastructure is world-class and would match any city of North America/Europe.But there are many gaps to be filled in local transportation with in the city.You just have to have your own car if you want to travel with in the city , with some some exception where autos are available.

A street in Gr Noida , UP , India

Sometimes the look of the city is so deserted that I feel as if I am in some American/Australian town.Its always a luxury to find some road-side vendors who sell things of daily use like vegetable , snacks and fruits at reasonable prices.I feel that most residents of city appreciate it and make best use of the opportunity provided to them.I always thought that planning of a city should always keep the welfare of its residents in mind.

But the attitude and mindset of authorities , who have the responsibility to make the city work ,  seems totally different.Here , a poor ‘Chaat -Vendor’ is earning his livelihood with hard work and serving people with good procuts and services at a reasonable prices.Then what is the problem ? Encroachment ? NO ! Because in such a deserted and open place where its difficult to find even a dog on streets after dark , encroachment doesn’t even seem a distant possibility.On a crowded Indian city , where illegal vendors disrupt the traffic , the argument of encroachment would have been valid.But  here we are talking about a city which is vast , open , clean and green and I don’t think it would be spoiled by the only vendor in an area of 2 kilometers.

The attitude and rules of Authority people smells of classicism .There is no place for poor people.If residents don’t have any objection to the presence of a vendors then why should administration authorities intervene ?Ok charge them some amount for using the public place.But then public places are are made on money of public and when public don’t have any problem why do they become overenthusiastic in dealing with a poor vendor.Just because some rules made under British India to harass Indians are still in operation.The only difference is that this time rulers are also Indians but certainly of different economic political class where , ironically , poorest minister is also a millionaire.

Its irks me to thinks that on one hand domestic vendors are not allowed to earn their livelihood with hard work , and on other hand our ‘Democratic’ government is opening the market for international biggies like Walmart and Tesco by allowing FDI in retail sector.Why this magnanimous gesture ? Further to note is that the model of ‘Farm-to-Stores’ has been fighting stiff resistance from local groceries all over the world.And here our government wants to implement this failed idea decades after it started in western world.

Time has come in India to completely change the system and the thought process working behind it.We have set new goals which resonates with the aspiration and expectation of young Indians of all class and caste.

I certainly don’t want a fake democracy where a poor man don’t have the permission to earn his livelihood.And still government say that we want to remove the ‘Poverty and “Un-Employment”.

The time has come to quote a Punjabi dialogue from a recent Hindi Movie in LOUD –

Saada Haq , Aithe Rakh ! 

Recruitment and Procurement : India Inc

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                            You can do anything but not everything.

This is the first thing I would like to tell all the high-level managers in corporate sector of India.The lack of authority and intent in decision making delays some process to the extent of extreme frustration for affected parties.Designation in Indian corporate sectors never justify the authority they are entitled to , specially when they are in the process of  making crucial decision like recruitment and procurement.

Fellow-blogger Sharell  gave some insight on the stark contrast in work ethics between India and western world on her recent blog-post.

After monitoring corporate quarters from a close distance and observing working pattern of  some high officials in big MNCs in India , I have come to conclude that  Recruitment and Procurement are very critical , complex and also most-delayed processes  in Indian corporate sector. Planning is always done in an unscheduled manner leaving little scope for any back up support in the case of emergency.Most of the procurement is done with a single agenda in mind-Price.This type of intent hardly leave any scope for quality and delivery of product or services.

The process of procurement goes through so many hierarchical channels which make vendors grasping for breath.And at every stage , the only thing asked is Discount.(Even when you have already told them that this is your final price) It seems that negotiation will never end.

The typical scenario is that after you submit your first price quotation , you would be asked for your  Final Prices by the Engineer.And after you submit your Final Prices to the Engineer , you would once again be asked for Final Prices by Sr Engineer.And after you  submit your  Final Prices to Sr Engineer , you would then be asked for Final Prices by the Assistant manager .And when you submit  your Final Prices to the assistant manager you would be asked to submit your Final Prices by Deputy Manager.And when your submit your Final Prices to the deputy manager you are asked to submit your Final Prices  to the Manager and when you submit you Final Prices to the Manager then you are once again asked to submit your Final Prices by Sr Manager.

The fun of negotiation is slowly being faded.Normally marketing people keep enough margin to distribute across three-four levels of corporate hierarchy and they actually don’t mind this painful process is going to award them order.Actually its worth the efforts , then. But just when think that everything is finalized and you start day-dreaming about the copy of purchase order , you are called again by some Deputy General Manager  to give your Final Prices. This is insane now.And every time  you think this is the last time you are being asked for the Final prices , you are proved wrong by the next higher hierarchical position in the corporate world and reminded that ‘Picture Abhi Baki hai Mere dost'(The movie is still on ! )

But somehow , as all good and bad things come to an end , this seemingly unending process of negotiation ends and vendors are made free , relieved but exhausted.Purchaser certainly gets a good deal and vendor has to adjust with minimum margin.Specially after he know that in the meantime that prices of raw material has been increased just one day after he secured order.Sigh !

Almost same process is followed in Recruitment , specially in big corporate.Its so amusing to see that an ‘urgent requirement’ takes more than three to six months to be filled up after the first interview.You are always told “We will revert back to you in a week” only to make you realize that their week consists of special days which are month long.The transparency is also wanted in these processes.HR officials should be frank enough to tell the outcome , negative or positive , of recruitment process so that prospective candidates can take their future decision.You can’t hold them forever.

I just hope that some day , distribution of power and responsibility is done according to the volume of projects so that minor projects are not wanting for the approval of high-level officials.The serial way of working in Indian corporate sector should definitely by replaced by parallel processes.

Diwali !

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There is no day (or should I say night) which looks bright , sparkling , pious , tranquil, beautiful , joyous , colorful ,  and also noisy more than Diwali.For those who are not familiar with Diwali , it is an Indian festival celebrated mostly in the northern ,and western part of India.The festival  is actually a part of month long celebrations for the victory of  Lord Rama , King of Ayodhya over Ravana , King of Lanka.Diwali coincides with the return of Lord Rama to his home city Ayodhya after defeating Ravana.On his arrival , it is believed , general public of Ayodhya lighted Diya (small pots made from soil) with Desi Ghee (Indian form of  butter) all over the city.Since then this tradition is followed and celebrated as Diwali or Deepawali.

This Diwali was my first after my marriage and very eventful.We went to buy some fire-crackers in the market , and surprisingly we found none.Nobody had an idea where we could actually get some.Consistent inquiries made to relatives and friends yielded us the answer of that question.That civic authorities has designated a big and open space for selling/buying of fire-crackers and this was the same place where Ramlila(Desi stage version of Ramayan , a Hindu Epic) took place.

That was when problem on the eve of Diwali started.Our Car wouldn’t start.We thought it to be the problem of low quantity of fuel.We did poured in 7 liters in it.Tried again.It would still not start.Then I sent my BH and sister to home by auto and called my friend.He called many car mechanics who gave tips but none worked.It was now 11:30 in the night and there was no mechanic (most have gone to their hone-town , because of Eid) and no improvement in the health of car.My mind was going to be blasted.It was a hopeless situation.

Then we saw some nice guys standing out the gate of their house.We asked them if they knew any mechanic.The cellphones started to ring well and then we were told the earliest we can have a mechanic was only in the morning.We couldn’t have waited for the morning.Also we couldn’t take the car to our home as no tow-away service was available there.We then requested the guys if we could keep my car in their empty garage.They readily agreed.We didn’t know these guys but then we didn’t have any other options.On the next morning we did go there with a mechanic and he solved the problem.Actually the switch of CNG was faulty.Damn !

Lets come to the Diwali again.It was one the few Diwali when i happened to be out of my native town in Up.But this was one of the best Diwali.Not because it was my first after marriage but because of the rangolis , food and sweets made by my wife.I fired crackers after a couple of years.So it was fun.But I was missing my parents and youngest brother , who were there in our native town.

Here are some glimpse from the celebration-

Lovely Rangoli made by my Lovely BH , can you see the 3D effect ?

I did know that my BH could make some paintings but I never thought she is able to make such an amazing piece of art.I was thrilled to see the 3D effect in the same.That was unintentional but a magical effects.

I never thought these Rangolis can be so beautiful and that I could also be so creative(The Idea of putting Diyas on round sopts was mine 😉 )

And here comes THE ARTIST , THE CREATOR !

I hope every Diwali of every person in this world is like this , colorful , joyous, bright and beautiful.

Human Brain and Emotions !

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One of the most complicated instrument of intelligence , emotions and information is Human Brain.Though God , if it exists , has endowed all  living creatures with what is essential to survive in this cruel world.But there is something which distinctively put human race above and ahead of animal kingdom.

Human Mind is too complex to be completely understood by Human Mind.

There have been great scientist and there have been great philosophers and there have been thinkers.They were surely great in their respective fields but interestingly most of them lacked a great social or familial life.That can be another topic of discussion that why Intelligence and knowledge become a hurdle in enjoying small things of life.

Emotions are , as scientist say , visual after-effects of a chemical reaction in brain. Weather these chemical reaction start emotions or emotions create chemical reactions is out of my mind.What I can confidently say that our actions are certainly affected by these Emotions , or ‘Chemical reaction’ , if you wish to say like that.

Emotions and Actions are in a cycle.Actions incite emotions and emotions provoke Actions.But where and how does our mind come in to the  scene?Is it possible to control our emotions and there by control our actions ? In theory it seems possible to control our emotions.But then who is going to do this task for us? Obviously our own brain.Here is the most interesting part.We want to control our emotions , which are residing in our brain , using our own brain.I think that is a Paradox.Its like asking one to hold  left hand with ones left hand.Totally impossible.

That is when things get become interesting as well as complex.A process  which seems impossible in the case of hand is actually possible in the case of brain.We can actually control our emotions arising out in our brain by using another part of brain.For normal human being ,  its very difficult to make his/her brain in multitasking manner.But it used to be a routine task for the ancient Yogis(sages) of India. To make your thought process more rational and positive we should let our emotions flow freely and then observe them.And when we can observe our thoughts and emotions clearly then it become easy to eliminate the negative thoughts using our conscious and rational part of the brain.Its like a process of filtration.The key is to throw out the residual negativity instantly forever.

When all negativity is out of our mind , the natural flow of oxygen to our brain increases resulting the generation of positive thoughts and the process continues.

When something or someone hurt us using words as weapons which are negative in nature then its actually nothing but chemical reaction in two minds without anyone actually affecting each other literally.In an ideal situation it must be very easy to be normal and forget and forgive who has hurt us considering that the actual cause and reason of hurt , chemical reaction , has actually subsided.

But things sometimes are not so Ideal or Simple.I am surely discussing these things because I have actually been  reason for the chemical reaction in brain of other person , recently.Don’t know when it would subside.Or would never subside just like a chain reaction.

Oops! ‘US’ did it Again

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“To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.”

Though India and America are playing good friends for a while but they haven’t been natural allies in the the history of  both countries. American policies towards India have always  been influenced by two critical factors.One , India’s relation with Russia.Second, India’s relations with Pakistan. America’s relations with these countries have been continuously changing  the power equation in world and in south Asia.

With the rise of China, Indian, Brazil, South Africa and other developing countries and the fall of some European economies, It is evident that world is not not going to be same forever. But at the same time, traditional power centers like America are not going to accept this inevitable truth. They would continue to behave in the manner as if they own the Planet Earth.

Diplomatic protocols’ are the reflection of quality of the relation of two countries. These protocols are defined in such a clear and  precise way, by both parties, so that even the minute possibility of diplomatic blunders can be removed. Records of America on the issue  of “Diplomatic Blunders” is abysmal. These two countries have been involved in a number of incidences which temporarily strained relations for a brief period of time.

Does he look like a 'Terrorist' ?

The latest case was related to the frisking of India’s Ex president and renowned nuclear scientist APJ Abdula Kalam. Normally I take the violation of diplomatic protocols as either the over-enthusiasm of concerned official or the ignorance of norms. But this case was example of total disrespect to a person who has served a country at highest level.Come on, you are dealing with an Ex president of India, the largest democracy in the world.

But how can we expect a basic courtesy from a country which invades countries on hypothetical ground as and when it wish, without any reason and provocation, and kill innocent people and eliminates presidents of their country.

Here is what happened at JFK Airport on 26th Sept , 2011

Sources said after Kalam had taken his seat in the aircraft, officials of the JFK Airport came inside and said they wanted to check the former President once again, which was strongly protested by Air India authorities.

However, the airport authorities were adamant about searching the passengers again, the sources said, adding Kalam did not protest.

“Later, they took away his shoes and jacket much to the dissatisfaction of the Air India authorities.However, they returned them later,” the sources said.

Its very clear that it was more than just a political blunder. US airport officials seemed to have some issue with either him being a Muslim or his being an India.Otherwise what they wanted to prove when  they, even after being told by flight officials that he is an ex-president of India and is exempt from security screening, took his shoes and jacket away. Seriously they need some training on social and political behaviors.

This is not the first time American Officials behaved like a bunch of schoolkids who insists on having a confrontation , and I am also very sure it is NOT their last. But every time they behave like this, Indian government lodges a strong protest and then America express its “Deep Concern and Regret” for the unfortunate incidence and the case is closed. No actions against guilty officials .

Fine , the case must be closed once for ever. No more protesting.Just give them the taste of their own medicine.

I suggest next time when US president and other dignitaries visit India they MUST be told to fall in line with other commoners. I think that would be biggest lesson we can take from US and say thank you to them for the Idea.

I know that is not going to happen in near future as the political will of current set of leaders in India is misdirected at each others only. We need  leaders of caliber of Indira Gandhi who can talk to Americans in their face.

Attack the ‘Idea’ not the ‘Person’ !

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There was very interesting and engaging discussion on fellow blogger Sharell’s Blog .It sound so noble and nice not to attack a ‘person’ but his ‘Ideas’.Just like what Hindu Scriptures , Gautam Buddha , Jesus Christ and later Mahatma Gandhi taught us that ‘Hate the Sin , not the Sinner’.This idea is as much difficult to follow practically as much easy it is to preach theoretically.

How are you going to deal with a person who is acting violently and could harm you?. How would you save yourself from his ‘Idea’ of  violence and contain him.That makes it a very complex issue.There were some strong opinions of the  view that it (‘Sin and Sinner’ thing) was  ‘essentially’ a western Idea which may have originated from the teaching of Jesus Christ.I wouldn’t go in the credibility of that claim as it is not something I am keen to discuss.Wherever and whenever this idea  have generated  but my objective is to explore its practicality and application in real life.

Try telling a lady , who has been exploited , to separate the  idea of ‘Exploitation’  from the ‘Exploiter’ and see her frustration.

Try telling a man , who has been robbed , to separate the idea of ‘Robbing’ from the ‘Robber’ and see his facial expression.

Try telling a man , who has been cheated , to separate the Idea of ‘Cheating’ from the ‘Cheater’ and then see his desperation.

Obviously its not easy.And then ‘Ideas’ are nothing but the ‘Lingual-Nomenclature’ of the action of a person.So ,  can we absolve a  person from the the responsibilities of his action.Is it possible or even justified ? So who came first , Ideas or People ? Can Ideas exist in isolation ? No.There are people and that is why Ideas exists.If people cease to exist , Ideas will perish.

Lets check how western world actually apply the western or christian ideas of ‘Hate the Sin , Not the Sinner’.

Is it possible to hate the “Idea of  ‘Terrorism”, not the ‘Terrorist’ ? People would detest me if I say that I hate terrorism but I don’t dislike Daud Ibrahim.Are western countries following this very idea which is considered an inherently western or more specifically Christian by themselves ? Did America , a western and majority Christian country , ever tried to  dislike the ‘Idea of Terrorism’ and find its basic reason and ultimate solution ? NO ! Rather it looked individuals as its enemies ,  be it Saddam Hussein or Osam Bin laden or recently Muamar Qaddafi.

America unapologetically killed 1,36,000 innocent people in the warzone of Iraq and Afghanistan and changed the world forever.It spent a monstrous 1 trillion dollar in the war against terror and spoiled its own economy.I am not sure how western world is following the Idea propagated by Jesus Christ ?

And still , it is said the this idea of ‘Hating the Sin , not Sinner’  is alien and foreign to India and familiar to Western people.I would like to tell them politely the very same thing which  Abhishek Bacchan tells everyone in a mobile Ad-   That

Get an Idea , Sir Jee !

Rome wouldn’t let me go

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We were very happy that we actually happened to celebrate our first valentines day after marriage in Rome , Italy , the country of Saint Valentines.It wasn’t actually easy to plan this trip.Europe is very expensive and for a middle class Indian , like me  , to visit Europe  is actually a big financial adventure or should I say misadventure.But did I ever care for money?Never .My logic in life has always been to enjoy the life at present. Who knows , “Kal Ho Na Ho”. 🙂

As renowned Hindi Poet Rahul Sankratyayan wisely said –

सैर कर दुनिया की गाफ़िल , ज़िन्दगानी फिर कहाँ 

ज़िन्दगी गर कुछ रही तो , नौजवानी फिर कहाँ 

The Twist in the tale was that it was becoming more difficult to leave the Rome than it was to come here.You know the reason  in no time if you decide to waste your precious time in reading further.

After having a great day on 14th Feb , we had a great night also 😉 , we had sound sleep.When we woke up , the only thing in our mind was to get our self ready as quickly as possible and reach the station at time.our train to Venice was at 10:30  , that would leave from Termini.I don’t know what made my wife to insist that we took our breakfast in the hotel before leaving for the station but it was a decision which was going cost us a cool 40 Euros and good two hours, I will tell you Why and How-

After finishing our breakfast we headed to the station.I don’t know why but that day frequency of buses was lower than normal.I could sense that it was going to be a tough task to catch the train.Finally bus came.We took the bus and then reached the Metro Station.After disembarking from the bus , we were literally running to board the first available train standing on platform.And we did it.Train started to move and so our Race against Time.Every time train halted at stations along the route , I would push it and pray for it to move fast.And better it doesn’t stop at all. 😉

After a round of  increasing heartbeats and nervous moments , we reached the station. Great ! I took a deep breath.It was just 10:20 AM and train was standing right there at the platform.We were so happy that we could now enjoy our first journey in high-speed EuroStar trains.The reason behind this apparent curiosity was that our Eurail Pass , including reservation , was actually worth more than what we paid for return Air- tickets from Delhi to Rome for two. Facility of Eurail Pass can be availed only by non-European people.Another annoying thing is that we can purchase a second-class Pass only if our age is less than twenty-six year old.If we are above that age-limit then we have to buy only a First-Class Pass.The price difference between these two class are great but only a subtle difference in the luxury and facilities.May be only a glass of juice and two cookies extra.

We went up to find our compartment.That was not a very tough task.First class coaches are generally just behind the engine.So an effortless search.We took our Eurail-pass in the hand , showed it to the Ticket-Collector at platform.He had a look at it and then told us to get it validated.For those who are not familiar with how system works in Europe then I would like to tell them that a travel pass has to be validated by railway officers , generally by stamping and signing so that you can’t misuse/reuse that.You also have to fill the current date before boarding the train.If that is found empty , you have to pay a hefty fine , perhaps twice the price of ticket , I am not sure.

Now starts the not-so-noble way of  Rome to express its affection for us.TC gentlemen told us to get our ticket validated from the Customer-Care Service failing which it would cost us Euro 20.(Though it was written on Eu-rail website that we could also get it validated on the ticket counter ).Just ten minutes were left before the train would leave.I rushed to the customer care counter.There was a small que.I was on the third or fourth position.It took five minutes to reach inside the cabin and another five minutes to explain the situation to the lady inside.But she was probably not getting it.And time was running fast.Sensing that I was running out of time , I literally came out from cabin and ran towards the platform without getting my pass validated.I could see the train moving slowly and I couldn’t do anything.

We missed our FIRST and also the FIRST train in Europe.

Not only did we miss our train , we also lost the validity of our reservation ticket which was valid only for that specific train.Next train was an hour later at 11:30 AM.Another problem arose when I went to book the reservation for next train.Lady at the counter told me to use the automatic ticket-vending machine.If machine could do everything why the hell she was there ? I am very good with machines but my problem was the language.Home screen was in Italian and I wouldn’t know where to touch or press the screen.One time I almost went correctly till it was the time to PAY and I didn’t know how to use the Euro currency notes for cash payment to the machine.It was frustrating.I asked some people around if they knew “English” or would they help me in booking my reservation but unfortunately most of the people present there were ‘foreigners’ .I asked the security officers on duty to help and they proved to be just a better ‘dressed and looking’ extension of our Indian police.In fact Indian police officers are better , at least for me , as they know the  languages which I can understand.

Now came the most interesting part of this interesting scenario.One local old aged man came and ask for money when I was trying to book my reservation through the machine.I had first ignored him.Then I got an idea.I asked if he knew English.Surprisingly he knew.Then I asked for help.He , not surprisingly , knew how to book a ticket and pay through the machine.I gave him one Euro.He asked for more.I hesitantly gave him one more.Two Euros were given as consultancy for booking a Twenty Euro Ticket.A real big deal.

Having booked our reservation ticket solved one of our problems.Another more important thing was to get our ticket validated.I once again went to the customer-relation block and then got myself in a que.This time it had more people waiting to get in.I was at sixth position.As it was just 10:55 now and my train was at 11:30 so I was relaxed.People were taking more time inside the cabin or as I found out when entered that only one lady was handling all the people.Another man who was supposed to be there was no where to see.Well , I got inside a good 15 minutes before the departure of my train.I explained everything to the lady present there.And much to my shock and horror , she told me that I was at wrong place and I should have been at ticket counter to validate my pass.(Surprisingly TC had told me to go to Customer-Care Service earlier).I was still holding my anger.I rushed toward the ticket counter and then I was disheartened to see that there was a huge line at all the counters there.There was no way I could have validated my pass if I follow any of those lines.So I tried to get help from the person who were at the front in the lines.One cute girl actually understood English and tried to help me but at that time it was around 11:25 so even if I happened to get my pass validated instantly I would have missed my train as it would take more than five minutes to reach the train from ticket counter.So , I simply gave up. I , justifiably fuming , started walking toward train.When I got to see it, It was still halting.After ten second it started to move and I could once again do nothing.

We  missed our SECOND  Train (but not last 😉  ) in Europe.

Once again our One Hour and Twenty Euros were wasted.This time , I was going to be very firm and strict with pathetic , ignorant and lazy Italian train staff.I had never missed my train in India because of such silly ignorance or arrogance of train staff.Thing , somehow take a positive turn in the last hour.Though at their own pace.I was very upset.I once again booked reservation ticket for the next train which was to leave at 12:30 am.I once again went to customer-service counter so that I could tell them my problem that I had already missed two trains of mine and as there is big que at ticket counters so if they could help me or not.This time I got to talk to a guy aged around 48-50 and explained my sympathetic situation.He listened carefully and then simply asked for my pass , stamped it and filled up the dates of  journey.And that’s it.I was cursing the lady earlier who refused to do this simple task by herself and sent me to ticket counter.Either she was ignorant and lazy or she was intentionally behaving in this manner.I could never know.But I made sure that she was made aware of what she did to me.I complained to the officer about her , though in a polite tone.I didn’t make a scene but it wasn’t anything which people present there could ignore easily.

Finally , I had my pass validated , reservation tickets and plenty of time to catch the train.

Good bye , Rome !

Romance with Rome !

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It has been long since I posted on this Blog.I was actually very busy in my professional  life that I hardly found time even to access internet other than for work.Now , I can spare some time for this blog from the busy schedule and would try to complete the series of  travelogue about Europe ,which I started.

Saint Valentine receives a rosary from the Virgin

It was 14th Feb.Ah ! Valentines Day.I don’t have any special memories of it as I was always single and happy. 😉 Though I remember a small incident from our college days.It was a beautiful and sunny day  and I was in my mechanical Lab for the end-semester practical exams.Yeah , everybody was cursing the scheduler of University for that.There was only one girl(The only visible proof of his/her  being girl was that we KNEW she was a girl 😉  ) in our branch.She came to me and asked which day it was. “Wednesday” or “Thursday” ? I don’t know what prompted me to say that  but I replied , “Umm , Its Valentines Day”. She smiled and disappeared.Before your smart brain start working , I would like to say that she was not the type of girl any guy would like to be linked in romantic way, for the reason I mentioned above , and I , absolutely NOT ! If she is  reading this , “Sorry” !  😉

Anyway , I was talking out our second day in Rome , Italy which happened to be Valentines Day also was one of the memorable in our life.After having breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we headed off to the Bus-Stand.And then , once again , traveled without ticket on the Bus(Not our Fault , its just we didn’t know how to buy tickets 😉 to the metro station.After reaching  the metro station Euro-Fermi , we boarded the train and got off at Piramide station.From this station we had to catch a train which would take us to Ostia-Antica , Ruins of an old city in the neighbor hood of Rome. The train which goes to Lido operates on the different line from metro but come under the same administration and our Roma-Pass is allowed to use on that also.After animatedly  inquiring with at least ten locals we finally found the right train.We entered in the train and took the last possible seat in the compartment , so that staring from the locals could be minimized.(Yes , as the only Indian couple in around the Rome at that time of year , we were stared a LOT. ) Train compartment had very basic infrastructure.Sitting option with two row seating with every row having two benches which could accommodate three persons each. But train was almost empty.Some young school-going couples were utilizing the time and privacy to the full of their romantic fantasies.They were smiling , giggling , hugging and kissing each other in a cyclic manner.

It was kind of cute and very beautiful.I find the sight of couples being cozy with each other very beautiful.No , it has nothing to do with voyeurism but plain liking for romanticism.And I was observing it in a way that they don’t get bothered or conscious , but they were frequently seeing towards us and smiling.We  smiled too. They were , I think , acknowledging my presence. And that was when an aged guy , dressed in a suit and looking neat and clean,  came and sat in the front of us.He was looking fine to us till he started staring at us un-apologetically as if he had some issues or thoughts in his mind.Then he opened his mouth and said some words.I didn’t understand , they were in Italian. He repeated those words.I said “English” , “English” ! Obviously , He didn’t know English.I doubt even if he knew that English was a language in his part of world.. I ignored him but he continued to bother me and kept blabbering something in Italian.I just kept seeing in his eyes with an expression “Dude , when are you going to Shut up , or should I just stick your mouth with Feviquick ?” And then he became silent for a moment and then shouted ‘India’ , ‘India’ in a questioning gesture of hands pointing towards us. Yes , we said.He started speaking in loud voice so that anyone at the end of coach can hear it  and started shouting “Kashmir” , ‘Kashmir”.Obviously this guy either had big issues with India or with Kashmir.Or , may be he was plain curious.Till this time , many passengers had boarded the train and it had upgraded from ‘Almost-Empty’ to ‘Almost-Filled’.

The biggest surprise for me was nobody seemed to concern that an old man was verbally stalking to tourists, who don’t understand Italian. No, I didn’t want anyone to intervene.But I expected them to be AWARE and ACKNOWLEDGE what was happening around them.But most of people sat in their seat as if they were Blind , Deaf and Dumb ! No offense meant , but sometimes  ‘some’ Europeans act very “Robotic”  and “self-contained” (I know they call it their “right-to-privacy” ).After failing to fetch any response from me , he became silent and comfortable in his seat and imagination.He started talking to himself .He was visibly very upset and if that is what doctors say ‘psychological problems’ then I sympathize with such old people and pray God to make them healthy.

As train started to move leaving behind the city of Rome , we also left behind the irritating experience with oldman as he got off from the train after two station.People are same everywhere , I got to know.

We reached the ‘Ostia-Antica’ station which was in the midst of a very calm , peaceful and very green surroundings.It was a small town or should I say Village.Very small station.It reminded me of  small station in UP when I used to travel between Kanpur and my native town on holidays by train.The obvious difference was  the number of people present at station.

My Wife at Ostia Antica

We had gone to Ostia Antica to see the ruins of an ancient city predating the Roman Empire.Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia that was the location of the harbor city of ancient Rome , which is approximately 30 km to the northeast. “Ostia” in Latin means “mouth”. At the mouth of the River Tiber Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 km from the sea.The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.

After we came out of station , we saw a Snack-Bar(This is the term for a Fastfood/Restaurant in Italy) just in the left front of station.There was no person out there except the owner of Bar.We decided to est something there.We went there and started scanning what was available to eat.And then a very funny incidence happened.As we asked the owner if he had something vegetarian for us , he spoke something in Italian and pointed toward a poster on the wall behind him.I thought it was a Menu but when I came nearer , I was actually a calendar.I was still to figure out what did he want to convey to us.We asked for vegetarian food and he is showing us Calender , but WHY ? Are there some specific days in Italy to have vegetarian food ? Absolutely Not !

He was  saying Lunedi , Martedi , Mercoledi , Giovedi , Venerdi , Sabato and  Domenica  alternatively and would point in the calender( for those who don’t know these are name of days of a week in Italian Language )

After much of brain-storming with  the gentlemen I came to the conclusion that he actually wanted to convey us that ‘Ostia-Antica’ site  , for which we went there , was actually closed that day and he was telling us the days on which it is closed and remain opened. Damn ! we won’t be able to see what  we have come to see  all the way from India to Italy.

We as Indians  looked like clueless tourists to him , so instead of  answering my question if he had any vegetarian things , he instead choose to tell us that we have actually come at the right place but on wrong time. But then , we wouldn’t believe him and after sitting for a while on the chairs out side the bar , we proceeded to actually see and then believe if the ancient site was REALLY closed today.

It’s not that we didn’t  believe local gentlemen but It was because of communication gap that deep in my heart I was telling myself to go and check by our self.We did go there and found that uncle ji was right in suggesting how we had missed an important link in otherwise impeccable plan. Timing is very important , indeed.

We then went back to the station and boarded another train towards the only beach near the city of Rome , that is , Lido.To get to Lido we first had to get off at the station , Columbus.And from there we boarded a bus which would take us on the road in front of the Lido beach.After disembarking from the bus , as we were feeling hungry , we went straight to a superstore and bought some cakes and bananas.We proceeded to the beach eating bananas and cakes.On the way , we found a big empty park with a some benches and Jhoola(rope-rides , is what you say it in English ? ) in the middle.We went there in the middle , sat at the Jhoola and started swinging our self in the air holding our hand firmly on the rope.It was kind of nostalgic for us , and also strange.I used to swing in this kind of rides at our old home in UP  and now I was re-enacting that childhood activity  in a foreign land , 5000 km far from India.And when we got bored or tired of what we were doing then we got off from the that and sat on the on one of the two benches which were available nearby.

It had  just been  five or ten minutes after we sat on the bench just in front of ride we saw an old lady following her cute dog.That doggy was very naughty.He came straight to us and started licking our feet.My wife screamed out of fear.I was laughing and teasing her.By this time old lady came near to us.She was watching  us in a very strange way as if she wanted to say something to us which she was not very sure about.My wife then broke the silence and asked her if she knew English. Inquiring about the knowledge of English was the first thing we used to do before starting any communication in Italy.She said “Yes , a Little Little”.After formal greetings , she came on the point very quickly and informed us that the seat we were sitting on was her ‘Unofficially-Reserved-Seat’.We offered to vacate the seat but she insisted that we remain seated there.Actually she was acting like a typical Aunty Jee of India.Her intention was just to let us know that the seat belong to her and and that she was actually doing a favor to us by letting us sit on it.Another similarity between India and Italy to draw ! ?

 We sat there for half an hour talking to each other in most romantic and doing some *naughty* things over there before we left the park for the beach.Beach was just across the Road.Crossing the road was not very difficult as there was actually a pedestrian crossing there.After crossing the road , we got the see the huge sea.We weren’t actually on a beach but on the side of a road which was separated from the beach by a metal railing.Along the road there was many beach-side bars and restaurant which we , unfortunately , closed as this was winter there.It was mildly cold there.we sat there watching the vast amount of water in front of our eyes holding hand and saying nothing.Leaning on the railing was a couple who were very young , energetic and obviously romantic.They were enjoying their valentines day to the full.We were sitting there on a bench.I was wearing a jacket which I removed and now I was wearing just a pair  of jeans and a cotton shirt with arms folded.It was ten degree and is quite cold by Indian standard and may be even Italian standards.And that is why few people who were present there were looking at me as if I am an alien as they all were either in heavy jackets and/or in overcoats.After some more romantic moments , we left the place and went straight to the bus stand which was just across the road.That was literally a deserted place.Two buses came and left.We were not sure which bus to board.Then came our rescuer.A mid-aged woman.We smiled at each other.And then she said something in Italian. “Coppia Bella”. What ? , we asked. Beauty , beauty .. both .. , she said in broken English..for those who don’t know English she was actually saying “Beautiful Couple.Then I asked her about the bus which would take us to Columbo station.She didn’t understand.She said , “Italiano”.She probably wanted us to know that she only knew Italian language.We then left our hope with English and started speaking in Hindi. 😉

We did have some interesting discussion in our respective language.She kept talking in Italian and I kept talking in Hindi and my wife kept laughing for whole.Though , we still didn’t get to know which bus to board but we then decided that we would board the very next coming to this stand.And we actually did.After reaching at station we boarded the train and changed at Piramide station to proceed to Termini.

'Whining' Woman 😉

Wow , It was evening of Valentines Day in the Saint Valentine’s own country on our honeymoon.It couldn’t be better and perfect than this.Really.I insisted on giving my wife a big bunch of rose which was available in the market but she became emotional and said that you brought me here in Italy on this  special day which is celebrated for Love and it can not be compared with anything in the world.I then decided to have a dinner in a good restaurant.We , after roaming around and checking with the menu , price and ambiance  , decided on a decent restaurant with a decent menu.We had pasta , bread , pizzas and some wine.It was most romantic dinner I could ever have.

We reached at hotel and went into the relaxing mode to recharge our self only to unleash our touristic and romantic vandalism in the floating city of VENICE.

Good Nite , Rome !


Beggars , Buskers and Hookers !

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Having lived most of my life in India , I am used to seeing abject poverty in India’s Urban and Rural areas.The only difference is that in Urban areas  Poverty , Opulence and Beggary co-exist but in rural areas, in spite of poverty , begging is less visible than cities.May be because people are supportive to each other or because of  lack of long-term donors.

Whatever , but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have to confront unfortunate sight of degradation of human dignity in  highly developed part of world like Europe.I think that was my ignorance of realism in practical world.

Buskers at Roadside

My first such encounter was when I was travelling in metro between Euro-fermi and Termini Station in Rome , Italy. On Piramide station , one good-looking girl with fairly good dressing boarded the train.Then came her belonging which , on first sight , was looking like a trolley-bag but it was actually a music system with karaoke facility.She assembled and synchronized the music-data with output and then she was ready to “Perform”. I was completely shocked , not because it was a new thing for me but I didn’t expected it to be in a new and developed land.

Then there was this man on the traffic light who wore nothing but an underwear in such a cold evening and then I was totally convinced that problems of mankind are universal and uniform in the world.

Attention Sign Boards

Another surprising and interesting thing was the response of police to tackle hookers.They have actually installed signboards to make people aware about them who will pop out from the trees on highways and start selling their services.

Welcome to Italy !