Let the collective wrong increase; I tried my bit!

A colleague in our office needed a proof of residence letter for opening a new bank account. We have a standard letter ready that states that as per our records, the person is staying at the address mentioned. Before signing, I checked the letter, as I normally do. It mentioned ‘5th Miel’ in the address so wrote an email to the colleague asking him if this was a typo.
I also happen to be aware of the area that surrounds our office and know that 4th mile, 5th mile of the National highway are treated as landmarks here and are part of the postal address description. The reply to my email was ‘Miel is correct’.
Not to give up so easily, I again mentioned that it needs to be 5th Mile and asked if there was any reason why it is Miel. Pat came the reply – That is how it is mentioned on the Aadhaar card of the landlady!
Here one mistake was giving rise to another but my colleague was insistent that he wanted ‘Miel’ in his address and not ‘Mile’. The wrong Aadhaar card entry was going to create a wrong address on his Bank account. I tried stopping it but failed.
May be a small point but I think is it important. Is this not how collective wrong starts?

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The sound of silence

The large room is white. There are pointed triangular foam-like pyramids arranged in rows on the ground in perfect symmetry. They appear to be extending up to the horizon. The horizon has a bluish tinge and it blends into the overhead white ceiling. We stand on the platform that runs along the length of the room and observe. There is no sound at all. We are all requested to be silent. Occasionally when we move about, our clothes rustle. We try and step around lightly. The entire room is filled with silence. The ears search for a stimulant – a hum of silence that is around us.
This is a Synthetic desert. The artist, in his search of a real desert experience, has created one in the midst of NYC – on the topmost floor of The Guggenheim, to be precise. A group of five are allowed at a time to experience the desert landscape. Age-wise, our group covered a wide range of young enthusiastic teenager boy to an old lady who preferred to carry the foldable chair that was offered. We were asked to leave our belongings outside and enter this zone of silence for ten minutes.
I did not know what to expect when we entered the room behind three large doors. I was bracing for a dead heavy silence.
What I got to experience was something else. I could hear the sound of silence. It was a humming sound, low, pulsating and soothing. My ears were not straining to hear a note, they were at ease with the lack of any sound. My eyes were scanning the silent landscape after getting adjusted to the whiteness and the sharp edges of the pyramids. I scanned the seemingly unending horizon and saw its bluish tinge getting mixed with a pink one. I had anticipated getting bored and uninterested in those ten minutes but I was wrong. I felt alert yet relaxed. Ten minutes were over rather quickly but this unique experience will remain with me for a long time!
If you are a museum lover then count on NYC to offer a unique experience.

Here is the link to the exhibition https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/doug-wheeler-psad-synthetic-desert-iii-1971

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The Highline: oasis in midst of a bustling city

How do you create an oasis in midst of a bustling city such as NYC? The Highline has the answer.
An old abandoned freight train railroad has been repurposed in Manhattan with great success. It attracts locals and tourists in large numbers and provides an elevated landscape garden experience that is a great example of urban people friendly development.
There are quite a few points that are noteworthy about this 1.5 mile long linear park. Friends of The Highline is an NGO that has championed this project and these friends maintain it spectacularly. On a bright sunny day, you will find people walking, jogging, pushing babies in strollers in this park. You will find people sitting on the benches or leaning by the railing taking in the NYC skyline. There are walking guided tours that attract many tourists. Standing on The Highline, Lady Liberty can be seen at a distance to the north. The famous NYC skyscrapers are all around.
On The Highline, myriads of plants in different colors and foliage surround you. There is grass between the wooden sleepers that form the base of The Highline and then shrubs and plants in raised beds turn The Highline into a garden. It is obvious that the all-weather flora is carefully chosen by landscape gardeners. There are interesting art works and installations around.
I love exploring cities on foot. I don’t mind walking, sometimes for hours to take the city in. A view from The Highline gave me a wonderful perspective of NYC, not only of the buildings and roads; but also of the will power of its people who have successfully created a spectacular garden amidst the concrete structure.
You don’t need to pay anything to visit the Highline, it is free for all! What more can we ask for?!

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Relationship manager

Honestly, I did not know I had been assigned one until she called.
“I’m your relationship manager in the bank”, she said introducing herself. I’ve a simple salary account with the bank and since last year I have embraced net banking and mobile banking so I really don’t need any manager providing me any service. I told this to the relationship manager. Yet, she persisted. She said that once a year she needs to have a face to face meeting with the client and so could she just take few minutes of my time? I agreed reluctantly.
Before the meeting she sent me a message telling me that she can also tell me about attractive investment options. I am as direct as they come, so I immediately shot back a reply saying that I did not want any investment advice, attractive or otherwise. ‘OK, in that case can we reschedule our meeting for later?’ she asked. I did not need the meeting in the first place so I was glad to cancel the meeting.
Two days back she again sent me a message with the same request – need to meet as we have to meet the client at least once a year. ‘OK’ I said. We agreed on a date and time. Then came a message that she would also like to discuss about balancing float. I had to Google ‘float’ to decide if I need its balancing. The answer was a clear ‘no’. So again I shot a reply back that I am not interested in any balancing act. Sure enough, the relationship manager’s reply was quick and unsurprising, ‘Can we cancel the meeting?’!
I have not met the relationship manager. I have kept my relationship with the bank to a minimum. Glossed over sales tactics leave much to be desired. I know that any service comes with a fee in the business world. In which case, why not treat the service as such and get rid of words such as ‘relationship’ and ‘khayaal apka’ i.e. thinking of you? Am I being cynical or do you also feel the same way?


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An air-conditioned nightmare

The two high rise towers are almost ready. They are dark, unattractive looking highly priced houses that are fully air conditioned. Right from the moment you enter the lobby, you enter an air conditioned cocoon. The lobby, the lift, the common areas and of course apartments are centrally air conditioned. That means the glass clad towers have no windows to let the elements in. two_towers
The sunlight comes filtered in through the dark glass into the house. No breeze, dirt or dust can enter the house. No smells of the city. Wonderful luxury? More like an air-conditioned nightmare, to borrow the title from Henry Miller.
Auto immune diseases are said to be on the rise because children and adults are not getting normal and healthy dose of exposure to infections. No cuts, bleeds, bruises, twisted ankles or stubbed toes. No siblings to scratch, shove, pinch or pull hair. No sweat and no chills. No ants, cockroaches or flies in the house. No exposure to sunlight or rain. No getting hands and feet dirty in mud.  If this is how life has become then surely the immune system will go to sleep and refuse to wake up.
Pune enjoys good weather almost all year around. Yes, the summers are getting hotter and air-conditioning is becoming necessary in the summer months. But barring those days, there is nothing more refreshing than letting the elements in the house. The morning sun and evening breeze are still rejuvenating. The rains in the yards, balconies and terraces are wonderful.  View of the trees, flowers, clouds and rainbows without a glass partition in between are delightful. Sounds of chirping birds are reassuring and occasional thunder storm is frightening yet exciting and desired.
The dark towers will get occupied by prosperous families and might become the coveted address for upwardly mobile few.  If you are someone like me, we are just never going to understand the so called luxury of living in an air-conditioned capsule.  Lucky us!

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Tungnath and Chandrashila peak

I have been a typical city slicker and a laptop carrying desk worker for many years. ChandrashilaWhen the idea of a Himalayan trek was floated by a friend, the dormant adventure seeking part of me decided to grab the opportunity. Before doubts and second thoughts could set in, I had registered for the trek, done the travel bookings and started packing my rucksack. Now, having completed the trek and feasted my eyes and soul on the Himalayas, I am highly recommending this experience to all.chaukhamba
Day 5 is literally the high point of the trek because we reached the highest point – 12080 feet to summit the Chandrashila peak. The entire Gangotri region of the Himalayas with its magnificent glory stood in front of us. The peaks of Meru, Sumeru (the shark fins), Kedarnath, Badrinath, Chaukhamba -my favorite- and the supremely tall Nandadevi stood reassuringly to the East.pugmarksclimb fresh_snowpeaksverticaltop
We were not the first ones on the day to summit though, here are the pug marks of the first visitor. The micro spikes on our shoes and the hiking pole were a tremendous help in making the ascent. Sliding down on our backsides was the fastest way dowtentsn and brought forth the inner child in each one of us. The entrance and surroundings of the Tungnath temple, also called as the third Kedar, were buried in 6 feet of snow, so we also enjoyed walking closer to the roof of the temple.
I am aware that writing more than a few lines of a blog post is not recommended in today’s day and age so please feel free to skip the next section. If however you would like to read about a novice’s hike in the snow towards a Himalayan peak, then please continue reading.
8th April, Wednesday – Final day of Ascent to Chandrashila peak. It is cold when we stepped out of the tent at 4:30 am. Some of the trekkers have decided not to make the ascent. We have a cup of tea and a quick breakfast of ‘Pohe’. The initial climb is a well-constructed path of stone steps right up to Tunganath. However this is covered in 2ft to 6 ft deep snow.  The steps are covered in snow by the time we have climbed for 20 minutes so it is time to put on the micro spikes on our shoes. With the micro spikes on and the support of the climbing pole, we start plodding upwards  through the snow. At places there is a green railing that I hold on for support and go on counting my steps from one to hundred and yet again. Soon, our camp site is no longer visible. Ahead of us we spot a yellow flag that turns out to be a half-way stop, it is still not the Tungnath temple. Our leading guide is a local, Anil Saini. Another local Khushi and trek leader Hemang are doing a great job moving among the group and motivating us. Another 20 minutes of climb and we reach the Tungnath temple. The temple is closed with the snow almost blocking its entire entrance. Apparently the God has moved to his winter abode to some other temple so there is no one around except for us and some other trekkers!
The temple has multiple brass bells and we ring some to announce that we have reached. We remain busy taking photos and watching the snow covered peaks surrounding us when I spot Hemang climbing up, what appears to be a vertical wall of snow. Hemang and Khushi promptly make a path using the ice axe and digging with their own feet. Looking at the steep wall, I decide that I’m not going to go ahead to scale Chandrashila peak. Everyone else gets in a queue, ready for the climb. They start using their hands and feet and start going up one by one. It does not seem to take long before Sunil and the others have scaled the wall. from_the_tent
Then I hear Hemang, Khushi, Anil shouting ‘come on madam, you can make it! Come on up!’and before I know it, I have started climbing using my hands and feet. Thankfully, the thought of ‘how do we come down this 40 feet steep wall’ has not crossed my mind! I climb up and all applaud. By then, Sonal, who was tentative about climbing has also reached and we all ready to march to Chandrashila peak. The whole
rhododendronmountain is covered in powder white snow and the sun has started rising in the blue sky. The magnificent Himalayas are glowing around us. Khushi makes a zigzag path towards the peak and we start our slow climb to the peak that is to our right. After a while, we need to stop to catch our breath after taking only few steps. I just concentrate on my next step and do not look ahead. After a breathless 30 minutes or so, Khushi says, ‘Madam, you have made it!’. I look ahead  and see that the peak is just 20 steps away.  Everybody now has reached and there is a congratulatory air around us. We see the mighty Nandadevi ahead of us but it is so high that there always is some cloud cover around it. The Gangotri range of peaks – some like Chaukhamba have become our constant companions for the past few days yet their magic is unparalleled. We have climbed to 12080 feet.
‘Now we all slide down’ announces Khushi. ‘No, no, I’m going to retrace my steps’ I tell him and start walking back. Then I see Khushi sliding down on his stomach gracefully followed by Hemang on his back. They seem to be in total control and having fun. One by one everyone starts sliding down and they cover 100 feet or so in no time. So I join in as well and slide down easily with a childlike smile on my face! We slide some more and within minutes are back to the vertical wall where we started. Here we use our hands and feet to lower ourselves and then finish with one more slide. Back to the temple, I avoid the last slide and start walking back to the camp. The steps that were covered with snow are now slushy and icy so the descent is slow. Within 30 more minutes we are back to the camp and a great adventure is behind us!

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Teacher with a cane and a miscreant caught by the ear

Last month I went to one of the schools where a leadership program was held. The students were divided into groups and each group presented a skit based on their chosen theme. The themes they had chosen were cleanliness, personal hygiene, discipline and regular attendance. The students had prepared the scripts mostly by themselves. It was heartening to see them enact the skit with absolutely no props and with a lot of vigor. Wait, did I write ‘no props’ – let me correct myself. There was a disturbing prop. A cane. A boy who was enacting a teacher’s role used a cane held firmly in his right hand to establish his authority.corporal_punishment
In another skit, when a boy misbehaved, he was reprimanded and caught by his ear. Then he was made to read the text written on the board. Thus the miscreant was taught a ‘lesson’.
The students acting in the skit had very innocently made their school life reality clear. I was saddened then and am still disturbed. These are students from an underprivileged background. They struggle on every front. Many have parents who can barely feed them enough. Some wore hastily darned school uniforms. I was introduced to a small girl who was abandoned by her mother and who now lives with her old grandmother. These students need love, attention and someone’s personal interest in their wellbeing. They need to be shown how education can alleviate some, if not all, their woes. Instead, their teachers are using a cane on them and insulting them in front of their peers through physical punishment. Isn’t it obvious why they are not performing well and dropping out of the school system? I understand that it is a tough task for their teachers to be patient with unruly students day in, day out.  But surely when there is a will, there is a way.

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