Sunday, July 28, 2013

Intuitive Mind, A Friend or Foe

Intuition is a strange feeling. It has a way of predicting outcome of events that has not actually happened. Inspite of best preparation, on occasions we feel things are not going to go well. At other times we feel an air of cool confidence. I do not know. Is this intuition or gut feeling? Is this true feeling, how can I separate false signal from the right one?

Like most students of Pharmaceutical Sciences, I also dreaded mathematics. As luck would have it, calculus and statistics was a compulsory paper in first year undergraduate course of Pharmacy. The year I appeared in my examination, mathematics paper was particularly tough. Many students claimed that they would not make it to next grade without appearing in the mathematics exam again. On top of that, I had on my own had managed to do poorly in a few additional examinations. On one particular Saturday morning many of us gathered in our college to glean some information about potential outcome of first year examination. Some enterprising student announced that based on his reliable information only eight students out a total of thirty had passed, and all the rest have to appear in retest in one subject or more.

I returned home despondent. Although I anticipated such an outcome may happen, but reality was beginning to sink in. What am I to say to my parents? Especially so knowing how much difficulty they are bearing for my education. What will our friends, relatives and neighbors say? I had no answer. I was thinking all these dire consequences and listening to cricket commentary of a match being played between India and England. Like my predicament, Indian team was also not doing very well. In the swinging condition of England, English bowlers were tormenting Indian batsmen. Suddenly something happened. A voice inside me announced that even if a single student passes in the first year exam, that will be me. I do not know where this came from. But it was very soothing and peaceful. For rest of the weekend, worry of examination result did not bother me. Monday morning, I was walking from nearest bus stand to my college with a friend. We were talking sports. Once we reached  college gate, my friend came out and announced “you have passed”. It was true that year many students had to undertake mathematics examination again. Some students had to take examinations for other subjects as well. Strangely, I had passed, albeit, borderline in atleast one subject. That could have gone either way. I had no way of knowing this before hand. But for the inner voice in my head. What should I call it, my intuition or gods gift?

I have had similar experiences several times in my life. I was looking for a good graduate school after my post graduate degree in India. A good school means that gives you fellowship, yet does not insist on GRE score. My friends had applied to scores of schools in US. I went for only one school, I was pretty certain that I shall be there. The school was University of British Columbia. Somehow, I had a feeling, this is the school for me. I was rejected in my first attempt. However, six months later, University came back stating they had funding to support me.

Midway through my PhD research, one evening I was sitting at the common room. One scientist described how Adirondack mountains change their color in fall. Adirondacks are close to Ottawa. I had a feeling I shall be there. Lo and behold, I got an opportunity to work at the University of Ottawa.

Before cricket match with Australia, during Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath era, many a times before a match had actually a started, I could sense Indian team has already lost. If you look back now, in those times India had lost many crucial matches to Australia. Is this my inferiority complex, my lack of faith in Indian team or exaggerated belief in Australian superiority? On the other hand, I was pretty certain in my mind that Indian team was going to win T20 world cup and Champions trophy. While India seem to be playing well in Champions trophy, T20 world cup was no way to predict. First, India was playing for the first time. It was sporting a new team, new caption and in a tough group.

I cannot explain these experiences. May be these are just co-incidences. But I keep looking for signals before major events. Many a time I get omen of impending failure. Such times are difficult and testing. One has to keep on trying without giving up, but in the back of your mind there is a feeling something amiss At times in my over eagerness to turn a situation in my favor, I misread signals. However, a true signal one can never miss. It gives a confidence, calmness and a faith that nothing can go wrong. It is upto us how we use such experiences. I consider it to be a friend.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Delhi Railway Station, World Class!

India is a country, where taxpayers do not have much say on how their tax money is being spent. Our tax is forcefully deducted from our salary at the end of every month. Our political leaders and bureaucrats do not assume that they should be accountable to us common public about amenities and conveniences they create for us.

Last evening I was at the New Delhi railway station. New Delhi station is expected to be a modern railway station. Recently, it has undergone facelift with a lot of public money. Besides, New Delhi, a city that hosted commonwealth games two years before, was touted to become a modern world class city. Sadly, however, none of the dreams and expectations came through.

In order to discourage sundry visitors, railways stopped selling platform tickets. What a funny idea! Enterprising visitors, like my driver, buy ticket for next station from New Delhi and gain entry. This ticket is cheaper or at best equal price to platform ticket. Even if one does not have a platform ticket entry into railway platform is no bar for anyone.  No one checks platform tickets. It is a free for all. For honest and genuine, who wants to buy a platform ticket, a long queue awaits. In the end, you may get a ticket but people, whom you came to see off, their train has already left station. I cannot understand, in this day and age, why automatic ticket vending machines cannot be installed at different entry points and in the platform itself. To avoid entry of unscrupulous visitors, why checking of platform ticket not be enforced?

After you have managed to buy a platform ticket, one has to go through a security check. Another joke! Unlike airport, railways experience much bigger footfall. Yet, unlike airport,  New Delhi railway station has only four screening machines. Disinterested security personnel look at each baggae with such indifference, that it probably does not matter. In the VIP parking area of New Delhi railway station, that opens in platform 16, there is no personnel to check if some one is avoiding x-ray check of their luggage. I saw a few people doing just that.

Once done with security check, one is faced with the daunting task of climbing overbridge. A modern station should have escalator or elevator. New Delhi has none. Even if it has, it is in select locations, I could not find one. Travelling with aging and infirm is a nightmare. There is no easy and userfriendly way to locate wheel chairs or mechanized buggies. What common and less resourceful people like me is likely to expect is being duped by porters who charge exorbitant price and time to move passengers. Is it too much to put several wheelchairs and / or buggies for ferrying people that cannot go up medieval era overpass?

Waiting on the platform is another unbearable experience. The track below is filled with human waste and sundry other garbage. Stench is overwhelming. Sadly and strangely, passengers are sitting on the platform and enjoying their meal. Is it an expression of helplessness, or total surrender to ones fate or being inured of ones sorroundings? It is true, railways advice travellers not to use washrooms when train is stationary. However, there is no enforcement. In the absence of railways ability and willingness to enforce cleanliness, can they not employ technology like modern toilets equipped in airplane or even in long distance Volvo bus? Can railways not employ people to maintain cleanliness of stations and tracks round the clock?

I am fascinated by railway station and railway journeys. It reflects life. Railway stations are microcosm of India. All kind of people, one objective that is moving from one place to other. Is expecting a clean usefriendly experience and journey too much to expect from our administrators? Most of the time, railway ministers are concerned about poor and do not want to raise fare. Has anyone asked if poor people really love to travel in the condition our railways dishout whether on board a train or on the platform? A point to be noted, between Delhi and Kolkata, there are two Duronto and two Rajdhani express trains, all superfast trains. Yet there is no glut of ticket booking. All trains are booked nearly three months in advanced.

Why crib about railways, when general administrative and governance apathy is seen all over our public services. Our cities get waterlogged. Our airport and metro stations get flooded. Traffic jams throw general public life out of gear. Traffic lights, even 60 years post independence are dysfunctional at normal times, stop functioning. Roads develop potholes creating hazard for humans and vehicles alike. Our children get poisoned food, in the name of mid day meal. Same state of apathy and mismanagement goes on year on year without any accountability.

India needs to seriously decide, does it want a strong administration and strong governance. It is not that India cannot be administered. There are pockets of excellence. A typical case is Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Same Indians that spoil and soil Indian Railways, use Delhi Metro with care, reasonable care. If our leaders / administrators / managers without playing politics of poverty, show us a glimpse of an alternative that is clean, efficient and reliable people are bound to respect it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Narendra Modi & the Art of Straight Talk

A storm in the teacup was created as a result of an interview of Shri Narendra Modi given to Reuters. In the interview, when asked if  Narendra Modi felt any sadness for Gujarat riots. Mr. Modi responded, if one feels saddened if a puppy, read "Kutte ka Baccha" in Hindi, is crushed under ones wheel, we are talking about loss of human lives in riot. As a human being, whether one is chief minister or not, one feels bad. Without looking at the essence of interview, it became an important news that Narendra Modi, a Hindu chauvanist, has compared muslims puppy. If one reads the interview, this conclusion one can arrive only if the person is stretching his imagination too far, literally way too far. The statement of Narendra Modi on "Kutte ke Bacche" is no way a reference to Muslims. It is an allusion to a situation where if someone feels sad about inadvertent death of a puppy, why would he not feel bad about loss of human lives. 

Mr. Modi was also asked if he was a Hindu Nationalist. Mr. Modi responded, he is a Hindu by birth. He loves his nation as a patriot. So he can be called a Hindu Nationalist. This statement was twisted to claim Mr. Modi is coming out as a communal person who is pro Hindu. However, Mr. Modi has given several positive speeches. One was addressed to students of Fergusson college Pune. However, no one discusses this speech of Mr. Modi or the one given to students of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi.

Admittedly, Mr. Modi should have been adviced to use milder analogy, given the surcharged political atmosphere.  It appears that BJP is suffering from foot in mouth disease. If they have a deeper strategy, that is yet to unravel.

From the all out criticism of statements that have been twisted and turned on their head by congress, her allies and other parties indicate how much they worry about Narendra Modi. Is it his plainspeak of real issues that reaches audience like an arrow? Is it his no nonsense attitude like "Khaounga bhi nahi aur khane bhi nahi doonga", I shall not be bribed, I shall not let others accept bribe, shakes up our regular politicians. After all, if you do not steal a few hundred crores of public money, why join politics. Since independence such mollycoddling of corrupt and corruption is going on in the name of people, in the name of coalition politics, in the name of governance.

Congress spin doctors have been trying to link Muslims to the statement, with the hope, may be realistic hope, that muslims will vote for Congress. It is important to note that muslims have understood the game plan of their secular backers. In last sixty years or more, plight of muslims have not improved with numerous doles and reservations. Ideally, people from minority community and backward castes should have become most powerful if the idea of reservation, free food, etc is taken at face value. However, one must see through the game plan. It is one thing to announce a program and other to make it successful. It is time muslims understood this and vote for party that creates a system that is uniform for all Indians and gives equal oppurtunity to grow. 

It is not at all surprising that anti Modi sensational news are appearing before election. Some handed over to oponents by BJP spin doctors, others by adroit manipulation of state machinery and NGOs by congress. It is certain, congress have a better strategy to divert attention from poor governance, corruption, inflation and sagging economy , compared to BJP.