Big boys carry their own bags

In my Chennai neighbourhood I see parents  carrying bags,  as they walk their daughters/sons to the school bus.  Wonder when or how these school-goers would grow up.  At times ,  I want to  tell these kids they are big now, and  making mom or dad carry their schoolbags made them look small,  weak and helpless.   But then my wife,  more sensible of the two,  holds me back.

As parents,  we have all been guilty of pampering our children in varying degrees.  But I don’t remember carrying our only son’s  bag, not even in  his pre-school  year .  My wife usually took him to the nursery school.  What I do recall is,  when he started college, we travelled  with him to BITS, Pilani ;  stayed in his hostel for a day, tasted the mess food;  and  met a couple senior ‘wingies’ (staying in his hostel wing).  My bright idea was to persuade them not to subject our son to the kind of ragging  we witnessed on the campus.
But then,  as I later heard our son say,  the  wingies  I had met targeted  our son the moment our backs were turned on the Pilani campus.  So much for my bright idea.  Now I know, how  parents can help, if they stop being their children’s  baggage-keepers.

After first and second  semester  holiday,  on his return to Pilani  my wife and I  used to see  off our son at the Chennai Central Station. That most other students on Delhi-bound TamilNadu Express  made it to the station on their own wasn’t lost on our son.  But there was no way he could stop us from dropping him at the station.  On one of these train trips, I believe,  after the second semester,  a Pilani girl had her berth next to my son’s,  in 3-tier sleeper compartment. My wife, fussing over our son,  got down to setting his baggage for him, securely,  under the seat. The girl did this, for herself – arranging her baggage. What’s more, no one had come to see her off.  That was when our son put his put his foot down,  so to speak.  No more bag-carrying for him.  That was the last time he allowed us to see him off.  For the next three years he spent in Pilani, our son’s train to Delhi  left the Chennai Central, without our presence at the station.  The girl  on the train  was Anu Hasan.

Sheila Hailey’s  I Married a Bestseller   devotes a chapter on bringing up  children .  Shiela,  insisting that her children  helped them around the house,  assigned daughter Jane to dust daily Arthur’s study,  empty his wastebasket,  and set her  author father’s table  as organised as he wanted it,  using a checklist to get it right.  When she reached 13 Jane was given a monthly clothing allowance,  and was taught to sew.  Jane was made to realize she could get more out of  her monthly allowance, if she made the clothes  herself.
Steven,  at age 10,  maintained the family swim pool, testing chlorine and acid levels,  adding chemicals when necessary,  and backwashing the filter.  Mom urged him to work for an allowance,  and Arthur encouraged his son to use tools at an early age.
Hailey who authored AirportHotelWheels  and several other bestsellers made it a point to  dine  with his children – aged ten, eight, and six –  and often shared his thoughts on the  book he was doing.  For children family dinner gave an opportunity to discuss with parents what they wanted to do in class and off-school.  The whole family spent quality time, feeling  relaxed.

Mysore: Airport in search of flights

Now that the city has an airport with no flights,  Mysore is faced with the problem of generating passenger and cargo traffic that would make it worthwhile for airlines to come in here.  A recent seminar on the issue came up with the idea that Mysore-based IT corporates and other business establishments should hold out a promise of minumum seats occupancy to lure the airlines.

The idea doesn’t seem all that bright or workable because no airline can be expected make its business decisions on the minimum seats guaranteed  by a few corporates. Anyway,  no such assurance can be binding on individual companies.  Besides, airlines are reported to be looking for a state subsidy by way of a cut in fuel tax (27 perecent in Karnataka).

Air-traffic projection by Infosys has it that 800 of its employees  would use air services every week to Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. To be meaningful such projection ought to be able to give a break-down, city-wise, and also in terms of seat-occupancy on weekdays,  and weekends.

It doesn’t require much study to say that much of the corporate employees traffic out of Mysore is on weekends. Check the Chennai Shadabthi bookings from Mysore on Friday/Saturday. Viewed in this perspective, Mysore could at best function a weekend airport, to start with.

Among other wild ideas that spring to mind:
1) Make Mysore a cargo hub for carrying  vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other perishables from distrcts and nearby Nilgiris to  major market centre. This would need deep-freeze storage facility.
2) Airlines operating from Mysore would do well to  look at traffic to tier-2 destinations such as Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy, Bellary, Mangalore, Tirupathi, Cochin.
3) The Airports Authority of India  could consider developing  a shopping complex for air passengers and also local residents, in view of the relative proximity of the airport to the city limits.
4) Doubling the railway track could attract air traffic from towns on railway route.
5) Early completion of the Mysore-Bangalore expressway would make Mysore a credible alternative for air passengers in Bididi, Kengari and other Bangalore suburbs on the Mysore-end.

Bhopal 1984 and the Anderson saga

The Hindu op-ed piece that marks  the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy,  makes the point : The powerful can always count on official helpVidya Subrahmaniam writes about the refusal by the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to answer summons from an Indian court ;  and its ruling declaring him as  ‘untraceable’ and a ‘fugitive from justice’.  While reality is  that   Mr Anderson,  now 88,  has all through these years been leading  a ‘life of luxury’ in his private estate in New York state.

What about his extradition ?  India can’t be faulted for not making a formal request in  2003,  some 19 years after the event.  And it took the US government yet another year to reject India’s request.  The latest is  that  a fresh warrant of arrest has been issued by a Bhopal court ; and  CBI ordered to produce Mr Anderson in court.
I happened to have preserved The Times of India report  on Mr Anderson’s   arrest,  25 years ago,  when he landed in Bhopal in the wake of the gas tragedy that claimed at least 2,000 lives and left physically impared thousands of others.

Mr Anderson and two other company executives were picked up by police from the tarmac  as their plane landed at Bhopal,  driven off through a side gate ( presumably,  to evade a bunch of  waiting news reporters) ; taken  to the Union Carbide guest house,  where they stayed for a couple of hours before being put  on the state government plane  to be flown back to New Delhi.

The media,  effectively kept away from the visitors,  were handed out,  as Mr Anderson was safely airborne,  a press statement that said  1) Mr Anderson was charged with 304 IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) , and Sections 304(A),  120(B),  278,  284,  426 and 429;  and  2)  released on a bond of Rs.25,000,  on the surety furnished by a company official.

Those figures  cited from the statute book relate to offences  such as causing death by negligence,  committing mischief,  criminal conspiracy,  making the atmosphere noxious, negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance and mischief by killing or maiming cattle.

The charges looked pretty stiff in cold print.  As the then chief minister Arjun Singh noted in a his statement,  the government could not remain  ‘ a hapless spectator’  to the tragedy….and the power of the state was  ‘committed to fight for its citizens’ rights’.  Mr Arjun Singh has never been short of fitting words,  tailored to suit a given  occasion.

As for Mr Anderson’s comfortable   ‘house-arrest’  in his company  guest-house, well  protected from media media menace;  his release,  and the trip back to Delhi in the state plane,  an official spokesman came up with this explanation:  ‘Mr Anderson’s presence (in Bhopal) might provoke strong passions against him…and  (he was released) also  because we do not consider his presence in the country desirable’.

So much for the Arjun Singh  government’s  commitment  to fight for the rights of its citizens.

A matter of accountability

It is not uncommon for our political leaders to  flout regulations.  But, when challenged,  it is not leader-like  to  blame the violation on lesser mortals.  BJP chief Rajnath Singh,  with a few other party leaders took off   in a chartered eight-seater plane from an unlit airstrip in Jharkand  after dusk. The airstrip where no nightlanding/takeoff is allowed,  was lit up with the headlights of jeeps and other vehicles on VIP convoy  that were lined up along the runway.

A clear violation of safety norms,  the BJP leadership has passed the buck,  saying that the night take-off was  ‘entirely the pilot’s decision’.  Admittedly,  the pilot has some explaining to do.  But can his VIP passenger be allowed to get away with it ?  Maybe the bright idea for taking off under jeep lights was the pilot’s,  but there was no way he could have acted on it without the concurrance of his VIP passengers.   BJP’s denial of any responsibility for the incident doesn’t enhance the image of its leader.  Isn’t Mr Singh accountable for whatever happened ?  Isn’t leadership about owning up,  instead of abdicating,  responsibility in such sticky situation ?

To err is human…

My wife and I flew Emirates to the US this time; and didn’t find on board a single gent in flowing white robe and Arab head-gear. Presumably, these guys travel First Class. I wonder if they would put up with the kind of  experience we had in the Economy Class.

boarding pass 001I would put it down to our tough luck that my wife and I were both allotted middle-seats, apart from each other, and in two different rows. It was a 15-hour non-stop flight; and, understandably, none of our co-passengers wanted to give up his aisle seat for us.  And the cabin crew didn’t appear particularly passenger-friendly. The hostess I approached  said the flight was full, and there wasn’t much she could do to help us.  She didn’t even go through the motion of bringing our plight to the notice her superior.

It was only at my instance her senior showed up, heard me out, and expressed his helpessness.  He mentioned something about inablity of the airlines staff to satisfy passengers seeking change of seats; and the airline’s obligation to fulfill seat preferences of what he called club members who chose Emirates on a regular basis. I was a first-timer on Emirates, and presumably, had to take whatever seats I was lumbered with.

Conceding that it was a ‘check-in’ mistake made at Bangalore airport, the cabin crew suggested I could make a complaint and he offered to give me the relevant form to be filled up. I didn’t take him up on his offer. To err is human;it takes a computer to make a mess.  My wife and I had booked our seats at the same time. Our tickets bear consecutive numbers; so does the ‘seq. No’ on our boarding passes.  And yet the Emirates online computer system managed to come up with seats,in the middle on two different rows.

Admittedly, it was my fault not to have brought this up at Bangalore check-in counter, where we got two sets of boarding passes –  one for the Bangalore-Dubai flight, and the other, for our connecting flight from Dubai. Amazingly, we got adjescent seats for the first leg of our journey ex-Bangalore. I had neglected to check our boarding passes for our onward flight from Dubai – EK 225.

Car crash on our way to airport

crash car 006Viewing this image you would not hold out much hope for its passengers. I wouldn’t,  either, had I not survived the crash. This was the vehicle in which my wife and I were going to the Bangalore airport to catch an early morning Dubai-bound flight. It happened near Bididi, nearly two hours after we had left Mysore,  at the dead of night.  Our vehicle  brushed  against a bitumen laden truck,  taking a ‘U’turn on a high-speed highway.

crash car 005We were at the rear-seat, asleep. I didn’t know what hit us, as I woke up to the crash; my wife had passed out on impact.  Stranded on a highway in pitch darkness, I felt futile and helpless. For a few agonised minutes I believed it was all over, as my wife wouldn’t respond to my frantic calls, and efforts to shake her awake.

It must have been minutes,  but seemed an eternity, before my wife  regained consciousness.  She was dazed, and kept asking what had happened, and why, and where we were heading , what for. Whatever I told her didn’t register, for she kept repeating the same questions, to a point when I lost patience. I found myself utterly at a loss as what to do next.

Our driver Mahadevan knew the drill. He informed his travel office in Mysore; called the police, and the ambulance service. Meanwhile a crowd gathered, even though it was past midnight.  Somewhat irritated at our becoming  a spectacle for curious passers-by, I gave vent to my frustration, asking the driver why he wouldn’t try to stop a passing vehicle to take my wife to hospital, instead of wasting time answering silly questions from inquisitive onookers.

I didn’t realise then that  Mahadevan, hurt and bleeding from his right ear, was doing his best, unmindful of his injury. I learnt later that he had a slashed ear. A few minutes later a policeman showed up on a bike,but there was no sign of ambulance.

Under stress I get clumsy at handling  things, even a cell phone. I managed to call co-brother Raghu in Mysore.  I had a credit card, but not much cash.  He called his co-brother Narsimhan in Bangalore, who was the first to turn up at the hospital at the crack of dawn. As it turned out, I didn’t need cash. The ambulance ride was free; and I used credit card at the hospital.  Incidentally, it came as a relief to learn that the Karnataka government has a free ambulance service in place on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. So dire was its need for me that I would have  readily paid a thousand rupees, if only I had the cash.

It was, I believe,  nearly half-hour ambulance ride to BGS Global hospital at Kengari. The approach road to an otherwise well-equipped hospital is bumpy, and bad for fracture cases. And the multi-speciality hospital,  located close to the highway receives mainly accident victims. I see repair of potholed  road to the hospital as a medical priority in critical care. 

Emergency service was prompt, and efficient. Dr Venkatesh who attended on my wife stitched up a nine-inch cut on her neck; had her right shoulder x-rayed for supected fracture; and kept up a conversation to calm our nerves.  At my request he agreed to take a call from my anxious daughter-in-law, a doctor in the US. I found Dr Venkatesh a multi-tasker with reassuring way with words in dealing with patients – the kind, I believe, would be an assset in any medical emergency room. I wonder why a hospital that has a well-functioning ER and claims to have world-class infrastructure, including helipad for air ambulance,  can’t fix its bumpy driveway.

crash car 008On our way back to Mysore, after a day in hospital, I stopped by to see,  for the first time, our damaged vehicle. The scale of damage may spell death for others. But I associate life,  my reality of it,  with that mangled mess on wheels, if only because my wife and I are still alive to see it. The image of the wrecked Sumo  tells me that at times a split-second or sheer hair-breadth is all that is there  between life and a pointless death.

Leaving Dubai

Dubai is, perhaps, the last place with which I would have associated global recession,  had I not read Paul Lewis in The Guardian.  Excerpts:  At the (Dubai) airport, hundreds of cars have apparently been abandoned in recent weeks. Keys are left in the ignition and maxed out credit cards and apology letters in the glove box. 

Such is the fate of Brit  expats who become victims of the economic meltdown.  The plight of construction workers from India,  Pakistan and Bangladesh is more unimaginable.  They leave,  only with the clothes they are in,  and with their debts following them  home. Most of them had sold their land in the village and borrowed money to meet the airfare and agent’s fee.

The Guardian article quotes the site manager of a scaled down construction project  as saying,   We tell them to bring their clothes to work one day and then we send them home

Wonder if  MBP’s  Dubai-based  bloggers and some others familiar with  the region  (Maddy,  Happy Kitten)  have anything to add to this.