Yo yo yo yo yo

The feeding-the-dog ritual

The feeding-the-dog ritual

I had gone to a pretty high-class society to interview someone for a story. On my way down, this auntie here got into the lift. From the liftman to the watchman, everyone playfully chided her.

Once we were down, she asked me if she could get under my umbrella since it was raining. I offered to do the job for her if didn’t involve going too far. She handed me a 10-rupee note to get two packets of Parle-G biscuits.

As soon as I stepped out, I immediately knew why she had ordered for them. Three dogs came rushing towards her.

Once I got the packets she started feeding the dogs, “Yo yo yo yo,” she kept saying.

“Every evening this ritual starts,” said the watchman half-irritated. Feeding the dog was an obsession of sorts for this old lady. Old people, I always feel, should have some sort of obsession. I have seen it in my grandpa. His obsession among many other things was with news and finance.

As age progressed, one by one, he started giving of his obsessions. And every time he dropped one, I knew my grandpa had grown a bit more older that day.

P.S. Aplogies for the bad photograph. The light was failing and I didn’t have me Canon 350D on me. This photo was taken by Panasonic FZ3, my old P&S.

It’s not the fish, but the person holding the rod who gets hooked

[Story I wrote for DNA] More pics on Zooomr

Angling is a sport of patience

Angling is a sport of patience

Driving through Powai is an exercise in patience at the best of times — the twirling dust, black, due to the pollution, vehicles vying for every inch of open space on the road, and people filtering through this mess covering their faces with handkerchiefs. 

Just a few metres away, in the waters of Powai lake, the going, perhaps, is even slower; but in an entirely different and in a very, very good way. Ignore the vehicular sounds, lower your gaze from the skyline that’s marked by fancy buildings, and you’d almost forget this is Mumbai. 

For anglers at the Powai lake this is very easy — you could also say it is necessary. Thin, bright and straw-like, the peacock feathers keep bobbing in the water mysteriously. Follow the rod it is attached to and you will find yourself peering into eyes that are intent, and alert. For when the peacock feather dips into the water, it indicates that a fish is touching the line. The angler rips the line hoping he will hook the fish. 

“This is what you wait for — hours together, and sometimes for days. The feeling you get when you hook a fish is incomparable,” says MA Ghani joint secretary of the Maharashtra State Angling Association, and an avid angler for more than 30 years.

But that’s only the start. The fish puts up a mighty struggle before it is “landed”. “The strength of the fish in water is unbelievable,” says Ghani. A big fish can empty the whole line out. The trick is to tire the fish. Let it swim for a bit, and then roll the line back. Judgment comes with experience. Get it closer to you, slowly, and then net it. 

The action lasts just a few minutes, but the thrill lasts several hours.

But anglers spend most of their time sitting calmly in machans. Patience, after all, is a key ingredient in angling. A hawk swoops to catch a fish, a water spider skirts on the water, a fish splashes somewhere — “You tell me… where in Mumbai can you see such things? Can you imagine a place like this in any other major city? Just sitting over here is enough to relax,” says AH Husaini, secretary, MSAA, who prefers to spend 36 hours of his weekend by the lake. 

Sitting in the machan, you feel as light as the breeze, as pure as the air you‘re breathing. Watching the water’s gentle rhythmic movement, you’d almost think that it’s not the water, but the machan that’s moving: The oneness with nature is complete. And Husaini’s point is driven home: Is this really Mumbai?

There’s a shout some distance away. Someone has hooked a fish. As we row towards the other machan, I can see Zeeshan Ahmed standing at the edge of this boat. His line is vibrating due to an unknown force in the waters below. The fish is putting up a good fight. “It is a 3kg fish,” says the experienced Ghani even though the fish hasn’t yet surfaced. Ahmed finally pulls the fish closer and nets it. As Ghani helps him unhook the line, Ahmed can’t stop smiling: “I’m on top of the world.”

Ahmed who has been angling for four years is relatively a beginner. But the more experienced members at the lake haven’t yet caught anything for the day. Angling doesn’t work by such rules. 

“Sometimes it is beginners luck,” says Husaini. And with a smile he adds, “It’s great to see the excitement when they catch a fish. But actually it is the beginners who get trapped. Anglers know that it is not the fish that is hooked, but the person at the other end of the rod who is hooked.”

The good anglers at MSAA were kind enough to allow me to catch a fish

The good anglers at MSAA were kind enough to allow me to catch a fish

For argument’s sake

Recently, I had a discussion with one of my colleagues about arguments. He was of the opinion that when you are arguing, after a while it’s just better to stop talking and listen to what the person has to say. He told me that some of his friends did not agree with his point of view, and felt that it is important that he hold forth his views.

I was reminded of a sentence I read in Paul Theroux’s book, The Elephanta Suite — ‘In India, you really couldn’t say anything that hadn’t been said before.’

And that’s my reply to all those in favour of arguments. ‘Dravid’s a loser’ has been said before, and so has, ‘Dravid is Mr Cool’. There is no end to it. Arguments are always at the risk of becoming an excercise in exerting your ego. After a point of time, it’s not the topic and the truth that lies at the heart of the argument that matters — defending you stand becomes the most important thing.

Am I giving a sermon sitting on top of a white elephant? Absolutely not. As my friends and relatives will assert most incessantly (no point arguing that) I am the worst offender in this respect. I enjoy arguments (until I realise it has turned into an ego slug-fest), but I have realised that there’s no deep meaning in it. Just plain time-pass.

Is the iPhone your best bet?

The soon to be launched iPhone 3G is coming to India. But will you be getting the best deal? What about options?

Apple has developed a (good) habit of turning seemingly ordinary
concepts into gadgets that border on science fiction. iPod and the more
recent iPhone will more than testify for this.

iPhone led a new
genre of cell-phones with an intuitive touch interface. Many gizmo
freaks however were disappointed when the iPhone did not launch in
India. But this time ‘round, things look better with two of India’s
biggest telecom players announcing that iPhone 3G will indeed be
available for cell-phone users.

What seems to be catching many
people’s eyes — perhaps more than the iPhone 3G’s new design — is the
price. At $199 (Rs8,000) the iPhone looks cheap. But the iPhone may not
be available at this price in India. Even in the US, the data-plans
offered by telecom companies such as AT&T will be more expensive
for the iPhone 3G than for other phones.

To cut a long story
short, the iPhone 3G costs around $450 to $500. Telecom companies like
AT&T will subsidise the cost initially, but will more than make up
for it in the data plan (cost for talking, SMSing, and browsing the
Internet).

Sources within Vodafone India could not confirm the pricing of the
iPhone 3G or the plans that would be offered along with it, adding that
the pricing model in India may well differ from the one in the US. Surprisingly, existing iPhone users are not too kicked about the launch.

“I would have considered going in for the official version with
Vodafone had I not bought one last November,” says Suyash Barve.
According to Barve, the new version doesn’t offer anything additional
features that are significant, at least in India.

Other users like Ritesh Rai, CEO, Genesis Modern Trade are actually
planning to give up their iPhone. “Once it launches there will be a
whole lot of people who will be carrying the iPhone around. There will
no longer be a novelty factor attached to it,” says Rai.

When the
iPhone launched in January 2007, there was nothing that came close to
its design, touch interface, and audio-video playback. But this time
other companies have caught on and launching worthy competitors of
their own, dubbed the iPhone killers.

HTC’s Touch Diamond has
already hit the Indian market (with Airtel for approximately Rs27,000).
Apart from a sleek design, it features a 3D interface that should make
the Touch Diamond stand out from the crowd. The other goodies are
top-of-the-line as well – it has built-in global positioning system,
Wi-Fi connectivity, and 3G-connectivity. The Touch Diamond runs on
Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional.

After the Touch Diamond the
most anticipated iPhone killer is Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 – the name
itself oozes with style. It was rumoured that Sony Ericsson may
postpone the launch to 2009, but recent reports confirm that the Xperia
X1 will be available by late 2008. Xperia X1 will feature a 3-inch
touch-screen display. And for those who type a lot (SMS/email), there’s
a slide-out QWERTY keyboard where the keys are arranged exactly like
your PC’s keyboard.

And can Nokia be left far behind? The
Finnish behemoth till date has not been too keen to develop
touch-screen models, but will now enter the fray with the Nokia Tube.
Nokia has not yet revealed too many details and the phone is due in
late 2008.

Other models to look out for are the LG Dare, which launched last
week, Blackberry Thunder, and the Samsung i900 Omnia, which features a
heavy-duty 5MP camera.

Of course, none of them as of now turn as many heads as the ‘bitten
apple’. iPhone’s brand value will remain high for some time to come.
But while you spending your moolah, you
might as well have a look at the options coming your way.

The Krishna Rao Commission

I’ll do it.” The words escaped my mouth before I could think things through. Sometimes your mouth says yes to something your heart had always wanted to do, before your brain had had a chance to process it. My heart had always wanted to visit the small towns and villages of India — to see the ‘real’ India.

The task I had taken up involved visiting and collecting data from three tribal areas of Maharashtra for a Planning Commission survey to measure the efficacy of income generation schemes for Tribals. One of the districts I had to visit was Nandurbar — a place which I never knew existed until then.

“Volvo hai?”

“Nandurbar? No, only semi-deluxe bus,” the man said. The semi-deluxe bus turned out to be an AC bus with a non-functional AC. But to maintain the temperature perhaps, there were a few windows that wouldn’t budge, letting in wind, dust, and rain.
A light drizzle greeted me when I reached Nandurbar early in the morning. The bus dropped me near the main bus-stand, and I proceeded to check into a nearby hotel, which came highly recommended.

The room was just the way I expected: damp, stuffy, dull, and the mug in the bathroom had paint stains. There were many big black ants loitering about, about which I dutifully complained to the manager. “It has rained, sir. That’s why they have come out,” said the manager in a tone that suggested ‘Why bother? They won’t cause no harm’.

The local tribal office was small but pleasant. On the day I arrived, two officials escorted me from the hotel to the office. I was ushered into one of the bigger cabins, where a formal welcome speech was made, and a bouquet of flowers was presented to me. I was introduced as Krishna Rao, the man from New Delhi — a fact I did not bother to correct, because in government offices, the word ‘navi dilli’ worked like a charm.

Field inspectors were appointed to assist me during the survey. This took a huge load off my mind, as it meant they would take me on their motorbikes to the villages I wanted to visit. “I will introduce you to the tehsildar if you want,” said one of the field inspectors, and turned the bike before I could respond.

At the tehsildar’s office: “Sir, meet this person… he’s come from New Delhi and is a member of the Krishna Rao Commission.” My mouth opened in protest, but I stopped just in time — I had to maintain the façade to get my work done quickly.
Riding pillion with various field inspectors on the motorbike gave me a 180-degree view all along. Nandurbar, and its adjoining areas, Sakri, Shirpur and Navapur have a rugged, untamed beauty. I was on a high when I visited the villages at the base of the Satpura mountain range. Beyond the Satpura is the Narmada, and further North are the Vindhyas – the heart of India is mystical, and I had just touched its southern tip.

The Tribals love their mountains and stay as close to them as possible. This, however, has isolated them. Even for people who wanted to help, travelling in such areas is no cake walk. In fact, many of the villages cannot be accessed by roads.

In one of the villages we visited, almost everyone was illiterate. The whole village came out to see what the man from New Delhi wanted. I was interviewing one lady: “Age?” I asked. “Around 24,” she replied. “Do you have children?” “Yes, I have two.” “What’s their age?” “One is 12 and the other, I think, 10.” I turned to the field inspector in disbelief, “If she is 24 and her child is 12, wouldn’t it mean she delivered her first baby when she was 12-years-old?” The inspector questioned the lady, “That’s not possible!” An old woman in the crowd started laughing, “Please explain to me… in what way is it impossible?”