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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

31 July 2003

Some of the Phrases I noticed Recently in Public Places: ( Henceforth abbrv. SPIR would be used in my future posts.)

Some bring a smile and some make you think.

At Central station Railway platform I was startled to see this LIC ad banner above my head.

“ Beware of pickpockets; take care of your belongings;”

“We Know India Better.”

While I walked further, confused at the audacity of this ad, which so publicly admitted about “Knowing India Better” for all the bad things – and that too by a public sector agency, I noticed that LIC had put out a whole series of similar sounding banners at every few meters. The phrases in the center of the banner were changing – all the promos about the agency.

But at the bottom of each one of them, the anchor slogan – “We know India Better.” Oophs.. I have read the first slogan in isolation and hence the shocking interpretation of the message.

Nevertheless, if I thought that the slogan ringed truth, I am not wrong. Am I? :-)

And then there was this railway compartment with bold letters. “For Disabled Only”.

I was happy. Look how thoughtful our railways department is. I need not have handed out the medal so hastily. As I walked further, I noticed that the compartment didn’t have even a ramp. How do they expect the physically challenged passengers traveling with their wheel chairs would climb on to the compartment? So, what distinguishes this compartment from the rest is only the bold sign “ For Disabled Only”?

Check out my Tamil Blog for one more interesting Tamil one liner.

26 July 2003

Competition in industry can do wonders to your lifestyle.

If you have doubts, call the govt. telecom service provider. You will be bowled over by the very-customer-friendly attitude from Chennai telephones in its new avatar as BSNL. At least, I was – short of collapsing down in pleasant shock at the courteous replies and the patience with which they answered all my queries on broadband, “Netone” dial up service and many sundry queries. Can you imagine that earlier – say a couple of years ago?

Last week I had taken my father to a pathologist. While waiting in the lounge, I noticed that one or the other mobile was ringing constantly. Almost everyone on the lounge had a cell on hand. As the ring tones beeped one by one, people around wondered whose ring tone was that.

Today, phone connections are sold in vegetable shops (!). But not long ago, there was a big queue for a simple phone connection – we used to anxiously wait, checking up if our turn has arrived in the queue. More on that later – when I have more time to write a detailed account of the past experiences :-)

But the flip side is that intense competition can show an ugly side too – when one service provider blocks another’s products. – Like Reliance has done in Chennai. Dial any of the “toll free” number from competitor BSNL, and you will get the announcement that “ the number you have dialed is incorrect.” I don’t know if it is vice versa!!

17 July 2003

Check out on Knowledge Management in HR Talk current issue

“The language of pain, like the language of smile, should have no boundaries.”

I couldn’t help admiring the sparkling wisdom behind these words. And the gentleman who uttered them is Dr. Shetty, CMD, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital. Yes. Yes. The same hospital where the little angel from Pakistan had her open heart surgery. Thanks to the resumed bus service between Lahore and Delhi, the little girl, Noor Fatima, who came down to Bangalore for the surgery caught the media attention and subsequent public sympathy / goodwill in a big way. Dr. Shetty was quoted in Hindu, making his point about the importance of relaxing visa formalities at least on health grounds for needy patients.

It is often mentioned that the people to people vibes between India and Pakistan are always good and that it is murky politics, which is playing the spoil- sport in otherwise warm bilateral relations. One doesn’t know how long the prevailing bon-homie will last – but the girl has certainly generated lot of good will in India and across the borders in Pakistan as well.

I feel crisis has always brought out the best in us as human beings. I felt similar kind of good will was generated during the Gujarat earthquake three years back. People pitched in help from everywhere and every one tried to his or her tiny bit to alleviate the sorrow of those who lost kith & kin and home & hearth. I agree that there were lootings by unscrupulous individuals and management of the disaster was not exactly perfect. But by and large the tragedy brought out the humane side of us Indians.

Personally, when we were worried about a close friend and his family who lived in Ahmadabad, we caught hold of a contact found in a website. This person who lived in that city, had volunteered to assist anyone with the information of their relatives and friends by checking them up in their places. I sent an e-mail to him immediately to locate our friends. He visited that locality personally himself – all the telephone lines were dead – and wrote to us back the same day that our friends were safe. Amidst the chaos of collapsed buildings and debris, people went out of their way to help each other – irrespective of cost & creed.

But what puzzles me still is the way the same state was torn to pieces in communal violence just an year later, after the Godhra massacre.

What a contrasting image the state provided between these two instances of tragedies? Where did all the humanness disappear?

Do we always need a natural disaster to invoke the goodness in our collective consciousness?

11 July 2003

How can I not share this good news with you all? My younger son Venkat has got his US visa. he is joining Stanford University in the fall 2003 :-)

08 July 2003

The human perspective of product improvement

HR department no longer confines itself to recruitment of manpower. In implementing the TQM, a HR manager can build the human perspectives into product improvement.
Check out HR Talk current issue.

05 July 2003

A full circle?

Reading the newspaper, I made an announcement to the family. “DON”T buy any aerated drinks.” And when the last word slipped from my mouth, I froze. Because only a few years ago, I had advised my family, just the opposite. I have come a full circle.

In those days, when we used to travel from Delhi to Madras ( it was not yet Chennai then) I used to warn my sons against drinking water from unclean sources. But filling water from rail station tap was “cool”.

Irrational though, my faith in the “public” water dispensing system, was quite solid. In fact, in my effort to develop immunity in my children’s system, I didn’t encourage the idea of “boiling water” for drinking purposes. My stand was vindicated when I found that they didn’t get “cold” or fever even when they happened to drink water from outside sources wherever they went – as children usually do. I was happy that they were growing up without much fuss and that their immune system was fine and that their antibodies will take care of any health hazard situation. So it was, for major part of their growing up. Drinking water directly from the kitchen tap was the way of life. Bisleri and its clan were actually looked down by us. “Look. People actually sell water. And who would buy this – really? People must be crazy or at least, snobs – to buy bottled water” was our refrain whenever we saw these bottles lining up shop shelves. ( But Ramesh Chauhan and his ilk knew better. The bottled water biz stood at a whopping Rs.1100 crore in 2001:-))

Now back to me and my family, well, somewhere along the way we had to boil water for drinking since the locality we moved into at that time didn’t have potable water on the taps. But we didn’t realize that, it was the onset of a strange disease called “water phobia”.

Later, even when we moved several houses and now to Chennai, I could not “risk” drinking tap water. So we became converts – and like the rest of the populace in this part of the country, we “buy” water - a 20 litre refill @ Rs. 35 – twice a week.

And in those train travels in the past, I used to advise my sons to buy a soda or any aerated drink than to risk unhygienic water. Again, it was the same kind of irrational faith that anything in a sealed container will be “pure” and safe.


For they may contain anything – a dead lizard, pan parag sachet, sour sediments, or a matchstick. True. These are all various “items” found in aerated bottle drinks on various occasions. The latest being the “lizard” in a Chennaiitte’s experience.

What are consumer agencies doing?? Why there is not much of media spot light? When Queen Mary’s faced the threat of demolition the whole media and consumer agencies and the public all went agog.

Perhaps the increasing instances of “foreign items” don’t merit our attention so much?

In any case, I think I am nearing a full circle. I have a feeling that the tap water is a lot safer. No…No… wait a sec.

I think the water coming from a riverbed should be safe? No. It is all open, and what contamination?

Ah… I have one sure strategy. In my period of growing up, we lived in a small town where we used to bring water by digging small springs on the river bed. We used to locate a clean place on the sand, start digging there with our hands and after a certain depth, the shallow place will contain some water, which we used to lift in small scoops and drain it into our container. THAT water, perhaps, will be safe :-)

01 July 2003

For those of you who can read Tamil, Thisaigal July issue is ready on the web. Check it out. Let me know your views on the piece I have written :-)