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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My 3-E Mantra

How Do You Ignore E? 

“I command you to look cautiously at what is in front of you. It is a pity that I took six minutes, along with a painstaking synonym hunt to put forth a string of only about fifty words and still could not avoid using an alphabet that is most commonly put into application.”

Up there, I tried doing what Ernest Vincent Wright did in his 1939 novel, “Gadsby”: write without using the most commonly used letter in the English Alphabet: letter E. It took him a great deal of hard work to avoid ‘E’ (4 months plus the E key on the typewriter tied down) and he still ended up with a review saying, “at least part of Wright’s narrative issues were caused by language limitations imposed by the lack of E.”

P.S.- I breath a sigh of relief at this time after writing one whole paragraph with beloved E, especially after the arduous task of ignoring it in my opening paragraph. It feels exhilarating. E does serve a purpose too many for a writer, a blogger, like me!

However, it turns out there is more to E than the alphabet E (that keeps the writer’s pen moving). For one, we can most definitely consider Vitamin E (that keeps the being moving). For me, Vitamin E means more than the literal, and here are three levels of the being where I recommend my versions of Vitamin E: the personal mental level, the social level and at the health level.

For the mind, Vitamin E, is Enthusiasm! Enthusiasm is that state of the mind that can pull your body through the most mundane situations. Enthusiasm is what pumps me! A lack of it exhausts me even when the task is a trifle of work. Think about all the chores you did today. What was the distinguishing factor between those, whose memory makes you smile and those, whose memory makes you sigh? For sure, the existence of Vitamin Enthusiasm in the former and a deficiency of it in the latter. Filling the boring tasks with anything exciting- anything that fills one with exhilarating energy to do it, is the key to get those boring tasks done. Or better still- just drop things that do not enthuse you because as Charles Bukowski once said,

Unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don’t do it!”

Next, for the social level, Vitamin E, is Emotional Intelligence! Too big to fill isn’t it? Perhaps! But absolutely worth it, when you know what are your needs and goals for your social world. Emotional Intelligence goes a long way, because firstly, one learns to understand emotions- of the self, and those of others along with taking full responsibility of them. Second, and this one I so much wish be ingrained in angry commuters in local trains- emotional arousal and impulse control. Sometimes, we just lose it - so to say! And while it does seem to do some temporary good by releasing pent up emotions, it is highly detrimental to those at the receiving end. In most situations then, it doesn’t matter any more how much one seems to be right and intelligent after failing in the task of disallowing emotions to completely override sanity.  

But at the end of the day, when I do have the first two equipped with me, why would I do away with the third and a pretty significant level at which Vitamin E operates- the health level? But what makes Vitamin E a go-to substance for good health? Firstly, its a proven antioxidant. It reduces the deterioration and visible signs of aging, prevents cancer, strokes, cataracts and heart disease. It enhances insulin function, and is a boon for diabetics. It also does good for the nervous system by protecting the myelin sheaths. As for the skin (and this is the part we all were waiting for ;) , externally applied or topical Vitamin E keeps the skin soft, moisturized, protects it against UV rays and sunburn, along with reducing wrinkles.

Vitamin E, the one at the health level, comes to me through breakfast, lunch and dinner albeit in little quantities. Either the yolk from the boiled egg or some cheese sandwiches in the morning; either rice-bran/ olive oil or spinach for the main meals. I do pop in a few almonds once in a while and when it is the right season, the trout is a must. So when Vitamin E, is so abundantly available, why deny the body of it and its immense benefits? Most importantly, it doesn’t take great effort or practise like my first two ideas of Vitamin E. Add to that, #Evion brings on the table doctor-recommended Evion Supplements, rich in Vitamin E for a healthy, enhanced and awesome lifestyle! 

Like Sir Vincent’s novel received an unfavourable review due to the language limitation due to the lack of E, like I hate writing a paragraph without E, like we hate to be the kind of person who does each and every task gloomily without Vitamin Enthusiasm, like everyone hates the arrogant commuters who spew expletives and evidently lack Vitamin Emotional Intelligence, anyone would hate a lifestyle that lacks the glow and beauty of Vitamin E! 

-Shahen Pardiwala

The number of times E appeared in this article: 479.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Railway Staffers Flunk: Between Kandivali & Parle #2


 Between Kandivali & Parle - Part 2

To know why this section of the blog is called "Between Kandivali & Parle", Click here. 

20 Western Railway employees, were selected as eligible for promotion and appeared for a 150-mark question paper. An internal examination, it included basic questions the answers of which, as reported, officials with a few years of experience would and should have

RESULT: All 20 staff members flunked, with none able to score even as much as 90 out of 150. Just as a reminder, these people were considered eligible for promotion! 

At this point, it might help to say where I am headed to right now

I am on my way to my college, and from today, the Second Year Junior College students' First Terminal examination begins. When I will reach college, there will be talks around of two types. One, talks deriding those who have prepared well. And second, nonchalant talks glorifying, romanticizing and boasting mediocrity: 

"Have you studied?" "I haven't even covered half the portion." "I hope I pass!" "I did not open the book until today morning…" 

The list of baseless excuses is exasperating and endless. 

This is, however not about naive college students who, so far, don't seem consequential for the society or country at large. Baffling would be this explicit comparison I have made, because there doesn't seem to be anything in common. Except one aspect, our attitude. Am I talking about an attitude towards examinations? Because it has been long since we have rationalized the importance of an examination. Having been a home-schooler, I firmly believe in the futility of it. 

However, this is truly about the attitude not towards exams but towards excellence, knowledge and good performance. Inabilities, instead of igniting a flame to improve, have permanently extinguished the fire to try- making most of the functioning machineries complacent.

It is scary to see that the present of India, and seemingly the future, is more or less the same. The officials who flunked the test may well say that the questions were out of their purview’, much like a failing student's plea, out of syllabus! 
We do see, realize and understand this in our urban overpopulated areas- the problem of the educated unemployed, waiting for white collar jobs, feeling entitled to a position or promotion, but completely lacking a drive for doing well. 

If we were to come back to our comparison, our education system tests us on every step of the ladder, but disregard if we truly have the knowledge to carry out some specific task. The very fact that these staffers were unable to answer questions about the working of their own working environment, exposes their lack of knowledge as does an examination for a student in which he or she fails. 

Doesn't this reinstate the fact that the future is going to be similar to how the present is? If a majority of the country is being brought up on a laissez-faire policy, with no discipline or commitment towards one's own field of work, who thinks about the greater good then? 

Let us leave that question unanswered and us move on to another way of looking at this same situation. The Fairness Syndrome that asks if it is correct to determine a worker's knowledge on the basis of a test? Yes, I am an advocate of dedicated excellent achievers. So then is it possible to justify how and why the staffers failed? I don't think so.

But from an opinionistic point of view, I do notice the obsession of each layer of our system, educational and occupational, with tests/ examinations. To be 'eligible' for a promotion, rail employees give an exam. To be eligible for MBBS, science students give NIIT. To be eligible to study engineering, Jee-Mains are a must. UPSC is a must for civil services.

No heredity or nepotism works here. So obsessed with examinations, and why? To verify if the candidates are eligible to work the best for railways, to be sure that the engineers, doctors, IAS officers, etc, are up to the mark and serve the country well! Then why...and do not expect an answer, why is it that a country so obsessed with examination at each stage has no examination held to determine whether a politician is eligible to be a politician and run the country???? 

Why not test their administrative skills? Why not see if they are capable of decision making? Why not make them write essays on 'What will I do if I become a Prime minister?' or why not give them Multiple Choice Questions to check their basic understanding of democracy, national economics and public welfare? Why not check their knowledge of the constitution, of the judiciary, and history of Indian politics? Should each politician not be tested for checking their abilities? The day this question is answered one of two things may happen:

Either each and every politician will be stripped off their privileges and asked to prove themselves in an examination, or, we as a country shall want to entirely do away with the system of examination. 

If each politician were tested and verified for perceiving worst case scenarios and be ready for it beforehand, the situation would not be like that of students who study only when they fail or do poorly once or twice. We would not wait for accidents to happen to make structural changes or riots to happen before curbing cultural nationalism. But such Politician tests are a far fetched dream, the fulfillment of which will require a politician who doesnt mind giving that test.
And till then, we still have the enormous task of assessing the attitude we have towards excellence. Bringing in our college students analogy back in, you surely know what is an onlooker's response when one says, I am going to fail or I embrace mediocrity. It is pity and sympathy. And what is it when one in a crowd of many seeks to perform well. It is awe and respect. 

So what do we, as a nation, in the present and the future want from global onlookers: pity, or respect?


Do comment what you think about the 20 staffers failing at their Promotion Exam.  


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Elphinstone Stampede: Between Kandivali and Parle #1

Between Kandivali and Parle- Part One

To know why this section of the blog is called "Between Kandivali & Parle", Click here. 

The recent tragedy, close to a mass self-inflicted massacre, at the Elphinstone Road station is live testimony to the chaos our country is. For me to write this article several days after the incident, would be surprising to people used to instant noodles, instant soups and instant news. We have all info at our fingertips, but here's the thing: each piece of news is banter for an hour, trending for a day and no more than a debate for a week.
The purpose of talking about the Elphinstone Road incident is not to blame anyone. Thats what everyone is doing, anyways,  so far. People in the crowd blamed the other people in the crowd; the other people in the crowd are blaming the present government mechanism; the present government is putting it on the previous government and the baton is going to and fro between all those involved. Those unconcerned, too, are exercising their revisionist muscles and voicing their opinions. So, I take a dip and attempt to do the same.

I don't send my opinion from a news anchor's seat or a politician's. Either ways, I will blame another entity. Moreover, either of those ways are soft and comfortable positions- well seated in air conditioned rooms. Instead, I speak from a Churchgate bound local train's second class compartment, which at the moment is cramped, to say the least. It is 1 p.m. In a circle around me are dozens of men, heading to work or college...we are piled up against each other, which still is nearly five times a better situation than how it would have been, say 3 hours ago, at 10 a.m. Definitely cozy, but that’s not really the word for it.

When I will reach my destination, two dozen people will be thrust out by the mutual human force that we shall exert on each other. Simultaneously, people at the platform will try to jump into the trains as soon as it stops. 

After the incident on Friday, a great many people came together, proposing a unanimous solution: get the Railway Officers and VVIPs to let go of their privileges and travel in circumstances they themselves, to quite an extent are responsible for. However, dear privilege-bearers, I would not really wish these circumstances to be inflicted on you...quite embarrassing it would be, to stand out on a platform, because you are incompetent!

Not as an official, but as an individual, because here is the problem: Not one individual out of those several people hanging outside, squeezing into a place beyond the foot-board (how I dont know), will acquiesce to give their spot to a VVIP, to a CM or for that matter, any dignitary.

Everyone has their workplace to reach to, and each one has fought hard to find a square inch in the jam-packed local. Survival of the fittest, after all. 

Coming back to the subject, what prompted me to write this, was not the incident in itself, but another set of happenings that sort of answer why the incident transpired in the first place.

A Border Security Force pilot has pointed out discrepancies in the safety of air-crafts flying VIPs and MPs. Moreover, maintenance of these air-crafts is not up to the mark and pilots are trainees.

Something more to think about are the two instances when Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis’ helicopter crash landed in May and July respectively, earlier this year.

These facts bring us to a conclusion.

The government is not apathetic to citizens or citizens safety.
It is just plain apathetic to safety in general. 

Let me provide another version of this conclusion.

We Indians, are apathetic to safety. Because after all, who cares? The world does not come to a grinding halt when 20 citizens die in a public tragedy. Except for the families that is. Otherwise, who cares? Television anchors seem to, not because they actually do, but are literate enough to articulate it.

Somewhere to an extent, and how it would appear to an onlooker, even we commuters do not care much about our own safety. A couple of hours after a tragedy that killed dozens, people were hanging out of the localsand shall continue doing so. We continue over crowding the trains. We continue going to work. We continue paying taxes and we continue hating the government for not using that money wisely.

Having said that, I shall add to point out, where I feel we currently are. In a circle.

Why do we not quit adjusting and overcrowding our trains? Maybe because we have been left no option by the authorities who can do something about it. Why do authorities do nothing about it? Maybe because we are adjusting and overcrowding our trains. 

Who is responsible for this stalemate?

If our decision makers would have been efficient and not as obstinate as they are, there would have been no such stalemate. Since they are, to what extent can we, the tax-bearers and problem-bearers, do something? As far as the government is concerned, their apathy for safety in general has hurled helicopters, in which they themselves are travelling, to the ground.

Its like paying a nanny to take care of your children, when she is doing a bad job of parenting her own children. You cant blame her for arrogance when she fails to deliver, but rather for ignorance and indifference. 

I alight at Vile Parle station. I see no pushing-pulling happening as such, nevertheless, a man falls while walking out of a compartment. He looks around and shouts at a middle aged plump man, who he thinks has pushed him. The plump man smiles. We Indians never push anyone. Every time, someone else pushes from behind.


Ignorance or indifference? Do comment what you think about the Elphinstone Road Stampede. 

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