Auto Driver Chandra

Please try it yourself!

Try looking for ‘Bangalore auto driver complaints’ on google, well I did, out of curiosity and google threw up 7,79,000 results! Some of them read:

Harassed by auto drivers? Now you can do something…

Auto Complaint Bangalore – Android Apps on Google Play

How to Complain Against Meter Tampering by Auto …

And so on and so forth! Yes if you have had the misfortune of travelling in an auto, driven by a particularly nasty driver, you will understand what it means.

Recently, on my way back from work, I tried to get an auto to go home which is a distance of about 5 or 6 kilometres.  As usual one auto driver asked for Rs. 20 extra (above the meter fare) while another asked a round figure of Rs. 100.

Over the last couple of years I’ve learnt that if I just keep asking enough autos, without loosing my patience, I will eventually find one who agrees for the meter rate. As I turned down the third greedy driver, another auto who was patiently waiting came up to me and asked me ‘Madam, where do you want to go?’. I stated my destination and the man quietly turned the meter indicating he willing to take me. Happy that I got an auto within the 4th try, I got in.

As the driver swung onto the 80 feet road coming dangerously close to a lumbering BMTC bus, I involuntarily gasped. The very observant driver, Chandra told me reassuringly ‘Don’t worry madam, I have been driving an auto for nearly 27 years now and have not had any untoward incidents or accidents so far”.

Noticing that he was speaking in a dialect of Kannada which was from Uttara (North) Kannada, I started a conversation with him and I was happy I did that. Below is the gist of our chat:

Chandra owns the auto he was driving, he considers himself an entrepreneur and is proud to be one. He has worked for nearly 27 years and he never refuses a passenger nor does he charge them extra. He waits till the passenger has asked all the autos in the vicinity before he approaches them so as not to irritate the other drivers. He confidently told me that he earned quite well! He said he had invested well for his retired life…

Unable to contain my curiosity I probed to learn that Chandra was the owner of a 19 acre areca plantation! Chandra told me that he had saved judiciously and purchased land for 60 lakhs in the year 2006 in his native Honnavar. He said that his 3 sons Ravi, Vishwa & Kiran were settled there with their wives and were cultivating the property.

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He proudly said ‘Madam  the property that I bought in the year 2006 for Rs. 60 lakhs is now valued at around Rs. 2 crores. My family works on the land (plantation) and it is enough to sustain us’.

He went on to tell me, ‘Madam, in a couple of years when I retire, my wife Kalyani and I intend to live in Honnavara, life there is so peaceful’. The pride in his voice was unmistakable.

By then we had reached my destination. I requested him for a photograph because I wanted to write about a ‘cool’ auto driver who is also a land owner by his perseverance and hard work…

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The Insurance

It was around 9 PM, a warm day in September 1976. I was a 12 year old and my brother 16, we were just getting ready to go to bed and that’s when we heard loud, distressed shrieks ‘fire, fire’ from the portion of our house which was rented out.

My brother and I were in the hall and unthinkingly we ran towards the shrieks and were stunned by the sight that was unfolding before our eyes.

Ebrahim who was a heavy weight (fat) was standing outside his room transfixed; his eyes bulging, almost popping out of the sockets, staring ahead at the entrance of the kitchen from where Orange – Red hot flames were shooting out. There was a strange wailing sound coming from his mouth, which sounded more like a prayer. His roommate, the bearded, skinny Yusuf, who was standing next to him immobilized was shrieking, ‘fire, fire’ like a broken record, unable to stop.

The house IMG_0001 (2)that caught fire was my beautiful parental home in Mulky, the sleepy little town of coastal Karnataka. Our house was over a 100 years old, it had solid carved wooden pillars and a wooden ceiling. The staircases in it were also made of wood. The house was in the shape of the English letter T (upper case). While we lived in the base of the T, the horizontal portion was rented out to a couple of Indian origin South African Hindu & Muslim students.

Most households in Mulky those days went to sleep by 8.30 or 9 in the night; the dimly lit, deserted streets gave an eerie look to our town.

That year the holy month of Ramzan had come in September. Now Sudhakar the Malayali cook of the boys was always dressed in a colorful lungi and half sleeved shirts, with a permanently ruffled mop of curly hair. This particular year, he had a tough time as he had to cook for the Hindus during the day and for the Muslims in the evening and early mornings. He was sleepless and dazed most of the time.

He was leisurely regretting his hasty act of chasing his assistant, just a few days earlier in a fit of anger. That particular day, he was in the final stages of dinner preparation for the Hindu boys and was in a hurry to go to sleep. After he lit the Kerosene oil stove to make the last item – Rice, he stepped out to have a shower. Unthinkingly or carelessly he must have flicked the match stick into the dustbin. As he had just that day finished his monthly grocery shopping, the dustbin was full of waste paper, some of which was used to wipe the spilt kerosene oil. Next to the dustbin was the 20 liter plastic can of kerosene oil.

In just 5 minutes the dustbin caught fire, due to the heat the can melted, 20 liters of oil – highly combustible, spread on the floor adding to the fire.

Adjacent to the kitchen was our cow shed, my mother was struggling to shift the panicking cows to a safer place. Her worry was the highly burnable, dry hay stacked in the attic of the shed and she wanted to save the cows.

My dad and a Raghurama, the goldsmith – our neighbor were running to the only house in the vicinity that had a phone, to call the fire brigade from Mangalore – 30 kilometers away! All my dad kept saying was ’Raghurama dada malpuniya’, ‘Raghurama, what shall we do?’ And Raghurama, gave him courage (which he did not feel) saying ‘Shenere Dever ulleru’ which meant ‘don’t worry sir, God is with us’. The fire brigade will reach quickly in the night…

Ignoring Yusuf & Ebrahim, my brother and I rushed (as only children would do) into the blazing kitchen and my brother tried to pick the plastic bucket which originally contained water. As he held the partially melted bucket, he cursed loudly and dropped it.

By then the power went off, as there was a short circuit somewhere, so we could not use the pump to draw water. And the only light was that of the blazing fire. The acrid smell of Kerosene permeated the whole place. Someone trying to pull water from the well, using the rope and pulley dropped the rope into the well. By now the fire was already touching the roof, the tiled roof could have made things even more difficult as the tiles start flying when it catches fire. I had it easy, someone literally pushed me out on to the street to keep me safe in the company of another student who was a nervous wreck! But my brother had a couple of burns, singed hair and eye brows.

Our community saved us that day from losing everything we had. Had it been 30 minutes later, we would have had difficulty in waking up our neighbors. Nearly 50 of them cut their banana plants, coconut fronds and put out the fire by beating it. Not sure how long it took, but it looked like forever to douse the fire.

We had to ensure that the wooden ceiling didn’t have any burning embers left, so we removed the hot tiles and let the light September drizzle into the burnt out kitchen. By the time all this was over, it was well past midnight. My sad but grateful mom served all of us tea and light snacks and heaved a sigh of relief…

Fire Insurance was unheard of in those days, I remember many Diwali’s when, someone or the other used to come to my dad and request help to raise funds to rebuild their home. It is the goodwill earned from this selfless act that saved us.  Our relationship with our community was the only insurance we had.

Let go, move on & grow!

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.”
― Dr. Steve Maraboli,

I had a chat with an entrepreneur friend recently and learnt a profound truth; that the only way to move forward in life is to severe attachments which are harmful and move forward.

This gentleman runs a very specialized ERP solutions company but has not been able to make a sale for the last year and a half.

When he set up his business 5 years ago, the opportunity size of the Indian market of about 2,500 entities had looked big enough. Today he has exhausted this market already. The issue is unique, while the very large players opt for the more established MNC ERPs, the smaller players are not mature enough to either implement or afford his software. So that leaves our entrepreneur only the mid-sized companies, whom he has already sold to, while the AMC revenue has been trickling in, the prospects of selling any more licenses of the software within the country looks bleak. He has liquidated almost all his assets to pay the salaries of his dwindling staff. And he is in a stage where he is wondering ‘what next?’

On my way back from the meeting, I caught myself wondering how – most often we ‘hold on to something’, a job, a relationship, a floundering business just because we’re afraid to let go. The spontaneity and enthusiasm would have dried up. We would have stopped enjoying the very thing we fell in love with, believed in ardently and cherished.

It is a paradox! Holding on to the business is only sapping him of his energy and resources. Yet the power to ‘let go’ eludes him! Even to his tired senses, it is clear that there is no merit in holding on! Fear of society – and the inability to deal with the vacuum that will stare at him, once he winds up the business has kept him from taking the decision to throw in the towel. I wonder, how long can he hold on?

Is he grappling with a sense of responsibility to his existing customers or is it the worry of abandoning the employees who have stuck to him through thick & thin? Is the industry responsible for pushing the vendor against the wall, till he succumbs? If players like him decide to pull out, what are the options they (the industry) are left with? Can they manage without segment specific software?

These will be interesting questions to deal with, for which I do not have ready answers. I am sure each one of us at some point in our lives are left grappling with similar questions. My dear entrepreneur friend, you better find the answers and deal with them, before it is too late. All the best to you!

Walking my way to better health!

For a long time I used to envy people who had made walking a natural part of their lives. In fact, they seemed to be doing it so effortlessly, both enjoying the exercise and improving their health.

Around August I set a goal to reduce my weight and decided to walk my way to fitness; I’d heard that it’s equivalent to cardio burning workout. Getting up early in the morning initially was an issue, but when a neighbour showed interest it helped. Experts suggest that 30 minutes’ walk at least 3 times a week, we decided to walk for an hour every morning and 2 hours during weekends.

I picked walking as it did not need any ability or specialized training nor did it need any gadgets. All we needed were good shoes with some amount of padding to minimize injuries. Walking is easier on the joints; I remember reading somewhere that a walker’s foot lands with only 1.5 times the force of body weight as against running or jogging. Running on an average puts three times the force on the feet.

I realized that walking with proper diet can be a very effective weight loss program. A brisk walk is supposed to reduce cholesterol levels.

We wear comfortable, sweat absorbing cloths, walking shoes. We drink adequate amounts of water before the walk to keep ourselves hydrated.

I am told some light stretching before and after the walk helps to keep the lower back, legs and shins loose… I am planning to add that to my daily regimen.

If you are still not convinced here are a few benefits I have enjoyed since I started walking

  • I have enjoyed better health free of colds compared to my previous sedentary lifestyle.
  • As for weight loss, I’ve lost almost 11 pounds since I started – without dieting.
  • It has helped me relax… the feeling of having started the day with light exercise leaves me feeling good the whole day!

Here is a quote on walking I love: If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk – Raymond Inmon.

Well! I tend to agree with the quote, it is supported by science, the improved blood circulation stimulates thinking and clarity. I have observed my thoughts racing almost in proportion to the speed at which I walk J

 

  Continue reading “Walking my way to better health!”

Learning to swim!

My mother was very particular that both her children should learn swimming. We didn’t have any swimming pools in Mulky our town… the nearest one was in Mangalore, 30 kms away. Travelling to Mangalore just to learn swimming was definitely out of our reach. As Plato, the Philosopher said, Necessity is the mother of invention, so like most other children in our town, I too learnt to swim in a pond!!

Right behind our house were 40 acres of sprawling paddy fields and had 3 huge wells or ponds, I along with my brother and cousins learnt to swim in these big wells.

Of the 3 we the pond we used most often was close to 20 to 25 feet deep at the deeper side, and 4-6 feet deep on the shallow side, and atleast 40-45 feet in diameter, only experienced swimmers ventured to the deeper side. “Gundida guvel” the “deep well” was what all of us stayed clear of.

Swimming in a well is a thrilling experience; one has to experience it to know what I mean. We had to walk through the paddy fields on the narrow path and a slight slip would mean getting into slush. The fear of the cobras which inhabited the fields made it even more thrilling. On one side of the pond was the “Naga Bana” which was the grove considered to be the resting place of the Snake God, which our family worshiped. This groove had many thorny flowering plants and added to the beauty of the place. Any kind of defacing of the grove was considered a sacrilege, so the area around this pond was kept clean.

Our substitute for the tube used in city swimming pools was the “Pottu Tarai”, 2 hollow coconuts tied to each other, and tied around your waist, which helped keep us afloat. The other option to tie a rope around the waist and someone would hold it standing on the side of the well. This rope was our life line; it is either held tight or left loose to let the learner a little more freedom, depending on the swimmers capabilities.

A beginner is expected to hold on the sides of the pond and just kick the feet…then after one or two days we were expected to move our arms too. An uncle or an older cousin will hold on to the coconuts and ensured that I didn’t sink and walk with me around the pond. I was a short kid and even 4 feet depth was scary, as my feet didn’t touch the ground. After the first couple of days, I had managed to learn to swim with the rope around the waist.

There were many terms and conditions, if it rained heavily; we were not allowed to go swimming. We had to do all the chores that uncle asked for through the week. We also had to wait at least an hour after having food or breakfast and we could stay for a maximum of 2 hours in the water. After the swimming, when we reached home shivering a hot water bath and great snacks awaited us.

One Saturday afternoon 5 or 6 of us cousins in the age group of 10 to 14 years, got together and went to the pond. I was the youngest among them and was the only one who needed help, by now I had graduated to swimming with the rope. That particular day, uncle was in no mood and after my 3rd round, he wanted to go home.  I didn’t pay heed to his orders; after some cribbing, he agreed to allow me to swim a little longer. At one point I realized that my brother was swimming very close to me and was looking unusually concerned, for some reason I turned and looked at uncle and realized that he wasn’t holding the rope. When the realization hit me that I was swimming independently, I panicked and sank. After spluttering and drinking some water, I was pulled to the side of the pond. By then I had consumed enough water and my pride and confidence had taken a severe beating. After that day, it took a lot of will power to go back for swimming…

That day my uncle too learnt a lesson…. that he had to be really alert with young kids in water… and I learnt that security was only an illusion;

All these memories came rushing back during our recent holiday to Thailand. I felt the same kind of panic when I got into the water near Phi Phi islands.

Here are two photographs of the place:

Phi Phi islands
Phi Phi islands

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Phi Phi Islands are situated 40 km south-east of Phuket, we were taken there on a big boat and were given an hours’ time to get into the water at the Maya Bay. There was a great rush as everyone wanted to get into the emerald green waters.  Once I got into the water I realized that it was at least 10-12 feet deep, boy! was I happy I had a life jacket on!

Worth a visit if you are ever in Thailand.

Give yourself a Chance

I met a good friend for lunch over the weekend. One point led to another and we ended up discussing ‘the purpose of life’ or the ‘purpose why God created this world/universe’, over a couple of glasses of Litchi juice! While I was struggling to answer the question, my friend supplied – ‘growth’ – ‘growth is the purpose of God’s creation of this world?’. I was nonplused for a moment and wanted to tell him, ‘we believe growth is the cause for happiness!’

My friend goes on to explain – ‘God created this universe and his purpose was ‘Growth’, yes if you are not able to grow at the pace you anticipated at, from point A to point B, in a straight line, it’s ok! You may be required to take a detour’. He further explained that in his opinion the detour may come in the form of a nasty neighbor who keeps making your life miserable as he objects to your dog being walked in the neighbourhood (keep your dog in your house! Don’t bring her for walks, let her poop in your house etc. etc.) Or in the form of a supervisor who is constantly telling you how everything you do is wrong, or about a colleague, who thinks she is a gift of God to the human kind etc. etc.  God has his way of putting these obstacles in your way, he expects and trusts that you will discover the way to your goal! He also told me to take stock of my gifts…

What he told me was simple, today I can complain that I have a fat dog (who needs to shed 10 Kilos of weight) or I can kiss her for the sheer happiness she gives me with her unconditional love & loyalty. I can complain about the cluttered, apartment ridden road (where I live) or be happy I have a roof over my head. Crib endlessly about all the household work I need to do or be thankful for the loving family that I’ve nurtured all these years! I could think of many people who’d love to be in my position for all the above!

Vinod had provoked me into contemplating, thinking, internalising this fact. I understood a little more clearly, how God had helped us to earn enough money to buy/own this apartment that we live, have a pet dog – to whom we are the universe and for giving me enough energy and patience to nurture the most beautiful family! Am I not the luckiest of all the people? Has God not helped me grow?

I then recalled the video on YouTube where Anthony Robbins explains how people can be just one millimeter off from success (in a game or in life) when they think all hell was breaking loose. The video continues and Tony urges listeners to give themselves a chance.

That’s what I’ve decided to do, give myself a chance…

There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort – Desmond Tutu Quotes

Confusions galore!

Last couple of days have been crazy, I am beginning to read between lines and see aspects I’ve never understood all these past years. For example, I saw a TED talk of a street skater and learnt a profound truth. Most often we ‘Hold on to something’, a job, a relationship, a floundering business just because we’re afraid to let go; due to fear of society ­­- in the process stop being spontaneous and creative. Stop enjoying the very thing we fell in love with and cherished. If we learn to let go, life might provide a better option!

I read a book and realized that sometimes the responses we get from people are not necessarily what we deserve; that most often people react based on their ‘assumption’ of who we are, which might be far from reality. The sheer proximity to ‘Top Brass’ can earn you the friendship of a whole lot of people, who are otherwise oblivious of your existence.  On the other hand you may even end up being a pawn or a scape goat in the office politics and lose your job, again due to the perceived proximity to a powerful person. When the powerful person may not realise – may not even care.

Where is the solution to such fears, insecurities and non-existent power equations? Can you walk up to your tormentor in the corporate scenario and tell him/her, ‘Hey! Look, you’re mistaken. I am not who you think I am’! What do you think the response will be?  Of course it is going to be denial and feigned innocence.

Or can you give up the relationship and hope for something better to happen? Or give up the job and hope a better opportunity to happen to you? Does the world around us ever forget or forgive us, for our past deeds? How long does it take for your colleagues, seniors to forget your commitment, dedication and loyalty? Does the society even care about our ground realities?  

I hope these questions will eventually get answered! Hope the books I read, the introspection will get me the clarity I seek!