Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Night Of Haunting

Each year on the last day of October, ghouls, witches, vampires, zombies, and all things evil take to the streets of America. People of all ages can be found dressed up in costumes that they might not wear on any other day of the year. For, it is on the 31st of October that Halloween, which over the years has come to mark the official end of summer, is celebrated.
As you begin seeing pumpkins, jack o’ lanterns, bats, gigantic spiders, cobwebs, friendly and evil ghosts and witches on their flying brooms, in the front yards of homes, and at store fronts, you know that Halloween is fast approaching. But not every one chooses to dress up as something evil or scary. Younger children stick to their favorite cartoon characters or animals or generic characters such as angels, firefighters, pirates, and so on. Often the popular costumes each year are influenced by major events or hit movies.

Armed with colorful bags and baskets, they visit homes in their neighborhood seeking candy and other goodies. Kids knock at doors and ask, “Trick or treat?” and you are supposed to answer “treat” and drop something nice in their bags. Never say “trick” unless you wish to find your car splattered with eggs or your yard littered the next morning ! Trick-or-treating is an essential element of Halloween celebrations in the US and as the day draws closer, stores are flooded with bags of chocolates and candy.

The night of haunting as Halloween is also known, has its origin in an ancient Irish celebration known as All Hallows’ Day. This Catholic day of observance in honor of saints was commemorated on November 1 in Celtic Ireland while October 31 was commemorated as Samhein, the Celtic New Year. Over the years Samhein came to be known as All Hallows’ Even’ or Halloween, meaning the eve of All Hallows’ Day. The Celts believed that on the last day of the year, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred.

According to them, this allowed the spirits of those who passed in the preceding year to mingle with the living and find people to possess, so they could continue in the afterlife. So, in order to prevent this from happening, Celtic villagers would douse the fires burning in their homes and dress up in ghostly costumes, making as much noise as possible in the hopes of scaring away the spirits. This custom was brought to America by the Irish immigrants who landed here in the late 19th century.

The prominent colors associated with Halloween are black and orange. Black signifies death, night, and evil while orange indicates fire, autumn, and pumpkins. Pumpkin carving contests are very popular during Halloween and when a candle is placed inside a carved pumpkin it turns into a jack o’ lantern. Myths abound about the different symbols and imagery of Halloween.

Malls, libraries, schools, all have their individual Halloween celebrations where children can go trick-or-treating and have a good time with friends. Pumpkin patches, haunted mansions, and haunted trails are set up in various places which afford good photo opportunities and also entertain youngsters. For adults, themed parties are the norm and in big cities such as San Francisco, entire streets are marked off for revelry that runs late into the night every year on Halloween.

The film and television industry does not lag behind and comes up with specials such as new and old horror flicks, documentaries, and contests with lucrative prizes. All in all Halloween is a time for everyone to have fun, dress up, eat candy, and scare the living daylights out of friends and family. So, let’s all get together and say….. “Boo”!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

‘Champs XI’ Clinches ‘CricBay 2009’ Grand Finale Trophy

The finals of ‘CricBay 2009’ tennis ball cricket tournament were held at Thornton Junior High School, Fremont, recently.Based on the league games, the participating teams had been divided into three categories—Silver, Gold, and Platinum.The Platinum grand finale was played between ‘Champs XI’ and ‘Squared Leg’, with the former emerging as champions.

In the Gold category, ‘The Immortals’ defeated ‘Eagles’ after the match went into a ‘super over’. In Silver, ‘Thunderdawgs’ won against ‘Megastars’. The chief guest at the event was Rajesh Padhi, West Coast representative of USACA (United States Cricket Association) who was also recognized by the ICC for his women’s cricket initiative in the Bay Area. Sam Rao, bureau in-charge, West Coast, The Indian Express, North America, was another eminent personality who graced the occasion.

Sixty-eight teams from all over the Bay Area participated in the ‘2009 Regular Season’. Over 200 people attended the event including CricBay players, spouses, and children. The sponsors for the tourney were Dr Prakash Advani DDS and Associates, Precious Dental Care, Swathi Tiffins, and ERP Factory.

Started in 2006, CricBay, a platform for the cricketers, by the cricketers and of the cricketers, has fast gained in popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having started with 28 teams, the organization is run by volunteers, who work tirelessly to make this form of weekend cricket not only enjoyable but highly competitive.

The backbone of the organization is the website which contains everything from forums to blogs to statistical data of teams and individual players. Rajendra Badadare, national cricket coach, Team USA Under-15, is also a member of CricBay. Badadare plays for the CricBay team Cheers Cricket Club of Foster City. CricBay plans to partner with Padhi and Badadare for the development of women’s and youth cricket in the United States.

Press Contact:
Pics by Sheshu Shenoy and Ranjeet Mankikar
Inputs from Sunil Shenoy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blending Tradition With Chic

It’s that time of the year again. The festival of lights, gifts, and everything new is right around the corner. All the players in the consumer durables segment are out to woo the spending public. Innovative, colorful, appealing advertisements have started popping up everywhere!

Leading brands have all launched their respective Diwali collections. Clothes, jewellery, electronics, vehicles, chocolates—you name it—everything is being sold with special discounts or bunched together with lucrative offers. There is so much on offer that it becomes difficult for you to choose just the ‘right’ gift or the ‘right’ things for your own indulgence!

‘Shop till you drop’ seems to be the mantra this season. If you are contemplating getting some new jewellery for yourself or someone you love, it might be a good idea to put that on top of your shopping list as, like every year, gold prices are set to soar and touch new heights.

According to Hemant of S L Shet Jewellers, “Branded jewellery and gold coins are in demand during Diwali. Antique jewellery especially the kind with ‘temple work’ is also a favourite though it is more on the expensive side”.

He added that sales usually pick up a couple of days ahead of Diwali. “Many in the Gujarati community choose to buy gold coins on ‘Dhanteras’ as this is considered very auspicious”, says Hemant.

Beauty salons don’t lag behind either. Many of them come up with attractive offers during the festival seasons and Diwali is no exception. Says Roma Nayak of the Lakme Salon, “We usually offer special packages around Diwali, but as of now they have not been introduced this year. Whenever there are such offers, our clients benefit a lot”.

When it comes to giving or receiving gifts, many people now prefer gift vouchers. Gift vouchers can be obtained from leading establishments as well as some private banks in the country. Also known as gift cards, the advantage is that one does not have to spend time worrying over what to choose for a gift.

Since most stores in India do not issue gift receipts which make exchanging duplicate gifts easier, the recipient is also saved from being stuck with two similar gifts!

“Gift vouchers are a good option because they allow the recipient to buy whatever he/she likes. I would rather give gift vouchers of banks which can be used at many merchant establishments”, says Manohar Kamath, an entrepreneur.

However, if he had to buy a gift for someone, Manohar says that he would do so keeping in mind the receiver’s likes and dislikes instead of being swayed by discounts or festive offers.

“I am planning to buy crockery, kurtas, and salwar suits to gift this Diwali. I am going to buy myself a nice sari or a salwar suit also”, says Sarika Sharma, who does not believe in giving gift vouchers.

Traditional outfits with heavy Western influences are in vogue this season in both men’s and women’s wear. For functions like the Diwali puja, saris remain a favourite, especially the ‘concept sari’ better-known as the ‘readymade sari’, closely followed by embellished kurtis teamed with leggings.

Swarovski crystals are being used in abundance all around; be it on kurtas, cholis, or in jewellery.

In the men’s segment kurtas and churidars in silk or blended silk and cotton are the hot favourites with the accent being on accessories—embroidered belts, and ethnic mojris. Though pastel shades are the reigning favourites a splash of colour can be added to the outfit with a bright chunari around the neck.

Apparel merchants in the city are stocking up on the latest fashions and can feel the pulse of their customers. Says Shailesh Jain of Mayuri, “Fancy saris are in great demand this season; especially those which are tissue-based. The ‘patli pallu’ is also back now”.

A price range of Rs 1500 – Rs 5000 is preferred by most of his customers. Jain adds, “We also have a 10-20 percent discount sale upto the 31st of this month and sales are expected to pick up soon as this offer has just begun”.

All in all, ‘traditional, yet classy’ seems to be the theme for this Diwali.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dedicated to Cricket - Creator Sunil Shenoy

Cricket is not just a game for us Indians; passion might describe it better. So, it should not come as a surprise that cricket enthusiasts in the Bay Area, here in the US, have carved out a league of their own. A group of them put their heads together and came up with the idea of a tennis ball cricket league in March 2006, organizing different tournaments all through the year. CricBay (Cricket in Bay Area) has ensured that there is plenty of cricket to go around!

What is unique about this league is that there is no formal governing body or committee to regulate and manage the teams and events. Volunteers from the participating teams are responsible for deciding the venue, setting up the field and communicating all necessary information to the players. Another interesting tidbit — quite a few of the players and volunteers hail from Dakshina Kannada.

"CricBay is a dynamic volunteer league providing framework/support to like-minded cricket teams. It's a fantastic democratic organization which will continue growing to enable years of fun, competitive, tennis ball cricket in the Bay Area. Thanks to all the hardworking volunteers who have accomplished so much with so little,” says Jignesh Trivedi, captain of the Dixon Landing Dawgs.

Suraj Dalvi, manager of the Weekenders, couldn’t agree more. "Transparency of finances and having a say in the rules and regulations are the reasons why I would claim that CricBay is one of the best cricketing organizations,” adds Dalvi.

The league has three major tournaments every year — Regular Season, Playoffs, and Fall Open. The league follows a quasi-knockout format wherein teams play for each position on the ranking ladder. This means that all teams play about the same number of games as the winning team.

Anand Lakshmanan, vice-captain of the Weekenders, feels the concept of losing teams continuing to play for other positions is ideal since “this takes away the nightmarish logistics of the team management trying to find a team to play every other weekend. This also ensures equal amount of fun for the winning and losing teams till the end of the season and urges the teams to remain competitive.”

Most matches are held on the home ground of one of the two participating teams whereas the umpires would be from two other teams from the league. This helps ensure impartiality and speedy resolution of disputes that might arise during the course of a game. The schedule is planned keeping in mind umpiring assignments and a few rest weekends in between to provide for rescheduling of abandoned games. Umpires for the semi-finals and finals are chosen from those nominated as the best by the teams during the course of the playoffs.

Sunil Shenoy of Kaup is yet another person who has been dedicated to the cause of cricket in the region and CricBay. Shenoy’s love for the game is evident through the website which has been designed by him. has an efficient cricket statistics management system that keeps a tab of all the matches organized by the league. Rankings, scores, match schedules and team lists are all available on the website which is being improved upon with each passing day (

This website also acts as a forum for discussion and interaction between the member teams ( Shenoy hopes to have the software fully developed sometime next year.

Some excerpts from an interview with Sunil Shenoy.

1) Who came up with the idea of such a cricket league?
There are a lot of teams in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. We (the teams) got to know each other through tournaments and felt the need for a democratic community to arrange cricket matches and bring the teams together. That is how in early 2006 we decided to start CricBay.

2) What prompted you to set up such a website?

Cricket is a passion for most Indians and I am just one of them. Web development and design is also a passion of mine. A couple of years ago, the idea of developing a user-friendly online portal to maintain cricket statistics came to me. Since then I have been working on the cricket statistics system step by step. The formation of CricBay speeded up development of this system. With priceless inputs and contribution from our SQL guru Anil Rao, the process has been smoother and swifter.

3) How many teams does CricBay have?

We started off the first tournament, CricBay Regular Season 2006, with 28 teams and this year the number stands at 68!

4) Does every player have a login/id on the website or only the team captains?

Anybody can register on ( A player must have a registered account on to enter his scores. The access to materials on the website is limited to the role assigned to the user. For example, the team management has the ability to add/remove players from their team; the volunteers have access to a privileged set of documents, and so on.

5) How are disputes and issues resolved?
CricBay has communities (listed on ) that handle all CricBay activities. Any CricBay member can also be a member of these communities. The disputes are handled by the Community for Rules and Appeals (CoRA). If there is any dispute, the team captain, the manager, or the umpires officiating the game, report it to CoRA by email (we are in the process of developing an automated system on to handle this process) which in turn passes judgment after listening to all those involved.

6) What other features do you plan to introduce on the website?

Ever since its launch, is being improved everyday thanks to inputs from fellow community members. There is constant development and every day new features are being planned or added. I would not like to specifically list out the new features that are coming up but want to urge visitors to the site and members to keep a watch on There are numerous features being added and there seems to be no end to development of at this point.

To Brother, With Love

It is a festival unique to India; one which celebrates the special bond that exists between a brother and his sister—a bond of love and trust that can withstand the worst that life has in store.

‘Raksha Bandhan’ is right around the corner and the store displays are filled with ‘rakhis’ of numerous hues and sizes. Girls and women look through the various designs on offer, unable to make up their minds on which ones to buy. There are rakhis are not meant just for one’s siblings and cousins, but also for friends who are then known as ‘rakhi brothers’.

When we were kids, the rakhis were usually handmade, crafted painstakingly over many days, and the return gifts, albeit simple things like chocolates or a soft toy, were bought with hard-earned pocket money saved over weeks.

In those days, on Raksha Bandhan day, I would get up early to prepare a ‘thaali’ with a lit lamp, vermillion or ‘kumkum’, a few grains of rice, and some sweet dish on it.

Then, in turn, each of my brothers would sit before me. After applying vermillion on their foreheads I would tie the rakhi on each one’s wrist; next was the ‘aarti’ followed by the sweet dish.

If it was a younger brother, he would pay his respects by touching my feet before handing over the gift. In the case of an elder brother, I would be the one saluting him in a similar manner after receiving my gift.

As we became adults with busy lives and demanding jobs, inevitably the rakhis were store-bought and the gifts became fancier; cosmetics, watches, or other expensive accessories.

Today, in fact over the past few years, I send most of my rakhis through the good old postal department. The reason being—those who receive my rakhis every year live miles away, making it impossible for them to drop by on Raksha Bandhan day!

Considering the number of people who choose to send rakhis through them and realizing their importance in making this festival a memorable one, the postal department has also come up with various innovations over the years with waterproof envelopes being the latest fad!

The last couple of years, even my sole sibling—my younger brother, has received my rakhis through mail after he moved to another part of the country. This year, he has moved across to another continent!

Instead of the elaborate preparations involved in making the rakhis and then tying them, now there is no option left but to send ‘e-rakhis’ and SMS wishes on that day.

The gifts of course are delivered on time—one just has to place an order online or pick up the phone and everything is done; at a price, of course.

The world has become a smaller place thanks to technology, but is it also turning into a place that lacks the human touch?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

‘Khamma Ghani Sa!’

What would be the one place where you can enjoy camel rides, ‘kathputli’ or puppet shows, view the ‘ghoomar’ dance, and enjoy delicious ‘daal bhati’, ‘malpuas’, ‘sangri’ and ‘sag-gatta’? I’m sure the first answer that comes to mind would be none other than ‘Rajasthan’.

But you couldn’t be further from the truth! All this and more can be experienced at ‘Chokhi Dani’ a Rajasthani theme village located on the outskirts of Pune. A fee of about Rs 300 per head includes entry, a few coupons that can be redeemed for games or rides, and a traditional dinner.

As you enter, you are welcomed with peppy ‘dhol’ music and colourful ‘Kacchi Ghodi’ dancers. A counter with snacks and starters including ‘chaat’, ‘pakodas’, and cool beverages awaits you so you can nibble on something before having fun.

Taking a cursory glance around as I savoured the food on offer, I could see children and adults alike enjoying camel rides, horse rides, and a spin in the ‘bail gaadi’ or ox cart.Some were busy testing their skill at pottery-making.

We decided to try out the rides as well. After a camel ride and my first ever ‘bail gaadi’ ride, we were just in time to watch a performance of the ‘ghoomar’, and the ‘panihari’.

Seated on traditional ‘charpais’, with front row seats, we were soon transported to a different world altogether. The graceful dancers with their bewitching moves and seemingly impossible maneuvers kept us in thrall all along.

From there we moved on to the games section where one could test one’s skills at archery and bowling amongst others. And then one could also have pretty ‘mehendi’ designs drawn on one’s hands.

Nearby was a stall where you could get your names written on a grain of rice. This is then put in a vial of special liquid to preserve the grain and attached to a keychain!

We also got the opportunity to dress up in traditional Rajasthani attire and have our photographs taken to keep them as a souvenir of our memorable trip. Fire dancers were our next stop before heading to the dining hall to sample the sumptuous fare on offer.

One can have as many servings as one wants of any of the mouthwatering dishes served on biodegradable plates made of dried leaves. The stewards were all dressed traditionally complete with colourful turbans.

They kept refilling our plates until we could not eat another morsel. By the time we were done with dinner, none of us were inclined to walk back to the exit!
(Photos by Upendra Nayak & Chandana Nayak Shenoy)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Traipsing Down Memory Lane

It was nearly seven years since my last visit to my alma mater, and I was somewhat nervous as I peeked in the door of the English Department. To my utter surprise and joy, all the teachers remembered me and gave me the warmest of welcomes notwithstanding the fact that I had unwittingly gate crashed a departmental meeting!
In a moment I was made to feel right at home; it did not even remotely seem that it had been a decade since I was a student there. As one of my teachers put it, “the department was as mad as ever”!

Fun, friends, freshers, favourite teachers, food, fashion, and fights, were some of the things that had rushed to the forefront of my mind as I crossed the threshold of the college where I spent three wonderful, idyllic years.

Fun requires no further explanation whatsoever. It was a time when everything had a funny side to it and the slightest provocation was sufficient to send us into peals of laughter. Getting to and from college, attending lessons, and hanging out with friends, were all enjoyable activities.

Friends were numerous and the whole class was closely knit, getting into mischief all the time. Planning and preparing for the regular ‘literary hours’ involved more giggling and skipping of classes than was deemed necessary. The faculty of the English Department definitely had a lot more grey hairs by the time we graduated!

Getting introduced to the ‘freshers’ was an annual event, awaited eagerly. Snide comments and genuine compliments would flow forth as we took stock of our successors. Alas, we were never satisfied that there was a bunch of the right mix that would be worthy enough to be our replacement.

The whole of the English Department was a favourite, with each teacher making her class unique with her own individual style of teaching. Be it phonetics, grammar, poetry, or drama, learning was enjoyable and effortless with the quirks of every teacher staying with us long after we left college. Remembrance by association made answering exams a breeze.

The food in the canteen was nothing to write home about and one chose to sample the menu only in an emergency. However, the canteen itself was the venue of many a shared lunch and gossip sessions. Partaking of the scrumptious food our moms packed for us each day, was a ritual in itself.

It was cool to make your own fashion statement rather than going with only the latest trends. Every new look was sure to be noticed and received either criticism or appreciation—both were sure to be delivered in large helpings.

Guarding your turf was yet another integral part of everyday life in college. Inter departmental competition was pretty strong but the rivalry always remained a healthy, even jocular one.

Today, looking back at these different aspects of student life that I encountered and successfully navigated through, it is hard to believe that so many years have passed by.

Talking to my college mates only reinforces this feeling, for it seems as though we are easily able to carry on a conversation from where we last left off!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Road to Perdition?

Driving on our roads is no mean feat nowadays. It requires all of one's skills, dexterity and ingenuity to traverse from one point to the other. An utter disregard for fellow commuters seems to be the latest trend. The number of road hogs, meanwhile, has increased by leaps and bounds. While earlier, it was usually the so-called 'express' bus drivers who evoked fear with their reckless driving, now, it seems to have become the prerogative of most drivers be it a car or a motorcycle or even a bicycle. Looks like it's time someone instituted 'etiquette' classes for all road users - pedestrians as well as those on vehicles.

Everyone knows that our nation is a democracy. For many pedestrians, this seems to mean the right to walk wherever they wish as also cross a busy road as per their whims, rather than at the zebra crossing or a regulated traffic light. Cyclists, meanwhile, are in a class of their own bothering about none and pedaling furiously down the middle of the highway. Most of them don't seem to have heard of reflectors or rearview mirrors.

As for driving at night, the less said the better. Driving with the headlights on at full beam is the norm. Rather than illuminate the path, these bright lights blind those in vehicles traveling in the opposite direction. The significance of the 'dim and dip' is totally lost on these people who instead take it as a show of strength and retaliate by switching on whatever lights their vehicles possess. A few years ago, vehicles were required to have a 'black spot' on the headlights and this helped minimize the glare. Why that is not a requirement anymore is something that is known only to the concerned authorities.

Statistics reveal that such negligence and ignorance are major factors contributing to the rise in the number of road accidents each year. Still, surprisingly, nobody seems to be losing any sleep over the issue. Isn't it time we woke up and refreshed our knowledge a bit before taking to the roads with a vengeance ?

Sound Bites

A loud bang followed by a tremor. No, that was not an earthquake, for Mangalore is somewhere at the bottom of the seismic activity scale. It was only a few neighbours celebrating Diwali with zest, enthusiasm and plenty of loud firecrackers.

Mind you, I don’t have anything against Diwali or Tulsi Puja or anyone celebrating these festivals in a lively, boisterous manner. Nor am I an anti-fireworks activist. I just wish they could make it a bit easier on my ‘oh-so-sensitive’ ears! Perhaps I am in the minority when I ask, why can’t people use more of those firecrackers which burst into flames high in the sky and provide a visual treat rather than strain the auditory nerves of all and sundry ?

Infants and those with a weak heart may be the only ones who will side with me on this issue. Many a time have I had my little one bawl at the disturbance in his tranquil little world of lullabies and gentle, kindly voices. As for the latter, one can very well imagine the repercussions of such sound pollution.

One plausible reason for the popularity of these ‘bombs’ maybe the fact that they are often priced lower than the rest. Here, a loyal supporter of the ‘bomb’ might be inclined to point out that the expensive firecrackers are responsible for another kind of pollution – air pollution.

So, now, what does one do in such a situation? It is impossible to imagine any of these festivals without some kind of fireworks. Guess this is what is termed “caught between a rock and a hard place”. Well, there is a whole year to ponder over this and hopefully come up with a solution. And in case you can’t resolve the matter, don’t worry, go ahead and burst some firecrackers – but with a wee bit of concern for others.

Do You Care ?

Customer service is variously defined as “an organization's ability to supply their customers' wants and needs” and “the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations.” Companies dedicate entire divisions to 'customer care'. Most major players in the service industry impart special training to their staff to ensure best possible service to existing customers and prospective clients.

Why is it then that when it comes to interacting with clients, most of these 'customer care' executives fail miserably ? Take, for instance, the case of the representative from a well-known telecommunications major in the city who keeps pestering you day in and out extolling the benefits of upgrading one's internet facilities. After days of listening, you finally decide it would be easier for all concerned to subscribe to the facility and inform the chap of this. He gives you his confident assurance that everything will be in place the very next day.
With that he does the vanishing act, literally!! You wait in vain, but no one appears at your doorstep with the promised equipment. The person who at one time seemed eager to hear from you no longer answers nor returns calls! When you look for a 'customer care' number on the last received bill, there is no such number listed though it does state that one must contact 'customer care' for any queries and complaints. All this from a private sector organization which has a turnover of crores of rupees. And here, we complain about the inefficiency and impoliteness of bureaucrats. At least they never promise you the stars and the moon !

Where big names seem to be falling behind in providing quality service to customers, there are some resourceful entrepreneurs who know that the key to success is a satisfied client. A furniture maker who keeps his word and makes the delivery on the eve of Diwali, despite a shortage of staff during the holiday season, is definitely on the right track. So is the proprietor of the interiors shop, who is briskly efficient and prompt.

These two, who don't have a 'customer service' division, demonstrate 'service orientation' whereas those who claim to provide the best in 'customer care' fall way short of expectations. Perhaps it's time, the big fish came down a notch and took some valuable lessons from the small fry.

Friday, August 14, 2009

‘They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait’

Malls, supermarkets, grocery chains, have all sprung up across the city changing the landscape and the lifestyle of people here. Sadly, people’s manners haven’t changed for the better. Despite wearing branded clothes, shoes, and using plastic to pay for their purchases at the ‘oh-so expensive’ stores, basic civility still dates back to pre-historic times.

To the time when ‘might was right’ and ‘survival of the fittest’, was the watchword. Perhaps life has come full circle and it’s back to the ways of our primitive ancestors! Before you start wondering where all this is going let me tell you about the incident that triggered off this train of thought.

Just a few days ago, I was at the local grocery supermarket, patiently waiting in the checkout line when along waltzes a ‘healthy’, middle-aged woman, and cuts ahead of the lady in front of me and has her billing done!

I expect the person before me to object but she, though clearly disapproving, does not utter a word. When it’s my turn at the counter I query the shop assistant as to why he let the woman barge in. His reply—she said she was in a hurry!!! Yea right, as if I have all the time in the world to stand in queue all day long with a squirming toddler on one arm and a full shopping basket on the other!!!

Seething, and fuming, I leave the store thinking this to be the heights of complete disregard for the most basic norms of civil society. Boy, was I wrong! Hardly a couple of days pass, when, with a sense of déjà vu, I find myself in yet another checkout line, faced with a similar situation. There’s a slight difference this time around—instead of someone cutting ahead of me, these ingenious youngsters get in line from the direction opposite to which the queue is moving!

Unfortunately for them, I am the one they encounter first. Their excuse—they have just a couple of items to be billed. Duh! 'Haven’t you heard of the express checkout counter?’ I ask them sarcastically. And for good measure, I also ask the man at the counter if the queue progresses both ways. The shop assistant blushes with shame, but the culprits stay there giggling shamelessly!

What infuriated me was the fact that there were not many shoppers at that time and all the checkout counters were relatively empty, and still they chose to break the unwritten laws of society. And these are the ‘future’ of our country that we talk of so proudly. I shudder to think of what the ‘future’ has in store for us!

Perhaps, before rushing to get our wards admitted to the best management, engineering, and medical schools, we should consider getting them to attend a short stint at an ‘etiquette school’, provided there are any such schools around. If not, here’s an idea for those in the educational sector. It’s an evergreen business proposition, for though there may be a decrease in the demand for management or IT professionals, manners and etiquette are never going out of business!

Selective Adaptations

Aping the West or rather the Americans, seems to be second nature for us. Be it language, food, fashion, or lifestyle—what is good for them, is good for us. But there is more to America worth embracing than jeans, burgers, and rap.

Topping the list is the glaring contrast between the efficient and orderly public transportation network in that country and the inefficient and reckless one in ours. For Mangaloreans, a typical trip by bus, in particular express service, is a gut-rattling experience which involves boarding and alighting the vehicle while in motion, rattling through every available pothole, and clinging on to the hand-rails for dear life.

And this is applicable without discrimination to young and old, the able and the physically-challenged. Add to this the inevitable scramble for seats, cramped space, and bodies slamming into you with every jerk of the vehicle, and it is not surprising that you are ecstatic when you alight at your destination.

Compare this with a bus journey in Milwaukee, an American city of similar standing as Mangalore. You notice the difference the moment the bus arrives at the stop and passengers start filing in in an orderly fashion. After paying their fares and collecting their tickets from the driver, the commuters leisurely make their way to vacant seats.
There are no conductors to yell out the stops and when you have to get off, you indicate it by pulling a cord that lights up a warning to the driver. Flexible ramps are provided to facilitate a wheelchair bound person to board the vehicle. What is more astounding is the fact that when such a passenger gets on or off, the driver himself gets up to secure the wheelchair to special clamps made for the purpose or to unfasten them, as the case may be—an occurrence inconceivable of in our country. Leave alone the driver, fellow passengers can be so inconsiderate as to occupy seats meant for the physically-challenged and even refuse to vacate them.

Blatantly, we blame the western culture for corrupting young and impressionable minds. But whose fault is it that we choose to adapt what is convenient to us and prefer to ignore the finer points of that society? This attitude is not confined to a single situation or one incident. It is a malaise which exists throughout our society.

If we are to become truly ‘developed’ and ‘broad-minded’, it is of utmost importance that we learn to admit and rectify our faults and appreciate the positive aspects of other cultures.

Stop, Think, Go!

These days patience seems to have become a rarity. Most people seem to be always in a hurry to get somewhere. Traffic lights have come up all over the city and I suppose they were put up with the good intention of regulating the huge number of vehicles. But whether they serve their purpose is a difficult question!
No sooner does the light turn orange than all the vehicles begin to move forward as one. Drivers all around relentlessly honk at any law abiding citizen who happens to be dutifully waiting for the light to turn green before edging forward. At times, mercifully, the presence of a traffic constable deters the eager ones.
Things are no different if you travel by bus. The driver seems to be in a rush to get wherever it is he has to go and it’s of no consequence to him whether you have boarded or alighted. He revs up the engine before you can even get one foot aboard or off!
In case you thought the lack of patience was evident only in the case of vehicles and their drivers, think again.

Take the example of any of the local ATMs. The poster right beside the door clearly states in different languages that people should not go inside the booth in groups. Basic etiquette and security reasons demand that the person inside be allowed his privacy. But who has the time to read or even wait for someone to finish their transaction. Before you can get your card back, the person who was right behind you barges in and the guard outside simply keeps looking!!

You come outside only to find that that same person has parked his car haphazardly, right behind yours, without a thought that you may need to leave before he does And these are supposed to be the ‘well-educated’, ‘cultured’, members of society.

Whether you are walking down the street, at a cinema hall or waiting for an auto, there always seems to be a person nearby who is in such a hurry that he doesn’t even bother to apologize for brushing against you or for stepping on your toes. Wish I knew where everyone was going in such a big rush!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sinhagad - Sentinel of a Bygone Era

A pleasant, wintry afternoon in January saw us trudging up the steps to Sinhagad Fort, previously known as Kondhana. Stomachs rumbling with hunger is not exactly the right way to embark on a trek of any length. However, the fame of the authentic Maharashtrian cuisine served to visitors at the ‘Fort of the Lion’, courtesy the locals, was too tempting to resist.

A variant of the ‘dhabas’ that have now become popular all over the country, these small makeshift eateries are the place to visit if you like the traditional ‘Jhunka-bhakar’, ‘kanda-bhaji’, and other mouthwatering delicacies accompanied by ‘matka dahi’!

Having satiated our hunger and rejuvenated ourselves with the refreshing buttermilk, curds, and the sweet water which is a specialty of the region, we made our way to the top of the fort. Located amongst the Sahyadris at more than 4,400 ft above sea-level, Sinhagad is a former bastion of Chattrapati Shivaji.

He won the fort in an epic battle due to the valour of his general Tanaji Malusare, who lost his life in the battle. On hearing of Tanaji’s death, Shivaji said "Gad aala pan sinha gela" meaning "We gained the fort, but lost the lion". Thus, the fortress was given its current name in honour of the war hero.

Looking back down the way we had come, I could see the Mutha River winding its way in the distance. The Khadakvasla dam is built on this river. Making our way into the fort through one of the two main entrances, the first things we came across was the tank used for storing the sweet drinking water which we sampled earlier.

All along the way, the views were simply breathtaking-the windswept, striated rock and sand formations that stand tall and still.

Peeking over the guardrails, it was easy to see why the fort was considered impregnable. The steep cliffs had all along safeguarded the fortress except when Tanaji and his men decided to scale the rocks with the help of a giant monitor lizard in their successful attempt to take back the fort from the enemy!

Gazing upon the ramparts, some in ruins and others still standing strong, I could picture in my mind’s eye the gallant warriors in battle gear, and horses’ hooves clattering upon the stone walkways and steps.

And beyond the walls of the fort were the spectacular peaks visible in the distance, and the valley far, far below. It was east to guess that they would present a magnificient sight when viewed in the monsoon with greenery greatly enhancing the vista.

On our way back, we also came across the house used by freedom fighter Lokamanya Tilak who had spent summers here writing. The fortress also has temples and a memorial to Tanaji.

As we walked down the steps, the sun had lost much of its vigour and a gentle breeze wafted across bringing an adventurous day to a peaceful end.
(Photos By Upendra Nayak & Chandana Nayak Shenoy)