Sunday, 28 June 2015

The battle of the bulging cut offs

As a parent, the greatest apprehension was whether my daughter would get admission in a good Delhi University college, and anything less would mean  a compromise, in spite of a plethora of high sounding alternative private universities, some sounding as Western as I am Indian! Call it old fashioned stubbornness or sentimentality stemming from the fact that I am, myself, a product of a University that has somehow become rather elusive even for those who have scored a perfect ninety-five ( something that was guaranteed to have been madness or craziness in my time when an eighty-five was the perfect figure!).
The sudden shooting up of cut offs as a result of more and more students getting ninety-eight and above is absurd and crazy! It can mean only two things, firstly that the students today have become better than the educational system, their teachers, having somehow mutated into a super-species of human beings with perfect IQs., or, the only other alternative is that the assessment at the grade twelve level has become redundant, ineffectual since it is not able to measure actual scores! Does it, therefore, mean that a student who scores a perfect hundred in his best of four is really exceptionally endowed in that rather elusive department called cognitive intelligence? I doubt it, with no offence to the lucky one of course!
The fact of the matter is that only about six thousand or so of all students processed by the CBSE will score above ninety eight in their best of four, but the fact of the matter is that they have driven the rest of their friends absolutely crazy! While the Delhi University has a total number of slightly above fifty-thousand seats, few of the students who pass out of school will be able to tread through the imposing gates of this venerable institution that has managed to hold its own in the presence of all those new institutions that provide the comfort of air conditioned classrooms and offer burgers and pizzas in their canteens instead of the humble sambhur and vada that I once enjoyed in the canteen of a college fondly called the "sambhur vada college!"
So, what then can we do to stop the battle of the bulge (bulging cut offs)? Firstly, we need to re-align our assessment strategies at the grade twelve board level so that we are able to give realistic marks to students. Secondly, we need to introduce entrance test at the college level so that admission is not dependent entirely on the marks awarded by examining board. Thirdly, the Government should think about opening more colleges under the Delhi University. This also means opening of more Central Universities all over the country, universities that are credible, recognised and not mere teaching shops whose only purpose is to mint money. Students and their parents too are to blame for this battle of the cut offs. Students should not think only about getting admission in the so called "best college", they should try for other colleges too. We need to improve the credibility in terms of infrastructure, faculty, and accessibility of all the colleges so that they are all at par in terms of standards of academics. Ultimately, it should be the "course" and not just the college that matters!
Unfortunately, a large number of the students I know will not be able to get admission in a college of their choice because the absurdly high cut offs posted by some of the good colleges run by the Delhi University! This does not mean that these students were laggards or poor in studies! The fact of the matter is that some of them are toppers in their own schools and yet they have not managed to make it to "Du"! It is unfortunate that our liberality in giving marks in twelfth grade exams has in fact done more harm than good.
It is high time we rationalised the awarding a hundred marks in the board exams so as to stop a rat race before it becomes a battle unto death of crocodiles and sharks fighting over prime scraps of flesh!
As for my daughter, well she was able to make after all!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Important Language Skills that should be developed across different subjects

One of the keys to good pedagogy is language. Having a sound command over one’s language skills will determine how effective a teacher is in transacting his lesson in class. The first and foremost skill for a teacher to develop  is the verbal skill. These skills need to be developed in students tool.
Verbal Skills
Having a good pronunciation will ensure that what ever is being taught in class is understood by most of the students. I have personally come across a few teachers who have had a peculiar pronunciation, probably because of the region from where they came from. This applies to students too. Here I would like to insist that language skills should be taught not just by language teachers but also by teachers of other subjects. As such, encouraging the student to use the correct pronunciation, tone and inflection should be the responsibility of all the teachers teaching a particular grade.
Syntax and Semantics
I would add syntax and semantics below verbal skills because they are a shared component with writing skills. Semantics deals with the meaning of a sentence, phrase or statement, while syntax refers to the structure of the sentence, grammar, as it is widely referred to. Here I would like to add that wrong syntax and wrong semantics should be constantly checked, not just by the teacher of English, but also by the teacher of Physics, or even a teacher of Maths. Even Maths is dependent on language. Take for example word problems in maths. If the word problem that  attempts to arrive at the age of one of  two people(through ratios) is not framed correctly then the student will not be able to arrive at the solution. This is true for both verbal and written word problems. A poor understanding of syntax and semantics in students  who are struggling in languages especially those who have switched to another language, will result in the student not being able to understand the question itself.
Writing Skills
a) Handwriting: People are today divided on the topic of the importance of the quality of handwriting, but then for the greater part of the world that still uses pen and paper, handwriting continues to be an important factor in the learning process for students. In countries where answer scripts in examinations are still handwritten, it could make all the difference between merely passing  and passing with distinction. Students who labour on their handwriting will not be able to complete their paper on time, while those whose handwriting is illegible will surely lose marks because the examiner cannot read what has been written. It makes good sense, therefore, for teachers of different subjects to  reinforce good writing habits in their students.  Reinforcing good writing habits and skills is the prerogative of all the teachers and not just the language teacher.
b) Note taking or Note making: An important writing skill, note taking or note making is also a more mental and cognitive skill. By following the prescribed pattern of taking down important points and listing them as Headings, Nucleus  sentences, topic sentences, points, sub-points and sub-sub-points the student will be consciously breaking down the unit or the lesson into its core components. Note making is an important language skill that should be encouraged and used by teachers across different subjects. Note making or note taking involves analysis, inference, and understanding, important cognitive skills across all grades.
c)Annotations: Teachers across different subjects should encourage students to annotate any reading texts that might be given to them. For this, students must be encouraged to used standard and accepted symbols to use in their annotations. Skills in annotation can help the student develop analytical skills that aid in comprehension and  the understanding of the essence of long reading texts.
d) Paraphrasing and  Summarising: Both paraphrasing and summarising are skills that are highly dependent on cognition. You can summarise a lesson only if you have understood the central idea and supporting ideas of what has been taught. It is only after you have broken down the lesson into its primary components that student will be able to summarise it into  its big ideas and supporting ideas. This can be as mental an activity as it is physical, involving writing everything on a piece of paper.
e) Research: The internet has provided us with an almost infinite amount of research material. However how we use material from the internet and giving due recognition to the author of the original work is an important part of the ethics of research. Research as such should be about being as original as possible. Students should be encouraged to cite sources, prepare a bibliography and avoid plagiarism. Here I would like to distinguish between writing a research paper and doing research. Both of them are slightly different from the other, however they represent the highest form of cognitive learning. encouraging correct and accepted research skills can help develop problem solving skills, and  understanding of principles.
All of the above mentioned language skills are meant to be developed not just by language teachers, but also other subject teachers too. Language is the prerogative of everyone, irrespective of the complaint that one is not a language teacher. It goes without saying that language is a subject area that everyone is responsible for, at least as long as we communicate verbally or in writing. A good command over language will ensure one’s success in not just academics, but also life as a whole!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Retreat at Junga

Rodrick Rajive La
The sixteenth of June was a day most awaited by all of us, especially since we were to travel all the way to Himachal Pradesh to a place called Junga for the annual retreat for all the teachers of the senior programme. We started packing our backpacks according to the kit list given to us, and hardly slept the previous evening or night lest we should be late! The annual retreat is a part of the school schedule for teachers which helps them to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for the long haul. The retreat includes a physical element and a more emotional and mental component.

For the trip to Junga, we travelled to the New Delhi Railway station from where we the New Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi train for a four hour journey to Kalka. The train left the station at 7:45 a.m. and reached a little before noon. From Kalka we boarded cabs for the campsite at Junga which is certainly off the beaten track. I wouldn't even contemplate driving my own car on that route because of the difficult terrain and quality of roads! From Kalka we took the Shimla highway passing Solan on the way. We took a right turn a little before the Kandhghat railway station. On the way to our camp, we came across a quaint place called Sadhupol.There was this little stream in which people, tourists were dipping their feet while children were splashing water on each other. This area also offers some really good sixty to seventy feet rock faces for rappelling. We were to visit Sadhupol for the rappelling activity later on. The journey to the camp Chrysalid at village Maheshu - District Junga is located at a height of 5000 feet and it is a three and a half hour drive from Kalka provided there is no traffic! The camp itself is made up of tents that can accommodate three people comfortably. There is a good supply of water and electricity too!
Of the few activities we undertook once we reached were a four kilometre trek to a hill called Peacock Point, a good 6800 feet above sea level. The high points of the trek included pitching tents, cooking food using firewood as fuel and greatest of all was sleeping in the open. The whole sky was lit up by the light of a million stars and right there in the sky we could see the Milky Way much like a dusting of stars in a huge band. Some of those in the group claimed to have seen more than thirty satellites in a couple of hours or so. Sleeping in the open was one of those few moments in life, an epiphany to be remembered and cherished for years to come!




The most important learning for me came from trying to slow myself down in order to keep behind with those who were able to keep up the pace. Some of them felt really bad and held themselves accountable for the slow pace of the whole team. In many cases they were close to tears. To slow oneself for the sake of another is the most difficult task that you can do especially if you are adept at that task. It is like a racing car moving at a snail's pace! But then ultimately when it became dark and late, a sense of acceptance and inevitability did creep in and then it was like. OK, so then we couldn't make it on time, what really did matter was that we made it. There was still a sense of accomplishment not for the sake of beating the clock but, for having reached the target. This was even more relevant for me because the colleague who was with me could finally make it and that was all that mattered!
The rappelling activity was another high point of the retreat. For this activity we drove down to Sadhupol and then, after crossing the ankle deep waters of the stream in three places, we reached the rock face. The sheer face of the rock almost eighty feet in height looked daunting at first, but then I elected to be the first to rappel down first. I wouldn't be wrong to acknowledge the fact that in the excitement of the moment, it was over before I started, reaching base to a bout of cheering and applause by those who were awaiting their turn.

The retreat was also about serious stuff like introspection,circle time, brainstorming and team building exercises. These were exercises that required the experienced guidance of Mr Vikramjeet Sinha, a renowned drama therapist who has worked with children affected by violence and abuse. The most important goal of the retreat was to connect to the self, understand one's self, and to understand and relate the high and low points in life and how they have affected how we are today! The last part of the group sessions was an activity in which groups of five drew a tree listing what they thought were important values and action points for them.


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Thursday, 11 June 2015

School Safety and Cyber-Bullying

What is Cyber-Bullying?
Bullying as history relveals (in any form) is nothing new! In its broadest sense, it is driven by a malicious intention of causing mental, emotional, and in some cases, physical trauma. Things go dreadfully wrong when it all ends up in physical injury to the victim. In many cases, physical injuries soon heal, but then it is the mental trauma that takes longer to heal! Ragging in higher institutions like colleges is another form of bullying!
The  Social and Cultural Context
In many cases, bullying is an attempt to assert a sense of power and control on new inductees into the institution. It is an attempt to assert conformism, and impose the accepted philosophy and norms on new students. History stands testimony to instances of bullying meant to bring about conformism to popular accepted norms and beliefs. This has been recorded in history where mainstream communities have attempted to impose their beliefs on marginalised communities. Take for instance, the caste system in a country like India. The scourge of untouchability, denial of privileges from those who belong to marginalised communities, and a general attitude of looking down at those who don’t belong to mainstream communities may all come under the ambit of bullying. In a country like Ethiopia, I have witnessed the animosity that exists between the  Amharas, Habeshas, Tigrans and Eritreans in the social context where there is an equation of  a mainstream community and a marginalised community. In India this can be seen in the way the upper caste society looks down at dalits, and lower caste communities. The way Jews  Gypsies and gays were treated by the Nazis in Germany during the second world war is an important example of bullying. Even the West has seen its share of discrimination on the basis of colour, ethnicity and race! In a world that is so divided on the basis of culture, caste, creed, and colour, bullying has become a norm that is often overlooked because it causes an embarrassment to the ruling party that claims to be proponents of Democracy.
Analysing the Problem
Bullying in its worst form has taken a step forward with the advent of the fruits of Information Technology. The use of Social Networking sites, to propagate hate crimes, and to post remarks meant to cause grievous mental trauma to the victim who doesn’t conform to the popular accepted social trends or norms might be defined as Cyber-Bullying. In a world that is divided between the so called weak and strong people, Cuber-Bullying is a practice that helps stoke the ego and sense of  supremacy of the perpetrators of the crime. From the Psychological perspective, this is all about exercising a sense of power. It is true, however that a large number of people who bully others are themselves people who need help, they are themselves suffering from some kind of an inferiority complex and a feeling of insecurity caused by a fear of losing their supremacy by an upstart who might supersede them. People who resort to bullying are control freaks who fear that they will not be in control with the coming of new students. It goes without saying that people who resort to bullying in all forms are themselves victims of insecurity and they are often victims of abuse in some form or the other. Popular social networking sites offer a platform for  disseminating derogatory comments and ideas that are malicious and emotionally traumatic in nature. These comments are often viewed by a large number of “friends” and they cause a high level of embarrassment to the targeted victim. There is a sense of “Vicarious enjoyment” in making a derogatory comment about someone who doesn’t conform to one’s accepted philosophy or beliefs. To tell someone that he or she is fat and ugly, or that he or she is a pest is insensitive in nature and it could have far reaching repercussions! In some extreme cases, the perpetrator might even tell the victim to go and “die!” A popular site amongst the young people is based on asking questions. In many cases this is based on asking questions about a third person in the chat, and in many cases it is about vilifying the victim to brag about one’s sexual exploits over the person false though it might be. Such comments meant only to brag about one’s prowess and so called conquests might in the end result in disastrous results. A few instances of young students committing suicide might be the result of coming under an attack on one’s character and integrity. This is more likely in the case of students who are still in their early teens. Such victims who give much importance to social acceptance and conformism to  norms might in the end decide to take drastic steps to end their lives since they have failed to be part of the club! If a particular student doesn’t want to take drugs, or party till late at night or be sexually active, or even maintain multiple relationships it means he or she is not conforming and thus inviting the ire of those who want to exploit him or her. Being called a “nerd” or being “too prudish” or even “too holier than thou!” In the world of conformism, being termed “prudish” is as bad as being called a “slut” or being '”licentious”!
The Role of Parents
Perhaps the best people who can help children who are victims of Cyber Bullying are the parents themselves. The family is incidentally the most important unit of the society, and it is the first level at which the crime of Cyber-Bullying can be prevented before it blows out of proportion!
a) The best that the parents can do is to connect to their children, and spend quality time with them. Parents as such should be able to be approachable to their children, and even if they don’t get enough time to spend with their children, they can at least end the day with a brief talk about how their children spent the day.
b) The worst that the parents can do is to attempt to monitor their children’s activities on the internet as this would in some cases cause them to circumvent these checks and make their children secretive in the extreme sense. If however the parents do have a connection with their children, they can at least show interest in the names of friends that their children have.
c) In some cases, spending time to meet the friends of their children personally, being friends with their children on social networking sites, and working actively on addressing problem areas with their children might help in the long run! Unfortunately, graveyard shifts, long working hours, work and marital related stress, broken relationships have resulted in a growing gulf between parents and children, often leaving the children to fend for themselves! Children below the age of eighteen are often vulnerable and in need of adult supervision throughout their school lives. It is clear that even working parents need to spend time with their children. Single parents need to spend even more time with their children to make up for the absence of the the second parent.
The Role of the School
In the perspective of today’s society, the school is the second best bet for fighting Cyber-Bullying. Students spend a lot of time at school with classmates, friends and teachers. In such a situation it is imperative that schools address the problem of Cyber-Bullying as a major issue affecting the mental health of their students. The first step towards addressing the problem of Cyber-Bullying is to accept the nature of the problem.
a) Promoting a culture of Inclusion
Schools can do a lot to address the issue of Cyber-Bullying by adopting a culture of Inclusion. Inclusion is about spreading a philosophy of dignity and respect for one another. Education in its ideal form can help empower students who belong to less privileged sections of the society, and it can help students with inherent weaknesses of character and physical deformities to strive to overcome these handicaps. The benefits of  of the philosophy of inclusion can also extend itself to the perpetrators of Cyber-Bullying. Students with tendencies to  bully others can be trained to be more sensitive to those who don’t conform to their ideas of what is “cool” and “hep”. The culture of Inclusion can help sensitise students towards the different needs, abilities, and qualities of others.
b) Mentoring
It goes without saying that mentoring is an important aspect of school life, and responsible teachers should be given the roles of mentors for students. Teachers as mentors are given specific roles as mentors and they are given specific periods within the school timetable to work on a one on one level with the students allotted to them. When teachers try to spend time with their mentees, they try to connect with their students, not just as teachers, but as parent figures. Mentorship should always be given to teachers who are themselves well balanced, self actualised, and are able to connect with their mentees. Popular teachers are often prized mentors, although other teachers should also be trained to take up such roles.
c) Setting up of a dedicated Cyber-Bullying cell
Since the issue of cyber-bullying is  a serious one, schools should set up a dedicated cyber-bullying cell to take up issues arising out of incidents of harassment. Besides subject teachers who form the core of the cell, the I.T. expert and the principal should form an integral part of the cell. The cell should have good connections with the local cyber police organisation. The members of the Cyber-Bullying cell of the school can also include teachers whose children are studying in the school. The cell should include an equal number of female as well as male teachers in Co-Educational schools which have children of both genders.
d) The role of Counsellors
It goes without saying that any good school should have a dedicated Counsellor. These Counsellors are trained professionals who can address problems arising out of cases of Cyber Bullying. They are trained well enough to prepare case studies and to conduct counselling sessions with both victims of Cyber-Bullying and their parents. In extreme cases, School Counsellors are able to take the matter up further with Police departments and other law-enforcement agencies, and in the extreme case advise Paramedics and Doctors in instances where medical intervention is required in a worst case scenario.
e) The Student Council is a viable organisation within the school which can be trained to tackle, besides other problems, the issue of cyber-bullying in situ. Since students might be better able to relate to their own fellow students, classmates, and seniors, it would be a good idea to sensitize office bearers towards the need to help their fellow school mates to overcome the fear and trauma caused by being hounded on social networking sites. In many cases, the first level of intervention and the source of identifiaction of the problem could be the student council itself. It is only when the problem cannot be resolved that the student council escalates the issue to the next level.
The Responsibility of the  Society
Ideally, the problems arising out of instances of Cyber-Bullying should not go undetected. The three levels of intervention can be done at the family, social and school level. The best solution to the problem of Cyber-Bullying lies in its early detection. If the three organs work together, then it is quite possible that the problem of Cyber-Bullying can be nipped in the bud. Intervention is the second best. Rehabilitation and counselling can take place only if there is timely detection of the problem. Punishment is the last step. It signifies a breakdown in the first two steps. In many cases, punishment takes place only after grievous harm has occurred to  the victim. This in itself is a tragic phase because it signifies the irrevocable loss of two lives. In most cases where cyber-bullying has led to the death of the victim, the apprehended culprit might have to live with a sense of guilt all his or her life. Reformation is a long process and it will be seen that it would have been better if the whole issue had not been allowed to reach the stage where the perpetrator of the crime was arrested and incarcerated.
The Society needs to be sensitised about the problem of Cyber-Bullying. This can be done through public awareness campaigns, the use of the electronic media, and the print media. Perhaps the most important thing that can be done is to make the society aware of the fact that it has a major responsibility in curbing the crime of Bullying in any form. One cannot stand as a mute spectator to a crime unfolding before us. It is not enough to claim that one did not have anything to do with it. To be a mute spectator to a crime unfolding before one and not to take action against it is as bad as committing the crime itself!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Delhi NCR, Then and Now

On the Toll Road
The Toll Road and flyovers all over the National Capital Region promise swift passages, only in the non Rush hours. During rush hours, expect to crawl at five kilometres per hour!
Some of the old, medieval era buildings still exist next and some of them are well lit, thanks to the Common Wealth Games!
While looking back at the Delhi and its surrounding areas and then comparing it with today, about ten years later, one wonders if much has changed. People back then were as restless as they are now, although, the sight of Taow and Tiye trying to cross the  busy thoroughfares was a common sight. Today, they are driven by uniformed drivers in swanky Beamers or Mercs! Pollution was then a problem, and it continues to be a problem even today, what with Delhi being one of the worst or most polluted cities in the world, at least we are good in something or the other! It seems CNG has not been a solution after all. It speaks volumes about how we tackle problems today, we look at one solution and then never really lose sight of it! If CNG and unleaded Benzene were solutions for curbing pollution and green house gases, then did we think about supporting factors like, removing bottle necks, ensuring optimum movement of vehicles, installing traffic signals, monitoring pollution checking centres (These mushroomed all over the place, and some even to this day don’t use a sensor to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted  from the exhaust pipe), and building up of supporting roads. We were then so obsessed with CNG, we thought it was the solution to all our problems arising out of the production of smoking vehicles. What happened was that we bought ourselves those swanky green and red buses with engines at the back, buses that have automated gearshifts, buses that  are so low floor that even a baby could board them. But then alas! The manufacturers forgot that  the height of some of the speed breakers exceeds prescribed limits and that if you are travelling from Gurgaon to Sohna down Sohna Road, don’t SUV, for bottom scraping seems to be the favourite pass time of those who would like to bring those flashy vehicles to a screeching halt and a satisfying thud as the  bottom hits the bump!

You are not driving this one on the road to Sohna from Gurgaon, there are no guarantees that the bottom will not fall off after passing over a couple of those ‘Tailor made  speed brakers’!
2013-04-03 15.43.40
You have heard of the Bat mobile, but then have you come across the Sugar cane juice mobiles? Well, you see one in the snap! Sure, we have come a long way from the early nineties!
Back then, in the good old days we had ‘red terror’ in the form of those red coloured private city buses plying on the roads of Delhi. Some of the drivers of those buses would have put the Schumachers to shame what with their manoeuvrings and over takings, it seemed to me a great wonder as to how such huge vehicles could fly so fast. And then came the Blue Lines, these were supposed to be tamer versions of the Red Lines, someone obsessed with colours had probably sounded warning bells about how red was the colour of danger and that perhaps changing the colour of the buses to blue, the colour of the sky would reduce the number of accidents taking place. Well changing the colour of the buses did nothing to reduce the number of accidents on the roads of Delhi, and the colour blue did nothing to dampen the fiery spirit of the “Pilots flying the buses” on runways meant for lesser beings!
People continue to park their vehicles in front of main gates, even when the sign says, “No Parking in Front of the Gate!” I guess bigger cars and better connectivity cannot change one’s mentality!
Those were the days when travelling in those ubiquitous Haryana Roadways buses, packed like sardines was the norm! Back then you hung on for dear life to the overhead rail somehow blocking your nose to the pungent scents flying at you from the damp armpits of the gentleman next to you! In some cases there would be someone poking his nose into that damp cellar of trapped dreams and musty odours, and then, while you were thinking about a nice bath after the ordeal, would come that heart-stopping gut-wrenching application of brakes that would catapult  you into the lap of the lady dozing on the seat next to you! You hopped back to your place before she woke from her (“pretended”) deep sleep and began to wipe your brows with the already soiled handkerchief. Back then it was all about “adjustments” so even if you were sitting on a seat meant for three, counting your lucky stars, in came a cheerful lady who asked you to shift a little, and just as you shifted a little, in came a little child, and along with the child a bag which she plonked on to the space between your seat and the back rest of the next. In those days there was a lot of chivalry, there was a lot of romance on such tightly packed buses, and yes there was also a lot of physical intimacy, too, between strangers of both genders! It was a very, “Feeling” of society that you got in those buses. Those buses have today given way to the Delhi Metro, air-conditioned trains that sweep overhead motorists stuck in traffic jams, the trains were supposed to be game changers to the problem of shifting large masses of people from one point to another. I don’t travel much by the metro because my place of work is now closer to my residence. But then, my friends and wife tell me, nothing much has changed, the trains are as crowded as the Haryana Roadways buses used to be once upon a time, and you still get a whiff of the musty odours drifting from the depths of armpits. The “Feeling” culture can be seen while travelling in the Metro, they tell me. A large number of Romances take root in the metro trains of today, and these romances blossom into full blown instances of intimacy which are meant to be private, but then why don’t you mind your own business and look somewhere else if the couple ahead of you are making up! Who says we are an agrarian society, looking at the swanky dresses, one can get a bird’s eye view into the latest in fashion trends, and don’t worry, the cost of the dress is inversely proportional to the amount of fabric, but then who minds, if you might have some “Eye Candy” while relaxing in the comfort of an air-conditioned sound-proof cabin of a swanky train running over the heads of those trying to make headway on the choked road below! Some time back, I was at a Metro Station and  avoided boarding the train to Gurgaon looking at the long snaking line of people eager to board it. My brother scolded me and told me that all I had to do was to place myself strategically in the line and ‘ManPower” would do the rest, picking me up and wafting me into the cabin, so what if you lost one of your shoes on the way, trust me, it will accompany you right back  into the cabin, you have simply got to trust in “ManPower!”
You still come across an assortment of vehicle types plying on the roads, and yes you might even come across the strangest of cargos!

Looking at those years gone by and comparing them with the days going by, it is difficult to see how  things have changed. The Gurgaon Mall Mile on MG Road opened with  a bang! One of the shopkeepers from whom I bought provisions once told me that I could get almost everything under one roof, I only had to go in my, underclothes.The foot fall has however decreased since the days when the malls opened. A large number of them have shut shop, Subhiksha, Arcus, Times Out, Landmark, and so on. People seem to prefer going to the local vegetable vendors rather than spend a whole day stuck on a busy road leading to the Mall, only to be told that the parking is full. In the days gone by, you visited super bazaar at Connaught place, or visited Palika Bazaar for stuff that might me foreign, or you just went window shopping looking at the ware displayed in showcases of the windows of some of the exclusive shops in  Connaught Place having a Choc Bar or two. We went window shopping then, and we go window shopping today, the only difference then was that you had limited cash  but today you have unlimited credit! Beware the lure of the credit system today, it is better that you leave plastic at home, or if you are in good financial security, then you might think of fixing a limit on your spend, for so they said that shopping was the best stress buster of the day, and I assure you that it still is! Little has changed from the days when your buying capacity was limited to the bills you had in your bill fold! But then while I pass by Palika Bazaar and the colonial structure of the shops in the inner circle of Connaught place, I can’t help but smile of the days when each little object you bought took a lot of consideration, and haggling was an art, what if my brother was fobbed off by a 16 GB pen drive which didn’t work at home, but then it was OK since he had been lighter by three hundred or so Rupees! The one biggest difference between then and now is that Propaganda Techniques have gained a foothold thus, it is economically healthy if you exchange your six months old mobile phone for an upgraded version since electronic items become obsolete in a matter of months! In those days you bought things for keeps and sentimental value. You just couldn’t think of selling off that Ambassador or Fiat or that Chetak that you had saved for, because, you bought those things with hard earned cash! Today, however, you live in the “use and throw” age, a time when you things just because your credit rating allows you to do so!
Sights such as these are common all over the region. In the earlier days you had the toy seller who sold an assortment of  toys hanging from a wooden frame that he carried on his shoulder!
Water bottles? No Problem, the neighbourhood water service provider will supply you with required drinking water. Water shortage has begun to worsen these days, what with increased demand and reduced supply.
So then where did you take your lady love for an outing in those times., well, the rides at Appu Ghar in Delhi cave you and your beloved a closeness that was second to none! The My Fair Lady in that pleasure park literally squashed you together. And if your felt a little hungry, then the Maharaja joint at Janpath, or the India Coffee home in Connaught Place, or the eateries at Madras Hotel could fill many a famished tummies, and if you thought you enjoyed coffee, if only to extend the time you spent with her, then you could have thought of ordering yet another cup and made it last as long as possible! Today there is no Appu Ghar in Delhi, and the best choice would be to go to the neighbour hood mall with a PVR thrown in for that romantic movie to watch – forget about going to Ritz or Odeon or Golcha! Of course, you need to carry good money with you although the services of the credit card company will help to pay for the lunch or dinner, accompanied by that expensive gift from the exclusive shop, and the ‘Couple Movie Ticket” thrown in. Yes it was cheaper to romance in the early nineties than it is today! In those days it was OK if you took her around on your scooter, but today, the weather being so hot, nothing less than a car with a running AC will do. But then you could fill up the tank with that card, and sure it makes sense to fill the tank after all you never know, you might as well go on a pleasure trip all over the area! Kamla Nagar and Bungalow were then the best places to shop for garments and fancy jewellery items. They still are, and you get the latest college ready garments too. So if she expresses a desire to shop for footwear and garments, the best places are and were Kholapur Road, Bungalow Road, and Kamla Nagar in North Delhi, besides Sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Lajpat Nagar continue to favoured haunts for bargain hunters! Parking in these places has become easier with the multi-level parking facilities. 
It makes sense to park your vehicle at one of the multi-level parking areas, it is convenient, safer, and saves time!
Still Life with Frooti
The busiest of all market places always have something to refresh you and bring back the energy after all that shopping!
Hungry Kya? Fried Rice and Manchurian are served piping hot right in the middle of the street! What a way to end a hectic day of shopping!
I guess, there has really not been too much of a change in people’s attitudes for a a whole decade. We continue to litter the streets with trash, we like breaking traffic rules, enjoy shopping at flea markets, and love to have that unhygienic Choosky. The slogan in the first photograph posted by me reads, “Abh Badlega Game”, but then how and when the game will change is yet to make itself visible. The game might have changed, but then the change has been too slow and too little! What we need to do is to change our attitudes, we need to take greater responsibility as citizens living in the National Capital Region of Delhi.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Other Side of Love, Beyond a Shadow of Doubt-A Brief preview of my latest Novel

Love is special! In its best form, it defies the ability of Science to analyse it. Love is all in the heart and not the mind, so when it comes to shooting your beloved for the sake of saving the world, what would you do? It is said that even the powers in Heaven look down with pity when they see a beautiful relationship ending in grief. But then, wait - is it possible that there might be another solution to the whole issue? Is that when inspiration shows you a way out?
In this relationship between two young people, is one of them hiding a secret about being half human and half alien? Is there a hidden plan behind this seemingly random meeting between two young people?
Although the book is based on the typical “boy meets girl story,” but then it however goes deep into the Chemistry of love. The complication in the story is brought out by the possibility of an alien involvement in their affair. Can Rohit somehow save the whole world and retain Neena, the only girl has ever loved and is likely to love, since none other will ever do? The nightmares are real, and the dangers loom high over the two people. Gradually two more people become victims of the violence unleashed by the alien parasite residing within Neena, they are Mr Sinha, her estranged father, and the Mahant Biswas, the in charge of the Maha Bodhi Ashram.
Set up in the context of modern day times in Delhi, “The Other Side of Love” will provide light reading for those who would like to take a welcome break from their hectic schedule. Written as a small book that will easily fit into one’s purse or college bag, the book can easily be taken out while travelling in the metro, and it can be read at one go or in bits. It contains elements of the science fiction genre along with modern day romance and will appeal to those who prefer reading the two different genres.
“The Other Side of Love, Beyond a Shadow of Doubt will soon be available online on:,, WWW.Barnes&  and many others.
A special thanks goes to Joe Anderson, my PSA at Author Solutions, Bloomington, and Antoniette Saints of Partridge Publishing for their patience in attending to me,  and their  high level of professional workmanship!