Monday, December 11, 2017

Aadhaared

I thought technology would make life easy for me. "Aha! That's what YOU think", they say, and get to work to ensure that life becomes even more complicated.

Take this recent rush of Aadhaar seeding for all investments. (Ah! No! No! 'Bhakts' need not foam at the mouth nor 'sickulars' drool, this has nothing to do with Modi.) I sort of thought that, what with technology and all, linking PAN card with Aadhaar would suffice to ensure that Aadhaar would be linked to all investments because a PAN card has sort of been mandatory for making those investments all along.

No, not so! Well, Government works in mysterious ways and one of those mysterious ways is a penchant for making people enter the same thing in two different places so that they can tick them as being the same. They would feel sort of lost without having to do that ticking - that special sort of reverse tick that seems to have been most of their training on the job!

So, Ok, here I go linking the Aadhaar (seeding Aadhaar they call it. I wonder what sort of tree it will grow into) all over the damn place. Having a memory like a sieve and the organizational ability of a particularly confused moron, I have no track of what I have 'seeded' Aadhaar in and what I have not. Matters are not helped by the fact that most of them reply that it is under process but almost none bother to email if it has been done successfully.

And then comes December, the 31st of which is the last date. I keep receiving emails to link Aadhaar now from almost everyone. I do not know which I have done it for, which I have not and, obviously, I am also worried about which has 'failed' the process. But I am damn sure that SOME of these I HAVE done it for, and successfully. Even with my limited exposure to databases, I know it is a fairly simple process to cull out only those who have NOT seeded Aadhaar and send mails only to them but THAT apparently is not the way they work. Never mind that the 'culling' program would anyway need to be written so that differential treatment may be given to those who have not seeded Aadhar by end-December and never mind that it would make things so much easier on the nerves of the customers that they so ardently seek to serve.

Well - I click on the links, expecting that the form, at least, would show whether Aadhaar has already been seeded or not. No way - there is an unhelpful 'Edit' option to enter/change Aadhaar. Now what? Has Aadhaar been seeded, have I not ever tried to seed Aadhaar for this investment, or has the seeding process failed? No idea. To be on the safe side, I do the process again and NOW the form does not accept the OTP sent by them. Over and over and over! Shit!

There matters lie, with me wondering whether it did not so accept because Aadhaar had already been verified or whether there is some breakdown in the system. Whether this is an investment where I had already seeded Aadhaar and, now, by this process had ended up 'unseeding' it or...

I am a total nervous wreck and all thanks to technology.

Why blame technology, you ask? If only it had been the snail-mail era, without the benefit of all these digital monsters, the same process would have been done manually. Someone would have to type in the letters to 'seed' Aadhaar, someone would have to frank them all - costing them postage - and someone would have to dispatch them. So, they would have found it less work, and less cost, to even laboriously cull only those, who had not seeded Aadhaar already, from their manual registers and send letters only to them. I mean, if YOU had to dispatch only 500 letters instead of 2000, you would have been all for that option.

NOW? It costs you nothing to email, you need to type the letter in only once so why bother to even write a mini-program today (even if you HAVE to do it tomorrow) to cull out that 500 from the 2000?

Nothing - NOTHING - is going to make life easy. Especially not technology! WE will always find a way to ensure stress, all in the name of customer service.

P.S: What?? Extended to March 31? Another 3 months of this customer service? Ye Gods!

Monday, December 4, 2017

A trek to Kudremukh

 When you board a train for a trek and, within minutes find someone else claiming, "25 is MY berth" only to later find that his berth is 26, it can be smiled away. Half an hour later if another person comes and says indignantly, "25 is MY berth" and later discovers that he has 27, you may laugh it off as a funny coincidence. YOU may, I cannot. For, after all, when you have the reputation of a disaster magnet - natural or man-made disasters, as witness my presence when Leh got cut off, Uttaranchal faced cloud-bursts and Burhan Wani's killing set Kashmir afire - even when the start of the trek was not ominous, you start shivering in your trekking boots when a trek starts off like that.



When you land in Mangalore five minutes before time and anticipate a longish wait for the other guys to reach by their train only to find that THAT train arrives more than half-an-hour early, you may feel that luck is running your way. YOU may...ME, I start worrying about all that remains of my good fortune running out in this manner.

The journey to the home-stay was fun, though. My stomach behaved itself though I, as usual, kept singing all the way to ensure that the only thing that came out of my mouth was words. AND, wonder of wonders, there were even people in the van who actually found the singing good and, a miracle this, even said so!

Did I forget to mention, though? Chandru, who has made a habit of dropping off from the trek at the last moment these past few times by the painful manner of breaking a bone or so, did it in a less painful manner this time - he just missed the train! Vinod and his second daughter Deeksha had boarded the train but Varsha and her husband also managed the same feat as Chandru. Though, knowing Vinod, they SHOULD have caught the damned train instead...for missing the train only let them in for an all night bus journey and, of course, listening endlessly from Vinod (he was still at it when we parted ways after the trek!) about how they ought to have left in time to board the train!

The group I trekked with this time was the Trichy Trekkers - an offspring of the trek group with which I initially trekked in the Himalayas. Barring Ramesh Kamak and Ram Prabhu, the entire group was new to me - except, of course, Vinod and family. And what a wonderful group they were (NO! It is not only because they professed to like my singing!) The group was actually composed of people from Madurai, Coimbatore, Chennai AND Trichy, of course. The common factor seemed to be a couple of things - you could call for Gopal and have half the group turning to you or call out Doctor and find the other half paying attention - or so it seemed to me. Made it difficult to remember names, let me tell you, so I remember Sundars, Aravinds and Karthiks!

We arrived at the Home Stay by noon. The distaff side and a few of the males were put up in one home and the rest of us in the other. A light lunch and we were off to the nearby waterfall. Anyone who has so far been through my trek chronicles knows full well that a buffalo has nothing on me when it comes to wallowing in water. There would be no real point in belaboring the joy of getting into water that pummels you like a seasoned masseur, so let us give that the go-by. (AND thank your lucky stars that nobody sent me a pic of MY wallowing in the water else I'd have inflicted THAT on you instead of this one. If you are really masochist enough to want that, you will find enough evidence elsewhere in this blog, though not in Kudremukh, of course).

Back to the Home stay and I found that there are perils of being seen as the only one knowing Kannada. Apparently we had quite a few trekkers who were interested in decimating the population of chickens in the area whereas the initial organization was only for veg meals. So, the Brahmin (who must confess that chickens are not entirely free of HIS attentions either) had to set about organizing the slaughter.

There was a bonfire in the evening, more specifically to celebrate the wedding anniversary of a co-trekking couple after which...yeah, how did you ever guess, I was also asked to contribute to the festivities with my singing. A strange experience for me to meet with a group, near fifty strong, which manfully and womanfully restrained itself from hooting and catcalls while I wrung every single verse out of every single song that I 'sang' till it started bewailing ever having come into existence. I may have held them for hours more but for Vinod artfully asking me to sing 'Mere naina sawan bhadon'. Just as I had all my tonsils on view rendering 'Phir bhi mera man pyasaaaaaaa', the wind gently blew a lungful of smoke from the bonfire down my fully opened throat, ending that rendition with a 'Pyasa..huh..huh..huh'. THAT, thankfully, was THAT for the others who gratefully took to their heels before I recovered.

The next day we started on the trek. About 10 Kms of ascent and then the same 10 Kms to be retraced back to the Home stay. Sharan, the local trek organizer and guide, said,"Initially, we will be walking on flat terrain for some 4 Kms after which there will be a bit of an ascent. Then, after a while, there will be a zigzag path upwards. After that, it is again flat till nearly the end of the trek, where we will have a bit of a climb to the summit." AND, promptly, we start huffing and puffing up a 30 degree incline.

I really think someone has to take these trek guides in hand and teach them some common English. They have some weird ideas, really, of what constitutes a flat terrain. I mean, really, I know flat on the mountains is not exactly a road in Delhi but 30 degrees? They really publish a different dictionary for these guys - all of them use words in the same manner - as also witness their idea of what a half-an-hour walk is when you ask them how long it will take to reach the end of the trek!

After a longish bit of huffing and puffing the path actually eased out to what you and I could think of as flat - especially if you have just been crawling up an incline like that. I sped past people rushing onward, leaving behind awed comments about my trekking prowess. Well, whatever else being a 'veteran trekker' had taught me, the one thing it HAD taught me is to make speed where I can so that, when I am up an incline, with snails passing me contemptuously, I do not still have to spend too long in the sun.

I love streams en route a trek. There is something about a gurgling stream crossing your path under a canopy of trees, starting from some mysterious place above and heading to some mysterious destination below, always flowing, always there, that speaks to me. It speaks to me especially eloquently when I am steaming with heat and perspiration, for then I pour water over my head and down my neck, wet my hat, and feel like I can possibly live for a few more hours after all. The Kudremukh trek had us crossing multiple streams periodically and they were life-savers, let me tell you, absolute life-savers.

The problem, though, is that the higher you get the less your chances of encountering streams, especially the ones that flow amidst trees and give you the hope that the world is not always a hot and tiring place. So, while I was enjoying the brief bursts of coolness from the streams, I knew that it was too good to last and I would come to where the sun would have its way with me relentlessly. (If you are wondering why so much time is being spent on the Sun, you do not know me. I am the guy who finds the morning sun of a Delhi Winter too hot to handle. You ain't seen no sweat till you have seen me sweating. And to think I was brought up in Neyveli, not exactly known as a Hill Station!)

And, as promised, the incline duly arrived. (THAT's another grouse for me. When these chaps say 'flat', it never IS flat, but if they say something is an incline, then...). Ever seen a Bullet Train turn into a Bullock Cart? If you want to, just trail alongside me as I hit an incline after a relatively flat track, while on a trek. Of course, I huff and puff like a steam engine but then the bullock probably does the same, if you paid any notice to it.

And midway through that damn incline, disaster struck. Not anything minor like my twisting an ankle or such, which would have given me a graceful excuse to abandon the trek. The sole of my left shoe came off the front portion and started flapping around like the mouth of a crocodile. I did have a tube of FeviKwik (another of those veteran trekker thingies which you carry around to impress but hope never to depend on) and stuck the sole on with it. Well, the tube did live up to its name. It was as Kwik to come off as it was to stick on, so, within another 100 meters, the crocodile was flapping its jaws around hunting for prey again.

The next hundred meters or so gave me a good idea of what Hitler's soldiers suffered with their goose-stepping. About the only saving grace was that I did not have to shoot up my hand and scream, "Heil whatever". By then, I was ready for ANY solution so when someone asked me why I had not just yanked it off, I ecstatically carried it out. (As an aside, when I was whining to Vinod about the consequences of doing that, the chap tells me, no less than 20 times within the minute, that I should have tied it on with laces. I should have known better than to seek sympathy from him. HE is the guy who will sit by the bedside of a man recovering from a heart operation and tell him what he ought to have eaten since age 5 to avoid the problem! You know the sort who, when you are drowning, will be so busy berating you for not learning swimming that he will fail to notice when you are floating away free of all care).



And so, I experienced how it would be to trek with one leg shorter than the other by about a couple of inches. You either plonk the soled foot too hard or you shift weight to the soleless one when it is still in the air. No amount of pleading with the powers above that I found trekking difficult as it is, and there was really no need to add to the trauma, helped. So, where I used to stop to catch my breath once every ten steps, I was now stopping once every two steps. Of course, when someone else was nearby, I was only stopping to taking in the view. (This being known as a veteran trekker, I tell you. It turns you into a second-rate actor, if nothing else). Thankfully, even if my acting failed me, the views did not and, so, the idea of stopping so frequently to take in the sights was eminently believable.

On I trudged, lungs screaming and feet jarring on the ground with uneven steps, hoping forlornly that the trek would come to an end soon. Not before I climbed that zig-zag path, of course and I hit it fairly screaming at the thought of having to climb up that lung-buster. (To be honest, in the normal course, that sort of incline is what you eat for breakfast and ask for more. It is just the lack of soul...err...sole and, perhaps, age catching up. Young at heart and all is fine but it seems to cut no ice with the body.)



 By the time I hit the ridge, I was too tired even to enjoy the relative peace of the ridge-walk. No lung-busting, true, but no shade either and the Sun was at its noon-day high. I went on, the views around me the only solace in what seemed like an endless treadmill. (Whinging a lot, am I? Yeah, I know it was MY choice to trek and, in the normal course, this would have been very pleasant indeed, bar the heat, but I really had not bargained for the difference that the lack of a 'sole' makes to the body). But, yes...the views...



Eventually, you come to what you consider is the end of the trek and there rears a massif. Yeah, I know, on my return I did tell some trekkers who were walking up,"If there is no climb at the end, why would THAT be considered the summit?" but that is the sort of thing that you comfortably say when you have done it and are on your way back. Looking at it as a prospective climb, though...

Still, you know...that veteran trekker thingy. The idea is to look at your feet and put one in front of the other and keep going. To look up to see how much more remains is a surefire way to tire yourself even more than you already are. Still, you do look up at times and envy those cozily sitting up there.


Eventually, I did land up at the peak...at last. A pity that no pic of my feat is here, though.


Been there, done that! NOW the descent should be a breeze. "Oh! Yeah!" whispered some imp of Satan. AND, I started back down...

When there is only a couple of millimeters of leather separating your foot from the ground, it is not too much of a problem ascending...except if you step on a sharp stone or a thorn, which I had not. On the descent, though...

For one, without the sole, the shoe does not grip well. So, you tend to skid and slip on sand and gravel. For another, there are too many damn places where your next step is a foot or so lower and you land on stones. Not exactly the sort of joyous feeling that the foot is used to, with us city slickers, at least. So, there I went, trying to put the soled right foot forward in all such cases. The issue, though, is that it was a trek path not a bloody stairway. Most times the only foot that can land without your having to twist yourself in ballet poses is the sole-less one...and anyone who has seen me will die laughing with the mere mention of me and ballet poses in the same sentence. I mean Sumo Wrestlers are Sumo Wrestlers and Ballet dancers are Ballet dancers and the twain will never meet and all that...

But, needs must. So ballet poses it was, and the consequence was that, more often than not, my ankle turned or my left foot landed on a sharp stone or...enough said. It suffices to say that a running commentary of my descent would exhaust my entire vocabulary of swearing and, this time, I ended up at the Home Stay with pains in all parts of the body, including some that I never knew that God had seen fit to put into the Human anatomy.

The rest, as they say, is anti-climax. An evening of camaraderie - including finding that Arvind was ten years my junior at my school in Neyveli (THAT was probably the previous night, but there was more bonding this day) and Lourd had worked in Neyveli for three years...surprising to find two Neyveli connections in one trek. We traveled back to Mangalore the next day and scattered to the four winds.

Till the next trek brings us together...

Photo Credits: Co-trekkers. NONE taken by me, as usual.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Parsimony

I have never understood why we are so unjust to some words. I mean, look, we have words meaning practically the same thing and one word we sort of consider embrace like a long-lost friend and the other we twitch our skirts away and walk around as though it is a turd lying on your primrose path.

Take this word 'parsimony' for example. You have that other word 'frugal' which means about the same thing. But call someone 'frugal' and he preens as though he has been given the Nobel Prize for literature. Or, more to the point, the top award for conservation. Frugal seems to indicate the sort of chap who abhors waste and uses his resources carefully to the best effect.

Parsimony, on the other hand, is the poor cousin. To call someone parsimonious is to accuse him of being the sort of chap that becomes the butt of jokes. Somewhat like that kanjoos father and son. (WHAT? THAT word - kanjoos - has not yet entered ANY English dictionary? How remiss of them!) The son is proud of having run after a bus all the way home and saved twenty bucks and the father chides him for not having run after a cab thereby saving two hundred. THAT sort of chap gets called parsimonious. (Come to think of it, kanjoos is a much better word - easier on the typing fingers.)

In other words, when you are frugal, you are the sort of person who does not waste food on your plate. When you are parsimonious, you are the sort of chap who thinks that a slice of bread is too rich a dinner and saves half of it for breakfast. How totally unjust to poor old parsimony.

Though, I suppose, that parsimony will still have the last laugh. Frugal has been basking in praise all this while but, alas, good things do not last...even for words. We have now entered an era when frugal will face the music.

There is a saying in Tamil. It is ideal to have Kuber (the Lord of Wealth) and Sudama (the byword for poverty) possess equal wealth; it is difficult to convert ALL the Sudamas of the world to Kuber; so, we decided to convert Kuber into another Sudama. That was a colorful way of making fun of the idea that, if bringing the poor at par with the rich is the ideal and enriching the poor is difficult, it serves just as well to impoverish the rich.

AND, thus, since giving parsimony a good reputation is tough, we have decided to convert frugal into another bad word.

Vive le EMIs!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dogged by the discerning

Into everyone's life some rain must fall. The problem, though, is that when it comes to my life it falls continuously and with all the fury of a Bombay monsoon. This particular occasion, though, I intend shedding copious tears about how little appreciated I am.

You know, everybody seems to have a crowd of people who are not too discerning and, if discerning, not too nitpicking about their efforts. Probably, in childhood, when they bleated, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" there was a chorus of people telling them and their parents, "He is the future Mohammed Rafi." When they started on A for Apple, they were the next Salman Rushdie or Chetan Bhagat as per choice. When they first got their crayons and the walls squirmed with the fear of their attentions, Picasso could take their correspondence course. When they...hmmm, you got the point? OK.

Comes to me, though, I seem to be surrounded by the most nitpicking of critics every single time. I mean, I sing a film song and out comes my audience with "On that third line, you should use the soft 'Ri'" I was not even aware that I was using ANY 'Ri', regardless of its texture but...and, no information about whether, but for that 'Ri', whatever it meant, the singing was pleasant or not. These chaps, though, count as the best of the lot, believe me. There are those who clutch their ears and run as though someone was pouring hot oil into them. Somewhere in between are the guys who egg me on to sing and then start vociferously chatting with the others as though to drown out the braying of...forget it, I am sure you know the animal which brays. So much for encouragement.

And then I start writing. Here, at last, I thought I may not fare too badly. I happily share my writing and..."In that third line in the fourth para, there is an unnecessary comma." AND, of course, not a word about how it was otherwise. THAT, of course, was from a discerning reader who actually bothered to get back to me. Else...even a stone sinks into the water after causing ripples.

You know, it beats me how I manage to find all these people and ONLY them. The ones with so fine-tuned a taste that a 'Ri' of the wrong texture or a misplaced comma completely ruins their day. Somewhat like that Princess in the fairy tale who lay down atop some 20 mattresses and tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep, because a single solitary pea under that whole stack was irritating her sensitive skin. I could do with a little less discernment in my audience but, what can I say, if you went only by MY audience, you'd think that only animals could have any lesser discernment.

What was THAT? I have had my share of people praising me? Even those who comment DO comment, they do not ignore? I should learn to count my blessings? So, when was the last YOU counted YOUR blessings? Ah...I thought so. You are currently too busy counting your curses that you have not yet got around to it? Exactly! THAT's the way with me as well.

Anyway, I am still waiting for some uncritical admiration...and it is still raining!