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Manish Mohan's Blog

The Reluctant Conformist

This is an effort to compile ideas from wise people around. If you have something to say then this is the forum. A warm welcome to you!

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A House of Cards

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This morning I thought for going for a walk after a very long time. I simply came out of my house before it could go for another round of nap and in the process I left my purse and mobile behind. Not a big deal after all I was not going for shopping. But while I was starting my bike to go to the nearby play ground I realised that my driving licence has been left in the purse at my home. Suddenly, I started thinking then that I didn't have even my identity cards and then I realised that I had already started feeling uncomfortable. In this mega city I am an unknown person a person without identity, only because I don’t have any identity card.

 

While walking I was having multiple worries. If the traffic police asks for the driving licence on the next corner, if suddenly something goes wrong and I land up in hospital. I hardly know anybody around, nobody knows me in this big-city. Having left my purse behind I have no identity and simultaneously I have no means to make any kind of payments, no cash and no cards even I can’t make a call. I was feeling even more uncomfortable now; one card allows me to ride my bike another permits me to drive the car, here is my quarterly railway pass which permits me to board the local train every day to my office. There is another identity card which permits me to enter into my office still it is better than those cards people wear around their neck in most of the offices nowadays and this is very common in all the ministries. There are multiple debit and credit cards to confuse our financial life in addition to the PAN Card and the TAN Card. There are other health check cards and not to forget cards from each of the shops where you keep making purchases and your purchase points keep getting accumulated. Then I started thinking of the Club card, Gym card, Health Card issued by hospitals, my own CGHS card, Railway pre-paid card, Airlines preferred customer card, voter’s identity card, Aadhar card, Pre-paid and post paid mobile cards, Pink Card, Yellow Card, Red Card, Green Card, Poverty Card, Ration Card and there are now Gold, Silver and Platinum Cards to measure as to how rich you are and as to how big your status is? It is simply a never ending stream of cards in our life.

 

I was wondering who is using whom; whether we are using these cards for our own comfort or this system is using various cards to regulate us humans. It had become now a real nightmare both to manage these cards and also to manage life without these cards. In any developed system; consolidation and convergence of information of stake holders is the requirement of the day. But, what is happening that this world has become very complex with so many cards floating around to make our life even far more complex. This system of issuing cards, at the drop of the hat, is certainly is not human centric rather these cards are being issued for the benefit of a particular system used by us humans; this is the system centric.

 

It is high time now to think for only one card having all the details of a particular person which could be used to update the database of the particular system that the person is using. Similarly now the technology has improved to the extent that even the card carried by the person could store the updated new information and may be our lives could be simpler without these hundreds of cards. But if that single card is lost then what; let our system be built around us human beings where his or her presence itself replaces the requirements of all the cards. Are we ready for it?

Cool Breeze from the North-East

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

In the wake of the recent attack and the unfortunate death of a young boy from Arunachal Pradesh in Delhi, the raciest attitude of people in North India is again in news. But I believe that there is nothing new so far the attitude of people of north Indian cities towards people from African countries and people having different racial features particularly towards those coming from hill areas and from north-east in particular is concerned. During my stay of three years in Delhi, somehow the feeling of being unsafe was always there and fact is that Delhi has never been a woman friendly city. Above all language spoken on its streets is as rough as its extreme weather conditions. Years of misrule in many northern states have forced youths from these areas to migrate to Delhi in search of both education and livelihood. This has resulted in evolution of rent culture in many areas of Delhi where main source of income of large number of house owners is rent only and a whole economy of such areas is dependent upon these migrated people from other states.

 

Because of this lots of jobs have been created in and around Delhi in both goods and services sector. In this situation locals should have not only been thankful to the people from other states but they should treat these migrating people with respect rather than showing any contempt or misbehaving in any manner. I have had opportunity to see many Bihari students living in hellish conditions in many parts of Delhi still paying exorbitantly to the local house owners only in anticipation that they would be able to make it big in the alien place because situation was even bad in back their home states.

 

I was wondering as to whether the present Delhi government is not playing cahoots with locals, particularly local traders, in opposing the FDI in retail. Apparently in their sub-conscious mind, they are aware that many jobs created in this sector would be cornered by these English-speaking smart and polished youths from the North East. This is not very uncommon to see youths from North-Eastern region working in malls, departmental stores and shops in various parts of Delhi and around it. Also the kinds of expertise required for working in service sectors like call centers and retails, these youths are best suited again for the same reasons. We need to learnt lessons from this unfortunate incident and this country needs to take some concrete steps with clear objective to integrate our youths from the North- East in the mainstream.

 

This thought process has pulled me back to my college days in BCE Patna where many of my friends were from North-East and I have vivid recollections of the time spent with them. The carefree birds from the hilly region were more than a gush of fresh air for all of us who had spent all our times in the same state. Many of them were much ahead of time when their respective lives were only in the present tense. Those students were very fond of western dress, western music and western movies. I can’t deny the fact that I had seen all initial Jackie Chan’s and Stallone’s action movies with them only. I sincerely think in hindsight that I could have imbibed the attitude of being careless towards studies also from them which otherwise was of not use subsequently in life and maybe I could have at least enjoyed my days in the Engineering college the way they did.

 

I can recall vividly one shivaratri day when I was in final year. My very good friend Sanna from Manipur came to my room with grim look and requested me to come to his room reflecting as if there was something very very serious. When I entered into his room I was surprised to find around twenty of them, all from North East and from first year to final year were present in the room and some of them were sitting on floor and many were sitting on the bed. Front part of the room was vacated by shifting beds and there was a small statue of Shiva-Parvati on the floor. Everyone was staring me very expectantly.

 

Sanna requested me pour the milk, stored in a small vessel, on the statue apparently to perform the puja and to start the shivaratri celebrations. I was not only surprised but also I was thinking why me? But I had to comply and I folded my hands and offered my obeisance while muttering some mantra praising the Lord and then poured the milk on the statue.

 

Suddenly it was commotion all over and everybody was chanting “Har Har Mahadev” and “Jai Jai Shiv Shambho” and in a flash couple of packets of marijuana was produced and in a swift action and it was cut, rubbed and again very swiftly mixed with little tobacco and transferred to emptied cigarettes. By the time I could recollect as to what was happening around, the room was full of sweet smoke. Many of them came to me and wished me a “Happy Mahashivaratri” as well.

I can still recall that it was examination time and I was intending to go back to my studies in my room but I could not resist enquiring from him.

 

“Hey Sanna, I am still Puzzled as to why did you call me for their puja”, somehow I was still sniffing the smoke.

 

He was smiling and he put his hands across my shoulders and told sheepishly.

 

“We have to at least be honest with the god and after a lot of discussions we could think of anyone else but you who was yet to be thoroughly corrupted”, I was just listening to him while he was smiling crookedly.

 

I just could not make out as to whether he was complimenting or just was being sarcastic while going back to my room. In hindsight I could think of only the smiling faces and innocent souls with whom I developed so much of intimacy and which helped me in developing my very different outlook towards the world and towards the life. I can still listen my dear friend Taka speaking to me.

 

“I am not little worried about it” pronouncing all its “Ts” as pronounced in “Teeth” when he discovered that he could secure only 2 marks out of 15 in mathematics terminal paper in the second year.

 

My dear friends from North East; I am so thankful to you all for teaching me the lesson of not being worried about anything in life.

Bogey of Great Institutions...

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (3)

Mr Bhar, one of our esteemed retired colleagues from our services, has been an interesting person during his days in the service. A jovial and easygoing person and he was friend each one of us right from junior level to the senior level. His stories and wits always carried a sense of curiosity for all of us and usually lunch session with him always brought a happy feeling afterwards. Years have since passed and I was told that he has settled in Mumbai itself after selling his paternal properties in Patna and also that his children are also working in Mumbai. I too liked his company, his stories, not only because he was very friendly to all of us younger lot but also because he hailed from my native state of Bihar and above all he was also an alumni of the Science College, Patna my own alma mater.

 

He was otherwise a very satisfied and fulfilled individual but one pain he grudgingly expressed occasionally that another boy of his own class from the Science College, Patna, who was in the class of Chemistry Honours, which used to be considered for low rankers in those days, got a better rank in the Civil Services Examinations some 40 years ago despite him being in the superior and prestigious Physics Honours class in the same year in the college. It so happened that the boy from the Chemistry Honours class ended up to be the Chairman of one of the Revenue Boards while he being recruited in Group ‘B’ services in the same department, could retire only in the rank of Director to the Government of India. I don't intend to tell the stories about Mr Bhar, but I always felt in his company that there was a sense of pride in him being the alumni of the Science College, Patna and a disdain and contempt for all those who never had the opportunity to be in such a great institution. One of the esteemed retired Chief Commissioners, Mr Tripathi used to say that we live in the comparative world which keeps you unhappy most of the time but sometimes it keeps you happy also by just thinking that Physics Honours is far better than the Chemistry Honours and you are superior to many persons. But today I write to tell about something else which is intriguing me from very long time that is about my own time in the Science College, Patna.

 

It had been my aspiration, like lakhs of other students who appeared for the Secondary School Examination of 1982 conducted by the Bihar School Examination Board, to get admission in Science College, Patna. The Board had changed from Pre-University and the Matriculation system only a year back and very blissfully we had old question papers for only one year to take cue from. Somehow after getting a very good percentage in the examination I got admitted to Patna Science College and our classes started around this time of the year in the middle of the September some 31 years ago. Coming from an organised system of my school the college appeared to be some sort of animal farm where each of class was having more than hundred students and very ironically each of them were toppers of the schools from different parts of the then combined the state of Bihar.

 

The classes used to be depressingly boring and all the teachers, all of them, were dead uninspiring, lousy and were lacking in all kinds of social skills. Most of them appeared me to be losers and I don't remember having spoken to anyone of them during years of my stay in the college. Recently I was speaking to one of my classmates, an engineer in railways, while remembering our days in the Science College, bitterness was still very perceptible because the teachers were simply unconcerned for the life and future of their students. For these crooks, taking a lecture was just a pastime and a job to be done. Most of them used to come into class with written notes and used to simply copy on blackboard before a sleeping class. I still remember my time on the banks of the River Ganges after bunking classes specifically of mathematics.

 

It was an opportunity for the institution to mould lives of so many children of 16 or 17 years of age, coming from the rural backgrounds, mostly from the villages and almost hundred percent of them were from Hindi medium schools. But what these teachers did only to confuse them and all of them were left to themselves to search their own ways in their respective lives. For doing these things no one required any institution however great it is known to be. The culture of coaching institutions had just started and the mode of teaching was just copying something on the blackboard and the students were supposed to copy from the blackboard. They used to prepare notes and memorise them for writing in examinations which used to be primarily descriptive in nature. There was no concept of career counselling, in fact there was no communication between teachers and the students. May be I'm expecting too much in the hindsight but there was no interface of any kind which could be thought in terms of future planning for those hapless students. It was such a depressing feeling to run from class to class for the whole day and coming back to hosted in evening with even disappointing feeling of having learnt nothing. In initial couple of months many of us were on the verge of nervous breakdown.

 

The atmosphere in the hostel used to be even more agonising and being in the company of toppers was just a depressing feeling as almost all of them were spending time only on their study tables with books of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. No one used to play any game and occasionally going to watch movies was the only thing which used to break the monotony of life but that also used to be considered as sin. Discussing about the Engineering and Medical Entrance tests was a taboo and most of the students were worried to clear the hurdle of passing the Intermediate examination. I still remember nobody had any clue those days of what to be done even for these entrance tests. It was very clear that the days of these kinds of colleges and their so called prestige were numbered and it was not very long when the coaching institutes not only proliferated but they obliterated not only the prestige but also the existence altogether of these useless behemoths which were simply not in sync with the requirements of time like dodos.

 

It was not that the city life was boring those days, Patna was still the cultural hub and during almost all the festivals, luminaries from various fields used to come to Patna to perform and without any dispute Patna used to be very large hearted host for all such cultural functions, maybe because explosion of TV culture was yet to happen. At one hand the city used to be bubbling with the cultural activities, on the other hand the Patna Science College always looked like a place of mourning. Looking back in time somehow reminds me that almost all of the students were lacking social skills and even after spending years in the Science College they were not able to come out of their inherent inhibitions. In hindsight I have no hesitation in accepting that in those years in Science College, I didn't learn anything worthwhile but to discard some of the good habits I had acquired in my school days. I stopped going to library in search of good books and I almost forgot to read literature and poetry. The syllabus prescribed and the books recommended had no relationship and reading those books written by foreign writers were a permanent pain in the neck. I don't have any good memories of my days in Science College, Patna.

 

Couple of years back I had an opportunity to visit the hostel where I used to stay and somehow I could still feel the same dampness and disappointment in the air and possibly it was still lacking the spirit of learning even after passage of three decades. Somehow the dread of being in a labour camp was still lingering and it was not before I ran out of patience and came running out of that place. The nostalgia has turned into nightmare. The hostel looked equally disgusting even after three decades and the indifference, which was the hallmark of this place, was still looming large. Still I believe that this place used to be an animal farm or a stable which was somehow converted as hostel naming it after one of the great Indian mathematicians but the spirit of the animal farm was still lingering there.

 

I simply don't wish to remember any of the teachers from the Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics classes which causes nausea even after several decades, most of them used to wear the same dresses which they wore during their own college days and almost all of them suffered from speech impairment and to me they appeared to be parrots in human body. Those were the days when your performance used to be measured by just only by your capacity to reproduce the best answers but the most unfortunate feeling still refuses to go away that of helplessness of the young boys who were left to find themselves to search their own path in life and the indifference on the part of the teachers added to their woes. I still remember that many of the children of these teachers were as confused as the rest of us.

 

Recently I read a book on Patna, written by Amitava Kumar, “A Matter of Rats” and it appears that the writer has seen the same Patna which we saw in our growing years and very ironically I could find that he had mentioned the same characters which truly used to reflect the true spirit of true Patna. http://www.amitavakumar.com

Jagdish Narayan Chaubey has been a hindi professor those days and most of the time he was very concerned with the young children sitting in his class and I can still recall his words that each of them are horses of Aswamedh who have been sent from different parts of the state and the young Bhrigu Nandan Tripathi, who always used to quote Dusyant Kumar those days. Nobody used to miss these classes which used to reprieve from the heavy dose of science. I found that Amitava Kumar was still referring to Muniba Shami, Indibar Mukherjee, Sushma Mishra and not to forget Dr. Shaileshwar Sati Prasad. It brought tears to my eyes when I was reading about them as the English department of the college was better equipped than most of the regular Post Graduate Colleges and universities those days. They used to publish literary articles even those days and the cultural seminars used to be very popular because of large participation. On the other hand, the constipated faces of the teachers from the science section used to bring only doom and none of them had ever published any paper in their whole life and hardly there was any culture of conducting and attending any seminar. Some of them always looked as if they were suffering from tuberculosis.

 

Looking back in time I don’t have one good thing to remember which I learnt in the college, that great prestigious Science College, Patna. Somehow I survived the onslaught because of my own learning in the school from the old-fashioned teachers who were kind enough to teach us which made us robust enough to face the vagaries of life. Looking back in time one thing I can say with all responsibility that whatever I am today and possibly all of them, who used to be with me in those turbulent years, had been able to achieve despite the Science College, very certainly not because of the Science College, Patna. At best it could be considered to be a place to stay in Patna at nominal rate and for getting subsidised food in its hostel mess and nothing more than that.

 

Further the incompetence, aloofness, callousness and indifference of teachers and the administration of such so called prestigious institutions coupled with remaining oblivious of changing requirements of the education system have been the basic reasons because of which various coaching institutes have flourished. I am very happy to see many IRS probationers now who have never been to colleges let alone these decorative prestigious institutions as they have got their education and degrees through correspondence courses and their entry into the civil services had been through the coaching institutes. I really don't know whether it would be proper to say but I can't help to observe that the coaching institutes have now shown these great institutions their truly deserved place and somehow I feel happy about it.

 

This has been the burden on my head for decades and I always wanted to throw this bogey and most certainly I'm not as proud as Mr Bhar used to be for his days in Science College, Patna. I believe that the story of greatness of other similar prestigious colleges would have not been any different and many of such stories are required to be told with honesty. There is another bogey of the Engineering College, another great prestigious institution, which I would try to get rid of in by next blog post.

The Bartoli Moment and the Underdog in Me...

Posted on September 13, 2013 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (0)

The news items like Serena Williams has won another US Open Championship or one more Grand Slam title have no sense of newness for us. She had been one of the greatest in the history, but suddenly I started thinking of this year’s winner of Wimbledon's single title for women and suddenly I started thinking of winners who could be easily forgotten and but very certainly they also had not been any less than the greatest in their respective fields.

 

Marion Bartoli had been very unlikely winner of women's singles title at Wimbledon 2013. Her previous best performance had been some six years ago when she was a finalist here. What a win it was for her, she won the championship without dropping a set on her way to lift the trophy. I'm not much of the tennis enthusiast or an expert but on 6th July 2013, I was watching the women's singles final on television. What immediately struck to me was her unusual serve, very unorthodox as it appeared as if her straight hand was moving in a circle while serving. It appeared even unusual with no ball thumping and execution of the service in one single motion. Her style of play appeared to be intense with double handed forehand and backhand but certainly she didn't appear to be very good mover on the court. Still she was in the finals and won her match against Sabine Lisicki convincingly in straight sets. Incidentally it was her 47th appearance in grand slam tournaments before winning her first; a record of sorts for any grand slam winner.

 

That evening while seeing her lifting the shining trophy, on the television, I had a peculiar sense of happiness and a feeling of relief of not seeing all those regular champions lifting the trophy. Was it for an underdog within me who was feeling happy for another underdog or maybe I was thinking on behalf of all those underdogs who never got an opportunity to be recognised for anything they keep doing with all passion and dedication all their lives? This feeling lingered within me for quite some time thereafter also and I kept wondering as to what is the next for this new Wimbledon champion and mostly I was seriously worried every single day thereafter whenever I used to open the sports page of the morning newspaper. I could feel the dread of the defeat of the champion against anyone. By the time one month had passed and one fine morning I was feeling the same dread while opening the sports page and then suddenly I took a decision on her behalf that she should retire from the game immediately. By the time I could reach on the sports page I saw this news item that Bartoli has announced her immediate retirement from the professional tennis on 14th August 2013. Again there was a feeling of peculiar sense of relief within me.

 

In this peculiar world there are peculiar parameters for judging champions and winners but again we fail to understand that the life is not always about being champion and winners only. What we call passion or dedication remains unnoticed most of the times for most of us who know that they are certainly not the best if judged on the basis of the established parameters but still they keep chasing their passions. After starting her carrier in 2002, Bartoli had been able to win her maiden Grand Slam in 2013 and the feeling of being arrived in life for her could only be guessed which might have come with its profound side-effects. In the real life, championships will keep coming and those having relatively better skills will keep winning these championships and titles. Incidentally, most of the time winners remain the same because they are supposedly the best and most of the sports are dominated by a few stars whom we know to be the greatest. While thinking of those less than the great, the underdogs, who had the opportunity to make it big only occasionally; what is a real life situation and particularly for those who always knew in their heart that they are not certainly the best in the field but there had been occasions when they had been on top. For this kind of underdogs being on top is a different ball game and on thinking about this situation repeatedly brought me to the same conclusion, rather same painful and sad conclusion that once on top gracefully come out with the feeling of being at top for all the times to come in life.

 

I have had been a school topper but I always knew that possibly I was not the rightful person for the decoration because I was lacking all those qualities required for this purpose and also I knew all along that the future tournaments were not meant for persons like me so far these kind of laurels are concerned. People like us keep getting our Bartoli moments and my understanding is that they should gracefully come out of the race immediately thereafter so that the feeling of being at top could linger on throughout your life bringing happiness all along. We have examples of cricketers who have been compelled to retire long after their prime was over but still they were continuing for some unsporting reasons. I started looking around then I found that most of the British prime ministers have simply faded into oblivion very gracefully after completing their terms or after losing elections or being replaced by someone else. Recently I found Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, has simply retired from active politics after her party failed to win the election, she is just 51 years of age. People are calling themselves to be youth leader in this country. Mr. L.K. Advani still thinks of taking a shot at Prime ministership despite the fact that his party lost 2009 general election in his leadership.

 

I was thinking of Ashwini Nachappa, the girl who outran the great P.T. Usha and she was not around for very long time in athletics thereafter and slowly she graduated into a movie star and then into a social worker and educationists. I keep thinking of the great Pulela Gopichand who announced his retirement after winning all England Championship in Badminton.

 

There is a curious case of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of United States who was pushed to the post of vice president in1900 only primarily to control his style of working. As the destiny had its way and the incumbent president Meckinley was assassinated and he was sworn in as the youngest ever president of United States in 1901. What a term he had thereafter, he won next presidential election in 1904 but somehow he declared not to run for the second term. He is still considered to be one of the greatest presidents of America. After demitting his officers in 1908, he was supposed to fade into oblivion but in next presidential election in 1912 he ran as independent once he failed to get Republican nomination and he lost to the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, then to compulsorily fade into oblivion. Time and tide waits for none and it is always advisable to count your pennies and blessings both for what you already have in life. The pride and glory, like any other thing have its own expiry date and trying to cling to it makes it rancid and very ungraceful.

 

Continuously being on top certainly requires some divine intervention besides your own skills, capabilities, qualities, passion and dedication coupled with numerous factors affecting your performance in that particular field at particular period of time. Having arrived at top has got its own side-effects and particularly for those who know in their hearts that possibly they might have not been the best person to stand there continuously. I can only sympathise with Abhinav Bindra, our own Olympic gold medallist in shooting, has not been able to repeat his performance afterwards. It has been a great feeling to accept that I had been an average person who had been lucky enough to receive always more than his expectations and also to say that I too had my own Bartoli moments in my life to keep me happy for all the times to come and before signing off I have to repeat again emphatically that I have retired from all the tournaments long back.This morning I opened the sports page of today’s newspaper and found that Rafael Nadal has won another US Open Championship and his 13th grand slam, it was a no new to me.

A LITTLE BIT OF GOA IN MY LIFE ...

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

“Sir, one rowdy fellow is at our door creating all kinds of trouble”, Binod came running to me and he was looking extremely worried.

“This fellow appears to be drunk also”, he was panting.

“Just shut the door and there is no need to do anything”, I told him because it was already 10 at night and there was hardly any traffic on the main road of Panaji city in Goa.

It was my third month in Goa and I was still staying in the departmental guest house in the heart of the city facing the beautiful Mandovi River. Binod was the boy from nearby Sawantwadi town and he was working in the guest house for the contractor having the maintenance contract.

Usually the place becomes deserted after the evening when tourists return to their hotels after a day full of hectic sightseeing. The restaurants are usually full in the tourist season but it was end of September and it was the still raining heavily in Goa and street looked wet after a spell of heavy downpour. In the next room there was a Malayali guest from Delhi who was working as Director in some ministry. He came on the Goa tour with his family. There was serenity prevailed for a while and I thought that troublemaker has left for good and it was time for me to talk to my son who too was visiting me to enjoy the rainy season of Goa. My wife too was making plans for the next day.

Suddenly there was a distinct sound of shattering of glasses and with a bang a big stone landed in the gallery. The window pane was shattered by a big piece of stone thrown by that crazy fellow outside.

“Sir, that fellow is even abusing and using expletives and banging on our door”, Binod was virtually shouting while informing about the latest development.

“The glass pane of the front window has been broken and I think a piece of glass has gone into my eyes”, he was standing close to the door near the window and this was a bad news at dead of the night.

By this time the Malayali guest was also out of his room and looked very worried possibly he was thinking as to why he came to stay in this Customs guest house even it was for free.

“Whether such incidents keep happening regularly in this place?” he asked me as soon as I came out of my room. His wife looked really scared as if the enemy country has attacked India.

“Where are you going?” my wife asked from behind while I got up to assess the situation my own.

“Papa, you don't have anything to protect yourself and you can be hurt”, my son also cautioned me.

“Binod, Just be with me and call Vinayak also”, I called for the second boy was working with him in the guest house.

“Let us face him, because it is getting too much to bear”, now I was adamant.

“Papa, where are you going?” my son was following me and my wife was also wearing a worried look.

“Sir, see the whole window pane is broken”, Binod was still keeping one hand on his eye while pointing to broken glasses in the corridor. I could hear the noise from outside and every one of us was having the palpable fear of another stone being hurled from outside any moment of time.

“Why don't you call the police”, the Malayali Babu looked tense but gave a very sensible advice.

“Be careful”, he added before he was dragged inside the room by his wife.

“I think it would take hours before police reaches this place”, now I too was shouting while I reached for the knob of the door to open from inside. Both Vinayak and Binod were standing right behind me and then suddenly I opened the heavy wooden door opening directly on the main street.

There was a small crowd around a person in his early twenties, short but muscular in frame and appeared to be fully drunk and he was shouting all kinds of expletives. There was no visible reason for him for vocation but the sight of the broken window pane was unbearable for me and while standing there and facing him I was wondering as to what to do next.

“Don’t go near him as he may attack you”, my wife cautioned me from behind and I could feel that my son was trying to stand as close to me.

“Why did you break this window of ours, someone might have been hurt by the stone thrown by you?” now I was simply seething with anger while facing him and throwing all the cautions to winds. At that time I realised that possibly I have reached to the point of no return.

“I will do whatever I wish and I'm going to break your head now”, he was simply out of sense and he raised his hands to grab my collar.

There was no time to think and I could not stop myself anymore and grabbed his throat and pushed him inside the door of the guest house and both the boys who were watching all these developments came back to senses once they found that the fellow had fallen down on the firm guest house floor because of sheer suddenness of my attack. But because he was holding my collar I too fell on him and simply freestyle street fight started thereafter in the Customs guest house in Panaji. Blows, kicks and what not, in the split second I too turned in to beast and both the boys attacked him with full ferocity without any delay and soon that fellow was overpowered but suddenly I could see red around my hand.

This was because his head was banged against the floor and the blood was coming out of his head but I never thought that in this process I got a punch on my nose and the blood was coming out of my nose too. I came back to senses when I heard that my wife was crying from behind as she watched everything in fear as to what happened to me and my son started weeping profusely to see the blood on my face. I understood that now there is no point to fight any further because the person was squarely overpowered and thoroughly thrashed and possibly it was time to wash blood coming out from various places.

The person was thrown out in this street and slowly noise subsided outside and crowd assembled outside the gate of the guest house slowly started dispersing. Someone brought water and I was washing my face.

“These Goan people can only watch drama and nobody has courage to fight it out”, the boy from Sawantwadi was still irritated with all these developments and still he was worried that some glass piece has entered into his eye.

“Just wash your eyes with water and in morning we will try to see some doctor”, I told Binod while consoling him I was thinking on what all has happened a short while back.

“There is no point in fighting with these rowdies”, now I could see that the Malayali Babu was coming out of his room again when everything was over and apparently there was no danger in coming out of the room and possibly it was the best time for him to give another sane advice.

But then I was still thinking of something that Binod has said sometimes back. After spending more than three months in Goa I never felt as if I'm a person from outside but it was difficult for me dispute this common perception. But by the time I came back to my room I was still pondering as to whether this perception is not true for the whole country. Possibly this observation of the boy from Sawantwadi prepares the perfect background to tell about a real coincidence when I found a real piece of Bihar in this beautiful place.

This was during my last election duty as Election Observer when I was deputed to my native state by the Election Commission possibly because of some software error in its database. I was deputed to Samastipur Parliamentary constituency in North Bihar. Samastipur Parliamentary constituency has got an assembly segment by name Kusheshar Asthan, which was assigned to me as Election Observer. To my amazement this was the place which I never knew that it exists in my home state and once I got the opportunity I thought it was the time to explore it.

I came to know that this place has got its name from an old temple of Kushesharnath, another name of the Lord Shiva and once I reached to this place there was no motorable road to reach this temple. The night I spent in a century old dak bungalow where the local administration had put a generator to run a fan through the night. In morning I decided to visit the temple to pay respect to Lord Shiva, being the local deity, in whose name this place was also known. With much difficulty we could reach to this temple where I was told by the local priest that the Shivalinga in the temple is Aprupi as it was discovered in this form itself by some shepherd when they found that while grazing their cattle one of cows released its flow of milk on a particular place each day. When they examined the place they found this Shivalinga and the temple was built on the same place.

There was nothing new in the story as this country has so many stories and legends told in different regions that on this place this god has come and at this place another deity was present in some incarnation. I offered my worship in the temple and next day I returned from Kusheshar Ashthan to Samastipur where I was put up with other Election Observers. I came back to Mumbai after election was over and UPA came back to power and incidentally only couple of days back the UPA-II has celebrated the completion of its third year in power.

Now coming back to Goa, when some time back I was informed that this time the new Chief Commissioner will be visiting this place from Pune and the Commissioner, holding additional charge of the Goa Commissionerate, will accompany him. This visit ensued in relation to the tender opening for creating a Customs Museum in Goa. While I received them at Dabolim Airport, the Chief Commissioner expressed his desire to visit Shri Mangueshi temple located at Mangeshim in Priol, Ponda taluk on his way to Panaji, the capital of Goa where we have got our guest house. We reached to this place and paid our respect to Lord Mangueshi, an incarnation of Shiva in the one of the most beautiful temple I have ever visited. While the Chief Commissioner was offering worship I made some inquiries about the temple from a priest there who informed me that the Mangesh Linga is said to have been consecrated on the mountain of Mangireesh (Mongir) on the banks of river Bhagirathi by Lord Brahma, from where the Saraswat Brahmins brought it to Trihotrapuri in Bihar. They carried the linga to Gomantaka and settled at Kushasthali, the present-day Cortalim, establishing their most sacred and ancient temple of Mangesh on the banks of the river Zuari. Lord Mangesh is worshipped here in the shape of a Shiva linga.

“But this is a completely different place”, curiously I asked further as the name Kushasthali sounded familiar to me.

“This temple actually had its origins in Kushasthali, a village in Salcette which fell to the invading Portuguese. In the year 1560, the Portuguese started conversions in Salcette, the Saraswats then shifted the Mangesh Linga from the original site at Kushasthali on the banks of river Zuari to its present location at Mangeshi in Priol village of Atrunja Taluka”, the brief history of the temple was thus narrated to me by the priest.

Because the name of the place Kushasthali somehow sounded familiar to me and I could not suppress my curiosity any further.

“Whether there was any temple in Kushasthali?” This time my mind was certainly thinking of the similarly sounding another Shiva temple from my own state, the Kusheshar Asthan.

“Here is a legend that while rescuing Parvati, his wife from some danger, Lord Shiva left behind a linga on this place. There it lay forgotten until one day a cowherd decided to enquire into an unusual experience when he found that one of his cows was releasing milk on that place. Having found the linga there a temple was built and villagers of Kushasthali got their own deity” I was astonished to listen to same story about Shiva Linga and the Shiva Temple but in a different and distant place.

That night I kept pondering as to whether it could just be a coincidence that same legend being told in two distant places but how can be there be similarity in the names of the places; one Kusheshar Asthan in Bihar and another Kushasthali in Goa? What I found thereafter was even more astounding that similarities were not ending only in names and the reference of Mangireesh (Mongir) on the banks of river Bhagirathi has some similar sounding place as Munger in Bihar on the bank of Ganges which itself is identified with Mod-Giri, a place mentioned in the Mahabharata. The place referred to by the priest, Trihotrapuri in Bihar from wherefrom the Shiva linga was taken to Kushasthali in Goa; could be the present Tirhut area of north Bihar which is the area surrounded by three rivers: Gandak on West, Kosi on East and Ganga on South and this is the area where my native district Vaishali, earlier a part of the Muzaffarpur district, is also situated. At present it comprises the modern districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Champaran and parts of the districts of Munger, Bhagalpur and Purnea. Somehow presence of Munger in Tirhut in Bihar and the legend of Mongir and Trihotrapuri in Goa made me thinking as to whether it is just a coincidence?

I came to Goa in the month of July 2011 when it was raining heavily and it looked green all over and particularly the paddy fields here reminded me of plains of north Bihar which look similarly green in the rainy season. The laidback attitude is hallmark of people of Gangetic plain because of the availability of fertile land, abundant water and pleasant weather conditions. I love to quote another reason that is associated especially with the plains of Bihar that is availability of overabundant Toddy all the time. This laidback attitude is in genes of people of this area. I never miss an opportunity to mention in detail that how difficult it has been for me to work hard and how much sleepy I feel every afternoon. Major part of my growing years I spent in the Tirhut area as I was born in West Champaran district and did my major part of schooling in East Champaran district while my forefathers had always been residing as farmers in Vaishali district of Bihar. Enjoying life comes very naturally to the people from this area and when I reached Goa I found that these are the basic traits of people there as well.

They use to tell horror stories about Goa before I came to this place as to how the staffs simply doesn’t work there and they have habit of writing so many anonymous complaints against officers. What I have learnt that nowhere in this country anybody wants to work till one is forced to and writing anonymous complaints are out traditional pastime. I am reminded of juicy anonymous letters written in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh where they use write about officers with graphic details, inspired by Telugu Movies which I came to know during my tenure in Hyderabad. To my mind being laidback has been basic attitude of the people of this country and I don’t want any certificate or guideline of some ISO standard as to how I should work in this country. If centuries of Portuguese rule have not been able to break the spirit of people here; centuries of British occupation has not been able to change the attitude towards life in the main land as well. All I have is the appreciation for people of Goa, culture of Goa, the unbreakable spirit of Goa and above all the laidback attitude of Goa. The coincidences, as narrated, may be just out of my own stretch of imagination but attachment with this place and the people of this place, I could sense was genuinely heartfelt.

Every single moment I spent in Goa was overwhelming for me; a memory of time spent with local staff is an asset for me for all the times to come in my life. I salute the spirit of Goa. I could genuinely feel people here as my own siblings from a common past and yes that day my blood that spilled in the guest house was purely a Goan blood. Amen…

The Unofficial CESTAT Working Manual (Draft)

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 5:58 AM Comments comments (1)

Your worst nightmare has come true and you have now been posted to CESTAT.  You had been trying your best to avoid this posting but apparently it was written in your horoscope to work in this place, so be calm and it is advisable to take this decision of destiny in good spirit and to take this posting as a challenge which will alter your personality for good for all days to come.  One thing that can be assured at this stage itself that after completion of the tenure here, your life will not remain the same.  Your understanding of the law, your vision, your communication, oratorical and persuasive skills will be changed.  You will have the basic understanding of the functioning of the legal system in this country as well as this is an opportunity to live a life of a lawyer in true sense.  I have seen that usually a junior lawyer will be carrying files for decades before he is given the opportunity by his senior to plead before the Bench.  Here you are who can start pleading from day one.  They say that public speaking is the greatest fear; anybody faces in his life and the nature of our service is such that usually you don't get opportunity to develop your public speaking skills.  I have seen officers having several decades of service behind them but when it comes to public speaking they will falter and usually depend upon the written papers, which is not half as effective when spoken extempore.

 

This is the place when suddenly all your senses will become very active and possibly in your whole life you might have never used all your senses together at the highest efficiency.  When you are standing before the Bench, simultaneously you will be listening, writing/noting, talking, thinking, discussing, answering, speaking and also you will be behaving in completely different manner than the way you used to do in your comfortable and secure chamber, during your field postings.  Take it as an opportunity to mould your personality for better.  Facility wise this is not a bad place than many other field formations.  One thing that I can assure you that after completion of your tenure you will be better placed to listen to everyone, you will speak only when it is very essentially required and above all you will develop habit of having patience to wait for your turn to speak.  You will develop to have respect for law and rules and above all you will be in position to appreciate the legal and adjudication system of this country.  You will start reading the full order for the first time in your life and certainly you will be in position to appreciate the shortcoming of any adjudication order.  Hopefully after this tenure you will not be depending upon your subordinates for writing your orders; even if you get it written by your subordinates at least you will read once before signing on the dotted lines. You will certainly turn out to be a better officer now onwards.

 

So, now it is enough of the background preparation; this is the time to jumpstart to the actual work.  You are aware that orders of Commissioner or the Commissioner (Appeals) are appealed against in the CESTAT but most probably you might not be aware that there is a procedure as per the CESTAT Procedure Rules, 1982 which governs the whole procedure of filing the appeal in the CESTAT as well as the actual procedure of adjudication.  It will not be a bad idea to start with reading first the CESTAT Procedure Rules, word by word, sentence by sentence.  It will give you a fair idea as to how the appeal has to be filed in the CESTAT and how efficiently the appeal process should be handled in Commissionerates. Last time once one of the JCDR was having a meeting in Nhava Sheva, he was startled to know that none of the senior officers were aware of the difference between the Cross Objection and the Para Wise Comments.  To put it simply that you somehow manage your field postings with the help of your subordinates and most of the time you utilise your abilities in either writing good English or making grammatical corrections, nothing more than this.  It is not a bad idea now to have a copy of Bare Act on your table which you might have not seen from years and most of the time you might be thinking that you remember everything.  It is advisable that wherever some reference of a particular provision has been made that it is better to read that particular provision rather than guessing and depending upon your memory. 

 

You should have ExCus installed in your computer or laptop and it should be kept in front of you all the time.  You might have forgotten to read anything at home but again it would not be a bad idea again to set up the study table at home because you will be requiring it very often and most probably on daily basis.  You might have forgotten to study late in night after qualifying the Civil Services Examinations then this is the time to go back to your college days when you use to put in many hours, sometimes late in night to learn new things.  Before you start your new assignment, accept our hearty congratulations and best wishes for a new life which is just to begin.  All the very best again!

 

Every Friday, you will be assigned certain cases for the coming week.  This assignment will be of primarily of two types: the first category will take care of Short Matters and the second category will consist of Regular Matters. The Short Matters usually take care of all other issues but the final decision on an appeal.  There will be issues of admission, early hearing application, condonation of delay application, other miscellaneous applications and finally the stay application in the category of short matters.  In the regular matters, the issues will come before the Bench for final decisions only.  Yes, there would be Single-Member Bench and the Division Bench which will take up the appeals on the basis of its monetary limits.  The appeal involving the issues of more than 10 lakhs will be heard only by the Division Bench while any appeal involving the issues less than 10 lakhs will be heard by a Single-Member Bench.  However the procedure for dealing with the issues remains the same for both the Benches.

 

I was telling about the assignment of the cases on Friday; unlike any other field formations, the Fridays may not be that comfortable when you were looking forward to take a rest for couple of days or waiting for booze party on Saturday evening.  The cases assigned to you on the Friday evenings will remain with you on Saturdays and Sundays wherever you go.  Is it getting little scary?  There is no need to get worried as these troubles will remain only for initial couple of months and slowly you'll start getting into the groove and without these files you will find that life is a lot boring.

 

By now you are aware of the basic functioning of the CESTAT and the files that have been assigned to you for Monday onwards.  In the Bench situated in Mumbai, you have got short matters listed only on Mondays and Fridays, it simply means that on these two days the Bench will primarily hear the issues to take a prima facie view as to whether the applicant has been able to make a good case so that there should be complete waiver for pro-deposit of duty and penalty or if the applicant has failed to make out a good case for any kind of waiver and in that situation a pre-deposit should be ordered by the Bench, besides deciding other short matter issues.  This is just the prima facie view but it should not dissuade you from reading the file seriously for the simple reason that the regular matter will come after almost 8 to 10 years and if the matter has not been pursued properly at the stay stage then the party will have the benefit of not paying a considerable amount for almost a decade without any interest, even if there is a strong case for the Department.  It becomes even more important when there is considerable amount of duty involved in particular issue and naturally even at the prima facie stage considerable amount of importance and attention has to be given to the issue.  There is no need to be perturbed at this stage because after some time issues will become repetitive and you will be able to handle such cases without much of efforts.

 

Once you are dealing with regular matters then it is completely different cup of tea as you will be arguing your case for the final time for the Department and thereafter final decision on the issue, at the level of CESTAT, will be taken.  This final argument decides the outcome of the case so far the Department is concerned.  One thing I have forgotten to mention here that most of the time it is the quality of the case that decides its outcome rather than the quality of argument by the DR.  So at any stage you don't require to feel any way responsible for any case going against the Department.  With the limited resources and even limited attention and expectation from the Department, the maximum that could be done by any DR, is to properly present the case as well as the concerned case laws before the Bench.  Most of the cases will be like this only, however intermittently you will be getting some cases where you will be required to put special attention as well as to make a special effort to get a favourable order for the Department.  If you have done your job honestly and to best of your capacity then you have done your job and leave rest to the Bench to decide.

 

Now coming back to the issue of the things you have to take care now onwards, till you are posted out of the CESTAT.  As I mentioned early that to begin with it is not a bad idea to read the CESTAT Procedure Rules, 1982 which nobody reads during his field postings, word by word sentence by sentence and remembering and understanding it during the process.  Whenever you are in doubt about any procedure during your posting in CESTAT, it is advisable to go back to the CESTAT Procedure Rules again and again. 

 

1.                 HOW TO READ THE APPEAL PAPER BOOK: This is the first thing that you will come across after you have been handed over a bunch of files on the Friday evening.  In usual course you are expected to go through the Show Cause Notice, the Order in Original and the Order in Appeal.  Thereafter reading the Appeal Paper Book, where after going through the Brief Facts of the Case, as submitted by the appellant; the DR is required to go very carefully through the Grounds of Appeal and based upon the facts of the case, the DR is required to prepare his counterpoints supported by concerned case laws.  But this is a very lengthy procedure and you don't have much time for all these things as very frequently you will be expected to argue five to six cases every day.  I will tell what I used to do; I will go directly to the findings in the Order in Original or Order in Appeal, will flag it first and while reading it self I will highlight the issue to be decided by the adjudicating authority and his/her findings on each such issues.  Thereafter I will go directly to the Grounds of Appeal and will try to see as to whether those grounds have been adequately addressed to by the adjudicating authority or not?  On the specific Grounds of Appeal, I will make a search in ExCus in the head notes only and most of the time initial couple of citations will be able to enlighten me about the current status of the concerned law point and what kind of decisions have been recently taken by the CESTAT Benches?  This is the stage when a DR has to take a call as to whether the matter has to be pursued seriously on the basis as to whether the stand taken by the Department is legally correct or not?  What I used to do that when I used to find that there is a nonsense case of Department at hand and the stance taken by the Department is totally unlawful and unjustified then rather than bickering with the Benches on one law point or other, I used to concede that the case is totally covered against the Department and I simply reiterate the findings of the adjudicating authority.

 

2.                 WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU FIND THAT THERE IS A CASE FOR THE DEPARTMENT: Once on the basis of search made in ExCus and on the basis of your own appreciation of law and facts of the case, you find that there is a case for Department then you have to scrutinise as to whether those case laws are applicable on the facts and circumstances of the case at hand and also have not been set aside by the higher judicial forum.  The ExCus gives you fair idea as to whether the concerned case laws have been upheld or set aside by the higher judicial forum.  The problem starts when there are case laws in support of both the party as well as the Department; in that situation you will have to make effort to distinguish those case laws which are against the Department as to how they are not applicable in the present case at hand.  Possibly you might have never bothered to read the Law of Precedence during your field posting days or even during your hallowed postings in the organisations manned by sleuths then it is the appropriate time to read as to how those case laws against the Department can't be applicable as precedential evidence.  There is no need to get alarmed and simply you have to do to go to the site www.cdrcbec.com and read all the case laws related with Law of Precedence.  It will give you an insight to see through the evidences and case laws produced by the party during arguments before the Bench and you will be able to successfully distinguish these case laws while making out a case for the Department.

 

3.                 HOW TO PREPARE COMPILATION TO BE SUBMITTED BEFORE THE BENCH: This is another important area where you will have to spend considerable time.  There is a pro forma, prescribed by the Bench, in which all the compilations have to be submitted before the Bench.  Just ask for the pro forma; you will get one and as this is stage you should know that four copies of such compilations have to be prepared when you are appearing before the Division Bench and three copies when you are appearing before the Single-Member Bench.  This is because one copy has to be given to the counsel of the party, one or two copies to the member or members and one copy for yourself.  The compilation, you are having with yourself is a very important document for the simple reason that your argument will be based on the details in it.  The propositions you are going to canvass before the Bench has to be supported by the details filed in the compilation.  The pro forma prescribed is very exhaustive and you should be able to a specifically mention the page number and the para on which your proposition is based.  Do not forget that pages in your compilation should be serially numbered and while making a proposition before the Bench you should be able to clearly refer to the running page number, the internal page number, the para number and the nth line from top or bottom.  Your compilation should be able to not only support your proposition but simultaneously while making the submission you should be able to show the ratio of a particular judgment very clearly from your cited case laws available.  What I used to do that I will highlight those applicable sentences or para in my compilation so that even if the numbers have been mentioned on the front page of my compilation still I should be able to directly go to the place without hindering my flow of argument.  The flow of submission is an important aspect of your presentation before the Bench as enhances the effectiveness of your presentation.

 

 

4.                 HOW TO MAKE A PRESENTATION BEFORE THE BENCH: This is the most difficult part of working in CESTAT, simply because art of public speaking is something which comes very naturally to some persons than others.  It requires very conscious effort on the part of any individual to be very comfortable while making presentation before the Bench and in the beginning however smart you are and however confident you are, there will be moments when you will find yourself fumbling and mumbling.  There is no solution of this problem but to face it and make efforts to overcome the fear of public speaking.  Initially it will look dreadful to stand before the Bench and argue the case but after some time, like any other assignment you will find it to be very comfortable and most of the time in the presence of friendly members of the Bench it will not be very difficult to argue your cases successfully.  The important thing that can make your presentation more effective is that at the outset itself you should be able to summarise the issue or the dispute in couple of lines and then summarise the arguments/submissions made by the counsel/representative of the party. Only thereafter you should put forward the legal proposition in very clear-cut terms and those propositions should be supported by facts of the case as well as the case laws.  If you had been able to manage this part successfully then a major part of your presentation has been taken care of.  You will learn some of other nitty-gritty of presentation before the Bench automatically when you start arguing your cases on regular basis.  To my understanding this is a unique experience to speak before the Bench when hundreds of other people are present in the court and you are locking horns with luminaries of this field standing opposite you.  I have forgotten to mention that the first opportunity of making presentation would be given to the representative of the appellant and what is happening that in most of the cases the department is respondent; so the DR will have to wait for his turn after the argument of the counsel of the party is over and the DR is asked by the Bench to begin with his presentation.  Don’t forget that this is not your office and you are not the sleuth here as you can speak here only with the leave of the Bench not otherwise.  So it is advisable to become humble and sweeten your voice when you are making presentation before the Bench.  It is your call whether you wish to call the members of the CESTAT as “Your Lordship”, “My Lord” or “Your Honour” or even simply “Sir”; it hardly matters and it is for you to use either of these options.

 

5.                 CONTENT IS THE KING: Simply putting, your forte is facts of the case. This is first thing we were taught in this place. Whenever a lengthy argument is being made by the counsel for the party, most probably this is time to look very closely into facts of the case so as to find as to whether this lengthy argument is at all relevant to the fact of the case at hand or not? It so happens most of the time that brilliant counsel for the party would try to create an impression that all the possible wrongs have been committed by the department so far legality is concerned, on basis of very large number of case laws and citations, most of which would not be applicable in the facts of the case. This is reason that the one should be very clear about the facts of the case while arguing the case of the Revenue.

A GARY IN EVERYONE'S LIFE

Posted on April 12, 2011 at 3:46 AM Comments comments (0)

Now the euphoria of the World Cup win has slowly started subsiding but the country has got new heroes and poster boys in the process.  In post win interviews, many of the players remembered and appreciated the contributions of the South African coach of the team Gary Kirsten.  Many of them expressed gratitude to their families and some of them have dedicated their win to their gurus and deities.  In the hindsight the superlative achievement can be attributed randomly to anyone or to anything as per individual taste and faith which in turn primarily reflect their cultural leaning. Possibly this also the time to give credit to those nondescript individuals in small places all over the country, who keep working selflessly at ground level to groom children into various areas which are not so popular or fashionable like sports except cricket, dance, drama, traditional skills and many other areas of activities. I have seen middle school teachers pleading with poor parents to allow their wards to attend the school so that those children could pursue the talent in particular area of sports. 

 

The illustration of sports is equally applicable to other areas also, children who were good in particular area, were not only taken care of by such teachers but most of the time they were mentored by them and there used to be a very long term associations between them and time to time, mid-term corrections used to be infused by such people with their limited abilities and exposure.  But it was their devotion and commitment to their chosen areas of hobby that even without any support or recognition; they were committed to groom the next generation to excel in various fields.  Those who have excelled in many other areas have certainly been inspired, persuaded or groomed initially by these nondescript faces, scattered around the country.

 

I can still recall with nostalgia those Khadi Dhoti Kurta clad teachers of my middle school in Indrapuri situated on the bank of the river Sone, in the Rohtas district of Bihar.  These teachers used to make concerted effort to instil a sense of knowledge and understanding among children, most of them coming from nearby villages of farmers and shepherds. Those days when there was no television or internet, still those who were little better in academics, were being given special attention and care by those kind-hearted teachers.  Simultaneously those having inclination towards sports were also being taken care of by allowing them to bunk classes to play matches and also during examinations it was ensured that they should not fail despite their poor academic performances. These teachers use to somehow manage costly sports kits by begging or borrowing. If school team use to score a win over another school in a football match, it use to be a feeing of achievement and accomplishment for these teachers. Further I use to see couple of more people, from nearby villages, on field everyday without any self interest and only out their passion and affection for the game, fully indulged with children.

 

In present context when there is no examination till class seven or eight, as per the new CBSE guidelines, those teachers were quite ahead of time as these norms are being applied by them some forty years ago in insuring that no child should fail in shcool while pursuing a career in sports. Those primary and Middle Schools, all around the country, had not only been incubation centre of academic excellence but also the teachers working in all such as schools had been vital for keeping the system working despite all shortcomings and those having some kind of inclination in particular area were somehow finding support from unexpected quarters.  It was not very uncommon to see that meritorious students were finding supports from their caste/communities for higher education.  I have had the opportunity to study in one of those government district schools, where hostel facilities used to be available to those qualifying National Rural Merit Scholarship Examinations at the level of class seven.  Such schools used to be incubation centre for higher education and one thing I can say with all responsibility that poverty/economic conditions was not always the impediment in individual’s pursuit to get better education. With minimal support from the establishment but with immense moral support from these teachers, many of them had been able to excel in various fields.

 

This was not highly sophisticated training as one provided by Gary Kirsten, but the basic skill training which actually formed the stepping stone for further refining skills by ilk of  Gary. To my mind there had been people like Ramakant Achrekar in formative years of all the Sachins in various fields. This is also an occasion to recognise and celebrate services of those selfless but passionate people, who have contributed to make every single person to see a Dhoni in him to some extent.

TALE OF TWO RETIREMENTS

Posted on March 26, 2011 at 6:04 AM Comments comments (1)



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I have just returned after attending yet another farewell party when one of our seniors was superannuating.  In fact it was such a proud moment for the person retiring in full glory, in company of his beloved batch mates and in presence of friends and subordinates.  A rare occasion and sight, by all means, when the whole Board came to bid farewell.  This was the reflection of character of the retiring person and impression created by virtue of his deeds.

 

It was again a rare sight to see a person on his last day in office, with a happy feeling of having the mission accomplished, a job well done.  Appreciation and accolades come automatically and subordinates for whom he had been a leader and source of inspiration, it was primarily an enveloping sense of loss.  But for the satisfied person, upon his retirement, it was probably to take a rest and pursue something which he always wished all along during his working life.  But the one sentence, he spoke during his farewell dinner, is still disturbing me.  He informed that what will he do and where he will stay was something he was not very sure till that time.

 

Suddenly my mind started drifting towards another occasion of retirement, I witnessed couple of years back.  Another very senior officer, who was very good orator and used to conduct farewell parties/retirement parties, very eloquently with a flair in Custom House.  On the day of his retirement, he could not hide his surprise that time has come for him to bid bye to the Department.  While sitting at the edge of the oval conference table, he was still thinking as if he was going to give another farewell speech for someone else.  It was unthinkable for him to realise that it was his own farewell party and his days of watching movies in cinema hall or having dinner in some star hotel with couple of preventive officers in front and another couple in the back row was over.  Slowly he will have to learn to manage without any escort officer, sitting in front seat of the government vehicle.  Another problem was that the last ditch effort of getting some deputation was not successful.  But the big question which was still staring at him as to what will he do after the retirement?  His last several months before retirement have passed just in lobbying for some deputation and in making long calls over the phone so that he can continue to retain the house and the government vehicle for another two years.

 

The common question at the end of the tale of both retirements was as to what will they do after retirement?  This is a difficult question for anyone to answer but let me compile first some of those propositions which I have heard from retiring officers and also hazards associated with such propositions. Hazards are also being compiled for the simple reason that the seriousness with which this issue should have been treated was not only missing but preparedness to face post retirement days was alarmingly miserable.

 

  1. I will go to my native place and do some social work: The first thing that is required for social work is humility, with sense of kindness and sympathy for those unfortunate souls who are not so lucky in society.  After spending more than 30 years, thinking only for yourself, whether it is it your good posting, bigger vehicle with the red bacon or even bigger house; to my understanding no one is left with heart to think for others.  This proposition of doing social work is nothing but hypocrisy that too in your native place is even refined hypocrisy.  To my mind the pain of losing government vehicle and salutes from inspectors is far too distressing to think for any social work. Such loose talks should be avoided and only practical alternatives, far from hypocrisy, should be discussed.
  2. I will pursue my interest in music/literature: I'm yet to see a person who had been passionately pursuing his interests in music/literature while in service (barring one obvious exception), rather the passion of possessing a flat in the Metro and a big car, consumes all the time and energy of most of us that no time is left for those small things like music and literature.  To my mind such passion cannot be developed after retirement rather it has to be pursued all along.  You should have passion and courage to carry your Flute or violin yourself with grace and not getting it carried by your subordinates.  I am not much into music or literature but one thing I know for sure that this worship or prayer you have to do religiously all your life as a devotee, not that you start your rituals only after retirement.  To me this proclamation is also another form of hypocrisy and it simply means that the person is not ready to face the inevitable and he is in for some serious counselling.
  3. I will start my own practice/consultancy: This is the worst but very popular joke I keep hearing while attending those farewell parties or at gatherings at the time of retirements.  Particularly when claimed by those who have never worked in CESTAT and this joke they keep repeating as if because of their long experience in the Department, when they will stand in court, judges will fall on their feet or people all around the world are dying to listen to them on all legal issues.  More so because during their working day they have not seen anything beyond the place where one has to sign.  At least I know couple of retired senior officers who had come to see tribunal for the first time in their life only after retirement, thinking of doing practice here.  Initially they were expecting to be welcomed at the entrance itself by the Members and when they attended the proceedings for couple of days, they were never seen around this place afterwards.  I called one such officer afterwards, inquiring as to what has happened to his plan of practicing here? He informed that his Blood Pressure had increased so much after just imagining himself standing before the Bench that he had to be hospitalised and nowadays he is so afraid that he doesn't even take the D?Mello Road to go to south Mumbai.  Some of them having managed to get some cases from department, have messed it up.  Everybody can't be Mr K M Mondal; a big salute to him with a caution that we should not do loose talk about practising in CESTAT because it is a very serious business.  My proposition is simple; an officer capable of practising would not wait till his retirement to see the entrance of tribunal.  Same thing is with consultancy business also; individuals having misconception about their capabilities and knowledge can make tall claims in usual course but when it comes to the real thing and to real understanding of law, the experience of more than 35 years is of no use.  At this stage I wish to remember my friend Vijay Kumar in Hyderabad, who used to discuss his future plans beyond the Department and about a decade back he left the department and nowadays he is enlightening the whole country, writing his columns on daily basis as Chief Editor of hugely popular website taxindiaonline. Not only one has to be courageous but also should be ready to make sacrifices to take this route of emancipation.
  4. I will go into politics: This is one of the wildest and weirdest claims, I have heard on couple of sombre occasions of retirement.  Strangely some people have a strong misconception about their capabilities or say popularity that they consider themselves as future leaders only at the time of their retirements.  Politics is nowadays again very serious business and most of the time most of people keep carrying flags and banners all their lives and you require to be rough and tough to face very uneven and difficult terrains of Indian politics.

 

Why am I trying to compile all negative thoughts related with retirement?  The issue is that to find a solution of a problem first the problem has to be recognised and its existence has to be accepted.  Is it not a problem at present that a vast pool of people having specialised knowledge in the area of indirect taxation and its administration is being put to almost no use.  Besides simply hanging their boots and counting the days and thinking of their past glory, there are certain other options which should be explored to face the event of impending retirement. Here are some options which come immediately to my mind.

 

  1. If one has courage and if in his working days one had been at least reading the files before signing and if one is not afraid of public speaking and possessing oratorical skills, then he should come and practice in the tribunal.  There is acute shortage of knowledgeable people in this field.  At least from my experience in Mumbai, I can say that this is one of the sunshine areas for those of serious officers who are retiring in the near future.  Those, possessing laws degrees, can practice in High Courts and Supreme Court also; again from the experience of Mumbai I can say with all responsibility that the department is finding it difficult to get a good counsel to present its important cases in the High Court.  I have been informed that a proposal has been sent from one of the Commissionerates to appoint/allow departmental representatives to argue in High Court / Supreme Court also.  I don't know whether it would ever be possible in future but the shortage of skilled people in this area of Indirect Taxation is far more serious than our imagination.
  2. Consultancy: I'm not much aware of this business but a beautiful model has been developed by one of the best-known sites in this field.  This is over the Internet consultancy and where anybody can ask any legal question or put a query for a fee that too over Internet.  Officers having legal acumen can join such companies or sites; alternatively they can start such sites their own.  I was wondering if our own human resource directorate can create a database of willing officers and as it is prevalent for retiring army officers where they have got a separate wing for taking care of the re-employment of officers retiring from armed forces.  This database can be used by those companies in the field of consultancy which can make use of the experience and knowledge of our retiring officers. Creating such an interface would make life easy for both such firms in the field of consultancy and also for our retiring officers. Serious thought could be given to this proposition.
  3. Teaching: Whatever little information I have about teaching in this important area of Indirect Taxation, it is still dominated by some Chartered Accountants having no practical experience of this field.  With increasing numbers of management institutes and institutes dealing with foreign trade and exports, there is vast demand of such teachers but irony is that the pool of able teachers is very small.  Anyone having flair of a speaking and teaching should certainly explore this area.  But again there has to be a centralised database for those willing officers for the simple reason that there is no interface between the institutes where such faculties are required and those willing experts having the domain knowledge.  It is the high time when serious initiative in this direction is required to be taken by our board.
  4. Journalism and Media: This is another irony I find that all the articles related with Indirect Taxation, in mainstream business newspapers and magazines, are being written by those who are neither having any experience in this field nor can they understand the intricacies of this complex system Indirect Tax collection in India. Similar situation prevails in mainstream media also, almost all the so called experts on Indirect Taxation are called from some of the leading auditing firms. This is another area where persons retiring can not only contribute but also flourish. A concerted effort made during working days of individuals would go a long way in molding their post retirement days in this area as well.

  5. Simply Retiring: This is also one of the serious alternatives when you simply retire and do nothing, maybe having a walk in morning and spending time thereafter in reading, in watching TV, gardening, speaking over phone to old friends and remembering good old days, taking care of grand children and spending time with them. Most of such alternatives like reading habit can't be developed overnight and that too for those persons who have never read a single book in their working life. Most of us keep mugging newspapers and news channels, simply because these are the only things we can understand. Maybe developing a green patch and other such serious things may sound like good propositions but can we do it? Simultaneously, the problem is for how long you can keep yourself busy in all these when you had never such interests in your working life?  The last time when around 20 of our batch mates came to Delhi for a get-together; this was also an issue of serious discussion that in the beginning of the career itself serious thought should be given to the proposition of keeping the batch together after retirement also and which could be materialised by formation of Housing Society, where officers from the same batch or with whom your frequency matches could be brought together.  I understand that this is a tall order and certainly there are hurdles primarily which are cultural in nature but it is not to be concentrated in one city but it could be spread over country in several Metros.  The problem is that nobody wants to talk about anything involving money with fellow officers and so far I have not been able to find the reason for it and if anybody of you can put some light on it then this problem could also be taken care of.

 

This blog is getting longer and my ideas are getting shorter and my thoughts are getting drifted to even grave issues related with retirement which is beyond this blog. Certainly I am not here to write a piece of art and to find all solutions of problematic issue of retirement but only to recognise the problem. To sum it up the concern I wanted to underscore is that retirement from this glorious service is unfortunately not very glorious and the seriousness with which one should be making preparation to face it, had possibly not been on anybody's agenda.  Till the time we are in job we keep postponing the thought of retiring till the last day and retirement is certainly not something which should be given last priority in life.  The inevitable retirement should be treated with a lot of respect and seriousness and preparation for it should be started at the earliest possible time.  There is nothing wrong in discussing the post retirement scenario with our friends and to my mind by discussing this with fellow officers, finding the solutions of problems related with retirement will not be that difficult as I found after attending those two retirement parties.

 

In the end I would certainly seek opinion of my dear friend Captain Gahlot, who has the rare experience of already retiring once.

 


 

The Jeans and Emancipation

Posted on January 16, 2011 at 3:55 AM Comments comments (1)

That day Jayesh was again at his speaking best on the issue of dresses worn by contemporary Indian women and in his opinion traditional dresses like Sari and Salwar Kameej and are not only suitable for Indian conditions but also it looks very graceful in these dresses.  Two further emphasise, he informed that western attire like jeans and skirts hardly suit to physique of Indian women and even foreigners when wear Indian dresses look very beautiful and graceful.  Once Jayesh speaks, it is difficult to dispute his well considered opinion.  But I started thinking if things are so as Jayesh says; then why women and girls in India are slowly discarding traditional outfits.  Every day I find on the streets of Mumbai, girls in particular, have almost completely discarded traditional outfits like Salwar Kameej and like boys they all have sifted to wearing jeans and T-shirts.  Nowadays, most of the time, it is difficult to distinguish between boys and girls by their outfits.  Sometimes I notice that Jayesh was correct to the extent that ill fitting jeans, on traditional Indian physique, looks little odd.  But still, the change in taste of dressing was intriguing.

 

Last summer I visited my native place in Bihar and what was visible that even in rural areas, younger generation is wearing only one dress that was jeans and T-shirts; boys and girls both included.  Each one carrying mobile close to their ears, draw a completely different picture than that of youth barely a decade ago.  I found logic of shares losing its ground but why?

 

I got my answer when I went on last trip to Konkan, while we were packing for the trip, suddenly my wife turned towards me.

 

“What dress should I wear for the journey?” she inquired seemingly nonchalantly.

 

This was the question, I was mulling over several weeks and here I was supposed to answer immediately.

 

“Jeans should be okay”, suddenly I spoke.

 

“Fine, what about the top, which colour would be suitable?” she asked further.

 

Suddenly I realised that Jeans was always there in her mind and apparently she just wanted me to confirm it.

 

“What are you wearing?” she inquired further.

 

“I think I should also wear jeans and T-shirt”, I informed her without much hesitation; after all I too was going on vacation, leaving behind my worries.

 

At that moment I got my answer; it is not that whether jeans fits into body or not also whether it suits to anyone or not?  It is manifestation of liberation or freedom for everyone, which it brings to the person while wearing it.  Whether he or she, young or old, it is an expression that they are not bound by traditions or limitations.  The blue Jeans is reflection of the blue sky which is boundless and limitless.  This is rumination of forward-looking generation, who has the whole world to win and does not want to be left behind compared to its counterparts anywhere in the world. But I had to learn more on this trip itself.

 

There had been 10 middle-class families of all age groups in the trip and the next day when we all got ready to visit the Sagareshwar beach, it was amazing to see almost all ladies in jeans and top.  One lady in late 60s, and younger mother with a toddler and a middle aged mother having a daughter in her teens, everybody turned up in jeans.  I could make out from their faces that they all had been waiting for the day to break free from bondage, from traditions and there was no better way to showcase it.  It was not the time to see as to whether jeans were of cheap brands or it was well fitting or whether it was looking good on their bodies or not?  It was such a delight to see them, their faces growing with sense of freedom when they are out of bounds of eyes of relatives, friends and neighbours, who had been more a burden to them creating all kind of hurdles in the way of living, they always wanted to.  I have had the feeling that they all would relish the pleasure of wearing jeans as much they enjoyed the whole trip itself for all their lives.  Particularly for those middle aged ladies, living in joint families, it would have been an occasion to remember and celebrate.

 

At this stage I wish to share another piece of secret of happiness that if your spouse is not wearing jeans regularly then you have to create an occasion so that they could wear jeans.  Before signing off, I would like to mention another incident that would supplement this proposition.  A week back when we had been to Bhagalpur, where my in-laws stay, my wife was thinking to purchase some clothes for my father-in-law, who is over 60.  Then suddenly this idea came to us and we decided to purchase a Jeans for him.  The reaction was on expected lines when first he simply discarded the idea but after some persuasion he agreed to wear it and to our amazement he liked it very much and for the next three days continuously he worn it showing a childlike agility.

 

Suddenly it is struck to me that liberation may come at any age and certainly it is not gender specific.  Now whether your spouse or your older relatives had been wearing jeans?  If not, it is a bad omen and you have to work out an occasion when they can wear a pair of jeans what they certainly might have been keeping in their wardrobes.

 

“What did you say; your spouse is not having one?”

 

Then what are you waiting for, just run and purchase a pair of jeans immediately for someone you love as you can't wait for Independence Day for the freedom to come to your house.

 

 


 

A TRAIN TO BENGAL

Posted on December 9, 2010 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (0)

It so happened that I was waiting for someone at Visakhapatnam Station, my first place of posting, suddenly a person came to me and started enquiring in Bengali.  I can understand Bengali but I am not fluent in speaking it. So I replied in Hindi as to which train is coming on the platform.  Visakhapatnam being on Howrah Chennai line, many Bengalis travel through this route, but it was unusual in a Telugu speaking place that a person was so confident in recognising and speaking to me as a Bengali.  I forgot this incident till I was attending a family get-together of senior officers posted in Visakhapatnam.  An elderly couple, perhaps the husband was posted in income tax department in Visakhapatnam, suddenly approached me.

 

"Are you a Bengali? He asked me the direct question.

"No Sir! I replied, but I am from the nearby state Bihar", I added.

"Oh!  You are a Bengali but settled in Bihar?” the old man wanted to reconfirm what he had initially thought about my native state.

 

I wanted to tell him that not only I have been born and brought up in Bihar, but also I don’t have any distant relative having any connection with Bengal.  But suddenly I saw the smiling faces of the couple and started thinking.

 

"Yes, you are right sir", suddenly I said.

 "See, I was telling you, this boy looks like a Bengali", the old man said to his wife with a sigh of relief that he was proven right.

 

This was little departure from my training days when most of the time people used to find me one of our South Indian batch mates and this affection had forced me to learn Tamil while my stay in Chennai. But what happened consequent to my transfer from Visakhapatnam to Hyderabad, was even more interesting.  I was astonished to see my name was changed from "Manish Mohan" to "C. Manish Mohan" in the transfer order and it remained like that till I was there in Hyderabad, despite my repeated pleadings for correcting my name.  In fact, people over there always used to consider as one of the local persons and normally they use to start conversation in Telugu only and for them a south Indian name can't be without any initials. In absence of one, they added one to my name.

 

In fact time spent in Hyderabad, had been best period of my life and I feel nostalgic whenever I think of love and affection and above all of people there always considered me as one of their own family. I felt always at home during my stay of almost six years in Andhra Pradesh.  Many a time, I used to introduce myself as a Telugu from Hyderabad who does not know to speak Telugu and nobody ever suspected me. I really feel awful when any north Indian mocks the south Indian accent.

 

But, I was telling the story of catching a train to Bengal.  This incident happened during last excursion tour to coastal Maharashtra, Konkan to be precise.  I opted for a packaged tour of Konkan where eight other families, incidentally all Marathis, were accompanying us.  Besides us, everybody was speaking Marathi, and it was an opportunity for us to feel the essence of this beautiful language, but that is another story.  One day in the morning in Vengurle, the port city in Konkan, we were on Sagareshwar Beach, suddenly a couple comes to us.

 

"Whether yours is a love marriage?” the old lady asked to my wife.

 

Suddenly my wife was curious; "How did you come to know this?” she asked.

 

“You look like a Punjabi girl and your husband looks very much like a ……..  Bengali”, she said with much confidence.

 

“Such marriage could be possible only when it is a love marriage”, she was telling as things happen here, but I was listening a distinct loud noise of a train leaving for Kolkata in my ears.  I saw towards my wife, who was smiling and was intending to say something but before she could say something, suddenly I started speaking.

 

 “You are right and ours had been a love marriage and we continue to be in love”, I said with a smile while looking towards my wife.  I could see the sigh of relief again for making correct prediction about love life of an odd couple with them.

 

Suddenly I thought of an incident of early days of my married life when we were staying in Visakhapatnam and we came to Hyderabad on a visit.  My friend Engineer was hosting dinner at his place, he was still bachelor and his mother was lady of the house.  We all were having dinner together.

 

“Sweta looks like a Tamil Brahmin”, suddenly she said while having a close look at my wife.

 

“How do I look like? I enquired out of curiosity; she just smiled for a while and said nothing.

 

I was telling about the things that happened during the tour to Konkan; the next day in the evening when we were having dinner in Amboli, a hill station in Maharashtra near its border with Karnataka, an old lady who was also on the trip with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, was sitting besides me.  While waiting for her food to be served, suddenly she turned towards me.

 

 “Are you not a Bengali?” she asked looking at me.

 

I looked towards my wife, who was looking directly into my eyes sitting just opposite to me; but this time there was no confusion in my mind or any hesitation.

 

 “Yes, I am a Bengali”, I said with confidence and I saw my wife was smiling this time expecting for something that was coming from me.

 

“And my wife is a Punjabi and ours is a love marriage”, I added smiling towards her.

 

“But, your son looks like a pucca Marathi”, promptly came another observation from the old lady.  This time I could only smile looking towards my son.

 

Whenever I look back the long journeys made across this beautiful country, I find people, having typical look related with particular region, are found in all the places and that way I always feel as if I am having a typical Indian look and so far look of a Bengali is concerned, how can I deny something that is written on my face and whenever I get opportunity it will be my duty to happily catch a train to Bengal, after all everybody say that I look like a Bengali.

 

My friend Manish Chandra, in Kolkata, are you listening?

 

 


 


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