Jaywalking – Our Responsibility

In our daily lives when we are on the roads we often come across the site of Jaywalking. The Cambridge Dictionary definition of Jaywalk is put as – to walk across a street at a place where it is not allowed or without taking care to avoid the traffic. It is when we cross a street carelessly or in an illegal manner so as to be endangered by traffic. This sight is very common in my city of Kolkata as well.

Jaywalking continues to be a common cause of accidents in the city. The Telegraph has been doing a brilliant job in highlighting how commuters put their lives at risk. The pictures on the daily show the carelessness that is imbibed in people while they are on the roads. It’s our lives and its evident that we should take responsibility for the same. What’s unfortunate is that we always tend to blame the drivers for any kind of mishap.

If we try to understand the possible reasons for this habit, there are a number of things that need to be addressed.

  • Footpath : We have all read in our schools about always taking the footpath while walking. But like every other chapter this was also limited to the syllabus. The presence of footpaths or the lack of it is something that contributes a lot towards jaywalking. The absence means that commuters have no option but to walk along the road. In case the footpath is present it may be found broken or occupied by vendors. The commuters are forced to take the road then.

 

  • Foot Over Bridge/ Subways : Lack of FOB cause a major problem to commuters. Crossing the road in traffic chaos is a task pretty huge and unsafe. Wide and busy roads that are occupied by motors often have traffic snarls which make life difficult for pedestrians. A strong Foot Bridge or an underpass serves to be of great help.

 

  • Buses that board passengers in the middle of the road : This tendency is followed very commonly and even I admit doing the same. Many times we are at the opposite side of the road and notice the bus which we plan to board coming from the other side. None of us want to miss that chance and wait for the next opportunity, we make a hurried attempt to board that bus. It’s important to keep a watch at the traffic signals and zebra crossings. It would never hurt to reach office a little late but would hurt a lot if we face any casualty.

 

  • Vehicle Discipline : Some basic ethics that if followed by drivers can help address this problem in a great way. Trying to avoid change of lane while we are at the steering wheel is one of them. We also often halt our cars over zebra crossing unknowingly. These may seem to be small steps but are vital enough if we think about the bigger picture. One small act of ours showing our kindness and considerate nature can plant a seed for a wonderful world to be in. An adrenaline rush might force us to overtake the car ahead of us but it would show our strength if we are able to control that and drive responsibly.

 

  • Avoid distractions : This may seem the most difficult of all. While technology has made our lives easier it has also made us it’s slave. People glued to their mobile screens or with earphones tucked into their ears while walking is a common sight everywhere. Talking on phones while driving can also be spotted frequently. We all should understand that these gadgets were made for our betterment but they are not worth putting our lives into risk. After all, we survived without them just 20 years back.

 

At the end of it, the most important factor is self-realization. If we get hurt, the pain is not only ours, it belongs to our family, our loved ones as well. Self awareness is necessary in such cases and everyone should be educated about road safety. Numerous campaigns are carried out almost everyday by school children and civic volunteers for this purpose. Few years back, Kolkata Police had released a video that contained CCTV footage of accidents that happened due to carelessness. The visuals itself were enough to jolt one’s inner senses. Still jaywalking is followed and people put their lives at risk. Life is precious. Nothing in the world could be more valuable.

 

 

 

 

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Maidless in Mumbai – My views

Author : Payal Kapadia

Publisher : Bloomsbury

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What does a woman on the verge of motherhood do when she along with her husband are awaiting the big day. Make lists? That’s what our protagonist does as she loves making plans for each day. She maintains a variety of list at multiple corners of her house for things she wishes to do and also that she does not. Though in the habit of planning for everything possible, one thing she misses out is to plan for the days after the baby’s arrival. This book gives a narrative of reporter Anu Narain’s life through the pages of her diary as she handles her life with a baby that has come without an ‘instruction manual’.

  • In the habit of making lists and planners for everything, Anu has a checklist for things to do till for the situation when her water breaks and she knows that this is right before the baby’s arrival. Along with her husband she manages to sail through the phase till reality strikes them. They are all by themselves in the city and they do not have a maid.
  • Her mother and mother-in-law arrive to offer help but get in the way of every maid Anu has hired expecting them to follow every command. What they do not realize is it’s mostly the other way round in metropolitan cities where life takes a full turn if your maid is off for a day.
  • Anu somehow manages to keep both sides happy by sometimes sneaking some extra money to the maid. She has a hard time doing that as each maid has her own tantrum and she finds herself stuck in the chaos. She is still positive that one day she will find the right one and also be able to get back in her Zara jeans.
  • Amidst all of these, she still thinks about her dam story that could be the ‘scoop of the year’. She loves her work and assists a junior in bringing the story out only to find that the junior got all the credit. She later turns out to be the saviour for her magazine when she is needed to pull it out of a tension.
  • She has her own group of friends with whom she discusses her mind sometimes in order to get tips on maid management. Sometimes they work and sometimes not thus leaving her all alone into the task.

Anu’s views are unapologetically honest and funny. She speaks her mind through her diary and it depicts a picture of her sometimes brave, sometimes hopeful and sometimes helpless. I could identify with her situation because as a family we have also had our situations with maids. We lived in various cities and that led to the beginning of the maid adventure. Being a child then, I got to know that there are dedicated agencies for this service with their own concept of ‘fully-trained’ and ‘semi-trained’ maids. It’s become a necessity in today’s world where your maid’s leave may become a deciding factor if you want to go to work or work from home. Many of us reading this book will be able to identify with Anu and appreciate her efforts as we all face it in our lives too.

My trip to Shantiniketan

If you are a Bengali, you have been introduced to the works of Rabindranath Tagore. Whether you have resided in Bengal or not is secondary as his works touch upon the lives of every Bengali in some way or the other. Those who have grown up in Bengal get associated with his creations even before they have started formal schooling. For the non-residents as well, his creativity becomes a favorite when it comes to performing in Bengali community gatherings like Durga Puja amongst others. If you are short of time and haven’t decided on the act, Rabindranath becomes a blessing. Just pick any creation of his and half your job is done.

Being raised outside Bengal, my association with Tagore and his works came only when I attended one of those gatherings. In the last few years that I have been staying in Calcutta, I got the opportunity to listen to more of his works through various social gatherings and television programs. He had made Shantiniketan his residence and also the centre of education where he encouraged his teachings in poetry, music, and art among the students. Till date, Shantiniketan serves as a perfect weekend getaway for residents of Calcutta. It’s a relatively quiet place away from the madenning noise of the city and is a great place refresh oneself. The place is also a way to familiarize one with the environment that Tagore was a part of and the place he lived in with his students.It’s one of these many reasons that makes one take a trip to this place.

Road or Railways are the most preferred ways to reach the place. We preferred the rails and it did not turn out to be a bad decision. It took us 3 hours to reach Prantik station from Howrah. As we reached at night, our trip from station to the house we had put up made us realize the poor electrical connectivity of the place. There were minimal street lights and the only source of light was that of the toto we were travelling in. Autos and totos are the most common public transport you would find there.

We reached the house we were about to spend the next 2 days in. The owner of the house resided in the city and a caretaker stayed in it. There are plenty of such houses over there where the owners would leave them in the hands of caretakers and visit ocassionally with their families for short trips or vacations. These houses serve as a great option for many of the friends of the owners who wish to visit Shantiniketan for short durations and the visitors often prefer them over hotels as they provide the feel and comfort of staying at home.

We started exploring the place the next morning and our first stop was a temple called Kankalitala. It was where the ‘waist’ of Sati had fallen as Shiva roamed around the world carrying her corpse around. The other attraction of the place turned out to be the beautiful mustard field just behind the temple premises. The wide and colourful scenery of the field served as a visual treat and turned to be the perfect backdrop for visitors clicking pictures and selfies.

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Mustard field behind Kankalita temple

 

Next it was the turn to visit Tagore’s ashram in Shantiniketan. First we got ourselves tickets for Shantiniketan Griha and Uttarayan Complex. Shantiniketan Griha is the first building that Rabindranath Tagore’s father Debendranath Tagore bulit in 1863. The entire complex in the area contains various houses where Tagore would spend his time. The Upasana Griha or the prayer hall is made of colourful glasses. This is where prayers are held by the students of the adjoining Patha Bhavan on Wednesdays. The Rabindra Museum treasures plenty of manuscripts, many of which might have been among the first drafts of Tagore’s creative outlet in different forms. Various commodities which he used in his daily life, letters congratulating him after he was awarded the nobel prize adore the walls of the museum. The other buildings in the complex include Udayan, Konark, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi.

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Next it was the time to visit the Khoai Mela which is set up by the local artisans of Shantiniketn showcasing handicrafts in the form of clothing, stationery, artifacts, bags amongst others. The next day we made plans of visiting the Deer Park and covered that during the day before catching our train back.

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Deer Park

 

Shantiniketan serves to be a decent place for the city natives to visit over the weekend and enjoy a day or two of being closer to nature and rejuvenate their minds. The only difficulty we faced was the unavailability of lunch. As we spent the day in the trip by the time we were ready for lunch, it was already past the time and hence every restaurant we visited ran out of food. We made an error in judgement while anticipating the time for food. Luckily we found one restaurant which still had food and hence we were able to fill our hungry stomachs.

I too had a dream

As I write my first blog through this post, my mind goes thinking into many of those times, where we do things for the first time. We are unaware of most of the things that are about to happen and get a first hand experience. We also face hindrances in our way as we progress but that should not anyhow demotivate us from trying something new. Every opportunity brings about a new ray of hope and we never know what it might lead us up to. With sheer determination we can turn every adversity into a good fortune. We have many examples amongst us of such personalities who have done great work in the most humble conditions. One of them being the father of dairy industry in India, Dr. Verghese Kurien. Credited with revolutionizing the face of Indian dairy, Dr Kurien needs no introduction. I got to learn more about his life and work from his autobiography ‘I too had a dream’. The book tells us his story through the words of Gouri Salve, a Mumbai based freelance journalist.

Dr. Kurien was born on 1912 in Calicut, Kerala and was the third of four siblings. He had extraordinary achievements since his childhood and was only fourteen when he joined Loyolla College, Chennai to study Science. He showed his all rounder qualities by excelling in sports activities as well by representing his college in Tennis, Badminton, Cricket and a special interest in Boxing. After studying Engineering, he was selected by TISCO as a graduate apprentice and later studied metallurgy and nuclear physics at Michigan State University. Although he was actually selected for a scholarship in dairy engineering and took some of those courses as well. After he returned, he was asked to join the government dairy at Anand which he had to take up reluctantly. The Kaira district that time was blessed with greats like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai and Tribhuvandas Patel who believed in the progress of its people. Kurien later joined the Kaira District Cooperative upon Tribhuvandas’s persistence. It was the vision of Tribhuvandas Patel who spotted the genius in Kurien and persuaded him to stay on in Anand though Kurien considered himself to be a ‘misfit’ in that place and had initially wanted to run away.

Under Dr. Kurien’s leadership, the dairy progressed from being a humble milk collection centre to the to the world’s largest food marketing business and the country’s largest food brand AMUL. He emphasized on the cooperative structure of the organization and believed that the true development of a nation is in the development of this men and women. He enabled India to nearly double its per capita milk availability and made India’s dairy industry the largest rural employment provider.

He enjoyed the support of all the Prime Ministers in his tenure while fulfilling this great project and everyone trusted his abilities and decisions. But he also faced many trying situations where he had to be bold and take strict stands for the benefit of the farmers. There were many people who wanted his ideas to fail but he never let them be successful. One such story that is mentioned in the book is about the complaint he once received when someone found a dead fly in one of the milk cartons the dairy had sent. Kurien asked for a post mortem to be carried out on the fly. If the fly carried milk in it’s lungs then it would mean that the fly had indeed drown in the milk container after drinking milk from it. But if not, someone had put a dead fly into one of those containers to malign his work and the farmer’s image. Post this, the whole episode died it’s own natural death without anyone mentioning the dead fly.

Dr Kurien incorporated similar cooperative structure while entering the business of mustard oil and fruits and vegetables. He never compromised on the quality of product sold and followed pure ethics even if it meant financial loss. One example of it can be of when they tried to enter the salt market. At the same time, Tata began marketing iodized salt which had occupied a fair share of the market and was of very good quality. Dr Kurien felt that the project was not working out as it should have and had to eventually wind it up.

Though a Malayali, Dr. Verghese Kurien lived in the small town of Anand till his very last breath. Being the person of his competence, he could have easily had the best of the offers from any part of the world and led what we call to be a ‘good life’. But he could never leave the farmers of Anand for anything that came and always worked for their benefit with the least of expectations. He was awarded with many national and international honours but never let any of those make him complacent. His life is a learning for us. He taught us to be a person who can be competent in his field of study and do our work with full integrity. While doing so we can always work towards the benefit of the people around us and who are involved in our lives. His life as reflected through this book serves as an inspiration to many youngsters who are into the threshold of stepping into the world to do extraordinary work. He teaches us to be patriotic in our way without letting greed make us its slave. I wish more people read about his life as it is inspiring in every way possible.