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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

One day at Reliance Fresh....

The accent. That typical Goan way of dragging words that makes even English sound like Konkani. That's what first drew my attention. If I continued to listen, it was only because I wanted to know how it would end. 

I was doing some last-minute festival shopping at the Reliance Fresh supermarket close to home. I had picked the queue that had just one person waiting, praying that this action of mine wouldn't trigger whichever law it is that says the queue in which YOU choose to stand ALWAYS takes the longest to move.

The guy in front of me was trying to point out to the billing clerk that the price of wheat flour he had keyed in was five rupees more than the price mentioned on the board where the flour was stocked. Once I finished noticing the shopper's typical laidback Konk-glish tone, I didn't really pay attention because it was quite obvious there would be some kind of an argument. 

But then, life has a way of surprising us. Just when we think we have seen it all, things happen for our benefit - almost as if to jerk us out of our complacency, saying, "Look again. Nothing is definite; anything is possible."

In broken English, a little Kannada and a body language that spoke of embarrassment, the young supermarket staffer indicated that the offer was off and the cost he had keyed in was the actual cost. 

Surely, I thought, this is where the argument will start. 

But no, it didn't.

Going beyond the call of duty, the billing clerk offered to reduce the final bill by five rupees. 

I just loved what the Konk-glish tone guy did in reply. 

With a gentle smile and a firm shake of his head, he refused to accept the refund, because, in his words, "When your manager finds the account doesn't tally, he will cut it from your salary. I don't want to get you into trouble."

And then, having explained his logic, he told the billing clerk to get the board changed at once, so that other people wouldn't come and get into a fight with him.

The boy immediately called out to someone to change the board, and it was done at once. The Konk-glish tone guy smiled, said thank you, and left with his purchase, leaving two beaming, happy souls behind - the billing clerk, and ...... me !

Even as I write this post, I'm struck by the realization that this month, March 2017, marks the second anniversary of my blog. 

When I first started writing here, I thought it would be one of the ways to reach out to people with tips on living. As I kept writing, slowly, I found myself making the transition from doling out advice to sharing my experiences and learning. 

Whatever the mode I have adopted, there's one thing that has stayed a constant - the heartfelt, open and plentiful feedback I get from people who read this blog. 

Knowing there are people waiting to read, enjoy and learn from my writing spurs me to be even more observant of experiences like the one I've described in this post. 

Hoping to keep sharing more such real life uplifting and inspiring stories, here's wishing you all a Happy New Year on this day of Ugadi !

Monday, 20 March 2017

Timeline of a transformation

“But Ma’am, actually Lalu is also very smart, but people don’t realize it,” says my student – let’s call him XZY (and the Y is significant as you’ll realize by the end of this piece).

I teach a subject called Pharmacognosy that deals with plant-based medicines. I’ve been explaining about Ayurveda and how the world today is again waking up to its value. In passing, I mention about how Yoga too is gaining visibility thanks to the International Yoga Day that has been initiated by our PM Narendra Modi, who is smart enough to recognize its value.

It is to this statement that my student XZY has responded with his opinion about an earthy politician from Bihar. I acknowledge his opinion and move on with Ayurveda because politics is out-of-syllabus – after all, I’m not a prof at JNU! It is September 2015, a month before the Bihar elections that saw the Mahagatbandhan sweep to power. Busy with the academic schedule, neither I nor XZY have the time to discuss Lalu’s reversed fortunes.


“Ma’am, my family is into politics in Uttar Pradesh. One of my relatives is a Samajwadi Party candidate and I’m going to campaign for him in the 2017 elections,” says XZY to me. We’re outside the classroom, in a hospital actually, where I’m visiting a student who developed sudden, severe, debilitating back pain. It is January 2016. XZY tells me he’s going to get into politics after a few years, and we talk about general aspects of how it’s going to be a challenge, but he is determined. I advice him that no matter which party he chooses, he must never lose sight of the fact that he should serve the people. It is February 2016.


XZY completes his course and leaves the college in July 2016. He keeps in touch with me through an occasional message on Whatsapp.


“Ma’am, UP mein bahut drama chal rahaa hai!” is XZY’s first statement after wishing me a Happy New Year on Jan 1st, 2017. It’s been a few days since the much-publicized spat and making-up between Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. I ask him how his campaigning for SP is going on and he lobs the equivalent of a bomb at me, “Ma’am, we’re supporting Bharatiya Janata Party!” 

Flabbergasted, I ask what happened to cause this shifting of loyalties. He tells me about how although Akhilesh Yadav has good intentions, he hasn’t been able to act on them. There’s quite some concern about appeasement politics too. And the youth all over the state are firmly behind Modi ji. XZY’s family has received feelers from local BJP leaders for putting up a candidate under their flag and they’re in the middle of 
finalizing the issue. I wish him luck and say goodbye, but not before realizing he’s been singing the PM’s praises for quite a few minutes. 


In the last week of February 2017, XZY texts me, “Ma’am, some people are saying that Akhilesh is coming back to power, I’m worried.” I think I detect a mild desperation and try to buoy him up saying, “It’s OK, let’s wait…there are two more phases of voting to go.”


On March 11, 2017, I rush from the classroom to the staffroom to catch up with the election results pouring in. Within minutes, I have a text from XZY, exulting in the fact that the lotus has well-and-truly bloomed in UP.


One week later, at around 7 pm, I’m alternating between news channels, WhatsApp and Twitter to make sense of who actually is the UP CM-designate. Predictably, I receive a message from XZY saying, “Ma’am, UP mein Yogi Yug start.” I say I’m glad to know that and ask how he is feeling about it. I needn’t have bothered with the caution, because XZY is throwing it to the winds, telling me he is very happy about the news and that he’s planning to join the RSS because he wants to serve the nation. I tell XZY that I’m going to be waiting eagerly for the day when he becomes an MLA or MP. Immediately, he recoils, “No, Ma’am….I don’t want to be MLA or MP…all I want is to serve the nation!!”

Remember, at the beginning of this article, I said the ‘Y’ in this guy’s name is important? It stands for ‘Yadav’ the community that political pundits opine, transferred its vote from its namesakes in the SP to the BJP. This watershed assembly election in the largest state of the country is bound to pave the way for change. To me, one of the best things it has done is make one young man (and perhaps, several others like him) aspire to move from being merely a Yadav towards becoming a yogi who wants to work for the betterment of Bharat. 

To see the magnitude of the mandate, check this out !