Ersatz Coffee

Recently, I was traveling by train after a long time. The train, unfortunately, got delayed and I had to have breakfast in the train. So along with the breakfast, the server asked me if I want tea of coffee. Disclaimer: Nothing like Tea, Coffee or Me .

Now, tea or coffee in a train is a tricky affair. In trains that don’t have pantries, you usually get premade tea at stations, when the vendors start selling tea yelling “Chaiiiinnn, Chaiinn, Bolo Chaiiii”, read it like in a rhyme, with almost musical notes in the background. The tea is usually overboiled, with a high dose of sugar. Very rarely you would get black tea, with whitener and sugar in sachets. People who usually like tea, milk and sugar boiled together, don’t like the dip tea and vice versa. There is an interesting episode in the history of science that involves drinking tea. The idea for analysing randomised experiments was derived from whether one lady could tell whether the tea or the milk was added first to a cup.

The lady in question (Muriel Bristol) claimed to be able to tell whether the tea or the milk was added first to a cup. Fisher proposed to give her eight cups, four of each variety, in random order. One could then ask what the probability was for her getting the specific number of cups she identified correct, but just by chance.

This tea time question was developed as an analytical tool by R. Fisher and now has become a standard in design and analysis of experiments.

Every culture and sub-culture has its own way of making tea. In Bengal, I am told, people drink black tea. This perhaps is inspired by the British who introduced tea. George Orwell has an essay on how to make a nice cup of tea. Calcutta also had a substantial Chinese population perhaps this also contributed to the tea culture there. When tea was introduced to the general population in India, about a century back, it was a marketing stratagem. This is what my grandfather had told me, he was born in 1910s. Perhaps someone can actually look at the historical records to substantiate this. They would create tea in huge cauldrons in busy market places with lots of milk and sugar. They would advertise and give “free” samples to everyone. This is how they got an entire nation addicted to tea. Also a note about why the general teacup has loads of sugar and milk, whereas the typical English way of drinking tea does not involve loads of milk and sugar, and definitely does not involve boiling milk with tea. What you usually get is the dust tea, which does not taste well without loads of milk and sugar, like your Green or Earl Grey. To make it palatable it is loaded with milk and sugar. Try to drink your favourite dust tea like an Earl Grey.

Though there are people who will drink any kind of tea, their requirement is that of tea, not it’s quality or taste. Coffee is usually worse. When it is premade in trains, it has very little coffee and too much sugar. When they give you only hot milk it is pre-boiled with sugar, and thinned to its limits. Usually, the sachet of instant coffee contains too little in terms of coffee, at least for my taste. I usually avoid coffee when it is instant or premade, ever since I started to drink coffee from ground beans. I prefer tea in such cases, as

Bad coffee is worse than no coffee.

Anyways, so here I was sitting in the train, musing about the existential question of whether I should have tea or coffee or nothing at all, I decided to go with coffee. The smart, well-dressed server from IRCTC, handed over me a paper cup and a sachet with “काफी सामग्री” written over. Eff you if you can’t read the Devanagari script. I opened the sachet which had a sugar sachet, a coffee sachet and a milk powder sachet with a wooden spoon for mixing. Then he handed over a kettle containing hot water. I overcame a major, mental block while opening the sachets and pouring the coffee into the paper cup. Then I added a little water to maintain the colour to my liking. I was tempted to drink it black, but then why not go the entire routine. So I started to add the milk powder slowly as indicated on the sachet. The colour turned from darkest brown to slighter shade of brown. And it was ready. With a lot of anticipation of a caffeine kick, I sipped the liquid and…

“Ewwww!”

was my reaction. How can anyone call this coffee? It is not coffee! I even thought of starting a viral campaign with hashtag #NOTMYCOFFEE. Instead of delight it was despair. Thoughts of WHY? Why did I ever think this would be a good idea to drink this came to my mind? Somehow I managed to finish the cup in a couple of sips. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, which I cannot describe, and the resulting reactions in my brain cells. It was a complete disaster. Never again! I would rather go without coffee than drinking this ersatz coffee. Once you know how actual coffee tastes like, you cannot go back to this. This is the same in the case of intellectuals too, once you know what an intellectual should be like, you can immediately sense the ersatz ones and you won’t like them just like the ersatz coffee.

Never again shall I drink this ersatz coffee.

I like my coffee as it is supposed to be. People become emosional on the account of coffee. For example, read this excellentest account of a French man from 1800s.

 

Edit 1: On the return journey, I actually tried something else. I had kept my South Indian style drip filter accessible with the coffee powder. Now, since the hot water is available in the form of flasks, I actually made hot decoction in the running train. But no hot milk was available, only milk powder, I had only the black coffee. It was definitely better than the ersatz coffee. Though the water I used for brewing could have been hotter.

Envious (Machiavelian!?) Mediocrity

There are mediocre people all around us. But the thing is, that some of them actually turn their mediocrity into a kind of weapon, and are able to actually advance much ahead in life. They achieve this by various means and modes.

The idea is that you make up for your mediocrity in the field of work by using other skills that you have. For example, if you are mediocre at coding, then you make sure that you don’t get the work that you may not be able to handle. In case you do, you beg-burrow-steal from your peers to help in that and present it with a face that is calm and take the credit. This happens more often than you think.

Mediocrity is like a viral disease. Once a mediocre is firmly established, it is difficult to remove. Mediocrity attracts mediocrity. Mediocre’s find company between mediocre’s.

The problem comes when mediocre people reach positions of power. They become insecure about their position and work. Time and experience teach them to climb on the top, slowly but steadily, mostly without working what they are meant to. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t work. They do, diligently work their way up. They use devious ways to butter up the seniors, licking them in all ways possible. (pun intended) So you will find such people always close to people with power. They are like fruit flies (no offence to Drosophila) whenever there is a person of power, they will be around. They are obsequious: obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree. They will make sure that the powerful ones are looked after, their needs are taken care of. They will enquire socially and keep track of who and where their family members are. This is kept in the long term memory; next meeting they will know everything about the powerful person. Their likes and dislikes, how their children are faring. This takes great dedication and effort to do it. It is almost a fulltime job. I know a few people who will dedicate their working hours to do this. It is no surprise they such sycophantic people are well connected. They will know all the important people and who’s who in the field, and more importantly, these people will also know them, even if fleetingly. And they know how to make use of these connections. Someone needs some help, they will know whom to contact. Mind you this might not be strictly related to their field.

I mean I won’t do it perhaps (strictly metaphorically) even if my life depended on doing it. When someone like me, who doesn’t like this see it – cringe level 10,000. They are toadyish: attempting to win favour from influential people by flattery  Every time I see this happening I cannot help myself to feel disgusted, I want to take that slimy person and give them a mouthful, and perhaps a handful too. Sometimes, such people are merrily talking to you in a social event. Suddenly, someone with a huge position comes in sight and poof the sycophant vanishes and behave in a way as if they don’t know you.

Most people are prone to flattery. I mean, each one will have a different thing to be flattered about, but they know what is to be done. A sycophant will get there. They are fawning: try to gain favour by cringing or flattering. It is human nature to feel good if someone does good things for you, says good things to you. And it is exactly this nature is what is exploited.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  – Wilde

The sycophant will imitate the powerful person: in the way they dress, in the way they talk and in the way they behave. The sycophant will pick up the vocabulary to raise themselves to the level of the powerful. Though they may not understand it, they will use it. Over time it becomes a habit to them to utter such words. A new person who is not aware of these will assume that the sycophant is knowledgeable. 

Continuing in this manner, before you know, they are already the aides-de-camp for the powerful. They will keep them updated about every little thing that happens to them and around them. It is as if they have a mandate for doing this. By calling on powerful people on a daily basis, they become the eyes and ears of the powerful people. What will you do when you are day in and day out harangued by a slimy person. Eventually, perhaps you will start to feel pity for them. The powerful people listen to them every day and eventually become influenced by them. When this starts to happen, their bigger game unfolds. Such is the tact of the obsequious person.

ENVY – Emulation adapted to the meanest capacity.

The bigger game is to dislodge any competition that they might get for the actual work they are supposed to do. For this, anyone who is deemed to be a threat is categorically targetted. The threat here can be defined as anyone who will perform better than or is better than the sycophant. And this is what the title of the post is about. Envy sets in. They cannot outdo the threat in a traditional manner, but they are envious nonetheless.  To overcome this they will use all their wits and dirty tricks to outsmart the threat. They will over time, with opportune moments make the threat disesteemed in the opinion of the powerful person. They will create communication gaps, which are filled by maliciously spread gossip which is detrimental to the threat. They will accuse, complain, whine, cavil, bitch, nitpick about the threat and their work. Slowly but surely they gain control. Such is the control that they will slowly, but surely turn opinion about the threat towards being low value or even worse nuisance. And the targetted person is in the bad books. This is especially hurtful if the targetted person is not outspoken or introvert. In the next level, the sycophant is not only eyes and ears but also becomes (Wo)Man Friday. They will become executioners also.  Their proximity earns them the favour of positions with a lot of power and lesser work at the same time. They become managers in a sense. They manage the affairs of the powerful. 

When a team is to be hired sycophants will never ever take people who are better than them. They will hire people who are mirror images of them. Perhaps this is the reason that great institution builders are people who get good people in the institute and are not insecure about their position and work.

I am surprised that I am surprised even after all these years I cannot let the cringe go away. After all these years, with so many experiences of sycophantic behaviour, I should come to terms with it. But I can’t, perhaps I never will. 

Edit: Sometime back I received the following couplets which reflect very well the emotions that I had while writing this post. Was going to add these couplets in the original post, but somehow forgot. Here they are

तरक़्क़ी  की फ़सल, हम भी काट लेते,
थोड़े से तलवे, अगर हम भी चाट लेते…

बस मेरे लिहाज़ में जी हुज़ूर न था,
इसके अलावा, मेरा कोई क़सूर न था,

अगर पल भर को भी, मैं बे-ज़मीर हो जाता,
यक़ीन मानिए, मैं कब का आमिर हो जाता…

Don’t know the author, any information on the poet would be appreciated.

On cooking or how to deny convenience to people

1 Citchen

When they built the hotel, they built it on three levels. The top-most was for the elites. The commoners had no entry there, neither they had any business. Then was the second level, here a sort of compromise was reached. The rooms had provisions for the kitchen, to be shared amongst the two, who would also incidentally share the bathroom and the toilet. It would be very naive, even seem stupid to ask, what was the purpose of building the kitchenettes? Well, of course, the answer is that the kitchen is meant for cooking. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, ahem I am sounding too male chauvinist here, so after rephrasing, every Pam, Dick and Mary would answer, that kitchens are meant for cooking. Even those females [I happen to know a few] who think cooking is a male chauvinist thing imposed on them in a male-dominated society, would answer the same to this question, that Kitchens are meant for cooking. I mean, what else could be a kitchen be used for. Perhaps, we do use the kitchen for other purposes, for example, drying clothes [as the clothesline is inside the kitchen], brushing my teeth [as the wash basin is also a part of the kitchen]. Doing all this is okay in the kitchen, but people here have serious problems when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. If you think this is weird, I think you have not heard about cigol and convenience denial in your life. So read on….

2 Cooking

First of all, let me confess, I love cooking, and I think cooking is an art more than anything else. There are times when I have no mood for cooking but I never fail to appreciate good cooking and efforts that are put into that. But then there are people who

Don’t know [and don’t want to know] how to cook [too proud males
and also too proud females who think it is below dignity to cook [both cases are known to me].

Don’t want to cook [either because of general sloth they have, or
for the fear that they might screw up the food [sometimes I am
myself the first case]]

Don’t want other people known to them to cook, as it makes them feel
guilty, so for them to not feel guilty the other person should not cook. And
these people, in general, don’t like people doing anything they
don’t want to do, because they then feel guilty and they do not
want to feel guilty. [I know a very good case of this particular kind]

Don’t appreciate good food, or good cooking, or at least the
efforts one puts in cooking.

Anyways, the point of telling this was that, when I cook in a small kitchenette given to me, the food usually comes out to be good and in edible form. Once in a while, there is a screwup, but that does not deter me from trying further on. People mostly type 1, 2 and 3, who are out there are envious of this. And I really believe the previous line of what I have written. So envious they became that they hatched a plot to take away my little kitchenette which was my personal space. More than a kitchen, it was a laboratory for testing the taste buds and culinary skills. It was a place that I went to refuge when my spirits were down [no pun intended].

Cooking food gives me enormous relaxation and self-satisfaction, which only a few other activities give to me. I have even had the feeling “This is so much better than sex!!” while cooking on many occasions. The joy that you get when you are mixing the flavours, the spices and the vegetables with the meat and masalas is just amazing and then relishing on the results and finally being appreciated by the people who you care about is just beyond words. I have a very hard time trying to understand, how can someone not like cooking, when they have access to a good kitchen and other resources? I think it has to come from within, it cannot come from without.

3 Cigol

But, then, there are people who are unhappy, when I am happy. And they don’t want to be unhappy. So they want to make me unhappy. Then they can be happy. And cooking makes me happy. They know this. So, they don’t want me to cook. Not cooking will make me unhappy. Then, they will be happy.

So they hatch a sinister plan. They form something called as logic. Or to put it, in other words, they invent something they want to call as logic. Whether it is logic or not, I leave it to you to decide. I call it cigol. Now in cigol, since cooking in the kitchen gives me happiness, it has to be taken away from me. This will make me unhappy. Then they will be happy. Since on the second level, all the rooms have the kitchens, I am to be barred from those rooms. The cigol they give is different at different times. At first, they say that there are ACs in those rooms. ACs are available to a very specialized class of people in India. They are for the elites [and incidentally, I am an elite in the office since I have an AC there but in the hotel, it seems, I am not elite enough. The world seems more and more Orwellian as I spend more time here. As Orwell would say “All Elites are equal; some elites are more equal than others.”].

And we commoners have no right to have them in our puny rooms. Well, I said, I don’t want an AC. Since they don’t, believe me, they lock the AC, fearing that I will use it when I am not supposed to. Well, it sounds funny, but they actually have built a small wooden cabinet around the AC switch whose key is with the guards. So only for proper elite persons, the ACs are to be turned on, who are elite enough. And the elites are all visitors for a few days to a maximum of one or two weeks. Now the elites, since they are elites also get something else with the ACs. Namely, the kitchenettes. Whether they want to cook or not, or whether there is anything to cook there or not, does not bother the concerned people. But the elites should get a kitchen along with the ACs, that is the norm. If you ask them why then they say, this is the way things are, can’t you see the simple cigol here. Once cigol enters the picture, everything else becomes irrelevant. Another thing is that perhaps it is a kind of ‘show-off’ for the visiting elites. This is what we give to everybody, even who are visiting us for a short time. So think what we must be giving to our regular staff members.

So the elites get the kitchen sans the cooking instruments, there is not even a water heater in the kitchenette, just in case an enterprising visitor wants to make black tea or coffee, let alone anything else, worth cooking. As per cigol, the kitchenettes become dirty when you cook, so it is better to leave them just like that, as cooking in the kitchen will spoil its beauty. Truly empty kitchens look better than full-fledged ones. To cut the long story short, kitchens are there, and they are not being used, simply because some people don’t want other people to use them [and they themselves don’t want to use them either. The case is more like a dog who cannot eat the grass but doesn’t let the cow eat it too]. And when asked why were they not used, they told us, because nobody ever used them. This is cigol. Then why not give it to us, who want to cook in the kitchen. Again this is not possible. Why? Because it was not done in the past. This is cigol.

4 Convenience Denial

I ventured out to change this trend. I started to cook in the kitchen, which they had to finally give to me. It made me happy. Very happy. But unfortunately for me, my happiness was unbearable to some. So they began to complain. In this complaining, they use a superior and totally unbeatable form of cigol, which I call convenience denial. The convenience denial is used so many times and in so many different ways and different places, that I will have to write an entire blog about it. One of the meanings is straightforward, as the words read. It is the denial of convenience to you. If you find anything which is convenient, they will deny that thing to you. If they find anything that gives you happiness, they will deny it to you. But apart from this convenience denial has another meaning, apart from the straightforward one discussed above. There is a pun being intended here.

The other meaning of convenience denial comes in when some of the fundamental rights of ours are denied to us, just for the convenience of the few. When they know something will be convenient to you, they will say, ”Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.” On the other hand, when the rules of the Banyan Tree do form a convenience for us, they say “Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”

The two reasoning’s may sound contradictory at first. They should. Because they are. But this is the pinnacle of cigol. But if you look through cigol, this contradiction is only apparent. It is like an apparition, which vanishes when you look at it with a skeptical eye.

Of course, there is no contradiction. ”We are always right. Only we can interpret the rules and we can deny them as per our whims and fancies [read convenience]. So it really doesn’t matter what the rules are [and what they are not], they are not going to help you in any way. Period.”

5 Cylinders

“Cooking gas is a dangerous thing. If left open, it can lead to accidents. It is too dangerous to be used in the hotel. So you cannot use it. There is a rule which says so. Your safety is our first concern”

But again the Orwellian rule applies, that is to say, rules are meant to be broken. If you are elite enough, you can use the cooking gas. Suddenly, the cooking gas is no longer a dangerous thing. Of course, cooking gas is not dangerous. And what about safety you ask, of course cooking gas is a safe thing, but only if you are elite enough. Otherwise, it is as dangerous as it can be.

“Who will be responsible if you accidentally blow up the entire building, you see there are people staying there.”

But then again as cigol rules, these questions are not asked to all, but to unfortunate few, who do want to cook on their own.

“Instead of the cooking gas, we give you a better alternative. Use the hot plate! There is no pollution, no danger of an accident, where the whole building can’t come down. Use the hot plate! Hot Plate ki Jai!

And the microwave too. There is one common kitchen which is set up in the old hotel [by our grace], where people from all the rooms are supposed to come and cook. Does it matter, if you have to walk 200 meters just to boil a cup of water? Of course not! It will give you good exercise.

Only the truly spirited persons will come, those who don’t anyway did not need it.

So as a result only a few will turn up. And this is recorded that a few people use the common kitchen. So there should not be more common kitchens, as the

one that is there is underutilized. This is statistics of nihilism. Of course, the convenience denial is ON in all this in the normal state, if you failed to notice already.

And when we remind them that the Banyan Tree does not make this distinction, the answer we get is this:

“Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”

6 Charges

“Do you have any idea how much electricity bill we are paying for the hotel?”

No. I don’t have any idea. And I don’t want to have any idea about that. Why the efff should I have any idea regarding the electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel? Am I paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?

No.

Then why the efff should I bother or worry about it. Anyway, you are not paying that monies from your pocket, are you?

No.

It is the taxpayer’s money, my money being used to do that. But let me ask Are you paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?

Yes.

Then isn’t it your efffing job?

Yes.

Okay.

So we will do our job!

How?

By trying to reduce the electricity usage on the campus.

Good. This seems to be a really good effort on your part.

It is! And we will see that you don’t enjoy this either!

What is that supposed to mean?

You see, you use hot plates for cooking.

But it was you who denied the use of cooking gas, so we had to use the hot plates.

You are trying to mix things here. We are talking about hot plates and you are bringing up the issue of cooking gas, which we left in the last section! It is of no relevance here. Period.

You contradict your self.

No, we don’t. Cigol is strictly under application here. You see we are trying to reduce the electricity bill.

So?

Oh, we found that your usage amounts to 0.1 % of the total bill. This is a huge amount. If we are able to stop this usage, we will have to pay only for 99.9 % of the amount due! See what foresight we have!!

But 0.1 %, is it a huge amount?

Yes, for the hotel it is! But for you it is minuscule. You have so much money to spend. Why not give it back to where it came from?

Does not compute. You talk the exact opposite!

Well, it is cigol, you won’t understand it.

I bet, I won’t.

It is better for you that you shouldn’t. Our workings are mysterious and are strictly based on hierarchy and personal relations.

But aren’t they supposed to be, ahem, transparent and equitable?

What transparency? Everything is as transparent as it should be.

But then why are you not trying to reduce the rest of the electricity usage, the remaining 99.9 % of it?

Well, it is not on our priority list. But your usage is. We have reasons. You see 70 % of the usage is by ACs. And ACs are essential for working, you cannot work in an office if the AC is not ON, can you? And the remaining usage is for the other activities of national importance. Since we cannot stop these, we have to stop something. We are also answerable to people above us.

Hence, you choose us. Because we are soft targets. In spite of knowing the fact that a single AC running a day, will cost you more energy than used for entire months cooking? And if it is so essential to have ACs, why keep them locked from us in the hotel?

What nonsense you are talking about? Those things cannot be compromised. And for the ACs are a must for office work. We work more efficiently in a cooler environment.

Okay. And we can be compromised?

Yes… No, no. I mean it is not that simple.

Then? [Why I am even bothering to ask, this is cigol!]

And what about the highest rates that we are being charged for?

Well, since the hotel pays at that rate, you will also have to pay the same.

But ours is a residential zone and we are being charged at industrial rates? Why?

Because we can charge you at the industrial rates. That’s why. And for all your strengths and powers you cannot do anything about it.

But why us?

Well by choosing you, we will make sure that you pay for the hotel and make a good example of not trying to mess with us.

But you do have the funding, right? And will the payment that we make be enough?

Yes, we have got enormous funding, but when it comes to you, particularly there is a crunch. And of course can you not do this bit to help us? It is of no concern to us whether it really matters in the reduction of energy usage or not, but we want to show that we have taken some steps to lower the usage. And that is sufficient for us. Its efficacy is irrelevant here.

So, you mean to say we are not on the priority list?

You see you are on the priority list but not at a correct position in either of them. You are at the bottom end of the fund’s priority list. And at the top end of the consumption reduction list!

But you see, in the Banyan Tree, they do not charge anybody for any usage, and the number of users is very large there. So why do you charge us?

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.

Does not compute. [How could I forget Convenience denial?]

It is plain simple cigol.

So you are giving justification, not justice.

No comments.

But tell me, how is this going to reduce the consumption of electricity. You have yourself set up a common kitchen, if we use the same amount of electricity there, we cannot be charged, and the consumption is not reduced either. So, your original plan does not work.
You are very naive and think in a very limited fashion. You see, we don’t want you to cook. In fact, we don’t want you to do anything. Just be as non-functional as possible. Because we know it gives you happiness. In the common kitchen, since it is far away from most of the people, they won’t come and cook. And even if they cook it is acceptable.

And the same people cooking in their own rooms is not acceptable?

No. It is not.

Why?

See, the idea is that if people cook in their own rooms they will cook more and better food and will be happy. That is something we don’t want. We would want them to eat the canteen food all the time. And anyway how can anyone who is working hard find any time for cooking?

So, you mean to say cooking is a waste of time?

Yes.

But we still want to cook, and that too in our own rooms!

Well if you are so adamant for cooking. And cooking gives you happiness. Then happiness cannot come for free.

???

If you want to use a hot plate in your room, you will have to pay for it.

But you are making us use the hot plate.

This is part of convenience denial. It is a grace on our part that whatever you are getting, is there. If we had it our way you would not get anything that would give you happiness.

But we won’t pay for it.

We are not asking you to pay, we will directly deduct it from your salary.

Without my consent?

Yes. We don’t need your consent for this. We are elite enough to do this kind of stuff.

Are you sure? You are cutting monies from my salary and you are claiming that you can cut it without my consent?

We are not sure. But this is cigol, so it doesn’t matter anyway. At the most, we will have to revoke it some day. But till then we will make sure you pay. And apart from this, you are causing great inconvenience to our elite guests.

How so?

By cooking in the kitchen and by keeping your stuff in the common area.

Well, aren’t these two areas meant for that. Kitchen for cooking and common area for keeping stuff.

Yes, they are indeed. But it does not apply in your case.

How come?

You see, kitchen in meant for cooking, but it does not follow that one must cook there.

Means?

You cannot cook there. And before you ask the next question, I will already give the answer, no, you cannot keep your stuff in the common area.

So what’s the use of building them and not allowing them to be used, even by the people who want to use them?

Maybe it was a mistake to build them in the first place.

But not using them, once they are built, would be another mistake.

Well, this is cigol. You don’t ask the government why they build things which one cannot utilize or use. This is just a continuing legacy of that. We make things that are not accessible to the general public, of course, elites are a different matter.

You mean, they are not made up of ordinary matter? I smell that the dark matter problem in cosmology has a potential solution, in form of the elites of the Indian government.

No. Not that way. You are straying away from the matter. You are charged with not being fair to others?

I am not being fair to whom?

To every one. You see you are effectively having more than your share at this place.

And what about you and the other elites? Are you not having more than your share at this place.

What do you mean?

Well to tell it simply, are you not occupying much more rooms than I am? And that too by doing modifications to the fundamental structure of the construct?

Yes. I am. And there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

And this I guess definitely does not conform to the rules of the Banyan tree. Does it?

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does not fit in the rules of the

Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So I can do this. And how can you forget Orwell: “Some are more equal than others.” I am one of those some and I also have the power. And who will dare to speak about this? Will you?

Of course not. Who wants to bell the cat? Then you will occupy space not meant for you, as there is clearly a separate place for you to stay. Even then you mean to say, I being not fair is unfair, but you being unfair is fair?

Yes. Even Mr Orwell will tell you so. And there is a difference between I being unfair and you being unfair. You see rules that apply to you, don’t apply to us. And even if they do apply, we have the ultimate weapon of convenience denial in our repertoire.

But my being unfair, is it even true when there is no one in the next room?

Yes. You are not being fair to other people, who might be sharing this room. And those people who might be sharing this room, are the elites. So when they come to stay here, it becomes imperative for us to make their stay comfortable.

Even at the cost of people who are staying there for a much longer time?

Yes. You see it is like this. The more you stay, the less important you are.

But then by that logic, who will be most unimportant?

Orwell: All are equal, but some are more equal than others.

But does this not fair thing apply even when there is no one who is sharing this room with me.

That is why it becomes even more important if you are not fair to no one who is not sharing your common area, how can you be fair to everyone who is not sharing your common area?

But no one [except me] wants to use the kitchen. Is it my fault?

Yes. It is your fault. You are not confirming to rest of ones like you.

As I had said earlier, but now I am certain, that building these kitchens was a mistake, as no wants to use them.

But I do want to.

Your want is irrelevant. What no one wants is more relevant. And there is not a rule like that in the Banyan Tree.

But…

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.

[I am rendered wordless, speechless and powerless against such cigol and convenience denial, I choose to keep my silence…]

That is it! There are to be no more words. It is final that you will be shifted soon where you will have a hard time cooking and you won’t be happy. I will make sure that a written order is passed in this regard. And then you can’t do anything, but to confirm what we have been saying all along.

Note: Any resemblance to real places and people is not coincidental.

Or is it?

Or is it the other way round?

😉

Passport Blues…

The Passport Adventure
Finally the day arrived that I applied for the passport.
This was pending from a long time literally, [6 years to be precise!]. The preparation for this grand event began about two weeks before.
The first thing that we did was to look at the list of the required documents. Sorry boss, no ration cards, electricity or telephone bills or election IDs at the present address. What do I do?
Oh yes, there was one ray of hope for people like us, who are abandoned by the government in terms of our identity. The list read thus:

Proof of address (attach one of the following): 

Applicant’s ration card, certificate from Employer of reputed companies on letter head, water /telephone /electricity bill/statement of running bank account/Income Tax Assessment Order /Election Commission ID card, Gas connection Bill, Spouse’s passport copy, parent’s passport copy in case of minors.

This is from the Passport Department’s website here [italics mine]. Well I has these two, so I was happy. 
The other major thing was proof of date of birth. The website reads thus:

Proof of Date of Birth (attach one of the following): 

Birth certificate issued by a Municipal Authority or district office of the Registrar of Births & Deaths;

Date of birth certificate from the school last attended by the applicant or any other recognized educational institution; or an Affidavit sworn before a Magistrate/Notary stating date/place of birth as per the specimen in ANNEXURE ‘A’ by illiterate or semi-illiterate applicants. 

Well this I had the SSC mark sheet has date of birth.
Also I had to get these two Annexure B and I. Well I got the Annerxure B thanks to our office administration. And Annexure I thanks to a security guy in the office whose brother did the job. Took the photosof passport size [3.5 cm x 3.5 cm] also they have come okay [I guess]. As compared to other photos of mine. 🙂
Also for the ECNR stamp, I was required to show that I was at least 10th pass. So I decided to give the highest one that I have got viz. M.Sc. mark sheet; one of the two achievements of my entire life, the other one being my selection at HBC.

Well then compiled the other documents. The list of documents to be submitted read thus:

1 Proof of Address
Residence proof from the office
Statement of Bank Account
2 Date of Birth Proof
SSC Mark Sheet
3 Annexure B [Office ID Proof]
4 Anexure I [Standard Affidavit]
5 M.Sc. Marksheet for ECNR
Thus we were ready!
Then we filled out the form on the website, which gave us an ‘appointment’ for the application. The date was fixed on 9th April 2008 [Tai’s Birthday] and the time was 11:30 am. This is what the website reads:

Please visit Passport office on the appointed date and time. You should arrive at RPO about 15 minutes before the appointed time and proceed to the respective counter. On line applicants do not need to obtain a  token number for submitting their applications. You will not have to wait long in the queue. 
Well the last line brought a BIG smile to me. Such a care taken at a government office; I was impressed.
Another good news was waiting for me, we could also submit the form at Chembur so that we don’t have to go all the way to Prabha Devi to just submit the forms. The address of the above office was taken from the Mumbai Police Helpline number 1090, where the attendant was surprisingly very helpful. No irony intended here. I mean it. The guy on the other side of the phone was really helpful. I wish everybody in the Government office [at least the PROs] were like him.
I was the happiest being in the universe. 
So the fateful day arrived, we had done everything else except one minor detail of actually filling up the form, of whatever columns was left. We thought of doing this the night before, but Mishraji went to sleep when I was going to the office. So it was decided that we fill up the forms in the morning at 8:30 am, and go to the office in Chembur at about 10, as opposed to 11 suggested by Mishraji.
Had our breakfast and went on the Wind Wolf. Well the address that Mishraji and I had was in exactly opposite directions; so total confusion about where to go. 
First we went to the office behind the fine arts society building. But this was a mistake the Passport accepting office was at the other end in Chembur colony. So went there. There were very few people in line there, but why should we worry we had an appointment at 11:30 and we were early for it, for it was just 10:25 !
When we went inquiring we were directed to a lady who was checking the forms. Yess! We were finally there, my six year old dream of getting a passport or at least the first step towards it seemed to be coming true. 
I told the lady that we had an appointment even though she ws checking some forms. 
But, then, किंतू, परंतू, लेकिन …..
Well this was the end of the dream run that we have had so far…
The lady on the desk in told me in a way characteristic of a a government office person:
अाम्ही ईथे रोज फक्त ३० फॉर्म घेतो. ३० टोकन दिलेले अाहे, तर तुम्ही ऊद्या या, अाज तुमचा फॉर्म घेता येणार नाही. 
Meaning that: ”Everyday we take here only 30 forms only. For today 30 tokens have already been given, so we cannot accept your form.”

But how can this be? I tried to argue that we had an appointment, and were not supposed to stand in any line or take any tokens! But she would not budge and told us that the website appointment did not have any relevance. WTF! 
I mean, I could not believe it. How can a government website be so misleading. Even then I did not loose my cool, I kept on insisting on the word ‘appointment’, so be it she must have thought. Then she told us that if you  want to avail the appointment you will have to go to Prabha Devi head office. When I asked her about how to go there, she was staring towards me in disbelief. Huh, this guy wants to go there?
Anyway without receiving much help from her I went out and met some constables who directed me towards the Prabha Devi Passport head office, which was after Siddhi Vinayak. Well if this is how it is supposed to be, then let it be. Today I had to submit this form.
We still had about 50 minutes to reach there, I estimated that we could reach there in about 35-40 minutes, which was correct. When in the old office at 11:15 so we had a sigh of relief. But this was also short lived. We were told that passport submission happened in Bengal Chemical Bhavan, which was nearby. How much nearby he did not specify. Anyway we found it was really nearby. 
Hmm, spirits were high again, we can finally make up for the appointment at 11:30. Well here I felt more than happy when I saw a long line of people with passport forms in their hand. We laughed at them. Idiots. In this age of internet how could be there fools who were applying directly, waiting for tokens, uggghhh, I was seeing dumb people. With smart asses like us, who were net and tech savvy, we can really be ahead of the rest of the tech haves-not! Ha ha ha ha….
At the end of the line we were greeted by a security guard. Who asked us
क्या काम है?
We with our chest held high told that we have an appointment and we had to submit our forms. So far so good. Then he spoke some pearls of wisdom for us:
अॉनलईन अपॉईंटमेंट का कोई मतलब नहीं. ये लाईन में लगे हुऐ सभी लोगों का अपॉईंटमेंट है. लाईन में लग जाईए, अापका अपॉईंटमेंट भी हो जाएगा.
Ha ha ha, I did not know what to do, neither Mishraji had any idea. This was one of those moments if I had a bulldozer, I would have razed the entire building. Talking to the guard was like talking to a wall. It was not his fault, he was just doing what he was told to. Then whose fault is it? Did the people at NIC made a typo [or several] while making the website? Anyways these questions for me would be like enduring questions for time to come…
Now we ran towards the end of the line, here again a few people were added since we went past it. So we were left at end of a very long line. There we came to know that we were not alone in being fooled by the online submission’s claim of 

You will not have to wait long in the queue.
The sun was laughing down on us. All of us fools who were standing in the queue for the appointment. People around me were relating how they fell for this just like us. Also taking the government machinery for its lethargy and stubbornness. Anyway we were pacing forward at one tenth of snail’s pace. The only aim was to get inside the hall and we thought that all our troubles would get solved in a jiffy. Anyway till 12:45 we got in the hall and…
There was a total chaos in there. We were supposed to go to the 8 number counter. The queues for different counters did start differently but as they grew long, in the end all merged into a mass of people, who barely knew which line was where. One by one the people were leaving and we were progressing in the queue. 
Some of us did panic, as there were boards around saying that acceptance of forms and fees will be only till 12:30. But then someone told us that it is till 5:00 pm. Now all this standing in queue in the sun was showing up. I had not had water in the morning and was feeling really thirsty. The only cooler in the room was not working. But there was another escape root. There was a CCD counter. We ate some sandwiches and shakes which made us feel better. Meanwhile Mishraji had ventured outside and got us a water bottle which was not available at the CCD counter. [Note: Always carry a water bottle whenever you are outside in Mumbai, the thirst might just kill you!].
Till the lunch time we got really close to the chairs. Chairs the all important chairs. Never in my entire life I have craved for one, the way I was craving for it then. We were just one number away from the chairs when the Lunch Time was commenced. Not good will have to stand at least half hour more, without seating. Taking a clue from another person who was sitting merrily on the floor I decided to do the same. What a relief it was!
At last the lunch time got over and our man was back at the place where we all wanted him to be. Well he had become really charged when he had returned. He quickly send out a lot many of them and we finally did have a space to sit!
Some people from the pre-lunch session returned, whom our guy had send running for various things. One of the guys in blue shirt was really made to run and sweat. He was with his wife and mother I guess. But in the end much later he had his work done. 
Well but all this ate upon our waiting time in the queue. So when we were just a few people away the entire thing came to a standstill at least for us.
 
I was loosing all the energy to fight or otherwise. The bottle of water was a precious resort, which we both were banking upon. Just then Mishraji realized that he had not attached ‘two self attested copies of all the documents’ he had only one! In a hurry he went outside, and got the copies. Phew! That was a close one.
Well I noticed another thing, I had not brought the original bank passbook only the copies. Bad. So my short list of documentary evidences was further shortened. I hope that this does not create a problem, so I decide not to attach it.
Finally we were there, at the counter; where they take the forms to give the passport
When I presented him with the documents, he asks me
काय अॅडरेस प्रुफ लावले अाहे?
[What address proof have you attached?]
I explained to him that the office had given me a letter as a proof of residence which fitted in the categories given on the website. He said in plain words:
हे चालणार नाही.
[This is not good enough, it is not acceptable.]
When we insisted we were sent to see a साहेब at the 19 number counter. Mishraji followed the same as we both had evidences. We went to the officer concerned, who was in argument with someone over a passport which was lost.
Finally he had some time for us. He had a look at us and our evidences and asked 
तुम्ही स्टुडंट अाहे, अाणि गव्हरमेंट सरव्हंट पण?
[You are both students and government servants?]
Then I explained to him that I was doing my Ph.D., he assumed the same for Mishraji. Then he finally gave a nod for us and said our evidences are okay. So after thanking him we ran back to8 number counter, where our man was sitting doing others jobs. We told him that the officer has given the nod. Then he asks 
मग त्यांना, please accept, असे लिहायला सांगा.
[Ask him to give in written that this is acceptable.]
We went back to the officer and he duly wrote 
GS + Student and Annx B on our forms with a green ink.
So finally we were back at the 8 number counter. The queue which was  behind us was getting shorter and shorter with more and more people being disposed off. When we went back, he was not happy even after that with the documentary evidences. So he went all the way down to some other guy at counter 10, ad asked him advice about our ‘complicated case’. Well he asked what other documentary evidence did we have. I told him that I have Institute ID, PAN card and Bank pass book copy but I forgot to bring the original passbook. He looked not very happy. He asked me other non-relevant questions like 
तुम्ही काय काम करता? PhD चा विषय काय? Stipend भेटतो का? किती भेटतो? ितथे काय entrance असते का? पारपत्र कशाला हवं?
[What work do you do? What is the subject of your PhD? Do you get a stipend? How much? Is there an entrance to get into the institute? What do you need passport for?]
Then after much deliberation he finally nodded. And asked us to get the copies of the ID, PAN card and we were done. I hurried to Hall number 2, where there was a Xerox facility on a Canon copier. 
Anyway after the copying, I came back and Mishraji was no where to be found. He apparently went all the way out to get copies not knowing that there was a copier in hall number 2. Poor guy.
When I went back to the counter, the guy at the counter told me to come after everybody else’s thing got over. As ours was a ‘complicated case’. It was about 4:30 So we had to wait for 10 more minutes, when finally Mishraji appeared all sweating. And we finally got to submit the documents. We had to make two sets of all the documents ready, which we did. 
Then he asks for a proof of place of birth. Well this was not mentioned anywhere. Any way he also gave a solution for that, that we write a note which claimed that we were indeed born in the places we said we were born. And that was it. Good!
Finally after last scrutiny he affixed stamp on it and I had to sign it. And I proceeded to give the fees 1000 INR. But Mishraji had a problem, he had not attached two copies of the Annexure I or the affidavit. Well I also had not….
Then came back to the person and told him, that I also do not have two copies of the affidavit. He was surely pissed off on me and angry too, but it was all my fault. Okay he had to remove staples and give me the affidavit back. We almost ran back to hall number 2 and got the affidavits copied and ran back to hall number 1. 
Well finally we submitted the form and stood in the line to give the fees. Well at the fee counter if you were paying by 500 or 1000 denomination notes you had to write their numbers. Well we did that and the lady at the counter asked me what was my subject of MSc, when I replied physics she commented physics is hard. Well I never knew doing MSc in physics would come useful in this way. So when I paid the cash I finally thought it was over, but destiny had other plans….
And O remembered this line from Bombay [sorry Mumbai] Boys…
अभी खत्म नहीं हुअा च्युत्ये…
The lady at the cash counter told me that I had not filled the form completely!! Both me and the gentleman at the counter were taken aback. What I had not filled was that the witnesses for my testimony at the home address, in one of the copies of the form.
The guy almost invited me to fill the form in a satirical way. When I did fill it, it was finally over this time.
The guy at the counter told me only due to stamp of TIFR that he had entertained me… 
Well so far so good. 
I hope that there won’t be any further adventures left for me.
And now I am waiting for my passport to come…
P.S. My passport has finally arrived on Friday 15th May 2008 in HBCSE. Unfortunately me being in Pune will have to collect the passport on Monday. Now for the facts the passport did arrive in a record 36 days, 9 days before the scheduled date of 45 days. Thanks to all the officials who were involved. The Indian bureaucracy has large inertia, so that it takes a large time to get it going, but when it does it does get going.
Ciao
🙂