New RTO regime and Indian psyche!

From 1st September 2019 Government of India started applying modified rules and regulations to people breaking laws on Indian roadsRTO is road transport organisationIndians as a society have remained fixated to oldtime India when bullock-carts or walking was the primary mode of going from place A to place B. There have been laws and rules even before 1st September 2019, but the fines and punishment had not been modified with changing times. To give you a better perspective of the penalties, I will share some information. I paid Rs 110/ as my term fee for engineering course. A new car would cost 8 to 10 thousand rupees. The year was in early ’70 s of the last centuryNow I am told that the fees are rupees one hundred and fifty thousand and the new car costs in the region of Rs five hundred thousand. But the fines for breaking laws remained Rs one hundred to Rs five hundred. 

I am writing this blog with real anguish and frustration about our brethren’s views about these changes. Not one person has openly said that he entirely agrees with what the Government has done. We always talk about our fivethousand-year-old culture, of which we are rightly proud. But any system needs to change with time. It needs to be modified as we move forward. We talk about having fantastic places from snowclad mountains, to beaches, to forests in India! Why many small countries still attract more tourists than India? Reasons are simple and obvious. No area in India looks neat, organised and modern. By these words I do no talk of shining new skyscrapers, I am not talking of gleaming Metros or buses. I mean that we do not have a disciplined society, people and systems! Our cities look archaic and chaotic. 

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It was always said that the government has been too weak; there is too much corruption at the lower level. How can we ever change? We had the same attitude about the Kashmir issue. When the British left India in 1947, they created a big mess which continued till 5th August 2019. The similar mess could continue till 31st August on our roads. With low fines, poor implementation of laws, Indian road traffic has been chaotic to talk generously. But the government took decisive and bold steps. 

With new laws, there will be fear in the mind of people. Even if the police continue to take bribes, because of the high level of fines“settlement” will be expensive! Many educated people have suddenly started feeling about poor people who will have to pay the hefty fines, which may also include confiscation of vehicles. When I argued with people why worry about hefty fines, people should not break the rules! People have no answers or have lame replies.  

Kashmir situation and Indian road situations are very similar. A similar situation was present in the building/construction industry too! The sector was breaking the rules at every stage, cheating customers with impunity. They were getting away with murder, figuratively. With the introduction of RERAit ensured that the industry follows laws or else! In Delhi NCR area before RERA introduction, 2/3 large construction companies cheated almost hundred thousand people; they took advance money and never gave them homesThe directors and promoters of these companies are now in jail.  

Indian roads and automotive users are breaking basic laws without any fear. Entering from the wrong direction in one-way streets, parking vehicle below the No Parking boards, driving Motorcycles on footpaths is common sight. I have seen young gentlemen throwing five hundred rupees note at the policeman who caught them.  

Pune is a unique city where socalled intellectuals are born with an extraordinary brain. It is the only city in India where people are formally demanding to cancel the helmet usage rule for two-wheelers. The demand is led by a trained engineer who has lived in the US for about 15 years. Statistically, it is proven that when the helmet is worn, in 90 % cases death is avoided, if an accident takes placeBut the counterargument is, it is our life! (Extraordinary brain!)  

Now the fines are so hefty that once the stories of penalties and punishment start trickling down, people will think ten times before casually breaking the law. Some people on our WhatsApp group are arguing differently. It is group of engineering college batchmates who have seen the world and done well in life. The government which cannot give potholefree roads, good traffic signals has no moral rights to punish people for breaking the rules. Are you entering the wrong direction on oneway entry road because of pot-holesIs it due to bad traffic signals? Are you driving your motorcycle on foot-path for these same reasons? Are you going helmetless on two-wheelers for these reasons? 

These two are independent subjects and need to be discussed separately. By all means, agitate against these issues. Make sure your non-performing representative loses the next electionBut here again, there is a problem. Who has time to go for voting every five years? Is it not easy to simply break the traffic rules 

Friends, we have no justification for our acts whatever you may argue. Some years backour flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai was announced with a request to allow passengers using wheelchair to board first. It took ten minutes for the airport staff to literally push away people who were not allowing wheel-chair bound passengers to board first. 95% of the passengers were Indians. What were we protesting against at Frankfurt airport 

Since last two days, there is road repair work on the street where my daughter lives in MontrealBoards are saying, “No parking from 7 am to 7 pm.” Never saw a single car parked there during this period.  I am not saying people don’t break the rules in other countries, but the percentage of such people is minimal.  

On one side in India, we have the Lutyens gang, the liberals who protest against anything done by the government. When courts gave death punishment to a terrorist, many years back, there were protests about human rights. When Kashmiri youth were pelting stones at the soldiers, there were protests when pellet guns were used. There were no protests against stone-pelting. Pakistan based terrorists made attacks in Kashmir; objections were raised if terrorists were killed but not when soldiers were killed. Kashmir used to be under lock-down for to 3 months at a time due to strikes made by people against some actions taken by the government. Now after 5th August, there is a government lock-down and liberals are protesting.  

Some of the mainstream leaders have made statements against the government act about article 370India is a democracy; we have rights to protest. But these people could have protested against the method used, the procedure followed during this act. But when Pakistan was following the doctrine of 1000 cuts against India, nobody complained much, in fact, they challenged the retaliations made by the Indian government.  

To me, all such people are hollow people; these are vain people. When the government does not act, blame them correctly. But finally, when the government acts, they are now saying, old things were better. Rules from the times of bullock cart days were the best. In Pune, I have observed that the traffic jams are mainly due to indisciplined driving habits of the people.  

One day, I was taking a right turn at a signal at Nal Stop Chowk in Pune. Suddenly, about 20 two-wheeler riders decided that they were too much in a hurry and simply drove through the red signal; the policeman was standing near the signal naturally could not react! Is it not a classic case to reduce fines back to 50 and hundred rupees?  

You naysayers, please look at your face in the mirror first and then show the mirror to someone else. How many of us can say, by putting a  hand on our heart, that I have never broken any basic traffic rule?  

This is a random photo, taken today,  of the street which is being repaired in Montreal in front of my daughter’s home!

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I have only one item on my bucket list. To see people in India follow basic rules in public in general and traffic in particular! Jaihind 

Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

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One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

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That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

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Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

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I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!