The delayed train

Once it so happened in 1989 that my mother was coming to Bombay after many years after she had settled in our home town in Thrissur. She was coming by train and in those days it was the Kanyakumari Jayanthi Janatha train that used to ferry people from Kerala to Mumbai. It was a good 36 hour journey. Thanks to the Konkan railway this journey has been cut down to 26 or even less.

The train was to reach Victoria Terminus later renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) by 6 am and I was late to reach the station to receive her. Upon arrival, I came to know the train had diverted from its route and would take one more day due to a goods train derailment. In those days, there was no way you could communicate. So I came back the next day at around 9:30 am to the station again. At the station, I came to know that the train was reaching Kalyan and would take one more hour to reach. I had my brother in law in tow this time with me to receive her. The train had a halt at Dadar station before it would slowly wind it’s way into CST Main station.

I was thinking of how my mother would be feeling. Here she was stepping into Mumbai after 5 long years and would be wondering if we would be there at the station to receive her. Moreover she like other passengers in the train would be really tired since the journey was now into its 50th hour. It was then a thought struck my mind. What if I catch up with her and the train at Dadar station during its 2 minute halt there. I knew her compartment and it would take maybe one minute maximum of running around to locate hers. In those days and even now on most express trains, compartments or bogies are not connected internally. In another 30 to 40 minutes, the train would reach Dadar station and without wasting a minute, I told my brother to stay put at CST while I would take a chance to catch the train at Dadar. I quickly booked a ticket and caught a train from the Central railway platform and fancied my chances.

Within 25 mins or so, I got down at Dadar and waited for the Express train which would arrive at another platform in a couple of minutes. As you know the express trains take their sweet time while stopping at a station and therefore by the time it had stopped, I was able to locate the compartment. Dashing inside after the few passengers had got down, I started my search for her at the seats and finally I found her. When she looked up and saw me, I could sense the surprise and wonder in her eyes to see me. How come? was what came up to her lips first. I sat down and reassured her that everything was fine and we would coast together to CST. I had taken only a one way ticket to Dadar. The return journey till the CST platform was a free ride. We caught up with my brother in law waiting at the far end of the station and as we walked towards him, the ticket checker asked us to show our tickets. She showed her ticket and was worried what I would do now. I put my hands into my pocket and fished out my platform ticket which I had purchased at CST an hour ago in my initial plan to receive her…

I thought of posting this just to reiterate that whenever good thoughts come to you to help someone in distress, do not hesitate to take the risk. You would be glad you took it to come out winning at The End.

The treat

Pravin and Raju both had to go to Matunga this week for some purchases. The roasted ground coffee at a wholesale shop had popular reviews so Pravin thought of adding it to his list of items at his shop. Raju used to visit Matunga where he got his medical supplies from a supplier there. So on a Friday, they decided to shut their respective shops and made off to Matunga by train.

On getting down Pravin hurried to Bhimani Street to get his coffee and Raju took a cab to Maheshwari gardens area to place his new orders and hand over his check payments. It was a brisk walk for Pravin across to the shop selling varieties of coffee and with the ground coffee aroma, he thought he would swoon down in ecstasy. He made a few purchases from different varieties the shop had to offer and asked the shopkeeper to pack them up while he would go around the market to fish for other unique South Indian items that were on offer.

Raju luckily was able to place orders, without wasting time on the supplies he needed for his medical shop. He circled the Maheshwari Udyan as he loved walking and soon he was at the Asthika Samaj Temple on Bhandarkar street, went inside and offered his prayers and came out and continued walking towards the Matunga market. He had to find out Pravin fast. They had decided upon the post office as their meeting point exactly two hours after they had parted their ways.

Raju paused as he passed the flower shops on the western side of the street, went into one of the shops that sold meetha paan. Took it and dumped it into his mouth. He loved this paan (sweet betel) from this shop and made it a habit to have one on his monthly visits to the place. Slowly chewing and savoring it, he walked gulping down the contents and was soon at the meeting place where he waited for Pravin near the letter box.

Before long, Pravin walked with two big bags that seemed heavy for him to manage by himself and gave one to the tall and well built Raju. They both walked slowly to the Railway station which was a few hundred metres away. That’s when Raju realised he was hungry and it would be good to visit the Irani restaurant that invited them, a few steps away.

Being a Friday and that too around 11 am there were not many customers in the rickety wooden chairs surrounding a few marble topped tables at the shop. There was some old Hindi song playing on the radio which appeared to be a prized possession of the Irani gentleman sitting at the cashier desk who had a welcome in his eyes as they stepped in. Some part of the shop had the sun streaming its shine and therefore our chaps decided to take position at a table in the shade and below one of the three ceiling fans which to the observant Pravin appeared as old as the gentleman smiling at the desk.

What would you like to have, Raju? asked Pravin as both of them placed the bags down. I would go for a toast omelette with special tea. I would settle for a veg cheese omelette. They placed the order with the serving boy who appeared at their desk from  nowhere. Where was he when we came in? We didn’t notice him, a smiling Pravin asked. Raju looked at the young chap and gave the order and asked him to make it fast, if he wanted a generous tip. He disappeared just as he had appeared, into the kitchen. Pravin tapped his fingers on the table to the music and looked around. Raju was a bit engrossed looking at the medical supplies order copy in his hand.

A poor man walked in, a bit fidgety, placed himself at the far end on the sunny side and drank a cup of water from the water container kept on the table. He took a couple of currency notes and a few coins from his pocket on the table and went through the menu kept on the table. Pravin was watching the person closely now. It appeared there was nothing he could buy except perhaps a cup of plain tea. He went through the menu once again and made quick calculations by looking at his scant store. With moist eyes he placed an order for plain tea and waited for it.

What Raju, you are looking at those order forms and keeping so quiet. It is time to have a small celebration today. What’s the occasion, a gleaming Raju asked. Not because Pravin was a miser but very rarely his grocer friend gave treats. You don’t know? Come on, it is my wedding anniversary he proclaimed as he stood up while making a bit of a show with his hands spread. He walked across to the cashier and loudly said cha-cha today is my wedding anniversary. Mubarak ho beta. What can I do for you? asked the old man at the desk.

Please serve a cream roll and a coconut cake on my behalf to all others sitting here. And yes, a special tea too. The Parsi gentleman looked around. There was only a poor man sipping tea at the other occupied table. Alas! If only a few more customers had come that time of the day, he would have sold more cream roll and cakes!

The value of remaining positive and beating procrastination.

Procrastination does to you mentally what paralysis makes you physically. I agree it is a strong statement, but that is what truly affects most of us, who fall prey to this life debilitating condition. There are times when howsoever positive minded you may be, the events and happenings on a particular day or issue might leave you knocked out. If you do not pay heed to the developing symptoms, it would repel the success that knocks on your door once in a while.

There are so many incidents in our lives if we trace back personal history, where we had got ample opportunities to prove ourselves, but negative thoughts assisted by the procrastination habit had closed doors to potentially successful avenues or ventures.

Imagine getting a call from an old time friend, about a lead in business, but you don’t turn up, or give the lead a call, as mental cobwebs in your thinking force you not to pick up on the lead. You get a call letter for an interview or get selected for a course. You do not turn up for both, and still continue searching for other avenues out of your grasp.

You get a good opportunity to patch up with your colleague or a friend, but you just leave it and lose out on friendship, that could have been revived, had you used that opportunity.

During my work history in the Middle East, I was trying desperately to close a software implementation project in payment systems at a bank, for more than 6 months, but the user was always citing negative examples of how the software had glitches with the payment hardware, and thereby delaying the user acceptance. I had almost given it up, of ever getting the user acceptance.

One fine day, I got a call from a Project Manager from the bank’s side, who had assumed responsibility recently, and was looking at such delayed projects. He asked me, if I could meet him and the user in half an hour time in the payments department. Maybe he was also trying to test our response time. I said – Yes, and put the handset in its cradle.

Procrastination and negative thoughts dormant as they are, in some part of our thinking process, immediately started getting activated and started to weave their cobwebs. But I was out of my office in a minute and hailed a cabbie before they could get hold of me and force me not to go. The rest of the story as they say is history, as the PM asked the user in my presence, as to how much of his time was lost in what he referred to as software glitches. These were in fact hardware timeouts, where we had provided a software solution springing the machine back in no less than 5 secs. He asked him, how many such timeouts happened in his cheque clearing time of 4 hours. Maybe, 2 or 3 times,he said, now on the defensive and sounding meek. The PM requested him “Ok, can you sign the acceptance form, if you have no other issues?” in a tone that had a air of loaded machine guns.

This example just shows how we can beat procrastination by immediate action and the DO IT NOW principle, so very well illustrated in the book by Napolean Hill and Clement Stone – Success with a Positive Mental Attitude, link of which is pasted below for your convenience.

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=NA1vDgWzAsIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=napoleon+hill&hl=en&sa=X&ei=G1sxUp7rCsbJrAf1gYGQDw&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=napoleon%20hill&f=false.

Living by the Word

It has been 8 years with WordPress and am thankful to WP for providing me a great  platform and the best followers to cheer me up!

The chill with the winter is here, the holidays are back
time to go on a shopping spree and what would you like
now that good old Christmas is here, make a choice
would you buy a red robe, collar and cuffs this time
and indulge in presents for many a kid on the street
to whom Santa is a dream that you would like to fulfill?

The Ants and the Snake

Once, there lived scores of  ants in an ant hill. They had built the hill over years of labor from the mud on a slope away from the paths men frequented. It was a desolate place with a lot of shrubs and grass. Not many creatures frequented this way except for one who had lost the way and therefore their location was not known to many.

Their fort was well protected by the myriads of soldiers in the nearby vicinity who were ready to pounce on any intruder or predator including some men who wanted to bring it down whenever they chanced this way. Soldier ants and the regional chiefs co-ordinated every hour and discussed the weather and the wind which were also a risk to their stronghold. From the ground, for tiny them, the hill looked as tall as a mountain which might take an hour to climb, even for the swiftest among them.

The Queen had to be protected at all costs. If there was an invasion and the commander in chief thought they and the fort would not be able to survive the onslaught, there was a small army kept within the palace to transport the queen to a safer destination in minutes. For that a couple of forts at a distance were already prepared and maintained daily. The food and water rations were stored at appropriate locations at various places in and around the hill for the army of ants. Special squads were sent far to detect any smoke or bush fire that might pose a risk to their lodgings.

On one side of the mound, a couple of rats burrowed their holes and decided to stay put there. Since they didn’t mean harm to the inhabitants of the fort, they were not attacked. In a few weeks time, a snake that meandered that way, chanced upon the rats stay. It decided to make an attack on the fortress. It circled the hill, crushing many soldier ants who tried to bite the intruder as he wriggled upon their ramparts and made a run to the many holes dug by the rats. The rats ran into the bushes and disappeared.

The snake thought of pitching his tent in the hill though every day he met some resistance from the soldier ants who were dead against this slimy creature putting the fort at siege. Daily hundreds of ants died or got injured from the snake’s movement who used to go in and out as if he owned the place.

A group of children from nearby homes who had thought of making this place a playground for their vacations, cleared some of the bushes and the grass. At first they met high resistance from the ants but who then retreated to the fort lest they meet with lethal consequences from them or their parents. Every day they started playing games metres away from the ant hill which was well hidden among the bushes.

The snake also was aware of the children playing at a distance but ignored them as they didn’t seem to threaten him. Oblivious to him, he continued dealing deaths and injuries to the ants on his meanderings. The ants sometimes irritated him but for the cool comfort of this mud hill, he could tolerate them till the rains arrived.

This could not go on for long this way. The snake has to be driven out and the children too since they might wreak the hill if they ventured into the bushes, thought the commander in chief. He sought a meeting with the queen and the elders group. I don’t know why the queen persists with this group of elders. They just pamper her, eat and drink and while away their time. And the queen calls them worldly wise. I, in my lifetime haven’t heard any wise words from them except citing issues with the way I operate!

The meetings with the queen and her group of the advisory board was either short or a long drawn out affair. There were times when he was dismissed in minutes and days when he used to sit hours and get audited on his actions. But this time it would be different. He would strike terron in their hearts and ask for more batallion and thereby increase his stature while trying his best against the snake and the children.

The court was already assembled as he stormed in with his bodyguards and took his seat. After the initial customary greetings they came to discuss the safety of the fort. The queen cast a glance on him which was a signal for him to voice his concern. He gave a lengthy speech often trying to embed fear in the group if immediate steps weren’t taken to get rid of the imposter snake and the children.

We will make an attack on the snake with 5000 soldiers and another 10000 would be needed to drive away the children. He made his point and sat down. That is the size of our full army including those who guard our backup forts. One of the elders remarked and continued. We cannot put at risk losing 15000 of our men sending them on a mission where there is a feeble hope of winning. But we can’t stand idle when daily we lose hundreds of our soldiers. This way we would lose either way before the rains, said the commander trying his best.

The queen asked of the eldest ant in the group. Is there no other way, Sir? The eldest closed his eyes as that was his habit while trying to arrive at the solution. After a couple of minutes he opened his eyes and said that there was one. Tomorrow morning nobody will bother the snake.  Let a hundred soldiers march back and forth every day morning until further orders to the eastern fort which is the nearest to the children’s play area. Let the queen be shifted tonight to the western fort deepest in the bushes. Let us abandon this fort tonight and let the remaining thousands assemble at the west until further orders with the queen.

What do you have in mind, asked the Queen. Your majesty, the queen, you must have faith in me but the strategy will be disclosed later. Please arrange to issue necessary orders since we have to act on this immediately.  The Queen made the orders and put the commander and his deputies into the act. They murmured a bit as to what good would come of this but they obeyed the orders to the word for that was how they were brought up.

The next day morning, the snake woke up to see there were no ants to disturb him. He peeped out of the hole. Yes there they are, he was amused but at the same time curious. They are all marching to the smaller ant hill. Why would that be? Maybe the rats are there after running from here. No, they would never come within 100 metres of me. He surveyed the other parts of the fort. Yes the ants have made a transition to their new place. But why?

The question came to him again and again without an answer. Then a fear crept into his mind. The weary ants, did they sense any danger here for them to abandon this well built fortress. The children had come today but only two of them were there. He could dodge their eyes and quietly scramble into the smaller ant hill and see what the ants were upto. He wriggled quickly towards the play area and that is when the children saw him go into the nearby ant hill. When they realised the danger they fled towards their houses raising an alarm. The chain of ants were asked to stop the marching and asked to immediately get back to the western fort as soon as they saw the snake at the eastern fort.

All the ants were at the western fort and asked to bide their time till further orders from the commander. All were looking at the play area and getting bits of information from the few sentries posted  at the gates. There was a lot of commotion when a group of people came running with sticks and a bag. They destroyed the Eastern fort in a minute to unearth the snake who made a run to the central fort but was beaten, caught and secured in a bag. Some of the men came into the bushes and found the towering but now deserted ant hill and destroyed it also and went back. On the way back they were heard rebuking the children for selecting this area for their play.

The same day evening the queen had assembled a quick meeting to discuss future plans and congratulate everyone on the turn of events in their favor. The elderly advice had saved them from daily casualties and impending doom. They put up plans to build a big fort after the rains. Till then the queen and her army would continue their stay at the western fort as per the meeting minutes. If only they had asked for elderly advice earlier, many more lives would have been saved, some soldiers were heard saying to each other. The commander wiser from this experience now understood that Every problem with our enemies may not have a military solution always…

Marching Soldiers

Today when I had started writing a children’s story on ants, I was reminded of this poem that I wrote in 2016. Dear readers, it is always good to have a dose of rhyming poetry before the prose😊

Every day we go in search of dear food
chains of us in queue till we get shooed
crane at our folks going the other way
we always are a army having our say.

Descending in numbers at any place
no stampede as we increase our pace
no one knowing from where we came
wonder it seems we all look the same.

We change our course to get to our food
though near it seems, it has to be good
none bothers as we take it to our stay
we act sober and collective on our way.

Wary of wind or a stream of cold water
pranks of a kid as we try climb a platter
flanks of us leaving behind our dead
there are things in life we seldom dread.

Every time you see us marching along
like a silent long forgotten folk song
Well knit as one doing our own tasks
all the while storing food for wasps.

As you stumble upon our brittle house
refrain please to drench us and douse
slain and lifeless we lie by your clout
We had homes till you wiped us out.

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Think and Grow Rich

While I was a student, once walking across D. N Road in Mumbai Fort area in the late 80’s, I stopped at the street hawkers with their library of second hand books strewn across the foot path. I picked up this book ( Think and Grow Rich) by Napolean Hill, read a few paragraphs and asked for the price. The stall keeper said it would be 20 rupees. I thought it was a bit on the higher side and kept it back, to which he asked me a point blank question. Do you wanna become rich? I replied in the negative and left. If I had said Yes, he would have asked can’t you spend 20 rupees to become rich? Those, dear readers were my thoughts when I walked away…

Wishing you a bright Diwali and a healthy and prosperous New Year.