All of us are walking on the road that leads us to our final destination. This is the path that everyone takes in their life and which no one can shun. All get pushed on to this road and walk they have to. Experiences that we gather get tagged as luggage on to us. Some are good whereas some are bad and others best to be forgotten.
These experiences and memories cannot be discarded as each event and action gets etched, some on your body and others most in memory. We get our family members to walk with us in this journey of life where some leave us soon and others stick on till the very end.
Friends come in from different directions as they meet us in their journeys. Some give you company and lighten the travails of the travel. There are others who confront you with negative motives and who are best to be avoided but not everyone can, as some are forced upon you that leaves you weak and tired to continue the arduous path ahead. The journey is long for some who grumble about it and short for others who enjoy the travel.
The sun, the wind and other elements play their parts when they cross your paths daily as you walk ahead not knowing what is in store for you, a journey where the destination marks the culmination of a life well spent or best forgotten…
I met Asiri when he joined our hardware support team, the same time I had been inducted into the documents clearing software team. There were around 10 engineers in hardware support and were quite busy with the numerous installations we had in the emirates. Most of them were either on a call with a customer, or driving to a customer site or was already at the site. It was not that they were busy all the time, there were days when most of them were seen in the department, carrying out the process documentation or inspecting faulty equipment in the lab by wearing anti-static aprons or even vetting newly arrived equipment spares at the store. We, the payments software team gelled well with them. Both teams, the hardware and software support, used to rush to assist each other whenever required at various sites. Those days in the late 90’s, Dubai was devoid of much traffic and we could cover Bur Dubai and Deira within a matter of few minutes.
There were times or days when most of the incidents would happen due to hardware glitches and while some clients thought it was a software problem, others blamed it on the equipment. On such occasions, our support departments wore a deserted look. I thought of writing this post today to highlight the ways and means used to uncover the root cause by our engineers especially Asiri also referred to as the ‘Doctor’. Asiri used to wear his anti-static apron more than anybody else and that is how the term ‘Doctor’ stuck to him. One more reason was due to his style of functioning whenever he reached the site. He used to sit or stand patiently beside the faulty document processor, maybe touching it all the time and getting valuable feedback from the customer as to what caused it to malfunction. He would appear as a doctor posing many a question to the client to understand the root cause before he even thought of opening or checking the machine.
One day, a bank called him while he was on the way to office in the morning, saying that one of their document processors was rejecting all the cheques/checks instead of processing them. He thought it could be a sensor failure issue and reached the client in 20 minutes. In Deira Dubai, those days, you might take only 10 minutes to reach but you may need another 10 minutes to find parking for your car. By the time he reached the site, the document processor which was acting weird was now back to its normal self and processing them without any issue. Asiri cleaned the sensors at the reading bay and watched the machine for another 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual came back.
The next day more or less at the same time, another Engineer received a similar incident call from the same bank around 11 am and rushed to central operations and by the time he reached, the machine as earlier had shook off its symptoms and was processing the cheques at its standard speed of 250 documents per minute. He also sat for around 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual left the client. The client also joked saying that when you doctors come, the machine doesn’t show any symptoms. This incident, if memory serves me right was not communicated by the second engineer to Asiri the same day.
The third day, Asiri is in office and waiting for any potential incident to happen and perhaps working on one of the defective document processor in the lab when he got a call again for the same issue. Since the client had a backup machine and it was not a peak volume day for the bank, he took some time to get out of the lab. By the time he reached his car, the client called back again saying the machine was working fine now and he need not come.
Asiri walked back from the parking space to the office and that is when he met the second engineer who told him about the call he made the earlier day to the bank and how he had to come back since there was no problem with the machine when he arrived. “So that means today is the third day, the machine is behaving this way” said Asiri and checked the time. All three incidents were pointing to the time around 11 AM.
The next day, as was his usual wont, Asiri did not wait for the customer to call but made himself present at around 10:30 AM at the site. Fakhruddin who was managing the clearing operations at central operations welcomed Asiri by saying “today nothing will happen since you are here”. Asiri smiled and asked for a chair and got seated with his eyes riveted on the reading bay sensor where each speeding cheque on the track is sensed and stopped. He just sat there looking at the sensor, who he rightly thought was the root of the cause while the minutes ticked away. At around 11 AM, he saw the rays of the sun striking the sensor through the venetian blinds of the cabin, and the sensor along with the machine went haywire as the cheques on the track started getting rejected and Fakhruddin had to stop the machine by pressing the pause button. A smiling Asiri pointed out to Fakhruddin the root cause which was the venetian blind slanting position and moved across and closed them completely. On the way out, he told Fakhruddin, “You won’t face this issue anytime soon unless someone plays with the blinds again“.
Charlie, came into our lives the same month I got married. He was just 2 weeks old when one of my relations handed him over to us and he adapted to his life with the new surroundings. There was our Tom cat whom we used to call Mani with us for the last 2 years before the little dog arrived.
Initially Charlie used to play with Mani, but somehow the cat was not very amused to see the attention getting diverted to the new visitor. Once he tried to put his paw at Charlie, and from thereon the dog was careful in his interaction with Mani. Mani as tom cats do, slowly used to disappear and would come back once a week and thereafter his frequency decreased to a month and then he never came back again.
Within leaps and bounds, in a matter of a year Charlie grew up and was seen in almost all corners of our one acre land. You could see him smelling something at one corner, and the next minute he would be standing just next to you. He was a dog seen in all places within the well defined boundary walls of the compound that had a pond and many palm and arecanut trees and a few cashew and jack fruit trees.
When we used to call him, he used to run across to us in a fluid motion with his mane flowing. Most of the time he would collide with me as he rarely could bring himself to a complete halt.One of our past time was me putting my hand in his mouth an he trying to bite playfully with the right amount of pressure applied.
In the initial stages, he loved to take a bath especially in the summer days, but as he aged, it was a bit difficult to entice him for the bath. Sometimes he would run away before the first cup of water was poured over him, and sometimes he would vanish after the soap was put all over. But somehow I would manage to grapple with him and bring him back to the bath stand and because of the love he would stand still and take the bath, maybe, because he did not want to hurt me or any person in the family, who was trying to clean him.
In the night, he was left to roam the compound and during the day, he was sent to his kennel, the only way to entice him to it, was to either bring his breakfast or his lunch. He would run from wherever he was, the moment he heard the sound of his steel container, as that meant, his food was ready.
Dogs rarely like anybody touching their plate, once it is handed over to them, and this was true with Charlie too, as he would growl and show his teeth, if your hand went anywhere near his tiffin once he had started eating.
Dogs also know who is the real master of the house, and that way, he first respected my father and mother and then us in that order.
He was vaccinated only twice in his entire life of 13 years with us. Once I remember, I had to close his barking mouth, since he was not very keen to get the injection the first time when he was around 1 year old. But I could see the trust in his eyes, as I closed his jaw, saying silently to me, “I am not bothered what the doc does to me, as long as you are close to me and wish me well”.
The pond in the compound would see him standing at the edge and looking into it, maybe looking at the tortoise or the fish that used to come near the edge. He rarely was engrossed for long in any particular thing and would move on to the next thing that interested him.
While my father watered the plants and the palm trees, he would run around or stay around, but would rush with great speed towards the gate, the moment he heard someone touching the latch on our gate. That way we used to keep our gate closed and had to take him to his kennel before letting our guests in.
Since he was seen strolling freely most of the afternoon times especially in the summer, all visitors would call out to us at the gate just to make sure that Charlie was not anywhere near.
One day, I remember, I came home late in the night, and my parents had locked the gate as I had told them, I will be sleeping at the office and be coming in the morning. As I came near the gate, Charlie made those funny squeaky noise especially when he spotted a loved one. But I wanted him to bark at me, so that my father would be alerted. But he just lingered for a few moments and vanished and finally I had to climb over and jump into our compound. I was a bit worried though, as to how he would react to me scaling and jumping over. But then, he had disappeared into the darkness..
After the first few years, myself and my family moved to the middle east and would see him only once in a year, and you could see the joy as he saw us when ever we came back. Leaving him after the vacation was heart wrenching for me, as was to the whole family.
My parents took good care of him, and he turned out to be their second son in my absence and mother would say to me, “taking care of him, sometimes would neutralize your absence “. The last years, was not good for him, as my parents had to leave him alone at the house with the care taker coming twice a day to feed him. The absence of his loved ones for one month or so in the last 2 years left him a bit gloomy and depressed. Though I came back, 2 years before he breathed his last, because of relocation to the city, my visits to him also went down.
My parents had gone to meet my sister and during that time, he contracted some illness and stopped eating for 2 days, and on the third day, I reached and gave him medicine to help him recover from his ailment. He was also running a fever. I knew he was going through his last moments. Dad arrived that evening without my mother as she planned to stay for a few more weeks at my sister’s place.
Dad gave him some food in the evening which he took, he must have been really overjoyed to see him back, the master of the house, despite his illness and happy that he could rest in peace. That very day, during the night he passed away leaving a vacuum in our lives. My mother was really sad but in a way consoled herself that she was not there, as it would have been heart breaking for her.
It has been around 5 years since he left us, but to us, he was, a great pet and shall ever remain etched in our memory till the very last…
This story goes back to my school days in Bombay, now Mumbai, where I grew up. The 4 storeyed building where we stayed had around 72 tenants. Each tenant had a home of 450 square feet that included a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.The ground floor had an assortment of shops that had 2 laundry shops, 2 clinics, 3 groceries, a tailor, a medical shop, a co-operative bank, classrooms of a school and now to the central character of this story, the civil supplies ration shop.
The locality spread across roughly 30 plus acres was called Abhyudaya Nagar which had around 45 such buildings, and also had the Kalachowky police station quarters opposite our building. The nearest railway station was Cotton green. To serve these tenants, around 3000 and amounting to an average of 15000 people, we had 6 or 7 such ration shops in the locality.
Since this particular ration shop was in our building, in my running around the building during play time and my weekly visits to buy our monthly ration of rice, sugar, kerosene and sometimes wheat, I became friendly with the owner of the shop, who also acted as the cashier. His job was to check the ration card, similar to a bank’s savings pass book and give out necessary receipts after collecting the payment. There was another person to help him dole out the ration to the customers as they came in whenever any or all of the above mentioned commodities was made available.
The wheat, sugar and rice came in jute gunny bags on lorries or trucks. Kerosene used to come to these shops on bullock carts from the nearby Sewri Indian Oil godowns at a distance of 3 kms. A 500 litre tank was drawn by one bullock, and sometimes the 1000 litre tank that made its appearance to these shops were drawn by 2 bullocks. In those days, the rationing for kerosene, priced at 1.20 INR per litre, was anything from 20 litres for a small family for a month or more based on the number of members listed on the ration card.
Since kerosene was a scarce commodity and strictly available only in ration shops during the early late seventies and early eighties, people used to flock to these shops in great numbers whenever such carts made their visits to the shops. At such occasions, during my playtime that would start at 3 pm to 5:30 pm, I sometimes used to volunteer for support to give the grains and sugar to such customers, since the only man was busy managing to give kerosene and grains at the same time. The shopkeeper liked me coming, since as I was known to him, and did not mind me helping him and thereby increasing the throughput and reducing the waiting time of customers in the queue.
I never went every day, as I could now remember but made it a habit of chipping in only when the kerosene carts came and when the queue was more than 15 to 20 people. Some people especially ones from my building was only too glad to see me serving them. There was one occasion when an old woman from the police quarters who blessed me saying, “Son, you will be never be want of food in your life for what ever help you are rendering to us”. It was during those formative years that I learnt my initial customer service and support lessons.
Once, during my 9th standard, these consortium of such 6 or 7 ration shops decided to bring a lottery scheme for all the ration card holders in this area, and the shop owners went to each and every home and sold lottery tickets which had the first prize as black and white television and other prizes which I do not remember. During those times, since color televisions had not appeared, the black and white one costed as much as 5000 INR, a costly luxury item for most of the people. They came to my house and our shop owner asked my mother to buy at least 10 tickets each costing 2 INR to which she obliged, since she did not want to upset either him or me who was present at that time. 2 rupees itself was a big amount in those days, because you could buy a kilogram of sugar or rice or wheat at that time.
The day of the prize came, and I had memorized the lottery series numbers which we had bought. That day however I forgot all about it and after school, I went out to play cricket. The shopkeepers were going to each and every building and announcing the prize winning numbers on a loud speaker and when they came to our building and announced, was I glad to hear that we had won the first prize…
I saw an old man sitting outside the salon
I observe him as he doesn’t want a hair cut
He murmurs something to the customers
as they go past him into the shop and out
then I watch closely to see a bag beside him
did it contain something that he needed to sell?
It is whisky from my military ration, he tells me
sensing my curiosity, would you like to?
barter it for cash so that I could carry on?
Don’t you drink young man, to which I said no
I did not have money on me to help him
but I wished someone had the spirit to…
The old man was at the station
waiting for the train just like me
the only difference, he could not see
neither the train nor me who would
always train my eyes on him
wondering how he judged the train
as it reached the station and got into
without much help except his stick
For him, it was a daily challenge I could gather
as he would disembark and carry on
with only his stick to guide him
descend twenty steps on to the foot bridge till he reached the road and went his way.
I decided to help him rather than watch.I still remember his firm grip on my hand. Our destination being the same every time
him to his workplace and I to my college another 15 mins away.
Quite a few terms, we used to walk together
hand in hand, until my class time changed
How I sorely missed walking with him again…