Sakhavu (2017)

SakhavuPossible spoilers alert.

Example, is a great way to teach others how to live. Nivin Pauly’s character is a student politician steeped in the ways of modern politics. His image is a façade of good while he indulges in political manoeuvring using unfair means. His plans for subterfuge of a fellow comrade who seems to be in his way towards higher posts in the Party. His plans come to naught when he is asked to donate blood to a Comrade in ICU.

The Comrade’s friend begins the story of the Comrade’s life who launches agitations against the tyrant tea factory owners in Peerumedu. Once this agitation is a success, agrarian workers of the zamindar approach him. The Comrade agitates by working on the fields. Success leads him to further agitation. The Comrade teaches by example to his comrades in the Party by leading from the front, showing how to lead agitations and how to organise workers. Later, as we learn of The Comrade’s home life, we learn he teaches his daughter by example as well. The movie shows us of a time when idealism and a certain political philosophy was needed to end oppression.

Cut to the present, the tea factory is not working due to various issues including labour issues and profitability. The Comrade, urges a wealthy friend to purchase and run the tea factory to help the people who could not migrate from Peerumedu and forced by hunger into prostitution. There he faces the hoteliers who have illegally built on Company land. It is while fighting these land sharks that the Comrade is stabbed and in hospital.

The Company wins a case in court, with the news that the land sharks have been cleared and will become operational again. The movie asks, rhetorically, if the political philosophy that ended oppression in Peerumedu would work in this new world? Is that idealism, rekindled, the need of today?

Communism was a tool that was once used to transform a highly stratified society into one of the better states in India. It addresses only one part of the equation, though. It works only when there is an oppressed and an oppressor. The lines between these two has blurred and one wonders if, as the movie asks, it is the right tool for a polarised society we live in today.

(Watched on 15/04/2017 at the 8 pm show in Inox Cinemas, R City Mall, Ghatkopar, Mumbai)


What do I do?

Every time I attend any meetup, I find it difficult to explain why I am there. I attended the Kilter pre-conference meetup in Mumbai today and found myself in a similar predicament.

I limit my introductions to the fact that I work in a public sector bank and don’t go beyond that. People who know me from meeting me at different junctures know me for the various interest I had had when they met me. I have moved on mostly. Currently, just working in a bank and my family keeps me occupied enough to prevent me from doing anything else.

No, that’s not entirely true. I have gotten more and more lazy and hence have not found the time for any of my other interests other than reading. I have, hence, been below the radar.

This then confuses the new people that I meet as to why I am there.

Remembering Wikipedia days

Mahafreed wrote on her blog sharing her writing on Wikipedia in The Times of India in 2010 brought back memories from my good days in Wikipedia editing. In the story she shares  my quote too. The original article is here.

After the early days of Wikipedia editing, things reached a head with the Wikiconference India 2011. Things got subsumed by politics like many other things do in India, if the group is not careful. I left offline activities of Wikipedia and stick to one off editing online. I even changed user ids I used for editing.

I watched Dr. Heather Ford talking about a similar curve on a TEDx talk. She ends the talk saying that Wikipedia needs people to change it from within and with more people participating in the editing to expose it to more points of view.

On WhatsApp forwards

We all get numerous messages which are fake on WhatsApp and forward it without giving it too much thought. Thejesh GN has written on his blog about these forwards, with suggestions on how WhatsApp could handle fake news. 

It is important that you verify things you hear on WhatsApp from another primary source. If you trust the person sending you the forward, do question if he/she thinks the news is true or not. I would suggest using Google News and to visit a news publication you trust or visit the organisation/individual’s website.

Bullet Journal

I used to keep a Bullet Journal way back in September 2015. By November 2015, I was writing so much work related stuff that I didn’t want to open it again. I abandoned it. I found it while surfing Evernote related help videos, in the YouTube suggested videos for you.

I found inspiration here and here and instructions here to dust off the old bullet journal from my diaries rack and use it again. Have kept it ready for use. Haven’t seen too many guys using it here in India, though. Examples welcome.

Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps

In the beginning of 2016, I found myself in debt again. It was a suffocating feeling because small debts had grown large. It had not grown large enough to warrant selling anything to stay afloat but I knew it could get there. I was looking for a way out of debt and was searching online for ways to deal with it. It was during this search that I found Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps.

Ramsey suggests that the way to stay out of debt (and this includes using your credit card), is a behavioral change. And the person whose behavior is to be changed is yours and not anyone else’s. Understanding and getting behind this idea is critical to permanent change. Ramsey says that getting out of debt and staying on a written budget gets us to a point where we can harness our greatest wealth building tool – our income – and use the money saved to invest and to give.

While his ideas seems to be tailored for US audiences, I think his message is useful to us in India and to me personally.

Ergo I still have to work hard to keep me from using my credit card, I have tremendously improved in knowing that I own the credit card and it will not own me. Ramsey suggests plastic surgery – cutting up your credit cards with scissors and shutting it down.

If you think you’re at that stage in life where you’re feeling overwhelmed and need space to breathe – watch the Dave Ramsey Show on YouTube if you like to watch stuff or read his book, The Total Money Makeover. It is one of the several ways to get back financial peace.

This Was A Man

The finale of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles came out in the first few days of November and I finished it in four days flat. Then I went on to my next book, Retire Inspired and totally forgot to review the book here. I got an SMS from Crossword yesterday that Archer was visiting the Kemps Corner store yesterday at 6 PM. Work at the bank meant that I could not go to Kemps Corner to meet him. 😦 But, it reminded me that I had to write the review on my blog.

This Was a Man is the last in the series of the Clifton Chronicles. The book was a disappointment for me as a finale. The rest of the series was full of twists and turns and was much more fast paced. Many episodes running through the Chronicles find closure but the book seems to slow down as Harry Clifton ages. As a whole, the series is wonderful.

If you love Jeffrey Archer and his brand of writing you have to get this book and the whole Chronicles.

View from the Frontline

On November 8, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on national television, the Government’s decision to scrap old 500 and 1000 Indian currency notes. He declared that while these would be accepted at hospitals, petrol pumps and a few select places, they would cease to be legal tender from that midnight on. The following is my personal experience sitting in the frontline counter handling public in the last four days.

I had reached home, had my evening snacks and was going to settle down for a quiet evening with my wife when a WhatsApp (that harbinger of news) notification from Pranav alerted me to the news. I didn’t believe him. To which he asked me to turn on the television.

The television reportage ensured that the people panicked overnight. No reporter seems to know (or frankly, care) about what was accurate. Online, people were debating the merits and demerits of the news rather than what would happen on the ground. How do you pay for milk, dhobiwala or even the wada pav in one or two days, once the current stash of cash was over. There were rumors about GPS chips on currency notes to find hidden cash and about how the government was to roll out the new currency notes. Luckily, banks would be closed for the public on the next day. It gave the banks some breathing space to down ATM shutters, remove 500 and 1000 currency notes in bank vaults and prepare for the upcoming storm to hit the banks.

We waited for instructions from superiors, cash was moved out, stationery was ordered and retired personnel were called back in to meet the unexpected surge in customers on the next day.

The next day (Thursday) there was a surge in panic and people came in huge numbers. In the long queue outside my branch, they would not let me in, asking me to stand in queue. I informed them that I was a bank employee and I would be needed indoors for the queue to move. At the open of business hours, people standing in queue without tokens reminded me of the days when I used to sit in my mother’s bank when banking happened in bank ledgers and paper. People were confused and had questions about exchange of money and the newly set withdrawal limits. There were people trying to deposit money in small accounts, PPF accounts or any account that would deposit their money. There was confusion about whether they could deposit money anywhere they wanted or only in their home branches. Some customers from other banks also wanted to know if their money could be deposited. The confusion showed that the information flows through the media (especially regional and English newspapers) was not good enough. We worked for extended working hours handling the rush of customers on that first day. We tried to remain calm and work through the situation as fresh instructions continued to pour in. Customers from nearby stores got us water. Traffic policemen bought in a bottle of Frooti and there were rare instances of shared brotherhood among people in the queues that restored my faith in humanity.

The second day (Friday) that the banks opened for work, the line swelled. Rumors spread by people who did not get their money changed on the first day led to more panic. Also, depositors added to the lines leading us to temporarily suspend other bank business. This day we began to see more understanding customers. They waited calmly in lines. The banks also provided enclosures and drinking water to people outside after news of deaths of at least 2 people waiting in queues. This day we had to turn a deaf ear to people pleading for more money than 4000 in exchange and more than 10000 in withdrawal daily limits set in place. Many people needed the money to fulfill their daily requirements, to pay fees, for marriages and birthday parties and hospital emergencies. Some private hospitals continued to refuse to accept 500 and 1000 notes despite the Government allowing them to.

Saturday began with confirmation of some of the things we heard from customers on the previous day about hospitals not accepting the scraped notes. Banks were to be closed for an extended 3 day weekend. The news meant that this would be cancelled and banks would work for normal working hours on Saturday and Sunday. While customers knew that banks would remain open they did not know that the banks had returned to normal working hours. We continued working till about two hours after closing hours and later that day operationalised the ATM machine. Coupons were given for entry on the next day while the lines stayed for accessing the ATM. I found the air removed from my bike while returning home after a long day’s work. I had it refilled from a nearby tyre shop and was on my way home around 8 that night.

My back pained in the night and my wife massaged my back before I could go to sleep to get ready to get back to work for the eighth straight day.

Sunday was much better because both customers and staff knew what was happening – all the rules were now clear. We had lesser interruptions of people asking us about the rules, verifying what they had heard from other bank officials and people. The line ran more smoothly. On this day, they were also aware of the working hours and hence people paced themselves or made alternate arrangements from banks and branches that were less crowded.

I guess we were part of a wonderful team effort, colleagues helping each other out, officers standing behind their staff and handling situations when they sometimes got out of hand, police members working long hours handling customers and the customers themselves waiting patiently and behaving with extraordinary restraint. There were lessons for me in pacing myself, learning patience, learning a new job (have not sat in cash for such a sustained period of time) and being a part of a team.

It was wonderful to think back on the last four days, resting at home today and thought I’d share it with all of you. A rare glimpse of the scene from the people who manned the counters.


Currency Notes

Yesterday, the Indian Prime Minister announced that the ₹500 and ₹1000 notes will no longer be legal tender from midnight of November 8-9. The reporting in the media and forwards on social media (especially WhatsApp) created a panic situation at Bank ATMs and several retail outlets.

Since I’m on the cash counter I’ve been trying to read all the stories appearing in old media before I see the circulars later today at the bank.

Deepak Shenoy over at Capital Mind has the best write up on the topic, calmly explaining the availability of money over the next few days, why it’s not really the end of the cash economy, no GPS chips and why we may have only temporarily brought the black money count to zero.