Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Eleven Twelve Thirteen

Today is the 11th December, 2013, i.e., 11.12.13. This coincidence will again come only after 100 years, i.e., on 11.12. 2113!

On this special occasion, i wish everyone all happiness and bliss.

I spent the day today by attending a seminar organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), of which i am a life-member. The subject of the seminar was 'Potential World Heritage Sites in Odisha'. At present, the ancient Konark temple of is the only World Heritage Site in Odisha, recognised as such by UNESCO. The process of recognising Bhitarakanika, the natural nesting place for Olive Ridley turtles as a Natural Heritage is in an advanced stage. In addition to ancient architetures, old natural sites also are given the status of World Heritage Sites. At Bhitarakanika, millions of Olive Ridley turtles come out from the sea in winter, lay eggs, bury these in the sand and go back to the sea. The eggs hatch in about a month and it is great sight watch the tiny baby-turtles  crawling to the sea.

Padma Vibhushan Dr. Sitakanta Mohapatra, who has been conferred with the Jnanapitha Award delivered the key-note address. This was followed by talks and visual presentations on various heritage sites in Odisha by experts of Archeological Survey of India and other experts in the field. 

POST SCRIPT
14.12,2013

Ben Oliver of U S of A and his childhood heart-beat Dolly had married on 09.10.11; their first child, a boy, was born - naturally, not by medical manipulation - on 11.12.13!

And in our own India (Jaharkhand), one Shyam Kumar Jain, 55, has got his own funeral rites performed on 11.12.13. He had earlier celebrated the completion of10,000 days of his married life. He says that one must perform all one's functions, including funeral rites, during one's life time. He, his wife, his mother, his daughter and his relatives participated in the funeral rites. Only his son was away at Bangalore. So, presumably, there was no mukhagni. And there was no mourning. All present, were served a simple meal.

 

Monday, 9 December 2013

How Banks 'Create' Money



One of my elective subjects in the Degree Course in the College was Economics. One of the papers in Economics was Money and Banking. My most favourite chapter in this paper was ‘How Banks Create Money’. This heading caught my fancy at the first glance.

During my long stint in my Bank, i also created some money.

Now, what is money?

Money is a matter of functions four:
A medium, a measure, a standard and a store.

It is a medium of exchange, a measure of value, a standard of deferred payments and a store of value. It is a medium of exchange of goods and services, a measure of the value of these. It is also a standard of deferred payments. Besides being a basis of current transactions, money is also the basis of deferred payments. Accounts of deferred payments are maintained in terms of money and neither the creditors nor the debtors lose. Money is a store of value in that people can store surplus purchasing power and use it when they need. Purchasing power saved in the form of money is secure and the risk of it being destroyed is almost not there. 

A bank can be called a ‘money-shop’. In a textile shop, textile goods are bought and sold. The owner purchases the items and sells these to her/his customers. One can say that in the same way ‘money’ is bought and sold in a Bank. The actual term for what is bought and sold in a Bank is ‘credit’.  The concept of Banking is based on trust. The English word ’credit’ is derived from the Latin word creditus which means trust. A bank accepts deposits from one set of its customers and gives loans to another set of customers. The relationship between a Bank and its customers is that of creditor and debtor. A depositor is the creditor and the Bank is the debtor. In case loans, the bank is the creditor and the customer is the debtor.

For purchasing something, one has to pay money, usually currency notes. Currency notes are nothing but promises by the central bank of a country to pay the bearer, the amount mentioned in the note. In India, currency notes carry the words, “I promise to pay the bearer a sum of … “. Below this, is the signature of Governor of Reserve Bank of India.  (By the way, years ago, the wordings were ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand a sum of …’. I do not know why the words ‘on demand’ were discontinued. Does it mean that if one goes to R B I, tenders a currency note and asks for the amount mentioned in it, can R B I say, “Come after 5 days?”) 

One can also purchase an item by giving a promise. A bank account is like a promise. A depositor has the promise of the bank that it will pay the depositor a certain amount. We purchase things or repay our debts by exchanging the promise of the Governor of Reserve Bank of India (currency notes) or the promise of our banks ( by issuing cheques).

A depositor has the right to withdraw her/his money at any time but the banker knows that all the depositors will not withdraw their money at the same time. This phenomenon is the fundamental feature of banking. Banks make use of this situation, use the depositors’ money to lend it out to entrepreneurs who need capital. Depositors are people who have money which they do not plan to spend immediately and who not wish to engage in industry or business. Borrowers are people who are entrepreneurs but have no money to use as capital. Indeed, entrepreneurs find that it is more profitable to borrow and invest in enterprises than to invest their own money in these. 

In simple terms, when a depositor comes for withdrawing his/her money with a bank, there would always be other depositors for depositing and some borrowers who come for repaying. So banking is basically iska topi, uska shar.

Currency notes are debt instruments of the central bank of a country. Deposit accounts are debts of commercial banks. Loan accounts are debts of the borrowers of a bank. Banks work by trading debts for debts. 

A bank cannot lend all the money that it receives as deposits. There is a requirement of ‘Cash Reserve’. Every country’s law requires that banks have to keep a specified percentage (called Cash Reserve Ratio or CRR) of deposits, with the central bank of the country. Reserve Bank of India, set up under Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, is the central bank of India. (Central Bank of India is not the central bank of India; it is one of the commercial banks like say, State Bank of India or Axis Bank.) Bank of England and Federal Reserve Bank are the central banks of U K and U S A respectively.

In addition to CRR, banks in India have to keep aside a certain percentage of their deposits as Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR). As required under Banking Regulation Act, 1949, banks have to keep certain funds as ‘liquid assets’ in the form of cash at the Branches, Government Bonds etc. The purpose is to ensure that a bank should always have some liquid assets – cash and cash-equivalents which can be easily converted into cash – to meet its liabilities to its depositors.  The percentages of CRR and SLR are decided by the Reserve Bank of India. Funds in CRR and SLR are not available for lending. CRR and SLR are meant to ensure that a bank does not lend away all the money it collects as deposits.

Now how do banks create money? As a simplistic example, let us assume that the total deposit of a Bank A is Rs. 100 (deposited by Customer M) and it has to keep a total of 10% as CRR and SLR. Thus, equivalent of 90% of the deposits is available for lending. The bank lends Rs. 90 to Customer N. To meet his obligations, customer N issues a cheque for this amount to Customer P who deposits this cheque with Bank B. Bank B keeps Rs 9 (10% of Rs 90) as CRR and SLR and lends the remaining Rs. 81 to Customer C. Customer C deposits this amount of Rs. 81 in a bank, which lends keeps Rs. 8.1 and lends the remaining Rs. 72.90.    This process goes on till the funds remaining in the banking system becomes, equal to the total of CRR and SLR.

If we calculate at this stage, the funds in the banking system, with a deposit of Rs. 100, becomes Rs 343.90 (100 + 90 + 81 + 72.90= 343.90). Thus one can say that banks have created an additional amount of Rs. 243.90!       

This appears like jugglery! The whole system works on trust and credit. If the bulk of the borrowers fail to honour their commitments (promises), the system will start collapsing. But such a situation is highly unlikely and may happen only rarely. A few borrowers do default or fail to repay and banks have no alternative to write these off. This amount is comparatively low and goes to reduce the profit of the banks.

However, the preceding example is an over-simplified way of what actually happens.

Now, the original question: What is money?

If i go to Reserve Bank of India with a currency-note for Rs. 100, ask them to redeem the promise of their Governor and pay me the sum mentioned, what will they give? Money is an abstract concept. To say correctly, 'money' cannot be  seen or touched; money is purchasing power, a concept developed in society to facilitate exchange of value. It replaced the barter system which was an inconvenient and clumsy system of exchange.

TAIL PIECE:

It is easier to make money than to manage it!


   

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Sixty-nine and Ninety-six



It is said that marriages are made in heaven. In Odisha, it is believed that match-making is wholly in the domain of Lord Prajapati who decides who will be whose life-partner. That is why in marriage-invitation cards, the words ‘Om Shree Prajapatayeh Namah’ are printed on the top. Some marry the persons they have loved and some discover love in the persons they have married. In Hindu faith, it is believed that marriages are for 7 lives, that is, the same couple become life-partners in their 7 births, i.e., they marry each other in 7 lives. However, a couple does keep wondering as to which one of these 7 lives, is the present one. Some couples wish that this is their first life together so that they have this blissful union for this and six more lives; some couples hope that this is the seventh and last birth of their married life so that the ordeal is going to end soon!

Marriage is also called ‘wedlock’, that is to say;  the partners are ‘locked’ for whole life – or till they remain married. In a perfect marriage, the husband and the wife complement each other; their respective qualities are different but match with each other perfectly. Whatever one partner lacks in, is made up by the other.

In matrimony, the two partners are like 6 and 9. To ensure harmony, they should stay – and lie – like 69, complementing and supplementing each other, looking into the eyes of each other.


 This way, the two partners make a perfect circle, without any rough edge.

If they get into serious differences, they fall apart and become ‘96’, a position in which the partners lie and look, now also in opposite directions, but away from each other.



The situation becomes more complicated if a third person enters the marital zone. The position becomes 699 or 669 and the area becomes over-crowded. The extra person intrudes into the middle and the scenario  becomes 9-69 or 69-6! 


Marital fusion is like the Hindu concept of Ardhanareeshwar, the fusion of Shiva and Shivaa, of Prakruti and Purusha (male and female) to become one single entity. Ardhanareeshwar is half female and half male making one whole. Naree represents Goddess Durga (Shivaa) and Ishwar is Lord Shiva.
 
However, if the desirable marital position is ‘69’, why is the husband always the butt of jokes? Why is there an expression like ‘hen-pecked husband’? Why is there no ‘cock-pecked wife’? However, no lady will openly admit that her husband is a hen-pecked one! And no dominating husband is made fun of!

Males are advised not to succumb to marriage just because it seems to be the easiest solution to lust, loneliness and laundry.

   

In common parlance, the man of the house is supposed to be the ‘boss’ of the family, but the real boss seems to the lady. One must have come across this pun: A man had hung a plaque in his house saying, ‘I am the boss of the house and I have my wife’s permission to say so.’

Marital fights have their own role in a couple’s life. Without occasional tiffs, a marriage becomes a routine and a little boring. Making up after a cute little fight, makes life much sweeter. Maana Bhanjan in Hindu literature is a lovable concept. When the lady sulks after a tiff, the husband loves to do manabhanjan - to persuade his lady-love to give up sulking and to join in the marital bliss. I remember the line from Hindi cinema 'Ek hasinaa jab ruth jati hai, woh aur bhi hasinaa ban jati hai. (When a beautiful lady sulks, she becomes more beautiful!)

It is believed that the female partners love a good fight. There is the case where a husband was away and the lady felt distraught having no one to fight with. She went over to her neighbour asked the other lady, ”Sister, my husband is out of town; can i have a little fight with yours?”

And there is the case of another lady, whose husband was a master practitioner of yoga. He used to do some intricate ‘asan’s in which he almost warped his hands and legs in an unbelievable way. Once, when he was in such an asan, she went near him with her wooden rolling-pin and lovingly told him, “ Agar haddi todna hai, toh mujhe kah dia karo.” (Expanded meaning: If you want to break your bones, tell me. I can do it easily! Why are you taking so much trouble for this?)

A couple had a perfect marital life. The husband's friend asked him, "What is the secret of your success?" The husband replied, "There is a perfect understanding between us. We have distributed the areas where each of us takes decisions and the other does not interfere in it. My wife takes final decisions on internal matters like how to beautify our house, which school/college the children should go, how the money we earn is to be spent etc." The friend asked,"And what are areas allotted  to you?" The man replied, "External matters like what is to be done for global warming, whether India should vote against Sri Lanka in U.N.O. etc" 
  

TAIL PIECE:

In an assembly, the speaker in the course of his talk asked the men present in the audience, “Those of you who fear your wives, please come to the left side of the hall. Those who do not fear your wives, please come to the right side.”  A crowd came to the left side and there was a single man on the right side. The speaker looked at the lone man on the right side and said, “You must be a brave man. What is the secret of your success?” The man hesitated, scratched his head over his left ear, looked away from his wife and timidly said, “My wife asked me to come to this side.”

2. Teacher: Discovery is finding a thing which was already there but not known. Invention is creating a new thing. Give me examples.

Student: When my father was planning for marriage, he discovered Mama, Then they invented me.

3. There is a app for people who can't get home: it criticises your lifestyle and everything that you do; it bursts into tears when you talk back to it.



  
 

  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A House of Cards



By definition, ‘ a house of cards’ is a structure made by skillfully placing playing cards like a pyramid, the number of cards placed going down as the structure goes up, finally two cards at the top leaning on and supporting each other. Anything with a weak base, and as such prone to breaking down or collapsing is likened to a house of cards.

My house has become a house of cards in a different sense. At first came the Ration Card. Although it is called a ‘card’, it is actually a thin booklet. I do not know how and why it was given the name ‘card’, but it was virtually a passport to procure essential items like sugar at a subsidized rate. These items were ‘rationed’ out in fixed quantities, so that everybody would get these items which were in short supply.

After some time, a Ration Card became an ‘identity-document’, a proof that a person was indeed the person who he/she claimed to be.

At each transfer, i had to surrender the Ration Card at the old place, get a certificate and get a new Ration Card at the new place. I do not remember at which point i lost track of my Ration Card.

The next card to enter my house was the Driving License, Earlier, it was in the form of a tiny booklet. When I applied for renewal of my Driving License 2002, this booklet was replaced by a smart-looking card containing the details including my crudely-taken photograph.

Then came the ‘PAN Card’ issued by Income Tax Department, containing a number assigned to the concerned person for the purpose of correctly accounting the Income Tax payable/paid by that person. It contained a photo of the person and a facsimile of his/her signature. This became a more reliable identity-document as it contained a person’s photograph and his/her specimen signature.

Then T N Seshan ‘happened’ in India. When he became the Chief Election Commissioner of India, he emphatically declared ‘No Voter Card, No Election’. After the initial teething troubles, this became the norm and Voter Card, now essential for being able to cast one’s vote in an election, has become an identity-document.

Around this time, i felt that when as a banker, i was promoting my Bank’s Credit Card, it would not be proper if i myself do not possess such a card. So i got a Credit Card. I have read somewhere that a Credit Card is what you use to buy things which you do not need, to impress people you do not know. However, over time, i have experienced that this is not a correct statement, although it may be true on occasions.

(When Diners’ Card came it was an act of creativity. It was a way out of the desire for ‘Eat and don’t pay’ – that is, pay at your leisure.)

My Bank’s ATM Card-cum-Debit Card then entered my house. Although ‘ATM’ stands for ‘Automated Teller Machine’, the Bank has been publicizing it as ‘Any Time Money’. This card made banking transactions available 24 hours on all the seven days of the week.

Earlier, my Bank had given me an Identity Card indicating my status as an employee. When i retired, this card was replaced by another card as an ex-Executive of the Bank.

Soon after settling down to a blissful and contented retired life, i joined the Plant Lovers' Association, Bhubaneswar, as a Life Member. The Association promptly issued to me an i-card!

After that, i joined Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and received their i-card.
Soon after that, i purchased a new car. The earlier car had an ‘RC Book’ containing the Registration No. of the vehicle and other particulars. I do not know why it was called a Book, though it was only a Certificate of Registration made out on a single sheet of paper. For the new car, a similar ‘RC Book’ was issued, but the Certificate was accompanied by a smart card in which the particulars of the vehicle have been embedded. The ‘RC Book’ states that it is not valid without the smart card!

At this time, Odisha Police opened a ‘Senior Citizens’ Security Cell’ at each police station for providing better security to persons, including couples, over the age of 60 years living all alone. We promptly got ourselves registered and i was provided with another Identity Card. 

Then, two shopping malls from which we purchase our requirements, issued two cards, one ‘Pay-Back Card’ and the other a ‘Bonus Card’. Then one of these shopping malls formed what it calls Profit Club; by becoming its member, one can shop for a fixed amount each month for 12 months by paying 10 times this fixed amount. I joined this Club and was provided with a smart card for the purpose.

Before that, Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) was established and issued what can be called ‘the mother of all cards’, the Adhar Card. This smart card captures one’s finger-prints, iris - the ring of muscles in front of lenses of the eyes surrounding the pupil - a unique feature of one's eyes and all other personal details. This Card is meant to make most cards redundant and will open almost all the doors one needs to enter! The wife and i got our Adhar Cards.

So, how many cards do i have? I do not have the patience and the stamina to count them.

All these cards have one common purpose- to prove to the world that a person is the one who claims to be so! These days, one has to produce a documentary evidence of one’s identity whenever one steps out of one’s house. It is no longer  sufficient to say who you are; someone else has to certify that you are the one you claim to be!

Isn't an irony of life that one needs proof for everything including one's life, existence, one's birth and one's death! (As a pensioner, i am required to submit a certificate of existence - called Life Certificate in common parlance - every year to continue receiving my pension!)

If everyone were speaking the truth and only the truth, there would be no need for any i-card!!!

TAILPIECE:

Talking of the need for a certificate by another person to prove one’s identity, i am reminded of an anecdote. A calamity struck a place killing a large number of people. A doctor was drafted to examine each and affix a stamp ‘Dead’ on the bodies of those who had died. A vehicle with attendants followed him to carry away bodies marked ‘Dead’. When they tried to take away one marked ‘Dead’, he cried out,” Why are you taking me away? I am alive!” One of the attendants replied, ”Brother, do you know better than the doctor?”  


      
     

Friday, 1 November 2013

Phailin - Air, Breeze and Wind



The havoc wrought in Odisha recently by the cyclone Phailin (My post dated 22.10.2013) brought to mind the concept of wind. What is wind? Who has seen the wind? Nobody has and nobody can. Wind is blowing air. Air is all pervasive; air is omnipresent. When it becomes wind, it becomes omnipotent in a negative way; it can destroy anything and everything.

There is air, without which no living being can survive. Just as the space around a fish is full of water, the space around us is filled with air. When air blows gently, it becomes  breeze, cool, soothing and making us feel good. When air blows at high speed, it becomes wind and acquires a power of destruction. Air, breeze and wind appear to be like the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar. The first creates the living world, the second nurtures it and the third destroys it! In the divine order, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar are one and the same, just as air, breeze and wind are one and the same thing, only in different forms!

These days, we are familiar with the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’; however,  no weapon is as devastating as an angry storm. One may call them cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons; they differ only in their capacity to destroy. To identify each cyclone, meteorologists have started tagging each one of these with fancy names, often gentle feminine names. However, giving gentle names to them does not in any way reduce their destructive nature. Just as Shakespeare had said that a rose will smell as sweet in any name, a cyclone will cause havoc in any name.   

Like air, we need water. Drinking water in a tumbler is like air; water in a spring is like breeze and water in a flood is like wind!

There is a saying in Odia, ‘Jala bihune srusti nasha; jala bahule shrusti nasha (The creation cannot survive in the absence of water; it cannot survive in excess of water.) Flood is defined as ‘water in wrong time and in wrong place’. One area may be suffering from a drought; at exactly the same time, an adjacent area may be marooned by floods!   
 
Before becoming too philosophical, i must come down to earth. In my childhood, I had read the poem ‘Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti’ Here it is:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you;
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing thro'.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Phailin - The Emerald

I got a personal feel of ‘Phailin’, the 'very severe cyclonic storm' that ravaged coastal Odisha on the 12th October, 2013. It originated from a depression on the coast of Thailand and moved towards India. 

I live in the State Capital Bhubaneswar, which though touched by Phailin, was not seriously affected. The worst hit place was Gopalpur and the rest of Ganjam District. The area adjacent to Paradip Port also was severely affected. Gopalpur was lashed by wind with a speed of 214 kmph. Damages were slightly less at Puri, which faced a slightly higher wind-velocity of 223 kmph. Heavy rains lashed Odisha from the 11th. Rains and strong winds hit also Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. 

                             The wind in action

The Indian Meteorological Department in Bhubaneswar had forecast a wind speed of 230 kmph and wave height of 12 feet near the coast. The memory of the ‘Super Cyclone’ which had devastated Odisha on the 29th October, 1999 is still fresh. This time, the State Government was fully prepared and had taken the help of the Army, Navy and Air Force in its preparedness. The National Disaster Response Force also was deployed.The scheduled Government Holidays for Dussera were cancelled. Doctors on leave were called back. Before the cyclone, over 9.90 lakh people were evacuated from areas within 5 km from the coast. Some had to be shifted forcibly as people refused to leave their hearth and home. Hence the damages were less than anticipated. The government’s response to the disaster received commendation from the UN Special Representative for Natural Disasters. At Bhubaneswar, power and water supply, telephone and internet services were disrupted for 3 days. As a safety-measure, power supply was disconnected whenever the wind-velocity crossed 60 kmph. 

About 26 lakh trees were uprooted in the State and about 2000 live stock were killed. The State Govt. has put the total loss at Rs.15,000 Crore.

Phailin and the flood that followed ravaged 18 of the 30 Districts of Odisha. Forty-four persons were reported as killed. The cyclone left a trail of destruction damaging and ravaging more than 4 lakh houses.


       Fast asleep on what remains of her house

Six thousand school-buildings and standing crops on ove 6 lakh acres of farm-land were damaged. 

 Two young teak wood trees planted by me 4 years ago in my garden had grown to a height of 25 feet. These were uprooted. After about 15 years, these trees would have fetched about Rs. 2 lakh or more each.

Named ‘Phailin’

Neelam, Nargis, Nilopher, Sandy, Bijli, Mala, Rashmi, Helen, Priya – these appear to be names of attractive film-heroines, but they indeed are symbols of destruction and disasters. These are the names of cyclones.  

A tropical cyclone feeds on heat released by the condensation of moist air. The latent heat gets converted into kinetic energy and feeds the strong winds emerging out of it. One beneficial feature of tropical cyclones is that they carry heat and energy away from tropics to temperate zones and thus help in global atmospheric circulation.  A ‘tropical storm’ brings in wind-speeds of 63 kmph. When the speed exceeds 118 kmph, it is called hurricane.

Tropical cyclones are named to facilitate the communication between the forecasters and the public. Naming of cyclones started in the 20th Century. In the beginning, numbers or technical codes were used. An Australian started naming cyclones after politicians he disliked. During World War II, American meteorologists named cyclones after their wives and girlfriends. Then both female and male names were used. Now, cyclones are given names selected by Member-Nations of the World Meteorological Organisation. These names include those of men, women, flowers etc. In 2004, a formula was devised for naming cyclones in the Indian Oceanic Zone. The countries in this Zone are: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Each country submits a list of names selected by it. The earlier cyclones were named ‘Neelam’ (by Pakistan) and ‘Mahasen’ (by Sri Lanka). 

The recent cyclone was named ‘Phailin’ (by Thailand). ‘Phailin’ means 'emerald'. The list of names submitted by India includes Agni, Akash, Bijli, Jal, Lahar, Megh, Sagar and Vayu. Among the attractive ones in the Pakistani names are: Titli, Bulbul and Nilophar.

Planting lessons

Phailin has taught a lesson to city-planners about planting avenue trees. More than 20000 trees were uprooted in Bhubaneswar only, many of which were on roadsides. Fallen trees blocked roads. Slow-growing but deep-rooted and sturdy trees like mango, jamun, neem and banyan trees stood their ground against the gale but fast-growing trees like gulmohar, kadamba, eucalyptus, champa and teak succumbed to the strong wind.

TAIL PIECE: Two faces

Phailin united the staff and the prisoners in Chhatrapur (Ganjam) Jail. A 20-metre wall of the jail collapsed by the onslaught of heavy rain and gale; the prisoners stayed put and did not escape, providing relief to the worried jail staff.

Some criminals took advantage of the cyclone and the consequent power-cut and darkness, to burgle a jewelry shop in Bhubaneswar and took away gold and silver jewelry worth Rs 3 lakh.        

 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Truant Specs



This happened for the first time in the late 90s; my specs played truant. One day, in my Bank, i suddenly found that my specs were missing. Occasionally, i used to put down the specs on my table while working. I must have done the same that day. However, when i looked for it, it was not on my table. I searched for it among the papers lying there but it was not to be found!

 In the Bank, following the Management Concept of ‘Floor Walking’,  i used to occasionally walk around in the Banking Hall, to ensure that the customers were being served properly. In this process, i used to go the junior officers, sit in front of them for a while and then come back. I thought that while doing this, i might have removed my specs and kept it on some officer’s table. So i went around the whole banking hall and searched for my specs. But it had vanished into thin air!

I became sad at the thought of shelling out some money for an expense which was not necessary; however, i had no choice other than getting a new pair. For this i got my eyes tested once again, which also involved some outgo. Sometime before that i had read somewhere, “If you spend a hundred rupees on some item out of your own volition, you will not feel unhappy; if you lose a hundred rupees, you will definitely feel so.” Such a feeling engulfed my heart :(((((((((((

This feeling tapered off in a few days but got revived after some more days when a customer came to me, apologized profusely, took out a pair of specs from his brief case and handed it to me saying that on that day, he had by mistake put my specs which were lying on my table, in his brief case while leaving! He belonged to a far off place and could return it to me only during his subsequent visit!

Did i become happy on getting back my lost property? Or, unhappy at the revival of a sad feeling?

Since then, i have made it a practice, whenever i change my specs, to preserve the old specs to use it as a standby in case the specs in use go missing.

THE SECOND ACT

Five years after that, my specs repeated the disappearing act at another place. One evening, i discovered that my specs had gone missing. The wife and i turned the house upside down, searching for the missing treasure but it eluded us. I tried to recollect the places i had visited that day to think over the possibility of having left the specs there. We had gone to restaurant for lunch that day. Often i used to remove my specs while taking food, for better comfort. So there was a possibility of having left the specs there. I felt lucky to have brought the restaurant bill, which contained its phone number. I was about to call the restaurant when i remembered that we had gone there by car and i had driven it. I could not have driven during the return journey had i left the specs at the restaurant! :(((((((((((((((((((((

Where had the specs gone? Oh, where?

The wife had a flash! It might have gone with the kitchen-waste to the compost-pit in our backyard. What a weird idea, I wondered.

I have a penchant for gardening; wherever I have gone in the course of my job, i have set up a garden in all possible spots, in the backyard, on the roof-top, on the balcony, that is any spot where some soil can be placed. I used to utilize kitchen-waste to fertilise the soil. On my insistence, the wife puts two small bins in the kitchen for dumping the waste; one for non-biodegradable waste and the other for the biodegradable type. Daily, i take the second bin and disgorge the contents in my garden.

The wife felt - I do not know why- that the specs might have gone to one of these bins. The housemaid had already cleaned out the first; so there was no way to check it. So she (the wife) thought that we can look into the other one. The contents of the second bin also had been removed, i.e., transferred to the compost-pit in the garden. She asked me to go and look in the pit. I pooh-poohed the suggestion but on her insistence and because it was my specs to be searched for, i went and examined the pit. As i had predicted, the specs were not there.

The wife does not have faith in my ability to do anything worthwhile. Also, she does not give up anything so easily. She looked at me with disdain and asked our maid to do the search again, promising her a reward if she found the specs. The maid went to our backyard, triumphantly returned after about 10 minutes, with an ear-to-ear smile, proudly holding out my missing specs and demanded the promised reward! The wife threw another dismissive look towards me, took the specs and regally proceeded to fulfill her promise to the maid!! I sheepishly tried to suppress the happiness on my face at the retrieval of my lost accessory.             

Till today, i have not been able to decipher as to how the specs traveled all the way to the compost pit!!!

And, i have also not been able to know why the specs did not go to the other dust-bin, the one meant for receiving the non-biodegradable house-waste. Had it opted for this choice, it would not have been possible to retrieve it as the contents would have gone to the street-side garbage-bin and then, would have been taken away by the cleaning staff of the Municipal Corporation!  I thanked my luck for this.

LAST EPISODE OF THIS SERIAL?

My specs played for the third time recently. The open area in front of my house is of small size and it is filled with flowering plants and creepers. My backside garden is a largish area. I have planted flowering bushes in the area adjacent to the house. The remaining area is used as a kitchen-garden. I have started planting fruit-bearing trees in a part of this area. Sometime ago, I found that a few champa plants appeared there from nowhere. I was pleasantly surprised and have allowed these to grow. They were followed by two kadamba plants. I love kadamba flowers. Kadamba trees remind one about Radha-Krishna rasalila.  I treated these unplanted trees as pleasant gifts from nature to a nature-lover like me. However the kadamba plants grew very fast and became tall trees, overshadowing the fruit-bearing trees. So, reluctantly and with a heavy heart, i cut down one of these. Kadamba trees have spreading branches and large leaves. So, after rather cruelly felling the growing tree, i cut down its branches and separated the leaves. I spread this huge quantity of leaves in the garden to decompose and become natural manure. With all this work, i became tired and came back to the house to take some rest.

Oh, suddenly i discovered that the ridge on my nose was bare! The specs were not sitting there!

I entered the house and told the wife about the disappearing act of the specs. She let go a scream and asked me to go back to the garden and search. Giving up my desire for rest, i rushed back. A look at the big area covered with leaves nipped in the bud any hope of retrieving my lost property. However, I did search the area but soon lost hope and patience. When i came back to the house empty-handed and empty-nosed, the wife dispatched the maid-servant to do the search. Half-heartedly, i followed her. Both of us searched and searched but luck eluded us. She lost patience and started coming back; i followed her almost limping. Then i saw a spark; the rims of the specs, perched on a raised branch of the felled tree, were gleaming gloriously in the morning sun!!! A sigh of huge relief escaped my nostrils.

What was the wife’s reaction? Better i shall not tell.:)))))))))))         

I pray and hope that this will be last Episode in this Serial. 


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The First Born



If you utter a word before a baby, it imitates and parrot-like repeats the word. In the same way, when this morning, i received an overseas call to listen the words ‘Happy Birthday’, i repeated the two words.

It was a call from Daughter I, who lives in the U S of A, to wish me on my birthday. I repeated the two words to her as today is her birthday also. Yes, Daughter I and i share our birth day. It is a good coincidence. Both of us consider ourselves lucky for this.

First Born children have certain advantages over their later born siblings. Birth of the first child is a thrilling and exciting experience for a couple. The expectant mother dreams and plans about how she would welcome the family’s new member. The joys of the thought ‘I am going to have a baby.’ have few comparisons.

In Odisha, a special festival is earmarked for the first born child. It is called ‘Prathamastami’ which usually comes in November. On this day, the First Born gets new clothes. She/he takes bath early morning, wears new clothes and her face is decorated with chandan (sandalwood) paste.  The child’s maternal uncle provides these new clothes every year. Puja is performed and special ‘pitha’ (cakes) and other tasty dishes are prepared on this occasion. A special item called ‘Enduri Pitha’ is prepared. It is a steamed item made from rice, cheese, coconut, sugar and other ingredients. The dough along with the stuffing is placed in leaves of turmeric plants and then steamed. In the process of steaming, some juice of turmeric leaves enters the dough and gives enduri pitha its unique and distinct flavour and taste.

 Ou leaves also are used to prepare enduri pitha.‘Ou’ is a typical tree found in Odisha and some parts of West Bengal. It bears round fruits which are sour. The 5 petals of its flower evolve into a fruit. The fruit is added to some curries to give a sour taste. The fruit is also used to prepare a kind of mouth-watering pickles. Banana leaves also are used to prepare Enduri pitha. However, the unique flavour of enduri pitha can be had only by using turmeric leaves.

 The second and the other children are not given this special treatment.

When Daughter I was born, the wife was in her parental home in Odisha, India. I was in U P. The good news was conveyed to me by telegram. I have preserved this telegram (I have added a photo of this in my post ‘Mother Serious Stop Come Soon’ dated 26.06.2013. )


While in the school, she started learning Odissi dance.





  Later, she also started learning painting.






 It was a pleasant job to select a suitable match for her.


 

As in the case of all fathers, my eyes became moist when she went to her sasural.The mother's emotions were less controlled.


When this ‘baby’ of ours had her first baby (a girl), she told us proudly “I have made her.” I told her what i had seen in an advertisement for baby-food, ‘It feels like someone has taken out a part of you and yet has made you complete!’ 

Wish us a happy birthday!                  

Friday, 30 August 2013

Didi



Didi visited us and stayed with us for a few days last week.

She is the elder sister of one of my best friends; if i can rank my friends, her brother would occupy the Top Position. To be exactly correct, i should say ‘occupied’ because he is no more. He succumbed to cancer 9 years ago, when he was in his early fifties. Like him, i used to address her as ‘Didi’ and still do that.

I cannot describe how close we were; I can only say that we were very close. Our friendship lasted for exactly 40 years, that is, till he was called back. We became friends the day we began our College-life. We had the same subjects; we were in the same Tutorial Group. We were together till our Post-Graduate Course. However, our choice of careers made us take two different paths but we were always in touch. First there were letters written in long hand; this gave way to e-mails. Whenever we happened to visit our city at the same time, we were definitely meeting. Whenever one of us happened to visit the other’s place of work, we made it a point to meet each other. And each such meeting would start with a bear hug.

I have preserved most of his letters and print-outs of his e-mails. His last e-mail to me was on the 18th May, 2003.

Both brother and sister remained unmarried. After the death of their mother and father within a span of one and a half months, she took charge of his household while he remained engrossed in the demands of his job. On the 10th May, 2003, he mailed me saying that he had undergone an operation to remove a tumour which was found to be benign. So I felt relieved. Four months later he informed me that another tumour, this time malignant, had developed below his knee and doctors were considering the option of amputation of a leg. He was worried more about Didi regarding how she would manage when he won’t be around. Shortly thereafter, the cancerous growth overpowered him.

That was the beginning of Didi’s ordeal. She did not find any encouragement from her uncles and cousins.

This was a trial by fire for her. She emerged as a strong person, steeled her mind and took courage in both her hands. She decided to live her own life and took charge of her life.

He was in Central Govt. Service and was posted in Delhi when the end came. In spite of all the efforts of her well-wishers and his admirers in the Govt. she did not get family-pension or other benefits from Govt., as a sister is not entitled for these as per Govt. Regulations. Meanwhile, compounding her problems, some unsocial elements tried to take advantage of her helpless position and grab her parental home and the land on which it stood.

She was undaunted. She took a momentous decision. She decided to sell it off the sprawling parental house and live in my city which is nearby. God helped her. She found a person who was a good friend of her father and who agreed to let a portion of his building. With the help of some kindly persons, she quickly disposed off her parental house and occupied the rented accommodation. She has been living there since 2004. Another close friend of ours, who was a high ranking Govt. Officer and a couple of erstwhile subordinates of my deceased friend, provided her with moral and logistical help.

The courageous lady lives all alone there and manages everything herself.

My job had taken me all over India. So i had no means for helping her settle down. I retired in 2009 and settled in this city. Sine then, i have been giving her a little moral support to live a reasonably trouble-free life. The interest on funds left by her brother and the sale-proceeds of her parental house takes care of her financial needs.

I shall cite only one example of the grit and determination of this courageous lady, who never admits defeat. She lives all alone and occasionally, memories of her loving brother overwhelm her. On one such time, she felt very depressed and was choked with emotion. She could not swallow the food she was taking. She felt like giving up the effort and just lying in her bed. The next moment, she gathered back her courage and decided to fight the depression head on. She told herself that if she would not take food, she would die and that would be letting down her brother. So after pushing each morsel to the food channel in her mouth, she drank some water to force the food to go inside!
  
I salute the indomitable spirit of this brave lady.
        








Thursday, 15 August 2013

Happy Independence Day

Let us celebrate India's Independence Day this year with Vande Mataram in Odissi Dance choreographed by Sharmila Mukherjee!
 

TAIL PIECE
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time. - E B White

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Food for Thought



I don’t know when the buffet-system came to India but it has spread like wildfire. A buffet is a meal set on tables from where people help themselves.

Earlier, on events like marriages and other social occasions, the guests were requested to sit on mats spread out on floors to be served the common meal. Plantain-leaves cut to size and thoroughly washed, were laid in front of each person. The different items of the meal were served on this for consumption of each guest. There were servers, each carrying a container filled with an item of the meal, going around and serving it to the guests. They would entreat and beseech each guest to have a little more of the item. The host would go round to ensure that each guest was served well and would tell the server to give a little more of the dish to this guest or that one. He would often press the guests to have a little more. This practice is still prevalent in some rare cases.

Then came benches and long tables so that the guests would not have to squat to have the meal. Servers going around and the host going to each guest, pressing her/him to have a little more continued. Guests did not have to ask to get the meal.

There were occasions when a particular guest would like to have a little more of a particular item. Hesitating to ask openly for an item, she/he would ask the server to give that particular item to the person sitting next to her/him. The server would get the hint; he would give the item to the person for whom it would be asked as well as to the first person. This way, the person would be seen as one taking care of another and he himself would get what he wanted. The joke was that kheer got the synonym of tasmai as a result of this practice. ‘Tasmai’ in Sanskrit means ‘to him/her’. The first person would ask the server to give kheer to ‘tasmai’ (to the other person). This way, kheer got the alternative name ‘tasmai’!

Pangti Bhojan’  (sitting in a line and being served) has given way to the buffet system. In this, various items of food are laid in a row on tables. Guests have to move along these tables from dish to dish and pick up the items of their choice.  The sympathetic Hindi equivalent of ‘buffet’ is ‘swaruchi bhojan’ - having food-items of one’s choice. This term refers to the fact that out of the fare laid out on the tables, one can choose the items of one’s choice. The adversarial translation of the term is ‘khade khade khana’ (eating while standing).  

The advantages of the buffet system are that it needs less effort and a little lower expense by the host. It requires less sitting arrangement and less management. Only a few chairs are provided; most of the guests take food, standing.

However, with the buffet system, all the personal touches are gone or are heavily diluted. Guests have to first queue up to get the plates and again queue up before the tables on which the food items are placed. Most of the time, there would be a big rush before the tables and one has to struggle to get food. A guest has to stretch out his/her hands (like a beggar?) to be served by attendants. (Of course in some cases there won’t be any attendant; one has to follow self-service system.) Instead of the food coming to you, you have go to the food! The guest’s woes do not end there; after moving in the queue to be served the different items, he/she has to balance the food-laden plate on the fully-stretched palm of one hand and eat with the other, standing unsteadily all the while! If the attention is slightly diverted or the guest is not very careful, the plate would tilt and the contents would drop either on her/his clothes, or on those of the persons standing nearby. Sometimes, while moving a little to have some space, the guest would trip, causing embarrassment. Of course, a few chairs are provided to enable one to sit and have food comfortably but the number of chairs provided is grossly insufficient to accommodate even a fraction of the number of guests invited. Sometimes, this leads to musical chairs. If after having secured a chair, one leaves to get a second helping, one would come back to find that the chair has been occupied by another struggling guest. :((((

Caterers play a trick to reduce consumption of costly items. They place the less costly items at the beginning of the row and the costly items (including non-vegetarian items) at the end, so that by the time a guest reaches there, his/her plate would be more or less full and he/she would feel embarrassed to take too much of these items.

Many times the rush dissuades a guest to go for a second helping. Often there is an array of less costly but more luring and inviting pre-meal items like pani puri (golgoppa), chat, papdi chat, etc. So by the time one goes for the main dishes, one’s stomach is already full!  However, there are exceptions where more costly and tasty pre-food starters are provided.

Of course, many of these problems are taken care of in buffets organized by people in the higher income group as also in star hotels.

Have I given you some food? Some food for thought?

Bon appetit!       

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Rainbow of Dances

At the start of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Indian classical dance forms Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi were presented in the Opening Ceremony. These presented a colourful rainbow. Here it is.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Kalidas' Nayikas in Odissi Dance

In my post 'An American Odyssey' of 25th Sept. 2012, I have added a video of Kalidas's heroines presented by the American danseuse Sharon Lowen in Odissi dance.

Here is another video on Kalidas's nayikas in Odissi dance, this one presented by Anandi Ramachandran.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Daughter-in-law



God has given me two wonderful gifts in the form of two daughters; I do not have a son. Yet recently I got a still more wonderful gift: a brand new daughter-in-law!

My younger brother expired about 3 years ago; his wife had predeceased him. Their two sons are attached to us. I had constructed a house long back and had no opportunity of living in it till my retirement 4 years ago. The building has a separate, independent and self-contained room. This was like a family guest house. Whichever member of our family, including me, visited this State Capital for some work, would stay there and attend to the purpose of his/her visit. Years ago, the younger son of this brother of mine occupied this room when he came to Bhubaneswar for studies. His parents were alive then. The older boy was studying elsewhere and after taking up a job, now lives where his job takes him. Soon after my retirement and his father’s death, the younger boy got a non-transferable job at the place and so, continues to live in that room and with us. Now we are a four-some: the wife, me and these two nephews, who are like our two sons.

After the death of my younger brother, the pleasant job of getting the boys married fell on us.

There was this reed of pretty girl, who is very distantly related to us. She and the elder boy had several occasions to meet at social events. They developed a liking for each other. He let this known to us. Due to some reasons which are not relevant to mention here, a few members of our extended family did not like the match. However, in so many subtle and not-so-subtle words, he made it transparent to us that he would like only her - and no other girl- as his life-partner.  I spoke to them. Some were persuaded; others acquiesced in.

So the proposal was taken ahead. The wife and I took charge. The marriage took place 2 weeks ago. Everything went off almost as planned.

One thing that touched and moved me was the way the girl wept copiously when she finally left her parents’ house for her new home. It was really heart-rending and touched my emotions. In the car that she was brought to our house, I was sitting in the front; the newly-wedded youngsters were in the back-seat. The journey took three quarters of an hour. Weeping gave way to sobbing and her sobbing went on over half the way. She could not still regain control over her emotions and even after the sobbing slowed down, her convulsive catching of breath continued till we almost reached the door-steps of our house.

This took me back to my childhood days. The weeping of a young bride at the time of leaving for her husband’s house was a much more prolonged affair then. The bride would catch hold of her mother, father, brothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts and most other members of her parental family one by one and would weep bitterly and really hard, so hard that she would often faint. Ahead of the departure-time, the family-members would be ready with all methods to revive her. Due to deep weeping, the brides’ teeth would sometimes get locked as she fainted. Her jaws would be separated with the help of keys.

There were a number of weeping-songs that the would-be bride would start learning and practicing with her friends much before the marriage. There is a rich literature of such lyrics in Odia. These were folk-songs in which the bride would entreat and beseech her parents and others about how difficult her life would be in her husband’s place. (I have a book of collection of these songs.)    

All these are past. In those days girls were always living in the protective environment of their parents’ houses. They would never have to leave their homes before marriage except of course for visits to relatives. With the spread of female-education, girls started going to schools away from home and to colleges far away. They started staying in college-hostels and women’s-hostels in cities. This way, girls, many of whom took jobs after education, started living away from parents and developed a sense of independence. Pangs of separation from parents got diluted and so leaving for her husband’s house after marriage became less and less painful for a girl. Weeping bitterly at the time of leaving the parental home after marriage, lost its strength and depth. This literature is now extinct and now can be accessed only at Research Centres.

This girl whom we brought to our as our niece-in-law, was just out of her Degree College. I gathered that she had always lived in the cocoon of parental care. She had studied in a college near her home and so, had never to stay in a hostel. She is the youngest daughter and as such her parents always fussed over and hovered around her taking care she would not face the slightest difficulty in anything or anywhere.

As I have said, I have no son. I have seen and have been told that in bringing up children, it is easier to handle girls than to manage boys, particularly adolescent boys. Yet, as luck would have it, we have been handed down two boys - without having to go through the task of bringing them up. Now, we have been gifted with a daughter-in-law; a second one would come in a couple of years hence.

My nephews address me as uncle – as they were doing before the death of their parents. This new addition to our family calls me ‘Bapa’ (father). Early morning everyday, after taking bath, she comes to me and touches my feet.   

We had got two ready-made sons; now we have got a daughter-in-law.

The couple will leave for his place of work in a few days. The pangs of separation are being transferred to the two of us.:(((((((((((((

Just before her entry to our house, she was weeping; now her smiles brighten up wherever she goes. Our life is becoming fuller:)))))))))))))))))) 


ADDENDUM:

 BRIDES OF INDIA - Postage Stamps:

 
Kashmiri Bride
Kashmiri Bride
Tamil Bride
Tamil Bride
Rajasthani Bride
Rajasthani Bride
Bengali Bride


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

NATARAJA DANCE

Lord Shiva, Nataraja, is the original dancer. The title Natya Shashtra, the definitive treatise on dance,is derived from his name.

I loved this clip on Nataraja Dance. Here it is: 



This dance is apparently inspired by a statute of the dancing Lord Shiva Inside a ring-like device in a  temple in Tamil Nadu.

A replica of this statue occupies a pride of place in my drawing room. Most visitors admire it and often, it serves as a good conversation-piece.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

SOHAM ASMI - I'M THAT


Here is a wonderful clip on Odissi dance:

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

MOTHER SERIOUS STOP COME SOON

MOTHER SERIOUS STOP COME SOON

This is the message that Sagar – let us call our protagonist by this name - received by a telegram sent by his father. He rushed to his place without giving a thought to the wording of the message. He did not stop to think as to when his mother was ever in a lighter mood. She was always serious – serious about whatever she was engaged with at any time. Rarely would she be in a lighter mood!  

What Sagar did, is beside the point. What we are concerned here is the correct meaning of the words of the telegram. To go strictly by rules of English Grammar and Composition, the message should have been worded as: MOTHER SERIOUSLY ILL STOP COME SOON.  But that is the way telegrams are worded – and understood correctly. One thing to be noticed here is that in telegrams inessential words like verbs are omitted to cut cost and since punctuations cannot be transmitted by telegraph, the word ‘STOP’ is used at the end of each sentence.

For long years, I used to think that ‘telegram’ and ‘telegraph’ were one and the same thing although I had noticed that the agency handling telegrams was named ‘Department of Post & Telegraph’ and never ‘Dept. of Post & Telegram’.  This was till I found out that ‘telegraph’ is the means, the process, the equipment by which a message is sent and telegram is the message, the product!

                                                        The Telegraph Equipment

All this quibbling is going to end soon. As this service has become un-remunerative, Bharat Sanchar Nigam, which took over the telegram service from the Dept. of P & T in 1990s, will discontinue it from the 15th July, 2013. Much earlier, the minimum charge for sending a telegram containing 8 words including the address was Rs. 3.50. (For messages exceeding 8 words, there was a charge for each additional word.) Then the minimum charge was increased to Rs. 4.50. In May, 2011, the minimum charge was increased to Rs. 27.50 to cover a part of the cost. (I can’t understand why there is always that 50 paise and the charge is not in round Rupees like Rs. 3 or Rs. 5.).Despite this steep increase in charges, the total expenditure of BSNL on the service in 2011-12 was Rs. 149.37 Crore while the revenue earned was a meager Rs. 13 Crore! Reports say that U K had discontinued this service in 1982 and U S A did so in 2006.

There has been a revolution in telecommunication in India and due to widespread use of e-mails and mobile phones, particularly SMS, telegraph service, like sending of letters has fallen into disuse. In 1985, there were more than 4500 Telegraph Offices in India. At present there are only 75 Telegraph Offices in the whole country. Telegrams, which came into use in India in 1850, i.e., more than 160 years ago, are going to be extinct by the Darwinian principle of ‘Survival of the fittest’. Just as TV has almost killed radio and mobile phones are killing land phones, digital communication is going to push telegrams to history.

To mark the demise of telegram, Amul, in its series of brief and witty ads, has released an ad titled, TELEGRAM FULL STOP. This headline is followed by ‘ut-taar-ly – Butterly Delicious, bringing to mind its slogan - ‘Amul. Utterly Butterly Delicious’.


However, telegrams have their uses. Telegrams and telegraph-receipts are accepted by courts as proof of delivery of communication. The military uses this service most. Requests of employees for sanction or extension of leave are permitted on the basis of telegrams, not phone calls. Since telegrams are sent by wire, such a messages themselves are often called ‘wire’. Banks receive Bills for collection and quite often one of the instructions of the sender would be, ‘Advise Payment by Wire’, meaning, when the Bill is paid by the Drawee, the Bank should send a telegram to the sender.

In 1792, Claude Chappe of France devised what was then called ‘Optical Telegraph’. To overcome the problems of Optical Telegraph, the American painter Samuel Morse developed electric telegraph in 1836. His assistant Alfraid Vail developed what is called the ‘Morse Code’ signaling alphabets, with Morse. On the 24th May, 1844 year, Morse sent the first telegraphic message from Washington DC to Baltimore. It read as: WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT. His ‘taare takka’ was the expression of a kind of sound.  The telegraph was first used in British India in 1850. The first telegraph line was established between Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Diamond Harbour on the Hoogly. Telegraph facility was made available for commercial use in 1854 in India. Then the oceans were wired and a direct link was established between London and Calcutta. East India Company which was ruling India at that time, used the system of telegraph to suppress the ‘ Sepoy Mutiny’ (the First War of Indian Independence) of 1857.

At the receiving end, telegrams get typed, all in capital letters, on strips of white paper which are pasted on a pink form and then are delivered in or without an envelope. Arrival of a telegram invariably increases the heart-beat of the recipient. It may bear good or bad tidings. It may announce the birth of a child, death or success of a near one, a congratulatory message for the addressee or the journey-plan of a visitor.

For bringing into the world our First Born, the wife had gone to her parents’ place. At that time I was working in a small District Head Quarters town in U P. The birth of Daughter I was conveyed to me by a telegram. I have carefully preserved this valuable document among other memorabalia. Here it is.


When Daughter II arrived, use of telephone had become more popular. So this news was conveyed to me over telephone. So I had no way to preserve such nostalgic news carried on pink paper, for posterity. Daughter II and I will always miss it.
 
The impeding death of telegram brings to mind how Trunk Calls have come to disuse after the telecom revolution ushered in STD- Subscriber Trunk Dialing. Before that, for talking to a person in another place one had to call the Telephone Exchange and book a Trunk Call. Trunk Calls came in 3 forms, Ordinary, Urgent and Lightening.  The operator at the telephone would receive these bookings, note such  requests in serial order and call the bookers one by one in that order. A separate list would be made of requests for Urgent Calls. For Lightening Calls, the telephone operator would give the connection immediately. The charges for Urgent Calls were double that for Ordinary Calls. The charge for a Lightening Call would be much higher. That was the time when for making even a local call, one had to call the Telephone Exchange, tell the operator the telephone number of the person one wanted to talk to  and request the operator to give the connection! And for talking over Trunk Calls, one had to shout with full lung-power to be able to be heard at the other end!!

When I joined my Bank, my seat was next to the Officer who was in charge of maintaining the Position of Sale and Purchase of Foreign Exchange. He used to make  and receive calls to and from various Branches of the Bank all over India for this purpose. The poor fellow would have to shout over Trunk Calls throughout the day and would have a sore throat and coarse voice at the end of each day.

Telegrams have to be brief. Sometimes, this brings unintended fun. In a rural Branch of the Bank, there was only one Officer who was the only Authorised Signatory in the Branch. Whenever he had to go on leave another Officer of the Bank used to come from the Divisional Office to take charge of the Branch. The poor fellow’s wife met with an untimely death; he sent a telegram to the Divisional Office, ‘WIFE EXPIRED STOP SEND SUBSTITUTE’.  

During the war of Independence of Bangladesh in 1970-71, the U S Consul General Archor Blood used to send diplomatic dispatches from Dhaka, giving details of atrocities being committed by the Pakistani military on Bengalis there. Archor Blood’s telegrams detailing the bloody genocides were called ‘Blood Telegrams’, the term aptly carrying a double meaning.

Napoleon loved the body-odour (fragrance if you like) of Jesophine. While returning from one of his successful military campaigns, he sent a telegram to her saying, ‘DON’T WASH I AM COMING’.

Dorothy Parker sent a telegram to her friend who just had a baby, ‘DEAR MARY – WE KNEW YOU HAD IT IN YOU’.   

Mark Twain sent a telegram to a newspaper, ‘RUMOURS OF MY DEATH ARE VASTLY EXAGGERATED’. The author of this terse telegram received a telegram from his publisher, ‘NEED 2-PAGE SHORT STORY TWO DAYS’. Promptly he telegraphed back, ’NO CAN DO 2 PAGES TWO DAYS STOP CAN DO 30 PAGES 2 DAYS STOP NEED 30 DAYS TO DO 2 PAGES’.

TAIL PIECE:

Oscar Wilde once wanted to know how his new book was selling. He sent to his publisher a message “?”. His publisher matched the brevity with brevity and wit with wit by replying “!”.  

2. "Goodbye, telegram. And goodbye letters in envelopes, goodbye post office, goodbye beautiful days, goodbye childhood , goodbye happiness." - Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi writer living in India, on the end of telegraph service.

POST SCRIPT
July 15, 2013

On July 14,2013, the last day in the life of telegrams in India, a Member of Parliament from Odisha sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of India saying, "THIS IS THE LAST TELEGRAM".

9 P M of that day was the time for withdrawing telegraph service. There was a big rush at most of the Telegraph Offices in India that day as people wished to say 'Goodbye' by sending a last telegram:(((((

Many of the visitors were first-timers who wanted to send souvenir messages to friends and family. A techie at Bangalore sent a telegram to his wife saying "I LOVE YOU STOP". He said that his wife always complained that he had never proposed to her; he sent the telegram to STOP her complaint. The revenue earned by BSNL on the last day was a whooping Rs. 69 Lakh!