Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Flooded emotions

Some incidents leave an indelible mark on your memories. This is one of such incidents which happened a good 20 years back. Although I was only a bystander when I witnessed it, but still I remember the details as if I was playing an active part in it.

It was 1997, when I was at the crossroads of youth and childhood, then age when you are not old enough to be given independent responsibilities but neither are young enough to be entirely elive without them. The circumstances ensure, that I was getting some good training for interacting with the big, bad world, waiting for me out there and hence I was given the errand of getting my elder sister's B-school project approved from her project guide. Now the approving lady worked for one of the most corrupt business houses in Lucknow. Well, the organisation culture flows from top down and the project guide made no effort to cover her insecurity and rudeness by making us go through endless iterations on the pretext of improving the quality. It may take a complete page to describe the her vile behavior and how people with inferior credentials behave when they are entrusted with an iota of power. But, let's reserve it for some other day focus on the one, I have in my mind.

It was one of these routine visits, where I would go to the project guide with a printout of the Summer Training report and she would find some frivolous excuse to reject it. I was replaying the whole routine in my mind when walking close to the elevator door. The journey to the 7th floor from ground floor took around 30 seconds and I had the privileged company of 2 beetle leaf chewing office boys. Their heavy accent indicated that they were from Eastern Uttar Pradesh, which was recently hit by floods. I do not remember the exact words which were exchanged between them, but their conversation went something like this - 

Ofc Boy 1 : So, your village has been hit by floods., eh ? There must've been a lot of destruction, right ?
Ofc Boy 2 : Yeah... yeah... All the crops are gone, the entire village is flooded and I don't even know how my family is doing or where are they right now. My parents and my wife are missing.
Ofc Boy 1 : You lucky bastard, you are already a rich man. You can always get another wife with that kind of money
Ofc Boy 2 : (Smiles and retorts)... Who stopped you from sending your family to your village ?

Although, my face did not betray any emotions at that moment. But, somehow this 30 seconds of unintended lessons in priorities of life has been permanently etched in my mind. I was flabbergasted by the apathy of Ofc Boy1, who was totally unmoved and rather happy that his family had been washed away in floods. It seems that the benefits of the compensation outweighed any emotional loss, which he would have endured.

Over the years, I have thought about this incident multiple times but never been able to fully analyse how could those those guys be so casual about their family and place money above everything else. Perhaps and fortunately so, I do not understand this and may never would want to, either.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grey Bankers - Shiva on a Scooter - Story 1

Hello Folks,

I grew up in a banker's family, where my Dad and all his brothers worked for RBI and SBI. While growing up, I inadvertently gathered some of the funniest anecdotes involving bankers, which by the way are in stark contrast to their socially profiled image of being somber, grey characters. Anyways, without wasting much time. I'll come straight to the first narration in this series.

This happened in summer months of year 1987, deep inside Dudhwa National forest, which in Northern part of India. In the heart of this remote land, there exists a tribe known as Tharu tribe. Prior to their contact with so called "Civilized" world they were almost self sufficient and had little or no contact with society. But, as part of Welfare Banking, SBI (State Bank of India, if you don't know it, you sure ain't an Indian), opened a remote Tharu branch to integrate them into the society.

This branch was staffed by 2 persons, out of which one acted as Branch Manager cum Officer cum Clerk and the other staffer performed the combined duties of Guard, Peon and Cleaner. Since, there were little worldly comforts in forest area and only wild animals to keep you company in the evening. So, these two positions were filled by rotating staffers from SBI, Lakhimpur Kheri Main Branch.

It was around 3 o'clk on Friday afternoon and Mr Sharma (Incumbent Branch Manager, Tharu branch) was spending his time sipping his umpteenth cup of tea and listening to the stories about village life from Thakurdin (Guard, Peon...), when in distance he saw a dust cloud rising. Instinctively, he got up from his seat and heard the distinct sputtering note of Bajaj Chetak 150. His reliever Mr Khushwaha was supposed to arrive by 12 noon, so that he could have left for Lakhimpur before it got dark. But, still he was happy that his reliever was arriving and if hurried up, he could still be in time to catch the last bus back home.

As the dust cloud grew nearer, the silhouette of Mr Khushwaha started becoming clearer. Mr Sharma still could recognize him, but was surprised that for some strange reason, the unshapely, MrKhushwaha was riding the scooter, bare chested. He thought, perhaps that was one of the ways of surviving the hot climate, but soon his line of thought disintegrated as the Bajaj Chetak 150 sputtered to a stop in front of the 3 room concrete shack, which was called SBI branch. Bespectacled Mr Khushwaha, put the scooter on stand and faced obviously surprised Mr Sharma and Thakurdin.

It seemed so, that Mr Khushwaha was wearing his black rimmed looking glasses, a fine layer of dust and nothing else. He was looking more like a NAGA Sage or JAIN Priest or modern incarnation of Lord SHIVA with his black CHETAK 150 serving as Nandi bull, rather than an SBI Officer. He was visibly agitated and was blabbering something completely incoherent to Mr Sharma. The first thought which came to Mr Sharma's mind was that Mr Khushwaha was trying to create a scene, to skip his 2 month posting in deep jungle. In the past, several people had tried some tricks semi-successfully like there was a certain gentleman whose motorcycle always punctured on his way to Tharu branch and another one's infinte number of Mausi's left for heavenly abode as soon as he was given marching orders.

As demanded by humanity he was calmed down by a glass of water and was quickly handed over a towel by visibly irritated Mr Sharma to cover his family jewels. Listening to his semi coherent statements, Mr Sharma, understood that he was robbed by 3 youths on the main road some 15-20 kms away and stripped down to his under wears. His torturers contemplated on whether to take his scooter, but could not do so for two reasons. Firstly, they did not know how to ride one and secondly, they did not want Mr Khushwaha to become unwilling participant in Project Tiger by being eaten alive by one of the big cats. So, they spared his life (and scooter) and let him go after he pleaded that he would never reveal this incident to anyone.

But, now sitting safely in the SBI premises, Mr Khushwaha was agitated and in the true spirit of politicians of today, was trying to convince Mr Sharma that it was not an assault on an individual but on SBI as an organization.

Puzzled, by this happening Mr Sharma was now sitting calmly in his chair contemplating his next course of action. Since, he was the sole representative of Government of India, in the whole 50 KM radius and held powers similar to that of a District Magistrate, so the onus of taking action rested on his shoulders (and of course, pot belly). Incidents, like this were unheard off in the region, as the Tharu tribe was still not fully exposed to idiosyncrasies of"Civilized" world, but what can be said. Twirling the SHARP Ball Point pen in his fingers, he cleared his throat and said, "Well, let's go to see the tribal headman, as he would certainly know something about it".

Mr Khushwaha was hurriedly clad in an ill fitting trouser, so that Tharu's should not mistake him as one of their brethren and all 3 made their way to the tribal headman's hut. The incident was narrated to the headman, this time in a more coherent fashion. On listening to his incident, the color changed on headman's face and although he kept on feigning ignorance, but still he promised to do some investigation on his own and report back.

Due to these happenings, Mr Sharma obviously could not leave for Lakhimpur and stayed the night at SBI premises. Around 7 am in the morning, all 3 SBI flag bearers were assembled around the hand pump, cleaning their teeth with Neem Datoon, when out in the woods they heard some commotion. The village headman along with 2 of his strong men, was bringing in 3 youths, by prodding them  with sticks, half walking and half dragging them towards bank premises. As soon as this contingent of 6 reached the premises, Mr Khushwaha again blew his safety valve and started hitting the 3 youths with the Bata leather sandals that he was wearing.

The youths were profusely apologizing, but this was having little affect on Mr Khushwaha, whose agitation was growing exponentially, by the seconds. Soon, the headman, barked something to the youth, in his dialect, and they hurriedly took off the clothes which they were wearing. Mr Khushwaha slightly calmed down by this action but still kept hurling verbal expletives.

In retrospect, it was discovered that these 3 youths had decided to go on a pleasure trip to one of the nearby towns, but since they had no means of procuring the money. So, they laid out a plan to rob an unsuspecting plebian. Little did they know, that unsuspecting Mr Khushwaha would land in their trap and serendipity would make this case known to the tribal headman. It was also found out that the clothes these youths were wearing at the time of their so called "Arrest" belonged to Mr Khushwaha and this was the cause of his bout of his second agitation.

The matter was swiftly brought to justice by ordering those youths to become Murga, for one whole day (A kind of corporal punishment) and by offering the real Murga (Chicken), local liquor and other local goodies to the bankers. Now, I would not comment on if these offers were accepted, as it may result in triggering of a debate with a certain Section of Political supporter (Election times, you see). But, all I would say that the matter was amicably resolved, with headman taking responsibility that no such incidents would be repeated in future, in his area.

Posting in exotic Tharu branch still remained an exciting experience for the SBI officers, but post this incident both the "Civilized" world and the Tharu tribe definitely learnt something about each other. By now, I am sure, this tribe would have vanished by fully integrating in the main strata and I can't comment, if it has happened for good or bad. But, I still want to thank them for this wonderful story which remained a topic of conversation (and embarrassment of Mr Khushwaha) at office parties for a long time.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mustafa Mustafa - Don't worry Mustafa

Scene 1 - 

Time & Location - Some day in year 2002, on a Bright Sunny Morning Lecture Hall in one of the Top 10 B-Schools (As per Rigged b-school Ratings 2001)

Actors - A PhD in Supply Chain Professor, who has all the rich experience of learning about the SCM in classrooms and the nearest he has been to the term "Chain" would be his Bike Transmission Chain. Also, starry eyed, 40 odd senior year B-school Grads, who pack the deadliest mix of Arrogance and Ignorance and are ready with their armor of business suits.

Context - Following the much acclaimed pedagogy (Teaching Methodology, for the folks who did not go through the pain of cramming GMAT word list), the learned professor was trying to awake the disinterested class by creating an aura of the Super Efficient Singapore based Mustafa Mall's Supply Chain based on highly Calculative, Scientific, Economical, Algorithmic, Operations Managemental, Statistical and Numerical Analysis principles falling just short of Artificial intelligence Application. Half of the students, who were in the class for finding something about Supply Chain, were amazed by this State of the Art example and immediately built an image of a Shopping mall designed and operated by folks whose average IQ could've beaten NASA employees. The remaining were pupils were couldn’t care less folks, mostly work experienced guys, were in the classroom because of single motivation of trying to get the attention of some damsel, perhaps 5-6 years younger, by trying to ask some incredibly stupid questions, but no one had the heart to tell this group to stop these antics because of respect for their age and thinning hairlines. Anyways, those who were paying any attention, including yours truly, made a mental note of exploring this dazzling example of Supply Chain, if such an opportunity presented itself in future. Of course, such mental notes were stored in short term memory and were erased routinely.

Scene 2 - 

Time & Location - A bright Sunny and Rainy Sunday afternoon in year 2012, somewhere in Little India, Singapore.

Actors -Yours truly, a horde of folks from Indian subcontinent (Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians) and some dazed tourists

Context - I was standing in an ocean of people, trying to locate the Mustafa Mall, looking in one direction as pointed by someone in the crowd. On observing intently, I noticed the jade colored letters MUSTAFA, mixing well with the dust laden and Cheap Neon signs put up by other businesses in Little India. I quickly swallowed the lump in my throat and wiped off the look of disbelief before starting to walk towards the Sign Board. Somehow, during this short walk, the Snazzy 10 year old mental picture of a spick and span Mall was quickly getting metamorphosed into something of a large Indian store in a foreign land.

CRM - I was rudely stopped at the gate by an unknown language speaking guard and told to get something done at the next counter. I quickly realized that he wanted me to get the security tag on my laptop backpack as with my student glasses; I fitted into the typical profile of a shoplifter. Marked with a fluorescent colored tag secured backpack, I gingerly entered the store half expecting another admonishing. But, the sentry looked nonchalantly to the other side, graciously allowing me in. Soon, I found myself on a floor filled with Clothing Merchandise, the first look, triggered the thinking that perhaps I was in their warehouse section. But, on wading through the section, I soon realized that it’s the Space Optimal way of storing merchandise, where you stack everything on top of each other till you reach the rooftop. Of course, the tradeoff is after a few topples of these cloth towers, you've got to be really determined and possess the skills of an experienced diver to find out the right combination of design and size and God forbid if the staff catches you in indulging in this exercise, you will be tersely asked "What Size?" and will receive a reply "Don't have", which practically translates into "back-off and don't increase my workload.

Stock Management - How can so much of stock fit inside such a volume, should itself be a Theoretical Physics problem. But, to add spice to this otherwise simple issue, for some strange reason, the staff has decided to replenish the stocks only at the peak business hours. The stocks arrive in huge carts being pushed by staff and after the second verbal warning, they have every right to crush your toes if they are in the way, these carts will be parked in the aisles, practically blocking them and any visual or verbal attempts to get the attention of the staff, that you are trying to get some of the goods stored in the blocked aisle, prove completely futile. Mind you, the wait may be as long as 30 minutes plus as the good old staff has to update his friends by incessantly talking on the mobile phone while leisurely aligning packets of Haldiram Namkeen.

But, this problem is not insurmountable and I have learned through experience that you have to physically push the restocking cart away, just making enough space for you to wriggle in and pick what you need. Also, to point out, the staff that wasn't paying any heed to your requests up till now, will also turn his complete attention to you and now it’s your turn to play deaf and dumb and pay absolutely no heed to his protests or existence.

The customers also get to play their part in maintaining the efficiency of this supply chain by unknowingly picking up some of the stuff beyond or near expiry date or infested with bugs. Well, for Indians quality was always a state of mind, so never mind. But, I was surprised at their eco friendliness, when once I noticed that they allowed the Ants to participate in cleanup for sugar, rice and flour spills. Of course, we all must live in Harmony with Nature, shan't we?

Demographics - You'll always find the people from Indian subcontinent (Regulars) and Caucasians (Tourists trapped by their tour guides) in MUSTAFA. The Regulars are mostly on a Grocery mission and want to accomplish most in the shortest possible time, thereby reducing the pain to maximum possible extent. But the Tourists are the ones, who wear the looks of "Deer in headlights" when their cheerful tour guides tell them MUSTAFA is the Largest Mall in Asia. Having seen some of the Malls in the Western part of the world, I can understand their feeling of amusement. But, they being too polite to say anything openly, generally keep quiet and buy some overpriced souvenirs rather than some ill-fitting poorly finished clothes, which they can get in their home country at half the price.

Exit Plan - There are hundreds of EXIT signs in the whole store, but I can assure you more than half of them are dead ends. Besides, the staff quite strongly adheres to the following Motto "Once you pay the bill, we'll make sure you're out of the store by the nearest EXIT." How you reach the nearest Taxi stand with your 30 KG of Grocery load, is none of their Goddamn business. For the store the simple message as soon as you pay the bill is GET-OUT.

But, survival instincts again come to fore and similar to Migratory birds, the experienced folks, have discovered how to reach the only accessible Taxi stand and they proudly push their Shopping Carts laden with Lauki-Turai, through a section lined expensive delicate glassware followed by women lingerie followed by another land dump of clothes. You may get some stern looks from Staff when you are chartering this intricate course, but battle hardened by the earlier experience, you don't even pay any attention to them by now.

As you emerge from the store, a victorious smile crosses your lips as the worst is behind you. Now, you just have to wait in the taxi line and watch half of the taxis with Green Lights, not even stop at the MUSTAFA taxi stand. But, trust me it’s a minor annoyance as compared to the holistic experience. Overall, a visit to Mustafa is something like a Vipashna; it rids you of any false arrogance that you might have cultivated by presiding over meetings. You realize that for some of the basic necessities like food, you still have to struggle the primitive way.

Epilogue - Some Moral Commanders may pounce upon me after reading this piece and ask, "If it is such an unpleasant experience, why do you really go there?" My simple answer to them is "Although fish market stinks, but you still enter it to get the freshest lot?" Go Figure.

Till next time... Cheers n Happy New year

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Very Wet experience - Singapore Wet Market


All ye social network lovers n cynics, compulsive posters n liker's, Amateur detectives n Mafioso of the Virtual world. Today, I am going to invite you on a journey, filled with lots of ladies, in short dresses, brushing against your body. An adventure filled with soul stirring fragrances, colors, mouth watering delights and much more.

Ladies n Gentlemen - I bring you the Singapore Wet Market experience.

If you are still with me, i.e. you are not performing your Facebook rituals of jumping from one post to another. Then, let me introduce you to the concept of Wet Market in Singapore. Plainly speaking, it is actually, a loose translation of the Sabzi Mandi back home. With the same raw energy level of hawkers, screaming their lungs out,  ready to give 2 year warranty on already squishy tomatoes. But, the similarity ends there.

On my first visit, to the Wet Market, I was greeted by a smiling man toting Jack fruits in both his hands. But, the "distinct smell" emanating from the open fruits made me suspicious. Rummaging through my country specific knowledge, I realized its hugely popular "Durian" fruit which in all practical sense has the ability of curing, even the most stubborn blocked nose, by its "fragrance".

I politely, brushed him aside and entered the Sanctum of the Wet Market, immediately to be greeted by a large jostling crowd of "Aunties", trying to outdo each other in getting the freshest pick at the cheapest price. On the display cases, I was greeted by large eyes of various fishes ranging from few centimeters to a couple of feet. I instinctively cringed and moved slightly to the side, only to be stared at, by lifeless Hog Heads, christened "Pulled Pork". The fresh sardines, Crabs, Lobsters, squids and multiple unknown creatures of the sea, lying on various steps to heaven or on dinner plates, awaited next.

 Eager to change the scenery, I quickened my pace and went to a corner, which looked more green rather than red.

Next to a comparatively quiet Vendor, who was selling a local version of Pakodas, I started picking some familiar looking, non intimidating Veggies. When suddenly, out of the blue, a lady wearing a Mic started announcing benefits of some Ladies Undergarments fitted with electronic gadgetry. The chorus was soon joined by another seller, who demonstrated, how his Non-Sticky pots can't be scratched by a sharp knife. Noteworthy is the fact that sound affect of this act was as pleasant as scratching of Blackboard by long nails.

At this point, I called it quits and went back with 1 small bag filled with some leaves and couple of tomatoes.

Looking at my sullen expression and modest amount of my loot, my better half gave me bemused looks, to which I instinctively replied "Yeah, yeah !!! I'll visit it again sometime later this week"

I must confess, with time, the phobia of entering the Wet Market greatly reduced. But, before each visit, I still need to use some Auto-Suggestion, to muster the courage to plunge in this potpourri of groceries, flavors, fragrances (now read smells) and of course "Aunties"...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food Chain of Traffic

Driving on the Indian roads for quite sometime, I have started witnessing the application of "Survival of the Fittest" theory on Indian roads . Based on my observations, I have realized that Darwin was quite far sighted, as his theory has far reaching implications.

Anyways, without boring you with further technical mumbo jumbo. I will give you some insights on my categorization of fossil fuel burning metal cans moving on Indian roads.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here it goes

1 - 2 wheelers - Accept it buddy, it hardly makes a difference whether you are riding a 35 CC moped, 350 CC Ninja or for that matter 500 CC Royal enefield, gravity has same affect on you. The feeling of invincibility which comes mostly from watching TV Ads in which bikes are portrayed as vehicle personifying speed, agility, style, chic magnet etc, evaporates in nano seconds once the epidermis kisses the Tar at speeds > 50 KMs/hr.

Normally, in an advertisement, the backdrop consists of a lissome lass, who gives seductive smiles to the rider. But, like any Indian horror flick, in real life scenario, the lissome lass, becomes an overloaded truck hurtling at break neck speed, running on the road with a single ambition of getting rid of the lowest member of value chain. The other members also bear the brunt of this behavior. But, the effects are not as lethal.

Live examples of 'Brownian Motion', this category fascinates me so much that I have reserved another blog post for it.

2 - Personal Cars - Driving a Japanese car, with an Italian engine on Indian roads on fossil fuel imported from Mid East and paid by dollar savings, these are perfect examples of globalization. This category of drivers, put their hard earned money into buying their car of dreams and they take every possible precaution to drive sensibly to protect their vehicles exterior as well as other moving creatures on roads.

Until, some idiot puts the last straw on their back, by cutting dangerously in front of their vehicle. Laplace transformation takes place and the docile, ever smiling Alok Nath type of personality transforms into Sunny Deol of the 90s with red mist in the eyes. All the available horses in the engine are immediately summoned hurriedly. Turbo Charger which was perhaps lying unused for some days is put to duty and made to do hard labour until the Root Cause of this sudden transformation is out of line of sight, preferably in the rear mirror, but *sigh* realistically this view is mostly visible in the front.

Bottom line, until provoked, these guys believe in 'live and let live' philosophy... until...

3 - Commercial Vehicles - Ardent followers of Hard Metal, most of these guys believe in driving as its their last ride. They use their illegal pressure horns and accelerator generously and avoid the usage of their clunky brakes unless challenged by larger peers or someone up the food chain.
Characterized by their dented vehicles, blaring music, overloaded goods/passengers they generally have the poorest road manners and a blatant disregard for safety,both on personal front as well as for fellow drivers. They make full use of 14% road tax and stop their vehicles whenever they feel the need for picking up, dropping passengers or just for chilling out. Passenger buses, Sumos, Qualis, Bolero etc are the staples in this category.

What this category lacks in horsepower, is over corrected by the higher decibels and the plumes of smokes emitted from their posterior bearing signs "Pollution Free vehicle" or "AC No hand signal"

4 - Vajra : The Apex predator - Now, don't tell me that you always thought the Name 'Vajra' was a coincidence and these buses are painted red, because they look good in it. Okay, for the uninitiated, 'Vajra' is the name given to the red Volvo buses used by State for city transport.

True to their names, these vehicles have the acceleration of Yamaha RX100, maneuverability of Swift and Body of a Tata sumo. Armed with powerful rear engines, these are the most swanky and deadliest of the metal cans moving around.

They firmly believe speed limits are for lesser mortals. Potholes don't affect their imported chassis and they keep on cruising evenly undeterred by the fact, that other lowly denizens are also using or trying to use the road. Like the previous category, they also believe in making their own stops and don't oblige at all in case you want to overtake them.

'Vajra' does not believe in hitting a person or two. Even a slight touch, sends multiple people packing to the place, where original users of Vajra live.

Thumb rule is to run for cover, whenever you see a red dot in your rear view mirror which grows exponentially in size.

Seasoned users, always know their place in this Food chain and run for cover as soon as they see a predator in sight. But, for the newbies and the adventurous. They love to wear their attitude and thrive until, alas, their luck runs out.

More observations about two wheelers to come in the next post...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bye Bye American Pie - 2

"Time flies, I can't they can"

This silly expression was up for something, we had to punctuate when preparing for the b-school entrance. Never understood its meaninng then, not pretending that I do now. But, somehow it looks more and more meaningful to me.
Have been in and out US of A, for better part of 5 years. The last time I went back for "good" was two and a half years back. But, the "good" period lasted only for 6 months and had a one month trip to US included. Lets see how long this one lasts.

Going back in time, the introduction to US of A, started with the reading of "Inscrutable Americans". It was a nice, well researched book with wry humor. Even though, written good 20 years back, it still holds true in several aspects.

So, in this stint. I have earned some gray strands, a lot of adventurous memories and a PHD in indolence. Given a choice, I wouldn't like to replace much of it, but I definitely look forward to my next stint as my heart is craving for change.

I don't have much to say, right now. But, I am sure there will be a lot, as soon as I reach my motherland. I am used to a state of bliss and have fallen into a comfortable routine and will be jolted to reality as soon as I hit home base.

Till that time, friends keep reading.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Straight from the heart - Sympathy

Caution : This is first in the series of my writings, where humor will not be the central theme. But, this series is based on some events which I have witnessed in my life and they have been strong enough to jolt me and force me to recalibrate my set of values & Beliefs.

Location & Time - Somewhere in front of a Mall, in a busy Metro city, Year - 2004

Scene 1 -

It was one of those hot summer evenings in Northern India, when the Sun refuses to say quits, and the hot winds keep scorching the skin, well into the evening hours. However, I was not bothered by all this and was sitting under a tree waiting for my friend, who was going to join me for a round of Cold Beer and some Tet a Tet. Even the thought Beer was enough to take off the discomfort caused by sweat and dust. Feeling a little bit hungry and to looking for ways to pass some time, I strolled to the nearby McDonald and bought a Veg Pizza McPuff and started nibbling at it. Halfway through my cheese filled treat, I noticed a child of around 3-4 years, staring at me intently. After some hesitation he came near me and starting begging for money. Desensitized by several Magazine articles and movies, which depict children being forced into begging by emaciating/maiming them, I tried to shoo away the child and nonchalantly kept on biting the Hot Cheese Puff. Unlike his older siblings, who would have lost interest in me immediately and started looking for a softer/less emotionally matured target, this child kept on kept on looking at me for better part of 5 minutes, till I finished my Puff. Unperturbed, I got up threw the empty McDonald Wrapper on the ground and started walking away, scanning the scenery for some eye tonic in the form of Delhi Gals. As I looked behind to confirm that I hadn't left anything behind. I saw that little child was kneeling on the ground, holding the wrapper in his small hands and trying to scrape the crumbs sticking behind. As our eyes met, he got startled and shrunk a bit as if afraid. I on the other hand found myself fixated in one place unable to move or say anything. Within the next few seconds my mind was racing and a medley of emotions - guilt, anger at myself, pity, helplessness filled my heart.

Scene 2 -

Next thing was,I found myself standing at the McDonald takeaway counter and asked for a Veggie Surprise Burger, which I found would be sufficient for the little guy, who was smiling an innocent smile in anticipation of the food. I returned his shy smile and picked up the nicely wrapped warm bun and small ketchup pouch and handed it over to him. I turned back to clear the bill and found the attendant giving me a queer look. As I was paid the bill, through the corner of my eye, I noticed another child, around 8 years old, walked over with a haughty gait and in a single swing snatched away the burger from the younger one. I hurriedly finished of the transaction and quickly walked to the bully to recover the burger.
Filled with anger, I sternly held him by his hand and took back the burger. He was also eyeing me back angrily with his street hardened eyes but unable to do anything about it. As I glanced around for the younger child, the reality sank in. I was standing in an small ocean of children, all looking at me with anticipation, some of them wearing a pleading look and other scornfully looking at me. I found the younger child standing behind them. I wanted to end all this, so I quickly walked to him and gave him back the burger. Unlike the first time, he was very hesitant to take the burger from me. I noticed that the bully was standing just two paces behind me, looking at the younger child with as fiery eyes as a 10 year old can manage. I told the younger child not to be afraid and eat the burger. But, he simply was shaking with fear and afraid of the consequences, he wasn't even making any effort to unwrap the burger. I repeated my assurance to the child, but still he was too afraid to move. As I was figuring out what to do, there appeared a girl of around 8 years on the scene. The younger child voluntarily extended the burger to her, as if he was holding a ball of fire. Apprehensive that she also might be a bully, I asked her to return it. But, the younger child told me slowly that this girl was her sister. After she started feeding the burger to the younger child and eating some of it herself, I felt relieved and left the scene.

Scene - 3

My friend arrived soon after, and we both walked into a nearby posh watering hole to quench our thirsts by Chilled pints of Corona. Somehow, all the debate about smoothness of Corona over other Lagers was not able to remove the thoughts of the earlier episode from my mind. Halfway into some meaningless but interesting conversation, my friend inquired why I was appearing distant. I quickly brushed aside his thought and made conscious effort to focus on the Frosted tumbler filled with Golden-Amber colored manna. But, still I wasn't able to remove myself mentally from the sequence of events that occurred earlier in the evening. Even as I bade goodbye to my friend and rode my bike to my den, I kept on thinking- What would the bully do to the child? Did I do the right thing by intervening in their social hierarchy or did I end up making the matter worse? Should I have gone ahead and bought all those 10-12 children some food or would it have promoted this behavior even more and in turn would have worsened the problem?
As a third person, if someone would have come to me with all these questions, I would have definitely told him that he shouldn't have bought the young child any food in the first place. But, when faced with such situations where a child, who doesn't understand the dynamics of world and for whom overwhelming hunger drives most of actions, I guess, an undiscovered chunk in our heart comes to fore and makes us act in a way which would even surprise us at times.