Monday, July 27, 2015

Three Events, One Story: All is not well in the country

Three events in the three days of my visit to home this weekend, away from my routine works at UNICEF, make me repeat that all is not well in the country. Let me start with 23 July.

Event 1: After landing at Kolkata, I took a ticket for an Express train, and got into Kanchankanya Express that usually has few empty seats that gets filled up from Bolpur. So, if one wishes to have a reservation till Bolpur one can ask for upgrading the ticket to a reserved one. I met the Ticket Examiner and asked for such upgradation, and he checked his chart and told me to sit at Coat S7, Seat 28. I took the seat. After we had completed more than two hours of the 3 hr journey, the Ticket Examiner, asked me for 100 rupees, ticked off my ticket, and started walking. I asked him what about the confirmation note he is to give. He said, "That would cost more. But why do you need it? You are nearly at your destination." He just didn't stop. He had gone past. I never saw him again. Lesson 1: Corruption that was much less just couple of years ago in my experience at least in Indian railways is once again looking up.

Event 2: 26 July, Sunday. I went to the local market to buy some green vegetables. I purchased for 250 rupees. The bad I had carried wasn't even half full ! Unbelievable. I returned feeling, this has never happened. Cost of vegetables have never been so bad. Lesson 2: All is not good, neither for consumers nor for small vendors.

Event 3: 26 July, Sunday. At 8.00 pm I caught the Jaynagar-Howrah passenger train that was running nearly 4 hours late to travel to Kolkata from Bolpur. There were two families who were discussing among themselves about their poverty. These families were from a place called Murarai, on the Bengal - Bihar border in central part of State of West Bengal. They were terribly anguished. The first man was sharing that he had to pay 20,000 rupees as commission to get 70,000 rupees for his legally allotted house under the Indira Awaz Yojana (housing scheme of the government for poor). The second one said, his daughter lost a job as Anganwadi worker (as assistant to cook food) under the ICDS scheme, because they were asked to pay 75,000 rupees in advance as cash to guarantee the job. Which they could not. And the job went to someone who could afford to pay up. I joined in to ask, "Why, wasn't the corruption has always been there?". They said, "When the communists were ruling at least the poor wouldn't be asked to cough up, or would be let off with a request for a small donation to the party. But now, it is very straight: either you pay up or make way for one who can afford.". Lesson 3: There is a need to fight corruption at every level by every ministry and person.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Life in Delhi

My life in Delhi has got into a clear routine now. I wake up at 5.00 am on most of the days, and at times if I am too tired wake up at 6.00. After a wash I work till 7.00 am by checking the mails and updates on social media. I have bath at 7.00, get ready for office and by 7.45 I am on road. I reach UNICEF Country Office by 8.00 am. I have my breakfast at the canteen and I'm on my desk at 8.30. Till noon it is work....meetings....discussions....At about 1.00 pm we walk down for lunch, usually a few minutes early to avoid the rush. Back to desk in about 40 minutes. Work continues. At about 2.30 often I feel so sleepy that I doze off on chair at times. In case I doze off it is for about 15 minutes. And then work continues till 6.45 pm. I wind up, and am out on street to return to the guest house where I stay. On reaching I have a bath and begin to relax by watching some comedy channel and news channels alternately. Sharp 8.30 pm I rush around the corner to a restaurant for dinner. My favorite at this restaurant is "baigan bhartha". Usually it is a full meal, which means 2 chappatis, a little rice, dal, and two vegetables. I tried non-veg at this restaurant, but was not too happy with the quality, and so I have settled down for occasional omlette or scrambled eggs. Back to room before 9.00 pm to catch up on talk shows on television. At times the laptop is once again switched on for some more work. Usually the day ends with a long telecon with Shubhra at about 11.00 pm. 

Though there may be some minor variations on different days, the regularity has given me confidence to work. At the atmosphere at the office is great as I am slowly getting to know more and more colleagues. Just one regret: being an operations person who was always found among people on field, the centrally air conditioned office that has a whole lot of facilities still looks like a cage at times. The satisfaction comes from the fact that my interventions go a long way to influence policies, programs and millions of lives positively.