My Top 10 Guilty Pleasures.

While I have accepted the topic as it was suggested by my fellow Friday blogger Shackman, I must straight away state that none of the pleasures that I enjoy can be called guilty, at least, not by me. I thoroughly enjoy each one and never suffer any guilty pangs post event. And, at my age, there are very few pleasures left to relish as while the spirit may be very willing, the flesh is weak and does not cooperate.

At the twilight of my years, what gives me the greatest pleasure is, don’t hold your breath, are, food and sound sleep.  Mind you, at this stage, it should not be quantity but quality.  The pleasure I obtain is not only desiring quality, but often in the quantity as well.  The following list will give you some indication.  It is rare that I will stop with one helping when it comes to eating my favourite food or be satisfied with an interrupted sleep.

The top most on my list will be Ice Cream of all kinds but, within which the top most choice will go to Kulfi. For a while, I had patronised a brand called Kwality Walls here till I found out that it was made out of vegetable oils  and is called Frozen Dessert. Unfortunately, this is the only item within that specification that my grocer delivers and so I have to go to an Ice Cream Parlour just down the road to indulge whenever the mood takes me.

So, number 1. will be Kulfi and number 2. will be all other ice creams except the so called Frozen Desserts.

That brings me to item number 3.

Sweets of the Indian variety.  Topmost on the list is Kalakand. There are different types from different parts of the country and, I love all of them.

Number 4 will be cakes and pastries of all types, easily the most desired being Black Forest.

Now comes the non sweet snacks.

In the order of choice, they will be:

Samosa, Kachori and Khandvi.

Number 8 will be cuisine. Top favourite being my native Tamil cuisine followed by Punjabi.

Number 9 pleasure will be what I get from solving crossword puzzles. If I don’t get my daily dose, I am miserable.

Last item on the list will be sleep and particularly my afternoon siesta. On the rare occasion that I don’t get it due to being away from home on some chore or the other, I feel out of sorts till the next day.

I have a feeling that the other Friday 2 on 1 blogger Shackman is likely to come up with music on top followed by other items, very likely including some food too. Do go over and have a look at his blog.

High Cost Of Living!

You will see Tammy’s comment on my blog post Happiness And Longevity to read as follows:

“there’s a line in an old Woody Allen movie… I think it was Annie Hall.
two old ladies were having lunch. one complains bitterly about the terrible food.
the other totally agrees and says… YES! and they give such small portions!
kind of like life here. it’s full of all kinds of misery… but generally nobody ever wants to leave! :D”

And to make it further interesting, Cheerful Monk had this to say: “Yes, I want to die young as late as possible.”

As it usually happens in my life, just a few moments before I read these comments, I received this little image as a forward in WhatsApp as a response to my post from another friend.

Great minds think alike what Tammy and Monk?

Happiness And Longevity.

As my regular readers know, my GP is a very wise old style doctor under whose care I feel very safe. Among the many reasons that he is like that to me is one fact of his always being very cheerful. Even under serious health problems that he personally faced, he would always present a cheerful demeanour and since I know his family well also, I believe that he and his family are by and large, very happy people.

His bedside manner including such good cheer, just seeing him would improve a patient’s condition. One particular aspect of his diagnosis is always his probing questions about the state of his patient’s minds as vouched for by others that I have sent on to him for consultations. For me, however his standard opening statement would be “why are you here? You have no business being ill. You are a happy fellow.” or words to that effect.

So, when I got this link on happiness and longevity sent to me by a friend, I was quite amazed that this old school doctor who does not get much time to read such forwards, leave alone his daily newspapers, would be so strong in his belief about health, longevity and happiness.

I just filed away the information at the back of my mind and forgot all about it till I received another forward earlier today.  Please click on the image for a larger resolution.

Yes, long life and happiness are two different things altogether and I would rather have the latter than the former. In fact, if it included many of the problems that the older people face in their twilight years, I do not want the former at all.


This is a communication from a friend, a hard boiled banker / successful entrepreneur who recently lost his pet dog, unexpectedly and suddenly.

“Is it true that pets can take on their caretakers illnesses and sacrifice their lives in order to save their caretakers? Three months ago, when I was declared diabetes free after a struggle of 15 years, I was ecstatic. Little did I know that XXXXX was the price I would have to pay for this freedom. She passed away because of Diabetes.”

noun informal
excessive sentimentality, especially in music or films.
“at the end of the film the audience are drowned in a sea of schmaltz”

Earlier this week, many stories were published all over the world about families reuniting after decades. And, while I was looking for material for this post, I came across another story. I leave it to my readers to decide whether it is a true one or created out of some fertile imagination.

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

“I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand,” she told him.

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me a story that I never forgot and I have tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. Here’s her story:

“In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favourite part because I knew something better was coming . . . like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!’

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork? Then I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork . . . the best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolised to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

This topic is my idea for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog posts. I suspect that the other blogger is likely to come up with a totally different idea. Please do go over to see what Shackman has to say at his blog.

Bureaucracy And The Colour Of Ink!

Arun Shourie is a remarkable human being and he writes extremely well. In his book ‘Governance and the Sclerosis That Has Set In’ in his typical style, he writes about how bureaucracy works based on actual experience that he had as a Central Minister in the Indian Government. It is too funny not to share with my readers.

The Ink-Blotched File

Sometime in early 1999-I was unable to fix the precise date-two officers in the Ministry of Steel made some notings on the files that passed through their desks. What caught the eye of their colleagues and superiors was not anything they had written, but the fact that they had used red and green ink. Accordingly, on 13 April 1999, the Ministry of Steel wrote a “D.O. letter” to the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances. Can officers use ink other than blue or black, the Ministry wanted to know. Are there guidelines on the question? If so could these please be forwarded to the undersigned.

The letter arrived at the Department of Administrative Reforms six days later though the buildings of the two organizations are less than a kilometer away.

The Ink-Blotched FileResearch began. Consultations commenced. Ultimately it was decided that, as the matter concerned ink and as the Directorate of Printing had the requisite expertise on ink-related matters, the opinion of the Directorate had to be obtained.

Accordingly an “O.M.”-an Office Memorandum-was sent on 3 May 1999 to the Directorate of Printing. Will the Directorate kindly clarify whether any effort is authorized to use any ink other than blue or black for noting, drafting and correspondence in the Secretariat?

Deliberations, consultations, cogitation now began in the Directorate of Printing. After three weeks of thought, on 21 May 1999, the Directorate wrote to the Department of Administrative Reforms. There are no orders/instructions/guidelines in respect of use of different colours of ink, they noted …. The Department of PersonnelandTraining, Ministry of Home Affairs, may, however, be consulted, they concluded….

On 6 July 1999, the Department of Personnel and Training wrote to the Department of Administrative Reforms. The question as to which ink may be used in notings/ draftings/ correspondence pertains essentially to the Manual of Office Procedure, the Department of Personnel noted, and, under the Allocation of Business Rules, the Manual of Office Procedure is regulated by the Department of Administrative Reforms. Hence, the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances may take a view in this matter.

A perfect answer, as you can see. Throw the ball back.

On 28 July 1999 the officer concerned in the Department of Administrative Reforms recorded that as the decision on the use of different colours of ink has to be taken by the Department itself, the criterion for adjudging the issue should first be settled. He proposed that the matter be judged in terms of the longevity of the notings in inks of different colours. When a file is closed, he noted, it is recorded as “A”, “B” or “C” category.

In case it has been designated as an “A” or “B” category file, it has to be kept permanently. Hence, the colour of the ink that is used for noting and correspondence in the file should be long lasting, and it should not fade with the passage of time. The matter, went the concluding recommendation, may be taken up for discussion at the Senior Officers Meeting.

The next level of officer to whom the file went reasoned that the matter was not as simple as that. Accordingly, he recorded that the longevity would also be affected by the quality of the ink that had been used, as well as on whether ball-point pens or ink pens had been used. So, these factors needed to be decided along with the question of the colour of the ink.

In view of the criterion that had been agreed upon-the durability of the noting-and the multiplicity of factors that were likely to affect it-the colour of the ink, the quality of the ink as well as the type of the writing instrument that had been used, it was felt that views of the National Archives of India had to be ascertained. After all, they are the ultimate custodians of Government records….

And so, a letter was sent to the Director General, National Archives of India, on 12 August 1999. It sought comments of the National Archives on the longevity of notings made in different colours of ink.

The Deputy Director of National Archives replied on 27 August 1999. Every record creating agency, he wrote, in creating records of permanent nature should use fountain pen inks and ball point pen inks of permanent nature prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards as IS: 221-1962, IS: 220-1988, and IS 1581-1975 in respect of fountain pen inks of blue/ black colour; and IS: 8505-1993 in respect of ball point pen ink. So far as fountain pen ink of permanent nature is concerned, the National Archives declared, the prescribed colour is blue-black, while for ball point pens the colours are blue, black, red or green. Longevity clearly was not a sufficient criterion to clinch the question.

The letter from the National Archives was accordingly placed before the Senior Officers’ Meetingon22September 1999 …. Consequent on the decision taken, as the phrase goes, in the Senior Officers Meeting, a D.O. was addressed on 4 October 1999 to the Joint Secretary (O&M) in the Ministry of Defence seeking a copy of the instructions contained in the relevant manual of the armed forces/ Army so as to finalise the implementation of a Uniform Ink Colour Code in the Central Secretariat. The same day another communication was sent to the Department of Personnel andTraining seeking instructions on the subject. Incidentally, such instructions are available in printed form.

The Ministry of Defence replied on 22 December 1999. It stated that red ink is used by the Chief ofArmy Staff/ Chief of Naval Staff/ Chief of Air Staff; green ink is used by the Principal Staff Officers; and blue or black ink is used by all other officers ….

The Department of Personnel and Training reiterated that the matter is essentially a part of official procedure, and would accordingly be the concern of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances… A reply was finalized on 5 April 2000 for the Ministry of Steel, the original querist, so to say….

But there was a much more consequential outcome. Two additions were made in the Manual of Office Procedure- a singular achievement. The bureaucratic equivalent of getting a new word into the Oxford Dictionary. Chapter 6 of the Manual deals with “Action on Receipts”. It was enlarged to include para 32, sub-para 9 which now reads:

“Notes and orders will normally be recorded in note sheets in the Notes Portion of the file and will be serially numbered. Black or blue ink will be used by all category of staff and officers. Only an officer of the level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above may use green or red ink in rare cases.”

A good bureaucratic solution, as you would have noticed: discretion allowed but not circumscribed!

And Para 68, sub-para 5 of the Manual of Office Procedures now reads:

“Initial drafting will be done in black or blue ink. Modifications in the draft at the subsequent levels may be made in green or red ink by the offices so as to distinguish the corrections made.”

Another good solution, as you would have noticed: neither option ruled out; a proper function for each option.Someambiguity, of course. Para 32(9) says that only officers of Joint Secretary level and above may use red or green ink, and that too only in rare cases. Para 68(5), on the other hand, does not limit the use of these colours to any particular rank; and it does not say that the corrections and amendments for which the colours are used have to be of an especially rare kind.

Solution? The two sub-paras are to be, as the courts remind us, “read harmoniously”! Even then, not all problems have been solved, I am constrained to record. After all, in view of what the Deputy Director of the National Archives had pointed out, may it not be that the ink that is being used by officers does not bear that ISI mark?