Intolerance.

Intolerance is defined as an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own; or an inability to eat a food or take a drug without adverse effects.

Having suggested this topic for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog post, I shall address both and perhaps something else as well. Please do visit Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say about the topic.

Unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own.

Ever since India’s Rightist Hindu Nationalist party, the BJP came to power in 2014, this word became synonymous with the Leftist Intellectuals in India and all kinds of things happened. Minor incidents of law and order took on communal tones like Hindu vs Christian, Hindu vs Muslim and Upper castes vs Lower castes and so on. Some took to mass media to condemn the majoritarianism implied in the result of the elections, some returned awards given to them by the previous dispensation as a means of protest, without however, returning the cash elements that went with those awards and generally made, what in my opinion was fools of themselves.

These were the English speaking, reading, writing urban self appointed intellectuals and their tantrums, simply did not reach the people who were none ot the above. The BJP came back to power last month with an increased majority in our parliament and now one sees the same breed of Tolerant Intellectuals analysing the results and coming to the conclusion that they misread the public mood and orientation. Some of these elements wrote for foreign publications as well crying themselves hoarse that doomsday is about to descend on India. As my readers can see, nothing like that happened and some even changed their tones post analysis of the results.

Being a Rightist supporter of the BJP, I tolerated these elements while they were intolerant of me! Now I am enjoying watching them squirm and the Schadenfreude is entirely enjoyable.

That is the beauty of intolerance. The ones shouting loudest that the other is intolerant is entirely unaware that they are being intolerant of the other to start with! And being completely detached, I simply enjoy trumpeting my own intolerance of the intolerant.

Coming to other types of intolerance, I know some wealthy people, the not so wealthy simply cannot be so, who are intolerant of the elements. During the summer months, they disappear to cooler climes and during the winter months to warmer climes. During the wet months they refuse to get out of their homes lest they get wet and miss out on a lot of fun. These people are also usually intolerant of everything around them and totally insatiable be it about food, drink or relationships.

I also know the unfortunates who are lactose intolerant or gluten intolerant or some other intolerant and I feel sorry for them while being grateful that I am not any of those. On the other hand, I recently discovered that I was allergic to one particular type of new antibiotics and it was entirely providential that I had anti allergy medication at home as otherwise, I would have been dead with the reaction I had after consuming that medication. Now that my doctor, family and I know that I am intolerant to it, hopefully there won’t be a next time.

Intolerance can take other shpes too and one of the most common in India is the mother in law, daughter in law conundrum and / or the older generation, younger generation one. Here again, it is difficult to do anything about it when one comes across it but one can be grateful that one does not go through this in one’s own life.

I am sure that there will be other types that my readers have come across in their experiences and I look forward to receiving comments on them.

Voluntary Work.

I have had limited experience of volunteer work but those in which I was involved were highly satisfying except one where I had to quit as it was affecting my sanity.

The first exercise that I was involved in was way back in the mid seventies when I was a member of the local Lions Club and we launched a project to provide houses for poor workers with their own plots of land but, on which they could only build huts. I was given the responsibility to provide all the material for one such person who had inherited a small piece of land but did not have the wherewithal to build a house on it. I successfully completed the project by persuading building material suppliers to part with some materials and the recipient managed the labour himself. He is still in touch with me and his grand children now are successful professionals.

The next project that I was involved in was what we call shramdhaan here. It is a composite Sanskrit word containing two parts; shram meaning physical labour and dhaan meaning contribution. It was in the mid nineties after we had moved into our home where we now live. The neighbourhood had a plot of land earmarked for a park but the municipal authorities had not done anything to develop it. The local community association decided to plant a garden there and that is what happened with many residents contributing their labour to clear brush and plant flowering bushes and trees as well as laying down a walking / jogging path. Subsequently, the Municipal Corporation also contributed in various ways and today that park is among the best in Pune.


By the early part of this century, I had retired from business life and was a full time caregiver for my late wife who needed such care. A friend suggested that I become the Honorary Secretary of the local chapter of The Multiple Sclerosis Society Of India which had its office just about a hundred meters across the road from my residence. I did for a year and learnt a great deal about the disease, initiated many programmes for the patients and to raise funds. I also visited many patients to check on the utilisation of funds and other assistance provided to patients and came across instances of great heroism on the side of families of the patients and also the exact opposite of cruelty and neglect. The latter was the most heart breaking to see such human depravity and it finally drove me to quit in disgust. I was simply not able to handle the emotional drainage that such visits caused.

After that experience with MS, one of the local Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, we have quite a few of them, requested me to volunteer to mentor young entrepreneurs who it was funding to set up or expand existing businesses. I was given two mentees in the business that I had some knowledge of and I happily mentored both who, today are very successful businessmen and in regular touch with me. This gave me the greatest satisfaction of all the voluntary work that I have undertaken as, both are from the lowest economic and social strata and to help them navigate the world of banks, businesses, employees etc was simply amazing. If proof is needed that successful businessmen are not necessarily born but, can be made, these two bear that witness.

In the process of mentoring these two young men, I also got first hand experience of the seedy side of our local politics about which, the less said the better.

As my readers know, I have been a serious practitioner of Vipassana Meditation and apart from attending many ten day camps, I had also volunteered my services during camps for others and one such service camp was the most satisfying as I managed a group of totally blind young students who attended one such camp. That experience exposed me to the world of blind people like no amount of reading could have done.

My son and daughter in law are both deeply involved in animal welfare activities and their involvement spills over to my having to do something or the other too. My physical condition does not permit me to be more active though it gives me great satisfaction to see these two so committed and effective.

To sum up, I have had varied experiences but nothing on a life long basis. While I was involved, it was satisfying except towards the end of my stint with MS. I can’t think of getting involved in anything any more.

This is my contribution to this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog post. Please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same subject. Thank you.

Unpleasant Encounters.

I came up with this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday post as just last Friday, I was in a meeting where we discussed the law and order situation in many parts of India and discussed in length the phenomenon of “Encounter Deaths.”

Like in all such issues, there are two sides to the story and what is not mentioned in the news report is the gross understaffing of police forces throughout our nation and the long judicial processes that take for ever to punish criminals and even allowing some of them to commit further crimes by granting them bail. The public puts pressure on politicians to solve the problems created by these criminals and the encounter killings solve many of these issues. Human Rights organisations and the liberals however cast other aspersions like calling them caste/religious killings but, they do not seem to come up with solutions to the problems that I have mentioned at the start of this paragraph.

The discussion reminded me of my own encounters with the police, one, unpleasant and the others surprisingly very pleasant and result oriented. Since this post is about the unpleasant ones, let me restrict myself to that encounter.

It was late 1975 during our national emergency period that this happened. I was travelling from Kerala to Tamil Nadu in a company owned car that was being driven by a company employed driver. We had crossed over into Tamil Nadu when we were stopped by a police officer and a constable who asked us for documents and we produced whatever they asked for. While this was going on, the constable took the driver aside and asked for a bribe and the latter came across to me and conveyed the message. Since we were not doing anything illegal I refused to oblige and my nightmare started.

We were taken to the first police station inside Tamil Nadu and the inspector made an entry in the case book there with an offence which was non bailable. I insisted on contacting someone to get me a lawyer and was allowed to make a phone call from the police phone. Those were days without the modern cell phones and even that little consideration was made to appear as though a big favour was being extended to me. The officer noticing that the car was registered in Kerala and under the impression that I may not have contact inside Tamil Nadu was stumped when within an hour of my telephone call, the most famous lawyer from Coimbatore landed up at the police station to bail me out while the recipient of my phone call was able to contact the Director General of Tamil Nadu Police to instruct the police station to release me on bail despite the matter being an non bailable one. I heard the wireless instruction while still in the police station and the officer for the first time felt that he had perhaps taken on more than he could chew. In the meanwhile, my driver and I had spent six hours in the police lock up.

Having already registered an offence the officer had to go through the motions but we had to move higher court to force the police to register a case and prosecute as they were not prosecuting knowing that they would lose the case. I couldn’t however, keep the matter without resolution and forced the issue.

After four hearings including the one at the higher court to force prosecution, the Magistrate heard the case, heard the witnesses, inspected the documents and took five minutes to record a Not Guilty judgement and also passed strictures against the officer concerned. All this was possible, I suspect, because by the time that the final hearing came up, the emergency had been lifted and things were different.

For a while, my lawyer and I contemplated suing the officer for defamation and wrong confinement but, because I was already posted out of Kerala to Mumbai by then, and had already spent a small fortune on the matter, I decided not to pursue the matter any further.

There were however some very disappointed rival colleagues who were hoping that I would go to jail which would have affected my growth in the company.

I am sure that Shackman will have some equally interesting anecdote/s and I request you to go over to his blog to read what he has to say on the topic. Thank you.

The Back Benchers!

B

A Backbencher in the UK In Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a member of Parliament (MP) or a legislator who holds no governmental office and is not a frontbench spokesman in the Opposition, being instead simply a member of the “rank and file“.  You will see that there is no space between ‘back’ and ‘bencher’ as opposed to the title of this post.  That is because the contents here are for students in our schools here who either voluntarily sit or are punished by the teacher to sit on the last benches in the classroom.

Some students wear that honour with great pride.

Out of the blue, my friend JM posted this message in a WhatsApp group’s page a few days ago. I have tried to get details of the source without success and if some reader can help me I shall update this post with an update.

The Back Benchers

In school, there was, is and will be,
A unique and discreet subset.
A few rows of back-benchers,
Students, who were never afraid of a test.

The backbenchers took the longest breaks,
Took the longest to settle down.
Rarely would have done their homework,
Still, from teachers didn’t evince a frown.

They were current on movies,
And knew great stuff on sports too.
And if our city had secret places to visit,
They already been there an done it too.

They weren’t good at academics,
But weren’t bothered about it.
They were good in sports,
But would not bother others about it.

They were taller and heavier,
Some had seen more summers.
Puberty struck them earlier,
One of them was a drummer.

They had magazines which front benchers didn’t,
More glossy and re-readable at that.
There was an air of mischief,
And a smile that complemented that.

Except in the art class,
The ones in our class were great artists too.
They’d draw on the desk,
Art mentionable & unmentionable too.

They knew how to fly planes,
Land missiles on teachers.
And with a poker face,
Lie with panache & credence.

Catcalls and comments,
Came from them with a regular flow.
Assignments were jointly completed,
Later than sooner they would show.

They were a nice lot,
Happier than most others, I’d say.
More at peace with themselves,
Except on the results day.

Sports Day was the day they’d excel,
And make their class and house proud.
Win points and medals,
Be cheered by the crowd.

They had the colours on holi,
Their pen wielded ink too.
Their crackers resounded in toilets,
They had the gadgets & games too.

In time we met again,
In social media groups & reunions.
They’ve done as well as those in front,
The differences have melted since.

Happy then and happy now,
The backbenchers had a fair deal.
They must’ve slogged in between,
As good or better than front row, I feel.

It generally evens out in life,
Whether you were at the front or back.
The benchmark was never the bench,
Or where they sat, front or back.

I posted on the page that I was a back bencher in school and this poem resonated with me. I have also had the experience of being punished by being asked to stand up on the bench as shown in the image for the person in the third row.   I had also used some classes to catch up with sleep deprived due to excess physical activity.  I also used the opportunity to give my thoughts about what the others in the group might have been in school and all my predictions turned out to be true. None of the others incidentally, were back benchers though!

I mentioned this to a couple of friends and one of them said that he is not surprised that I was a back bencher but, his reasoning was based on my being larger in built than the average Indian male.  I thought that was odd and asked a school teacher friend of mine as to what could have prompted that observation and he promptly responded that the larger built students in schools were either into sports or the NCC, Boy Scouts etc and as such are less studious.  They are also more likely to be punished for being mischievous in class by being relegated to the back benches.  This too resonated with me as I fitted that description when I was in school.

The poem resonates with me because like the poem says, I have done as well if not better than the front benchers of my class in school.

What bencher were you?