Tag Archives: Travel

Looks can be deceptive

A friend and former colleague was travelling back from CST to Thane in the first class ladies compartment at around 7 pm on Wednesday. At Matunga, a lady, described by my friend as someone who looked like a typical train-type vendor, boarded the first class compartment. She was not selling anything. From her clothing, it seemed like she belonged to the lower middle class echelons of the society. She was draped in a low quality sari and was carrying a big bag which appeared to be completely stuffed. She was not wearing any kind of ornaments and had a weary, drained out look on her – one that you get after a hard day’s work.

No sooner this lady boarded the train than another lady, apparently a regular first class passenger, began complaining and objecting aloud to the vendor woman’s presence. Those of us who travel regularly in the first class will know what I am talking of. It’s a common occurrence in the first class section of the suburban train of Mumbai – when a regular, season ticket holder catches sight of someone who doesn’t "look" like a first-class passenger, he or she is promptly told, "This is first class" as if it were a warning. Sometimes, when such a person still boards the train, some people begin to think aloud and also comment on how inefficient the ticket checkers are; that they never board the train during peak hour rush and thus encourage second class ticket holders to board the first class compartment without fear of being caught.

Coming back to our story, at Kurla, a constable boarded the train and the complaining lady’s verbal protest against her fellow traveller grew even more intense. At first she was making general statements about how bona fide ticket holders like her have to suffer because of ticket-less passengers. But now she began to point openly towards the poor, tired woman hurling accusations and even asking her to get off the train. The woman, who was up till now, standing quietly, finally retorted asking the complaining lady what her problem was and why she was fuming and babbling endlessly. The complainer grabbed this opportunity and pounced upon the woman demanding that she show her the first class ticket. The woman, in spite of the tired look, smiled and said calmly, "I am not obliged to show you or anyone else my ticket. If a Railway TC asks, I will show it." But the complainer refused to give up as she egged on saying that if she had a valid ticket, why was she so reluctant to show it. At this, the woman reached out to her stuffed bag, removed another, smaller pouch out of it and from which she took out an even smaller purse. To the surprise of all present – the onlookers, the constable and of course the shocked and embarrassed complainer – the woman pulled out a legitimate, first class season ticket from the purse. The complaining lady was dumbfounded and didn’t know how to react. The accused woman, who was now acquitted by the public as "not guilty" for a crime she had not committed, then said, "I am a businesswoman. My work as a vendor involves lots of travelling and so I travel first-class."

The complaining lady later apologised to the woman but not without justifying her behaviour. She said to her, "Though you are an exception, there are many who commute without a proper ticket, causing inconvenience to others. How were we to know that you had a proper ticket?"

As the train arrived as Thane, both the women alighted. But the look on the vendor lady was that of pride, while the complaining lady looked discomfited. She had learnt her lesson that appearances can be deceptive – and they sometimes deceive big time. Which is so true! After all, have we not seen even people who are impeccably dressed and yet get caught travelling ticket-less?

Trials and tribulations of local train travel

A friend, who recently travelled in the CST-bound ladies special, related an interesting episode that only goes to reaffirms the belief of Mumbai’s suburban rail network being its lifeline. Our friend boarded the first class compartment at Thane station and soon found herself amongst a group of enthusiastic ladies, who were mostly in their middle ages. Needless to say, they were all working women, travelling to their respective offices. They travelled together every single day, though each one boarded at different stations, were headed towards different destinations and worked for different organisations. For these ladies, their morning journey a time to unwind, a time they relish with their "train pals."

As the ladies special halted at Mulund, the compartment was suddenly filled with the sound of greetings and good wishes. Apparently, one of the ladies who got in was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary on the day and was an integral member of this group. A well thought-out celebration then followed. She was immediately offered a place to sit and then everyone then sang a song for her. The atmosphere was euphoric – and to think of, it was after all, a ladies first class compartment of a suburban train! Then, the group presented the anniversary-girl with a gift (an idol of a Deity) and an anniversary card, who in turn distributed sweets (Prasad) to everyone in the compartment, including our friend. And that was not all. She then presented a return-gift to every member of her group – a nicely wrapped steel jar for their kitchens! Well, the celebrations continued throughout the journey and the women seemed to enjoy themselves completely. The camaraderie they shared was visibly contagious and also symbolic of the undying spirit of the vibrant twin cities of Mumbai and Thane.

As for the train travel, however much we despise it, whine about its poor services and criticise the sorry state of its facilities, we cannot do without suburban train services. Proof of this is evident in the fact that suburban trains of Mumbai endure the highest passenger density in the world! Isn’t it remarkable then, that these frazzled passengers figure out such fantastic ways of putting up with the travails of travelling in the red-yellow coloured, wheeled coaches?

At your Convenience: Teleworking

It’s Monday morning, yet Kingshuk Hazra, an Industry Analyst in Gartner India, does not suffer the blues. Instead, he is looking forward to beginning his work day. All he does is sit on a comfortable chair, plug in his laptop and begin working. In other words, he leaves for office without actually leaving. For individuals like Kingshuk, home is not only where the heart is, but also where the office is.

The information economy has made it possible to work remotely. Since a large element of the value added by any business comes from the processing and management of information, at least some aspects of its operation can now be done independent of geographical location. In the world of digital communications, you are never in the wrong place to do your work. You can access the information you need anywhere – from a remote satellite office or local business centre, from a client’s premises, from home, from a hotel room or whilst on the move in a train or car. This way of working has come to be known as teleworking.

Teleworking is an innovative arrangement that not only saves valuable resources but also leads to increased productivity. For example, with the help of low-cost videoconferencing and data-conferencing from ordinary desktop computers, Teleworking can help to reduce the amount of travel undertaken by people both to work and in the course of work. This way, Teleworking reduces drastically, if not altogether eliminates, the amount of business travel employees undertake, in the process saving time and money.
 
Benefits of Teleworking
While teleworking certainly makes good business sense (saving valuable resources and increasing productivity) it also helps in improving the quality of life of the teleworker. Teleworkers avoid the stress associated with daily-commuting. There is greater flexibility to integrate your work with your home life.

Employees based in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where it takes anywhere between two to three hours travelling to and from work, would save on hours of productivity by teleworking.

In India, there is tremendous scope for teleworking, especially in the IT industry, thanks to the nature of work involved – coding, software development, data entry, web design, and medical transcription, among others. Writers/editors, financial analysts, stock brokers, management consultants and graphic designers can also become successful teleworkers.

Some categories of workers can benefit immensely from Teleworking. For instance, mothers of young children who cannot remain away from home for long will find teleworking a rather attractive proposition. Similarly, it is a real boon for people suffering from any form of physical disability.

Teleworking is also a great model for small entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals operating SOHOs. Such individuals find obvious benefits in teleworking: saving office rentals, reaching out to a wider, potentially worldwide audience and networking with other self-employed individuals running SOHOs. The Internet presents immense opportunities to do business on a global as well as on a local basis. A well-presented Web site, backed by appropriate payment arrangements and a high standard of response to enquiries and orders, can be the self-employed teleworker’s shop window for attracting potential customers and doing business with them. For a customer doing business across the Internet, it matters not whether you are in a prestige office building or in your office over the garage. What matters is how you present your business and the value it delivers.

What makes a good teleworker?
Self motivation, an ability to work without close supervision and good time-management skills are an absolute must for any teleworker. Good communication skills and being Internet savvy are also pre-requisites. A good teleworker would possess the uncanny ability to cope with conflicting demands of home and work life.

Teleworkers is suited to individuals who are happy working by themselves, without colleagues and companions.

Scope for Teleworking
In India, organisations like Hewlett-Packard, NIIT and Datamatics Technologies have experimented alternate work options like flexi-time, telecommuting and teleworking. For example, Datamatics Technologies passes on data-entry assignments from its international clients to its network of vendors working from home. Datamatics picks and delivers the assignments from the vendor’s doorstep.

Forbes Marshall, Gartner India, Monsanto Chemicals India, India Software Group (a Birla Group IT company), Maars Software are other companies who have experimented with teleworking.

Ticketing Woes

Daily, about 13 million passengers travel with the Indian Railways. No wonder, long queues are typical at railway reservation centres in our country. Especially in large cities, people often wait in queues for a very long time, sometimes as long as three hours. Come peak season, and this waiting period reaches its peak too. People line up from the previous night, to ensure that they get their seats/berths. Needless to say, that booking long distance railway tickets is a nightmare for most of us.

In view of this, it is surprising that it took the authorities this long to introduce a basic system that would ease up the chaos at the booking centres. But it’s better to be late than never. The Railways have finally put into action something that was long overdue. After introducing the LED-based token indicator system at the computerised reservation centre at CST, the same is soon being introduced at Thane. The arrangements are in place: LED screens, digital token screens over each window and long benches in front of all the windows, the last one is for people to park themselves comfortably while waiting their turns.

The token system would make "first come, first served" a reality at the reservation centres. This means it would be impossible for anyone to get a ticket issued out-of-turn. This out-of-turn business is particularly annoying when, during closing hours, the one who genuinely deserves the ticket is refused because of someone who broke into the queue.

The token system will certainly go a long way in reducing the discomfort faced by people. For one, the seating facility would be especially helpful in case of senior citizens and physically challenged persons. You can save time too. For instance, once a token is issued, you need not get confined to the booking centre. You could roughly estimate the amount of time it would take for your turn and go about attending to other tasks.

Although the token system would reduce the discomfort faced by the public at the reservation centres, it does not eliminate it completely. But there is good news: for those who have access to the Internet, you could book your tickets online through the IRCTC website. Just log on to www.irctc.co.in and register yourself. Once registered, you will be given a unique user name and password which you could use each time you wish to book a ticket. The ticket is dispatched to you by courier and normally reaches within 24 Hours.

Filmi Chakkar
A friend recently decided to venture out for a movie. He and his wife decided to watch American Desi. On scanning the day’s newspaper, they found that it was being screened at Vandana. They invited a few friends to join them too. It was the last show on Friday, and the couple reached there well before time to ensure that they get the desired number of tickets. On reaching the theatre, the couple found the ambience a little suspicious. They noticed a few "shady types" moving about the premises of the theatre. For a Friday night, there were hardly any crowds. Most importantly, the posters of American Desi were conspicuous by their absence. The duo soon found out the reason for the absence of the posters – the theatre was showing was some x-rated flick and not the film they intended to see. The newspaper they referred had made a blunder. Suddenly, the couple realised why they were the centre of attention – people around were wondering what such a decent looking couple was doing there!

Embarrassed, our friend quickly began calling all others he had invited, to warn them in time, of the faux pas he had committed. In the end, though all was fine. They succeeded in preventing the others from reaching the theatre, diverting them to a restaurant instead, where all of them shared a hearty meal and a hearty laugh at what had happened.

Train Travails

Mumbai suburban network is probably the densest in the world. Average peak hour loading of trains is in excess of 4500 passengers per train compared to a "design capacity" of about 1800 per train and "crush load capacity" of 2600 per train. Rush hour panic is a common sight. So is battling and wrestling by passengers who somehow want to get into the train. Jam packed compartments are a way of life and most regular travellers have become accustomed to the appalling conditions that they are subject to, twice a day. Yet, despite the sordid state of affairs, most passengers have learnt to keep their cool and maintain their sense of compassion.

Consider this. Last week, in an overcrowded CST-bound fast local Thane, people were grumpy as the trains were running late and the October heat was taking its toll. It was about 11 in the morning and there was hardly any place to stand. As the train began its journey, a middle aged man, who had boarded the train just before it left the station, collapsed. Noticing the man collapsing, the fellow travellers forgot all about their discomfort and tried to accommodate this ailing man. What followed were amazing gestures of compassion and kindness. First, the man was quickly offered a window seat, so that he could breathe some fresh air. Some people started speculating about the cause of his collapse. What if he has collapsed because of low sugar level?   Out came a candy from within the crowd. The man, who was still not speaking, was given the candy. Maybe it was due to dehydration, someone suggested. So bottles of water were offered. Finally, people even asked if there was a doctor or a medical student around, who could perhaps check for symptoms of heart problem or blood pressure. Within minutes, everyone in the compartment showed concern. What was heartening was the way in which an act of kindness by one spread contagiously and more people joined in to offer help.

The man finally got off at Masjid station, but not without thanking everyone for their timely help. One could make out that his gratitude was genuine. But then, so was the help of his fellow passengers.

Colours of Life

Well known Marathi stage actors Sanjay Narvekar (of Vaastav fame) and Bharat Jadhav are best known for their performances in "All the Best", a record breaking Marathi play. While Narvekar played the character of a deaf man, Jadhav played a dumb man. With their potent performances, Narvekar and Jadhav have earned the respect of colleagues and critics alike.

Last week, at a programme organized by Indradhanu in Thane’s Sahyog Bhavan, both Narvekar and Jadhav related a few colourful anecdotes  from  their lives.

Bharat Jadhav shared an interesting and touching story from his early days of "All the Best". He spoke about a taxi-driver who was driving a couple of rather belligerent passengers towards the theatre where "All the Best" was to be performed. Mumbai traffic being what it is, the passengers sensed that they might reach late for the show and in frustration, began cursing the taxi-driver. They used all possible expletives and expressed their displeasure quite aggressively. No no fault of his, the driver tolerated this abuse and maintained silence, driving patiently. But what made this self-control possible? Jadhav revealed that the taxi-driver was none other than his own father, who was feeing a sense of pride, driving these difficult passengers to his son’s play – never mind the name-calling and foul language that he was subjected to. After all the passengers were dying to see his son’s performance!

Sanjay Navekar too recalled an episode from his early days of "All the Best". This was about the time when he decided to move his residence from Vikhroli to Thane (Kalwa), as it made more sense to stay close to Gadkari Rangayatan.

One day, after he had relocated to Thane, Narvekar was returning home after a late night performance. He was new to this part of town, and was still not familiar with the streets. So, on his way he stopped at many points to ask for directions. One man recognized Narvekar and asked him if he was indeed ‘the Sanjay Narvekar’ from All the Best. "So whose house are you looking for?" the man asked him, to which Narvekar replied casually, "Mine". The man refused to believe him. He said, "You are never serious. Please tell me who are you really looking for?" Narvekar stood there, helpless and amused at the irony of life!

Happy Journey!
The other day, a colleague who was traveling in the 498 Ltd. BEST from Thane to Andheri, came across a rare bus conductor, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy his work. It was a hot and humid day but all through the journey, the conductor entertained the passengers while giving out tickets. In his non-stop commentary, he made references to all kinds of things – from Bollywood to cricket and politics. He cracked jokes and delivered famous dialogues, including a few from Kaun Banega Crorepati. He was apparently quite abreast of what is hot and what is not. The passengers were pleased and many of them wondered aloud about the pleasant attitude of the conductor.

This conductor’s disposition only proves that happiness is a state of mind and has nothing to do with either one’s destiny. It’s a choice we can all make, regardless of our current state of affairs.

Success Factor

Nervousness is uncomfortable. But according to motivational speaker Gil Eagles, "If you want to be successful, you must be willing to be uncomfortable." Indeed, great people have often attributed their triumph to the hardships and discomfort they face along the path to success. Padmashri Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar (remember, she sang Vajapayee’s poems) recently related an anecdote that confirms this attitude.

Padmaja and Milind Ingle were the chief guests of an orchestra concert held at the Gadkari Rangayatan on March 12, 2002. The theme of the orchestra was Hey Rang Jeevanache or The colors of life. The orchestra team was led by Rupesh Raut who also directs Marathi Sa Re Ga Ma on Alpha TV.

During the show, Padmaja told the audience about her brief meeting that she had had, with the orchestra team just before the show had begun. "The talented group of individuals said to me that they were feeling nervous with the thought of performing in my presence. I think this is the sign of greatness in the making", said the accomplished singer. She went on to relate how she once asked Pandit Bhimsen Joshi if he ever felt nervous before his shows, to which he had replied, "I feel nervous before every show – I feel it is my first time, every time."

"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain", said Ralph Waldo Emerson. The orchestra team performed brilliantly that evening and the applause they received in return dissolved their nervousness and fear!

Train travails
The numerous platforms at Thane Railway Station often leave suburban travelers in a state of confusion. For instance, a CST slow local in Thane can depart from four possible platforms (1, 2, 3 and 4).

Fortunately, Thane city has been a beneficiary of good corporate citizens. After sponsored signboards on traffic signals, we now have sponsored train-time indicators.

Last week, suburban train travelers in Thane city were pleasantly surprised to see digital time indicators put up outside the station. This means that people rushing to work early morning, will be able to decide which platform they need to rush to, even before they enter the station.

While this may not seem like a big deal, it will certainly make a difference to the thousands of Thane residents who depend on local trains to travel to their workplaces. Often, a delay of just a few seconds leads to missed trains and late attendance (And frequent late attendance can be a costly affair – it can cost you your job).

Helping hand
Yet another example of the generous nature of corporate citizenry in Thane was demonstrated recently by a supplier of school uniforms.

Last week, Kalpavriksha Marketing Pvt. Ltd. adopted 32 students from 16 schools of Thane (2 from each school). These students, who have been nominated by their respective schools, are financially weak and the company has decided to sponsor their entire education-related expenses. This includes their school fees, uniforms, accessories, stationary and books.

These small acts of kindness can be best described in the words of the famous broadcast journalist, Charles Kuralt, "The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines".

Doctor-Doctor

"We have not lost faith, but we have transferred it from God to the medical profession", said George Bernard Shaw. With such faith comes tremendous social responsibility which the noble profession of Medicine is supposed to carry. Practising physicians carry a huge responsibility on their shoulders as they must constantly update their knowledge to keep it current. But new challenges in the field of medicine are not making the task of physicians enviable. Fresh discoveries of both diseases and their antidotes are surfacing at an unbelievable speed.

We must give doctors their due though, as most of them keep learning as long as they practise. They do so by various methods like reading the latest books and journals, browsing the Internet etc. One important manner in which doctors keep their knowledge fresh and current is by participating in medical seminars.

Thane District Medical Practitioners Association (TDMPA) is an association of qualified doctors formed with the objective of spreading knowledge through interaction and to encourage healthy relationships between doctors. Communication is an extremely potent form of knowledge disbursement and TDMPA’s objective is to provide a platform for the same. TDMPA has also supported National Programmes like eradicating Polio, D.O.T for T.B, Leprosy, HIV and AIDS.

TDMPA celebrated its eleventh anniversary on January 13, 2002 at Gadkari Rangayatan. It was a function organized by the doctors and for the doctors!

Gracing the occasion was Dr. L.H. Hiranandani who is the first ENT specialist from India to receive the Padma Bhushan, the Dhanwantri Award and World’s Golden Award from International Federation of ENT. Dr. Hiranandani was recently honored as the ‘Surgeon of the Millennium’ by the Oto-Laryngologist & Head & Neck Surgeons Association of India.

Also present were other reputed physicians such as Dr. Deepak Amrapurkar, Dr. Sushil Shah, Dr. Amit Maydeo, Dr. Nagal and Dr. Samdani. Together with Dr. Hiranandani, they guided an audience comprising 700 doctors. The topics of discussions covered an entire gamut of medical matters ranging from liver disorders to pathological investigations in HIV/AIDS. Even topics like "Medical Ethics" were discussed.

Chief Medical Officer of Thane Municipal Corporation Dr. Munde felicitated the team of 40 doctors, who had worked relentlessly for the success of the function.

Any qualified medical practitioner can enroll as a member of the TDMPA. For further details, please contact Dr. M.P.Shah (President of TDMPA) on 536 9309.

Ticket Please
The population of Thane city has grown manifold during the last decade or so, but the public infrastructure has failed to match up. This has led to strange problems. Take for instance ticket counters at the railway station. Buying suburban train tickets is an uphill task for residents of Thane west, especially during peak hours and on public holidays. The coupon validating-machines lie useless as they are forever suffering a breakdown. This adds to the agony of the travelers who have to endure really long and serpentine queues.

But trust a few mavericks to figure out a solution. Like Dnyanesh Bhatavedekar who uses a guerilla tactic to beat the crowds. In times of extreme urgency, he buys his tickets from a solitary ticket counter on the East side of Thane station (Kalyan side), which is almost always deserted. At the risk of encountering a Ticket Collector Dnyanesh crosses over to the East side, using the Railway FOB. We must appreciate his bravado and honesty – at least he doesn’t travel ticket-less!

Diwali Extortion

Three families were returning to the city from a resort in Shahapur village in Thane District after a short Diwali holiday. They were traversing the journey in two cars, when they came across a large group of villagers walking on the narrow road ahead, jamming the way. The area was completely deserted with no civilization in sight. As the first car sounded the horn, the villagers turned around and blocked the road completely with the help of a rather long and thick iron pole they were carrying. Surrounding the car the villagers refused to clear the way. When the driver honked again, two of villagers tapped on the tinted window glass and asked them for money! "Its Diwali, so give us money, else we will not let you go" they seemed to be saying in the local language. The whole situation was frightening, to say the least.

Fortunately the second car which was not far behind, caught up with the first and both cars attempted to move ahead simultaneously. Just at the same time, a local auto rickshaw too approached from the front. Seeing so many vehicles at a time, the "extortionist" villagers were forced to clear the way and the group literally escaped from the clutches of what could have been a difficult situation. Yet, when the willagers had stalled the first car, the occupants admit at having missed a heartbeat. After all, the villagers far out-numbered the group and also carried an iron pole.

Detention Please!

"Pay attention or face detention", seems to be the new mantra of teachers coping with difficult children. Many readers may recall that Detention is the favorite punishment handed over to students by the teachers in the popular teenage comics Archie’s.

For the benefit of all its students, Bharat English High School in Thane East has now introduced a more enduring form of Detention room. Students requiring special attention are identified and moved to this specially created division, which has two extra hours of school each day. The idea is to deal with behavior problems of the weak, mischievous and disruptive students by giving them special attention and also to keep them away from other students.

It is common knowledge that undesirable behavior among school students is on the rise universally. Today’s parents and teachers have to deal with such grave issues as disobedience, disruption, rules violations, absenteeism, gang related behavior, fighting, assault, vandalism and even drugs/smoking.

School, home and the community at large, share the responsibility for helping each student learn appropriate ways to behave. Hopefully, Bharat school’s move would create a positive school climate that will go a long way in controlling unruly behavior, maintaining discipline and instilling sincerity among the students who have lost their way.

"Fair Advantage"

Thane residents may not realize that they hold a unique advantage living in this city of lakes. The advantage comes in the form of the boating facilities available at the Masunda Lake, popularly known as Talao Pali. Although it may sound trivial, but by virtue of being Thane residents, people here have acquired the know-how of rowing boats! While rowing is a thoroughly entertaining and unwinding experience, it sometimes proves to be a useful skill to possess.

Boating at Venna Lake is a popular activity among the tourists at Panchgani. So when a group of Thane youngsters recently went for a trip to the beautiful hill station, they found reason to be proud.

Rowing is not everyone’s cup of tea, so most people around the Venna Lake were quite content opting for paddleboats. However our friends from Thane were well equipped with the skills necessary to row, making them opt for the more difficult and uncommon form of boat – the one with oars instead of paddles.

The group of youngsters navigated merrily in the lake, while others looked in awe. Our friends soon became the centre of attention, as they were the only ones who had opted for rowing in place of paddling. Needless to say, they enjoyed every moment of attention they got.