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Archive for August, 2018

It is fashionable these days to speak of our beloved city metamorphosing into what is euphemistically referred to as a Smart City. Here is a contrary view which may find resonance with some of its residents.

These nameless denizens may instead like to lead a leisurely life in a city where:

  1. The need to jump out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle gets minimized – in other words, hapless pedestrians and bicycle riders have the right of way; the use of horns and loudspeakers attract a hefty fine, leaving the offender crying all the way to his bank.
  2. Warehouses and hotels are not permitted within the boulevard limits, leaving the narrow streets peaceful and resident-friendly. Elderly and ailing residents need no longer complain of being startled at times – either by the incessant growling of commercial vehicles during days or by the sound pollution generated by tourist vehicles during nights.
  3. More parks, where citizens could stretch their limbs and try to fight off such lifestyle diseases as diabetes and hypertension, thereby warding off cardiac blues. Likewise, a denser coverage of main streets by trees with thick foliage, with water dispensing kiosks, toilets and garbage bins dotting the landscape liberally. What Pondicherry needs are more Ashe Marsons (of ‘Something Fresh’ fame) who are fond of brisk walks and Larsen Exercises in open spaces.
  4. All crossings within the boulevard area have convex mirrors at corners, thereby avoiding speeding-bike-enthusiasts routinely crashing into other vehicles, thereby putting life and limb to grave risks.
  5. All crossings across the canal are made obstruction free, avoiding blind spots and congestion on Gingee Salai and Ambour Salai. (As of now, the Vysial Street crossing is the only good example of a blind-spot free crossing across the canal.) Mandatory mini parks could be planned at all these corners. Shops peddling terracotta articles near the Ashram can be relocated to other suitable places, so the road on that stretch becomes clearer for traffic.
  6. The dependence on tourism alone to prop up the local economy is given a lower priority; where the powers that are exercise their grey cells better, hold consultations with business leaders so innovative ways to augment the territory’s revenues get planned and implemented. A concerted drive towards industrialization by using SEZ-earmarked and other parcels of land available could help. So could a hefty increase in registration charges for petroleum-driven vehicles, with substantial rebates for those who go in for greener vehicles.
  7. A multi-modal public transport system gets implemented in a mission mode, with battery operated vehicles alone being permitted within the boulevard area.
  8. Water channels and aquifers get revitalized, with the single aim of making Pondicherry a model in reversing the trend of increasing ground water salinity. A long-term plan to ward off the ill effects of rising sea levels and to tackle incessant rains also needs to be put in place.
  9. Strict ban on plastic bags of all kinds; a scientifically designed garbage collection and disposal system, duly backed by latest technology.
  10. Cooperation and collaboration at the top, leading to a visionary development of Pondicherry.

Call it a ‘smart’ one or a ‘dumb’ one, but the above features, if worked upon by those in charge of making things happen, would surely make the denizens of Pondicherry a healthier and a happier lot in the long term.

These would retain the essential character of the territory. What the planners would do well to avoid would be adopting a soulless materialistic ‘smart’ plan which would leave the residents gasping for clean air, yearning for sparkling water and ardently wishing for a sound of silence which would enable a person standing on Ambour Salai to hear the unmistakable melody of ocean waves on the main beach road.

(Notes:

  1. A version of this article can also be found at https://www.pondylive.com/2018/08/smart-city-pondicherry-why-some-of-us-prefer-a-dumb-city;
  2. Pondicherry montage courtesy www;
  3. Pondicherry street scene illustration by Emanuel Scanziani for Le Club, Pondicherry)

 

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/puducherry-2025-a-traveller%E2%80%99s-memoirs)

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ashokbhatia

You know the kind of disasters which strike you once in a while. JustBertie image when you feel that life is a bed of roses, God is in heaven, and all is well with the world, Fate sneaks up from the back. Your Guardian Angel decides to proceed on a vacation. The blow falls.

Two weeks earlier, Aunt Agatha had set in motion yet another of her mould-the-wastrel-Bertie programs. Having been forced to be affianced to Honoria Glossop for this period had been a trying experience.

With each day came the challenge of having to read at least fifty odd pages of serious literature, often followed by a visit to some frightful art gallery or the other. Being made to attend quite a few classical concerts proved to be a traumatic experience. I was left convinced that blokes like Beethoven, if I get one of the names right, should have been banished…

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

 

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

 

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

 

Where one can encounter the true gifts of nature

Clean air, pristine water, lakes and streams

One amongst which is the clear stream of reason 

Leading to ever-widening thought and action;

 

Into this heaven of freedom, I wish this country to remain.

 

(Inspired by the famous poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore)

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Bertie Wooster, as you know,
Is not really a true Lothario.
Sure, he’s admired a girl or two,
As lively young Drones are apt to do.

 

There was Bobby, of the fiery tresses,

Who got Bertram into tangled messes.

And haughty Lady Florence Craye,

A lovely profile, seen sideway.

 

Pauline Stoker gave him quite a scare,
Lolling about in his gents’ sleepwear.
Honoria Glossop was a strong maybe,
‘Til her father gave the nolle prosequi.

 

The menace of Madeleine Bassett was there,
Like Damocles’ Sword, hung above Bertie’s hair.
Only Gussie Fink-Nottle, her prospective mate,
Stood between Bertram and a most hideous fate.

 

An English gentleman’s honour code,
Pointed Bertie down the matrimonial road.
Only an iron hand in a velvet glove,
Could loose the tightening fetters of love.

 

Fresh off a fish-containing snack,
Head visibly bulging at the back,
Jeeves glides in and finds a way,
To free poor Bertie and save the day.

 

Even in Bingo Little’s sad case,
When he falls for every pretty face,
Jeeves manages to pull off a stunning coup,
And pull young Bingo out of the soup.

 

We doff our hats to this wonder man,
Marvel at each Machiavellian plan.
If ever we stray on the primrose path,
We hope Jeeves can fix up the aftermath.

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ashokbhatia

rainbow

O Divine,
I often dream of you,
I wrap these dreams in a soft illumined air,
Which lies in between the violet and the red colours.

Help me to make a colourful highway,
Connecting the Earth and the Heavens above,
Help me to plant seeds of the Infinite,
On this finite lump of dancing mass we call the Earth.

Over time these seeds would grow into powerful creepers,
Gently opening the new life’s doors of bright white hue,
Giving us a peek into a magnificent palace,
Of an ornamental roof and gleaming floors.

These dreams of a new race I do believe in,
With Your grace, these would surely manifest on Earth,
Eventually, these would become the living truth,
Making humanity experience unalloyed joy and infinite bliss.

(Contributed by Usha)

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ashokbhatia

04

The dark blue color of your skin matches the deep hue of the late evening sky,
You are the light in the cosmos, you are the force which makes heavenly bodies fly;

You are the atom, you the nucleus, you the particle which goes around,
You are the invisible force which keeps the entire universe bound;

You reside in the sweet fragrance of the flowers, in the sap of plants,
You flow in the rapids, leap up in flames, you are in insects and in ants;

You hide in the melody of music, in the ether, in the tiny grains of sand,
You are behind all joys and sorrows of nature, in the rainbow, in the fertile land;

O supreme Bliss, who and where are you, we wish to know,
Words can’t describe you, thoughts can’t fathom your flute and bow;

We bow down to you but are fed up…

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Robert Pimm: novels, short stories and more

I have written several times in these chronicles of my slow-burn devotion to the works of P G Wodehouse, including my induction (How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide), drawing on the excellent advice of fellow WordPress blogger and Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia – strongly recommended for all things Jeeves and Wooster and beyond.

Hence my concern, bordering on panic, at my initial perception that “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit” was not quite such a pearl of the Wodehouse canon as, say, the wondrous Thank you, Jeeves.  Bertie Wooster’s early decision to grow a moustache, to the disapproval of Jeeves, felt a little familiar as a plot device.  The plot of the first half of the book meandered – well, I am reminded of Bertie’s description of Daphne Dolores Morehead on her first appearance in the novel as having “a figure as full of curves…

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ashokbhatia

KalidasaKalidasa, said to be born in the 4th century AD, is widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language.  Had he been alive today, he would have been a very busy man, possibly assisted by a huge team of research assistants, dishing out scripts, dialogues and lyrics for a vast majority of our dream merchants in Bollywood.

His emphasis on capturing the innate beauty of nature might not have enthused many of our present day producers and directors. However, his evocative portrayal of female beauty and the passionate depiction of the affairs of the heart would have surely had the Bollywood movie makers in enthrall.

In his ‘Ritusamhara’ (Medley of Seasons), Kalidasa describes six seasons in his inimitable style: Summer (Greeshma), Monsoon (Varsha), Autumn (Sharad/Patjhad), Pre-winter (Hemant), Winter (Shishir) and Spring (Vasanta). Each one is dealt with evocative descriptions of the elements of…

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Vision and Mission Statements of corporates adorn their walls and can be readily copied. However, the value system of an organization is not something which can be copied very easily. It permeates the entire organization – its hierarchy, its various divisions or departments. It rubs off on most of its employees. Even service providers and supporting manufacturers get tuned to the same frequency. It would perhaps not be wrong to surmise that values are to an organization what the soul is to a physical body. Organizations which thrive over a long period of time and achieve sustainable commercial success would invariably be found to have sound values at the core of their operations.

Manifestation of values

Small things reflect the values being followed – whether spaces in the car parking lot are allotted hierarchy wise or are based on a first-come-first-served basis, whether the corner office has high sound-proof walls all around or is open to all to signify transparency, whether the boss is entitled to charge the company for her spouse accompanying her on a business trip, whether office stationery items get whisked off to executives’ households for use by their kids, or whether use of cell phones or social media platforms is viewed with a sense of benign resignation by a hapless human resources honcho.

One striking feature of values is that even if these remain spoken of in hushed tones and get communicated more effectively through grapevines which are embedded deep in any organization, it is leadership which sets the tone. Those down the ladder fall in line. Those who shape up, and have a reasonably good performance on the job, survive and do well. Those who do not, get eventually shipped out. The latter then try to look for other organizations where the values – theirs and those of the organization – happen to be in harmony.

When head-hunting for a CFO, Human Resources honchos know pretty well that even though the final three short-listed aspirants happen to have near-identical qualifications and experience, their personal value systems would set them apart. One would not mind being used to extensive window dressing to please diverse stakeholders, thereby raising the concern for a disaster lurking round the corner in not so distant a future. Another might admit to being open to transactions in hard cash, thereby consolidating his own power and pelf in the company, if appointed. Yet another one might take a dim view of any underhand dealings and project the image of someone who believes in transparency with the internal as well as the statutory auditors, thereby leaving the CEO and the board of directors breathing easier. If the management cares about maintaining high standards of corporate governance, the last one would land the assignment.

At the macro level, values of an organization manifest in the wisdom which underlies their actions. When it comes to achieving the heights of corporate excellence, organizations which have sound long-term values are invariably found to enjoy strong brand equity. Scratch beneath the surface and one is apt to discover the wiser ways in which it conducts its operations. Its initiatives lead to a sustainable growth of the business, giving back to society in ways which are imaginative as well as pragmatic.

Take the case of Tatas, a salt-to-software business conglomerate which has more than one hundred companies in its fold, spread over more than one hundred countries. Their businesses might be as diverse as chalk and cheese but much like beads strung together by a string, what holds all these outfits together is a common set of values which the group stands for. The name stands for dependability and better value for money. Around two-thirds of the profits of the group flow into Tata trusts which channelize these back to the society in myriad ways.

Speaking to the conglomerate’s leadership recently, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, said that the group has been under “fire” for the past few months due to allegations of mismanagement and “being in business for reasons other than good corporate governance”. “The spirit that we had that made us grow to $100-billion revenues has not been through mismanagement and unethical procedures,” he said, adding that it has grown by being a visionary, having a spirit of integrity, unity and doing philanthropy.

Products and organizations have life cycles of their own. Just like the human body is prone to many changes – birth, existence, growth, decay, disease and death. But values outlive these perils of life; somewhat akin to the Self which Gita holds to be eternal and deathless. Values pervade all arms of any organization.

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् |
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित्कर्तुमर्हति || 17||

avināśhi tu tadviddhi yena sarvam ida tatam
vināśham avyayasyāsya na k
aśhchit kartum arhati

That which pervades the entire body, know it to be indestructible. No one can cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.

An inner connection to handle myriad challenges with aplomb

Hapless CEOs face myriad challenges. There are pinpricks from customers, employees, suppliers and many other stakeholders. The directors and the shareholders have to be kept in a positive frame of mind. Regulatory agencies and government departments have to be kept in good humour. Concerns for upholding norms of corporate governance keep snapping at their heels. Only nerves of chilled steel and deep reserves of inner resilience can help them to keep performing on all the twelve cylinders. An inner connection surely helps.

In an indirect manner, Gita touches upon the importance of an inner connection for business leaders. It holds that wise are those who enjoy a tranquility and calmness within themselves. Their inner being is in harmony with their outer being. Their decision-making is based on balanced, well-considered and a holistic view of the facts of the case. They do not manage crises in business with knee-jerk reactions. They deal with people according to their nature and with occurrences in the business environment according to their force and the truth or hard reality they represent. Impartial they are. Detached they are. Compassionate they happen to be, but never at the cost of their innate wisdom and truth. And never do they compromise on their core values.

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