Read the Printed Word!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Town Called Mhow

    How often have I been asked ? A south Indian, how come you have settled down at Mhow? I have no clear answers . But every time  I hear such a question, it triggers a series of thoughts on the uniqueness of Mhow.

   As a fauji I have been through 23 different places of posting , generally referred to as a military station or a cantonment. Many fellow-rovers would  agree with me that most of the people , toy with the idea of settling down in their place of posting, some time or the other . It could be the Nilgiris,  a Punjabi might fall in love with or Pithoragarh (google map please!) that might entice a South Indian. But these places are known for the short tourist seasons , and the ideas for taking roots  at such places are also seasonal...  In Pithoragarh  if you go through one winter ,  the salubrious climate in Summer is spoilt with this thought “If summer is here , can winter be far behind ?, .. run before it sets in" . It would be John Keats reverse-quoted (a word I just coined) .
So it goes, one place good only for summer, another good only for winter, too far North or too far South, East or west , too much rain or too little rain, concrete jungle or too remote a place and it goes on... Now let us look at Mhow. It is like the story of Narasimhavatar of Vishnu.... neither too warm or too cold, neither too North or too South, neither urban nor rural, neither a cantonment nor a civil area...well , on which ever axis you consider, it falls right in the middle ! It Includes some dubious considerations; neither are people too law abiding nor too lawless !

Any account of Mhow is not complete without a mention of Mhow-bazaar. The Main street is almost as if custom made for the fauji ladies ! Walking across just half a km, they can find   fancy gowns, dresses , suits, leather jackets, leather boots, or beautiful curtains , paintings, wood carvings and such stuff for their drawing room , ingredients to exercise all their culinary skills in Chinese and Continental dishes (poor husbands !). Mhow tailors , historically , have been catering for the Rajas and aristocrats during  British India and later to the army personnel posted all over the country in the Independent India. I for one have always got my uniforms made at Mhow, wherever I was posted; did I say 23 stations ?

Whats so great about a market and tailors? It is the ambiance that strikes. Whether it is the people moving about in the narrow streets and lanes of the town, or the shop keepers sitting at their desk on a summer afternoon, there is a sense of timelessness. Many shops actually shut down from two to four for the afternoon siesta. The bhoras are always smiling with the 'koi dikkat nahin' attitude. I bought  curtain rods for my house, my measurements turned out to be wrong and I went back for exchanging them , not with much hope. As it happened ,  fresh piecees were cut to the revised size with a 'Koi dikkat nahin' smile.

My wife had been lugging around an old Sumit mixer grinder , absolutely functional but one crucial knob missing. The machine was so obsolete no spares were  available anywhere. That was before we reached Mhow. A 10 ft by 12 ft shop with a know-all , do-all owner, with a 'koi dikkat nahin ' attitude  found the right solution in no time . It is not just the jugaad for repairing stuff , they can also produce such stuff found only in elite stores. I was looking for a 'quiche tray' and the same shop-keeper produced it seemingly out of nowhere. (I had only recently learnt the word 'quiche' but as a shop-keeper of Main street , Mhow he was fully aware of the the contraption as an essential need of a fauji mem-saab.)

An ancient defence service officers institute coupled with modern libraries, gymnasiums , tennis and squash courts, an olympic size  swimming pool, a sprawling golf course and most importantly the ambiance of Mhow-bazaar has made this place truly a haven for a retired fauji.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quote Unquote

In the era of social media , it has become the trend to share 'Quotes' . Find out what you want to say, then check out who has said a similar thing, modify it a bit and it will carry more weight. I have done a subtle experiment on Facebook ,don't tell anyone, to embellish my sayings ,with some good background, fancy fonts and finally by appending the name of some celebrity . It definitely gets more 'likes', thank God there is no provision for 'dislike'. 

Actually there is no harm in these 'shares' as long as you just keep receiving and forwarding , focusing only on the number of 'likes' and 'shares' ;not really reading anything, or seriously considering the contents. 

Trouble starts when some one reads and may be follows it up with some study of his own and then he feels offended. 

I have been receiving some serious sounding stuff on parenting, attributed to Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar. . These sayings were everywhere except in the only book he is said to have written ! This is one work, I have been carrying even on LRPs (Long Range Patrols, for mycivilian friends)...

In some of the groups , I pointed it out, then I just got tired of pointing out, since few read them anyway. 

There was another quote attributed to Swami Vivekananda. This was particularly creative as it just mentioned one part of the paragraph and conveniently left the concluding remark , which was 180 degrees apart. I have always carried the complete works of Swami... wherever I have been . So, immediately I checked back and got so upset, seeing the out of context, mischievous 'quote' . I shouldn't have got upset really but somethings are beyond you . Got to be a little thick-skinned, if you want to surf the social media sites and also read. Who cares for the niceties of right and wrong and feelings of readers. Finally I wrote a blog post to assuage my hurt sentiments and it ended there. 

So, in any group, I think it is better to avoid 'quotes' on anything particularly subjective issues. Once you own responsibility for your words , it is very difficult to make sweeping statements like 'Christians are always good' or 'Jews are always bad' , though it is convenient to post the same as views expressed by Hitler or Pope. 

Secondly, If a quote has to be posted why not check out on the validity,  the time, place and the purpose of the quote , by consulting Prof Google for 5-10 minutes?

Note This does not apply to anecdotes which are best expressed by the narrator in his own style. 

Tailpiece : What is a rule if you cant break it. Having spoken at length about quotes, here's a quote by Chanakya "Rumour mongers should be given death penalty" . I quoted this to a fellow-officer at a lighter moment for spreading some silly rumour of some one having received his posting order to some place. (cant think beyond). He assumed a very serious posture and replied "Murali , I am not spreading any rumour, I just originated it. Others are spreading it; go and kill them".

Cheers !