Monday, October 29, 2007

Thinking out of the b-b-b-box......

Management gurus chortling with glee seeing everyone and every one's friend talking about "thinking out of the box" , obviously never thought of two things .

1. Which box, and of what size.

2. Who is in the box ad who is doing the thinking.

3. How the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, hitherto referred to as MMRDA, would excel at using this concept in unusual ways.

Living in IIT Powai, it's almost like living in a park.

That is, if you forget, having to dodge , disdainfully sneezing cows and bulls, who break into a Pavlovian Gallop in reaction to a two wheeler loudly changing gears in their vicinity, or, monkey families, in defiance of "hum do hamare do" , blithely scampering across trees and building gates, with a greedy eye on a bag of groceries being carried by a stupid human. Pythons and snakes are passe, and these days they spend more time avoiding Indica's and Honda's that seem to have invaded the campus

The main arterial road outside IIT, that connects west to he east is being "redeveloped" and one of the first things they did was to immediately raze to the ground the various convenience shops across the road, in the interests of road widening. The MMRDA, while regretting the "inconvenience", likes to put up boards saying "Please bare with us" with a fine disregard for spelling, and a great tendency for pun, or maybe they think its fun.

I am convinced that the MMRDA , in cahoots with the BMC, has a secret agenda. It is called "thinking out of the box".

The only difference is that those in the box and those thinking are different entities.

The idea is to teach the pedestrians a lesson. They need to "know their place". And how dare they appear on the windscreen of a great man , simultaneously on the wheel and his cell phone, shivering in the air conditioned interiors of his gas guzzling contraption with tinted windows ?

The road belongs to wheels, and NOT to legs.

Why else would they dig "boxes" in the rubble, about 5 feet deep, big enough to hold a person like me, and position them , so close to the road edge, that speeding motorcycles force pedestrians into them? Believe me, slipping into such a "box" while carrying a big watermelon and 2 kg of tomatoes , is not something you wish ,even for your worst enemy.

These "boxes" have been dug every ten feet or so. No sharp edges on the box , but a smooth and fine slide into the nether world is ensured, as you step aside in a hurry to avoid an onslaught of six motorcycles, who have a fetish for overtaking from the left. Helmets are supposed to be for safety. Actually, they are for hiding the drivers face, so you cannot remember them when you complain to the police. One less case to handle. Load reduction for the police. More time for imposing fines. A win-win situation for everyone, except me.

I am sitting in the box, and they think outside it.......:-)

Time was when traffic signals outside schools had some importance. Children, accompanied by retired grandparents and parents crossed the road in large numbers at given times.

That was when the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Mumbai Police decided to "think out of the box". All the boxes for trespassing pedestrians were already dug. And something was needed to bring about improvement in the track and field situation of the country.

So they fixed it so that the pedestrian crossing light would remain on, precisely for seven seconds.

Other countries have the motto of "catch them young". We catch them even old. And so, every morning , you see a gaggle of kindergaarten and primary kids, being escorted by retired grandparents, trying to sprint across a wide expanse of potholed road, trying to adjust school bags, lunch boxes, sun hats and water bottles.

The SAI needs to be applauded for thinking out of the box, in an effort at introducing sprintingand hurdles training for school children. It also reduces the number of potholes the BMC needs to fill, since we need to have natural hurdles. The Mumbai Police have obliged with creative road dividers, all in concrete.

And woe betide anyone who is being taken in an ambulance , anywhere. You need to get in line, even to die.

Maybe, if the road dividers were temporary , they could be shifted, to allow discretionary priority travel for the ambulance. But that is more work for the already burdened police. So you "think out of the box" when BMC suggests concrete road-dividers, and keep silent.

So many folks benefit. The police, the BMC, and the contractor they choose who will magically reappear a few months later to break down the same road divider, as some one with a secret agenda, a not so secret Z-class security, blaring sirens, red lights and open ambitions needs to pass by in a hurry......

There is, on this main arterial road, a Gurudwara, a Masjid and a Mandir. No amount of boxes and thinking out of them appears to have lead to a solution regarding their relocation. They stand in solitary isolation amongst ruins of their old neighbouring shops. No one DARES think about them , either out of the box, or inside it. A box implies boundary conditions. And here , there are no boundary conditions. Just conditions.

In the meanwhile, I have emerged, bloody but unbowed, watermelons, tomatoes and all, from the BOX, after thinking inside the box, about life outside the box.

I have bought a whistle. Rs 8/- only. It's readily accessible in an open compartment of my purse.

When in danger of being relegated to inside the box, the sheer moving pedestrian population allows me to freely give a piercing whistle that temporarily brings the traffic near me to a confused stop. Some startled glances (others), some shrugging of shoulders(mine), and we get to avoid the MMRDA boxes and move on.

Crossing the road is even better. Crowds have never been so welcome before. As you shuffle across with the masses, you take a fake, troubled look in the opposite direction from the police, and blow the whistle . People walking along don't bother you. One police thinks the other has blown the whistle for some purpose. By the time he figures it was a non police whistle, you get your additional ten seconds right there.

I have just decided. While I don't like the BOX, I will stick to the THINKNG outside the BOX.

And I am grateful to MMRDA, BMC, SIA and our own
Police for introducing me to the two.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learning from the blues and yellows

Some men in blue. Some others in yellow. Two of the yellow guys hold sticks in their hands. The "blues" circle around at various distances, which keep waxing and waning, and one of the blues always needs to do great deal of running, moving his arms and twisting of his wrist, on the way to chucking a ball at the yellows.

Then there are some teacher types, who behave like school monitors on the field. Like we did in school, they report names. We wrote them on a piece of paper and showed them to the teacher. They talk to the head teacher sitting far away, who secretly observes everything. Almost. Sometimes he even lip-reads.

Every time one of the yellows is able to whip the ball into the stands, there is a roar. Sometimes , when the places are reversed and the blues are with the sticks, the roar is even louder.

"Aai, why does the man crouching behind the 3 sticks talk so much ?"

"I don't know, son. Must be telling the stick holder to pay attention to the ball thrower in front of him. Like your teacher asks you to pay attention to what's being written on the blackboard in class, in front of you. And never mind the constant poking in the back from the student sitting behind you..."

"Aai, why does the ball thrower look in anger at the stick wielder ? The stick did not even touch the ball as it flew past. Wait, this time it did, and the fellow behind the three sticks caught it. I think the stick man did not like it at all ..."

" That's life, son. You learn to face the good and the bad in life."

"Aai, why did the ball thrower act like he was giving a "shaap" to the stick holder ? Why did he sit and bang his fists on the ground in front of the stick holder ? And why does the stick holder, stare and holler some stuff back ?"

"Son, sport is never like this. War and fighting is.

The child's eyes gleam. Its amazing, but the yellows and blues are behaving just like they do in his school in the recess, when games are played under pressure, amidst crowds of other children, an impending buzzer signifying end of available time, and everyone wanting a chance to fling the ball at someone else.

The child learns something more. The big boys in the yellow, particularly a fellow with Lord Krishna type hair, and white lipstick a la Dracula, seems to be most active. He snarls and takes verbal swipes at the younger boys. Sometimes he and his friends make fun of the older blues too.

But like the senior boys at school, the older ones get away with ignoring the yellows silently.

"Aai, why don't they complain to their teachers ? Maybe she will make them kneel outside the big white circle near the crowds of people. Maybe she will keep them inside the class in the recess and not allow them to play; maybe they will be forced to miss lunch. Maybe she will ask them to write a hundred times ,"I shall not swear ;I shall not swear....."...."

"Son, one goes to school to learn, and learn well. How well you do is judged by not just your final exams, but how you did throughout the school year. School also teaches you how to behave. With those you like and even those that you don't. You need to know why you are at school, and how priviledged you are."

"Unfortunately, son, the blues and yellows have forgotten that this is only a game."

"Aai, that's actually what our sports teacher told us ! Play true, play well, play like sportsmen, and play like team. Open your mouth if you have something to contribute. And let your sticks and ball do the talking.

"So true, son. Unfortunately , today, its like a fellow from your class, cheesed off at not being given his due "bhav", going crying to the teacher saying , "they called me a monkey!". Not done in sports. At the end of the day, there is another life in another place. And another game the next day.

"But Aai, I saw the blues teacher and the blues sports director having an argument yesterday. Do you think the yellows have arguments and fights too?"

"I am sure they do, son. But in their own houses. And normally, only one man speaks and decides. Unfortunately, amongst both blues and yellows, there are too many people talking, too many people carrying on about themselves, thinking that talking is "power"...

"Son, people like you notice these things and get the wrong ideas. Don't for a moment think, that giving a smart answer back to someone, or making a speech , works. It doesn't."

"But Aai,there are some blues who do not talk to much . Whenever they get angry, they take a deep breath, remember what their teachers taught them, and just play their sticks correctly. If one of the yellows stares at them , they just tap their sticks on the ground, , play an imaginary stroke in the air and shrug it off."

"Son. Learn from this. Most of the time, it happens that the yellows hear perfectly what you actually did NOT say...... "