Developing countries like India are, I think, like curious, innocent toddlers. They eagerly put everything they find into their mouths and provide ready, lucrative markets for the multinationals.
Take CCD (Cafe’ Coffee Day) outlets in Delhi NCR, for instance. Their food items and beverages are exorbitantly priced. But they still have a huge clientele because their overall ambience provides an ideal setting for many special occasions where price is not the main consideration…A quiet date, a family outing, a business meeting, an interview, etc…And sometimes, you might even spot a small group of young people just lounging around over coffee and clicking selfies with pouting lips.
But India is changing. Very fast. Living standards and expectations are improving. New fast food chains like Burger King and some local outlets in are proliferating. Not only are they offering healthy, wholesome food at reasonable prices, they have swanky premises too.
CCD is, I think, already beginning to feel the pinch of rising competition and decreasing profits. You often find them using different marketing gimmicks, which looks rather pitiable and amusing, as their basic characteristic of high prices remains immutable.
Recently while passing by through Rajiv Chowk Metro Station on my way home from work , I came across this poster outside a CCD outlet. (See below)
It gave the impression that all those tasty items were on sale for Rs.29. Out of curiosity, I walked in. To my utter disappointment, however, I discovered that the only item costing Rs.29 was their ‘Bun Chaska Masala,’ which after adding GST changed to Rs.30.
Their counter sales person must have sensed the way I felt at that time and he urged me to try a combo instead. But that was going to be from Rs.51 onwards, he said. Not being someone who gives up easily, I told him I will have just the bun.
His next question was, “Will you eat it here or should we pack it?”
“Pack it, please,” I said.
“Okay, please wait for 5 minutes.”
The dish that finally arrived on my table wasn’t packed and I had to eat it there. Here, take a look.
Waiting, waiting, waiting….
Just a pair of buns, butter, and sauce; no filling!
Well, the burger disappeared into my belly soon thereafter without giving me any joy. So I came out and searched for something else…
While I walked on, I came across another CCD. They had a pair of counter sales persons repeatedly calling out in a chorus, “Welcome to Cafe’ Coffee Day.” That was obviously another sales gimmick and coming from CCD, it seemed to be very self-demeaning indeed. See this pic below.
And then, further ahead, I found a Burger King restaurant.
To my pleasant surprise, they had a scheme of 2 veg. burgers at Rs. 62, that is, one for Rs.31, with each veg. burger containing a potato-and-peas patty, onion, and some mayonnaise. By the time I boarded the metro train at Rajiv Chowk, my hunger pangs were gone and I had a surprise treat too in my bag for my daughter, a Burger King veg. burger!
There you go! See these pics below.
Well, it does pay to be a discerning customer, doesn’t it?
Flowers and trees have their own sweet ways of adding glamour to a place. This photo was clicked near M.G. Road Metro Station in Gurgaon…
The place has an avenue lined with Champa trees laden with white flowers, which combine with their shadows and the fluroscent lights to give you a beautiful feeling of walking through someone else’s dream.
Here are some more pics…
It is always with great pomp and ceremony that our leaders launch new stamps to commemorate special historical events and to honor individuals for making significant contributions to the world as we know it.
Here is one such link.
But things at the ground level are quite different. Our world as we know it is longer the same. The post offices, in particular, in Delhi at least, no longer sell stamps! Can you believe that? What’s the use of releasing all those new stamps, if they’re not going to be sold, one might ask?
I discovered this fact recently while trying to send my tax returns statement to the income tax office in Bangalore through the local post office.
The income tax office always insists that they will accept only those forms that arrive through ordinary or speed post.
I went to 3 post offices that day and all of them had the same answer, “Sorry. No stamps available, but you can send through speed post.” I had neither the time nor the patience to try my luck at the 4th one, so I opted for speed post. I had to pay around Rs.50 for it, which was 10 times the cost of sending a letter through ordinary post. Just one Rs.5 stamp would have sufficed!
I enquired about this at the 3rd post office. The clerk at the speed post counter was courteous enough to answer my queries. Given below is the conversation we had.
“Why have stamps suddenly gone out of stock?”
“The person who gave them to us took them back.”
“Who? Prime Minister Modi?”
“But what will he get out of it? Maybe you guys are simply trying to push your speed post business, since not too many stamps are sold anyway these days because of so many other faster options available.”
“No, that’s not true. Modiji is trying to bring in transparency in financial transactions in government departments. To avoid repetition of scams like the latest one of Nirav Modi, he has ordered that all stamps be taken back and re-issued.”
Well, that made sense and I had nothing left to say.
With a wry smile, I picked up my things and came out, feeling very helpless….
It was like somebody offering bananas to monkeys and beating up the poor, hapless owners of those vanished bananas…
Yes, even a stray dog can live in style…
(This poster declares in Hindi, “Beware! You are under scrutiny by a camera…)
While our national army basks in the glory of their recent ‘surgical strikes’ on the terrorist camps in Pakistan, a foreign country, our local Police allows petty criminals to go scot free. Crimes like pick-pocketing and snatching of handbags, jewellery, and electronic items such as mobile phones and laptops are considered far too trivial, not even worth the paper used to print their FIRs on! You need to be murdered or raped or both to be taken seriously by the police and still no action is taken against the criminals till the Media raises its voice.
On 9 October 2016, my black purse was snatched away by a woman in a Durga Puja Pandal. I informed the Police immediately. While I described the incident to their senior officer, the junior constables smiled gleefully and said, “Madam, you were well aware that you were in a public gathering where all kinds of people come. You should have been careful. The CCTV cameras we have got here are all fitted outside, not inside where the crime happened. So we can’t do anything about this.”
I received a copy of the FIR through email the next day. Two days later, I submitted to them my mobile phone’s IMEI number. But nothing happened after that, so I had no option left but to just dismiss it from my mind as a bad dream and move on.
To be fair to the Police, obtaining an FIR is now no longer a painful exercise that it used to be in the past. But their efficiency, I am sorry to say, appears to be on paper only. Everything else is as it was and continues to be, inefficient and corrupt.
Dear Prime Minister, Chief Minister, MLAs, Ministers, Delhi Government, and everyone else concerned, are you listening? What are those CCTV cameras meant for? To act as mere scarecrows?
The Metro train was running as usual. Doors opening and closing, people entering and exiting. Just another working day, as far as I was concerned. My eyes were beginning to droop for a short nap.
But when we reached Tilak Nagar, something unusual happened. A Metro employee entered, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. A middle-aged lady who was looking seriously ill was seated on the wheelchair. Her face was slightly contorted in pain. They were accompanied by a young man and a young woman in a sari.
Gently and lovingly, the couple picked up the old lady from the wheelchair and deposited her on the vacant seat in one corner of the ladies compartment reserved for the elderly and differently-abled people.
Just before walking away with the wheelchair, the Metro man asked, “Ap Laxmi Nagar utroge (Will you descend at Laxmi Nagar)?”
“Han (Yes),” They said.
All through the journey the young boy sat on the floor with his arms around her and the young lady kept stroking her on her back and her face. A few minutes later, the old lady lifted her arm a little bit, unconsciously revealing a little bit of her bare bosom plastered with bandage beneath the black shawl she had wrapped around her chest. It was obvious that she was having some breast related problem, probably cancer…
Going by the expressions on the young couple’s faces, the disease was probably something they had begun to live with and accept. The old lady was perhaps approaching death and they were only trying their best to make her life as comfortable as they could…
Soon, Laxmi Nagar station arrived. The doors opened and in came another Metro man with a wheelchair. The old lady was picked up again with the same love and care as before and deposited on the wheelchair. The couple wheeled her out. The Metro man took over and pushed the wheel chair behind the couple while they walked ahead close to each other, smilingly, confident in their love for each other and the old lady…While I watched them disappear into the lift, I found myself really touched and impressed by the quiet efficiency and attention of the Metro staff. If only every organization in Delhi could be so concerned about the people it comes in contact with! Then there would be no crime in Delhi, no orphans, no old age homes, and no unemployment…
A few days later, I saw another wheelchair-bound person being wheeled in by the Metro staff…
Hats off to you, my dear Delhi Metro! Keep up the good work and may God bless you…
Here are the pics…
A nation’s law and order situation can be gauged by the existence of exclusive ‘women’s-only’ compartments in trains. When a country creates reserved spaces for women in its public spaces including trains, it indicates its empathy and sincerity towards ensuring safety of women. But it is also a symptom of its inability to provide 100% security to half of its population and a toothless judicial system.
Take Delhi as an example. Delhi Metro began running its classy, air-conditioned trains in 2002 with general compartments. Four years later, in 2006, DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) was forced to reserve one compartment exclusively in all metro trains at all times when it became clear that the twin problems of groping and women’s molestation were so rampant that they could not be controlled through punitive action alone. Ever since then, Delhi Metro has turned into the safest and the most civilized space in Delhi. Women can travel in other compartments too in these trains, but men can’t travel in the ladies-only compartments. This rule is implemented very strictly and has been made a legal offense.
During Commonwealth Games in 2014, I got the chance to interact with a European woman in a Delhi Metro train. She was amused to find so many woman gathered together at one place. “Very unusual in my country,” she remarked.
Countries like Israel, Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia, and UAE also have ladies-only compartments in their trains. But Singapore, which is famous for its exemplary standards in discipline, cleanliness, and orderliness in public spaces, has no ladies-only compartment in its MRT!
This proves what I am trying to say through this article, which is, that women-only spaces are needed only when law and order situation is not under control.
One Singaporean blogger ( (http://this-is-not-a-blog-.blogspot.in/2006/03/woman-only-train-compartments-in.html) concluded his article on this topic with “Woman only trains? Go to another country if you want them.“
Here’s another pic from inside a ladies compartment of the Delhi Metro.