Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Look at the corporate ‘five-star’ hospitals. These monstrosities have only one objective in mind – forget all those oh-so-touching ads, posters and brochures with lines like ‘We care about you’ or some other sickly sweet lines dished out by some agency copywriter. Their only care is maximising profits at the cost of anyone. Batteries and batteries of tests are prescribed. Hapless patients with only lay knowledge have no choice but to comply with these greedy and lazy doctors who send them spinning to labs and scan rooms. God help if you decide you’ve had enough and go to another hospital. The doctor there needs to make his/her cut and the hospital has to meet its own targets so off you are sent off, very often, to redo all those very same tests. If you protest, they politely ask you to go somewhere else.
Recently, a friend was in hospital. Apparently at least ten doctors came and ‘checked’ on him. Except for a couple, the rest just read his chart or came and peered at him for a few seconds. Per doctor’s visit he was charged between Rs.300 and Rs.500 for each. How do these doctors sleep at night with a clear conscience when they are cheating patients – spending 5 seconds and earning mega bucks on the patient’s suffering and helplessness.
Apart from their callousness and greed, we come to the next point – their utter arrogance and complete disregard for a patient’s time. At one ENT hospital in the city, the appointment schedule goes like this – for every time slot, there are 4 patients, and each time slot has a five-minute gap. So, to give an example, for 4pm, there are 4 patients, for 4.05pm there are another 4 and so on it goes. Sometimes, you end up waiting for three to four hours for your appointment. But then, docs think they are God and yeah, they are playing with our lives and, when we are sick, our life is in their hands so they take advantage of that mercilessly.
These days it’s rare to find doctors who really care for their patients, who are willing to spend quality time with them. Most of them, especially those in the big hospitals are concerned with only one thing…money, money and more money. It’s sick!
Friday, October 9, 2009
"Good morning/afternoon/ evening. How can I help you?" And thus starts the long-winded often traumatic process of speaking to a Customer Care Executive from a Call Centre for your bank, telephone company or mobile company (to name just a few). Frankly, I’d prefer the old system any day. Yes, I know some of you may point out that getting through to speak to someone was difficult…the lines were constantly engaged etc. But then, have things changed with Call Centres? Hardly! First you go through an interminable process where a disembodied voice instructs you to press the ’star button’ or ’hash’, then options for English, Hindi and Tamil, and then you have to listen (im)patiently while you are instructed on which button to press to have your queries answered. And finally, comes what you have been waiting for - "Please press Nine to speak to our Customer Care Executive". A sense of elation overcomes you and within seconds you come crashing back to earth thanks to the next message - "Our customer care officers are busy. Please stay on hold" - or "Your wait time is 4 minutes 35 seconds" And then you wait, all the while listening to the bank or mobile company advertising their latest products either through the disembodied voice or by playing a jingle. By then you are ready to shoot someone! If you are unlucky, all of a sudden said voice will inform you sagely - "Due to technical reasons, your call cannot be completed now." You gaze at your watch in desperation and realise that the call has taken up ten minutes and you are back to square one - dial, listen to menu, press buttons, listen to litany of ads…and if you are lucky second time around, you may be able to speak to a human voice. In today’s hi-tech world, the least one expects is high standards of efficiency. No such luck. Most executives have been trained to parrot a precise set of lines meant to soothe irate customers. But very often they are clueless as to how to deal with complex problems because they don’t know enough about the product or the company or complexities arising due to these. They just cluck and reassure you that the problem will be sorted out. If it isn’t, you call the next day and what happens? You get another executive and you are made to repeat the entire problem again, only to get the same standard reassurances. Each time you call you have a new voice and you reiterate the same problem, though some lucky ones finally get their problems solved. Anyway, as these Customer Care Executives say when they sign off, "Have a good day!" That’s all we can hope for in these days of ghostly voices and parrot-like executives!
This article of mine appeared in Madras Plus in 2006. Am just reproducing it here.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that we are oh-so-evolved. The sad truth is, we are not. We, human beings, are possibly the cruelest race on the planet. We kill out of greed, jealousy and revenge. We have perverts who rape, maim and torture other human beings out of lust, anger or even sadistic pleasure. Take the case of paedophiles – these beasts, monsters really, prey on young innocent children, scarring them psychologically for life. For rapists it is a power game; for women who are raped, the scars remain, always under the surface. Life may go on, but it is a life that is scarred forever because of the actions of monsters.
In India, female infanticide is horrifyingly common. Do we, and can we, call our society civilised when female children are routinely killed at birth just because of their gender? What about eve teasers – men who lech and grope at women? Another set of beasts.
Even in the 21st century, people are going to war and human beings routinely kill each other in the name of patriotism when most often it is the greed of politicians and dictators that have brought on the war. Religious fanatics think it is perfectly all right to blow up innocent people who do not share their religious beliefs. And, these fanatics actually believe they have a one-way ticket to heaven because of their dastardly actsSo let’s shed this notion about us being ‘civilised’ and ‘evolved’. And please, let’s not insult animals by calling these dregs of human society ‘animals’. They are lesser than animals; they are monsters who deserve the death penalty
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Our politicians, we all know, are corrupt megalomaniacs. But isn’t there a limit to their idiocy? Who puts up stuff like this on a busy road and disrupts peak hour traffic? Doesn’t the inconvenience caused to motorists bother them? What about all the poor sods in the area who were being ‘treated’ to super loud music? And, I presume, once the visiting politician came, he would have made a loud raucous speech, shouting and screeching into the microphone. Are there no parks in this city or grounds that can be used? Why the roadside show?
The Supreme Court has defined clear laws for noise pollution but the biggest polluters are political parties, who couldn’t care less about the laws. ‘Stuff them’ is their attitude. All they care is about their power and their own self-aggrandisement even if it causes inconvenience to others. No wonder, religious institutions in this city have taken up after our illustrious politicians and blare music on loudspeakers and disturb the peace of those around. For politicians, they are bigger than the law; for religious institutions, their God is bigger than the laws of the land.
Until our politicians start by following the laws of the land, there’s no hope for this country. And our cops, are like puppets on a string, ineffectual toothless fairies who will jump to do anything a politician asks. Pathetic!
Friday, September 25, 2009
It’s a familiar pattern that has become a part and parcel of my very being…the last minute adrenalin. Whether it was studying for exams in school or doing my holiday home work (I remember weeping copious tears towards the end of every holiday as I gazed at the foreboding pile of work that I had to do) or completing assignments, the story was always the same. Mounting panic followed by hours of doing useless stuff followed by burning the midnight oil.
And have I learnt a lesson now? Hmmm…no! These days, as the panic sets in and as the deadlines draw closer and closer, I draw succour from Facebook Scrabble, Spider Solitaire and the books around me. As midnight draws closer, like Dracula, I rise, inspired! Between cups of coffee and cigarettes, the work doesn’t seem so insurmountable or forbidding anymore. In any case, if I don’t finish I can always wake up early the next day, right? After all, tomorrow is another day!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Freeloaders! How do we get them off our backs? This is one species of humanity who are absolutely brazen and shameless, who are always on the lookout to prey on other human beings. They are the takers, very rarely the givers. Giving is usually only when they have to and is most often done very reluctantly.
A few of us were discussing this phenomenon the other day; after all, most of us have at least one freeloader in our gang. And, most of us professed helplessness. How do you tackle someone who freeloads? A couple of my friends were very clear – saying they would just speak out. But for many of us, speaking out becomes delicate. After all the first time someone crashes your party uninvited, you would possibly welcome them out of politeness. Or the first time someone borrows, you are unaware that they are going to make a habit of it. But as time passes, freeloaders, I’ve discovered become more and more blatant. Give them an inch, and they’ll gallop away with the proverbial yard!
So, how do you recognise a freeloader? Here are some tips!!! (Remember, freeloaders are very, very friendly souls!)
Ø Never take their car out when they go shopping with you. You put the petrol…always.
Ø The same goes with autos – you pay!
Ø Very rarely carry their purse with them. If they do, they invariably profess to have no money.
Ø Invite themselves over to your place or gatecrash your parties time and again but never return the favour.
Ø Shamelessly go for every party they are invited to and rarely reciprocate.
Ø At any ‘going Dutch’ meal, they invariably say they will pay later…and never do.
Ø They will borrow anything – from vegetables to money to clothes to jewellery to your car to CDs to your shoes to …to…to…well just about anything except your husband maybe!
Ø Rarely if ever give gifts to their hosts
Ø Receive expensive gifts and reciprocate with cheap stuff.
Well, freeloading is a way of life for this species and unless they are told, they continue to take you and everyone else for granted. Cheapskates…that’s what they are. The solution…hmmm that’s tough. Maybe we should start freeloading on them!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
What surprises me is, even after so many sex scandals about Catholic priests erupting around the world, they still command so much power thanks to the blind faith of followers who have been indoctrinated from childhood to believe that nuns and priests, just because they have taken the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity (which is laughable when you read the book) are truly holier than thou art. And, priests especially seem to get intoxicated on that power and abuse it again and again.
When I studied in a convent during college, it was my first real encounter with nuns. Apart from one or two, most came across as frustrated, unhappy and decidedly ungodly. Basic human sentiments of compassion and kindness were sorely missing; it was all arrogance, narrow-mindedness and a blind adherence to outdated rules. Godliness – well, it was difficult to glimpse that! Sure they pay lip service to it all the time but actually seeing godliness in action was next to impossible.
Where the Catholic priests are concerned, repeatedly when I have encountered them I’ve found them smack full of arrogance – puffed up with power and delusions that they are superior to the laity they serve.
My question: when a Catholic confesses in church, he/she is confessing to a priest. What happens if that priest is a paedophile or engages in illicit sexual relationships or is himself a much worse ‘sinner’ than most people? Is he equipped to give absolution? How can a man who lies, misuses power and preys on innocent people’s sentiments, who instils fear and bigotry in people, give absolution? It makes no sense at all but people blindly follow their faith and continue to confess their sins and get ‘absolution’ from these corrupt and nasty priests. Is it the ritual that is comforting – ‘I’ve sinned but chanting a few Hail Mary’s will make that sin go away since the priest has absolved me’? False comfort, because at the end of the day, it is another human being, as flawed (maybe more) than you who is supposedly absolving you. This blind adherence to ritual is disturbing because the priests, very often are playing their congregation for fools. But they and their followers seem to forget one thing - God is not a fool!
Friday, September 4, 2009
On the way back, I was in the AC three tier. The coaches were painted a depressing and yucky yellow with equally dismal brown berths. Talk about downers…this was the ultimate. And the windowsills were painted some bilious shade, which was a mix of an awful pink with yellow. To make matters worse, I was stuck in the last seat right next to the door so I suffered the constant banging of the door which can be quite shattering on the nerves! And, since no one has thought of considerately putting a curtain on the door, light shines in from the passage outside. Anyway, the reading I had looked forward to materialised this time thanks to the bright light shining in from outside, I couldn’t sleep…and well, I had no choice but to read!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
That’s the wonderful thing about social networking sites – being able to keep in touch even if someone is miles away or we are too busy to meet even though we are in the same town. With photo uploads and status messages one gets to see friends holidaying or having fun and know whether they are pissed off with life or happy.
The flip side…you end up having a lot of ‘friends’ who you don’t actually know! Yes, there are many who are selective about who they accept but others accept at random. I, for instance, click to see the ‘mutual friend’ list and the decide whether to accept. So far, I’ve never got anyone of the creepy variety but…the painful variety…oh yes!
There is one, I presume jobless, ‘friend’ who is either answering a quiz every five minutes or uploading videos or playing a game or commenting on everyone’s status or giving a thumbs up to their photo albums…net result…my home page is flooded with info on how he won this, said that, lost that, is like Greta Garbo or there’s a list of his favourite movies, film stars, pizzas, dog breeds…whatever! Oh, yawn! Now I’m wondering…why oh why did I accept this rather garrulous online soul? Is he as talkative and informative in real life? Eeps!
Talking to my musician friend at the party, who also happens to be a ‘mutual friend’ of the above-mentioned voluble ‘pal’, we exchanged notes and discovered how out of depth we are! He too had accepted because the guy had many ‘mutual friends’. Now while my friend thought the online talker was into one profession, I thought he was into another…so much for knowing people online!
Moral of the story…be selective about your pals unless you want to be flooded with a stream of useless, and frankly, very boring, information!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
So she interrupted the flow in typical fashion. She was very good at that – ruthlessly slicing a discussion that didn’t include her. “I think,” she began and from thereon, like a skilled and brash driver, she steered the attention towards herself. Now she was in her element, in full flow as she expounded on her opinions on everything – from cooking to fitness (didn’t matter that she was 20 kilos overweight; theoretically, she knew much more about the topic than anyone else!), from bringing up children to her very strong view on politics, from religion to how to keep the bathroom clean. The soliloquy went on…and on…and on. The glazed eyes of listeners were not a deterrent; she never noticed! Attempts to interrupt the torrent of non-stop, non-interesting, nonsensical jabber were adroitly deflected; her loud voice could drown out everything.
Finally, lunch was served, and being a foodie, she was the first at the table. The gathering heaved a sigh of relief as she busied herself with putting her fork to her mouth. At least till lunch was over, after which she would give her unasked for expert opinion on the food, peace reigned!
Friday, July 17, 2009
As he sucked away at her energy on a daily basis, she felt as if a powerful vacuum cleaner was sucking her dry…of her energy, her compassion and her patience. Still she listened, as the same old sad stories would be narrated to her in boring, intricate detail. His sad childhood, his fragile relationships, how everyone had left him, how his work no longer excited him. And he hit the bottle with a vengeance. Large shots of rum chased down with endless cigarettes propped up his fragile ego, and stories of his miserable existence gave his life meaning. After all, if pity was the only way to gain attention, he was willing to milk it to the maximum. Night after dreary night, she braced herself to listen to the same sorry saga – bored out of her wits but scared to stop in case he did something drastic. The responsibility was overwhelming, suffocating her, making her want to rake her nails against the wall and scream. Could friendship extract such a heavy toll?
Till one day, she’d had enough and asked him to pull himself together. “Snap out of it,” she said. “Get your life back on track; give up the booze and stop wallowing in self pity.” The force of his anger astonished her. He lashed out like a scorpion, accusing her of being selfish, heartless and a bitch.
Something cracked irreparably. After having endured excruciating self-pity, mind-numbing soliloquies and sleepless nights, she decided she’d had enough. It was the death knell for a 15-year old friendship. She expected to feel sad, regretful or hurt but strangely, a heady feeling of freedom made her giddy with happiness. As for him, he found a new taker for his melancholic meanderings…
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I named him Bully. He was the first and boy! did he bully the remaining six. He would crawl over them and by sheer size, he would always get his way! And, from when he was 5 minutes old, he had a mind of his own. Pick him up and he’d squirm and make this huge fuss (even now, one of my nicknames for him is Fussy Potty because he can really fuss!). He was one of the last to open his eyes…. I remember picking him up constantly (much to his chagrin!) to check if his eyes were open. And then one day…there he was with fuzzy unfocussed blue eyes giving me this blank stare! I fell in love again!
From then on, it’s been a process of falling in love again…and again…and again. From when he took his first tentative steps into, what for him was, the great unknown. His first bath when I dunked him into a tub. His absolute love for Cerelac. His dada attitude when it came to the other puppies.
Finally, the day came when he had to go away and a large piece of my heart broke…yes, just like a huge bit of the plastering coming away and exposing something untoward. I cried but I was also happy that he would be downstairs…I could see him anytime I wanted…almost anytime.
He was re-christened Cheese, a name I, to date, have not understood. He isn’t a cheesy colour nor is he cheesy or stringy….whatever! Anyway, to cut a long story short, the people we gave him to couldn’t look after him and he came back to us and was re-christened Bully (his first name)!.
Our enduring love affair started then. Wherever I was, he’d be there…this cute black little thing with floppy ears and enormous paws! He didn’t take a piece of my heart, he appropriated a huge chunk!
The honeymoon continued till one day, he got an epileptic fit. Sheer panic gripped me. No one could diagnose what was wrong. The fits became worse and worse and the frequency increased. Till one day, Dr JP diagnosed distemper, My heart sank and I burst into tears…my lovely, handsome labby pup was going to die. But, he reassured me…he has survived; he will live.
The anti-epileptic medication had taken its toll. By now, Bully had been re-christened Hotdog (and boy, was he a hot dog – handsome as hell!). But because of his sickness, he was listless, could barely walk, would slip and fall, hardly ate…it just tore my heart into pieces. There were times, honestly, when I wondered whether putting him to sleep would be a more humane option. I could not bear to see this lovely, affectionate, handsome, active baby suffer.
Prayers and faith can bring about miracles. Of course, I stopped working for two months and devoted myself to my baby. I even got someone to come and give him Ayurvedic massages. He was put on a cocktail of Vitamin C, Calcium and Neurobion (some recommended by the vet and some I trawled from the net)…I was willing to try anything to keep this affectionate, adorable boy from slipping away into the netherworld of death or paralysis. And, it worked!
Today, the dog who twitched all the time, who would cry because the twitching was upsetting him, who could barely walk without falling, who had to be coaxed to eat, who I would sob in the night over, wondering if I’d see him alive tomorrow, is a happy healthy, intelligent, responsive dog. And I’m in love…all over again!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It’s strange but I’ve met so many parents who talk about how they will never tolerate their kids behaving badly…and then proceed, through that evening to reveal just the opposite. It’s like they’ve got blinkers on when it comes to their own kids. They look on with a benevolent gaze as the child disrupts conversations, situations and sometimes their host’s homes! The child spits food on the floor, jumps on the sofa with shoes on, pulls the dog’s tail, natters and natters incessantly…groan. And, hey parents, we’d love to hear your child sing a song or shake a leg, but that doesn’t mean we want to be subjected to an endless parade of song and dance routines! And, no we are NOT interested in watching the entire video of your child’s annual day or leafing through album after album of pics of the little one sleeping, eating, doing potty, smiling, crying, laughing, making eyes, smiling again, crying again…you get the picture?
So if your little angel is a pain in the nether regions to others, my suggestion – forget about being seen and not heard…maybe this child should be hidden from public view!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Noise...unadulterated noise...cacophony rules. What is it about Indians and their need to pray to God at deafening volumes? Isn't it unfortunate that although we have laws in place for noise pollution, they are just there on paper- never enforced. In Chennai, the cops are a bunch of ineffective morons. You can call them and complain about noise pollution and they just sit back and do nothing.
The church next door to home has been assaulting us with their rock-music volume outdoor services accompanied by one of the most tuneless choirs one can have the misfortune to hear. The choir, with women singing flat and sharp in screechy high-pitched voices and men hollering, can test the patience of a saint. Poor God must be covering his ears! Then you have the preachers who believe that they must bellow into the microphone in order to spread the word of the Lord.
Surprisingly, Christian charity and loving thy neighbour has no place in this cacophonous display of religiosity. Even after we've requested them politely, our soft entreaties fell on deaf ears. (Could be they've turned deaf thanks to the deafening volume they subject themselves and others too!). So, we turned to the courts and got a court order from none other than the Chief Justice. Did that help? Oh no! They continued blasting their prayers with impunity knowing full well that the cops are toothless tigers and they can always play their miserable trump carde - 'the minorities being brutalised by the police and the public'. In no civilised country can a church disturb the peace of the neighbourhood in this way but here, in Chennai, they can.
Take Sundays for instance - a day when most people like to sleep in late and spend a quiet, relaxed day. Well, Saint Vincent's Church in Chennai beleives that they have divine rights to wake up the entire neighbourhood at 6am by blasting their service. Do they think their parishioners are deaf? Or that God can only appreciate the fervour of their piety if they shout it out? From 6 to 9.30am, we are subjected to service after painful service of shouting, screeching, cacophonous singing and complete and utter disregard to the plight of people around who just want some well-deserved peace and quiet. This is the holier-than-thou-art principle at work. We are so pious and religious and therefore superior to you so we have the RIGHT to make noise - to hell with those who have a problem.
Strange isn't it? There they are extorting people to follow the laws of the Bible but they don't believe in following the laws of the land. Well, maybe they think they are superior to the laws of the land. Coupled with an inefficient, rude, boorish police force, many of whom are ignorant about the laws regarding noise pollution, the rest of us continue to suffer...and suffer...and suffer.