Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hey DABBA!!!

"Sirf daal chawal sabzee ka nahi, Paneer mushroom gobi ka nahi, Aare Methi Mutter malai ka nahi, Balke itni saari mamta aur dher saare pyar se bhara… hey Dabba!!!"

This song from ‘Stanley ka Dabba’, was one good time I was having seeing all the food going around and filling up containers to be taken by kids to school. Apart from the fact that the visuals did build an appetite, the movie and the song- both captured the spirit of relations that a dabba can build.

I never really carried a dabba to school or college or work till 2008 as my school was a few buildings away, college was a walk and later got adapted to canteen food. From KG to PG, the only place I remember carrying a dabba on a regular basis was to my coaching classes in 12th. It was a big event then. We used to be in the class from 7 am to almost 1:30 pm and breakfast had to be a feast. In fact, the thing was so big that one of our classmates who stayed in the same building made it a point to carry a dabba and join in the feast. Bottom line, carrying a dabba and having cold food; both are seemingly impossible for me.

The flash point for me was when I completed my PG and started work again- only to avoid a relapse of Hepatitis (aka Jaundice), I started carrying a Dabba. But soon I realized that having lunch together was much of an office social behavior. It was one place where the office boy to the CEO could share one table and food as well. A place for informal chats, discussion, jokes and leg-pulling- lunch rooms served it all.

‘Har dabba yeh kehta hai: ke isse kaun aur kahan se lata hai…’- Yes this is a fact. You really can learn a hell lot from the food and the type of dabba about a person than a market research will yield.

The family man has a dabba service from a dabbawala and has simple meal. The ones who carry food are either a working couple or just stays too far for a dabba service. Bachelors who carry food are the maa ka laadla’s- you can expect fancy food every day. So paneer and pratha is staple diet. Of course chicken, Chinese rice or biryani is served from the left over of last evening- no wonder they have the spices all well absorbed and hence tastier. The ones who help themselves to the canteen or nearby eateries are usually the ones on a outdoors job.

Gujratis in this regard are a unique case. A gujju bhai; no matter from which part of Mumbai, will have a 3 course meal, no compromise. Now if he was from Charni Road, Ghatkopar or any Western Suburb he will have a Farsan, main course and a sweet at the end. If it was a up market Gujju from Walkeshwar you can expect a soup, some fancy snack/ fast food and to finish off a sweet.

Contents of a dabba are also a reflection of an individual’s background. How do I make this statement- well recently I was sharing a table with 4 other friends and the containers before us gave up the story. One had a regular tiffin service since his wife also worked. One had a premium tiffin service as he stayed alone and this was one meal he enjoyed. Another had sabudana khichadi thanks to a fast enforced by his wife. The next one had a pulao from his newlywed wife (his expression gave away a lot about the end result) and last was me- left over chicken and paratha. Finally, after loads of debate if it was right day or not, all had the chicken and the rest was shunted off.

So finally, my mind goes back to that real old Doordarshan filler (saw it as a kid) of a School master trying to discipline students making noise in the recess- we are at times hammered with the idea that we are unified in diversity; a living example is the lunch room and ; the Dabba…

Friday, June 10, 2011

System Files Corrupted

We all rise in unison the moment we wish to file a testimony to claim; India- the largest democracy in the world. A machinery of where a secret ballot helps a billion choose a few amongst themselves by making a choice and entrusting them a responsibility to run the country for a period of five years.

We also the ones who feel at times that this machinery has gone corrupt and the system is now full of people who cut corners, lack ethics and act irresponsible. Well the words of a Lincoln resounded in my mind recently when I saw how the ‘for people’ were being manipulated ‘by the people’- it was a case of witnessing how a system was being corrupted before my eyes.

I recently went in to a local Municipal school and file my registration for Aadhar (Unique Identification Number) - the single largest human database with names, addresses, education, government document registrations, biometric information and photograph. This is a system that will overshadow the Social Security code from the US when completed with all data accessible with one number for every one for this billion strong country.

I was excited for sure, as I had read about it in Forbes a few months ago and knew the scale this project was going to be. I also had seen the form, the degree of details it was collating and was impressed for sure. For once, I was convinced that India has planned something really well and was driving things into a new dimension. I mean how often you come across a government procedure where you are given an appointment in prior.

The D-day arrived and we reached the assigned venue- a municipal school and as we entered the cookie began to crumble. The scene resembled any government office with a big herd of people flocking around a table, loud noises and flaring tempers. But as I spent more time to comprehend the issues, I realized it was the people around who had caused the commotion out of their own doings. For once, it was the inefficiency of people rather than that of government machinery which was causing trouble to people themselves.

A notice clearly read- ‘Forms available on Thursday 10:30 to 11:30’; and on a Friday, a lady was negotiating with the concerned people to give her one form. When refused, she came out with an expression saying- the government agencies are just to harass. On a token given to one person was a family of 20. Kids of all ages to crippled and aged; this family had them all. This group was celebrating the event as if it was a holiday. Every photograph was being cheered. Paperwork was shabby and objection to it were being taken with zero seriousness.

I was amazed at the way the staff doing the job was working. The charge was led by a bunch of 5 people in their twenties who possibly carried the pride of being a part of a massive operation. It was disappointing to see the work being done in a small class room with 2 fans which made circulation a joke. They were not served tea or water- let alone a break. Fighting off the heat and arrogance of people, they were most calm and dedicated to their work.

When I came back home, I was a little more than upset with all I saw. A well oiled system challenged the decades of public opinion and attitude for a government system. It was then it dawned on to me, governments and the system are people at the end of the day.

We say the system is corrupt- people cut corners and behave irresponsible. That is more a reflection of us and all who cut corners and have given rise to the ‘inefficient’ systems we are living with.