Walk The Line

Archive for May 2007

All Play and No Work

The babus are angry, very angry. And, they are threatening to protest in their patented style: go on mass leave, and that too on a Friday. The reason for such annoyance is a report from the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India that says people working in government offices and state-funded institutions work in ‘stress-free zones’, while their corporate counterparts are busy firefighting all the time. There is nothing earth-shattering about the report; it just reiterates what we discuss all the time behind their backs: babus have it nice and easy.

Babus, on their part, can blame their enthusiasm-deficiency syndrome to low salaries, multiple bosses, dingy offices and lack of corporate-style incentives to work harder. But what would you tell the mother who got back her kidnapped son three days after he was rescued? The designated venue at which he was to be handed over was shut thanks to some babu who declared May 11, a Friday, a holiday to commemorate the 150th year of the Mutiny? And, these sundry holidays are not even a part of that hallowed list of that makes lesser mortals like us green with envy. Our combined fret barometer goes up a few notches more when we see them lazing around in the winter sun, way after the scheduled lunch hour. Small perks of a low-paid but secure government job, we console ourselves.

Who are on the other side of the fence? Project developers, courier companies, retail sector bank employees, and journalists. We can vouch for the last category at least, because unlike our counterparts in and around Raisina Hill, we don’t even have the luxury of passing the buck (read files) to the next table.


The name’s Bond. Jane Bond. If you think we have got our 007 facts mixed up, let us assure you that ‘M’ will soon have to handle a woman super sleuth because MI5, the British security service, is using all its skills to recruit more women. In an unusual initiative, the service has placed ads in women’s changing rooms in health clubs to attract those for whom the world’s not enough. The applicants will face a barrage of tests to weed out those not fit to wield the golden gun. It will set aside the ‘dreamers and no-hopers’, a category strictly comprising worshippers of all things Bond: be it the man himself, or the Rolex Submariner he sports or the shooting cigarette, which dangles from his lips when he asks for his ‘shaken, not stirred’ dry Martini.

This new move will definitely horrify large sections of the faithful. And we are not talking of a certain lieutenant in the Royal Navy known as Miss Moneypenny). But, spy history shows that the real life Jane Bonds like the legendary Mata Hari, or India-born British spy Noor Inayat Khan were as good as any man. In fact, Miss Moneypenny was based on two women who worked with Bond creator Ian Fleming.

However, the main problem in this script is that while women make up around 47% of all employees at MI5, they account for only 38% of new applicants. This in effect means that there are not many takers for Her Majesty’s Service. So does that mean the Bond effect is waning? Or, after they join, will they end up much like the Bond girls in the movies: eye candy who might subscribe to the motto `diamonds are forever’ but nothing more than accessories?

Science and myths are strange bedfellows. They walk hand-in-hand, nourish each other, but behave like estranged lovers. And we, who are always shuttling between the two like loyal friends, are left thoroughly confused about which one to believe. Consider this: Wendy Repovich, an exercise physiologist at the Eastern Washington University, has turned the popular belief (a euphemism for myths) that eating eggs raises cholesterol levels, upside down. At a health and fitness summit, she declared that eggs don’t contain enough cholesterol to pose health risks; carbohydrates are not fattening and we don’t need to drink eight glasses of water per day. Another US study tells us that menopause hormones, which till now were considered heart risks, are not actually bad if taken at the right time. In short, we have been told that what we knew till now is all bunkum.

While much of the making and unmaking of facts and figures are sometimes sponsored surreptitiously by industry lobbies, we are actually like sitting ducks. When the uber cool guru of jogging, Jim Fixx, ‘spent his time running on the roads and trails near his home’ and told us about its benefits, we joined him. When Jane Fonda pushed us to twist and turn our obstinate muscles, we hit the floor. Soon enough we went fashionably on diet though all the time our eyes were fixated on those sinful pastries. Our coffee table discussions, now minus caffeine of course, centered on body sculpting toning and stretching. Along the way, we gave up red meat, alcohol, and became lovers of all things green and leafy. Just, as when we have managed to adjust to this new way of life, we are now being told that everything that we gave up is acceptable. And, the mother of all surprises, even alcohol is good for heart!
It’s time we cut the jargon and enjoy what life has to offer, with a healthy dollop of all things sinful. The new mantra should be to follow our own common sense: Forget the experts and the reports that bombard us relentlessly, understand your own body, and eat, drink and make merry, albeit in moderation.

Rationalists rejoice, believers (read optimists) think again. A study done by the University of Manchester claims that the zodiac has no impact on our personal relationships and it exerts no influence on our ‘chances of marrying or staying married’. To prove their point, they gave the example of the roller-coaster relationship between Hollywood diva Elizabeth Taylor, a Piscean, and broodingly sexy Richard Burton, a Scorpio. The two sun signs are considered to be among the perfect fit in relationships. But, the relationship between ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘Anthony’ was turbulent to say the least. One wonders how Indian politicians are going to react to this considering even their oath-taking ceremonies are dictated by the stars.

Over the years, horoscope columnists have become stars and the faithful do not move a muscle without consulting their daily predictions. In addition to astrological predictions, we now have a choice of fortune dispensers from tarot card readers, feng shui and vaastu experts to help us cope with our everyday travails. Add to these, the vanishing tribe of fortune-tellers and their parrots. We are really spoilt for choice.

Will the findings dissuade us from rushing to the Bejan Daruwalas and Linda Goodmans? Unlikely, as the researchers themselves have agreed. We will always want to know what will be the fate of Indian cricket team before an important series (though everyone has their own take), the course of Abhishek-Aishwarya marriage or how Mayawati will fare at the hustings? Non-believers, on the other hand, will continue believing in what Voltaire said centuries ago: ‘Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the mad daughter of a wise mother’. 

What’s your ‘googleability’ quotient? No clue? Well, then check it out right away because if the world’s premier search engine can’t trace you in less than a second, then you are a certified also-ran; or, or so parents of newborns in the US feel. News reports say that ‘googleability’ is now a primary baby-naming requirement, which means that parents want names for their children which will work well for web searches: an unusual name that might figure among the first top 10 search results.

Obsessive and disturbing, many would say, but for the majority of  parents this is one more way of making sure that their children get a headstart in life: more and more executive recruiters use web searches to check backgrounds of candidates seeking jobs. So, it does make sense to give a child a web-attractive name; but, what happens if the child becomes well known, but not for the right reasons? Or, has a namesake with not a glorious track record?

Either way, the ‘googlification’ of names also means that we are on verge of losing something precious: our privacy. Thanks to tech-savvy moms and dads, who are themselves into ‘egosurfing’, children of tomorrow don’t have much choice: their book of life is up there open for all to see. And, what happens to our dear old aunts and uncles who spend hours trying to search for names for our progeny? Guess they will now have to get on to the net and play the name game online.


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  • Ram Manohar Sah: Hi All, Kosi (Kaushiki) furry reminds old saying "tying knot in the snakehead". Hydropower, irrigation and flood management are conflicting objecti
  • Alex: Your blog is interesting! Keep up the good work!
  • Nandan Jha: M has done wonders with here Dalit-Brahmin pitch (Sarva Samaj). Even though it was mostly to Mishraji's brilliant plan but if you look now, she could