Free for all

Every day when I call up my father in the morning and ask what is he up to??
I get the same old reply “Nothing”. Guess he has mastered the art of doing nothing or at least he pretends to do so.  
My six year old often teases her Nanu( Maternal Grand father) by saying that Nanu knows nothing!!! Which he of course takes very sportingly.
He retired almost a decade back, and since then he has been constantly nagged and haunted by questions such as , ‘How does he pass his time?, what does he do the whole day? Must be having a very relaxed life?? etc. etc.
Though my mother is spared of such questionnaire sessions, as she is a home-maker and for the first time in her life, her work has been noticed and appreciated in comparison to her dear husband.
But talking about my father on the other hand, I really pity him at times. The word retirement has not gone well with him despite of the fact, that he now helps my mother in house-hold chores, pays monthly bills himself instead of any helper, gets up early morning to take his dog out for walks, maintaining his lawn and kitchen garden all by himself , putting clothes in the washing machine and many such other things, which he himself was not aware till his retirement.
But sitting free is different from being idle, ‘idle mind and body is devil’s workshop’ but a free mind and body are at peace, but nothing comes for free as everything comes with a price-tag. As now being free for him, according to his family, relatives, neighbours and friends means that he is available 24 hours of the day.
Yes very much like the phrase that ” Man is born free but he is in chains every where”, well who except from a retired official would understand it better, as being free now is more like in invisible chains for them.
The plight of a retiree can be understood by the fact that, soon people give them names such as “Vella” (free man doing nothing) or for that matter “Bechare” (poor man) as some even pity them , as they have retired.
The sympathy and concern of people at times goes over board and they associate your retirement with being ill, sick or not keeping well. They are surprised seeing you hale and hearty, more of a shock for them seeing a retired man healthy without any health issues.
Many times he is expected to attend meets and election rallies on the pretext of being a Vella, as he would be available at short notice and to swell crowds at public meetings. 
Why is retirement termed as ‘the end of road’ for the ones retiring . It is a beginning of new chapter in ones life, to see and feel new beginnings and experience something different. Retirement is a journey, not a destination. 
The retirement comes as a shock to many. Yes, it is the end of ones Service-years, but not the end of life and its’ responsibilities.
Then why does it comes as a shock to many, they consider it as a ‘doomsday’, some even start feeling depressed or sulk at the idea of impending retirement.
Though at very many places people enjoy and even celebrate the day of their retirement, but calling someone free or idle is not acceptable at all.
Those suggestions of taking up a part time job or feeling sorry or for that matter wasting your time over that extra cups of tea only because you have retired are unbearable. I fail to comprehend!! Do such kind of people derive sadistic pleasures by constantly reminding you of your retirement, as if it is a curse on you.
I have even seen people dreading their retirement to an extent that they never liked to disclose their retirement, as people would now put them in category of Vellas’, good for nothing ,free or sitting idle.
But is is very crucial to understand that those who have retired, have retired from work and not life, so please let us age with grace and panache , not regrets or others influence us in that way.
So, true are these lines : ” I promise to keep on living as though i expected to live forever. Nobody grows old merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.”
                                      -Douglas MacArthur.


Animal Farm in the times of Drought

” A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” This is a famous phrase from William Shakespeare’s play Richard 111.In the middle of the battle, the horse of Richard 111 is killed and so he goes crazy and desolate, the King has killed many but after losing his horse he fears of losing the battle. A horse becomes more important than the kingdom, but in a kingdom ” All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, this phrase from the novel “Animal Farm” by George Orwell is reinterpreted by the pigs in the story to suit their needs. Similarly the name game has become the favorite game of the powerful, earlier it was roads and now whole acres and acres of land have joined the naming-ceremony bandwagon, which is for our own good they say!!!

Yes we humans are scape goats but those who are ‘more equal’ are ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ , manipulating everything according to our needs and greed. Death of a horse makes headlines, where as, the humans are slaughtered by their so called own species, we have become so uncouth that animals are also not spared.
The ruling class and their associates live a luxurious life of so called good times with mastering the art of living, with wealth splattered like water every where, the commoner watching this on-going game with shocking dis-belief, “The grass is greener on the other side”, and to him the parched land and wait is spread miles, with false promises of ” Water-water every where but not a single drop to drink”.  

The blood thirsty scavengers eyeing you, to tear and rip apart every piece of flesh out of you, in these times of drought. Many lives slaughtered in search of a thirst-quencher, but the saviour liquid was just splattered for the ones ‘more equal’, they rejoiced at our plight and then again changed the game, now they started mud-slinging and creating puddles for their opponents, the tug of war was never-ending, but nothing for us changed we were still standing on the dry-arid lands, this time licking our dried-lips and swallowing our own saliva. But on the other side the money along with water was splurged and spilled for their vested premiere interests. 

 Yes !! but it made a few happy too!!! As it was time for the”more equal”, to take indiscreet selfies in front of a evaporating water body, and time to tag the ‘Nature”, as this time the nature has also favoured them and punished the “less equals”, for their sins of choosing the ruling class who discarded the Ten commandments and brought it down to one, for powerful and mighty. Such became their might that the bare basic necessity was now not given by the Mother Nature but sent in gift wrapped huge size metal-boxes, the containers, with a slip highlighting the names of the “more equal ones”, as they were bringing the ‘ watering-hole’ to the horse and so they just loved the ‘good drought’ further enhancing it with photo-sessions and rejoicing over it.
Some are even hoping for the reverse phenomena in the coming months, as the monsoons set-in, the mighty predators will be ready for their Whale’s -share , as they are having their lion’s share presently. The Nature is also taking sides, playing the odd and even games with us, but the ruling class of pigs can afford both the sides of odd-even, they relish the the drought-cakes as the Sun bakes us and will soon become the king-fishers for their own good-times to come during “muddy waters”.


Three weeks back, when I went to a quaint little hill station, called the ‘Lansdowne’ hardly did I know that the small forest fires put up by the locals would turn into deadly infernos, to an extent, that they would become life-threatening , putting human lives in danger and destroying valuable flora and fauna.

But seeing the people so ruthlessly misusing the hills , one could easily gaze the impending dangers, but it would take place so soon was least expected.

Seeing the Television screens and Internet flooded with news and pictures of ominous fire and resinous smoke coming out of the forests of Uttarakhand, was heart-wrenching sight.

While starting from the Country Capital by train on a seven hour-long journey, in search of cool climes and fresh air, I formed various images of this hill-station and about the stories related to Garhwal Rifles Regimental training Centre there. But instead of salubrious weather and pristine environment during the one hour drive from Kotdhwar to Lansdowne, I was greeted by the scorching heat, the journey was no where close to the feel of a hill-station, the month of April turned out to be the cruellest month, even on the hills. The picturesque and plush landscape did not welcome us , but instead, the monster sized water tankers covering almost the entire roads of the hilly terrain greeted us, they were lined-up for their turns to fill up, that too, from the water coming out of the natural streams. All this was, to cater the hotel industry. Yes the natural water resources here were being used to an extent , that the water reached al most the ground level , almost depleted and the human hunger and greed had filled till the brim, but still there was want for more and more.
Yes the hotel industry here is en cashing the beauty and tourism sector, which is equally important to boom the economy of the place, but it should not be at the cost of the ecosystem.

The construction work was in full swing , the hotel industry has completely taken over, every nook every corner, the locals are fast selling their lands to make easy money without even realizing the importance of their hills.

Yes one does find hard-working women folk of the hills with cloth tied around their heads and carrying heavy loads, full of branches for firewood or green grass to be used as fodder, but how long will it serve their purpose, as forests are fast turning into the concrete jungles. A spot where cloud burst took place two years back still is a scary sight, as huge boulders can still be seen falling from the hill, luckily no loss of life took place then, but if a similar kind of catastrophic takes place now or in near future, then it may cause huge devastation.

Tourists pouring in herds beyond the capacity of the hills, and on the other side you witness locals and state forest department setting the edges of the forests on fire without digging any trenches.

Moving further, as the altitude increased, from Kotdhwar , en route to Lansdowne, along the winding road we witnessed sudden rise in the temperatures as well, some what similar to an ‘Inferno’. Smoke rising from the distant trees, forest all covered in smog and sky glowed red with the cries of the birds. Instead of cool breeze passing by, the air was all warm , rather hot.
When I confronted one of the local Bhula (brother) burning the pine-needles al most in the centre of the road , prompt came the reply that all this was to burn the unwanted weeds so that the roots of the plants and the trees could breathe . So he left it burning with crackling leaves and needles , which soon turned in to cinders and floating on every passer by. Flames rising high with smoke billowed out above the forest and continued to spread.

Some locals tried to convince us with their theory or may be logic that, there was nothing to worry about, as it was an annual phenomena, always happened during the Summers, but the explanation was not convincing and soon the dry, water deprived hills with equally thirsty humans, was now wanting to take revenge and soon the forest-fire went wild , and now the water from tankers was used to douse of this fire. As if sending a message across, that do not dare misuse the natural resources, what we give, we can take back too!!!
Agreed, that these yearly fires are beneficial for the Pine forests, for their growth and regeneration, but the damage they caused was much more than the benefits. To cut down on their work the forest officials had devised an easy way out, rather the advisable solution would have been to employ forest staff to remove and collect the pine-needles, where ever the fresh plantation was required.


On reaching ‘Lansdowne’, earlier known as ‘Kalu Dhanda’ which means ‘Black forest’, but later its name was changed to Lansdowne, after the name of erstwhile Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne I pondered over the thought

that before the forests in hills actually become black, it is high time to take action, before the life saving ‘flora’ or ‘fauna’ disappears and our Natural Resources become the “scapegoat” of our misdeeds.