password to heaven or hell?

Password to heaven or hell…

By

Vivek Hande

 

Security and all that stuff is good,  no doubt.  But you need a password to be secure. You need a password for everything – you need a password to log on to your email; you need a password to access your bank and credit and debit card details ; you need a password to find out your flying rewards and air  miles; you also need a password to log onto your social network accounts . You need a password to find out how much you have to pay for your own cell phone bills.

All this password business can be quite daunting. I read in the paper recently  that the worst password as per data operators is “123456”. It makes all accounts easy to hack and allow easy access to unauthorized folks. I have spent  long  days changing my password for all my accounts. You guessed it – some of us do have such passwords. I feel intimidated when the computer tells me –“password strength –weak”. It is like a direct reflection on my abilities and intelligence. I feel quite elated and energetic when I am told “ strong password”!Then everybody warns you not to use obvious passwords like your date of birth or your wife’s marriage anniversary (that is mine too, I guess) or your children’s names or your flat number . This again greatly limits your choices and makes things more difficult.

Then there are certain picky and overzealous sites- they will insist on a digit and some alphabets and they have to be mixed up in some order and some in upper case and some in lower case and at the end of a successful password registration, very often you are left feeling a mental case! It is really not fair, I think.

And then, there is the issue of the ‘security question’ to make things more secure. They are pretty intrusive and kind of violate your privacy, if you ask me. What business do they have wanting to know the color of my wife’s eyes or where I met my spouse or what breed my pet dog is. Sometimes to confuse them, I give wrong answers. The only problem is that I forget my answers and I can’t keep track of all my intelligent replies and that becomes a muddling issue more often than not.

I decided I would open a password protected folder which would list all my intelligent passwords for my various online activities. Everything seemed to be going fine for a few days and I would access my folder with one single password and then log on wherever I wanted with my myriad passwords. But this was too good to be true for long – I have , for the past three days completely blanked out on my master password and have now lost access to all my  special passwords and I just don’t seem to be able to recollect it . Things are secure I suppose. If I can’t get in, perhaps nobody can?

 

sun, salt, sands, sharda, smiles & sweetened tea

Salt , Sands, Sun , Sharda , Smiles and Sweetened tea..

By

Vivek Hande

 

Sharda is a six year old girl I recently had the privilege of meeting. Sharda is a scrawny, reed thin, unschooled, ‘malnutritioned’, hardworking, intelligent young girl. She runs around bare feet clad in a tattered and frayed old dress. I met her deep inside the Little Rann of Kutch , where she stays with her parents in ,what you could call a hut. Her abode did have a roof and some walls. She stays there helping her parents make salt for about eight months of a year.

 

She seemed to have multiple vitamin deficiencies and was deeply sun burnt and had seemingly boundless energy as she showed me around her salt pan very proudly. She did have the most ravishing smile which went straight to your heart. She was part of the Agariyas- a clan devoted to salt making down the ages in the Kharaghoda area in the Little Rann.

 

I was told that the Agariyas live in several villages by the rim of the Kutch. They migrate into the interiors of the Kutch around July – August and stay there till about March for the salt production. I gathered that about 25% of India’s salt production comes from this area. Each of the families looks after a salt field and there are thousands of such families scattered all over the vast tracts of the Kutch. They first, have to prepare the salt fields. The raw surface needs hardening and embankments have to be raised. Each of the pans is about 200 x 250 feet. A shallow well is dug in and locally made “Rajkot “pumps, which operate on crude oil, are used to pump the water up into the first of the pans. The water which is very rich in salt is circulated over the next couple of weeks through narrow channels from one pan to the other and the salt keeps getting concentrated and at the end of about a fortnight, roughly 10-15 tonnes of salt are produced.

 

 

Sharda is an expert, like her father, in this process of salt making. She has an instinct about the optimum temperature of water and handles the pump efficiently and does a great job in helping her parents top the pump with oil. She knows when is the right time to complete the salt making cycle. She cannot spell her name; she does not know what school is; she walks once a week with her parents about 10 kilometers to have a bath- there is no fresh water in the midst of the Kutch. Her day sees temperatures rising to 45 degrees under the scorching sun and dropping to about 5 degrees at night with howling winds and occasional storms. She has her parents and the stars for company.

 

 

 

She tells me proudly that her father earns four thousand rupees a month. She accepted with great joy my humble offering of a bar of chocolate, Frooti and an orange.

 

 She would not let me go without a gift in return – she insisted that her mother make me a cup of black sweetened tea, which was offered with a lot of affection, in a chipped saucer and she also gave me a crystal of salt from the latest production. Sharda’s smile, the sweet tea and the salt crystal will remain with me for the rest of my life …

 

 

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maid in India

                             Maid in India

                             By Vivek Hande

                                               

                                                      

 

We are a working  couple and  have two growing sons.  Consequently , a major issue in our lives is the availability or the lack of domestic help. The Maid assumes larger than life importance in our lives. The availability of an appropriate and a reliable  maid governs our social life and several other facets of our life. With erratic working hours and ill timed visits  to the hospital on account of emergencies, the maid assumes a central role in our existence.

 

              What my parents could not teach me, several years of domesticity and dealing with maids of all shapes, sizes, caste, creed, temperament, religion and linguistic preference has taught me in abundant measure. Patience ,tolerance, humility, generosity, fortitude and a forgiving nature have become an intrinsic part of my  character. My mother can’t recognize me and my wife wonders where these sterling traits disappear when it comes to my behaviour with her!

 

               It has been a long journey and each of the ones on a very long list of maids had something to teach me. Many years back, Shantamma, who was our maid then, made it clear she would watch ‘Ramayan” in the mornings and “Two & a half men” (a popular American soap) in the evenings on my newly acquired TV and work had to be squeezed in between the two television offerings. Alice, a misguided spirit was under the impression that my home was the local center for “Alcoholics Anonymous”. After several trips to the hospital with her perennially inebriated husband, I became an expert on Alcohol related liver diseases but we had to march the couple on to someone more spirited than myself. Lata was very religious and that was a good omen till I realized she was serving the good lord more than us. Monday, she would want to visit the Lakshmi temple; Tuesday was devoted to the famous Hanuman mandir; Wednesday was for the Hande family; Thursday- a busy day; Sai Baba in the morning and Pir Baba at the Dargah in the evening; Friday was immersed in Chitala Devi and after some respite on Saturday, Mass at the Good Shepherd Church on Sunday was mandatory. Unfortunately our needs were more earthly and we had to let this spiritual soul drift away from us. Then came Saira; things seemed alright for sometime till I started discovering a lot of people in town wearing my favorite shirts and looking rather smart and trendy. She had to leave after depleting my wardrobe considerably. To be fair, there have been many who have been warm and kind and affectionate and some have been sincere and honest too.

 

                   Needless to say, it has taken a lot of tact and patience dealing with the lot and one has learnt many lessons along the way and one continues to learn each day. I must let you onto a little secret. Knowledge of my tremendous experience in dealing with maids has reached the precincts of the Indian Institute of Management. The various IIMs have approached me to launch their new MBA program on Maid Management and take over as the faculty head in view of the tremendous interest and demand for the course. Needless to say, I shall keep you posted on developments….

                                                                                 

the sign of a very sick society

Rape : the sign of a  very very sick society…

By Vivek Hande

 

What has happened to us as a society? Is there no end to this perversion?  Are  there  new depths to which we can plummet? Is there an end to this? Is there any light at all, at the end of this interminable dark tunnel?

I am , by nature , an optimist . But I ask myself ,is there place for optimism? You pick up the paper any day and you have to read the gory details of a terrible rape in some part of the city or country. No age, locality, socio-economic class seems to be spared. It almost seems to have reached epidemic proportions. Is it because we have degenerated as a society ; is it to do with poor upbringing; is it to do with moral decadence; altered value systems ;is it to do with economy or corruption or whatever else people want to blame everything on? I just cannot fathom how and why we have reached this terrible state of depravity?

The same cycle repeats itself again and again. There is a rape followed by some angry and agonized sound bytes. Some grand-standing  and some sloganeering. Some candle marches and some innovative placards and posters being thrown about. Endless debates on endless TV shows -discussing, pontificating, suggesting and demanding and so on. But unfortunately, while these discussions are  on , another woman , another girl , another child is being raped and we seem to be silent bystanders . While the protests grow louder and slogans are high pitched, the noise and the din seems to be drowning the screams and pleas of another woman being violated that very moment.

Laws and Bills are being discussed and being promulgated. Discussions take place at every level- the street side chai shop; in homes and malls; in clubs and cafes; in print and visual media; in Supreme court and Parliament but the sad truth is that the epidemic rages on. I don’t want to get into a debate on a “second chance” for the rapist and the “quantum of punishment” and other distracting issues. I just know that there has to be a system in place where a man thinks and thinks and thinks yet again before committing this most heinous crime –unless there is a fear, unless he is scared that the crime will be followed by punishment and humiliation for himself, he will continue to be emboldened to behave in this dastardly manner.

Man, they have often said, is a social animal. But behaving in this terribly anti-social manner is worse than any animal. An animal pounces or attacks for its own survival, for its own existence, for being a part of the food chain. But this attack and violation of another person’s privacy and sanctity is the surest sign of a terribly sick society. How much more are we going to degenerate?

time travel & travails

                                          Time travel

                                                  By

                                        Vivek Hande

 

It was an interesting journey to say the least.. I  had the occasion to travel recently  by train  from Mumbai  to Karwar along the Konkan coast. I was to alight at my destination  at an unearthly hour of half past two in the morning . A cluster of stations had arrival times around the same time and consequently there were a lot of  people waiting to get down roughly around the same early hours of the morning or late hours of the night ,if you please. The train was running more than an hour late and losing time further adding to the uncertainty.

 

I , for one kept looking at my watch and could not sleep after midnight and kept peering  at poorly lit stations awaiting my destination. The gentleman across my  berth  ,had fixed alarms on his two cell phones spaced fifteen minutes apart  from two am onwards. He managed to sleep through each of the sixteen alarm ringtones and ensured that all around him were awake to keep vigil. Another elderly couple had asked the coach attendant to awaken  them fifteen minutes before their expected destination. The wife had a healthy suspicion of the attendant’s abilities to stay up and awaken them. Consequently she would prod her husband and   dispatch him every twenty minutes to ascertain if the attendant was awake and remind him of the assigned task. The attendant had every hair standing on his head and   I am sure he   would have been the happiest person on the train when the couple finally departed.

 

 I must tell you about another elderly  gent , who was petrified about missing his station and not being able to get off with his luggage in the scheduled two minute halt. Therefore  ,he moved with his baggage soon after midnight to the area adjacent to the toilet. The poor man was in for a rather long and smelly wait-three and a half   hours to be precise! And I must tell you about this extremely restless, obviously NRI type youngster. He was really wired in every sense of the word. Armed with his I-Pod, Blackberry and a headphone slung around his neck for good measure, he would keep darting in and out of the compartment and getting down at every station to reconfirm that it was not his destination. Finally  , he managed to find himself stranded on the platform with the train speeding away, two stations short of his destination. Kareena Kapur of “Jab We Met” fame would have applauded. A case of so near and yet so far!

 

Another portly bald haired gentleman, a most laconic character, if there was one- he changed into shorts; put on ear plugs; strapped on an eye patch and dug himself deep into the folds of his blanket. He told me to relax before he sank into slumber-land, “  The train is going to get another two hours late. You can sleep comfortably for five  hours !” He got his beauty sleep and alighted fresh as a daisy five hours later as he had predicted. Talk about letting sleeping dogs lie.

Well, most of us did manage to get off at our  stations , bleary eyed and battle weary; fighting sleep and the uncertainty in our own unique ways. The journey, was an “eye opener”, in a manner of speaking,   about the trials and tribulations  of time travel !

 

the hand that rocks the cradle

The hand that rocks the cradle!!

                                                               By

                                                      Vivek Hande

 

It was a very long time back, in the very early nineties, when I was stationed in Assam. The thoughts of that lovely North Eastern state always evokes memories of lush green stretches of verdant forest. Rain forests, heavy monsoons, clean unpolluted air and simple ,affectionate people going about their business of life is what I remember fondly of that beautiful place. Another memory , which is inevitably linked in my mind , is a lesson in the expression about looks being deceptive and a delightful lesson in Queen’s English!

 My elder son was born while I was stationed there. After a few months , there rose the necessity of acquiring a pram for the young man. Guwahati, where I was headed  for the necessary purchase, was nearly a hundred and fifty kilometers from my location. Armed with a list of specifications from my wife regarding the pram , I reached the fabled Pan and Fancy Bazaars of the  city. It was hot , humid and dusty by the time  I reached , but I was a man with a mission. I was initially surprised and then increasingly dejected and dismayed as I drew a blank in shop after shop. I told shopkeeper after another I needed a pram. They looked at me without comprehension. I gave a graphic verbal description of what I needed ;I drew what I definitely thought, looked like a pram and showed it around and then finally an effective demonstration  of an imaginary baby in an imaginary pram being pushed by a proud father. But , inspite of my best audio-visual presentations, no luck , no pram. My descriptions produced everything other than a pram and I was offered a bed pan, a washing machine and an Idli maker , but no pram.

I had almost given up and was now scouting some of the smaller dusty by-lanes of the market. I approached a Lungi –clad disinterested elderly gent in a small shop

and launched into my well honed pitch for the elusive pram. He spat out a mouthful of betel juice, put on his spectacles, scratched his groin and peered at me through his thick glasses. He then spoke to me in an amazing baritone, in the clearest English diction , I have ever heard, “Young man, why are you making all these funny gestures and making a fool of yourself? You want a perambulator and that is  what you will get!” I could not believe my ears –that was perhaps the last time I have ever heard the word in all these years. The pram / perambulator turned out to be a Victorian relic with a lace canopy and lace trimmings on the wheels and the Union Jack emblazoned on the head rest. It was a monstrosity and no where near the stringent specifications given by my wife but it was a pram, or should I say perambulator .

Well, the young man had his distinguished carriage  and I had a lesson in Queen’s English in the most unexpected of places and incongruous of surroundings. Life never ceases to amaze!

 

the wagener – clime flavor

                                                       The Wagener –Clime flavor

                                              By Vivek Hande

I have always loved ice – cream in any shape, form, size, color or flavor. I could gorge  ice- cream at any time of the day and it could well substitute any meal.  A constant battle of the bulge and the fear of a generous waist line prevent me from indulging as often as I would like to. However, my eternal favorite has always remained fresh strawberry. For many many years, fresh strawberry has always been the Wagener –Clime flavor for me.  There is a little story behind it.

It was more than two and a half decades ago when I was doing my internship after medical school in Delhi. I attended the World Congress of Neurology. It was a glittering affair and it attracted leading neurophysicians from across the world. It was a stimulating week. The lectures were top grade and it was intoxicating picking the brains of the leading authorities on various subjects. In addition to the academic activities, there were a host of lavish lunches and dinners. As a very junior medico. I would at times feel a trifle overawed and a bit out of place at times. My discomfiture was noted by a white haired old lady. She was very elegant and carried herself with great dignity. She introduced herself as Dr. Wagener-Clime, MD from Copenhagen; a rather modest introduction for one of the leading neurophysicians from Denmark.

We hit it off very well and notwithstanding the difference in age of more than fifty years, we became friends. We discussed everything under the sun-Neurology, Indian customs and traditions; marriage, politics, music and cinema. She was thrilled with snake –charmers and cycle –rickshaws. The Qutub Minar fascinated her and she found the Saree highly intriguing. She found Hindi film songs pleasing to the ear. She even picked up a smattering of Hindi and I introduced her to the nuances of Kannada. She was turning into quite an Indophile.

However, come mealtime and her sense of adventure would abandon her and nothing would convince her to try anything cooked in the hotel. She showed me her suitcase full of tinned food-sausages, ham, salami, baked beans and cheese. She even had an amazing supply of Danish pastry and bottled water. She had a mortal fear of getting food poisoning and acquiring a deadly strain of Salmonella or Cholera or some other tropical infection.

With considerable difficulty, I persuaded her to overcome her fears and try some of my favorite strawberry ice-cream. She was hooked thereafter. “Indian ice- cream is so much better than back home”. The next few days she attacked strawberry ice-cream with lip smacking gusto for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She devoured strawberry ice-cream with a maniacal zest. She returned a few days later to Denmark and we remained in touch over the years. She is no more but for me strawberry ice cream can be nothing other than the Wagener-Clime flavor!!