In the name of illiteracy

Illiteracy is to do with numbers and letters. Not basic manners. Where I have come to visit my father at present,  there is not a day when our gatekeeper’s son, aged five or six, is not wailing at the top of his voice intermittently. His parents seem to care less. I don’t see the father busy with work.  He barely opens or closes the gate for most of the residents. The mother seems least interested other than the time when she has to feed her family or do the dishes. Upon discussing this annoying issue with my neighbour the other day, she shrugged it off by saying, “they are illiterate!” I have seen the parents and even the elder brother hitting the youngest son. It is as if they enjoy to hear him wail daily and endlessly. After nearly a month of ignoring this I finally took most of the family members to task today. The father was lucky to be not around. The mother was part-lucky to not to understand the language (as she speaks just the regional language and I can’t speak it) but she and the elder son understood what I was putting across them curtly. Like music needs no language, so does anger and the hurls that follow. The younger son quietened down in a few seconds. And as I write this I have not heard him wail since and it has been a few hours. Touchwood!

I am not against poor and uneducated children but playing the cards of poverty and illiteracy to gain sympathy of public is unfair. A few weeks ago a handful of poor kids (I am guessing they were above the age of 9-10 as per the picture I saw) accompanied by a social activist were denied entry to a popular restaurant in Delhi. In protest, the social worker sat outside the restaurant and returned the next day to continue with her protest. A lot of hue and cry was raised. The news had gone viral with many sharing it on the social media. A prominent minister of the Delhi government stated that the whole episode ‘reeked of colonialism.’ In defence, the restaurant said that the activist along with the kids were allowed the entry but were then asked to leave because of the ruckus the children were creating.  I don’t know what happened after that. The news, like any other hot local news, got relegated to the bottom of the newsfeed.

I don’t see what was wrong in asking the activist along with the kids to leave the restaurant. What did the activist want to prove and achieve? By taking these poor kids to the restaurant and making them experience what it is to eat food in the restaurant, how was she aspiring them? Ok, everything is not about aspirations and seriousness but would it not have helped if she had also taught or told the children how they should be behaving when they were in a restaurant. How difficult is it for kids  (above the age of 7-8) to understand the instructions (If they choose to ignore, that is different!) imparted to them especially on how to behave in public. If you cannot respect the decorum of a place you visit, you have no reason to protest – rich or poor. And that is why you have bouncers in the pubs – to control the customers from going berserk and even asking them to leave if things go beyond control. Rich or poor.

Again, I have nothing against the poor children but it does work me up when they start their begging pitch. They know exactly in which tone to beg and the kind of sorry face they have to put up. The moment they are done with you you can spot them looking natural. And they are back to their performance as soon as they spot some more potential people who can give them some alms.

The same boy, who wails endlessly, I caught him once sh**ting at the back of the apartment and when I called for the father he looked indifferent. What has literacy got to do with this? They have been given a bathroom to use. Why should I or anyone be subject to such a sight. It is not a village or some jungle where they can ease themselves off.

The ‘Swachch Bharat Abhyan’ (Clean India Mission) is a national drive by our government to keep the country clean by both rich and poor. You don’t need education or economic background to understand this. If keeping a place clean is considered understandable, so are basic manners and a consideration for others around you.

Again, I have nothing against poor children. I am against such lazy parents, guardians and social activists who refuse to bring up the children in their care properly. Add poverty to their social status and they think they can do anything that they feel like.

(And the boy hasn’t wailed still! Thank you!)


Audacious Audits


                                               (image courtesy:

Auditing of a company is a big deal and after having worked for many years and in a variety of companies all I know that it is not merely to do with the inspection of accounts (at least that’s what I understood!). I have been asked to read and memorise the company’s fact sheets just in case the supposedly God-like auditor stopped by at my desk and asked me a random question! The whole organisation is shook up then for a few weeks that lead up to those crucial 3-5 days of auditing. At my level I never took it seriously. I was doing my job and that was it. Of course I did go through the fact sheets and did all those things that I was never told to do in the first place. Well, nobody ever showed up at my desk and neither did I even remotely realise when the auditors were in the building. I however did get to know when they were gone as the bigwigs of the company followed by their minions heaved a sigh and everything was back to its original form!

My whole perspective of looking at the auditing process changed when I become an observer of it recently. It happened in a premium hospital. The hospitals have their audits too I realised!

So as I fell into an unwanted yet unavoidable slumber one night on the bed next to the recovering family member in the hospital room, little did we realise that my family member’s cannula ( a thin tube inserted into a vein through which fluids and medicines are administered) had come off – his only source of being fed! I could faintly hear the movement of the night-duty nurse around his bed and trusted that all was being taken care of. Only the next morning, after he started to get splitting headache (due to empty stomach/post-surgery effect) we realised that all was not correct. The nurse came strolling in the room and still didn’t seem in any hurry to get the cannula fixed. How difficult would it have been for her to fix it? Considering that most patients have a cannula inserted prior and post their surgeries it shouldn’t really have been a big task for her. She instead just checked his ‘vitals’ (bp, sugar, etc) for her daily record before she said that she would be back after attending another patient.

And when our young nurse did return, she was again in no mood to re-insert the cannula! Was the patient supposed to be left hungry all this while? Instead she started to open the drawers of the little cupboard that was assigned for my father. She began to arrange all the things properly. I really thought she was looking for something but all she did was clean up the drawers (took good 10 minutes) and then started to fumble in her coat’s pocket for something. And then she took out a key and locked the cupboard!

Hello, what about the cannula? Oh, I have to attend to the other patients too. Maybe she meant attending to the little cupboards of the other patients but she said she would be back soon! Finally she came back along with a senior nurse who helped in getting the cannula reinserted.  So, she didn’t know as a professional nurse working in a premium hospital as to how to insert a cannula! She could have called her colleague many hours ago too!  And cleverly, this was all done just in time before the doctors’ morning round began! She could sense the disappointment on my face and quietly came up to me and said, ‘we have our audits going on.’ No wonder she was taking care of the other mess like the drawers first!  And then she sheepishly said, ‘please don’t complain to the doctors!’ I could see her nit-infested hair strands and really wished she didn’t come any closer!

My relative was much better in the hours that followed and I didn’t complain about the nurse. Hospitals, as I realised looking at the plush services offered to the patients, are of course like any other profit-making organisation and so is its auditing system! But should a patient become a victim of the organisation’s auditing process?  Organisations,  hospitals in particular, needs to re-look at the whole process of auditing. Perhaps they should make it a daily affair so that everyday each and every detail as per the auditor is taken care of ..the cupboards can be kept clean everyday! Or the auditors need to make a surprise visit so that it keeps the whole organisation on its toes daily- just like the taxman who can knock on your door anytime.

Humanitarian auditing, at least in private hospitals is not difficult to achieve, is it? The patients are anyway not getting any discount on their fees so why should they tolerate the nuisance surrounding the audits!





Bad blood, is it?


So all this one year I’ve been preparing myself, not that hard though, as to how and when to break into a discussion on menarche/menstruation with my pre-teen daughter. I was never told by my mother. In fact, unlike many friends and relatives who happen to remember vividly when they got their first period and how they were told about it, I have a blurred memory of mine. All I know is, it happened and there wasn’t any drama involved. Possibly because I was then in an all-girls residential school where there were classmates and seniors borrowing sanitary pads from one another and declaring it openly every month when ‘they got down’ besides the one-off visual glimpse of  stained pads in the toilet bins which at times were not wrapped properly.

Just when I had forgotten about it earlier this month, my daughter came up to me after school one day and looked upset. All the girls of her class were called separately (it is a co-ed school) and were given a primer on menstruation. (I must confess that I was relieved that I no longer had to introduce the topic to her!) She was then apparently harassed by the girls in her class for sharing it with a boy who had asked her what the gathering was all about. I can imagine the look on their faces and the tone when they all said to her ‘why did you tell him?’ which culminated to ‘what did you tell him?’ before she broke down. She had no idea what the fuss was all about.

To be honest, I was a bit shocked too when she said that she had told a boy in her class about it but I just stopped short of being like one of her female classmates. I was brought up in the ‘ancient’ times and I belong to the Old School but with all the current global propaganda on talking openly about menstruation I was surprised that it was still the same as it was in my time. Maybe it will take some time to catch up but by then it would have been embedded in my daughter’s mind (which I am sure somewhere already it has) that it is not something she is supposed to talk or tell the opposite gender about. She still can’t figure out why. What is there to hide if my teacher tells me it is healthy to menstruate and all girls do that, she asks.

I was more amazed as how other girls of her age had reacted. Certainly they were told or made to believe that it is a hush-hush topic not to be shared with the opposite gender. What explanation were they given, as I am sure at that age with their curious minds just like my daughter, when they had asked for a reason?

I told my daughter that what she did was not incorrect. There was nothing wrong in telling the boy who had asked her. I can imagine his and the other boys’ curiosity being piqued when only girls were called separately. Perhaps, they should have been called too and made to understand puberty. This could have led to an onset of a healthy and respectful relationship for both the genders. They are the new generation. The future. I am happy I did my bit. I can’t pollute an innocent mind with all the unnecessary taboos.