Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Less travel. Less waste.

I cannot believe it. I was born in a family that used to migrate every summer either to Matheran or Mahabaleshwar and, besides, travelled at least once a year to Pune as well. This was while I was very young. In fact, probably in 1944 or 45, I even attended with my family MK Gandhi’s prayer meeting in Panchagani, where he was summering. (This is the hill station that has quite a few residential schools and is quite close to Mahabaleshwar.) Later on, too, I travelled far and wide on work. In spite of all this travelling background, I have come to believe of late that travel is a waste of time, effort and money and certainly not all that it’s cracked up to be. In the olden days, they used to say that travel broadened one’s outlook. You met new people, made new friends, learned about new customs different from what you were used to, saw new places and added to your knowledge. When I travelled on work, people envied my lot. Well, in those days, travel was probably necessary to deal with distant clients and suppliers. You could not really do it on telephone. Today, with the Internet and teleconferencing, frequent business travel has become unnecessary in quite a few instances. A few months back, I took a taxi to go for a meeting in Dadar and was caught at the Walkeshwar traffic signal in a traffic snarl because the Prime Minister or, maybe, the President was going in a long cavalcade to Governor’s House. He had come to inaugurate something or the other. Sitting in the taxi twiddling my thumbs for half an hour, I wondered why they couldn’t get him to inaugurate whatever he was supposed to via teleconferencing and spare us all the traffic jams and the delays. Think of the time and energy and inconvenience it would have saved, apart from exposing the VVIP to risk in transit. My opposition to travel also extends to holidays. I’ve come to believe that holiday travel doesn’t really help you to relax. The unearthly check-in timings, the delays en route, the ever-worsening terrorism scenario and the rest have added too much stress to holiday travel. I know a lot of people continue to go on holidays. My theory is, they do so because everyone else does. Also, they want to boast that they’ve been to such-and-such a destination and stayed at such-and-such fancy resort and so forth – and bask in the green glow of envy. Furthermore, they want to bore us with their out-of-focus holiday videos. If you want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you can do so peacefully and leisurely in the privacy of your own living room by logging on to one of the several websites that has its pictures. In the process, you will have saved yourself so much bother and money and stress. You can eat your fill of pasta at the nearest five-star restaurant at a fancy price, if you are so inclined. Few of us can tell real pasta from fake, in any case. Teleconferencing can easily take the place of transnational meetings. All this is not such a bad idea because we will be conserving precious fuel, reducing pollution and the risk of exposure to terrorist threats as well as the peril of flying aircraft well past their prime staffed by underexperienced and unfit crew. I know everybody and his uncle and aunt will call my thinking goofy. I’m sure to be hugely unpopular with the travel and tourism lobby. I still feel, travel if you absolutely must is a good rule of thumb as of today.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Armaan: Student of the Month.

Yesterday night, Armaan told Ujwal and me over the phone that he had been selected Student of the Month. Great news, we told him. Congratulations, we said. He is truly a focussed student and, when not distracted by something or the other, he excels himself in school work. Crediting his success to the Mankar genes is a great temptation. I suspect, though, that it may not be the whole truth. (Is anything else for that matter?) Thinking about it this morning took me to my childhood at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I was a student first at Sirdar High School http://popgoestheslop.blogspot.com/2006/09/first-day-in-school.html in the 12th Lane, not more than two minutes’ walk from 233 Khetwadi Main Road once you climbed down the three floors. I was never overly eager to go to school, a reluctant scholar at best. I took to English “like duck to water” as the cliché goes. http://popgoestheslop.blogspot.com/2006/05/english-yes-english-grammar-no.html. In my first school where I spent seven years, I used to stand first most of the time. I also authored most of the content of the handwritten magazine in Marathi for my class. (I remember one issue where I had featured a novella of the swords-and-sorcery genre.) Later, when I enrolled in the Wilson High School also in the same neighbourhood 15 or 20 minutes’ stroll from 233 Khetwadi Main Road, my grades started slipping. This was by no means because I had suddenly grown dumb but because now the pond was larger with many more smarter fish. In my new school too, I was a reluctant scholar, not too keen about studies and not at all keen about games. I was timid, tongue-tied, well-behaved by default. I made very few friends. I remember one more thing that amazes me when I look at the way the kids who come to Ujwal for tuitions study so diligently and ferociously. I did not study all that hard. Ashu and Abhi were unlike me, probably took after Ujwal. They went to a far better school than either of us. They were outgoing and had large circles of friends and did well at studies without missing out on extra-curricular activities. I remember hordes of their pals coming home and Ujwal cooking loads and loads of food which they polished off in a jiffy and asked for more like Oliver Twist. http://popgoestheslop.blogspot.com/2006/12/more-is-happier-maybe-maybe-not.html. This memory comes to you by courtesy of Armaan Sood-Mankar, Student of the Month.