When you are in a Jam, a traffic jam, read this fairy tale!

Once upon a time…

Go on read this fairy tale…

On Old Madras Road in Bangalore – now it is the new Chennai Road, there was factory called, in general parlance, the Jam Factory.

At that time Jam could only be found in the factory, not on the road to it; traffic was smooth as butter; there was no need for jam. Since the factory closed down however, the jam spilled out on to the roads; first in the capital and then onto the roads in the other cities in Karnataka that would like to make capital of their density of population – both men and vehicles! At the Silk Board Junction, also in Bengaluru, the traffic is like silk – it doesn’t melt away in the Bengaluru heat like Cadbury’s Silk but remains intricately woven like Mysuru Silk!

Jam Sandwiches are common on our roads, and we are grateful for them, for we can get hungry during the wait to move forward in life. But the wait teaches us many things – how to be patient, how to curse the system, without actively involving ourselves to make it better, curse other commuters and even rehearse our hidden vocabulary, something we don’t get a chance to do otherwise. I was referring to hidden system files!

But that apart if, we are travelling with friends, same sex, opposite sex, or alternate sex, we get a chance to discuss things threadbare – there’s so much time for a debate ala Arnab! And of course, if it’s just the two of you, husband and wife or the reverse – depends on who is driving who these days, there’s time to fight, to make up, or just ol’ make do as we normally do in India. There’s news that traffic jams are one of major causes of unhappiness and divorce in India. Either you are waiting for someone, or you are waiting with someone! Both are ill advised relationship boosters!

Unlike most prime-time debates, this is a discussion that must, to some extent, dwell on cause and effect, the rest is bakwas. Obviously, it’s not just the closure of the Jam Factory on an Old Madras Road, that is the prime cause. All of us know that India is largely an Agricultural Country that is agricultural in its approach to urbanization – It is not enough to plough the field and sow the seed, but you need to water it regularly for it grow and yield some benefit. So naturally you plow a field, build a road, and then you fill it with vehicles till it yields a bounty… of tax! It’s quite a simple philosophy and effective if the road keeps up with Times and the Republic!

Things were ok when you only paid an annual tax for the use of the road, that often is potholed and on which you are holed up most of the time due to the growing traffic. Human beings are aspirational! first a cycle, then who wants to do the hard work? a scooter, then who wants the dust and the heat? a small car, then who wants this cramped feeling with a growing family? So, a compact SUV, then who wants to look small in front of others, so, an MPV. That sounds like a blood test, but it is not, let me assure you. But you will need one shortly since you gave up the cycle. And now it’s all about the exploding EV – I’m talking about the numbers not the batteries mind you.

There is mystery here too. How do EV’s save the environment? Well, by claiming to do so. Plastics too do that, don’t you think? – they help you pack up your wet and dry waste separately after segregation! Electricity is fossil fuel converted to energy, right? Or is that a fossilised theory for fossils of the human race? But it’s something new, trendy and Green – just have a look at the colours of the registration plates! Green as a colour is now loved even by Saffron.

Speaking of Colour, in our cities, traffic is often regulated by Lights of Different colours – like different strokes for different folks – designed to brighten up our time on the Road. Red, Amber and Green! We love the green, don’t mind the amber but hate the reds. And so, mostly we find that in our cities, in response to public demand, traffic is regulated by a single colour – black – because while the poles stand tall, the signal is weak! But maybe it seems like that because most of the drivers are colour blind? But come on, they test that before issuing a driving licence, don’t they?

But back to the taxes. There is no Max for Tax. When the Annual Tax system failed to whet their appetite for money, there came an innovation – the lifetime tax. It may take you a lifetime to generate it, but for the government that built the road it was not enough pay back if people did not buy new vehicles by the dozen – it was you only die once kind of situation.

So, you are compelled to buy a new vehicle every 15 years, or less, because the emission standards are altered every alternate year (like the vaccine booster) while the manufacturers entice you to replace your last year’s model with a botoxed face lift! And more and more people are doing it! They love face lifts. Nobody, but nobody likes old, be it old people or old cars! Many households have two vehicles, and commercial vehicles are kings of the narrow road. Give way, or you will have way more to give.

But there is corollary to this “explosion” that can give you a coronary! Parking. Vehicles Vehicles, everywhere but not a place to park – not even at home! So, naturally, the road to hell is paved with vehicles! The curious part, is those in charge of enforcing no parking in no parking zones, are not in charge of Road Creation, Management and Taxation – that is a much higher calling. All they are in charge of is towing and fining without signing! So, the creator is different from Enforcer, and neither cares for the other or the Parker. The Parker is used to notices received signed with a Parker, nothing less!

The interesting thing about traffic flow in our cities is that it is not governed by rules of traffic but by the prices of fuel. Depending upon the price of fuel, one-way streets become two way and, in some cases, many ways, two wheelers become four wheelers and four wheelers, two; no U turn, means actually its exactly where you turn. Also, it ensures that you don’t wait for your turn. The principle is first come first Serve! Same as the rush for First Day First Show – Remember that show on MTV?

And then, in the breach, are the Traffic rules – You may follow them, but if another does not? Chaos, Anger, Grief. Take this headline in the ‘The Hindu’ on April 24, 2022. “Organs harvested from brain dead woman saves three lives”. The operative part of the story reads like this, “The liver and two kidneys of the 46-year-old bank employee, Preeti Nagaraj, was harvested after she was declared brain dead on Saturday. Liver has been sent for transplantation to the recipient in Bengaluru, while a kidney each has been sent for transplantation to patients each in Mangaluru and Manipal. Nagaraj was among the two persons injured after a car hit a median in Ballalbagh around noon on on April 9. The car crossed the median and hit head-on the vehicle of Ms. Nagaraj and three other vehicles, which was among the vehicles that had slowed down following traffic jam.”

So, there was a jam, in more ways than one. Jam is supposed to sweeten our lives, not kill it. But traffic has no rules if they are not followed. Get me? Are then Rules for fools? And will driverless cars follow the rules better? Or will AI help them break them better?

Well, ponder over that divider for a week, but don’t cross over! Just play the Honky Tonk Guitar and relax.

Read more columns by Brian here


This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

Image by pixaoppa 

The power to trap can be found in the trappings of power!

Last week was interesting, as all weeks are, for both the weak, the strong and those in between, trying to just survive, and not even survive justly!

There was thunder and lightning and a lightning storm which came and went unexpectedly, exactly when we prayed for rains to combat the unbearable heat brought upon ourselves. Most of us however did not think it necessary to carry an umbrella even as we processed our prayers for rain and got drenched! So much for faith in a country, where faith rules, through the rules of faith!

Beyond the usual processions, followed by clashes, war, its media coverage and its aftermath, I found something more interesting and intriguing to dwell upon in this piece. Already intrigued? Well, that’s a job half done!

A friend of mine, as well to do as much as anyone else who can draw a poverty line in the sand and place himself above it, said to me, “I want to join active politics. I want to become a politician”. Oh! that was a googly because he didn’t seem the type. Is there a type? Like in Blood?

“Why? I asked, “after all these years of being on the side-lines cursing them for their inequity, incompetence, incandescence, insensitivity, and information deficits.”

“Well”, he said, “it’s a long story; but my desire was triggered when I was stopped from reaching my destination – I had an important appointment –  for almost 30 mins by the authorities who I feel had no authorization to do so, but their uniform; a uniform is a great thing to wear these days, whether at school or on the street – you know the / that uniforms rule –  all because a VIP was to pass by that way.”

“This information I gleaned from neighbours in the queue of vehicles and the concerned authority who stood in front of the vehicles to prevent them from proceeding literally in the heat of the moment – it was so dammn hot. So dammn hot, I used to carry a cold lime juice flask as I moved around, but not anymore, cant afford it.”

“In fact, they were not even allowing pedestrians to walk on the now pristine roads – also recently done up to reflect a perfect world. We are waiting for a VIP, I was told. Confused at first, I quickly realized I was wearing a different brand of inner wear and could never be a VIP that way.  But I could if I became a Politician! Then others would wait for me, and on me, rather me on them or for them!”

He continued, “I switched off the engine when I was told that it is uncertain how long the wait would be. Fuel costs and gone up, but my budget for fuel has remained the same, like my salary and I thought I must save on it while I can”.

“Oh”, I said, “I commiserate with you, but what to do, wars, calamities, extremities are taking their toll.”. “Yes”, he said, “it’s a calamity that I can’t go to war over! But the greater calamity was yet to make an appearance.”

“After about 30 minutes of waiting, suddenly, with sirens blaring a huge convoy of vehicles passed by. So many of them, I stopped counting after the first 5 which included a couple of SUVS, with the third row of seats in the 60:40 combination to provide more boot space – when required; It took 5 whole mins for the convoy to pass by!”

“I was amazed, that in these times of fuel shortages and hikes, there were so many vehicles for one VIP? who was paying for the fuel and the maintenance, I wondered. I was sure he / she was not, but unsure how I came to that conclusion; it just seemed most likely. So nice, that he is not paying for it, but then who? maybe I as a taxpayer? How cool is that in this heat I thought! Abroad you can’t even dream of these things, that’s why I was not interested in politics until now!”

“I noticed he was not even driving himself as I caught a glimpse of the VIP! Maybe he had forgotten how to drive once he achieved this distinguished position? I don’t know, I don’t think so, because my father had told me you can never forget driving, swimming, and cycling! These skills stay with your forever. So, it must be being a Very Important Politician, to get these privileges on a platter, at someone else’s cost. I was already perspiring, but it is then I began to aspire, like so many others. These privileges are worth killing for I thought, not literally of course!”

“What strengthened my resolve to join politics, is”, he continued, “seeing all those guys dressed in black wielding guns surrounding the VIP as he alighted from his SUV, after someone opened the door for him, much like a chivalrous newly wedded groom does – at least on his Wedding Day! Men in Black like at a funeral? And then I quickly realized that they were security personnel as they surrounded him!”.

“Why security,” I asked, and I was told “Y Security!”  Is that a question or an answer? Some get Zzzzz security! that’s us of course. “But why security,” I asked my neighbour in the queue. He seemed quite knowledgeable and quite unruffled by the wait! In fact, he seemed to be enjoying it waiting for a glimpse of the VIP! Like a football fan! I didn’t know then that he was going to the same destination as the VIP.

He said, “there must be a very high threat perception! Totally ignorant, I asked, “but whom did he threaten so much to feel threatened? That’s the way it works doesn’t it”, my friend asked me rhetorically and not waiting for an answer, continued…

“You don’t understand,” my neighbour told me; “Of course I understand, I argued with him. Trouble does not trouble you unless you trouble trouble! He stopped talking to me.” “Did I say anything wrong,” my friend asked me, again rhetorically!  I didn’t know what to say, but I was beginning to understand his motivation. He seemed quite impressed with the trappings of power! Not knowing he was being trapped!

But this transformation fascinated me, and I wanted to fully understand his transformation. So, I asked the question. Is that it? just the trappings of power? “No”, he said, and continued, “I was in the line of sight of his destination. And as he alighted from his vehicle, so many people stood behind him, so many Infront of him asking his opinion on so many things, that I felt insignificant! What if people were to ask my opinion? How nice it would be?” That was a rhetorical question, so I didn’t answer! But then he fell silent and so did I. Lots to reflect on as mirror on the opposite wall reflected us.

After a while I told him, “The trappings of power aside, I would encourage you to join Politics and become a VIP if your prime motivation is service and not power. He pondered a while and then said, “Politics has three dimensions – serve the powerful, a powerful serve and the power to serve in that order! All three are important, and are interdependent not independent of each other, though the most popular are the first two!” Made sense, common sense. Looks like he’d done his homework, and just wanted me to sign the book, before going to school!

But which of those is your prime motivation I asked. “I want the Power to serve!” “But” I remonstrated, “you can serve without power too”. “Not in this heat, no,” he said jokingly, but then turned serious, “Yes, but then there will be no statute for a statue for a person of my stature, loved by all, but in need of protection from those who love you to death! nobody will hang my portrait, they will just hang me! and none will remember my birthday with a garland, after I’m gone. They will just have the cake and eat it too. That would be terrible. So, there you have it. Hope that answers all your questions.”

Unbelievable, how my friend had changed. Anyway, its his funeral which will be prevented by the Men in Black, I thought, but let me remind him that its not all roses, but Guns and Roses! I said to him, “you know there are pitfalls too, no?” “Oh yes, I am aware, but the odds are good; 40 percent is good enough for me!”

“Fine, but what’s your next move,” I asked. “How will you take this further?”

“Oh, that’s easy; I plan to carry out a protest against all these practices that are against the interests of the taxpayer and the common man – they are not the same you know – the common man and the taxpayer? WhatsApp People will recognize me as their Saviour. From there on its easy peasy!”

“Pegasus or Unicorn – which horse are you, my friend?”  I asked, but continued. “No matter which, Ill bet on you winning the race; after all you are my friend!”

“Go on, its time to serve the powerful, and pay for it, so that they may have the power to serve!”


This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

Photo by SlinkyDragon

A straight drive against reverse swing!

On Friday, Rahul Tewatia, scored two sixes of the last two balls of the last over of the match to help Gujarat Titans win a pulsating match, which was surely lost until then. We all learned then that it’s not over till the last over. Not if you are Gujarat Titans. We all knew that. Didn’t we? Those who bet against them, learned this truth the hard way! Betting is illegal anyway so its best stay away!

Meanwhile, a quarter way through the tournament, as the Indian Premier League Points table heated up, Imran Khan, playing for, and captaining the Pakistan Titans, was run out on the penultimate ball of their crucial match, leaving him no choice but to cry conspiracy and lodge a protest after the match; a protest that will not have much impact on the PPL – Pakistan Political League – points table, at least not in these early stages of the league.

It was some deft fielding off the boundary ropes by the Supreme Court, a good throw in over seventy-five yards and a direct hit that caught him short of his crease by just a few inches, despite a desperate dive! His numbers were so poor in the Assembly, that he was looking for outside support much like VP Singh’s government did in 1989 and was hoping that would come in some form or the other. Basically, his problem was bowling fast on a flat track. No traction at all. Injuries were mounting, and the head coach – read Army – refused to back his repeated captaincy gaffes on the field. His was not the team’s strategy, and you can’t do that and hope to win!

In his last desperate cries to his nation that abandoned him, Imran turned toward India, heaping praise on how its government has created and maintained its sovereignty, its foreign policy: how it can still stay non-aligned in an aligned world, a Nehruvian philosophy that is surprisingly not blamed on Nehru,  how he was seeking to emulate this India Model but was being prevented from doing so. His Mann Ki Baat. But nobody was listening! Because the batteries of their hearing aids had reversed their polarity!

He even batted for the use of Evms in the next polls in 2023- Pakistan Atmanirbhar EVMs – unknowingly perhaps, given his current situation, which may or may not be a consequence of that bouncer!  – this he did in August 2021, even witnessing a demonstration of the same! it is as yet unclear if these Evms have Indian or Chinese components in them, though more likely the latter received through the latter’s Belt and Road Initiative – Use our Road, or we will use our Belt!

Despite his sustained praise for Indian Foreign Policy, he did not utter the K word even once, one must wonder why, and stopped short of praising Indian EVM’s – wonder if he knew something we don’t! However, all his praises of India, its policies and governance, did not earn him an immediate ticket or a visa to India, but he was urged to keep trying – Pakistan’s Opposition leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Saturday lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for lavishing praise on India, saying he should go to the neighbouring country if he likes it so much. The same thing so many Indians have been told in reverse when they complained about their treatment in India! Conspiracy indeed!

The way to fight back in a Democracy are polls and Imran offered it to his people – But they couldn’t grab it, because the offer was like those Google Pay Scratch cards that turn up blank after a dozen wipes! it was clear that there is stark difference between polls outside and inside a house. Which is more the house of horrors is hard to say! In Pakistan, nobody wanted a poll outside the assembly only within it! All they wanted was to switch pockets and sockets. Pockets carry the plug, and the sockets the power! The question is who controls the relay switch?

Polls and Polarization are the batteries of both the Media and Democracy EVs. They come from the same family of Math Tables – Not multiplication, but Division. Some like the Polar Bear XE, know these tables well – they learn them early in school – and repeat them ad nauseam. Some use them when confronted with a question of performance, some when they want to unite rather than divide! Unite one, not / against another = Division!

The Polar Bear is their mascot. They are a threatened species in the Artic, but not in the tropicals! Here they have mutated and are called Polar Bear XE! Now the tropical’s top predators, polar bear XEs are a powerful symbol of the strength and endurance of the Tropicals. Can find them everywhere and they are not a threatened species anymore, having mutated well, but threaten other species that can’t mutate, only masticate, and choke on their choices!

The original Polar Bears are considered talented swimmers and can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellent coat that insulates them from the frigid air and water. Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food. The XE Versions are similar. They have adapted well! This can be empirically proved by reading the newspapers!

In order to sustain each other both in forward and reverse modes, Polls and Polarization, must have the right tools, and these have been provided to them on a Sizzler platter. Seduction and Sedition. Seduction and Sedition go hand in hand, and maybe even further in a poll. They are also tools of Democracy and governance. They are multi-faceted tools like the Swiss Knife!

There is so much good purposefulness in these two tools. One is designed to attract citizens to a cause, the other is designed to subtract citizens from opposing the very same cause! Normally there is balance. But this balance has to be calibrated often by the weights and measures department. I guess this does not happen often enough perhaps because the calibration tools have become rusty and the SOP musty! Restoring the balance is a tricky chemical affair – a non-explosive solution is hard to find!

Back to Cricket. It’s the flavour of the season. When there’s grass on the pitch, a captain tends to bowl first to exploit the conditions! Captain Imran followed the norm but found that the pitch dried up pretty quickly. He blamed the groundsmen, his coach, his support staff, his fielders, except himself. But he bowled his heart out, bouncers and all and yet couldn’t make inroads into the opposition. Now all he can do is hope that his team bats well when the covers come off, and he gets a chance at a second innings to set things right.

Well, that would depend on the pitch staying true! It hardly does. But an older ball does help reverse swing! But a straight drive can still be effective, if you step out of your crease!

Enjoy your IPL. Don’t bet against the Gujarat Titans. Don’t Bet. Period!


This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

All about the middle; but to find it read from top to bottom!

Given the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, it is but natural that there would be protests. Those protesting are not, as they say #Andolanjeevis, #urbannaxals or #xtremists, though they are being called all of those and more – Is there a toolkit at play? –   but the men, and women in the middle of the Muddle that those above and below create for them. Mostly above because that is that way of the world.

They are lighter, and float above their weighty decisions which weigh heavily on those just below. There is an ancient science behind this. Everything we cherish, the Rain, the Sun, and the air we breathe comes from above. But the oil we use to enjoy what comes from above, can only be found below and it is the key to everything. Even the Soya is Ruchi when it can be got for free – pun intended! The lesson learned is that when we can’t pay for it, we can’t enjoy what comes from above and we begin to protest! Not before, not lifelong. Only when we can’t take it no more.

We are the men, and women, in the middle of every muddle; we even have a name – Middle class. We are officially defined as the men, and women, in the middle of an Economic ladder. We hardly want to climb down, as the sky is the limit! When it is a matter of opinion, we in the middle class, generally don’t have an opinion – we are like the river remember? on the Riviera enjoying our reverie of the morrow; and, anyway, if we do have one, our opinion hardly matters. So over time, we have lost the ability to voice it! It is certainly safer, and healthier, though emotionally challenging to do so. We are told, our opinion does matter, and is heard, inside the EVM booth. The key word is inside. Not outside! After all, a booth is a booth, a ghost that returns to the genie, sorry genius that gives it a back rub every now and then.

We in the Middle Class are a middling Class. Our Tool Kit – not the one that gets us arrested if we use it, being middle class – is reminiscent of  water  in the river, which enjoys its day in the sun, the rain, and even the snow. It is unperturbed if it is stagnant, unperturbed if it is on the move – it goes with the flow, over rocks and boulders, over pebbles and sand, and around any obstacle it cannot surmount – without a sermon on the mount. It flows downward with ease, and upward when there is pressure on its back.

The river may be mighty, but it can’t survive without the bank, like the middle class. And our bank is not so different. It is a life saver that helps keep our shavings – the everyday stubble that we, with reluctance, hive off – safe, without shaving it further. Until now. It is to the middling class, what the sea, the spring and the rain is to the river… of life. It’s supposed to be safe, sturdy, at least on the outside, and a haven for those who love using other’s shavings – for that is all there is to it – shaving to save – to create their own stubble bubble!

Until the deposit is fixed, they have an interest in you and their interest reflects on the rate of interest you earn. Earlier it was fixed, but now it varies with the weather – climate change affects it, like it affects everything else and still we do nothing but encourage it, passively. Because change is good, no?  That’s what we are told every day. A New everything! Anew! And what can we do, we are in the middle of the muddle!

As a middle class, we must show interest in the annual inflation chart, not just of our car tyre.  Well, let me kindle your interest beyond the 5% it is currently. If that is possible at all! The Annual inflation rate in India accelerated – new environmentally friendly hybrid engines are in place –  for a 5th straight month to 6.07% in February of 2022, the highest since June of 2021, and above market forecasts of 5.93%. Food inflation increased to 5.85%, the highest reading since November of 2020, with cost of oils and fats (16.44%), meat and fish (7.45%), and vegetables (6.13%) recording the biggest rises. Other upward pressure came from prices of fuel and light (8.37%), miscellaneous (6.52%), clothing and footwear (8.86%), housing (3.57%) and pan and tobacco (2.39%). The inflation stayed at the top of the Reserve Bank of India’s target of 2%-6% for the second consecutive month. (Source: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI)) .

Inflation has a target, when breached, there will be a flood?

What this means for our middling class is that the froth atop of our beer glass occupies a larger space than the lager! Froth is good – its density gives the beer a creamy quality and a sense of fullness on the tongue, so much so we can’t really open our mouth to scream when the Bank’s interest in us declines to 5%. That is less than the froth. It’s like we are hungry but can’t eat because of the gas! Indeed, one of the most important tasks of the foam is to protect the beer against oxidation. So, we are being protected. We will now be able save more – even if we have to shave harder daily.

The blade is blunt, and we really can’t buy a new one unless we grab a handful of our previous shavings, which by the way are no longer moist! as they shrivel daily in the hot sun. And we will stop buying. They will stop producing, and then it will circle back to Point Neuf at which point we will be ready to jump off  it. That’s a long way down!

And yet we are fueled by happy thoughts. Forget about the happiness index! The cost of happiness increases by 80 paise per day and we are ready to buy it – because we hope and because we measure it against sadness we endure – the 260% taxes – which is the right way to measure anything.  It’s this mixture of emotions that keeps us alive and rooting for those above who make these weighty decisions. Gotta check their weight!

But the bank is not just for the middle class. In fact, we falsely believe that it is for us. 5% is for us in the middle. The rest is for those who have very little in their bank accounts and are either below or above us on the economic ladder. They are the ones who burrow deep within and borrow, and in some cases do not repay, but cry out for relief, to help the bank survive and help it grow – for us! Too complicated? Well, that’s economics for you. We get what we need, they get what they want!

Being in the middle of this muddle is like putting our best foot forward. Being on our best behavior in front of guests, hoping to get what we need first, and then what we want. We can plant our feet on both sides of the fence and slide down. But at some point, it will have rough edges and we will begin to feel the steel. Ouch! Where’s the balm?

The middle is growing – it does as we grow older, you know. It’s a comfortable feeling. But the top and bottom remain static! That is because when we are in the middle, we are by nature calm even if we feel like the toothpaste in a tube of toothpaste early morning – It comes out and goes down the drain! Without saying a word! I’ve said one too many!


This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

Image by Lahiru Supunchandra