Sunday, October 21, 2012

Breaking Rules

All of us break rules, sometime or the other, almost on a daily basis. The most common being the breaking of traffic rules. Like parking in a ‘No Parking’ zone or driving through a street with `No Entry` sign or driving without helmets. Like jumping the red signal - an offence committed by even well-educated people; like you and me! Even if you are a law abiding citizen who stops at a red signal, the impatient driver behind you who wants to jump the signal will keep honking, cursing you for blocking his way. Forcing you to break the rule!

Then there are drivers of two wheelers and auto rickshaws who keep overtaking you suddenly from the left, especially when you are turning into a road on the left. The other day a young boy on his two-wheeler, trying to negotiate the narrow gap between my car and the edge of the road on the left, hit my car and fell down. Instead of accepting and apologizing for his mistake, he started abusing me for not looking at my left rear view mirror before turning! He did not know the basic rule that he is not supposed to overtake a vehicle from the left, leave alone overtaking on a turn.

The worst culprits are drivers on highways who drive without dimming the lights blinding drivers of vehicles coming from opposite direction, endangering the lives of people who may be crossing the roads or hitting vehicles without parking lights – emphasizing the need for medians on all the highways.

One of the basic lessons in traffic rules taught to the children when they are still in school is on crossing roads- ` look to the right first and then left and cross’. Obviously an old lady did not know the rule when she was almost hit by my car, as she suddenly crossed the road looking to her left for ongoing vehicles, ignoring my car coming from the right!

Another common mistake people make is switching lanes indiscriminately, without giving any indication of their intention or suddenly opening the front side door after parking on a main road, again endangering the lives of vehicles that may be overtaking their car at that precise moment. The rule says look into the rear view mirror for any vehicles behind you before you open the door, but who cares!

The latest traffic hazard is caused by the ubiquitous mobile- people talking on their mobiles while crossing a road or while driving on a road with heavy traffic. Recently a relative lost his teenage son when he was hit by a speeding two wheeler while crossing the road right infront of his home- because he was busy talking on his mobile oblivious of passing vehicles!

Most of the accidents on the roads occur because the majority of drivers are not even aware of the traffic rules. Anyone in India can get a driving license for any vehicle by paying a bribe to the road inspectors. They can also get away by bribing the traffic cops any time they are caught breaking a rule.

I remember an incident during one of my trips to USA. My cousin and I were returning home in his car after attending an evening programme. It was 11 pm. There was absolutely no traffic on the side road leading to his house. But still he stopped at the red signal. When I asked him why he did not jump the signal, as there was no traffic, his reply was ‘This is USA and not India. There might be a hidden camera somewhere and if I am caught jumping the red signal; I might have to pay a stiff fine!’

In another instance I met a journalist friend who had moved to Singapore, at his office during one of my trips to that very `fine` city. He boasted to me that he had jumped a red signal on Orchard Road that day but no policeman had stopped him. His happiness was short-lived because three days later he got a challan from the Singapore Traffic police asking him to pay a fine of a few hundred Singapore dollars. He had been caught on camera breaking a traffic rule.

I don’t think the effort of the Government to install hidden cameras at major signals is going to help improve the situation in our country. Our denizens will continue to break rules because they know law takes its own sweet time to reach the defaulters and even when it reaches them, they can get away by greasing the palms of the government agents responsible for implementing the rules!

This is the bane of our society!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A House `Husband`

The other day I met an old friend after a long time. He asked me ‘So what do you do these days?’

With a sheepish grin I said, ‘Oh, I have become a full time House Husband’.

He was intrigued. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked me.

‘You see my wife has not been keeping well and since she needs complete rest, I am doing her job in the house. ‘

My friend wished me good luck and a speedy recovery to my wife and moved on to meet another friend.

I believe I am not an MCP (must check with my wife on what she thinks about that) and have always tried to help around the house in whatever way I can. During the last two months I have realised that there is a world of difference between a part time helper and taking charge of running the household.

Since I enjoy cooking, the first thing I did was to ban my wife from entering the kitchen and promised her that I will take care of the food needs of everyone in the house – that is my wife & I apart from my son and daughter-in-law who join us over the weekends. Besides that, as we live in a house complex with my siblings and my son`s family staying nearby, there is always a variety of food items available during any meal.

But I have realised that the toughest part is what happens before and after each meal. Though there is a part time maid servant who helps in cleaning after the cooking, the need to keep washing the small plates, drinking glasses and other miscellaneous items which constantly appear, is a demanding chore. And so is the effort to keep the kitchen clean, regularly wiping the granite slabs and kitchen sink and the dining table after every big and small meal!

The pressure starts from the morning, when I have to plan the menu for the day – not just the meals but also the variety of fruit juices and soups to give to my ailing wife at periodic intervals. Even that is not as difficult as the effort needed to keep the whole house neat and clean as per the high benchmarks established by my better half. I can no more throw away used clothes in the corner nor can I scatter the books and the papers I read all over the house. Now I have to keep them in their rightful places. I have to ensure that the clothes for washing are sorted out into colour and white , the collars and other soiled areas brushed before they are loaded into the washing machine. And also ensure that the dried clothes are collected in the evening, folded neatly, placed in their designated compartments in the cupboard!

I have to worry and attend to every little plumbing, electrical or the maintenance problem that a housewife faces every day and see that the difficult-to-get plumber, electrician, etc. do their jobs properly and attend to callers, who keep ringing the doorbell constantly ( It is another irritant to be put up with ), Most annoying are the courier guys who make it a point to disturb you when you are trying to have a well-deserved afternoon siesta to recharge your batteries.

Then, there are visitors calling to enquire about my wife’s health and offering useful and sometimes not so useful suggestions. I have to offer them a cup of tea or coffee. When relatives visit from far off places then I have to offer them atleast a simple meal.

I have to also cope up with outstation house guests- brothers, assorted cousins , uncles, aunts and in-laws visiting us for a couple of days. You have to worry about looking after their timely requirements in addition to the needs of a patient at home, in terms of giving her timely medicines.

There is so much pressure at home that I have no time to think of anything else. So much so I have lost count of the days and dates. The other day I got confused about the day of the week. I thought it was Tuesday when it was already Wednesday. There are days when I find that I have had no time to go out, except for my mandatory morning walks!

If you are finding yourself short of breath just reading this piece, as I did, imagine the mindboggling stress and strain that housewives, especially women with school going children go through every day.

The job of a house ‘husband’, as I am finding it the hard way, is very tough! Fortunately, as a retired man with all the time available, I am enjoying the 24 x 7 project that God has forced on me! To be of service to my better half, who has slogged all her life to provide me a beautiful home and a wonderful family, is a privilege indeed!