Monday, March 31, 2008

BPS Scheme from GHMC

Few months ago, GHMC came up with Building Penalization Scheme (BPS) to 'regularize illegal structures and land' in Hyderabad' by imposing a penalty on the property owners. I wasn't even aware that such a scheme would apply to my flat and my apartment complex until one fine Saturday morning I was notified that I should immediately regularize my property for all the deviations made by the builder. The notice said that it was an 'opportunity' given to all the owners to pay the 'minimum' fine and get a NOC from GHMC for deviating from the approved plan. First question that came to my mind: why should I pay for the 'irregularities' committed by someone else. But later when I did a bit of research to find out more about this issue I came to know that it is the responsibility of the owner to do so as a law-abiding citizen.

Our flat owners association had a meeting with our builder and requested him to share this 'penalty' amount since it was he had flouted the rules and the buyers were ignorant about such issues; in fact they are not aware of the actual approved plan. But the builder outrightly disagreed with this proposal stating that the GHMC has mandated the owners (and not builders) to shell down the amount. Several questions arise from this development: What is GHMC trying to achieve from this operation? What is regarded as deviation from the approved plan? Which builder really shows you the so-called legally sanctioned plan before the buy the flat and tell you how much he's going to deviate and what would be the result of such a deviation? Is it good to 'legalise' the illegal structures this way, what would be the result on the environment and other disasters if means regularizing buildings that are a threat to eco-friendliness and conditions favoring urban living.

Okay, now that I live in flat that breaks the rules and is built according to a 'legally deviated plan', what is the next step? Should I pay the penalty for having been a consumer do did not bother to verify the building rules and regulations applicable in my city. What If I pay the penalty before the deadline and get a certificate from GHMC. Does it end any future plans from GHMC and similar bodies as and when they change their definitions of deviations and come up with new strategies to fill their coffers. No doubt, the present plan is aimed at fetching a few hundred crores of rupees for GHMC even if onw-fourth of the owners pay up by the deadline.

When enquired about the repercussions about failure to comply with such penalty norms, the builder openly said there is no need for us to even pay the amount and we can rest assured that there would be no resultant action and that nobody would demolish the building, perhaps the issue might get raised when we want to sell our property and the prospective buys insists on an NOC for deviations. In fact, some of the points that came up in our discussion with the builder are worth a mention here: The builder confidently said that no building in Hyderabad is built as per originally approved plan and that without deviations you will not get a livable space in the city. According to previous GO every builder could break the rules and it was a known issue. Beneficiaries included in the chain are government officials, financers, land owners, architects, surveyors and of courses the owners. Whereas apparently, the new GO is quite strict in terms of following the approved plan and does not permit any deviations whatsoever. One of the flat owners happened to be a home finance official, he was quick to add the there are several builders who have deviated to the extent of 100% while building and there are people living comfortably in such flats being fully aware of this issue. This was even more disturbing to learn how the home finance and builders’ nexus operated here.

The latest development here is the stay order on this scheme and the postponement of deadline by a month. When some of the owners were wondering what if they sincerely pay the amount and their neighbors don’t do so. In such an event what would the GHMC do? How can they demolish only a portion of an apartment complex? Are we being too conscientious in the whole issue? What if we wait and watch. Some others pitched in: well, we can do so but GHMC is sure to come up with heavier penalty if we lose this ‘opportunity’ to regularize our property. The bottomline: as a sincere, tax-paying, law-abiding citizen I should not think twice but just go ahead and pay the penalty, if not for anything, but some peace of mind!

Friday, March 28, 2008

I learn, therefore I am

Isn’t this true if we could alter the famous quote by Rene Descartes? Just turn around and see how each one of us is trying to learn something or the other. If your colleague in the next cubicle is learning some new techniques of handling his demanding boss, your neighbor is learning to operate her new digital camera. Far away, your cousin is learning to cook her own meals in a foreign country. Your friends are learning some new stuff to do better in their jobs. Your mother is learning to operate the new TV remote and your spouse is learning to de-stress after grueling day.

The politicians are learning smarter ways of cheating people and the sales and marketing person is learning to create a market for the product. The technician is learning to handle the new tools and the engineer is learning from the feedback on her recent project. People in remote villages are learning to cope with water scarcity and scientists at NASA are learning about foolproof methods to land a spacecraft. The farmers are learning to grow different crops in arid situations. Rahul Gandhi is learning about his country a la his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘discovery’ of India.

At home, the five-year old is learning to draw with her new crayons and her friend is learning to play Scrabble. In the park children are learning to play volleyball. The grocery vendor is learning how to care for his customers. The mall managers are learning about ensuring fire safety. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is learning French for his new international opera ‘Padmavati’ while SRK and Preeti Zinta are learning about cricket. Vijay Mallya is learning about dog-proofing his aircrafts for a safe take-off...more and more people are learning about how to learn.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

User-friendly design? Who cares?

How often have we spent our mornings at the dining table in frustration - not being able to open the lid of a jam or a sauce bottle or not able to remove the cello tape that's stuck in most 'secure' way by twisting cover of a bread loaf in innumerable ways. Do we really need such a strong adhesive to seal the packet? Why should most of the packaged food need a household implement to open, unwrap or cut? Look at this ice-cream container.

The frozen dessert was completely melted by the time we decided to use a knife to cut the lid. There was no information on how to open the lid and it was sealed from all the sides. With people waiting impatiently to taste newly launched flavor from Kwality Walls, including my little niece who simply lost her patience waiting for her first scoop from the icecream.
My experience with opening the flip kind of lids is often a disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if my psychomotor skills are okay and sometimes, well, the design of say a Tropicana tetra pack or something like a Haldiram Rasgulla tin. Why do such simple things come with such great complications?
Think back on how talcum powder is packed or the shape of shampoo bottles. Even today we need to pierce the talcum powder containers using a hot needle of a very sharp pin to make holes into the lid. The list can go on... Recently I had another funny experience...Kiwi clean liquid bottle and the spray nozzle. Look at the the design ..intuitively you feel it sprays on the other side..but it's vice versa.

You live eternally in my memories

Euphemistically, you may be ‘no more’ with me
But you will live with me as long as I do
In my memories
Memories, that get profound as time goes by
Constantly reminding the subconscious mind
Of what it was, what it is and how it would have been
Often I converse with my memories
Sometimes, they are as old as a decade or two
Occasionally those from the childhood and adolescence
Rarely the years in between
Often from the recent past
Perhaps because that’s latest on my mind

As my mind vacillates between turbulent thoughts
Interspersed with ephemeral happy moments
Transient, transitioning, momentary
Recapitulating, recording, reminding, playing it back
Long moments filled with sadness, painful, benumbing,
In between
Feeling strengthened with energizing, rejuvenating memories
My source of continuous strength to do better than I did earlier
To pursue my dreams and never give up
Memories give me solace, for they would be by my side
My invisible companions in solitude
Memories, memorabilia, memoirs – the collective source of spiritual strength

In John Donne’s ‘death be not proud’
The poet ‘kills’ death by demeaning its dread and pride
Ridicules the vanity of death in comparison with other ‘mundane’ forms
For the soul lives eternally, peacefully
Relieving the dead of worldly pleasures, sorrows et al

I will never perform any rituals and rites
That people normally do for their 'lost' ones
Or that is expected of a daughter towards her father
For I haven’t lost you, you live with me and for me,
Eternally, as long as I do.

Picture source:
Taare Zameen Par

Rarely we come across Bollywood movies that make us think. Taare Zameen Par is one such heart-warming expression of cinematic excellence that makes us reflect on our relationship with our young ones. It goes much beyond the touching and sentimental aspects that has moved celebrities and aam janta to tears. The movie centers on the inability and resultant resistance of a dyslexic boy who finds it difficult to compete with other children and cope with the 'unsympathetic' parents. In fact, we all can relate to this movie as parents of children whether dyslexic or not. It throws up several questions that need immediate attention from the perspective of good and sound parenting and respecting our little ones.

After watching the movie I casually asked my five year old niece what she liked in it. She was quick to point out that she got a ‘crying feeling’ when the boy is sent to a boarding school and she elaborated on the good and bad aspects of the film. What she enjoyed most was the painting that the children make. Amazing I thought! If a five year old could be so expressive in her opinion on the film what about older children. What about their viewpoints? How often do we care to seek their insights before we decide for them. We are very prompt in threatening and punishing them as if we are always right. Let’s remember the fact that today children are exposed to a world of information and knowledge courtesy media and Internet like we never imagined. They no longer depend on books, films and people as sources of their knowledge.

In our race against time and our determination to outdo others we end up smothering the most beautiful phase of our children. Sometime, unwittingly though, none of us have the slightest idea what our kids could be undergoing under the parental pressure and academic regimen. Even if we are aware of how harmful it could be of the overall growth of child we seem to ignore it and impose our demands that stifle their freedom to think, express and nourish their ideas. All this happens under the guise of the worldly wisdom ….we don’t encourage them to question, to seek. They are expected to accept the ‘answers’ that are provided in their books and

Stop for a moment and think! What happens to our memories of childhood when we become parents? Why do we suddenly become conscious of people around us and mould our child’s behaviour to fit into a pattern? We seem to forget the fact childhood is the most short-lived phase of our life and we impose restrictions on the child once he or she joins a school – the way in which the subjects are taught, the teaching methodology, evaluation scheme and so on.

Intolerance of difference
Mimic and reproduce
Creativity and innovation
Compete with oneself, excel, outdo oneself

Look at the sordid state of affairs presented by the reality shows on TV, especially that involve children who sing and dance. I was recently watching a show where a lead playback singer (female) was one of the judges. In her ‘appreciation’ of the performance of a seven year old she pointed out , ‘aaj aapke gaane mein bilkul bachpana nahin tha’ (today you sang very well, you never sounded like a child!) I frankly didn’t understand what was expected from that child. Did it mean that the child mimicked the original singer perfectly? What kind of a contest is it where we encourage a seven-year old to sing like a seventy year old. Don’t parents have a right to contest such judges? Where is the childhood when children are made to perform on the stage for materialistic reasons and commercial reasons that bring them ‘instant’ though shortlived success through dubious means like an SMS. It is sad that the so-called talent hunt in the form of these TV shows are doing more harm than good in identifying and promoting the real talent.