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‘Sense of achievement’ and other modern lifestyle myths #rebellion #peacewithself

Is it real? This pursuit of success, this definition of the success of your day by how much you ‘achieved’?

Is it possible? This idea that a productive worker can be, well, productive for five continuous days and then collapse into rest and recuperation for two days, only to emerge doubly productive on Monday morning?

Is it twisted? When I set out to check off a long to-do list and end up working on something that just crept into my horizon mid-day?

Is it sad? When you have so many things on your mind that you no longer know who you are and how you should prioritize your life?

I have no answers and there are days that I could kill myself with my sense of inadequacy and bemoan my lack of drive till the cows come home. But then, I know we live in a world where standards are created for the ideal and humans are expected to be machines. I should be happy to be inadequate, for am I not more human that way? I should celebrate my lack of drive, for that is the day when the best ideas often take seed in my brain.

There’s so much more to life than failure and success. Let me not waste precious energy and undergo unnecessary heartache trying to define my life using the lens that was built for someone who is… not me!

Guest post from Udai: A day at the passport office!

So much fun to have my nearly nine-year old write on my blog! Udai (and his parents) had quite an experience trying to get him a new passport at the Passport Seva Kendra in Gurgaon. You could say we spent some quality time together. I would say it is a waste of time when things could be much simpler and faster! Here is his very to the point description…

A day at the passport office

I was thinking ‘how much time it would take to make the passport?’ when we reached. When the form checking person checked our form he sent us to the A.P.O [a scary dragon lady]. She checked our form too. She said an affidavit was missing. Then we made the affidavit. We got sent to the A.P.O again. This time there was a problem with an ID. Then papa went to print it in a better way. We got our brown file at last [that got us a token number].

After some time we went to counter A [where the TCS staff verified and scanned documents]. We had it done quickly. We waited to go to B counter and we made a joke- the “bees are not buzzing”! This was because the counters closed for lunch for one hour and we had to wait. Then we cleared the B counter [where the Passport officials verified the documents as well, asking strange questions and with stern expressions on their faces]. Then we did the C counter quickly [a final check and cancellation of the old passport if new one is granted] and it was finished. The whole thing took us from 10:45 in the morning till 4 in the evening.


Done and dusted!

I must tell you though, that it has been a week today and the passport shows no signs of arriving. The status still shows it is under process even though I have a ‘granted’ receipt in my possession! I suppose I have to wait till the police bother to verify. Sigh!

Let’s campaign for Indian cities to create long-term spatial plans: It’s a matter of survival- Sep 12, 2012

Despite the numbers being thrown at us everyday, it is hard for many of us to truly grasp the fact that the world is becoming irreversibly urban. Urban in the way we live, think and function. At the same time, even those of us, like me, who thrive on everything urban, long to escape to quieter places from time to time. We enjoy nature, we crave fresh food, we pine for the sight of green.

How are we going to reconcile these two worlds- the urban and the rural? Deliberations at the World Urban Forum, held recently in Naples, suggest that cities across the world need to wake up to the fact that endless sprawl is counter-productive, resource-wasting and a terrible way to deal with urban expansion.

Urban areas need to be dense to be efficient. In being dense, they demand intelligent planning of resources, but offer opportunities to optimize investments, for instance, in services like public transport. In being dense, they also accommodate more people on less land, leaving land that can be used for other purposes. Urban farming is one such opportunity that cities in India must think about actively. Parks and urban forests are also critical groundwater recharge zones, also recreation and breathing spaces for human inhabitants.

All this can only be achieved by stringent spatial planning, as experts in the WUF concluded. I read about this in an article published by the Global Urbanist, with much satisfaction, but warning bells went off in my head as well! Hold on, hold on! There is a problem here!

Founder member of mHS (where I work) Marco Ferrario was also at the World Urban Forum. He reports that there was a scarce representation of both India and China, the two most populous nations in the world and among the fastest growing economies (there was more representation from Africa though). Also, these are nations that are really struggling with the problems of urbanization. Local governments in India are struggling to keep their heads above water and long-term planning and vision is not something they have the capability to do at this time. There are many minor success stories, but largely, the landscape is bleak and urbanization is haphazard, gobbling up vast amounts of land with no thought for balance and sustainability, food shortages and long-term survival.

This is a strong case for the involvement of urban professionals, ecologists and environmentalists in developing long-term area plans for Indian cities. If we do not heed this advice, we will disintegrate at a speed faster than we can imagine and we leave a world devoid of hope for our future generations. If we do take heed, we might have the rare chance to steer our civilization away from disaster to an existence that is as vibrant and efficient in its urbanized networks as it is sensitive and joyous in its conservation of nature.

I am tempted to start a campaign across India to impress the urgency of spatial planning upon state and local governments. If institutions and professionals join hands, perhaps we could wake up politicians and bureaucracy from their slumber! On that note, my FB page is resounding with the success of a citizen’s effort to clean up a certain area in the city and Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon’s laudable response. Efficiency in rendering municipal services is essential, but so is the creation of a sustainable future through long-term spatial planning that has essential not-for-sale (how naive, what is not for sale? I hear the sniggers people!) components like green areas, urban farms, parks, public spaces, revitalized natural water bodies and forest zones, etc. The right densities, people-centric development, walkability, all that good stuff- it’s high time we demanded it for our cities instead of being happy to read about interventions in nations far away!

Why have I given up on the post office? Today’s fun outing! July 19, 2012

I visited the post office today. I must have entered one after years and years. I used to get sent for errands to the post office and the bank during my teenage years in Lucknow. We lived in a campus out of the city and there were a finite number of families there. Strolls in the heat to converse with the dull inhabitants of these institutions was not my idea of how to spend a summer holiday, but you just did what your parents asked you to back then!

So its ironic that when we were married, we chose to put the modest bounty we had collected in cheques from friends, relatives and well wishers into a post office investment scheme! Well, we pretty much locked the money away there and forgot about it. Recently, we’ve been trying to figure out how much is in there and how we could retrieve it etc.

Anyway, I climb up a flight of stairs of a private residence to get to the Kailash Colony post office. It used to be elsewhere before, in a dark and terrible dusty property and this was quite an improvement. The employees were really sweet to me, despite my total clue-lessness! As usual, some of the work got done, and more paperwork is needed to complete it, but it was all very good-natured.

What struck me there was the pace of things. The post office, despite its new branding as India Post, is frozen in a previous time. There seems to be no hurry at all. Everyone knows what to do, how to do it, there is very little noise and employees do not look hassled. They actually smile at you!

Observation no.2. Senior citizens love the post office. I saw three seniors come in, get their work done and leave satisfied. They confidently marched up to the man who owned the only desk in the place, presumably the manager there. They sat in a chair, filled the required forms, they got great service, they even made polite conversation, and then they left.

Despite the really thin paper with poor quality print that you see on withdrawal and deposit forms, passbooks etc (now we’ve got used to private banking, with its jazzy paraphernalia!), things worked around here. I compared my experience with others, and both my mother and my mother in law told me the local post office near our home was equally relaxed, with pleasant staff.

So, why have I given up on the post office? Because I don’t write to anyone in physical form any more, because I think the courier is a superior option even when there is no real reason to spend more on a communication; because I have lost faith in any service the government provides and assume the private sector is more efficient. That isn’t true in this context. I have chased enough misplaced couriers in my life to know that!

I resolved to see the positives in everything on this blog recently. The post office experience showed me a positive side to India, and I am proud and humbled as well.

Udai’s class recently did an exercise in which they wrote a letter to someone, figured out the address to send it to, acquired postage stamps etc and now those letters are on their way! I thought it a quaint activity at that time, but am glad they did it. It’s unfair to give up on systems that actually work!

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