New Delhi Diary-May 2021

The 2-H success formula

Watching successful people on TV channels and listening to their ‘secrets’ of success is a great joy. I happened to watch one such person, Ajay Banga, who was born and educated in India and is now a part of the Indian-American community. A Padma Shri awardee for excellence in his work output, he is the Executive Chairman of MasterCard.

Banga talked about what he called the 2-H success formula, which stands for ‘Humility’ and ‘Humour’. Humility, he said, is the real and necessary quality in any person to progress in life. And what is humility? Never to assume that you are better than others, and to remind yourself time and again that there are so many people around you who are far better than you and that you should learn from them. Humour is the ability to laugh at yourself, and to admit that humour alone makes you feel better for any challenging task ahead.

Having said that, one may point out that humility and humour are important factors but not the only ones. There are several other crucial factors for success: A clear vision, diligence, consistency and resilience. But, it is also true that each successful person has their own unique yardstick for success.

The death of a great editor

Anything that happens for the first time in one’s life leaves behind fond memories for a lifetime. For me, one such great memory of decades back happens to be the publication of my first article in The Times of India.

It was Fatima Zakaria, the then Editor of The Sunday Times, who published my article, very prominently on the Opinion Page. And, that made me feel as if I were on cloud nine. The article was on the state of affairs in Ladakh.

I recently received the shocking news that she had passed away at the age of 85. I could not believe this initially. The reality dawned on me when her famous son, Fareed Zakaria, a CNN TV show host, announced that his mother had passed away in Mumbai due to COVID-19 complications.

After completing her studies from the prestigious Yale University in the US, Fatima Zakara went on to become one of India’s leading editors. She also edited The Bombay Times for a brief period and, later, the Taj Magazine of the Taj Group of Hotels.

Her contribution to Indian journalism spanned many decades, which was also recognised by Government of India when it conferred her with the prestigious Padma Shri in 2006. She was liberal, had a great sense for news, and always tried to help budding journalists.

A pleasant summer?

Now that we are in the first month of the peak summer season, one wonders how the season will treat us this time. The very idea of two ‘killer months’ of peak summer (May and June) in the city, before the onset of the monsoon, is rather frightening.

And yet, if one recalls the last winter in the city, when it was not cold at all, one can very well hope for a not-so-deadly summer. Yes, wishful thinking but one never knows! In the last few years, all the four major seasons have been ‘behaving’ strangely. Even the month of April this time was ‘admirably good’ with the temperature never exceeding one’s comfort levels. In a way, the ‘credit’ for all this must go to climate change!

Of course, many of the city’s denizens have already planned to rush to hill stations for some respite, and even a week or two is worth it. But the point is: What about those who can’t afford it and don’t have the facilities to keep themselves cool to preserve their sanity? After all, most of the city’s denizens cannot afford the luxury of air-conditioning.

Tailpiece:

Dad: Son, when I beat you, how do you control your anger?

Son: I start cleaning the toilet.

Dad: How does that satisfy you?

Son: I clean it with your toothbrush!

By P.P. Wangchuk

The author is a New Delhi-based editor-at-large, columnist and professional speaker.

May 2021

The May 2021 issue is now out! Unfortunately with the lockdown restrictions for COVID-19 we are not able to get the printed copies to you. We will get the printed copies in the stands as soon as the restrictions ease.

In the meantime, click on the link below to browse the May 2021 issue online. Please mail us with your feedback and thoughts at [email protected] or use the email form on the About Us page

MAY 2021 ISSUE

New Delhi Diary-April 2021

A new house for Modi
As the new Parliament House nears completion over the next two to three years, several other related projects will also be undertaken. The first ones would be new homes for the Prime Minister and the Vice President near the new Parliament building. Both these houses will be connected with the Parliament House through tunnels. The projects are still in the planning stage and the cost and completion time are not yet known.
Why are there no plans to build a tunnel to connect the President’s house too? Two reasons: First, the President’s house (Rashtrapati Bhavan), is already nearby, and unlike the Vice President and the Prime Minister who have to visit Parliament regularly, the President rarely visits it. The Vice President visits Parliament regularly to chair sessions of the Rajya Sabha.
The tunnels will help avoid traffic jams each time the Vice President or the Prime Minister visits the Parliament House. Currently, their ‘carcades’ bring traffic in the Lutyens’ area to a standstill for hours. Incidentally, very few people know that a tunnel connects the present home of the Prime Minister at 7 Race Course with Safdarjung Airport.

The Bamiyan Buddha comes alive!
One of the Buddha statues, destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, has come alive through a 3-D projection that glows in the rocky alcove where it used to stand since the Sixth and the Seventh Centuries CE. These ancient statues were the world’s tallest Buddha statues till they were blown up in 2001.

Ladakh Review, one of its kind
When you think of Nawang Tsering Shakspo, the first thing that comes to mind is his annual publication called Ladakh Review. Its seventh volume was recently released by the Hon’ble Lieutenant-Governor of Ladakh at an event in New Delhi. Like previous volumes, this one too provides fascinating accounts of Ladakh and the author. The present volume is partially an autobiography in which the author makes it clear that he remains undaunted despite various challenges he has faced.
Secondly, he has stood by his conviction on the official language for UT Ladakh. All these decades, he has been advocating that ‘Ladakhi’ should be declared as the official language of Ladakh. This is based on sound logic. Both the principal communities of Ladakh speak Ladakhi, and most of them want ‘Ladakhi’ to be declared as the UT’s official language.
I am very happy to agree. Any other name like Bhoti, Bodhi, Tibetan, etc. can become a bone of contention and Ladakh will have no official language for the lack of consensus. Moreover, Ladakh can’t remain united with a ‘divisive’ official language. Therefore, ‘Ladakhi’ is the only language with no religious or communal implications’.

The highly-paid bodyguards
I recently discovered that the bodyguards of Bollywood stars are paid very handsomely. For instance, Shah Rukh Khan pays his bodyguard INR 2.6 crore (260 million) annually. And, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan pay their bodyguards INR 2 crore (20 million) per annum. Among the female actors, Anushka pays the highest (INR 1.2 crore or 120 million) to her bodyguard followed by Deepika and Katrina who pay INR 1 crore (10 million) each.
Why are bodyguards paid such large salaries in this industry? The reasons include that Bollywood stars are high-risk individuals and the bodyguards are highly-trained in martial arts and safeguarding practices.

Tailpiece:
Wife: Did you have your lunch?
Husband: Did you have your lunch?
Wife: I am asking you!
Husband: I am asking you!
Wife: You are copying me?
Husband: You are copying me?
Wife: Okay, then let’s go shopping!
Husband: Yes, yes, I had my lunch!

By P.P. Wangchuk

The author is a New Delhi-based editor-at-large, columnist and professional speaker.

New Delhi Diary-March 2021

The pursuit of the good and beautiful

It was quite a joy to welcome the spring season with a book that I have always wanted to read. Marcus Tullius Cicero’s book, On the Good Life, went well with the expectations of a better year after one traumatised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cicero, a Roman statesman and one of the first-known philosophers, tells you, without the jargon of philosophy, all about life and its goodness and beauty.

According to Cicero, a good life is one that is full of morality. Now, one has to understand this point of view of those years before the Common Era (BCE) when humankind had hardly formed any opinion about good and bad, forget about philosophical writings to have a life that is purposeful and meaningful.

But Cicero had given to humankind, all those centuries back, everything about morality and the goodness of a purposeful life. And he was very dynamic also in his views. At one point in his life, he happily admitted that his thoughts had undergone drastic changes. In fact, he says that the dynamics of life is such that without changes, nothing good remains good forever.

The broad picture that he presents in the book is that just being good is not good enough. That has to be morally good as well. A perfect moral goodness lands one directly into a world of happiness and contentment. Here, contentment does not mean that one does not do anything after sometime, and feel happy in not doing anything. It means that while one is not unhappy with what one has at any given point of time, but one never stops in the pursuit of all that is good, beautiful and meaningful.

The joy of spring season

The word ‘spring’ itself is full of positivity and hope. Anything associated with ‘spring’ is assumed to be dynamic and progressive. It is in this context that one hails spring season across the globe. This is because spring season is associated with ‘revival’ of life, a fresh lease, after the hardships of winter. Spring comes with a riot of colours, and nature gets decked up in a variety of colours, letting everyone know that everything is fine with the world!

But there are disturbing reports that Delhi and several other parts of the country and elsewhere have had ‘no winter’ this time. Climate change across the globe has wreaked havoc in the last one year. America, Australia, parts of Africa, Siberia and several other regions were ‘afire’ for months. And, recently, in Uttarakhand, snow-slides created havoc in the Chamoli area, killing more than 200 people, and destroying properties, according to one estimate, worth Rs 20,000 lakh.

That was bound to happen. January 2021 was the hottest winter month on this planet. And in India too, according to an IMD report, January 2021 was the hottest month in 62 years, since 1958. The average minimum temperature was 14.78 degree Celsius. As a result, Delhi too had no winter this year! The cold wave that the city normally witnesses, especially for a week or two in January, was altogether missing this time.

Slaves to our habits

Why are we slaves to our habits? We are dictated by our habits, and our habits are what we are. Our very identity is linked to our habits in many ways. For instance, you are known by what you do, mostly. That is to say, if I go to a religious place often, my first identity would be of a religious person. All this and many other insights on habits are given by American journalist, Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit.

What are habits and how does one form them? They are a result of four simple steps: Cue, craving, response and reward. The cue triggers the brain to initiate the behaviour. The craving acts as the motivator. And the response to the craving is the actual habit you perform. And, finally, the reward is the end goal of every habit.

Tailpiece:

Woman: Why don’t you take me out for dinner?

Man: I don’t take married women out for dinner!

Woman: But I am your wife!

Man: Yea, but I make no exceptions!

By P.P. Wangchuk

P .P. Wangchuk is a New Delhi-based editor-at-large, columnist and professional speaker

The selfie vaccine

When my friends in America and UK started posting selfies as they were given the COVID-19 vaccine, I started asking myself, “Mera number kab ayega?” (When will my turn come?). The reason for my impatience was not about the selfie but the result of my hope and confidence in my country and its scientists. When the day finally arrived, I rolled up my sleeves and submitted myself to the person administering the vaccine. In my excitement I did not even feel the needle prick. But I did hear the vaccinator mutter, “Ya Konjok Sumbo Khen!”(O Gods, you know everything!)

Photos of healthcare workers (HCW) receiving the vaccine started flooding social media. HCWs were encouraged to be active on social media to spread a positive message about the COVID-19 vaccine. Such public action helps allay hesitation that may exist about such vaccines in a community. It helps people realise that the vaccine is safe and that it should not be feared. It is said that many people may not trust the government or any institution but they do trust the HCWs with whom they have direct contact. The photos of HCWs receiving the jab became so commonplace that people started making jokes about it. For instance, there were light-hearted suggestions that the government should give the second dose on the buttocks to prevent people from taking a selfie! A friend posted a photograph of him receiving the vaccine and wrote that a DNA chip was inserted in his body and added wryly that he was “still a human and had not turned into a mutant”. He possibly wanted to allay fears that the vaccination is a means by which the government will started controlling people through a microchip. I have heard some people claim that such vaccines induce sterility. I often wonder that if such a miracle was possible, then the government would use it immediately to control the feral dog population. Furthermore, if such a medical miracle was possible then the world’s population would not have tripled in the last 30 years. Needless to say, no such medication exists.

Vaccine hesitancy is a complex process. Some think or claim vaccines are a part of a larger conspiracy, while others claim it is part of private commercial interests, especially pharmaceutical companies. Yet others think there are alternatives. Thus, there are numerous misconceptions about vaccines. It is said that vaccines are victims of their own success. Several killer diseases no longer pose the same fatal threat to humans as they did in the past and have been rendered harmless by vaccines. However, each time we fall short in our vaccination efforts, the diseases create havoc once more. A good example of this is measles, which has claimed many lives even in developed countries every time vaccine coverage has suffered.

People don’t want to be the first person receiving a vaccine but also don’t want to be excluded. When the vaccine was first announced, there were messages on social media that politicians should be vaccinated first. If nothing happens to them the vaccine is safe and if something happens to them then people are safe! Such messages were written to question the vaccine’s safety. However, everyone agreed that HCWs should be vaccinated on a priority basis. This was a natural choice. But HCWs are human too and also experience fear of new things. So when India decided that HCWs will be vaccinated first, there was a diversity of reactions. We saw bureaucrats assuring doctors that the vaccine is safe rather than the other way around. However, when Greece started vaccinating politicians and bureaucrats before HCWs there was a backlash. Thus, vaccinating HCWs first seems like a logical approach.

It is not surprising that on 16 January, 2021 when India started vaccinating HCWs in the early hours, many people who were scheduled to be vaccinated simply did not turn up or found an excuse to be ‘late’. However, once they saw that people who were vaccinated did not have any unpleasant reactions many people started turning up towards the later half of the day.

As a healthcare worker, I agree with India’s decision to first vaccinate its HCWs. For me it’s a privilege, a shot in the arm that is a form of recognition and appreciation to HCWs who stoically faced the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped care for infected individuals. Secondly, since this a new vaccine that is going to be administered on a large scale, it is important that HCWs are aware of potential side-effects that they can report and receive treatment immediately. This is my personal opinion.

Every country’s government is under pressure to vaccinate its citizens as soon as possible. Similarly, we have witnessed various forms of vaccine nationalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not surprising that many feel that this vaccine has been produced under pressure and thus may not be safe or effective. Even if this were true, I cannot help but wonder why a government would administer an unsafe vaccine to its citizens? If any untoward incident were to occur, the government would face a backlash from its citizens.

There were other people who claimed that the vaccine is safe as it is just distilled water. I am an HCW and I have received the vaccine. I know for a fact that distilled water injections are rather painful. I can vouch for the fact that this vaccine wasn’t as painful as distilled water! Furthermore, I developed muscle pain, mild body aches and a mild sore throat after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms disappeared after a day. All these symptoms are associated with COVID-19. It makes logical sense as vaccinations are meant to produce a mild reaction of the disease to trigger the immune system to produce antibodies. Thus, I am sure that the vaccine is not only safe but also effective.

I understand people’s scepticism and fears. This vaccine has been developed in the shortest time in the history of medical science. It was developed and completed trials in less than a year. Other vaccines have been known to take around five to 10 years of development and trials. What we seem to forget is that this vaccine development did not start with the appearance of SARS-CoV-2. In fact, a lot of research and development had already been done for SARS CoV-1 and MERS. This development was halted as the circulation of these viruses had stopped. This provided the necessary foundation for the development of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Thus, everything was ready and pre-clinical trials had already been done. The only piece of the puzzle that was missing to start the process was the virus.

I will say that I trust the vaccine as I know how such vaccines are developed. Though the Phase 3 trial data has not released in its entirety to the public, the data that was available was enough to convince me that it was not only safe but also effective. Furthermore, it is currently being administered as “emergency use authorisation” due to the ongoing pandemic. This means more data will emerge now. I will trust the transparency and authenticity of such data as long as the studies are not mere eulogies. Many side effects were also mentioned in the data available in the public domain though it later emerged that these were not directly related to the vaccine. Medicine keeps on evolving and as it is evidence-based. American scientist and writer, Issac Asimov once wrote, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”.

We have to trust science and in the process of vaccination development while also retaining a healthy and reasonable level of scepticism. However, mistrust to the point of cynicism is invariably harmful.

“Ya Konjok Sumbo Khen!”, the vaccinators prayers is still ringing in my ears. She probably repeated the prayer throughout the day with the hope that the vaccine does not cause harm to anyone and serves its intended purpose. In a way, it reflects the general scepticism we all have. However, we all know that we are in the middle of a pandemic and can only fall back on science.

By Dr Spalchen Gonbo

Dr Spalchen Gonbo is a Paediatrician based in Leh.

New Delhi Diary – January 2021

Wishes for a better year

Let me begin this column with my heartiest New Year greetings to my readers, hoping for the best of luck and a joyous life. Let’s forget the year that is gone as a bad dream, and wish for a brighter year.

As a New Year is heralded, most of us build up hopes and dreams to be fulfilled. Many of us draw a list of New Year resolutions and see how our aspirations can be realised. I too have listed 12 ‘things’ to be achieved over the next 12 months. Some of them are quite easy while others are mostly ‘impossibilities’. But I have learnt to understand that nothing is impossible!

Similarly, assuming that I live for another 10 years, I have drawn up a plan of 10 objectives to be achieved. One of them is to travel around the world, and that seems to be the easiest one. For me, 2020 has been the most unsatisfactory as most plans remained unfulfilled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that does not cow me down. I am a rabid optimist, and hope the years to come will fully compensate the losses of last year!

Life quality best in Mumbai

In India, the quality of life is the best in Mumbai, and Delhi is rated No. 2. The IIT-Bombay, in a study of 14 cities in the country, says in its ‘urban quality of life index’ report that the objective was tailored to the reality of life, and to see, with several parameters that truly mattered in life, in big cities.

The study gave great importance to women and their life style conditions. Chennai is the best city for women, where people are most “women-friendly.” And, Patna is the worst city for women in terms of respect, education etc. Jaipur has the highest rate for crime against women, and Chennai has the lowest.

The most tweeted-about persons

Donald Trump was the most tweeted-about person in 2020. According to a Twitter report, Joe Biden is second in the list of 10 most tweeted-about persons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is listed at No. 6. Similarly, Kamala Harris is at No. 10. Over 700 million tweets were recorded globally in 2020, and most of them were about the US elections.

A rebel girl’s story of riches

Chinu Kala, 15, from Mumbai, had a bitter argument with her father one fine morning, which resulted in her leaving home. But she did not know where to go, and only had INR 300 in her pocket. Somehow she reached a railway station in the city, and it was quite late in the night. She was frightened and yet she was in no mood to go back home.

A kind lady happened to see her, and talked to her. The lady took pity on her, and directed her to a place where she could work and live in a dormitory, for INR 250 a day. Days and years passed, and she was nowhere near her dream world.

But she kept her dreams alive, and one day, in 2004, she got married. Brighter days greeted her, and she started taking part in beauty contests, and that opened the doors to success.

She says that it is not beauty alone that makes one a Miss India or a Miss Universe but a lot of other things like ‘beauty accessories’. She jumped into the ‘beauty accessories’ business, and now she earns around INR 15 crore a year. Today, as she looks back, she is thankful that she had the courage to rebel and leave her home!

Tailpiece:

Wife: Hey, why don’t you think a woman can make you a millionaire?

Husband: I am very sure a woman can make a man a millionaire if he is a billionaire!

By P.P. Wangchuk

P.P. Wangchuk is a New Delhi-based editor-at-large, columnist and a professional speaker