Wealth of Guilt


(only a part of my ‘wealth’)

My Wife had been nagging me for the most of last year to clear old and excess stuff and unusable items in my study, bath, wardrobe, and show case. As usual it faced stiff resistance till one day she cleared out partially and brought out many stuff out in the open in the drawing room. I could not resist any longer and plunged into clearing the weekend before year turn. This is what i found by way of ‘excess’ – quite apart from what i kept for possible future use or current immediate revival.

  • 1 home theatre and 2 music systems and a CD/DVD player, (I have 2 more systems for use)
  • 6 speaker sets, may be a dozen ear phones (apart from the half a dozen retained),
  • 23 leads 2 way pins old style which engage making a click sound,
  • 10 charging chords, (I have kept 18 chords of various kinds for future use),
  • 14   2-pin or 3-pin plugs,
  • More than 32 combs,
  • 17 mouth wash bottles,
  • 2 dozen tooth brushes,
  • 5 calculators,
  • Lucky I disposed off 4 shoes i am left with only 10 pairs now besides 5 sandals /chapels,
  • An embarrassing number of pens of various description (at least half a dozen of which are of high end variety like Waterman, Schauffer, one gold cross pen (gifted to me in 1993 and today’s indexed value must be more than Rs 60,000 but never used),

Batteries, watches, cell phones, batteries for cells, dozen toilet kits, scissors, staplers, punches, marker pens, fevisticks,… too embarrassing to tell.

I am sure many of you may not be far behind if you care to count and admit. I am sure that wealth – things bought with enough ‘economic’ logic’ in ‘emergent’ circumstances – afflict corporations, government departments, perhaps even ERPed organisations. (that is if they don’t have 2 versions of ERP running one for back up).

If I am not able to control this accumulation of ‘wealth’ (sure all these have entered into the National income and GDP of some country) why blame the likes of Imalda Marcos for her 4500 pairs of footwear and 15,000 saris of Tamil Nadu CM … perhaps they may have exercised their choice and bought for pleasure and it may have been far more affordable to them than the above things were to me.

Don’t read me wrong – I am not a kleptomaniac. My mother has given me strong sense of values not to pick even an unclaimed 10 paise coin. They say that we start questioning the logic of everything by age 13-18 and start questioning our values by 40 (so perhaps the saying ‘Don’t get naughty when you turn forty’). In my case this particular sense of righteousness seems to have survived the battle with values. So not for me inflating tour expense accounts, spending differently if it is from company’s account than it is from own account, seeking bribes on duty, etc. Values settle many day to day decisions for me instantly … no ruminations, no vacillations and hence no agonising over them. In that sense it has been a source of great help and happiness…regrets, I believe, come in only from foregone alternatives. A strong sense of values sort of effectively shuts out many of them and hence a lot less of the feeling of ‘foregoing alternatives’ and hence much less unhappiness.

Nor am I a shopaholic… just shopping for pleasure… compulsively!

Or profligate spender with loose controls. Again my mother would have accounted for every grain in her kitchen/house (some exaggeration here… but those were her times). Regret she didn’t train me in the same mould. Or perhaps she did. And I get overwhelmed by the scale and variety of new gizmos, articles, choices, things we are flooded with (deluge, should i call). The best of training has limits, I guess.

Regret my school didn’t train me in being responsible in housekeeping – putting things in their place for easy retrieval later, not buying anything more than strictly necessary. But then again any upbringing also has limits. They could train me to take care of 2 pens – one as reserve, but could they have imagined that one day i will be faced with a deluge of 200 pens/pencils in my house? In their days that’s what shopkeepers would have had.

I think this accumulation of ‘wealth’ may have happened in 2 ways.

These days most electronic gadgets come with their own set of connecting wires, plugs, chords to interface with TVs and Laptops without ask (and most of them look alike) instead of leaving it to be purchased independently. The Government should tax these add-ons heavily so that neither the seller or buyer supplies them as an automatic annexure.

The next perhaps bigger reason is lethargy which in a sense (at least in this) seems a sort of arrogance of affordability. Lethargy in keeping things in their designated place … or designating a place for each and taking cursory care to keep them in that place and lethargy in searching when required. When things don’t materialise as wished when required I get frustrated and go to the nearby shop to meet the ‘emergency’ or when we visit the mall next if it is something that can wait out my frustration. When I buy, an exaggerated sense of importance of my time overcomes me and ‘economic order quantity’ (why spend so much time shopping for such a small thing… hence take more than two or perhaps a dozen) is bought to be kept wherever till I hit the same patch of lethargy and frustration and the cycle repeats.

I wonder how much of our GDP and national wealth are of this kind.

How effective or desirable is ‘market economics’ when it allocated ‘resources’ for such ‘inessential’ uses when there can be so many out there more needy (or the future generations) for whom the use value would be far more even if they don’t have the ability to pay.

I don’t mean they should be given a dole at my expense. I hate doles and charity… except some basics. There is no better way to kill individual initiative and breed mass lethargy against progress than doles and charity, me thinks. But some kind of a prick on my ‘arrogance of affordability’ or on the ‘lack of discipline – lethargy – needless buying’ cycle so that i become responsible… and don’t ‘deprive’ others by boosting demand and inflating prices for them.

Captain Cool … and his landing in Zero Visibility

IMG_0888.JPG8th Jan, 2016:   I took the AI 864 flight (Airbus 319) from Mumbai today morning scheduled for 7am – delayed at start itself by half an hour due to bad weather in Delhi. The pilot aborted one landing and was attempting the next one. As he descended lower and lower into the fog it was getting darker and darker … but no sign of any buildings, vegetation or lights. I was seated on the Window and could hardly see the runway or its marked lines till just about 2 seconds before the tyres hit the turf. The guy on the aisle seat first let out a sharp cry at the thud of landing but then quickly corrected himself ‘we seem to have landed’. It was my first landing in zero (or near zero) visibility. Believe me, the fog was so dense that through the aircraft’s slow progress towards its bay, i could not even see the grass on the sides.

The pilot groped out of the active runway but then it was a tough one in the subsidiary runways. He halted at least 2-3times each for 3-4 minutes not being able to see and push forward. Apparently after it lands and is out of active runway the operations are manual (the next day papers said they had ‘follow me’ procedures in which a vehicle goes in front and the aircraft follows). In one of these halts the Captain announced that there had been no take offs for the previous 4-5 hours and that ours was the first landing and hence there was no vacant bay for docking and he expected 10-15 minutes delay to prepare a non aerobridge bay. It took him more than 35 minutes after leaving the runway to dock and open the doors. From the next day’s papers i learnt visibility was zero between 2.30 am to 10.30 am and we landed at 9.30 am.

I asked the one of the hostesses if i could speak to the captain and pay my compliments. She said that they are allowed to communicate with him only in an emergency and that paying compliments would not count as one.

I asked her if she was used to such landings. “No Siirrr… this is my first such landing in 12 years with AI”.

“Did you feel scared”

“No. Not at all. The pilots are well trained. And we have faith in his capabilities”.

While alighting I met the Commander who had gotten out first and was inspecting the plane and congratulated him for his skilful landing. “yeah it was zero visibility or the lowest permitted for landing – 75 feet (or is it meters)… but it is all instrument landing system… Just assume that it was working properly and follow the instructions…”

I took a selfie and soon half a dozen others followed. But then Captain Minocha (in the pic) was cool and composed. A new experience it definitely was.

If it is safety that is of prime concern like in monsoon weather and now foggy weather, i would any day prefer Air India.

PS: pl feel free to share it with as many as you can. After all we keep criticising Public sector all the time. But we earn the right to criticise the 100 things that go wrong only if we also assume the obligation and responsibility to applaud the one thing that goes right. Look at these pilots’ plight. During the tenure of a minister known for his profuligate ways they were not being paid their salaries for 4-5 months. Their allowances were sized down by 35% over 12-13 years (in money terms. In real terms far more). If high skilled trained jobs are our universe, in comparison to private sector, AI pilots are slum dwellers (income wise). Yet they chug along…I am not mistaking an act of skill as an act of courage … but still…