The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Up there with the birds …


TREETOP

Tipplers, world-wide, have had to face up to a variety of “punishments” for their self-inflicted state of inebriation. It could be an unceremonious ejection from one’s favourite watering hole, a showdown with the wife upon returning home, or even a temporary spell in the lock-up while the effect wears off.

The panchayat in Kanesara village in Gujarat has thought of a novel idea to deal with drunks – a fine of INR 1,000 PLUS having to spend 24 hours perched on a tree.

And, if a friend visiting from outside is seen in a similar state, he gets to shell out an identical fine and share your perch.

Not sure if the fine increases if the individual continues to partake of the brew while ensconced in the branches, though.

 

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September 21, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeing red …


Thirty years ago, on this day, I was fortunate to emerge alive from a horrific car accident. While I still carry physical scars, and some mental ones, too, the crash opened my eyes to the fact that there are caring humans who are prepared to go that extra distance for their fellow beings.

I shall always be indebted to a man, whose name I will never ever know, who placed stones on the highway to stop oncoming traffic, compelled the driver of a pick-up truck to help, and deposited us at a hospital 30 kms. away. He did not leave a name, since he felt that he had done his duty, and that it was left to God and the medical fraternity to take care of us.

I shall always be indebted to those who, at great personal sacrifice, stood by me during those pain-filled days in hospital and nursed me back to good health, who helped me walk again, and who kept me in good cheer.

Having driven thousands of kilometers, in several countries, under varying road conditions, coping with the peculiar driving habits of people, I have often reflected on the psyche of the individual at the wheel.

Does the fact that you control a powerful machine give you the right to lord over everyone else who attempts to share your space? Does the fact that you have a bigger vehicle give you the right to intimidate those in smaller ones? Does the fact that you possess a driving license give you the license to behave like a boor on the road?

Does the fact that you are personally unmindful of the risks involved in driving recklessly give you the right to place the lives of others at risk?

It horrifies me when I see lunatics in powerful cars / SUVs drive as if there is no tomorrow. Careening down the highway at high speed, weaving in and out of traffic, changing lanes without using the indicator lights, barging in ahead of you without any advance warning, flashing their headlights as they approach you from the rear – rude and arrogant actions that speak poorly of the guy behind the wheel.

Actions that make you want to question what lies between the ears of that individual.

It is a question of attitude, I suppose.

My mind is totally blank about what exactly happened that day, thirty years ago. But, on occasion, I still hear the shrill, harsh, squealing sound of brakes as the driver fought hard to prevent the car from going off the road.

And, I remember the colour of the car – it was blood red.

The colour that comes to mind when I see some of the senseless idiots on the road.

 

September 18, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hall of Shame


An armless customer was not allowed to cash a cheque from a Bank of America branch in Florida because he was not able to provide a fingerprint for purposes of identification. This, despite the fact that he was a joint account holder with his wife as well as his providing two photo-IDs.

We are all aware of how banks can be sticklers for rules and procedures, and I would go as far as saying that we have all, at some time in our lives, had our blood pressure elevated by rude and difficult bank staff.

We wonder what special training is provided to bank staff that makes them so difficult to deal with. It can be annoying at times, and simply frustrating, on occasion. Its worse when, after navigating through a maddeningly elaborate interactive voice response system, you are finally directed to a “customer service” agent who leaves you with the impression that he is doing you a favour by responding to your call.

I do agree that adhering to rules is important so as to ensure that there is no fraud.

But, as in the case of the armless man in Florida, this was carrying beaurocracy beyond reasonable limits.

Bank of America has admitted that the matter perhaps went too far, and that the local manager should have exercised better judgment, but this episode has, for sure, not won them any friends.

Bank of America, the largest provider of consumer and small-business banking in the U.S., with over 6,000 centres and over 18,000 ATMs, has had a difficult year, having lost about two-thirds of its stock value, and accepting bailouts worth US$ 45 billion.

And, when it comes to customer service, it has rated as one of the worst, for three years running, in the MSN Money-Zogby poll, and shares a place in the Hall of Shame with organizations such as HSBC, AOL, and Citigroup.

hallofshame2009

BankAm might claim that 47.6% of respondents in the survey had rated it as “good” or “excellent”, but the fact remains that 28.5% of respondents called it “poor”, with another 23.9% rating it as “fair”. That’s over half of the respondents.

Does not make good reading, does it?

 

September 8, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Believe …


A 17-year old American girl has proved that “Believe” can mean more than just a one-word sentence.

Melanie Oudin (pronounced “Oo-dan”), tennis player, is ranked 70th in the WTA Tour, has a win:loss record of 10:7, and has not won a single Tour tournament in 2009. Yet, at the U.S. Open, she has reached the quarter finals after beating four Russians in a row – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva (No. 4 seed), Maria Sharapova (three-time champion) and Nadia Petrova (No. 13 seed).

And, against Petrova, Sharapova and Dementieva, she came back from a set down to eventually win, much to the delight of the home crowd in New York.

Oudin wears shoes made by Adidas, and the pink and yellow colour scheme was chosen by the player herself. And, rather than having her name marked on the shoes, as earlier planned, she chose to have the word “Believe” stamped near the heel, instead.

Shoes - Believe

Adidias had stated, prior to the U.S. Open that they would not sell this shoe design to the public. However, if they follow this youngster’s credo of “Believe”, they might do well to leverage her success and make big money by marketing this design.

Fascinating, indeed.

And, you’d better “believe” that.

 

September 8, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Other Sport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soused-up spectacle


There have been a few well-documented incidents in the past when prominent sportsmen have got sufficiently soused up and faced reprimands as well as angry reactions from the public. Names that come to mind include cricket players such as England’s Andrew Flintoff and Australia’s Andrew Symonds.

One would not, normally, associate a quiet (though intense) game of chess to witness this, though.

But, it did happen.

He is a part of what is referred to as “the Blitz Brothers” (his brother represents the other part), and is a Russian-born, Kazakhistan-raised, French player called Vladislav Tkachiev. Ranked 58th in the world, and known to be a rather colourful and fast-living character, Tkachiev prefers rapid-fire “blitz chess” (hence the nickname) to the more traditional slow game.

His offence this time? He showed up drunk at a Grandmaster’s tournament in Kolkatta.

Vladislav Tkachiev

Having completed only a few moves, interspersed with repeated dozing off at the table, the maverick chess player had to be finally carried off, and ended up forfeiting his match.

Many prominent players, such as British grandmaster Nigel Short, demanded that strong punishment be meted out to Tkachiev.

Being sozzled in private is a matter of personal choice. In public, and especially in a tournament, this is not.

And if this sort of thing happens in a competition, the best solution would be to have the player ejected.

Isn’t this what would happen to a drunken spectator?

 

September 6, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Other Sport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

H1N1 paranoia


swineflu1

A colleague called in the other day and requested permission to take the day off since he felt unwell.

“Fair enough, take rest, and get well soon”, I said, thinking that the conversation had come to an end.

“I have fever, a cold, a sore throat, and some body pain. I wonder if I have swine flu. Can you suggest a clinic where I can get myself checked?” he asked.

I did a double take. Swine flu? Must be just a touch of simple influenza, considering that it has been intolerably humid off late, and going in and out of the airconditioning isn’t exactly the ideal thing to do.

“Don’t worry, you will be fine,” I ventured, till I realized that he was serious about getting himself checked.

That’s what the current pandemic has done to people these days. People are worried that they will catch the bug, more so when they hear about the rising number of casualties world-wide. The media, with all good intentions, has reported on this in considerable detail, but matters have reached a stage where the public, at large, has become paranoid about this.

Patients with common cold and fever make a bee-line for the H1N1 testing centres, creating enormous pressure on the system. And, genuine cases do not get treated because the centres cannot cope with the demand.

For sure, H1N1 is a cause for concern, and needs attention in terms of infrastructure to carrying out testing, and availability of medicines to treat the illness. However, there also needs to be reassurance given to the general public that every flu is not necessarily H1N1.

More people die of malaria and dysentery, diseases that people have come to accept as a part of life.

As long as one is sensible, careful and exercises the appropriate precautions, the chances of contracting swineflu are low.

And, what of my colleague?

He returned to work, looking very sheepish, the next day and declared that he was feeling better after a dose of paracetamol.

I left the matter of swine and flu unsaid.

 

September 3, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quota for wolves


Grey WolfOne has heard of licences and quotas for shooting ducks, culling kangaroos, killing whales etc, but that is meant for humans.

Have you ever heard of a quota on how much prey a wild animal can kill in a month?

Well, the Swiss have a quota on how many sheep a wolf can kill in a month in that country – Swiss law allows the predators to kill only 35 animals in four months, while the monthly quota is 25. However, the limit falls to 15 a month for protected herds, such as sheep.

Strange, indeed.

Predators kill for food and know no geographical boundaries, recognize no numbers, and rely solely on instinct. They hunt when hungry, and are a part of an ecosystem that has evolved over time.

Animals hunt in their natural habitat, and have done so for centuries, unfettered by any restrictions. It is only when their food sources dwindle that they explore options outside of their traditional hunting grounds and seek food elsewhere.

It appears that grey wolves have crossed into Switzerland from Italy and France, and killed over 40 sheep in August ’09, thereby exceeding their quota. Accordingly, the “death sentence” has been passed on what was estimated as three wolves who might have committed this transgression, with one wolf already getting felled by bullets from a wildlife warden.

The interesting thing is that there is no way of ascertaining, with any degree of certainty, the identity of the wolves that actually killed beyond the allowed limit. Even the figure of three wolves is merely an estimate based on the fact that the sheep were killed in three different areas. Who is to know if it was just one wolf or two (or more) that did the killing? 

One question that comes to mind is : if the farmers/breeders are so agitated about wolves lifting some of the sheep, why did they not corral their herds better in the first place?

The World Wildlife Fund that is head-quartered in Switzerland has protested about the “sentence” but is, perhaps, powerless to do anything more.

It is man that has encroached on the natural habitat of wild animals, and this, coupled with indiscriminate hunting, has led to the complete extinction of many animal species, and the near extinction of several others.

Humans have adopted the posture of the dominant species on this earth. And wild animals, as a consequence, need to be visible only in zoos.

Sheep, cows, chicken, turkeys, etc are bred by man for the purpose of subsequent slaughtering for food. In human logic, that is perfectly fine and acceptable. When it comes to animals killing sheep, it is a different story altogether.

Millions of tourists visit game parks in Africa to see wildlife in their natural habitat, and wax eloquent about the beauty of animals in the wild. And, one also hears of sheep being slaughtered and placed as bait to attract wild animals and provide entertainment to tourists.

I wonder what these very same people will say if some of these wild animals stray into human habitats and inflict damage.

Worth thinking about, surely.

September 2, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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