Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Early morning train journey

Early morning train journey has always been fascinating for me. As you have to get up very early to get ready to reach station, there is always that tension of the cab not reaching in time, or the alarm bell not functioning. As a result you keep awake the whole night or have a fitful frequently interrupted sleep.

Then, as you reach the station, even the familiar one also looks so different at early morning. It is like meeting a prim and proper gentleman you are accustomed to see in business suit in lungi. You see people sleeping on the platforms, some just waking up. The smell of freshly brewed tea floats lightly with winter mist. As the train chugs into the station in what seems like slow motion, passengers scramble into compartments. In unreserved compartments there is a rush to grab the window seat. Luggage shoved under the seat or piled overhead beans, passengers settle down as the dawn just breaks over the corrugated tin dome of the platform fighting the tenacity of darkness.

Happiness

Last week I was invited to speak on happiness at the newly opened Janardan Pujari Centre for Happiness at Sambaplur in Western Odisha. I do not why they invited me. Probably I always look happy  though my wife tells me otherwise.

So I was reading about happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. It has been studied from sociological, psychological, theological, spiritual perspective; also from medical angle. It is interesting to note that though we covet happiness, many people are actually scared to be happy, lest it brings something bad on them.

One school of psychologists believes that some people are genetically wired to be happy. Some are not. It is a trait. The other school believes that one can learn to be happy. It is a skill that can be acquired. So much so that several known universities across the world are offering courses on happiness that teaches how to be happy.

I did some quick reading, especially recent research on happiness from psychological and neuro-science domain, which focuses mostly on functional neuroanatomy of pleasure. Interestingly, both have some strikingly common points:

  1. Happiness does not lie in amassing wealth or materials or even in its complete absence.
  2. Your happiness is deeply connected with everyone around you.
  3. Social isolation/rejection causes pain. Good social relationship is a critical factor in happiness.
  4. Positive surprises make us happy.

RBI Governor

As Urjit Patel resigned, the government appointed retired bureaucrat Shaktikanta Das as the new Governor of RBI. Mr. Das is the first Odia to be RBI Governor. He is not a career economist and that has created a furor.

As my friend economist S N Misra writes, “Of the 25 RBI Governors appointed so far, 11 have been from ICS and IAS. The rest have been distinguished economists and bankers like I.G. Patel, who opposed demonetization move of Mr. M. Desai in 1977, or C. Rangarajan and M. Narasimham, who provided gravitas to the institutional autonomy of the RBI and introduced path braking banking reforms.

Mr. Y.V. Reddy, an IAS officer, as RBI Governor ensured financial stability during global financial crisis of 2007-08, going against the political pressure of P. Chidambaram to reduce report rates. He was the lone Indian, who was included by Prof. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate, to be part of the Commission to examine the financial crisis.

We also have example of Mr. S. Venkitaramanan, IAS who on joining as RBI Governor agreed to transfer reserves from RBI equity to the government, a move opposed by his predecessor Shi R.N. Malhotra, an IAS officer.”

Mr. Shaktikanta Das, the new appointee is a student of history from St. Stephen’s. However, as a Secretary Finance he has had a long exposure and experience in handling economic matters. History has shown how many IAS officers have changed bureaucratic acquiescence and shown excellent professional judgement, like Mr. Y.V. Reddy and Mr. D. Subbarao.

The RBI Act mandates the Governor to do three basic duties: ‘Regulate Money Supply and Credit Flow and Maintain Stability of Rupee’, by ensuring that inflation does not exceed 6 percent and it’s exchange rate does not drop propitiously. The original Act of 1934 also advised not to be ‘politically influenced’. These words were deleted when Nehru’s India became a Republic. But the Constitution mandates in Schedule III that a constitutional functionary should operate ‘without fear or favour, affection or ill will’. This oath should apply to statutory authorities like the RBI Governor.

Hope the new Governor will abide by that spirit.

Tea

15 December is observed as International Tea Day  since 2005 in tea producing countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Uganda, India and Tanzania.
Tea happens to be the second most popular drink in the world after water. It is also the most democratic drink, after water- though it can be exotic.  In Japan elaborate ritual is associated with Tea drinking.
Tea has occupied a prominent place in literature across the world. Recently I discovered a bunch of sher on Tea on social media. I do not know who the original author is- must be an avid tea drinker like me.
Savour these with a steaming hot cup of tea.

Ek tera khyal hi to hai mere pas

Warna koun akele me baith kar chai pita hai!

(Your  memories give me company

Otherwise, who drinks tea alone!)

Aaj lafjo ko maine

Sham ki chai pe bulaya hai

Ban gayi baat to

Ghazal bhi ho sakti hai

(This evening I have invited

words for tea

if things go well

songs could be composed)

Tailpiece 1: Exit Poll

Isha Ambani’s wedding is like exit polls. Everyone discuss about it. Media covers it with much enthusiasm. But no one you know has ever participated in it.

Tailpiece 2: Election Result special

Issue: Cow

Result: Cowdung

(Courtesy: Social Media)

 

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Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist-turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal a Central Odisha town. He also writes fiction. [email protected]

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