The Dispatches of Hira Singh – Part The First

“Let a man, an arrow, and an answer each go straight. Each is his own witness. God is judge” ….. Eastern Proverb

The first chapter of the book starts with this proverb. Each of you who read this may have your own interpretation of this proverb. Perhaps it strikes a different chord in each of you.

I, for one, would replace the word “God” with conscience, but it is not a major quibble.

Straight behaviour, straight talk, straight answers. Each can find its own mark. Or not. An arrow that goes straight does not always go to the target. It depends on the aim of the archer. However, this would be an unnecessary argument on my part. The implication is that the archer’s aim is good.

This phrase harks back to a mythical age, when honour was really valued, as was straight talk. However, in the real world in which we live, we honour straight talk in principle, not always in practice. How else would the art of politics survive and thrive.

There was, at one time, an extension of the Schrodinger’s Cat postulate to what some physicists called, or used to call, The Many Worlds Theory.
The world, according to the ancient Hindus, is an illusion, a perception. When this veil, what is called Maya, is lifted, we perceive reality.

Whatever is defined as reality.

The fact is that we all live in our own world view. So, while we each live in the same world as each other, we live in our own world as well. There are as many worlds as there are people, because we all see the world differently.
At a more prosaic level, we will all see a scene and photograph it differently, depending on how we see the scene.

An answer that I think is straight, may not be deemed straight by someone else. We often don’t give a straight answer, because we may be scared of hurting someone else, or of saying something that may adversely affect our prospects.

A measured answer then often becomes the norm.

What is straight?

Yet, each within our own perception, our own principle, we must each be straight, and give a straight answer, like the straight flight of an arrow.

Until gravity, or some other force, forces our straight path to divert from it’s original path.

What say ye?

My Young Assistants… Good Dudes…

Assistant Number One

Assistant Number One

Assistant Number Two

Assistant Number Two

Assistant Number Three

Assistant Number Three

Unless I have lost the ability to count, and read, this is post number 200. Originally, I thought that I would bring in the inimitable Shah Of Blah for this post, but then I thought that he would rest for a day or two, and make room for three young gentlemen. There were actually four, but the photo of the fourth turned out to be a bit blurry.

I took pictures of the first two kids on a sunny weekend two weekends  ago, when I was on my “Abandoned Beauty” project. I took a picture of the third kid was taken on a colder, more gloomy weekend. The clouds were coming in, the fog was lifting and the Heaven’s were threatening a light drizzle. That means, it was okay for the humans, but bad for my baby camera.

I was busy minding my own business, ignoring the confused looks of the passers by who all thought that  I was insane to photograph burned out cars. Then, these kids popped by. I was experimenting with off camera flashes on the one weekend, and torch light on the other. These young kids decided to help me, and angled my flash (and torch) to help me get a few different shots from the ones I may have ordinarily got.

They are cool cats, and here they are.

Say hello, y’all!

Messing Around While I Am Bored


I took this picture from my IPad. We talk of clean India, but people will chuck their garbage around a trash can, and not into a trash can. No wonder we lose Test Matches in cricket. We just cannot hit the stumps. Dang! Now, we know the secret!

Anyhow, this is a rather shitty aspect of Indian culture. We blame the government for everything, and do not do a shit ourselves to improve the country.

It is YOUR problem, you see.
It is YOUR responsibility, not mine.
YOU are accountable, not me.
I can scratch my arse and fart, but YOU cannot dare to do the same thing.

For those interested, I first did some fiddling with Tangled FX on the IPad. I created an etching.
I then edited it on Lightroom Mobile, and applied a selenium tint to it.
I further applied some finishing touches via Photoshop Express.

All while getting bored, and waiting for a telephone call.

A Touch of Whimsy: Driving, Navigation, FB and the Pee

I have a confession to make.

I am a dinosaur.

I do not use Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram or Snapchat to figure out where I am going when I am driving my car. I use, apart from the steering wheel etc, the rear and side view mirrors. My apologies, but I am a bit old fashioned.

So, you can imagine my mortification this morning, when a chap driving the wrong way, veered into my car and knocked the side view mirror off.

In the Bertie Wooster style, I have gotten off the wrong foot, and not told you the story.
You see, it rained last night. Not too much, but it rained, with the obligatory burst of thunder. The authorities are building a “Rapid Metro” line close to where I live. In the infinite wisdom that God in his mercy has granted, or allocated, to the ‘authorities’, he forgot to give them the capacity to plan. We don’t have drainage systems, and the mud from the digging is dumped onto the side of the road. Add a spot of rain, and you have a slushy mess where there was once a road. It is a cunning plot hatched between the ‘authorities’ and the makers of 4-wheel SUVs. Slush on the streets = more sales.

The thunder adds to the general spirit of merriment. Lightning enlightens us all.

Add a broken down truck, and you have bad spirits, chaos and more than your usual share of chaps who want to cheat The Grim Reaper, by driving on the wrong side of the road. One of these chaps, who got past The Fourth Horseman decided to knock my side view mirror off.

Since I don’t navigate by Facebook, I was a bit nervous. Naturally so. Justifiably so, I think.

It was not all sad driving, mind you. There were patches of 100 metres or so, that allowed me to drive freely. Patches where I could go into overdrive, and drive with gay abandon. However, if you do the math, you will realise that 100 metres at a high speed is crossed quite quickly. The slow agony returns till the next blissful 100 metre patch of road.

Somewhere along the way to my final destination, I decided … Nay, my prostrate decided that I need to pee. Damn, I swore. The traffic would not move. The blissful patches were too far apart.

Oh Prime Minister, I prayed, you talk of a modern India, and provide an ancient one. Will God give thee the strength to give us modern infrastructure, instead of giving thee the ability to merely talk about it?

I also realised that, before you set out to drive in India, figure out whether or not your bladder will hold up. Only then must you have that last glass of water before setting out on your long, long, long journey.

It is a strategic decision.

I tried every mind trick in the book to keep my mind from my nether regions.

It was agonising but, to cut a long story short, I reached my destination (the loo) before the floodgates opened.

Else that would have been an embarrassing story to tell.

The Dispatches of Hira Singh: Part The Zero

I am reading a book called “Hira Singh: When India Came To Fight In The Flanders”. This book is set in the early part of the last century. I think it is set in or around World War I. I am not sure, because this is a bit of history that I have no idea about.

In my view this book, though unknown, ranks up there with books like “All Quiet On The Western Front”. It tells the story of ordinary soldiers, those who have been sent in to fight and die, by the wise leaders we sometimes vote into office.

This is an extraordinary book on a few fronts. One, while it is told in a rather matter of fact manner, it tells of the horrors of war, of trenches being converted into graveyards, for the forgotten and unknown soldier. There is enough wisdom in the book, for me to actually sit there reading with a notebook, writing down quotes from the book.

I shall, in the coming weeks, inflict some of these on you. They are worth pondering over.

It is a story that tells of honour, of comradeship, of leadership in some of the harshest conditions you can imagine; it tells of pride, of conviction.

These are values that we would do well to remember, in my view.

We often talk against war, and I am against war as anyone else. Yet, there is great honour in those who are sent to fight. There is much that we need to learn from them.

They are not perfect, yet they are people who we can look up to, often, and salute.

Why are they sent to war? Why are they sent to die, to suffer, to suffer psychological trauma for us, often when this is not necessary?

And how is it that, despite all this, they maintain some of the highest standards of valour, of pride, of leadership and comradeship?

And how is it that, when we send them to war, we often forget these very values that we expect them to maintain?


War, Peace, Money & Steinbeck

I am sitting in a coffee shop in Bombay, prior to catching my flight back to Delhi. Some awful music is playing in the background, and this is supposed to entertain me. However, not to quibble too much, I shall get on with it.

Sometimes I regret not following my dad into the army, and most of the times, I do not. There are some really fantastic things about the armed forces. We could well incorporate some of these into our daily lives – the dignity, the protocol, the constant state of preparedness, the training and the overall discipline.

Yet, armies are engines of war, and to some extent, they are controlled by the leaders of a nation. An army will not, in general, go to war unless provoked, or unless someone like Obama or the Head of the ISIS asks them to do so.

I also read an interesting book called “Why Nations Fail”. I also read an interesting history of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals. As per the first book, countries fail because they fail to build proper institutions. True.

Empires also fail when they run out of money.

The British Empire ran up huge bills in controlling the British Raj, and during Wold Wars I and II. The decline of Great Britain started and the ascent of the USA started.

War costs money. Aurangzeb ruled for 50 years, and under his rule, the Mughal Empire reached the largest extent of its geographical coverage. He spent the last 26 odd years of his reign at the battle front in South India, and did not return to his capital, Delhi. Governance collapsed, and do did the army. Since he did not govern, he could not build institutions, and could not generate revenue. At the end of his reign, the army had not been paid for 3 years.

The Mughal Empire started to implode thereafter, and slowly the British Raj came into India over the next 150 years. The Mughal Emperor became a puppet, until the last one was deposed in 1858 and exiled.

In his marvellously crafted book, ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’, John Steinbeck urged us (and I am sure I misquote) to fear the times of peace, and not the times of strife. We push ourselves in times of strife. There is merit in this. However, I am sure he did not have war in mind.

I believe that nation’s leaders before Steinbeck and and after have misunderstood what he meant, and have come to believe in the glory of war. Never mind the fact that the stories of the horrors of the trenches sometimes see the light of day. Never mind that there are enough stories of the trauma of war veterans, like those of the Vietnam War.

War costs money. War costs a lot of money. There is a certain false glory in building machines of war. In the old days, the King and General would lead from the front. Now, the modern day equivalent pushes a button, and smugly tells the Nation on TV that the Nation has gone to war to defend human liberty, and that glory in Heaven will be theirs.

We, as nameless citizens, pay for this liberty via our taxes, and the smart ones evade paying tax!

War brings wealth to a few – the makers of weapons, Blackwater and their ilk, and a few others.

To the rest, it brings misery.

The money can well be spent on fighting pollution, hunger, on education and other causes.

Yet, we fight. We put up statues for The Unknown Soldier, and then switch channels to find out which toothpaste the glitzy, busty starlet is using.

We cannot just blame politicians, if we break laws, or think violent thoughts.

If we want war to stop, it starts with us. Each one of us individually and collectively.

Let Steinbeck not turn in his grave.


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