Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My niece's birthday

It was a quiet day at the office, all the three of us of the carpool were on our own and hence, I was free to move as per my requirement. I’d come off by about 1600h from work and after a quick wash and change, was off with our guests for a ride on the ‘metro rail’ after which we’d reached my sister, Renjini’s place at Dwarka to celebrate her daughter, Ammu’s 17th birthday. A cake was cut on the occasion and all of us partook in the accompanying singing and celebrations. It was a quick dinner after that and we were back at home by 2215h, after a pleasant evening.

But what came to my mind was the 31st of Mar ’93, the day Ammu was born in ‘Vijaya Nursing Home’ at Kochi. Two of the important protagonists of that evening are no more with us – one, the efficient and extremely professional Dr. Ramani Rajan( Ramani aunty for us) who was ever watchful as my sister was susceptible to epileptic fits and the other, my lovable, Doscoite friend Surgeon Commander Sanjay( Granny) Goil whose ship, Vikrant, happened to enter harbour that day and he insisted on being with me as he was aware of Renjini’s medical history and the tension that I was in. Thanks Ramani aunty and Sanjay for being there with me that night and I do feel your presence around me on this day, every year!

And I can never forget the dynamism of young Rekha Madhusoodanan, who’d amazing stamina and patience to soothe people’s frayed nerves thanks to her timing – in fact, I’d befriended Ramani aunty through her. Thanks Rekha, you’re the only one of your kind!! May you have pleasant happenings in your life all through.

The funniest thing was that we’re all there till about 2115h, when the hospital staff told us that the delivery would take place only around midnight and sent us home for wash, change and dinner. But no sooner had we reached home, around 2145h, Ammu had arrived in this world and only her paternal grandmother was immediately at hand, to welcome her!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Overwhelmed by technology!

It was a hectic day today. By a half past eight, Lekha and I were off to the Dental Centre for yet another sitting for her ‘root canal treatment’ with Archana. It took an unusually long time as the wait was longer than expected, because of very elderly people who’d come for the toothy’s look and they’d to be accommodated out of turn. I fetched up at the office by a quarter past eleven, gave the finishing touches to two of my files and had sent them off to their destinations before I could, just, scamper in for a meeting.

It was much past lunchtime, when the meeting got over and I managed to cover the distance from the office to my home in ten minutes flat thanks to sparse traffic, have a quick bite and rush to the airport with Lekha and we were on the way when her sister announced that they’d landed and were boarding the bus which would ferry them to the arrival terminal. Having dropped Lekha at the ‘arrival’ to ensure that our guests were shepherded without any loss of time, it took me some time to get a suitable slot so that the old lady, accompanying my sister-in-law and her children, had to walk the least distance from the terminal.

As I called up my wife to know about their whereabouts, too engrossed in our conversation, I ridiculously walked past them and would have gone on if it were not for my elder nephew who called out to me. I really felt sheepish, technology had overtaken me completely! But then, all’s well that ends well!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is how news is made!

The tubelight that I’m, have slowly begun to understand as to how news is made these days – the corner stone on which the whole edifice is built on is ‘sensationalism, in any which way, to boost TRP ratings’!

Let’s take the news grabs that are hogging the headlines these days:-
(a) Modi, the CM of Gujarat, having been grilled by the SIT, set up by the Supreme
(b) How Amitabh Bachchan is being hounded by the Congress party.
(c) ‘Pak specific Agni’ test fired successfully.
(d) IPL matches on and in full swing with the Mumbai Indians winning all their matches on the trot, thanks to an ‘in-form Tendulkar’, etc, etc. I shall talk about only these four, due to constraints of time and space, to expose the grand design of the media.

Let’s go back in time and see as to how these news grabs had developed, say, from the Ides of March:-

(a) Speculations were rife as to whether Modi would offer himself for being grilled by
the SIT because truth will be spilled out, implying that he’s guilty even before being tried. And as a connected story, the Chief Justice of India was advised not to share the dais with Modi in connection with a legal function. Thank God, the CJI did exactly what he’d to do in the circumstances without prejudjing the Gujarat CM.

(b) A sizable section of the press along with political parties like the Congress and the CPM were wild that Amitabh Bachchan had agreed to be the ‘Brand Ambassador’ of Modi’s Gujarat. The so called advocates of democracy were, in other words, disallowing freedom of expression and were getting after ‘a comparatively soft target in the film star’. So, the CPM central leadership overturned their Kerala comrades’ decision of making him their brand ambassador and the Congress party made its displeasure known to its Chief Minister in Maharashtra for letting the film star be part of the opening ceremony of the remaining lanes of the Bandra-Worli sea link.

(c) The missile ‘Agni’ has so many variants by virtue of its range and firepower, almost all of which have been test fired successfully, so far, without reactions from Pakistan. By terming it as ‘Pakistan specific’, news grabs for the next few days are assured from across the border, in the form of virulent criticism and tirade from their leaders, probably to the benefit of some arms company!

(d) The garish IPL cricket circus is on and a case is being made to get Tendulkar into the national team for the T20 world cup, which would be the enduring theme on the sports page over the coming weeks.

Have just stated the obvious and I’m fully confident that I won’t be wrong in my predictions of the news headlines of the coming days. Can’t we, the public at large, ever learn or is it that we don’t want to?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Those wonderful yesteryears!

As I sit in front of my computer, there’s that evergreen Mohammed Rafi number, ‘Tere ghar ke saamne’ that’s wafting out of the music system and I get sentimental, go back in time and yearn for those nostalgic years. I was brought up by my maternal grandparents as was the trend those days, in Kerala. Ours was a huge joint family consisting of around 22 members and there were resident guests as well as those who came in to call on my grandparents – some came even from our ancestral village.

Our house was a huge sprawling bungalow with plenty of rooms, right in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city. The kitchen was always bustling with activity with my grandmother, aunts and maids preparing delicious dishes as appropriate to the time of the day. We, children went to school and played while our elders kept a benevolent eye on all of us. They used to watch us at our evening games of ‘seven tiles’, ‘dumb charades’, ‘hide and seek’ etc, etc when our friends from the immediate neighbourhood also joined us.

After the games, a quick wash and change and all of us were required to sit down for studies which covered around two hours before dinnertime and each and everyone of us had to give a completion report on our homework, if any, when we’d also be asked questions from the days’ portions, that have been taught.

There used to be a huge ‘Murphy’ radio, with a green magic eye which used to be surrounded with the entire family, alongwith the guests, to listen to favourite programmes like the ‘Binaca geetmala’, sound track of movies etc.

Dinner was served in three tiers –children, uncles and resident guests and the ladies – on the kitchen floor, laden with mats for the purpose and only the uncles, resident guests and my grandparents ate on the dining table. My grandfather, usually came in around 2130h from work and he insisted on interacting with each one of us before we were sent to our room, where a requisite number of mattresses would have been spread on the floor, to accommodate all of us.

Another highlight was the prayer time – both in the morning and in the evening, after sunset -when the entire family conglomerated in the puja room and the morning ‘arti’ was performed by my grandfather himself! It was my duty to pluck and collect flowers, every morning from the trees and plants of our garden, for the puja.

All together a fun filled time, where I learnt the essence of life and as I remember, a happy and carefree phase of my childhood before I left for the Sainik school.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A case for 'rape' being made gender neutral

In a historic flourish, the government of India has legislated a law that makes ‘rape’ a gender neutral issue. As anticipated, there are many who’ve come up strongly against the bill, their primary argument being that a man can never be raped in the strictest sense – I am of the opinion that these people are trying to view the whole subject through a narrow prism. I shall highlight two incidents, that conveys divergent views but finally support the bill for being gender neutral.

Years back, there was a teenaged boy whose dead body was retrieved from the dustbin of a fairly reputed school, predominantly meant for girls, at Kochi. The young boy used to supply milk to the girls’ hostel of the school and over a weekend, he was found missing. Autopsy report clearly concluded that he’d a cardiac arrest due to excessive sexual activity which was evident from the clues that were available. It was finally established in a court of law that a group of five girls of the school–all from affluent families with their parents abroad in the Gulf region, making a fortune – had indeed scripted the entire sordid tale and were party to the gruesome murder.

The second tale is still worse and depressing. Somewhere in northern UP, a nine year old child who was a victim of sodomy, was found to be brutally murdered after the crime. The paradox was that the culprit was apprehended, but the subsequent legal process let him walk away freely, because the defence counsel took advantage of the loophole in the then existent law that did not cover ‘forcible sodomy’ under the ambit of rape.

Having laid out my argument in favour of the present bill, I only hope that this present piece of legislation encompasses the entire gamut of instances covering similar wrongdoings including acts of sexual harassment, so that future cases, do not fall by the wayside by what is euphemistically termed, as loopholes in the law! It’s also my fond hope that the law would ensure that all cases of similar nature are dealt with in a sensitive manner by everyone concerned, as the individual has already undergone severe psychological trauma and can be further battered by insensitivity.

I was saddened by the experiences of a woman subjected to rape and I quote from what she said, “What pains me is not that I was physically violated against my will, but somewhere in the melee, my body responded due to biological reasons of which I’d no control. For that reason, I feel dirty and can never forgive myself”. Unquote.

And as Perry Mason says, ‘the prosecution rests.’

Friday, March 26, 2010

Communism and its flawed philosophy

Being a Keralite and from a family, though rooted in the congress traditions, that had close associations with many of the founder fathers of Indian communism, I wonder as to how the communists of India have lost the plot so easily. Thanks to an accident of my birth, I’ve had the privilege of having received the largesse and unrestrained love from the stalwarts of the communist party, like EMS Namboodiripad(EMS), AK Gopalan(AKG) and though later from the perspective of time, EK Nayanar.

All of them, whenever they came to my grandparents’ house to spend time with them, would bring along lots of chocolates for me, that they were aware that I was fond of! Without my knowledge, I was the recipient of unrestrained love from the stalwarts of communism, who were paradoxically feared by many, during those times. But what I deduce from my childhood memories of those people is that they were men of high thinking and simple living, for whom the betterment of their downtrodden brethren was of paramount importance and I can vouch for the fact that none of them amassed wealth for themselves or for their succeeding generations. Yes, they’d one flaw about which I shall dwell upon later in this narrative of mine.

From the flashback to the present, the communists of today are a confused lot as they seem to have got into a time warp. Otherwise, how does one justify any of the following:-

(a) Amitabh Bachchan is sent a letter by the tourism minister of Kerala to be the state’s
brand ambassador to promote the industry, only to be negated by the central leadership
of the party because he had agreed to be the promoter of Narendra Modi’s Gujarat!
Now, don’t tell me that these commies that include the biggest mallu fraud of ‘em all,
Prakash Karat, doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘professionalism’?

(b) It should not be forgotten that the government of Kerala, along with that of
Orissa and Gujarat – yes, the very same Modi’s Gujarat – have got into a joint venture
for producing electricity from coal, to tide over the prevalent power deficiency, not
too long ago.

The problem that I see with the communists is that many of them have got used to the
cushy life that capitalism provides and they have been tamed by its ‘so called
grandeur’ and have amassed wealth, incommensurate with their sources of income. Their
children study in educational institutions in the US – paradoxically, a country that they badmouth the most, while they insist that the others’ children must study in the local linguistic institutions and attain enlightenment to prevent western culture from coming into this country. The dichotomy in their thoughts and deeds are depressingly discernible!

But the beauty of the whole thing is that if one were to ask them the reason, each one of them would blame it on or take cover of the adage, ‘it’s the party’s decision’ and shrug their shoulders in utter exasperation – a trend followed since its inception! To me, this failure is a clear indication of their weakness to face reality and a reluctance to accept that they could be wrong fundamentally!!


(a) Years back in 1978, when my Muthachan was deeply hurt by a very demeaning article on him written by Mr. Thayattu Sankaran, a man of letters and a CPM activist, in a leading Malayalam fortnightly 'Kalakaumudi', he asked EMS to intervene and counsel the gentleman. EMS' reply was, 'Mr. Panicker, I respect you a lot and know that the article is a pack of lies but these are party affairs and I wouldn't like to interfere'. Later, I understood that it was a euphemism for, 'Sorry Mr. Panicker, I don't have any control over the party lumpens. I'm helpless' - and sadly, my love and respect for the chocolate giving, ever smiling EMS uncle died that day.

(b) And also, wouldn’t it be surprising to note that most of the news channels on the Indian television
like NDTV 24x7, to give one example, are owned by the communists? So, what’s this egalitarian society that these guys are bandying about?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why don't we wait for natural justice to take its own course?

The human being is fickle minded. He’s totally unconcerned when injustice takes place in his immediate surroundings so long as it does not affect him personally. He’s willing to go the whole hog in crucifying the victim without giving a patient hearing to the victimised individual, who’s undergoing the agony. And God forbid if such a thing were to happen to him, then he’d go around the entire world to convince the others, who lend him their ears, as to how he’s being wronged or victimized, for no fault of his. Why is there such a deviant behaviour in most of us?

I’m reminded of an incident that had happened seven years back, in Bombay. The officer, who was senior to me, was commanding a ship when his coxswain complained about his queer sexual habits. The navy took immediate action in that he was given the option of quietly putting in his papers and leave the service forthwith, rather than face the ignominy of facing a trial by court martial and let the whole world get to know of his lapses. He chose the former and went off to his ancestral village, while his family, consisting of his wife and two daughters continued to stay within the naval environs of Colaba to fulfill certain personal requirements in terms of education and profession – sadly, that became their undoing and they’d to go through hell! The ordeal that the hapless ladies went through amidst a supposedly educated crowd of naval families, in their immediate neighbourhood, was not only barbaric, inhuman and inexcusable but also was, if I were to put it in my own words, a sort of aggressive and relentless ragging!! The family was socially ostracized, people who used to vie with each other to befriend them had become their enemies, overnight – they were not even smiled at. The evening that I’d decided to call on them, just to be with them in their times of gloom, shall ever remain etched in my memory when the three women poured out their agony and wept on my shoulders on the unfair treatment being meted out to them, by all and sundry, and that too for no fault of theirs.

Why do human beings sit in judgment much before the natural justice system has taken its course? Is it to show their contemporaries that they’re indeed on the right side of the law and majority thinking – like trying to be more loyal to the king than the king himself? Or is it that they’re covering their own inefficiencies or inadequacies by finding fault with the others? A phenomenon that will continue to puzzle me - always and every time, because who has given them this right in the first instance?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why do I write my diary?

I’ve always been writing a diary since Jan 1967, on joining class VII at the Sainik School in Thiruvananthapuram and the initiator of this habit was none other than PN Panicker, my grandfather, who used to meticulously maintain his diary. He used to go one step further by not only noting down his feelings but also adding his expenditures of each day because of his conviction that no one had the right to squander public money. What I could understand from his approach to diary writing was that, he did a very critical audit of himself and his life, so as to ensure that he never strayed from his goals that he’d fixed for himself which had to be achieved through the right means. He had even told me that one could fool others but could never do so in one's diary, because if one resorted to it then it would amount to kidding one’s own conscience – in other words, there’s no difference from what others perceive of you and what you put into your diary!

It’s this thought that guides me while writing my diary and I hope that I’m able to live up to the ideals handed over to me by my grandfather.


The squirrel family has been shifted onto the birch of a nearby tree, along with its nest. There were seven baby squirrels this time!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jai Siya Ram - Rama, revisited.

On the occasion of Ramanavami, almost the entire Hindu population in North India celebrates the festival with great fervour and enthusiasm. As a run up to the day, the devout amongst them keep fast, for the preceding week and provide a lavish feast of poories, chhole and sooji ka halwa to seven or nine young girls(who haven’t attained puberty) on the eighth day or ‘ashtami’. On the ninth day or the day of the ‘Ramanavami’ time is taken out, by the people, to visit the nearby Ram temples. This is the rough outline of activities connected with the festival as I’ve gleaned from our maid, Meena’s, efforts over the past few days. Incidentally, she’s given strict instructions to her children that they’ll not visit her brother’s place(he too resides in Arjan Vihar, with his family) because his children did not partake in the feast given by her this morning! So much about God, prayers towards ‘appeasement’ of God and human being’s narrow, selfish ways of living life!!

However, my doubts and impressions about Rama go beyond all these normal happenings. One is all too aware that Rama is the eighth ‘avatar’ of Lord Vishnu in this world of ours and he has been universally accepted as the perfect human being, in his thoughts and actions, thereby earning the sobriquet, “maryaada purushottam”. From what I’ve assimilated of the ‘Ramayana’, I’ve been impressed with his tremendous love for his father, his all encompassing love for his mother, stepmothers and brothers with no dilution of intensity –be it a relationship by bloodline or otherwise!

His love for his wife was total and never once did he ever doubt his wife’s love for him nor her fidelity. Be that as it may, once he’d ascended the throne of his kingdom, to satisfy the doubts expressed by his subjects about the purity of Sita, his wife, he ordered her trial by fire. According to my ‘narrow minded thinking’, this is where I’ve my doubts about his qualification to retain the sobriquet. Or was he, after all, a common man like you or me who gets carried away by others’ opinions?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Board exams and its strain on the children, nay parents!

As the board examinations for classes X and XII are slowly crawling to their completion, the children and more than them, their parents are heaving a sigh of relief. There’s tremendous strain on them as most of them are seldom seen nor heard these days at least in the opens of the Arjan Vihar. Was there strain on me when I was going through my class XI, ISC board exams while at Sainik School? I remember having butterflies in my stomach almost regularly during the period, but since I was far away from home, my parents were spared of the agony and years later, I’ve heard them say that they never had any doubts about my ability to sail through. And so it was, in the case of my two sisters too.

This time, there are three youngsters – a niece(Ammu) and two nephews(Manu and Aniyan) who’re attempting the class XII board examinations from the Panicker family. After wishing them easy sailing at the start, I’ve been monitoring their feedback at the end of each paper and as I reckon, while both Ammu and Aniyan should have no problems in getting good results, Manu might be found wanting – and I only wish that I’m terribly wrong on my surmise! Manu and Aniyan have finished all their papers as of today and Ammu is left with the paper on ‘Computers’ next Thursday. And I must say that their parents have really gone through the agony of their children’s anxieties - I humbly bow in appreciation of their total involvement!!


(a) The Khans are back after their three weeks’ sojourn in London and Lagos, and are looking fresh and rested with plenty of stories about their sight seeing trips. They’ve hinted about having got a gift for me and I’m thrilled, for, I love receiving gifts!

(b) Savio George Manatt completed his 8 km gruelling run with a very good timing of 43 mts and is pleased as Punch, on his achievement. He has achieved this feat after a knee surgery just under a year back. He says that there were times during the race when he’d wanted to drop out but refrained from doing so just because he didn’t want to let us down! That’s cute of him but I only hope that he’s not overdone it!!

(c) Murukesan, my brother-in-law, has to be in the hospital for another week. The vision of his left eye seems to be permanently affected, there’s restricted movement of his left hand and a loss of memory, at times. With medicines and intense physiotherapy, the doctors promise further improvement. Wait and watch and hope for the best is the best motto for the time being!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Sunday diary

After a long time, today was the first Sunday that Lekha and me got to spend at home. Usually, we make it a point to visit my sister and niece and have lunch with them as my brother-in-law, Sanil is abroad and they’ve a change of scene and some connected activities are also undertaken! Today, we’d purposely avoided going across as my niece has her Maths exam tomorrow as part of the class XII board and we did not want our visit to break the momentum of her studies. Since we had decided to stay indoors, a lunch invite at the Air Force station was politely declined giving my maman’s arrival from Thiruvananthapuram on work, as a reason, though he was to fetch up only by evening.

After getting up on the dot at six, lit up the traditional lamp, switched on the FM radio for ‘devrag’ and ducked off to another round of sleep only to wake up in time for the day’s session of ‘rangoli’ on the national TV channel – ‘praise’ being today’s theme and it had my favourite ‘chaudhavi ka chand’ alongwith some other beautiful numbers. By 9, it was time to make our regular rounds of telephone calls, to my folks as well as Lekha’s, for the latest updates. The main and difficult call was to my maasi, Indira whose birthday it was yesterday and I’d missed it – she did say that she’d missed my call but pardoned me for my slip after apologies and a bit of cajoling!!

A good part of the forenoon and the afternoon was spent on listening to a melee of Hindi and Malayalam music, with a Malayalam movie on TV thrown in between. The evening walk was the first outing after Lekha’d finished her’s and today, being Sunday, the walkers were few and they were the diehard ones. Then it was time for the news round up followed by maman’s briefing on what activities of my grandfather’s Foundation were to be taken up over the next few days and a plan of action was formulated, the briefs made ready. It was indeed a quiet day when all I did was to laze around at home, doing absolutely nothing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From short distances to longer distances

I’m going to speak about Savio George Manatt, a classmate of mine at the Sainik School, years back. He was good at studies and excelled in outdoors, his favourites being the short distances of 100, 200, 400 and 800mts, on the athletics field. In these events, he’d stiff competition from Sankaran, who was a year junior to us and usually ended up doing well in the first two races but fell behind the junior in the 400 and 800mts prompting one of our masters, Mr. CG George(whose English was short of the threshold, but managed to convey the meaning anyways) to say and I quote, “Hm, Savio will beat Sankaran in the short run but in the long run, Sankaran will beat Savio”. Unquote.

Savio hails from a large Christian family- they’re eleven siblings- from central Kerala and his father, Manatt Varghese(popularly known as Vakkachan, who passed away about 20 years back, was an affluent landlord). On passing out from school, Savio did medicine and is currently practicing medicine at Chicago. His wife, Anne and two children, George and Mary Ann form his family. These days, mountain biking and running long distances have become his passion and in the place where he stays, there are ample opportunities to pursue his heart’s calling. So it was not surprising to get an earnest request from Savio, last week on our group mail, asking each of us for our best wishes and to pray for him to come out with flying colours in an 8 km run today, in his county. And Savio, being the likeable guy that he is, was flooded with a host of good wishes from his classmates on the group mail.

So Savio, let’s see you doing well – eh, in the long run!

Friday, March 19, 2010

'3 Idiots' revisited

My friends in the carpool were excited about the prospect of seeing the movie, '3 Idiots' at the Taurus Officers’ Institute cinema this evening and I also believe that they’d enjoyed the previous outing with us, when we’d seen ‘Ishqiya’. Lekha had also not seen the movie. Since the movie was starting at 1930 h, there was no question of going for my evening walk. Be that as it may, we’d the exasperating wait for the Parmars to get ready and come along with us and consequentially, missed out on the initial scenes involving Madhavan at the airport. On a personal level, I like to be at the movie hall well before the start as I enjoy seeing the initial advertisements and the teaser trailers of the forthcoming movies!

Everyone really enjoyed the evening and the movie and I’d the opportunity to savour the details of the scenes though the dialogues, at times, weren’t clear thanks to an inefficient sound system and too much chatter among the audience - the continuous noise of crisp wafers and snacks being devoured at an alarming rate, notwithstanding. I’ve this sneaky feeling that for many people, the main attraction is the bar and the accompanying snacks rather than the viewing of the movie. Never mind, the loss is theirs!!

I must confess, however, that I’d enjoyed it much more when I’d viewed it, first time, at Pune with the Banerjees. The company definitely matters!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Our guests - a squirrel family.

I have been watching with utmost fascination, a squirrel family that has its nest in a corner of our bathroom, in the space between the mosquito proofing and the window. We’d shut the window at the onset of winter in early Dec ’09 and stuffed the space, between the warped window and its sill to prevent the cold winds from blowing in, with old cloth. Towards the end of the month, while both of us were away, the parent squirrels- or was it the efforts of the ‘father’ squirrel or the ‘mother’ squirrel, I really do not know- had set up their nest taking the cloth and some other waste material from outside, as assistance. There didn’t seem to be much of activity thereafter, but towards the end of January there were routine trips made by either of the parents out of the nest and out of the safe environment to bring in feed for their offsprings! Another fortnight from now should see the new born ones scampering in and out of their environment to get used to the ways of the big bad world!!

The same cycle of activities were witnessed by us a year back, when there were five newcomers and boy, didn’t they make one hell of a racket with their playful activities? And like what I’d done last time, this time too, I shall have the nest shifted to a tree nearby once the baby squirrels are able to take care of themselves and have the window opened to get ready for the hot summer.


Murukesan, my brother-in-law, was taken off the ventilator on Monday and shifted into the ward yesterday. He has difficulty in moving his left hand and has a problem in vision of his left eye. He’d have to be in the hospital for another week says the doctor and through physiotherapy, should be able to regain his health. His folks’ efforts have definitely helped him tide over that difficult period!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

At the dentist's - a humbling experience!

As a follow through of last Wednesday’s appointment with the dentist, today’s was our second visit to the Armed Forces Dental Clinic. Surgeon Commander Mrs. Archana Khanna had to be convinced that Lekha needed a ‘root canal treatment’ on one of her molars, her past history of SLE(Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis) and the consequential intake of steroids notwithstanding – the high dosage of steroids makes the bones and teeth go brittle, so much so, that when the ‘toothy’ uses the drill, the healthier teeth can get affected/damaged and normally, a dentist, who wants to play safe, either opts for extraction or filling.

I was glad that Archana was made of sterner stuff and agreed to my suggestion but must confess that this was not my original idea, but thanks to the advice given by my cousin, who is a dentist in Thiruvananthapuram.

And as I was in the waiting room while Lekha was on the dentist’s chair, I had the opportunity of meeting a youngster, who’d seen me in one of my previous ‘avatars’ and said quite a lot of things, that made my day. Brigadier Sreekumar from the regiment of artillery seemed to be really thrilled to see his first ‘House Captain’ in school, when he had joined the school in the fifth standard.

He recalled those days(1970-’72), when I used to put them though the pace of outdoors where no sloppiness was tolerated and how they, as a course, had hated me all through. The hatred seemed to have lessened to a degree when the house won the ‘Best House’ trophy but what brought a lump into my throat was when he quoted from my speech that I’d given to them after the awards ceremony –“Boys, always remember that the harshest training ensures that you’re never found wanting in the utmost emergency”. Frankly, I still don’t believe that I was so evolved then and said as much, but then! He also said that whenever their course got together, I was one of the guys who was fondly remembered and that he’d put in the details of today’s meeting into their course mail group on the net.

It definitely was a great boost to my ego but above all, a tremendously gladdening yet humbling experience!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Are we of the Armed forces feudalistic?

In Arjan Vihar, where we stay at present, as I see the practices followed by the officers and their families, I’ve often wondered as to whether we tend to be feudalistic in our outlook. The thing that baffles me is that we’re supposed to be from good families, grounded with the best of values and have been fortunate in having a liberal education but still continue to be selfish and mean in our general approach to the servant community.

A few instances that I wish to narrate would illustrate the point that I’m trying to make.

(a) The lifts can only be used by the officers and their families. The servants are
supposed to use the service staircases provided behind every block and the
reason often cited is that there’s a tendency of the servants’ children misusing
the facility.
(b) The servants and their families are not supposed to be seen around, or move around
the main thoroughfare during evening hours when the officer community is on its evening recreational activities.
(c) They are supposed to alight from the rickshaws at the entrance and walk to their
houses even if they’re lugging heavy luggage.
(d) If anyone of them is at one of the regimental shops and is in the process of buying
things for himself, once an officer or his family members enter, he is
pushed down the queue and have to wait out for his turn again.
(e) The MES guys carry out repairs in the servants’ quarters only after repeated complaints are registered or if the officer has made a personal request.

I’ve just cited a few of the instances that come to my mind offhand, and my question is as to why do we display such offensive behaviour? Is it a relic of the past when casteism was rampant in this country and the practice runs deep in our psyche? Or do we just derive a sadistic pleasure in manipulating and using people who’re not as fortunate as we are, in this life?

Monday, March 15, 2010

An epitaph for Bruno

Seven years back, on this cursed day, Bruno, our ten year old Dobermann was fast nearing his end. He had stopped taking in any food and from his vacant looks that I can distinctly remember, I think, he was aware of what was coming. Was he sad or glad to leave us – I really don’t know, but I’d like to believe that he was happy about his life with us and therefore, sad to leave us forever. For me and Lekha, he was our world, making up for the absence of our own biological children and never once, did he make us conscious of that deficiency. His delightful capers and his insistence to be amidst the two of us, in all our activities had a disarming charm about it and his sneaky preference to Lekha over me, was something that I never resented.

Our friends and neighbours, always used to talk of his ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ sort of behaviour. He behaved like a rogue whenever he was with me, pulling me in all directions and generally, gave the impression to passersby, that he was taking me for a walk but during my absences, if Lekha were to take him out of the house, he was the most well behaved dog – it was most evident when they’d to negotiate a flight of stairs, either up or down, when he’d turn back periodically to confirm as to whether she had comfortably negotiated the steps!

He left us in the morning of 16 Mar ’03, around thirteen minutes past six, as I was carrying him up the flight of stairs after taking him out. Earlier I’d removed his collar, whispering to him that I wouldn’t mind if he were to run around anywhere on the open field and pranced around, beckoning him to follow me and I saw him follow me with his eyes, never once shifting his position – was he, then, relishing my ignorance of his impending death or was he sad that however much he’d have loved to follow me, he was unable to do it, I’d never know. As I carried him up the stairs, his head firmly against my chest and him looking up at me, there was a gentle tug as life ebbed away from his body and his head dropped listlessly and dangled in front of me.

My close friends and relatives say that he must have been very happy to die in my arms but that’s one happiness of his that I shall always grudge him till my very end.

Tomorrow, I shall say a prayer at his grave before going to office and Lekha, as always, will offer his favourite piece of cake that she’s baked!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pleasant experiences.....

I had got up with the alarm at 6, lit the traditional lamp and switched on the FM to hear the ‘devraag’. The second bhajan was the mellifluous Anup Jalota number, ‘mainya morey, main nahin maakhan khayo’ – an all time favourite of mine after I’d heard it and understood its meaning, for the first time at the Banerjees’ home, years back – and I knew that the day was going to be nice.

At 8, on the programme ‘Rangoli’ on TV, the first half hour was a tribute to Shashi Kapoor and the starting number was ‘Khilte hain gul yahan’ from the evergreen hit, Sharmilee. The usual call to my parents was made at 9 and they were chirpy and sounded cheerful. The drive to my sister’s place was nice and enroute, did a bit of window shopping to facilitate my maman, who’s with us currently, to pick up a new cell phone and a pair of shoes.

The lunch at my sister’s was a huge spread, as usual, where I ate myself silly! And on such occasions, my interaction with my niece, who is in her teens, has always been an exhilarating experience. Today, it was enlightening to hear her telling my maman that he should never compare his son with her, when he lamented that he was not as smart and confident as she was! I don’t think that I was so evolved when I was her age!!

It was the visit to a ‘chrysanthemum’ exhibition, in the afternoon, that was the highlight of the day. The floral exhibition was organized by the ladies of the FICCI and we’d received an invite for the same. The variety of the bright yellow golden flowers was mind boggling and it definitely was an educating experience. On the sidelines, there were rural artisans and artistes, in their bright and colourful costumes(my personal favourite has always been the ‘Nagas’ in their warrior attire), who gave a wide repertoire of their wares and talent, that I was truly mesmerized with and didn’t have the heart to leave.

The evening walk had to be vigorous to compensate for the heavy intake of food, all through the day and I felt light at the end of it.

A beautiful day in which, nothing great was done, albeit, it was an uneventful day when I was doing trivial things but derived a tremendous happiness just from doing them. In continuation, hope the week ahead is interesting!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Murukesan, my brother-in-law

This morning came one of those bad telephone calls that one dreads to take. My eldest brother-in-law, Murukesan(junior to me, he’s 50) is currently battling for his life at the Sri Chithira Thirunal Institute, Thiruvananthapuram and he’s on a ventilator.

Lekha, my wife, has two sisters and a brother, of whom, the only one elder to her, is a sister named Latha and Murukesan is her husband. His parents had, quite a while back, migrated into Kerala from Tamilnadu in search of livelihood and begun a flourishing business in malluland. Murukesan has two brothers elder to him and a brother and a sister younger to him and his mother, currently stays with him as he was not keeping well for almost the whole of the last couple of months.

Incidentally, his family has a reputation for being the best in the gold business at Rajapalayam, which is a busy town on the Kollam-Madurai-Chennai route.

I’d first met him soon after my marriage in 1991, after hearing that he and Latha had been ostracized by my wife’s family for having got married much against their wishes. Their's was a love marriage.  And that has been his biggest problem, till date – him not having been accepted by his wife’s family.

Normally at family gatherings, he’s given a cold shoulder and when he used to sentimentally express his hurt, I used to ask him as to why he wanted to attend such parties – he was craving for acceptance as I understood later, much to my dismay. Sensing this, in the last two get togethers, on my insistence, we’d made a combined entrance and sure enough, Lekha’s folks went through the motion of shaking hands with him and made small talk to him so as to ensure that Lekha and I weren’t offended.

Latha and Murukesan have two sons, the first named Sakthi who has just taken up a job in Saudi Arabia, six months back and the second named Anand who’s doing his graduation. The Murukesan, that I know, is actually a soft guy within his tough exterior that he tries to project.

As I punch in these thoughts of mine, his family is on its way to their temple at Thiruchendoor to do a ‘mrityunjaya homam’ on his behalf, in the wee hours of tomorrow morning and here’s wishing that their efforts are not in vain!